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


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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.




What Makes You Happy? Five Minute Friday


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I’ll admit I was raised to believe that happiness isn’t all that important. (At least that’s what I got out of it, though it may not have been my parent’s intention). Previous generations didn’t worry about being fulfilled, they just got the job done. I saw happiness as a poor theological interpretation of joy. Joy is what we’re supposed to be about. Joy is deliberate not fleeting, and it’s often supposed to be pursued during the times you feel the least happy.

I remember being in a small group during the first decade of our marriage, four or five years in I think. The book we were studying included the line “Marriage isn’t designed to make you happy but to make you holy.” While in principle I agree with this, it struck me wrong. The discussion that followed seemed to imply that if you were happy you were doing it wrong. Now we were still newlyweds then, relatively speaking. We hadn’t hit the rough patches that wouldn’t come until year seven and twelve/thirteen. But at the same time, it seemed to me that everyone’s goal was to be happily married. Why would you want to be unhappy unless it was temporary while working towards being happy again?

Now maybe I’m just arguing semantics. But I think it’s Ok to be happy. I think one of the problems though is that most of us don’t know what will make us happy. We know what we THINK will make us happy. More money, a bigger house, finally getting the laundry done. But it’s possible that those aren’t really all that important. Because we each have different needs and sometimes some things just don’t matter to some people. Things that make me happy. A good book. A quiet dinner with my husband. Knitting. A clean house. Now, these things are fleeting and temporary. So by necessity, my happiness will be also. That doesn’t mean I have to be miserable the rest of the time, but rather that I should plan for and look forward to those things that do make me happy. But I also need to be careful not to the resent all the necessary aspects of life in between that don’t necessarily make me happy. (A clean house makes me feel happy; cleaning does not).

I think the point that was trying to be passed on to me was the happiness is not the main goal, because it can’t be, it’s temporary. So you can’t use it as a goal. But you can pursue the activities and lifestyles that make you happy much of the time. (This is of course assuming that what makes you happy isn’t inherently damaging to others, but that’s another whole issue I’m not going into now). Yet do that, we have to be self aware and make the time to figure out what really fills our cups.


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To Be Made Whole: Five Minute Friday


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My belly and body feel broken. My spirit is weary as well. Adding this third child has been physically and emotionally much harder than I could have anticipated.  Sometimes I feel like I’m not even a whole person anymore. I’m the broken record who repeats “Pick up your toys. Clear your dishes. Stop biting your sister. Don’t kick your brother.” with little apparent effect. I’m the one picking up, washing and putting away. Staying up too late, getting up in the night and generally wishing I didn’t need sleep at all so I could get it all done for once.

I sometimes feel like becoming a mom has made me a shadow of who I used to be. There was a time when I was fun, creative, and joyful instead of boring, angry and mundane. I can’t say that I lost it all at once, it slipped away slowly like those hours of sleep I’ll never get back. I know I can’t go back in time and return to who I was before. But I want to be made whole.

For the belly that carried four babies, only three of which arrived this side of heaven, to be made strong again. For my creative side to find time and space to blossom. To find joy again, as mom, a wife and as a person. Because I was created to live a whole life, not a fractured one.


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Know What You’re About: Blog Like a Pro 7-Day Challenge Day 1


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What am I about? What is my manifesto? In some ways, the post I published this morning (and incidentally wrote weeks ago) says it best. I want to be honest. About my faith, about my parenting, about the joys and difficulties I’ve encountered in my life. Because being a mom, wonderful as it is, isn’t the glory it appears from the outside, at least not for me. The laundry, both clean and dirty are often piling up, there as are many arguments as there are hugs. But I’m not just a mom, I’m also a writer. So somehow in the daily crazy that steals my brain cells and makes me wonder how I ever managed to string more than three words together, let alone write a book.

When I first became a mom I discovered that the internet was a wonderful and terrible place for parents. Because you can sometimes find the answers to your questions, and other times just more of the same question with some or a dozen different solutions. I decided I didn’t have to have all the answers. Yes, I still give tips, advice but I wanted to focus on encouragement. I love providing solutions when I can. (Thus my great love for review and comparison posts on topics I feel passionate about. If you see a review post, it’s probably because I couldn’t find one I liked when I was doing my own research).

I’ve fought hard since my daughter was nine months old to make sure I didn’t give over my entire identity to motherhood. While I believe it to be a holy calling, it isn’t all that I am. Two kids later, for a total of three, I’ve gone through varying periods of success on that front.

I’ve read the accusations that the internet leads to dangerous levels of oversharing. I concede to this. But I also know that I want to build community where we can be ourselves and talk about the hard things. Because I’ve had those things in my life: depression, miscarriage, hard to handle kids. Faith testing kinds of events. There has been enough silence and shame on those topics and I won’t be part of it anymore.

I called my blog the Laundry List because that’s how I felt about the life; a list of things to do, but also what I am. I cannot be defined by a single title: Mother or Writer. Neither can any of us. We need room to explore who we are and who we might be.


Honest is My Favorite

Leichtlin mariposa lily, Calochortus leichtlinii, Sierra Nevada, Peavine Mountain, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, elevation 1950 m (6395 ft)
Leichtlin mariposa lily, Calochortus leichtlinii, Sierra Nevada, Peavine Mountain, Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, elevation 1950 m (6395 ft)

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Why do I do this? I’ve been reading Jeff Goins lately, and he has painful things to say that I’d rather not read. You are a Writer, So Start Acting Like One. It’s right there in the title. Because I don’t write much anymore. Phrases and ideas come to me in the shower, or while I’m feeding the baby but get knocked right back out again by my almost-four year old’s whining. Because I don’t act like a writer. I dream about writing but when I finally have a brief moment in the front of the empty page, I freeze up and words don’t come. Those windows are short and often at sub-optimal times. But it’s all I have.

I write because of the way the words sound or even look on the page. The rhythm of the sentences and how they flow together. But also because of the community. When I became a blogger it was because I thought I had something to say. Shortly after that I realized that I began blogging the same year as thousands of others. I was only one voice amongst the chorus of the blogosphere. Whatever I tried to write on there was always someone who did it better.

So I stopped trying to be the best and just decided to be honest. I discovered Five Minute Friday and found that some of my favorite and best work came from those prompts. Sometimes the words came easily, other times it was like pulling teeth and there were times when the words didn’t come at all. But I tried to remain true to one thing: I would be honest. I would talk about the hard things. I wouldn’t airbrush or tidy up my life or feelings. Because the world has enough Pinterest perfect moms. I know I wasn’t one o those and I couldn’t be even if I wanted to.

So why do I write? Because sometimes I want to be the one that says “you aren’t crazy, you aren’t alone.” I reach out, through the screen and share the happy and pain. Yes, I still do helpful, pithy and fun. But honest is my favorite. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to be what I thought was expected and appear to have it all together. I’d rather just be real.

Sometimes I Don’t Want To: Five Minute Friday


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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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Rest Unto Your Soul: Five Minute Friday


I’ve been wondering for weeks how to best sum up the last two months of my life. This prompt is the perfect opportunity, though I can’t promise it will only take me five minutes.

The 3 AM alarm sounds. Time to feed the baby. My husband and I drag ourselves from bed, I usually have to wake him myself. Nurse the baby, burp the baby, nurse the baby, gloved tongue and lip stretches, bottle feed the baby, pump, back to bed. The only comfort I can take being that I have a partner in this chaos, (without him the whole process would take much longer) and that I can remember when we did this every three hours at night rather than four.

Our life as a family of five has not been as I expected. Slow growing baby with reflux, poor nursing and tongue tie. The two older children have not adjusted as I had hoped. Round the clock, nurse, bottle, pump, repeat. Fitting laundry, meals and care for the other kids in between. Weary doesn’t begin to describe it.

Christmas is approaching fast and instead of my usual excitement over the Advent season, I feel as though clouds are gathering for a storm. The work, the travel, the budget, trying to find balance between enjoyment and unnecessary extravagance. I want to feel the weight of glory, the thrill of anticipation, not a growing sense of dread.

For some reason I can’t get Handel’s Messiah out of my mind. When I used to sing choral music it was one of my favorites.

Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him,
for He is meek and lowly of heart,
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(From Matthew 11:29)

Yes, I need rest, not just for my body but for my soul. I want to rest my weary head beside the manger and find the peace that is lacking. To explore what it feels like to be the mother of a baby boy as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. I may not have the energy to bake dozens of cookies or decorate my house to Pinterest perfection; but I can be expectant; watching and waiting for the weariness to fade and be replaced by wonder.


(I typed most of this post with one hand, a baby on my other arm. I should get bonus points for that).