Motherhood; Costly But Strategic: Five Minute Friday

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photo courtesy of Twinkle Photo

I was recently able to share with my MOPS group some of my thoughts on motherhood and my inspiration came from a strange source; the story Biblical story of Abraham burying his wife. Surely, not an obvious connection.

But the part that spoke to me most was when Abraham insisted on paying full price for his wife Sarah’s tomb, before knew what that price was. This, to me, is a picture of motherhood. Some of us dreamed and planned for years before becoming mothers. For others it was a surprise and perhaps not an entirely welcome one. Yet none of us could be prepared for what becoming mothers would cost us. Motherhood is expensive not just financially but in terms of time, energy and often dignity

For me, it meant difficult pregnancies and deliveries. When I choose to stay at home that meant, culturally speaking, I lost my individual identity. Without a product to provide or a quantifiable service, or drawing a paycheck; I suddenly became ill defined. I was “just” a mom. Forever more I will be recognized, at least in part if not in whole, as a parent rather than a person with goals, dreams and aspirations of my own.

I had no idea all that being a mom would cost me and yet I agreed to it gladly and I would do it again (at least most days). But I am also working through the process of recognizing how my motherhood is a tool for my growth rather than a barrier to my development.

Another detail I love from Abraham’s story is that he buried his wife facing the land of the promise, the land where his descendants would thrive and become a great nation. He made a strategic choice, looking to the future. I believe parenthood is a strategic thing as well. Some of it is our own strategy, to carry on our values, culture and genetic material. But I believe that much of it is an act of God.

 

The Bible says God places us into families and I firmly believe that our children are part of God’s strategy. No matter how our families are formed, whether through birth, adoption, blending with remarriage or otherwise; it is part of God’s deliberate plan. Our children are not ours by accident. But rather with great intention, both for us and for them.

On those days when I feel most ill equipped, I try to remember that as hopeless as I feel at this job, I was intended to be their mother. That as the Lord Almighty was numbering my days, he saw fit to give me these children. Which means he will also provide me the strength I need to bring them up and help them to become who they are supposed to be.  They are also part of my own redemptive process as I am molded and shaped into the person I am supposed to be. Because I am never “just a mom” but being a mother can be a crucial asset for growth in all the other parts of me and reaffirm to me who I am.

(Full disclosure: I was on a roll today and wrote for longer than five minutes. I hope you enjoyed it anyway).

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Let Wisdom Replace Doubt: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Neillwphoto Flickr via Compfight cc

I was raised with a very strong sense of duty. You show up on time, keep your commitments even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient. I recognized early on in life that there are lot of things you do because it’s right and good, not necessarily because you want to.

Then enter parenthood. Suddenly the list of shoulds became huge and sometimes they contradicted each other. Baby should sleep in bed with mommy vs. Baby should never sleep in bed with mommy. Children need to play independently especially outside vs. Children should never be left alone outside for any period of time.
Other times the standards set felt insurmountable. Children should rarely, if ever watch TV, have sugar, wear clothing made of two kids of fabrics. (Ok, I made that last one up.) Being a mom meant a world filled with new levels of obligation and oceans of new guilt. With every decision I made, there was enough evidence and social pressure from the opposite opinion that I doubted myself constantly. Staying at home, homeschooling, the list went on. It wasn’t that I was too overwhelmed to make choices, just that I was almost never confidence I was making the right ones.

Sometimes even when I was unhappy with the course I’d set, I felt powerless to try and change it. Why put in all that extra effort if it wasn’t necessary, I was still going to feel guilty and tomorrow a study will come out to suggest that my original choice was right all along?

It took me a long time to silence the voices of duty. Honestly, they are with me still. But quieter whispers now instead of demanding shouts. It is easier to ignore them and try instead to replace them with words of truth. Not that I don’t fulfill my responsibilities, I’m just more deliberate what I commit myself too. But I haven’t yet learned to quiet the murmurings of guilt when I read another article or see another volunteer need.

Sometimes I let them become quite loud, and they drown out the beauty and the wonder of this life that I am both carefully chosen and yet accidentally found. (Because so much of life with that strange combination of intentionality and serendipity).

But I’m working hard to pray for mercy instead of cling to impossible standards and ask for wisdom instead of being wracked with doubt. All my shoulds and oughts were covered by the blood at the cross, and that doesn’t exclude my parenting ones.

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What I Love About the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle 2017

I have bought several Ultimate Bundles in the last couple of years. At first I tried read all the products, use all the courses and take advantage of all the bonus offers. That was unbelievably overwhelming and I ended up feeling guilty for not taking full advantage of all the great resources.
But since then I’ve changed my perspective. I start by looking over the bundle to see if there are a number of products or resources I already planned to purchase (or have been waiting to purchase) that are included. Usually this means that based on the total amount those courses usually cost individually, I’m getting a great deal on those courses. Then I focus on using those first, then I move on to any others that look particularly interesting and I simply let the rest go (or gift them to friends I think will enjoy them).

 

My Favorites
In this particular bundle there are several products that I personally own already (which is in some ways a bummer, because this is a much better deal). But the great part is that I can confirm to you the great value they offer.

 

Cozy Minimalist Decorating Class by Myquillyn Smith ($39.00)

I’ll be writing more about my experience with this course in the next month or two, but the short version is I love it. I first tried the Cozy Minimalist Kids portion of the course and loved it so much I immediately joined the wait list for the mainstream course. It has been so helpful for figuring out my personal style, what works for my family and a way to make our new home feel like ours. The Facebook group is one of my favorite aspects because it gives you access to help from others (not the least of which is The Nester, Myquillyn Smith, who regularly chimes in with suggestions and possible solutions to the lovely limitations we each have in our homes). I should also note, that this course normally costs more than the whole bundle, so if that was all you used, you’d still be getting a deal!

Fit2B Studio Foundational 5 + ecourse ($19)

I love Fit2B Studio! I’ve maintained my membership for years because it is one of the most useful resources for keeping healthy exercise in my crazy life and making sure I’m prioritizing tummy safe fitness and healthy alignment throughout my day. Beth Learn is amazing and her gentle, encouraging approach to fitness has made me feel more secure in my own journey to strength and wellness. That being said, I remember being nervous about taking the plunge to join. I was worried that I wouldn’t use it or it would be a waste of my money. (Heads up, did use it and money well spent). So this e-course is a great chance to get your feet wet. This course gives you access to 9 different Fit2B routines (several of which are my personal favorites that I continue to use even after years of membership). While this course alone may not make the bundle purchase worth it, combined with so many other wonderful resources it definitely adds great value.

 

The Temper Toolkit: How to Take Control of Your Temper Before You Lose it!
by Lisa-Jo Baker ($29.00)

I’m a long time follower of Lisa-Jo Baker’s and I recently helped launch her new book, Never Unfriended. (We also watched the video teaching she did for MOPS International about anger at a recent meeting of my local MOPS group, and it was fantastic). So naturally I was very excited to see that her new course The Temper Toolkit was included in the bundle. This is one of the only products that I haven’t personally tried yet that I still strongly recommend because I have yet to read anything of Lisa-Jo’s that I didn’t love. So I’m going to include it in my list of products that make this course worth buying.

 

Additional Resources I’ve Used and Loved

 

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine ($4.99)

I first read this e-book several years ago but I keep coming back to it time and again because of the way Crystal encourages us to focus on building one new habit at a time. I know I struggle with wanting to fix EVERYTHING at once and as a result completely sabotage my efforts. This book makes setting goals and building new habits seem more attainable.

Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood
by Jamie Martin ($11.95)

Jamie is another one of my favorite authors/bloggers because she makes me feel like I’m not alone. She is also a homeschooler (though that is not the target audience for the book) so it really helps me to know that she understands the daily struggle of having children under foot 24/7. This book was part of my regularly scheduled nights out away from the kids. I’d take off to Panera while hubby gave the kids dinner, and read a chapter of this book while I eat in peace before tackling my writing project for the evening. (Which reminds me, I really should start doing that again soon . . .)

So there you have it, those are just a few of the many resources available in this bundle and if you only bought it for those, you’d have an amazing deal.

 

Don’t let the epic size of this bundle intimidate you and keep you from taking advantage of just a fraction of its amazing resources.

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

Loving With Abandon, Serving Without Bitterness: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Calpastor Flickr via Compfight cc

Parenthood has a way of making things both clear and confusing at the same time. It quickly revealed to me my worst qualities, while also showing me how much I am really capable of. But as I approach my eighth year of parenting, I continue to find myself analyzing my reactions.

When the children are small (or in the case of my older two, not quite as small as they used to be) it is easy to feel like a victim. Maybe this isn’t your experience. But I have found myself struggling with bouncing between the extremes of selfishness and martyrdom. Yes, I have needs, and burning myself out (and feeling bitter about it) isn’t useful to my family. But at the same time, I am not entitled to my “me time” either.

Even the church can’t seem to make up its mind. After generations of telling women to sacrifice all for their families, now the pendulum swings the other way and we see women willing to abandon their families for a “higher” calling of ministry. (Let me be clear here, I am not criticizing women who work outside the home or are heavily involved in ministry. Those things aren’t good or bad. It is what we do with them, and the attitude in which we do it that the issue lies).

I find myself in the place again looking at how to love sacrificially. How can I learn to love them with abandon? What does this look like in my life? The only example I can look to is Christ is his time on earth. Why only him? Because he did take time for himself yet he was without the sin of selfishness. We see in the scriptures that sometimes he prioritized self-care for both himself and his disciples. But I doubt Jesus looked as his disciples and uttered the words “Ok, I’ve had enough of you. This is ‘my time.’ Get out of my face.” (Not that I’ve EVER said that, and I’m sure you haven’t either, right? wink wink).

So how did he do it? The Father was his source. He had a mission, and he constantly communed and touched base with the Father to keep him on course. This is something I can do as well. I can serve my children, my family, and my ministry obligations and still take care of myself. But I need to be continually listening for the still small voice so I can learn when to stand aside and when to press forward. Not because of my own selfish desires but because I have become attuned to the voice of the Father as Jesus was. Then I can love and serve without expecting anything in return and without worrying that the well will run dry. Because I am connected to the source and allowing myself to be continually replenished.

This will look different in each life. For me right now, it looks like pursuing silence, listening closely, deep breaths and constant attitude adjustment. May you find what it looks like for you, so you can love with abandon.

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Because I Am Weak, I Can Be Useful: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Sebastian Anthony Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve always hated being weak. I spent most of my life as an overachiever. A lot was expected of me at a young age, and mostly appropriately so. I was encouraged in my areas of talent and ability. But it was also a lot to live up to. There is such a fine line between encouraging a child and expecting the best from him or her, and pushing them into overachiever status. I often felt like I needed to be the best, or I would lose the confidence and love of those around me. I liked being depended on by teachers, parents and church leaders. I didn’t want to disappoint. While I was continually reminded about the unconditional love of my heavenly Father, I found myself carrying over this attitude of overachievment into that part of my life as well. Of course God loved me no matter what, but just in case, I needed to make sure I was giving it my full effort; checking off all the boxes.

But of course I was only human and I couldn’t do everything, I was far from perfect. I had a very hard time taking criticism, not because I didn’t want to improve, but because in that criticism I heard my unspoken fear: you aren’t good enough, and if you don’t “fix” your issues you will become useless and unlovable. Now, those things were never overtly stated, and rarely true. But I heard them anyway.

I like to think that I have improved in this area, and in some ways I have.but it still takes continual effort to have a teachable, correctable spirit. My need to impress has kept me from taking risks because I might do it wrong and someone might notice and tell me so. Since having children, it is easy to question myself constantly. It doesn’t help that our social media culture fosters an environment where each person’s choices become public discussion fodder. Gossip has always existed, but the difference between the village rumors and the internet is that now one mom’s apparent failing becomes a public opinion discussion but without the important relationship of community closeness. When the sweet older lady who helps you wrangle your children gives you advice it’s a lot easier to take than when a stranger half way across the world criticizes you on social media. Because correction should always, whenever possible, come from a place of love and relationship.

This past year I have been learning the hard way that God can use us because of our weakness rather than in spite of it. I took on some major responsibilities last year, ones I had been praying about for a while. Then within weeks, life got very crazy. Suddenly being my usual overachieving self was no longer an option. Instead of just delegating, I was forced to really depend on those around me. It was a position of feeling out of control. This was not how I liked to function. I had been raised to be dutiful and responsible. Without meaning to, my personal mantra had become “do it well or don’t do it at all.” (Not quite the same as perfectionism, for which I am not usually plagued, but close enough to get in the way). So as I saw myself handling my public responsibilities at less than full capacity, I felt like a failure.

I vividly remember a conversation I had with God where I mentally uttered the phrase. “This is not how I wanted to do things.” My spirit was quietly reminded of verse from 2 Corinthians. (Which of course I couldn’t remember verbatim which I why I am very grateful for the internet in helping me locate the full versions of verses of which I recall only a small portion.)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I realized that my weakness was not a barrier to God. If anything, he was forcing me to depend on him. When you are firing on all cylinders it is easy to give in to pride. After all, confidence in your own abilities isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when God uses me, not just despite my frailties but because of them, the credit is his alone. When the children God has given me cause me to come to the end of myself both in public and in private make me accessible and relatable to other moms, his power is being made perfect in my weakness. When we begrudgingly made peace with the idea of renting our house instead of selling it, and now we get random texts from our new tenants telling us how grateful and blessed they feel to be living in our house, his power is being made perfect in my weakness. When I realize that parenting is as much about who I am supposed to become as helping my children become who they are supposed to be, (especially when I have doubts about what either of those things will look like), his power is made perfect in my weakness.

As we look back at our lives, may we be able to say that God, in his mercy, used our weakest places and our deepest failures to do some of his greatest work.

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Sometimes All I Can Offer is Now: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: YouaremyWonderwall. Flickr via Compfight cc

As a mom and a wife, I never feel like I have enough to give. Some days I get so swept up in the planning for the future in the hopes of eventually being able to relax that I find myself always working. Sometimes this is necessary. There is no avoiding the necessary aspects of my life as we’ve chosen to live it right now. But I also can’t keep waiting around for when I can offer more or what I see as a better version of myself. Because all that is guaranteed to me is this moment, this time.

I’m trying to allow myself to do what I can right now. That means if I can cuddle my son, if only for a minute, I do. If my daughter leans in for a hug, I pull her tight and kiss her cheek as I let her go. When my husband reaches for me, I reach back. I don’t always succeed at this. (Especially if my son has a dirty face or a runny nose, as he often does lately). But I’m trying to give myself permission to offer what I have.

I may not be able to spend hours reaching aloud to them and finish every book on our school list. But if I am at all able to read to them at a moments notice, put aside whatever I’m doing that isn’t essential and invest in them, that is worthwhile. I may not spend as much time playing on the floor with the baby as I wish I could, but if I can spare ten minutes to cuddle and wrestle (yes, my one year old does indeed love to wrestle) it still communicates my love to him.

Sometimes all I can offer is now. It may not be much. I may be bleary eyed from another late night packing boxes, furiously knitting Christmas presents or wrapping gifts. But I’m here. Better to offer what I have, then wait for the chance to do it better in the future. Because my children may not remember the quality of our time together but hopefully they will remember that I was there.

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All You Need to Do is Sit

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Photo Credit: donnierayjones Flickr via Compfight cc

One morning in the midst of a frenzied attempt to get out the door God spoke to me, even as I uttered the angry words “All I need you to do is sit down, now!”

Every morning I say the same thing to my kids, just sit down your breakfast is coming. Each and every morning my son opens the refrigerator, cabinets and hovers directly behind me attempting to do things himself. I reassure him, the food is coming, all I need you to do is sit down and then I promise I will make sure you have what you need.
Two weeks ago a guest speaker at our church referred to Psalm 23. He said we like the part about the green pastures, and still waters, but then you get to the part about the valley of the shadow of death. Yet, it isn’t the valley of death, it is the valley of the shadow of death, a place of fear and difficulty but not destruction or desolation. How do we know this? Because later in the same Psalm it says “He has prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
So often in my own times of difficulty I’m the small child rushing around the kitchen, making messes, trying to help myself; when I know exactly what God has told me to do. Sit down. He will prepare the table before me. He is my vengeance and my redeemer in times of injustice. He will make all things new. But I need to stop getting in my own way.
Just as I remind my children, God will remind me when to go and when to wait. But I think that sometimes we don’t like being told to sit still because we feel like we need to DO something. (Or worse, we feel like we want to appear to be busy, otherwise others might accuse us of being irresponsible or passive). But there are definitely times when the best thing we can do stop our vain rushing around and let God do his work.
He will prepare the table, we just need to sit and be ready.