Summer 2016

Just giving you a few photos to distract you from the fact I didn’t blog at all in July!  Ha – I love the faces on my kids and the weird photos we take – they pretty much perfectly sum up our life.

Just keepin’ it real – we’ve done lots of nothing this summer.  Sitting in front of the TV, playing video games, work (for me), swimming in the pool, reading, playing games, campfires, and of course the incessant sibling arguing.  And feeding these people during the summer is no joke:

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But there have been some other fun things, too – an amusement park trip, work picnic at the zoo, summer soccer, tennis programs, a cooking class, and professional soccer games.

And the best thing is we still have a month of summer left before school starts.  Yay!

How are things at your house this summer?

 

Sweet, sweet summer

Well, summer is in full swing here! I love the laid-back schedule and feeling that we can do anything we want, whenever we want! (Full disclosure-very soon the lack of routine will leave me crying. But for now it’s all good!)

Memorial Day weekend we decided to give away our kids’ fort to our neighbor. I didn’t realize how sad they would be – or how sad I would be about it! Just another reminder that they are growing up too fast! But it was a good way to start out the summer because I now find myself more likely to be enjoying the present- to be in the moment- with the kids. More likely to say, “sure!”, with actual anticipation when they suggest an activity.

Here’s a picture I took of them years ago in the fort. It’s one of my all-time favorite pictures of them!

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And here’s a picture I took of them the day we gave it away.  Oh, my goodness!!

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There are all too many reminders these days that our time is limited with all three kids at home. I want to thrive this summer- not just survive!

Here are a few things I’m trying this summer to keep myself sane and able to fully enjoy the kids:

Get them to help more with cleaning.

Don’t neglect my first-thing in the morning time of prayer.

Get in the pool with the kids, often.

Say yes to time with friends without feeling guilty.

Do something creative every few days (write, practice hand-lettering, scrapbook, work on redecorating our living room).

Do one extra organizing or cleaning task every day. I’m pretty good at doing maintenance chores around the house like cooking, dishes, laundry- but then I tend to let everything else go. I’m challenging myself to do one extra thing each day so I feel like I’m making progress! So far so good, but we’ll see how long it lasts!!

How’s your summer going so far?  How do you thrive during the summer?

Stamina for Mothering

Next week my kids will be done with 9th grade, 7th grade, and 3rd grade.  It’s unbelievable how fast they are growing up!!  We’ve had lots of ups and downs this school year and I’m looking forward to summer vacation and a more relaxed schedule (read: being able to sleep past 5:45 am).

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately – how does one not only survive, but thrive in these years of mothering?  Motherhood requires stamina.

Stamina = staying power or strength to endure.

Motherhood is beautiful, amazing, wonderful.  But it’s also hard.  I need stamina, and so do you – to serve our families well for years on end, to teach, train, and discipline our children, and to endure through struggles.

I thought I’d share with you the three things that have been helpful to me to maintain my stamina:

  1. Build in time for rest
  2. Build up my friendships
  3. Build up my faith

Sometimes I’m good at these and sometimes I’m not.  But I know when I am intentional about investing in these things, I have more bandwidth for all the demands of life.

Building in time for rest is key for me to be able to keep going day after day.  Physical, emotional, spiritual rest for the soul.  All of them.  Am I getting enough sleep?  Do I have enough “down” time? (for me, that’s time when I don’t feel rushed, I’m not running anyone around, I can think and breathe deeply)  Do we have enough “down” time as a family?  Am I putting down my phone and enjoying my family?

Building up friendships means investing in those deep, authentic relationships with other women.  Women who will accept me, pray for me, give me guidance or just a listening ear when I need it.  The older my kids get (and I get!), the more I depend on my friends.  Mothering is hard – we need people cheering us on!  Some questions to ask – do I have authentic, deep relationships that I can count on?  Am I investing in them?

Building up my faith has been clearly the most important on this list.  When I am weak, it is only God that can give me the strength to go on.   God is our rock, our firm foundation, our wisdom, our strength.  Am I spending time in prayer and time reading God’s word?  Am I building up my faith through interacting with other believers?  Is growing closer to God a priority in my life?

Every now and then when I get overwhelmed I try to go back to these three things and assess how I’m doing by asking myself those questions.  It’s so helpful to getting back on track.

So now it’s your turn -do you have any other things that you consider to be essential for building stamina in your life?  Please share!

What to do when you don’t know what to do.

It was mid-2001.  I had a newborn (my first).  I was beginning to learn that the norm of motherhood is not having all the answers (or, really, any of the answers).

I had also committed to reading through the bible for the first time that year.  I may have been a little optimistic in my goal setting, huh?

I got through Genesis and Exodus pretty easily – after all, they are pretty fascinating stories!  Then I hit Leviticus and to be honest, I started to wonder not only about my level of commitment to this goal, but also about whether or not the Old Testament would have many lessons for my daily life.  I stuck with it.  And was amazed by the store of wisdom from God in those pages.

I remember happening upon the story of Jehoshaphat, King of Israel, in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20.  He  was one of the kings who did seek God – in fact in Chapter 19, he was described as having his heart set on God.  So in Chapter 20 we find him with an opposing nation coming at him intent on war.  And this verse is the one that caught my attention because it resonated with me – verse 21 – “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  In other words – he was crying out to God to manage this situation because he knew he couldn’t.  He didn’t know what to do, so he did what he was able- he set not only his heart but his eyes on God.

Sound familiar to any of you?  I have come back to this verse again and again through my years of mothering because there are so many times I don’t know what to do.  Can you relate?

The amazing thing in this story is what happens next.  God hears Jehoshaphat’s prayer and answers it by giving a message to Jehoshaphat through someone in his community.  Verses 15-17 share what this man said to Jehoshaphat, “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”‘

God speaks such sweet words of encouragement to Jehoshaphat:  I’ve got this.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t get discouraged because you don’t know what to do.  Even though the circumstances look bleak, you will get through this with my help.  I won’t leave you alone.

Listen up, friends.  God is speaking the same words of encouragement to you today.  If you are in a place where you don’t know what to do next, it’s ok!  All you have to do is set your eyes on Him.  Look to Him for guidance and direction.  Trust Him and He will provide.

Four Ways to Feel Angry Less

So as I previously posted, I had spoken about mom anger at a MOPS group last month.  I thought I should take the time to share a bit of what I shared with that group.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with controlling my responses towards my kids when I’m angry.  Over the years, through trial and error, lots of practice with anger management techniques, and lots of help from the Holy Spirit, I’ve definitely improved.  But along the way I’ve also learned that there are proactive things I can do to help me feel angry less often.

Here are four things you can do to stop angry feelings before they start:

  • Understand Your Anger

Look at your anger as a warning light.  It can be an indicator of changes you need to make.  Ask yourself two questions:  “Are there underlying emotions or stresses in my life that cause me to feel angry?” and, “Are there certain situations or circumstances that tend to trigger my angry feelings?”.  If you track your angry feelings over a period of time, you will likely find common triggers for your anger.  Once you know the triggers, then you can focus on making changes that will prevent or decrease your triggers and result in less anger.

  • Make Time for Self-care

Mothering can be tough and can push you to the limit of your physical, emotional, and mental energy.  If you are feeling empty it is so much easier to act out in anger.  Be sure you are taking time to care for yourself.  Determine what revives and refreshes you, and do it!  Investing in your self-care not only benefits you, but it benefits your family as well.

  • Get Perspective and Support from Friends

Friendships can help you on this journey in so many ways!  Having some deep and authentic friendships gives perspective, support, accountability, and encouragement.  Sometimes your expectations of yourself or your kids are too high, leading to frustration and anger.  Friends can provide perspective.  Friends can support you by praying for you and by holding you accountable for your responses.  Sometimes a hug and word of encouragement from a friend can take you a step further to healing.

  • Seek God in Your Weakness

Struggles can be an avenue for growing faith in God.  Nehemiah 9:17 says, “…you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”  Getting to know God better and growing closer to Him brings change in our lives because we become more like him.

If you struggle with anger, know that you are not alone.  You are not outside the limits of God’s love, and He can bring change in you.

Tell me, have you struggled with anger as a mom?  What are your best tips for feeling angry less and also for managing your responses when you’re angry?

His mercies are new every morning.

So today I spoke at a local MOPS group about anger.

You guys, I can’t even tell you what an amazing God we have.

There was a mom there who I felt was the reason I was there.  I could just tell by the look in her eyes and some of her comments that she is where I was years ago.

Prone to anger and wondering how she became an angry mom.  Asking herself and God why controlling herself when she feels angry is so hard.  Feeling like a failure as a mom.  Filled with guilt.  Probably shame.  Hoping against all hope that she hasn’t messed up her kids too badly.

But God.  God was there in that room with us.  By the grace of God alone have I been changed, and by the grace of God alone am I able to share my story.  And it’s not just my story, but it’s really His story.

A story of grace, mercy, forgiveness, love – beyond explanation.

I shared lots of practical tips.  But that’s not the important part. The important part I shared is that if as a mom you struggle with anger – you are not alone.  And there is hope for change.

That hope comes from God alone.  Nehemiah 9:17 says “…you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

Any change in me has come from getting to know and understand and FEEL and accept God’s love for me.

He is forgiving,

gracious,

compassionate,

slow to anger,

abounding in love.

When we get closer to Him, we become like Him.  We can become forgiving, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love for our kids.

I have struggled with anger – which led to guilt and then depression – for years.  I would make imperfect progress, but it was so, so slow.  At times I couldn’t understand why God wasn’t bringing the change in me that I hoped for.  The thing was that this struggle was more about my growing in my relationship with Him than it was about my relationship with my kids.

And all of the sudden this year, I feel like the “morning” has come and the dark cloud of night is gone.  God’s mercy is new.  For the first time in probably 12 years I feel like I have a measure of victory – all because of Him.  And I say that knowing full well that I still need to rely on Him every moment.  I can’t explain His process well – but I know my part in it was seeking Him over and over again, not giving up, and continuing to surrender myself to His will.

And today I’m just amazed at His mercy, grace, and faithfulness to me.  Over the years I have always stood on Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  I didn’t know how God would use this struggle for good, but I trusted.

All along as I’ve made slow progress in this area, I’ve known that He was pulling me closer and making me more like Jesus, as it says in verse 29.  But seeing Him today use my struggle to encourage and point someone else toward Him was more beautiful than I could ever ask for.

God is so good.

We are the world-changers, moms!

WE are the world- changers, moms, and don’t ever forget it!

Lately I’ve been hearing and thinking a lot about the culture that we live in today and all that’s wrong with it.  The recent presidential debate had me cringing.  The fact that many think it’s acceptable for our presidential candidates to taunt and put one another down in such immature fashion is so disheartening to me.

It seems like every week a crime occurs in my community that’s got people on facebook bemoaning what’s become of our society.

Don’t get me wrong, I do it, too.  Some adolescents swearing in Target the other day had me thinking along those same lines.

But this morning.

This morning God opened my eyes to something, as I was again having similar thoughts about the decline of our culture – no one has manners anymore, kids don’t know how to work hard (etc.).  How can anyone do anything to turn this around?

And I felt God point my finger right back at me and say that it’s us, moms, that can change the world.

We want adolescents and young adults to be more responsible, to work hard, and to take pride in their work?  Then it’s our job to teach them that.

We want people to honor others above themselves, to be kind and considerate to others?  It’s our job to teach our kids.

We want society not to be so vulgar?  Again, it’s our job to teach our kids.

No one person can change the world – but WE, moms, WE collectively can change the world by choosing each day to work toward that end.  By being prayerful and thoughtful about how we raise our children.  We have such tremendous power to change the world, the culture, for good. And it starts with us – how we act and react to the world around us.  How we teach and train our children.  How we pray and invest and love well.

Let’s get to it, friends.