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The deep satisfaction of giving it all away

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Everyone is buckled into the minivan, and for a moment, I just breathe.

I linger in the garage doorway and search the crevices of my mind for forgotten tasks and items.  I can’t remember the last morning we didn’t forget something, but my overloaded brain doesn’t seem capable of doing anything other than recovering from the chaos of the last 40 minutes.  
I’m pretty sure one or two of the kids never actually ate any of their breakfast, and I know for certain that I didn’t brush the baby’s teeth.  I hope, but probably won’t ask, whether or not everyone is wearing socks under their shoes.  

I shove one last sippy cup into my giant tote, along with a pair of sneakers for the littlest, whose bare little toes I recall kissing as I buckled him into his carseat.  I’m quite certain today will be the day the straps finally break on this bag, hanging over my right shoulder – the one that’s been serving quadruple duty as purse, diaper bag, pantry, and fix-all treasure chest.  

I grab my coffee in my other hand, and my sunglasses between my lips, and open the door to the garage, where my little ones have been waiting for approximately seventeen seconds.  

Before I even have the door fully opened, I hear a chorus of “Mommy!” and the names of those who need to be tattled on.  I decipher a request for music and a few desperate pleas for food and water, though the only thing we’ve done since breakfast is get into the car.  

How can there be this many problems by 8am?  How can I be tired already?  

I’m just now glancing in the mirror for the first time of the morning, and I’m thankful to find a hairband around my wrist to throw my mess of hair into a high bun.  

Friends, this motherhood thing is no joke.  Full and abundant, relentless and exhausting. It’s no wonder so many mamas can’t seem to stop the complaining from spilling out of their mouths, whenever they happen upon a listening ear.  

A handful of years ago, I found myself stumbling into stay-at-home motherhood, and subsequently, into playgroups and mommy meet-ups.  I found myself frustrated and confused that we all seemed to sit around talking about how little sleep we got or how long our husband’s work hours were, or how strong-willed our child was, as if it might make us feel better if we won the medal for “Hardest life.”  I was frustrated with other moms, and I was frustrated with myself, for going right along with the negativity.  I knew we should be more grateful, but it was also nice to connect with others who “get it.”

I absolutely adored my children, and often times the negative words leaking from my mouth didn’t even feel true.  I was just grasping at an opportunity to be seen in what I was working so hard to do, but for which the world seemed to have no words or appreciation.  

In that season, part of me still believed that the menial tasks of motherhood were beneath me.  I thought I should be doing something bigger or more impressive.  Or at least doing this “small” job more perfectly.  Yet, another part of me felt like being a stay-at-home mom was the most difficult thing I had ever done.

Though I knew that I knew that I knew that my children were an absolute gift, on many days, I found myself falling into a puddle of self-pity.  

I felt sorry for myself for not being understood.  I felt sorry for myself that I had nothing to show for the soul-crushing day I had just survived.  I felt sorry for myself that I was giving and giving, even when I was tired, or sick, or sad, or lonely.  I felt sorry for myself for the emptiness I felt, even when my home was full of adorable little faces.

More than anything, I felt deeply ashamed of my ingratitude.  Right alongside friends longing for a family or struggling to get pregnant, or wishing to be home with their children more, I often looked at my children and felt unworthy to be their mama, wondering why the mere look of them wasn’t filling my life with total joy and satisfaction.

At some point, I determined I must be missing something.  This simply could not be it.  This could not be God’s heart and desire for me.  

I didn’t want to be like the grandmas in the grocery store who tell me to soak it up because this is the best time of my life.  I didn’t want to tell every new mom for the rest of my life that it’s going to go way too fast.  I didn’t want to just survive this, and then regret all that I missed by not figuring out how to love it while it was happening.  I didn’t want to fill up photo albums to create memories of things that I didn’t actually enjoy very much.  

I wanted to live these moments.  I wanted to soak them up in a way that changed me. 

I began to wonder what would happen if I just stopped giving everything to my family begrudgingly, and started giving as if this was all I was ever meant to do.  I had always loved long snuggles and bedtime stories, but what if I gave the same energy to laundry and diapers, and arguments and bad attitudes? 

What if I poured my energy into, not just the fun moments of parenting, but all of these in-between mundane moments, as if these days were the only ones I’d bring before the throne of Christ, at the end of my life?

I began to have eyes to see all of the ways that I had been grasping to keep my life in tact…I rolled my eyes at the messes, because I was trying to preserve my dignity.  When a child was disrespectful, I crossed my arms repulsed, because I was trying to preserve my pride.  After a certain amount of work, I began to function out of this thinking that I really deserved a break, because I was trying to preserve my comfort.  I sputtered awkward answers at a cocktail party about what I did other than “stay at home” because I was trying to preserve my relevance in the world.  I was bitter about being late because I was trying to preserve my image as a dependable, punctual, responsible adult.  

I began to wonder what it would feel like to treat my children like the vulnerable Least of These Jesus talked about, and to give it all away with reckless abandon.  What if I simply threw my life into this thing the Lord has given me to do —  not neglecting self-care, but abandoning myself to be poured out — and let the Lord give me his abundance, right in the middle of the mess?  

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  Matthew 16: 25

As I threw off my fears of keeping it all together, and let motherhood get a bit messier, giving when I had nothing left, because I chose to believe God gave me each of these little things to do, I began to find the life I had been so afraid to lose.  I found purpose inside of my own four walls, and deep joy in the middle of chaos.  I found myself delighting in my children, not just in the peaceful and sweet spaces, but in the disheveled and unpredictable ones, too.  I began to find abundance in the emptiest moments, energy in the midst of sleep deprivation, fun in the middle of work, and worship in the middle of mundane.  And I found deep satisfaction in the in-between, invisible, far from Instagram-worthy moments that only God could see.  

I began to discover the heart of God to fill us up as we are poured out, and to let us share in lavish resurrection living as we share in the death of Christ by abandoning our preferences, pride, comfort and convenience.  

No matter what your day-to-day looks like, sister, whether you are a stay-at-home mama, or you are juggling work and home, whether you have tiny ones or teenagers, be encouraged that God’s heart is to strengthen you out of his glorious riches, with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (Eph 3: 16). 

As we pour our lives out in places where we can’t receive back… As we offer forgiveness seventy times seven times… As we let our lives be poured out like a drink offering… As we choose to release our pride, our comfort, our lives to whatever little tasks are put before us… we see the abundant grace of God multiply in our hearts and homes.

Why heart connection is the secret to effective discipline

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One of your sweet ones is turning her back on you, working her best scowl or eye roll, and communicating mostly in grunts.  Some child you birthed – in heart or body – has decided to do the opposite of whatever you say.

And you wonder, where did I go wrong? When did my words lose their power?  When did she stop trusting that I am on her team?  When did I become the enemy?

Taking independence and testing boundaries are a normal part of growing up.  But I think the behavior of our children can also offer us clues about what’s happening in their hearts.

 

Sisters, through my last nine and a half years of parenting, my husband and I have tried all kinds of discipline strategies with our five unique little people.  We’ve tried Time Outs and logical consequences and taking away privileges and earning privileges and behavior charts.  I read many of the books I could find about how to fix bad behavior and get our children to listen.

And I have stumbled the sloppy, hard way into this revelation of a piercing and strikingly simple reality.  When patterns of distrust and disobedience are developing in my home, there is one thing that is almost always true.

Our hearts are not connected.

Maybe I didn’t stop to hear about her day.  Maybe I said something that hurt her feelings.    Or maybe she is just carrying something that I don’t know about – disappointment or hurt or fear or worry, and somehow she ended up feeling like she has to carry it all by herself.

Maybe someone spoke mean words on the playground, or he is embarrassed about a mistake he made in his soccer game.  Maybe he is just discouraged by one too many corrections today.

But if I am not connected with these places of hurt in the hearts of my children, then I am inclined to assume that bad attitudes and defiance are just that. . . bad attitudes and defiance.  When in fact, bad attitudes and defiance might be the only open window to what’s really going on inside of their sweet little chests.

This is not to excuse negative behavior, or to say that defiance always points to a hurt heart or connection.  Children misbehave from a shockingly young age, and so much of our job as parents is to teach them where the boundaries are.  Toddlers might throw their plate on the floor four million times just to make sure you are going to send them to Time Out every single time.  They might hit because they want to know what kind of sound you will make, and what kind of power they hold in their little fists.

But, if our children are taught healthy boundaries from a young age, and have the capacity to obey, then these behaviors eventually fade away.  Right?

 

As our children grow, we have a choice to make about how we will interpret their attitudes and behavior.  I’ve begun to notice in my older children that a well-loved heart at rest doesn’t generally feel the need to act out.

If one of my children is acting out, I am trying to take the opportunity to look for clues and consider that they might be crying out for help.  God is softening my heart and pulling the scales from my eyes to see these little heart cries all day long in my home.

Help.  I feel like I’m all alone and I’m going to show you how terribly alone I feel by telling you to “Go away.”

Help.  I am going to make you see me right now, even if I have to scream and yell and hit, because I feel like you just don’t see me.

Help. I am saying mean things because I never want to feel so small and powerless like I did on the playground today when mean things were spoken to me.  

Help.  I feel like I’m losing control and I need you to tell me I’m going to be ok.

Hurt little hearts will do just about anything to make themselves feel better. . . by getting attention, by asserting their power, by pushing you away, by convincing themselves they are actually in charge.

And the opposite is also true.  When our children feel heard and understood, seen and known, confident of our love and desire for their best, they are simply more likely to trust us, and therefore more likely to listen and obey.

Boundaries remain firm and consistent in our home, and sometimes that means that my husband and I let our children be mad at us.  It is right and good and loving to hold the boundaries firmly!  But I believe from the depths of me that heart connection and effective discipline go hand-in-hand.  This has become a helpful “heart check” for me.

My son is acting like I’m his enemy.  Am I connecting with his heart?

My daughter has a bad attitude about everything I’m asking her to do.  Have I asked lately about that scuffle with her friends at school?  Or how she’s feeling about her daddy’s travel?

So often, when I get off of the discipline train for a few minutes to explore the heart of one of my children – without agenda, other than to connect and know them better – I discover a previously unspoken fear, anxiety, or hurt. . . something they were convinced they had to hold alone.  And once they are seen and known and loved in that tender place, the eye rolls and shrugs melt away, right along with our discipline struggles.

Even my youngest children seem to respond to extra snuggles, or whispers about my love, after a hard moment, or a hard day.

And isn’t my heart the same?

Like so many things that I notice about the hearts of my children, this reality is found tucked inside my own heart as well, as it relates to my Heavenly Father.

When the depths of my heart connect with the love God has for me. . . When I am believing that he is working all things for my best. . . When I am confident that He delights in me. . . I am simply compelled to love and serve Him.

And when I feel wounded by something I’ve perceived was against me – bad news, an unanswered prayer, a failure or disappointment, confusion about something I thought God called me to – I get discouraged and try to take things into my own hands.  I shrug my shoulders at Him and neglect to ask Him what he thinks about my day.  I stuff my ears with busyness and pressures and numbing to turn the volume down on God’s voice.

Obedience is interwoven with believing we are loved.  Trust is interwoven with believing we are seen and known.  Courage is interwoven with believing we are believed in.  Confidence is interwoven with believing we are delighted in.  

Sister, if you feel up against a wall with one of your children, like I often have, would you get off the discipline train for a few minutes with me today, and connect with the hearts of your children?

Search and discover their deep places, as if you are on a treasure hunt.

Pray for eyes to see and ears to hear.

Watch and listen for little bruises or untruths that they are holding.  Reassure them of their true identity as your beloved child and as a beloved child of God.  Adorn them with blessings and confidence about who they are becoming.  Remind them of the beautiful vision you have for their life.

I pray that this habit transforms discipline in your home, the way it has in mine.

How to absolutely delight in your children

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That squishy kind of love.

I want to be one of those mamas who can’t stop giggling at her children.

I want to be the mom who loves to watch them, loves to dance with them, loves to sing along to their made-up songs, and hides around the corner of the room to watch them jabber to themselves, or to catch a glimpse of a sweet sibling moment.

I want to be the mom who runs to greet my sweet ones in the morning, and throws my arms around them.  I want to soak up the late night chats and smile often.  I want to live interruptible to their requests and questions and needs for band-aids.  I want to watch their goofy antics with the attitude of “Show me again!” and not “Hurry up.”   I want to hang their pictures on my bathroom mirror, and wear the macaroni necklace they made me.

I want to be the mom who tells them daily what makes them unique, and reminds them often about the beautiful purposes they were made for.  I want to be the mom who lingers in evening prayers because I just like the sound of their names lifted to heaven.  I want my love to pour out uninhibited, even in the ugliest moments.  I want truth and shepherding, discipline and accountability to flow gently and lovingly from a place of  unwavering love and affection.

Guys, I want to be the mom who loves summer.   I really do.  I want to be the mama who can’t get enough of my children.  I want it because I believe it will make them world changers.  I want it because I believe this love will be a launching pad for them, and I want to usher them into the boundless love of God.

I want to love a little more like a spunky little daughter of mine, with bouncy curls, boundless affection, and radiant joy.

Residing in the tiny chest of my three-year-old daughter is this heart that is reckless and free, unbound and bursting with all things beautiful.  Perhaps you have a child like this one, who loves with a shameless love that spills all over the place, without concern for the mess.  She is fearless and uninhibited.  Daring and brave.  Her heart is always spilling and never pulling back because it can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be loved back.

It’s the kind of love with which our deepest hollow places ache to be filled, but that starts to leak the first time we get hurt, rejected or ridiculed.

This little daughter of mine begins her days with hopeful anticipation of which friends she might see, and how many new ones she might make.  She has a curious habit of walking up to strangers and saying “Hi.  I like your face.”  She regularly invites people of all ages to have a “chat” with her.  And she often grabs my face and tells me that she thinks I’m cute, and she never ever wants to let go.

I learn more about the wildly unrestrained love of God from this child, than I could from a library of books on the subject.  It’s just not the kind of love our tattered and worn hearts dare to imagine.

Those of us with a few more years behind us tend to look on little children with fearless love, and think it sweet, but we generally assume they will grow out of it.  As they begin to see that the world isn’t so warm and fuzzy, they will tighten up the reins on their affections.

But I have to wonder if this is one of those things we “gain” through the years of our lives, which isn’t really wisdom or maturity, so much as damage to hearts that were meant to love without fear.  

Maybe these little ones have a purer understanding of the love of God that we’re meant to know, because their image of it has not yet been tainted.  And maybe true wisdom is to heed the words of Jesus to be a little more like them…in their humility, in their openness, in their receiving and relying on Love.

1 John 4: 16-18 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

Matthew 11: 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

There is NO fear in love.

Reckless love flows from deep within a heart well-loved.  A young child who has never had reason to doubt that they are loved, has no reason to hold their love back from others.  When they have felt cared for and delighted in, relationships hold possibility, hope, and excitement.  This, of course, is not true for a child who has not received love and care, and often ceases to be true when relationships get messy, and hurt and fear and insecurity enter in.

So how do we convince our shattered hearts to stop being afraid?  How do we love freely and fearlessly once again, or for the first time?  How do we become the mamas who can’t stop our ferocious love and pure delight from pouring out on our children?

Be the loved child.

Be the loved child.

Be the Delighted-in, Believed-in, Beloved one who can’t imagine not being loved back, because she is simply drowning in the ferocious love of her Heavenly Father.

Friend, this is our identity and our destiny.

You ARE the loved child of God who can love without fear!

I have had seasons of feeling so frustrated and short-fused with my children, not wanting to be merciful with their bad attitudes and misbehavior.  I have had seasons of feeling disconnected from their hearts, and resenting them for being unhelpful or disrespectful or needy.  I have had these days when I look at my heart and see coldness and pride, and wonder what happened to my mother’s heart of pure adoration for my children.  I cycled in and out of days like this, blaming it on sleep deprivation or just a bad day…until I had this troubling and beautiful realization…

If a child loved well by parents loves readily, than a loved “Child” of God (at any age) ought to love all the more freely.  If I know God’s love and delight, than love and delight ought to be pouring out of me, especially onto my own children.

And I am finding this to be true.  When I spend time letting God tell me what he thinks of me, the coldness falls off of my heart.  When I let God tell me that he is pleased, my critical spirit melts away.  When I let myself look into God’s delighting eyes, I catch a glimpse of his pure eyes for those around me.  When I live like the loved child of God that I am, love comes easy.

Be the loved child and you won’t be able to stop the love from springing out of your overflowing heart.  

Whatever parenting challenge you are facing today, start here:  God loves you, sister, and takes great delight in you.  In Christ, God’s love and affection, mercy and grace, are yours.  His smiling eyes are on you, longing to pour out his compassion, longing to hold you and bind up your broken heart.  He longs to carry your burdens, and renew your strength.  He longs to tell you how he knit you together, and calls you his masterpiece, how he knows every hair on your head, and catches your every tear in a bottle.

If we know we are fully loved, we can love like our hearts have never been bruised.  The “Delighted In” cannot help but love with grace, with truth, with reckless abandon.

So, if you’re wondering today how to love your family like you’ve never dreamed possible, first, be loved beyond your wildest imagination by a Father God who calls you “My delight is in her.” (Isaiah 62: 4)

 

Psalm 149: 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.

Zephaniah 3: 17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Jeremiah 31: 3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Why your children really need you to be imperfect

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Ephesians 2: 8-9 For by grace you have been saved, through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This day after Easter has me so deeply grateful for a Savior who reached out to save us, right smack in the middle of our mess… a Christ who went to the cross saying “Forgive them.”

I’m awestruck with the goodness and mercy of Jesus, who knew how we would think we know better.  He knew we would try to take matters into our own hands.  He knew our weakness, and He loved us first.  Jesus took on all of our brokenness and self-reliance and outright rebellion, just because he wanted to be with us forever.  Hallelujah!

But this day after Easter also has me thinking it tragic how many of us moms in Christ seem to leave all of this freedom at the door of our homes.

Maybe we walk in freedom at church, at work, in friendships, in ministry, but with our children, we writhe in guilt and carry all the weight of our own brokenness solidly on our own shoulders.

Can you relate?

The pressure to be a “good mom” is enough to squeeze all of the freedom right out of parenting.

Continue reading “Why your children really need you to be imperfect”

When running out of options is the best thing that ever happened

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You know those evenings when you’re desperate for the day to come to a close, but you know that the instant your head hits your pillow, someone will need you?

You know those days when a cacophony of coughs and wheezes and sneezes and cries rings through walls and over baby monitors, and you know you’re going to be rubbing backs or dishing up medicine or rocking someone back to sleep any minute…so why even bother?

Midnight snuggles are precious, holy moments, but winter germs are a bit merciless, and I’ve had at least a dozen of those nights in the last three weeks.

I know I’m not the only one.

Despite the precious moments we try to embrace, we can’t help but notice that parenting sometimes seems to require giving on empty for a wildly unforgiving amount of time.  As a mom, you might be left to look around and wonder if anyone sees or anyone cares that you’ve had to pee for three hours, but haven’t had a chance… or that you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in years… or that you’ve answered so many questions today that “What’s for dinner?” makes you want to scream.

Parenting requires a fierce devotion to meet the others’ need, when you feel like your own is getting smashed under everyone’s muddy shoes. 

 

In my early years of motherhood, I thought I just had to muscle through, just keep it all together, be enough, stay strong, keep going.  And I had very little reason to doubt that I would make it through the little years this way.

I had everything a mom could ask for – healthy kids, supportive husband, loving community, good sleepers – and so, my system of staying on my game and being everything for everyone seemed to work just fine.  But underneath my shell of strength was the fear that I wouldn’t actually make it, if anything ever went really wrong.

I struggled to admit to myself or to God how desperately I loved my children, because it would leave me raw and vulnerable to the possibility of being flattened by hardship or tragedy.  Other parents joked about starting counseling funds because of the wounds we would unintentionally and inevitably give to our children, but everything in me said No…that wouldn’t be ok…I simply must succeed.  I couldn’t tolerate the reality that I could and would fail.  In that season, when I encountered difficult situations, other parents suffering loss or injury or illness or hardship with their children, my heart would simply beg Please, God, not us and my mind would concede I couldn’t survive it.

Something in me knew that my “Head down and hope for the best” mindset was a bit flimsy, but I didn’t yet know another option.

Continue reading “When running out of options is the best thing that ever happened”

How to see the radical love of God in absolutely everything

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My firm expectation that life was generally supposed to be awesome, was only mildly muddied by the bumps I faced, in my younger years.  I predominantly maintained the philosophy that heartbreak, uncertainty, angst, and grief were the exception.  And that life was “supposed” to mostly feel good.

I thought the goal was to remove the obstacles, be always moving towards settling the disquietude, solving the problem, removing the pain, learning the lesson as quickly as possible, so I could do better.  Be better.  Fail less.  Hurt less.

And when I became a mom, I thought motherhood was “supposed” to feel amazing almost all of the time, too.  I was always thinking about how to remove or repair the things standing in the way of experiencing motherhood as mostly fun and wonderful.

The wheels of my mind spun with new answers and things I had read, formulas and systems and solutions to fix myself and my children and my home right up into the perfect versions I thought they should be.

Continue reading “How to see the radical love of God in absolutely everything”

When you need to hurry up and be the unshakable mama you long to be

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Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 62: 6

Many Monday mornings over the last nine years, I opened my weary eyes and glanced at the clock, only to feel as though I was already behind in every way.  Not enough time, not enough sleep, not enough exercise, not enough quiet space before the Throne of Grace.

Many Monday mornings, I looked down at these feet and wondered how they would take each of the steps required of them.

Many Monday mornings, my first inclination was to billow with strategy, to rank my To Do’s in order of priority, and to hustle.  As I scurried around, I tried to breathe strength into my own heart and bones, simply by flexing my measly muscles beneath the weight of it all.

And I usually ran out of steam and patience about 8 minutes later.  Cheeks flushed, eyes of furry, an unruly snippiness in my tone, and a gut-deep unease that I’m not cut out for this job…all by 7:38am.

Oh mamas, how do we steady our hearts and minds so that we’re not getting buckled up in the minivan already heavy with defeat, when the sun has only been up for two hours?  Don’t we all ache to be steady, unflappable, not so easily thrown?

Continue reading “When you need to hurry up and be the unshakable mama you long to be”

Are you a weary and burdened mama?

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His tiny hand of butter and silk stroked my face, from the tip of my brow, to the crest of my lip, sometimes with a brief pause to pinch my nose.

It was one of those sleepless nights full of unexplained cries and sleepy snuggles, and so – ready or not – my Littlest and I greeted the morning together.

My eyelids fluttered and lingered shut for too long a moment for his liking.  But he didn’t cry.  He rustled me patiently and gently, letting me know he was content just to be close, but would prefer my wakeful attention.  The charm of the thing was almost more than a heart can hold.

The tender affection of a little one, so precious and pure – it humbles the heart.

This first moment of the morning ushered in the equally obvious and revolutionary realization that being a mama is absolutely and completely a gift.

Worth it.  Blessed.  Abundant.  A joy.

So why didn’t I seem so grateful for the opportunity to shepherd and care for my children, less than an hour later?

Another snow day, another breakfast mess, another runny nose, another fresh cover of toys on freshly mopped floor, another fight over morning chores, another pile of laundry.  A new round of bickering, tattling, back-talking, noise.  Another attempt at morning devotions ending in lecture about respect and inappropriate times for silliness.

And all before 8am.  Same old story.

There is this ever-common experience that mamas seem to share…that we unreservedly know that our children are a gift, and we manifestly struggle to walk in that truth through the mess of the day.

Continue reading “Are you a weary and burdened mama?”

Embracing the gift of waiting, in a world that forgot how

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Sweet eyes of wonder, watching the snow come down…

Wait for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait for the LORD.

Psalm 27:14

Christmas season as a mama of young children sometimes feels like a deep isometric stretch – a steady work of holding joy and calm, while the muscles of the heart burns with laying our lives down, carrying the load of work for the sake of our family’s jubilation.

Together, we hold the immense privilege and the immense responsibility of being mama.

I feel on my shoulders the honor and the duty to steer through the busyness with grace, while working to create a home of peace, and a steadfast notice of Emmanuel.

This season, I revel in the abundance of joy, the abundance of events, the abundance of distractions, the abundance of blessing, the sheer abundance of the day.  And I’m holding a posture of praise with quivering muscles, while the rush of more, faster, better badgers me.

You too, Mama?

The eyes of our children are full of hopeful expectancy and carefree delight.  The days are sprinkled with countdowns and Advent calendars full of chocolate and burgeoning excitement that sometimes feels more like a tornado in our homes.  But their waiting is what makes Christmas morning so sweet.  Their waiting draws them in, and prepares their hearts for explosive joy on Christmas morning.

The mystery breeds the magic.

And for all of us, Advent is about waiting and preparing, yes for presents, but ultimately for the most extraordinary gift of Christ.  But I can’t help but notice that we aren’t very good at waiting these days.  In the days of high-speed internet, digital pictures (remember when we had to take them to get developed?), Amazon Prime with free one day delivery, and GoogleMaps that can tell us how to avoid the traffic…waiting can feel unfamiliar, and awkward.

I think God’s Word whispers that waiting and faith go hand-in-hand, and I sense a sweetness in resting in the arms of God in the in-between place.

 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  This is what the ancients were commended for.

Hebrews 11: 1-2 NIV

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Isaiah 25: 9 KJV

I wonder if Advent is meant to invite us in to the mystery that requires us to trust.  I wonder if preparing to receive Christ looks a bit like working the muscle of delighting in God amidst waiting.  The heroes of our faith drew close to the heart of God while waiting for answers to prayers, waiting for promises to be fulfilled, waiting for dreams to come true.  I’m falling in love with a season placed in our calendars that was meant to invite us to wait and prepare to freshly receive the fulfillment of the greatest promise – the promise of a Rescuer, a Savior, a King.

In 2017, busy is a bit more comfortable than slow.  A season to get things done is more familiar than a season meant to be an interlude.  Most of us feel more closely acquainted with work than with rest.

But I sense a beautiful invitation in Advent, to find God in the pause, to let our hearts rest in the wait, to let our wonder and our longing grow, and to let a joyful anticipation for Christ well up in our souls.

I taste the wonder of Christmas when I sing Silent Night, or when I sit by our Christmas tree and watch the flames wink and dance in my fireplace.  I feel that flutter of excitement in my chest, and for a moment, I grasp the magnitude of God With Us, as I simply let my heart pause and accept the discomfort of still.   

In waiting, God invites us to come a little bit closer to his heart, and to be held, not by certainty and predictability, but by his arms of goodness and grace.  

Whatever you might be waiting for this Christmas…a prayer to be answered, a longing to be fulfilled, or simply to be finished with all the To Do’s of the season, may your aching be met by the eyes of God inviting you to be held.

And may your Christmas morning be a sweet fulfillment of your deepest longing…may you feel met by Lover of our Souls, who came to dwell among us, to reconcile us to himself, and to invite us into the intimate nearness with him that we were made to enjoy.

 

Eight ways to keep your peace in the holiday rush

Version 2

Don’t we all just long for our feet to stay steady on the ground, as the hustle and bustle of Christmas season swirls around us?

We yearn for anchored, thankful hearts and peaceful souls, as we attempt to make space to receive Christ anew, and bless loved ones with tokens of our love.

Don’t we all wish to approach the 25th with light steps and full of grace?  To wake easy to the joy of God with us, and to an idyllic Christmas dream?  To the smell of pine and the warmth of fire?  To smiling and grateful children greeting stockings in a row, and neatly packaged presents under perfectly trimmed tree?

But in real life, advent is often packed full of overlapping parties and school events, financial stress and long lists of things that need to be done.  Your little people still get tummy aches and runny noses, and toddlers shatter ornaments on the hardwood floor.

In real life, children sometimes forget to say “Thank you,” and we sometimes forget all about Jesus under piles of wrapping paper.

This time, I’m fighting hard for slow.  This year, making quiet for God’s voice to be heard and receiving his peace, is at the top of every day’s list.  I still get swept away by my To Do lists and the internal pressure to make my family’s Christmas perfect, but I’m grabbing hold of getting to Christmas morning with a bit of peace.

Here are a few of my favorites…

1.  Begin each day with a prayer, like this one, giving your day into the hands of the King.

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2.  Make a habit of stopping when the rest of the world is going.  Every time the pressure says “go,” just do the opposite, even if just for a moment.  Take a breath, and remember that we were never meant to carry the weight of the world, because we know the One who carried it all on our behalf.

Breathe out the demands, and breathe in Christ’s sufficiency.  While driving to work or school or soccer practice, use red lights as a cue to stop not only your car, but your busy thoughts, as well.  Take a moment to simply be smiled upon by your Father in heaven.

My most meaningfully productive days are those submitted to the King of Kings, who is “busy,” but never in a hurry.  Friends, we were created as limited beings, so we can rest assured we are only meant to be in one place at a time.

3.  Begin every shopping adventure – whether out-and-about or online – with a prayer for each person on your list.  Ask God for his eyes for your loved ones, and let your shopping be sweetened with His presence.

4.  Light a fire or a candle – perhaps while little ones are in bed – and let the subtle change in the atmosphere usher you into a readiness to connect with God.  This practice simply slows me, and soothes my restless soul.  The glint and dance of orange and yellow reminds me of the way the Spirit of God moves in and through and around us.  I love to turn on a worship song, sit with a hot drink, and watch the flames flicker, while asking God to whisper to me about his love.   

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5.  Every time someone in your home says (or screams) “Mommy!”… whisper “Father, Abba,” in the quiet of your heart.  Let your children be an example of the way we are invited to call upon the Lord with the needs of our days.  May their constant requests move you to ceaseless prayer.

6.  Spread a little Christmas cheer by smiling at your family and passersby, every time you meet their eye.  The busy of roads, malls, minds and hearts can steal anyone’s joy, if we let it.  I try to keep this simple habit, especially through the holiday season, and it shields my soul from the raging currents of more, faster, bigger, and better.

Sister, we can be agents of joy, rather than victims of everyone’s bad moods.

7.  Keep a notebook at the table to use mealtime as an opportunity for your family to write a list of the blessings in your lives.  Take a moment to give thanks together. If you are feeling overwhelmed by complicated advent devotions and routines, this is a simple habit you can start any time.  There is no right or wrong way to do it, and you can’t get behind.  Praise opens us up to connect with God’s heart.

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8.  Watch your children often, in this season.  Watch the blaze in their eyes as they sit near the Christmas tree.  Watch their faces when they see lights lining the edges of a house.  Soak in their sweet faces, and learn what it means to live with eyes of wonder.

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Click here for a printable Advent Prayer