choices

When the Hard Thing is the Best Thing

Today, we had to let our dog go.  

I have never been an animal lover. In fact, we've had pretty bad luck with canine's, in general, since tying the knot ten years ago. I'd much rather raise a bunch of humans than animals. But since I already do raise a bunch of humans, having an extra creature to care for, in the form of a needy dog, is and wasn't my first choice. Chickens, I can do chickens. Lizards, I can do some lizards. Maybe even a hamster or a rabbit would be a little less "hands on". But if it was legal to have a pet giraffe, I totally would. I love giraffes. Dogs...are just needy. And I have enough things that "need" me around here. 

This dog, in particular, kinda/sorta came with the house purchase a year ago. 

She was this huge, massive, friendly, stubborn but sweet thing.

And our oldest, well, he fell hard for her.  

She reminded me sometimes of a more docile "Beethoven". I put out a kiddie pool last summer, she jumped right in and took up the entire space. The little toddler girls were left screaming and crying and covered in "dog water". She wouldn't.get.out.

She wouldn't miss a beat if there was an outdoor picnic lunch or a cookout. She'd help herself to any plate within her eye level and she always went for the most vulnerable victim first, our two-year-old daughters plate. I can't count the number of times I've sent the little ones outside to eat their paper plated lunches and hear a deafening scream come from the backyard mere seconds after Miss Olivia emerged from the safety of the house.  She was always left with an empty, somewhat soggy white circle in her hand and a face full of tears. Robbed, of yet, another meal. 

This week, after weeks of discussing potentially letting her go, I noticed her health take a big turn.  

She struggled so much this week to breathe, and was the most lazy I've seen her. I knew, without a doubt, that her time left was short. She may have lasted the rest of the summer, but even then, it would've been a summer of suffering. I'm sure it's not easy being a 100lb. dog with jet black fur in a NC summer. I didn't think it was fair to make her suffer thru it just so we could delay our sadness. 

I think sometimes, life gives us seasons of just difficult choices and roads. This season, has been particularly trying, and, of course, this just adds to it. Not so much for my own sadness, but for the sadness of my children. I think it's good for us to be honest and candid and open about such life events. Death is as much a part of life as breathing, eating, and paying bills. It's just a part of the journey. We didn't sugar coat it with our children. Lexie isn't coming home. 

Some choices we make because we "go with our gut". Some choices are just black and white. Some choices we may just "rock-paper-scissors" it for the answer. And then some, well, some are just plain hard. We wrestle. We make a choice. We rethink. We choose the other thing anyway. And then, we may change our minds again. (Enter regret here.)

No matter what we choose, the fact that we have the God-given ability to make choices and to be an active participant in our journey, is a gift. Our dog was an unexpected gift. There were days when I didn't consider using the word "gift" to describe her. One, more recent day being when she killed one of our, then, six week old chicks.

She taught us a lot, though. She taught my children how to care for and love one of God's greatest creations. She gave my eight year old son a furry best friend. She taught us how to practice patience when she would simply lie down on her side when you asked her to "come". 

I hope someday, if dogs, in fact, do all go to heaven, that she will greet us there. My eight-year-old is already convinced that they do, and that he will see his best buddy again someday. Maybe so...until then, may we always remember that sometimes the best choice still leaves us with a broken heart. And tonight, we have seven broken hearts. 

 

The last picture of Lexie with four of our five babies.  

The last picture of Lexie with four of our five babies.  

The case for SAHMs.

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*This post is not intended to offend or take away from those mothers who must work for their families. Single mothering has been on the rise for years and most of these mothers would've never chosen to go down that difficult path of being both parents for their child/children. So if you're a full time working mother outside of the home and you are easily offended by anything that praises and encourages stay-at-home mothering, then just don't read any further. This post is intended to encourage and remind those mothers who do stay at home, how precious their work, albeit, completely monotonous and emotionally draining, really is. Also, this is not meant to start a debate about who has it easier/harder/better amongst both working outside the home moms and SAHMs. There is nothing here to suggest which group may struggle more. Women have been following the cult of feminism for the last century. Feminism tells women that they are equal to men in everyway....it's paved the way for countless societal changes. Most recently, congress has been arguing equal pay amongst the sexes. Some changes have been necessary and good: the right to vote in elections, the right to own property, and attend universities to name a few.

But in the peak of the feminist movement there was found a growing desire for women to secure jobs outside of the home. In the US, half of all women prefer to have a job outside of the home. In contrast, just one century ago, only 6% of all mothers worked outside of the home, and almost in all cases, it was because the husband was unemployed.

As feminism creeped in and infiltrated almost every area of our society, women began to divorce more, embracing life and activities outside of her homestead, and felt enlightened in controlling her own family size by using readily available contraception and abortion.

While mothers working outside of the home full time is not the only factor contributing to the decline in the family unit, it is definitely a big one to consider. And now, just a measly 14% of mothers in the US don't work outside the home. These mothers are now a minority and they are full time mothering during what I feel is the most difficult time in history to be a mother.

Mothering is hard no matter if you work outside the home or not. But I feel as though society looks at those mothers who do stay at home in a set of rose colored lenses. Here are some misconceptions I've experienced and would like to clear up.

the BIG one: "you can afford it/you must have $$$"

Living in typical materialistic America makes it difficult to live on one income. Everyone has more bills than money in the bank and more stuff than they can fit into their homes. Storage units are on every corner, it seems, and people regularly clutter up their homes with more junk and excess than probably any other society on the planet. We actually have a storage unit ourselves. And it's full. We got one last year to accommodate our extra in order to prepare for the sell of our home. Little did I realize that after a few days of transferring items to the unit, I would grow detached from those items. Now I'm to the point where everything in there, I could care less about. I cannot wait until we unload it all next month during our move and hopefully, give away almost all of it.

All of that to say, one income families must be creative. It isn't the norm anymore to live this way and a family is really going against the grain when they do. So no, we are not rich because I stay at home. We have bills and hardships just like two income families do. And to all the one income families out there struggling, I believe God really does honor the home where the husband works hard outside of the home and the mother tirelessly cares for the home in the roles He originally designed. You should be encouraged. Your struggle is seen and your family is blessed in spite of the struggle. Your work is beautiful and your children couldn't benefit more from way you cherish your family. Living on one income is not easy, but it is possible. It is very possible if you nix the extra and focus on the necessary.

"Stay-at-home moms sit around and eat twinkies and watch talk shows all day"

Um....this one is a huge no. Not only can we not pee in peace, but some days we're lucky to finish our own lunch. And that's all I have to say about that.

"it's all play dates and frozen yogurt"

Actually, it can get pretty lonely being a SAHM. Most days, your calendar is empty and you're lucky if you have an intelligent conversation before bedtime at all. Not to mention, it's not always reasonable to go out for frozen yogurt everyday...or to go out at all. With gas being so expensive, and every activity costing more per person than I really ever care to pay [especially for the little people that you'll really spend the entire time chasing and/or entertaining], it mostly isn't worth it to get out. So to the moms who feel trapped in their homes right now, in the trenches, and not having any real good reason to put earrings on and maybe some mascara, you are thought of and understood. You are not alone and you are beautiful and necessary. Your children love you and the work you feel so readily unappreciated for. You may look at "Career Mom Suzie" and think you may want to have a good reason to stay gone doing important amazing world changing tasks all day while wearing the latest fashions. But, dear sweet mother in the sweats and kid-stained shirt, you are doing important/amazing world-changing tasks already. Every moment. You are actively raising the next generation on a full time basis. Your children will be the better for it and I betcha they won't remember a bit that you didnt wear lipstick everyday or have the cutest shoes. Kids are kinda cool like that. They just love you for you.

If I could wish for something today, it's that more mothers could stay at home with their kids. That more mothers would make the very hard choice to do so and really grasp how fulfilling it still is [not old fashioned/outdated] to fulfill the role God intended for them. To be keepers of their home, to care for and provide the necessaries for their household members, to create a safe haven for everyone within those walls, and to encourage growth, life, and creativity by not being distracted or tied down to a career. But to make motherhood their career. Their calling. Their life.

You are not "just a mom". You may not receive a paycheck but the payoff is beyond anything tangible anyway. You are needed, wanted, valued, and today, rare. A beautiful gem of what selflessness embodied is. Even on the days you have more selfish thoughts than unselfish ones, you are a beautiful human example of how much God sacrificed for us all.

May we all embrace motherhood. May we all cherish the precious few years we have with each child. All too soon, it will be over, and I don't want to regret a second.

How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways! You will be happy, and it will go well for you…You…will see your children’s children. Psalm 128:1-2

Ps.One more thing....it may just end up being cheaper to stay at home. Sometimes career moms may only clear a couple hundred dollars at the end of their hard-working month. By the time one pays for child care, transportation, lunches, and wardrobe, sometimes just simply the emotional benefits of being out and having a career are the only real perks. I've attempted to have a little job on the side while juggling motherhood before and it just made my life harder and more costly and complicated. If you're on the fence about staying home with your little ones, really weigh the costs involved. It may not be worth the paycheck after all.

Baby feet

It's my favorite baby body part. They are so kissable, so tiny and delicate, and just so pure and soft. I am a sucker for baby feet. Baby feet make me think of how God wants our hearts to be: soft, pure, and un-calloused. It isn't soon after babies take their first steps that their once impeccable, pristine little feet become a bit worn. Then it isn't too far after that, they begin to smell or get sweaty in their shoes. Before I know it, baby feet have turned into toddler feet and are no longer my favorite.

As we age and experience life, our feet become calloused, they wear, they sometimes fail us and we fall. We constantly need new coverings to protect what is left of our once most kissable feet. We go through countless pairs of shoes, socks, and for some, padded inserts to make standing more comfortable. Our feet experience a lot of life and wear and tear and we often take them for granted.

As we walk through this life, we need to remember that our feet and our hearts are very connected. Where your hearts desires are, there your feet will take you. Are you using your feet to make a difference? Are you creating a path that you would love for your children to follow? Or are you secretly going down paths you would be embarrassed to be found on? Are you thankful for your children's feet? Do you cherish the cuddly moments with your newborn? Are you engaged in your new walkers discovered independence and freedom? Do you challenge your older child to barefoot races in the backyard? Are you serving your family as Jesus did when he washed strangers feet?

Our feet are so precious, they are so overlooked, and always take us where we decide to go. Cherish your child's pure baby feet, and wear a path for them that you would be proud to see them follow. Their feet will get worn, dirty, and tired as they go through life, but because you have trained them in the way they should go, their feet will hopefully tell a beautiful story with a heart as soft and pure as their feet once were.

-Alicia