Families With Grace

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

Celebrating more than my son’s birthday

My son’s birth story reminds me of God’s goodness and faithfulness

Today my son turns 7. I’m amazed with my children how I feel like they were just born a couple of months ago and yet I also feel like they’ve always been part of my life.

On my son’s birthday each year, my husband and I look at videos and photos of the day he arrived. We get tears in our eyes and talk about how thankful we are. We smile at each other about how adorable and tiny he was — and we remark about how blue he looked even an hour after his birth.

My son was born with his cord wrapped around his neck, blue all over and not breathing. He was whisked from my arms and surrounded by a slew of medical personnel.

I remember lying there as he was worked on across the room. My doctor tended to me and assured me this was normal. I prayed and quietly cried. The last three months of my pregnancy were miserable and incredibly painful, but nothing I went through and felt affected my son. I was so thankful for that. I wished so much in that overwhelming moment that it could be me again and not him. I am not sure I have ever felt so helpless.

Finally, after 20 minutes, he breathed on his own and we heard his first cry. I have never been so happy to hear a cry as I was that day.

Even now, seven years later, I look at the photos my husband took of him in the NICU (where he had to spend a couple of hours with just my husband while I was getting taken care of) and my heart aches a bit. I missed those first few moments with him. His birth wasn’t at all like I planned or expected. BUT, it ended up well. As I prayed with tears rolling down my cheeks that day, God was right there and took care of both my baby boy and me.

Life is so much like that. Things take a detour from what we expected and our hearts can shatter into millions of pieces. Sometimes they can also be filled to bursting within a short time as well, which is what happened on the day my son was born. But whether we’re in the middle of heartbreak or joy or somewhere in between, God is right there, taking care of us. Even when we can’t see Him, He is always working.

I praise and thank Him for my baby boy who is now a happy, thriving 7-year-old. I can’t even begin to put into words how thankful I am that God showed up seven years ago and made sure my little guy was able to breathe on his own. I am thankful that the day ended in joy and not unspeakable heartbreak.

Each milestone my son reaches is just another testimony of God’s goodness and provision. God is good — and that is worth celebrating today as much as my son’s birth!

Growing through difficulties

How God uses our past struggles to grow and strengthen our faith

Yesterday morning I drove my kids to school so my husband could sleep in a bit. The last couple of nights have been his most comfortable nights of sleep and being able to be in bed since he fractured his ribs in mid-December. If the guy can finally have a chance to get good rest, I will let him!

As I was driving the kids, we were chatting. I told them we may have to go to the store and figure out a new cell phone for me. It’s been a long time coming. My battery is slowly getting worse and worse. We’ve replaced it, and that didn’t matter. We have tried most everything, but something in my chemistry is hard on phones. (No joke!) Sunday night, my phone turned itself off overnight while plugged in. I powered it up on Monday morning and within a minute it went from 100% battery to 94% and only went down from there. Plus, it was slow to even come on.

My daughter joked with me about what is up with me right now, because my car is also broken down and unusable. We are working on that as well. It needs a repair my husband can do once he is back to normal and the weather cooperates. But, it also is just an older car and time for us to upgrade to something newer.

I told my kiddos that we’d figure it out. No worries. And, you know what? I truly meant that. We will figure it out. We don’t need to worry.

As I was driving home, I thought about these things. I’m not excited to pay for a new cell phone or new car. I know the other expenses our family has. However, I really am also not stressed, which is remarkable to me.

I’ve come a long way from the person I was when my husband and I were first married at 20 and 22. I remember a few times in our early years of marriage that unexpected expenses would come up, and I’d burst into tears.

The difference between Stacey 20 years ago and Stacey now is a lot of living that’s given me perspective. I’ve learned what really matters; money, cars and cell phones aren’t at the top of the list. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve survived losses, heartaches and health struggles. And I’ve grown and matured.

Even more importantly, I’ve grown in my faith. I have seen God provide a way for us time and again. My husband, who is our main income source, was without a job for an entire year and somehow that entire year we were able to continue paying our mortgage. We didn’t come out unscathed, but we made it through. Whenever an unexpected bill came in, usually an unexpected income arrived as well and we were able to make it.

We aren’t in that situation now, thankfully. While there are other things I’d rather spend the money on or put it in our savings, having a phone and car that work are necessary.

Since we both work from home, my husband and I have had some leeway in getting a new car for me. But we’ve had to do some intentional planning to make sure everyone gets where they need to be. Add in that he sometimes has to go into his office that is an hour away, and we definitely need another vehicle for transporting our family.

We will make it. We will figure it out. I’ve been praying that God will guide us and lead us in making good choices for our family as we figure it all out. I’m praying that He opens and closes the right doors for us as we go along. I fully trust that He will.

And I’m thankful I’m stronger. I can see how all the hard times I’ve been through have helped me to grow and mature in general and in my faith walk. I have survived when I thought I wouldn’t make it. I’ve seen God show up every single time. He has never left me hanging.

Feeling thankful for trials and hard times isn’t easy. Some of them I wish I could change, but I am thankful for the lessons learned and the ways God has used them to grow me.

Quick & easy pepperoni pizza pinwheels recipe

These pepperoni pizza pinwheels are short on time but not on flavor!

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

I can pretty much guarantee that any recipe that has to do with pizza is going to be something that my family will love and devour. A few years ago, I stumbled across this recipe for pepperoni pizza pinwheels. I don’t even remember where I saw it, but I changed it slightly and it’s now a recurring recipe for our family.

It’s the kind of recipe that works well for an appetizer, carry-in or dinner. Pepperoni pizza pinwheels are ideal party food if you are hosting a get-together as well!

Though I use only pepperoni for our family, you could easily use other pizza toppings your family likes as well as long as you chop them well. (If you are using another meat like hamburger or sausage, be sure to cook it first before adding it into this recipe, just like you would for a pizza.)

Preheat your oven according to the directions on your canned pizza crust. (Mine said 425-degrees.) Spread your pizza crust out onto a large cutting board to form a large rectangle.

Next, you can add Italian seasoning to the crust for a little extra flavor. You can use Italian seasoning blend, oregano, crushed red pepper or whatever you have on hand. You can also skip this step. I have made the pepperoni pizza pinwheels both with and without the seasoning, and it’s good both ways!

Then you spread shredded cheese over the top of the seasoning. I use either mozzarella or Italian blend. Cover the crust with a layer of cheese. This is how much cheese I put on and my husband and kids don’t like much melted cheese! (My husband prefers pizza ordered with 1/4 the usual amount of cheese from restaurants.)

Next, chop your pepperoni (and other pizza toppings if desired) and spread it evenly over the top of the cheese layer. You could buy the pepperoni sticks or diced if you can find it. I usually just have round pepperoni slices on hand, so I use a sharp ceramic knife and cut them into small pieces.

Your pepperoni pizza pinwheel crust is now all ready. Starting from one of the longer ends of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly. If you’ve made cinnamon rolls before, it’s the same sort of roll. It will turn into one long log like this:

Using a very sharp knife (I love ceramic knives for their sharpness and ease to care for), slice the roll into about 1-1/2 inch thick slices. Place the cut slices onto a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or covered with parchment paper. (I recommend parchment paper for easy clean up.)

Chances are, you’ll have cheese and some pepperoni left on your cutting board when you are finished. I take this and spread it over the pepperoni pizza pinwheels on the baking sheet — no sense in having ingredients go to waste!

Now you’re ready for the oven. Your pepperoni pizza pinwheels should look something like this:

Bake them in your preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes until they are lightly browned.

You can serve the pepperoni pizza pinwheels with pizza sauce, but my family loves them best served with Ranch dressing to dip them in. (And then that lets me easily add some baby carrots on the side for them to dip as well!)

These pepperoni pizza pinwheels are best served warm.

Quick & easy pepperoni pizza pinwheels


  • 1 13.8 oz. refrigerated pizza crust
  • Italian seasoning if desired
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese more or less to taste
  • 10 slices of pepperoni diced
  • Other diced pizza toppings if desired (all other meat should be cooked ahead of time)


  • Preheat the oven according to the temperature on the pizza crust (mine said 425-degrees).
  • Open the pizza crust and stretch it out into a flat rectangle on a large cutting board.
  • Sprinkle Italian seasoning, oregano or crushed red pepper over the crust, if desired.
  • Top with shredded cheese. The cheese gets crispy and not gooey on these, so I usually use more cheese than normal for my family, but I also have a family who doesn't like much melted cheese (pray for them!).
  • Top with the diced pepperoni. (You can also use other diced pizza toppings if desired. If you are using another meat, like hamburger or sausage, be sure to cook it first.)
  • Roll the crust into a tight log starting on one of the short ends of the dough.
  • With a sharp knife, slice the roll into about 1-1/2 inch thick rolls and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or covered in parchment paper. (I recommend the parchment paper route for easier clean up!)
  • Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned. Serve with pizza sauce or Ranch dressing for dipping.

An easy Valentine’s tradition your family will love!

A simple DIY craft makes my family feel loved each February

Affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Crafts aren’t my thing. Decorating my house isn’t really my thing either. But loving my family is definitely my thing! I especially love being able to show them love in simple, yet meaningful ways. And we have a Valentine’s tradition that does just that.

A few years ago, I ran across the idea on Pinterest. And when I say a few years, I know it was when my oldest (who is now 10) was too young to even read and my youngest was a baby. So it’s been going a good while.

How our Valentine’s tradition works

The night before Feb. 1, I tape a big heart made of construction paper on my kids’ bedroom doors that says their name and “We love…” in black Sharpie. Then I add a small heart on the door saying something we love about them. Each night from Feb. 1 through 14, they get a new heart of something we love about them.

I try to come up with different ideas each year. I cover a variety of topics from physical attributes (your beautiful smile or your big brown eyes) to behaviors (how well you play with your sibling) to academics (how well you read).

During the last week of January, I make a list of 14 things I love about each child. I show it to my husband and get his input. It isn’t hard to think of 14 things I love about each of my kids. Usually I have to make myself narrow it down and focus, because I’m a proud mama who loves her kiddos!

Then I make the hearts ahead of time and store them with Scotch tape in my nightstand drawer. I set a reminder on my phone for 9 p.m. each night so that I don’t forget. And I simply tape a heart on their doors each night. You could make the hearts each night if you wanted. I like doing them all ahead of time, because I’m drained by bedtime!

While you could totally get creative and crafty with your hearts (and feel free to do so if that’s your thing!), you can also keep them incredibly simple. I use construction paper. I totally do the “fold the page in half and cut out hearts” strategy that I learned way back in elementary school. Then I write on them with a black Sharpie. Easy peasy!

Including your spouse

Last year, I decided to include my husband on the fun. I used the back of our closet door so he’d see his new heart each morning.

It’s simple and easy, but everyone loves being told what is lovable about them. We all love being appreciated and noticed. While I try to tell my kids and husband these things frequently, life gets busy and I don’t get to share these things as often as I’d truly like.

I love having a couple of weeks set aside each year that they can read all the things we love about them. I keep the hearts short, sweet and simple. For the first time this year, I don’t think either of my kids will need help reading their hearts. It’s pretty neat to see how much they have grown from me reading hearts to my daughter before she could read and telling my son about them before he probably even understood what I meant.

I’m not sure how long this tradition will go on. It may evolve through the years. Maybe one of these days, I’ll text my kids each day Feb. 1 through 14 with something I love about them. It’s definitely something I’d like to continue to be intentional about loving my family out loud. What better time to do that than Valentine’s?!

Looking for more Valentine’s ideas? Check out these posts:

Don’t get caught in the mom comparison trap

Comparing ourselves to other moms never ends well

Each school day, I send a note along in my children’s lunchboxes. Now that my daughter is older, we have started having theme days. Our notes have evolved into Motivation Monday (an encouraging or inspiring quote), Truth Tuesday (a Bible verse), Wacky Wednesday (a joke), Think or Thank Thursday (an interesting piece of information or something I am thankful for about her) and Fun Friday (something wacky and fun like stickers with speech bubbles).

Don't get caught in the mom comparison trap

I enjoy doing the lunchbox notes. I have even written a serial story a couple of times for my daughter with a new installment each day for a week. But, it makes sense this is my thing: I’m a writer. I always have been, and I love it. It’s one way I can pop into my kids’ lives in the middle of their school day and I enjoy doing so.

However, I also know that writing daily lunchbox notes — let alone theme notes — is not everyone’s thing. When a friend recently shared that his wife felt inferior for the stuff she saw on Pinterest (like writing lunchbox notes) but didn’t do, I understood that perspective. But I also thought about all the things his wife is good at that I’m not.

For example, she takes beautiful photos of their children in everyday life. Some of the photos she shares on social media are just precious. She has a knack and skill for photography that I do not.

Looking at other moms

I would bet that since the very first moms ever met one another, the mom comparison trap formed. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we may be OK with them in theory or even in other areas of life, but we can be left feeling like we fall short when we don’t measure up to moms we see around us or online.

I don’t even have to look far to find moms good at things I’m not. My own mother, for example, is a great housekeeper. I am mediocre — and that’s an improvement from a few years ago! She also can sew to repair my kids’ clothes when they get small tears. I can thread a needle, but am at a loss at what to do from there. I can’t even sew on a button.

I have another friend who is an art teacher and incredibly talented. For each of her children’s birthday parties, she draws a custom coloring page based on the theme. All the guests then color the picture and she hangs them up on display. I can barely draw a stick figure. The best I can do is stay in the lines coloring printed coloring pages and even then I don’t get fancy and do any shading or anything.

The moms of some of my kids’ classmates come up with and execute some very cool and elaborate parties and party ideas for class parties and birthday parties. I search Pinterest for the easiest thing I can find, and even that is stretching it for me.

I have another friend who can bake. She works as a professional baker. While I enjoy baking and do a very, very small amount of decorating, my skills are nowhere near her creations. Not even close!

Motherhood isn't about being perfect and excelling at homemaking, crafts, baking and everything else. Motherhood is about loving our kids. -- Stacey A. Shannon

Looking at yourself

I could go on and on and on. The thing is, I’m not those other women. I don’t have the same skillsets and natural talents that some of them do. Yes, I could take photography, sewing, drawing and decorating classes, but those aren’t things I enjoy enough to do so. I don’t want to spend the time, energy or resources on them.

And that’s OK. I am who I am. Who I am is the woman that God made. Who I am is the woman God gave my children to. The same is true for you. None of us are identical. My strengths and passions are different from yours. It is what makes us unique people. While we tell our kids to embrace their individuality and we try to do so in ourselves, we often fail at that when it comes to embracing our individuality as moms. We get caught in the mom comparison trap.

I’d bet right now you can tell me things you see other moms doing that you feel guilty you don’t do. I can make a LONG list of these things. I remember feeling it when my sister-in-law and I took our kids to a corn maze back when my oldest was only 11 months old. My sister-in-law stopped at a corn stalk and let her daughter (who was 3) and her triplet 1-year-olds feel the corn stalk. Of course, she let my daughter feel it as well.

It never once crossed my mind to let my daughter feel the texture of the corn stalk. Does that make me a bad mom? Nope. Does it make my sister-in-law a better mom? Also, nope. We are just different.

Coming up short in the mom comparison trap

Whenever we compare ourselves to other moms, we often come up short. We are judging their mom abilities at their best against our mom abilities at our worst. Instead we need to focus on how we love our kids and meet their needs. We don’t want to be so caught in the mom comparison trap that we miss out on what matters most!

We all do that differently. Written words are part of my life in so many ways that I’ve shared that with my children. We first started reading a bedtime story to our oldest when she was 3 months old. Now she is 10 and her brother is about to turn 7, and we still read together every night before bed.

I have moved that into lunchbox notes as well. My son doesn’t enjoy them so much, yet, but as he becomes a better and better read, that may change. If it doesn’t, that’s OK. I’ll find another way to show him love.

Motherhood isn’t about what we do and what we’re good at. It’s not about being perfect and excelling at homemaking, crafts, baking and everything else. Motherhood is about loving our kids. It’s about teaching them what they need to know to survive in the world. It’s about showing them what God’s love looks like in practice. It’s about guarding their hearts and their minds.

None of that has anything to do with your talents and hobbies or those of the moms around you. You bring your own unique way to love and teach your children to the table and it’s the perfect way for your children. God didn’t give you those babies on accident.

Whenever we compare ourselves to other moms, we often come up short. We are judging their mom abilities at their best against our mom abilities at our worst. Instead, we need to focus on how we love our kids and meet their needs. -- Stacey A. Shannon

Snaring others in the mom comparison trap

Along with that, we must also be careful of the other side of the mom comparison trap. I’d like to say I’ve never done it, but I have. There is a side of comparison that is basically judging. Maybe it was a mom doing something differently than you at the park. Maybe it was a mom planning an elaborate birthday party for her kid. Whatever it is, we can sometimes be guilty of judging other moms for not doing things the way we do them.

We’ve got to stop that, too. Remember my art teacher friend? She and I had a discussion a couple of years ago about the difference in our parenting. I follow a pretty tight schedule for my kids. It works for us. She is more spontaneous and, at the time, didn’t have kiddos in school. Oftentimes their bedtimes were later than my kiddos got to stay up. She thanked me once for not judging her or giving her a hard time. My reply was that it worked for her family.

We are all different. And that’s OK. We all also make mistakes. Sometimes we just need to have someone come along us and say they have messed up, too, but it’s not the end of the world — even if the mistake they made isn’t one you’d struggle with.

Remembering Whose opinion really matters

We need to work to be the women and moms that God created us to be, and that’s it. Our measuring stick doesn’t come from other moms or the world. It doesn’t even come from ourselves. It comes from our Heavenly Father, and I promise you that He isn’t finding you lacking when your kids stay up an extra hour, their birthday party isn’t Pinterest-worthy and you haven’t managed to take a single photo this week that isn’t blurry.

God’s grace covers all your mess-ups. And His strength holds you up when you are wobbling. He created you, mama, just as you are. And THAT is definitely good enough, so stop comparing yourself to someone you weren’t made to be.

Moms on a Mission: Crystal, a.k.a. Innie Mom

Profiles of moms who are making a difference

I am often awestruck at the women I see around me — both in real life and online — who are doing really amazing work in the midst of motherhood. These women are difference makers in the world who have identified and are living out their mission or God-given passion.

You need to know all about them, too! The Moms on a Mission series is all about these women. Once or twice a month, I’ll feature a mom who is living out her mission both inside and outside her home.

I’ve got a few other moms in mind, but I also would love suggestions. If you know a mom or are a mom who is living out her mission and God-given passion, I’d love to hear about it! Click on the “Contact” tab or send me a message through the Families with Grace Facebook page. I look forward to sharing stories that will inspire us all!

Today’s mom is Crystal, aka InnieMom. (For privacy, she chooses to not share her last name.) I started following the InnieMom blog on Facebook a couple of years ago. I’ve enjoyed her posts from the beginning as a fellow introvert. (We’re both INFJs even!) When her posts changed to include spiritual topics as well, I enjoyed her even more. I relate to so much of what she shares.

I was thrilled when she said yes to participating in the Moms on a Mission series. You’re going to be inspired and encouraged by her story!

FWG: What is your God-given mission or passion? 

Crystal: My passion is Jesus. There are many things I feel called to do, but He is absolutely at the root of all of it. I just want to grow to know Him more, to surrender more fully to Him each day and to share Him and what He’s done for me with others. My prayer at the start of every day is for Him to help me surrender more fully and to be obedient to whatever it is He calls me to do. That being said, let me explain a bit about where that has lead me. 

After I first became a Christ-follower, my husband and I had been trying to get pregnant. We tried for two years. The ups and downs in those few years were very, very difficult. Finally, we tried using fertility medicine and were able to conceive our fist child. We were so excited. We had a name picked out, and we had so many plans. 

When a woman finds out she’s pregnant, it’s not just the baby itself, but it’s the life she imagines for that baby that she begins to plan for in her heart.  Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a loss. My husband and I were both so heartbroken. I remember being angry with God. I didn’t understand why He’d allow me to experience that joy just to take it away from me. 

I remember driving down the road and asking Him out loud, “Why? Why did You do this? If You love me, why did You allow this to happen?” I glanced over just in time to see a pregnancy resource center out my window, and it just clicked for me in that moment: “That’s it. That’s how He will use this pain for good.” 

That year, I trained in that very center and coordinated their annual Walk for Life. Six years later — after losing three more babies and being blessed with two living children — once again the Lord called me to reach out to a local pregnancy resource center. I knew I was going to train to be an advocate. 

As an introvert, with pretty extreme social anxiety, I literally told Jesus, “I’ll do it because it’s what You’re telling me to do, but I have NO ability to do this on my own. So I’ll go, but YOU have to take over when I get there.” And that’s exactly what He’s done. I get to help mamas in crisis pregnancy situations, and I get to share Jesus with them as well. I’m so thankful I pushed through that initial anxiety, because I’m right where I’m supposed to be. 

FWG: How do you work to live out that mission right now?

Crystal: Volunteering. Aside from the PRC that I work with every week, I also volunteer at a local maternity home for pregnant and homeless young mothers. I get to babysit their little ones while they go out and work/go to school and assist with some of their big fundraising events.   

I also try to use my platform on InnieMom to give other moms who struggle with anxiety and depression a place to feel like they aren’t so alone in the world. I hope seeing how much I love Jesus, and how much He’s changed my life will help other moms know where to turn when they are in those crisis situations. I love encouraging others to seek Him above all other things. 

It’s also a goal of mine to bring a sense of “real-ness” and “human-ness” to the world of Christian blogs. I am not perfect; nobody is. I want to talk openly and honestly about my struggles, and I also want to have a bit of fun while doing it. Jesus has a wonderful sense of humor. 

FWG: What are some of your biggest challenges in living out your mission?

Crystal: Representing Him well, I think. I often times allow my own human fears or desires to cloud my judgement. I get angry or snarky far too easily. I can be very sassy. I’m learning to do a better job of apologizing when I mess up, whether it be as a mom, a wife, a friend or someone with a platform on social media.

I think that’s what my “page change” was all about. When I first created the InnieMom page, my goal was to have a voice. A lot of what I posted was funny, but I was compromising on my beliefs as a Christian for likes. Somewhere along the way, I realized that wasn’t what I wanted at all… nor what Jesus wanted for me. Now, everything I post is viewed through the lens of my faith in Christ. 

FWG: What have been some of your biggest blessings in living out your mission?

Crystal: My biggest blessing, by far, is growing closer to Jesus. The more I pursue Him, the more He leads me out into these crazy adventurous waters with Him. It’s amazing and terrifying all at the same time. 

Also, when people message me and tell me I’ve impacted them. I’ve had more than a few page followers say, “I’ve never found another Christian introverted mom with anxiety who isn’t afraid to talk about it.” That feels amazing. Like, hey, maybe I’m not so weird after all! 

The other thing that comes to mind are hugs. At the end of some of the sessions I have with moms in crisis pregnancy situations, I pray for them. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, they ask me for a hug. Those things keep me going through appointments that aren’t so easy. In that moment, I know we’ve connected and that somehow they’ve been impacted by our session. That means absolutely everything to me. 

FWG: How do you balance motherhood responsibilities with your work/mission?

Crystal: My boys keep me grounded. I’m a hyper-sensitive individual, so it’s easy to get in my head about different situations I’ve come across. I asked my kiddo what he wanted to be when he grew up and he said, “I want to be a Jesus follower like you,” which pretty much sealed the deal for me that I’m doing a pretty OK job as a mom. I try to be present in the moments when I’m with them. I try to take lots of one-on-one days with each of them. We have a lot of “slumber parties” and “snuggle nights.”  

I forgot to mention, I also own an IT company with my husband. So things are hectic around here most of the time. We love our crazy beautiful lives, though. Being a business owner gives us more control over how we’re spending our time. We’re able to be there for our kiddos far more than if we were working for someone else, like taking time off for field-trips and school events. It was a scary jump to make together at the beginning of the year, but it’s been an absolute blessing.  

FWG: What’s the best advice you have for other moms who are following their passions?

Crystal: Pray for an obedient heart. Lay yourself at His feet every morning and say, “Wherever You lead me, I’ll go.” Don’t be afraid to listen to what He’s telling you. Sometimes it can be scary or completely outside of your comfort zone, but “obedience is always followed by blessing” (a quote from my good friend Summer, who’s an editor for InnieMom). 

Read more from the series:

Moms on a Mission: Dr. Karen Dowling

Moms on a Mission: Erin Mayes

Moms on a Mission: Mari Hernandez-Tuten

Moms on a Mission: Kathleen Brooker

Moms on a Mission: Sarah R. Moore

Moms on a Mission: Stacey Pardoe

Moms on a Mission: Kristin Billerbeck

Moms on a Mission: Amy Cutler

Moms on a Mission: Pastor Stefanie Hendrickson

Don’t be a mom martyr

Asking for a break doesn’t make you a bad mom

My kids have spent most of this week with my in-laws. It started on Monday afternoon when I sent a message to my mother-in-law asking if she and my father-in-law could possibly pick up the kids from school, do homework, feed them dinner and even make lunches for the next day.

Motherhood is important work, but we don't have to be mom martyrs. We can ask for help or time off and still be good moms.

That’s a lot to ask of anyone, but I could barely be upright, let alone functional thanks to sickness. My husband is operating at half capacity still with broken ribs from a fall in mid December. (He still can’t lie down in bed.) We were a mess.

That one day turned into a few days. Finally, on Thursday evening the kids came back home. And, honestly, I didn’t even miss them until Wednesday, because I was just too sick on Monday and Tuesday to think very straight.

Here’s the thing. I know if needed, I could have managed with the kids at home. I’ve done it before. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses who has had three major surgeries since having my two kiddos, I know how to manage while not feeling my best.

I can push myself, but I also know my limits. And I am incredibly blessed to have both my parents and my in-laws in town and retired. They all love a chance to have our kids over. Both sets raised two children themselves and are no strangers to homework, dinner, lunchboxes and bedtime routines. I do not for one minute take that for granted.

I’d say this week has gone much better for my kiddos in being with their Nana and Papaw. I certainly haven’t been up to cooking. I know my temper would have been short from sheer exhaustion, because I have been utterly exhausted every day even without two children in my care.

In fact, on Tuesday evening, my husband took our son to his Ninja Zone class and then returned him to Nana and Papaw’s just in time for bed. My husband heard his mother instruct our son to get ready for bed and then he could choose a snack between ice-cream and a Nutty Buddy. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love that?!

(And I am upset at the late sugary snack? Nope. It’s not what I do and won’t happen at home, but sugary snacks before bed with grandparents on occasion is just fun when you’re a kid. Not to mention, I can’t be upset with the people who are helping me out by taking care of my children during a school week!)

They came home with backpacks full of clean clothes and lunchboxes already packed for Friday, complete with notes from my mother-in-law. It was such a blessing to me.

Being tempted to be a mom martyr

However, even knowing I have help readily available that my children would prefer, I still struggle to ask for it sometimes. When I realized I was getting sick, I suspected it was the same bug my husband had previously. While he was sick, I managed the kids, puppy and everything else.

I knew he’d do the same for me in usual circumstances, but with broken ribs and crummy sleep, he isn’t up to par right now. In no time, I started in on a pity party for myself as I dragged around the house on Monday morning making sure the puppy and kids were fed and ready for the day. I was bemoaning in my head about how even though I was sick, I couldn’t have the luxury to stop. I was a mom, for goodness sake, and we don’t get days off.

My pity party continued. I was really getting going about how no matter how bad I felt, my family wouldn’t care and would still need things done.

And then I realized it didn’t have to be that way. I DO have help available. I do NOT have to be a mom martyr. Sometimes I have no choice. For example, a year ago, my husband and his parents were out of town for a funeral. My parents were in Florida visiting my brother. I was dog-sitting for my in-laws. I got a stomach bug. It was just the kids and me. We survived. They ate peanut butter and Hawaiian rolls and way too many chocolate granola bars. They got to stay home from school an extra day because I was sick, but we survived.

Motherhood is important work, but we don't have to be mom martyrs. We can ask for help or time off and still be good moms.

The thing about motherhood is that we don’t get days off — not truly. Even when my kids were with my in-laws, my mom brain was thinking about them and what they needed. I wanted to make sure my daughter had her school library book to return and my son practiced his spelling words. I can never turn off my mom brain.

Good moms can ask for help

But sometimes being a good mother means you realize that asking for help is what is best for your kids, even if it hurts your pride. Even if you don’t want to admit to other mothers that you had days without your kids to recover. (And, honestly, this has been an exceptional sickness that has required days. I’m still out of sorts.)

Motherhood is a calling. It’s important work, but we don’t have to be mom martyrs. We can ask for help and still be good moms. We can ask for time off (even when we aren’t sick!) and still be good moms.

Our foremothers understood this even more back when families lived closer together and neighbors watched out for each other’s kids. We weren’t meant to raise our kids on an island alone. Embrace the community you have whether it is family or friends. Ask for help when you need it. It really does take a village to raise our children!

Getting some perspective for 2020

A recent biopsy has me re-evaluating my priorities

Back in the fall of 2013, I went with my husband to a health fair through his employer. One of the offered tests was an ultrasound of arteries in your neck. We both did that. His came back fine. My arteries were fine, but the technician found nodules on my thyroid.

Since then, I’ve had my nodules checked annually. (Thankfully the nodules don’t affect my thyroid’s function or interfere with my swallowing.) I had a biopsy the first year that came back benign. My scan in 2018 showed some growth, so I had to have another biopsy. I was anxious, but everything was again benign. My 2019 scan showed additional growth, so I had to go for another biopsy. I wasn’t very anxious going into the biopsy.

I went into the office and held still while the doctor took samples from two different spots. After she takes the samples, the doctor leaves the room to do a preliminary reading. I have to stay lying down.

As I was lying there, still not feeling too nervous, I started to think about how the results coming back could change my life and perspective. While I expected benign findings, I knew cancerous findings would dramatically change things.

Fortunately, the findings were that the nodules continue to be benign and nothing to worry about. I will keep check on them, because it’s not worth the risk to ignore them.

But in talking with my husband as we ate Mexican food on the way home from the biopsy, I mentioned to him how I had thought about my perspective shifting depending on what the biopsy showed.

This is a busy season of life with two young school-aged children. I have a lot on my plate right now from work to kids’ activities to running a household (and keeping a lively puppy out of things!). Sometimes that gets to me. Sometimes I get cranky, stressed and even angry. I try to be a woman full of love and grace, yet sometimes I’m more of a woman full of exhaustion and frustration.

God pricked at my heart to show me some changes I need to make. I thought about what my priorities actually are. If my nodules had come back cancerous, what would I be worried about? I can tell you my worries would certainly shift.

I’d worry less about the places to be, chores to complete and work to be done. I’d worry more about spending time with my family, enjoying every minute I can and doing things that truly matter.

I concluded that’s what I need more of in the new year and beyond. I am starting with some shifts in what I’m doing. I love my work, but for the parts that don’t HAVE to be done, I’m giving myself some grace along the way. I put a lot of additional pressure and stress on myself, and sometimes I need to just let it go.

My body pays a price for everything I do from typing on the keyboard to stirring cookie dough thanks to fibromyalgia. So my time is better spent on what matters.

In 20 years, my kids won’t talk about the chores I did or homemade goodies I made. They’ll laugh about the memories I made doing things with them.

One of my prized Christmas memories from childhood is playing a board game with my dad on Christmas morning after we had opened gifts. I can’t tell you what we ate that year or even what other gifts I got. What I cherish most is the good memories made with him.

That’s what I’m focusing on going into 2020. My kids are growing every year. My daughter is already maturing and losing some of the wander of childhood. I know my son isn’t too far behind.

I want to enjoy them as much as I can. If that means I take some shortcuts in the kitchen, post a few less blog posts, let laundry go a couple of extra days and do more online shopping then so be it.

Sometimes what we need most is the reminder of what truly matters.