Judging Mom

Momma always said that I was afraid I'd miss something.

I see why little kids hate to go to bed. They think they might miss something. My husband says this to me to this day.

Our bodies were made to rest. God created them this way. I frequently lose the battle when I fight sleep, but I dream (sorry-bad pun) of all I could accomplish if not for those precious hours "wasted" sleeping.


Maybe this goes back to my child hood. Maybe because I was never sleep-trained.

I was never sent back to bed if I woke in the night but instead welcomed to wiggle in down between my parents' warm sleepy bodies.

I was never disciplined for getting out of bed, but allowed to fall asleep on the couch. My family joked that Daddy carried me to bed until I was 12.

It's really not a joke.

Maybe because I was a later-in-life baby and a little "spoiled".

Or maybe because my mother said she raised me according to how she felt she should, unlike my sister and brother, who she raised according to how everyone else thought she should.

I am my mother's daughter.

I am more relaxed about bedtime than most. Homeschooling allows for this freedom, but even in the early years, I didn't do what I was "supposed to".

I "rebelled" and felt guilty.

I complained to Momma once that my littles didn't want to go to bed at 7:30 like all my friend's kids did.

She asked if I needed them to get up early. I said no.

"Well then, what's the problem?. They don't have to get up and go to school. Let them stay up later and sleep in."

It didn't occur to me that I'm the parent and I make the rules, not others.

Momma had learned this by the time I came along.

How I miss her non-judging attitude toward my methods or lack thereof. She gave me the much needed permission to do what I needed to do.

This parenting journey is one we forge ahead in often blindly and with great trepiation. And often we fall into condemnation.

Though often inadvertently, I have been made to feel I did everything wrong with regards to my young children's sleep habits. Even by those who didn't even have children.

And likewise, when receiving well-meaning advice from those without special-needs children who suggest what I "should" do about my son- I just smile and nod.

Smiles and nod. And sometimes defend my parenting.

My personal experiences differed with all four of my babies. I've laughingly (well, maybe not) said I had the most no-sleeping babies on the earth. And then, I was given special needs child who still has significant sleep issues. I have no solid answers.

Or a solid eight-hours of sleep.

But, many seem to- have all the answers, that is.

I am not looking to debate Babywise vs. attachment parenting, demand feeding vs. scheduling or any of the countless methodologies and philosophies out there.

But there are always debates. Why? Why do we feel the need to judge others' choices?

I chose to breastfeed my babies – some for so long that I dare not tell anyone because, you know, that judgement – but I'm not going to tell a mom who can't or chooses not to that she's harming her baby or an inferior mother.

Likewise, I'm no less a brave mother because I had my babies at a hospital rather than at home.

I am a firm believer of doing what works for you and your family.

I've offered this little nugget to more than one struggling mom and sense a sigh of relief because someone has given her permission to just do what she must in order to get through another day.

I longed for that grace yet often felt the sting of judgement.

Not that advice is not appreciated or taken under consideration, but when it is served with an air of heir of superiority, it won't be well-received.

My daughter was the first grand baby to come along in 12 years. She was passed from one set of arms to never touching a solid surface for her first week of life it seemed. So when that time came to put her down…

I practically fell into the crib placing her every so gently. Then tiptoeing out.

Then…the scream.

I couldn't do it. I shuddered at her shrieks and became distraught at her distress. This helpless, little life that I had just brought forth beckoned me to scoop her up and hold her.

And I did. For a long time.

The time I resolved to let her cry it out, she had gotten her leg stuck between the crib bars.

I had failed. Failed at making her "self-sufficient" at the ripe old age of three months. Failed to sufficiently ignore her so that she could self-soothe.

Instead I soothed her. My husband worked many hours and was often away, so she slept with me.

And when I became pregnant with my son,

Wait!! Did I just say pregnant?? How did that happen?

Lets just say that she was not always in the bed. And since hubby worked so much, just the fact that I managed to birth four children in fairly rapid succession speaks a bit to our creativity.

But I digress.

Having baby girl snugged next to me in my big comfy bed made the exhaustion and relentless sickness of my pregnancy managable.

It was my "dirty little secret."

I never once thought she was manipulating me by not wanting to sleep in a room by herself across a big dark house. I never thought of sleep as an obedience issue.

I simply think she wanted her mommy.

And I was all to glad to indulge her.

And the next one.

And so forth and so on.

Some slept in the crib. But some didn't take to it as well, like my youngest.

He was the one I was going to finally "do it right" with. But one attempt to let him cry resulted in him shaking the crib so hard it that he literally broke it. More acurately, he broke the locking mechanism so the side would not stay up. So we had to put it out on the curb and never replaced it.

Yet had I been too strict with my youngest sleeping in his bed and his bed only, the stressful time when my Momma was dying could have been much more so. At barely four, he went from a Hospice couch to car seat, to bed and back and forth countless times without so much as a peep.

God's grace covered my "slack" parenting. He even blessed it.

Looking back, I wish I had done some things differently. I know young moms now who are able to do what I couldn't and I admire them greatly. At the time of my kids' babyhood, I didn't have the tools, the energy or the support. I simply survived.

Some days survival is enough.

Truth is, my kids are turning out to be pretty darn amazing.

And guess what I've found?

Teenagers sleep. A lot.

And they weren't even trained.

A few sleeping places of the "no-sleeping" Neely kids…

On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. As a young woman, even before I meeting my husband, I longed for the day I’d become a mother. I never thought much beyond that-then imginary first child. My family plan was planned more by God than us.

I never considered homeschooling and and not going back to work once my children reached elementary school age. I certainly never expected to have been given the gift of a special-needs child. Life turns unexpected and sometimes hard and often bittersweet.

I miss my momma. That early, middle-of-the-night-morning as she began her forever in Heaven, I wiped my tear and sleep-filled eyes and thought, “What am I going to do on Mother’s Day?”

Not her birthday, not my birthday, not even her funeral, but Mother’s Day.

This day. I confess, I love waking up as I did this morning to gifts waiting to be opened.


I was even given an early gift late last night after 14 hours of baking for my son’s mission’s trip bake sale today. A dress to wear to church this morning. Because my daughter knows I don’t buy much for myself. And also because I’m sure she likes and wants to wear it too. And I love that.

I love her. She is my fiery soul unleashing her inward and outward beauty growing into her own woman as she shares her love of Jesus and passion for people with the world. She is not only my daughter, but my friend. My firstborn. As I held her the first time, I thought, “This must be what Heaven feels like.”

And my boys. I adore my boys. My oldest son, my quiet man-child finding his voice. He embodies Proverbs 17:28, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.”  His heart is of a servant and a protector. He is much like Jesus.

My special one. My own heart died a bit when I found out his was sick and he would not be what I expected. I discovered that all gifts do not have to come in the usual packaging to be exquisite and  journeys begin with a single step. I may be on this one for my lifetime, and I welcome it. He has made me love with a fierceness I didn’t know I possessed and has given me a ministry without ever speaking a word.

My baby. He’d hate being called that as he will soon enter the year of “double-digits”. My child of trust – the one God spoke to me so clearly about. He is his daddy. He gives me a glimpse into what must have been my husband as a boy. He is all boy, all the time and thinks he’s a teenager too, yet still comes to me to sneak his hand up my arm – my “cold arm” as he called it when he was little and ask for a hug. I am so glad I listened to God, and not to man.

As much as I love this day, it makes me weepy. Not just because I miss my own momma, but for those childless mothers. The ones who want so desperately to be mothers. Newly married, I sat in church and watched my friend stroke her toddler’s hair as his head lay in her lap. I desired that so much I could taste it.

And I have no idea why God blessed me so easily with children when I have friends who want them and can’t or have had to go to great lengths to have them.

I think this day must be agonizing for so many. Especially in a world where children are idolized and parenthood seems to make one complete. I am guilty of sharing too many “mom” stories and getting so caught up in my busy-mom everyday, that I forget.

I think of the childless mother.  Those who long for children, yet arms remain empty.

The grieving mother.  Those without their children this first Mother’s Day. And those who have had to endure this day year after year.

For many, today will take every effort to step foot out of bed and breathe. Many will walk the halls of churches with plastered-on smiles covering a hollowed-out heart. I pray I am sensitive to those who may be hurting this day and am a source of grace and healing.

A mother is an influencer. A mother is an encourager. A mother is a mentor. A mother is a teacher. A mother is a friend.

For all mothers. Those with children and those without.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love Never Fails

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Valentine’s Day- a day of full of red hearts and chubby cupids, chocolate and flowers, cards and sappy sentiments. A day set aside to celebrate love.

When my husband and I were dating, I planned a pull-out-all-the-stops Valentine’s Day celebration, only to have him called in to work at the last minute. Left alone with my candles and chocolate, a dinner to pack in the fridge, I cried and mourned the by-myself night ahead of me.

That fairy-tale night. That date circled with a heart on the calendar that shouted to me that I must do something to show this guy I was smitten.

We plan the big wedding, we buy the breath-taking dress, we walk the aisle, and we throw the party.

Life happens. Kids come. Sometimes some are born with extreme needs. Businesses close. Finances become shaky. Tempers flare and frustrations mount.

The daily little foxes that spoil the vines and threaten to crack that very foundation poured years ago before a minister on a rainy Saturday.

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And somewhere down the line, love can become no longer patient and sometimes a bit unkind.

As years pass, familiarity and assurance of unconditional love can make kindness dwindle; its reserves poured on strangers and acquaintances and used up.

Yet in the midst of the daily grind, amongst the frustrated and frantic, I find true love.

Not expected flowers and candy on a day. Not mushy-gushy, but love in action.

Love is the sound of my husband give my special-needs son a shower before school and hearing him say, “I love you…”


Because love is patient.

Love is his taking him to school so I don’t have to get out on a cold morning.

Because love is kind.

Love is working long hours to grow a business to provide for our family. Love is me not envying those whose husbands work steady hours, who go on regular date nights and take yearly vacations, but instead being thankful for what he does and why he does it.

Love is finding joy in the everyday moments.

Love is eating chips and guacamole in the kitchen instead of dinner out in a quiet restaurant.

It does not envy.

Love is buying new tires and putting gas in my van. Love is calling every night on the way home from work to ask if I need anything from the store without ever being asked or expecting thanks.

It does not boast.

Love is, in many years of marriage, not ever demanding that dinner be on the table, never asking what I did all day or proclaim that the house is a mess. Instead, love tells me that he could never do what I do.

It does not dishonor others.

Love is a daddy starting his baby girl’s car on a cold morning before she goes to work.

It is not self-seeking.

Love is not getting upset when I banged up our cars, got speeding tickets, ran over a mailbox, and even when I hit him backing out of our driveway.

It is not easily-angered.

Love is not pointing out my many short-comings and failures, but encouraging me to do what God has called me to.

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love is staying together though circumstances that should have ripped us apart.

Love believes God for greater things than what we can see, but only He can do.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Some days love must be sought on purpose. Because tempers flare and some days, people irritate.

But most days, I simply listen.

And I hear love in the sound of daddy-wrestling and brother-chasing, daughter-laughing and angel-seer giggling.

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I hear “I love you’s” and read texts signed with hearts and it makes my own full.

I feel hugs and pucker kisses, small hands in mine and heads on my chest and I drink in all that they are.

I see all around me the evidence of those I love and remember that love is patient when I wish they would put their things away.

I thank God that by His grace that I have those who create messes and fill my days. I thank Him that they love me and He loves me.

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I thank Him for love that always protects, hopes, and perseveres.

True love demonstrated and poured out on the cross – a red unlike any valentine and a love none can ever replicate.

Today I celebrate love, not because I have to, but because I get to. Because of Him and what He gave me. For what He gives me every day.

Love never fails.