Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Non-Mom Resources

Obviously I'm a mom. I don't think you could have read here for long and missed that. We're weeks away from having our third boy and this mothering/wife/homemaking gig takes up most of my time and energy. But I don't spend all of my mental effort on it. I'm still growing as a person in other ways as well. 

Today I thought I would share a list of my non-mom resources. I read blogs about mothering and marriage and homemaking. I listen to podcasts about being a Christian woman and mother. But I also read blogs and listen to podcasts about business, leadership, writing, and networking. Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order). 

Jeff Goins   (blog and podcast)
Michael Hyatt    (blog and podcast)
Jon Acuff    
Influence Network   (blog and podcast and other resources)
Dave Ramsey  (specifically the Entreleadership podcast)
Zen Habits
How They Blog   (specifically the podcast)
Beyond the To Do List   (podcast)
Brilliant Business Moms   (podcast)

I find many of the ideas that I learn from these business leaders/entrepreneurs are actually applicable to my mothering and the way I approach my work now. I like the idea of "professional" motherhood in that I want to approach my work with the skill, excellence, intentionality, and enthusiasm of a leader.

The skills and habits we learn in one area of our lives always spill over into other areas. Learning keeps our minds sharp and our conversation interesting as well. I do like to be able to talk about things besides diapers on occasion.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are some of your favorites? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The "How" Is Harder Than The "What"

Then one day like the beautiful sound of a solo trumpet, The Lord brought to my attention I Cor. 13:1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." Say what? I do love my kids I wanted to defend, but I knew The Lord knew better than me. He showed me how my daily irritations toward the kids, the impatience in my voice, my frustration over their carelessnesses, my furrowed brow when they are misbehaving, my harsh voice when correcting them sounded out like a cornet playing a soprano solo, "I only love you when you are doing right, the right way at the right time." OH MY!!!!!! So often the tendency is to get discouraged when God so kindly shows us how messed up we are; but oh what kindness it is when He shows us now while we can change and repent before lasting damage is done. So for us we still sing and pray and memorize and read and instruct, but my desire and prayer is that God's love would flow through me like a mighty river flooding those around me.  Erica Lerisse- missionary to Haiti

The above quote was part of a facebook post by a missionary to Haiti. Her family (including six young children) lives in the Dominican Republic and serves the people there and in Haiti. 

In the beginning of her post, Erica was talking about how she spends so much time trying to teach her children the Bible and Bible principles and how to treat each other and they still don't seem to get it. They fight and kick and hit (thank goodness it's not just at our house!) and then one day she realized she was part of the problem. 

Lately I've been memorizing a verse in James that applies directly to my mothering. James 1:20 says, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteous of God." When I correct my children in anger or frustration I am not fulfilling God's design for me to bring them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)  

I am not going to bring about God's righteous results or His purposes through my uncontrolled emotions. When I react in anger to their sin I am sinning. That is not the righteousness of God. Not only do I have to teach them "what" to do I need to model "how" to do it also. The "how" is typically much harder than the "what." The "how" involves my attitude, my tone of voice, my words, and my intentions, not simply my actions. 

Our children are learning from us.  We are also learning from them. They show us weaknesses and flaws that we might have been able to ignore without them. Don't be discouraged! It's one of the beautiful, if painful, parts of motherhood! God uses our children to change us as He uses us to change them. 

Erica already told us how to win this battle of the "how" in our own actions. The most important thing for us as mothers is to be filled with God's love. Ephesians 3:19 says, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." We have to have all of God to do even the simplest task.  When we know God's love for us we can be filled with God. 

I picture this like a teacup and saucer. I am the teacup and the people and life around me are the saucer. As I get filled up with God, then what splashes out onto others is godly, just as a teacup splashes whatever is in it on the saucer. What are you splashing onto those around you? When you are "bumped" by your children's misbehavior or messes what comes out? 

Do you erupt in anger and lash out? Or are you able to respond with patience and discipline appropriately? Do you roll your eyes and sigh at the work that's required of you or do you cheerfully tackle the tasks God has placed before you? Ultimately the work is designed by God; it doesn't originate from our children.

We must discipline our children and teach and train them. We can't do whatever anybody wants in the name of love but there is a difference in completing our work filled with God and struggling through our mess on our own. 

Don't feel discouraged when you've failed. We're all imperfect people and we always will be. Do be encouraged to keep seeking God's face and His wisdom for your work. God can change the way we respond to our children and our lives. And the answer is the same that it always is: get in the Word and let it change you. 

Just in case you really need to be reminded that you aren't alone check out these two blog posts that I found last week. Girltalkhome reminds us of the purpose of motherhood while Lisa-Jo Baker discusses ways to handle anger in your mothering

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why I'm Not A Natural Mother

God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful- Mother Teresa 
I believe that statement to be true even if sometimes I wish it weren't. I like a sizable to-do list with tasks neatly checked off. I like accomplishments and awards and accolades. None of those are associated with faithfulness or success in my present position. Now more days than not, we do check off our to-do list but it's filled with items like "clean the bathroom," "post to instagram," and "finish preschool." Nothing particularly impressive or successful. 

It would be much easier on me mentally to go to a job that required some creativity and work than to stay home and change diapers and discipline for bad behavior. It would be easier to dress up in heels and a cute outfit than to realize my skirt is dirty and we are only three hours into our morning. It would be easier to sleep all night and have my precious alone, quiet time in the morning before I went to work than to try to finish my Bible reading before my babies pop out of bed. 

It would be easier, not better. That's not the work that God requires of me now. I know that I am right where God wants me even if it goes against my preferences. All work goes against our preferences sometimes. It's tempting to spend time pretending that this work of mothering or homemaking or building a marriage doesn't require more of us than what we thought it would.  But I find that everyone's work- when they are doing God's work for them- requires more of them than what they have. It's supposed to. 

If it were easy, we could do it on our own. If it were easy, we wouldn't have to rely on God for wisdom or strength or perseverance. We wouldn't have to search for answers and techniques and skills to better accomplish the tasks before us. 

I don't consider myself a natural mother, regardless of how deeply I love my children. I don't consider myself a natural mother because there's a lot of "me" in me. While I have always wanted children and even wanted to stay home with them the picture looks different than I thought it would. That is true for everything; imagination and reality are not equal. If I were to leave my God-appointed work to go do something else more "fulfilling," that would look different than what I imagine too. I would also be leaving the path of God's blessings to walk in disobedience. (And who would raise my sweet babies?)

What do I need to be a better mother? More of Jesus and less of me. I need to let go of romantic notions and knuckle down to the work. I need to accept that faithfulness is more important than success and that success is now defined differently than it has been previously in my life. 
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You Are Not Alone

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.        1 Corinthians 10:13
You are not alone. 

There is so much power in that statement. I know many women, probably men too, who can benefit just from hearing, "oh, we have days like that at our house too." Sometimes we think we are the only ones with kids with health problems, sick kids, overworked husbands, morning sickness, unruly kids, mounting bills, an unsettled heart, a challenging boss. But we are not alone. There is no problem in the world that is unique to you and there is no one else with your exact set of problems. 

You are not the only mom striving to discipline calmly when she wants to scream and toss the children off the porch. 
You are not the only wife who misses her husband when he's at work late...again. 
You are not the only mom with a child who has strict dietary guidelines. 
You are not the only mom who is sick from growing new life and trying to keep up with the work. 
You are not the only woman who feels 9,673 different emotions every day and wonders if she might be crazy. 
You are not the only woman who wonders if she will ever do anything for God. 
You are not the only woman who struggles with fear about the future and her family. 
You are not the only woman who wishes her hair would look the way she wants it to. 
You are not the only woman who sometimes feel alone, unattractive, or useless. 

Even if you can't find anyone at your stage of life or with your problems you are still not alone. Jesus will never leave you. He is the answer to all your problems. 

He will teach you how to calmly reprove your children. 
He will be your companion and your strength and make you a blessing to your husband when he works late. 
He will provide for your child's health and remove all the problems in heaven. 
He will cover you with His hand during your pregnancy (and give you wisdom to cut back). 
He will teach you to give those emotions to Him and keep obeying regardless of how you feel. He will give peace. 
He will show you the path that you are to walk and use your life. 
He will never leave you and can be trusted with your fears. 
He will help you learn how to fix your hair and help you to dismiss it when it doesn't measure up your (sometimes ridiculous) standards. 
He will always want you. 

You are never alone. God lives inside you and He walks through life with you- wanting to live through you if you will surrender to Him. 

God loves you. He always has; He always will. Nothing can separate you from that love. Nothing can take you from His presence. You are never alone because Jesus is always with you.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Managing Our Everyday Emotions

I love being a woman but I have to admit to occasionally questioning God's design in some parts of womanhood. Hello, emotions! However, I have a sneaking suspicion that life is designed so that we will see our deep need for God and His help as we go through life. I cannot be a woman that honors Him without Him. It's not possible. My shortcomings show how great God is. 

We are called to control our spirits (Pro. 25:28) and guard our hearts (Pro. 4:23) even with our emotions. Our spirit- which is our attitude- is to glorify God because He redeemed it (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

So how can we help ourselves do that? I know that on my own I often don't. I'm snappy and irritable. I'm short-tempered and worried. I'm frustrated and selfish.  I don't want to live life that way. It doesn't honor God and it doesn't bless my family. Here are some ideas that have helped me- not that anybody has this conquered.

1. Ask God for help. Did you know that you can tell God that you feel grumpy or angry or sad or frustrated or irritated and He won't tell on you? He won't rat you out to your friends or make you feel bad. We should not be shocked at our capacity for sin. We know we are sinners. But God can help us to live better. Tell Him that you need His help. Ask Him to help you. Who doesn't want to be needed? He has everything you need. You can tell God about your problems and He won't speak a word to anyone. Take what is burdening you to Him. 

2. Do what you are supposed to, not what you feel like. Take a deep breath and speak calmly when you want to yell. Get up off the couch and cook dinner. Do something kind for your husband when you are mad at him. Act like you are supposed to; don't act out what you feel. 

3. Be thankful. Start listing all your blessings. "Thank you God for our home, for my children, for a good report at the doctor's office, for Your help when I need it, for caring about my life, for blueberries, for my phone, for sunshine." etc, etc. Don't stop. Just keep doing that. Pray and pray with a thankful, grateful heart. 

4. Pray for others. Often when I have a consuming prayer request I could "pray" about it constantly. And it turns into a consuming worry. So I take it to God, leave it there, and start praying for others. I pray regularly for five or six missionary wives that I know personally and are in similar seasons of life. I pray for our families and the requests of my friends. I pray for people who have been a blessing to me and people whose problems deeply burden my heart. 

5. Shut up! Just don't talk so much! If your husband is irritating you, be quiet, pray for God to bless him and talk to him about it later if it still seems like a big deal. Walk away from the issue with your children and come back in five minutes when you've calmed down. You don't have to "give people a piece of your mind" or "say what you think because you're honest." Those are excuses for hurting people. 

When you start doing these five things it will take a while to retrain your mental patterns. You will have to fight to control your mind. The battle is for your mind; if you can learn to control your thoughts it will make a big difference in controlling your emotions.  Make the effort. As you do, you will be glorifying God in your daily life. And you'll feel less like a crazy person. 

What about you? How do you strive to manage your daily emotions? 

(And I'm not talking about postpartum depression or deep grief. I am speaking of our day to day hormonal emotional changes.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Progress, Not Perfection

Perfection sounds so lovely. To never make a mistake or wonder what I need to do next or question how to handle a certain situation. Or to never need any help from anyone, not even God...oh wait. Maybe that's the problem with being perfect? 

In no part of life will I attain perfection. Certainly not in my appearance; it's only going to age. Definitely not in my abilities for there will always be somebody (way) better. And I mess up plenty; it helps keep me humble. I will never be perfect with my relationships; there will always be plenty of opportunities to ask for forgiveness.

So perfection is out. We know that God is the only Perfect. Now one day in heaven I will be like Him. But down here I have sin and my old nature to combat. Hence no perfection. In anything. 

That sounds depressing but really it's not.  If perfection isn't possible, God's not asking it. So I don't need to ask it of myself. Let go of perfection. It doesn't matter at all. Nobody has ever been perfect and God has used a lot of nobody's. 

So what am I going for? Progress. I want to make progress. Some days I can't see any progress. I occasionally have days, weeks, months even when I can't see any progress at all. Hopefully not in all areas at once but at least in one or two. 

Of course in my life it's harder to chart progress than it would be in some areas or jobs. In school for instance progress is finishing assignments, completing work, passing classes. At some jobs you complete more training and finish your work. In mine, well, it's a little less structured. But I want to be making progress even if it's unnoticeable to me.

-Progress in my walk with Christ. Learning more of the Bible. Surrendering so He can live it out through me. It's not enough to chart days of Bible reading or minutes of prayer because this is a heart issue. I want my heart to be closer to Jesus each day. 

-Progress as a wife. I want to learn my husband. Encourage him to be him. Pray for him. Nurture my marriage; invest in it. I want to grow closer to my husband and not farther away. 

-Progress as a mother/teacher. I want to discipline more consistently/calmly. I want to love deeper. Be less irritated, more creative. Teach them on their level. Stifle my expectations. 

-Progress on the piano. I want to be a better pianist than I was two months ago. Sometimes I can see that and sometimes I can't but I know to just keep practicing. This is an area that I know I'm improving in even if I can't see it. 

Of course there are other areas I want to progress in but you get the idea. The same goes for your life. Where do you want to make progress? Maybe it's a spot where you would prefer perfection but remember, we aren't perfect.  Change what you need to change and keep working. You will eventually see the progress. 

But please, let go of that "perfect." 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Fruit of the Spirit

There's nothing like a look in the Bible to show you who you really are. And I don't ever find I'm impressed with myself after these glimpses in the mirror. Last week I started studying the fruit of the Spirit. All I had to do was look up the definitions of the words to realize that I don't have enough fruit growing in my life. 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
After this week with my family I realized:
-I am lacking in love. Have you read the Bible description of love in 1 Cor. 13? Go read that and apply it to your behavior toward your husband and children. How are you doing? 
-My joy is often faltering. And I find it's little things that assault my joy so effectively: things like accidents, repetitious words, cloudy weather, scheduling conflicts. 
-Peace is often comparable to quiet. And there is little of that with little ones. 
-Longsuffering is expressed by sighing and eye-rolling. I don't think that's the longsuffering with joyfulness mentioned in Col. 1:11. 
-Gentleness often gives way to frustration over repeated misbehavior. And if God's gentleness helped make David great (Psalm 18:35) how much more do my babies need it? 
-Goodness has fallen by the wayside. And it's a key characteristic of God's lady in Titus 2:5
-My faith is weak when I can't see what God is doing. And that seems to be always. 
-Meekness has disappeared as I am often controlled by my feelings and annoyances. 
-And temperance goes out the door as I drink Dr. Pepper and raise my voice again. 

So what do I do? Do I quit?  Of course not. 

Only God can do this great work in my life. And He's changing me every day. Those annoyances and frustrations are ultimately very small, regardless of how big they seem in the moment. But God is using them like sandpaper to change me. And to show me how much I need Him. Isn't that the starting point? We are in the deepest trouble when we think we can handle it on our own and don't need God's help. But when confronted with my own life I see just how deeply I need Jesus every day in the smallest matter. 

I want to be a glove, just the instrument. I want God's hand to do the work, to make my life sing for Him.  So every day I surrender to Him to His work for that day. I spend time with Him. And then prayer is the breath of my heart as I go throughout the day. Of course, like anyone's life, there will be frustrations and annoyances and trials. But it's in those things that we show who is really living in our lives: us or Jesus. 
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20