How to Hate Your Life in 3 Easy Steps

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Here are three great ways to ruin your life.

 

1. Expect perfection of yourself and everyone else.

Make sure that you settle for nothing less than perfection. Make sure everyone knows this about you. Demand others follow you example.

 

 

2. When you don’t achieve perfection, be immediately disappointed and allow it to color even the good experiences in your life.

If some thing is nice, but not up to your standards, make sure you focus on the flaws and allow them to entirely overshadow any success you may have achieved. When looking back on past events, only focus on the things that didn’t go well and entirely forget any positive aspects.

 

 

3. Keep always looking forward to the next thing. Hang all of your hopes on what is to come and tell yourself “My life will be finally have meaning if I can just get to _____”

Never engage and live in the moment. Always stay one step ahead, planning for the next thing. If you have time to stop and enjoy yourself, you obviously have too much free time and need another project to tackle.

 

 

Yes, I meant this to be sarcastic. But I also wanted to highlight some things that I’ve struggled with. Having high standards isn’t inherently bad. But it can keep us from being able to see the success we’ve had, even within our failures. If we are always looking forward to the next thing it can cause us to miss out on where we are right now.

 

 

For a few years when my older two children were tiny I literally lived for the weekend. Each day was a count down to nap time and bed time. I realize that is pretty typical of stay at home parenting. But for me it was almost pathological. I would text my husband dozens of times throughout the day in desperation, wondering how I was going to cope. I didn’t think I was depressed but I knew I wasn’t happy. When my son was around 18 months old, he was finally a healthy weight and I was finally free of the nurse, pump, repeat cycle. Finally, I could just feed him and not obsess over how many calories were in every bite. But my husband commented that I didn’t seem very happy. I thought, well so what. Life isn’t about always being happy. But I wasn’t enjoying my life either.

 

 

So I went to counseling for a while, and my counselor and I concluded that I needed time to invest in something mentally stimulating that fed my creative side. For a while, that looked like regular nights at Panera to focus on my writing. During a very stressful week if all I did was read a good book (preferably fiction) that was Ok too.

 

 

Hubby walked in after work and I walked out, not to return until after the children were in bed. That was the key. At first it was difficult to concentrate. Some nights it seemed like more work to go than to just say home and deal with stuff that needed to be done. The key was that it be as regular as possible so it was something I could count on. But also have low expectations of the time. The goal was enjoyment not necessarily efficiency.

 

 

We are again approaching a season where I could use a regular night off. Not sure yet how I’m going to manage it, but I feel the bone weary, soul tired exhaustion that lets me know I need to find an outlet soon. I’m someone who generally has high standards, though I’m not usually a perfectionist. Yet I always tend to look at what could make something better. When looking forward, this allows me to continue learning and growing. But when looking back it can rob me of the ability to rejoice in my victories and leave me feeling perpetually inadequate.

 

 

Find a way to enjoy at least some things about your life as it is, even as you plan for a time when it will hopefully be better. Some struggles, like a baby who doesn’t sleep, will be temporary. Others may be long term difficulties, but even within those situations we must find a way to engage and be thankful. It’s Ok to look forward to the next big thing, but if we don’t learn to appreciate our lives now, we’ll always be chasing newer, better, different and wish away our lives.

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photos courtesy of Kaboompics

 

 

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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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Frustration Friday: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Kevin Baird Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Before I was a parent and I was full time in the workforce, I lived for Fridays. There was a wonderful energy and an extra surge of efficiency that came with Fridays, especially on a wonderful spring day when the weather was good. I would fly through the afternoon and the world always seemed to look brighter. Then I became a parent. Fridays now seem to be the final gasp, bare minimum, “dear God, isn’t this week over yet?” kind of days. The time when I reevaluate my life and am always seemed to be found wanting.

I aspire to contentment. Because being happy with where I’m at, contrary to what our culture may portray, is not the same as apathy. But sometimes I’m not happy with where I am. Because I don’t feel like I am enough for what I am facing.

I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to be the wife my husband needs. I’m definitely not patience enough to be the mother my spirited children need, especially my 5 year old son. (Also known as Calvin or the Tasmanian Devil. We often say that Robin, like bagpipes is best enjoyed outside). As a home school mom I often feel as though I am ill equipped to educate a self declared hated of learning and a gifted child who is rarely still. This doesn’t even begin to touch my goals as a writer and my other ministry work.

I feel as though I have to be more, to do to even have a chance of succeeding. No one wants to fail as a parent. (Not that I’m even sure what failure looks like aside from my child growing up to hate me or becoming a criminal of some kind). Yet I’m constantly reading books and articles, and attempting to improve myself. The same goes for my marriage. I’m always afraid that simple satisfaction will lead to stagnation in a relationship that is ever changing. I can’t just be a wife, I have to be the best wife I can possibly be (while also of course being the best parent, writer, teacher, etc).

I tell myself that I am enough, that God fills the gaps where I am deficient. But those are encouragements for a Sunday morning, when the world feels new and I tackle my week with ambition and purpose. Right now it’s Friday, and all I can see are dirty floors, cranky kids and an unshowered mama who isn’t sure what’s for dinner.

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I Would Like . . . to Be a Living Sacrifice, Not a Burnt Offering: Five Minute Friday

“I would like . . I would like a trip to Europe”

My husband often quotes this clip. (Please ignore the cartoon gun violence in the clip.) So whenever he asks me what I want, this is what I imagine in my head.

Because as a mom, rarely does anyone ask me what I want. I kind of knew and expected this. Motherhood is a thankless job and materially I have more than many if not most in the world. But at the same time, needs are a real thing. As moms we can’t just keep putting every need, desire and passion on the back burner (especially when it comes to our marriages) until the kids are eighteen. Plus, we don’t ever really stop needing our moms; just ask mine.

After every ill-fated attempt to have a conversation while our children are still conscious, I look at my husband and say “So I’ll see you in 10-15 years.” It makes it sound like a prison sentence and a great way to ruin a marriage. One of the great things I got out of the book His Needs, Her Needs was that it’s OK to have them; needs that is. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a weak person. Some people have an innate need for the company and conversation of others and a lot of it. Those people are often called extroverts. Others require time alone to recharge, (the amount of time and level of quiet required for this varies depending on the person). Those of us who function like this are sometimes called introverts. (Just to clarify, being introverted and quiet or shy don’t necessarily go together. They certainly don’t in my case).

We are called to serve our families, but that doesn’t mean that we become martyrs or worse, burnt offerings. Last winter I got to hear fitness instructor and owner of fitness site Fit2B Studio, Beth Learn speak. One thing she said stood out.

“We are called to be living sacrifices, not burnt offerings.”

Now she was specifically addressing women meeting the needs of our physical bodies; that pregnancy and childbirth were never meant to break us forever and keep us from living our lives and serving God and our families. It’s OK to prioritize your physical need for exercise, rehabilitation or recovery. That’s not being selfish. It’s enabling and empowering you to move forward with what God has called you to do, strong and whole. In Jesus, we have been released from that curse.

But I was thinking more in terms of other needs and even *gasp* the occasional want. Because if a quiet moment to collect my thoughts, reading a good book or time spent alone with my husband (whether conversational or romantic in nature) makes me a better wife and a better mom, enabling and empowering me to serve my family, then it is a good and important thing.

I’m not talking about indulging ourselves as a point of selfishness or to the point of completely neglecting our families. I’m saying that we are called to live for our families, not necessarily to die for them, and certainly not to slowly kill ourselves for them. God made us to have needs and desires. Yes, desires, which sounds (and looks) and awful lot like wants sometimes. Want isn’t necessarily a dirty word.

Psalm 37: 3-5 (NASB)
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.”

(Sorry, this went on much longer than five minutes. Apparently I felt more passionate about this topic than I thought.)

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Sometimes I Don’t Want To: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: nick see via Compfight cc

Sometimes I don’t want to share. From the time they are conceived they share my body.  Even now, they want to cuddle, hug and hang on me at the most inconvenient and uncomfortable of times. I deal with way too many bodily fluids that are not my own. Sometimes I would just like some time and space to myself.

My time isn’t my own either. When I’m not nursing or pumping I’m reading, assisting with writing or cajoling our way through math. When my husband comes home, I want his attention, his affection but I also want my children to feel bonded to him, to feel loved. Spring has arrived and my daughter reminds me that we didn’t have a garden last year, which made her very sad. Sometimes I feel at the constant mercy of the tiny, quick changing feelings.

Because the truth is, I want to share life with them. That’s why I made the choices I have, to be home, to homeschool them. But sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m crawling out of my skin. Because the moment I realize my almost-four-year-old can read and my six year old is starting to do math without having to count on her fingers (though she continues to claim she can’t), I live for those. But I could do without the bickering, hurtful words and constant complains. I feel as though I will never be good enough.

It’s a wonder that the Son of God was willing to come and do life with us; with all our frustrations, impatience and ingratitude. Because we are children too, who make messes we want him to clean up for us, filled with whining and complaining when we don’t get our own way. He gave his life for me, and them and you.

So what choice do I have, but to pray for strength and soldier on; knowing that because of his sacrifice I’m not alone.

 

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I Say “Forget it” But I Really Mean . . . Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: threephin via Compfight cc

“Oh, forget it!” I say. But what I really mean is “I can’t muster the energy to repeat myself again.”

“Never mind.” I grumble. But I really want to say “It isn’t fair that I have to do all of this work on my own. Listen for once and come help me.”

“It doesn’t matter.” But it does matter.

Deep in the trenches of the crazy season of an active almost four year old (how can he be almost four already?), a sassy, six year old and a five month old who’s needs are changing daily; it’s easy to feel alone.

Because the buck always stops with mommy. Yes, I have a loving and supportive husband who is an involved dad. But he is only here a few hours a day. I am the default parent. The twenty-four hour kin keeper.

Sometimes it takes too much energy to repeat myself again and I just give up trying to communicate. When no one else (by which I mean my children) can be motivated (through encouragement, cooperation or punishment) to help with the daily tasks needed to keep the house going, it falls on me.

I am neither happy homemaker nor bitter martyr, at least not yet. I’d rather toward being the former than the latter. Because, yes, I want to train them up so they can care for themselves and their households one day. But other times I don’t want to referee one more fight over whose turn it is to use the toilet brush or threaten removal of privileges just to get clothes put away and toys picked up.

I say forget it, but what I really mean is “Remember me? I don’t need a parade or a medal, I’d at least like appreciation and respect, or perhaps a little cooperation. I know I’m not owed it, but it would certainly help make these long days a bit easier.”

 

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No Mom Alone: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Arsh_86 via Compfight cc

For a long time I thought I was the only one. The only one who lived for nap and bedtime. The only one who cringed at the pounding sound of little feet running through the house and the inevitable crashes that followed. I would look at them at as they slept at night and wonder how children so beautiful could produce such anger, frustration and resentment during their waking hours.

Now child three is on the way. Another boy, and likely, I fear, to be as wild and crazy as his older brother. As I share my body daily with this little one, I long for the occasional moment of solitude. Because the truth is I haven’t been alone for the last eight months, (though I’ve probably only been aware of that fact for the last three or four).  After this little one joins the world, he’ll be attached to be almost as often as when he was in utero so I can’t anticipate too much time alone, except for the occasional shower.

But since my first child, I’ve discovered the truth. I am not the only one. Lots of moms feel the way I do and we are not bad moms. We can debate how the pioneer women survived or why moms in the fifties seemed to have it all together. (Personally, I think it was a combination of cocktails and sending kids out to play all day long from the time they could walk). We can only figure out how to help each other now, in the world we live in. Whether it means encouraging healthy use and attitude toward social media (especially Pinterest and Facebook) or looking for ways to get each other out of the house without the kids whenever possible. Rejecting comparison in favorite of connection. We don’t have to do this alone.

 

I want to take this moment to encourage you to find a support group of moms near you. If you haven’t heard of MOPS, check it out and see if there is a chapter near you. I’ve been involved with my local MOPS group for six years, from the time my daughter was three months old. I’ve been a leader at times and right now I’m just an attendee. But the group has been a source of support for me in my years as a mom and I can’t imagine continuing on without it and the relationships I’ve built through it. 

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