This…THIS is what I want for every mother

blog -for every mother

The vibrant green of leaves peaking in my kitchen window, ears ringing with little voices, stomach in knots over the tussles of the morning, and slumped a bit from the week’s travel that could be described as anything but vacation (more on this soon…), I struggle to put hands to keyboard.

Right here in the messy middle of it all – just like you – my morning was full of time outs and Cheerios on the floor and rushing off to swim practice.  I changed diapers and I said the wrong thing and I folded laundry and poured bowls of cereal and rushed a song of blessing and let out a few big sighs that may have given my precious ones the impression that I am exasperated by them.  I issued a few extra kisses to try to make up for my bad attitude and hustled to assist a little one in the bathroom.  I buckled seat belts and said “I don’t know” to most the questions and shot up desperate prayers for more grace, more strength.

This is how I sit to write — nearly always convalescing from some parenting failure, usually from the last ten minutes.  My mind often burdened with a child’s need for which I have no answers.  Feeling weak beyond measure.

And yet something aches in me that I can’t bear to not tell you.  A deep beautiful grace has rained down on me, and I want it for every mama.  

Before I had children, I was cozied in my assumptions about parenthood — a sweet overflow of a loving marriage, an opportunity to leave a legacy, enrich our lives, invite joy.  Sprinkled with truth, but troubling simplistic, I thought I would just do my best, make sure they know I love them, set good boundaries, have fun, and we’d all turn out fine.  I’ve always known children are a miracle, a privilege, a gift.  I always assumed we would experience ups and downs.

But there’s a weightiness that I never imagined and a freedom that has led me to the heights.

Jesus offers this sacred invitation…”whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 39)

I never knew that motherhood was an invitation to die…  I’ve wondered at stories of reckless faith and obedience to serve where God calls, but I never knew that I could find this most holy ground right here in my home — that I could be resurrected into a new kind of living, just on the other side of dying to myself. I never knew that in motherhood I would be invited to die a million times a day, and find the freedom of a life hidden with Christ.  I never knew that I would be invited to give away my comfort, my dignity, my autonomy, my privacy, my self-preference, my efficiency, my sense of control, and that I would exchange it all for intimacy with my King, the only source of true life.

There is always a place for personal boundaries and self-care.  Take care of yourself, sister.

But joy comes in making peace with this journey of motherhood being one of sacrifice.   I’m discovering the greatest invitation in motherhood is one to lose my life to find it.

And so, as we meet needs in the wee hours of the night, give our day away as a chauffeur, or as tiny people toss their trash at us, we can find the strength to calmly parent – a privilege and a sacred mission – in the place where we let go.  We let go of our rights, our pride, our life, and our hearts are set free.

What I want for every mama is for her to experience this sacred dance before her Father in Heaven.  I long for the beautiful invisible works of her hands to feel like worship.  I ache for you to go ahead and lay it all down so that you can experience the riches of God’s grace for you.

 

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” 

Psalm 51:17

“But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”” 

2 Samuel 24:24

Hope for the inside of a mama’s head

 

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“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND.’”

Matthew 22: 37

Last night, with sweet friends filling our home, sounds of laughter and connection reverberating, I took notice of the little one who seemed to have no concern for how to interact, or with whom.  Driven by impulse, unabashed in her every move, she ran and spun, crumpling to tears, bursting with excitement, running off with confidence, coming close for reassurance, stopping to tackle her baby brother, running off to grab a friend by the cheeks, taking a quick lap around the house, just because.

Her shamelessness is puzzling and refreshing.  Her haphazardness amazing, beautiful, innocent…

But I’m struck that I sometimes allow my mind to run wild in this same way.  How unfitting.  Unlike the sweet innocent freedom of my baby girl, my chaotic and haphazard thoughts, if left unchecked, threaten my joy, steal my peace, distract and burden me…

I should have reminded the babysitter to keep the basement door closed.  I need to put on the cabinet locks.  I hope the big kids got to swim practice ok.  They all need more of me.  And more play dates, too.  And more alone time.  And probably more sleep.  How am I going to keep the boy from falling behind on reading this summer?   He’s worked so hard.  What if…?   And what am I going to do about that sweet little overlooked middle child who often disappears in her room with her hurt feelings?  What if…?  And how can I get my kids to stop fighting? And how should I cut down on our clutter?  The crafts are everywhere.  Are they learning to take responsibility for their things?   

Are we reading enough?  Are these tantrums normal?  Maybe they need healthier meals.  How do I keep my picky eaters from running our house?  I need to schedule a babysitter for next Friday.  Have I had too many babysitters lately?  Did I schedule check-ups for my summer birthday kids?  Babysitters for those, too.  Maybe we should cut out TV.  And artificial food dye.  But what about birthday parties?  I don’t want to be that mom.  Maybe I should get that wheezy little one allergy tested.  What if…?

My thoughts bounce from one worry to the next, often lacking direction, aimless and reactionary.  They mask their erraticism under the guise of getting things in order, problem solving, decision making.  But in truth, who of us by worrying can add a single hour to our lives? (Luke 12: 25).  

Often our words and actions take priority, and our thoughts are left to their own, seeming ungovernable, idiosyncratic, and presumed to be mostly harmless.

Every mama knows there is much to think about, plan for, change or organize, lead or coordinate, nurture or decide.  We use these minds God gave us for the benefit and blessing of our families…to be intentional, thoughtful and strategic.

But allowing our thoughts to pinball around, frantically condemning the past and resolving to some new future, worrying, fretting, and rolling over the “What if”s”— it is a joyless and peaceless existence.

Our worry is fruitless and distracting.  

Throughout the gospels, Jesus speaks to and answers the thoughts of a person, often instead of their words or actions.  He knows that our thoughts can govern us, drive us, control us, hold us captive.  He also knows that our minds can be renewed to align with his, that our thoughts can be steadfast on him, and lead us to all that he imagined for us as his children.  He knows that he can set us free, renew our hope, keep our peace.  And he longs to do so, through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12: 2).  Our thoughts can run rampant, but we are advised in God’s Word to never let them.

When we call to mind that God’s steadfast love endures forever, his mercies new each morning (Lamentations 3: 22-23), we have HOPE.

When we choose to believe we are whom God says we are – his children, in whom He delights – we have CONFIDENCE.

When we call to mind what God has done, we ENDURE.

When we set our minds on things of God, and not things of man, we live SUBMITTED to God’s sovereignty.

When we choose to believe God is who He says He is, that He will fight for us, we have VICTORY.  (Deuteronomy 20: 4, John 16: 33)

When we place our hope in God, He renews our STRENGTH.

When we cast our burdens on the Lord, we will NOT BE SHAKEN. (Psalm 55: 22)

When we come to Christ with our heavy burdens, we receive REST for our weary souls. (Matthew 11: 28-30)

When we reject fear, we receive God’s HELP and PRESENCE. (Isaiah 41: 13, Psalm 23: 4)

When we take our thoughts captive, and submit them to Christ… When we present our requests to him with thanksgiving, we have PEACE that guards our hearts. (Philippians 4: 4-7; 2 Corinthians 10: 5)

When we turn our thoughts to gratitude, we receive JOY.

These are all decisions we can make, actions we can take.  Our thoughts don’t just happen to us, mamas, we choose and direct them.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4: 8

As our little ones grow out of toddlerhood, they need not simply lose the freedom with which they began.  As they mature, they can grow into the even more exquisite freedom intended for the children of God.  Mamas, let’s walk in the freedom Christ intended for us, and give our children a beautiful example of what true freedom looks like.

Today, sweet friends, let’s test our thoughts against the truth of God’s Word, grab hold of them and allow them to come under God’s promises.

And let’s drink of the boundless freedom, the steadfast joy, the unshakable peace, the enduring hope that God intends for us, his beloved children.

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When you feel like you’re in the desert…Why you might need to look for a burning bush

Now Moses was tending the flock…There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”  When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”  “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  

The Lord said…”I am sending you…”  

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go…?”  

And God said, “I will be with you…” 

Exodus 3: 1-12 (Paraphrase)

 

No matter how many words I spill about how we mamas don’t have to be the perfect heroes, because we have a perfect hero in Jesus…  No matter how I breathe in freedom that God chose me and delights in me and offers me his never-ending, ever-sufficient grace… I still rise in the morning and sit to this keyboard, feeling like I should offer strength, bring wisdom, do it better.  I wish I could tell you how to make it all easier.  I wish I could tell you that I figured it all out.

But truthfully, I grasp for my own encouragement as I sit with a heavy body, a burdened soul, a fickle heart, a cluttered mind.  Perhaps you feel the same as you grasp for a quick minute to read words that you hope can encourage you for your day.

I used to think being a mom was just about making good decisions, about doing it right, about meeting needs and saying “I love you” and guiding and disciplining with wisdom and patience and grace.  Yes!  To all of these things, yes….

But it felt so straightforward.

And then I stared back at these little eyes staring at me.  Eyes that didn’t look like mine and needed me to tell them who they are.  Eyes that longed, wondered, tested, and needed more than I could give.  I looked at a little body that was sick or hurt, and I couldn’t fix it.  I saw these eyes that stung when I was not patient.  I watched my unique children experience the same events, transitions, words completely differently — one laughs, and the other runs and hides.  One has days of tears and irritability after a change, and the other seems to have only relief.  I peered into little souls that were afraid of things that we could not control.  I have sent my heart out on legs into unknown places and watched them be scared, face hardship, get hurt, feel confused.  I faced eyes of tiny people who just wanted to know I was pleased, and I sometimes felt my face contorted into a scowl that I never wanted to have on my face.

At some point I was faced with the question that perhaps parenting was about something other than doing it all right?

In the midst of my soul searching God’s over the mystery of having children — a road of failure and uncertainty and giving beyond my limits and letting go beyond my comfort — I have become aware of a quiet invitation This invitation was set ablaze in me.  And in these wildly arduous and agonizingly beautiful days with little ones, I want no mom to miss this thing that now burns in my belly and drives me to keep spilling these words.

I hear a voice calling — in the middle of deserts of inadequacy and invisibility and uncertainty and mind-numbing repetitiveness – God’s voice is beckoning me to come closer…

When I feel weak, He says “Come, let my power be made perfect in your weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12: 9)

When I feel invisible, He says “Come, let me tell you how I see you…” (Psalm 139)

When I feel tired, He says “Come, let me renew your strength…” (Isaiah 40: 31)

When I feel pressure, He says “Come, cast your burden on me, and I will lift your chin and lighten your step” (Matthew 11: 30)

When I feel ashamed of my failure and inadequacy, He says “Come, let me cleanse you in my grace, and you will give away what you receive.”  (1 John 1: 9(

When I feel worried and anxious, He says “Come, let me give you my peace that passes understanding.” (Philippians 4: 6-7)

When I feel worn by the dishes, laundry, diapers, arguments, words, He says “Come, whatever you do, do it all unto me.  The work of your hands is as a song of worship to my ears.”

The very things that make me feel like I have nothing to offer…these have been a door to find God’s heart for me in motherhood.  The very things that stretch us beyond our limits and make it feel just too dang hard…these seem to be a key to unlock the elusive joy and peace and freedom we all know we should have.  When I feel like I’m wandering the desert, the Lord says “Come.  Draw close.  Fear not.  I am calling you.  I will be with you.  Though you feel weak and unimpressive and never enough — I am sending you to be my ambassador to my people…these tiny, adorable, royal bearers of My image.  To these, you will be a vessel of MY love, a mouthpiece of MY truth, a fountain of MY grace.”

Take off your sandals, Mama.  You are on holy ground…

My friend, whether you have little ones or grown ones or simply dreams of a full home in the future, listen today for the voice that beckons you through the things that you might think are in your way.

 

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A sweet moment of invitation from the weekend… And the Lord says “Come.”

Why you don’t need to be afraid to give it all

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A short-antlered buck gnaws at the lime green leaves of our freshly planted dogwood, and the fresh anxieties of the day begin gnaw at my heart.

My first sip of hot coffee touches my lips with all it’s promise of a boost of energy for the day, and the first cries of precious voices touch my ears, and my heart opens desperate wide for a touch of grace from my King.

Yesterday was one of those days when I drove my van sputtering into the gas station after my gas light came on way too late to be helpful.  And last night was one of those when my body and soul came sputtering into bed, having run the last few hours on empty, as well.  I should have noticed the needle creeping down on the fuel gauge, and I should have seen the signs of my patience and grace wearing thin.

But sometimes we just don’t know what we need until it’s almost too late.

And I want to think that these are just little insignificant moments, but then life is just a collection of little insignificant moments, and what does it looks like to live them well?  These few short years when my kids are here and listening…what does it look like to give them my best?

Sister, it frustrates me to no end that I sometimes try to function like I was made in the image of my gas tank – when, truly – you and I were made in the image of the Almighty God of the Universe.  Our gas tanks and our hearts are actually nothing alike.  We don’t have to use up all our resources, only to hit empty with sputters and short-fuses and failure and fatigue and desperation.  We don’t need to refill with some magical boost of energy and wisdom that will last us the next week or two.

We are far more like a branch on that sweet little tree in my front yard, with roots that grow further down and sit steadier and drink deeper and stay connected.  Unlike our gas tanks, we can choose to keep our souls attached to the source of grace, trusting that the supply will not run out.

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There is a still small voice that beckons and pursues our hearts, and offers a lot more grace than my gas light.  We can listen and align and drink and stretch to new heights, as we give the refreshment of that grace away.  

As a mom, I often feel like I’m giving away what I’ve had for about two seconds.  I wake and decide where my spirit and attitude rest, then my children wake and I set the tone with that thing I just decided.  In ugly moments, I have to stop and breathe, and receive the grace not to react – and in that very moment, I get to give away the grace I’m receiving.  My children ask me what’s wrong as I hang up the phone, and I have an opportunity to speak out loud the truth I am deciding to believe right in that very moment about the news I just heard.  The truths we speak reshape our hearts.

There is a time to draw away and be alone with God, yes… seek and pursue this!  But a mama’s reality is that often when we wish to draw away, we cannot…and so, we are invited to give away not what we received yesterday, last week, or even this morning, but to give away God’s grace, as we are drinking from the fountain that never empties.

Don’t be afraid of running out of steam today, sweet sister.  Go ahead, give your service, your attention, your caring, your patience, your grace.   Not in a way that is resentful, or martyr-like, or neglecting self-care, but in a genuine fearless offering of yourself through those moments when you are needed beyond what is comfortable to give.

As you give your life away, you will find it in your Savior who gave his for you.  

There is an ever-flowing, never-emptying fountain of grace available for you, sweet friend.  As you pour yourself out today, don’t empty out like a gas tank… stay connected to the source of refreshment.  Breathe and drink of God’s grace right there in the midst of your moments, believing that the water only gets sweeter and the color of your life only get’s richer, and the heights of your joy and peace only get higher, and the fruit only gets more plentiful.