Merit Doesn’t Make a Mother

For When You Feel Like You're Failing as a Mom

I had a boyfriend in college who told me he could never see me as a mom.

I asked him why he thought that, and he just said, “I don’t know. I just don’t see it in you.” His flippant words hurt. I had always wanted to be a mom, and this person who I cared so much for didn’t think I was worthy of that title.

Fast forward to now, and even though I have three beautiful children who I am absolutely in love with, his words creep up on me. Hidden behind the spoken words I hear, “You’re not good enough to be a mom.”

Some nights I lay awake with anxiety, spinning with thoughts of all I mess up in and all the ways I could do better. I just don’t want to regret my mothering years; I want to do right by my children.

Then the morning comes and everything feels new and I know I can begin again.

And I remember, I am not enough. I am not adequate. I will fail in a million and one ways. But merit doesn’t make a mother. God makes a mother.

Read the rest over at (in)courage today!

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One of the Secrets to Nurturing a Strong Mind in Your Child


I have been let in on a great secret.

Maybe it’s not a secret, but it was unknown to me until I actually tried it. My Ella, avid reader that she is, was always picking books at the library that were of the Geronimo Stilton sort. Fun, but in a candy-appetite sort of way. Sure, she was reading, and I always encourage reading, but Sally pointed out to me that just like our diets, what we feed our minds daily is important in being healthy. If my girl always reads “candy books”, her mind would be engaged, but not necessarily strong. Plus, what we consume frequently we tend to have an appetite for. I want my children to crave the good things. I also want her to learn about history and interesting people and science and so much more through “living books” and the wide world around us.

All to say, the secret…

It is, the book basket. And specifically, it looks like this: A basket by the bed filled with a biography, a history (can be historical fiction), a science/nature, a classic literature, and a fun book.

There it is, that’s it. That is what my girl has been cycling through the last few months, and it has been the greatest asset in nurturing her mind. Whenever we go to the library (usually every two weeks), she must pick at least five books on those topics. Of course she brings home more books to read, but those are the requirements. And friends, she is not only becoming an excellent reader, I know she is developing a strong mind. Her vocabulary is vast and her knowledge of historical events and people is growing weekly. And all through story and interesting texts.

People often ask me what I use for curriculum. Mostly, the library. We read. We read good, living books on a variety of subjects. We talk about them, and then we look up more information on what we’ve learned if we’ve become curious. We have a few other texts here and there, mainly for math and mapping, but our go-to is the library.

But how, you might ask, do you get your children to read the five books?

Rewards of course! ;) My children get to pick a special experience if they read a certain number of books. My nine year old has to read 50 chapter books (or, if they are science or biography, they can be 30 pages depending). Her choice of reward? Hershey park with her dad! My son, who has struggled with reading, also has to read 50, but they are of the BOB book variety. His choice? A night out with me in a hotel. Yes, these are expensive items, but they have to read quite a bit to earn the reward. They keep track by keeping a poster in their room and they put a sticker on it for each book they read. It has been a great success! Now listen, I didn’t come up with any of these ideas; I got them from Sally Clarkson. If you’re not following her, you must. She’s lovely and gracious and wise and has done the work in raising her children well. I love her so and you will too.

If you want more ideas, or book recommendations, pick up Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families by Sarah Clarkson (Sally’s daughter). It is wonderful, and is filled with practical advice for encouraging your children to read.

And just for fun, you must run right now and get your hands on the deeply touching book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The kids and I were hooked; we couldn’t put it down. It is an exceptional work by Kate DiCamillo.

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Okay, your turn! What secrets do you have when it comes to encouraging your children to be well-read? Also, what is a current kids book you are loving right now?

Keep on!


P.S. Another way we sneak in “reading” is by listening to audio books in the car. We are currently listening to Anne of Green Gables every time we go somewhere. It’s been a fun way to get more reading into our lives!

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Moms of Little Ones, Hang in There! The Best is Yet to Come!

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Today was a glorious day.

I sat on a big white blanket under a glorious sky and watched as my children fished, bicycled around a park, and played. But I didn’t always watch. Some of the time I lied down, closed my eyes, and enjoyed the sun warming my face. My husband sat on a bench and read a book.

The kids played and they were fine and I didn’t have to watch them the whole time. I didn’t have to chase after them. I didn’t have to entertain them.

Every now and then my oldest would come over and sit with me and we’d laugh about something or talk or just rest together. It was wonderful.

I kept thinking how much I wanted to tell moms of little ones, “It gets better!” The kind of better where you can not only breathe and relax on a beautiful day, but that your kids are your friends.

Not only will you not have to watch them every minute, not only will you get to close your eyes under the sun, not only will you be able to get a full night sleep, you will be able to enjoy a sweet friendship with your child. A friendship where you have actual conversations and share opinions and personality and tenderness and giggles. It is wild and awesome and such a gift.

So here it is, moms of little ones: It gets better! Your time is coming. Hang in there. The best is yet to come.

Love, SM

P.S. If you’re in the desperate stage of mothering, this might help. ;)

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Dear Parents, Do This For Your Children (Before It’s Too Late)


Making memories with my beautiful Ella

A couple of weeks ago I read a post on Facebook from a friend of mine that so moved me that I decided to act. She talked about losing her father and all the things she wished she had of him to remember him by. As I read her words, I realized that I don’t want to take anything for granted, especially my life. What if something happened to me, would my children have pictures and recordings to remember me by, to see and listen to if I can’t be with them? So often I take pictures or videos of my children, but I don’t get in them, usually because I think I look terrible and don’t want to be recorded. But the thing is, our kids don’t care about that; they just want us, mess and all.

Because my friend’s post so impacted me, and caused me to get on the ball with intentional memory making, I asked her if I could share her post with you in its entirety and she said yes.

Please welcome my beautiful friend Sarah Jessica Farber

Dear Parent Friends,

Here is what you should know. I got 23 years, 2 months, and 11 days with my dad, and they were not enough. Forever, of course, is not enough – all of our parents leave us too soon. I was reminded of this first thing this morning, when I got a text from a friend saying she was crying. My email had the why: our mutual friend has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. All I can think about are her two little boys. So…

Here is what I wish I had, since I don’t have my dad:

I wish I had his voice, recorded, preferably telling the kind of jokes and stories that my mom would scold him for. I wish I could hear him pronounce human “yoo-man” one last time, and wrinkle my nose at the awkward sound.

I wish I had video of him, doing anything. Even talking on the phone to his best friend while watching golf on TV would be great. He’d call Jesse “honey” and Jesse would call him “dear” and they’d gossip and talk about their motorcycles and who knows what else and it would put me to sleep. I’d love to hear that again, to be bored by the mundane conversation, to see his quirks captured on camera.

And photos, I wish I had more of them. I have precious few-he was behind the camera a lot, and didn’t much like having his picture taken. But what I wouldn’t give for a picture from the early 90s that isn’t the incredibly awkward family photo where Alex is the only one smiling and my lips are totally chapped.


Most of all, I wish I had his stories. God, he could tell a tale. Some of them were embellished, but the strangest ones were all true. I still don’t know how he ended up on the Kennedy’s yacht but danged if there isn’t a picture of him on the Honey Fitz hanging up at mom’s house. And I wish I knew more about his time in Korea in the Peace Corps. I have the fantastic picture with his mutton chop sideburns and a bunch of Korean people who are strangers to me. All I know is they were his students at the university. That story will remain unwritten.

I want you all to tell your kids your stories. Write them. Let them video you. Use the awesome StoryCorps app – it will help. Your children can interview you.  And get in the pictures – get a selfie stick if you must, but take pictures with your kids.  Have pictures taken.

Please do this for your children. 1 in 2 women will have cancer; 1 in 3 men will have cancer. Most will survive it, but no one lives forever. I beg of you, please think now about leaving your stories for your babies.


P.S. Resources I have found since posting this on FB:

Recordable Storybooks from DaySpring and Hallamark.

Every Story Media - Turning your family stories and history into video.

You can read this post on Sarah’s blog as well by heading HERE.

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EXPERIENCING the Blessing of a Child


Me with my precious Ella girl

I woke up and my body ached, my head hurt, and I had the sniffles.

I got what my kids had.

Last week all three of my children got sick with a cold, fever, body and tummy aches. I cuddled them, made them tea, rubbed their heads, and even fell asleep with one of them in their bed while thanking God that I was able to be with them while they were sick.

It was inevitable that I would get it. So when I did, I took some Ibuprofen and slathered on a bunch of oils. I then cuddled down into my bed and begged everyone around me not to talk or put on any lights.

Then it happened. My sweet girl sat on the bed next to me, rubbed my head gently, and said things like, “I’m so sorry you don’t feel well, mom. I love you.” She rubbed my head and spoke soothing words to me for nearly 10 whole minutes.

And right there, right in those minutes, I experienced one of the blessings of children.

I know that children are a blessing, but most days there is so much correction and teaching and cooking and cleaning up and the tiredness and “mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM!” and all the rest of mothering that the blessing can get lost. But when my dear Ella spoke kindly to me and rubbed my head, my heart felt such delight. I felt loved and cared for and she truly ministered to me.

The days can be long and difficult, but with each correction, each meal served, each cuddle, each kind word spoken and head rubbled and book read, I am imprinting my children with the stuff of love. And I am, without always being conscience of it, teaching them how to love.

You guys, parenting is ridiculous. It is so tired and frustrating at times, but then your child rubs your head and speaks calmness over you and it’s all worth it. All the work that you put in, day in and day out, it’s worth it. Our children are learning how to love. And when they love practically, people soften, light shines, and God, who is love, is seen.

It is love that changes the world. And that love, it begins in the four walls of your home.

It begins and works itself out in hidden places, in the normal, in the dailyness of life. But it happens, if you give yourself to the work.

So keep on moms, because what the world desperately needs comes, literally, from the love of a mother.

“Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.” Proverbs 29:17

Love, SM

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