Night Terrors and God’s Presence

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Tonight my daughter Bella started crying in her sleep. She does this every now and then. She sobs like her heart is broken. Real tears stream down her cheeks while she is still completely asleep. When this happens, I go in the room and sit with her, trying to calm her down. Usually this doesn’t work, and I have to hold her in my lap like a baby and rock her. I kiss her cheeks and forehead. I whisper to her. I tell her over and over, “Mommy is here. Mommy’s right here. I’m right here. You’re safe. You’re ok.” I keep whispering these things to her. Sometimes, her eyes open, but she does not hear me. I continue to hold her and rock her, but she does not feel my arms around her. She is so deeply asleep in her world of tears that she can’t seem to sense my presence at all.

And I realized I am so much like her. I have times in my life when I sob uncontrollably. I curl up in bed with tears streaming down my face. And I am so deep in my world of tears that I don’t sense God’s presence. He is holding me, but I can’t feel His arms around me. His Word tells me that He whispers to me over and over, “I am here. I’m right here. You’re safe with me.” I felt like the Holy Spirit gave me this insight tonight. If Bella could only wake up, she would realize that she is safe in her mother’s arms. She would realize that there is nothing she has to fear. She would realize that she is completely safe, and she would no longer feel alone. I pray the next time I am huddled up in fear and sadness, that I would remember that even if I can’t feel or see Him, God is right there with me. And I can take comfort in His presence. Because we have an amazing God who is with us in all things.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

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Mom Confessions

 

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There are so many things I do as a mom I thought I would never do. There were so many times before I had kids that I judged other parents for things they did. Actually I would say my parenting now that I have three kids is completely different than when I had just one.
My mom used to call me a germaphobe but not anymore! I used to have lots of helpful baby items like the high chair and grocery cart cover- not anymore! As a mom I’ve let certain things go, and I’ve started focusing on different things.
So in the name of being transparent and hopefully giving myself some grace I am going to make some mom confessions.
1. I let my kids ride their bike without a helmet or pads.
2. I let my kids play outside without shoes, even in the street.
3. There are days I forget to brush their hair or teeth.
4. Not long ago I went a full four days without getting a shower.
5. Sometimes I leave my baby on the changing table for five seconds while I walk two feet to the trash can (something I can no longer do now that she’s rolling around).
6. One time when I was pregnant and very sick my kids went two weeks without a bath.
7. I don’t always make my kids wash their hands after they go the bathroom.
8. I hate pushing kids on a swing.
9. Sometimes when I’m really tired in the morning I put the tv on for the kids and go back to bed.
10. The other day my kids had no clean socks so they had to borrow mine.

These are just a few ways that I make an imperfect parent. Honestly I don’t think these confessions are that bad, but I’m still anxious someone might leave a comment telling me I’m an unfit mom. When I first became a parent I tried so hard to do everything just right. Since having my third child I just don’t have time to obsess over every detail. I still worry. I still want to be perfect, but I’m trying to give myself grace. That’s why I started this blog. I knew I wasn’t the only mom who had piles of laundry or kids in mismatching outfits. And I hope by giving myself this grace it empowers you to give yourself some.
It’s so freeing to admit your faults sometimes. Try it out. Make a mom confession in the comments!

 

I’m Done With the American Dream

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The American Dream. The phrase causes nostalgia to bubble up inside us. I can hear patriotic music in the background as children run around waving tiny American flags. I think a long time ago “the American Dream” meant owning your own home, living in a safe community, and providing for your family. But lately I feel like it means something different.
Even in my own thoughts I see a distorted take on what it means to be living the dream. It’s no longer enough to have our basic needs provided for and our children healthy and safe. It’s not enough to have food on the table every night. We want more.
I don’t know what your desires look like but I feel selfishness and greediness creeping up inside me. Whenever I visit a home that’s larger than mine. Whenever I see a car that’s more convenient than the one I have. Whenever I see someone who dresses nicer than me. Since when is good not good enough?
We live in a small two bedroom duplex with three kids, but I have a roof over my head every single night. Compared to the many homeless men I’ve been seeing in Springfield lately I’d say that’s more than enough. My husband doesn’t make a lot of money, but he makes enough to feed our family at every single meal. It’s more than enough. One of our cars doesn’t have working door handles on the driver and passenger doors, and we have to step into the car from the back to reach forward and pull on the door handle in order to get in. But we have two working cars that are paid off. More than enough.
God has provided. God has blessed me with provision for my daily needs. So why do I feel like mourning when my friend tells me she’s going on vacation? Because the new American Dream tells me I should have vacations. That I DESERVE them.
Let me tell you what God’s Word says I deserve. I deserve death. I have not kept the law and have sinned against God. But God’s Grace came down to rescue me from my punishment, and save me from my sin. He died on the cross and He didn’t deserve it. He took what I deserved and replaced it with what I didn’t. Grace, peace, joy, hope, and MORE. And it’s more than enough.
So you can keep the American Dream if you want. For me, it’s starting to look a little more than lacking.

My Word of the Year

Last year in my women’s bible study they asked each of us to come up with one word that we would focus on throughout the year. I chose the word trust, because at the time I had felt like God was showing me many areas in which I do not trust Him. And even though we moved to a new area, and I can no longer attend the bible study I found myself thinking about what word I might choose for this year. SERVICE is the word that came to mind.
I’m going to be very honest here, because that’s why I started this blog. I want to encourage others to be more “real.” So here’s why I chose the word service.
I struggle almost daily with anxiety. I worry. I agonize over small details that most people wouldn’t even consider. I feel anxious about money, my kids, what kind of mother I am, the future, new situations. The list of worries goes on and on.
Feeling anxious is incredibly uncomfortable. Not only do I have to fight the mental battle of trying to refocus my thoughts, but there is physical discomfort that accompanies it. I’m feeling that discomfort as I’m writing this post and wondering what you’re going to be thinking!
But here’s the biggest issue I have with my anxiety: it leaves me completely self centered. It’s not that I want to think about myself all the time, but there’s not a lot of time for other people when you’re constantly worried about yourself. I know that God calls me to be a servant, but this often takes a back seat to my own issues.
My goal this year is to focus on being a servant instead of focusing on myself. This means I have to actively put my anxiety aside and think of ways I can serve others. I assume most people just have the urge to help in certain situations, and I hope one day soon I can be one of those people. But for now I just periodically sit and think about something I can do for someone else. By the end of the year, I hope to be closer to being a servant than I am now. Isn’t this what I want to teach my children, how to live like the greatest Servant?
Choosing a word of the year is a great way to use what God is teaching you to refocus and reevaluate. I encourage you and your family to try this and tell me about it. I would love to hear what word God has moved you to focus on and why.

Valentine Scavenger Hunt

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Happy Valentine’s Day! For us, Valentine’s Day is a family event. Instead of paying for a babysitter and dinner at a restaurant, we usually just have a fancy candlelight dinner together at home. This year I wanted to do something special with my kids to teach them about God’s great love for us. I made a little scavenger hunt for them to complete together. We are going to start with a big heart that gives instructions, and each heart after will have a scripture on it and a clue on the back. I just used regular construction paper to cut out hearts. Maybe next year I’ll have time to actually print up something nice on the computer!  I thought I might share the clues and scriptures with you so that you can use this with your family. I plan on sticking a couple pieces of candy on each heart, and they are getting a little gift bag at the end with crayons, candy, etc.

Heart 1: (front)

Valentine’s Day is a day for love.

But our greatest gift is from God above.

On each heart you’ll find a clue

and a verse about God’s love for you.

A small surprise you’ll find when you’re through.

Turn the heart over to read your first clue.

(back)

To start this Valentine’s game,

run to the window that has all your names.

Clues:

#1:  Valentine colors are pink and red.

Find the next clue where you rest your head.

#2: Go to the place where you brush your teeth clean

and you will find clue number three.

#3: If you think for a minute you’ll find this clue in a flash.

It’s full of old papers and yucky trash.

#4: The next clue can be seen

where you go to get squeaky clean.

#5: It’s lots of fun for girls and boys.

Find the place for all your toys.

#6: Look down low, look up high.

Find the next clue where clothes get dry.

#7: This is the last clue. You better rush.

Go to the place where you hear a flush!

Scriptures:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ ” Matthew 22:37-38

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

My plan is to read each scripture before giving them the clue on the back. At the end, we are going to talk about how the best Valentine gift we will ever receive is Christ’s sacrifice and how much God loves us. This is just one small way to be more intentional in teaching our kids about God and who He is. I would love to hear any other ideas you have for using Valentine’s Day to teach your kids about God’s love!

There’s No Such Thing as a Good Mom

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What does a good mom look like? I often think about what I should be doing (or in many cases NOT be doing) in order to be a good mom. I should read more stories. I should play more games. I should be kinder, more patient and gentle. I should not yell. I should not be so easily frustrated. I should not feel like I wish I had a day to myself. These are my thoughts. They run in a never-ending loop in my head.Yesterday I wasn’t a good mom-or at least I didn’t feel like it. I’ve had three sick kids and one sick husband all week,and yesterday I wasn’t feeling so hot. Still dealing with making all three kids take bad-tasting medicine and cleaning up after a baby with diarrhea and a terrible diaper rash, I felt my body start to give in to the virus. I let my three year old watch tv most of the day. I did laundry and laid on the couch. I didn’t win any mothering awards. I survived through the day. It was a “bad mom” day. But I’m doing a good job as long as there are more good mom days than bad mom days, right?

My husband came home from work and told me about something he saw at Target. A little boy smaller than three had wandered from his nearby apartment building alone and into Target. My husband watched as the father was questioned by police officers about prior DFS situations, of which there were several. And I thought, “What kind of parent is that? Why is it so hard for some parents to do a good job?”

You’ve been there before, right? Thinking to yourself, “What is wrong with that person?” Sometimes I even think that about myself. But mostly I like to pass judgment on others, because I’m sure it makes me feel like a “good” mother. Most nights when I go to bed, I confess to God that I should be a better mother. I confess my impatience, my bad attitude, my lack of kindness. And I vow, almost every night to do better tomorrow-if He will only help me overcome my sin.

Today my eyes have been opened to something-to the ugliness in and around me. God spoke into my heart as I was checking my actions today against the “good mother” standard. There is no such thing as a good mom. Stay with me here. There is nothing I can do to be a good mom. I am a person full of sinful desires. I am selfish. I am unworthy. I am a sinner. This world is full of moms who are sinners. None of them meet God’s definition of good. NOT ONE.

All those parents we are looking at with contempt we are judging by our personal standards. We put some parents into the good category, and when they screw up we give them a hug and some encouragement. We tell them not to beat themselves up. Other parents we put into the bad category. They have done something that has crossed our personal good parent standards. They can do good parent things, but they can never climb out of the bad parent category.  (I do realize there are some things which are inexcusable and horrifying, which usually should be accompanied by someone losing parental rights and/or going to prison. I’m not in any way excusing this behavior, and I do think we should be outraged when a child is abused. I am talking about our thinking of parenting in general and as a whole.)

I feel like I have been making a pro and con list of my mothering skills. Good: gave everyone their medicine, disciplined without yelling, played a game with my kids, spoke in a quiet tone. Bad: was impatient, let kids watch a tv show, didn’t make a healthy snack.

I feel the tug between my spirit and my flesh. Between my instincts to be a good mother and my instincts to be selfish. Between what God has called me to be and what Satan beckons me to be. As Paul in Romans 7:15 puts it “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I want so badly to be a good mom-to be a great mom. But I can’t do it. My sin gets in the way. What I am learning is that we are all in the bad mom category. God does not judge us by the world’s standards or by anyone’s personal standards. That’s what makes Him holy. He judges us by HIS standards. And none of us can ever meet those standards.

I am not a good mom. Sounds depressing, huh? Well, here’s the grace. I am a mom who has been blessed by a Savior who paid my debt and suffered for my sin. Nothing “good” I do comes from me. It comes from the only One who is truly Good. Everything bad I do comes from the sin that so easily entangles us. I can do nothing to earn my good mom status. But the great news is that I don’t have to. God’s grace is not earned, it is freely given.

So I am giving up checking off a list of good and bad things I do. I won’t beat myself up for yelling or letting my kids watch too much tv. Instead, when I have failed my children, when I feel like I have missed the good mom standard, I am going to stop and praise the Lord for being Holy and Good. I am going to thank him for His grace. I am going to thank Him for His Son. I am going to thank Him that I am accepted just as I am and that, though I deserve condemnation, I will receive grace instead.

Good Moms Don’t Do Laundry

Laundry never ends. It’s everywhere. In my kids room. In my room. In all the bathrooms. In the living room. Overflowing out of the numerous laundry baskets we own.

Laundry sometimes leaves me feeling defeated. I wake up in the morning and I tell myself I’m going to work on laundry all day. I’m going to get caught up. I’m going to make sure it all gets put away so my husband doesn’t have to come home to piles of clean unfolded laundry everywhere.

But then life happens. I’m nursing the baby, changing diapers, running errands, squeezing in a shower, making and cleaning up meals. The laundry gets away from me. To be honest most of the time the entire day gets away from me.

I feel like I’m chasing time trying to get all this laundry done. In the meantime I’m chasing my kids around. There’s just so much LAUNDRY! And once I’m caught up it magically reappears on the floor of the kids bedroom. Or the baby has what we call a poop explosion. Or it’s Monday, which is the day I aspire to change the sheets.

One day I had a huge pile of laundry in my room. I told myself that if my husband had to come home to a pile of dirty laundry on our bedroom floor, at least it could be in a neat pile. Every time I walked by that stupid pile of laundry I felt defeated.

And then my kids decided to roll in the pile of dirty laundry like you would roll in a pile of Fall leaves. My nice neat mountain of laundry turned into a scattered mess. And I thought here is my chance to be vulnerable again. I am surely not the only mother who has had laundry flung across the floor of her bedroom.

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But the grace is that my kids don’t think I am a bad Mommy because I have a pile of laundry on the floor. They thought it was awesome that I let them play in a pile of dirty clothes. I swear they jumped and rolled around in there for thirty minutes. And at one point they both came up to me wearing their Daddy’s boxers they found in the pile. This is a GOOD memory they are making here! When they grow up they probably won’t remember that their mom struggled to keep up with the laundry, but they just might remember the time they jumped and rolled around in a pile of dirty laundry. And isn’t that the kind of mom I want to be anyway?

Yes! I don’t want to be a mom who yells my kids to stop playing because they are making a mess. I don’t want to be the kind of mom who doesn’t want a single thing out of its place. I DO want to be a mom who let’s her kids play creatively and have fun. I want to be a mom who can be wacky and crazy and silly. And I so want my kiddos to feel like it’s totally acceptable to be wacky and crazy and silly. But I can’t have a perfectly clean house with no laundry piles and be that mom. I have to choose. So I choose the laundry piles. I choose the mess. I choose to make the most of these moments while my kids are young enough to think laundry piles are fun.

So Mamas, leave the laundry for another day. And instead maybe ask your kiddos if they want to jump in a pile of dirty clothes while you take pictures. I promise the laundry will always be there when your kids are not.

Finding the Grace in a Too Small House

My house is too small. Actually I live in a duplex. My family moved out of our just-right three bedroom house and downsized to a two bedroom duplex-right before the birth of my third child. There were many reasons why the move was necessary, but a big part of it had to do with living within our means and making better financial decisions.

This blog is all about being real and showing my insecurities. So, I’m going to be honest and tell you my pride took quite a hit. I felt like my tiny duplex was screaming that we were failures. I hated the thought that I wouldn’t be bringing my new baby home to her own room. I hated that my living room was small. I just felt sad about the whole thing.

Of course God was constantly working on my heart reminding me of the blessings of my cozy home. For one thing, I am now able to stay home with my kids long term because we are living in a smaller home. I am actually able to keep this house moderately clean, which was overwhelming in my other house. It has caused us to live simpler lives and discard or sell things we don’t need.image

But I still felt insecure about my little home. Meeting new people in our community group I couldn’t help but compare homes……and feel disheartened. I worried what they would think of us once they saw our “quaint” duplex. My insecurities have nothing to do with anyone but myself. I knew I should be able to let this go by now, but I still struggled with these feelings constantly.

Until tonight.

My husband’s family came to visit us after an afternoon in Springfield for a pre-Thanksgiving gathering. I opened the door to my small house, and they all filed in. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. There was a total of 17 people in my home!!!!!! Eleven of those people were children. It was crazy. Kids were everywhere: running, wrestling, playing. It was crowded. People were sitting on the floor and all the seats were occupied.

Here’s the grace. Those kids had a blast! They were so happy to have all their cousins together. We had pizza for dinner, and I had to lay three blankets on the floor for the kids to eat. We stuck a cookie sheet in the middle so they could put their drinks on it. There were spills. There were kids hopping over plates and drinks. It was chaos compared to my normal day life.

And I loved it. None of those kids cared that my house was “too small.” They were in heaven eating pizza on the floor. None of the adults cared that my house is smaller than their houses. The only person who cares that my house is small is me.

How sad that it took a mob of children being in my home before I realized how silly I was being. My house is PERFECT for my family. You know how I know this? Because this is the house God has put me in. I need to get over myself. I am never going to let these ungrateful, graceless thoughts about living in a small house ever again. I’m done looking around at what others have. I’m going to look right in front of my face at what I have been blessed with: a home, a husband, children, countless other things. I’m not going to allow Satan to distract me from what God has for me right now.

Maybe one day I’ll live in a big house. Maybe not. In the end, a house is not what makes a home.

Finding Grace in a Cluttered Kitchen

I am really trying this. I had this idea the other day while cooking in my kitchen. Cluttering my counters were dirty dishes, trash, maybe some mail. And I hear that voice whisper in my ear: “This isn’t how real mothers do it. ” I sighed at the lack of clear space on the counters. And then I remembered so many conversations with other moms talking about their messy houses. And this thing I read online about not letting Pinterest and blogs make you feel bad, because they didn’t take any pictures of the burnt apple pie or the handprint project that looked like a smeared mess. They only took pictures of the perfect projects and the days with their kids when everyone listened and played nicely. And then I wondered what if someone did post the pictures of the burnt apple pie? What if that someone was me?

What if I took a picture of my messy kitchen and posted it on a blog for all my friends and family to see? Maybe I won’t hear that voice condemning my imperfections. And maybe other moms will stop hearing it too. Instead maybe we can all start giving ourselves grace in our perfections, as Christ has done for us.

So, here goes. I actually took a picture of my kitchen that day.

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You know what? Looking at it through a camera lens, it doesn’t look that bad! It’s a little cluttered, but it doesn’t look like DFS is going to come in and snatch my kids up any minute.  And here’s the grace: I cooked a meal in that kitchen. I’m not looking for a trophy or anything, but some days that is a huge accomplishment. I have three children, and one of those is only 4 months old. And as I recall it, this was one of the nights my husband worked until 8:00.

Instead of focusing on my cluttered kitchen, I can give myself grace.  Instead of focusing on the apples that are still waiting to be made into an apple crisp, I can give myself grace. Instead of being frustrated that there is a toy gun on the counter when it should be in the toy box, I can give my children grace. Instead of walking around like I have it all together when really I am so insecure about my lack of perfect housecleaning and mothering skills, I can extend this grace to others.

So for this blog, I still might show a perfect apple pie (if I ever get around to baking one). But I promise to also show some of my imperfections, my insecurities, my daily grace. Maybe together we can stop that little voice telling us we are just not doing it right and instead hear the One Voice that really matters, speaking encouragement, love, and acceptance into our hearts.