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

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.
maxresdefault.jpg

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

Postpartum Pointers

The post-partum stage after our first child was born was...completely overwhelming for me. 

After labor and delivery, I remember feeling like I had just done the hardest thing I had ever done in my life, both physically and emotionally. But there was no respite afterwards. Right away, I was handed this infant that was needy and unfamiliar. And I had to jump right into caring for her, which I had no idea how to do. I was the mom, so I was supposed to be the knowledgeable one, the one who naturally just knew how to care for her, and yet I felt completely unprepared and unsure of how or what to do for my baby. 

And I felt overwhelmed by the weight of this new responsibility on my shoulders. And it felt like I was the one who was ultimately responsible for her, all the time. Night and day, day and night. There was no way to take a break from this burden of responsibility resting on me. I had gone from doing whatever I wanted to do most of the time to being responsible for another human being 24-7. It felt heavy. 

I also was overwhelmed by the flood of emotions that I exeprienced. Overall, I felt very raw and fragile. Very vulnerable. Th only way I can describe it was that it was almost like having this baby had turned me into something 'new' as well. I felt like I also had become something that was soft, vulnerable, and fragile. And I felt that I, in my new role as a mother, had to be shielded and protected because I was still too new, too vulnerable.

I cried all the time. I cried as I laid in the hospital bed, not able to sleep because every move that the baby made had me worried that she was about to scream, ready to nurse again. I cried as I remembered the trauma of labor. All the way home from the hospital, I cried. And when we got home and I stood in our living room, surveying the remains of our through-the-night-laboring-session, I cried. I felt guilty and defensive about not knowing what to do with my baby, ashamed of not being consumed with this all-encompassing 'mother love' that's 'supposed' to happen as soon as you see your baby, and I was just plain tired and overwhelmed.

Everything felt new. It was like I was on this HUGE learning curve, and I had to learn it all really, really fast. When we drove away from the hospital, I didn't know how I would survive this new parenting thing if I didn't have nurses and staff bringing me medicine, making us meals, giving us support with the baby, cleaning up the bathroom for us... Nursing broke my life into two hour segments for as far as I could see into the future, and it was such an incredibly physical and intense new relationship, which neither I nor the new baby knew how to do very well.

And I was exhausted. Completely exhausted like I had never been before. There really are not words to describe the level of exhuastion I felt at being awake at all hours of the night, night after night. And I was the only one who could satisfy the baby's hunger. And yet, even as tired as I was, there was a time at the beginning when I couldn't sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I'd have this weird, buzzy feeling. I think my hormones were plummeting to compensate for a baby no longer being inside of my body. It felt terrible. 

In the middle of all the emotions and newness, though, the one thing that helped me the most was talking about it

I remember one day, about a week after Ava was born, I had an emotional meltdown on the nursery floor, and my husband and I were forced to take the time to talk out what I was feeling. It was a turning point for me to start saying all the things that I was feeling, re-visit all the conclusions I had made about my labor experience, and explain how much my world had changed once our baby came into our lives.  

ry=400.jpeg


For anyone out there wading through the postpartum stage, remember: it really is just a stage. It will end eventually. And women's bodies all react to the hormonal shifts and life changes differently. Some women might glory in having an infant to care for, while others might suffer much more severely. And others, like me, might just be trying to make it through. Here are a couple of suggestions to help you out along the way:

  • Try to talk out what you're feeling as much as you can with a trusted support person. Don't talk to someone who will say hurtful things to you. Find someone who is safe and who can listen long enough to sort through the things you say and help you see what's really true about you and your situation. Try to say the things that feel the scariest inside. If you worry about not being a good enough mom, if you're scared about not bonding, if you feel like hurting your child, whatever feels like the scariest things that you wouldn't want to reveal, make sure you say them out loud to someone. Say, "I'm feeling this..." Even if it's incredibly vulnerable, get it out.
  • Consider counseling. Especially if you don't have someone you can trust to talk to about these things. Counseling is not just for people in crisis! It's for people who are going through big transitions and need some support. And becoming a mom certainly is a big transition!
  • Talk to your doctor about how you're feeling. There is no shame in what you're going through. Your body is reacting to a hormonal shift. How your body decides to respond is not your fault! You did not do something wrong; you should not try to hide! Talk to your doctor. If you're experiencing something more difficult, like postpartum depression or anxiety, your doctor might want you to take a medication for a period of time. That's great! Happily receive that support as a way to help your hormones stabilize and make this new mom stage more pleasant for you and your baby.
  • I had a stack of verses that I wrote out on index cards for labor, but I never touched them. After the baby was born, though, I used them all the time. I stuck them in the pocket of the recliner where I nursed my baby and I'd pull them out and read them while I nursed. It was really helpful to take a few minutes to remind myself of truth as I went through the overwhelming moments of caring for my baby.
  • Music was another thing that was super helpful to me. I made a playlist of songs that talked about holding on to God through hard things...and they were very encouraging to me when I felt like I couldn't do this 'mother thing.'
  • Take a break. Even if you feel like you alone can feed or care for your baby, find a way to take a break every few days. Go for a walk, sit outside and journal, read a book, run out to Starbucks...try to leave your baby with your partner or a trusted friend for a little respite every so often. 

Remember...it's only a stage. It's definitely an overwhelming stage for many. It was for me. But it's only a stage.