Posted in Family, Motherhood

This is My Motherhood

I didn’t awaken that morning expecting my life to change. I knew some things would be different. There would be diapers to change, extra laundry to wash, another mouth to feed. But true change? As in a shift in perspective change? As in a how-did-I-ever-make-it-without-you change? Yet there it was, covering me like a warm sweater. Fitting perfectly.

And I almost missed the significance of it.

My first day of motherhood.

Like many young girls, I had often dreamed of marrying my prince charming. Together we would create the perfect family which would, no doubt, include an adorable baby girl with a closet full of pink dresses and lacy hair bows.

In this dream, my prince charming and I never disagreed. The sweet baby never cried. Money was never scarce. I always looked put-together in my career suit, high heel shoes, and polished fingernails.

It now occurs to me how this childhood fantasy skipped from the start of marriage, family, and career and sprinted straight into a never-ending state of bliss. Never once did I consider the life destined to take place between the beginning and the end.

So there we were, my beau and I, planning for parenthood as best we could. Early November would bring with it a small bundle of joy. I would stay home with our baby girl for two months, and then return to work. Life would carry on much the same as it had.

And then she arrived.

To this day, I’m not certain exactly what happened.

This everything-must-go-according-to-plan woman was knocked off track by a 7 pound, 5 ounce baby girl packaged in pink.

I never saw it coming.

Not through years of dreaming and planning. Not through nine months of loving her through pregnancy. Not through hours of laboring to get her here. Not until I held her in my arms for the first time.

I had become a mother.

It was within that moment I began to see life differently. I began to sense the call to motherhood, and in accepting that call, new experiences became the norm.

Motherhood brought with it much learning. I quickly realized not every little girl is fond of pink and lace. And that some two-year-old boys can easily outrun their mothers despite their tiny legs. That even the youngest of children can struggle with shyness. That some toddlers have a will stronger than their adult counter-parts. And that an ordinary rock or weed can become a special gift when given from the lovely heart of a child.

If not for mothering, I may have never become an expert at capturing crickets, toads, and frogs. I most certainly would have never owned a pet rat (affectionately known as Mr. Rat), nor would I have willingly housed lizards, guinea pigs, or hamsters (or the babies they were never supposed to birth).

I’m sure I would have never carried on a conversation with the one lone fish who lived on my kitchen counter. Nor would I have taken on the large number of dogs and cats we’ve loved through the years. No, my entourage of pets would have been much less if not for motherhood.

Living as a mother has also stretched me in more important ways. It has caused me to question, at times, much of what I thought to be true. It has forced me to think hard, and to pray more. What has worked with one child has not worked with another.

And the heartaches, oh how deeply they hurt. I wonder whether a deeper pain exists than that felt by a mother whose child is struggling, or rebelling, or hurting, or leaving, or one who has already gone.

From the first child of my dreams, to the two boys who followed, on to a second daughter, and then finally, a baby boy. Five children. Five blessings. All with similar traits, yet uniquely themselves. All very much loved. Each one an important, vital piece of the life nestled between my start and finish. The in-between part I never considered as a dreamy little girl.

This is my motherhood.

Yours may look completely different. Regardless of how it looks -whether your expression of a mother’s love is given to your own children or to others who need it- please know you are making a difference. And, in turn, you are being made different, too.

Posted in Church, Everyday Life, Faith

Welcoming the Unchurched

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What message are we communicating to our unchurched neighbors this Easter?

I hope it’s one of hope and love and acceptance, but when I read some of the church signs I’ve seen recently, I can’t help but wonder.

Signs that suggest that coming to church on Easter is a bad thing – if you don’t show up on other Sundays as well.

Those signs make my heart hurt for those who will read them and feel shamed by them. Perhaps they were thinking about attending church this Easter, but now feel unwelcome. I can’t say that I blame them.

When did we become a people who criticize others when their church attendance doesn’t match up with ours? When did we lose sight of the wonderful opportunity Resurrection Sunday brings? The opportunity to extend God’s love, grace, and compassion to those who aren’t sitting in our services regularly. What a tragic mistake on our part.

I suppose this matter resonates with me because there was a time when I also attended church only on special occasions. I have family members who still do this. I also have family and friends who never attend, not even on Easter. How thrilled I would be to have them join me at church sometime, anytime, even if it’s only once a year.

My challenge to you, my fellow church-goers, is this …

When you notice unfamiliar faces in church this Easter, give them a sincere welcome. Silently lift up a prayer on their behalf. Rejoice in your heart that they are there. Who knows, maybe your kindness will make them feel as if they belong, or at the very least, fill them with the hope of belonging. Maybe your hospitality will tear down the wall guarding their heart, enabling them to breathe easier and hear a fresh word from God.

Maybe they’ll experience enough goodness to bring them back. If not next week, maybe the week after. Or three months from now. Or next Easter. Regardless of when, or even if they return to a specific church or building, the love and truth shown to them on Easter Sunday will not be forgotten.

But before this message can be conveyed within the church, it must be conveyed outside the church. On the signs mounted in our parking lots. In our attitudes as we talk and do business within our communities. In our actions as we choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Let’s work on creating a message that sounds something like this —

Yes, we are open on Sundays. Won’t you please come and join us?

Posted in Motherhood, Thankfulness

Finding Good in Unexpected Circumstances

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I don’t mind hotel stays. In fact, I welcome them from time to time.  Afterall, what momma doesn’t love daily housekeeping services?  Yet, as I sit here this evening, in my single-roomed home-away-from-home, I’m feeling somewhat restless. 

That’s what happens when your plans are interrupted and, rather than following your kids around town for homeschool basketball, you’re camped out in a hotel room all day. Just you and your sweet, youngest child who crawled out of bed with an unexpected fever this morning.

We awakened early, dressed quickly, and prepared to head out, but it didn’t take long to realize that simply wasn’t happening.  Instead, we removed his shoes and tucked him back into bed, sending dad and his older siblings off to their games and award ceremonies without us.

While this was not how I intended to spend my day, I cannot bring myself to complain. For blessings still abound, even when my circumstances don’t meet my expectations.

May I share some thankfuls with you instead?

I’m thankful we made it to Friday this year before sickness hit our family (normally, this happens earlier in our National tournament week). 

I’m really thankful we didn’t miss big brother’s gold ball game.

I’m thankful we’ve already made not one, but two trips to Andy’s Frozen Custard (always a must-have since we don’t have one near home).

I’m thankful this sickness is not that awful stomach bug I’ve been hearing about. 

I’m thankful we had some leftovers in our little kitchen, along with plenty of coffee and creamer!

I’m thankful for some quiet in the middle of our busy – and for the “do not disturb” sign which allowed us to snag some much needed rest.  

I’m thankful for being here with my little man, for mommy’s presence always seems to make things better. Which reminds me of what a privilege it is to be somebody’s momma. And oh, the love motherhood brings with it. In the midst of the difficulties we face, there is such love.

And for that blessing of love, I am most thankful.

Posted in Friendship, Mail on Mondays

Mail-on-Mondays: Dear Tidy Momma

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Dear Tidy Momma,

Last week I made my bed for the first time in probably a month, or two if I’m being honest. It looked so pretty, I almost took a picture and posted it on social media. Except I was afraid of what you might think of me, or worse, what you might say.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a made bed, a clean kitchen, and floors that don’t leave your feet feeling gritty when you walk barefoot across them. But the truth is many days this does not describe my home, especially during our busiest seasons of homeschooling and basketball.

During those days, you will likely find dishes in the sink, baskets of clean laundry waiting to be put away, dust on the mantel, and paperwork calling for my attention. And although I run the vacuum often, there will still be some grit -and probably a bit of dog hair left behind by our beloved Jack Russell who thinks he owns the place. The table will be cluttered with the latest art project, or other school work in progress, or perhaps just a  mess one of my people failed to clean up. There may be a pair of shoes littering the living room floor, and possibly a blanket abandoned on the sofa.

This is more often my reality.

When I find myself longing for order in the midst of cluttered counter-tops, cookie crumbs, and the overall chaos of our incessant comings and goings, I begin to wonder how you manage it all. And why I can not.

If I continue in that mindset, comparing my home to yours or my tidiness (or lack thereof) to your tidiness, I will worry myself into a pitiful state. Such comparisons are seldom helpful. Measuring myself next to you will not result in a cleaner house, nor will it allow me the freedom of inviting you into my imperfect home. Rather, my insecurities will pile up, crushing the likelihood of us spending time together.

So instead, I’ll choose to see you as a mother much like myself, with your own set of concerns, uncertainties, and dangerous little comparisons. And if truth were told, probably a messy home from time to time as well.

And I hope one day, despite our differences, we’ll sit together in my home. We’ll connect, one momma’s heart to another. And another day, we’ll sit in your home, and I’ll breathe in the loveliness you’ve created, gathering inspiration to take back to my own home.

Sweet friend, we have so much to offer one another. May we lower our guard, put away our unrealistic expectations, endless efforts to please, and critical tendencies.

May we accept one another exactly as we are -and where we are- in life’s journey. And as we do so, may we find a safe place to rest and recline, basking in the beauty and delight of unexpected friendship.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9 (NLT)
Posted in Faith, Family

When More Is What We Need

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Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

I love that saying, and I believe in its message. So much so that I have it displayed on a shelf in my sitting area. As I glance at it each morning, I am reminded of the importance of being thankful.

When I am thankful, I am more aware of God’s love for me. The assurance of His love enables me to be more content in my relationships, more capable of carrying out my daily tasks, and better at handling life’s ups and downs.

But sometimes I need more.

Not necessarily more stuff. Although another cup of fancy coffee is always welcome. No, sometimes I simply need more of the best things in life.

More time with the man I love.
Another hug from my children- wow, they grow up fast!
Extra snuggles from my grand baby.
One more smile. One more good belly laugh.
A bonus visit with a dear friend.
A fresh heart connection with a loved one.
A moment to slow down, to notice those around me, to meet another’s need.
A minute longer to sit quietly with Jesus before stepping into my day.

Yes, sometimes I need a little more.

Perhaps you’ve had a longing in your heart lately, too. Perhaps something doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps some adjustments need to be made.

Let’s be content, yes, but let’s not become so comfortable that we fail to notice when change is needed. When improvements are overdue. Let’s not fall into the trap of believing things are as good as they’ll ever be, or that there’s no point in fixing what has not yet broken. Let’s take the initiative instead.

Let’s bravely look into the fabric of our lives and take notice of the places where it’s beginning to rub raw, where tiny holes have already formed, where the seams are barely holding. And let’s do something about it.

Let’s take our need for more to Christ. That is key.

Let’s ask Him to show us what we need to do differently, who we need to extend his love and grace to, and in what ways we need to become more intentional with our time and in our relationships.

As we seek to experience God’s best in our lives, may we be the light that shines His goodness into the lives of those around us as well.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

 

 

Posted in Friendship

Oh, To Be Honest

Friendship, Friends, Snapshot, Girls

What if, today, when you ask me how I’m doing, I give you an honest answer?

What if I refuse to sugarcoat my response? What if I just put it all out there? My raw emotions, my hurts, my struggles, my disappointments. What if I don’t attempt to hide my fears from you? What if I allow myself to shed a few tears in your presence?

Would that make me a burden? Would you consider me high-risk, perhaps needing a little more of you than you’re willing or able to give? If you’re like most, you would be hesitant to ask that question of me again, fearing you would step into more “life” than you’re prepared to deal with.

And yet, wouldn’t it be nice to have that freedom? The freedom to be real with one another, to step out from behind our struggles? And in doing so, to find others standing there with us, smack dab in the middle of what’s ailing us … sometimes leaning on one another, sometimes holding one another up, sometimes just sitting there together waiting on the storm to pass.

What a blessing to find rest in one another. To trust that we’re accepted. And loved. And forgiven. No longer feeling the need to impress or pretend. Realizing it’s okay to be ourselves. It’s okay to not have it all together. It’s okay to be less than perfect.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

How do we go about finding this often elusive place of unity, of trust, of uninhibited friendship?

We begin the journey to oneness with a simple thread of small kindnesses, carefully spun together over time. A smile, a hug. A quick phone call or text. Showing up when it matters most. Sticking around when others don’t.

Then we choose to hit repeat, making a conscious effort to remain nearby. Willing to be inconvenienced from time to time. Willing to make ourselves available. Even though we’re busy. Or preoccupied. Or some days just really, really tired. We don’t stop.

We keep checking on one another. Loving one another. Forgiving one another. Slowly and intentionally building relationships – good, solid, healthy relationships. Seeking out those who will speak truth into us, who will hold us accountable, who will stand by us when everyone else bails – and resolving to do the same for them.

We invest in them. We commit to them.
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Until one day, we realize all those little, seemingly insignificant gestures really did make a difference. They took root and, somewhere along the way, they bloomed into beautiful, lasting friendships.

What a blessing to have such friends – and to experience the privilege in being such a friend.

May we all be that friend to someone today. May we intentionally seek out others who also need the freedoms associated with such a friendship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Posted in Organization

Dealing with the Day to Day

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I used to be organized. Like really organized.

Everything had its place, and it was imperative that it all stayed in its place, or at least made it back to its place fairly quickly. I seldom went to bed with dirty dishes in the sink, or unfolded laundry in a basket. The floors were clean, paperwork was filed away neatly, deadlines were carefully noted.

And then life became busy.  Like really busy.

First as a wife, mother of two, and full-time job outside the home. Later as a stay-at-home mother of three, then four, then five blessings, topping it off with homeschooling, extra activities, and ministry. Whew!

I found myself in a whirlwind, feeling more and more frazzled, running dangerously fast, but never feeling caught up. So I did the only logical thing … I threw organization out the window.  After all, who has time for filing paperwork when there is seldom a spare moment in the day? No, it simply was not happening. Something had to give and organization became that something.

The crazy thing about it is this … even though I let those things go in a physical sense, the need to do them never left my mind. So, I’ve been constantly thinking about what I should be doing rather than doing it. And that, my friend, is exhausting.

As a result, I’ve began asking myself a few questions. Questions such as, “How in the world did I miss that event?” “Did I really forget to pay that bill?”  “Dinner? Oh goodness, I guess it’s sandwiches – again.”

Sisters, this is not a good place for me, and I’m guessing it’s not your favorite place either. When we fail to handle the important issues of daily life in a timely manner, we oftentimes end up in a panic, feeling like a failure.  What a stressful way to live! Yet, that is exactly where I’ve found myself too much of the time lately.

Quite frankly, I’m tired of being parked in that place.

I’m realizing I must take time to regroup, reorganize, and rethink my day to day grind. I’m not talking about becoming frigid and unflexible. I’m merely suggesting a more deliberate approach to life, living in a way that creates a peaceful, yet productive atmosphere within my home.

What are some ways you’ve found to relieve the stress of daily life in your home? 

  • Do you meal plan? If so, what works best for you?
  • Do you make lunches the night before?
  • Do you assign specific laundry days to your children?
  • Do you limit the number of extracurricular activities for your children, or stick to a limited number of hobbies for yourself?
  • Do you have a special day or time set aside to handle the mounds of paperwork or emails coming into your home?

 

 

Posted in Joy

Getting Intentional with Joy

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Have you ever found yourself longing for something more? Something new and fresh? No longer satisfied with going through the motions. This is where I found myself this past Christmas. I desired simplicity, yet beauty and meaning -in my décor, in the gifts I chose, in the millions of little moments leading up to that special day. I found myself in search of joy.

Joy. You know, the blissful, cheery gladness everyone expects to come by easily this time of year. Except with a bit more substance, a tad more meaning. The kind of joy that holds up even when my circumstances don’t -that shows up even when all is not perfect.  That’s the joy I searched for this Christmas. Chances are you hungered for it too, maybe knowingly, maybe not, but the desire for joy was there just the same.

Perhaps like me, you misplaced your Christmas joy a few years back and you’ve had a hard time finding it. You laid it down for a brief moment, only to have a tough situation, a heartache, or overwhelming grief rush over, quickly hiding it from view. So, you’ve continued on without it. Day in and day out. Holiday after holiday. Wishing for its return, but having no idea how to bring it back.

Eventually, you began to see glimpses of it shimmering beneath the rubble. You allowed yourself to crave its presence. To hope again. To look for beauty in the midst of the busy. To search for joy once more.

If this is where you’ve been, I pray you found and embraced a little joy this Christmas. I pray you uncovered bits of it with each ornament hung and every gift exchanged. I pray peace made its way into your heart as you sat through that candlelight service. I pray the meals you shared with family and friends brought you warmth. Yes, I pray joy was part of your celebration this year.

But if it wasn’t, dear friend, don’t lose hope. Joy is attainable. Even in the middle of imperfection, disappointment, and frayed nerves. It may require some effort on your part. It may mean dropping to your knees, asking God to fill your lonely, empty spaces. It may involve you choosing to notice the hints of goodness around you -even though they may appear tiny and insignificant.

As you take notice of the blessings sprinkled about your hardships, may your perspective begin to shift.  May thankfulness help you discover your joy once again, experiencing more of it with each new day.

My Challenge To You ~ 

  • Set aside a few moments today to think, really think
  • Jot down five things you are thankful for today
  • Thank God for those five blessings
  • Repeat tomorrow
Posted in Grief

Go Away, Grief! It’s Christmas

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Even at Christmas, losses still occur. Goodbyes become reality. Grief pays you a visit. Yes, even at Christmas.

It fastens itself to you and holds on tightly, accompanying you to every Christmas party, shopping trip, and candlelight service. This unwelcome guest becomes part of you, and part of your Christmas. Like it or not.

It threatens to drain your joy. It desires to consume your thoughts. It demands your full attention. It guilts you into believing happiness should never again be yours. Not even at Christmas.

Grief is a natural response to loss. We should never be ashamed of our grief, nor should we feel pressured to rush it along. Although it looks differently for each of us, one thing is certain: we all encounter it at some point.

So how are we to face Christmas – and any other day for that matter – with grief as our companion? How do we push through? How do we keep on living in spite of it?

Friends, I know of no better way to navigate through grief than to immerse myself into the word of God. In the days and weeks following my brother’s death, this passage continually stood out to me:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.    2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

He is the Father of compassion; the God of all comfort. How I needed to hear this. To remember this. To know this for myself. To be reminded of God’s goodness, and to understand He would comfort me through every problem I faced, even when it involved a goodbye I wasn’t ready to give. Yes, He was there. Yes, He cared.

And then I found purpose: I was not alone in my mourning. With the comfort God had shown me, I would someday console another whose heart was grieving.

Though it wasn’t easy, I crawled out of bed, finished shopping, wrapped gifts, and celebrated Christmas as best I could. I surrounded myself with family and close friends. I thought of Jesus. I pictured my brother sitting with Him, having the best Christmas ever.

Friends, if grief has invited itself to your Christmas this year, acknowledge it. Sit down with it. Open your bible to it. Find verses that speak comfort and hope to your heart. Press them firmly into your grief.

As you stand to your feet, may God’s peace and strength begin to steady you. May you be comforted. May you perceive the love and beauty encircling you. It is there, even in the midst of your grief. It is there, because He is there. And He cares.

 

Posted in Grief

Getting Through Christmas

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Not too long ago money was scarce in my home. I’m talking practically non-existent. My husband’s thriving business suffered greatly during the recession, causing us to lose much of what he had worked so hard to provide.

With our bank account empty, even the most basic necessities such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and shampoo were tough to come by. And splurging on extras -you know, those wonderful things we typically take for granted such as koolaid, Little Debbie snack cakes, and the dollar menu at the local fast food restaurant- all of those quickly became a thing of the past. And certainly, if we couldn’t afford those small treats, you can imagine where we stood with our bigger, more important obligations.

We had hit rock bottom, and it hurt. We had never been at a lower point, financially or emotionally.

And then along came Christmas.  Not only one, but two, and then three Christmases with us barely scraping by.

This reality, followed closely by two back to back December goodbyes, wreaked havoc on my emotions – and my Christmas spirit.  Instead of excitement, I felt anxious over the gifts I couldn’t buy, the expectations I couldn’t meet, and the loved ones I couldn’t hug. I simply wished to hide away and skip the whole season of Christmas and all its merriment.

I remember vividly how my heart ached as I passed through those days. The uncertainties. The confusion. The disbelief. The sheer panic over the very real possibility of losing my home.  The heavy dread of facing Christmas with one or two fewer loved ones at the table.

Those years were tough; surviving those Christmases was even tougher. Yet here I am, hoping to encourage others walking a similar path. Those who view Christmas as more of a chore than a celebration; who are holding their breath, wishing to skirt past December unscathed.

Friend, if you are that person, may I share with you some of what has helped me?

First of all, it is so freeing to admit you are not strong enough, and you don’t have to be. Secondly, accepting help offered by others teaches you humility and brings a wonderful blessing to you both. Thirdly, learning to rely on God’s truth and promises is absolutely vital for it is there you begin to understand how much He truly loves you.

You see, if we operate in our own strength, sooner or later we give out. But if we allow the precious people God has placed in our lives to encourage, love, and support us, we are strengthened. And if we lean into God as we would a close friend, we sense His presence. And in His presence, our hearts begin to mend and our fears dissipate.

We learn God can be trusted.

We learn He is faithful.

We learn He will graciously meet us where we are …  even when He finds us cautiously playing hide and seek with Christmas.