What I’ve Learned I Need as a Mother

I’ve only been a mom for nine years.  I know this isn’t a long time and I have a whole lot to learn, believe me.  But over those nine years I have learned a lot about myself, my own junk and limitations and what is helpful & life-giving in my journey as a mother.  So whether you’re a new mom, a veteran, have one child or ten, I hope you find this to be helpful and encouraging to you as well. These are things I have to remember to make a priority.  I’m in this with you.

I am a list-maker and tend to do better when someone offers me practical, realistic guidance that’s both meaningful and doable.  So I hope that’s what you find this to be.

Community: You Were Made For It

First, I have found that I need others.  Period.  We were made to be in community with others. I know this doesn’t come easy for some people.  But it is well-worth it to go out of our comfort zones and join in a community of other women.  Your “community” can include your church, which is essential and life-giving. But in this post I’m referring to community other mothers, whether that’s a mom’s group such as MOPS, a bible study that meets regularly or some other similar group in your area.  Many of these groups offer various days and times to meet, which can accommodate both the stay-at-home mom and the working mom.  As a SAHM I prefer to attend the morning groups.  When I was working full-time the evening groups were a better fit.  Friendship with others in your same season of life, someone to say “me too”, encouragement, wisdom from others who have “been there” and much, much more can be found in community with other moms.

Seek Wisdom: Find a Mentor

I can’t stress this enough.  I came to a point in my parenting and marriage where I realized I needed the listening ear of a wise and godly woman.  I needed someone to share all the nitty, gritty junk with who I knew I could trust and in return would not offer judgment, but rather speak truth, admonish me when needed and speak life-giving words that only prove to better me as a wife and mother.  To be honest, I flat-out asked someone to mentor me. I knew I needed it that much, so I sought this out, even though it made me feel vulnerable and inadequate to ask for help in this way.  In return I got exactly what I needed.  God is faithful to provide for us in that way.  The “training” of a younger woman is based in truth and we see that in Titus 2. Not sure where to start in finding a mentor?  Start within your church.  Ask a woman you trust if she would consider it or if she knows someone who might be a good fit for you.  Not in a church?  Then I would start by asking a trusted friend that is involved in a church if she can help to connect you.  If you’re involved in a mom’s group or bible study, you could start there too.

Make Your Marriage a Priority: Have Fun With Your Spouse

Marriage is hard.  It’s even harder when you’re in the middle of raising little kids.  There are so many books and resources about this and we all know it to be true.  But for this post I’m going to keep it simple. Have fun with your spouse.  Without your kids.  You’re allowed and there’s way too much seriousness and stress in our day-to-day lives.  It was you and your spouse before your kids were born, and it’ll be you and your spouse once they are grown and leave home. Invest in your marriage, have date nights, do fun things and let go of expectations of each other.  I’m speaking to myself here and I know this can be easier said than done.  But I believe if we make it a priority, the whole family will reap it’s benefits. Invest the time in getting a sitter (or whatever childcare works for your family) or plan a stay-at-home date night. Remember, “mother” isn’t our only title.

You’re Allowed to Say “No”:  Embrace It

Hey, guess what?! You are free to say “no” to anything that doesn’t support the values and vision of your family!  That includes saying no to some or all of the 2,352 after-school activities, saying no to your laundry for a day (or five) so you can do something better and more life-giving, saying no to traveling all over creation over the holidays so you can stay home and develop your own family traditions, saying no when asked to volunteer for something that you know isn’t best for your family and saying no to the pressures that we put upon ourselves as mothers.  Learning when to say no (without the guilt) was a very freeing thing for me. I share a little about it here.

Kiss Expectations Good-Bye: Give Yourself a Break

Expectations of ourselves (and others) can be debilitating. They can set us up for disappointment quicker than my youngest can eat a chocolate chip cookie.  Honest to goodness, when are we going to learn.  I don’t know about you, but when I start the day, or week or even year with a load of (sometimes unrealistic) expectations I wind up feeling frustrated at myself when I don’t meet them.  Here’s a realistic example of this… on any given day I can “expect” myself to: get house in order (laundry done, things put away, dishes done, etc.), meal plan and successfully execute a somewhat healthy dinner for my family, respond to text messages and emails before day’s end, run my list of errands, spend quality time with my husband and kids, read to them and make sure homework is completed (without anyone getting frustrated), be wherever I’m expected to be that day, run people to where they’re expected to be, do some form of physical activity, whether it’s the gym, a run or something, and honestly I could go on.  And when I just re-read my list of just one day of expectations I can hardly believe that I would ever even TRY to get those things done.  Sigh. No wonder we are so tired and worn out.  How can we learn to let go of what’s good and seek what’s best?  For me, personally, I hear the Lord telling me to seek Him first and let Him order my days.  And my struggle with that is two-fold: obedience and control.  When I do what I think is best for my day or hurry around checking off my to-do list, I can sometimes end the day feeling empty and disappointed, even if my list got completed.  Again, am I seeking what’s best?

Live With Purpose & Intention: Embrace Your Gifts and Passions

In case you’ve forgotten, you are allowed to still enjoy your gifts, passions and interests!  Now I know time (or finances, or childcare) may limit this in some ways, but that doesn’t mean they are to be forgotten or unused.  Whether it’s your education, career or a job that you enjoy and is life-giving.  A hobby or passion (hiking, knitting, painting, blogging, crafting, traveling)… or the gift of hospitality, organizing, planning and service to others.  These are all worthy things and they are good gifts from a good God.  While they sometimes may need to take a back-seat (for a brief season), I don’t believe they are ever to be forgotten and disregarded.  Living with purpose and intention includes embracing and enjoying our gifts and passions.

Remember who you are, whose you are and that you are loved.  A child of God, accepted, called, redeemed, forgiven, free and beloved.  You’re never alone in motherhood, so don’t let the Enemy tell you you are.  You’re not.  Let others come alongside you.  Come alongside another mom.  Let go of the idea that we have to live a hustle and bustle kind of life.  We don’t. Seek what’s best.  And know this is different for each family, which frees us up from comparison and keeping up with everybody else.  And allow your self to have some fun without guilt.

Love,

Amanda

 

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Choosing Not to Lose it!

This morning my son lost his mind, but guess what?  I didn’t!  And that’s no small feat… not letting my son control my emotions, that is.

It’s Spring Break week and all my boys are home.  All day.  For a week.  It’s also cold & rainy.  And my kids are indoors.  For a week.  We don’t usually travel over Spring Break, but I do try to come up with some sort of plan so we have some fun things to do.  I came up with that plan the day before Spring Break started and I was pretty proud of myself.  Day 1 (yesterday) went off without a hitch!  We drove about 40 minutes to an awesome indoor play-space, spent hours burning off energy and then drove home close to dinnertime. Whew.  Made it through the first day, I thought.

This morning our plans were to stay local and I’d signed my oldest up for a local Lego club for the morning.  My middle son was given the opportunity (multiple times) to attend this with his big brother, but he was adamant about going to the library with my youngest son and me.  As we got close to the library, my middle changed his mind and wanted to go back to Lego club, but it was too late as we pulled into the library’s parking lot.  He got a little upset and had a scowl on his face, but (begrudgingly) got out of the car and went with us into the library.  We briefly reviewed the Library Rules for Appropriate Behaviors, as we do before we go ANYWHERE on God’s green earth.

Upon entering the library we headed straight for the bathroom so everyone could play and socialize without potty break interruptions.  I was excited to see a sweet friend and her two boys playing near the train tables and was looking forward to chatting with her while our kids played.  However upon leaving the restroom my kids lost their ever-loving minds and became like wild beasts, unable to be captured and tamed.  My youngest attempted to run away from me and when I went to get him and lead him back to the play area he yelled a long and loud “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” and wriggled free like a rabid dog.  My middle then remembered that I wouldn’t turn the car around and take him back to Lego club and he got mad.  Fighting mad.  His scowl became an angry and ugly growl and he (not-so-nicely) told me he did NOT want to be at the library.  So with my sweet friend, God bless her, standing there with me I made the split-second decision to make this a “lesson learned” morning.  I had two kids in front of me that were not listening, being disrespectful and not the least bit grateful that we were at the library, a request I granted because they’d asked me to go.  I told my friend we were leaving, picked up my 3 year old and took my 4 year old by the hand and started walking, relatively swiftly, towards the entrance. All eyes on me and the crying kids.  I could just hear their thoughts… “Is she going to lose it?”, “I wonder if she’s embarrassed?”, “Glad that’s not me!”, and “Boy, her kids are awful!”.  But I kept walking and I stayed focused, like a soldier going into battle, I was mentally and physically preparing myself to get two little boy bodies into their car seats and home in one piece.  I calmly opened the car doors and put my youngest, I mean bent my youngest, into his car seat.  And in my best calm voice I reminded my boys about why we were leaving the library. About that time another mom, complete stranger, walked up behind me. I was just sure she was going to offer her judgment or opinion on how to do it better.  But you know what?  All she said to me was “You’re doing a good job… it’s hard.”  I could’ve hugged her.  I could of used a hug in that very moment, but I returned to the task at hand.  I got my middle into the car, got myself in and started driving… tears, crying, “I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE!!!!!” coming from the back seat.  But I remembered something I’d recently been reminded of… my children do not control my emotions. I do.  And even if they are upset, or angry or frustrated, does NOT mean I have to be too.

Once we made it home I transferred everyone into the house, because for some reason their legs won’t work correctly when they’re angry.  It’s by the grace of God that I was still calm and in one (emotional) piece by this point.  For the next 30 minutes my middle son continued a tantrum/fit/emotional diarrhea, if you will.  My youngest was over it by this point and went off to play.  So for 30 minutes I endured.  And it is enduring, isn’t it moms?  We endure.  We do.  During this time I made myself available to my son, but I didn’t allow destructive behaviors and he was given consequences, particularly for the disrespectful words he used.  But after a bit I could tell he’d had enough.  And though he was still upset, he was ready to move forward.  So I offered him a hug and some cuddles and told him I loved him, and he physically relaxed in my arms as he regained his self-control and reigned his emotions back in. This is my kid with big emotions.  In everything he does, his emotions are big.  And he has been a tricky kid to raise so far.  And I have failed a lot.  I’ve gone nose-to-nose with him, allowing myself to get sucked into a 4 year old’s emotional rollercoaster. I’ve given him control over my good senses at times.  But not today.

Following through is one of the hardest parenting skills there is, but probably one of the most valuable.

When we commit to following through, it speaks volumes to our children, just like it does when we don’t follow through.  It’s not always fun for everyone and it was too bad we had to leave the library, however I’m hoping and praying that it was a lesson learned. I’m trusting the Lord that it was.

Enduring right along with you,

 

Amanda

P.S.  Here’s a picture of my big emotions kid after the whole ordeal.

reece

 

My 2017: Renewal

I’m not a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve made them in the past, only to be disappointed when I didn’t keep them or frustrated at myself for not doing what I resolved to do.  Sure I want to go to the gym more, cook healthy meals more often, fuss at my kids less, blog more, read more, etc. I found that making a list of these things only left me feeling more empty and let down when I couldn’t keep up.

A few years ago a family I really admire told me about something they do the first of every new year.  Each member of their family chooses a word for the year.  A word that describes what they pray the year will bring and a reminder of their hope for that new year.  I really, really liked this idea. It seemed doable and easy. So two years ago I started doing the same.  I was really surprised at how often I thought of my word.  It would come to mind regularly, or I’d see my word in random places, reminding me of my prayers and hopes for that year.  I think most importantly being reminded of my word reminded me to pray.

This year I chose the word renewal.  That’s what I feel like I need, not just this year, but year after year.  2016 was the hardest year yet in my life.  And realistically I know that as I age and as those around me age, I’ll have harder years.  I know I’ll experience years with deep grief and loss, years that may have illness or injury, years with difficult parenting challenges and years with hardships in relationships.  But this past year felt like it drained just about everything good out of me.  I was stretched, frazzled and carried burdens I didn’t know I was capable of carrying.  However, even in the junk and the hard stuff, the Lord proved faithful, as He always does.  And while He didn’t always take away the storm we were walking through, He did provide strength, comfort and guidance.  And He wants to teach me to trust and obey in the midst of it all.  I’m getting the trust part down… it’s the obeying part that I struggle with.

I love fresh starts, like most people.  His mercies are new every morning and now we start the beginning of a brand new year.  It’s exciting.  Hoping for a better year and not knowing what the year will bring.  I guess that can be a little scary too, depending on how you look at it.  My word holds a lot of significance to me.  Renewal.  The definition of renewal according to Merriam-Webster online is:  “the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.”  Ever felt worn out, run-down or broken?  If you’re like me you’re screaming YES!  Daily?  Sometimes!  So renewal is the replacing of those things.  Wow.  Scripture is full of verses about renewing and renewal!  I’ll give you some at the end of this post.

In choosing the word Renewal, I know I have to let God renew the areas of my life that need repaired.  The places that are broken, dried-up or that need pruned away.  Places in my heart, relationships…my parenting needs renewal.  Being more intentional. More loving.  More selfless.  My mind and thoughts need renewed, regularly.  My marriage and my prayer life need renewal.  Refreshed, remade, replenished.  And I know that the only true renewal comes from the Renew-er.

When I asked followers on Facebook to share their 2017 words with me, I was very encouraged.  Here are some of them:  Joy, Balance, Energy, Optimism, Intentional, Contentment, Transformation, Reconciliation, Organization & Growth.  I love these.  I love the hope I hear in these words.  It’s comforting knowing that others want to allow the Lord to make changes in their lives, too.

So as we start a fresh, new year let’s give thanks for the year that has passed, press on towards a new one and allow the Lord to have His way this year.

In Christ,

Amanda

P.S.  Here are those verses I promised:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:10

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Sprit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:5-6

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:12

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

 

 

 

 

 

Connected by Christ

While this may be a short post, I believe it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.  I hope my words can do it justice.

This is my second year in our local BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) class; a 9-month bible study of one book of the bible (this year it’s John).  It’s international and interdenominational, represented by a variety of backgrounds and cultures.  The teaching is firmly grounded in God’s Word and in Truth and is 4-fold: daily questions (from scripture), small group discussion, teaching by the teaching leader and in-depth notes to elaborate on the lesson & scripture.

This year I have the privilege of being in a small group with a mix of women of different ages, cultures and backgrounds.  There is so much to learn from others in a setting like this.  I quickly found myself drawn to a Korean woman, about my age, with two young kids.  I’d seen her before, last year at BSF and at my son’s preschool.  As we sat in small group the first few weeks of BSF I could tell that she, too, struggled with parenting small children. She shared her heart and was vulnerable and despite the language difficulties, I could relate to her on so many levels.  I had the opportunity to respond during group, letting her know I understood.  A wave of compassion and a heart-level connection washed over me.  I didn’t even need to know the details of her life to see the beauty in her heart.

She shared, as best she could in English, her love of the Lord. But even without words I could see that her sweet, meek spirit was the Holy Spirit at work in her life.  Our language and cultural differences had no influence on our relationship as sisters in Christ.  We shared something special in spite of those differences and we shared it because of Christ.

My sweet friend will be moving back to Korea in the next several days.  A spiritual connection was formed. One that goes deeper than a worldly friendship.  Our mutual desire to love and follow Jesus, and our desperation for Him, was the common ground, the drawing force and the binding power of our brief friendship.

As we hugged our goodbyes today, teary-eyed, I was surprised at how emotional I was.  I haven’t known her long… I don’t know her favorite color, or food or even the names of her children. Maybe I was sad because today was probably the last day I’d ever see her again, at least here on earth.  But I was reminded that my sweet sister will be with me in Eternity and for that I am very thankful.

It’s incredible how the Lord gifts us with relationships, whether brief or long, that forever change us. Relationships that draw us closer to Him.  Relationships that show us what it’s like to truly be “family” with someone not related by blood, but rather connected by Christ.

Thriving in Hard Times

Contributed By: Leigh Anne Rufener, mother of three sons

Change.  Challenges. Motherhood.  All words that incite possible fear, trepidation and stress.  Yet might it be possible that we could use the word GRACE to explain them all?  Ann Voskamp writes about eucharisteo – the Greek word that essentially combines Thanksgiving, Grace and Joy into one awe-struck word.  Can this truth be lived out in the midst of trials and the daily grind?  As our family has walked through this past year, I am finding that the answer is yes – only by and through God’s amazing grace.

At this moment, our family is walking through some God-sized challenges.  Job change, child injuries, loss of family members, relational hardship and exhaustion to name a few.  How on earth does a woman thrive in the midst of motherhood and life with this type of list?  My heart has been desperate for the grace and truth of God through much of this time.  By no means am I a perfect picture of faith, but the Lord has stirred my heart to desire Him and His truth.

As I have battled in my faith this past year, God has made the following truths clear and has used them to lead my life:

  1. There are STILL blessings abounding all over. Even though I might not “feel” it, God is still in the process of making all things new, so amazing things are to be seen everywhere.  He is still the giver of ALL good things; let’s thank Him for that!  This truth actually caused me to change one of my social media sites to “Thankful for Each Moment.”
  2. While listening to the radio, a famous preacher reminded me that I am a bigger sinner than I could ever know. But, my Lord loves me more than I could ever know!  Yes, He loves us, despite us; I am His and He is mine.
  3. God’s grace is deeper than the sea, and He longs to pour it out upon us. And His grace is not just for everyone else, but me too!  Why do we so often push away this amazing grace and all His amazing truths?
  4. As we keep seeking HIS face, He WILL be faithful. God has answered prayers that I didn’t even know I had – even to some of my “Why’s?”
  5. Do I really need to know the WHY? With deep soul searching, I am finding that answer to be “No.”  My heart screams, “But, YES I DO!”  The Lord in His kindness says “Trust Me.” and reminds me that His ways are NOT our ways, but His ways are BEST.  Therefore, I must do the next best thing in love and obedience to my Lord.
  6. I must seek FIRST His Kingdom & His righteousness. The Lord is so faithful to remind and reveal truths in Scripture that we need desperately.  Although, we live in a fallen world, we serve an amazing God!

Today, may I ask you, might you seek to live a life that encompasses eucharisteo – a life of thanksgiving, joy, & grace through each moment?  Above all, might you seek Christ first to give you the strength, hope, and grace you need for each moment?  Today, may you find that Jesus is the answer for all you need to thrive in the midst of your challenges in life and motherhood.

All because of Him ~ Leigh Anne