motherhood

Intentional Motherhood: Ten Encouraging Truths For Raising Kids

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Last month on This is Thirty Four, we talked about relationships. Specifically, we talked about relationships with our significant other, our relationship with God, and we even touched on relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds. For the next two months, we’re talking about time (how to spend it, how to manage it, and how to avoid wasting it) and possessions (how to be a good steward of the money and things we have).

Before we fully step into the new topic, I think there’s one more relationship worth discussing: Our relationship(s) with our children. Before I became a parent, I had no idea that any single relationship could simultaneously be filled with so much joy…and so much frustration…and pride and self-doubt…and love and fear.

 Out of all my relationships, the relationships I have with my boys are the ones I struggle with the most. My boys are not particularly difficult—though I might tell you otherwise if you ask me at bedtime; but the expectations I’ve placed on myself-- or allowed others to place on me--as a mother ARE. (That’s a topic for an entirely different blog post.)

I’ve only been a mom for five and a half years, which hardly makes me a parenting expert. I am, however, an avid reader and lifelong learner—especially when it comes to raising my boys. So today, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 pieces of parenting “advice” I’ve ever read or received.

I put advice in quotes because this isn’t the typical “Breast is best” advice on child rearing. What follows are nuggets of truth from friends, family and others much wiser than me that I’ve called to mind over the past five years when I needed encouragement. Whether you’ve got one child or ten children (heaven help you if you fit into the latter category), are a stay-at-home-mom, work full time or somewhere in between, I think words will speak to your heart as well…

  1. “Children go through life in stages. The good news is that if you hate a stage your children are in (infant sleep, toddler tantrums, teenage angst, etc), it won’t last forever. The bad news is that if you love a stage they are in, it won’t last forever. Hold on through the rough stages and cherish the good ones.” - Cherie Hadra, my mom and mother of two
  2.  “I have come to picture the heart of each child as a treasure chest…Each child whose treasure chest is full will have abundant resources on which to draw in the midst of life’s demands. As a woman now pushing fifty, I realize that those foundational years in the life of a child—those same years when I sometimes thought I was accomplishing nothing—have a lasting effect on almost every aspect of the rest of that child’s life.” -Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood
  3. “It's easy to be liked by strangers. It's very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you're always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you're giving them aren't cutting it.”  -Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect
  4. “You cannot give children (emotionally) what you do not have yourself…no matter how much emphasis you place on it.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
  5. “A mother sets the tone for the whole household.” – Emily Pahler, Friend and fellow boy mom 
  6. “Motherhood is God’s provision of nurture to the world and provision of sacrifice to the family.” – Brian Frost, Pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC
  7. “…(one question) I use to pull myself back from the brink of debilitating mom guilt, ‘Would I ever want my children to feel this way? Would I ever want them to pursue the desire of their heart, the profession that lights their soul on fire…but then constantly second guess every choice they made because it didn’t look like everyone else’s social media feed? The very idea makes my heart want to stop. I would never want them to struggle with their worth as I have. I would never want them to question themselves to the point of anxiety. I would never want them to think their entire parenting career could be summarily dismissed over Cheerios on a random school morning. So I made a decision. I WILL DO MY BEST, AND I WILL TRUST THAT MY BEST IS EXACTLY WHAT GOD INTENDED FOR THESE BABIES.” -Rachel Hollis, Girl Wash Your Face
  8. “Focus on QUALITY time over quantity.”- Every wise and wonderful mother I’ve ever talked to
  9. “Your kids come into your life, not you into theirs…in other words, don’t change everything to accommodate your kids.” – Sarah Heath, middle school bestie and mom of two 
  10. “The truth is, somewhere in my heart is a hidden hope that maybe if I do everything right, and share the right Bible verses and pray my knees off, they will be amazing, Jesus-loving kids. There has to be a formula somewhere, but there’s not! And this is so very humbling. As parents, we absolutely need ot pursue Christ-likeness on our own. We should definitely share Bible verses with our kids, and our greatest weapon is certainly prayer. But we are not doing these things to save our children. Only God can do that.” -Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever


What about you? What's the best piece of parenting/motherhood/life advice that just happens to relate to raising children you've ever received? Share it below and thanks for reading! 

Selling With Purpose: An Interview With Noonday Collection Ambassador Amy Rickards

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The unofficial theme for last month’s posts on This is Thirty Four was “New Beginnings.” This month’s theme is (drumroll, please) “Being Brave.” Today’s interview with my friend, Amy Rickards, is the perfect bridge between those two themes.

Amy and I have been friends since high school. We went to the same school, the same church and we even drove the exact same car (see Instagram for photos). As adults, we are living very similar lives on two different coasts. She has two children around the ages of my own kids. She grew up in the south but ended up marrying someone from another state. (Southern girls are often raised to think we will fall in love with southern boys.) We both teach at the college level, and our idea of the perfect afternoon is pretty much the same (see below).

In high school, I would have described Amy as a bit shy and quiet. Not timid. Amy is actually quite head strong (in the best way). She’s passionate and able to articulate her opinions like only a pastor’s daughter with a Master’s Degree in English can (e.g.- eloquently).

Over the past few years, I’ve watched Amy step out of her comfort zone and bravely enter the multi-level-marketing (MLM) space. Last month, she took on a new business venture and become an ambassador for Noonday Collection, and I immediately approached her about an interview. As a lover of fashion, accessories and people, I wholeheartedly support everything Noonday stands for.

Whether you’re working for a company like Noonday, toying with the idea of starting a new business venture, or wanting to step out of your comfort zone in another area of life, I think you’ll be encouraged and inspired by what Amy has to say.

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Jenn Prentice (JP): Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

 Amy Rickards (AR): I am a thirty-six-year-old mother of two smart, funny, highly-energetic children!  My daughter Sophia is seven, and she is tiny but mighty; my son, Jonah, is very much three! I am a sweet tea-on-the-porch sort of Southern girl married to a New Jersey Italian guy, and I am constantly thankful that God brought us together because he makes me laugh every single day and serves our family steadily and faithfully. I teach college courses for Regent University and Liberty University, and now I have become an ambassador for Noonday Collection. I love good books, coffee, and conversation, and the best scenario involves all three.

JP: I’m basically living a West Coast version of your life, so I know you’re already insanely busy. What made you decide to add online sales/multi-level marketing to your plate? 

AR: Last year about this time I found a product that I love, and I started selling it, kind of on a whim, really. I’ve never been a very sales-y or pushy person, yet I found myself really loving interacting with my customers and helping them. It made me happy to help make women feel stronger and more confident about themselves—women starting new jobs, women grieving the loss of a loved one and just wanting to feel good, women getting married, and tired, thirty-something moms who needed a pick-me-up. I also found sales to be very satisfying in a different way from my other roles—teaching and motherhood have very subjective successes that are hard to measure quantitatively, and I loved the very objective, clear-cut success found in selling something.

JP: The objective, clear-cut success of selling versus the subjective successes of teaching and motherhood. Couldn’t have said it better myself. So, what attracted you to Noonday? 

AR: I was immediately attracted to Noonday’s mission and the way that they serve the artisans creating these beautiful pieces. I’ve had so much fun this past year selling a different product, and I felt strongly that God wanted me to use some of the gifts and talents that He’s developing in me for a greater good.

I’m reading through Shauna Niequist’s devotional book Savor this year, and one of her entries from February resonated with me titled, “What I Came to Do.” She says, “I feel that feeling of a thousand slender threads coming together, strands of who I’ve been and who I’m becoming…the exact way God made me, not wrong or right, just me. I feel like I’m doing what I came to do, in the biggest sense,” and I feel that same sense of rightness about this endeavor. I don’t know what will come of it, if anything, but I know that I am in the midst of what I love, which is telling stories about beautiful works of art in a way that brings dignity and value to families in need.

JP: What have you learned about yourself from venturing into the online sales space?

AR: I’ve always known that I loved interacting with people and encouraging them, and it’s honestly been surprising to me how perfectly that love fits in with online sales. I’ve really worked to create a sense of community in my online sales groups and to have it be a place of encouragement and humor, not just about the products being sold.

JP: How has working in that space challenged you? 

AR: I want people to love me, so as a people pleaser it is sometimes challenging to put myself out there in a way that sales requires, but I’m learning to do it in a way that is genuine for me.

JP: Ah yes, that people pleasing nature. I’ve got one of those too. That’s probably what bonded us so strongly as insecure high school students. Well, that and McDonald’s McFlurries…But seriously, what is your advice to someone wanting to get into this type of business—Noonday or any other MLM company? 

AR: Whatever your “next step” is—whether it is online sales, starting a book club, or heading up a ministry at your church, I think it’s important to follow through if you feel God’s calling, and know that He’s going to provide you with what you need to do what He’s put before you. And also know that while it’s going to be hard work, it’s going to be incredibly fulfilling because He’s designed you to do what you’re doing!

JP: What are some of the mistakes you've made? 

AR: I think my mistakes always come when I try to be someone I’m just not. Authenticity is a buzzword for a reason. People gravitate toward those who are real, and I always seem to lose my “real-ness” when I start looking at what other people are doing, instead of running my group and my business the way that feels right and authentic to me.

JP: I think I need to plaster that answer on my bathroom mirror. Learning how to be real and authentically YOU is such an important life lesson. Speaking of teaching people lessons, you have a daughter. How has the responsibility of raising her changed your perspective on women in business and your own career? 

AR: One of the greatest joys of venturing into sales this past year has been the delight that my daughter Sophia has taken in helping me with my businesses. She loves helping me organize inventory and display product, and she will boldly tell anyone who will listen about her mommy’s amazing products and why that person should try them! She has such an entrepreneurial spirit, and I love showing her that she can find fulfillment in all sorts of fields.

JP: Ok. I’m asking this last question to everyone that I interview: At the end of your life, what type of legacy do you want to leave? 

AR: My middle name—Parilee—is a family name that comes from my grandmother who spent her thirties (and most of her forties) serving as a missionary in East Africa, and I love the idea of continuing her legacy of nurturing families around the world. My first name, Amy, means “beloved,” and I hope that at the end of my life my family, friends, and students will have felt loved by me and that they will know that I loved and served them because I am Christ’s beloved. 

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Thanks for reading, friends. You can find out more about becoming a Noonday Ambassador here. Or, if you want to support their amazing company and get some beautiful accessories too, shop around with Amy. In case you’re wondering, I bought the Curvature Earrings.

Pursuing God, People and Passions: An Interview with Melanie Knowlton

I’ve been asking the question “Why” a lot this week. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? Why would anyone read this blog over the millions of other things they could read online or elsewhere?      I’m not sure I know the answer to the second question…yet. But I do know the answer to the first question. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? I started this blog because—as I’ve said before—I know so many women who are doing amazing things; and I want to provide a space to share THEIR stories in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring other women who might be in a similar place in life.      Today’s interview with my dear friend, Melanie Knowlton, is the first interview I’m sharing on This Is Thirty Four. I thought I wanted to interview Mel because her story fit in with this month’s theme: New Beginnings. Earlier this month, Mel went back to work for the first time in eight years to pursue a career in one of her personal passions—FOOD.      As it turns out, my interview with Mel isn’t really about new beginnings or food at all. This interview is about Mel sharing her heart for people and her relentless pursuit of the heart of God. One of the things I love most about Mel is her honesty, especially about motherhood and the struggles she’s had being a stay-at-home mom. If you know Mel, this interview will make you love her even more. If you don’t know her, you’ll want to invite her out to coffee (she’d prefer to grab dessert) after you read what she has to say.

I’ve been asking the question “Why” a lot this week. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? Why would anyone read this blog over the millions of other things they could read online or elsewhere?

I’m not sure I know the answer to the second question…yet. But I do know the answer to the first question. Why did I start This Is Thirty Four? I started this blog because—as I’ve said before—I know so many women who are doing amazing things; and I want to provide a space to share THEIR stories in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring other women who might be in a similar place in life.

Today’s interview with my dear friend, Melanie Knowlton, is the first interview I’m sharing on This Is Thirty Four. I thought I wanted to interview Mel because her story fit in with this month’s theme: New Beginnings. Earlier this month, Mel went back to work for the first time in eight years to pursue a career in one of her personal passions—FOOD.

As it turns out, my interview with Mel isn’t really about new beginnings or food at all. This interview is about Mel sharing her heart for people and her relentless pursuit of the heart of God. One of the things I love most about Mel is her honesty, especially about motherhood and the struggles she’s had being a stay-at-home mom. If you know Mel, this interview will make you love her even more. If you don’t know her, you’ll want to invite her out to coffee (she’d prefer to grab dessert) after you read what she has to say.

Jenn Prentice (JP): Tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Melanie Knowlton (MK): I'm a 33 year old mom of two wacky, wonderful, exasperating, sweet, funny kids (Jack, 8 and Emma, 3) who have changed my entire perspective on life, God's love, and who I am. I married my best friend -  a big, lovable guy who turned out to be THE best dad in the world. Wives say that, but I actually MEAN IT. He somehow manages to work full-time AND gives his all to our family, which is a huge inspiration to me.  We've had our fair share of challenges, but my husband has always had my back; and I've done my best to have his. This year we celebrated 10 years of marriage!  While I'm incredibly proud of us, I'm also humbled by the amount of grace God gave to us in the past decade!  

JP: What was YOUR childhood like?

MK: Growing up as an only child, I had lots of time to think, dream, and wonder on my own.  When I remember my childhood, mostly all of the good times come to mind (which is encouraging to think that my kids may NOT remember my many failures as their mother)! 

When I was 11, my parents decided to divorce.  As heartbreaking as it was at the time, it was also the catalyst to me seeking God, finding Him, and watching Him mend the brokenness.  As fast as things were crumbling around me, the Lord was re-building my life, blessing me with adopted brothers and sisters that I had longed for and didn't know I wanted. I learned a couple crucial things about God and myself during that time: 1) He made us rely on one another 2) He made me to need Him & others more than most people do.

I'm extroverted through and through, so being an only child was very lonely. As it turns out, being a stay-at-home-mom can also be quite isolating...

JP: I want to know more about that stay-at-home-mom isolation; but first, tell me what you’re passionate about.

MK: It took me about the first 30 years of life to hone-in on what's really important to me. With no hesitation I can say that I'm most passionate about the following:

  1. 1) GOD 
  2. 2) PEOPLE
  3. 3) FOOD (In that order)! 

I am most consumed by a desire to know God, be known by God, and share his love with the world.  That, in combination with my very extroverted personality, fuels my love and passion for people. I studied psychology and have always been interested in developing relationships with those around me, but after college, I just HAD to go back to culinary school to pursue a different passion: FOOD. I mean, I was the kid making dirt soup in my back yard and my favorite thing to do STILL is to bring people together around a table full of delicious butter (er, uh...I mean fantastic food).  

JP: I can attest to your fantastic food, and your love of butter. It’s the perfect culinary marriage, really, and I’m so happy I get to benefit from it. Ok. Now tell me more about stay-at-home-mom isolation. Was that what compelled you to go back to work?

MK: I’m not great being on my own, and I really NEED to be around people to feel good. As it turns out, kids don't exactly offer the most engaging interactions or conversations. As a stay-at-home mom, I was constantly feeling isolated and unhappy...but too committed and ashamed to admit that I needed to go back to work. I started having bouts of what I call "the blues" (not quite a depression, but feeling overwhelmed and discontent).  I think "the blues" can be a result of an unmet need or a passion you aren’t pursuing - two things severely lacking for me while at home with the kids. I was and am SO THANKFUL that I was able to stay home with my children for as long as I did, but eventually I couldn't deny the big PUSH I was feeling to work again.

JP: So where are you working now and how did you know this was the right job for you?

MK: I started searching for jobs online, and I even took a part-time retail job just to get my feet wet (and confidence up) again after being out of the workforce for eight years.  I ended up taking a job as a food broker for a company called KFB Foods. The position blends my ability to create relationships with people with my passion for the culinary industry. In spite of the fact that I hadn't worked outside of the house for eight years, I felt completely qualified for the position after reading the job description. The best part of the job is the hours, though. I get to drop off AND pick my children up from school.

JP: How was your first week on the job?

MK: Well, learning new things can be a bit daunting, and there’s a lot to learn at this job. However, I still feel that overwhelming sense of peace that lets me know I'm in the right place. 

JP: And how are your kids adjusting?

MK: They are still greeting me with smiling faces when I pick them up from school. I’ve realized that this is going to be a GOOD thing for them. I really feel that going back to work will help provide the space I've needed to reflect on all of the wonderful things I love about my kids (and myself) so that I can come back to them with the energy to play and the emotional availability for their needs.

JP: Tell me more about your kids, Jack and Emma, and their needs.

MK: Life at home with my kids was far more challenging than I think it is for most. I have a son with some very challenging behaviors. I'm talking VERY challenging…like smeared poop on the walls during his time-outs as a toddler; having to take everything hard out of his room as a preschooler for fear that he would hurt himself while destroying everything in sight; having to pay our babysitter more because he was too tough to handle; hitting, biting, losing friends because of the hitting and biting...that kind of challenging.

I realized pretty early on that things weren't supposed to be quite THAT hard.  I blamed myself. I blamed him. I blamed myself for blaming him. I lost faith for a while. I wondered where God was in all of it. I didn't understand how God could allow my son to have so much anger in his heart at such a young age. I was lost, confused, completely isolated in spite of having people l could trust all around me, and eventually I became consumed by fear. I was afraid of who my son might become. I was afraid of who I already was, and I was afraid that somehow God had turned his back on us. 

JP: How did you combat that fear?

MK: Over the course of many months following this "crisis of faith," I realized that God had (of course!) not abandoned me.  I was looking through a dark lens, clouded by fear and tragedy. I began taking life moment-by-moment, sometimes unable to do ANYTHING other than fix my eyes on Jesus - my Savior, my Redeemer.  I reached out to friends and to the church.  I had been asking God every day to please show me that I still belong to Him, that He was with me. And He began ANSWERING MY PRAYERS.  The more I pressed in to Him, the more HE conquered the fear. Years have gone by and more peace has been restored day by day. 

JP: So, how’s Jack doing today?

MK: Life with Jack is still not EASY, by any stretch of the word.  But, God is faithful and I see positive change in him.  He doesn't throw tantrums like he used to. He shows love to his sister--when he isn’t taunting her the way most brothers do. He can be so sweet and kind, and he seems to be WANTING to do the right thing.

JP: What lessons have you learned through parenting Jack these past eight years?

MK: I'm reminded that there is NOTHING my son could ever do that would make me stop loving him, fighting for him, forgiving him.  And how much greater is God's love than mine?! God will never leave me or forsake me.  God will never stop loving Jack, fighting for Jack, and forgiving Jack. WHAT A BLESSING it is to serve a God like our God! 

Today, I consider myself blessed for the ways in which raising a challenging son has deepened my faith in an always faithful God. It's not always easy and I am prone to forget...but I have a child who reminds me on the daily of my desperate need for The Lord! And I can't help but think that God has something extra special in store for us if we keep believing. 

 

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