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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bloom Where Planted

 It has been six months since moving into our new home. Almost exactly one year ago, I was packing up a house with three littles while fighting morning sickness and single parenting, preparing to move into the unknown.  Is it possible to fit an entire lifetime into one year?

All our earthly goods - one year ago!
July 4, 2016

July 4, 2017
Since moving into our home here, we have become a family of six.  Talk about transitions! I keep waiting to arrive at that elusive "settled" status, and the truth is, it's just different.  I think I was under the impression that once we got the house organized, and went through the process of adding a new family member, life would return to the way I knew it in Iowa.  But living here is not the same as it was there.  Nate's job is different.  The people here are different.  We are different since moving here. I am still adjusting to the reality that I can never go back to "the way things were."

We have each enjoyed celebrating a birthday in our new house. We have enjoyed visits from friends "back home" and had the chance to welcome family here too.
5 Generations with Great Grandma Schwalm!
We have enjoyed exploring the local parks, and the zoo!  Summer has been good to us, and we have had the joy of spending lots of time outside. Probably the biggest adjustment for my country loving heart has been the major downsizing of green space. I miss the quiet, and the wildlife. Parks have been a welcome respite for me!

Olivia, 6 (going on 16)
Levi, 4
Daddy and Isaiah (and also a photobomber), 3 Months
Peaches (A.K.A. Julia), 2
One of the highlights of the Summer for us so far has been the chance to take the kids to their first Major League baseball game.  Going to any kind of baseball game is fun, and they had very high expectations! But Miller Park did not disappoint.  They had a blast!  And made lots of special memories.



We had great seats! The kids loved the view.
Almost exactly 10 years after attending our first Cubs game together - and more in love than ever!

Although our transition here has been bumpy at times, I really am so grateful for the life God has given us.  We have a beautiful house that we're making into a home, and wonderful people around us that we've had the pleasant blessing of building relationships with.

We've certainly put the fancy kitchen through it's paces!

Taking Daddy Mini-golfing for his birthday!
God has given me lots of grace as I've stumbled my way through these past 6 months, and I am thankful as he continues to sustain me - and remind me that although I'd like to think this was our idea, He is the one who brought us here. For his purposes, and for his glory.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Children's Hour

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.


I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Julia, and laughing Olivia,
And Levi with golden hair.


A whisper, then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!


They climb up my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse Tower on the Rhine!


Do you think, O brown-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you at all!

I have you fast in my fortress, 
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.


And there I will keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And molder in dust away!


<3      <3     <3

From: "The Children's Hour" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(lightly edited)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Our New Home!

It has been the craziest two months of my life, but I feel like we are finally getting settled into our new home!  I have been just itching to share it with all of you, but alas, this post just kept getting pushed to the back burner.  We have had just a few other things going on in the meantime, like say, having a new baby . . . so you know, priorities!  ;)  I am so excited to finally share a few details with you all!

 

Moving day was a huge success, thanks largely in part to our wonderful new Classical Conversations community here. Nate's parents came out for the day, and my sweet Mother-In-Love even brought us dinner.  My parents also got in on the action - with Dad coming up for the day to help move furniture, and Mom coming after the chaos died down to bring our kids to us!


The day could not have gone more smoothly, and we know it is in answer to the many prayers lifted up on our behalf!  We had a few minor glitches with furniture initially: our queen sized box spring would not fit up the stairs to our room, so we ended up just sleeping on the floor with our mattress until our "foldable box spring" (yes, really!) arrived.  We purchased new bunk beds for the kids, but when we put the girl's together, there was a hole punched in one of the headboards.  Again - more waiting until the new headboard could be shipped.  It was kind of fun just to "camp out" in the new house though! We were scrambling to get as much unpacked and put away as we could before the new baby arrived, since we had T-minus 6 weeks from closing until my due date.  I was relying heavily on Nate to carry boxes around, and help get furniture into place, etc, as I really couldn't do a whole lot at that stage in the pregnancy.  Two weeks after we moved in, he fell down the stairs, and broke his tailbone!  Really, I cannot make this stuff up.  While at the time, we were dismayed, now it really does seem funny.  He is fully recovered, and we are still so grateful that the outcome wasn't worse (he was holding a drill when he fell!!).

While we are still adjusting to the area, I at least no longer need the GPS to get to a grocery store!  :-P   We have missed our friends from "home" tremendously, but we are grateful to have forged fast friendships here already.  We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where God has placed us - that he had planned before the foundation of the world to put us here - now, for such a time as this.  We are taking comfort in that on the hard days, when homesickness beckons, or when the new reality can feel harsh.  We are encouraged by the church we have been attending, and prayerfully considering making it our home.  We have already met several of our neighbors, and we are praying that God will use us to minister to them, and that we can be a testimony of the Gospel!  The days are s l o w l y getting warmer, and we are looking forward to exploring more as a family.  Thank you all again for your prayers!  For those of you who have sent text messages, emails, and general "hugs", what a beautiful, tangible example of God's love you have been to me!

And now, for the much anticipated house tour!  I have battled with the computer for weeks to try to get pictures uploaded, and it does not play nicely with my camera.  So, I ended up resorting to a video tour instead.  Hopefully as we get more settled, there will be more updated photos to come, but in the meantime, enjoy "walking through" the house!

Grace and Peace,
Amanda


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

At Journey's End

It's been a long journey, but at last, we've reached the destination.  When the last home fell through shortly before Thanksgiving, our realtor actually quit.  We really struggled with what to do next.  After a lot of prayer and discussion, we decided together that if we couldn't find a home to purchase before the end of the year, we would try to find a place to rent.  Our family had been separated for too long.  Even finding a rental was not for the faint of heart!  With a 70 lb. dog, and four kids to think of housing, our prospects seemed thin.  Now, after a long, arduous search for a new home, we have finally found a place to call our own!

The fourth home that had fallen through (refer here for reference) actually came back on the market several weeks later. It was the house we had liked best out of all we had seen in this price range - really, we were amazed that a house this good was even within our reach!  We both received an email with the same house under a "new listing" for $5K more than what it had been listed at the first time.  When Nate noticed it back on the market, he called me from work that morning, and asked "should we try again and make another offer?"  I had still not seen the house in person, but I knew how much Nate loved it and he felt like it would be perfect for us.  We decided to go for it! 

Christmas Eve, after waiting nearly 24 hours to hear whether our offer had been accepted, we got a phone call that yes, the homeowners had accepted our offer to purchase!  Needless to say, we had a very happy Christmas present.  :)

We hesitated to make an announcement too early this time - after the many homes that had fallen through, but we remained cautiously optimistic.  At this point, I think it is safe to get excited.  :)  We are scheduled to close on this home, Lord willing, on February 3rd! 

While we have compassion for the previous buyer whose financing fell through, we are grateful that so many of the steps have already been completed for us.  The home inspection had showed an issue with one of the walls in the basement (although minor) and the sellers had already gone through the motions of having it completely repaired!  We elected to follow through with our own home inspection, and the inspector just kept walking through the house saying "this is such a nice house!  I'm really happy for you guys - this is so nice!". 

There are certainly many other things about this home that just thrill me to think about: it has a fenced in backyard, and the sellers decided to leave behind their wooden play set, which makes me so excited for my kids!  The kitchen is completely remodeled, and beautiful besides (for someone who loves to cook, I am eager to make it my own!).  The layout of the upstairs is absolutely ideal for a playroom/homeschool space, which will make this home practical for us for many years.  The house has much of the original woodwork and hardwood floors, stained glass as well as leaded glass windows, a built in buffet that is original to the home, and other little "touches" that add so much character and charm.  The largest surprise for me is the location of the home.  It is really smack in the middle of the city, which will be a huge adjustment for my suburb/country heart.  Even our home in Cedar Rapids, though located centrally in the city, had a very unique location just across the street from a creek, and close to 100 acres of wooded land.  We really were spoiled with the best of both worlds - deer in our yard (a blessing and a curse?) and the ability to walk with the kids with little traffic and quiet conditions, while still being 5-10 minutes from everything.

This weekend will be a big one for us - we plan to move our belongings from the storage unit into the house.  After so many months, I honestly can't remember half of what I packed where . . . so hopefully moving things into the house will go smoothly.  We have been so grateful for the kindness we have already been shown by our new community.  We have had offers of meals, and even help with moving!

While we are overjoyed to be together as a family again, we are also trying to be realistic about the fact that we have been separated for so long, that coming together again may be a hard transition.  We would ask you to come alongside us and pray for wisdom, grace, and patience as we bear with one another in love, and seek to glorify Christ in our marriage, and our role as parents.

Our children have been remarkably resilient throughout this journey - with the uncertainty of the future, having to say "goodbye" to Daddy every Sunday afternoon, and sometimes going two weeks before seeing him again, the long drives back and forth to Milwaukee, and navigating the tricky boundaries of living in their "sort-of" home.  Please pray with us that they will transition well into their new home and routine.

Certainly one of the largest concerns we had with moving to a new area is finding a new church home.  While we have a few in mind to visit, we would ask for you to pray with us for God's direction and wisdom in becoming part of the church body he has ordained for us.

While Nate has not been living locally, he is at least vaguely familiar with the area from working there the past 7 months.  We will still have a lot of "settling" in to do!  With our baby coming only about 6 weeks from now (give or take, ha!), there are lots of other considerations as we adjust to the area. Selecting new doctors, finding our way around a new hospital for the birth, locating grocery stores, etc.  The first few weeks will be challenging, but exciting! 

By default, my personality type does not handle chaos in my home well.  I thrive on routine and order, and struggle to choose joy and gratitude in the midst of a noisy mess.  Though my midsection continues to grow and swell with new life, my energy and physical abilities are starting to wane.  I want to make this next journey more about seeing and savoring Jesus in all circumstances, than about how quickly or efficiently I can organize my home.  There will be days when I get multiple boxes unpacked, and laundry put away, dinner made, and happy, contented children to tuck in to bed.  Then there will be the days when nothing gets done except the unseen, eternal work that God has called me to.  Those are the days when I want to remember that in both cases, it is His strength, and not my own ability that I need to rely on. 

We are so very thankful for the gift of this house - and we are looking forward to filling it with many happy memories.  We want it to be a place where the Gospel is proclaimed, and the love of Christ made evident to all who come through its doors.  We are filled with gratitude for the many who have prayed for us along this road, and encouraged us to trust in God's Sovereign goodness over our human sensibilities.  Nothing now remains, but to go on to the next chapter!

Grace and Peace,
Amanda

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gratitude

After a beautiful Thanksgiving, I am reminded once again by just how much I have to be thankful for.  God has rescued me - drawn me up from the miry pit, and set my feet upon the Rock (Psalm 40:2).  I am completely undeserving of his grace and mercy, and completely undone by his relentless love for me.

He is good. 

Always. 

He is faithful. 

Always.

He is for us, and not against us.  He never changes.

And yet . . .

In my human frailty, and my struggle against faithlessness, I have fought this past year to apply those truths to my heart.  Gratitude is elusive in the midst of hardships.  Oh, how I have begged Christ to make me see clearly!

It has been a challenging year for our family.  This time last year, we were facing the unknown of unemployment.  That period lasted for six months.  During which time, I watched my husband wrestle with despair, lack of health, and his (seeming) lack of purpose.  It is difficult to watch someone you love walk down a road you cannot follow.  This was an opportunity for me to come beside my husband and pray for him in a way that I might never have learned, if not for that period in our lives. 

God in his kindness, has always provided for us financially, and my children have never yet known what it is to wonder where their next meal will come from.  He made clear that He is our provider.  He always has been, and he always will be.

After the emotional roller coaster of going through multiple interview processes, only to be told that another was selected for the position, we wrestled together with the knowledge that God would provide a position in his timing, and for his glory.  This was not about qualifications, interview skills, or anything else.  If it were, only Nate would receive the credit for the position.  It was a daily struggle to consciously rest in that truth.

Then the whirlwind began of an accepted job offer, and relocating our family to a new city.  In the midst of this joy, God saw fit to bless us with another addition to our family.  Joy overflowing!  Although his timing is somewhat baffling to my sensibilities sometimes (okay, most times!), I was thankful for this gift.

In mid-July, Nate started his new position.  Because we had sold our home in a matter of days, the process of packing up the house and looking for a new home had to happen right away.  With Nate working in Milwaukee, that meant staying in IL with his parents during the week and making the 90 minute drive to and from work each day, and only coming home to us on the weekends.  The reality of single parenting full time, and packing up a house while dealing with morning sickness was heavy.  I am thankful for the people God surrounded me with during those weeks to encourage me, and challenge me.  Too often, I lean on my own understanding, and try to do life in my own strength.  I was reminded time and time again how weak I am, and how desperately I need Jesus!  He is gentle with us, and remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14).  I was shaped exponentially during that time in so many areas - character training is messy work.  Especially as an adult!

The time for closing on our home came and went, and as we still hadn't found a new place to live, all of our earthly belongings were put into a storage unit, and I moved in for (what was supposed to be) a few weeks with my parents in IL until we could get settled in Milwaukee.  We began the complicated process of searching for a home without knowing anything about the urban area we were relocating to.  With no personal connections, and no working knowledge of the surrounding communities, we were feeling overwhelmed.  Reality began to set in about the kind of home we would be able to afford, and after several weeks of searching, and Nate walking through many a home, we found one we thought would fit our family's needs adequately for the next couple years.

We made an offer, and unfortunately weren't able to take on the replacement of asbestos roof tiles.  Since the owners weren't able to come down any in negotiations, we didn't get the house.

A few weeks later, we found another home in a community even closer to Nate's office, that was very small, but had a double lot with a fenced in backyard!  We were glad for the prospect of having some outdoor space in a safe neighborhood, while still being close to everything.  We had an accepted offer, and then came the home inspection.  Our report came back with multiple disturbing structural issues.  The house was essentially an accident waiting to happen.  Since neither we, nor the homeowner could take on the repairs needed, we were very disheartened but decided it was the best decision for our family to walk away.

About a month later, while still trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy for our family, we almost stumbled across another home.  This home had so much beautiful character, more space, and was also in a good neighborhood.  The current owners had obviously maintained it, and there were several beautiful features we were thrilled to discover!  We immediately made an offer for just above asking price, and were pleased when they accepted!  We started to get the sense that the owners were going to be difficult to work with, based on little things that kept coming up during arrangements.  Still, we were encouraged to give them the benefit of the doubt, and as we were really looking forward to being a family again (and Nate was excited about only having a 20 minute commute!), we decided to push ahead and try to get through to closing.  We were scheduled to close on the home December 2, 2016.  We were thrilled to be in a home again by Christmas!  As it was, with that closing date, we would have been separated for 6 months, give or take most weekends.  About a week ago, we received word from our realtor, that the sellers, for their own reasons, were simply refusing to close on the home.  Our options were limited.  Either hire an attorney and take them to court, or take the refunded earnest money they offered us, plus a little extra to cover the inspection, etc, and walk away.  I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing.  It felt like being in a bad dream.  It was baffling.  We prayed about it, sought godly council, and decided to start over . . . again.

To say that we were disillusioned by this point would be an understatement.  The morning after we decided to walk away, we received a listing for a house - not two blocks from the one we had just lost.  It was a far cry from the homes we had started out looking at - it practically gleamed!  Nate was able to schedule a showing for that same afternoon, and afterward was giddy with the prospect of owning it.  We made an offer right away, and we were amazed that this house could really be within our grasp financially.  It just seemed too good to be true!  A gorgeous home with so many updates, yet maintaining the integrity and character of the 1940's Craftsman style home.  By the next day, we had a verbally accepted offer from the seller.  We were thrilled - but remained cautious.  Their realtor came back and asked if we would be willing to provide one month of post-occupancy, to allow the sellers time to find a new home.  We agreed, and that left us just 6 weeks after moving in until the baby I'm carrying is due to arrive.  Two days later, the realtor informed us that the sellers had continued to have showings, and had decided to accept a better offer.  Though they had verbally agreed to our offer, because of the extra paperwork involved with the post-occupancy addendum that hadn't been mutually agreed upon and signed, they were free to entertain (and accept) other offers.  We were crushed.

Thanksgiving approached, and I struggled to feel thankful.  We are no closer to living together in our new city than we were in July, when we began our search.  This period of waiting, and being displaced, is wearying to our spirits.

And yet . . .

We are reminded so often that our joy and security are not tied up in a home.  Christ has been made more precious to us.  He did not promise us an easy life of earthly comforts, but he works in us for our eternal gain.  What could be more loving?

Thanksgiving day, I was driving up to meet Nate in Chicago, where we would be celebrating with our extended family.  I was feeling apprehensive about the drive, as I had never been to this particular house, and it was in the city.  Also, I knew that most of the guests - though relatives, would be unfamiliar to me.  I listened to Colossians during the drive, and this passage pierced my heart:

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:11-14, emphasis mine)

Really, what else is there?  I have Christ living in me, the hope of glory!  I don't have a child with cancer.  I am not a widow.  I woke up this morning and drew breath into my lungs.  I was once in a deep cesspool of sinfulness, and he drew me out!  I don't want to downplay the struggles of the past year, but needless to say, my heart is filled with gratitude.  My focus has once again been redirected to Jesus for my joy and satisfaction, instead of looking to earthly things.  He is enough.  Wherever he has called me to go, he will be there. 

We would covet your prayers for us - for wisdom, and for patience as we continue to seek housing options for our family.  We have difficult decisions to make, and we want to honor God with all we say and do.  For we do not battle against flesh and blood . . .(Ephesians 6:12)

Grace and Peace,
Amanda

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Our Precious Blessings

In the midst of our crazy life lately, we have had some fun memory making moments too!  While we are hunkered down trying to make sense of our new reality (prayerfully short term), we have been looking for ways to make the most of our time here in IL too.  We have had lots of time to spend with both sides of the family, and lots of new experiences to share with the kids in our new surroundings (both in Milwaukee, and in IL!).

Recently, one of those fun experiences was a visit to Mom's studio in Chicago (Today Everlasting Photography), to capture some more recent shots of my growing and changing kiddos!  They are changing so fast, and every time they get their pictures taken, I look back and think "how can my babies look so grown up??"  :)


She's the one who made me a Mommy.  My ballerina, princess, ruffly-girly-all-things-pink-and-sparkly-loving, bug whispering, down in the dirt playing diva.  :)  At 5 years old, she's just started Kindergarten, and is learning to write, and will very proudly spout off all the continents and oceans of our globe.  I love watching the world through her eyes!


I love this kid.  My second born, curious about the world - with killer dimples that get him out of all sorts of trouble . . . ;)  He is sensitive and sweet, silly and super intuitive, and loves being a super hero.  Someday he wants to be a fire fighter, and he is constantly telling me all the ways he wants to help or rescue people someday.  Even though he's only 3, he takes his "job" of keeping Mommy safe very seriously.  <3


My sweet little Peaches.  Maybe it's because she's my third, maybe it's just her personality, but she's my little firecracker.  She's incredibly intelligent, is exploding with new vocabulary words every day, and her most favorite song in the whole world to sing right now is "twinkle twinkle little star".  Even though in her little 19 month old voice sounds much more akin to "tinkle tinkle".  She loves babies.  LOVES BABIES.  If we're out and about, and she sees a baby, she'll be a broken record trying to point said baby out to the rest of us for the foreseeable future.  ;)  She sleeps with multiple baby dolls, and carries them with her everywhere.


Speaking of babies . . . 


We have the incredible privilege of looking forward to welcoming another sweet little love to our family this coming Spring.  I am usually taken aback by the timing God chooses to use in my life, and this new little life was no exception!  While only 15 weeks past conception, this baby is already so loved - so cherished - so marveled at, and we are humbled that God would gift us with the task of shepherding and shaping another soul for his glory.

I often get the "WOW!  You sure have your hands full!" comment when out and about with my brood, and I always respond with "Yes!  Full of good things!"  :)  I never want to take this calling of Motherhood for granted.  My children are precious gifts, and even on the hard days, I am so incredibly thankful that they are my gifts to cherish and enjoy.  We are so full of joy, and so thankful.

Praise God, from whom ALL blessings flow . . . 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Letter to a First Time Mom

You've been on my heart a lot lately, first time Mama.  I've watched you nearly bursting with anticipation to meet this precious little one you've had the privilege of carrying these past months - and now that time is nearly here.  You've done everything to prepare that you could possibly think of: attended classes, read books, chosen names, purchased baby gear, researched all the "things", written up your "birth plan" and now all that remains is just to wait.  You dream, and try to remind yourself that you will in fact, meet this baby one day very soon, Lord willing.

So while you're waiting and dreaming, I want to encourage you with some things that I've learned along the way.  I don't claim to be an expert on anything, but I'll pass on what wisdom I've gained.  :)

Keep An Eternal Perspective.  I say this one first, probably because it's the most difficult.  When you stand before God one day to give an account for your children, He will not ask you whether or not you chose to vaccinate your children, whether they were breastfed, or bottle-fed, or whether you sent them to private school, public school, or home schooled them.  You get the idea.  ;)  Your calling as a mother is a sacred one: to raise up children in the fear and admonition of the Lord - for His glory, and for His purposes.  That, Mama, is your ultimate goal.  Period.  So when you are having a crisis over which carseat is safest, or whether you should be making your own homemade organic baby food instead of buying the kind at the store, remember your goal.  Pray, as Jonathan Edwards did, that God would "stamp eternity on your eyeballs".

Your Marriage Comes First.  You've just been given a new identity: Mommy!  Your family life will always look different from this point forward.  Want to give your children the very best?  Focus on your marriage first.  Before you were a mother, you were a wife.  Someday (I know it's hard to even imagine at this point - and probably will be when you're in the throes of potty training too . . . ) this itty bitty baby will grow up and leave home, and it will be just the two of you once more.  Marriage is hard work in the best of times, and there will be plenty of times it will be easy to put it aside because you're so busy with the baby.  Don't make that mistake.  Children are naturally self centered, and it's doing no one any favors to promote the fallacy that the world revolves around them.  Make a point to offer your husband the best, and not just the worn out leftovers.  Mentally plan ahead to when he comes home, so that you can engage with him.  Make time for intimacy - even if that doesn't look like it did before baby.  My kids never did well with a sitter when they were tiny, and you know what?  That's okay too!  Plan to get the baby down a little sooner one evening, and maybe even make a point to take a nap that day, so you won't be exhausted when your husband comes home.  Order dinner in, and make it a "home date" night.  Play a board game together.  Do something that shows your husband that you are thinking of him - a simple text during the day, making his favorite dessert, etc.  You are striving together to model for the world the glorious love between Christ and his Bride, the Church.  It takes effort, especially in the little years, but it is so worth it.

Take It With A Grain Of Salt.  Probably since the earliest time your baby bump started to make an appearance, everyone and their Uncle has been offering you advice.  One of my favorite phrases from an author I've come to respect is: "Eat the meat, and spit out the bones."  Your Mom, your best friend, the lady from church, and the well intentioned check out person will all have opinions and ideas about how you should be raising your baby.  But here's the thing; God gave this child to you.  He has given you the grace you need to raise this baby, and he will continue to do so as you trust in Him.  There are so many decisions that come with babies.  One friend may say co-sleeping is the only way your baby will feel secure.  Your Grandma Hazel may say that rocking the baby for exactly five minutes and putting them in the bassinet to fall asleep on their own is the only way to go.  Every child is different.  What works for your friend's baby might be something your baby hates.  It's your job as Mama to learn the way God wired your baby - and find what works best for your family.  The only standard you should be measuring yourself against is the one God has given you.  So take a deep breath, relax, and ask God to help you.  He is faithful, and he designed motherhood to make you dependent on Him, instead of your own strength.

Keep Yourself Fed.  While this is true in the literal sense, especially if you're breastfeeding, it's even more important in the spiritual sense.  You need God's word in your ears right now.  Get creative with your time - listen to an audio Bible while you're in the shower, or in your headphones while you're taking the baby for a walk.  I used to prop up my Bible on a nightstand or end table while I was nursing (especially since in the beginning, those sessions can last for a while!) and read out loud to my baby.  At first, yes, you feel completely foolish reading Psalms out loud to your newborn.  Do it anyway.  What has more worth?  God's Word, or "Goodnight Moon"?  Certainly, you'll be reading your fair share of sweet bedtime stories too in the years to come.  :)  Your baby is used to hearing your voice from the safety of that warm space beneath your heart - listening to you read is soothing for them, and helps you focus on the text.  You are exhausted, and your body is still recovering, which means your hormones are haywire.  You need the Truth in front of your face, and in your ears constantly.

Rest.  Really.  More than you think you need to.  This one is completely counter-cultural especially in our "I-just-had-a-baby-two-weeks-ago-but-I'm-already-back-into-my-skinny-jeans-and-ready-to-go-back-to-work" climate.  Your body is healing physically, you need time to adjust emotionally, and your baby will not benefit from a bleary-eyed sleepwalking Mommy, even if the house is immaculate.  Give yourself time.  As eager as you are to get back to "going and doing", stay at home and rest.  Enjoy this time, and give yourself grace to just be.  This time will be taxing enough on you without adding lots more activity.  Plan to use paper plates.  Ask your husband to take over the laundry for a while.  Resting is just as much of a discipline as being industrious, and is becoming a "lost art".  Find ways to make time for rest.  (This will become even more important when you have more babies!)

Hold Your Baby Loosely.  I don't mean that swaddling is forbidden.  ;)  God has given you this precious baby, and given you the awesome task of shepherding her little soul.  In the end, though, you are only stewarding her for a time.  One day, she will be grown, and it will be your task to "release the arrow" as it were.  Remember #1?  God has brought this little life into the world in His timing, for His purposes, and He loves her even more than you do.  Her life is His hands, and you can rest in that.  I used to agonize over the "what if's" with my first baby - "What if she stops breathing in the middle of the night, and I don't realize it?  What if we get into an accident and her carseat isn't tight enough?  What if she puts something poisonous into her mouth when I'm not looking?"  Remember that God has Sovereignly ordained every one of her days, and nothing on this earth can alter His will for her life. (Psalm 139:16)

Be Consistent.  Babies and small children thrive on predictability and routine.  Aim for the same "bedtime" every night.  Try to have naps around the same time every day.  Begin as you mean to go.  If you're not planning on having to spend half an hour rocking your two year old to sleep for every nap time or bedtime, don't get them accustomed to having it all throughout their babyhood.  Please don't misunderstand: rock your baby!  By all means!  Let Grandma rock your baby to sleep!  There is nothing that says you have to adhere rigidly to any kind of "method".  Just aim to be consistent in general with the lifestyle your family has.  This certainly applies as your baby gets older too.  Don't be wishy-washy in your expectations.  This takes a lot of work from your end too!  It is easier sometimes to ignore bad behavior because you're just too tired to deal with it for the umpteenth time that day.  Don't give up.  It is not wrong for you to expect a child to obey you.  Every time.

Let Your Husband Help.  I know this kind of sounds like a no-brainer.  I mean, you just gave birth, you're exhausted, and you can use all the help you can get, right??  Especially with your first baby, it is easier sometimes to swoop in because you want to spare your baby the discomfort of Daddy's somewhat less experienced hands than to listen to them struggle to figure it out.  He needs this time to learn and grow as a Father just as you are learning and growing.  Leave the baby with him for half an hour while you take a long shower.  Let him take the baby for a drive.  Let him find his way as a Daddy without you "coaching" him as tempting as it might be, or innocent as your intentions may seem.  My Mom has told me stories of when I was an infant, and she would be worn out after a day of dealing with a colicky baby, and my Dad would take me into the middle of the living room, sit in a rocking chair, and blast Rock & Roll.  And I loved  it.  It might not make sense to you, but let your husband be a Daddy in his own way.

Stay Humble.  This one is especially important.  It was so easy for me, before I became a mother, to judge other's children, or their parenting methods.  To roll my eyes and say "MY child will never . . . !"  In the body of Christ, there is no room for "Mommy Wars".  What God has called one mother to, may not be the same as what he has called you to.  You may never know the full circumstances behind another family's situation.
          You are going to make mistakes.  Lots of them.  Be willing to admit when you are wrong, and seek forgiveness.  There may come a time when you have burned dinner, the washing machine just broke, and your three year old darling just did something that you've told her a thousand times not to do, and you lose it.  Our children need to recognize that Mommy & Daddy are sinners too, in need of God's grace, just as they are.  Ask her forgiveness, and ask her to pray with you that Jesus would give you patience, and lovingkindness.  It is a seriously humbling experience to ask forgiveness from your three year old.  Ask me how I know.  ;)

Seek Wisdom.  Not just "ten steps to getting your baby to sleep through the night" kind of wisdom.  Obviously, you've been doing a lot of learning since you found out you were going to embark on this journey of Motherhood.  It never stops.  Parenting is a constant learning curve.  Once you think you have something figured out, you're moving onto some completely new and mystifying experience.  Hopefully your primary source of wisdom will come from the Bible, since God has so much to say on the matter, but certainly seek out practical wisdom from other sources as well.  Find a family in your church whose children are enjoyable to be around, or even a family who has teens who are respectful and honor their parents, and talk to their parents about the way they raise their kids.  Keep reading.  Keep praying.  Here are some resources that I have found to be valuable:

- Give them Grace - by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- Shepherding A Child's Heart - by Tedd Tripp
- Loving the Little Years - by Rachel Jankovic
- On Becoming Babywise - by Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam
- Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full - by Gloria Furman
- Mom Enough: The Fearless Mother's Heart and Hope - by Desiring God
If you're breastfeeding:
- The Nursing Mother's Companion - by Kathleen Huggins
For Family Devotions (you can start these when your toddler is old enough to sit through simple Bible stories!):
- Long Story Short - by Marty Machowski
- Old Story New
For practical advice on Motherhood, and generally Godly Womanhood:
Jessconnell.com
A good (and fun!) way to start your littles learning Scripture:
Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs

I am so excited for you as you begin this journey!  Motherhood is a refining fire, and through it you will continually be confronted with your own sinfulness, your need for Christ, the beauty of His abundant Grace, and the miracle of His love for you.  Nothing can prepare you for the moment when you first lay eyes on flesh of your flesh, and bone of your bone - when you hear for the first time a voice that has never been heard on the face of the earth before - and when you get to know the person God fashioned so exquisitely, in His image, for such a time as this.  Enjoy the journey, from a fellow traveler.  Congratulations, Mama!

Grace and Peace,
Amanda