Family

Thanking God for Hamburger Helper

My mom is not a “good” cook in the traditional sense of the way. She doesn’t have a famous pie or cornbread or salad recipe that is always raved about at Southern Baptist church potlucks. I don’t have an old tin recipe box filled with family heirloom recipes. Most of her meals are inspired by Pinterest, not Julia Child.

While I don’t remember homemade biscuits or gourmet meals, I do remember eating together as a family every night. My mom and dad both were teachers at my school and supplemented their teacher salaries with after school activities. My dad would coach teams year-round while my mom tutored for hours after the final bell rung. No matter how late they worked, we would always travel home together and eat dinner at our kitchen table. Some nights we ate spaghetti, other nights we had chicken with boxed mashed potatoes. Most nights, we ate a form of Hamburger Helper and canned green beans. We all pitched in to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour; my mom and dad both cooked while my younger sisters put out the condiments and I set the table.

Our family dinners weren’t elaborate. There was no homemade bread or “secret ingredient” chicken dish. My mom would pull out cans and boxes instead of seasonings and sauces. Yet even into my teenage years, I loved those dinners no matter how basic they were. I knew that at the end of every day, my family would share a meal together—share our daily life together.

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Spiritual Growth

Busy is Not Bad

It had been a long day. My pregnant body ached from preparing three square meals, getting up and down to play with my toddler, and any movement in general. I was mentally exhausted from the hour of work I was able to squeeze in during naptime, and now, at 4:00pm, I was done.

So when my daughter asked me to build and get under a “fork” (a blanket fort, for those of you who don’t speak toddler), I was hesitant to oblige. But she kept persisting, so I laid the blanket over the couch and ottoman and squeezed my pregnant belly into the space in between. For some reason, she didn’t want to join me, so she continued to play with her Little People on the coffee table while I sat on the ground under a pink fluffy blanket.

To be honest, I didn’t mind. It was the first time that day I had slowed down. I didn’t have anything I needed to do, and there was nowhere I needed to be. I just sat there and let my body, mind, and (most importantly) my spirit un-wind. I breathed in the stale fort air and enjoyed the quiet.

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Spiritual Growth

A More Beautiful Picture

The cold, sterile environment of the “special care” nursery I knew had to be foreign compared to the warm, comforting womb she just exited. The nursery was always dark, and while I knew it was to help her adjust to this bright new world, I wanted to flip on the light switch and make everything brighter and better. I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the smoothness of her skin, because we could only lay our hands upon her—no kisses, no rubs, no snuggles. My heart ached to soothe her anxiety as I watched her tiny belly tuck under her ribs every time she struggled for a breath. For hours we would listen to her heave air in through her tiny mouth surrounded by big beautiful lips. I wanted to hold her body close, smelling the sweet newborn scent, but a plastic wall smelling of antiseptic kept me from her.

When I think back, I really have so few clear memories of that week after giving birth. While it was one of the greatest milestones of my life—welcoming my first child into the world—it was also one of the hardest. It was spiritually, physically, and emotionally draining. Most of all, it was not what I had expected or what I had planned.

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Spiritual Growth

The World Doesn’t Need a Better Version of Me

Early in the morning, while light creeps through the blinds onto my comfy chair in the corner of my room, I pull out my goal planner and begin to fill in the boxes to demonstrate my progress. It’s how I remind myself of my goals each day. Some goals are more tangible (write a certain number of articles, acquire this many freelance clients) and some are more qualitative (spend intentional time with my family, keep good technology boundaries). Quite a few of my ongoing goals have to do with my spiritual life, such as having a morning quiet time, truly resting on the Sabbath, or having Gospel conversations with the lost. While all these goals are good—some even God-given—I recently have come to question my motivation behind them.

I know that exercising more often will help me to have more energy, especially as I’m a soon-to-be mom of a newborn and a toddler. I know that cleaning my home will make me a better steward of the possessions God has given me. I know that spending time with God before my day begins will make me less irritable and aimless. I know that writing every day will make me more creative. All these things are making me a better person. But does the world, does my family need, and do I really need a better Bethany?

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Resources

#Thursday Things — Books I Read During Quarantine

Without the constant travel to our church, library, playground, etc., I’ve had a little extra margin time in my day. While life is still busy—working from home while entertaining a toddler and serving three meals a day—I’m thankful that I’ve gotten the chance to make a dent in the pile of books sitting on my nightstand since Christmas. Here are a few books that I’ve read while in quarantine, and if you have a little margin, too, these days, I highly recommend you add any of these to your list.

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Spiritual Growth

Through Smudged Windows

My two-year-old daughter presses her open lips to the pane of glass then pulls back to yell, “Open! Open!” She matches her five little fingers up to the five little fingers on the other side. The faces of both toddler girls are confused as to why they can’t hold hands, share toys, or even go to the playground together. I look up at the woman’s face that’s staring at me from the other side of the glass. We, too, wonder why we can’t do the things that we want—that we should do, under other circumstances. I want to snuggle her newborn baby and hug her as she shares the woes of postpartum life. She wants to touch my growing belly and talk with me about plans for a baby shower. We want to sit next to each other on a park bench watching our daughters play together and dream of our baby boys doing the same one day.

Instead, a window keeps our two families apart, whose hearts long to be together. We shout encouragements through the double-paned glass and talk about what we will do one day when we can be within six feet of each other again. We talk about the parks we want to visit and plan the parties we want to throw. Our souls feel that there is something not right about this separateness, and we crave for the day that we are joined together again.

Until then, we have toddler tea parties and double dates via Zoom. I drop off coffee; she sends sweet notes. We celebrate Mother’s Day brunch three miles apart, but in our hearts, we know that we are together.

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Spiritual Growth

Daily Faithfulness

Around this time of year, my social media feed is filled with graduation photos, award ceremonies, and other posts from proud parents. I have to admit that I was not a terribly humble kid in primary and secondary school, and awards day was one of my favorite days out of the year. Schools create awards for everything. You didn’t miss a day of class—award. You ran one time around a track—award. You read a book or two—award. I remember standing there beaming (not sure if it was my pride, my braces, or my sparkly rainbow sweater) as the principal announced certificate after certificate for that year. Today, I’m sure that those piles of certificates are keeping the dust and spiders company in my parents’ basement. Yet on that day, those awards meant so much to me, because it recognized all the little things I had done throughout the year.

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and it was easy for me to be tempted to want a similar ceremony. A certificate for approximately five hundred loads of dishes done, two hundred loads of laundry folded, and one thousand meals prepared. A certificate for not grumbling when I picked rice up again off the floor. A certificate for the fastest I rushed a toddler to the toilet when she told me she needed to go “poo poo.” I guess someone decided to save a tree, though, for a pile of cardstock awards is nowhere to be found.

Sometimes when changing a diaper for the tenth time that day, I can ask the question of what’s the point of all those daily mundane tasks. I can believe that God has gifted me with certain talents and a desire to do “great things,” but I feel behind as I look at other women (on Instagram, in my church, etc.) who are admired for doing faithful tasks that I can’t do right now in my season of life. I see other women a few years ahead and wonder if I’m already behind in doing something spiritually amazing, something worthy of more Instagram followers. Then I look at the work in my hands today and wonder if it even matters.

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Spiritual Growth

God’s Character Changes Motherhood

Each mother has felt that moment in her day (or maybe even multiple moments) when she comes to the end of her rope. My rope frequently ends around 5:30pm, when I’m glancing at my watch wondering when my husband will be off work, trying to keep our dinner from burning on the stove, and placating a toddler whose life is over because she can’t have more cheese. In moments like those, I know that I do not have enough patience for my toddler, love for my husband, and endurance in managing our home to make it another hour. In a world that constantly tells me, “I am enough,” those moments prove to me that sentiment is a lie. Before motherhood I might have been able to deny my weaknesses, but being a mom puts my limitations on display every day.

Yet for those who follow Christ, this realization of our insufficiency is by no means a discouragement. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” We know that God has created us as humans with good limits in order for us to rely on his limitlessness. When we come to the end of our rope, God’s is unending. While mothers are often jokingly seen as superheroes without limits, we must remember the good limits in our motherhood that point us to who God is. The character of God has changed how I see my motherhood.

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Friday Friends

#FridayFriends: Built in the Broken

Today’s blog is written by my beloved mentor, Amy Harris. Amy was one of the first women I was drawn to when my family moved back to Birmingham two years ago, and I am so thankful for how she has poured into my life. I pray her testimony of daily obedience and God’s faithfulness, even in brokenness, would encourage you as it has me.

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