7 Ways to Be Encouraged If You Are a Newbie Homeschooler

Recently, it seems I am meeting more and more people who are making a switch to homeschooling.  I recognize that dear-in-headlights look on their face and that what-am-I-getting-myself-into tremor in their voices.

I didn’t plan on being a homeschooler. But it is where God has led my family and has kept us thus far. I had in my head that I would just homeschool through second grade and send my kids on to public school, but here I am with my oldest starting third grade and my middle child starting kindergarten. And in spite of rocky beginnings, I enjoy homeschooling and have become passionate about it.

Anyways, since my brain is on homeschooling and I seem to have many friends just starting on this journey, I thought I would offer up the wisdom I have gained thus far in homeschooling. I hope it encourages you if you are just starting out. (Note: this isn’t my regular blog content. I have no plans on being a homeschooling blogger. But I am a writer who homeschools, and it's encouraging, so it sorta fits. Right? ;) Also, guys, I have a few posts written. {!!} I know! I am so excited to be writing again.)


1. No, you didn’t come with enough patience for it.

Signing up to homeschool is like signing up to always feel like you are coming up short: short on patience, short on time, short on energy. It’s almost like by homeschooling, you are choosing to be keenly aware of your need for Jesus’ grace every.single.day. But the thing is, we always DO need Jesus’ grace, and if you can see all the ways you are falling short as the places where you get to lean on your Savior, you and your kids will grow. I don’t know a single homeschooling mom that feels like she has enough patience to be a homeschooler, but I can promise you, by the end of the school year, you will assuredly have grown in patience.


2. Write a Homeschooling Manifesto. 

Regardless if you are the mom who is super excited or completely terrified to start homeschooling, at some point in the journey it will get difficult. There will be attitudes, there might be tears, and the days will feel simultaneously long and not long enough. Your house will get messy. You might even kick into survival mode, lose all the passion you started with, and find yourself ridiculously jealous of every single mom across America who can drop her kids off for a few hours. When you get to that place, it helps to remember why you started in the first place. Why are you homeschooling? Why does homeschooling seem like the best option for you and your child? I made a list of all my reasons before I started some four years ago. I still pull my list out about 2-3 times a year when I find myself extra weary. My reasons have inspired me to rethink our days and shove off some of the have-to’s in favor of the get-to’s. I am having Addy write her own reasons she likes homeschooling this year so I have her reasons to inspire me as well. 


3. Find people

Join a co-op. Create a monthly homeschooling moms’ dessert night. Participate in learning-center or charter-school enrichment classes. Find support from fellow homeschoolers. There is absolutely no need to join a homeschooling island where everyone who doesn’t homeschool is banned from your life. (Don’t do that.) But it is really good for both you and your kids to find the people whose lives look similar so that you can learn from one another, know you aren’t alone, take field trips and do projects together, and make the most out of homeschooling.   


4. Homeschooling will not look like traditional school.

You can’t make homeschooling look like traditional school, because it’s not. What works in a classroom won’t always work in your home. Your child will end up with different memories of school than kids in traditional school—not bad different; just different. In homeschooling, the lines between education and home blur and your home will become a learning environment even outside structured learning time. You won’t be both mom and teacher—juggling between the two roles. It’s that now mom means teacher also (and I would argue mom has meant teacher all along). You don’t need to stress about the lack of a “classroom” or how you would really rather not have educational posters in your dining room or how you have no clue how to stretch out your school time to six hours or if you should stand in front of a white board and teach. (And by the way, all of those things are possible, but certainly not necessary.)


5. Pick a curriculum that gets you and your kids excited about homeschool.

Um. Have you looked into curriculum yet? There are SOOOO many options. And it’s completely overwhelming that first year. It’s a great idea to check out the vendor tables at a homeschooling conference or ask a seasoned homeschooler if you can visit her house and see what she uses. But really, since you are the teacher and your child is the student, choose for the both of you. Pick the one that jumps out at you and looks like fun.

And one more bonus tip: If at all possible, try to get a full-grade package curriculum for your first year (meaning it has all the subjects all included). You certainly don’t have to, it’s just that the first year is overwhelming, and the number of curriculum options is daunting. Every year, you will feel more confident and will likely start to branch out into what fits you and your child best. But do yourself a favor that first year, keep it simple. (If you need a place to start: Sonlight, Bookshark, My Father’s World, and Bob Jones University Press. These all have full-grade packages that I or my closest friends have used and loved.)  


6. You aren’t deciding your whole life. You are deciding one year at a time.

When I first thought of homeschooling, I wanted to look way off down into the future, like I was deciding my whole life from when my oldest started kindergarten till my youngest graduated high school. And it was daunting. Can I gently submit this: it’s not only hard to look out that far ahead, it’s also presumptuous of us to pretend to know what God wants us to do ten years from now. Most schools and curricula work on a school-calendar- year span… treat this decision as a year decision and come back to it every year in the spring. You aren’t deciding your child’s whole life. You are deciding this year.


7. Here is what you say to everyone who asks you, “What about socialization?”

“You’re right. Somehow between the co-op classes, the enrichment classes, AWANA club on Wednesday nights, Sunday school, our community group, soccer team, karate, playing with neighbors, and spending time with family and friends, I forgot to take socialization into consideration.” Okay. Maybe don’t say that. I’m being snarky. But you get the idea. You will hear this. A lot. You might even feel worried about it yourself. Let this encourage you. You don’t have to live or homeschool on an island. Simply stay connected.


I’d love to hear from you! Is this your first year? Let me know so I can remember you in prayer. Or are you a seasoned homeschooler with anything to add to my list?


By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

How to Host a Stranger

Her name was Mariam. And everything she had in this world fit into my minivan. Two little girls—three years old and eighteen months. Four suitcases—only two with working handles and none with working wheels. A few bags of diapers, lots of basmati rice, and a stroller.

Maybe it was because I had brought my Sam and my mom with me, but she must have felt safe enough to get in the van. After all, we were all just mothers and children in there. She even let me put the girls into donated car seats—they had never in their life been in a car seat. And let’s not talk about whether or not they had ridden in cars, mmm-kay?

As we drove, I listened to Mariam try to calm the screaming one—three, thick black hair and wide bangs, and so much life. She gave candies to keep the peace—apparently Afghan moms aren’t above bribing either.

The eighteen month old had curls that lifted away from her head right above her ears and big almond eyes, a dark-haired baby doll if I ever saw one. She made loud noises as she tried to wiggle free of the seatbelt harnesses. My Sam returned her grunts and yells with his own mimicked sounds.  I laughed at the seeming communication. We all start out speaking the same language of hunger and need. 

When the car hit the mountain pass, I thought of how crazy this must be for her. I was transporting her entire life to somewhere she had never been. She had no choice but to trust me. She didn’t fully understand where we were going or what was going on—how her spot at the shelter needed to be filled by another broken mother, how her case was being transferred to another non-profit, how the funds got delayed so she had nowhere ready for her, how people had scrambled to make a temporary place for her, how she had to spend the day in my home before going to another home that evening. 

Her husband had created an impossibly high wall of American bureaucracy when he abandoned his refugee wife and children and took all their documents with him. Did he know when he walked away—daughter screaming for him to come back—that he had taken with him the legs they might stand weeping upon too?

We got to my house at noon. I opened my fridge door and stood there awkwardly wondering what I could prepare for lunch. I picked up the box of lunchmeat—ham. The other box—ham. The one thing I vaguely remembered about Moslems—they don’t eat pig. I found a can of chicken in the pantry and threw together a chicken salad sandwich. I was determined to be a decent hostess (I was also starving). Mariam gently asked if she could whip up some over-easy eggs instead. Perhaps, eggs were the one thing that looked familiar in my American kitchen.

Later that afternoon, we were sitting on the living room floor, Barney entertaining her girls. I probably misspoke when I asked if she had family here. I don’t know a thing about Afghan culture.

Her sentences came out broken and all the harsh American “’a’ as in a-a-apple” sounds were softened to the schwa—“Ә”—like the last “a” in Amanda.

“No. No fuh-mily. Husbund leave.” Tears pooled in her brown eyes. I now know that a husband gone, no matter who is right or wrong, is shame and estrangement.

“Husbund leave. Farah cry, ‘Stay, please stay!’ Farah, cry, cry, cry. Husbund leave me, Farah. Maliha, only baby; nine months, like you baby.” She pointed at Sam. A few tears escaped from where they’d pooled in her eyes.

“Husbund… papers.” She made a shredding gesture as she said this. “Husband no call. No call. Nine months. No green card. No medicul. No food.” Mariam was distraught. I saw in her a desperate mother, a desperate woman, weary from the battle of survival.  I saw the pain of abandonment. I saw the worry and the fears—and while I would never compare my struggles to hers, I recognized something in her—something I have in my own self.

I grabbed her hand into mine. I am not a very touchy person, but compassion can move beyond language barriers and a simple touch can speak louder than any words ever could.

“You are safe here. We will take care of you. It will be okay, Mariam. You are safe.” I squeezed her hand and looked her right in the eyes. I said the word one more time because it really is the deepest longing of our mother hearts for our children. It’s the deepest longing of our own hearts—for deep down in us is this place that forgets the age we actually are because it goes right on feeling forever young—forever small and childlike and in need of care.

You are safe here. We won’t abandon you, because He will never abandon you.

When I had tucked my kids into bed the night before, I told them that we were going to be missionaries. They were so excited. They asked what a missionary was. I told them a missionary was someone who shows people who don’t know it yet the greatness of God’s love for them.

So the next day, while Mariam napped with Maliha in our big comfy chair, Addy and Jed built a blanket fort for Farah. They ran and laughed and tried to coax Farah into the fort. In the midst of this, Jed grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, “Am I doing it, Mom? Am I being a missionary?”

“Yes, baby. You are doing it just right.” Sometimes, sharing the love of Christ looks like ordinary acts sprinkled right through with the gold magic of God’s love. As mothers, our big job and high calling is sharing that love story with the little people being raised up under our roofs. It might look everyday ordinary until that one moment when your child looks up at you and asks the deep question, and you see the magic that’s been there all along.

Last week, I discovered that showing the love of Christ to strangers—my kids right there with me—is the same thing as showing the love of Christ to my kids.

When I dropped Mariam off at the host family’s house, she hugged me touching her cheek to my cheek and kissing. I smiled and said, “Friend.” She smiled back and said, “Sister.”

“Yes.” Clumsy and American and a fridge full of ham, but I welcomed her anyways and she called me sister.

The thing I have known about missions since I was twenty-one and interning at a missions base, it’s not just about how you could bring the gospel to someone, how their life needs changing. No, that’s the thing about the gospel. For whoever would carry that timeless gospel message will find herself changed as well.

“’For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’.” -Matthew 25:35-40

I’d love to hear your stories too, have you ever welcomed a stranger into your home?

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

**all names have been changed to protect those involved.**

P.S. Remember Mariam and her two girls in your prayers as they start all over again in a new city this weekend?

P.P.S. All I did to get involved was make a simple phone call a few months back to ask my local World Relief office what I could do to help with the refugee crisis. World Relief is a Christian non-profit that partners with the local church to establish incoming refugees here and show them the love of Christ. You can check to see if you have one close to you here--->WorldRelief.org/us-offices

This post is in no way endorsed by World Relief, though I did ask permission before publishing.

Sharing in this beautiful community of storytellers.

How I Know Postpartum Anxiety Is a Thing

I need to tell you about something. I don’t really like talking about it and I’d rather just pretend it didn’t exist.

I much prefer writing on the other side of messes or at least writing my way out of the mess. I don’t want to write where it’s messy and still messy.

{Deep breaths} Here goes:

In the days following Sam’s birth, I felt icky-anxious-raw.  I couldn’t handle loud noises, I was easily overwhelmed, the chaos I used to live in and be fine with seemed to scream at me—every pile, every misplaced toy, every dirty dish. Even the suspense contained in Jed’s favorite show, Octonauts, was too much for me. I couldn’t turn off that part of my brain that could imagine all kinds of worst case scenarios happening to my kids. I got all weepy and crazy-mom over the passing of time and trying my darnedest to soak up as much of each moment as I could. Time seemed to be a purse-thief and I was holding on and tugging back not wanting him to snatch anything from my hands.

I wondered if it was the aftermath of four subsequent miscarriages and then childbirth that left me with raw, exposed nerve-endings to all my emotions. I felt everything more deeply, more sharply, more loudly.

I’ve experienced the postpartum hormonal crash with each child and told myself that I just needed to survive the next two weeks. Those two weeks went by, and I felt better.

But here’s the thing: it’s been nine months, and I have yet to re-emerge as the Amanda I remember.
I’ve been waiting for it to get all-the-way better. In the meantime, I’ve been watching myself cave into myself.

Anxiety will rob you of your life—it will.

A few months ago, I fought off a panic attack while driving through traffic—so I stopped driving in traffic. I stopped going unfamiliar places.

I had this conversation with an almost stranger and brought up something that made her uncomfortable. I knew it was her issue and not mine and that I handled it with grace and sensitivity. But I couldn’t turn my brain off. It kept replaying that scene over and over. I felt physically ill with this deep down shame and dread. So I stopped small-talking with strangers and resolved to meet no one new.

My husband and I have always enjoyed going to the movies together—it’s like one of our things. And I haven’t been able to do it. I tried once—Star Wars, The Force Awakens. It took all my energy to keep from having a panic attack right there in that theater. When we left, all the tension I had from two hours of flashing lights and loud noises and all the suspense-building typical in action movies, well, it all came tumbling out through my tear ducts right outside the downtown IMAX theater.

I have struggled with anxiety before. In fact, I feel like I might be an expert at smothering a panic attack before I need a paper bag. But since having Sam, I am living here, not just visiting. I’m not the same. I can’t deal with messes or noisy kids or the volume on the television being above three-and-a-half bars. (Let’s watch with subtitles, guys. It’ll be fun. A dose of reading with our watching.)

It’s affected my motherhood, my marriage, and my friendships.

I got my thyroid tested and actually wished for something to be wrong because a thyroid issue just seemed to be a more acceptable problem. My pride can deal with a physical problem with a direct solution. Mental illness is so much harder to talk about.

The test came back negative. So I am over here, praising the Lord that nothing is wrong with my thyroid and refusing to believe that something is wrong with me. My sensitivity shall become my strength. My fears shall be my places of bravery. And maybe for the overwhelming things, like dentist appointments and movie date nights… maybe it’s okay to ask for help with those right now.

I am learning to not compare myself with anyone else. My struggles might not look like your struggles and my victories might not look like your victories, but that doesn’t diminish the strength it takes to overcome. Overcoming is overcoming. Period.

My life is slowed down. I can’t move fast. I’ll break. And as much as I hate to talk about this part because it makes me leak tears: I’ll break others—especially those dearest and closest to me. I have had to say no to the things I really want to say yes to. I’ve taken extra time for things like long showers, books, photography, nature walks, and journaling. I have one ministry, yes, and it’s here writing. And I can’t help but see the holy nod of the Lord. Yes. This is where I want you. Maybe your heart bleeds for other things too, but so does Mine. And I’ve got it covered.

Sometimes all this self-care feels selfish. So, listen to this, because anxiety struggle or not, all the women pouring out to their families and communities the whole world over need to know this: Self-care and selfishness are not the same thing. They’re not. Selfishness comes from a place of longing to puff your own self up for your own self’s sake. Selfishness takes and gives nothing back. Self-care comes from a place of longing to be whole so you can wholly love others. Self-care receives so that it has more to give.

I can tell you that I am making baby steps forward. Therapy has been so helpful. Avoiding fears only makes them bigger and stronger, but small victories lead to overcoming. It might be a slow work, but the rhythm to it is grace.

So, yeah. I have postpartum anxiety. I had no idea it was a thing. It might be a temporary struggle, it might be longer. But I am leaning.

And listen to me, dear sister, I’ve said this before: you might feel all super weak tied up with whatever struggle you are facing, you might feel like you are failing at life. But real strength is really in Christ. You don’t have to be strong enough to overcome. You only have to be strong enough to lean on the One who already overcame. 

Dear anxious heart, lean on Him. And you shall be called an overcomer yet.

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

P.S. In the coming weeks, I will be moving my site to a better program and a better host. It will be a slow process (see post above) and could likely mean a few days of mess on this site. But, if you hate the mobile version of this site as much as I do, hold on. It's gonna get better :)

When You Feel Crowded Out by All the Beautiful Amazing People

Almost three weeks ago, I headed to a writing conference. I went with a book proposal packed in my bag and a body packed with so.much.nervousness. I had this memory playing on repeat in my mind; the one from the night before my wedding where I showed up to my rehearsal and retched in the bushes right as my now-husband went to greet me. Jesus, I will be obedient. I will go. I will try to share what You’ve put on my heart. But, please, please, don’t let me throw up on or near anyone. Amen.

The thing about writing conferences, is that it is easy to feel small—really small—when you are surrounded by people with speaking schedules and their names on the jackets of multiple books.

You can walk into that dining hall where agents and editors all host tables and the hum of conversation can feel like a deafening roar of “See me.” “Publish me.” “Here’s my story.” You can feel like shrinking into the corner and letting everyone else do all the talking because, in all the noise, why would anyone need to hear your voice too?

You guys, when I arrived at this conference, I looked at myself and the message I struggled push onto paper, and I compared it to all the amazing writers who surrounded me. Without realizing it, I was telling God, “I’m not good enough. They are all way better. Why would You need to use me when You are already using her and her and her and her…?”

I came back from that first dinner and cried to my mom (Yeah, I brought my mom with me. I told everyone that I brought her to watch my nursling, Sam. It might have been for me too.) I knew I had to walk up and ask for an appointment with each agent and publisher. But I felt so unqualified, like I already knew their answer… and even more than that, like my book proposal and pitch would be a giant waste of their time. I wasn't just scared of being rejected, I was afraid I was going to be told I was foolish for even trying.

As I shared these fears with my mom, our conversation landed in the parable of the talents.

Some days, I look at myself and see all the cracks I bear—the anxiety, the messy house—my overusage of adverbs and my frequent run-on sentences—I see the way I can barely find time to post a blog, the homemade website with the bathroom selfie picture on my sidebar—I just want to bury the talent and the dreams I have because I don’t think it’s good enough. I don’t think I’m good enough. I think what I have is small.  

I wonder if the guy to whom little was given in the parable of the talents did that. If he looked at the larger portions his colleagues got and thought, I didn’t get as much, so I can’t do as much. My colleagues will do great things with theirs anyways. I’ll just keep mine safe and out of the way.

If you read the passage in Matthew 25 and look for the one reason the one-talent man gives for burying what he has, it might feel really familiar:

“And the one also who had received the onetalent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered noseed.And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours’.” (v.24-25)

He was afraid of failing. He was afraid of disappointing. He was afraid to risk, because he was afraid to lose. 

Here’s the thing though: the servant recognized the greatness of his master. He knew that whatever his master touched multiplied, that the master got a harvest out of nothing.

Maybe we do that. Maybe we hear God pulling us in a direction, calling us even. And then we look over and see how it works, or how unqualified we might be, or how amazing the people already doing that are. We can over-think and scaredy-cat ourselves right out of what God has asked of us.

Maybe we know that God can do much with nothing, but we fail to include our little bit in the equation of God’s abundant grace.

We can quote that grace is God’s unmerited favor, but, man, do we ever live like we need to be more qualified before we can receive it.

Dear sister (or brother), don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t hide the gifts, the passions, the talents in you. Knock off that whole comparison thing.

Jesus told His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.” I love that, because the thing about mansions is that they contain many rooms and plenty of room.

He’s made plenty of room for you, dear heart.

You don’t have to hide out or step aside. Just follow Him.

Listen, when you presume to know that God doesn’t need you because of what others around you are doing, you are presuming to know the mind of God. And you’ve made a serious error in your judgments because you’ve missed one of the most amazing things about God and His great love:

God doesn’t need you. He wants you.

{I mean, let that truth linger a bit: God. Wants. You. !?!}

He longs to partner with you, walk with you, be more than enough for you.

And If He is full in you, He can be full through you {and every single gap and crack you bear.}


Shine on, sister.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever felt like this: crowded out and not quite good enough for the dream in your heart?? (Or maybe just tell me what you've been up to, I've missed this place and the people who visit here.)

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

P.S. I am back to writing over here after a long break. I am super excited to connect with you all again!! I am looking forward to this and to sharing what might be in store for this humble little space on the interwebs. :D

-->My favorite way to keep in touch through the week is on Instagram. Want to be insta-friends? :D 


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The Beauty in Our Wrinkly Grandmas

It had been a few weeks. She’d had a massive stroke and subsequent little ones. She’d have days where she was unresponsive, and then the next day it was like she would rally all of her strength. If Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model never convinced you of smiling eyes (“smeyes”), Mary Lou would have showed you perfectly that eyes really can smile even when a mouth struggles to. She’d grab your hand with her one good hand and look you long in the peepers. It was like she was trying to simultaneously memorize your face and communicate everything she loved about you. She couldn’t talk, but she’d still force out the most important words: “I love you.” “Goodbye.”

 I think I will forever carry with me the memory of Granma the last time I saw her, her skinny frame heaped up on pillows. I saw the wrinkles carved deep into her face and hands--maybe they’d never looked so pronounced before. She wore on her body the life she’d lived. Aged to perfection, really. A life fully lived.

When I brought Sam over to her, only her second time seeing him, she grabbed for his little knuckle-dimpled hand with her one working hand. Sam gave her a smile, and she took that moment like a lemon drop and tucked it into her cheek so the joy could linger as long as it would.

Beauty is the smooth fresh skin of a baby. Dimples and rolls covering all the possibility and hope of a life just beginning.

Beauty is the wrinkled skin of a 91 year old woman. Loose skin and laughter lines—a life emptied out and lived down to the last drop.

When I first met Mary Lou, I was struck by how when you’d listen to her wide-eyed joy, you’d just know it: God delighted in this woman. I knew she wasn’t perfect, and in some ways her life was messy. But she was walking proof that God doesn’t love us because we are perfect, He loves us because we are His. She radiated the joy of the Lord. She did. It was like this part of her just refused to grow old and crusty. There was always something fresh about her even when her bones were tired. She had a childlike faith and wonder. She was downright spunky. She loved simple things like balloons, flowers, babies and the bright colors of spring.

She was ridiculously generous. She didn’t leave a whole lot behind, but that’s only because she spent her whole life giving it away. She invested in her family—her worries, her prayers, her faith and every extra bit of money she had. Our dreams were her dreams. When I think over the ten years of holding her grandson’s last name and every time she helped push one of our dreams to reality… I can think of one word to describe her generosity: extravagant. She emptied and emptied herself for those she loved, always trusting God to refill.  

 She stayed between the hospital and the convalescent hospital for a month and defied the doctors’ expectations. That seemed just like her. Determined. Like the time she needed knee replacement surgery but refused to get it till after our wedding, just so she could have one dance with my husband. It didn’t matter if her knee hurt, she smiled at Michael like she was five and dancing with him was cotton candy.

And then last Sunday, after a day of scattered rain and autumn leaves, the kind of day where the earth smells fresh and cold, God said it was time and Granma followed Him to her heavenly home.

On this side of heaven, death is hard. We cling to the hope of eternity. Even though we know we must all die one day and we are fortunate for the time we get with someone, death leaves a hole in us. It’s as though we fill the graves we dig not with displaced dirt but with the substance of own our soul.

We know we all must part with our grandmas one day, but how we miss them when they are gone.

Vibrant, beautiful, generous, present, spunky and ours.

We miss you, Granma.

By Grace, 
Amanda Conquers

PS. I know I haven't been posting very much these days. I have a project that I've been working so my posts will probably be sparce for a few more months still. Thank you for sticking around. I value you and pray for you... I really do. I look forward to sharing what I've been working on.

Sharing in this beautiful community of storytellers:

When You Think You Might Not Be Strong Enough to Mother a Strong-Willed Child

The spring of 2013, my husband had just started patrol working nights. We had moved, and boxes were piled up everywhere. If those two life changes weren’t enough, the church we met at, got married at, dedicated our kids at, shut its doors and moved two cities over.

I do not deal well with change. And in the span of one month, it felt like the landscape of my life had completely changed. I struggled with sleep. I felt anxious. Depression settled in over my life like valley fog on a dark night.

About the time of the move, we realized Jed would need to be moved from his crib into a toddler bed, not because we were ready, but because, at 19 months, he was the kid that fought bedtime by rocking his crib until it fell over. It was as if Jed decided he wouldn’t trouble himself figuring out how to climb out of the crib. Oh no, by sheer brute strength and an iron strong resolve, he would bend that crib to his will. 

(I had no idea toddlers came that way—so head-strong and unrelenting.)

That’s about how bedtime went when we moved him to the big boy bed, only there were no longer sides of a crib to push against. There was only Mom. And since Dad now worked nights, there really was only Mom.

And he pushed.

I remember huddling in my living room, tears streaming. It was midnight. And I wondered what kind of mom can’t get her kids to sleep by midnight? I was in that desperate place, the one where my Hail-Mary bedtime strategy was to hide out, cross my fingers, and hope that by some miracle Jed would go to sleep on his own. I had tried everything. I didn’t have any more energy.

I wish I could say there was only one night like that. Nope. If we lived in the time of walled cities and castles, I would proudly tell you that my son has the stamina of a siege warfare warrior. It took two exasperating months of three hour bedtime battles before Jed finally conceded. My sanity, my sleep, my patience, and my pride all lay on the battlefield splayed and bleeding, casualties of toddlerdom.

They say Motherhood isn’t for the faint of heart.

And if you happen to ask, “But what if you are faint of heart?” Well, Motherhood, she laughs out loud and says, “Buckle up, Buttercup. It’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.”

That spring, I was struggling. My family was in transition, and transition feels like falling apart.

As much as I wanted Jed to sleep at a decent time and have a blessed hour of a quiet house to myself, what I really wanted was to help Jed. I wanted to walk him through the transition of crib to bed, of old house to new home, of baby who needs mom for everything to little boy who can do some things on his own. And when I sat huddled in the living room, I felt like I had bled out every last bit of knowledge, grace, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness… and it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. And I was empty. And I was failing.

I couldn’t walk through transition myself; I wanted to be to the other side. And I wasn’t walking my son through the transition; I wanted him to be on the other side.

The last time I wrote here I used this phrase to describe the strength of a mother: The only way out is through. A few weeks back, my friend lent me Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker (and I devoured it and loved it and highly recommend it), and I love that she said the exact same thing one word different: “The only way through is through.”

Because it really is the grace rhythm we mommas walk: through and through and through. We make it through. Sometimes it looks a bit like clenched-teeth determination and sometimes it looks like knees to the floor and tears streaming.

It’s hard, you know. When you are struggling, when you feel weak, and right there in front of you is this child who you love to the moon and back, with your whole big heart, forever and ever throwing what feels like a month long temper tantrum with a few breaks in there to eat and play.

David says this in the Psalms: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd” (22:14-15). And I totally get that feeling. Motherhood is this place where you feel emptied out and emptied out and emptied out and there always seems to be more you need to give.

And when you have that moment where you want to just hide your head under the couch cushions, because of that great pull on your heart, you keep going through anyways. And that’s a mother’s love.

The only way out is through.

Perhaps that pull on our hearts was meant to pull us to our knees. And if we let it, it will pull us to the side of Jesus and slow us down. It will get us so that rather than battling our relentless child, we start praying relentlessly for him.  It will get us so that we refuse to move without Him with us. And when lay our “not enough” self at the altar, we are taking up the One who came to be more than enough.

“My Grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to have it all figured out. And it’s okay if you feel like you might be a little faint of heart.

You only have to lean.

Jesus will walk with you, and you and He will walk your child, and two years later when you look back on that season of transition, you will find that your desperate Jesus-clinging walk looks a lot more like strong resolve. Because He really is strength in our weakness and to be a Mother you only have to be strong enough to lean.

Okay, and now since we are called the Body of Christ for a reason, I do believe we were meant to lean on each other too. Will you share with us? Do you have a strong-willed child? If you are in the midst of a difficult season with that child, will you let us know so we can pray for you? Would you share any parenting tips (gently and respectfully) with us?
(And on that note: I covet your prayers. In the transition to three kids, parenting has been pretty messy over here.) 

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

The Strength of a Mother {and a Birth Story}

I was waiting for it to be time.

I was lying in bed trying to catch some sleep, getting the distinct impression I would not be getting any sleep that night.

In the middle of a contraction, my body quaked and I downright felt my water burst within me. In fact, it so startled me and jerked inside me that I thought I might be opening my eyes to behold my heavenly home.

I called my sister to come for the kids, I told my husband it was time. It’s time as in I am SURE and this baby is coming SOON. We loaded up and sped off to the hospital.

It was back labor; the baby’s head was posterior. Not sunnyside, but against my tailbone. And in case this isn't obvious: yes, it hurt. A lot.

When we arrived at the hospital, they skipped triage and put me straight into the birthing room. I don’t think they felt the need to question whether this was active labor. I certainly didn’t.

I labored and contracted in the bed while it took 3 different nurses and 1 anesthesiologist to insert a saline lock into veins that wanted to run away from them. My arms still bare the poke-marks and bruises.

I kept begging to get off the bed, asking the nurses to hurry up. I just knew I needed to move the baby off my back. I labored for two hours, on the bed, kneeling against the bed, sitting and holding my husband, kneeling over the top of the bed. I struggled to stay on top of the pain, on top of the contractions. When I told my mom I just couldn’t do it anymore, the pain was just too much, she smiled and said, “This is it. You’re in transition. It’s almost over.”

I wailed, “No I’m not! The contractions aren’t close enough together!” I think she might have laughed to herself. (Perhaps it should be mentioned in Jed’s transitional labor, the contractions were on top of each other and I never had more than seconds to catch my breath.)

And then I could feel it, the heaviness, the bearing down.

When it came time to push, all the excitement of discovering boy or girl melted away into a puddle of panic.

It was that moment where I was face to face with my greatest fear. The one that’s haunted me this entire pregnancy: Could good things really happen to me? It had lingered in the back of my mind, even brought about nightmares, that at some point something would go horribly wrong. I felt I just couldn’t face it.

When they told me to push, I cried out, “I can’t!” I wasted a few contractions fighting the urge to push. And when they assured me I really could, through ripping pain and hot tears, I exclaimed, “No, I really, really can.not.do.this! I can’t!”

 And the thing is, no matter how weak I felt in that moment, no matter how much I thought I really just couldn’t, the only way out was through.

Along with my husband, my mom and mother-in-law were my support team.

And the thing is, sometimes I feel like I’m a weak person. I am sitting here in all my postpartum glory a little bit ashamed as I weep over everything, have anxiety plaguing me as my pregnancy hormones leave my body, as I need so much help with everything (that back labor I mentioned, it kind of put my back out).

I had told my husband a few days back that maybe I just can’t handle very much. Maybe I am just a weaker person. Stunned, he looked at me and said, “Amanda, you’re the strongest person I know.”

And maybe we do that as women. Take our births that don’t go as planned and wear it as shame. The last minute decisions to get that epidural when we meant to go all natural; the unplanned caesarian that maybe feels a bit like you are less because you gave birth differently; the Pitocin that was needed to start a labor that never wanted to start; the milk that never came in or dried up too early. The postpartum hormonal crash that leaves us feeling not quite human, maybe struggling to bond with the baby we so wanted, or just feeling completely overwhelmed by life and change and new love.

We chalk it up to weakness. We feel ashamed. And maybe we miss the part where the only way out was through… and we, mommas, we’ve walked through.

And no matter how you went through, you carried life into the world.

And there’s something about sentence that needs to linger in the air:  
You’ve    carried    life    into    this    world.

The instant they pull that baby from your body, something of heaven touches earth. Within you life was formed, and through you life was carried.

And momma, no matter where you are sitting right now, be it struggling to come through a season of loss or knee-deep in laundry and dish piles or worried about whether you are doing it all wrong with the baby who still won’t sleep through the night.

Whatever kind of sudden or enduring life-storm you are sitting in the middle of, whatever the changing season…

This I know, you might need to lean on your friends and your family and your husband… and you definitely need to lean on your Savior. But you will make it through.
The big siblings singing "A Swimming Shark" to baby

Okay. And now I am so thrilled to introduce you to Samuel. His name means “God has heard” and it is through tears (which seem to come very frequently these days) that I get to proclaim the miracle that God heard my cries and saw the longing in my heart. He heard my kids’ prayers and my husband’s. And I do believe and am praying that God will hear the voice of this boy as he grows. Though we walked through a season of loss and sorrow, our bundle of joy arrived early one Sunday morning. (And isn't that a bit poetic?)

Little Samuel is healthy and has the sweetest countenance. We are in love. And in awe.
(Psalm 30:5b)

I’d love to hear your birth stories in the comments. And if you dealt with the postpartum hormonal crash. Help all us mommas know we all do this a little different and a little bit the same and that it’s all covered by His Grace?

By Grace,

Amanda Conquers

Sharing in this beautiful community of story-tellers: