The Discipline of Surrender: Five Minute Friday

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I grow weary of being the linchpin, the load bearing wall and the rudder. Some of this is just part of being a parent. It is also something that comes with being married to someone who struggles with depression, and being involved in ministry. But it can be exhausting in the most soul crushing ways.



To wake up in the morning and know that until you get going, nothing will happen. To answer the same question multiple times by email and in person (sometimes to different people but often the same ones repeatedly). Delegating desperately while still knowing that in the end it will all fall on me.



On my good days, I can hand it to Jesus and just do the next thing. But on the bad ones . . . it’s not that easy. I have to resist the urge to hide in my screen or my work. To give the kids a screen day and lose myself in a good book, or knitting and a Netflix binge.



I know in my head that it doesn’t all depend on me, but in daily practice it feels like the opposite.  I’m entering a season where the primary discipline I’ll be working on is one of surrender. Handing over responsibilities whenever possible and learning not to feel guilty about it. Releasing things that I simply haven’t the strength for and trusting that things will be OK. Prioritizing moments of peace even as the work seems to pile up, so I can reconnect with the source of my strength and be renewed.   As they all depend on me, I must depend on him.



“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

-Helen Howarth Lemmel  (1863-1961)






It Can Look Like Coffee: Five Minute Friday

kaboompics_Coffee in the beautiful cups

photo courtesy of Kaboompics


It had been a rough week, a rough month if I was being honest. I had been running on adrenaline, procrastination and survival mode for long enough and I was almost out of juice. I hit a wall. A wall that looked like PMS plus a two day headache and a daughter who decided to die on the hill of not doing her school work, while all I could think of was all the writing and blogging I needed to be doing.


I could feel myself sinking fast and I wanted to run and hide but there was no where to go. I felt pathetic reaching out to friends, especially when lately it seems most of the people in my life have even bigger problems than I do.  That day support looked like a friend stopping by with a vanilla latte, even though she wasn’t sure what kind of coffee I like and then chatting for an hour. It looked like another friend affirming my decision to quit something. (I firmly hate quitting things and doing so, ever, is a long term struggle of mine).


The problems are not gone, the impasses far from solved. But I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. That friend who brought the latte is recovering from PTSD, but she was having a good day. The other friend is currently without a job and scraping by on unemployment. Even when we are dealing with our own stuff, we can still support others. It doesn’t always have to be formal, sometimes it’s as a simple as saying “I know you feel alone, but you aren’t. I know it sucks right now, but it won’t always be this way.”


If you are having one of those days that is eating you alive, I wish I could bring you a cup of coffee and a brownie. But since I can’t I’ll just say this.


You aren’t alone in feeling the way you do. I know it’s hard right now, but it won’t always be like this. I know what it’s like to feel like you can barely keep your head above water. It can get better.







We Were Meant to Work: Five Minute Friday

kaboompics_Woman taking notes

photo courtesy of Kaboompics


I usually think of work as a synonym for hard or drudgery. But that isn’t really fair. Last Sunday our pastor reminded us that even before the fall, humans had work to do. Even in paradise, we were being challenged and had to expend effort. He believes that heaven will also contain the ability to continue to grow, develop and work.


Often, if I’m honest, I don’t want to work. I want things to come more easily.  I want the words to flow more easily, the children to play happily, the chores and daily routine to go smoothly (if chores must be done at all).  But that is rarely how things go.


Yet, i want to teach my kids that hard work is worthwhile. I don’t want them to look for the easy way out or the shortcut. Most of the best things in life will require work. My marriage doesn’t thrive on happy thoughts, nor does my house hold run on wishes. Sometimes, you just have to accept that hard isn’t bad. It’s just the nature of our world. In fact, things that come easily are often undervalued. It is the things we fight hard for that we could dear, because we recognize how much they have cost us.


What does it cost me to be the mother, wife and friend that I want to be? It is some of the hardest work I will ever do, but I want to believe that I will truly find it worth it in the end.


My kids learned an excerpt from a longer poem by M.A. Stoddard called One Thing at a Time. The excerpt is entitled Work.


Work while you work,
Play while you play;
This is the way
—To be happy each day.

All that you do,
—Do with your might;
Things done by halves
—Are never done right.


I sometimes have to remind myself the truth of this poem as well.





What Makes a Neighbor? Five Minute Friday


Photo Credit: starmist1 Flickr via Compfight cc


We’ve lived here six months and I’ve officially met most of the neighbors. If by met, you mean spoke to once and now occasionally wave as I park the car and shuttle the kids into the house. Most are not home during the day. There are a few kids in the neighborhood but they are all five to eight years older than my kids. The luxury of not being directly attached to the family next door also limits the chance for interaction. As an introvert I mostly welcome this. (My husband is just glad we can’t hear the people peeing through the wall anymore).


It is truly lovely to feel like we have some privacy again. At least now when I yell at the kids I worry less about what the neighbors will think. But it has also caused me to think about what makes a neighbor. There is something to be said of community formed my close proximity. I do wish I had a best friend living next door or even down the block. (I know my daughter does). Even the idea of three generation household has its appeal at times. Yet I value my privacy.


But I have built a community of my own. The women of my MOPS group, they are my emotional neighbors, by proximity of children’s ages rather than our house locations.  I’m trying to form relationships among other friends who home school, because that too can be lonely. My co-teachers at my co-op, they are my neighbors too.


I’ve even become part of online community life. No, it isn’t the same as having a friend sit on my couch with a cup of coffee, but it has become an important part of my support structure. My fellow members of Fit2B Studio (especially the long time clients like me), and the faithful members of the home school spin off group on Facebook.  These people may not live close enough for me to yell out the window, but they answer my questions, and share my frustrations.


Last but not least is Five Minute Friday. I’ve found neighbors who love words as much as I do and we are all spurring each other on to put those words out there into the world, in all their awkwardness and beauty.




Lead & Guide: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Thomas Beck Photo Flickr via Compfight cc


I like to follow directions. I don’t know if it’s the way I was raised or just a part of my personality, but I don’t like winging it. (Ok, that’s not entirely true, but if there is a right way to do something and a proper procedure, as long as it makes sense, I prefer to use it).  But many of the best things in life come without a user manual, marriage and family come to mind.

Not that I haven’t tried. My husband and I read all kinds of books while we were dating and engaged as well as in the early days of our marriage.  In fact, I still regularly have a few marriage books on my to-read list. Those books have definitely been helpful but they are only tools. I still have to figure out how to apply them. Because no one has as yet written a book called “How to Be the Best Wife to Rob” or “How Rob and Bethany Can Fall More in Love Each Year.”

Then there is parenting. My shelves are loaded with books of how to be a better mom. Most of my reading is devoted on how to keep a better house, be a better teacher and how to improve my parenting skills. After eight years as a parent, I’m lost count of the number of books I’ve read on the subject. Some of these books have been useful, others discouraging but in the end they aren’t a how-to guide. They can’t be, because no one has written “How to Be the Best Mother to the Vitaro Kids” or “Raising My DNA Without Losing My Mind.”

The truth is, I wish it was that easy. Instead I am forced, one argument and tantrum at a time to figure out what they need most from me. With a tongue held and words bit back, I silently pray that I’ll  some how get it right. Yet, I have to remember that am not in this alone. Help is available, if I only ask. I’m not going to get the whole map, but I may get the next step.


Psalm 31:1-3

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
 for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”


Speak to Me, I’m Listening: Five Minute Friday


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When my first child was born, I was so anxious for her to talk. I wanted to know what she was thinking and better able to understand her needs. She may not have been an early talker, but by 18 months she had more than 100 words. Then the second child arrived. He was a later talker, but once he started, he wouldn’t stop. Even at 5, he is the loudest of the house and barely pauses for breath. (I realize this may be a genetic feature I contributed to his DNA).  By the time my third arrived, I didn’t worry much anymore about when he would talk. I knew he would and sure enough he does. Much of it is unintelligible but as he approaches his second birthday, I definitely find myself wishing that it was a little quieter at my house with a whole lot fewer words.


Humans want to connect, it is in our nature. But not all of us want to connect with words. But communication, both written and verbal has always been such a central part of who I am. It was surprising to no one when I grew up to enjoy middle school and high school theater products, speech meets and took up writing. When my husband and I read the Five Love Languages together it was apparent very quickly that one of my primary languages is the dialect of quality time called quality conversation. I need to connect with someone through words to feel truly close to them.


Spiritually, this is no different. So often in the cacophony that make up my days I find myself wanting to hear God. I want to connect with him through words. This is why prayer and reading the scriptures is so important for me, even though both are something I’ve struggled with over the years. Because without those words, I can’t connect, I don’t feel close.


Yet, I have also felt called, especially lately, to spend time in silence. This seems to go entirely against my communicative nature. How can I connect with God without words? For me, I need the silence to better let my heart be my ears. To let the spirit of God impress himself on my soul and find my spirit renewed. This can’t always happen when I’m constantly full of words.


It is in those moments when I am too tried and worn out for words that I have no choice but to lift my silence up as an offering and see what He has to say.




Speak to me, Lord. I’m listening.

I Belong Where I Am (And So Do You): Five Minute Friday


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It’s another one of those days. The ones where I was up in the night with a child who is old enough not to be up. So I drag myself out of bed much later than intended and already the world seems a wreck and I wonder if it’s even worth trying.


I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about where I fit. Motherhood has this ability to make you feel both indispensable (as in, would anyone in this house be able to find their shoes without me) and useless. (They don’t listen, they constantly complain, and they tell me straight out they wish they were orphans). When the budget numbers won’t add up at the end of the month and the needs outstrip the resources, not even accounting for the wants; sometimes I wonder if this isn’t where I belong.


I gave up a job, rather than a career, because it seemed the easiest and best thing to do. In fact it was the dream. To be that stay at home mom. But now when there is more month than money I sometimes question my choice. She screams in my face about how she wishes she didn’t even have a mommy, when he flails and kicks and says I don’t love him and even the toddler gets in on the action. I wonder whether all these hours a day are worth it.


I could be being paid and potentially appreciated somewhere. Even if I didn’t love the work at least I’d have something to show for my days besides puffy eyes and weary shoulders.  But I always come back to the same thing: I am needed. I realize needed isn’t the same as valued. I also know that children rarely value their parents but I’ve seen the pain it is to be without them, so I choose to believe that this is my place.


I would like to offer some kind of pithy encouragement that makes it all better for those mamas in the trenches like me, wondering if this has all been a terrible mistake.  But all I have to offer is this.


This isn’t a mistake. Your life isn’t a mistake. Being mom to this kids, in this place at this time is what you were meant for.


It is paradoxical. We have these little creatures that we would die for but at the same time won’t share out secret dessert stash with. We want to give them the moon and yet, if I step on one more pile of toys I’ve asked them to clean up I may sell them to the zoo.


This is where I am. It is where I belong, even when I wish I didn’t. When I want to run, I can’t even comprehend where to go.  Because for better or for worse, and mostly some of both; I’m their mother. At least for now, I’m the educator, dishwasher, laundress, house cleaner, sibling fight referee boo boo kisser, and sometimes emotional punching bag.  But it’s my place and I move forward in the belief that somehow all if this is preparing me for what is ahead, both the beautiful and the difficult.