Raising Four Daughters

Photo credits: Maria Wild

Spending these years with my girls, witnessing and nurturing every aspect of their life and development, bearing burdens, sharing joys, laughing, learning, raising girls is about the sweetest thing ever. Nathan’s mom always says that your children grow and become your best friends and confidants. I know our daughters are not yet big, but the privilege of having four girls is an overwhelming grace.

Everyone says ‘time flies’ and that the little years pass so quickly. So I wonder if I’ll miss the small moments of making braids for the second time today, and helping buckle little white church shoes, and cracking the same egg together for muffins. I realize that imaginary tea parties will end as will coloring pink princesses beside my littlest one. The next thing is not the same, beautiful as it may be, but gone too quickly.

Sometimes at home we like to refer to Nathan as the king, hence the girls are the king’s daughters. They love announcing, “The king is here!” when he pulls up the driveway in the evenings. But more importantly, they ARE daughters of The King. Sheer beauty. Loveliness. White as snow.

If we are teaching them to put on Christ, then we need to be ready to dress them like daughters. As I clothe myself in Christ, my girls can learn that their whole being is set right. Their status, self, refinement, and beauty rest squarely on Him.

As daughters of the King, we adorn them with virtues that are fitting for them. We teach them to strive for modesty of character that avoids an attempt to draw attention to oneself. Furthermore, modesty embraces the honor of reflecting the Light of Christ alone. “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:4)

Another value that we have been striving to endow with our not-so-little girls is a hunger for excellence. Each one obviously comes at this with more or less need than the other, but by giving them examples to follow and surrounding them with beauty in everyday creation we attempt to set them on that path. Music, literature, museums, art, orchestra, even just orderliness in the home help form their vision and desire for loveliness. Little daily tasks like table setting can help inculcate their enjoyment of grace and mastery. Naturally, we try to provide for their interest (archery, swimming, drawing, cake decorating, sewing) and by grace have some tools available to them here at home (art supplies, instruments, fabric, etc.).

We also want our daughters to be theologically well studied. That sounds a little stuffy, but, although they are still little, we include them in family conversation by asking questions, reading short portions of Scripture, participate in discussion, memorize verses.

My joy in my girls-become-women would be to see their confidence in their own callings be full of grace crowned with beauty. I seek for them to delight in service full of mercy. From a little age, we teach them to be careful of God’s provisions in our home and to be good stewards of all his material blessings. We pray that these little girls in our care have a longing soul for the weak, the needy, the hungry, and in faith give of themselves generously!

There’s no prescriptive way of raising a girl because there is no such thing as perfection. There is wisdom, and there are principles that we must build our lives around and nurture our families within. But there is also great freedom. Our daily puzzle is unique, and we shouldn’t be afraid to change and adapt. We all love fiercely and wrestle difficult decisions because we deeply care. There is no perfect or best way to do this job.

What a glorious thing!

I’ll end with my girls’ favorite verse:

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”

– Proverbs 11:22

with love, Damaris

Remembering the Vows on Our 16th Anniversary

Photo Credits: Maria Wild

Just this week, I came across a little piece of paper with my vows handwritten on it. It was in a box of daily letters Nathan and I wrote to each other during the months of our engagement.

“I promise to love you, obey you, respect you, honor you, and help you in time of sickness or health, and forsaking all others, cling only to you. I will do you good and no evil all of the days of my life.”

The vows are serious. Staggeringly serious. But we did not take these vows trusting in our own strength to perform. The grace that enabled us to take these vows will be there to draw on when the performance of them seems hard.

Throughout the last sixteen years, we’ve sometimes seen God quietly in our mundane, and sometimes seen in Him break into our lives with bursts of His glory. Each week turned month turned year, we’ve tasted His mercy as we see that our lives aren’t a series of rewards for doing things right, but circumstances strung together that speak of who God is and who we aren’t.

There is nothing more satisfying, glorious, and grand than to seek together the kingdom of God. In this season of life, we primarily seek the kingdom of God by teaching the children who God is and what He requires of us.

Our children are our marriage’s most precious gifts, and we tell them how God protects our vows and what He has done in our life. This is our joy, that they may know God and never remember a day when they didn’t love Him.

So here’s to one more year in the fountains of His mercy – one more year of happiness keeping these vows!

Happy Anniversary, my Love!

with love. Damaris

Big Faith, Small Dreams

“Oh, isn’t this just the house of your dreams!?” This phrase was repeated so often when we first moved into our house. Every time I heard it, I really didn’t know what to say.

It’s been well over a year since I first began the draft of this post on paper. And now that we’ve been going through old house pictures and sharing with you the rooms’ transformation (and here), it began burning in my heart again.So let me tell you why I didn’t know what to say to all the well-meaning visitors.

Truth: It wasn’t love at first sight; it wasn’t a dream come true. This house was an answered prayer.

Four years, scores of prayers, a couple moves, selling a house, living in a rental – this house was an answered prayer. “You are so patient,” friends would say. We knew that we had a small budget which limited our possibilities. Yet, even after the tortuous waiting, still this house was not a dream come true.

So what did we pray for exactly? Well a simple request: that God would provide for us a place from which to serve Him better and serve Him more.

We prayed that the dreams that we did have, of the perfect house and perfect locale, would not trump God’s desires.

We prayed that we would remain patient long enough to receive from His good providence with an open hand and thankfulness.

I knew that this was the place of provision. In my heart this place we were praying for God to put us in was going to be ok. And God is so good! Nevertheless, in my mind many small expectations had to be let go (as a side note, let me tell you that letting go was a long process!). The battle with those expectations, though, was not the reason that this house wasn’t the house of our dreams.

“Dream big” , “Follow your dreams”, “Never give up on your dreams”, “Your dreams will come true”, “Make your dreams a reality!” Do these sound familiar? All these are phrases we’ve probably heard from lots of different voices and maybe even said ourselves. The world that denies God tells us that the ‘good life’ is a life in which we achieve our dreams. That world says the Dream is the thing – the house, the trip, the job, the experience. Truth: the real thing is us becoming image bearers of God by whatever means He chooses. During all of our waiting, God wasn’t after us making bigger, better dreams of ourselves. He was working at growing our faith – big faith for small dreams.

So may we not think that happiness lies in the fulfillment of our dreams – the good life is knowing God.

Next time you wonder if your dreams are big enough, pray that God gives you big faith.

“But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

with love. Damaris

Why is it so Hard to Ask

Photo Credit: Maria Wild

During this morning’s devotions we did something we’d never done before.

At the breakfast table, we read a Proverb and prayed. By one of the girls’ suggestions, we went around the table and each prayed for the person next to us. Prayers were spoken for the biggest to think before he speaks, for the big girl to be gentle to a brother, for the middle boy to remember what he’s told, for the middle girl to be thorough in all of her schoolwork, for a little girl to be kind to her sister, and for the littlest to not be contrary and cross. The middle girl was next to me, and she prayed that I wouldn’t do all the work, and be healthy, and to be very happy. When it was my turn to pray, I heard my words sound formal, respectful/polite/well-mannered…. I wasn’t tenderly asking with innocence and vulnerability like the small prayers said before me.

Photo Credit: Maria Wild

Why is it so hard to ask?

If He loves to give, why isn’t it easier? All day, my children ask for snacks, help in the bathroom, cups to be filled, socks and shoes put on, and help with long words. Sometimes I hear “Mom, Mom, Mom” so many times, surely there is not three seconds between their calls! One thing I know through their asking is that they need me. The kids ask unafraid and relentless, and their asking is a bold statement of helplessness. The asking requires surrender, and surrender springs from humility. I know I lack the humility to ask God the way the children ask for daily things of me. Because in asking, I would be completely yielding to an Almighty God – I would acknowledge my incompetence and inability.

The irony of it is that when I try to ask, I am afraid I don’t know how to do it the right way (James 4:2,3). If we don’t receive because we don’t ask as we ought, then I just don’t ask! I know my prayers are so imperfect and awkward! But when I pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13), it’s not my stuttered words He hears but the delightful prayers of Jesus. If I trust His Name is enough, than my struggling, messy prayers are all God wants!

If you think of it, this is why Jesus told us that we needed to be like children (Matthew 18:3 ). My kids ask in helplessness, and they just ask – not afraid to sound broken or simple. Children ask because they are dependent. How I want that my heart is humble enough to ask! Just ask!

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:7-11

with love. Damaris

The Transition to Summer – Chores, Play, and Wonder

There are no closing bells or farewell parties for summertime.

In the homeschooling home, where structures of time and space have flexible boundaries, it can be difficult to discern transitions. In spite of this, we try to make a clear contrast between summertime and the rest of the year. Making this distinction has been the sweetest gift for me as a homeschooling mother. There are natural rhythms in nature such as gardening, haying time, preserving the harvest, and new baby barnyard animals, and we attempt to allow for those rhythms to fill our days.

Homeschooling is an extension of the home, and so it flexes to the needs and curiosities of the people who inhabit it. For our home in the summer, we have a mixture of structure and unstructured time in our day. There’s a definite end to our homeschool group, but other activities continue. Like many homes, we plan to settle into the relaxed days of summer, taking a break from all subjects. We do, however, incorporate copy writing (improves their handwriting and creative writing skills) and Bible memory work (a loner passage which we may not have time for during the year – this year, we are memorizing John 14 ). The children also continue weekly music lessons. Our family also functions better when we keep daily disciplines of regular meal times, Bible reading, chores, family read-aloud, and bedtimes.

One of the beauties of summer is to allow for wide and welcoming boundaries of time for the children’s own pleasure – an invitation to re-create and enjoy time. Some summers we take trips, and some years we have newborns, and swim lessons, and outings to Barns and Noble. The single thread through all of our summers has been reading. Books have certainly been the highlight of our summer activities. We pick up loads of picture books, fiction and non-fiction from the library, and you will find books in our car, in our bags, and in every room of our home.

In an upcoming post, we’re sharing the best book series for summer!

with love, Damaris

Managing Mom Expectations

Expectations are not easily silenced, especially when they come from those closest to us (and whom we love most) or from ourselves.

Just the other week, I woke up with a tight grip on the day. Really, it started the night before. The surety of my control over all the phone calls I would make, the blog post I would write, the chores, piano lessons, library returns, etc. I had high goals for the day, and then children bickered instead of getting dressed, the oatmeal boiled over onto the stove, and I forgot to confirm an appointment, and an email came that it got cancelled. To top it off, over the weekend we had run vinegar through the coffee pot to clean it. My elated anticipation turned to horror when my cream curdled to the top of my coffee cup because of the vinegar that hadn’t been flushed enough from the machine. I was utterly frustrated because I had lost all control no matter how hard I tried. In my world, this is not an isolated occurrence – my expectations leave me feeling like a failure all too often. How I want to surrender my moments to God!

Do you ever wonder what went so wrong from your well-laid plans?

At the end of the day, we feel unhappy about how our day went – not feeling as accomplished as other days, or may even feel guilt. I have watched for the things that make me feel satisfied at the end of the day and not disappointed about how the day went. I absolutely love a clean house, and baking, and hosting Bible study, but at the end of some of those long days, I would feel down – not fulfilled in the events of the day. All are good activities, but sometimes may be unrealistic expectations. Spending a little time in prayer, reading to the children, asking them to work with me in the kitchen, or sitting at their side to learn a new school lesson are the top activities that always leave me lying in bed with a full heart from a full day. I am not advocating for not getting anything done here! There are days for accomplishing a lot, and we try to tackle those together. We say ‘yes’ to tub scrubbing and window wiping, and ‘no’ to tea time with an audio book. It is what we were aiming for on that day. Changing our expectation makes all the difference.

We need humility to accept our limitations and admit when we are wrong about unrealistic expectations. Expectations can be unrealistic not because they cannot be accomplished, but because they are not for us at this time. Unrealistic expectations can creep into all areas of our life and can often be poisonous. They quickly drive us to stress and self-pity. Our mind wanders, and our hearts flutter with fear at our inability and failure to meet the unrealistic expectations.

Are you feeling unfulfilled when your marriage supposedly isn’t like someone’s else’s? Are you letting a messy house or running behind schedule irritate you? Do your kids’ childish mistakes and accidents annoy you? Do you feel like a failure when you see disobedience in the children, again? These all have the potential to be unrealistic expectations that leave us with ragged emotions that overtake our hearts – hearts that God wants to shield and strengthen (Psalm 28:7).

Watching over our thoughts and wants will prevent unrealistic expectations from creeping in. I have prayed for both of us, that we make every thought captive in obedience to God and be sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5) so we can be filled with peace as we manage mom expectations.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

with love, Damaris

Spring-Cleaning our Hearts

I love me a clean house!

I admittedly confess my house is clean enough, but not the kind of clean my mom taught me. Those were the good ol’ clean days! Ahhh. We would empty all the cupboards regularly and wipe the shelves, sides, and doors. We also washed everything we’d taken out before filling the cupboards back up. Every Saturday morning, mom would open the balcony and the bedroom windows to let the fresh air crisp everything out. Floors were mopped and every surface polished. The house felt bright and the air smelled lemony. As a little girl, it seemed like it sparkled, and I pretended to be the princess of the palace. Cleaning was expected, but not the purging. We never de-junked. Then we moved, after 10 years. Imagine how difficult the job was after all those years of accumulation?!

Our homes aren’t the only things that need a good deep spring cleaning. Just like we only polished and let the air in on Saturdays, we often just make superfluous confessions in daily prayer, but seldom purge. I am reminded of this every time we share in The Lord’s Supper. Communion is a time for quiet reflection and allowing God to call to mind all that resides in our hearts that is far deeper than just beneath the surface. Why don’t I make this effort more often?

Our hearts don’t particularly look forward to the dreaded task, but repentance isn’t optional. Let’s make an effort to regularly bring our hearts to God for deep-purge cleansing.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 1:9

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[a] spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

with love, Damaris

Are You in Need of Self-Care?

I have been seeing this new term pop-up everywhere, and something about it felt off. After many conversations with Nathan and also with a close godly friend, I’m beginning to understand why. The name ‘self-care’ seemed indulgent…motivated by inward-focus , self-pleasing, conceited desires.

The moniker may be new, but the responsible adherence is as old as creation. After all, rest was built right into the rhythm of life. Integral to creation are the God ordained cycles of work and rest. Rest is a necessary part of a healthy and balanced life: “Exercise and proper rest patters generate about 20 percent energy increase in an average day.” (Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands).

The 6th commandment, too, reminds us of the sanctity of life: “Thou shall not kill,” forbids us from killing, and requires us to take care, nurture and protect life – our life and that of our neighbor.

Here are some areas where we should thoughtfully consider if we are rightly practicing “self-care”:

  • the Physical – eating, sleeping, regular check-ups, fitness

  • the Spiritual – spending time in Scripture, listening to messages, prayer, journaling, singing

  • the Intellectual – learning, reading, engaging in something new, finding inspiration, creativity

  • the Social – uplifting friends, life-giving conversations, connection, serving others

  • the Emotional – dealing with stress, compassion

There can be a difference between this Biblical care of ourselves and what is so often promoted in the popular term “self-care.” That difference most often stems from our motive. I came across something Matthew Henry said that hits the nail on the head (even so long ago!):

“There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified: but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbor as truly sincerely as we love ourselves.” (Expositions of the Bible, Matthew 22:40)

Here are a few questions that might help us examine our motives:

Is a preoccupation with ourselves driving us to be discontent? Do you find yourself manipulating others to get what you want? Whining and complaining until our husband gives-in? Do we seek pity from others? Maybe looking to guilt-trip? Or maybe we say things like: “All my friends get their hair done, I deserve to look good too?” “Why can’t I ever get help when my friend has weekly help from her mom?” “Shouldn’t I go get a manicure since all my friends get massages every month?” “They go on dates all the time, I deserve to break the budget once in a while.” “I deserve this break after the day I just had!”

Demanding self-care is not the same thing that Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Jesus spent time serving with intervals of refreshment and prayer (Mark 6:30-32; Mark 1:35). In the same spirit, we need to retreat, refresh, and come back renewed. Our time, energy, mental and physical health are gifts from God that we are responsible to steward with thoughtfulness and care. He knows, he cares, and he will provide for our every need. We can trust that he sees our weariness. Our Father in heaven cares about our daily load and our emotions. God is bigger than our circumstances, and He’s got this!

It is important to recognize that some activities refill us while others drain our energy. We have to balance the things that fill us and drain us. It will be different for everyone, but learning our energy limitation is key to maintaining our personal health. Grocery shopping can be relaxing to some or draining to others. Same with socializing – some of us are filled up by spending time with friends and staying up late to talk, yet some feel drained by conversation.

If you’re like me, fight for a little silence! A time of quiet to know Jesus. A time of quiet to rest our minds. A time to chill and calm and recognize that He is God and not me. Just a few minutes in my bedroom have had great impact on restoring my sanity and recreating my joy in the Lord. God delights to see us thrive. Shona Murray, in her book Refresh says it perfectly, “By paying attention to rest and refueling, both physically and spiritually, we avoid extremes of energy expenditure followed by exhaustion. We learn to relax without false guilt; learn to view sleep, exercise, and healthy regular eating as Gods gifts; and lean to accept the help of others with humility when needed.”

with love, Damaris

Wondering if You've Said too Much + A Prayer

“If I know for sure that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.

If I have a strong hunch that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.

If I have even the slightest doubt that something might not be true, I need to be quiet.

But just because something is true does not mean I always need to say it. Motives and manners matter. And so?

If something is true but saying it to someone will needlessly hurt their feelings, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but I know that my reason for saying it is to belittle someone or make them feel guilty, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but I promised to hold it in confidence, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but I know that my reason for saying it is to cause a rift between two people, I need to be quiet.

If something is true but my motive for speaking the truth is to make myself look better by comparison, I need to be quiet.

If something is true and I just feel in my heart that saying it will do nothing but make me feel good, in a sinister sort of way, I need to be quiet.

Bottom line? more often than not, I need to learn to keep it shut. How about you?

I think I have enough duct tape for the both of us.”

[Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All, Karen Ehman]

I compiled some of my favorite verses that remind me to be quiet + my favorite prayer at the end:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 18:21

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

Proverbs 10:19

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

Proverbs 21:23

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4:6

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Colossians 3:8

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Lastly, my favorite prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 14:19

with love, Damaris

Are you Fun?

Why don’t you laugh as much as my friend’s mom? I was stunned. Next, I was hurt. But really, I was disappointed in myself. On a very rare occasion, my kids had been in the car with another mom. When the kids came back, they were retelling me all the fun they had on the car ride. Walter’s mom laughed when they told funny stories.

There were many demands with six little ones. The oldest was 9, and he wasn’t very in tune with serving his siblings. This left me with a mission- all day – to get the work done. I was obviously wearing the seriousness of the stress of mothering and the busyness. I moved from one task to another so quickly, that anything requiring more than 30 seconds of my time had to be stopped. I interrupted because I had to move on. My mantra was moving on, moving on, which I often said out loud. The lists did get shorter, but my temper did too, and my face grew longer. Usually wearing a stern face, the last thought on my mind was to add fun and laughter to my day!

My girl’s question was a convicting reminder that my countenance affects my kids. They need clean clothes, nutritious meals, and orderly surroundings, but they also need my joy. I’ve often thought since then, what would my girl say now? Am I more lighthearted? Do I listen to the children’s “knock, knock” jokes and laugh? Is our atmosphere fun? Can we sing sillies, and dance deliriously? Our days are short, and I want to fill their lives with joy.

A joyful heart is good medicine.

Proverbs 7:22

with love, Damaris