Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fill myself? Or be filled?

It's a popular saying: Take time to fill yourself, you can't pour from an empty cup.  This bumper sticker slogan is something that echos through the mothering world right now. Although I do get what it's saying... I think it just makes one more checklist item for moms to try to remember, and actually implies that I'm supposed to put myself first- when in fact the Bible is clear that Jesus is to be first in my life.

Right, time for myself. 
Time to refresh.  
Like that's always possible!  

Especially with toddlers running, or babies getting up all night... who can carve out time to glamorously fill ourselves? When we look in the Word, I think the "filling" we need is a deeper one than a manicure or girls night out or time away. It's a daily thing, and even a moment by moment thing, that if we're honest, we often neglect. This type of filling isn't just a checklist item so we can better care for our families-  it's a soul level Jesus filling that we can only get by walking through the trenches and mountain tops of life with Him.  It isn't something we are capable of doing for ourselves, we can't fill us up in the way we need apart from Him.  So what does it look like to be filled when we are walking in an already overflowing FULL and BUSY life? A life where we are needed from sun up to sun down and then all night long too.  A life when early risers beat us out of bed, coughs beckon, messes call, laundry breeds on it's own, meals, dishes, teaching, disciplining, appointments, brushing teeth, scrubbing toilets, meetings, library visits and spending time with our children both demands us and is also a great joy in our lives. Where can we fit in this "filling" and most importantly, what does it even look like?

Early in my mothering years I had this image of what this would look like? Quiet mornings in a peaceful clean house, sitting in my rocking chair with my morning coffee and Bible before the rest of the house was awake. I've found that this isn't usually possible in the real-life version we actually live out! For one thing, in all honesty, the clean house image is typically not reality. lol! I find it hilarious how having children changes our views and expectations on what this gig will actually look like.

But that filling takes place in the intentional... the asking our Savior to be part of our day in and day out chaos and joys.  It's remembering to ask Him into the real-life, and to allow Him to be our strength, our comfort, our reason.  Not something we do once in the morning and then forget about Him for the next 23.75 hours. Or something we think we can be filled with on Sunday mornings and then stay filled for the whole week! It's a Bible verse first thing in the morning, it's being snuggled with by still waking up boys and managing to read the Word.  It's putting on praise music and getting chores done.  It's in the determined and purposeful way we can bring eternal thoughts into the daily challenges. It's bringing Him into the conversations with our little ones and our friends. It's thanking Him for all the blessings that surround us. The verse of truth we cling to when it's all overwhelming us.  It's letting HIM FILL US- so we can walk in obedience to what He has given us for that day.  

and it's glorious 

I love the way Ephesians 3:19 words it-
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God

It's a deeper filling than I could ever hope to achieve on my own, and it's lasting, meaningful, gives hope and purpose to all the cracks and crevices in the raw and real.  It's the personal relationship with us that He designed us to crave, the very core of our existence is yearning for this walk with Him.  A manicure, a night out, a shopping spree or "me time" are all great in their own way, but not if those are the things we are looking to to fill our cup.  They are temporary and counterfeit fixes to a deeper need in our lives. We need the real deal and that can only be found in seeking Him. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13
'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Reality of Postpartum

My sweet friend asked me to write a little of my postpartum story for her mom ministry.  I took a little time to look back and reflect on that chapter 12+ years ago.

I had my first baby after being married for just over 2 years. Married life was amazing up until that point… we were so thrilled to welcome our little boy into the world. What I wasn’t prepared for and had no idea to expect was the postpartum depression that also came crashing into my world. Of all the preparations I made during pregnancy, reading what to expect when you’re expecting, getting the nursery ready, checking garage sales for onesies and jammies, sewing a little quilt, sitting in the rocking chair and day dreaming about life to come… I had no idea the roller-coaster ride of raw, ugly and overwhelming emotions that would follow.

I bonded immediately with my 8 pound 13 ounce healthy in every way little boy. Labor and delivery were exhilarating, I met my goal of no pain medicine and my husband got to help deliver him into the world. In the hospital I really was doing well, I didn’t feel overwhelmed and soaked up all the nurses were teaching me. Ever since I was a little girl I longed for the day I would become a mom, married to a great guy, I was finally living that dream.

We got home and I remember feeling anxiety come crashing in. I had a lot of worries, was I doing this “right”? What if…? I wasn’t handling sleep deprivation well, the thought of company coming over made me completely overwhelmed, nursing was more challenging than I had expected, and I felt completely self-conscious attempting to feed him in the same room as anyone else.

I was one of the first in my group of friends to be a mom so I really didn’t feel safe or comfortable telling anyone how I was struggling in these ways, and assumed, falsely, that I was the only one who had ever gone through a rocky transition. The pregnancy weight didn’t come off, and I had a really negative body image, clothes weren’t fitting right and it was all just so much at once.

I also had been neglecting my Bible reading and that was probably one of the bigger contributors, allowing Satan’s lies to sink in.

“you’re no good at this” 
“everyone else does this better”

I didn’t have truth to combat those lies so those lies really affected me and took root. Some people struggle with bonding with the baby in the midst of this, but for me it really all came out on my marriage instead. My husband took the brunt of my unchecked emotions and all of it very much took a toll on our relationship. We went through our first really really low valley those first few months.

On one especially hard night I packed up a basket of belongings and was honestly ready to walk out and leave him. I felt done. I felt at the end of my rope. Not even because of anything he had done, but because life was suffocating me, and I was living so selfishly. I was overwhelmed with everything. I was listening to lies instead of truths, I was holding it all in and not seeking healthy support or help. I wasn’t trusting anyone with what I was going through and the effects were devastating.

God broke through to me that night and instead of walking out my complete and utter brokenness took a step towards healing. It was a long road of growth, forgiveness, grace and learning to not let my emotions dictate my actions, but progress was real and really noticeable.

Honestly, I didn’t feel that cloud totally lift until I was finished nursing, and with the other 3 babies to follow that pattern stayed somewhat consistent for me. In closing, for anyone reading this thinking you are alone- don’t. For anyone believing lies instead of clinging to truths, take a step today. Talk to someone. Reach out. We are better together.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Full Hands: Full Heart

When I take the boys grocery shopping or am doing errands with all of them in tow it literally never fails that someone says to me, "boy, you sure have your hands full." or "are all of these yours?" These words are not spoken to me in an uplifting or encouraging way, they are always carrying a tone, a weight of an unspoken message. 

In the way. 
The opposite of blessing. 

I feel sad, anxious and disheartened everytime it happens. Not because my feelings are so fragile, or because the opinion of a stranger bears a huge amount of impact on me.  But because I've looked into my boys' eyes during or just after the words are spoken. I've come to realize they are vulnerable, expectant and in need of my reassurance in those moments. They are waiting for my reaffirming words of worth, love, value and blessing. So I've learned to respond, "My hands are full, but you should see my heart." or "Aren't they the best helpers, I sure am lucky" The boys often smile at me, and we keep on doing whatever task we were there to do. (Not that it's never stressful while we are out- this is real-life so whatever you imagine it would be like grocery shopping with 4 young boys, it's probably pretty close to accurate)

I was thinking back to earlier this fall I was at the thrift store with a couple of my boys. We were browsing, and nearby notice a young mom who was there with a toddler. He was demanding a toy, which the mom repeatedly told him "no, not today." He kept asking, in tears, in demands, in whines. She calmly continued to say "no." He wasn't taking no for an answer. I could feel her anxiety rising, I could see her overwhelmed eyes because those eyes have been my own eyes many many times. Overwhelmed. Embarrassed. The "Get me outta here look"  I could see the glances of annoyance from other shoppers, from the workers. My heart went out to her. She wasn't giving into her young son's begging demands, she was setting boundaries and teaching in public... which is a least favorite of every mom I've ever known.  It's challenging enough to teach at home, or in private, but to be "on display" in public trying to lead our children is not easy, or fun or enjoyable or anything a mom looks forward to. Short term it is so much easier to just buy the toy. Long term we all know that saying no is really important. So in the moment I felt a little nudge from the Holy Spirit telling me to shoulder up to her, and give her just a bit of encouragement. I stood beside her and just quietly said, "You are doing an amazing job. It's not easy. Hang in there, we all have days like this" I couldn't keep the tears from welling up in my eyes or my voice from cracking, and when our eyes met, she had tears in hers too. One of the employees overheard me and our eyes met, they glanced away quickly but I do wonder what was going through their mind. The last thing this mom needed was someone saying, "you sure have your hands full" someone else rolling their eyes at a child acting childish. She needed a blessing.  Moms need that vote of confidence and for us to embrace motherhood out in public. 

These occurrences remind me of a painting that has hung in our
church's stairwell all my life- I need to learn the history of this painting because it is enormous and beautiful.  It's a full color painting of one of my favorite Bible stories of all time. Jesus surrounded with the children and moms.

I've always loved kids, as a young girl there was nothing better to me than getting together with my younger cousins. I loved the chance to be with babies and toddlers. Their noise did not bother me. Their needs did not overwhelm me, I found joy in playing with them and caring for them. But as a mom, it has become increasingly obvious to me that not everyone views kids with warm fuzzy feelings. They often times find them too loud, too messy, too inconvenient. A disturbance. Even with nice intentions, they can often be treated as an annoyance. I believe it would do us all some good if we can learn something from Jesus' example in this story. The disciples wanted to shoo the children away. Much like the people I shop along side of, or the other people in the thrift store that day, the disciples were inconvenienced by the presence, the time, the energy, perhaps the noise of the kids. I can just picture this, can't you? I love how Jesus stepped in- maybe the disciples thought He would be the voice of authority and set these kids straight and send them on their way. This response gives me goose bumps... He stepped in and hushed the disciples- NOT THE KIDS.

(actually my translation says he was indignant with the disciples!)
  1. feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment

He took the time to be with the children. To notice them, invest in them and can't you just imagine how He impacted them? He valued them. He laid His hands on them and gave them a blessing. 

I put myself in these mothers' shoes, moms that I'm sure I have much in common with. Moms loving their kids, at times overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood, moms trying their best to teach, even in public places. Moms bringing their children to Jesus. How they must have felt to see the disciples annoyed, not wanting to be bothered by their precious kids. A moms heart hurts when our kids are rejected or not wanted, and the disciples sure were trying to get those kids out of there.  When we are doing our best and getting glares from across the aisle, or getting huffed at for the shear nerve to have our kids with us. Oh how Jesus must have been an encouragement to them just at that moment of rejection. I can picture their eyes welling up with tears. 

Their hands full but their hearts now fuller. That's the effect Jesus has when He enters our moments.  He fills hearts.  

I bet they soaked it in. Jesus' love on their kids, His attention, care and blessing. He certainly impacted more than just a handful of kids that day- He taught us that kids are worth taking the time for. They are worth the extra messes, the extra noise, the extra everything. He loved that group of kids that day, but I know that He also encouraged a mom's heart. We get to choose who we want to be like, the disciples who didn't want to be bothered, or like Jesus.

Motherhood is no easy gig, a mom's heart is one deeply yearning and in need of encouragement. When someone intentionally invests in our kids, it blesses us. When someone reaffirms for us the value of our children it reaffirms much more for us. 

When we are careful of our words, even to a stranger- 
we can become a blessing or a discouragement. 

Mark 10:13-16
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Full hands
Full hearts
with the privilege to welcome the little ones and follow Jesus' example 
Hush adults. Lets listen to the children awhile.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

the image of homeschool vs. the reality.

The day had been hard. not like lowercase hard, but like uppercase HARD.  Attitudes sank all my best efforts teaching school, long division wrapped it's nasty tentacles around all of us and pulled us under. Long division for one kid, working on verbs for another... present, past and past participle.  The 3rd wants to go play football in the yard and totally ditch all book work. Mix that with a 3 year old who very much wants to test all boundaries... he is pushing hard for his own way and upon sitting down for dinner after a pretty exhausting day declares "That looks nasty, I'm not eating that"  Oh my.  Why the constant battle? Am I alone here? I don't think I am, but I think sometimes we make the wrong assumption that we are the only ones struggling- or that everyone else has it all figured out or can pull it all off in an effortless way. 

If you picture us merrily singing songs around our table doing school work peacefully in a clean organized home, me with a smile on my face, hair that is actually brushed and generally just having it all together...the boys sitting next to me nicely, totally enthralled with everything I'm teaching them, absolutely LOVING learning,   let me just break that little bubble of lies.  My real-life isn't like that.  Homeschooling is pretty grueling, and although I start everyday before even crawling out of bed or having coffee, literally giving my day to God, asking Him to bless our work, our home and our family... it isn't smooth sailing. Before breakfast ends there is usually spilled milk, someone doesn't like the sogginess of frosted flakes, someone is picking on someone else about something minor, that hits a nerve in some major overreacting way.  Someone needs help finding a pencil, a toothbrush or the cat food. Someone wants to wear shorts even though it's chilly in the house, someone wants their favorite shirt but it's currently on day 4 in the washer, technically having gone through the wash cycle but the familiar smell of mildew is overpowering even the strongest scent detergent from a few days prior. Get the real-life picture.  it's not glamorous. 

We plow our way along through chore lists and devotions.  My prayer being that God would be present in this mess and this chaos, because at the heart of things we really are trying to honor Him in what we are doing.  It isn't pretty, it isn't perfect or even close to perfect, but it certainly IS an act of service.  We teach, and study and laugh and honestly sometimes cry.  But when the subjects get marked off one by one, we learn and we grow and we bond more than we probably realize.  I love having all four of them home... Not that everyday I literally love it... somedays I hate it, but when all is said and done I'm grateful for this opportunity, because in the middle of tears and joy we aren't just growing in knowledge that comes from textbooks but I, for real, have a front row seat to watching these little men grow in their knowledge of the Lord and in their relationships with Him.  I have had the privilege to hear the word sounded out after trying and trying and trying to read it.  I have had the privilege to see a heart of true repentance over an attitude, or some other sin struggle.  I have been humbled to ask their forgiveness over my own attitude. I've answered questions through a Biblical worldview during every single subject studied and I know that is laying for them a foundation to continue building on. (that's the big picture goal that honestly fuels my desire to keep at this- it makes my heart soar to think I am give them a Biblical view of science & history?!) This is raw, and ugly and beautiful and glorious all wrapped up and I get to be part of this.  God has asked me to teach my boys, my husband has entrusted this HUGE job to me, and the boys have walked this road with me day after day, year after year.  Looking back it is the hardest, awesomest thing we've ever taken on!  It thrills me!  It overwhelms me and has taught me in such authentic rubber hits the road ways how God truly is our strength for what our days hold.  Not just knowing that in my mind, but knowing it because I've experienced it!

I think I have just a little glimpse of God's love for us, His children, in a better focused way because just like I choose to spend the messy, hard, exhausting days with my kiddos. He wants to be present with us through life's journeys too.  He loves us, and isn't trying to ditch us, pass us off or ignore our temper tantrums over minor things that someone said to us.  He genuinely cares. He cares enough to want to do DAILY with us.  He doesn't just want special occasion events with us, He actually chooses to do the grueling right along side of us. We all know that to do daily life with someone is a whole different level than any other kind of relationship.  What happens between 4 walls and a roof is as real as real-life can be... and He longs for this kind of friendship with each of us. It is something I take forgranted, much like I take forgranted these years schooling all my boys.  

Life is a blink, a vapor... get real. Live real-life, be authentic!