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!