Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Failure Equals Success: What I Wish I Would’ve Known as a New Mom

When I first found out I was going to be a mom I read all the books and knew exactly how often to feed, at what age to expect milestones, and could swaddle like a boss.  Naturally I was never going to allow thumb sucking, my kids would be potty trained at two, they would nap until preschool, always self sooth at bed time, I would know what information to give them when, and, of course, they would always listen to us because we were such wise parents.

And then real life hit.  Those days came where I was ready to call it a day but it was only four o’clock and I felt more a massive failure than shred of success.  Add to it others’ commentary and emotional drowning threatens.

Oh, new mama, let it go. 

I’ve been praying over our mom breed a lot lately.  We don’t make this role very easy on each other.  Sometimes in our desire to claim A+ success in the parenting manual we come off more like vultures than doves.  I can only imagine it crushes the heart of God who created us in community with purpose.

Can we just be honest and say this hard work and no matter how much prep you do nothing runs adequate?  Yet God meets us there…



The moment quickly comes when the desire to comfort your baby supersedes the words on the pages of those books and voices around and you let them sleep in the car seat to sooth their stomach and you learn that sleep makes life more manageable for all. 

Maybe you’re going back to work and maybe you are not.  Those who choose to stay home will be scorned for “wasting your intelligence” and those who return to the workplace dinged for bonding time and you learn that you have to respond to God’s personal call over your life so that you don’t lose yourself.

You will take your toddler to the pool and the moms around you will discuss things that feel big but are really pretty remedial.  Is your kid walking? How many words do they say?  Getting vaccinated?  Sleeping all night?  Do they still have to wear a swim diaper?  And someone will clear their throat and loudly announce as if it is a teaching moment that they don’t feed their child meat, only tofu.  You’ll retreat home and put your precious babe down to double check the book to make sure that meat isn’t anywhere on the “wait” list like peanut butter and eggs.  And, when it’s not there, you will learn that the comparison game reduces your child to a sticker on a success chart and hinders you from celebrating what they are accomplishing when.

That perfect little gift will learn “me” and “no” {quickly proving that we are in fact born with a sinful nature} and fight repeatedly with siblings. After the millionth attempt at positive redirection you'll be driven to your own time out or extended potty break and you will learn that it is only positioned on your knees with your arms lifted high that you gather real strength to forge ahead.

Despite your greatest attempt at teaching pens are for paper only you might find a mural on the wall and that huge plastic playing house might in fact become home to roof climbing resulting in an injury and on those days you will learn that it is in these failed moments of listening that God gifts you opportunity to talk with your children in a very innocent way that there will always be times in their life where they are tempted to break one of your home/church rules but rules are made to protect…and hopefully prevent future pain with “biggies” like drunkenness, impurity, and the like down the road.

The evening will come when your child, well old enough to self sooth…maybe even 6 J….will come to you struggling to sleep and rather than hugging them and sending them back to bed you will pull them on to your lap, turn off the lights, and turn on worship songs to send them into dream land, and you learn that sometimes the potential for habit formation is less important than treating them like the child they are.

Even when issues of your very own line of education and training come up you might feel more unsure than expert with your own kids and you learn that you weren’t meant to go it alone in the first place.  It is in drawing on the nuggets of knowledge from the God-placed wise, trustworthy, and experienced Christian mamas around us that help nurture us so that we might better nurture them.

These moments come faster and more often than we ever dream possible when we are pregnant and have visions of the perfect parent we will be.  Undoubtedly this is because there is only one Perfect Parent and to survive this gig we must look beyond ourselves.

So can we just shed thee I-got-it-all-together costume and encourage each other, mamas?  Can we affirm each other that even when things don’t happen by the book there is still value to be gained and that although we might do things differently the most important thing is listening to God through each millisecond of this journey?  Because at the foot of the cross God reveals victory lessons and life-changing wisdom that helps us all feel comfortable in our own parenting skin.

This world is full of many voices.  Don’t worry, new mama.  God’s got your back.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Concessions of the Heart: The Domino Effect of Our Every Day Decisions

I still remember taking her in to the nursery to say goodbye to my co-workers when the tears erupted like Mount Vesuvius.  Grace was bundled tight in her five point harness, looking up at me as if to say, “What’s next?”

I had no idea.  Sleep was on forefront on my mind.

Sweet Loretta put her arm around me and asked what was wrong.  I could have blamed it on the hormones.  I could have said exhaustion.  But the truth was after my husband I and spent years crying out to God for a baby He had answered and now I suddenly felt a frightening mix of thanks that the Lord allowed us to be parents and sheer fright that we were now fully responsible for the upbringing of this innocent child.  “I can’t believe we get to take her home.”

 

I am sitting at my computer at the stroke of midnight.  Now a mother of three time is not my own and restful nights a distant memory.  Writing work begs of being done and in my inbox sits a slew of emails, the last from a student who knows Pam Stenzel and my name from a book spine.  I know not what she looks like - only a name and age - yet everything in me wants to reach through my computer and give her a hug.  Her story rocks me.  Her parents let her date very young.  Too emotionally immature to handle the issues that accompany that privilege she made a choice that has left her an expectant mother.  A baby having a baby.  A house divided.  Futures at stake.

I shut the computer to call it a night.  In a few hours my alarm would go off and the morning excitement was sure to be on high given the fall parties happening at school that day.  I needed sleep.  Only I couldn’t sleep because I felt for everyone in what had to feel a cold house.  My heart pounded for a baby at the mercy of an adolescent mother with unrealistic expectations for the future.  My heart ached for this girl who felt alone.  My heart hurt for her parents who had to be feeling massive regret because, while their daughter had to own the choice to have premarital sex, it was their blessing to allow dating before she could even drive that placed her in a position to unlock powerful questions and emotions long before the proper time.

We can give an inch and unravel a spiritual mile.

This is with every decision you make, my child.

I hate it when God decides to work on my heart at night J  But I suppose I should be used to it.  Walking in faith requires us to be alert at all times, never turning our eyes from Truth or shutting them from reality because when we do we can pretty much expect a slow fade to follow.

“This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 31:21

These are big Scriptural shoes to fill but He promises His presence to guide us along the way.  And, whether we are making decisions for ourselves or in the parenting of children, we need to be conscious that any step, no matter how seemingly small, from the biblical path will open the door to the potential exploration of understandings not of the Lord and ways of living apart from Him that could lead to some very painful detours.

I’m not dealing with dating or sex with my girls….yet.  (And, Lord, if you want to use my work in purity ministry to scare any wayward boys away that would be lovely).   But in that moment of insomnia God was revealing to me just how consequential all the seemingly “little” choices we make are.

Are the web sites we let them visit and games we let them play promoting respect for life or corruption?

Are the underwear we’re pulling off the shelves to purchase for them speaking of child blamelessness or inviting a modesty meltdown that begins the exploration of sexy that'll attract them to the “Bright Young Things” line before they are bright enough to understand the message it sends?  (And why are those basic covering cottons next to impossible to find, by the way?)

Are the shows/movies we let them tune into filled with language that encourages niceness or do they teach tearing others down? 

Do the lyrics to the music they’re listening to defile others or promote God’s design?

Do I talk about food and exercise in a way that minimizes their body to a number or tells them of the temple their body is made special by their Creator?

Are they in the presence of friends that live well or not?

I’m becoming increasingly aware just how awake I need to be because I don’t think there is such thing as a menial decision anymore.  EVERY yes and no we make has an effect on another decision made.  The enormity of this truth nearly sucks my breath away.  I want my kids to love what is good and God honoring so much that they aren’t enticed by the side steps and detours.  I want to live my life in a way that sets a good example.

I know I won’t get it all right.  And, I know that my kids don’t get immunity even with my line of work and they will make mistakes their own. (Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness)  But, I can choose to be intentional.  I can choose to be the parent and not the friend.  I can choose to lean in on God’s promise to qualify me in all I face.

Want to join me?

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Perhaps It's the Little Ones who Don't Act Perfect in Church That Have it All Right

She taught me a lesson in church that day in a moment that should’ve embarrassed me.

Like all Sunday mornings my husband and I filed into the church pew with our three little girls in between us. And, like all Sunday mornings, we entered our silent plea that they would be at their best. Every faith-filled parent knows this rub- the desire and importance of worshipping as a family from the get go but the fear that their every whisper sounds like a scream and their every movement tornadic.

We believe in the importance of teaching our kids family worship. And, to expect them to want to enter God’s Holy House when they are older if she shuffle them elsewhere while we go seems unrealistic…so we go with expectant, hopeful hearts that they will gather more understanding of His extravagant love in the upright posture of self control.

We Christians are Sunday morning pretty people, aren’t we?

During a song our two year old whispered that she had to pee. I swear my husband and I did a fist bump in our hearts that she asked so quietly and politely. Since my man was closer to the end of the aisle, he discreetly took her out while the older two girls and I continued on in worship. Loudness transitioned to silence as we prepared for teaching from the pulpit. At that same time, my husband returned with our excited potty training two year old who stopped cold in her tracks right in the church aisle loudly….LOUDLY…pronouncing “Me pee.”

Well, so much for Sunday morning perfection. Myself and everyone around me broke out in laughter. What else can you do? Kids keep us humble and this is real life, people.

As the service continued, I watched her make way to her grandparents next to us and whisper of her success. I watched her sit back down and look up front, well aware that she was taking in some even if not all of what was being preached. And, during the sending song I watched her join her older two sisters in dance, moved by the music. {They all could’ve been named Miriam with the way the love to dance before the Lord.}

I am grateful for the little ones that don’t act “perfect” in church.

You see, in my trying to teach my children lessons they are constantly teaching me too. Ava’s announcement cracked me up but on a deeper level it reminded me that we can come just as we are. I’m convicted that my big girl pants and nice clothes mean nothing if I’m coming so concerned about doing it all right from a societal perspective that my guard prevents the work of the Holy Spirit to move in me. After all, the Lord wants me to celebrate my joys, honestly weep at His feet in times of sorrow, and to dance in celebration with the unique delight He alone brings to life.

If we claim he loves us just as we are why do we put on the work of a show? If we want others to believe in the radiance Jesus brings to each moment of our life why do we present stuffy worship?

These little people learning self control and the love of God in the sanctuary who don’t care about having it all together are actually mirrors to what a real a relationship with God looks like and, oh do I want to reflect that.

Unguarded. Transparent. Open. Free. This is the posture of the heart that brings us into genuine communion with Christ, strengthening our walk and gifting eternal elation to twirl through life in the overflow of His love.

Letting go of our show allows The Lord to show us how to more fully live.

She taught me a lesson in church that day in a moment that should’ve embarrassed me.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

7 Keys to Decreasing Holiday Stress & Increasing Familial Satisfaction

We’re about to enter “the most wonderful time of the year.”  At least those are the lyrics we sing.  But, according to a holiday stress study by the American Psychological Association our lives tell a different story.  Only 27 percent of women feel like they can relax during the holidays.  Beyond that, 69% of people report a lack of time and finances.  Let’s be honest: uptight, hiding in the bathroom to get a few extra minutes to ourself, and feeling the brink of broke is a better combination for human combustion than love and adoration.

So what can we do to break this mold?

Read all 7 Tips at MODSquad and enjoy other posts on celebrating holiday traditions while you are there!
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Sunday, October 6, 2013

In Everything Give Thanks {Finding Riches in our Mess}

It's evening and I'm driven to create a fall centerpiece. I'm so crazy anxious to do so that I drove to Lewis tonight for just a new permanent black marker because, of course, when I want to do something is when I find out the two black ones we own are inkless. Awesome.

Yesterday we went to a friend's pumpkin patch. She gave us free pumpkins that literally weigh more than the kids and the girls skipped around with eyes the size of saucers at the sight of pumpkins they didn't know could grow so large. While they frolicked and laughed I searched for a dining room table worthy winner. We live life on a budget and this was my opportunity.

The scents of fall are my favorite of the year. Pumpkin, apples, coffee beans....they warm and welcome and help make homes into sanctuaries. I yearn to make it so in my own.

The non-artist in me carefully...okay nervously...penned "In everything give thanks" with the 1 Thessalonians 5:18 scripture reference inside the "g." Our freebie mason jars from my mother-in-law's delicious salsa and canned peaches (sorry, Andrea, you aren't getting these back) served the perfect home for votive candles surrounded by coffee beans whose smell magnifies when the wick is lit. It turned out perfect and I proudly proclaimed it "my favorite dining room centerpiece I've ever made" to my husband who supported me in the midst of my permanent marker insanity and made me feel like I was totally normal. I love you, Charlie.



Once everything was complete, I pointed the camera for a picture.  As silly as it sounds, the decision to write on the pumpkin came after debating many possibilities and I wanted to send a photo to my mom because that was her vote.  But, when I did, I found myself moving for the "perfect" angle to portray the perfectly refined life.

I moved and I moved and I moved.  I looked at the words on the pumpkin.

And I smiled at the reality of my life so evident before me.

My husband and I waited to become parents.  We prayed.  We doctored.  We cried. We lost a baby and questioned if we had courage enough to risk again.  But we also knew that life lived to His fulfillment requires taking chances and stepping outside of comfort zones we think protect but actually imprison.

Grace came.  Hannah came.  And then Ava. 



Our house filled with toys and markers and crafting supplies that delight girls silly.  Day after day around the dining room table they gather coloring, painting, adding stickers to beautify.  And night after night my husband and I scrub away the markings from papers missed.  But, it isn't perfect.  Paint I hope a Magic Eraser can magically erase stains one end.  Sticker residue will require a google search to clean.  This free table loaded into our home when my mom got a new one is now marked with our everyday crazy, blessed, messy, real life.

Perhaps there is no such thing as the perfect angle?

And suddenly I give up trying for perfection because God whispers that sometimes it is our mess that reveals how truly blessed we are.



Thank you God for my man, these beautiful girls, our trip to the pumpkin patch, and the life-changing lesson.

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