To the Mother in the Time of ISIS

syrianwoman

I didn’t see you at Wal-Mart. We didn’t give each other a knowing glance as we shopped for groceries with our children. You weren’t in line behind me as I waited for my morning coffee. We didn’t have a moment or share encouraging words while our children played at the park.

But I see you.

I see you as a fellow mother whose world is full of horrors I hope to never experience.

This morning, while I complained about not having the right sugar for my coffee, you hid with your family.

When I tossed leftovers that we wasted into the trash, you dug for scraps to give your children and went hungry yourself.

As I looked online and daydreamed of a bigger home complete with a home office and Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom, I convinced myself that we do not have enough space in our home. You cried because you have been displaced and have nowhere to call home, no space at all that belongs to you, no inch of earth that is your own.

I came home and needed a minute to myself after a long day at the office. A job that I could only have due to my education and opportunities that have been afforded to me, a woman. You struggle to read because your desire for education has been thwarted at every turn.

syrianwomanandchild

I kissed my boys goodnight and stroked their hair, taking for granted that they will sleep through the night without fear for their safety. Meanwhile, your son, who is the same age as mine, washed up on the shore lifeless and alone, never knowing what it meant to be safe as you tried to escape evil. Your heart is shattered into a million pieces as you did everything that you possibly could to save him.

My husband came home from work and sat on the couch beside me then hugged and kissed me. You received word yesterday that your husband was beheaded for his Christian beliefs.

I think of what it would be like to have a daughter and the things we could do together – paint our fingernails, buy dresses with headbands to match. You have an endless knot in your stomach for fear that your daughter will be kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery as she nears the age of nine.

I must admit that it is hard to see you. It is much easier to shelter my heart and to shield my eyes than to truly look at you. There are times when I find myself playing the martyr for no reason at all. You show me that I know nothing of hardship, nothing of persecution. You force me to be raw, real, and honest in my self-evaluation.

I realize that the designer purse I have been longing to buy is ridiculous.  While there is nothing wrong with buying a purse, I am hit with the reality that the amount I would spend on that one unnecessary item alone would most likely feed your family for the better part of a year. I am ashamed and embarrassed by my material arrogance.

You have shown me what it means to have unshakeable faith. All you have left is God and you cling to him every second of every day because you know that He is enough. This world has done nothing but take from you and you place no value in things of this earth. You have forced me to look full-on in the face of unspeakable terror – to look beyond myself and all of this material weighing me down. You have challenged me to embrace my faith at all costs. To love with reckless abandon and give freely of all that I have.

We may not have a mother-to-mother moment in the middle of Wal-Mart, but I am determined to reach you. There is so much that this world can learn from you.

I see you and I love you and I will not turn away.

For a list of ways you can make a difference, click here.

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Mommy, What’s Abortion?

babyultrasound

“Mommy, what’s abortion?”

The hair stands on the back of my neck and my heart begins to race. I feel a knot form in the pit of my stomach and I turn around to face my son. He is looking up at me so innocently, yet asking a question that can shatter all childhood innocence.

Suddenly, I bolt upright in bed and realize that I am slick with sweat. I have been dreaming – a nightmare, really.

My mind and my heart have been flooded with thoughts of the unborn. Thoughts of their mothers and fathers. Thoughts of the decisions and circumstances that lead to a lost life. Thoughts of the recent revelation that while the babies themselves are seen as worthless, their organs still hold value and are sold for profit.  Thoughts that break my heart into a million little pieces.

Someday my child will come to me and ask me about abortion and it will be real. I will have to look into his blue eyes and tell him that abortion stops a beating heart and ends a life.   I will have to attempt to answer why this happens when I have no idea why it is allowed to happen myself.

I pray about this future conversation and the words that I will say. I pray that my son will not lose his tender heart in the midst of this cruel world. My sweet boy who asks so many questions and recently had this conversation with me out of the blue:

“Mommy, did you have a blanket in your belly to keep me warm?”

“No, honey, I didn’t.”

“Was I wearing jeanies?”

“No, you weren’t wearing jeans. God made Mommies to have bellies that would keep their babies at just the right temperature – not too hot and not too cold. My belly kept you nice and cozy.”

“How did I eat?”

“There was a cord that connected me to you. It gave you the food that I ate and kept your belly full. Do you see your belly button? That’s where the cord was and that is your reminder that no matter where you go, you and I are always connected.”

“Wow, that’s amazing! Mommy, thank you so much for keeping me warm and taking care of me when I was in your belly. I love you so much!”

I love these simple and sweet words that I was able to share with my son. Since this conversation, he has randomly come up to me several times and thanked me for taking care of him in my belly.  But how do I find the words to explain that it’s not always this way?

In all honesty, I used to have a really difficult time forgiving women who chose to abort their babies. I used to be so filled with anger and could not fathom why anyone would think that this could be an option. But God has softened my heart. My stance on abortion has not changed – I will always think that it is wrong. If we don’t value a human life, then why value anything at all? However, my heart has softened toward the women that go through with this life-ending procedure.

I find it interesting that the media and society in general describe abortion as a choice when most of the time, it is a decision made when one feels that they have no choice at all.  We cheapen the value of life and dilute what really happens during and after an abortion in order to justify our actions.  We don’t want people to think twice about their decision, but what happens if they do think twice and what happens if it’s too late?  We label things as a ‘procedure’ or ‘lump of cells’ and focus on the physical aspects of a ‘simple outpatient visit’ rather than acknowledging that emotional, mental, and spiritual scarring are far more detrimental than a procedure could ever be.

There are women who were pressured by family to have an abortion. Women who felt panicked and had no one and nowhere to turn. Women who believed that when it was all said and done they would be able to move on with their lives only to find that they were plagued with the weight of their decision and consequences they didn’t expect to face.

We need to love these women.

We need to open our arms wide and let our tears mix with theirs. We need to be a safe haven and a shoulder to lean on. We need to be the kind of friend we believe a friend would like to have.  We need to make them feel like they do not have to bear their secrets and burdens alone.  We need to love like the One who loves us.

I have never had an abortion and I am grateful that I have never been in circumstances that would even allow me to consider it an option. But, I have done things in my life that I just can’t get back no matter how hard I try.

I know many, many women who have found themselves pregnant outside of marriage. It always breaks my heart to hear how upset people can become over this. Is it God’s ideal? No. But, a life has been formed – a life that has a God-ordained plan no matter what.  Who are we to condemn rather than celebrate life? Just because the circumstances surrounding conception are not condoned, doesn’t mean that we can’t walk alongside of someone in a time of great need and offer encouragement. A woman doing her best to mother a child should be praised.

In our most broken states, we need to be reminded that God loves us just the way we are. Nothing can separate us from His love. This is a truth that I love to hear time and again.

There are countless women who share their testimony of healing and redemption post-abortion. They have been covered by the grace of God and continually inspire me to reach out to those who are hurting. God withholds His grace from no one – we just have to be willing to go to Him to receive it.

This is what I will tell my son someday: decisions are made that are so difficult and maybe even impossible to explain.  There will be ‘Why’s?’ that can never be answered this side of heaven. But there is faith and hope and love because of Christ’s work on the cross.  Burdens can blossom into blessings when we give them to the Lord.

 

*This is a space of love and encouragement.  Regardless of your stance on any issue, comments that attack or are hurtful in any nature will be removed.

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Exercise

the exercise

I love working out. I love to sweat. I love how strong I feel after completing a hardcore workout – like I can take on anything.

The problem is finding the time to work up a sweat.

To be honest, I took the time factor for granted in so many areas of my life before I had kids. But once the kids were here, life continues to roll on and something had to give. Working out was one of the first things to go.

I was an athlete. I guess I still am an athlete. My body is used to exercise and I find that it craves movement. Lately, the cravings have been so intense that I have decided that somehow, someway I must fit workouts into my schedule.

I keep a pretty detailed planner, so I sat down to search for time to exercise. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would have to wake up at 4:30am in order to break a sweat the way I want to.   It took even less time for me to know that this would be a bad idea. I have to work around people…and be nice…and be compassionate. I know myself well enough to know that if I got up at that hour I would not be fit to enter society. I would turn into a bear. I would be in shape, but I would be a bear nonetheless.

I greatly admire the men and women who are able to successfully wake up hours before the sun in order to workout.  For a few days I did attempt to slowly adjust my morning schedule to see if I could legitimately wake up earlier.

This is how it went:

Day 1: Nah.

Day 2: The wind howled and sounded cold. I rolled over and stayed warm in bed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was going to workout indoors.

Day 3: I did wake up earlier, but I used that time to go to the bathroom by myself.

Day 4: The boys woke up early so I took care of them instead.

Day 5: Nope.

And that’s as far as that challenge went.

This never used to be a problem for me, but it was a problem in other ways. When I was younger, I would do whatever was necessary to get a workout in. I was obsessed, and in some ways things got a little scary. I was constantly practicing for sports, and then when I was done with my playing days I was terrified that I was going to gain weight so I determined that I would not become sedentary. I would get up and run before classes and then I would stop at the gym after classes in college. I knew exactly how many calories were going in and how many I was burning. There were days when it was all I could think about. Looking back, I firmly believe that I had a type of eating/exercising disorder. Through prayer and God’s grace, I have been able to break that cycle of negative thinking. But it has been nothing short of an uphill battle.

Determined to find a way to balance exercise with limited time, I have begun to do Pilates in the evenings while the boys are winding down.  Usually after their bathtime and before bedtime, they like to watch TV.  I let them enjoy a show and I get on the floor and run through a variety of movements that work my abs, thighs, and butt.  The reality of this situation is that I am planking with a 4- and 2-year-old on my back.  I am doing sit-ups with a toddler trying to crawl through my legs, and I am doing leg-lifts while trying to avoid kicking one or both of them in the face.  But the fact of the matter is, I am doing it.

I recognize my need to take care of my body, but now I recognize how important it is to keep a balanced view of what is healthy and what is necessary.  I am no longer training for anything, so attempting to do two-a-day workouts or beating myself up for missing a day of exercise because something suddenly came up just doesn’t make sense.  What does make sense is coming up with creative ways to incorporate exercise into the life that I already live.  I have found that summer is the best time to do this.  I am naturally more energized this time of year and we are always outside.  We have races in the backyard, I push and push and push the kids on the swings, and we love to go swimming.  Would I love to be able to go out and run several miles every evening?  Yes!  But that just doesn’t coincide with my life at the moment.  Someday, my kids will be able to handle themselves while I run, but today is not that day.

Today I must juggle the act of exercise with the more important job of motherhood.   Right now, a sick child takes precedence over my abs.  Catching up with my kids after a long day at work comes before a run.  I know that choosing sleep over exercise in the morning is an excuse/cop-out, but most days it trumps Jillian Michael’s 30-day Shred.  So I continue to balance things out by power-walking during my lunch break and doing strengthening exercises with the the ‘help’ of the kids in the evenings.  I know that eventually I will find a lasting routine to work up a sweat and juggle all of my other responsibilities.

Don’t forget to check out the ways I attempt to juggle a balanced life when it comes to food and clothing!

Our Mother-Son Dance

I cry at weddings. Even if I barely know the bride, I will most likely use three tissues by the time she makes it to the altar. There is just something about the moment that grips my heart and renders me incapable of holding back the tears.

But the part of the day that stirs me to the core is the Mother-Son dance.

You might find me slipping out of the reception as soon as the DJ calls the groom and his mother to the dance floor. I might go stand outside or pretend that I need to use the restroom, but I simply cannot handle this part of the wedding day.

During this dance, I have heard songs about trucks and skinned knees and adventures with Mommy. I have seen mothers look at their sons with tears streaming down their face as they are full of pride with all that he has become as they twirl around the dance floor. But, I break down because my sons and I are very much in the trucks and skinned knees and adventure stage. I cannot fathom the day that I will dance with my boys and perform the mother’s act of giving her son away.

“I don’t care what anyone says – you can cut umbilical cords, but you can’t cut heart strings.”

Ann Voskamp

When we found out with each child that we were having boys, my husband and I joked that we wouldn’t have to pay for any weddings. But two months after our first son was born, we attended a wedding and it hit me that I would indeed have much responsibility on his big day. To my mind, the Mother-Son dance is in many ways a culmination of raising him. I will be handing over the reins and trusting that through God I have done enough for my son to be a loving husband, leader, and provider to his bride.

After speaking with mothers who have sons much older than mine, I have found that mothers of sons experience a gradual letting go process that doesn’t usually happen between mothers and daughters. While daughters often lean on their mothers for advice during this stage of their lives, especially as they begin to have children, sons often forge their own path or turn to their father for guidance.  For a mother cannot relate to her son’s new roles as husband and father in the same way that she can relate to the roles of a wife and mother.  I pray and try to prepare myself for this and I know that when the time comes for me to loosen my grip that God will give me the strength to do so.

I want my sons to put their wives first.

I want them to make their marriage a top priority.

I want them to be the spiritual leader of their home.

In order for them to achieve these things, I know that I must step back. I am not worried that my sons will no longer love me or be close to me. Of course our relationship will change, as God states it should. I have many positive dreams for my relationship with my future daughters-in-law and I trust my sons will choose well.

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Genesis 2: 23-24

As I have these thoughts of the future, my 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys come bounding into the living room and bring me back to the present. They have heard a song on TV that they love and they pull me off of the couch as they each say, “Dance whiff me, Mommy! Dance whiff me!”mother-sondance

I gladly oblige and hold them close while I twirl them around, dip them, and tickle them. Dance parties are a regular happening in our house. We work up a sweat and then decide to make a snack and share it out on the deck. The boys sit right next to me as one shows me what his truck can do and the other one asks me to kiss his skinned knee. I am showered in a chorus of, “I love you, Mommy-ies,” and I know that it will always ring true.  My heart is so full of love for my children that I can’t begin to describe it. One day I will have to let go, but today is not that day.

Whenever the time comes, I will wear my best dress, proudly display my corsage, and take my place on the dance floor with my son. There will be tears and memories that cloud my vision, but I am sure our Mother-Son dance will be one of the happiest moments of my life.

 

Linking with Equipping Godly Women

Every Woman Needs Her Tribe

Sometimes I collapse on the couch at the end of a long day and I just can’t shake it – this feeling of loneliness that creeps in and stays with me. How is it possible that I am lonely? I am never alone. I spend my days surrounded by kids or coworkers. It is the great paradox of motherhood – I long for ‘me time’, yet I long for connection just as much, if not more.

Every woman needs her tribe.   Those few people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, who pick you up when you fall down and are the first to pat you on the back when you succeed – I need them.  My tribe is my place of belonging.  It’s just that I have been distant from my tribe for a long time – years even – and it’s starting to wear on me.

I have always been one of the guys. I enjoy playing and watching sports, and have never been into girly things. Looking back, I can see how this prepared me to raise boys. But, I need my girlfriends more than ever now. No one is better able to relate to me and where I am in life than the women I call my close friends.

If I have these friends, why am I so lonely? Time, responsibilities, family, career…they all pull us in differently directions and leave little to nothing for any semblance of a social life.

Growing up, you go to school with your friends. In college, you live with your friends. Before marriage, you work, but you have a cash flow (albeit small) that enables you to enjoy time with your friends. After marriage, there is less time, but there is still time. Once the kids come, you blink and realize that six months of your life has passed and you can’t remember if you have spoken to any of your friends in that time-frame.

Some of my friends began having kids a little bit before I did. I didn’t get it. Why can’t we just go out for coffee? Can’t you just keep the baby in the infant carrier? How hard can it be? Then I had a kid and realized that just meeting for a cup of coffee turns into a 57-step process that requires three weeks of advanced planning to pull off. And even then you aren’t guaranteed to be able to keep this simple social engagement. If you are like me, then you found yourself just staying isolated in your own little world because it becomes easier than the extreme effort it takes to leave the house. It’s not that I didn’t want to see or spend time with my friends – I desperately did – it’s just that demand, after demand seemed to pile up on my plate and my relationships were the first things to go.

I have found that the best thing we can give each other as women is grace. Grace in our friendships to know that because we haven’t heard from one another in a while does not mean that the love and caring is no longer there. Grace to realize that this too shall pass – it won’t always be this crazy.

My friends are grace-givers. I pray that I am a grace-giver. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something happened and I needed my girlfriends to come to my side, that they would drop everything and be there. I can still depend on my tribe and that is amazing. They don’t hold it against me when we haven’t talked in a while or haven’t shared that precious cup of joe. I try to do the same thing because I finally get it now.

tribe

Just last week I was having a day. You know, one of those days. As soon as I put the kids to bed, I myself crawled under the covers and prayed that God would give me the strength to deal with everything. And I prayed that God would help me to feel connected to others again – that I could find the time and energy to be with friends.

Shortly thereafter I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that I had missed a text from a friend.  She said she was just thinking about me and wanted to see how things were going. The text was sent about ten minutes after I had poured my heart out in prayer. Coincidence? I think not – that’s a God-thing.  I responded honestly and said that I was overwhelmed and would appreciate her prayers and that I missed her greatly. She promised to pray for me and I believe her. I know she cares and I know those weren’t just empty words sent to my phone.

That’s the second best thing we can do for our tribe – remain honest. I didn’t have to share that I was overwhelmed, but it was the truth and hiding it wouldn’t get me anywhere.  I don’t need to feign perfection around these women, or pretend that I can do it all – no one is buying that lie.  Like I said, I know she cares and I know that she genuinely prays for me. Not only that, but these women are willing to give me tough love if I need it.  I trust them to speak the truth to me, even if it is hard to hear.  If my relationships aren’t authentic, then my loneliness will never be eased.

Honesty also provides an opportunity to give and receive encouragement. I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I feel like I need an awful lot of encouragement.  I’m talking about an insane amount of encouragement.  Most of my closest friends are in the same stage as I am – young kids, figuring out how to keep our husbands first, maybe juggling a career, definitely juggling housework. It can be rough, but we need each other.

I’ve often heard it said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Frankly, I don’t want the village to raise my child because I don’t agree with all that the village does. However, I do believe that it takes a village to encourage a woman. It doesn’t matter if our beliefs or viewpoints on parenting differ, I can still offer encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. Also, encouragement shouldn’t be limited to just mothers. Some of the people in our lives who could use the most encouragement from us might be the ones in waiting – waiting for marriage, waiting for children, waiting for careers. Those can be incredibly difficult and lonely times.

I have seen encouragement come to me from different angles. It has come from the mom with kids the same age as mine. It has come from the woman at church who has been there and done that but has been a mentor to me in many ways. It has come from a fellow working mother with a heaping pile of responsibilities on her plate. Encouragement is a miracle worker and it can be so simple. I mean, that text that I received didn’t take a lot of effort, but it was still sincere and it meant so much to me. Reaching out to my girlfriends does not need to be this elaborate thing. The connection has already been made; I just need to acknowledge that connection.

Recently, I have had friends come out of the woodwork to reach out to me.  One woman noticed that I needed a pick-me-up and sent me a care package in the mail.  Amazing!  Another dear friend had a gift certificate to a salon that she offered to share with me.  Not only did we get to pamper ourselves (rare), but we desperately needed that time together.  It was what I like to call ‘soul therapy.’  There is something so special about meeting the needs of others, especially when you don’t even realize that you ministered to them exactly when they needed it the most.

Realistically, I can’t go and hang out with my friends all the time. I can’t afford to have a weekend away and I can’t meet for play dates in the middle of the day. But, it’s not always going to be this way. My kids won’t always be as needy as they are now and someday I might be able to afford a girls weekend. And when that day comes, I know that my tribe will be there waiting with arms wide open to welcome me back and pick up right where we left off because I will do the same for them.

This Mama’s Easter Focus

I had the cutest outfits all picked out for the boys – colorful polo shirts and printed shorts.  Then, I had backup suits ready because this is the winter that just won’t quit and I was prepared for the egg hunting to take place in below-freezing temperatures.  It was warmer than I thought it would be, but we went with the suits anyway.

They looked adorable in their pastels, vests, and ties.  I had these great visions in mind of the Kodak moments of this Easter morning and I even had a teal framed picked out for a new picture to be placed on my office desk.

Cue reality.  The boys fussed, begged to eat more candy before church, and just couldn’t stand to be near one another.  I tried sitting them on the steps – one of them pushed the other and then the pushee tried to spit on the pusher.  I tried standing them by the wall.  One refused while the other one screamed for me to hold him.  I tried bribing them with more candy.  I tried to tell them that we would take their candy away.  I just couldn’t stop focusing on getting the perfect picture to commemorate this perfect Easter morning.

As you can tell, it wasn’t that perfect.

When we did get pictures, one was crying and the other one wasn’t looking at the camera.  Pictures of them with me involved toys over the face or solemn stares at the lens.  Pictures of them with their father captured one crying for me and one hiding behind his leg.  Pictures of the whole family together show one picking his nose and another one looking nowhere near the camera.

happyeaster

Seriously, this was the best picture.

I know I will look back and laugh.  In some respects, it’s a little funny even now. But as I watch all the pictures of beautiful kids and lovely families clog up my Facebook news feed throughout the day, I’m wondering where I’m going wrong?  Look at all of those dresses and bow-ties!  Are my kids the only ones that won’t cooperate?  Are my kids the only ones who can’t sit still for longer than 0.35 seconds?  Is this a reflection of me?  Odds are, those families had 49,349 takes to get that one perfect picture.

I had the opportunity to teach Children’s Church this morning and we asked the kids about the true meaning of Easter.  Of course, my kid was one of the children who threw their hands up in response to the question.  He said that, “Easter is all about candy….and it’s the day Jesus was born!”  Face palm.  I laughed, but my frustration was growing because haven’t we discussed Christmas and Easter several hundred times!?  But, I cut him some slack because he did just turn four and to me, Easter is a little more complicated to understand than Christmas, especially for a kid who is just learning what it means when someone dies.

Anyway, one little girl raised her hand and said, “Easter is all about Jesus dying on the cross and then in three days – today – he rose from the grave and is alive!!  Easter is the day that Jesus punched death in the face and won!!!”  Without a doubt, that is the most awesome answer to that question I have ever heard.

But it brought me back to what was really important – what is always important.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus saved me for eternity from the sins that I commit today.  He made it possible for the two of us to have a direct, personal relationship because he died on the cross and rose again.

It’s no secret that I tend to be an independent control freak.  I like to do things by myself and on my own terms.  If I had kids who were always compliant and never gave me any grief, I can guarantee you that my relationship with Christ would fall by the wayside because I would probably feel like I was doing okay handling things on my own.   Also, I’m not sure those kids exist.  Instead, I have found that being a mother has made me long for a close relationship with my Savior more than anything else in my life.  Christ’s actions on the cross make it possible for me to simply talk to Him all of the time.  For example, when my kids refuse to take cooperative pictures and I spend Easter morning in a state of frustration, I can just pray.  And He hears me.

Trust me, I know that getting worked up over something like nice Easter pictures is ridiculous, but that was just on my radar this weekend.  Depending on the day and time, it could be any number of trivial things that steal my focus.  My focus should be and needs to be on the cross.  It doesn’t matter if it is Easter morning or not – when I turn to the cross, everything falls into place.

 

*side note:marker one of my kids found a permanent marker on Easter evening and drew on his face.  A permanent marker on his face.  The Easter morning pictures could have been worse.

 

I Don’t Want to be in the Trenches Today

trenchesofmotherhood

It was early on Saturday morning and I was already in a foul mood.  I had been coughed, sneezed, and snotted on too many times to count by 8am.  There is just something about wiping someone else’s mucus off of your face that will cause you to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not today.  I don’t want to be in the trenches of motherhood today.  I don’t want to be so heavily needed.

It’s not that I didn’t want to spend the day with my kids – I did.  I just wanted them to wipe their own butts, blow their own noses, properly brush their own teeth, cook their own meals, clean up after themselves, and use their inside voices.  And for the love of organization, I wanted them to just pick one or two toys out at a time rather than dump four bins and decide that they have nothing to play with!  I didn’t want to become the broken record that I am by the end of each day by repeating, “Be gentle.  Be careful.  Be kind.”

After a long week of working mommy, today was stay-at-home-mommy day.  I was girding my loins for a full day in the trenches when I felt so ill-equipped to be leading my troops.  My husband had a ten hour shift and the kids and all of my neglected housework from the week lay before me.  I just didn’t want to do any of it.

Before my husband left for work he could already sense my poor attitude.  I had raised my voice to one of the kids over something that really didn’t necessitate a raised voice.  He called me out on it.  While I knew he was right, I was less-than-thrilled that my weaknesses were being pointed out right in the middle of me displaying said weakness.  I accepted the accountability, but I did give him an icy stare-down for about 30 seconds.

My husband also pointed out that this was my day off and I look forward to stay-at-home-mommy day all week.  That’s when my thoughts overtook me.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled?  Don’t I know how blessed I am?  Aren’t there so many couples who would trade places with me in a minute?  Am I a horrible mother?  The thing is, recognizing how blessed I am only made me feel worse because I couldn’t seem to legitimize my feelings.

Then, as if on cue, Satan made sure that guilt (who he always has on-call) came to keep me company.

I finished my coffee with guilt, grabbed some lunch with guilt (and I severely burnt my tongue), and started the laundry with guilt.

Then something happened.

My oldest son went to spend some time with his grandparents and it was just me and my youngest who was fighting a nasty cough.  My little one coughed so hard that he threw up all over the living room.  Then he just stood there looking at me with his big, blue eyes saying “Mommy, mommy, help me!”

I was the only one who could comfort him and clean him up and assure him that it was okay and he would be fine.  He needed me and in that moment I was so glad that I could meet those needs.

When I got him situated, I suddenly felt like I was walking around without one of my limbs.  I realized that I missed my oldest son terribly and he had only been gone for a whopping ten minutes.  It turns out that I wanted to be needed after all.

I stopped what I was doing and prayed.  I begged God for forgiveness and prayed that He would give me strength and a change in my attitude.  I can’t do this parenting thing on my own.  The trenches can be downright suffocating and I’m truly not equipped to deal with all of these responsibilities every day.  But He is – God is the only one who can give me the ability to deal with life.  Not only that, but my feelings are legitimate to God.  He wants me to pour out my heart to Him rather than keep everything so bottled up that I fantasize about running away (I would never do that, but you know what I mean…maybe just a few hours alone in a bookstore).

I had to continue praying to get through all of my duties for the remainder of the day.  That and the four peanut butter melt-away Easter eggs that I may or may not have eaten seemed to do the trick.  I had a renewed sense of energy to tackle my housework and care for my sick son.  By the end of the day, my precious toddler was feeling better and he asked me to dance with him when he heard his favorite song in a movie.  We danced and twirled ourselves into a fit of laughter and it was amazing.

Not every day ends on a high note and not every day feels like I am deep within the trenches.  But, at this time in my life there are enough of those brutal days that can leave me feeling pretty discouraged if I let them.  I’m just going to refuse to let the hard times get me down.  This is far from my last rough day as a mother, but because I have Christ by my side for eternity I know that I will never be left to handle it on my own.

 

 

When We Uplift a Man

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We had just settled into our booth and ordered our food when I looked over and saw the sign on the wall. As part of the restaurant’s decor was a sign that belittled a man. I wish I could remember exactly what it said but it was something along the lines of ‘I’m just a helpless man who can’t do anything without my wife.’ Meant as something humorous, I asked my husband what he thought of it. He explained that he sees stuff like that every day, but only about men.

This incident happened a while ago, but ever since then I have tried to be more attuned to advertisements and general things in the media that portray men as helpless. The amount of things I have noticed has been astounding. The popular TV show that has a leading man who can’t accomplish anything or be trusted to watch his kids without his wife swooping in to save the day. The commercials that show an overweight man stuffing his face on his recliner while binge watching TV all weekend. The greeting cards that poke fun at a man’s inability to share his feelings. The local morning radio show that has a segment entitled ‘Help me, I’m a husband.’

Conversely, there are many TV shows that portray strong and successful women – whether they work or stay at home. There are plenty of commercials that show all that moms accomplish. You would never see a Valentine’s card from a woman to her husband that said, “I know I’ve let myself go and I can barely keep the house clean, but thanks for loving me anyway.” The media – local or otherwise – would never dare to poke fun at a woman’s inability to do anything.

Yet, when we belittle a man it’s all in the name of good fun.  Why?

Not only does this bother me for my husband’s sake, but it bothers me for my sons, as well. This has been going on for years and I have become immune to it, which leads me to believe that others have, too.

There are plenty of good men out there. There are millions of wonderful husbands and fathers who don’t get nearly enough credit for all that they do. My husband is one of them.

When I think about the sacrifices that my husband has made for our family, it’s overwhelming. He has put his career on hold to stay home during the day with our children. Do I think this is easy for him? Not at all, but he does it willingly and lovingly.  He loads both kids up and takes them grocery shopping. He takes them to play dates even when he knows that he will be the only man there. Then after a long day at home, he heads out the door and goes to work to further support his family. He is an amazing dad and I tell my kids this every chance I get. I also tell my husband that he is amazing, but I’m sure that I don’t do it nearly enough.

The last thing I want is for my husband to be viewed as some fumbling, bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to do anything. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He can fix seemingly everything, he can cook, he can change diapers at warp speed, and he can wrap me up in the best hugs. He’s committed to raising our children in a godly manner and he treats me with nothing but love and respect. He deserves to be praised, not mocked.

I want to conscientiously uplift my husband. I want to build him up and encourage him. I want him to know that he is loved and needed. I want him to know that his work is not in vain and we recognize and appreciate all that he does.

Regardless of how our culture might portray men, I am so thankful that my sons have their Dad to show them the way. He is the best example of all that a husband and father can do.  No matter what life throws at him, he stays positive; he knows what it takes to get back up after being knocked down.

I am hoping that our societal perception of men can turn around. This recent Dove commercial tells me that someone gets it.  I wonder what kind of a difference it might make if we built up the wonderful men around us and encouraged them as husbands and fathers.  What if it enabled the next generation to step up to the plate and follow in their footsteps? Let’s see what positive things can happen in our culture when we uplift a man.

 

Linking with Equipping Godly Women

5 Cleaning Tips for the Busy Mom

I am a neat freak and I want my home to be clean and organized – always.  I also want to be realistic.  With a toddler and a preschooler, the toys seem to multiply along with the peanut butter finger prints.  For the longest time, I was trying to keep things as clean as they were before we had kids.  I was also trying to stick to the same cleaning schedule but found that I just wanted to bang my head against the wall.  After a lot of trial and error, I came up with some tactics that work for me and keep me (mostly) sane while balancing family, work, and homemaking.  These tips may not be the right fit for everyone, so please keep that in mind.

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1. Clean something each day or most days.  I used to take a block of time each week or every other week to clean my house from top to bottom.  I tried to do this for a couple years after I had kids and just grew increasingly frustrated.  Who has three hours of uninterrupted time each week??? I work full-time and just cannot dedicate this much time to cleaning.  Even if I didn’t work full-time I wouldn’t have that much time to set aside.  For whatever reason, I was stuck on wanting everything to be cleaned at the same time.  When I let go of that idea I found that doing some type of cleaning task daily was much more feasible.  Now, I will take 10-15 minutes each day and focus on a task.  When I put the boys to bed, I will sweep and scrub the floors or clean the bathrooms.  I have not gotten to the point where each day has a specific assignment, but I clean the area that seems to need it the most.  With crumbs and potty training, the floors and bathrooms always seem to need the most attention.

I try to utilize the time that I have.  For example, if Jeff has the boys outside, I will take that time to run the vacuum upstairs and then I will go outside to join them.  I know that I can vacuum downstairs while they sleep, but I obviously can’t vacuum their bedrooms at the same time.  I consider the laundry to be part of my cleaning routine.  Again, I have found that for me it works best if I just do a load every other day rather than spend a whole day washing, drying, folding, and putting away.  This way, nothing piles up and it’s not nearly as overwhelming to put everything away.

2. Random pick-ups.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Legos are the worst.  Super fun to play with, but they can take forever to pick up.  I try to do several toy clean-ups each day so that it is not so overwhelming at bedtime.  This works best on weekends when I am home all day.  When the boys take their naps, I clean up their playroom and put things back where they belong.  They have to help me with this, but are still learning the concept of picking up after themselves.  I do the same thing when it is time for them to go to bed at night.  Some days, this is a fruitless effort but I still go for it.  Along with this, I try to rotate which toys are downstairs and which toys are in their rooms or the attic.  They still get to play with everything, but less toys equals less clutter.  I have also found that the boys get a little distracted with too many toys and they don’t play as well as a result.

3. Pick an area of focus.  For me, I like to have the downstairs area of our home clean and organized each night.  We don’t spend much time in our bedrooms; while I still want them to be neat and tidy, it’s not as much of an eyesore as it would be downstairs.  I would say that 70% of my downstairs cleaning is taken care of just by organizing the toys each night.  After that, I just wipe down the kitchen counters and dining room table.  If the dishes aren’t washed, I will take care of them and put them away in the morning.  I know myself well enough to know that I feel much more relaxed when I don’t look around and see a cluttered mess.

4. Little things make a big difference. Just by making your bed and folding the throw blankets in the living room, you will notice a major difference.  At the end of a long day, it makes me feel more relaxed when I can walk into my bedroom and see that it is put together.  Call me crazy, but it makes my room feel fresh and welcoming.  Simply folding blankets can make a space feel much less disheveled.  As a bonus, these are things that take very little time to accomplish. 

5. Lowered expectations.  It may not seem like I have lowered my expectations, but I have.  Things are not going to be perfect and they don’t need to be.  We live here.  If we are playing and having fun, I’m not going to put the toys away at nap time because the boys will want to play with the train track that they built when they wake up.  If we are away for the day and are too tired when we get home, then the dishes will be washed the following day.  I am trying to teach the boys how to clean and put things back where they belong.  So if they pick up their toys and they are not exactly neat, I just leave them where they put them.  For me, this has been huge.  They are proud of their effort and I need to acknowledge their work. I am still working through my desire to have everything ‘just so.’  There are days and times when some or all of these steps are skipped.  That’s okay and it’s certainly not the end of the world.

If you came to my home it would not be immaculate, but hopefully it would not be chaotic.  I am all about finding manageable ways to accomplish everyday tasks.  After trying many things, these steps have given me the greatest success.  For a long time I thought it was just impossible to clean with little kids, but now I know better.

Please do not think that I have it all together, because this is all a work in progress.  These are all ideas I got from various people and I would love to hear what you do.  If you are struggling to find a cleaning routine that works, don’t worry – you will get there!  Like I said, it took me several years to find what worked the best not only for me, but for my family and our lifestyle.  What are some of your favorite cleaning tips?  How do you clean with little ones?

Dreams for the Strong-Willed Child

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From the moment we found out we were expecting you, your father and I began to dream. When we found out you were a boy, our dreams got just a little more specific. When I first held you in my arms, so many of my personal dreams were realized.

Do you remember that first night? Of course, you don’t. Long after everyone left the hospital on the day you were born, it was just you and me in the dark room getting to know one another. I held you skin-to-skin, showered you with kisses, and told you all of the dreams I had for you.

As I’ve had the joy of being your mother and watching you grow, those dreams really haven’t changed. Now that your personality is intact, there is no doubt in my mind that you are capable of great things. You, my child, are strong-willed. Or as I like to say, passionate. Everything you do is done with such intensity and purpose and I love this about you!

Many people talk about changing the strong-willed child, but the last thing I want to do is change this part of your personality. To squelch your strong-willed nature would be like forcing you to write with the opposite hand or wear your jeans inside-out and backwards. It might be doable, but it would be awkward, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

My dreams for you now encourage the use of your strong-willed temperament. As your parent, it’s my job to make sure that you develop this part of your personality appropriately. I want to help you strike a balance that enables you to assert yourself while maintaining self-control.  While it is not okay to talk back and throw fits when you don’t get your way, it is okay to respectfully share your thoughts. While it’s not okay to try to take control over every situation, it is okay to be a leader.

My dreams for you and your strong will include the following:

  • Respect the thoughts and opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. This can be difficult because the strong-willed often feel the need to be ‘right’ or have the last word.
  • I see in you great potential to be a leader. Be the kind of leader that is worth following.
  • Treat everyone as if they matter, because they do. When everyone else walks past the not-so-popular kid in the cafeteria, I want you to sit down and have lunch with him.
  • Know what you stand for and don’t be afraid to stand alone because of it. Being strong-willed gives you an advantage in this area. I pray that peer pressure would be no match for you.
  • Let your work ethic speak for you regarding your skills and abilities. You are still too young for us to know where you excel, but odds are there will be something that you are great at or enjoy more than anything else. Work hard and be humble. Right now, you have a work ethic that I didn’t even know existed in kids your age. I will do everything I can to continue to encourage this in you.
  • Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. This includes the disabled, the unborn, the elderly – they all matter.
  • When others run from a problem or tough situation, I want you to run towards it and tackle it head-on.
  • Don’t let the real world steal your love of life.  You have so much energy and ‘zest’ for life – it would break my heart to see you lose that.
  • Come to your own faith in Christ and live your life to glorify Him.

Honestly, I have so many dreams for you that will keep growing and evolving the older you become. But, none of those dreams involve material things; they revolve around the character and integrity I want you to have.  I have never dreamt for you to be a doctor, high-powered business man, or professional athlete. I don’t care about those things and I don’t want you to think that is the measure for success. Actually, you have told me on more than one occasion that you would like to be a garbage man. If that’s your passion and you give it your all, then I would be so proud of you for being a garbage man.

There are days when we butt heads, you and me. I am strong-willed, too. I understand that you want to be right and I understand your intensity because I am the same way. We both have a bit of the perfectionist bug to us as well.  It has been and will continue to be a challenge to help you focus your strong will in a positive direction, to develop self-control. There are times when I am in tears because I don’t know if I am teaching you in the right way, or if I am even getting through to you at all. But there are more times when I see a glimpse of the man you will one day become and I know that the hard days are worth it.

While I am not much of a gambler, I’ll tell you this much – I’d bet my life on you.

Your strong-willed personality is a gift, not a hindrance. I can’t wait to see where life will take you and I pray each and every day that God would use you in mighty ways.