Category: Motherhood

How to Allow Yourselves Not to Enjoy Every Moment When Not Every Moment in Enjoyable

I’m not sure I can take one more mommy guilt trip. Interestingly, it’s not coming from my husband, my kids, or my friends. But through other “gospel-centered” mommas.

Here’s the most recent example from the Gospel-centered Mom: How to Enjoy Every Moment  When Not Every Moment is Enjoyable. She says:

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:10-11)

Moms don’t have to go far to find those who are hungry and afflicted. Do we think of meeting their needs as “pouring ourselves out” for them? It’s the opposite of holding the unpleasant stage at arms distance. It’s fully embracing it.

Our children are probably not “hungry”, neither are they “afflicted”. My dear moms, you are doing an incredible important work when you are at home with your babies, but you are not doing this kind of work that Isaiah is talking about. Please friends, let’s not co-op Bible passages to sooth ourselves.

By the end of the article, she’s telling us that we’re supposed to be content during the season of having postpartum depression. I’m sorry, but this is where my patience with this line of thinking ends.

Should we try to remember the bright parts of our day? Yes.

Should we try to cherish these moments with our kids? Yes.

Should we do our best to be parents (ahem, not just moms) who live less and less selfish lives in order to make sure our kids are loved, cherished, and poured into? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Should we aim for contentment? I think so.

But when we are NOT content, do we need to guilt ourselves and one another? No, we don’t. We can come alongside and encourage one another. And by golly, let’s give each other some breaks! Let’s just not offer: “suck it up sister, God wants you to change your own heart and put a happy smile on your face in the middle of emotionally draining days.” How exhausting is that? Instead, grab her kids, bring them to your house for a day and let her just sit on her couch or whatever her little heart desires. (Sidenote: someone did this for me the other week when I was sick and it revived my body and soul so much. I cried a little because I was taken aback with her love, and then I felt guilty for about an hour, but then settled into this gift and said, “Thank you, Jesus!”)

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In the article (and in other books and articles I’ve read recently), she says that each of these moments, no matter how awful, is given to us by God. That’s not how I read Scripture. I read it that every good and perfect gift comes from God, and that He won’t give us a snake when we ask him for bread. There’s another force in this world, my dear friends, so let’s not be tricked that what is fallen or sinful or evil is a gift from God. It’s not. And some of the things we’re dealing with on a daily basis is exactly those things.

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The gospel is about grace, and about loving God and loving people and loving ourselves. There’s not a SINGLE WORK that I can do that is going to make myself more loved by God. HE LOVES US SO MUCH IN OUR LONG DAYS. Go cry yourself a river. Go take a long run. Go complain to your husband or friend or whoever is “that person” in your life (and then allow them to complain back about their job). Eat a chocolate bar in the pantry while playing hide and seek with your kids. Tell God that you are “so over this mom business and are going to go crazy.” My dear friend, whatever you do, don’t pretend you are in a place you’re not. Don’t feel guilty over wishing your postpartum depression is over. I think God so desires your postpartum depression to be over too. Don’t feel bad for wishing you were through the baby is not sleeping stage, because God created us with a need for sleep, and I think that He will be happy for you when that stage is over too.

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He is not shaking His finger at us, but instead He is with us at every. single. point of those hard stinkin’ days and seasons. Love you, sweet momma.

 

Open House Drama

While kids were excitedly running around the hallways with their parents in tow, I was trying to find a quiet place to almost drag my limp-because-i’m-angry 5 year old to a quiet corner to get her under control.

Open House. The night when kids and parents are visiting classrooms, getting to know their child’s teacher and classroom and other parents. Oh they got to know us alright.

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To be fair, the night started out well. We visited the Kindergarten class and it was fine. She showed us her book box, everyday jobs, sang a couple songs, and happily helped me choose what to bring for future class parties. Next we visited the 2nd grade class and she quietly looked around the room and listened as Asante explained his various notebooks and what they work on in each. After we left, they both insisted we go see the special rooms. Although little sister was having some tummy trouble, we decided to make a quick stop.

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Some little girl was pounding on the piano in the music room, which of course made Aly want to do it too. It didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to be doing for that little girl, so I told Aly she couldn’t either. And explained why. She was mad, felt like it was an unfair answer, but left the room decently when it was time to go. Not awesome, but at this point, we know how things COULD be and she was trying.

Upstairs as we rounded the corner to start down the hallway that leads outside, Aly spied kids in the gym. With jump ropes. She rushed in, grabbed a jump rope and started jumping. Jumping. Jumping. Not forwards, but backwards. Whatever. I can let her do this, I thought, just for a few minutes. “Just for a few minutes,” I hollered over the noise of the crowd as she jumped away. After a couple minutes, I gave a one minute warning. Then a “3 more jumps and then we go, my sister.”

Rage erupted on that little girls face.

The yells began as we were exiting the gym. “Bad!” she yelled, which she often does when she’s mad, but trying to hold it back.

As we stream into the hallway she begins to unravel. She’s raising her voice. Getting attitude. Doesn’t want me to touch her because “she’s fine” when in reality she’s spinning out of control. I need to get her attention. Parents make room as we move down the hallway. I’m desperately looking for the bathroom that I know is ahead up on the right. Before we get there, she goes limp, I guess in attempts to get me to acquiesce with the grip I have on her. I carry her as best I can to the social safety of the bathroom. I feel embarrassed but I try not to allow that emotion to influence my words to her. I know myself. When I get embarrassed I can say things that would be better left in my head.

We talk. I look into her eyes, hoping that she will see me so that she can snap herself out of the tailspin that just happened. I get her enough under control that we leave the bathroom. She runs ahead of me and out the doors to Jake and the other kids. As we quickly stroll down the sidewalk away from the school, she yells, cries, and refuses to hear us talk to her about her behavior. She covers her ears, saying “I KNOW!” Maybe she does know what we’re going to say. Because this happens more often than it should. Fits. Tantrums. Yelling. Out of control.

I let Jake and the girls go ahead in the stroller and hang back with Asante. The kid who quietly goes along with everything, watching, observing, thinking. I apologize to him- “Sorry buddy, if Aly’s behavior embarrassed you. It embarrassed me.” “It’s okay,” he quickly replied. It’s always okay. He loves his sister so deeply.

We walk home. The moon is full, the sky is growing dark, and the cool wind blows against my face. I breathe deep, trying to process my emotions and get some air. The streets and bike paths are empty, so I relax. No one to impress or to fakely smile for as they judge my daughter or my parenting skills. Asante starts jabbering about the difference between a millimeter, centimeter and inch, and i’m half listening, “mmhmm-ing” at the right parts, but my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about Aly and her way-bigger-than-anyone-can-handle emotions. The books I’ve read. The hours of online research. The sensory play we’ve done. The many ways of discipline. The motivation charts. Her sadness for losing control and not figuring out how to tame the storm inside. It’s a lot and thinking about it all often overwhelms me because I feel so helpless.IMG_5056

So I pray. I pray a lot of things. Probably some of them are totally inappropriate and would make parenting gurus and child development experts gasp. But most of them have something to do with begging God to help me parent this beautiful, creative, gifted child. Help me to understand her. Help me to see it from her perspective. Help me to love her well.

 

 

 

Heroine’s Quest

Sometimes (ahem) I feel overwhelmed. And when I feel overwhelmed I tend not to be intentional. Instead, I switch into survival mode and just do what needs to be done to get through it. Anyone with me?

While unavoidable at times, when we are living in a state of being overwhelmed, and hence survival mode too often, it’s not good for our souls or the souls of others in our lives.

One of my good friends, Christi Byerly, has a heart for women who are in this sort of place. She is a life coach and spiritual director who has been walking beside women for a couple years now. While she currently lives in Kenya, she has a virtual state-side Heroine’s Quest group on Wednesdays at 11a (East Coast time) and is looking for a few more members to join in!

The dates for the upcoming sessions are:

October 15th, 29th

November 5th, 19th

December 3rd, 17th

While the course is listed at $500, Christi is providing a deep discount for us– $200! If you sign up, just let Christi know that you heard about it here. In case you have to miss a call, no fret! There will be audio recordings :).

Let me know if you sign up! 🙂

 

Super Christian Parenting Myths

No matter which way you slice it, parenting is hard. For those of us who are parents and are also an active part of a Christian community, you would think it’d be easier. We have a village to help us raise our children.We have the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom. We have a constant stream of advice and encouragement as we make the tough decisions in discipline. While this is the case for some of us, the Christian subculture also comes with its own set of additional challenges. One of those are what I’m calling the Super Christian Parenting Myths.

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Over at Graham Blanchard, the Mom Mentors are sharing what they think are the biggest myths that we as parents have to deal with. Here’s my contribution to the conversation:

The biggest myth about Christian parenting is that if we “do it correctly”, we’ll have good kids who respect us and love God. If our kids are not “good” kids, then it must be something we as parents are doing wrong.

However, I see in scripture, throughout history, and in my everyday life that there are a lot of people who reject or disobey God. Does their disobedience and lack of respect mean that God didn’t parent them well? Does it mean that He did something wrong? Of course not! So then, why do I think that I can do better at parenting than He, the Perfect Parent?

Once I really understood that, I began to ease up on myself. I still parent my kids with all the prayer, love, respect, and consistency that I can muster and while I certainly get discouraged when they choose to disobey me, I also know that at the end of the day, I’ve done the best that I know how to do.

How about you? What do you think is the biggest Christian parenting myth that you have to face on a regular basis?

 

 

How do you cope with tough days?

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That’s what we’re talking about over at the Mom Mentor page this month. Tough days are kinda my thing, so I was totally able to share my brilliant response, right? Here’s to the community of mommas! (as I raise my spoonful of ice cream in a toasting gesture)

Parenting 4 kids, ages 6 and under, leaves this momma weary and tired nearly every day! After the kids are all angelically sleeping, snuggled deep into their covers, I plop down in front of my computer with a bowl of Hyvee Brownie batter ice cream and see who is on Facebook. Not only is this evening routine delicious, but it’s also life-giving to me.

I check in with a friend from Missouri to see how she’s doing and how nursing is going with her brand new baby boy. My not-so-cryptic status update regarding my rough day and need for prayer leads to an exchange of text messages and then a 30-minute phone call from a good friend in Pennsylvania.  Right before I log off for the evening, a friend from across town messages me to share a funny parenting quote and then asks if I want to meet up with her tomorrow at the park.

It’s the community of other mommas- both near and far- who encourage my tired, weary heart– their kind, gentle words and their life-giving prayers that offer the truth and love of God that my heart so desperately needs to hear.

I’m curious– what do you do to make it through those tough days?

Review: Surprised by Motherhood

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Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker

I was surprised by this book.

I guess I didn’t really know much about Lisa-Jo Baker. I knew that she works with (in)courage, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I put off on requesting this book because I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to read another motherhood book. I’ve read one book too many that I thought were going to be empowering and encouraging, only to find myself feeling frustrated and missing the motherhood mark.

After 4 chapters in, I was talking to Jake about how I really liked this book, and I felt like Lisa-Jo got me and other moms like me– the ones that love being a mom, but didn’t necessarily always dream of being a mom; the ones that never babysat growing up because, well, we’re just not “kid” people; ones that love their littles fiercely and see the huge value of being intentional in the way we love them, care for them, teach them and disciple them; ones that also have passions besides our family, and believe that God has not let us off the hook in pursuing those.

Jake: How many chapters have you read?

Me: about 4, maybe 5.

Jake: This is what you say every time.

Me: What?

Jake: You “love” a book at the beginning, but then it begins to spiral downward and you end up wanting to throw the book across the room.

Me: ….. Oh. I didn’t even think about that possibility….Oh no…. What if this book does this too?!

Welp, IT DIDN’T!!!! I was so nervous she was going to do the whole “I didn’t want to have kids, but then I had kids and I’m so convinced that God only wants me to stay at home and put every ounce of energy towards my kids and home.” Blessings to you if that’s what you want to do, but some of us simply can’t, and we need women who are paving the way in what it looks like to love our family deeply while also pursuing other callings too! Because, let’s face it, those of us who fall into this camp sometimes feel like we need to hide our other passions because we don’t want others to think that we don’t love God or don’t love our kids or don’t love our husbands.

In Surprised by Motherhood, Lisa-Jo Baker tells her story- a story of coming of age, losing her mom, becoming a mom (of 3 children), moving around the world, being a stay-at-home parent, being a work-from-home parent, and an outside the home working parenting, engaging in the fight against human-trafficking. Lisa-Jo also beautifully describes the real, deep identity change that comes when becoming a mother (also known as matrescence).

Lisa-Jo Baker is probably the best writer I have ever read. Her writing is creative, but in a very down-to-earth kind of way.  I cried through most of this book– and not because it’s a necessarily sad story. I mean, parts of it are sad, but I think it’s because she wrote in a way that embraces all the joys and hurts and realness of life as a daughter and a mother and a follower of Jesus. Here are a few of my favorite lines from the book:

[talking about her mom’s transition into having kids]: “She constantly danced between her old life and her new. With the books and movies and stories that ran so thick and deep insider her, it was sometimes hard to find room for her kids. But on the days she invited us in- on those days it was magical.”

[also talking about her mom]: “She said things I wish she could take back. She said things I’m sure she’d wish she could take back. And they wriggle deep under my skin without my even realizing it, buried there for years before my own babies force me to dig them out.”

Mothers are born from the strands of so many stories woven like DNA- tenderly, delicately, and sometimes painfully into this thread that runs through families.

I also feel a special connection with her because her #2 sounds an awful lot like my #2, and if you want to now what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to read her book :).

You can find more about Lisa-Jo on her blog (she offers a few free chapters over there), on FB or Twitter. A huge thank you to Lisa-Jo for writing this book. You are paving the way for more stories like your own, and a huge band of women will be forever grateful and encouraged!

Thank you to the publisher for proving a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

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What is this book about?

Grace-based Parenting is a way to parent children that is gospel-centered instead of morality-centered. Tim Kimmel wisely and gently guides parents to a better way of parenting through personal stories of compassion, grace, love, and perspective. While some may wonder if a parenting based in grace would be too lenient, Kimmel shows that that is absolutely not the case. However, he does challenge some of the parenting frameworks that have been passed down to modern day parents, particularly the ones that lean towards the extremes, but also that rely on behavior modification and fear of others’ opinions or imagined dangers all around. He makes a case that the three gifts that children must receive from us are love, purpose, and hope, and those only come through an environment of grace that is set by parents.

Why did I choose to review this?

I very much desire my parenting to reflect the love and grace of God to my kids. But I don’t know how to do that. It’s not my automatic response to give grace. What does that look like when raising kids? How do you give grace and keep standards? I go back and forth between wondering if I’m too strict and being convinced I’m not strict enough. I’ve read many parenting books on making kids obey, but not about creating environments of grace.

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My takeaway:

Jake and I are rereading this book together this summer because it’s that good. Despite this book being about grace, I felt convicted through reading this book of some changes that need to happen in our parenting. One key quote that sums up it all:

God has given parents the responsibility to be the gatekeepers of His grace.

Questions I’m now asking:

1. What does it look like to offer grace to my kids? And my husband too, while I’m at it?

2. Why am I so afraid to offer grace to my kids, but find grace to be as important as oxygen for myself?

Where you can go to find more: 

You can find out more about Tim Kimmel at his website, Family Matters: Building Grace-Based Relationships. It looks like he has a blog that his staff blogs at on a daily basis as well.  The organization is on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Book Review: Wonder Women

When I took this tiny little book out of the package, I was a little surprised.

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“It’s just so….tiny.” I wondered if it would even be big enough to say anything of value.

Yes, it does. And I’m reading it again.

Title:

Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity

Author:

Kate Harris and Andy Crouch

What it is about:

This tiny book is one of many in the new Frames series, a collection of books put out by the Barna group, a trusted research group interested in the intersection of religion and culture. You may recognize a couple of books that the president of Barna, David Kinnaman, has written- unChristian, You Lost Me, and The Next Christians. In this series, each book takes one of today’s trends and provides current research on that topic, and then provides a thoughtful analysis as well as a way to reframe the conversation in a helpful way.

In Wonder Women, the author Kate Harris does a good job of analyzing the research that was done in 2013 on women’s identity as it relates to motherhood and work. One of the most surprising (and troubling) statistics that I discovered in this book is that while many women feel overcommitted at home and at work, hardly any women feel that way with their church and friend commitments. In fact, when asked which areas they would like to improve in, the highest percentages were first at church and next with friends. The research seems to indicate, from what I’ve read, that perhaps women don’t have as many close friendships as we seem to have. It is common to hear that women are highly relational and have an easy time making friends, while most men in our country do not have close relationships with other men. Could it be that many of us women actually don’t have close friends, but are afraid to admit that, feeling like we’re “the only one”?

Kate does an even better job at explaining the tensions that modern women feel in relation to juggling all of her responsibilities and opportunities. To have kids or not have kids? To stay at home or work part-time or work full-time, or perhaps a combination of these? If a woman chooses to work, what area to pursue? What does “career” look like for a mom? So many questions, but most of the “answers” surround managing logistics. Kate shares about her own tensions:

On the one hand, I find deep joy and satisfaction in my role and responsibilities as wife and mother. I aspire to fully and imaginatively stewards the gifts of my family and home. At the same time, I feel drawn to launch new projects, meet new people, and engage in all manner of interests and responsibilities that take me away from home. (p. 31)

Kate wants to turn that conversation altogether. Instead of managing “tensions”, what if we just admitted and embraced that we are whole people for whom life does not fit into compartmentalized boxes?  She uses the idea of vocation, creation, constraint, incarnation, covenant/community, coherence, and consent to spin the conversation around, challenging women to recognize themselves as whole beings who are doing Kingdom-work, wherever they are. She encourages women not to just choose something because you feel like you have to be one thing, but to pursue God and feel free to walk in the spaces He creates for you, all the while realizing that we have constraints on each one of us (men and women alike).

I loved that this short book gives a thoughtful alternative to the “you can do it all” message that our culture gives women without the churchy “woman’s place is in a home” response.

My takeaway:

ONE of my takeaways (man, there are so many) is to not despise the constraints of life (which for me right now is having many young children, the need to sleep, and a lack of financial resources). Kate opened my eyes to the fact that simply by being human, we have constraints, as seen as the incarnation.

These particular confines draw our attention to the fact that God himself, who has all the universe at his disposal, was not atwitter about maximizing potential, ‘having it all’, or chasing down effectiveness. Of course, his power was not constrained, as we see in his miracles and resurrection. But he chose to take on human constraints. with all his wisdom, he did not choose to transcend time or space or decades or even the rote mechanics of gestation, labor and delivery. Rather he chose to work through the same ordinary human constraints we all face- he did not see these as impediments but rather as purpose. (p. 58)

Questions I’m now asking:

What are the constraints in my life that are staying put, and how can I learn to embrace them?

If I apply the idea of vocation (rather than career) to my life, what are the words and ideas that I could use to describe my vocation? (this one is a question adapted from the book)

How can the church do a better job of furthering this conversation- talking about vocation, limitations, disappointments, community, and brokenness?

Where can you go to learn more?:

Here’s a bit more about the Barna group, and specifically about the Frames series.

You can learn more about Kate Harris by visiting the Washington Institute of Faith, Vocation, and Culture.

Thank you to Booklook Blogger for providing a complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

**Please note: some of the above links are affiliate links**

Mentor Mom

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Remember how I posted about the really great board books put out by Graham Blanchard publishing– here and here? Well, I’m just as excited about an opportunity that has come my way. They’ve invited a few of us bloggers to participate as Mentor Moms, where we will share some of our thoughts on various questions each month. This month’s question was:

How did your relationship with God change after having your first child?

Hop on over to their blog to see our responses as well as read more about the other Mentor Moms. We’re all ages and from all stages. I’m excited to learn more through these other women each month!

As a tiny side note, I came across this small but powerful Parent’s Guide to spiritual formation that Graham Blanchard has on their website. God uses us to help shape and guide our child’s understanding of God and this .pdf helps us to see what specific roles we play.