Sunday, August 31, 2014

Whoa Nellie (Chaos and Contentment #3)

As we continue our discussion on chaos and contentment, I want you to look down at your hands. See the reigns you hold there? You are driving this horse, mama.

I assume many of you share this job with your husband, and that in many ways he leads the family horse. If that is true of you, you are blessed. Yet even so, we wives do not have permission to let go of the reigns, to be passive and let our family life run without our leadership.

Mothers, keep your hands on those reigns. There are many things that require your attention, and yes, your control. And as with all responsibilities and gifts we are given, we are to use the authority we have for the good of our family.

This concept alone helps my husband and I work through many of the decisions we make for our family. When presented with an opportunity to be involved with this or that thing, we do not simply ask, “Is this good?” but we ask, “Is this activity good for the entire family?”

We have said no to some very good things simply to allow some time to breathe into our schedule. We say yes to other things only for a season. We think of other ways to allow our children to pursue their passions and develop their gifts. We ask “which gifts are worth developing?” As much as my son would like to learn knife-throwing, we’re pretty sure that’s not the talent he should focus on right now.

Sometimes, when they come home with that paperwork for that awesome thing that everyone else is doing and they already told their friends they were going, it may seem like mama has no choice but to say yes.

Again, I say, look down at your hands. Do not give up those reigns while they are young.
Ask good questions.

“Is it worth the time, money, commute?”
“If we do this will we sacrifice something else that is more important?”
“Do my children currently have time in their lives to breathe, to connect with family and friends, to learn basic chores and responsibilies, and to recover from everything else they are already doing?”
“Will this new activity tempt us to neglect time in God’s Word as a family?”
“Are mom and dad already spread too thin?”
And of course,
“Will this increase the chaos level so much that mom will fall off the horse entirely?”

Mothers, as you seek to navigate the chaos, I encourage you to be discerning with your “yes.” Use discernment every time something good comes along, because this life is not about sucking up every drop of every good thing everywhere at all times.


Now I’d like to hear from you- what questions do you ask when deciding whether or not to do a new “good” activity?
Do you currently feel overscheduled?
Is it hard for you to say “no” to good things?

Up next: Where are we leading this horse anyway?

Friday, August 29, 2014


Five minute friday:

I'm reaching for a word prompt, for something to start inspiration. I'm reaching for the soul-settled effect I feel when I write. I haven't been writing, I've been nursing sick kids instead. I feel disorganized in my mind when writing is squeezed out of my days.

This week motherhood meant not only helping whiny children through the day, but even napping with them. Yesterday I lay in bed with one snuggled up next to me, and another with his arms around my neck- snuggling or strangling?  I lay in bed listening to the booger-bubble snores. Every so often he would sigh, and the most wretched of dragon breath overcame me. I'm sure it made the little hairs on my neck shrivel and die.

Motherhood can be gross.

So can sanctification.  The work of God as He humbles me, teaches me to pour out my body as He has done for me. Yet even in pouring out He assigns stillness.  I fight it like a little baby, eyes staring at the ceiling, insisting I am NOT tired and I have so many other things to do; He says, be still. I am God, not you. Just be still.

The naps I was forced to take seem to be helping me stay healthy so I can play nurse. I know, God, that's more important for their health and my spirit than those other things I wanted to do.  Help me to see and believe this. You do work for our good.

Today I was given quiet, and time to again reach for inspiration. Why do I reach in so many directions at once, when I know from where my help comes?

My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.
He is able to sustain with a word the mama who is weary.

With a word.
It doesn't take three hours, or a weekend retreat.
Just a strong word from a strong God.

(post inspired by five minute friday with kate motaung; linked up)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

the Helper of helpers

“Jesus please help your child,” I pray, and the sickness does not vanish. 
Why did I pray aloud? Now there are questions to answer.  

Why doesn’t God take suffering away right away?

I don’t know, sweetie.

I stroke the little head with my hand, and pull him close to my breast.
I don’t know why He doesn’t answer immediately.

But God is not silent, either.
My hand running through the little one’s hair is part of His answer.
My lap, my compassion, my embrace- this is part of God’s answer to prayer.
He sends mother to comfort.
And dad brings home the bacon, and the coffee.
We are part of God’s answer in suffering.

This would be entirely too much weight if God did not help the helpers.

“Surely God is my help; the Lord the one who sustains me.” Psalm 54:4

Father, help your children who suffer today. And if we who pray are to be part of the help you send, help us help you help them. We are your children, and you our loving Father. Tend to us, Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mama controller (chaos and contentment part 3)

Idleness is not what I seek when I work to feel “caught up.” If I had nothing at all on my schedule, I would put things there. We were made to use our hands and our gifts for others. But is it possible to do it without turning into an overwhelmed, angry, frantic crazy-mom?

What is it, exactly, that pushes us over the edge?

Well, it’s complicated. I’m sure you know this from trying to untangle your own heart.

I think the causes fall in two categories.
1. Exernal Struggles: Clutter, overscheduling, unruly kids, imperfect marriage, health problems, etc.
2. Internal Struggles: My attitude, focus, mental health, expectations, or sin

In other words
1. Things you might be able to control, or maybe not, but why not go down trying?
2. Things you cannot control without constant connection to God’s Word, His grace and help.

First we will discuss some things we might be able to control, or at least make a little bit better. There must be a way to minimize the cracker crumbs, and you’d think they could learn to stop falling off the chairs at the dinner table. Get yourselves under control, kids!

Control is at the heart of this, isn’t it? We don’t like when life spins out of control. We respond with anger, resentment, or (if it’s really bad) blank stares.

If only I were in control.

God’s in control, not you. So chill out already.”

Right. But who is going to plan the meals? God’s control does not relieve us of the responsibilities of our calling as mothers. Mothers, it IS our job to control what we can in our homes! This is our vocation! We are called by God to plan the meals and the schedules and the appointments and LIFE for the good of the family!

So. “Chill out already” is not the answer.

Do you want to do this, and do it better?
I will not call you a control freak. I call you a mother.
(We will talk about the freakier parts of control in a later post.)

What sorts of things in your life right now are you trying to tweak or change for the good of your family and your own sanity?

I’d love to hear from you!

Father, bless us as we seek to manage our homes and our families for the good of those in our care. Guide our hands and strengthen our spirits as we seek to love our little neighbors. Amen

ors. Amen

This is part 3 in a series on Chaos and Contentment

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peck after peck after peck (chaos and contentment part 2 )

What would it take for you to “feel caught up?”
What is this elusive goal we chase after so hard?
I raised these questions in part 1 of this series.

I just want to feel “caught up.” I say this, feel this often, perhaps daily.
It’s a resonable request, isn’t it? I don’t need a perfect house or a completely empty schedule. I like busy, but not crazy busy. A schedule that is full, but not suffocating. I want a life that runs along at a pace that keeps me moving, entertained, and fufilled, but does not push me over into drained or exhausted.

Is this too much to ask?

What would it take for me to feel “caught up?” What does that even feel like?

I can tell you what it doesn’t feel like.
It doesn’t feel like trying to help a child with homework and then you can’t find a pencil and I know the bird is squawking so who forgot to feed the bird and - no, I said feed the BIRD… get your peanut butter cracker off your brother right now! and I know you want a drink but I have to help your sister with this math problem first but oh my WORD why can’t I find JUST ONE PENCIL in this house? No I don’t know where your kneepads are, no you can’t make cookies right now, YES please go outside but stay away from the road and don’t let the dog go to the school and you can eat the raspberries but don’t pick the tomatoes unless they’re red— oh forget it, just stay away from the garden— because I said so that’s why, YES, fine play in the hose I don’t really care if you get muddy, so now where were we daughter? A pencil! I could kiss you and I might after I finish this math problem; wait, you’ve got to be kidding me when did you start doing algebra? Why is the bird still squawking? Why can’t you all just be quiet so I can THINK!?

I could have gone on for five more pages, typing down the wild runonsentence that is my never-caught-up life, but I will stop there.

Someone, tell me you relate.

And when the loud cry of tasks undone surround like a flock of birds around prey,and the small irritations assault, peck after peck after peck… is anyone surprised when a mama explodes in yelling, flailing, and (perhaps) running for her life?

I do not always perceive a room full of children with needs in this way, but when I do? Suddenly everything is personal. Every mess, every need, every inconvenience is an attack on my sanity. Life out of control leads to emotions out of control, and that is when things get ugly. Again, do you relate?

It’s not always like that, of course. (How would we survive if it was?)
Sometimes, I’m merely on the edge of this and praying that someone falls asleep before I am pushed right over.

But sometimes- sometimes I feel caught up. Every now and then, I can sit in a chair next to unfolded laundry, ignoring the booger stains on the couch, and I can hold a child, start a book, make room for more children, read more of the book, and still feel…calm.

I am not frantic, not hurried, not wild to get it all done.
I sit even in imperfections, and I let them be imperfect.  The fingerprints can wait, and I refuse to let them rush me.

When I “feel caught up” there is space in my heart and my mind for interruptions.
A visitor is not an intruder.  A child’s injury is a chance to show compassion.
A need is not annoying but a God-given task which I respond to gladly, receiving His strength.

If there are problems too big for me, they are placed at the feet of Jesus through prayer.

I am not the glue that holds the world together.
I feel my own smallness, and accept it.
Like the world, I am created.

I see the bigger picture. I have been placed here by God who keeps my heart beating.  He made my small hands, made them to receive from Him, and to do the small jobs He puts in front of me.
He gives big gifts, pours out lavishly on me as I receive from Him moment by moment.

I receive the moment that flows over me with gratitude.
I am where I should be, doing what I should be doing.
I am content.

Feeling caught up.
What is this thing that I chase after so hard?
Feelings- blown here and there by circumstances, weather, hormones— feelings cannot be bottled and kept, nor it is worthwhile to chase them.

But contentment-
An open heart and open lap,
Eager hands,
A body happy to serve, or rest, or play, as the Lord wills,
This is worth pursuing, with the help of God.

Come back soon, as we continue to think together on these things.
Meanwhile, tell me: How would you describe your struggle with contentment?
How do you feel/behave when you are NOT content?

This is part 2 of a series on "chaos and contentment"
Part 1: I'll never be caught up

Friday, August 15, 2014

May the Lord sink you and save you

The pastor stands in the pulpit, and he begins his sermon with strong words,
words that shock my ears:

"The boat is sinking, and it is Jesus who sinks the boat."

He has my attention.
I feel a little like he's picking a fight with me.

I know that boats sink. That's part of the broken world we live in.
I think of this post-- and the feeling I have frequently of sinking under the weight of vocation, of unbearable blessing-burdens that break my back and snap my patience in two.

I sink, but it's their fault. My fault. Something we can and should be able to fix.
And so pride works, underestimates the danger.
And continues to sink.

The pastor speaks of the sinking, and the disciples afraid.
Disciples heavy with all-night work, heavy with disappointment- suddenly in a boat heavy with fish. And it is sinking.  And Peter fears, not the waters but the God who sinks.

The boat sinks, and it is God who does this thing.

Fear of God's holiness, knowledge of sin, helplessness- see the sight given to the one who sinks.
Blessed clarity.
Weakness revealed, to make room for reception of love.

The boat is sinking, and it is Jesus who sinks this boat.

Cling not to fish or fig leaf,
not to repentant feelings,
or action plans.
Hope not in child-training strategies,
or anger management theory,
or sheer force of will.

Fear the Lord, and fear the sinking of the ship.
Fear the Lord and grieve your sins.
Fear the Lord and experience the powerlessness of your own hands to save.
Fear, and yet reach for Him, for He is gracious and merciful.
He sinks, that He may rescue.
He warns, that He may save.
He dies, that you may live.

* Looking for a faithful church in Grand Rapids MI? I recommend Mt. Olive!

** this is not a transcript of the sermon, only my thoughts on one main idea presented therein.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I will never feel caught up (chaos and contentment part 1)

That’s it.
It’s settled.
I will never, ever be caught up.

Never, until I’m dead.
So I might as well just quit.

I huff, plop down in the recliner, and open a novel.  I am a mama in rebellion.

But I know I won’t quit forever, and I know that my momentary “quitting” will simply create more work for me later.

Why is it so hard to find balance?

I know how to drop the list from time to time, to seize a moment, to notice and give thanks.
And I know how to barrel through and get stuff done.

But-- perhaps this is the next level of the game--- I do NOT know how to get stuff done when it is only SOME of the stuff, and when they help me do the stuff, or when they talk constantly while we are all supposed to be doing stuff.   

How does one balance listening and loving and efficiency?

I am not afraid of work.  

But sometimes I am afraid of who I become when I work. I’m not sure how to try to get stuff done without turning into the lunatic who wants everything done right this second.

A hard working worker pushing hard after task completion is a dangerous person.

It’s not that I need an immaculate house. I just want to feel caught up.  
And so often I feel like all things and all little people in the world are conspiring against me!

I want to “feel caught up.”
What does that even mean?

What would it take for you to “feel caught up?”
What is this elusive goal we chase after so hard?

Please share your thoughts.
More posts on tihs topic coming soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


My children crawl on me, fight over who sits by me.
I make room, as much room as I can, on my lap in in my arms.
Let the little children come. 

The first hymn begins.
I kiss a little forehead before I sing,
but then I find it difficult to sing.

They are on my mind:
The child-martyrs halfway across the world.

The church sings a hymn about a God mighty to save.
I wonder why God doesn't stop these things.
why His goodness is so hard to see,
why it seems like He is silent.

Like He's above all this. 

What would I do if it were me?
If my neck, or these necks were threatened?

I look inside for an answer.
It's not pretty, what I feel, what I fear:
Would I cower, and beg, and cling to life above everything else?
Would lies, shame, fear, rage, and hate overtake me?
I think... yes.
I am so weak, and I will be overcome. 
Unless... God.

Unless He's not above all this, but right in it,
like He said.
Unless He is truly Immanuel, God with us,
God who has traveled through death 
into new life,
for us.

What if faith is a gift,
and so is the courage to stand strong?
What if this world is crumbling,
and will continue to crumble,
until it is made new when His kingdom comes?
What if I can't hide from that or stop it,
but only wait,
for God to do what He said He will do?

What if faith comes by hearing, by His Word,
and what if that Word lives?
We who cling to it, we also shall live.

His Word is here, for us, 
Jesus, for us,
body and blood and Bible,
giving us life.

Life, right now, and life everlasting.
I breathe it in, 
and it fills me,
through my ears and into my heart.

My heart beats with a new strength,
the kind that won't run out,
because it doesn't come from me.

We wait, but we are not still in our waiting.
We speak and we give and we pray,
we grieve,
for those children, and our own.

We look straight on,
at the bloody mess, 
and we make pies, tie shoes, and keep living
and we pray and we wait.

We remember the cross,
the death that could not hold our Lord,
and as we dwell under the shadow of death,
we wait.

We cling to His Word,
and His Word clings to us,
and we wait.

And we wait.


Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand a priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
So oft, in troubled days gone by,
In anguish they would weep and sigh.
At home above the God of Love
For aye their tears shall dry.
They now enjoy their Sabbath rest,
The paschal banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord, at festal board
Himself is Host and Guest.
(LSB 656 v.2)

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been...

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

(Rev. 6:9-11, 7:13-17)

On persecution in Iraq- repent, remember!

Anglican vicar: "Child I baptized cut in half by ISIS"
Iraq: six things you can actually do to help

Come Lord Jesus.

(Who out there is waiting with me?)

Monday, August 4, 2014

from here.

My bare feet sink into sand, but still I run, holding tight to the little one’s back before I throw him overhead in a grand under-dog.  He clings tight to the chain, laughing loud.  His brother teases, “Grandma can push higher than you!” because he’d rather tease than ask politely for a turn. But I hear the asking in the teasing, and I push him up and over, higher than his brother.

As I recover my footing I see she is watching me-- my oldest daughter, with her big brown eyes. She, too, sits on the swing, but her feet touch the ground.  Her swing moves lazily back and forth, heavy with adolescence, but she pouts at me and begs, “Push me too mommy!”  I laugh, “I don’t know if I can do that anymore, girly!”  I grab her back and give a shove, then another, and she giggles, “wheee!” but we are both only pretending.  She barely moves.  She shakes off the act and says seriously, “I’ve got it from here, mom.”

She’s got it from here.
Not all of “it,” I think, as I watch her swing higher than the others.  
She starts sixth grade this year. She’s not done with me yet.

But I watch her swing higher than the others.  I see it: she is preparing to fly.
They all are.

My heart stretches, aches.
I push the littlest ones again, while they are still small enough, and I am young enough.

We’re getting ready to fly.

Someday, they’ll all say to me, “I’ve got it from here, mom,” and it will be true. God, help me to spend these pre-flight days wisely!  Be the anchor of our souls even as time whisks us forward!  Do not let sadness or selfishness overtake me, but help me rejoice in the growth You give.  
You’ve got them, God, from here, and from there.
And You’ve got me, too.

God, grow me up as you grow them up!

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