Grievances and Grace: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: LabyrinthX Flickr via Compfight cc

 

My children have always been collectors. Rocks, pine cones, colored bits of paper fashioned into pretend clothing for stuff animals, drawing, etc. My daughter especially is quite a pack rat. I frequently have to go through her stuff and try to get rid of it when she’s not looking. I try to be sensitive to her feelings, but she gets attached to EVERYTHING. I tell my husband that it’s his fault, because he too has a strange attachment to his things. It’s a weird kind of loyalty, that some how the item represents the person it came from and any positive feelings associated with that person.

 

I no longer have as much of an attachment to things. But I do my own kind of collecting: grievances. I never thought of myself as one to hold a grudge until I had children. Then suddenly every day was filled with a list of ways I’d been wronged. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks or months, the children got into a stash of special snacks I was saving, a favorite item was ruined, unnecessary messes were made. Every disobedient act and refusal to comply seemed to be subconsciously recorded on a mental balance sheet. If there were enough of them, I deserved a break, a treat, something. Not just deserved, was entitled to.

 

I know that parenthood would be hard and would involve a lot of self-denial; but I didn’t fully anticipate how much dying to myself I would have to do. Does this mean I am a martyr? No. Or at least I shouldn’t be. There are definitely times when I resort to neglecting myself and blaming my family for it. Then I feel justified in my irritation and frustration. But that isn’t how I want to live. This also doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of myself. Obviously self-care is important, but when it steps over into entitlement, I know I have a problem.

 

Instead of collecting grievances when I am wronged by my children, I can extend and receive grace. When my emotional bucket is heavy from carrying rocks of my discontent there isn’t room for much else. Will life still be hard? Yes, because the world is broken and I am not a perfect parent, nor do I have perfect children. But I don’t have to let myself be dragged down into despair. The temptation is strong to give up, especially when I keep such a long record of wrongs. This parenting gig isn’t for the faint of heart. Grace means taking those rocks and dumping them out and refusing to pick up more. Instead, reaching out to the one who has wronged me and loving him or her a little harder.

 

I have a long way to go with this. I still yell when I should be calm. I still let out words of frustration when I should be instructing in love. But I am tired of feeling heavy with discouragement and feeling as though there is little to look forward to.  I may have been gifted with hard to handle children but that doesn’t mean there can’t also be joy. I may be having trouble finding it at times, but it certainly won’t be easy to find if I’m taking every unkind word and rebellious moment as a personal affront to my parenting record.

 

So I am slowly, ever so slowly, learning to release my hold on those grievances even as they come to me. It requires me to trust that God’s got this and that I will not be overwhelmed.

 

“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”
Psalm 46:5 (NIV)

 

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When You Can’t Seem to Lift Your Head: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Demmer S Flickr via Compfight cc

The last few weeks have felt a blur. We had the lovely experience of traveling to visit friends and as always the visit felt too short, then after a short stint spending time with family we headed home. That was two weeks ago but I feel like I’m still recovering. I’ve finally caught up with the practicals, like laundry. Two of the three kids had a bout of short lived high fevers. We finally had a plumbing problem repaired, only to realize hubby could probably have done himself (he had already tried but apparently he was close). Then the kids started a two week VBS, normally this is a great break for me. But instead I’m feeling drained from hauling them to and from each day.

It may be the sugar I’m giving up or the lack of coffee since my coffee maker broke or something else entirely. But I am exhausted. Even the comfort that usually comes with sleeps is denied me. It takes me hours to wake up and then I’m tired by afternoon and I slog through the evening, feeling guilty all the while for what I’m not getting done.

I’m feeling the pressure of impending homeschool documentation deadlines, ministry and leadership responsibilities not to mention the usual daily tasks of keeping everyone fed, clothed and alive. In the past this would have been a time of high anxiety, fortunately I don’t feel that anxious, but I am weary, in body and apparently in soul as well. Many of my deeper books have been set to the side because I can’t focus. I plow forward on the ones I promised to review, sometimes uncertain if I really disagree with the author or if I just can’t comprehend the concepts.

I know I need to find a way to rest, all the usual outlets have been mostly denied to me and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not buying anything unnecessary for a month and I’m taking a pantry challenge, thus tightening up our grocery budget. (You’ll hear more about this later). I’ve given up sugar, and unintentionally cut way back on coffee (a broken coffee maker will do that to you). Exercise usually helps me feel energized but now I drag my body through the motions. I can blame it on the low sugar diet, the hot and humid weather or hormones, but none the less I am left with only two things to sustain me; sleep and Jesus. (Have I mentioned that my quality of my sleep hasn’t been great lately either?).

Yes it sound cliché, even I think that. But it’s also true. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other, praying my way from moment to moment and hoping that tomorrow will be better.

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Right after I wrote this post I ran to drop my kids off at VBS and this song was playing on the radio as I drove home, in the rain, feeling like I had nothing left to get me through today, even though it was only 9 AM. It felt especially appropriate.

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The Lesson in the Blessing: Five Minute Friday

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They don’t always feel like a blessing. I know they are, these wonderful, amazing creatures who carry my DNA. But some days, I doubt whether this was the best life for me. Usually I see the fault as my own, not theirs. They are children and all the wonderful and terrible things that come with that. I am supposed to be the grown up, the one who keeps it together. But lately I’ve been so tired that I don’t want to be the adult. I want someone else to clean up the messes and make the hard decisions.

I think sometimes they make me angry not because they make my life difficult, but rather because they show me what I lack. I am jealous of their freedom to play and run, unencumbered by worry or pretense.

Then I remember, I am supposed to be a child too. My father has everything under control and I am free; if I would allow myself to release the anxiety and stop worrying about tomorrow. Instead of envying my children, I should join them.

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The Storm is Real, But He Is There: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Fred Moore 1947 Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Things have felt a bit off kilter around here lately. Hubby’s work stress, some big decisions to be made for our kids, homeschool deadlines, and unexpected medical and car bills have made things a little bit crazy. We hit the summer activities with a bang, which is great for keeping the big kids busy but tough on introvert mommy who doesn’t love running here and there every day.

Even wonderful, long anticipated things like trips to visit far away friends and family can add pressure to the already intense season. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not feeling very steady.

This is where I usually talk about how Jesus is the rock we stand on, and he is unshakable, which is true. But sometimes when I don’t feel steady, being told that I am makes me feel a little crazy. Yes, it is still true and I need to speak truth.  Yet a different perspective can be helpful.

There is a great story in the Bible about Jesus and disciples going out on a boat into the Sea of Galilee. They met with a huge storm. But Jesus was asleep and the disciplines panicked. I’ve heard many deeply theological interpretations of this scripture, and I’m not going to dispute those. But I tend to take it at face value. Jesus walked the earth in a human body.  His human body was tired, therefore he had to sleep. But the disciples mistook his sleep for lack of concern.

The disciples woke him in distress, and he calmed the storm. But the storm wasn’t in their imagination. It was real. They were, in fact, unsteady. The sea was in turmoil. They were out of control.  But Jesus was in control. He did calm the storm, but even in the midst of the storm he was there.

I know that Jesus is there, even in my storms. I don’t deny the difficulties exist, but I will speak truth over them. I will acknowledge the unsteadiness without giving into guilt that I should be able to hold it all together on my own. I know that calm will come, though I don’t know when. I choose to remember that I’m not in the boat alone.

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I Am Valued, I Am Worth It: Five Minute Friday

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photo courtesy of Rachel from Twinkle Photo

 

One of the hardest parts for me, in the transition to being a stay at home parent was the loss of feeling valued. In a culture that determines our worth based on what we produce or how much we are paid for our services; unpaid, full time keeper of home and children doesn’t rank very high. In fact, we devalue those tasks as “not a real job” and lament the waste of talent and education.

The world around me is filled with voices telling me who I should be and why what and who I am right now isn’t enough.

“Isn’t it nice you get the luxury of staying home with your children?” those voices say. “But when they go school you plan to go back to work and get a real job, right?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier if you just sent them to regular school? How will you save for college if you don’t work?” question the well meaning friends, relatives and sometimes total strangers in the grocery store.

While I feel mostly secure with the simpler and non-mainstream kind of life we have chosen, sometimes it’s hard not to let those voices lead to doubt, both in my decisions and of my value. Is staying home with my children really worth while? Would it be better if I could provide them more material things? Would I be a happier person if I had the regular affirmation of a traditional job where my work was recognized and at a minimum, I had a paycheck to show for my efforts?

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photo courtesy of Rachel from Twinkle Photo

 

Then I am forced to again remind myself, that my value is intrinsic. No matter how much money I make (or don’t), how good I am at household management (or not) and whether my contribution is culturally recognized (or isn’t); my worth is the same. I am a child of God, who in this season of my life is called to be cook, laundress, house cleaner, nose wiper, diaper changer, teacher, calendar coordinator, boo boo kisser and taxi driver. It will not always be this way.

No matter how many times I remind myself of this, I keep coming back needed to remember again. Regardless of the hats I wear and the titles I hold, my name and identity remain the same. Beloved daughter of the most high God. Worth more than rubies, valued for who I am not what I do.

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A Place to Launch and Land: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: obsequies Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When you first get pregnant some people refer to the pregnant woman and family as “expecting.” There are so many dreams, assumptions and expectations wrapped up in parenthood, especially with the first child.

I could never have anticipated a baby that didn’t sleep, at all really for almost a year. After successfully nursing my first, I never thought I’d have two boys who each had their own kind of feeding issues that resulted in obsessive weight tracking, and nursing and pumping around the clock. I didn’t imagine I’d be a homeschool mom with an elementary aged reluctant reader and a preschool early reader, at the same time.  That after four years of telling myself my son is just an active boy that I’d be finally getting him evaluated for cognitive processing and other sensory issues; both hopeful and fearful of what I will be told.

As a natural overachiever, I’ve had to learn to lower my expectations as a mom. Because childhood isn’t a race and parenthood isn’t a contest. It shouldn’t matter how my kids and my life match up against others. (Though I’d by lying if I said I don’t still play the comparison game at times).

I read a book recently that had a tag line I’ve tried to embrace.

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I’m still figuring out what this looks like now, with small children. At times it means being honest with my kids when I’m struggling. Remind them I love them, even if their behavior is hurtful to me. Attempting to help them navigate the balance between needed time alone and the realities of living with others.  I expect that we will continue to have difficult seasons in our house. But I also believe I will be granted the strength and grace that I need. I know where I am weak, and it is in those areas where I most expect to see God show up; that when I succeed it may be credited to his might rather than mine.

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Visiting Our Marriage: Five Minute Friday

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It’s official, last week it was 14 years. It feels like a long time and yet barely scratching the surface. In the beginning, the early years, it was like striking oil; new and exciting things to share. Now it’s more like digging and pumping through layers of rock. There is more, I believe even more than we can imagine, but it will be harder work to get to it than in the past.

It feels funny that we have to schedule visits just to be together. But without it, we are so easily distracted and pulled into all the things that busy us. We both have minds that are constantly spinning both with the day to day requirements (at least for me), existential wonderings (that’s mostly hubby) and then our creative sides. Because we both have very creative sides that often have to be deferred if not suppressed during this consuming season of raising little ones. Without the luxury of the budget to pay regular sitters we try to decide carefully how to devote our few kid free hours every couple of months. Is a movie worth it? For me, only if it’s followed by dinner so we can discuss and connect.

It is work that I believe is worth doing, but so often it seems like the universe conspires against us having an uninterrupted sentence let alone finish a complete thought or have an intelligent discussion. (I can remind my five year old every day, multiple times a day not to interrupt when Daddy and I are trying to talk, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen. Every single day, every single conversation, every single sentence. Basically every time I take an inhale that communicates I might be planning to use more than three words at a time.)

But we keep trying. Because for us, sharing what makes us unique, and the crazy way our minds work is an important part of emotional intimacy. A friend, whose children are older than mine, refers to the time after the littlest years are over as the Renaissance. After the dark ages of night time feedings and ten diaper changes a day, there is time and energy, sometimes even money for art, cultural, creativity and enlightenment. Sad as I am to see the end of the baby years, I look forward with hopeful anticipation.

We’ve spent all these years trying to stay connected, even if by a thread at times, believing that there will be time to learn and grow together again. Hoping the next 14-50 years is full of lots of it.

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Photo courtesy of Laura Mounts

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