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.

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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.