If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “my life is crazy town!” in a DAY…this renovation would be paid for. Oh yea. That’s right. We are currently renovating our house.
…while living in it.
...with our three children ages, 6, 2 1/2, and 10 months.
...and our 5 month old puppy.
...who got electrocuted because he was chewing one of the many exposed electoral boxes.
But seriously, y’all.
Howdy, I’m the mayor.
During my prayer time last week I was thinking through all of the crazy we are currently living in and I finally just said, “Lord, PLEASE don’t let us make any more stupid decisions!” and what I meant to say was, “Lord, PLEASE help us to be wise in the future decisions we make!”
Ha. The Lord knows my heart, so my mouth was just speaking truth.
Do you ever stop and look around at your life and try and step outside of yourself?
Like, how does everything look from the outside?
Am I holding this together?
Who keeps making my life crazy? OH RIGHT- ME!
Why do we do that? Why do we add stress to our own lives? Well, if you’re me or my husband, it’s because we like to live in a perpetual state of, “Hi, we’re gluttons for punishment.”
That sounds miserable. And our lives are joy-filled…but seriously, we are a couple of gluttons!
I think it’s because we are just naturally always pursuing tasks, or goals, or SOMETHING. We always want to be striving for some. thing. I don’t think that’s bad, but I do think it can become a beast. It can consume our lives and our happiness.
And in the middle of the self-made hurricane, are my three precious children.
How do they feel about it all?
How do they like the sudden change and the literal ripping our home to pieces aspect?
I never really asked. I never really considered. Until my daughter, Ava, walked out angrily one afternoon from me and under her breath mumbled, “Why’d you have to ruin our house?”
Perspective. It’s so important. And I hadn’t considered hers. At least not until that point.
What do things look like from where she stands? From what she comprehends? From her “normal”?
I am the adult making decisions in her favor, although it may not look like that now. I see things she can’t. I see family meals in our house around a table every night for the FIRST TIME in the almost 2 years we’ve lived in this house. I see the late night snuggles on our couch, after making sundaes, while we watch her favorite movie. I see the Bible study evenings with friends and families from our church and community where we will pour into the lives of people we love and people Jesus longs to know. I can see all of that and so much more. But right now…right now it just looks a lot like a mess. A dusty, insulated, hot, mess.
So she responds to what she sees. And what she sees isn't good. But it’s work. It’s the work in progress leading to the ultimate home we have envisioned for her and her brothers.
Why doesn’t she see that?…because she’s human. Because she's stuck on what’s right in front of her. Because she’s just like you and she’s just like me, when we are too distracted, too FIXATED, on the mess in front of us, to see the beauty of what God is preparing for us in the future.
And beneath all of it...all of the groaning and complaining and questioning "Why me, Lord?" is a whole lot of selfishness and pride. Man, it consumes us. But in the mean time, if we can manage to step away and look at everything, think through everything, PRAY about everything, we will see God working. We will see the beauty.
So while I sit here preaching to myself, at my computer, while the good people of Crazy Town are sleeping, I can smile. At least a little.
...because everything is a work in progress. Whether it's my house, my children, or my own heart. "And He who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Phil 1:6
With love & laughter,
I posted this a year ago on Facebook and thought y'all might enjoy reading it as well. The Vine can speak to you in mighty ways...
I have a muscadine vine in my backyard. It was here when we bought the house, but it is my pride and joy! I dream of having a garden one day, so I just pretend with this precious grapevine.
The Lord has used this to speak to me in such an impactful way. Just a couple of months ago there wasn't a leaf on it. There was, however, a leafy green something growing on the top of it. Not knowing much about plants, I asked a friend what it was. He told me it was a weed. To my untrained eye, I had no idea. The vines had no leaves, yet this weed was flourishing.
Fast forward a couple of months and I now have an abundance of leaves and a little bit of flowering has started. Last week I noticed that there were a couple of jack and the bean stalk-looking swirly things springing up about a foot above the top of my vine. They looked pretty, vibrant, and green. I thought perhaps they were new vines so I asked Richard and guess what? They were weeds!
Today I purposed to work on my vines and get rid of those bright green WEEDS. As I took my shears back there and began to work, the Lord began to speak to me. At the base of these "vibrant" weeds were large thorns. Way too many to count and they ranged in size from my thumb nail to smaller sizes. The base was wide, thick, strong, and thorny. What appeared as vibrant, green new growth on the vine was actually a weed stifling the vine's growth and stealing nutrients from the soil. On the surface with the other leaves, it was beautiful and interesting. On a deeper and closer level, it was just the opposite- ugly and a nuisance.
As my daughter Ava was helping me, it brought to mind her starting to build relationships with people now and in the coming years. She is young, naive, and impressionable. She may only see the surface level charm and beauty, and she may miss the heart of the person. This is what I have to guard her from... to teach her about...to give her scripture to reinforce.
The Lord called to my mind Matthew 7:15-20. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."
This can be a warning to any degree on the character of people, ourselves included. Even the weeds flower and bloom, but guess what, they do not bear good fruit. They have no good thing to show from it. Let me tell you, it was WORK to clean up these vines and there is still work to do. The weeds act like vines and wrap themselves around the healthy grapevines to blend in. I have to literally rip and tear them off of each other. They are trying to become one.
Surely this sounds familiar to someone... Relationships can be life giving or exhausting. They can take from you and never replenish your soul. The Lord knows that! He warns us of these. What does a healthy relationship look like? What does it feel like? Who could love like that? Who gives, requires no work from us, and simply asks us to accept this gift? Jesus. God sent Him just for that purpose, so that we could abide in Him. Think about that.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me." John 15:1-4
Kids want to do what they see being done.
They want to be who influences them most.
They want to follow where their people lead them.
The above picture of me was taken by my daughter, Ava. She sees me taking pictures a lot and so she wanted to do it herself. She did a good job! I pulled it up and thought, good focus, good centering, (probably mainly good luck), but even still…good work!
…and then, hmmm, my mind began to wander…
What else does she see me do?
How else do I influence her?
Where else am I leading her?
My answer to each of these questions wants to point to Jesus! …wants to point to Jesus.
Unfortunately I know I get that wrong a lot.
At a baby dedication I attended this past Sunday, the pastor referenced the lyric “oh be careful little eyes what you see…”
For the majority of our children’s young lives, their eyes are looking at us, at what we are putting in front of them, or they are looking at who we allow into their lives.
What’s the common factor there? WE. We are responsible for what they see. We as parents, caregivers, guardians, etc. are the PRIMARY ones influencing our children for the majority of their time with us.
You may be thinking, I work, I’m not with them a lot. They’re in school, they attend daycare, they're just little babies…Well, unless some other arrangement is setup, you as their primary caregiver get to decide where they go to school, attend daycare, and yes even babies are impressionable, so what they see matters. In each situation children are exposed to things, to other people, that will influence them. “Be careful little eyes what you see,” is really more directed to the adult in that it should say, “be careful grown adult what you show them.”
Yikes! Does that feel heavy? Did I just put a lot of pressure on you? That wasn’t my intention, but I do want you to be reminded (as I was this weekend) that we have little eyes watching us all of the time.
Maybe you’re struggling as an adult to make decisions that are good for you, let alone worrying over how they influence your child(ren)…well, this is where we as Christian women have some major help. That help comes in the form of the Holy Spirit and is given to us directly from Jesus Christ. John 16:7 talks about how Christ was leaving but sending us a helper, an advocate who would come alongside us and guide us through conviction and hope.
So, yes, maybe you're struggling right now with decisions, and listen, parenting well is HARD. WORK. But we were never meant to do it on our own! Pray. Pray in the moments where you feel you are failing. Pray with a grateful heart in the moments where you're finding success! Pray all of the time, without ceasing, for your child(ren) and their future. The Holy Spirit will help you. He IS the helper!
Ok now let’s talk about what these little eyes see…
The obvious thing that comes to my mind is technology! Whether that’s TV, computers, or phones, kids of all ages are almost immediately exposed to one of them. It’s like the unholy trinity! Seriously.
So what does that look like? News, TV shows, movies, COMMERCIALS (for the love of PETE), games, You Tube videos (of about a trillion different categories)…
How about music? What are you listening to when you’re driving? “Oh it’s just (insert whatever)! They’re little, they don’t know what that means!” Suuuure. Until they repeat it back to you. Cause we all love when our 2 year olds do that!
What about what you’re reading? What’s on the cover? Who is it magnifying? What is it pointing them to?
There are so many avenues that influence our children because WE expose them to those things.
…oh right. So that number one area of influence is really who then? It's us.
We can’t always blame media, the schools, the neighbors, or who or whatever else we desire. WE have to take ownership of that which we expose our children to. We control what they watch, what they listen to, who they talk to (for the most part), what they spend their time doing, and the list goes on. For a good little while, we have control over all of that.
So now for the next BIG question. And this is super important...
If we are the ones controlling what influences our children, who is controlling what influences us? WHO influences US?
…The answer to this question is the most important, for it steers and directs our paths and the paths we put in place for our children.
Ponder the answer you think is right, and then think about the answer that is perhaps the real truth in your life...and then listen to this song. It is so encouraging and a great reminder of the opportunity we have daily to opt for the BEST influencer.
With love & laughter,
I’ve been trying to focus my thoughts and really think about what God would have me share with y’all…and there’s just so much good He’s doing in my heart, mind, and spirit lately that I just figured I’d share that.
Now, this "good" I’m talking about isn’t what you might think. Life isn’t going perfectly... and it never will, so let’s just put that out there… but I’m just getting a clearer picture of who I am apart from God. The wretch that I am without the saving grace of Jesus.
“Ashley, that’s sounds awful!” …maybe, but isn’t it such a sweet place to be? Maybe you don’t know because you’ve never been there.
Several years ago I heard this saying and I don't know who said it or the exact words, but it was and is impactful…the better we think we look, the further we likely are from God…the messier we look, the closer we likely are to God.
When we pursue the world, when we look at our co-workers stats, our best friend’s marriage, the neighbor's house, a stranger's misbehaving kids, we usually start feeling a little better about ourselves. Maybe not always though. Sometimes we feel less than, and covet things, but when we want to feel better we usually look at others like “at least I'm not doing THAT, or like THEM,” and suddenly we feel inflated with a false sense of purpose, or status, or security.
See, when we pursue Christ, when we learn about who He is, the example He set through stories in the Bible, we realize that we aren’t great. We get a lot of things wrong on a daily basis. We only have Him to compare our lives to, and in order to ever love well we must have His love, forgiveness, and heart inside of us.
God has been drawing me closer to Him lately (isn’t He always?), but lately I have been really receptive to it. I’ve been ready to meet Him when He’s calling me and follow His leading. Why does it take us so long to do that? Why will I need to re-read this in a few weeks, months, a year, because I’ve since forgotten that He never leaves or forsakes me? It's because I’m fallen, imperfect, sinful… we all are, and we all struggle with this. But in this time of closeness and pursuit of the Father, I want to share what God is showing me.
I’m prideful. (I often call out in others what I wish I could change in myself.)
I have high standards for my kids. (But maybe they're a little too high sometimes.)
I’m prone to raise my voice. (There are time I over react too quickly.)
I’m Christ to my children. (But am I the best representation of Him? Not always.)
I need to memorize more scripture. (How can I instill in my children what I don’t know in my heart?)
My husband is not my enemy. (But sometimes I treat him like that.)
The word of the Lord is relevant. (The world’s gonna tell you otherwise…don’t listen.)
This time with my children is short. (But yet I put things before them…shame on me.)
…I can write all these truths to myself, and y’all, I know they're true, but I still fail at righting my wrongs. That’s why I’m so thankful for God’s grace and the gift and power of forgiveness.
In this sweet, but difficult time of growing closer to God, I am seeing how much of a mess I am, but it’s all good. Without Him I’d still be that hot mess, but not know of my need of sweet Jesus, the salvation that He offers, the gift of the cross, and the debt that I no longer have to pay.
So yes, it’s all good. Even though it looks and may sometimes seem all bad. And if you’re reading this and you’re confounded because you’ve never experienced this, please don’t think, “well, I must not be growing closer to God…maybe I’m not a Christian.” Don’t let those words penetrate your heart, unless they are the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Pray. Ask God to show you how He’d have you respond… Maybe it’s through re-direction down a path you're taking that you know isn't good. Maybe it’s taking time to sit with Him and just open His word and read it. Just His word. Or maybe it’s reaching out to me. Ha, I don't know what God could be up to, but I know I’m just sharing my heart! Please leave a comment or shoot me an email if you feel like you’re in a spot and you just need someone to listen… to talk to…to receive prayer from.
You never know, God may be on the verge of wrecking your world in the best way possible. It may not be pretty, but man is it gonna be good!
With love & laughter,
DISCLAIMER: While typing this, my 2.5 year old had two pee accidents one of which I think he did just so he could get ANOTHER bath, and the third accident involved another stinkier substance…in the hallway. The Lord wants to know if I can live out what I blog. I hear you Lord. You’re funny…but it’s all good.
For years I overlooked and undervalued the wisdom and teaching of the Old Testament. The post below is something I wrote back in November 2016 and shared on my personal blog. I wanted to share it with all of you too, because I think it's important...
The phrase, "nothing new under the sun," from Ecclesiastes came to mind this morning as I was reading through Judges. Also the idea of perpetual or repeated sin...
I look around at everything these days... media, my community, our nation, humanity and think, "Could it get any worse? Is this the worst it's ever been?"
I mean really! Should I be prepared for more?
...Then I read Judges 2 this morning, about the Israelites forgetting their miracle working God, and a new generation coming up not really knowing or even believing in Him at all. Sound familiar? Then, the Israelites start turning to their own ways. Idol worship (remember that can be anything put before God and also literal other man-made objects), following foreign gods (and these aren't like out-of-towners, these are false deities), and practicing rituals of sacrifice, sacred prostitution, etc.
hmm... yea that sounds pretty bad to me.
But then I look at where we are today. Have we learned anything from them? I mean really. Do Christians even know these Old Testament stories about the Israelites? I didn't. Not really.
I've chosen (and the Lord has pushed me) over the past two years to read through the Bible book by book, and in two years I am only in Judges, but the Lord has been TEACHING ME. Really teaching me.
Reading some (a lot) of it has felt like spending 40 years in the wilderness myself...the repetition in phrasing, the reminders of who God is, the pillars or monuments setup to remind Israel of their miracle working God...it all seemed SO redundant. I even asked God, why? Why so much of the same? I get it already! Don't they get it already?
...Until I got to the end of Deuteronomy, and read through Joshua, and into Judges. Guess what? Guess what the Israelites did? After older generations died, the miracle-seeing generations died, and the new generations came through...guess what happened? They didn't remember. They didn't "keep these things" which the Lord commanded, or taught, or showed them, time and time again...
So then I sat back and thought... this! This is why, Lord, you repeated yourself. Why you told them time and time again. Why you provided the 10 commandments. Why you specifically instructed them on entering the Promised Land. Why you told them to annihilate wicked cities. Why you wanted them to rid themselves of ALL those people. Not just the ones that looked mean...all of them... those people didn't know You, and You knew they would influence and blind the Israelites. You knew those people would cause them to stumble, fall into temptations, and FORGET You.
But as I read in Judges 2 this morning, you sent an angel (pre-incarnate Jesus) to remind them of Your faithfulness to them. To remind them of their deliverance out of Egypt, the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. And to remind them that You will never break Your covenant with them (Judges 2:1)...but because of their, the Israelites, disobedience to You, they would forfeit, throw away blessings, and even trade them for troubles.
Why? Because they forgot!
Lord, I didn't know for the longest time why I should even read the Old Testament. I didn't see its relevance to me, to our generation...I was so mistaken. I needed to read it to learn, so that I could remember Your goodness and faithfulness to Israel...I am not an Israelite, but, man, I sure look a lot like them. I sure act a lot like them. But my prayer this morning is that I don't keep forgetting like them. Like they did. My prayer is for the generation of my children to know You and remember You because of what You alone have used the Israelites to teach me. So that I might help them to not forget...so that no one may ever look back and say of my children and their generation, "they forgot."
With love & laughter,
Over the last few months I’ve had several people look at me with all three of my kids and say, “man you’re in the trenches right now!” or “I remember those days-surviving the trenches!”
My first thought was like, my life doesn't feel very “trench” like?! Should I hate where I am in life right now? Should I be more exhausted? Are my kids being crazy? AM I CRAZY?…it didn’t feel that way.
But then each week it seemed I’d find myself dealing with more and more stress… my 2 1/2 year old started displaying new and undesirable behaviors. My 6 month old became more sick and more clingy. My 5 1/2 year old became even more argumentative than normal. What was happening? uh-oh…the dreaded trenches.
My inner monologue started rolling..ok THESE are the trenches they were talking about. I guess I’ll just have to do my best to survive each day…get through each moment. I know it’s not fun right now, but it’s only a season. I can’t enjoy playing with this child or that one, because of what this one or that one is doing. I’ll find time later. This is ONLY a season.
Ok let’s STOP. Let’s stop right there. All of the above are thoughts we have all had- I am sure of it! And we have all said or been told that whatever current difficulty we are going through is just a season we will “get through.” Well, guess what? That whole sentiment has been super convicting to me lately. Let me tell you why…
Life is hard.
Mom-ing is hard.
Wife-ing is hard.
Friend-ing is hard.
Work-ing is hard.
Love-ing is hard.
Change-ing is hard.
But they’re also all very rewarding.
If we get caught up in the middle of “getting through” any of them, we risk missing out on the JOY in every single one of them. Especially mom-ing.
And calling everything a season seems a little like a copout… Life is full of seasons. Like literally and figuratively… but I don’t want to just get through each season of my life. I don’t want to just survive the trenches. How about we stop referring to periods of life as seasons or trenches and just call it life. Cause I mean, that’s what it is…and when I think about my life... well, I don’t just wanna “get through” that.
I want to live my life…
I want to grow in my life…
I want to remember my life…
I want to experience my life …
I want to find JOY in each and every moment of my life.
I’m just not too sure that viewing a period of your life as a trench, season, or something to “get through” accomplishes that.
We all, especially us mamas, have to be so intentional. We have to guard our hearts. We can’t let what the world says be the loudest voice we hear. We have to intently listen for that still, small, yet true voice of the Father. What does He want you to learn, experience, or remember in this moment (difficult as it may be)? Cause, I’m telling you…that’s where the joy is.
There is joy to be found in all of the good and in all of the not so good that comes with being a mama. Whether your children are little or grownup, there is still so much joy to be had. We just have to put off more of ourselves and put on more of Christ. His love, grace, and mercy will help us find the joy we desire.
So for me, for this mama... I want to stop the trench-living and “getting through” seasons. Life will always have obstacles to overcome, and I surely don’t want to miss out on the joy because I’m too busy trying to get through the course.
How bout it, mamas...will you join me?
With love & laughter,
As a mom, do you ever look at your precious child(ren) after a looooong week, or day, or, let's be real, hour, and think, "What can I do with you?" The kind of question that really means, "Mama's bout to lose it if we don't find a new happy for you my sweet child!"
...I know I do! I love my children. All three of them. In different and unique ways, they shape me. But sometimes I just want to say, “Lord, I think I'm in good enough shape for today! Thank you!”...You know what I mean?
But speaking of shape, y'all it is a new year and aren’t you SO excited about the guilt of New Year’s resolutions? I’ve never been a resolution maker, but I sure have been on the side of feeling less than because I wasn’t doing some drastic change in my life, career, or relationships. So here’s what I’ll say to that: Put Jesus first and then, girl, you do you! Resolve to make changes that are reasonable and DOABLE for you and your family. Not everyone has 27hrs a day (see what I did there) to dedicate to the gym, or making homemade organic EVERYTHING, or homeschooling their children, or climbing the career ladder to success when quite frankly, they’re afraid of heights! So again, you do you. I am a firm believer that we add stress and concerns to our lives that the Lord never intended for us. Then days, weeks, or months later, we are at the throne of God BEGGING for Him to help us. Hello. He never intended for you to have it to begin with. Seek Him first…sound familiar? btw this is 100% the Lord speaking to my life right now… What am I adding to my plate that the Lord knows I have no appetite for? Think on it.
Ok back to our precious children. We love them, but sometimes we feel crazy in the role of mother, am I right? Not to mention when we have the roles of wife, housekeeper, entrepreneur, doctor, policewoman, peacekeeper, cook, interior designer, gardener…I know it’s not just me, y’all! Some of us have a lot on us. And if we don’t have a lot, the little we do have keeps us plenty busy. But let’s remember to keep those roles in check and prioritized. First off, we have to remember our role as daughter to the one true King, the most high God, the good good Father. Forgetting that or failing to acknowledge that by spending time with Him daily will result in an unraveling of all other roles. We will seek fulfillment from a source other than Him, and that’s putting pressure where it was never meant to be. Our fulfillment is found in Him. Everything else is just added blessings.
Okay, onto our other roles! Next we are loving, respectful wives to our husbands, and grace-giving, merciful mamas to our sweet babies… Guess what? It was super easy to type those fancy adjectives that describe our roles as a wife and mama, but, y’all, it is a hard walk! Our sin-nature mixes the order of these roles, and our sin-nature does not like all this love, grace, and mercy. But that’s when we remember whose daughter we are…that’s when that primary role becomes most important! When we walk with Jesus daily, when we know His truths, when we pray them over our families, we become the likeness of Jesus to our spouses and kids. Yes, we make mistakes, but that’s because we become like Jesus, but we are in no way Jesus, and we need to make sure we keep that in line. Pride, arrogance, self-righteousness- these are nasty little things that can get the best of us and render us useless or worse, harmful to our families. Seek Him first…do I hear an echo?
"When we walk with Jesus daily, when we know His truths, when we pray them over our families, we become the likeness of Jesus to our spouses and kids."
So in an effort to bring some peace to your sweet but tired mama-mind, remember this…whether it’s your resolution, the moment to moment rambles, or your roles that have you feeling in over your head…take a deep breath, step back, and seek the Father. He wants to be a part of our lives and help us get out of the crazy that we put ourselves in…and also, He has a pretty good sense of humor and sometimes just wants to be along for the ride!
With love & laughter,
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Last year, while outside playing with Clara, she was looking down being very curious but she reached up for my hand – she never looked up to see if it was going to be there she just reached up and took it. For her it was an automatic, that I was there and that my hand, her safety and security would be there. And, of course as a mother, I was right there with my hand dangling ready to catch her or to just hold her.
Later that night as I put her to bed and realized how much this little person depended on me but never questioned my presence, never worried that I would be there for her, and continually reached for me – it made me think of my relationship with God. Do I really believe that He is standing next to me with His hand out, just waiting on my little hand to grasp His? Did I really believe that He cared about my small problems, the equivalent of Clara’s scraped knee, or nearly imaginary boo-boo? At the time I don’t know that I did. I think more than a year ago –I would have said that God has so much on His plate, people are in so much more hurt than me, that whatever I was dealing with was like a skinned knee –yes it hurts right now but it will be fine.
I think part of the hurt I am experiencing is God trying to teach me that He is My Father. That he has been there all this time with His hand outstretched just waiting on me to grasp it. Waiting on me to bring my skinned knee and not shrug it off as a small hurt. My child doesn’t, she wants kisses and love for every little bump or scratch. I have always known God – but partly reserved Him for the bigger stuff. Shrugging Him off as too busy to really care about my day-to-day needs.
But this year to get through each day, to keep it on the rails as I have said a time or two, I need Him every day with the big and the little with the depression, anxiety, insecurity, loneliness, heartache, worry, etc. He wants me to know that He cares about everything I am going through and not to minimize my situation just because it isn’t as big or as scary as someone else’s. Just as we can’t compare our homes or our children –we can’t compare our struggles. What I am facing, is big to me, just as what someone else is facing.
So on days when things seem too much – I pray the childlike prayers that Clara has taught me.
Lord, thank you for this day and help me serve you today.
God our Father, We give thanks, for our many blessings Amen
Be with me through this night, please keep me in your gracious sight, watch over me while I sleep, please give me rest and perfect peace. Amen
Our prayers don’t have to be eloquent or elaborate to catch His attention. They only have to be sincere, given with an open heart and with an outstretched hand to our Father. He is waiting.
Many of you moms may have been listening to your local christian radio station this week. Many of you may have even heard the same discussion about parenting and marriage priorities that I heard. When the discussion first came on air I have to admit my mind was hundreds of miles away with issues of what would be for supper that night and exactly when I was going to find time to do the artwork I needed to be doing. As the questions were posed on the show one grabbed my attention and made me sit up a little straighter thinking that I wished someone had suggested that to me when my children were young. That being said I thought I'd like to share it with you.
The question was, "If you could give one very helpful piece of advice to young couples who are currently raising children what would it be?" The guy being interviewed responded with this idea:
Teach your children that although you and your spouse love each other very much, marriage is not always easy. It has to be worked at every day. At night, it is the child's job to go to bed when bedtime arrives without complaint or stall. The reason that is so important is because that's your time to do the daily work on our marriage. In order to keep your marriage strong you have to talk and cuddle and just be together uninterrupted. If little darlings constantly get out of bed and whine and interrupt you, your work goes undone. You want your family to remain strong and because of that desire there needs to be an understanding. If they interrupt that important time you need for marriage work, they will be held accountable. The amount of time they took from your marriage will be spent with them in their room (or something similar) the following day. I know that sounds harsh but mom and dad's relationship is just that important and we shouldn't allow it to be pushed aside. Tell them that if you can have this time every night (and there will be exceptions of course), you promise they will love the parents that mommy and daddy are even more. You will be more rested, more patient, and more loving to each other... just what a family should be.
These words are paraphrased somewhat as I was actually driving when it came on so I couldn't write verbatim. However, you get the idea. Marriage IS hard. We do need to work on it daily. Our children need to be fully aware of this fact. Of course, when your children are really small they won't be able to grasp the concept but don't underestimate their ability to grasp the concept of cause and effect when they are approaching 2 years of age. They will understand that mom and dad are serious about their "work". They will understand when mom supports dad and dad supports mom in this time being theirs. They will also understand and appreciate it as they see mom and dad smiling at each other, holding hands, and happily walking through life together as a loving couple. A loving couple makes a loving family. I think this suggestion could have made life so much easier and more relaxed when our three were little. As a "empty nester" my advice would be that it is definitely worth a try!
Walking the road with you,
My whole life I have been an “I can do it myself person” I don’t need ….. (Need to me has always been a 4 letter word) Maybe it's because I was a single career women or lived by myself for 11 before marriage. But through the last almost 7 years of marriage –I have gotten better at it. I still don’t like the word NEED.
Recently on a trip to Chicago, a friend had recommended I read the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown (which is amazing and I highly recommend it) Much of the beginning is about being vulnerable and opening up and asking others for help. I distinctly remember –thinking yeah well not me – I can manage just fine on my own.
Also not well thought out for this trip was that I was still nursing Sam Henry and would be gone from him for almost 3 full days. For some insane reason, I decided I needed the break and the rest and took NO and I am mean NO, breastfeeding supplies. Not one pump, not one bottle, not a nursing bra –nothing. I packed like I could just pretend for 3 full days that my body wasn’t continually making milk for a 20 lb. baby -like my body would just forget to make milk!
By the first break from the conference, after I had last fed the fat baby almost 24 hours before, I realized I was in big trouble. Not just -I might leak through my shirt and be embarrassed trouble but a - I am going to be in serious pain –not make it through –starting to run fever trouble. Let me be clear. I am not a total idiot. I usually can make it through a day or even longer without pumping or feeding with nary a twinge. I am not a big milk machine.
I firmly believe God was testing me- so you don’t think you need anyone, you think you can manage this all on your own, well, let’s see about that. Also to complicate matters, I was in Chicago with no transportation besides a timed bus route to my hotel and back to Willow Creek. And I wasn’t in downtown Chicago where I could pop out and find a CVS. The campus of Willow Creek is in a suburb and sits back several miles from the main drag.
At that break, I sat on this beautiful stone edge of a fountain while everyone milled around and made phone calls and I tried not to cry (crying, while I have done a lot lately, is also something on my list that I am not a fan of). I looked around at all the wonderful staff standing about waiting to be helpful and literally felt God push me off that ledge toward a wonderful woman named Karen. I started off saying, "I am a nursing mama..." and before I could say more she ushered me into this beautiful room with soft rockers and dim lighting and told me I could use it as much as I needed.
Here is where I broke down and confessed my stupidity – "Yes, I am nursing mama and I didn’t bring a thing and I don’t know how to go anywhere and I don’t know what to do next". Karen with a bright welcoming smile asked, “What do you need?” I muttered, "I guess a ride to a store". She asked again, “No what supplies do you need?” As I told her what I thought I would need to get by for the few days.. hand pump, bottles, Advil, etc... She hugged me hard and said, "I will text you when I return". I went back to my conference AMAZED. She helped me with not one eye roll, not an ounce of condemnation, no "well that was dumb planning on your part", no "let me call you a cab", just a simple “What do you need?”
Less than an hour later, I returned to that beautifully appointed nursing mother’s room with a tidy gift bag with a hand pump, bottle, Advil and water. She wouldn’t even let me pay her. I have never been so grateful for another person’s kindness in my whole life. Her actions completely changed my entire trip.
In telling that story to a friend when I got back –still in amazement of her actions, her kindness and her gift- my friend said, “You would have done the same thing. Why were you so scared to ask?” She is right. When we are called upon as women we step up, we are there for each other, we drop what we are doing and we do all we can to fix the situation. If I had been in Karen’s shoes, yes, I would have run to the store and helped a girl out. Why then, did it take everything inside of me to ask?
Why is that? Why are we so hesitate to be vulnerable and admit we (GASP) NEED help? Help for that one time we were let down, for that one time we were vulnerable and were hurt… it is going to happen. No, I am not advocating crying on everyone’s shoulder in the coffee shop but it’s time we are REAL with each other.
There is a new song I love that says (and I am paraphrasing), Things aren’t fine and I am not okay... Sometimes we need to find that one women or mama or friend that instead of saying “I am fine” (with that fake empty smile) we know we can say, "I am not okay, but here is one thing you can help me with that can make it better..."
Try it this week – I hope it makes a difference
Nancy Lee Zimpleman
Mom 2 Mom
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