I ran a staple into my thumb decorating for Vacation Bible School (yeah, I know, it was a little klutzy). Oh, but it was worth the pain. Today we shared the story of Zacchaeus, a short tax collector that Jesus found up a tree. Zacchaeus was most likely a worshiper of money, selfish, and had a hard heart. But Jesus searched him out to have dinner with him. Zacchaeus was never the same.
I will never be the same.
When the Vacation Bible School director asked me to teach one of the classes, my mind went into teacher mode. I started to think about number of students, behavior management, and lesson plans. But, then I got my packet and my heart melted.
I get to share Jesus with very young children. I get to give them Bibles and tell them how big God's love is for them. Whether or not they remember to stand in a line or raise their hand is nothing compared with those truths.
This week I get to shower love on these children and open my heart to their precious lives.
Today, my two short Bible Study sessions with my kiddoes went by too fast. And, when it ended at 8pm tonight all I could think about was what I get to share with them tomorrow.
The whole time, Adela would not leave my side. Going through some jealousy/separation issues, she was better with me than with someone else. I threw my frustration out the window and decided that though it was inconvenient, it was also a gentle way to show love to her. I gave Adela her first real Bible today because she was there sitting with my K-2 students.
I pray God keeps this level of energy and excitement flowing through me. I will need it. And, I will love every single moment of this.
Two years ago we had premature twin girls weighing in at about 2 pounds each. They were tiny and fragile. It was not scary to have them too early, it was devastating. The next few months of the NICU I lived in a nightmare as we watched the girls fight infections, viruses, and brain injury. We did not get to take Isabela home. It was around the time of her loss that a hospital chaplain came by Micaela's bedside to hold my hand. She told me something precious.
She said "Sometimes God does give us more than we can handle."
I shook my head. "No, no he doesn't. How many times have I heard it? God doesn't give us more than we can handle. He doesn't."
The chaplain shook her head, "He does."
She went on to explain. There are seasons of our lives when what we are going through is too much for us, all on our own, to handle. And when people try to convince others that they can handle whatever life throws at them, it makes them feel isolated. It makes them feel like somehow, on their own, they are supposed to survive the pain, the loss, the overwhelming fear, the confusion. It makes them believe that their feelings of devastation are some sort of weakness.
There really are things we experience in life that we cannot handle all on our own.
We need God.
We need prayers.
We need hugs and sometimes other people to do our laundry and cook our meals.
We need friends to come around us and brace us up. Or we need family to protect our quiet as we try to sort it all out.
I'm not saying that our amazing Heavenly Father ever sets us up for failure. Our God is gentle and cries for all of our hurt. Do not believe for one second that he has not gathered his angels and earthly souls to tend to your needs. Oh, you are not alone.
Let the pieces of your broken heart be pulled back together, one by one, and glued back in place with the love of friends, family, and your awesome God.
It is okay to not feel up to this. It is okay to realize that you were not ready to experience this devastation in your life. It is okay for this to be more than you alone can handle.
Just let yourself be loved.
As mommies, we live a queer balance between having to plan for everything and realize we control nothing. We resign to the fact that we must wear a lot of hats and wear them well. If you are anything like me, you sometimes struggle with a fear of not getting everything done. Or, not having anything left of yourself at the end of the day.
As I began today I could hear God whisper, Stay with Me.
Today was a normal day, but it was a busy day. Usually Mondays are. Mondays are when I try to get the house back in a semi-clean condition, return the girls to a routine, blog, do paperwork, and balance budgets . Today was normal but it had a lot of extra surprises.
I did my norm but also mowed, visited my precious Momme Perri (a woman who "adopted" me), went to the post office, helped set up for Vocational Bible School, and saw a dear friend who is visiting the area.
It was a beautifully full day and that was why God asked me to keep close to Him. I have a horrible habit of getting frustrated when things are out of schedule. I am not spontaneous. I want everything to fit into a plan, fit into a certain order. And, when things wiggle out of my "norm" I get a bit cranky. But not today. Today as each new unusual event occurred I trusted God to take care the rest of my day. I did not allow myself to worry too much about whether or not I would finish chores or have time to talk with friends. I trusted God to allow everything to go smoothly.
It was a beautiful day.
Why can't every day be like that? I have cracked down on trying to do too many things at one time, now I need to stop skipping ahead in my day. I need to trust more and plan less. I need to relax and let life happen because it is going to happen anyways. I need to let God wear a few of those hats of mine.
Funny, it was such a full day. Yet here at the end of it I am so at peace. All of me is still here. I am not battered, spread thin, and used up. I have been filled by the day, not emptied.
We all have weird days like this. Days that throw us out of our norm and comfort. Give God your planner. Trust Him to give you just enough and just what you need.
Let your day fill you with joy instead of empty you of peace.
God carefully crafted this day for you and He only gives good things.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
Adela's big brown eyes took in the upcoming storm and filled with fear. We are under a tornado watch until late tonight. I ran out to drive the truck into the shed and frightened her more than I meant to. In the end, the storm cells passed us by and there was no need for her tears nor the relocation of the truck.
I am a storm watcher. I have been since I was very small. I try to anticipate life's trials, be prepared for the worst, imagine the what-if's.
I might be a very proactive prepared woman, but as I looked into Adela's fearful eyes I knew I could not teach her to be like me.
A heart of fear is not a heart of faith.
Adela has a life full of storms to weather. She will have rough relationships and friendships. She will have times of financial strain or difficulty. She will experience pain. She will experience loss.
I want to build within her a heart that welcomes the storms knowing that God's grace and power will be more apparent to her then than ever in her life. I want her to trust God and His Spirit inside her to be prepared for trials and to weather out the tempest. I want that deep seated joy in her heart to stay alive, to stay bright, even under the most furious downpour.
I now have more reason that ever to live a life of faith. A life that Adela can watch and learn to take her eyes off the storm and keep her heart firm in faith.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
In most jobs there are breaks built in. People can step away for a few minutes or even go get lunch. They can stop, reboot, refresh, and then get back to work.
But, when you are on duty as a parent, you do not always have such a luxury.
Micaela was immobile for so long. On top of that, she did not do a lot of normal toddler or baby things such as try to eat bugs or investigate cabinets. But that has all changed dramatically since she started crawling, sitting herself up, and pulling herself up into kneeling.
It is a totally normal phase. Throw in a 3 year-old who no longer naps and I can get super frazzled by the end of the day. A friend gently reminded me that I did not need to be alone in order to calm myself and reclaim some peace. And she was right. Below are five ways that I have found to bring my frustration level down when things start to feel out of control.
1. Music You can boogy to it. Sing at the top of your lungs. It can be hard. It can be slinky. It can be soft and gentle. But the key is, you have to just do the music for a while. The kids can be involved too. They can dance and sing and watch mom be silly. Or, they can pretend to be ballerinas or waving leaves while gentle beats are played out. Five minutes and you will be perked up. Ten minutes and you will be ready to get back on a roll.
2. Adult coloring books. This is my favorite. Grabbing a yellow pen and making a little piece of paper just a bit prettier is very soothing for me. My girls can color their own books too. We can have music in the background. We can talk or sing. Or we can be quiet for a little while. It is good prayer time too while you fill in the wings of a butterfly or the eyes of a tiger.
3. Journaling. Angry? Scared? Feelings of guilt? Frustrated? Write it down. I keep a prayer journal that often looks like a bunch of complaints that I'm bringing to God, but, once they are down they are no longer building in me. Putting it into words can help me make sense of it.
4. Get out doors. Throw kids in strollers or grab them by the hand. Walk to the park, down the street, or in circles in your driveway. Breathe. In. Out. Let your shoulders drop. If the weather is bad you can sit down on your rug and do some stretching or yoga. Just breathe.
5. Read. And lastly, find a really good devotional or book of encouragement. Find one with very short stories, quotes, or words of wisdom that you can open up and read for a minute or two and then put down again. Read through some Psalms in the Bible. Anything that relaxes and encourages you will work.
I am determined to continue discovering ways to beat feelings of frustration. But before you work on your own list of ways to refocus yourself when your are at the end of your rope, I want to strongly encourage you not to add social media or pinterest to your list. Why? Because if you are anything like me, those outlets are entertaining but hard to pull away from. Plus, they can leave me more frustrated or worried if I read something upsetting or cannot finish looking at all those cheesecake recipes.
Next time you find yourself on the job and unable to squeeze in a normal break, try one of these and do a little sanity saving.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
My heart smiles a lot these days.
It is the sunshine.
A couple months ago my world was all indoors, but the weather has changed.
And a garden was planted.
And we have a dog, two cats, and eighteen chickens.
And I'm running again.
I am outdoors several times every day and I am so thankful.
Winter is over.
I will admit it. My little life got stuck in a rut. Attitudes and poor habits became so routine I could not even see them anymore. And the things I saw and knew needed change or improvement I could not muster the energy to do anything about.
Then the world changed and it was no longer comfortable to stay where I was.
I had to change too.
How precious that we are given a zap as the seasons change to take steps forward on goals we had nearly buried in the trying months before.
With the sunshine I reaffirm my healthy lifestyle of both eating and exercising.
I have new energy to organize closets and corners.
I approach budgets and billing with hope and faith.
I want to see my girls learn and come along side them in their wonderful world of play.
I want to take walks with my husband and talk about nothing and everything.
With the sun shining so brightly on my world there is little space for darkness and dread.
It is powerful.
Take advantage of this yummy sunshine today.
Write down a worry or goal that you feel is looming over you.
Throw on some sun protection--it is really is powerful, that sunshine :)
And get outdoors while you meditate and pray on it.
Do some singing and some walking and some weeding (literally and figuratively).
Allow God's sun to shed light on your world and invigorate your heart and soul.
You will see answers you never considered. You will have hope that you thought impossible.
Happy days of sunshine to you all.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years
"I'm always the last one to eat. Nobody helps me. I'm always the one who gives, gives every last part of me. I'm always having to put everyone else before myself and it is never enough, never enough. I'm so tired of this. So tired."
Ah, yes, the gripes and complaints of a burnt-out mom. This is the mom who others come beside and ask, "Are you taking time for yourself? Find someone to help you. You need to take care of yourself."
That mom definitely needs a break. She needs to center herself. She needs rest physically, emotionally, and mentally.
That rainy day we had this week caught me off guard. I had other plans for that day but the weather kept us all indoors. And with the close quarters came a thousand demands on the wife, cleaner, chef, mom, and entertainment manager--aka, me. The pressure built. I wanted to run outside into the rain and scream. The whole thing seemed unfair and my complaints about the day bogged me down with growing anger.
And silly me, I stood at the kitchen sink and prayed something like this, "Oh, God. I know you are telling me that I need a break. But there is no way right now. Why would you allow me to feel like this and have no escape plan?"
God probably rolled his eyes before responding. "Oh, no, daughter. Those thoughts are not from me."
I looked up into the gray skies and the soggy world and realized once again what a sneaky monster the devil had been. Those well-meant words of advice to mothers had settled into an unexpected place in my heart. They made me feel beaten down. They made me feel like a victim. And then the lies had started. The lies that whispered that my life was too hard, my problems too big, and that everyone asked too much of me.
But when I look at the truth I can feel the amazing power in this life I lead and the loving choices I make.
Because the truth is this:
I eat last because I have the honor to cook and serve food to my family.
God helps me every day and every moment.
I have more than enough love and strength to give to my family everything they need from me. God will not allow me to be bankrupt.
And yes, a break would be lovely, but that to will be provided when the time is right. Until then, I am just fine.
No. I am more than fine. I am winning and loving and being everything God has made me to be, right here in this moment.
How did I begin this habit of embracing lies? Of seeing my world as so difficult and trying?
How did such benign thoughts morph into words that were tearing down my heart?
We all need a break and mothers of small children have so much on their plate.
But we are not victims.
We are warriors.
With the great challenge that comes with doing this job, God has set before us amazing portions of grace, patience, and love.
We are some of the strongest women on earth. We run a tight race while constantly under siege.
We do not just survive.
We build homes. We conquer bad attitudes and poor habits. We potty train and do budgets and cook meals and teach manners.
Come on, you can say it, WE ROCK!
Under siege from all directions we face it all with the power of a mom.
And the never-ending grace from God.
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"...and God was already there with me."