Monday, January 27, 2014

I dare you to live the mess

I don’t know how I am. Or “how was my day.”
And when he came home and asked, it went like this:
“How was your morning?”
Long silence. “We’re making it.”
“Who’s being bad? Is it the younger two?”
“It’s not as simple as that. Just… forget it.”  

He’s busy anyways, much too busy for all that’s in my head.  Or he's not, but I am.  Before I can figure it out, someone needs something again, so yes, just forget it.

I woke up ready to fill love-tanks.  Call it mommy-guilt or inspiration- perhaps both- whatever it was, after reading the Five Love Languages of Children, I started the day ready to apply what I’d read.  

Children, get your morning jobs done quickly, because today we’re going to have some “Mommy Time!” (cheers, applause)

20 minutes, and you get to choose the activity.  The little ones go first. Let the fun begin.

I was richly rewarded, with appreciation, and those most precious glimpses inside their little hearts.  
Eldon is GETTING IT with the puzzle game, and I never would have guessed that he’d get it! And Peter loves to craft-- how funny for this boy, the youngest of our boys. He is “NOT a girly girl. I’m a boy-y boy.”   but I got to see his artistic side!  And Marcus with his jokes- he’s so witty, and I love how he loves to make me laugh.

“Do you know that your mama loves you?” I said to each one. And each one rolled his eyes and said “Yes Mom, you always tell me that.”

And yet despite these bright spots, the whole morning also feels like a complete failure. Because I had to lean on the older three to help with the little ones who weren’t having their mommy time. And the little ones kept interrupting, and it was so, SO frustrating.  And my frustration made them seem even needier, and I wonder, did I just dump out their love-tanks after trying to fill them?

They come to me with complaints, tattles, legitimate problems.  Many children means many conflicts.  Teaching opportunities. But which lesson?  I listen, encourage sharing, give consequences for hitting, discuss anger management, turn-taking, and line-waiting, nose-picking, animal-pestering, shoe-throwing, book-ripping... until I run out of words, and I send them away to “work it out.”  As if they can solve conflicts when mama can’t.

And my body is or isn’t reacting well to the food I’m eating, or not eating,  but who has time to pay attention and research?  And when can I fit in that workout?

And I’m in tears before naptime.

I just need… a break, which they don’t give to me. And some of them understand, and they know that if they wait for me I will be happy and patient again, eventually.  But one, he seems to take it personally.  “Can I help you mama?” he says, but helping kids “help” me is not something I can handle right now, so I say, “Not the kind of help you can give me dear. I just need….”  and I pause, because I really, truly do not know what I need. And he whispers, “for me to go away.”  And my heart breaks, and I hug him, and I give myself a time out in the bathtub.  

8 hours until bedtime. How will we make it?

Suddenly, a crisis: “Mama, the cover to the sandbox is in the ROAD!” I dress quickly, and go out in the wind and snow to fetch it, and the sunshine hits me like a smack to the face.  And I say something ridiculous: “Kids, it’s too nice out to nap. Let’s build some snowmen.”  I don’t know how to teach you to resolve conflicts or manage your anger, but this, I can do.

They probably think I’ve lost it, and perhaps I have, or I will, but the snowmen turn out pretty sweet, and for a moment, that’s all that matters.

and I echo this author
I'm just saying -- it's a hell of a hard thing to explain -- an entire day with lots of babies.

It's a hard thing to explain, this bouncing from one mess to another, from good to horrible to both at once.

Perhaps I'm not called to make sense of it,
or to tame it,
but simply to live.

Live the mess.

So, tell me, fellow mamas... how was your day?

This is the fourth post in this month's series: 

Will you (re)learn how to be a child with me?
I double-dog dare you.

The entire article is worth a read: 

See also:

Monday, January 20, 2014

I dare you to linger

My son, the one with the tummy aches, and the needy arms,and the whining, whining, whining--he teaches me.

My son wants me.  He wants just me, not something I can do for him.   I’d rather draw him a picture, make him a tent, bake him 12 dozen cookies, but no. He wants me, there, sitting under him, present.  
Just me.

But I am a doer, a mover, and I find it so hard to just be; to just give me.

And later, my husband comes home, and I am glad to see him, in a way.  I am glad for the extra hands that can keep the kids out of the kitchen while I make dinner.  I’m glad for someone else to help referee; for someone else  who can help check something off my list for me.  It is often only later (if at all) that I remember him, that I delight in time with him, just him.

What is more important? The “stuff” I accomplish, or the people around me?  The people, of course, and yet, how often do I trample over them for the sake of the “getting stuff done?”  

Furthermore (sin upon sin!) this addiction to productivity spills over into my prayers.  When I remember, I ask God for little things, like patience, and daily bread.  He helps, and I use those gifts to get stuff done. When I am desperate, I ask Him for bigger things, like forgiveness, and redemption. And He gives those things, too.  And I take things in my greedy hands, and I move on, as quickly as I can, to get stuff done. 

It is rare for me to linger with God.

But our Father is patient with us, and He invites us to linger.  

As John Kleinig explains,

“When we knock at the door of our parent’s house, they don’t ask us what we want; they invite us in. Like our parents, God the Father opens the door for us when we come to ask Him for something and lets us in.  Therefore we don’t just get something from God when we pray; we receive God the Father, His company, and life with Him. That is the unexpected bonus of prayer.” (Grace Upon Grace p. 165).

God- our good, kind Father- He hears our prayers, and gives so much more. He invites us in. 

He gives us His very Self.

Father, teach me to pray.
Teach me to receive.
Teach me to linger.



This is the third post in this month's series: 

Will you (re)learn how to be a child with me?
I double-dog dare you.

If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend!

You may also enjoy my published works:

an inspirational story of God’s grace

 for Mothers who tend to everyone else— May Jesus Himself Tend to YOU. 


Do you find it hard to "linger?"
Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Monday, January 13, 2014

I dare you to rest.

It strikes me that it requires a certain amount of faith to stop “doing stuff,” and to simply rest.

Of course, I’m not talking about the type of “rest” that overtakes you due to sheer exhaustion, flattening you out on the kitchen floor or wherever else you happen to be when your body just quits. That’s simply collapsing.

Resting, however, requires a measure of faith. It is utterly impossible for the one who thinks too highly of herself, who insists on being the grown-up all the time, and who has forgotten how to live like a child.

How is it possible to rest, for the one who believes any of the following:

I am the glue that holds the world together.
I will never feel better/refreshed/caught up until my to-do list is empty.
I don’t “deserve” a nap when I could be doing something productive.
My body is a machine.
Rest is for wimps.
The world cannot sustain itself without me actively employing my skills in it, not even for an hour.

When I think too highly of myself, and too little of God, I cannot rest, cannot stop, cannot nap. To the soul who cannot stop, God speaks:

In vain you rise early     
and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—     
for he grants sleep to those he loves. 
Psalm 127: 2

This verse is not all comfort to me, as it reminds me that my work— my well-done, eager, sweaty work— may actually be done in vain.

In vain you organize drawers and wipe the floor by the toilet, for they shall return, destroying. In vain do you wash and cook those veggies, for they shall not eat them, and complaints shall pound your ears.

The repeated chores in my vocation may indeed be done in vain. Scarier still, the whole project— carrying, birthing, and caring for these bodies, the tucking and praying and singing and disciplining— could perhaps be in vain, should a child forsake Him who loves them.

How can I rest when the enemy seeks to devour?

To the soul who cannot stop, God speaks:

Unless the Lord builds the house,     
the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city,     
the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early     
and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—     
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127-1-2

Unless the Lord builds. Unless He watches.
Unless He cares.

The child who realizes the future is entirely dependant on the Lord’s provision runs scared into the Father’s arms. Do you care? Are you building, watching, providing?

The Father is not angry, though we have had this conversation many times before. He embraces his child, enfolds her in His promises like a warm blanket. He sings to her of Jesus, of sinners reconciled, of love unto death.

Do I care? Of course, child. 
Come. Be loved.


And the child hears this invitation to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. And this God is worthy of this whole-hearted, full-bodied, deeply-resting love.

And the overworked muscles unclench in the gentle warmth, and God, in His grace, gives rest.

It is finished— everything that matters, really, is already finished.

I shall lie down, and sleep,
In peace.
(Psalm 4)

This is the second post in this month's series: 

Will you (re)learn how to be a child with me?
I double-dog dare you.

If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend!

You may also enjoy my published works:

an inspirational story of God’s grace

and for Mothers who tend to everyone else— May Jesus Himself Tend to YOU. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Grow Backward with Me

Grace frees me to be the child that I am and to ask my Father for help.

Have you noticed this sentence at the top of my blog? It has been there since the beginning. Every time I change little things about my blog, I consider changing it, and I just can’t do it. It is simply too near to my heart, too important, too close to summing up the essence of what it means to be “weak and loved,” which, in my mind, is the same as what it means to simply be a Christian.

Let me explain, for the newbies, and because I love to tell the story.

A few years ago, my little girl got sick. It was the kind of sickness that permeated our days and even haunted my dreams: the seizing, blue-lipped, shadow-of-death kind of sickness. And, I was not handling it well (severe understatement.)

And then words of God and man came to this girl with her angry fists and weeping eyes and flaccid faith:
“People say, be strong, but I say, be weak, and be loved.”

And as I limped through that year, plagued by weakness on every side and within, I leaned heavy on the most important word in that sentence: LOVED.

Is it true? Does God really love us? This is the most important question, and the answer changes everything.

If there is no God, or if He is aloof, uncaring, or angry, then we cannot rest, we shall never rest. If we are not loved, then it is all on us- everything, from world poverty, to local politics, to fighting in the Middle East, to the wars waged against greed and anger and lust in our own hearts. It is All. On. You.

However, if God so loved the world that he sent His Only Son,
If we are forgiven, redeemed,
Purchased by the blood of Jesus,
If He has provided a place for us,
And we are His Bride;
If He is our Father,
And we are his children,
And we are loved,

Then we are free: free to be children, free to trust His work in us and outside of us, free to move forward even when we do not understand. We are free to be loved, to live loved.

We are free.  Because of Jesus, because of God's grace, we are free. You are free.

So, I'll say it again.  Say it with me, won't you?

Plagued by weakness? Go ahead and hate it.
Hate it, but don’t let it define you, because Jesus has redefined you, even as He refines you.

Don’t waste time fighting it in your own strength, because Jesus will finish the work He started in you. Don’t pretend it’s so serious that you must hide it, because the seriousness of your sickness has been cured on the cross.

Step out into the light, the freedom of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and live like the child that you are.

Grow backward with me.

This is the first post in this month's series: 

Will you (re)learn how to be a child with me?
I dare you.

If you liked this post, consider sharing it with a friend!

You may also enjoy my published works:

an inspirational story of God’s grace

and for Mothers who tend to everyone else— May Jesus Himself Tend to YOU. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hands Free Mama (Book Review)

Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! by Rachel Macy Stafford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to my smartphone, I have everything at my fingertips: I can answer (almost) any question in seconds. I can connect with (almost) anyone I know at any time at all. And thanks to my smartphone, I never, ever, have to be bored again.

And yet, I, like many of you, have a nagging sense that this is a problem. I have a hunch, that connecting with everything and everyone everywhere all the time may actually have consequences for my relationships with those people who sit next to me on the couch, or who cry at my ankles while I “just post this picture real quick,” or who grab my arm when “I just need to reply to this one email, can you just WAIT?”

Rachel Macy Stafford, author of the new book Hands Free Mama is not just writing on a hunch. She writes as a friend, a mother, and a self-described “highly imperfect reformed yeller/hurry upper and recovering tech addict.” Her book is poignant, inspiring, and a must read for this generation, by which I mean anyone who spends a significant part of everyday “plugged in.”

This book is a book about distraction, and a call to everyone (especially mothers) to let go of the things that don’t really matter, so that your hands can be free to grasp what does.

Note on religion: Rachel’s book is sold at the Christianbook store, among other places, but I would not call this a specifically “Christian” book. Some mention is made of “God,” in general, but not Jesus. Rachel is writing to a wider audience in order to strengthen relationships and reorient people’s hearts towards home. Because of this, I place it in the self-help category, and I recommend it as a good, practical book for inspiration to change certain behaviors. However, please note that the Christian concepts of grace and forgiveness in Christ are lacking, as is encouragement to rely on God to truly change a person’s heart.

Personally, I have found this book quite helpful as I reassess the way I spend my hours. I am constantly called upon by my vocation as mother, and this in itself is overwhelming. Yet, how often do I add to that feeling of being overwhelmed simply by staying connected? While facebook might seem like a moment’s escape, and pinterest might promise to offer some fresh inspiration, I must ask myself, do they really? Do I use these tools to better perform my job, or do I let them distract me, overwhelm me, and even frustrate me, to the harm of those very people I claim to love the most?

I’ve read enough of Rachel’s works to know: she understands this struggle. She also struggles with slowing down, connecting, and grasping what matters. After I read her raw stories, and fed on her encouragement, I closed my laptop, looked my child full in the face, and said, “I’m so happy I’m your mommy.”

By sharing her story, Rachel draws the reader in, and urges us to consider our own stories. Will your child remember your lap as a place of welcome? Are you spending your time chasing what matters?

She does not demonize technology, and she wastes no time with this debate. Instead, she asks her reader: what must you do, or you will die?

Think on that for a moment.
What MUST you do, what do you absolutely have to do, or you will consider your life a failure, your days on this earth wasted?
Pin another recipe? “Like” a status? Share a funny ecard?

Or take an extra five minutes at bedtime to hear your child’s heart, to make them feel safe and loved?

As you consider your life in this new year, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Rachel’s book.

See also Rachel’s blog,

More posts on the perpetual technology struggle, by yours truly:

Mama, Can that wait?
Read, Pray and Hug before you Click
I didn't mean it (Screen Free Week)
Open Arms and Heart (Aggie, naturally hands free)

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Back on the Wagon

Oh, the aftermath of vacation! The aftermath of traveling, the wreckage that is my house after these two crazy weeks! There was a Christmas hurricane, and it blew my routines and systems away, filled my kids with junk food, and trashed my house!

I think these thoughts, sitting on the couch with coffee and no makeup, being climbed on by hyper children with no boundaries, and I sigh at the piles of Christmas stuff that needs to be incorporated into my system-less, routine-less house.

That's it. After all this stuff gets taken care of, we are ALL going back on the wagon!

There they are in my closet, those wonderful wagons that keep things running more smoothly. For the kids I get out the obey-your-mama wagon, the be-kind-to-your-siblings wagon, the remember-your-manners wagon, and the pick-up-your-stuff-or-else wagon.

For myself there is the flywagon, the exercise wagon, the be-consistent-with-the-kids wagon, the read-the-Bible-and-pray wagon, and the eat-healthy-foods wagon. But I can't seem to find that last one.. I know I used it last year... where IS that dumb thing?

Oh that's right, I covered it with cheese and I ate it.


Lord, have mercy on your weak children! As you have blessed us once again with another year, bless us also with wisdom in how we live it, and strength to do what we know we ought. Make us stronger in the most important things: love of You, love of our neighbor. And thank you that Your faithfulness to us is unchanging; Your resolve to show us your mercy, unwavering. May Your faithfulness and love that you show us in Jesus guard us throughout this year. Amen.

originally posted January 2012
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