To the moms whose kids are grown…

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“Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5, NIV)

I feel it acutely. There’s my mom, of course. She is an amazing, godly woman who is filled with the kind of wisdom that can only come from the years behind her. I’m lucky to have her. But other than that? There isn’t too much interaction between generations, much of the time.

Sometimes, I wonder if the lack of older mentors is the reason my generation—the generation of young parents—seems so lost. There are parenting books, of course. Online home management courses. Sermons and podcasts.

But few pour into us on a personal level.

We discuss it amongst each other—how to love our husbands, raise our children and manage our homes.

How to be self-controlled.

Pure.

Kind.

But there is something to be said for the wisdom that comes from long-life experience. Yes, we glean from those alongside us in the trenches, but we also desperately need those who have already fought our same battles and won.

(Or even lost. Because every scar tells a story.)

Last night, I drove 30 minutes down dark country roads to a complete stranger’s house. A friend had invited me. I parked on the street and stumbled up the driveway in the inky blackness, towards windows spilling warm light.

The woman who owned the house welcomed me graciously. Although her children are grown, she opens her home on a regular basis to younger homeschooling moms. Her heart—her beautiful heart—is to pour into the next generation.

Women from all over came—some drove longer distances than I did. She put out carafes of coffee, tea and dainty, floral cups. We packed into her living room to pray and learn together.

And she explained to each new, shy face how the Lord has called her to provide support, encouragement, and to live out Titus 2:3-5.

The Church needs people like this.

Older women, we need you.

We don’t always know how to say it, but we need you to open your lives to us. To open your homes to us. To offer advice. To come alongside us and tell us that we’ll make it through the hard days. To smile with us on the joy-filled days. To teach us what it means to be good wives and mothers.

You see, there’s a lot at stake.

Our families, yes. But according to Titus 2:5, how we manage our families and homes also affects people’s perception of the Word of God.

According to Titus 2:5, the gospel is at stake.

You, who are on the other side, have so much to offer.

And we, who are in the trenches, want to learn.

 

Dear Mama who is Home with the Little Ones

 

 

 

Dear Mama

Dear Mama who is home with the little ones,

There is something I need to share, something on my heart. You see, I have little ones too. And, when you’re home with your little ones, there seems to be much to juggle and little time. There are meals to cook and piles of laundry and dust in the corners. There are bills to pay and schedules to manage. There are diapers to change and faces to wash. (If you’re homeschooling, there’s that too.)

And there are always little voices asking for a banana or a story or a hug.

There are many demands.

There are also people. And while most people are truly supportive, there is the odd voice that tells you that you’re doing it wrong. That because your contribution to the home isn’t monetary, it doesn’t really matter. That you’re wasting your life. That what you’re doing isn’t enough.

They probably mean well, but what it feels like they’re saying is that you aren’t enough.

And what do you do all day, anyway?

I feel it too. Last week, my children were especially trying and I was especially tired. I didn’t get enough accomplished. I was grumpy with guilt. And as much as I know that I’m called to this, part of me wanted to give up. So I did the only thing I could do. I took it to Jesus. Every messy little bit of it.

As I poured it all out, the Holy Spirit breathed words into my heart and, with the words, breathed peace.

It’s okay that this is challenging. You have permission to be tired. Grace is a soft pillow for tired hearts.

His words brought instant release.

Some days will be harder than others. Some months will be harder than others. Admitting that it’s hard doesn’t mean that you’re throwing in the towel. It just means that it’s hard.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Being home with your little ones is important. But, although this season of life is short, for those of us who thrive on immediate incentives, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture. There are no breaks; there are few pats on the back; and there is no paycheck at the end of the week.

But there is an abundance of grace.

So, dear mama, if you’re tired? That’s okay.

Grace is a soft pillow for tired hearts.

Motherhood: Creating Peace in Your Home

My chin rests on the crown of her head as she snuggles deep into my lap. She never used to be a snuggler, not even as a newborn. She would cry if you cradled her; she wanted to be upright and looking around. But now her lanky frame is curled up awkwardly in my arms and I treasure this moment.

“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor,” she says.

“That’s great! If you want to become a doctor, you can become one.” It’s true. This one’s as smart as a whip. “You’d be a very good doctor.”

She’s a little girl with big dreams. It brings back memories.

“When I was little, I wanted to be a writer and a teacher,” I tell her.

“But now you can’t do those things,” she replies matter-of-factly. “You have kids.”

Funny. I used to feel that way. Like somehow, I had to sacrifice my hopes, my dreams—my whole life—on the altar of motherhood.

I was wrong.

“Being a mommy doesn’t mean that I can’t do those things.” I need her to understand this. “Right now, I’m doing those things. All of them. I write every day. I teach you girls. But being a mommy is my favourite thing of all.”

She looks up at me and then wriggles in a little closer. “Being a kid with a mommy is my favourite thing of all.”

It’s moments like these ones that make it all worth it.

It seems strange now that there used to be this thing under the surface—my constant sense of failure—a roiling, bubbling volcano that would manifest itself in the ugliest of ways. Resentment. Everyone felt it. My oldest child had frequent tantrums. My middle child would quietly suck her thumb and twirl her hair into knots. My husband, who was in school full time, bore the burden of the home and was stressed to the max. And marriage was rocky.

But then, there was that moment—the moment in which my perspective changed completely. (If you missed that story, I shared it here.)

It has been almost a year since the big change, and the difference in our home is marked. My oldest has stopped throwing tantrums entirely. My middle child now only twirls her hair occasionally. My husband is much more relaxed and constantly tells me how much he appreciates the things that are done around the house. And as for our marriage, the truth is, I’m kind of crushing on him big time these days.

Even on the hard days, the peace that has flooded our home is incredible.

My daughter took me into the backyard today to show me the buds on the trees. As we were about to go back inside, we spotted a tiny snowdrop emerging from a bed of last year’s dead leaves. Although it looked fragile, it is strong enough to withstand the blustery spring winds and freezing April nights. My daughter smiled wide as we bent low and examined the bloom. It was beautiful.

I saw myself in that small white flower. A miraculous life emerging, bringing beauty into my family, into my home. I’m strong because the life that flows through my veins is strong—Christ’s beauty in me.

A friend once told me that, as a mom, you set the atmosphere of your home. I think she’s right. If there is unrest in you, you will bring unrest into your home. But if you are at peace, you will bring peace into your home.

Of course, there will always be circumstances—and other people’s attitudes and actions—that are out of your control. And you’re going to make mistakes. Lots of them.

But even in chaos, you bring beauty because Christ in you is beautiful.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity…” (Proverbs 31:25).

That, right there, is what motherhood is all about.

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To The Moms Who Think They’ve Failed: A Story From The Trenches

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“Mom, is it still fall?” The question comes from a little girl growing too old too fast. She’ll be five next month. I’m trying to wrap my head around it.

“No, it’s winter,” I reply absent-mindedly. I maneuver the van around a car turning ever-so-slowly on a green light. Why doesn’t he just drive? Patience is not my strong suit.

“It’s not winter!” The voice from the back seat is insistent. “It’s still fall!”

Stray snowflakes are straggling out of the sky. There are patches of gray-brown snow pushed up against houses and ridges in the ground. It is January 24—and according to the calendar, winter began over a month ago.

I’ve learned to pick my battles with this child—some things just aren’t worth arguing about. She’ll learn. But I’m curious now.

“Why do you think that it’s fall?”

“There are still leaves on some of the trees.”

She’s right. Here and there, scraggly brown bits hang limp from bare branches. Occasionally, there is a mass of the bits all balled together. A squirrel’s nest, I think. I’ve always meant to look it up to be sure.

Our conversation leaves me deep in thought. For years, I was engaged in an epic struggle to believe that I was good enough for Jesus. Despite the fact that no one is good enough. Despite the fact that that’s why He died.

Despite grace all around.

It’s all too easy to define myself by the scraggly brown bits dangling from the bare branches of my life. Even when the truth is something completely different.

Eight months ago, my perspective changed completely. But the story begins before that…

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I huddle under the covers, warm tears on my face and a cold ache in my heart. Many nights throughout pregnancy are like this—me stifling sobs in the darkness, my husband gently snoring beside me. I envy his peace.

I’m such a failure! An unspoken prayer that always begins the same way. A third child? Lord, how am I going to do this? I’m so inadequate as a wife and mother.

There isn’t any real reason to feel this way, but the lie is rooted deep. So very, very deep.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t measure up.

It starts before children. I have high hopes and expectations for marriage. My husband and I both love Jesus, but things don’t turn out the way that we expect. And although everything looks rosy on the outside, inside I grow bitter. I’m not proud of it, but there are many, many times that I wish I could walk away.

I find solace in work. I don’t feel like a great housekeeper or cook and marriage is hard, but at work I feel important and successful. So when my first child comes along, I find it difficult to adjust to being at home. Then another daughter comes along. I love my girls so very much but I don’t love being a stay-at-home mom.

Just three weeks after finally returning to work full time, I find out that I am pregnant yet again.

I sweat and cry and push for only four hours in the hospital the day she arrives. We name her Chloe and it is love at first sight. Still, I am convinced, deep down in my heart, that the sweet little life that I hold in my arms—and the other two sweet little girls that can’t wait to meet her—deserve far better.

Not just better than I could ever offer. Better than I could ever be.

Less than a month after Chloe’s arrival, thanks to some dear friends, I find myself at a women’s conference at a large church in a small town in Southwestern Ontario, my newborn in tow. I look down at the gorgeous baby sleeping peacefully in my arms as music rises loud around. And the Holy Spirit whispers to my heart:

Would I entrust you with your precious family if I didn’t think you could do it? Where you are unable, I am more than able. I gave you this beautiful family because I love you. They are a gift! But you are also a gift. You are My gift to them! Just as I gave them to you because I love you, I gave you to them because I love them. You are exactly the wife and mother that they need.

The truth sets you free and I go home changed. Me—a gift. For the first time ever, I am able to give myself to my family without holding anything back. I’m able to truly love. Not that I didn’t love them before, but it’s different now. Deeper, fuller and more alive.

Life flows into bare limbs and I blossom.

Things aren’t perfect, of course. There are days when the children are fighting and the house looks tornado-swept. I get impatient, lose my temper and lean heavy on grace. But I see much beauty in the chaos.

I see Christ’s beauty in me.

When the enemy whispers his lies, I’m able to fight back with the truth of God’s Word. I no longer doubt that I’m where I’m called to be.

Right here. Blossoming in the middle of the mess.

I am not defined by the scraggly, brown, limp bits in my life. I am defined by grace.

What about you?

Do you struggle with feelings of failure? Maybe, as a wife and mother, you feel like you constantly fall short. Maybe you’ve made some mistakes. We’ve all been there. So let me encourage you, one woman in the trenches to another.

It started before you were born. While you were still growing inside your mother’s womb, God tenderly formed you. He wrote your story before you ever came to be (Psalm 139). He has good and perfect plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). He has chosen you and placed a very special, unique calling on your life (Ephesians 1:4).

You are a gift.

You are a gift to your family. You are a good gift. You are a perfect-for-them gift from the Father above. He loves them so He gave them you.

Is it difficult at times? Yes. But where you can’t, He can. The Bible says, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). There is an abundance of strength and grace and beauty for you.

Rest in that.

Let the truth—His truth—flow into your barren limbs. Because as grace flows, the scraggly brown bits lose their hold.

So blossom, sweet woman of God.

You are exactly the wife and mother that your precious family needs.

Encouragement for Moms

I finally watched Mom’s Night Out the other night. If you’re a mom and haven’t seen it, you need to watch it. Like right this second. It’s so good. I felt a little crazy though because I was crying and laughing all at the same time during that whole first part. It was my life on a screen. The colouring on the wall, the makeup mishap, the mess.

Last month, my husband and I went up for an altar call. I didn’t know what to do with the kids so we left the baby in the car seat with a friend and hauled the older two along. Midway through, as one of the pastors was praying for us, my daughters got into an all out brawl. I’m talking pushing, shoving, crying. A brawl. They actually almost knocked me right onto my kiester. The prayer ended awkwardly as I tried to physically separate my children and I was more than a little embarrassed.

Those moments happen.

I love being a mom and I love where I’m at, but getting to the place where I can say that and truly mean it with my whole heart has been a journey. I’ll share more about it in another post on another day but, for now, let’s just say that I didn’t always deep-down love being a mom. I loved it at times. But not always and not always deep down. I didn’t always deep-down love being a wife either. I didn’t always deep-down love my home or the spills or the messes that come with having kids. (And I didn’t deep-down love the post-pregnancy stretched out skin on my tummy that I’m told only plastic surgery can fix. Something no one warned me about. But how I learned to embrace those battle scars is also another post for another day.)

The point is that there were times that I downright resented my life.

Mostly though, I resented myself. For failing so often and not measuring up.

I love that part at the end of Mom’s Night Out where Allyson is talking to the big, tough biker dude and she says, “I’m not good enough.”

“For who?” he asks.

Seriously. For who?

We so often put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. But no one else expects us to do it all perfectly. I’m sure I’m not the only mom whose kids have turned an altar call into an altar brawl. But even if I am, I’m okay with that. Because, in that moment, I was able to identify a problem area that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.  I’m not perfect and my kids aren’t perfect. But I’m doing the best I can and learning as I go.

That’s all we can do.

A girl I know, Kathleen, has this on her Twitter profile: “This one thing I’ve learned, life is the messy bits.” I love that because it’s so true. Life isn’t about getting it all perfect. It’s about falling and getting up again and finding grace. Not beating ourselves up. Finding grace. Because when we let God’s grace envelop us, the messy bits become beautiful.

We become beautiful.

And we’re able to see that the messiest blessings are actually the most precious blessings.

It’s only when we embrace grace that we can truly embrace our lives. Mess and all.

{This post was also published on The Grace-Filled Home.}