I started reading Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst recently, as part of Proverbs 31 Ministries’ latest online Bible study. (If you haven’t done a study with them before, you should consider it! Click here for more information.) It was the subtitle that caught my attention: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Is there a mama alive who doesn’t need some wisdom in the middle of the mess of daily life?
A passage in chapter two hit me right where I’m living. (Doesn’t God often do that when we pick up something to read or study?)
If we determine that, no matter what, we’re on God’s side, it settles the trust issue in our hearts. And if we ground ourselves in the reality that we trust God, we can face circumstances that are out of our control without acting out of control. We can’t always fix our circumstances, but we can fix our minds on God. We can do that.
Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued
I have so much facing me right now. There are giants in my life that are staring me down, threatening to take me down. I’m determined to make it through to the other side with God’s help, victorious. The only way I’m going to do that is to quit looking at my circumstances, at the very things in my life that are trying to take me down into the pit of discouragement and despair, and look up. I have to make the decision, once and for all, that I’m on God’s side and I trust Him, no matter what. Only then can I come through the fires of adversity unscathed.
What do you think, mamas? Let’s quit looking at everything that we’re frustrated or disappointed about, everything we’re worrying and fretting about, the fear that lurks in the pit of our bellies every moment of every day. Instead of focusing on all of that, let’s spend time in the Word, praying with each breath, playing praise music and singing (and dancing!) our way through our days, confident that our Father has everything under control and we can trust Him. He is faithful, and He is good.
I’m going to do it. I’m going to follow the instructions in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 and work on my thought life. I’m going to remember who’s in charge here and choose to live a faith-filled life. I won’t perfect this walk overnight, but I’m willing to try.
Are you with me?
Spring is definitely here. The grass and trees are green (and so is the air – pollen!), and the birds are singing songs of joy with the rest of us that the long, cold days of winter are over. We’re not the only ones who have noticed the increase in activity among the birds. A little cat next door has managed to catch two or three birds in the past thirty-six hours. We’ve been watching out our kitchen window as she engages in this barbaric activity.
But really, she’s just doing what she was made to do. She was created to stalk, catch, and kill prey. It’s a job she does well.
We have two cats. The difference between ours and the little bird-catcher is that ours live inside. They only leave the house to make their annual trip to the vet, and that excursion makes them very unhappy. They chase each other around the house, wrestling, jumping, and running to their hearts’ content, but the only hunting they do involves torturing the occasional spider that makes its way into the house.
Our cats have the same abilities that the little cat next door does, but they don’t use theirs to full potential. They have limited opportunities to use them, that’s true, but they could definitely hone them to the point that the spiders don’t get so far into my house!
God has given me abilities that may not be exactly the same but are definitely as potentially powerful as the ones He has given to the people I admire and want to be like. The question is: Am I using my abilities to their full potential?
Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. When I start dreaming big, I bring myself down to earth all too quickly with excuses and reasons why I can’t. I forget that God has given me abilities to do whatever He plants in my heart to do—with His help. I just need to follow His plans and use the gifts and talents He has given me. I have the tools I need, but I have to use them, just like my cats could do a better job of using their hunting abilities.
So, mama, my question to you is: Are you using what you have?
I understand that you have dishes to wash, clothes to fold, meals to prepare, diapers to change, homework to help with, and a husband to stay connected to, all while managing the chaos that is your household with children. But God has plans for you, and you have something to offer the world. Use what God has given you to further His kingdom.
Pray about it. God is just waiting for you to ask Him how He wants you to use what you have.
Not long ago, our part of the country was experiencing exceptional drought conditions, and it was like that for year after year. It was incredibly hot and dry. The leaves on the trees died (as did many of the trees), it was so hot that I could almost feel my skin burning anytime I was outside, and the ground was beyond parched. Any little bit of rain we would get was nothing compared to what we needed to get “caught up.” We went day after day, month after month, with no rain at all. Clouds would come in and tease us, then blow away without leaving enough behind to settle the dust. We were desperate for rain.
We prayed for rain like we would have prayed for food if we’d been starving. I told the girls that when it finally started raining we weren’t going to complain about the inconvenience or discomfort. We were going to thank God for every drop we got.
It finally started raining enough to slowly improve drought conditions. Last summer was unseasonably cool and wet, and that has continued through the fall and winter. We are starting our second week of having precipitation, so it’s cold and damp here, which is something we’re not used to. When I woke up this morning, I was so tempted to complain about how tired I am of rain. And then I remembered how thankful I should be. I remembered how terrible the absence of rain is, and I decided to be thankful instead that our area is getting the rain it needs to recover from the drought. It is getting the rain we need to have healthier crops and healthier trees and grasses. This is cause for rejoicing, not complaining!
I find myself doing the same thing in my role as wife and mother. How many times while I was growing up, and on into adulthood, did I pray for the man who would become my husband, did I ask God to give me children? Too many times to count. And I got what I prayed for—a man who loves me and loves the Lord, is faithful, works hard, and is a good father to our children. I got two beautiful daughters who have already made professions of faith, who work hard at their school work, who have gifts, talents, and abilities that will serve them well throughout their lives, and who are compassionate and kind. What more could a woman ask for, right?
All too often, I find myself complaining about my family too. If they don’t do something exactly like I would do it, or they do something that irritates or aggravates me, I find myself ready to grumble and complain instead of rejoicing and praising God for this beautiful, wonderful family He has blessed me with.
I think it’s the human condition. We are more likely to be negative than positive unless we set our minds to be intentional about gratitude and praising God for what He’s already given us.
Despite my circumstances being far from what I would like for them to be right now, I am incredibly blessed. It’s time I started acting like it.
I don’t like New Year’s resolutions very much. For me, they usually end in failure. Then I compare myself to my Facebook and Twitter friends who seem to be rocking theirs, and I feel even worse. I think I’ve figured out what’s wrong with my resolutions: they all focus on less.
In the past, my resolutions have been something like this:
Instead of all the focus on what I shouldn’t be doing, what if I decided to make resolutions that focused on more?
When I look at those two lists, I definitely prefer the second one. Who doesn’t want more instead of less? But what’s even more important than how we phrase our resolutions or goals, or choose one word for the year, is that we spend time with God, reading His Word, praying, and asking Him what His plans are for us for 2015. If we fail to do this first, then all of our plans for the new year are bound to fail.
Despite feeling like we have to do so much on our own, we’re really not in this mothering thing alone. God is with us every step of the way, and He has great plans for us and for our children. We just need to stay close to Him, seeking Him every step of the way and letting Him help us through each day of 2015, and every day after that.
In the early days of my marriage, I couldn’t write unless it was quiet. Even noises drifting in from outside bothered me. Fortunately, our neighborhood is pretty quiet, so I managed to get some pages written. Less than two years later, our first daughter was born, and less than two years after that, our second daughter joined our family.
Our house has not been quiet for a long time, but I’m writing more than ever. Things have changed. Now, my husband sometimes takes the girls out to do something fun while I write. He sends me a text message asking how it’s going. Often, my reply is “I’m barely getting started. The house is too quiet.”
Who would have guessed?
The very thing that distracted me from writing back then is what I thrive on now—noise, activity, life. I dread the “empty nest” because I know I will have to make the transition yet again, from writing in a home bustling with laughter, chatter, and fun to finding my way in the silence. Isn’t it funny how things change?
I dread the effect that the kids’ growing up and moving out will have on my writing, but there are other things that will be affected too:
But when those are gone, my home will also be missing:
The more I think about it, the more I realize that to eliminate the things that irritate me, I have to get rid of even more that brings me great joy.
I think I’ll learn a lesson from my writing time and quit being so hasty to wish away the days I have left with my children. They’ll be gone all too soon.
These are tough times. My family is struggling, and almost every other family I know is struggling too, in one way or another. I’ve been praying and asking God for relief, for breakthrough, for help, for rescue – and not just for my family, but for all of us.
The good news is that prayer and focus on God are drawing me closer to Him and are showing me more about who He is, which reminds me what He is capable of. When I can remember that God is bigger than any situation or circumstance we find ourselves in, I am filled with peace. And peace is a great thing to have when you’re waiting to see God work in the situations that concern you!
Two keys to effectively waiting are:
I don’t have all the answers. My family has been waiting for answers to some of our prayers for a long time. What I do know is that prayer and praise change things! Even if my situation doesn’t change, my heart changes, and sometimes that’s the bigger answer to the prayer I didn’t pray.
As moms, we’re pretty hard on ourselves. If dinner burns, we forgot to get five things at the grocery store (although, in all fairness, they weren’t on the list), the kids misbehaved in Sunday school, or the neighbor complains that our dog is too noisy, we’re quick to blame ourselves. But what about when a marriage struggles, relationships with our children are strained, or we lose a job? Right. We blame ourselves there too.
We’re human. Of course we bear part of the blame! But most of these scenarios involve situations and people that we can’t control on our own. So we aren’t wholly to blame, even though it feels like it.
How do you recover from failures like these? How do you survive the stress and strain? How do you find success again? There are solutions, and they’re not as complicated as you might expect, whether the issues are big or small:
Obviously, these are pretty vague, and they don’t apply equally to all situations, but the basic principles are there. God can help you through any failure you find yourself in. He will see you through all the pain and heartache to the other side, if you will surrender yourself to Him to bring the healing and restoration you need.
A few months ago I shared some tips for slowing down and finding rest. I’m still working on that. Really, I am! The problem is that there are bills to pay, dishes to wash, laundry to clean, kids to take to therapy and dance lessons and church activities and playdates, laundry to fold and put away, meals to prepare, grocery shopping to do, more bills to pay, and lessons to teach!
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and sucked into the dailiness of life, to get caught up in the stress of having too much month at the end of the money, diapers to change, bottoms to wipe, puke to clean up, floors to mop, bathtubs to scrub, and trash to take out.
We need some perspective. We need to focus on the eternal. I have been convicted of that as I watch the news reports of the Arkansas tornado that devastated communities a couple of hours north of us on my younger daughter’s birthday. Foundations are bare. Piles of debris are stacked around what used to be neighborhoods. Families are attending funerals instead of birthday parties. The communities ache. Actually, the whole state is heartbroken. I have prayed for peace and comfort, for strength to rebuild.
And then I was rocked by a mama named April. April has a bare foundation. April’s possessions are in those piles of rubble and strewn across central Arkansas. April is in a hospital room, and she has two funerals to plan. Her boys are gone, and it looks like God planned it that way.
But April has what I don’t have. I would be angry, like the person who shared April’s story. April, on the other hand, while she still has a lot to process, has unshakable faith in her God—that He is good and has a plan, even when she can’t understand it. She rejoices in her children’s freedom from the brokenness of this world and in the fact that she will see them again one day.
I need that kind of faith. I want it. I’m tired of fretting and being anxious about everything. There is something beautiful in complete surrender to the Father and His will, even when it makes no sense to us, even when it’s painful.
To get that faith, to come to complete surrender, we have to keep things in perspective. This world is not our home. God is working behind the scenes, doing things we can’t begin to imagine. And He’s preparing us for eternity.
Mamas, why don’t we give ourselves a gift this Mother’s Day. Let’s give ourselves the gift of perspective. With it, we’ll get a peace we never dreamed possible, even in the darkest of times.
There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. From Philippians 1:27-30 MSG
I’ve been gluten-free since last summer. I went dairy-free the first of this year. I recently started getting back into the routine of exercising four to five times a week, and I’m making every effort to read and crochet each day. In addition to my daily quiet time, I’ve started taking a “time out” several times a day to read some Psalms and pray. In the past few weeks, I’ve drastically reduced my sugar consumption.
Yes, my life looks much different from many people’s. Some of these decisions I made for my physical health. Some of these decisions I made for my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Following the culture hasn’t worked for me. I needed a change.
The thing about change is that it’s uncomfortable. It’s hard to learn a new way of eating, to rearrange your schedule to accommodate exercise, to stop throughout the day to pause and remember that God is in your day with you and you’re not alone. It makes me uncomfortable to have to ask for the manager every time I enter a restaurant (in addition to being dairy- and gluten-free, I also have a life-threatening allergy to another food) and to demand (nicely, of course) that they take appropriate steps to keep me safe. I don’t particularly appreciate the discomfort involved in exercise and the soreness that accompanies working out.
I do, however, like the results of all of these changes. That’s why I continue to press forward with my plans.
The longer I do these things, the more they become habits, part of the dailiness of my life, the more I embrace them because they’re good for me and because I feel better when I do them.
They become my “new normal.” After a while, they don’t feel new anymore. They just feel normal. Explaining why I do what I do seems less embarrassing and more matter of course. It’s just what I do.
If you’re trying to make big changes in your life, start with one thing at a time. Don’t try to make all of them at once. When one change begins to feel normal, start another one.
There’s no way to tell exactly how long it will take for you to feel “normal” about the changes you’re making. It depends on your personality and the magnitude of the change you’re making. Give yourself grace. Embrace the change, knowing that it will eventually feel normal.
I’m the queen of keeping things comfortable and familiar. Change is difficult and scary for me. If I can do this, you can too. As a wise friend told me last week, “Just do the next right thing.” That’s how you change your life.
After going at breakneck speed since having my first child 10 ½ years ago, I’m finally slowing down. The trouble is, my body has been giving me warning signs for several years, and God has been leading me to take it easy (Psalm 127:2), but I have failed to heed the warnings… until now.
Now I’m taking the warning signs seriously, and I’m praying it’s not too late. My body is showing signs that something autoimmune is cranking up. It’s not so bad that it can’t be reversed at this point, so I’m making every effort to do exactly what I need to do to make that happen—with God’s help.
I think I am in this situation is because I failed to heed my body’s warning signs: having mono three years in a row (and exhibiting symptoms when I get run down and exhausted), Raynaud’s phenomenon, weight loss despite eating plenty of calories, unrelenting fatigue, joint pain, and a nasty episode of swollen, feverish, painful joints last summer. The root cause? Pushing myself beyond reasonable limits day after day, year after year, and not listening to my body.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the only mom facing this. We’re exhausted, burned out, and sick. It shouldn’t be this way, and God doesn’t intend for us to live like this. We’re trying to do too much, and we’re not doing anything well.
So what do we do? We have responsibilities, husbands and children who are counting on us, laundry and dishes to keep up with, homeschooling (or homework) to help with. Jesus said to come away and rest. (Mark 6:31) Just thinking “rest” to myself causes something strange to happen in my body. The muscles in my forehead relax. My shoulders release from the hunched position. My jaw unclenches. And I wasn’t aware that any of those things were happening until they were gone.
Jesus said to rest, and it’s obvious we have a physical response to the word, but how do we do that?
Cut back. Look at your calendar and schedule. Prioritize everything on it. Anything you’re doing because you feel like you should or think you need to do so people will like you or because if you don’t no one else will needs to be eliminated from your list. (Thanks for that tip, Tricia Goyer!) Only do things that are necessary to care for your family and that fulfill God’s call on your life—your true passions.
Ask for help. Assign chores to your children. Even the youngest ones can be taught to do chores that will lighten your load. Let go of the idea that everything must be done perfectly, and resist the urge to go behind them and redo the tasks you assigned them. They will learn to do those tasks better with practice. When a friend asks if she can stop by and help, say yes!
Say no. Don’t say yes to everything people ask you to do. Remember those priorities and your calling and purpose? If it doesn’t fit in one of those categories, say no. (This is much harder than you think it’s going to be, especially if you’re a people pleaser by nature. It takes practice, and you will slip up at first. Give yourself grace and don’t beat yourself up too much.)
Make time for yourself. What do you really enjoy doing? What energizes you like no other activity or brings you pleasure that allows you to go back to the mundane tasks of your day with joy? Is it reading a great Christian fiction book? Knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting, writing, or some other creative endeavor? Spending a couple of hours at a coffee shop with a friend? Whatever your “me-time” is, schedule it into your week. There’s nothing wrong with making some time for yourself after you’ve gotten your quiet time and exercise in.
Exercise. Yes, I went there. As hard as it is to get started, you’re going to thank me later. Exercise will give you energy, help you sleep better, and help you feel better about yourself.
Time with God. This is last on the list, but it should be first in planning your days. Get up a little early to spend precious time in the Word and prayer. You will feel rest in your spirit far into your day and will be better prepared to face whatever your day brings.