Mayweather Musings

ImageMay seems to bring a cheerfulness unmatched in other months. The promise of hope and excitement fills the air as school finishes for the year and we celebrate graduations and the thrill of completion.  We’re planning summer vacations and starting to enjoy warmer weather (finally!). This May, I find myself anticipating my husband’s college graduation and reflecting on being out of Bible College myself for a full year. In some ways, it seems like I was just there yesterday, and in others, a lifetime ago.

The first year has come with a full dose of reality in just changing residence alone; no longer do I live in a place where praying with your neighbors is common and alcohol, smoking and general mayhem is outlawed.  Some things, however, are not very different. My last year of Bible college, I was also a full-time mother, which meant that even in the midst of studying and worship teams and early morning practices, my family took precedence. My husband was finishing his degree, and when I would come home from class, I would exchange my smart-looking school clothes and worship attire for torn jeans and stained shirt as I made pb&j’s and changed diapers. While other Bible college students were formulating ministry plans and leading worship among many, I was leading worship for my little brood of three. Although sometimes frustrating at the time, considering the environment, I can see how the Lord used this to prepare my heart for the next year.

A year later I find myself in the same stained-shirt attire and attending to the business of the toddler crowd, while somehow muddling through my first year of homeschooling completely by myself. My neighbors don’t pray with me (although they probably pray that my children don’t scream so much outside!), and due to a move and unforeseen life-stuff, contact with adults my age has dwindled mostly to Sunday morning interactions and savored trips to Target. I haven’t worn dress pants in at least a year, and whatever grace God gave me to match clothing together has pretty much ceased to exist. I still treasure the worship moments I get, whether in a public setting or at home on the stinky carpet, but I’m not standing in front of crowds anymore.

I can’t say that much of this is a surprise. I knew upon graduation that the next year of my life at least would be dedicated to my husband completing college – something we will be celebrating this Friday. While others went off with grand plans of ministry and “stepped into their calling,” so to speak, I knew my next year would be a lot of what we like to call “Armor Bearing” ministry – serving another’s vision instead of your own. And that’s not to say that I don’t feel like motherhood is my first vision, my first priority – I truly do. It’s just that I was aware certain things would be set aside while we focused on Daddy finishing school.

The funny thing is, I couldn’t see at the time how God would use this year to draw me even closer to Himself and even more intimately into His presence. In my experience of working in full-time, church ministry, sometimes it can be easy to fall in the trap of only finding God’s presence and the beauty of His holiness in that special church setting. It’s so easy to “feel God” and sense His presence when you have morning chapel services everyday. It’s easy to worship with flawless guitars, clear vocals, and harmonies in just the right place. My heart is moved quickly in an ambience void of whining, yelling, and little people biting your leg (or pinching, whichever they prefer).

Don’t get me wrong; I love and treasure amazing worship services. I attend a healthy, thriving church where the worship team humbly serves with excellence, and God is glorified in their sacrifice. But being home with my littles – waking up with them every morning, attending to boo-boos, discerning attitudes, apologizing for homeschooling in frustration – has shown me another side of worship leading.

It is in this place, where the sometimes mundane, unglamorous reality of everyday life meets holiness. It is here where I find His presence dwelling in earthen vessels; where the stuff of heaven meets the confines of earth: feebleness, exhaustion, frustration and sarcasm. It’s here where His strength really is made perfect in my weakness. There are no flashing lights to lessen the glow of frustration on my face, or reverb to buffer the sound of my irritated voice. You know 2 Corinthians 4:7, that talks about treasure in earthen vessels? I’m pretty sure Paul was specifically talking about mothers there. The place where all that is good and lovely and pure meets all of human limitation, and we make an exchange to rely on His strength instead of our natural ability – BAM! – that is the place where heaven meets earth. This is the place where His presence shines in my imperfection.

A resounding theme for me this year comes from one of my favorite songs, “Holy Spirit,” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt. The line “Let us become more aware of Your presence / Let us experience the fullness of Your goodness” has become my heart’s cry. In school, we spent time waiting on the Lord. Whether it was with beautiful music playing or sitting in silence, we taught our hearts to hear His silent words. I have found this year a continuation of that process, but without an amazing worship band playing. Instead, I’m becoming aware of His presence while spending 3 months on a couch, drained of the worst morning sickness I’ve ever experienced, and hearing my heavenly Daddy whisper to me, “It’s gonna be okay. I am holding you through this.” I’m finding His goodness in a busy household where everyone needs something at once; in the daily craziness that includes at least one spill a day; in teaching my daughters to take a deep breath and respond instead of react. This is the stuff of heaven.

This year I’ve found that my heart needs to seek Him 100 percent of the time, not just when my family needs direction or when the mood of a public worship service moves me. The more time I spend in the light of His goodness, the more I’m aware of how beautiful He is and how the things of earth –even personal ministry goals – pale in that beauty. It creates a hunger in me for more of His goodness, more of His touch even on the days I think I have it all together.  His Presence is not a nice, calming, quiet complement to my hectic mommy day, like a good cup of tea: It is the very essence of life – that Zoe-life that gives breath to this body. Without it, I don’t just have a ‘hard day.’ Without it, I cease to be who I was created to be. It is necessary to my daily life, whether on or off a platform.

At the end of this school year, our family is again in a season of transition, and we’re praying about what is next. I’m trying not to do my normal thing of freaking out and not enjoying the day-to-day. That’s not easy for me! But as we wait, my heart is drawn to Exodus 33:14, where Moses is in the desert talking with the Lord, going through his own season of transition:

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

That is enough for me.

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Lullaby

ImageLast week was a rough one for our family.

Not only did Gramma leave (we are all still in mourning), but my son was accidentally injured (though under close parental supervision) while playing with A Specific Outdoor Toy That Will Remain Nameless. His accident spurred an impromptu trip to the emergency room late Sunday night, and though he will recover fine and has garnered manly attention for his first boyish injury, the whole incident was a lot for both him and his parents. After a long night at the ER, we laid our son down around 2am, thinking he would be exhausted from the day’s events. However, he ended up only sleeping a couple of hours and not much during the next day, either. Although he was so sleepy he couldn’t keep his eyes open, he kept jolting awake every other minute and couldn’t settle into a restful sleep. This made him start crying because he couldn’t stay asleep, which led to him being more overtired… and… well, you get the idea. He (and I) was a mess.

After only 4 or 5 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours, Monday night found me cradling my sleepy boy in my arms and praying for wisdom. No matter what I tried, he could not stay asleep. Every other minute, my poor boy’s arms would flutter open with wide strokes, and he would stare at me with wild eyes as he burst into tears. My heart was broken. I tried swaddling his arms like I did when he was an infant, but this didn’t seem to help much. I continued to rock him in our recliner and breathe out desperate little prayers. Lord, please heal my baby. Please bring him comfort. Please be his peace. Minute after minute, he continued to jolt and cry. He looked so exhausted as he tried to settle down, and the cycle would start again. I continued to rock him and tried not to panic. In 8 years of mothering, I’d never experienced anything like this before. As a tried to comfort my son, I began to sing his lullaby, a song I’d made up and been singing to him since birth.

I love you, Mama loves you,

Mama loves Jaron, yes, I do;

I love Jaron, yes, I do;

Mama loves Jaron, I love you.

It didn’t seem to help much at first. As I continued to repeat the words over and over, non-stop like a broken record, I felt the Lord tell me to squeeze him tight, almost as tight as I could. The next time he jolted, his arms pressed into my embrace instead of wildly flailing. He continued to jolt, shudder and cry, but I held him tighter. As I continued to sing, over and over, I stopped rocking and began pulling my knees into my chair, curling into a big Mommy ball with my little son in the middle. Jaron continued to jolt and shudder, but his cries lessened. Over and over, I sang:

I love you, Mama loves you,

Mama loves Jaron, yes, I do;

I love Jaron, yes, I do;

Mama loves Jaron, I love you.

I’m not sure which umpteenth repeat I was singing when the tears started falling. In the midst of motherly exhaustion and the guilt I felt that my son had gotten hurt in the first place, I was overwhelmed with love for him. I felt that God-given, Crazy-Protective-Mama-Bear feeling creep up, and I vowed to sing that song all night if needed, so my boy would sleep.

I love you, Mama loves you,

Mama loves Jaron, yes, I do;

I love Jaron, yes, I do;

Mama loves Jaron, I love you.

Slowly, slowly, over the next hour or two my son relaxed. His jolting lessened and his breathing deepened. I continued to sing, curled into a ball with his face pressed against mine and my tears dampening his sweaty head. Over and over I sang his song, which wasn’t more than a whisper by this point.

I love you, Mama loves you,

Mama loves Jaron, yes, I do;

I love Jaron, yes, I do;

Mama loves Jaron, I love you.

As I held him close, tears falling, I heard my Father speak to me. I heard him tell me, “This is how I hold you. I don’t let go. I’m not scared of your jolts and shudders, and when you have trouble sleeping, I pull you even tighter into my arms. I don’t let go.”

So many times I come to my Father frustrated with my “junk.” Knowing that I shouldn’t be holding on to the things I’m holding on to. Knowing I’m offended by something Ridiculous. Other times, I come crying to Him because I am simply overwhelmed by the world I live in. It is changing too fast for a girl who doesn’t want cable TV and doesn’t know who the Kardashi-whats are. Some days I don’t feel like fighting against the constant barrage of Worldly Crap and Values that rages against the very core of Who I love and what He stands for. I get weary of the fighting from both sides. The harsh reality jolts me awake. Steals my affection. Suffers my peace.

This is how I hold you. I don’t let go. I’m not scared of your jolts and shudders, and when you have trouble sleeping, I pull you even tighter into my arms. I don’t let go.”

On nights like this, when the night is too long and the jolts and shudders come without hesitation, I’m so grateful that He doesn’t let go. He pulls me – you – even tighter into His embrace, absorbing the shock and intensity of the world we live in with every push. And guess what? Zephaniah 3:17 shares that He sings over us, too. God sings. Not even kidding. A Warrior so mighty, and yet gentle enough to sing lullabies and love songs over His children. I can’t get enough of this amazing God I call Father.

Today I pray we find a safe spot to curl up on the stinky carpet and let our Daddy sing over us.

Fourthcoming

Hello, everyone! If we aren’t friends on Facebook, you might be wondering where I’ve been. Here I was, strolling along and becoming *somewhat* regular in my postings, and bam! Nothing for about 6 weeks.

I hope you will forgive me, friends. Recently –well, let’s see, about 6 weeks ago — I found we’re expecting a baby! 🙂 Yay! We are super excited, but I have been super sick. In all 5 of my pregnancies (I miscarried our first child), this has been THE toughest, worst morning sickness I’ve ever experienced. As in, lay-on-the-couch-all-day (no exaggeration), throw-up-most-of-what-you-eat, don’t-even-think-about-showering morning sickness. I have done little but lie around, throw up and pray the kids found something for breakfast (on the plus side, it’s amazing how helpful my 7 year old has become!). I can’t wait for this, umm, ‘beautiful’ first trimester to be complete. I also think it somewhat ironic that after coming off of a month of waiting in the presence of God with no agenda and emptying myself of personal ambition to wait at His feet, I still find myself on my knees in desperation of Him and His presence (although this time at the foot of a toilet bowl, crying out to God that I make it another day). Ha! 

Anyway, I hope to return to blogging in about a month, if I’m feeling better. In the meantime, I would love your prayers. I’m not exaggerating; this is one of the hardest things I’ve gone through, and it’s taking a toll on our family, where Dad is now managing everything from working full time, family meals, and his 2 final college classes. I want to kick my former pregnant self, where I would complain about how I threw up once or twice the entire pregancy. What a sissy! 

On that note, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to follow a somewhat spacey mother, who catches her train of thought just in time to nauseously toss it up with last night’s supper.  I’m going to sip some Gatorade and try to keep down the bagel I had for breakfast. Be blessed, and be fearless! 

First Responders

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Maybe you’ve noticed this by now, but this blog doesn’t exactly stick to one focus. I wish I could say it was only about fearlessly mothering: boldy mothering when no Mom has, umm, mothered before, but it just isn’t the case. The more I try to focus on this one topic, the more I end up going in a different direction with my next post. Instead of wallowing in chocolate and frustration concerning this debacle, I realized this is because these two topics that I’m passionate about – fearlessly mothering and the awesome presence of God – are quite intertwined. For me, I cannot have the former without the latter. I simply cannot be a fearless mother without the living, breathing presence of God infusing my daily life. If I try to do this without Him, I become legalistic and my perfectionist streak takes over, and I start complaining about ridiculous things, like the fact that my two year old doesn’t know his alphabet yet. See? Ridiculous. I have to parent with His presence, each day, otherwise I become a bit ridiculous. For that reason, I’m informing you now that most likely every other post will concern the presence of God and what I’m hearing from Him, and have absolutely nothing to do with children or Cheerios or dirty diapers entirely. So consider this the non-Cheerios post for now, and let the dirty diaper smell fade into the background.

As I mentioned here, I forewent the New Years resolutions for the month of January and decided instead to concentrate on waiting on the Lord, without an agenda or a Big Fat My Needs List. It hasn’t quite been a daily thing yet (still working on that), but this past month has been so beautiful. Intimate. Restoring. I have learned much about calming my heart and quietly waiting on Him, even though I’m not exactly a quiet person. It’s almost like a tithe of my attention and affection: before I speak or interrupt, I’m learning to give Him the firstfruits of my attention, devotion, love, opinion. He gets the first interaction. I find my words changing from saying things about feeling the presence of God (although we can definitely feel His presence), to developing an awareness of His presence continually with me. Waiting on Him, by myself, somewhat locked away and with no agenda, has brought me to a place where I am not sitting around waiting for goose bumps, but instead am quietly listening for when my Beloved wants to speak (if at all). It is incredible. And normally, yes, He does grace these times with a thick, tangible sweetness and peace, like a cloud. But He’s taken me from seeking that to coming simply to worship Him because He’s worthy.

In the midst of this, I’m starting to hear Him call my heart during other times of my day. I’m sure He’s called me before, but this time I’m actually listening. When I’m frustrated about something and I’m standing in front of my kitchen sink, I’ll hear Him say something like, “You seem worn and tired. Come rest in Me a minute,” or after an interaction with my children that didn’t go well: “That was frustrating. Take a minute to sit with Me.” If I did hear Him say things like that to me in the past, I don’t remember heeding it often. I’d brush it off and continue what I was doing, knowing that the weight of our domestic household rested on my shoulders alone (cue sarcasm font). But now that I’m taking the time to wait and listen in the quiet places, I’m learning to obey in these moments, as well. I’m finding my Father wants every bit, every smidgen of my day – not just those moments I designate “Quiet Time.” I’m realizing that I don’t want to take these tender moments He sprinkles throughout my day for granted. I want to respond to His presence the first time, every time. I want to listen to His words the moment I hear them, even if it’s momentarily inconvenient to my schedule.

On a practical note, this doesn’t mean I run off to my prayer closet every time this happens. I realistically cannot bust out my newest Jesus Culture album and have a worship sesh on the spot while my four-year-old sprinkles milk around the kitchen as she pretends to be a helicopter. But I do have time to slip away to my room for a moment, or maybe just sit on the couch and close my eyes, and let my Father finish what He saying in the ongoing conversation we share throughout the day. As I train myself to listen, I’m realizing it’s not as hard as I thought to hear Him speak. My own fear and doubt were holding me back way more than my inability to hear Him.

I’m don’t write this to add one more thing to a weary mother’s growing list of demands. However, I find that when I respond to my Love’s call, when I heed the voice of my Father throughout the day, His voice becomes clearer, and I rest in His peace more often. I quit viewing my time with the Lord as an event or a moment in a worship service, but instead as an ongoing dialogue in a loving relationship. His continual presence in my life leads me to His rest and emboldens me to be fearless.

What I’m listening to: Waiting Here for You, Christy Nockels; Holy Spirit, Bryan & Katie Torwalt

What I’m reading: Psalm 139:7-90; Psalm 27:8, 14; Psalm 62:1; Psalm 63:1-3

87

Image87. Definitely more than 50, but not as crazy as, say, 130. I wish it were a nice, even number if it were going to be that large, but most things in my life don’t fit into nice, neat, even-numbered packages. Maybe I should be glad it was only 87.

87: the number of times during this last week, since Sunday at least, that I’ve doubted my calling as a mother. That’s roughly 17 times a day, give or take a few, and the week isn’t even over yet.  (Now, granted, we just returned from visiting family over the holidays, and I always feel a little blue after saying goodbye to the people I love that live roughly 1000 miles from me. But I digress.) 87 is the number of times I’ve thought that someone else could do this better than me; that, perhaps, I should stop kidding myself and try to look for a “real” job; that the time I invest in teaching my children to be responsive instead of reactive doesn’t really matter and who the freak really cares if my girls EVER learn to speak kindly with anyone.

87 represents the moments I’ve caved into the mommy guilt while cooking supper with a can mushroom soup AGAIN, while my well-meaning friends post recipes and pictures of their healthy suppers that include words like “organic” and “kale” and “quinoa” (keen-what?). 87 bears the tears and pain I felt when I burnt freaking pork chops in a CROCK POT. Who burns food in a Crock Pot?! Aren’t they supposed to be somewhat idiot-proof? I mean, the instructions for practically every single Crock Pot meal are: ‘Dump crap in. Push button. Serve in 8 hours.’ Seriously.  AND in addition to that, I kind of forgot to make anything to go with them…. so we had burnt pork chops and, umm, raw baby carrots as a meal. Yep. Totally rocking this Mom thing.

87 tells of the many, numerous times I’ve had to hold my tongue and not be Snarky Steph when reading yet another sweet, mothering quote informing that I am going to miss these beautiful, sweet moments when I haven’t washed my hair in a week and my girls are fighting over who breathed the most air and my son is throwing a tantrum because my husband went to the bathroom for a minute and he simply cannot stand to be in the same room with anyone who is not his father for more than, say, 30 seconds. Yes. I’m going to miss that.

87 also reveals, quietly, sneakily, the number of times I’ve had to deal with my own childhood while watching my children live out theirs. And guess what? I don’t get to choose when I have those weird, God-ordained “Let’s let go of this piece of my past” moments. I’ve had to look in the mirror and confront fear, insecurity, and worry over who I was, what I went through, and now, who I’m helping shape my own children to be. I’ve had to let things go, speak Life over myself – not New Age positive pop talk, but authentic Biblical truth— and then step out in faith, and freaking dang it if that isn’t hard to do sometimes. Especially the week after vacation. Somebody get me a Cherry coke.

Wow. What a New Year’s downer! Good thing this blog isn’t about how to be a good mother; it would kind of suck at this point. It’s about being a fearless mother. Thank you, sweet Presence of God; I feel you with me as I type out those words. (Total ADD moment, but have I ever told you how sweet His presence is?)

87 also represents the number of times I’ve felt Him call my heart, remind me who I am (who I REALLY am), comfort me in my struggles (no matter how silly), and refresh my spirit. 87 is at least the number of times His has come to me to say, “That’s not who I say you are.”

At least 87 times He’s pulled me aside to say, “I’m teaching you humility through your children to bring Myself fame through your life; I’m shaping you because I love you, and it’s hard to dance when you’re bent out of shape; I’m pulling out the hurt to free you and give you beautiful freedom songs to sing.”

87 times, at least, He’s simply held me. He’s let me cry under the pressure of not feeling like I’m doing enough as a stay-at-home-mom, and not feeling cool or relevant enough as a homeschooling mom. He’s wiped my tears and smiled big Daddy grins because I’m His beloved daughter.  He’s whispered in my ear, “You got this. I love you.” He’s given me strength to kick those lies in the face when they came around on the 88th time.

I don’t know what your number is today, Dearest Mom. Maybe you lost track around 532. I do know that your Dad knows, and that He sees and loves you through every stressful moment. He longs to comfort you and whisper freedom songs in your ear. He sees every opportunity in your life as a chance not to make you stronger, but to draw you closer and build intimacy; to learn to lean on His grace alone; to lessen the resistance between that moment of “I can’t do this anymore!” and “I surrender, Daddy God.”

So here we go, ladies. I’m yet again taking a deep breath and confidently pulling out my can of Cream of Mushroom soup. I’m brushing myself off and mothering boldly, fearlessly, laughingly. I’m also going to buy a Crock Pot cookbook, but that’s another matter entirely.

Taking the Time

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This is only about my fourth or fifth post in to blogging, and I’m afraid that I’m about to sound like a broken record. As a mother of three and a first-born child, I’ve been known to lean towards the bossy side (I call it strong leadership tendencies), and repeat myself. So if this post sounds like something you read here, just know that you’ve been warned. It’s something I do often.

But I digress.  Since coming back from a whirlwind family vacation full of Christmasing, a winter wedding, and Sir Mix A Lot’s hit song (don’t ask), I’ve been mulling over my resolutions and the change I would love to see take place in my life this year. I’ve made a list and am on my way to my usual plan-making and goal-setting. I’m thinking of my one word for the year (thanks, Anna, for the idea) and am trying to figure out how to make a homeschooling schedule that works better for our family. But in the midst of this, I took some time to pause, pray, and reflect, and I realized that I needed to slooow down a bit. For all of my goal-planning and lists, I’m actually a simple person; I can realistically only focus on a couple of things at a time. I multi-task because I’m a mother and I have to; if it were up to me, I would probably reach one goal at a time, and slowly at that. (Changed a diaper? Check. Made supper when I really wanted to order take out? Check and a gold star). When I sat a while and listened to what He said, I felt that for the month of January, I needed to prioritize only one thing: His presence. Sitting and listening. No list of demands or prayer requests or pleading; just taking the time to come before the Lord, just me, and without an agenda.

With my husband finishing college in May (which guarantees huge changes for our family), what I really want to do is freak out and nag God’s ear off with “Could you please just tell me what we’re doing already?!”’s.  I have a list of mothering improvements I should be working at, ranging from being more patient when certain children spill their drinks on the hour every hour to accepting the fact that yes, I DO have to feed them supper every night. But not this month. This month it’s not about me. Instead, I’m going to shut up and listen. Wait. Worship. Just say, “What’s on Your mind today, Father?” and see what He says. That simple.

I originally started doing something like this sometime last summer, and at first it felt somewhat tedious. It was hard to pull myself away from my limited Mommytime to lock myself in my room and sit on the floor. But the more time I spent with Him, removed from the noises of this world – TV, Facebook, whatever—the easier it was to come into His presence. And the more I came into His presence, the more I realized that it is a gift, a treasure, to spend time with the One who loves me more than any other. His fellowship is so sweet, and His beauty is unmatched. There is nothing like it.

God never called us to make a choice between His presence and being a good mother. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Yes, our lives are busy, and yes, it’s true that we don’t always get 15 minutes to ourselves to sit with Bible and notebook in hand. That’s why I’m not focusing on that. I’m focusing on His presence; just sitting and waiting on God. Some days it might only be 5 minutes, but I’m not going to fill those 5 minutes with my own self-improvement requests or demands for answers to life’s mysteries.  I’m coming quietly, humbly, gratefully. I’m coming to wait, to worship, to look into the face of the One I love.

And, hey! For the record, time with God can be awkward sometimes. (Or, maybe it’s just me.) Can I be honest? Sometimes I’ve taken a minute in the bathroom, with the door locked, to check in and say, “Father, I need You, and I want you to know that I love You.” You know, the bathroom, the place with the toilet? Yeah, there. One time, my children woke up earlier than usual and caught me in the middle of a worship sesh with my IPod on. I’d been pouring out my heart in worship, tears streaming down my face, and was interrupted by childish applause and giggles from two little girls who thought I was randomly singing to myself. Super awkward. But, you know what? It’s not about what I look like or sound like or where I have to snag a few minutes with God.  It’s just about being with Him. It’s taking the time. It’s choosing to worship Him because He’s worthy, and not because He’s accommodating.

So, I hope you’ll join me, Moms. Let’s aside the healthy eating and gym memberships till February, and join me on the stinky carpet. Besides, I still have some leftover Christmas cookies sitting on my table, and I’d hate for them to go to waste.

Blogs, Bikes, and Scar Tissue

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Fearlessly mothering is such a broad topic to blog about.  I mean, there are so many different issues related to mothering – what exactly am I talking about? What are we afraid of? I know we all have horror stories about midnight puke fests and the Dirty Diaper Smelled Around the World, but is that what fearlessly mothering is all about? Not freaking out in the face of toddler excrement?

As I prayed about my next topic, I felt like I needed to offer some sort of disclaimer. You see, in all honesty, this blog is a way I record the healing God is bringing in my own life concerning mothering and my identity in Him. When my firstborn daughter was born over seven years ago, I was overjoyed and excited, but I was also I unsure and insecure.  I’d had a miscarriage previously, and in some ways I felt cheated of the sweet and simple innocence first-time mothers seemed to carry. I brought my own life experiences and pain into mothering, as we all do, but I didn’t really know how to sort through it all. God has brought a lot of healing into my life since then – especially lately.  I feel this blog is a way of sharing what He’s done and continues to do. It’s so freeing that I feel to hold back this lovey goodness would prevent others from experiencing the same freedom. So I’m going to poke and prod and stumble and try to find a way with each rambling post to communicate encouragement, freedom, joy and love. And maybe some humor. But mostly the other stuff.

That being said, I’m going for broke here and am getting weird, deep and personal in hopefully 500 words or less (yeah, right). So here goes.

When I was 12 years old, I loved to ride my bike everywhere. On one journey, I decided to race through a huge rain puddle and ended up crashing my bike and taking a huge chunk out of my right knee. The wound was mortifying to my pre-pubescent self, and I was convinced I would never get married because the scar was so ugly and disgusting. (Overreaction much?) Needless to say, that experience literally left a mark on me. Other life experiences tend to leave scars, too, whether hugely noticeable or not. Not all of them are “I was abandoned by my parents and forced to sell drugs when I was 13” magnitude. There are the “people-you-tried-fitting-in-with-in high-school-but-didn’t” scars, or the “parents-you-could-never-please” scars.  The “I’ve-never-felt-truly-beautiful” scars, and “I-trusted-someone-I-shouldn’t-have” scars. The “I-can-never-live-up-to-this-certain-standard” scars (hello, mothers everywhere!). We try to jump up after the fall and brush ourselves off, acting like nothing has happened, but a mark has been left. We make a mental reminder to not get into that situation again, because though the initial pain may fade, the scar remains.

We try to dress up the scars. We put things on, and we pick things up to cover them. We hide them with makeup and beautiful clothes. We pick up things like degrees, accolades, or even ministries to keep ourselves busy and occupied.

Before you know it, our arms are so full of stuff that we don’t have any room to hold on to any thing else! These beautiful mother-arms that were created to hold, nurture, and comfort are struggling to simply to maintain the heavy load. Our little ones want in, but that requires us to drop something. And honestly, we’ve been holding on to these things for so long, we’re afraid of what will happen if we truly let go.

Because if we let go, we see the markings that didn’t fade. We study the lines. We relive hurt and anger. We become uncomfortable in our own skin. In this vulnerable moment, we realize we’ve allowed this scar, this Thing, to define us, so we cover them up once again and try to mother and nurture with scar tissue.

But guess what, Dearest Mom? You are not your scars.

Before you were ever a mother, you were a daughter. You are a daughter, and you are loved beyond measure –literally, you can’t measure it or humanly grasp its depth—by your Father. He doesn’t see scars. He sees beauty, purpose … redemption.

Dearest Mom, you are not your scars.

You are beautiful. You are treasured. You are loved. Before you had any scars, He took on fatal ones so that yours could heal. And because He did, you don’t have to cover your scars anymore.

The truth about scars is that we all have them, but we don’t have to let them define us. You are not your scars.

Remember that sweet, stinky-carpet-sticky-alabaster-box place of surrender we chatted about?  Bring your scars there. Put down the things your hold, and uncover every nasty, gross, even pretentious scar you have. Feel arms of love embrace and heal them. God doesn’t need fancy words or a weekend seminar. As I walk through this personally, I am amazed at how eager God is to bring restoration. The moment surrender leaves my lips, He sweeps in with a huge Daddy God bear hug. God is so amazingly redemptive that He turns each scar from repulsive to redemptive; from tragedy to testimony. As you surrender, He will release the forlorn and restore you to Fearless.

Stinky Carpet and Alabaster Jars

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Forgive me, dear Moms and random readers. I’m going a bit deep for the second post in a blog that I’m not the greatest at maintaining. But since this blog is all about fearlessly mothering, I thought I’d go super spiritual and all. Isn’t that great? No cute stories about my three adorable, vivacious children, just some schmooze about Jesus and rainbows and how cleaning up toddler poop is like the way God cleans up our bad attitudes. Eh…sort of.

Bowing down at the feet of Jesus is such a glorious, stinky, awkward place to be.

I know that’s probably not what you think of when you recall the beautiful story in Luke 7, where the woman lavishes a costly bottle of perfume on Jesus’ feet. This picture of worship has captured the hearts of Christ followers for generations. There have been countless teachings on it and songs written about it. When I was in school studying worship, we spent a lot of time meditating on this story. I always had this picture in my head of a beautiful, timid woman standing in a doorway while Jesus talked with Important People on each side. He kindly looks up at her, and suddenly she runs to his feet and bows before him. In soft little worshipful sobs, she washes his feet with sacred tears.  She sweepingly uncovers her beautiful, long dark hair – which is something akin to a Pantene Pro V commercial— and graciously wipes his feet in a moving ballet of grace and love. Christ’s heart is moved, and in that moment she is known forever as the ultimate example of true, pure worship.

Let me admit right here that when I bow at the feet of Jesus, it is not that glamorous.

I shut the door quickly before any children (who are supposed to be napping) can come in and ask for some random, nap-evading object. My heart is moved to connect with my God, my Father-King, but as I kneel before him, I notice how stinky our carpet is. I look under our bed and find dirty laundry has been stuffed under there. I pray no bugs come crawling toward me as I kneel on the floor. I refocus and begin to concentrate on who He is – His unchanging character, His unconditional love. As we meet, He asks me to open my hands- literally- and give Him the things of the day that are holding me back from intimacy with Him. I begrudgingly let go of dirty clumps of pride, anger, annoyance and comparison, all tattered and broken like old receipts left in my pocket.  This is not a graceful movement of ballet proportions; it is similar to me trying to convince my two year-old son to hand over nasty, dried out, stale French fries that he found under the table from last night’s supper. As I wait, quietly, surrendering and sitting, I hear Him ask me to sing to Him. Sing from somewhere deep inside, a song unwritten and unheard. Now, this is no sweet, congregational singing. See, He’s asking me to sing a song from my heart, a song that comes from the depth of what He’s doing in me. A song that that reveals both my love and my testimony. So I start to sing. It sounds like… it sounds like… well, you know that scene in Elf, where Buddy the Elf sings his dad a song after meeting him two seconds ago? That’s what it sounds like. No heavenly notes or crescendos. No sweet, Kari Jobe-like utterances. Just me, before my Father, singing something very similar to “You’re my Dad, and… guess what, Daddy? I love you, I love you, I LOOVE YOUUUU!”

So…what exactly does stinky carpet and bad singing have to do with fearlessly mothering?

We are fearless when we know His love (1 John 4:17-19). And we know His love when we spend time in His Presence, because God IS love, and He loved us first (1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:19).  I have to admit, I haven’t read a parenting book yet that matches the grace, wisdom, and sweet, pure love I find when I sit at the feet of Jesus for even just a little bit.

Teach us, Father, Dad, to come to you. To just simply come. Even if that’s with sticky hands and rotten attitudes, and even if the alabaster jar is covered in peanut butter and jelly. Even if my hair doesn’t actually wipe up Your tears because I haven’t washed it in 7 days, and the oily residue has rendered it waterproof. Teach me to come and unglamorously sit at your feet, without make up and without an agenda. Teach me to come, and You will teach me to be fearless.

Just Color

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The bleak January night stared back at me glumly through my apartment window. It was only around 6:30 in the evening, but winter made the night’s shadow come earlier and my endless day seem longer. My husband wouldn’t be home from work for another 4 or 5 hours, and after a long day at school and a long night of mothering ahead of me, I felt like I simply couldn’t take anymore. The walls of our tiny apartment seemed to close in around me. I had been counting down the days for four months, September through December, waiting for the big switch when my husband would come off his evening shift. However, after going over the budget one last time, we realized we just couldn’t do it yet. Feeling overwhelmed, alone, and insecure, I looked at my three darling children sitting at the kitchen table in front of me. Unaware of my raging emotions, they colored happily and chatted with each other. I looked at my oldest daughter, who was being homeschooled by a friend while I myself finished school. What kind of mother has to have someone else homeschool their daughter? Was I involved enough with what she was learning? Maybe I’m supposed to be doing flash cards right now, or reading an educational novel to her, I thought.  I glanced at my quiet 3 ½ year old daughter, busily coloring away.  She had just started pre-school and came home with worksheets to complete each day…worksheets that had been collecting dust in a corner of our counter due to my negligence.  What if she never learns her alphabet, ever? What if everyone in her class gets a sticker except her, because I forgot again? As I looked at my almost-one year old son, I wondered if we spent enough time together, considering I spent the mornings in school. Do we bond enough? Should I be doing some kind of sensory activity with him right now instead of letting him eat crayons?

Tears filled my eyes and anxiety my heart as I wondered how I would make it through the night, let alone the rest of the semester. In this moment, it seemed so hard just to put supper on the table by myself and make sure my children brushed their teeth. As I dealt with my emotions, my daughters looked up from the table. “Mom, will you color with us?” they asked. My youngest daughter, smiling, offered me a page in her Dora coloring book. “We love it when you color with us!”

Coloring seemed like such a simple thing to do in the middle of my chaos. Here I was, apparently behind in every aspect of mothering, and all my children wanted to do was color. I was thinking about that educational novel I should be reading to them when I heard the Holy Spirit gently say to me, Just color. I paused for a moment.  Just color, I heard again. I took a deep breath, sat down, and grabbed some crayons. Just color. Such a soothing, simple thing to hear the breath of God say. As I grabbed a crayon and forced a smile, the things I had been worrying about started to fall off my shoulders. The smell of waxy crayons and the sound of my children’s laughter began to heal my broken spirit.  Just color.

Dear Mothers, I pray this blog is a “just color” message to you. I pray these simple words dare your heart to take mothering a day at a time: simply, fully, fearlessly. I think the shadows of guilt, comparison, and fear can ruin this mothering journey way more than feeding our kids sugared cereal or letting them watch too much TV.  I invite you to pull up a chair, take a deep breath, and get out your crayons. It’s time to just color.

Be,not Do

I meant to publish a post in this blog a while ago, but as of yet hadn’t worked up the courage to do it. There is something a bit scary and permanent about words in print, and to be perfectly honest, I am a bit afraid of feedback. However, in class on Friday, I really felt the Lord speak to my heart on a particular subject, and I want to share the encouragement I’ve received. My hope is that this humble entry will encourage my fellow mothers as we raise future world changers.

Friday we had a guest speaker in school. Keith is a great drummer who has taught many students, my husband included, but I have never heard him teach. Friday morning Keith’s topic was “Flowing in the Anointing.” Considering the fact that he was talking to a bunch of Worship and Technical Arts majors at a Christian Bible School, naturally his topic concerned leading worship and how we need the Holy Spirit to do so. However, as he began to speak and share scripture after scripture, the Lord began to speak to my heart about flowing in the anointing and how it relates to mothering. The following is just a little excerpt from his teachings.  I am going to try to be painstakingly honest in the following discourse, because 1) The Lord has impressed on my heart that I need to be more vulnerable with other mothers and not act like I constantly “have it together” (yikes!); and 2) I feel (I hope!) I must not be the only one who struggles from time to time with insecurities and inadequacy in mothering.

Mothering –and doing it well—is something I question myself about often. Am I doing it right? Am I good enough? What if I’m too tough? Too soft? Does E know her ABC’s yet? Does she need to?  Is it bad that she just ate half a container of play dough? There are days when I feel like I am confidently walking in the calling God gave me, and there are days when I wake up and I wonder if I am truly the best mother God could have picked for these three.  There are things in my own childhood that I don’t want repeated in theirs, and sometimes ‘not repeating’ is at the forefront of my mind rather than simply enjoying who they are. This can get compounded by fabulous social network posts of friends who share all of the amazing things they are doing with their children – baking cookies, homeschooling, ABC’s, working on a cure for cancer…. and before you know it, I have unknowingly—yet voluntarily—locked myself up in a comparison-based, “I’m not good enough” box. I want to make sure to point out that I don’t discredit or secretly dislike these Mommy Moment posts, I really don’t! I myself post them, too.  And I would much, much rather read about my friends’ amazing motherly experiences than to hear that their families are experiencing rough times or misfortune. However, on days that I feel insecure, through no fault of their own, they kindle a fire that is already burning.

Anyway, back to class Friday. Keith began speaking on flowing in the anointing. This is a topic that probably isn’t very foreign to someone with a Pentecostal background, but in case that isn’t you, to put it simply, the anointing of God is when the Holy Spirit empowers you to do a certain task. It’s not scary or weird, and you don’t have to speak in tongues or heal people or anything crazy in order to be anointed. The Bible says that as Christians, we all have the Holy Spirit living inside of us (1 Corinthians 6:19; John 14:17).  I am not writing this to get into specific hermeneutics or scripture study (I have Keith’s notes if you want that), but to simply express what I feel God spoke to my heart.  I will let Keith’s notes to the talking (again, these are straight from the notes he shared with us at class last Friday):

What is the anointing of God?

Luke 4:18 “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  -NLT 

The anointing of God upon ones live expresses the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit. To empower means to give power or authority; to authorize; to enable to permit one to do a legal act or work. When one is empowered, they are commissioned as a qualified agent to do the work or legal act. (see Acts 1:8) When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon one, they are now able to act in a manner far superior than their natural ability. There is a capacity of divine power that is given to that person by the Spirit of God to do a supernatural act of God. When God anoints one, they are able to operate in Gods’ divine nature of power, wisdom, creativity, courage, revelation, prophetic inspiration, knowledge, skill, authority and many other great acts of God. God anoints us with His Holy Spirit so that we can do an act or a work for the glory of His holy name. The anointing of the Holy Spirit on our lives indicates that God is with us. 

When I heard and read these words in light of being a mother, God began to reveal to me through His Word that I am called and I am chosen to be my children’s mother. There is nothing that I can or could have done to earn that right. They are a gift of God, through no act of my own. There is no way I could have dreamt up Z’s exuberance, or E’s sweet smile and snuggles, or J’s grunts and giggles. I don’t need to worry or fret over what I am doing or not doing to be a good mother when I have God’s anointing to simply be their mother. He will provide the specifics. And He will give me the grace and strength to love and train them, because the calling and the privilege is from Him alone. So many times I strive to ‘do’ or to perform, and the Lord showed me in these moments that I am simply called to ‘be.’ When I rest in Him and simply accept His love, His strength, His provision, His anointing to be my children’s mother, the worry and stress of constantly trying to do the right thing lifts.

Dear mothers, I simply want to encourage you with these words as I was encouraged. You are loved. You are called. You are anointed. Motherhood is not a task or duty, or simply the facilitated means by which children grow into adults. It is a calling. You are called. You are chosen.  God lovingly, carefully, deliberately chose you. On the days you feel less than good enough, simply rest in your Father and know that He called you to ‘be’ and not to ‘do.’ Let the love He fills you with spill over into their lives like a big, warm, messy cup of cocoa. He will work out the ‘doing’ part as we learn to daily simply be and live in Christ.