Surrender

Surrender is not a natural thing.

We want control. We want OUR plans. We want our way.

My way.

This week presented two ‘possibilities’ that I basically have no control over. Sure, we have choices to make, but overall, these things are out of my control.

These things surfaced at once, just as our family starts the fall schedule we’ve been counting on, and waiting for.

They threaten to alter MY plans.

While I’ve been careful to avoid rabbit trail daydreams during the day, last night I made the mistake of letting my mind wander…imagining crazy ‘what ifs’, and worst-case scenarios.

Then I made the even bigger mistake of investigating one of the ‘possibilities’ on Google. Are you cringing as you read this? Of COURSE that was not a good idea! Google may offer information, but it does not offer peace. Unfortunately, the new wealth of information and lack of peace resulted in tears and a somewhat one-sided conversation with at my husband.

All my angst came flowing out in one…BIG…Bleh. Not my best moment (sorry honey).

The silly thing is, none of these possibilities are a sure thing. We have decisions to make. Nothing is locked in stone, and we have choices. None of these things are emergencies.

But I do not have control over them. And I don’t like it.

This week I’ve been praying myself to sleep while pondering the attributes of God. Mercifully, He has granted sleep every night. What a faithful God we serve! There is much peace and rest in knowing and remembering WHO God IS and what He has DONE.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

God IS good.

He has a plan.

God loves families and made them. He loves unity. Whatever He is calling ONE of us to do, He is calling the rest of us to support and help in.

His will IS perfect, even when we don’t understand it.

He works in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him – such a profound promise!

With these truths, I was baffled as to why I was still lacking peace. What I’ve come to realize today is that I cannot find true peace until I fully surrender to His will for me and our family. While I’ve surrendered these things to God before, the possibility of change distracted me and I lost sight of His face.

Instead of focusing on God, I’ve been focused on what might be…I refuse to persist this way. I choose to seek His face regardless of our circumstance. And to step into a deeper faith as I trust Him with more and more of our present and future.

I may not be in control – but HE is.

These ‘possibilities’ must be intentionally surrendered to His will. It is time to quit dwelling in my own self-pity and worst-case daydreams and it is time to trust the God who is LORD over ALL. Over me. Over our family. Over our circumstances. Come what may…He is still LORD.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all. – “I Surrender All” Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896.

I surrender…even if the answer He chooses for our family isn’t what I want. Even if it doesn’t match MY plans. God does not make mistakes.

God HAS called me to do things for Him this fall. His peace and assurance as I have stepped into those roles is unmistakable. But He may be calling our family to stretch and change more than we ever imagined in the coming year.

If so, HE will guide us through it. HIS will is never accompanied by asking us to flail about on our own.

HE equips.

HE loves.

HE goes with us and before us.

Today I seek my peace in the capable arms of Jesus, instead of the bottomless pit of Google and daydreams.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. –Mathew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Surrender | thisgratefulmama.com

I Chose To Stay Home With My Children – Not To Throw Away My Career

As I left my job almost two years ago, the words of a trusted co-worker rang in my ears: “If you want to come back, you better find part-time work or a way to make yourself appealing to employers or you won’t be able to find a job”.

Last fall, out of the blue, another co-worker graciously recommended me for an amazing job (thank you). The appealing job description and company seemed like a good fit for my previous experience. While nothing is certain, if I’d pursued it, I think I could have gotten the job and would have enjoyed it.

For the first time, in a long time, I paused to question whether it was smart to pass on the opportunity. Was I blowing my chance to return to a career I excelled in and enjoyed? If I stay out much longer, will my 4 years of school and 9 years of experience be obsolete? Worthless? How long is too long?

I spent hours thinking, praying and trying to make sense of ‘what could be‘. I sought counsel of my husband and friends. The consensus reached was that now isn’t the right time, even for a perfect job. I am already in the right place; at home with our kids.

When I replied to the recruiter, he commended me for choosing to stay home. Then, in the same sentence, he warned – find contract or part-time work, soon, or re-entering the workforce will be challenging (he also offered his services to help me find such work).

I appreciate the truth behind this repeated warning. Biotechnology is a rapidly developing and changing field. While I read journal articles and do my best to stay up to date with emerging technologies, I’m not working in the industry. I can read all I want, but when I do return, there will be a learning curve. It isn’t that it can’t be done, but the longer the time away, the harder it will be to return.

The warnings made me wonder if I was going to wreck any chance of getting a similar job when I am readyDid I throw my career away? Society often thinks of stay-at-home moms as doing just that when they leave the work force. Just look at forums where moms discuss trying to go back to work. The boards are filled with encouragement, but are laced with critical, harsh and ignorant comments from people who made different choices. Different decisions don’t have to be judged as worse, or better.

But a decision to stay home is a bold one, not an easy or foolish one. It is carefully considered; options weighed, pros and cons listed, and agonized over. I did put my career on hold to stay home with my children. I did contract work during my first year away. I didn’t choose to throw my career away. I understood the warnings. My career may look differently in 10 years than it would have otherwise. I’m OK with it.

No matter what happens when I am ready to work outside the home again, I won’t feel penalized. Having the opportunity to be with our children beats any career success, published journal article, patent application, financial reward, or respect of co-workers that I may have earned during that time.

I was with the same company for 9 years. It was a busy (sometimes chaotic) job. I enjoyed the quiet solitude of the lab, loved technical writing, and appreciated that my co-workers were dear friends. When my son was born, my job was less fulfilling. Before, I’d have been excited by a priority project, even if it required some (or a lot of) extra hours. But now…I longed to run out the door.

I wanted to do both jobs well…but I found the demands of an infant and toddler and working to be often overwhelming. I was drained at work from sleepless nights, and drained at home from working. Some working moms find this balance less challenging – I am in awe of you. I found I wasn’t wired to do both while our kids were small. I wanted to give my family the best of me, not the left-overs.

I struggled sending our child to daycare and knowing I might miss precious first waves, words or steps. I wanted to be there during the ‘formative’ years; while they develop and learn new things every day. More and more…my desire to work waned. My greatest impact and legacy will not be in the field of biotechnology, it will be in our children.

Initially, we couldn’t make it work financially. I kept working; a mutual decision, and not one I regret. We trusted in God’s perfect timing. My husband is my hero. He was willing to do anything he could to help me stay at home. He worked a full-time job, while also earning his MBA. The MBA helped him achieve career goals, which allowed me to quit my job after my daughter was born. The timing was perfect.

Still, quitting was not easy. No, it was hard because I liked my job. I tried to have the best of both worlds…a part time gig. My employer and I couldn’t make it work, so it was full-time work or none. Tears were shed. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t work part-time. It would have been difficult to have one foot in each world when the purpose of leaving was to have two feet at home.

It also wasn’t easy to transition home. I missed my work, friends, and solitude of writing and the lab. Like any job, it took time to adjust, and the learning curve was huge.

While there is truth to fears of being obsolete when I want to return to work, there is also a misunderstanding of what I am doing while out of the traditional work force. I may not be working in a lab or traditional business, but I am still developing skills that will be useful to an employer. They are much more than perfecting laundry, cleaning, and cooking skills. Raising little people is no small feat.

I spend nap times and evenings doing part-time marketing work for a talented speaker and consultant, writing this blog, volunteering, and working for an online company. It is not about money, but to keep my brain busy and to spend time thinking about things beyond our household.

These years are a gift; a different career path.

I didn’t throw away my career to stay at home with my kids. I took a break to focus on what was ultimately stealing my focus already. I spend my days with two of the most precious people in my life. I enjoy smiles and giggles, and help them with challenges and tears.

What will I do when I go back to work? I honestly don’t know. It will be different than if I’d kept working. Fiercely loyal, I’d probably still be working at the same company; my current job is more fulfilling. I may not be able to jump right back in where I left off, but so what? I am not the same as before I left, so why should my work be? I expect and hope for more fulfilling work. With the joys and challenges I’ve encountered as a mom, I am not sure that writing and editing procedures or the solitude of the lab will be enough for me.

No regrets.

To the working world – I hear your warnings and take them seriously. But also take note: being a mom is changing me, for the better. My worldview is bigger, my skills are better-rounded, and if the lab world doesn’t think I am qualified when I go back, it may not be the right place for me.

Here is how I CHOOSE to remember our trip

I chose to stay home with my children – not to throw away my career

7 Tips For Moms When Your Spouse Travels For Work

spouse travel

Whether you stay at home with your kids, or work during the day, life is just a BIT more complicated when your spouse travels for work. Suddenly, your parenting partner is unavailable during evening hours, and your kids are missing their daddy (all while YOU are missing your spouse!).

A traveling spouse means you’re IT. You and the kids are on your own for meals, activities, bedtime and emergencies.

Per Murphy’s Law, SOMETHING unplanned will happen. At our house, it’s usually a sick child. I’m not sure how this happens, but literally, the moment my husband’s plane leaves the ground, one of my previously healthy children falls ill.

Almost. Every. Time.

Weeks without daddy can be especially difficult when a child is ill. Now, no one is getting out of the house. This means no adult interaction for the mama, and no alternative entertainment from friends, family, school, or activities.

Whether everything goes as planned, or not, here are some practical tips for thriving when we’re the one on our own with our little ones.

 

7 Tips For Moms While Your Spouse Travels For Work

1. Practice Gratitude

I know, I know, you’ve seen me write this before. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but for me, it’s crucial. My situation looks mighty different when I look though a lens of gratitude for all the blessings God has provided to our family, and specifically, to me.

When the weeks or days (or HOURS) get long, remember to be grateful that your spouse HAS a job (hopefully one they enjoy and are challenged by). Savor that your kids are amazing, and that you have the chance to see them every day (and acknowledge that your traveling spouse does not get to)

If you’re a stay-at-home mama, be grateful YOU CAN. It is a special privilege not given to many.

2. Be Flexible

When my husband will be gone, activities have two purposes: to entertain the kids and to give me a little break. Our schedule is selective and is sometimes designed specifically to save my sanity. But, even a well planned schedule has pitfalls; illnesses and cancellations happen. I can’t rely on a carefully planned schedule alone to carry me through the week.

It can be disheartening when you can’t go to activities. WHEN it happens, remember that as the parent, YOU are the one who sets the tone. Bad attitudes are particularly infectious.

BRIEFLY acknowledge your own disappointment and theirs. Console. Then, adapt and move on. SHOW your kids how to be flexible. Even if you ‘fake’ a good attitude at the beginning because you are discouraged, as they cheer up, so will you.

3. Soak It Up

When one parent is gone, you’re IT. You are on-demand. You are needed and wanted possibly more than you’d rather.

When daddy is gone, my kids are more attached to me than usual. They have been known to start getting upset when I leave the room for just a second, and suddenly a bathroom break causes chaos. Sometimes all that attention makes me want to just run away and find a closet to hide in. Even for just. ONE. minute.

When I feel smothered, it helps to remind myself that the kids miss their daddy, and that I need to extend extra grace. I intentionally lower my voice and try to speak gently, even when I’m feeling emotionally raw. I do my best to welcome their requests to be close (as in hugging-my-leg-the-entire-time-I-make-dinner ‘close’). The more available I am, the better their behavior, overall.

So, set those dishes down, leave the crumbs on the floor, and let those little ones climb into your lap. Read to them until you’re hoarse. Love them up, and enjoy every second of it. It may sound cliche, but it really WON’T be this way forever. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that these moments are fleeting, even if they feel like they’re taking For..ever.

Let their demand for more of you FILL your soul rather than drain it.

4. Check Your Perspective

During a two-week stretch when the kids and I were all sick and stuck inside, I had a moment of intense jealousy of my traveling husband.

Sure, traveling to Bangkok may sound glamorous, but 30+ hours of travel in a MIDDLE seat, then enduring wicked jet-lag, and FULL days of business meetings (with maybe 2 hours of sight-seeing during an entire week) is just NOT enviable…THEN traveling to Amsterdam with full days of meetings, even more jet-lag for another week, (also with little-or-no sightseeing)…THEN coming home to sick kids and a sick wife….taking care of them while enduring MORE jet-lag….IS. NOT. FUN. It just isn’t. Then after one day home (taking care of us), he was back at work, exhausted, and bombarded with people and problems who needed him. NOW.

My jealousy was absurd and unfair. My bad attitude didn’t help me be patient with the kids (which is why one of my first blog posts was about patience), and I felt drained, cranky and tired. If you start to feel this way, and you think life is more pleasant for your traveling spouse, step back and be honest about what traveling for work is REALLY like. Trust me, the grass is NOT greener on the other side and it isn’t as glamorous as you may assume.

Kick that jealousy to the curb and be grateful you endured your week without jet-lag, and that you slept in your own comfy bed.

5. Stay Connected

Whether you are getting out of the house or not, find ways to stay connected with your spouse, friends and family. Set phone and skype dates with your spouse and KEEP THEM (even if just for 5 minutes). Do the same with friends if you can’t get out because your kids are sick. When healthy, accept invites with friends and setup play dates, or meet a friend to go for a walk or to the park. If you have family in the area, quality time with beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles can work miracles with children who miss their daddy and need some extra loving. And, don’t let being BUSY while your spouse is gone deprive you of your quiet time with the Lord. Staying connected there will remedy a whole lot of problems and leave you feeling refreshed in the midst of what may be chaos.

6. Find An Outlet

Regardless of your next ‘break’ out of the house, you need to find something that gives you a ‘mental’ break. FIND an outlet that energizes and restores you. Look for something to learn, read, do, make, exercise or play. Doing something productive is always a bonus and mood booster.

For me, one of the things that came out of my husband’s travel is this blog. The blog was and IS STILL a necessary outlet for me to write down thoughts. It encourages me to DO something productive and stop vegging out on the couch, eating junk food, and watching garbage TV at night. I do hope you enjoy reading this, but in reality, this blog is for ME (Selfish, I know). I’ve also found an outlet doing some part time work from home, and in craft or DIY projects while the kids are asleep.

7. Ask For, and Accept Help

This is not one of my strong suits…but important to acknowledge and DO! We all need help. Admit it. Accept it. Ask family, friends, or hire a baby sitter if you have to. When someone offers, take them up on it. Also check around your community for other forms of help:

  • Check into events that can lighten your load: See if your church, (or a local church near you) does a meal any night of the week – they often have children’s programming that the kids can attend for FREE. Everyone benefits.
  • Utilize the child care at your gym to give yourself an hour break and to work out: Your body and attitude will thank you.
  • Consider identifying a daycare source if you need somewhere for the kids to go in a pinch: There are some pay-by-the hour places, and some companies have backup daycare for children of employees. Get the paperwork in order, so it is available if you need it.
  • This might be a good time to take advantage of ECFE, Parks and Recreation, and Community Education programs in your area.
  • Check out things like open gym, open swim, or other similar activities that can let your kids play while you watch, sipping a coffee.

 

At times, the schedule may seem grueling and the days may sometimes feel like they go on forever, but we can still do our job as a mom WELL and enjoy it whether our spouse is in town or not. The trips aren’t stopping for us anytime soon, so I would love to know your best tips. What do you do to make the most of the days when you’re on your own with the kids?

 

7 tips for moms when your spouse travels for work

It’s No Wonder That As Women, We Question What We Should Look Like – I Want Something Different For My Daughter (and Son)

Whatever IS

As yet another week ends with viral news spreads of a woman showing a little too much (and doing so proudly), I find myself frustrated with the world my daughter will grow up in. She is only one and a half, but already, I am concerned for her future self-image; body image, self-worth, and what attributes she has that she’ll see as valuable.

I thought about linking to the most recent story, but I’m not going to spread it further and make you want to look.

You know the type I’m referring to, so save your eyeballs, and just keep reading.

When I was my daughter’s age, this type of behavior was considered scandalous. Don’t you remember when Madonna was considered too risqué? I wish we could go back to THAT, and even that is more than I want her to think is OK.

Today, it’s merely a blip of photos gone viral, only to be outdone by someone else on Monday. Instead of being rightly shocked and appalled, we are so inundated with it that we barely bat an eye. Some have their eyes glued to it, while others roll our eyes. FEW avert their eyes.

We accept that they exist because they are everywhere. Instantaneously. Accessed within seconds. Forever in cyberspace. Images are on social media news feeds, website homepages and sidebars, television and radio, billboards, or even in the coffee shop where you sit trying to focus on something else.

Censoring isn’t really possible today. Even if you look away, you saw a glimpse of more skin than you wanted to. Somehow, the media and world (including other women?) celebrate these so-called ’empowered’ women.

NEVER will the words “good for her” be uttered from MY lips for this.

[Rant]

You may be wondering what that means above…there was a long rant there. I removed it because, frankly, it doesn’t need to be said, yet again. I am not here to judge those who decide to post their photos online. I’m guessing they do not know God, and I can’t expect them to live to His or my standards. I am also sure that society has praised their actions, paid them handsomely, and I won’t deny that they are indeed, beautiful. And, I know that it takes a considerable effort to look that way. Time and effort I don’t dedicate to it. When I re-read what I had written, my words were not kind, so I took them out. Tearing down another woman isn’t helpful and won’t resolve the problem.

A rant is not the purpose of what I am writing today. We already know the harm these images do to both women and men, girls and boys. Both are affected, negatively. It cannot and should not be ignored.

That is why I rejoice when I read articles like this one;  a proactive approach to help our kids learn and know something different. Tools and words to educate our kids. Well said.

The truth.

No little girl (or boy) should stop eating, take diet pills, or save pennies for plastic surgery. Nor should they feel less-than because of judgmental glances or words by others. But, the content keeps coming. And we all suffer from a misguided bombardment.

While I avoid looking, I know the images are there. I can’t escape it and see images before I can turn my face away. Images are powerful. They imprint in your mind and can be recalled. It BOTHERS me. I find myself looking at my post-two-precious-babies body, and feeling self-conscious that it looks DIFFERENT. I question my beauty, and my worth because I do not live up to our society’s, albeit WRONG, standard. And I know better!

So what now?

First, I use care when getting ready to show my daughter that it doesn’t need to take HOURS. Spend too much time in the mirror, and you can primp, curl, and cover and look like SOMEONE ELSE. But I don’t want her to. I want my daughter to look like herself. I watch my words about my own body. She will not hear me telling myself that I am too fat, don’t like THAT wrinkle, or wish I looked differently. I censor any self-judgement for her, and for ME. I get dressed in clothes that fit and are modest in nature, and focus on looking nice for my HUSBAND. I have only a handful of makeup items and spend no more than 10 minutes ‘primping and curling’ unless it is for a very special occasion.

On that note, my SON will not hear or see those things either. He will see what a ‘normal’ female is like, and I hope he will desire THAT for his future wife.

It doesn’t mean I don’t want to look nice, or struggle with body image. But, really, I just want to look like ME. While I will continue to exercise and eat healthily, my hair won’t ever be perfect, nor will my body. I will not take strange dieting herbs or inject any toxin into my face. No thank you. I will just look like me; aging slowly, like everyone else. Only I hope to do it gracefully.

For my children’s sake, I put my scale and mirror away, and try to align myself with what God sees and teach them to do the same.

I pray and have prayed daily, for my daughter’s future self-image. I will persist because the images persist.

I pray that her self-image will be as her mom and dad see her. And, even better, how God sees her.

Beautifully made.

Loved by God.

Loved by her mom and dad and countless others.

Intelligent.

Creative.

With great potential. 

Useful.

Wanted.

Intended for a great purpose of eternal value.

Responsible to take CARE of her body by eating healthy and exercising, but to be modest in the expression of it.

To make every effort to do this:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 (The Holy Bible, ESV)

And…

SO.

MUCH.

MORE. 

All these truths, I desire for her to KNOW to her CORE so the world will not shake her, or cause her question her value.

Pray for your daughter, wife, granddaughter, niece, and friends today. Any woman is subject to these attacks. Pray also for your son, husband, grandson, nephew and friends. That they would know the truth that a woman’s value and beauty is not encapsulated by the exterior. I am.

With the way things are going, you can’t pray, teach or love them enough. Talk about the truth and be sure your little ones KNOW that the world’s view of a woman’s body is both incorrect and dangerous.

Censor what you can. Let the things they see in your home and hear from your mouth be pure in content.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – (The Holy Bible, Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Undoing what society throws at them will take focused effort. It is an ongoing battle and it won’t be ending anytime soon.

Are you fighting it?

JOY Comes In The Morning; Even When You’ve Failed

ps 30 5

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like I failed at my job as a mom.

After the kids went to bed, I sat with my husband, recounting the day, tears streaming down my face.

I told him how I was still feeling just as helpless, ill-equipped, emotionally raw, and disrespected as I had earlier in the day.

How I felt like I had FAILED.

And, worse, how I had no idea what I could have done differently.

I told my husband how my son had ended up in his room, completely out-of-control, caught in the throes of an EPIC temper tantrum.

And how that tantrum had left both him and ME in tears.

I recalled how the whole day leading up to that moment had been emotionally charged, and filled with out-of-character defiance from my son.

How at 9 am I was already searching mom-blogs for advice on how to discipline (I should note, I found one worthy of reading here). And the day went on from there.

To say I was frustrated is an understatement.

Knowing my husband was in a meeting, I had called my mom in desperation for advice. She must have heard the defeat in my voice, because my parents were at my doorstep in 10 minutes.

It is the first time I have ever called for backup.

At first, I felt sheepish. Like I should be able to handle it.

But as they arrived, the tension diffused.

Relief washed away any embarrassment.

Plus, I HAD no big ideas on how to proceed. I felt like if I went to speak with my son, who had since quieted down, he would again spiral out of control.

My dad went and had a grandpa-grandson talk.

A while later my son emerged. Calm. Apologetic. Tear-free.

My sweet parents stayed until my husband got home, and then my son and daddy had a talk.

I was grateful for all of the help and the rest of the evening was uneventful.

But I felt defeated.

Sure, my son’s behavior was unimpressive, but what became EVIDENT was my lack of skills to handle it.

Kids have temper tantrums; it’s a fact of life.

Especially kids who have gotten ear tubes, a nasty cold and a cough, and started fall activities and preschool, ALL in the last 2 weeks.

My son is rightly exhausted, and in the process of learning to cope with the increase in stimulation and activities.

I get it.

He. Just. Lost it.

My husband encouraged me and we set a plan in case something like that happened again.

I went to bed with an empty feeling. Disappointed in myself. 

When I woke this morning my daughter was yelling.

I went in and she was jumping up and down, cracking up, excited to see me.

My son was found reading quietly in his bed. He, too, was excited to see me, and to share what he was looking at.

No reservations.

He wasn’t thinking about yesterday, or how mommy couldn’t handle the situation. 

We came downstairs and I made them breakfast, and sat to spend some time with the Lord.

Still feeling raw, I decided to start in Psalms; in hopes of finding words to begin the day with WORSHIP.

I opened to Psalm 30. A familiar, highlighted verse jumped out at me.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 Psalm 30:5 (NIV)”

I find it even more beautiful in the King James Version:

For his anger endureth but a moment,
    in his favour is life;
weeping may endure for a night,
    but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 30:5 (KJV)”

I may have found failure yesterday, but my son and my God have not given up on me yet. 

How encouraging is that?

While I did pray for help yesterday in the thick of it, it was more of a plea of desperation.

Earlier in the day, when I was searching mom-blogs for parenting wisdom, I should have been consulting the Bible and praying to the One And Only. 

The ultimate parent and Father who has watched every temper tantrum in the history of the world (Ugh, aren’t you glad YOU haven’t had to do that?).

It isn’t that other parents (or my parents) can’t give wisdom. They can. I am grateful they do.

It’s just that I was relying on the their wisdom and my strength doesn’t hold up under pressure.

Only the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control given by a relationship with Jesus Christ can prepare us for the unknown.

Mom-blogs are great, but they are no match for Jesus.

Yesterday reminded me how important it is that I pray daily for His guidance and wisdom for parenting.

That I would rely on HIS strength.

Because as I so clearly demonstrated yesterday, I cannot do this on my own strength or wisdom. 

My children have been calm and pleasant today.

Little course correction has been needed, and has gone without objection.

Like yesterday never happened.

Today I give thanks that without fail, JOY comes with the morning, as does another chance.

What Do You See? What Does God See? Do They Match?

Standing in front of a mirror in June, getting ready, I found myself displeased with how my clothes fit. I sighed, wishing I had bought something new to wear for our family photos.

The image I saw really mirrored my own self image, not just my outward appearance:

  • A wife who still forgets her husband sees her as beautiful, despite his words and compliments
  • A tired mother, wishing she could have slept later than the baby who woke at 430 am
  • A mother of two whose body is different than it used to be
  • A woman who doesn’t spend time to get ready or to reflect on how she sees herself most days

On a normal day, I usually a rush to put on mascara, some sunscreen enforced face lotion, and a little powder before a child needs something. That morning, my husband was graciously taking care of the kids so I could spend a little more time getting ready.

But in this case, those added moments staring in the mirror weren’t doing me any favors. I was certainly NOT feeling ‘pretty’, no matter how many times I changed my clothes or added more makeup.

Instead, I was doing something very unproductive; sinking into the pit of self-loathing.  Annoyed with myself and my lack of exercise, healthy eating, and the realization that my body is simply DIFFERENT than it used to be.

I’m sad to admit that the problem didn’t start that day. It was bigger. Let me tell you how I got to this point. It was several weeks in the making.

In the weeks before our trip, I had searched my closet and several stores for the perfect outfit. I was supposed to wear something navy, white, and/or khaki. Sounds simple, right? I had 3 tops, and own 2 white pants and several pairs of khakis.

These clothes are all in ‘new’ condition, but were all purchased before my second child (some before my first). I like them, but frankly, I felt like they didn’t like me! They do not FIT as they did when they were bought. A common problem these days and the reason why I wear the same few outfits over and over despite having a closet-full.

After finding things in the store also didn’t fit as I desired, I decided it was a problem with me, and resorted to wearing Spanx under my pants. You know, to just make something I had ‘WORK’.

Yep.

So now I’m squeezed into spanx which are NOT physically comfortable, in order to ‘FEEL’ comfortable in my BRAIN, in a regular navy shirt and khaki pants.

I had thought that this strategy would give me peace of mind, so I could relax during photos.

Right.

Relax in Spanx. Ha.

I could hardly breathe. But at least I wasn’t focused on sucking in my stomach?

So that was my frame of mind as I coated my hair with hairspray to make it ‘stay down’ and put on more makeup than usual, in a weak attempt to cover my perceived tired eyes with mascara and concealer. As I applied mascara, my eyes caught words written at the top of the mirror in black marker.

“What do you see? What does God see? Do they match?”

I immediately felt the pang of conviction and mixed emotions. Remorse that I had YET AGAIN forgotten this truth. And, at that same moment, I was overjoyed by the remembrance that God sees me as useful, beautiful, and of eternal value.

I can’t take credit for those words. You see, I was getting ready in my niece’s old bedroom. We were staying at her parent’s home as we gathered to celebrate her wedding day. She is an amazing woman, niece and friend. She wrote these WISE words long ago.

I stood there, pondering the words as my son and daughter tumbled into the room a few moments later as my husband tried to rally them for a bath and to get dressed. They both had wicked bed head and mismatched pajamas.

Still struggling with mixed emotions, I saw the joyful sparkle in their eyes, high energy movements, and simplicity of my emotions as I watched them.  If I see my children as such beautiful, amazing, and earth shattering little people, how much MORE does the Lord see in me and in them?

He made us all. Every detail. With loving care we can’t even imagine.

If you’ve given birth, you know that a tiny baby can only be made by a loving creator. They are too perfect. Tiny toes, fingers and noses. No matter how they look to human eyes, these children are EXACTLY as God made them, and their days and birth were all ordained beforehand by Him.

All these thoughts remained with me as I finished getting ready.

I put on a necklace and forgot to care what I looked like to the world and was just glad the necklace was a great distraction for my daughter to play with.

Because of truthful words on that mirror, I was just me. As I was that day; wife, mother, woman, and child of God.

We had fun taking pictures. There was much laughter, play and joy. My daughter had one outburst of tears, but that is expected from a 1-year-old. Everyone was relaxed and after taking some posed pictures, the entire family went down to the beach to wander and let the kids play.

Had I not seen those words, I am not sure I would have relaxed or stopped worrying about how I looked.

I would have missed the fun, preoccupied with my own perceived inadequacy.

Instead, I spent the day with a refreshed view of how God sees me, reinforced by how I see my own children.

Here’s one photo from the day that thankfully doesn’t look like I am slathered in makeup and fully doused in hairspray.

Family Photo

Some time after returning home, I came across this passage, and was reminded of that moment.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:25-34

 

The next time you struggle with your clothes, hair, or skin, remember to ask check if your self-image reflects that of your maker.  Do they match? I know I will be writing this question on my daughter’s mirror when she is old enough to have one.

 

 

Don’t Let Your TO DO List Steal Your JOY This Week

One morning last week, I got up early to water our new sod before the daily MN gale force winds began – which blow water away, watering the everything EXCEPT our grass.

Waking to the promise of being sprayed in the face by a sprinkler is not my favorite. I may be sprinkler-challenged.

Wet and disgruntled, I came back inside. I began surveying the mess of toys and clutter and started to make a mental list if tasks.

My TO DO list made, my outlook was dreary. Bleh.

At 7, I heard our daughter calling yelling ‘Mama’. I opened the door, turning on the light in her blacked out room. Blinded, she still greeted me with one BIG, squinty, drooly smile. She is that way, every morning. Without fail.

Giggling as she told me a gibberish story, she grabbed her teddy bear and reached for me to pick her up. I quickly changed her diaper and set her free.

Her immediate response was to run, full speed, belly sticking out, head back and squealing with delight – straight through her older brother’s door.

Her greeting  was hysterical. Cracking up and yelling, she climbed in bed with him. They immediately went about finding something to play. Many giggles and shrieks ensued. Later, when tired or hungry, their play may require a referee – but not in the morning.

In the morning, there is simply JOY.

And, EVERY morning, they are just like this.

Everything is new. They get absurdly excited to eat breakfast. Trucks, Legos, babies, crayons and more are rediscovered, one by one. Our son always wants to know what we’ll do, where we’ll be and who else will be there. Even if just running errands, he is excited to go on an adventure (plus, errands promise snacks).

To them, morning makes everything new.

Thankfully, their joy is infectious. Just the anticipation of their laughter changes my outlook. I am privledged to see their sweet faces each morning unlike my husband who is working by the time they wake. 

As adults, and even teenagers, we lose this sense of wonder with the world and with what each day will hold. Our responsibilities and obligations weigh on us. We wake with a TO DO list playing in our head. Our joy is quickly given over to dread.

Lately, in my time with the Lord, I have been struck by my LACK of morning, and sometimes daily, joy.

I am so often joyful for their faces, but not of my own accord.

Why do they have this joy? Perhaps because they know their needs are provided for – they know they will eat, drink, play and be taken care of. This confidence leaves them free to stop and experience wonder, curiosity, and to just BE.

They aren’t already playing their entire day in their head the moment they wake. They aren’t worrying about what needs to be accomplished.

Adults are responsible to work to provide for our family’s needs, but we forget that our skills, capabilities and much more are GIVEN to us by the one and only Living God.

HE provides for US. EVERYTHING we already have, EVERYTHING we need.

Perhaps if I spend my first moments thanking God for the opportunity to DO all things WELL today, for HIS GLORY, I might see that TO DO list with a little more hope, and a whole lot more JOY. When I spend more time trusting in His provision and doing my best work, I am free to be present, thankful, and JOY-filled, even if it doesn’t look like a giggling, toddler.

I am not saying TO DO lists don’t need to be made. You know that song by the Go-Go’s, “I am the girl of a 100 lists”? That’s me. BUT, I am often guilty of making those lists before I practice being grateful.

 Of this I am certain, that TO DO list doesn’t need to be the first thing I do before getting out of bed.

Before my feet hit the floor today, I focused on gratitude for HIS provision and for HIS mercy. Instead of immediately jumping to pick up the house, I glanced at the mess, and CHOSE to start the day on my knees with the Lord instead of with a TO DO list.

An attitude changing choice – A DAY changer.

This day began with gratitude. That gratitude released an internal, God-given JOY.

Today I greeted our children with my OWN joy.

I’m grateful their carefree and childlike joy is a reminder to approach each day as they do. It is my goal to do so more often.

Take your que from this little sweetie. Set your TO DO list aside.  Just for a moment. Start your days this week with JOY.

Morning Joy

Morning Joy

 Take a deep breath and feel the JOY that follows the experience of true gratitude. Trust me, it’s a great way to begin your day.

Happy Monday!