Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankfulness for his Faithfulness

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
Psalm 145:4-7

This past year looks nothing like I expected. Through all it's dramatic twists and unexpected blessings, I see the distinct handprints of God's faithfulness.

It's the time of year where we count our blessings. As Christians we think of Thanksgiving as a time to be grateful for what God has done for us. But that's not quite enough. We must proclaim God's abundance to others. Because Psalm 145 exhorts us to share God's works, mighty acts, awesome deeds, greatness, abundant goodness, and righteousness, I can't keep silent on the works of God's faithfulness to me and my family in the past year.

How God was Faithful in 2016 (an incomplete list):
  1. He enabled me to finish writing Unsupermommy. I was merely obedient to his calling; he was faithful to bring it to completion. When I needed physical help he provided baby sitters, grandmas, and a patient husband to support me. When I needed wisdom, his Word was a ready supply. When I needed encouragement, he moved in the hearts of others to speak. When I wanted to give up, he was persistent. He was faithful.
  2. He gave us the land. We're about to start building our farmhouse. My parent's technically gave us the land, but they were simply instruments of grace in our lives. Every piece of dividing off that land was met with a roadblock. We simply couldn't have made it through without God's amazing faithfulness. This blessing hasn't come in via the timeframe or plan we expected, but it is coming. He provided a winding path around the roadblocks of the county--one that was set in motion before my parents' even owned this property. He was faithful.
  3. When Wes was discontent and overworked at his previous job, God provided the unexpected gift of a career advancement close to home. We have already been so blessed by Wes' close proximity at Ridges so many times. When Wes did the first interview for that job, they were so honest in telling him they had two other internal candidates at the top of their list. But God had other plans for that position. He was faithful.
  4. We put our house on the market in May and sold it in two weeks to a buyer who didn't want to move in until September. Who has ever even heard of such a buyer? God was faithful.
  5. We moved in with my in-laws, and it has been so different than we expected. My MIL has only been at the house with us about 14 days in the 3 months we have been here, which means I've been shouldering a load of cooking, cleaning, and childcare that I did not expect. But he's been faithful in that too. He gave Wes the wisdom to insist on a Y membership where I can have some childcare and personal space. He has given me more patience and helped me establish a new routine for a quieter afternoon, even if it doesn't involve the alone quiet times we did at the old house. God has been faithful.
  6. I was so afraid to reach out and ask people to write endorsements for Unsupermommy, but God met me there again. I've been humbled by the caliber of people willing to read my words and put their approval behind mine. Unsupermommy will certainly reach more women with their endorsements. I was afraid, but God was faithful.

These six things are the big ones, friends, but there are so many more. All of God's faithfulness in every day moments could never be recounted. It would break the internet. That faithfulness must be whispered in the moment to our friends, spouses, and children. Don't let a chance to tell others about God's faithfulness pass you by. We are meant to proclaim it.

Do this today. Tell someone, tell the world. Speak boldly about God's blessing on your life. Proclaim his faithfulness. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How I survived 3 babies in 3 years

I had 3 babies in just shy of 3 years. People often ask me how I did it. Here's my secret:

I didn't do it.

On my own I couldn't even make it 5 minutes. I simply wasn't patient enough, strong enough, rested enough, gracious enough, or loving enough.

I wasn't enough for the task God gave me, which was exactly his plan. Because he is abundantly enough, and he equipped me with enough grace for every overwhelming moment of every exhausting day. All I had to do was simply rely on him.

Reliance is the result of relationship. If you feel today that you simply aren't enough for the job you've been given, stop trying. Draw near to God, and be equipped with so much more than just enough.

Let your inability become the means to receiving God's all-sufficiency.

Monday, November 7, 2016

In the Tending Season

I'm crazy about peaches. I like to eat them whole, like an apple, leaning over the kitchen sink with the juice dripping off my chin. I like them so much that I may sneak away while my kids play in the other room to eat my peaches in secret.

It's hard to love peaches though. They're a fruit that requires faith. We invest in them when they are still hard, hoping for them to ripen to sweetness. Believing in the tender perfection that can burst forth if we catch them in that perfect moment. Sometimes that moment never comes. Sometimes they were picked too early and never lose their hardness or they were picked too late and the fruit has become mealy and bitter.

Peaches remind me of psalm 1:3, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."

Mommies, we may be firmly planted trees, but we only bear fruit in season. If we try to force fruit during the seasons of sowing, trimming, or abiding, from our sheer willpower to produce, it may be mealy or hard. The tending seasons require faith and faithfulness. We still do the work: water, weed, and prune. We move forward in obedience to the tasks God sets before us, but there are seasons with little to no fruit.

Yet we hold fast in faith. We believe that God is working--in us and in our little ones--as we invest with hope, waiting for the moments of juicy sweetness, the ripe fruits. One day, we'll get our peaches.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dating isn't an Extravagence

"I know for me, it's always you." - T.Swifty

We're ditching the kids tonight. Actually, we ditch them twice a month. It sounds extravagant, doesn't it? For years I thought it was enough to manage one night a month, which usually became one night every other month. After our second baby was born our marriage hit its lowest low. Finally my husband grabbed me, unmet need in his eyes, and told me that he needed to date me. Often. So I put my thinking cap on and came back with twice a month. One night a month the kids would sleepover with grandparents and another night we would get a babysitter. It was the first time we had ever paid a babysitter. We always relied on grandparents before that, and it just wasn't enough. Putting down money just to get out of the house felt borderline frivolous--even a bit selfish--and at first I balked at it. But I was wrong.

Dating is worth every penny, because it's loving my husband well.

Loving him well is loving my children well.

Loving him well is loving myself well.

Loving him well is loving God well.

Find a way, fellow mommies, find a way. Get grandparents in on the game. Do a kid exchange with another couple once a month. Skip a new shirt to pay for a babysitter. If you are dating often enough that it feels extravagant, it's probably just enough. Our most essential human relationship requires a little extravagance. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

God's Grace is Always Greater

If your motherhood load is 1, or 3, or 8 today, God's grace is greater than your job.

If you are pushing against the force of another week, God's grace is greater.

If you woke up in a bad mood, God's grace is greater.

If you can't break habitual sin, God's grace is greater.

If you don't like your kids today, God's grace is greater.

If you can't resist the lure of laziness, God's grace is greater.

If you wish you had any other job right now, God's grace is greater.

God's grace is sufficient enough for our tasks, redeeming of our failings, transforming of our attitudes, and abundant enough to always surpass our expectations. God's grace is always greater

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Advantages of Kids

I often think back on those blissful pre-kid days. The ones where I controlled my time, my body, and even my mind. Those days are long gone, but in the rough-and-tumble trials of parenthood, it helps to take a moment to remember that it's not without advantages.

The Advantages of Having Kids:
  1. Those times when you "can't get a babysitter:" It's the perfect excuse to skip any social events you just don't want to attend: Your second cousin's second wedding? I'm sure that night will prove impossible to find a babysitter. That high school play you can't wait to miss? Sorry, all the grandmas are busy that night.
  2. Get to do all those awesome kid activities again: slip n slides, trampolines, trips to the zoo, amusement park rides, swimming pools, coloring books, and sports are all socially acceptable again.
  3. Reading your own books can be categorized as setting a good example for your kids: It's true that kids who see their parents reading, read more, so read away! Sit those kids down with their own stack of books and declare it reading time for the whole family!
  4. Chores: two words: free labor. Enough said.
  5. The perfect excuse not to clean: It's Saturday, and you really should clean your house. Outside the sun is shining and the leaves are ablaze with fall. Never fear! Your kids have to get outside! A trip to the orchard, zoo, park, or arboretum is obviously in order. In fact, it's your job. Go ahead and neglect your home. You've got a free ticket for fun! The weather is awful? No problem--I'm sure your kids are dying to check out a Saturday afternoon movie. Don't fret, you need some family time.
  6. Stranger Sympathy: Oh, you mean you have 3 kids? 6 kids? All boys? All girls? 2 under 2? 3 under 3? You must be SO busy. Let me get the door for you. You can go ahead in the Target line. Your life must be so difficult. Yeah, all those things may be true, but it's great to hear them, right? The world knows, this job ain't easy! Enjoy the respect and admiration of strangers and friends alike!
  7. The LOVE: Yeah, it's cheesy, but kids love to love their parents. There's nothing quite like the unprompted kiss on the cheek or sweet, unexpected "love you." Parents get the benefit of that cute-as-a-button, pure-faced affection. It might be hard work, but. That. love. It's worth wading through the waters of sleepless nights and endless fights. Despite all our imperfect parenting, those babies love us with all our their mighty, little hearts. Don't ever forget it!

I'm with you, having kids is always hard work, BUT, it's not without it's benefits! Take a moment to read an extra chapter today, shirk some cleaning for fun, or better yet, force your kids to do it! You're a parent, you can. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dear Angry Toddler: A Letter of Repentance

Dear Angry Toddler,
I know that you don't hate me.
I know that you may actually prefer to be naked and free.
I know that putting on clothes may make you feel hindered and uncomfortable.
I also know that you may just be grasping for control wherever you can find it.

Dear Angry Toddler,
I'm so sorry.
I get so angry when you make my life less than easy.
I get so angry when you won't just listen and obey me.
I get so angry when I wonder if another mom could do this better than me.
I get so angry when I wonder if after giving you all of myself, you don't even like me.

Dear Angry Toddler,
I'm sorry that you see your anger reflected back in me.
We are cut from the same cloth.
We are both carrying the deepest need of serving the all-mighty me.
We are both sinners, and we hurt each other daily.

Dear Angry Toddler,
Please forgive me.
May the mercy I constantly receive begin to flow over to you when you are angry.
May I be an instrument of Jesus in your times of need.
May I set aside self to servant-lead.
May I lead you to Jesus, and his mercy seat.

Dear Angry Toddler,
We have the same need.

Jesus, forgive us and take the lead. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Happy Birthday for Mom?

Last Thursday was my birthday. I turned 31--pretty awesome, right? Yeah, no need to congratulate me. Since I became a mom almost five years ago, birthdays haven't been the best. There's really nothing to look forward to, right? Unless my husband whisks me away for an unexpected trip sans kiddos, a birthday is just another day of work. The needs of my children don't vanish for the day so I can lay in bed all day watching movies. Even my dreams of the perfect birthday have been diminished to something as mediocre as watching movies!

If I get really honest with myself, even before motherhood, birthdays were often a let down. I have always expected to get everything I wanted on my birthday, and it pretty much never happened. I think I cried at every birthday party I had as a kid, usually because another child added "cha-cha-cha" to the birthday song when I had specifically requested no "cha-cha-cha's," or something equally horrifying.

Motherhood has only heightened the tension between birthday expectations and birthday realities. A day spent doing whatever you want whenever you want with whoever you want when you're a mom…it's an oxymoron. By definition, the majority of our lives as mothers is spent worrying about what our little people want and need. For years this felt like a death sentence on my birthday happiness, but not anymore.

This year, I decided to give myself a Happy Birthday by choosing to find happiness in whatever I needed to do that day. To celebrate turning 31 I made breakfast, read my Bible, went child shoe shopping and only managed to find 1 of 3 necessary pairs, changed diapers, ate lunch with my boys and MIL at Panera, put a son down for a nap, got a surprise gift of a kiss and an I Love You from my preschooler, helped a toddler stay in his room during quiet time, packed for the cabin, let my sons watch a TV show while at Noodles for dinner, entertained children in the car for 3 hours, received gifts and ate cake and let my boys stay up way too late once we arrived at the cabin, and even managed a few chapters of a book.

It was an average day of motherhood, but this quiet little life of mine is a gift. There's plenty of happiness and celebration to be found in these little people I serve. It might not be everything I imagine I would want to do, but it could be enough. Enough to be a Happy Birthday. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why Not Getting What I Wanted was the Best Thing for Me

We put our house on the market last week. As I prepared the house to list, I encountered countless stories of quick sales. Apparently we are in a seller's market where houses on the market receive multiple offers in only a few days. I was delighted. I couldn't imagine keeping my house "showing ready" for weeks with my 3 busy bodies. I was confident. We have a pretty standout home; I knew it would sell quickly. We planned to be out of the house except to sleep for the entire weekend. Then we had one showing the entire weekend. One.

I'll admit it: I tantrummed. I know why my kids do it--a little tantrum can feel really good. I wallowed. I cried. I laughed with exasperation. This was not what I expected.

Sunday night God got to me. If you're new here, be prepared to hear me talk a lot about what happens when life doesn't meet our expectations. New friends and old, I didn't get what I expected and I'm not proud of my reaction. But I take this comfort: it didn't last all that long. God really is getting to my heart on this. I'm quicker to turn back from my disappointments than I was before. On Sunday night, he taught me a little equation:

God's Sovereignty + His Love for me = the Best for Me

It's kind of like a proof in geometry. Remember proofs? I'm sorry if you hated math, just stick with me. If God is sovereign, and he loves me, and he works all things together for my good, and I didn't get what I wanted, then not getting what I wanted was the best thing that could happen to me.

Do I know why this was best for me? Nope. I once thought there was a perfect little lesson for every disappointment. When I didn't get what I wanted, I aimed to discover the lesson asap. Learning the lesson was my tool to motivate God to give me the thing I wanted. 

I know some of you might be thinking, but she didn't lose a friend, a mother, a child. That silly non-geometry proof is too simple for my complicated and painful situation. I get it, this is just a little, minor want of mine that I didn't get. Yet it's these little things, these minor unfulfillments where we step up and trust God's equation, that weave faith deep into the fabric of our hearts. Then when we walk through the shadows, our faith may waver, but it will not fall. Not because we are faithful, but because we know that He is.

I'm glad I didn't get what I wanted, because I know it's God's best for me. I don't have a perfect lesson to tell you, I just have faith in a sovereign God who does what's best for me. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

We Decided to Sell our Forever House for an Old Dream

For a lot of people who know me, and know me well, this is going to be a surprise. Five years ago, we moved into our Forever Home. We couldn't believe how blessed we were to hit the market at the perfect moment to buy the home we wanted to live in for the rest of our lives. We unpacked and really settled in. We spent hours making the style just right for us. We let our mothers pass along all of our childhood boxes. We were here to stay. Forever.

Two and half years ago, a few unrelated events got us thinking. Well, not really us, mostly my husband. His dream, from his small-town childhood, was to own some land and animals. I grew up on a family farm and loved the experience. We put that dream aside when we realized how expensive it would be to make it a reality while staying within the Minneapolis area. He was certainly a little more sad about it than I was at the time. I got my dream home--my Forever Home--out of the deal. I was content here, and he was working on it. But slowly life circumstances got him dreaming again (I knew he was a dreamer when I married him, so I shouldn't have been surprised). At first when he started talking about a family farm again, I was 100% against it. I hate change. I love financial security. I was in my Forever Home!

Then we got pregnant with our third boy and the family farm idea became significantly more appealing. But the decision felt too monumental. I didn't have the resources to make such a life-shifting, game-changing decision for our family. I remembered that Wes and I had established guidelines, called core values,  for how we would make decisions for our family shortly after our wedding. So we revisited our values, because we had chosen them before children were in the picture. But they still made sense for how our family looked now, so we didn't change them.

Our core values are Glorifying God, Family Togetherness, Lifelong Learning, Hard Work, and Hospitality. As we reviewed them, I was amazed by how a family farm could help us achieve those goals for our family. Yes, we could have valued the same things in our current home, but we could see how a family farm would bring each of our values to the forefront of our everyday life. Suddenly the decision that felt overwhelming, scary, and complicated became simple. If God would provide us a path toward a family farm, we would take it.

About two years ago, we started looking for land. It's been a hard search. I'll be honest, I have high standards. My parents live on one of the most beautiful pieces of property I had ever seen, full of collections of trees, spacious pastures, soft hills, and a serene pond. Ten acres of flat farm land just didn't compare. We also struggled with location. I knew what it was like to live in what everyone considered the boonies (my parents live just outside an established suburb now, but it was certainly the country when I was a child). I wanted to protect my husband from an even longer commute. No matter how hard we searched, we couldn't find the right place at the right price. It was frustrating.

When we first began our search, we asked my parents if they would consider letting us live on their land. They were flattered, but just not ready to tackle the complications of that plan. But as we looked, my heart couldn't move on from it. My connection to my childhood home, the farm I grew up on, only deepened. I realized how much I wanted to not just have a family farm, but have it in that place. It seemed silly to establish something new when my dad already needed help managing his current farm. Why double up? So we asked them to reconsider. Now my dad is a business man and a land developer and a slow thinker. But while we prayed, God got his busy brain churning. I'm not sure how it all happened, but I know it was God. Slowly but surely, my dad figured out a plan. It wasn't going to be easy, but it could work. And the work would be worth it.

So friends, I'm so stinkin' excited to share that we are in the planning process to build a new house on my parents' land. I can't believe the blessing of it. The place I've felt the safest and happiest in the world is going to be my place again. It's going to be the place I raise my boys up. The place I called home will be the place they call home. My boys will get to build a farm not just with their dad, but with their grandpa. How my heart overflows.

When I was a preschooler, I naively proclaimed I was never going to get married. I would just live with my parents the rest of my life and take care of them. Well, friends, that's not exactly how my life went. But I like to think that our new home will allow me both my beautiful family and the opportunity to live in community with my parents and care for them as they grow older. I'm going to have my cake and eat it too.

In all seriousness, I feel like after the hardest season of my life, God is putting me in a season of blessing. It's not a season of ease--there will be plenty of work to do as I finish and promote my book, build our new house, help my husband plan and establish the farm, all while raising 3 toddler/preschool boys--but it is a season of blessing. God is so abundant in his gifts. I still can hardly believe any of it.

Now--does anyone want to buy our (once was) Forever Home? I'm not kidding. It's gorgeous and happy and totally available. I hope it blesses another family the way it blessed us.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. People say you will make it through this season, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Today it feels like endless pressure and  struggling to keep your head above the water.

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. Because seasons can feel like prisons or hospitals or psych wards. Because suffering through with grit and determination isn't enough.

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. Because I know that while you feel lonely, you aren't ever alone. When you feel like you can't take another step, he is waiting to carry you. When your own weakness never ends, his power begins.

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. Because this season will change you. Because you'll never wish it again, but you won't wish it didn’t happen either. Because God will use it to transform you.

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. That you will know Jesus better through your suffering. That these endless hours of monotonous, exhausting work will be where your relationship with the Timekeeper and World Builder becomes a connection to your Abba father, your sustainer and helper.

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. Because I know God has endless strength to see you through. Because his faithfulness never ends. I know these things because I experienced them too. 

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, I am praying for you. Because I have been you, and because many days I still am.

Dear Overwhelmed Mommy, may I pray for you?
Leave a comment below or on my Facebook or Instagram and I would love to pray for you by name this week.

I am praying:
  • That your soul will find rest in God alone: Psalm 62:1
  • That you will set your mind on the things of the Spirit and experience life and peace: Romans 8:6
  • That you will experience God's nearness by calling on him: Psalm 145:18
  • That you will receive God's strength from your weakness: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Redeeming My Deep Daughter Desire, Part 2

I have always wanted a daughter. To be honest, I hoped for two. I didn't have a sister growing up and I thought it would be a neat experience to be a firsthand part of a sister-dynamic. But I didn't get sisters, I got 3 boys. And I love those boys in heart-spasm, overloading-kisses, embarassing-mom kind of way. I can't even believe they are mine, and so cute and funny and endearing and wild and nuts, and I get to have them. This desire for a daughter has nothing to do with them.

I believe that my desire for a daughter is a beautiful thing. There's no shame in it. The desire to mother a little sweet pea up into womanhood isn't wrong. But I let it get really ugly.

I treasured the idea of a daughter. I loved that desire so much that when I found out I was having a third boy, and would probably never get my daughter, I got possessive about it. I decided to put it in a little closet in my heart, tucked away from the light of the Gospel. I didn't want God's sovereignty to touch it. Then I visited my desire--a lot. I sat in that windowless closet with my beloved dreams and refused God's light.

I know that God is sovereign. I know that He is good. And I know that He loves me. But I just didn't want to know those things about being daughterless. Because I thought that if let the light of the Gospel into that dark little closet, God might try to make me be ok with my loss, and I didn't want to be ok.

I was wrong about the whole closet thing though. There are no closets in our hearts. We don't get to push the Gospel out of one area and keep it everywhere else. The Holy Spirit permeates us. If we start pushing him out of one place where we don't want to be healed, we start losing his fruit everywhere else.

When I wrote that post about giving up my daughter desire for Lent, it was because I knew I HAD to do something. I had pushed the Gospel away and my heart had gotten dark. I couldn't live like that anymore, because I knew the goodness of a Gospel-drenched life.

So I gave it up, mentally kicking and screaming, but unable to resist the siren-call of the Holy Spirit any longer. Now a year later, I'm so glad God refused to leave me in that darkness.

I still long for a daughter. Honestly, there are usually tears once-a-month, occasionally a full waterfall tear-fest, but more often a few drops during worship. I'm not even a crier, but this is a deep grief for me. But now when the tears come, I'm not alone. I once scoured the internet for women who would understand me, but I was avoiding the God who searches and knows everything in me. I pushed him out when all He longed to do was swoop me into his arms and comfort my sorrow. Through the good news of the Gospel--that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free, that can make my old pain into a new creation--my grief has a purpose. 

Now when I cry over the loss of my dream, the Holy Spirit groans before God on my behalf and Jesus intercedes at his right hand. They aren't petitioning for me to receive my daughter, but that I would receive more of God through my loss. Because a daughter doesn't give me life, Jesus already did that. Because a daughter isn't the only way God can fulfill my calling to minister to women. Because a daughter won't guarantee that I'll never feel lonely or left out. Because not having a daughter doesn't mean I won't have a best friend. Because the purpose of my life isn't motherhood. And because my desire for a daughter can still serve a purpose, even if I never get one. Not having a daughter keeps me pursuing more of God, and that is the best gift my soul can receive.

So I may always be sad, but I won't ever be alone. This grief doesn't have to be meaningless. May it serve its slow sanctification, for my good and for his glory.

"Sovereign" by Chris Tomlin

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Why is being a mom so HARD?

It's been one of those really rough weeks. We've been sick for two weeks, none of us are down and out anymore, but everyone is holding on to a little of something. I want to blame the yuck of this week on the sickness, but I know that's not really it. There's just something about sickness that brings out our sinness. Sickness strips down our patched-up exteriors until the sin shines through a little brighter and bolder than an average day.

Motherhood does the same thing. It’s the combination of the physical, mental, and emotional needs of my children that gets to me. The day-in, day-out grind of Mom Life that leaves me stripped down to the base of who I am. I'll be honest, the base of who I am is so ugly. This week I haven't been any semblance of the mom I want to be. The pressure of my children's needs has pushed open the cracks I constantly patch over.

The real problem isn't that I've been angry mom, that I've yelled at my kids, that I've retreated into a book when I should have played, that I've ignored, that I've complained, that I've been lazy, or that I've been anxious. Those are all bad and those are all sins. But if I work at those, I'm just putting a small patch over the broken gaping hole. The real problem is what Brad Bigney calls "the sin beneath the sin." It's the idol that I've set up on the throne of my life.

It boils down to this: I do what I do (like all those ugly sins mentioned above) because I want what I want (my idol).

I've idolized all kinds of things in my life, but lately my biggest idol is EASE. I've always valued safety and boundaries and quiet space. Those are good, life-giving things. But I don't get much of them as a mom. Over these past few weeks, the systems I have set in place to give me those things has been completely destroyed. Everything is uncomfortable, complicated, and difficult when I want it to be easy and simple! I want motherhood to be manageable by my own strength and with minimal effort, but it never is. Mothering littles is grueling physically, emotionally, and mentally. This makes me crave ease and comfort to the extent that I look to them for my salvation. I cling to the hope that once motherhood gets a little easier my life will be better. I put my trust in physical comfort instead of the true source of rest. That's the sin beneath the sin, the idol of my heart.

So many elements of the mothering process are difficult, but it's really the spiritual stripping down that makes life feel like a battle. It's impossible keep idols hidden and sins in check in the challenges of motherhood. As we try to put out fires by our own strength, they burn away all the pretense and pretend, leaving us hanging on to what we really worship. Then our sins pour forth, as we fight and kick to hold onto the last bits of our idol burning up in the fires of life.  But if we toss the idols to the side, if we give up those worthless hopes for momentary salvation and cling to Jesus, the Author of Hope and the Giver of Salvation, the fire may surround us, but we will not be consumed by it. Our strength will be renewed in Christ, the unshakeable foundation. When Christ sits at our center, the impossible days or rough seasons still come, but as our simple jars of clay crack, our Hope spills out in gospel grace. 

Paul David Tripp explains that we don't just suffer the difficulties life throws our way, we all suffer how we experience them. It's not just hard to be a mom because of the unending needs of our children. It's hard to be a mom because we suffer the ugliness of our exposed idols. Motherhood is downright impossible alone. That's why I'm heading into my weekend giving up the battle over all my little sins and resting in Christ's power to win the war for the throne of my heart.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Friends #4

It's another Friday. The weekend can't come soon enough for me this week! We are finally (almost) totally healthy here, but it's been almost two weeks and I feel worn down from the whole process. I know a lot of other moms are in the same boat out there, so if you're one of them, just feel a big ole hug from me to you. This will all be over. One day. Like next summer. ;) 

So if I called up my BFF right now, and we had 15 minutes to chat, what would I tell her?

  1. My house is a wreck. It's always messy, but right now it's just a full on disaster zone. For some crazy reason, I decided to tackle cleaning out the baby toys and a few clothes while my kids were sick. Then I got sick and never got it finished and put up for sale online. Those unusual toys that the boys have been bored with for a year are suddenly everyone's favorite and now they are all over the house. Yikes! But I'm so behind on everything, it's like I'm just treading water in hopes we won't drown. 
  2. I'm in a bit of a funk. I feel tired every afternoon even though I'm getting extra sleep at night since I stopped waking up before the kids when I got sick. Maybe my body is still fighting the strep and cold? I think it's time to drag my tired body out of bed and have some peace and quiet devotion time in the morning tomorrow though. 
  3. I'm keeping a house plant alive right now, and it feels like hope every time I head to my kitchen sink to work. Probably everyone should have a plant by their sink? Especially everyone who lives in a frozen tundra. 
So I usually post on MWF, but I'll be a little off schedule for the next week or so. I haven't been able to write much since we all got strep, and I have a book meeting I need to prep for next week. I've also been missing my babysitter Wednesday mornings (which are AMAZING) for me to work on my book since we've been sick. Like I said before, I'm just behind in everything right now. But I'm making space for grace. I'm working on a follow up to my lent post from last year about giving up my daughter desire, and I hope you'll see that sometime next week! 

Now sound off in the comments here, Instagram, or Facebook with what you would tell your BFF if you had 15 minutes on the phone with her. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

How I study the Bible with Little Ones

This is my process. Sometimes I only get through 2 steps, sometimes I sit in all 4. It's not a list to check off. It's a way I get my heart to realign to God every morning. It's an invitation from my heart to his, an eager expectation for Him to speak to my tired mind.
  • Read the daily entry in my New Morning Mercies devotional by Paul David Tripp: I know, I know, I'm not actually starting with reading the BIBLE, but let me be real with you. My brain is a little fried. I'm not always ready to jump in deep into theological exegesis. This time in my life, filled with physical demands and emotional extremes, means I often need something pre-processed first. Something to nudge my mind from the realm of my children and home into discovery of God. This devotional is my momma bird, chewing up the truth so I can digest it a little easier. I love New Morning Mercies because no one mixes grace, truth, theology, and practicality quite so perfectly as Paul David Tripp. I can't recommend it enough. You will get a peace of spiritual meat, cut down to mom-brain simplicity and ready to chew on throughout the day.
  • Read the scripture suggested at the end of my New Morning Mercies devotional: Yep, that even means I'm skipping around in the Bible and only reading short sections sometimes. ;) Getting all wild and crazy like that. What I love about these passages is that they aren't always obvious connections to the text. Figuring out how the scripture relates to what I just read really gets my brain revving up out of it's coma.

A lot of days, I stop here. Doing the above is always my main goal for morning devotions. When I've done the two steps above, my brain has been jump-started into the Truth. I can continue building throughout the day by abiding with God (future post to come on how I do that!). But on a good day, I get to continue on. Here's what I do when I have more time:

  • Read and Study a portion of the Bible I'm sitting in for this season: Here's where I get a little deeper. Friends, I don't have time to really study a portion of the Bible WELL in just one day or even just one week, but that doesn't mean I can't do it. I just have to sit in one place in the Bible in little chunks of time over a lot of days. These portions of the Bible become so dear and so life-giving to me. I spent 7 months in Psalm 145 last year. I know Psalm 145. I love Psalm 145. Verses from Psalm 145 pop into my mind as I go through my day. It has become a part of how I think and a truth that I come back to over and over again. I know the God of Psalm 145. Isn't that the real point of Bible Study anyway? I'm probably not learning anything theologically groundbreaking, but God is speaking to me, right into the grit of my life, and I'm learning how to know Him in all the small moments of my day. Right now I'm camped out in Romans 8, and it's so good for this season. I'm sure I'll be there (and possibly the surrounding chapters) for quite some time.
  • Pray: Since I can pray throughout my day, I schedule this last. Yes, the prayer time is always more meaningful and deeper when I get to pray in stillness, but it's not meaningless when done in chaos. Formal prayer is good, but staying connected to the vine throughout my day is essential. So when I don't have time to formally pray, I find snippets through the day for petition and praise and simple connection.

Dear Friend, hear this: I love Bible Study. I love booklets and questions and concordances and digging in deep. But after Judah was born and I was drowning in moment-by-moment living, I spent months paralyzed from starting anything because I knew I could never finish it. I accidentally stumbled into my new routine, and it's working for me. Find something that works for you. It can be anything. Bible knowledge isn't the goal, receiving the Bread of Life is. Don't not read the Bible because you can never finish a study. Find any way that works for you, and do it. Remember, God is God. He can use the littlest piece of Himself to fill you up! Come to His Word with an open heart and let the Holy Spirit stand in the gap for you.

On those mornings when I can't find a spare moment to do any of this, I simply flip open my Bible on the counter and read one verse a few times as I make breakfast for my kids. That way I still get connected to God early. I don't walk through my day without having eaten my Bread of Life. One verse, read a few times, chewed over as go through my daily tasks, can work miracles!

Tired Mommies, we can be in the Bible. We can be in a developing and fruitful relationship with our Creator and Sustainer. It won't look like it did in our last season and it won't look like it will in the next season, but I can promise you it will bear fruit. We don't need to do this perfectly, we just need to do something. God wants to reach out to us, we just have to open the connection of his Word. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Friends #3

Hey Friday Friends! Sorry I missed you last week. I fully intended to post, but then we got sick on vacation and I just couldn't bring myself to spend precious hours of healthy family vacation time on my computer. I know you'll forgive me. 

If it's your first time here, check out my first post to find out why you're not a stalker if we are just acquaintances or if you don't know me at all! This is a safe space to reach out and be friends. I'd love to get to know you through comments here or on my Instagram or Facebook posts. Also, if you ever catch me LIVE on periscope, please feel free to comment! I love making my social places a conversation instead of me just listening to myself talk. 

1. Speaking of hearing myself talk, when I was a teacher I would tell my students I chose that profession just because I loved to hear myself talk. And since I still love to hear myself talk, I do periscope now. I'm kind of joking...but kind of not. 

2. The boys have been sick since coming back from Florida. I feel bad that they are sick, but it's actually been a nice transition back to home. We've been keeping things low-key and hanging around the house. I really missed the comfort of being in our cozy place! 

3. Our district started 2 hours late on Wednesday, which meant that Isaac missed school altogether. It was supposed to be his first day back after vacation (since Monday he was sick), so I told him it was closed for snow with a super sad and empathetic voice, expecting him to get really upset. He just said "no worries, mom." It was too cute. Isn't it great when your kids exceed your expectations? I was so proud of him for that reaction!

4. I'm taking Zander (2.5) and Judah (18 months) to an ECFE class for the first time together today. I'm excited to meet some new friends, but nervous about managing 2 boys (who are often jealous of each other) during circle time. Also, Judah's reaching that attachment stage hardcore, so we'll see how he does when Mommy leaves the room! 

5. Confession: I'm more excited about the homemade guacamole I'm making than the actual SuperBowl. I actually don't even know who is playing. Oops! My best guess is North Carolina and ??? no idea. Someone please enlighten me.

Now all you have to do is share back! You can comment here, on my Friday Friends post on IG or Facebook, or even do your own Friday Friends post! Just use the hashtag #fridayfriendsmeetup if you take part on your own social media! 

P.S. The WEEKEND is coming. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My God-Driven Publishing Journey Begins

From him, through him, and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

From Him:

It was November 2014. I had a 3-year-old, a 17-month-old, and a 3-month old. I was overwhelmed. I was exhausted. I was suffering. I was stuck in the deep muck of failure. I was failing at motherhood by the world's standards. I was failing at life by my standards. I was failing at holiness by God's standards. I was so tired of failure.

Then God told me the most freeing news: I would always fail. I'm a sinner saved by grace, but I'm still not perfect. No one is. Only God can be perfect. I didn't need to be perfect.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God didn't want me to be a perfect mom, a perfect woman, or even a perfect Christian. If I was perfect, I didn't need Him. Instead I should be content with weakness. My weakness was a ticket to God's strength. When I feel competent in my roles as mother, wife, and Christ-follower, I rely on my own strength (and always fail). Instead I needed to give up the pursuit of being the best mom and focus my life on filling up with God's grace. I've probably always known this truth, but applied to my life as a mom, my mind was blown. All I needed to do was sit in God's daily grace. I would fail at times, but I could retreat back to Him as my savior instead of myself. When I get motherhood wrong, God gets EVERYTHING right. In fact, He can use my failure as an opportunity for me to receive more of Him. What Good News!

As this truth started to reshape how I viewed motherhood, I couldn't believe that it took three babies (in three years) for me to figure this out. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops--Mommies of the World: we don't have to be perfect! What sweet relief! I wanted everyone to know. I can remember one specific middle-of-the-night feeding. I was scrolling through facebook, and I grew so discouraged as I saw several friends with young babies who were obviously struggling through the same painful failure I had experienced. I wondered why there wasn't a book I could send to them. They needed help! Then God nudged me. Maybe if there wasn't a book to point them to God's grace through the complicated first year of a baby's life, someone needed to write it. Maybe that someone was me. The idea seemed crazy. It was crazy. It is crazy. All of my previous insecurity came pushing forward: I wasn't a Supermom. Women shouldn't look to me for how to do motherhood. All I knew how to do was fail at all of it. But then I realized I probably could write the book on failure, the book that encouraged women to let go of all the expectations and embrace God's daily grace for their imperfection. I could probably write that book. So I did. It's called UnsuperMommy.

Through Him:
I wrote the book mostly on my phone as I played with my children. It was the impossible task that God wouldn't let me shake. I tried to quit so many times, but God would inevitably push me back into it using unsuspecting friends and acquaintances that convinced me this book was needed. Writing the book was a constant act of God's grace. He transformed my own heart through writing it, and I pray that it will one day be the means God uses to bring other mommy hearts into the shelter of his grace.

I've always planned to self-publish UnsuperMommy. I knew how much work it was to do a book proposal, get an agent, rewrite the book proposal, and finally get a publisher. My husband wanted me to pursue traditional publishing, but I just didn't have it in me. One day I felt God nudging me, "But have you prayed about it?" I hadn't. So I prayed, "God, if you want this book to be traditionally published, you'll have to make a publisher reach out to me." I laughed in my heart as I prayed. I knew it was a ridiculous prayer. I didn't know anyone in the publishing industry and I didn't have a "k" after the number of my followers on Instagram. But I prayed that ridiculous prayer, and God answered it. Because He can do ANYTHING. When will I ever learn?

Enter the magic of social media: I had been trying the new app periscope out as a way to practice public speaking. Periscope is the toastmasters of my generation! When I would start streaming on periscope I felt like I needed to introduce myself. Before I even realized it, I was sharing publicly that I was writing a book called UnsuperMommy. Generally I was a bit embarrassed (and nervous that I wouldn't finish) to announce that I was writing a book, so I had avoided sharing about it on both Facebook and Instagram. But that magical Periscope, it just brings out all the secrets!

Here's where it gets crazy: the day after I prayed what I thought was a silly, impossible prayer, I got an unexpected message on Facebook from one of my teachers from Junior High. He had seen a few of my periscopes (yep, the only place I talked about writing a book) and Instagram and he thought he could help me with my book…because he is the editorial director for a Christian publishing company called BroadstreetPublishing! I couldn't believe it. I probably read that message 10 times before it started to sink it. We met and it was a perfect fit. A match literally made in Heaven.

To Him:
Now I'm signed to publish my book with Broadstreet Publishing in 2017. Because God writes the best stories. Because God gave me that teacher in that tiny Christian school so many years ago. Because God brought me to the end of myself in motherhood. Because God wouldn't let my mind rest without sharing how his Gospel applies to the hardship of motherhood. Because God prompted me to pray. Because I did so with only a mustard seed of faith. Because God directed me to be open on Periscope about my calling. Because God gave David Sluka's wife a crazy 3 babies in 3 years mothering situation even more difficult than my own. Because God can use something as trivial as social media to connect two people together for His purpose. Because God is God over every little step along the way.

I need you all to hear this: I didn't do anything. I obeyed God's calling by the grace of God alone. Lord willing, I will continue to obey him. He has been responsible for all the fruit so far. He alone will be the creator of all the fruit. I'm just blessed to be a part of this.

When you hear this story, please don't think I'm special. I'm just stewarding a gift from God. Please join with me in praying for UnsuperMommy to reach far beyond the limits of my circle of influence to all the women God knows desperately need the truth of the Gospel to free them from Super Mommy expectations. Pray that I remain obedient to his calling among the pressure of daily life as a mom. Pray that the fruit of UnsuperMommy is God's glory, not mine.

If you want to follow along with me on my journey, I'm @unsupermommy on Instagram, Periscope, and Twitter. Soon I'll have up and running, but until then you'll have to follow this humble blog to receive encouragement in embracing imperfection to receive God's grace!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Toddler Travel Tricks (You've Never Heard Before)

Last week we went to Florida with my parents and my brother's family. Between my brother's family and ours we have 5 kids in the toddler and preschool range: 18 months, almost 2, 2.5, 3.5, and 4.5. I've been to Florida for a week with a kid in tow every winter for the last 5 years, and I'm just now getting the logistics figured out. I thought I would compile a couple helpful hints for you that I haven't read on other blogs.

  1. Don't bring baby supplies with you. Order them on Amazon! Did you know that you can have packages delivered to your hotel and they will hold on to them for you? I've sent diapers, wipes, baby food, and even toddler food packets this way. This works best if you have Amazon Prime because you know exactly what day the items will arrive, but it can be useful with the regular free shipping as well. Want to kick it up a notch? Try this money-saving trick: Don't pay $50 in baggage fees to bring your pack-n-play as a carry on, and don't pay the hotel $15/night to rent a pack-n-play when you can buy one on Amazon for $40 and have it shipped directly to the hotel you are staying at! Just drop it at the nearest Goodwill on your drive to the airport or leave it in the hotel when you are done! Highchairs are another great option to have shipped directly to your hotel to avoid the exorbitant fees the hotel will charge you per day.
  2. Bring toys that do double-duty: You can imagine my surprise this year when the toys I brought for the pool and the sand became their favorite in-room toys. I could have just brought a bag of sand toys and they would have been perfectly content!
  3. Bring throw-away toys: Don't bring the best. Bring the neglected fast-food toys or the half-broken-on-their-last-leg toys. When there isn't any other toys as options, the kids will be delighted. And if you lose one, no big deal. Also, if you're like me and like to shop on vacation, toss out the old toys when you leave and use the extra space in your bag for that new pair of shoes you couldn't pass up. I also love to collect Chik-Fil-A or dollar spot books for a couple months before a trip. They are super light and offer a new reading experience that can be tossed before traveling home. What could be more perfect?
  4. Use the hotel toys: Did you know that many pool areas keep pool and sand toys donated by previous visitors? Call ahead to see if your hotel or resort has any toys on hand before bringing loads of  floaties for the pool or buckets and shovels for the beach.
  5. Pack Less Stuff: The more stuff you put in your hotel room, the harder it is to keep it picked up. If you're traveling with kids, you're probably going somewhere that has a target, walmart, grocery store, or pharmacy nearby. You don't have to bring every item you might possibly need. If you do that, you probably won't be able to find it in the mountain of your dirty clothes when the moment of crisis hits. Stick with the basics. I always wish I had packed a little less.
  6. Leave your perfect vacation expectations at home: My brother's friend once told him: "Before you have kids, you go on vacation. After you have kids, you go on a TRIP." My friends, that saying could not be more true. Our winter trips are no longer about the old R&R. My husband and I wasted years of vacations striving to find pockets in our trip where we could take a nap, read a book, or simply sit alone in the quiet. The pursuit of our own rest was fruitless, and left us disappointed and angry.  This year we adjusted our expectations. We through rest and relaxation out the window. This year our goal was relationships! Despite both of us going down for about 24 hours with the flu, we had a joyful and fun week together as a family. It's amazing how simply adjusting an expectation led to contentment with what we received. It was an imperfect week, but it was so, so good.  
Got any other great tips to add? Share them in the comments! I love hearing what works well for other moms. Anyone else have plans to TRAVEL (not vacation this winter?). My husband and I are escaping on a cruise without the kids in a month and I'm looking forward to actually getting to rest on that trip!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Friends #2

Hey Friday Friends!

Every Friday I do a post of random items I would have to tell my BFF if she called me up right now. If you need to hear why you aren't a stalker for reading and responding to these, check out my first Friday Friends post to feel all the warm fuzzies from me. Since I get lonely in motherhood, I'm going to share a bit of myself here and would LOVE if you responded with a few Friday Friend items to me in the comments here on the blog, Insta, or FB.  You could even do your own Friday Friend post on your blog, IG, or FB and we'll meet up through the hashtag #fridayfriendsmeetup. Without further ado, here's my list:

1. I'm leaving for a week in Sanibel Island, Florida today! My parents will be there, and one of my brothers, his wife, and two girls. We'll have the following kid ages: 4.5, 3.5, 2.5, almost 2, and 1.5. Yup. Let the preschool/toddler adventures commence. 

2. The thing I'm most excited for in Florida is the FRUIT. The juxtaposition of that fresh sweet fruit against the canned stuff I've been living on is just perfection.

3. I've been potty-training my second son, Zander, for months and he's still only partially trained. Ugh. My firstborn was fully trained in two weeks. Isaac did it completely for the praise and the joy of pleasing Mommy (#peoplepleaserbenefits am I right?). This guy wants to be doing it, but just doesn't care if he does it all the way and I feel like we will NEVER move beyond this point. Every time he pees his pants (about once a day) I feel like it's my fault because I am not keeping as close track of when he might need to go as I did for my firstborn. Also, my 18-month-old, Judah, throws a fit every time I lock him out of the bathroom, but he just can't be there. 

4. All the boys have been out of sorts for the past couple of weeks. Tons of fighting, including (oh joy!) the little guys have started fighting/pushing/kicking/hitting each other. So let's just go on vacation and share really close quarters for a week. Ahhh! Hoping maybe the warmer weather and outside fun will change their attitudes. We definitely need a reset.

5. I LOVE podcasts. They are so perfect for moms. I love listening to them while I do the dishes or the laundry. The podcasts even make me look forward to those activities! I find that I'm more productive because I'm in a happier mood too. Just use the podcast app on your phone. PLEASE check out the Jamie Ivey Happy Hour podcast, especially the Jamie Nato episode. I'm going to go back and listen to it again because it was so super encouraging and real. I'll share more of my favorites here in the future!

Have a happy Friyay Friends! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Unexpected Fruit of a Survival Season

How did you do it?

I get asked that question all the time. Mostly by parents freshly in the newborn stage of their second or third child. Trying to learn the impossible juggle of managing multiple needs. Why do they think I have the answer? Because when my second son was only 5 months old, I became pregnant with my third. No, we didn't plan it that way. Yes, we do know how it happens. When Judah was born my oldest was 3 days shy of turning 3 and my middle son was 13.5 months old. It. Was. Rough.

First, you have to know that I didn't do it beautifully. I was a mess. My house and my kids were a mess. We watched more TV than I would care to admit. We didn't get out of our pajamas a couple days a week. At one point I had to call a moratorium on play dates. All I did was survive it. Nothing fancy. Nothing perfect. There were countless tears and too many blowups amid the blowouts. I had to ask for my oldest son's forgiveness several times a day. I thought I would never see it through. That I would never be anything other than the angry, exhausted, barely-managing mother. 

I starved myself from God's Word for months before I came to my utter end. He used an unexpected source, Instagram of all places, to encourage me back into His Truth. I had become a spiritual baby again, and I needed some spoon feeding. I'm so thankful for all the women on Instagram who constantly put God's truth up to counteract the lies that fill our hearts. Then through an influence network class by Jess Connolly God encouraged me to learn to snack on his Word. I didn't have the time or mental stamina for meals of his Word, but I began to snack throughout my day and his Truth pulled me back into the shelter of His wings among the storm of my life.

Eventually, I learned to wake up with the attitude that my only expectation was that I walk with Jesus that day. Even if no naps were managed, food came from a box, diapers remained unchanged for far too long, and too much TV was consumed, but I walked through it with Jesus, it was good. That's how I survived it. With Jesus.

I came to the utter end of myself and found Jesus. God let motherhood break me so I could be rebuilt. Sometimes the only way to wholeness is to be completely broken. I grew up in a Christian home, and I don't remember a time I didn't know Jesus, but I never knew Him like this before. He sustained me not just day-by-day, but moment-by-moment. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't perfect, but I did it. I survived the fire. I came out refined. Less obsessed with my list but head full of Jesus.

I sowed sorrow, exhaustion, failures, and inabilities and now I'm reaping faith like I've never known. 

Now that I know Him like that--when I've walked with him through the rough ride of the external while managing the awful of my own sin--I'll never be the same. Last week, after grieving for the pain of the present and future trial of my uncle and his family from his stroke, I was still able to clear the dishes, turn on some music, and stand at my kitchen sink, arms stretched high and sing: "rejoice. When you cry to him he hears your voice. In the midst of suffering He will help you sing." Because I know that. I know that. I can rejoice because I know that all roads belong to Him. I can rejoice because He never leaves me to myself. I can rejoice because I have suffered and He heard my voice when my cry was only a whisper hidden deep in the dry folds of my inner soul.

He redeems the imperfect, the simple, the subpar. His power flows through our weak and weary frames. We just have to give up. Acknowledge that we can't do one minute of motherhood without his power and his grace. When you reach the end of your rope, He is the net. Fall into his redemption.

We can't survive another minute without Him.

Sitting in the loving arms of Jesus. That's how I do it.

{If you're struggling through life with a newborn, check out my friend Gina Zeidler's latest blog for more encouragement. You are not alone: