Loving With Abandon, Serving Without Bitterness: Five Minute Friday

33076178412_67df4fda69_b

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.

abandon-600x600

five-minute-friday-4

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

5273766627_831dfacb60_o

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.

weak-600x600

five-minute-friday-4

Sometimes All I Can Offer is Now: Five Minute Friday

6960163026_097fdf0269_b

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.

sip-sip-600x600

five-minute-friday-4

All You Need to Do is Sit

25377781941_69d65e7219_b

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.

The Dangers of Confusing Praise with Affection or Gratitude

 

IMG_20160709_163834128 (1)

I don’t praise my kids all the time. Yes, there are times when I should and I don’t. But there are plenty of times that I don’t, and it’s intentional. Because I can affirm and appreciate them, without having to praise them for everything they do. Yes, excessive praise has it’s place (potty training anyone?) but that is temporary. I’ll never forget when my five year old wanted to know if she could have candy for using the potty (we were potty training her younger brother at the time). I explained that no, we don’t give out rewards for age appropriate tasks. Her brother was just learning, so the candy was a special treat for special effort.

Imagine if as adults we expected awards for everything? I mean, yeah, I’d like a cookie every time I use the potty too. (Though in all seriousness, we are seeing the results right now of raising a generation of kids who have been praised and rewarded for everything from being born to basically showing up their entire lives and now as adults, they are confused why the world doesn’t think they are as great as THEY think they are)

IMG_7153

Don’t let this be confused with affection. I love my kids and show them affection because of who they are, not what they do. I express gratitude where appropriate because I want to model it to them. Yes, I can thank them for doing a required task, like putting away laundry or cleaning up toys, because that teaches them the importance of appreciating others. I will also dish out praise when learning a new task or skill because it encourages them to continue to try hard learning new things.

But imagine if we continued to praise our children at the same level for every skill and task forever? I mean, it’s exhausting enough trying to feign enthusiasm that you child is using the potty, can you imagine if I had to keep that up?

IMG_7104

I Lift Them, They Lift Me: Five Minute Friday

8663139292_252aaed05c_b

Photo Credit: Darren Johnson / iDJ Photography via Compfight cc
 

First it’s the baby, with all his 6-10 lb glory (the exact mass of your bundle of joy may vary). Then it’s him and all his stuff, oh the stuff. The baby stuff that fills, my house, my mind, my heart. The grocery bags in one hand, baby and diaper bag on the other arm, fumbling with the keys and scrambling to get the door open. The lowering a sleeping body into the crib or hauling to bed of the much larger toddler or preschooler who has fallen asleep on the couch, insisting they don’t need naps anymore. It’s the baskets of laundry, washed and dried but hardly ever put away.

Yet it’s more than that. It’s the way my spirits rise when they do something unusually kind or loving. Watching a new skill or ability bloom before my eyes. My almost (dear Lord when did he get so big) 11 month old smiles and claps when he sees me coming. My four year old requests a “big squeeze”, a hug so hard it pushes to the air out of his lungs but he still laughs and asks for more. My seven year old who still wants to cuddle and begs me to read for hours when I’ve captured her imagination with a book.

Sometimes I let the negativity drag me down. But if I latch onto those beautiful moments and let myself live there for a while, I am changed for the better.

 

lift-600x600

 

 

Want to join us? Find out more here.

Team Mom: Five Minute Friday

Human races joined together.
Macro close up of multiracial child hands joined together. Isolated on white background.

Photo Credit: pennstatenews via Compfight cc

We’re all on the same team. Those of us who breastfeed, pump, bottle feed, formula feed; all of the above. The co-sleepers, crib sleepers, baby led weaning, jarred food buying, baby wearing, baby bucket toting moms. Because that’s what we have in common, we are all moms. Whether we became moms through planned or accidental conception, assisted conception, gestational surrogates, adoption, foster care or any other way. We’re in this together.

This is a subject I’m passionate about, and if you’ve read my blog more than a few times you know  I pride myself on being honest about mothering. Because it’s hard, it’s all really hard, this adulting, parenting life. It’s even worse when you worry that you aren’t doing it right, as moms constantly do. (At least I often do, and I don’t think I’m the only one).

We want to find our tribe, a group of moms we have a lot in common with. This can be a wonderful support, but if we aren’t careful it can also become a way to put up walls and barriers between us and others who parent differently. The truth is we are all in this together. None of us have the exact same kids, spouses, lives or personalities. So there is no one size fits all approach. But what we can agree on, if we choose, is to stand up for each other, love and support each other even when we don’t agree on everything. Because if moms unites, we could change the world.

Want to join us? Find out more here.