For The Mom Who Is Dreading Summer

This is my first year entering into the school-aged realm of 'having kids who have been in school all year, and now they're going to be home every day for summer.'

It has introduced a dynamic I haven't really had before. Previously, I've had my daughters home year-round. But now, I'm facing this seismic shift of schedule. It's simply that I'm used to them being home in the afternoon and evenings and weekends...and then I kind of 'regroup' in the spaces when they're in school, preparing myself for another round of parenting when they come home again from school. All of this has left me in a place I have never really been in before, but I know alot of moms feel: I'm just not sure if I'm really ready for summer. 

When I started delving into what I actually felt about all this (once I realized that I was a bit hesitant about summer's approach), it started to emerge for me that I wasn't sure that I would have what it takes inside of me to be with my girls all summer long, day in and day out. I was worried about not having enough patience, scared of feeling irritable with them all the time and not knowing what to do with that feeling, fearful of not knowing how to lead them well and finding myself feeling annoyed at the times they're out of control and I wouldn't know what to do about it. I was worried that I wouldn't have enough energy, enough capacity to engage with them, to be genuinely present with them throughout such long days. 

So I took my feelings to the Lord, once I realized and acknowledged what was going on in the inside of me. 

I told Him my feelings. I told Him my worries. I told Him my fears.

And He answered me.

He said, in a quiet voice (that I heard inside of me, not with my ears, but with my spirit), "Sarah, you're leaning into a schedule and a routine to get you through parenting. You've switched to depending on having time to regroup to do well enough as a mom. Time to regroup is helpful. Space is helpful. But it's not your Savior. It will be Me, and My Presence inside of you, filling you and empowering you, giving you what you need, that will be enough for you to get you through parenting this summer. My Presence inside of you will increase as your needs in parenting increase. I'll provide for all you need. You'll have enough. Not because of a schedule, but because of Me. You can lean into Me."

Hearing the Lord's voice and His words in the face of my worries about the summer gave me a solid foundation on which to actively settle my emotions. I can rest about my summer. I can trust that there will be enough for me as a mom, in the Lord, in His presence, in His empowerment and filling of me, in His provision. I don't need my routine or my schedule to save me. I have all that I need in the Lord. And He truly is more than my greatest needs. 

#parentingHOPE

A Short Devotional For Women in the Week After Mother's Day

Mother's Day. We all know that that one day can bring any number of experiences, and with those experiences, any number of emotions up in all of us. No matter who we are, no matter what our situation is. We don't ever really get a free pass on that day. Sometimes we wouldn't want a free pass, but sometimes, boy, we sure would. 

So whether your Mother's Day was sweet, or grieving, or full of anger at the world, whether it was a veritable mental and emotional tornado, or trying to just ignore all the hype on social media...whether you're a mom, or longing to be a mom, or have chosen to not be a mom, or can't be a mom, or have lost a mom, or are struggling with your role as mom, or just felt like the weight of your role as a mom all crashed onto your shoulders last Sunday and you'll never, ever be good enough as a mom, or whatever...there's one thing that unites all of us as women, one thing that we all pretty much could use, that we all really need. We all need to return to a place of peace, a place of settledness after the weekend. We need grace and rest and 'You're OK' spoken over us. 

We all need a settled place in the middle of whatever we're experiencing on the inside.

And settled places on the inside are HARD to come by, aren't they? I wouldn't characterize most of my internal world as 'settled' or peaceful most of the time. But we so need to come back to that place of rest, of "I'm OK." So I'd like to give you this post-Mother's-Day teeny tiny gift: a way into finding a place of settledness in the midst of whatever you're experiencing. 


Ok. Here we go. FYI, I'm transitioning now into hands-on, practical, how-to. So if you want to follow me into creating room inside of yourself for a more settled sense of peace, you can either make time now, or plan to make time later. I'd suggest setting aside about 15 minutes. 

First, I'd suggest getting into a quiet place. This is a funny little tidbit about me: I like sitting on my kitchen floor for moments such as these. Either before my kids get up in the morning or while they're at school or while they're both upstairs happily playing dollhouse for a few moments. You could be on your couch, out on your back deck, whatever. Plan to put aside any distractions for 15 minutes. Turn off the TV, turn off the sound on your phone (you'll survive), try to make this during a time of day when someone might not be yelling "Mommy, mommy, mommy" a thousand times every 45 seconds. 

Then just sit in your quiet spot for a few moments...like 90 seconds. Sit in a comfortable position. Let yourself be quiet. Close your eyes. Let yourself take like 15 deep breaths. Let your shoulders and face and eyes all relax a bit. Just be still for a few moments.

After you've been still, place your hands face up on your lap, and just list, in front of Jesus (your Creator, the One who knows every little thing about you-- and feels quite compassionate), a few feelings and details about what your Mother's Day weekend was like. You don't have to mention every single detail. Just tell Him a few feelings, a few details. Talk to Him. He's a friend. He's right with you. He's gentle and He's kind. His eyes are full of compassion. 

After a few details, listen to this song. As you listen, take deep breaths. You can keep your hands open if you want. If you feel peace coming to you and you want to cry, go for it, that's beautiful. (If you don't, that's wonderfully fine too!) What you're doing with this song is you're creating space inside of yourself to re-center your mind and emotions that no circumstance of Mother's Day can bring you peace, can bring you settledness. No gift, no phone call, no baby, no approval of your life choices from others...nothing can bring you peace besides your Creator:

As the song ends, you can either let yourself linger a few minutes in silence...or you can move on to this next song, depending on how much you are 'soaking in' rest and peace and settledness on the inside. If you sense alot of peace in the quiet after the song, linger there for a few minutes. When you're ready, move on to this next (more energetic- haha) song.

At some point over the Mother's Day weekend (and also probably at many other times in your life), you may have felt something on the inside suggesting to you that you are 'on shaky ground' when it comes to love. Maybe your kids didn't call you, didn't celebrate you the way you wished they did. Maybe you feel like you suck as a mom (that's been alot of my Mother's Day experiences). Maybe you felt ostracized by society in your pain, or in your choices. Maybe you felt that the way that you are disqualifies you. Whatever. I can't list all the reasons. But I can guess that we all sense that there's a voice that says, "You're not quite good enough to deserve to be fully loved, just as you are, flaws and all." The voice suggests that you're always a little bit on shaky ground in the area of being loved. 

Listen to this song. Let your heart start to open, a little tiny bit, to the possibility, that even as you listen to this song, as you are doing nothing, that you are being loved. RIGHT NOW. There's a song being sung over you. That's the voice of your Creator.

That's pretty much the end of our time to create space for settledness and peace. May you find that there is a deep breath inside of you that wasn't there before. May you find that there is a solid ground for all that you are, all that you're going through, whatever your experiences. 

#restGIRLhope

#parentingHOPE

#excitingGOD

A Short Thought For Parents Who Are Worrying About Their Children

As a mom, there are so many times that I basically want to freak out. Like literally freak out.

Times when my kids come home from school and tell me things they heard, things that they learned that I know they’re not ready to learn yet…times when they tell me things people did to them that were wrong...times when I imagine all the things that could happen to them, all the evil that’s in the world that could hurt or affect them…times when I find out sin my kids are hiding...times when I wonder if we’re doing enough to develop them…times when I wonder how the mess that’s still inside of me will cripple them as they grow up in my household. There are just so many opportunities to want to freak out.

And I’ve spent alot of time giving in to that urge, and freaking out. As a mom, I’ve been despairing, I’ve been angry, I’ve been afraid, I’ve been anxious, I’ve been overcome by terror in the middle of the night, I’ve been ruled by suspicion, I’ve wanted to say “I just cant do this; it requires too much; it’s too painful,” and give up. I’ve ‘freaked out.’

The Bible suggests that there is a disposition to have towards life that is called 'anxious toil.' And if you’re like me, you know what it is for your mind and emotions to be stuck in a season of 'anxious toil' in your parenting. There isn’t really rest. There isn't really peace when you look at and interact with your children, because what is ruling you inside is worry, fear, suspicion, imaginations, despair, anger, frustration. I know that disposition. But I’m finding, through the gentle reminders and correction of Jesus, that my anxious toil actually ends up all being in vain…it never gets me any real progress in my parenting. It just leads me further down the road of more anxious toil. What God wants from me, instead, is rest, and trust, and belief that He is in charge, and that He is good. He wants me to use my energy to believe that He is doing something good in my children (and in me). And good doesn’t always look like ideal.

I've found songs like this one below to be helpful for me in my journey. They help me to kind of re-group and re-orient my emotions and my mind around who is most responsible for my children. Who I need to entrust them to. Is it me and my anxious toil that is keeping my children safe in this life? Or is it Someone stronger, Someone bigger, Someone with alot more wisdom and resources and sight than I have? I love the line, "When it thunders, I don't wonder if I'm safe in Daddy's arms," because parenting so often feels like 'thunder' pealing quite loudly, but the Lord is asking me, like a parent would in the middle of a thunderstorm, to let myself believe I am completely safe with my Daddy. Even though I hear the thunder. 

As you consider the things in your own parenting that make you want to 'freak out,' may you have grace to walk the journey along with me in believing that when it thunders, you are safe in Daddy's arms. 

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:1-2

 

#parentingHOPE

The Heart-Revealing JACKET

Our church put out a prayer guide to for us pray 10 minutes every day in January on our own, and this morning as my husband and I were spending 10 minutes going over it and praying together, I had QUITE a revelation about what is inside my daughter's heart. And, if you can believe it, it has to do with this JACKET: 

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If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times from my second grade daughter. "I don't want to wear my jacket." "I can't situate my hood and my book bag. Can I just take this jacket off?" "Mom, I don't really like this jacket."

I normally hear these comments while we're running a hundred miles per hour out the door to first drop their dad off at his school to start his teaching job, and then zooming the girls 12. minutes south to their school to start their school day. Honestly, at that point, I don't CARE if she likes the jacket or NOT. I just want it shoved on, and us going out the door, because we are NEVER early and hardly ever on time. We're pretty much always flirting with tardiness for both schools, and there is not really a smidgen of time for whiny complaints about hoods or jackets or ANYTHING.

So, anyway, no, yes, I am getting back to the praying and the prayer booklet. Right now, in fact. There we were, spending our 10 minutes praying together. Here's what we read in the little prayer booklet this morning right before my big revelation:

Did you know that we can live out of lie-based patterns? For example, imagine someone grows up in a home where their dad is emotionally unavailable, working all the time, and when he’s home, he’s angry and doesn’t want the kids around, and everyone in the house walks around ‘on eggshells,’ not knowing when he’s going to fly off the handle in anger. That person might end up growing up concluding, “I’m unwanted. There’s something wrong with me that makes people not enjoy being around me.” They might go through their whole life with that underlying conclusion. (Which is NOT what God concludes about them! That’s why we call it living life out of a lie-based pattern.)
BUT!!! Someone can also have truth (i.e. God’s conclusions) reign in their mind: they can be renewed (and re-taught) in the conclusions of their mind and emotions. They can live in patterns of reacting to life based on truth about who they are, and who God is.
Can you identify a lie-pattern that you live out of? Write it down.
Can you identify a potential lie-pattern that your child might currently be living out of? Write it down.

So my husband and I spent a few moments talking together about lie-patterns that we tend to live out of, and then we moved on to our daughters. As we discussed our one daughter (the Jacket Complainer), we started realizing that she worries that if she does anything wrong, she'll be exposed. So when we talk with her about something she's done wrong, or bring a consequence, she often acts closed-off, or hard, or angry. Underneath that anger, though, is embarrassment. She's embarrassed that's she's been seen in her imperfection, in her mistakes. 

Or when she gets half-caught in something that she knows isn't quite right, we might notice her talking really fast to try to cover it up, so that no one will notice she did the wrong thing. Or she might even say that she didn't do something that she DID do. She doesn't want anyone to see her in her mistakes, in her failure. 

In that moment of discussing our daughter's pattern of not wanting to be exposed, we realize that even the jacket plays into it: if we listened long enough and deep enough, we'd realize that her issue with the jacket is that she doesn't like how her hair lays on the hood...because she thinks it makes her hair look bad. And she's worried that something not right, not good enough, about her will be exposed (in front of her peers). And so she wants to not wear it, take it off, hide it.


I write this because, as a mom, it is so easy for me to be running a hundred miles an hour in the details of my daily routine, and miss listening deeper and longer to understand what's really controlling the hearts of my children.

My job is many things to these girls: I pack their lunches, I get them to school, I wash their clothes, I help them bathe, I plan their after school activities, I teach them manners. But let me not forget that there are more foundational jobs that I am called to in their lives, and one of those jobs is to shepherd them. To pay attention to what's happening inside, what's ruling their actions, what's influencing their emotions...and then to get close. My shepherding closeness will require "casting all (my) cares [all (my) anxieties, all (my) worries, and all (my) concerns] on Him, for He cares about me [with deepest affection, and watches over me very carefully]" (1 Peter 5:7), crying out for the Lord to bring new freedom into their lives, and talking to my girls in a way that makes Jesus' rescue and Jesus' way of living very understandable and desirable. (More blog posts on that to come).

For now...when it's time for that jacket...(cue the tiniest bit of rolling eyes)...I'm going to remember that it's not just a jacket. It represents a reality of the heart. And I'm going to slow down to listen longer and listen deeper. 

#parentingHOPE

When I Worry About My Kids

I left my two daughters at their school this morning, and as I walked away, I thought of all the things that influence them. The things I can't really shift in their hearts right now. The things I'm concerned about. I thought about how my one daughter really cares right now about what her friends think, what her friends say, what her friends do. Everyone in her grade seems to be wrapped up in who likes who, who chases who in tag on the playground, and I can see her little heart being enticed by the drama of that world of complex and shifting playground emotional attachments. It's childlike now, but it speaks to what wants to control and influence her heart for the future, as well. 

My other daughter isn't quite sure where she's safe. She wonders if she can be safe in a class without her parents around, where adults sometimes have rules that might not always be explicit, and peers don't always treat each other, or her, with kindness. She wonders if she can be safe when she feels many deep emotions, but doesn't know how to communicate them. 

As I walked away, I thought about how, as a mom, I have options for what to do with what I notice. I can choose to, and HAVE chosen to, worry about my girls primarily. I could ignore what they're experiencing. I could try to make it all better, to take their struggles away.

OR I could choose to believe that, because I am beloved of God, because my children are seen and cared for by their Maker, everything they go through in their life is known by God and is used by the Sovereign King to do His healing and growing work in their lives. They are not alone, having bad things happen to them. They are not subject to random circumstances. They are held by a God whose rule and reign is absolute, even in details like caring about friends opinions in second grade, and safety in kindergarten. 

So what can I choose to do practically? I can choose to pray. I can take my thoughts and my concerns and my noticings to the Lord. I can tell them to Him. I can remember His care. I can ask Him if there are things He wants me to do. 

As I walked away, I thought of this song. It helped me as I shifted my perspective to remember that I, and my girls, have a Maker. 

#parentingHOPE

Jesus Doesn't Wish That Someone Else Was Their Parent

I've been struggling in my parenting this week. More like these weeks. Maybe if I was fully honest, I'd say 'I've been struggling in my parenting these years...since my children were born..' Because isn't that really the truth? Parenting is often wonderful, but more often hard.

The need is so vast. SO VAST. That's what I've been wrestling with recently. 

My kids need so much. They need someone to manage conflict between them. They need someone to provide a home that's a peaceful refuge. They need someone to help them understand their emotions. They need someone to enjoy them and let them experientially know their worth. They need to be led and they need to learn to follow. They need to learn how Jesus is for every emotion, every situation, every moment, not just 'church-y' situations. They need someone to teach them how to care about friends. They need to learn responsibility. 

I could go on and on. There are an infinite number of little steps, little lessons required to lead someone through all the stages of childhood into adulthood. And the need is so vast. The task feels too big. 

And I'm so ill-equipped for the task. I'm still myself broken from my own wounds; I'm still immature, unsure how to deal with conflict, uncertain how to lead. I haven't figured out my own mess...and I've been handed this huge task, with this vast need staring me down.


This past Sunday, I was reminded of a story that I think I need to start reminding myself of each morning.

It's a story that's recorded in each of the Gospels. Jesus is with this huge group of people: five thousand of them. They hadn't had food, and they're hungry

Jesus turns to His disciples and He tells them, "You give them something to eat."

That's why I need to remember this story. It's just like parenting. The need is so great, and Jesus pretty much turns to me, the parent, and tells me, "You give those kids something to eat. You guide them. You mold them. You have the talks. You give up what you'd rather be doing to show them affection. You muddle through your own mess to figure out how to 'parent.' You give them something to eat."

So the disciples look around, and they come up with a boy who has five loaves of bread and two fish. Not nearly enough for the vast need.

Just like me.

I don't have nearly enough for this vast need. I don't. I really have next to nothing to offer in my parenting. Especially when faced with the vast need.

But what does Jesus do?

He doesn't sneer at the gift.

He doesn't ask for someone else better to step in with a better solution.

He thanks the Father for those five loaves and two fish.

Just like me.

Jesus doesn't despise what I have to give. He doesn't wish that a different adult was in my kids' lives, or that someone else was their parent. I would be willing to say that He doesn't even wish that what I have to offer was more, or better. He thanks the Father for what I have to give, who I am as a parent.

So then, in the story, as the disciples obey, and start passing out the little they have to the many, there is enough. Not because they have enough. But because Jesus multiplied it. Jesus did the miracle.

May this, as well, be my story.

That as I do my part, and show up in the face of the vast need, with my little bit to offer, but relying on Jesus, that Jesus will do the work that only He can do: the miracle of multiplying, the miracle of changing my children's hearts, the miracle of providing for the needs and saving. 

Because it's really His miraculous work that provides for the needs in the end. Not the little I have to offer. But He uses the little I have to do His miracle. 

So as I ponder this story and these parenting thoughts each day I'll probably pray something like this...and I'd invite you to join me on my journey and pray it with me:

Jesus, today You've given me these two daughters and You tell me, "You give them food." Help me first to not turn away for their need because it's so great and because I don't have what it takes to feed them myself. Help me to see the vast need even when it hurts, even when it overwhelms. 
And Jesus, I have nothing to offer them. I know it deep inside, but sometimes I try to pretend I have enough to feed them. I admit that all I have is five loaves and three fish.
I offer my five loaves and three fish to You, and I turn and offer them to my daughters. 
You don't despise my parenting. You don't wish I was a better or different parent. 
Would you do a miracle in my home in these days? As I see the needs and move towards them with the little I have, would You do Your work in my children? Would You multiply it? Amen.
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Why I Cry On Mother's Day

Mother's Day is tomorrow, and I guess I don't really count myself among the ranks of women who happily pat themselves on the back and bask in their family's love on this holiday. Honestly, I wonder if few women really do. I don't know. I guess I was excited about my first Mother's Day, and probably my second. I was proud to walk myself into church with my head held high and my baby in my arms, proud to associate myself with the club of women who were older and wiser than me, who were mothers.

But then I came to my third and fourth Mother's Days, and up until now, my eighth Mother's Day (actually my ninth because I had a miscarriage right before Mother's Day the year before I had children, but that's a whole different part of my story, and that Mother's Day was a very painful experience)...and these years I don't feel the same as I did on those early Mother's Days. The day isn't centered around me proudly parading myself into church with my little entourage surrounding me. 

Instead, I'm pretty sure that on all of these recent Mother's Days, I've cried.

I've cried because I've felt so keenly aware of all my failures as a mother. I've felt how hard this journey is, what struggle and sacrifice and pure imperfection is the essence of it. I've wished I were better, more capable, less impatient, less unsure of what to do. I wish I knew how to be a better mother to these precious girls.

And as tomorrow rolls around, as Mother's Day comes again, you know what? I don't really feel all that different. I still feel the incredible weight of this task. I feel the enormity of it. And I feel that I don't have what it takes to do it well, to give my daughters the mothering that I long to give them, the mothering they deserve.

But I do know one thing this year that's different. 

I know that I'm not called to have everything I need all stored up within myself. I'm not asked to be competent for this task. I'm not suppoed to be 'mom enough' to scale this mountain called motherhood.

What I'm called to do is to see the task, see the overwhelming needs in front of me, to also see the lack inside of me, and to cry out for a Savior.

It's the great calling, annointing, and role of a woman, of a mother, to cry out for help outside of themselves. The Bible calls it 'hoping in God.' And it's what I must do, what we must do, when we realize the stark reality of the deep lack we carry inside of us to mother our children well. There is a Fountain of Living Water, who will fill us up with all we need, over and over, but it's our job to see our lack of being the fountain ourselves, and to turn to Him. 

I used to think the answer was inside me. To be better, do better, make myself become something I'm not. But what I've found is that instead of running from my lack, I need to embrace it. It's a beautiful thing to embrace my need, embrace my lack, because I have a Fountain, I have a Savior, I have a Helper, who is there with all that I need, waiting to fill me up as a mother, with Himself. And that's where the real change, and the real life, the real power as a mother is found. From outside of myself.

 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 

Hebrews 13:20

 

 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

 

Happy Mother's Day

"You CAN Compete With Brownies" - Helping Kids Follow Directions (Part 2)

"You CAN Compete With Brownies" - Helping Kids Follow Directions (Part 2)

Brownies have a yummy factor that make it hard for broccoli to compete just like...

...video games have a fun factor that make hard for Mom's instructions to compete. Keep your competitive edge by following the models and tips in this post.

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