Wednesday, May 29, 2013

on being an american mother

i have struggled over the years to understand fully what kind of mother i should be. there's lots of lots of biblical and worldly advice and much of the time a mix of the 2 happening, coupled with organize your house this way, homeschool, chase your dreams, be super involved at your child's school, decorate like this, baby wear, pinterest plan your child's day, have sex with your husband every night, don't forget to have me time and... oh, always live in the moment and BE PRESENT!

i'm exhausted just writing that. (and before you get offended, i just picked things that are commonly talked about between moms...some of which i'm into.)

internet, instagram, twitter, Facebook, pinterest, and interpretations of in-real-life moms, all lead us to a pretty unrealistic view of how we should mother and how we should fill our time. and more importantly, we are taking cues about what all of that has to say about who we are in Christ. in fact, i bet most american mothers walk around in a pile of shame in regards to their mothering.

when i was in haiti this month, i was refreshed by the child rearing i saw in the orphanage. it sounds odd and probably contradictory to say, but as i sat there in the poverty, in the simple, in the bare bones of life... i found something valuable and uncomplicated. people were just living. it wasn't fussy, it couldn't be. 2 mama's and 1 papa taking care of 25-40 children. you'd think that would be crazy right? but it wasn't chaotic at all.



as americans who live in such a wealth of time, resources, conveniences, and money,  i think we've lost something here in the parenting area. we hover over our children as if we're in so much control. if they just learn this before kindergarten! if i give them this advantage and they go to this school. if i parent them this way with these techniques...oh the places they'll go!

and oh, the flags we fly. the must-have flags. the must-accomplish flags. the do-it-this-way flags.

in haiti, it was refreshing because i had been flying lots of heavy flags in my heart about what kind of mother i needed to be and who my children would be as they entered adulthood. as if i determined it all. in a place where i felt literally unsafe and out of control, i saw something stable and good.
 i saw well behaved children who loved Jesus and who didn't have constant hovering and constant attention. and i saw adults who were once children in the orphanage that were amazing, productive citizens, who loved the Lord and glorified Him with their lives.

they didn't grow up having the best education, the best clothing, the best food, the best medical care, the best parents, or the most educational activities... in fact, they probably had the worst or mediocre of all of that according to our modern day american standards.

i looked at the kids running around everyday. see how happy the children are? with no parents toting them around... oh! you need to share. oh! don't do that! uh-oh, time out! oh no! don't touch! come here! do this activity! now off to another one!

see how well they are doing? without being constantly entertained and constantly bargained with.
look at them, thriving and playing and helping and sharing. not much whining, not many tantrums.
only 1 time in 5 days did i see a fit thrown. he was 3 probably and ran to one of the two "mama's". she continued doing the laundry and he sat there next to her in tears. they sat there together realizing that life wasn't fair, she a widow and he an orphan, both treated harshly by a broken world. after a minute he got up and went right back to playing.

in that moment, i saw that God was bigger than what kind of education i provide and bigger than 2 parents parenting together. bigger than parenting techniques and bigger than mothers that i admired for their well put together home. bigger than pinterest and bigger than a safe environment. bigger than giving kids all "the right things" to be successful before kindergarten. He was bigger than my very american way of thinking.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Ps. 127:1-3

oh. well, i have to admit...that's not the way i see it often times. in fact, with my thoughts, i think i'm building the house most of the time. i put so much weight on if i do something wrong i'll screw them up! or i think i'm awesome because i do it a certain way. too much pride or living in shame.

as i watched the haitians i noticed a lot of unfair, but a lot of absorbing hurts and moving on.
a lot of living. a lot of cooking. a lot of going out to the garden. a lot of laundry (i mean, remember they're doing it all by hand). a lot of fetching water. a lot of kids playing and pretending and singing. a lot of simple.

it was just how it was.
it wasn't fussy and it didn't need to be. because it couldn't be.

we've lost so much in our modern living and in our excess. and in that, we've gained such a false sense of control and safety. we've gained other's convictions on how we should parent and have gotten lost in the busyness and activities as a measure of how good of a mother we are. and who we are.
it all has been telling us how we don't measure up.

mothers sitting in PILES of shame because they aren't "doing it all" or doing it right.

whatever happened to just living life and inviting children into it?
to laughing and talking over chopping veggies for dinner?
to teaching lessons through living and modeling and just being?
intentional living, without everything revolving around the children.

and no, i'm not saying that we all need to throw out fun activities and entertainment. i'm not saying we need to live in poverty and abandon all american ways to be better mothers. i'm not saying if you look at pinterest for activity ideas, you're sinning. or that what i saw in one culture is the standard to live by. but the contrast simply brought to light issues going on in my own heart. and i think i can venture to say many other mothers too.


i just think there's something to be learned here about taking good desires and turning them into must haves, must do's, and value makers. creating activity, after activity, after entertainment, after entertainment is not good for anyone. but our culture says it is. lots of activity = very productive!
what we're actually fostering here is bored and unsatisfied children who believe the world revolves around them. we can find this in all of our hearts though, can't we? do you have trouble resting and relaxing? do you constantly need to have your entertainment appetite satisfied? are you often chasing activities, dreams, goals, "happiness", busyness as a way of finding value instead of finding your hope in the person of Jesus Christ and who He says you are?




what i'm getting at is that we're making it really, really complicated. it's hard to be carrying all that weight of your child's future, then your shame for failing most days, and the busyness of trying to do better and be more productive. how can you do all that and "be present" and live in the moment? it's absurd!

let's get real, that's something we all struggle with. unless you're a robot. and hey, i don't have all the answers...i'm a young mother and this is my struggle too.

so what do we do? there's a lot of freedom when we recognize that you and i are sinful humans. we don't have to be offended when we read this because we are all this kind of people. we've been this kind of people since adam and eve and it's not surprising to God that we need his realignement and mercy when we worship other things beside Him.  when we take good desires to extremes and turn them into must haves, creating unrealistic demands on ourselves and judgment for others who don't match up.
the only thing we can do is repent from finding the approval of others more valuable than God's. we can repent from seeing ourselves as in total control over our children's futures. we can repent and ask God to change our hearts where we have judged others for not doing it "the right way". we can repent where we've made our children little idols we worship in small and large ways.

then what?

i don't have a list for you or a schedule on how your day will look. but we can ask God to help us see where we need to change. where we've been building a house that's not His.
pointing them to Jesus is our goal. asking him, not the world, to build our homes.

in that, this is absolutely not a license for mothers to be lazy or to abandon responsibilities... it might actually be a time for the laid back mother's to be more intentional.  but it is an opportunity for all of us to take inventory and ask God to continually change us and help us to see that parenting is about Him and not us looking good, doing it right, being super awesome at mothering, or securing an amazing future for our children. we can ask Him to help us point our kids to Jesus and to make our lives about Him, not us and not them.
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did you know there are kids in haiti who are waiting to go to school but can't? because they don't have $20 a month. do you have a little extra cash to spare?

but to sponsor a child with haiti orphan project monthly, go here. 
click monthly tuition and you can choose 1 kid or 2 or 3 to sponsor!
in the description box,  please write KCMO tuition so they know that you are specifically sending the $20 to help the children in the village i visited go to school. i'm hoping my readers will kind of own this specific area. (or at least this is my prayer!)

59 comments:

  1. Very VERY thought provoking as always. I know the busy-ness needs to stop at our house. There is just SO MUCH going on, that really amounts to nothing. I've found that Easton really is a much better, well behaved child when we just are simply together. No rushing. No instructing. No schedule. Of course, there are still rules and boundaries, but he's simply just satisfied to play outside with a few toys in the water. And I'm learning to just SIT there with him, instead of doing somethign while he's entertained. It's kinda freeing. Actually my counselor made that my homework last session- 1 hour devoted to just SIT with him and do what he wants. That first day was hard...but it's gotten easier, dare I say enjoyable. to let the stuff wait...and just BE. pretty amazing. Good stuff Jami. Good stuff. xoxo

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  2. Love this post and what it speaks to my heart, as a working mom who tries to do it all and fails pretty much everyday, it feels good to read those words.

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    1. Working or not working, we all fail! We all fall do short.

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  3. the quote "stop the glorification of busy" came to mind while reading this. I absolutely love this post. since inviting willa to help me do whatever chore i'm doing she has turned into this little grown up. so confident and wants to show dad all her accomplishments when he gets home. i grew up being "bored" a lot of times and it fostered my imagination and creativity i like to think.

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  4. i think this is my favorite post of yours. i *wholeheartedly* agree.

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  5. I LOOOOOVE this post!!! My husband and I were both worn out and exhausted as children with activity on top of activity on top of activity. When our first child was born we determined to stay home more, and to do less activity-wise. We haven't filled up our days with play dates and outings and activities. Yes, we do some of that, but certainly much less of it than our peers. There are times when I look around and wonder if we are doing it all wrong, because I do feel like we are swimming against the current. And I catch fear creeping in...and then I pray, and peace returns. I can't tell you how many Saturdays we are out working in the yard as a family, while friends (who hire out their yard work) are heading off on an adventure for the day-and I wonder if our kids are missing out. If our priorities are out of whack...I think it's a continual taking it to the cross and seeking his leading. We certainly don't have it all together...and we have much to learn. It is just nice and encouraging to read what you shared. Thank you.

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    1. Be encouraged! We all need to make commitments like that...

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  6. AMEN! Oh, Jami, what a true and truthful post.
    We are responsible for filling our lives with the busy and distraction and meaningless and frivolous--and at what cost? Plus, the false ambition to raise "happy" children. What about raising good children with moral backbone and strong faith? Those are totally different goals as you point out so eloquently.

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    1. So American to have the goals for ourselves to be happy and to make our kids unhappy. Endless rabbit hole!

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  7. Yes, yes, a million times yes! Thank you for this!

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  8. so, so good. don't really know if i could say anything else because you summed it up perfectly. very good. i need to print this and put it on my fridge.

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  9. I love this. I can't even think of a comment other than I couldn't agree with this post more!

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  10. Jami. how did you know I have been struggling with this. I have been in tears most nights with shame that I'm doing everything wrong, that I don't know what I'm doing and my child will suffer. plus there are so many different pieces of advice thrown at me, most inconsistent or they feel wrong in my heart. thank you for giving me peace and helping me refocus my eyes on God and his plan and workings for my child. he trusted me with the care of this child, now I need to trust God to guide me through it.

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  11. Jami. how did you know I have been struggling with this. I have been in tears most nights with shame that I'm doing everything wrong, that I don't know what I'm doing and my child will suffer. plus there are so many different pieces of advice thrown at me, most inconsistent or they feel wrong in my heart. thank you for giving me peace and helping me refocus my eyes on God and his plan and workings for my child. he trusted me with the care of this child, now I need to trust God to guide me through it.

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  12. I'm not a mother {yet}, but this post spoke to my heart - thanks so much for sharing!

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  13. I've given up on blogging mainly because I've found blogs like this one that's so full of what my thoughts are exactly that I see no point in repeating what's already been written. I must share because I want all my younger-mother-friends to identify themselves... Motherhood is so much more! It's much simpler/complex than what we think. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :o)

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  14. A-to-the-men! I love you and your heart. I love this post. That is one thing God has shown me through our hard times, which really aren't "hard times" to me anymore, but just times...that He is all we need, but sometimes it takes having nothing to realize that. I want to be blessed so I can bless others, but it's so different now to us tho. I agree with everything you said and I have found that I dont' want what most American moms and families want for their families. Amen, sista! love you, cat

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    1. I don't want it either! Solidarity. :)

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  15. Beautifully said. Thank you for sharing your heart's message.
    Blessings~

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  16. Amen to all of this. We probably spend more time planning when we could be just cuddling and spending quality time. And I'm horrible about comparing myself to people who look like they have it all together even though I know I shouldn't. I've been working on getting back to a simpler life and it is so refreshing! Good words today.

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    1. Good.point. Planning and dreaming but never doing and being!

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  17. Jami,
    Thank you for sharing all that you learn and what you have experienced. I find myself coming to your blog to have my daily devotion with God and I am always drawn to search my heart and dwell in the greatness of our King. You and Nato inspire me continuously and I thank God for working through you. Keep it up sister!

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  18. Jami,
    God works through you daily and I am so thankful that you share your heart with us. Your posts always challenge me to search my heart and to walk a little closer to Christ every day. Thank you for continuing to share your heart with us and speak God's truth.
    Love,
    Melissa

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  19. Beautifully written Jami Nato. I love your heart. Your voice. Your tender ears turned to your Savior.

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  20. Loved every word of this, thanks so much for sharing, def what every momma needs to hear!:)

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  21. I read bringing up bebe and loved several aspects of it, but wondered what the nurturing Christian version of that was. You did it. I am speechless and astounded and grateful. Thank you. Marissa

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  22. well, this goes straight to the heart and i love it all. NEED it all.
    you're a treasure, jami.
    xo

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  23. well then, you've echoed the rumblings of my heart. we are so surrounded by "necessity", things we "must do" and "must have" and none of it is working for us... lets take a step back... thanks for sharing!

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  24. I am not good with expressing myself through words, but I feel like you got in my head and heart and wrote out exactly why I've been thinking. I haven't fully applied it because I still feel inadequate as a mom of 6, pastors wife, friend etc... I look at others and read blogs and magazines and always wish I could be like and be able to do what other ladies do. The Lord has really convicted me about my un thankfulness and discontentedness. One verse that always comes to mind is ...but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one in his boat.

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    1. Such a great encouraging verse! We all need to repent for finding our value and hope in what others are doing and saying.

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  25. Yeah, sometimes I feel like I need to take a big Jesus encapsulated chill pill with a chaser of grace.

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  26. thank you...this post is so real and true.

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  27. Sometimes I feel as though I'm the only one who feels this way, and then I feel like I'm wrong for feeling it! Thanks for confirming what is truth going on in my own heart.

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  28. Just shared the heck out of this because you are preaching Freedom, and we need to hear it. Talking with my Nana, I tried to explain the pressure we feel as mothers in the current media saturated culture where everyone is telling us how to parent and what we MUST do or our children will be destroyed. She told me that in her day the focus was much more on the children's need to please their parents, their responsibility to honor their parents. What a paradigm shift! I think both are incorrect, as they have man's ability to redeem himself at their center. How wildly we let the pendulum swing! Jesus, settle our hearts on you.

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    1. Since you've written this comment, I've thought a lot about it...it's so true. We are pendulum people, do quick to grab onto something that seems like it promises happiness. Anyway, love to you! Your comments are sick a sweet encouragement on IG and this blog!

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    2. oh betsi so so so so interesting and so good.
      "mans ability to redeem himself at the center" oh how often i do this and we all collectively teach this.
      thank you
      love love love love love this post jami. i have read and re-read it and shared it with many.
      good grief thank you for sharing this.

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  29. i yearn for a day where it's slow paced and love filled. this post was beautiful, and convicting.

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    1. God can change your heart. You are a good mama.

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  30. So good:) I don't have kids yet, but I'm already learning so much from you Jami! Thanks for having an open heart to the Lord and being so honest! LOVE.

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  31. love love love this. totally what i needed to hear!

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  32. Less really is more. Thanks for the reassurance that we don't need to be DOING everything ALL the time to have a successful child or be a successful Mom.

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  33. I always feel this simple freedom when I'm visiting another country. In the midst of poverty and other severe crises, the children are smiling and playing games and the parents are hugging and just doing their best. There is such an element of ENOUGH that makes me just want to stay there and abandon the ever-hurried, ever-searching-for-more mindset in this country of ours. I have read this post of yours twice and plan to share it on my blog too. This is my favorite line: "are you often chasing activities, dreams, goals, "happiness", busyness as a way of finding value instead of finding your hope in the person of Jesus Christ and who He says you are?" OH, the search for happiness.

    Thank you Jami, for sharing your heart. I want to meet you someday. Perhaps in Haiti? :)

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    1. That never ending, fruitless search!

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  34. Dear Jami, I almost talked myself out of writing. It seems enough to be so moved and edified by your posts. And we'll meet in Heaven and have lots of time to talk things over there. But...I SHOULD write. I won't remember or likely have time to look back to see if you or anyone else commented/responded. (Hmmm...do you even do that here? I don't really know. And...it really doesn't matter.) The point is... you matter. What you do and say here for Him. That matters.

    I am almost 48 years old and just returned to work after loving the life of a full-time mom. I now have a checking account from which I have the privilege of giving to Him by giving to others. Tonight I donated to the little guys in Haiti because of you...because you love Him and His love in you makes you love others deeply and passionately. Thank you, Jami. I am looking forward to hugging your neck in Heaven. I'm sure I'll recognize your gorgeous smile and spunky haircut! With love...Leah

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    1. That truly makes me cry. I've seen the babies you just supported. It's a real child that you're supporting! Love to you. Thanks for your sweet comment.

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  35. so crazy! i am having such a tough week trying to juggle work and kids and husband, and i hit my knees last night asking God to show me a sign that i am doing what is best for my family, and by chance i ran across your post! it is such a conformation that He does hear prayers AND that i need to slow down a bit, my kids are happy, healthy, strong minded little people. and i think i am doing just fine. just because we aren't "cookie cutter" doesn't mean we are wrong :) thank you again for your positive words of wisdom!

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  36. I "stumbled" across this today via IG. And, I use the word "stumbled" loosely b/c with God it is never chance. I have spent my entire life fixated on what makes a good mother and how to be a good mother, waiting for the opportunity to be one. I witnessed the demise of my own mother at a very young age and it cut me deeply. Having been a mother for the past five years has been the greatest blessing in my life. HOwever, the Lord has been speaking to me softly about how I use my role as mother to validate my life. If I measure myself and I feel I am reaching my high standard, oh, the joy and pride that swells within my heart. If I measure myself and feel I am failing at my high standard, oh, the shame and self hatred. I was just talking about this in my small group the other night....and have been praying for how to let go of this false identity. Praying how to love my children and parent them in a way that glorifies God. So, imagine, my intrigue and peace when I "stumbled" across your post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging us all to mother from God, not from our own opinions, standards, ideals, and judgements. I know this is a post I will be rereading often to help spur me onward in my relinquishment of my false identity and my desire to rest in my identity of Jesus. You have blessed me.

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  37. This is great Jami, per usual you're bringin the truth. I am not a Mom, but I have noticed many of the same things here. Life is just life. The pressure on child rearing is non-existent, women use what they have and live life with children in tow. I have watched a lot of my friends here have children as well, the need for "stuff" is simple. No registry, no hours of extensive research on safety, no reviews...just a stroller, probably a hand me down. Easy. It's my favorite thing about life outside of the US, the priorities (when left un"fuss"ed) seem to simply rise to the surface. God, family, life, love...easy.

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  38. jami,i found your blog through some mutual friends of ours that i babysit for that go to redeemer. i'm also a nanny for a wealthy, non-christian family that lives and breathes busyness. nearly every hour of their day is planned out with activities so i'm more of a chauffer than a nanny. i get excited when we can just play. do you have any advice on how i can guide them through their days (i spend 40+ hours with them per week...a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl) applying some of these concepts? my heart is weary for them...value is found in tennis matches and dive meets rather than the work of christ. we are always incredibly busy, and i am finding it way hard to just simply enjoy them and christ while trying to make it to all of their activities on time. do you have anything to speak into my situation? it's been weighing heavy on me lately. thanks :)

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    1. well...can i recommend that you read the book, give them grace by elyse fitzpatrick. i think it might help you know how to share the gospel through everyday experiences. the other thing is just pray pray pray for opportunities to share the gospel with these kiddos and their parents.

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  39. I think you should repost this....I revisit this post ofter. We are approaching summer enrollments for activities and I hate that feeling of feeling like my children need to be in every camp and sport....but unfortunately, that is just what happens. Its a good time of year to revisit this!!!!! It's refreshing and true and puts my heart where it needs to be.

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