This is my good friend Brandi (I often refer to her as The Great Brandini for reasons that will be apparent as you continue reading). I’ve known Brandi for 15 years now, and I’ve known her husband since high school. Good people, Daniel and Brandi. And God-sent. Coming up on five years ago, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I haven’t looked back. They invited me to attend SMC January 8, 2012 after my life completely imploded, and it was a life-changing and life-giving decision that I will never regret and will be ever-grateful for. So, when I need a little encouragement and inspiration (because being a single mom is hard…actually, being a mom is hard, period), I look at Brandi and value all that she brings to the table. I recently interviewed her to get a glimpse inside the daily workings of managing a household with four kids while trying to raise them in a God-centered way. What follows is the conversation we’ve had and what I see The Great Brandini live out each day.
I was very active in church growing up and, as a young teen, I taught preschoolers in Sunday
school and even competed in church competitions, like choir and puppet shows. I still remember at one of these competitions I asked Jesus to forgive me and live in my heart forever. I will always remember that joyful feeling. Another thing that has stuck with me from those formative years are the many adults that were at church consistently, and that same servant attitude has continued to resonate with me. The Bible says “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 Admittedly, serving the way I would prefer has become a challenge with having four kids and a husband who works a crazy schedule! But the lesson is still there.
Balancing everything is a challenge whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom.
Believe me, I have done both but I can say that I am less stressed not working. I do miss the
social interaction that work outside the home brought, but I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a family. I encourage women, whatever their stage in life, to find a small group to meet up with a couple times of month just to get together for fellowship. On a daily basis, finding just a few minutes to read a daily devotional is a great way to focus on Jesus and the important things in life. Also, finding time to do something for yourself is very important. For me, it’s exercise, it helps me to maintain my sanity!
As for the kids, they all need different things but one thing that all have in common is that they crave my attention (and my husband’s, of course). We try really hard to spend one-on-one time with each of our four kids to quiet the noise and talk with them, play and just enjoy each other’s company. We normally say prayers at night with them which helps us all stay focused on what is important. We thank God for each other and our many blessings, we also pray for others who may be having health issues/problems, our sponsor child in Honduras and the list of names that we got several years ago at St Marks church. (Actually, several of those kids have since graduated but it’s been fun to see how God has worked in their lives). We want our kids to know that they can talk to Jesus anytime and about anything.
Because, in part, of the examples we both had growing up in the faith, we also want our kids to have a servant’s heart. There have been many times that I have taken meals to those who are sick or have had new babies, we have loaned our cars out, given money to the needy, volunteered time at church and so on. Of course we are nowhere close to being perfect role models but it is our prayer that we have successfully instilled such important values in our children. Of course getting them to do chores at home with a servant’s heart is a beast! We want our kids to get good grades but treating others kindly is more important to us. Love God, love people!
When I think about how hard it is to parent today, and especially for Christian parents, I totally get the challenge of raising kids to stay focused on Jesus. Believe me, I completely understand the days are long but the years are so short. What truly helps me is to focus on the outcome: teaching them and being for them the kind of person I want my children to become—the bigger picture stuff. Still, I do have daily devotionals for my older kids (my oldest child even has a Christian based book about puberty, includes scriptures and all!).
I am driven by lots of examples of great moms who’ve influenced me along the way, but most recently there is one mom specifically. She is so special to me and to anyone who meets her. If she is a part of your life, she is your number one cheerleader! That encouragement bubbles over in every moment. What is most inspiring though is that she’s had some personally really tough times. All too recently she lost her son to cancer. Despite watching him grow sicker and sicker, she refused to let Satan win. She even told me that she would write Bible verses on note cards at the hospital to stay focused on Jesus. Can you imagine?
That focus resonated deeply with me as I have watched her live this out. I hope nobody else has had the experience of losing a child but if you have, I pray that you keep your eyes on Jesus. This special lady is my hero and she doesn’t even know it. She is even going to college in her thirties, which is hard when everyone else in class looks 15! But she does it because she feels that teaching is what God has called her to do and she wants to make her son in heaven proud. When I think about my life’s little frustrations, I think about this lady and how she has fought hard to keep her eyes on Jesus. I am awestruck.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed that exhilarating finish in and with God he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”
Finally, the world today can be more discouraging than ever. I mean, I can barely read the news, when on a daily basis there is violence against innocent people. I don’t want to become desensitized to it and numbed out, yet at the same time, I need to be able to sleep at night without worrying myself into a frenzy. My worst fear is that my children or husband would be hurt. I try really hard to give that fear away to God, but it is a challenge when reading the news. I am sure that I am not the only woman who is fearful for her family, so here is a go-to verse that helps me:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Let us lift each other up, let us look to one another for encouragement, and let us lean in…to God, and to each other. Brandi has said it best: “…the days are long, but the years are so short.” May God richly bless you today, and always.