I was early. I was ready to sit down and hop on social media while I waited for my teammates. But something told me to press play on the CD instead. It was a mix made long ago, I didn’t even know what all the songs were.
As the strains of the first one began, I started to move. But the top I wore today was a bit too small, and my yoga pants a bit too low. My belly kept hanging out. Immediately I felt shame. That I had chosen the wrong outfit, that my body was misbehaving. Fear that someone would come in and see me. I pulled my shirt down and continued. Even under my shirt I could feel my stomach jiggle, it was distracting me. So I blocked it out. As my body moved, I tried to focus, not on how my movements looked, whether they were graceful, creative or even attractive. But just on dancing without inhibition.
Let everything has breath praise the Lord, that means anything with a body can move in praise of him. If the trees branches can swing and the grasses sway, then a little belly jiggle shouldn’t slow me down. So I kept dancing.
Because every part of me is wonderfully made, even the parts that don’t look or behave as I wish they would. I have strong arms and legs, I’m able to move, to worship my creator. It’s been a year and I thought that by now things would be different. But they aren’t, and I can’t just keep waiting to live. This is the body I have, I need to learn to revel in it.
It’s hard not to have negative thoughts about my body. A few weekends ago we stayed in a hotel. The mirrors in the bathroom were large and for the first time in a long time I saw my whole body. I didn’t like what I saw, in fact it repulsed me.
So I try not to look. But I don’t want it to stop me from living. So that night, alone in the sanctuary I chose to dance, not to let the body I didn’t love hold me back and hope that eventually I’ll begin to like myself again.
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They go through life, so completely centered on themselves, these little creatures of mine. They are unable to see the perspectives and needs of others. I know it’s just because they are kids. I’m trying to teach them, which leads to lots of conflict. Because they don’t like my ideas. I find myself getting so frustrated with their inability to learn.
Because if I’m honest, I’m not that different then they are. I see things from my perspective and I like things my way. Now, I am the mom, which means that at least for a period of time, I do know better than they do. But I’m also still human. It’s easy for me to be as self-centered as they are. As an adult, I hide it better and I couch it in phrases like “I do all the work around here, I deserve to relax” and “Hey, I’m the mommy, sometimes I need stuff just for me.” Those phrases may be true, but the reality is portrayed more in my attitude.
It’s easy to feel like a martyr. After all, my little minions can truly be ungrateful and act entitled. But if I’m modeling my parenting after my perfect Father, I know I need to develop a heart of love and service toward my children. God, in his mercy, puts up with plenty of complaining and ingratitude from me. Yet He never holds it against me. I need to be willing to extend the same grace to my children that is available to me.
How else will they learn unless I model for them how to love with actions, even if you don’t receive appreciation in return.
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It can be so discouraging when we are waiting.
This year I’m the coordinator of a local chapter of MOPS. The theme is Starry Eyed, which I wasn’t crazy about at first. So I began to pray, and God brought to my mind the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis.
God took Abraham out under the night sky and promised him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Except that Abraham had no descendants and he and his wife, Sarah were well beyond childbearing age. The facts of his situation appeared to contradict the promises God was making to him. So this year, my take on the theme has been that the stars are a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us, even when our situations don’t seem to reflect that faithfulness.
Our pastor preached last week about ungodly beliefs that we may be harboring in our lives. He talked about discerning the difference between the facts of our situation and making unbiblical assumptions based on those facts. He gave the example of a young woman who said that everyone in her family gets divorced, so she expected that her husband would eventually cheat on her and the same would happen to them.
It can be so easy to allow our minds to spiral down into worst first thinking. We each have our own areas of untrue beliefs or superstitions that we carry. I liken it to looking down into the mud as we are trudging through the trenches, instead of looking up at the sky. It’s easy to lose our way and begin to the believe that there is nothing else out there for us, except the difficulties we see in front of us.
The stars may seem far off, but they represent the faithfulness of God, who always fulfills his promises to us, even if it is in impossible ways that we could never imagine.
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It isn’t always easy to be grateful. When I’m so tired of looking at houses and fearing we’ll be stuck in this small space forever. When the dishes and laundry spill over and fill our home. When the hours of the day are filled with the urgent and I never seem to get to the important.
My son loves to look at the world upside down, actually all my kids did this as babies, but they haven’t ever fully outgrown the tendency to look at the world from a different angle. Instead of seeing the too small house, I see the place that keeps us warm now that the nights grow colder. The abundance of dishes and laundry represent a family fed and clothed. The busy hours of the day are filled with the necessary things to run my home, as frustrating as they may be.
There is always another side, a gratitude side we can focus on. Not in a wishy washy denial of our difficulties or a fake attempt at a brave face. But acknowledging the reality of our difficulties and still choosing joy and thanksgiving.
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“Mommy, can we open something special each day of Advent this year?” my daughter asked me as we were driving home. I don’t know how to answer her. Because I don’t honestly know where we’ll be or how things will look for us then. Suddenly realizing that Christmas is only a little more than two months away is scarey, because I may be living out of boxes. Actually, hopefully we will be living out of the boxes, the question is whether we’ll be in this house or the next one with those boxes.
Living live in limbo is no fun. We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible, but I find it hard to keep up with things at the best of times. Most of my creative pursuits have been left on the sidelines and I find myself missing that time to recharge. All the handmade gifts I had planned for Christmas are looking improbably at best.
The laundry piles up and all I can think is that I should be packing boxes. I realize I need something that is sealed in one of dozens of boxes in the attic. Part of me would rather to decide to stay, rather than continue on this way. (Though when my oldest two begin another fight about how destructive my four year old is, or my seven year old spews her venom on her little brother; it renews my motivation.
So each day I get up, and give it the best I can. Cook the meals, do the dishes, do school with the kids, try and clean the house. In between I make lists of bigger projects we need to tackle over the weekend. I worry about finding a house I like, and getting our house rented. My kids are continually frustrated by my inability to commit to their future ideas and whims. Life in limbo, while exciting in it’s anticipation, is exhausting in it’s routine and yet, it’s draining to be preparing yourself for a theoretical future.
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All over my house. All over my life. Reminding me of what to do and when to do it. Leave the bags on the porch for the local thrift store pick up. Pack the kids bags for co-op. Defrost the meat for dinner. Send an email. So often I feel that this is what my life has been reduced to; a series a lists, reminders and tasks. My success and worth determined by how many I accomplish and how well.
And yet, I know there is more to it than that. Yes, the chores must be done. The laundry piles up and soon we are all digging for clothes. Frustrated and angry words are spoken and the whole family is on edge. So let’s not just throw those little sticky reminder slips out just yet.
But at the same time I need to remember to engage. Keep my head up, my ears open and engage with my eyes, rather than just keeping my head down and my nose to the grindstone. Because yes, my children might remember if they never had clean clothes. But they won’t care if sometimes it takes me a little longer so we could read, cuddle or play a game. Because sometimes reminders are good, but they aren’t my masters.
I worry that this all is a test and I’m failing. Because some days I’m so tired I can barely lift my head. The stress of responsibilities both in and out of my home drains the life from me. I hate that I have to choose between self-care and my children, self-care and my husband. So I try to do both, and not well. So then I figure that the problem is the self and my in that previous sentence and decide that I don’t need to take care of myself after all.
Until I feel like I’m drowning and the only lifeline I can find is the theory of a few quiet minutes to recharge through something I enjoy that isn’t also work or a responsibility. Because if this is a test than I’m failing badly because I don’t know how to care for myself without feeling like I’m punishing my family and I don’t know to catch my breath without worrying that I’m stealing the oxygen from my relationships.
I once read a great quote which so aptly applies to motherhood. Paraphrased, it says If the world seems to be coming to an end, maybe what you really need is a cookie and a nap. Most days, that about covers it. Except there aren’t any cookies or naps in site. I don’t have time to make or take them. In fact, to extend the metaphor, the oven is broken and someone has hidden the mattress.
If this is a test, I must be failing, but most days I just wonder if it’s meant to be this hard, or if I’m just no meant for this.
Except, know that I think about it, I was never meant for this, any of this, none of us were. We struggle against far more than the material things we can see. Our souls are groaning for redemption. Our bodies, weary and broken cry out for healing. Yet, rest and restoration seem so far off.