The Yoga-Pant Years and What A Good Mother Looks Like

God has blessed me profoundly by surrounding me with wise mothers from early on in my own motherhood. This was something I totally took for granted until I started a community moms group and had my eyes suddenly opened to the stress, anxiety, and insecurity that most mothers face on a daily basis.

I had been oblivious to the judgemental nature of “other mothers”.

I had been unaware of controversies ranging from cloth diapers vs. disposables to what brand of sippy cup you use. (I am not even joking.)

I had been mercifully sheltered from society’s idea of The Perfect Mother and was virtually skipping down the lane of Young Motherhood. Not that I didn’t have my share of troubles, mind you. But I took them in stride as normal setbacks, oblivious to the fact that hundreds of mothers in my community were daily feeling like they were “bad moms”.

Shortly after starting the moms group and realizing that I’d practically had a fairytale existence when it came to being a young mom*, I discovered a new passion: freeing moms up so they could enjoy their blessed roles as mothers.

I was constantly telling them, “There’s no one right way to be a mom. If you love your child, you are a GOOD mom!” But I often felt like I was swimming up-stream against a massive down-stream current. Occasionally, it felt like I was making a difference, but mostly it felt like I was talking to a wall. The culture of motherhood as it’s portrayed in television, via celebrity mothers, and through our own unrealistic expectations (of ourselves AND of others) is so utterly pervasive. I eventually realized that, like a lot of other freedoms, it had to be grasped by choice. It’s cliché but it’s true: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it.

In retrospect, I think I likely did more good than I’ll ever realize. While freedom is something to be chosen, it can be helpful to have someone yelling about it all the time—makes a body more conscious of its existence, for example. ;)

I decided to write this post after reading a blog post by another mother who outlined what a day for her looks like. She’s a mother of five and has very solid goals and values for her family while also being a writer and a team-player wife.

At one point, she mentioned that she showers,dresses, and puts on make-up every day because she believes she feels better when she looks better and it’s beneficial to her family when they see her looking presentable. She added that it doesn’t take that much effort to put on clothes rather than yoga pants. But it was the next part that I loved her for—she wrote:

(NOTE: while my children were very little, I wore yoga pants daily, no makeup).

It was a breath of fresh air! Why? Because there are some things that I know in my gut I’ve just got to give myself permission for and it’s SO NICE when that gut-grace is validated by Another Mother!

I’ve heard other mothers exonerate the benefits of getting dressed and putting make-up on; Fly Lady even advocates tying your shoelaces. And I tried that; I really did. But it just wasn’t edifying for me—and by proxy, it was unedifying for my family. I was less likely to clean house if I felt all done up; I didn’t want to get sweaty after fixing my hair! And jeans are not comfortable for getting down on the floor multiple times a day with my babies. Getting nice shirts spit up on or smeared with boogies made me a frustrated, irritated mommy. We’re not even going to talk about the agitation of having mascara running down my face when frustration and stress gave way to tears!!!

In other words, hearing an older, more experienced mother acknowledge that she started off in yoga pants freed me up even more than I already had been. It took away the last niggling bits of doubt & guilt and replaced them with the drops of grace I’d been missing.

And that’s what I want to impart to mothers everywhere, at whatever stage they might be in: whether you’re in the Yoga-Pant Years, the Bridge Club Years, or something in between, give yourself permission to do it WELL, not perfectly. Do it in a way that edifies your family, regardless of pressure and perspectives from the status quo.

What does a good mother look like? Well, I’ve seen all kinds: frazzled and yoga-pant-wearing, pristine and accessorized, exasperated and helpless, tender and wise…but they all have one major thing in common—they love their kids and they regularly sacrifice their own needs and desires to take care of their children’s.

THAT’S what a good mother looks like; don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. ♥

*I use the term “young mom” to mean “new mom” or “mom of littles”. It does NOT mean “young in years”!

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Runs To Meet Me

I’ve been overwhelmed, agitated, moody and mean.
Everything has been “going wrong”. Or it seems that way. Possibly it’s my attitude? But no really, things just keep going WRONG. Wrong = not the way I wanted them to go. They’re breaking or dropping or spilling or not coming out clean. The dog poops on the carpet, babyMan dumps his bowl of mac and cheese on the carpet, the toaster oven won’t toast, darling Bear got the wrong thing at the store…Oh dear, and I FORGOT….I forgot that Thing and it’s super important and holy whoa, now all the laundry and dishes and everything else will fall behind because I have to be on the phone for the next five hours in panic mode…

It’s time for dinner and I don’t feel like cooking. I’ve yelled at my kids entirely too much today. I’m mad at myself for that and somehow, that just makes me yell more. I’m snapping. Snapping at my husband, snapping at the kids, snapping at the dog — whoa, did I just snap at God?? I think I did. :(

Night after night of struggling to sleep, struggling through anger, struggling through frustration, wrestling with anxiety, wrestling with control. Each night, hoping that the NEXT day will be The Beginning of Better…

Today, I woke up. The day was…a day. There was stress and anxiety. Errands to run and missions to accomplish. Discussions on Facebook adding to the steadily increasing sense of Being Overwhelmed. And then something broke. No, it popped.

A revelation in my brain: everything — all of this — can be traced back to my pride. My what? My pride? Really? My pride is that bad?

Like one of those do-it-yourself movie books, where you flip all the pages, my mind is flipping flipping flipping through all the Things and it links them all to one Thing, to pride…it happens lightning fast and That Feeling Of Being Overwhelmed spikes.

I have so far to go.
I’ll never get there.
This journey is so LONG…it’s BEEN long and it’s going to be LONGER…

I’m weary. I have nothing left. I’ve HAD nothing left, for days now. There was a bright spot the other night, while serving my church family but I have no doubt that was ALL Holy Spirit. I have no doubt because I spent the whole drive to church begging and begging, pleading with Him to work through me because

I had nothing.

 

 

I’m in the car and driving, tackling more tasks, eradicating more errands, watching the flip-movie in my mind. I cry out to God. My heart overflows into the confines of the van, a deluge of remorse, regret, repentance. And then…a song. A song plays on the radio and  my focus shifts off of me and onto Him…His creativity. His awesome Mind in creating music, creating human beings, creating voices…beautiful voices, thousands of sounds, millions of melodies…even when they’re just singing about the rain in Africa, they are so beautiful. He is so beautiful in His creation, His people. This is what I had forgotten — enjoying Him. Not stressing out, not snapping, not being overwhelmed — being in awe of Almighty Creative God. This is where my joy is.

And the flood in my van from my overflowing, over-burdened heart turns into a flood of joy-filled tears. My God is so amazing. And so mighty.  And He loves me! And there’s grace! And, and, and…

Suddenly, I realize the journey back wasn’t that long. “God!” I say out loud in my van. “You’re so quick to BE there! I take one step and wow….after these horrid, horrid days and my horrid attitude, I thought it would take at least as many days to retrace my steps and get back to where I’m supposed to be…but I’ve only taken one step and here I am, with You…”

A vision fills my mind, of the prodigal son trudging home. Such a long journey home…so far to go…the winding, dusty road stretches out ahead of him…

…but wait. His father…he’s running! To meet him! And just like that, the journey is over. The son is home, where he belongs.

 

I, too, thought I had this long, terrible trek ahead…by myself…long, winding, dusty…

But I take a step
with tears
with weariness
with full awareness that there is nothing good in me
with full awareness that all the good is in Him and He is beautiful…

…and He doesn’t wait. He doesn’t watch.

He runs.

He runs to meet me.

It’s so fast, that I’ve only realized it in retrospect; no time to have noticed it in The Happening, only time to realize that it happened.

My heart is brighter than the sun, with the revelation that He loves me enough to run. He wants me, enough to run.

I will be horrid again. My pride will rule again. But today my heart is shining.

He runs to meet me.

I will snap again. I will feel overwhelmed again. But I will turn, again…

And He will run…again.

I am broken. Always.

Broken Flame by Thien Bao

I remember attending a meeting at a church several years back and woman there making the comment, “We are all broken!” And in my heart, I rebelled against that statement. We are not broken, I thought. Jesus has healed us!  I was right in my thinking; but I found out this week that I was also wrong.

Jesus has healed us. But we are broken. Always. On this planet, in this flesh, we are broken.

It’s been a very long and difficult week. God, in His Sovereignty brought me face-to-face with the fact that being saved by His Son’s blood does not mean I can walk upright without falling. Yes, I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me, but do you know what I learned this week? There is always a little bit of something in me that is resistant to relying on Christ’s strength. Whether it’s a Rebellious Something, which wants to have its own way or a Proud Something, which wants to prove its ability or a Doubting Something, which thinks I’ve fallen on grace one too many times…

I am a broken gal this week. While I recognize (now) that I am forever in need of Christ’s rescuing from sin on this earth, the Proud Something in me is still kicking and screaming. But I WANT to be capable of pleasing You on my own! I can’t face You if I NEED You!!! It sounds silly to you, probably? It sounds silly to me. But so true, at the same time. I am not just painting a picture of a silly, rebellious child here; I am that child.

So why am I here today? What am I trying to say? This is definitely one of my lesser-prepared posts — okay, completely unprepared. A stream of consciousness, if you will.

I suppose I’m here today to let myself off the hook — and to let you off the hook too. I’m not perfect; I don’t have it all together; I love Jesus with all my heart but I still want to sin sometimes. A lot of the time. Several times a day, I want to sin. And I can not take ANY credit for the times I successfully resist sin, because even though I may be choosing to rely on Christ’s strength, I would FALL if He weren’t there. And I can claim no part whatsoever in ensuring that He is there for me; that is all Him.

So. Those of you who keep your distance because I paint too pretty a picture of myself, come closer. I am dirtier than you think, and quite possibly dirtier than you. If I have, in any way, led you to believe that there are trophies to achieve on this walk or leveling up to be done or successes to strive for, I apologize from the deepest depths of my heart. There is only one Trophy and that is Jesus. There is only one level you have to “pass” and that is embracing Him. There is only one success to be had, and it belongs to God. He successfully reconciled us to Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you don’t believe that I am all that dirty, I will humbly muddy up a private message for you. But it’s not about me, so be prepared for a diligent mopping up with the gospel of Jesus Christ and how He has forgiven me.

*sigh* I’m still sad, inside, at just how…incapable I am of doing the right thing every time. However, I’m also thankful and filled with peace. My Deliverer is coming, and until then, He is standing by. My Jesus is mine and I am His.

God Wastes Nothing (Conclusion)

Well, I wasn’t expecting to have the conclusion to yesterday’s post so quickly — nor was I expecting it to be so…anti-climactic. But God really does work in mysterious ways. :D

Shortly after I wrote yesterday’s post, I sat down with my Bible; it opened right up to Isaiah 40, so I started reading.

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”

I was stunned. Could it really be that simple? It was over? I found it difficult to believe there wasn’t some revelation or flash of profound insight to accompany the last few days of spiritual warfare. And I do have a tendency to “read into things” a little too much, sometimes. So I wrote about it in my private diary, commenting (to myself) that at least I would know as soon as the next morning.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning having had no nightmares; my head has actually been quiet since reading that scripture yesterday.

So here’s what I’ve learned:
1) God always has a purpose and the trial ends when His purposes have been accomplished.
2) He doesn’t always let us in on what His purpose was. :)

Today, the falling snow reflects exactly how I feel on the inside: peaceful, quiet and serene. ❈

God Wastes Nothing

I recently finished a book that thoroughly changed my life. In the interest of being concise, but at the risk of sounding trite, it freed me from the crippling fear and anxiety I’ve been dealing with for most of my adult life. This is profound, and you know what I mean if you know anything about my struggle; if you don’t know the specifics, please trust that my newfound freedom really IS profound (and certainly don’t hesitate to ask me about it).

The book is Spiritual Warfare: Christians, Demonization and Deliverance by Karl Payne. It is not a magic book that will fix all of your problems. But in the lives of most Christians, it is bound to fix some problems and to put one on the path toward fixing even more. It is a book that equips and empowers with biblical truth.

Since reading the book, I have personally been better equipped and empowered to wage war against the three things that comprise spiritual warfare: the world, the flesh and demonic influences—that is, when I recognize them. Karl spends a lot of time on each facet, breaking down what it is, how it can manifest and how it is to be fought against; nevertheless, it’s a discerning skill that I am still lacking in.

The last few days have been fraught with warfare. Racing thoughts that point out all of my failures and inabilities, nightmares, an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and insecurity, and restlessness. How do I know it’s warfare? Because it is (so far) keeping my focus off of God and painfully on myself. The enemy’s first priority is to destroy us and his best strategy is luring us away from the only One Who can protect us. Distraction is one of his more effective ways of positioning us for the deathblow.

So I know it’s warfare; now I fight, right? Right. But here’s the problem: I’ve done all the things the Bible teaches us to do to fight spiritual warfare (asking God to reveal any unconfessed sin that may be giving the enemy ground in my life, asking God in Jesus’ Name to remove the oppression, confessing sin and re-surrendering the areas in question to God, etc)—and it’s not working.

This morning, I woke up from yet another series of nightmares, on the verge of panic. ‘What am I doing wrong, God? What am I supposed to do next? Why isn’t the warfare stopping? How do I know if it’s because of sin in my life or if it’s just a random attack? How do I make it stop? I’m so…tired…’ He must have been waiting for my panicked tirade to quiet down because as soon as it did, He brought to mind Paul’s struggle with ‘the thorn in his flesh’. (II Corinthians 12:7-10) Paul tells us that, in order to keep him from getting prideful, God allowed a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan, to harass him. He asked God three times to remove the thorn, but God’s only response was, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

So now here I am: harassed, and still without answers. But there’s one thing I’ve learned in recent years; nothing is allowed to happen in the life of a believer without God’s permission and God wastes nothing. I don’t need to understand what is happening to me right this moment to know that God has a purpose that will eventually be revealed.

And while I hate the idea that there’s something I don’t know, possibly something I’m even doing wrong, or worse—something I’m doing wrong and should have known better, His grace is sufficient for me. His unmerited favor is enough. I can rest in the fact that He loves me anyway, His purposes in my life will not be thwarted, and He is fully Sovereign and in control.

Yes, even being harassed, I can rest. Isn’t that stunning??

God wastes absolutely not a thing that happens to me AND I have unmerited favor with Him.

Everything’s gonna be all right. ♥ (to be continued…)

How Christianity Is Like A Dog Show

Picture this: You have a dog. Your friend also has a dog. And lately, whenever your friend comes around, she goes on and on about these dog shows that she puts her dog in all the time. “You need to exercise your dog more,” she tells you, somewhat condescendingly. “There is no way your dog would ever qualify past the first round! You need to feed your dog healthier food and brush his coat every once in a while — it looks terrible! And no dog is going to get an award in a dog show with a bark like that! You should train it to be quiet on your command.”

How likely are you to put your dog in the dog show with “encouragement” like that, hm?

But let’s say you’re walking your dog in the park one day and a total stranger comes up to you. “Wow,” they say. “That’s a really nice dog you have there! He’s peppy, friendly, and his coat is so soft! Have you ever thought about putting him in a dog show??”

“HA!” you bark, sounding a lot like your dog, much to your embarrassment. “I’ve heard about those dog shows! There is no way I’m putting my dog in one of those. Too many rules. And the people I’ve met who do those shows are snawww-BEE. I am not interested in dog shows, thankyouverymuch.”

The total stranger gives a little laugh. “I know just what you’re talking about,” they say with surprising humility. “I’ve met some of those same people. They like to tell everybody why their dog is the best dog and how they’re doing it right. But honestly, the dog show really isn’t about rules. Obviously there ARE rules, because how else would you know what to do in order to win trophies and ribbons? But the rules are only for the people who want to be in the dog show. The dog show itself is actually a lot of fun! You get to bond with other people who love their dog and there’s parties after every show that everyone can come to. Plus, there’s honorable mentions; even if you don’t meet every single requirement, you’re bound to get SOMEthing!”

“Hmmm,” you say slowly. “That actually doesn’t sound like a bad time….” And it doesn’t, does it? Interestingly enough, both people are talking about the same dog show. But only one person has an accurate grasp of what it’s about.

Christianity is the same way. I’m learning a LOT from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley and something I just learned yesterday is that God’s rules are for God’s people. So there’s no point going around trying to get people to stop sinning if they want nothing to do with God in the first place. And when Jesus told us to go make disciples, that didn’t mean, “Go tell all the homosexuals that they’re burning in hell for being gay.” What it actually meant was, “Tell people about Me. See if they want a relationship with Me. Tell them that I am the Way, the Truth, and the LIFE. Tell them that I’ve come to give them new life and to give it to them ABUNDANTLY. Tell them I love them and that I died for them specifically so I could spend eternity with them. And if they tell you they want a relationship with Me, baptize them the way I was baptized and then teach them the things I taught you.” THAT’s what it means to go make disciples.

Being friends with Jesus isn’t about “the rules”. The rules aren’t even really RULES, so much as they’re a PLAN. Specifically, it’s His plan — how He intended things to be when He created the world and how He intended life to be lived. When we follow His plan, we get unbelievable joy out of life. Just ask anyone who genuinely loves Jesus! (I say ‘genuinely’ because, even in today’s day and age, there are a lot of Pharisees walking around.)

The rules are actually good news. The bad news is that sin is very real; it literally enslaves everyone and we still have to battle it even after becoming friends with Jesus. The good news is that the same Power that raised Jesus from the dead is given FREELY to us so we can fight sin and conquer it!!! It gives us the ability to resist that one temptation that we just can’t seem to say no to! And I’ve been friends with Jesus for a while now — I can tell you it works. I can also tell you it’s HARD sometimes. But it’s JOYFUL and it’s TANGIBLE and it’s wonderful.

If someone doesn’t want to be friends with Jesus, I’m not gonna try to teach them what He’s taught me. His teachings are for the people who want to follow Him, who want to love Him back. And He invites everyone to love Him back.

If you’re friends with Jesus, make sure you’re telling people about JESUS. Because until someone has access to His power through a friendship with Him, there’s no point telling them about the rules. His power is the only thing that enables us to follow His teachings in the first place, and we don’t HAVE that power until we have a relationship with Him. You don’t need to get cleaned up before you take a bath, so why do so many people think they have to be following God’s rules perfectly before they ask Jesus to save them from sin? And especially CHRISTIAN people! Why are we walking around trying to clean people up before we introduce them to the bath??

Jesus loves us just the way we are. But He loves us too much to leave us feeling empty and miserable and dissatisfied with this fallen world. So He came to give us life. Do you want it?

When God Closes the Door on His Presence

I went down to the garage today to get something out of the downstairs fridge for my mom. My son followed me in, but when I went through the door to go back into the house, he stayed in the garage. I stood in the doorway calling, “Come on! Come with Mommy.” But he just stood there. I could have gone over to him and picked him up to carry him in, but I didn’t. Instead, I shut the door, leaving him on one side and me on the other. I didn’t go anywhere; I just stood there to listen. Sure enough, he started to fuss, no doubt coming to the conclusion that the garage wasn’t nearly as interesting when his mother was ‘gone’. I opened the door and didn’t even have to tell him to come; he immediately started toddling toward me, anxious for my presence.

It struck me, immediately in the moment that he started toddling toward me, that God has done the same thing in my life on occasion: He has shut the door on His presence so I would start seeking after Him.

It’s easy to get caught up in the frills and luxuries of this life; and, as I’m learning in Andy Stanley’s The Grace of God, it’s RIGHT to enjoy the frills and luxuries of this life because it’s all a gift from God. Problems arise when we *forget* where all the good things have come from; but God is good ALL the time and so, sometimes, He shuts the door to His presence. He doesn’t go anywhere — after all, He promised He would never leave us or forsake us.

No, He stands on the other side of that door and He waits until we start ‘fussing’ for His presence. And then He opens the door again and we go running — to HIM, the Author of our lives, the Giver of all things good and the *only* reason we are even capable of enjoying anything good in the first place. ❤

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17 (NLT)

If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)