For When You Need a Fresh Start

Congratulations to Karen for winning my Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All Giveaway! Thanks for entering, Karen! Your book will be on it’s way soon!

No mailI surprised myself this morning. Without much thought I did something completely unexpected. Something I haven’t felt ready to do for almost two years.

But this morning I was ready. And I did it.

I deleted a mountain of emails from my inbox and granted myself a fresh start. 

 Earth shattering, I know, but it meant something to me.

Most of the emails I hacked were blog posts from one of my favorite authors. Posts I hadn’t read yet. Posts I knew were sure to nurture my heart. For two years I looked at my inbox and everyday I felt this weight. This that knowing these posts were waiting. This knowing that I should take the time to read them. This telling myself, again and again, that I’ll get to them eventually.

But this morning something was different. This morning I wanted a fresh start more than I wanted whatever it was waiting in those emails. So with a quick tap of my finger I let them go. 

At the end of the day emails are emails but I can’t help but wonder, what else? What else in my life needs a fresh start like this one?

How many weights do I carry because of something I should be doing? 

I should be spending more time with God, the treadmill, my writing, on date nights with my husband.

I should be eating better, praying more, reading more books to my kids.

I should be more organized, patient, willing to get up early, willing to stay up late.

I should be a better homeschooler, housekeeper, mother, wife, sister, friend.

The should be weight is crushing. In all of these things I want a fresh start. I want Jesus. I want grace. I want to trade every “should be” for lifesaving truth.

Fresh starts aren’t just for New Year’s Day or new seasons. They aren’t for perfect people, perfect homes or ducks all in a row. They’re for each and every day, for every five minutes if need be. They’re for the broken, the messed up, the messy. 

Fresh starts are all about dropping the weight of my demands, my expectations, my attempts at making life happen, for the weightlessness of grace and glory. 

He demands nothing but my heart.

He expects nothing but my love.

And He alone is the only source of the life I need, I want.

For all the things I should be, He loves me for who I am. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light…” and these words have never been more freeing. 

So every “should be” you’re facing today? It should be null and void, deleted like a mountain of emails. Because our “should be” list isn’t what matters. 

Fresh starts that align our heart with His heart are what matters. His grace and glory matter. 

Fresh starts that trade the weight of everything we should be, for the weightless truth of who He is. 

For When You Lose it With Your Kids

IMG_2068Let me be honest, this is one blog post I don’t want to write. It’s embarrassing and shameful and full of regret over something I did this week.

If you had been at Michael’s this Wednesday around 11:30 am you might have seen a mom in aisle seven losing it with her kids…and I’m sad to say that mom was me.

I’ve written of this before, the ever-obvious fact that I am not a perfect mom. But this time…Yikes! This time I even surprised myself with how quickly I went from feeling fine and dandy to last-straw-losing it with my six-year-old.

The matter that caused my erupting anger to spew like wild lava wasn’t even her fault. I knew it wasn’t her fault. It was an accident. It was one of those annoying inconveniences that come with motherhood, with six-year-olds, with things that can’t be helped. (I’ll avoid details but I will say it was messy, time consuming, and soooo NOT what I needed at that moment.)

I knew all of this, but what did I do? Did I extend grace to the child? Did I treat the child the way I would want to be treated. No, not even close.

I yelled. I pushed. I shamed.

I spat out punishment. I seethed anger. I piled blame on innocence.

When I replay the situation in my mind and remember what I said, what I did, how I reacted, my heart breaks. It breaks for the broken mom I am, and it breaks for the broken child left standing in my wake.

The anger, I wonder? Why such anger? Because the anger, in the moment, is what feels good, feels right. It’s the release, the instant gratification, for feelings so hard to control.

But the anger, it’s the coward’s way. It’s for the weak, never the strong.

 The strong, the brave know that anger, apart from righteous anger, is never good and never right. And while it may yield instant release, it lingers forever in wounds that ache and rarely heal.

The strong, the brave, they know that though it may be hard, the feelings they can be controlled. They know we have helpers, they know we have allies. A Holy Spirit to help us see. A Savior to offer a different path. A Father always ready with grace for the moment, with mercy for the coward.

And this mama needs her allies. I need to see the miracle that is the child. To choose the path that turns toward love. To accept the grace and fill on mercy so grace and mercy overflow.

And my child? My child knows grace and mercy far better than I, for when my anger cooled and my heart ached to say I was wrong, to say “I’m sorry, dear girl. Can you ever forgive me?” her little arms hugged my neck. Her toothless smile spread wide. And her precious voice whispered, “Yes, mommy. I love you.”

There are no perfect moms. There are no perfect children. But there is perfect grace.

Perfect grace that helps the broken, cowardly mom come to her senses and ask for forgiveness.

Perfect grace that flows freely from the mouth of innocent babes.

Allied grace that performs a crimson stain clean-up on aisle seven.

And somehow lets this losing-it mama gain everything in return. 

 

For the Weak, the Weary, the Fragile

Frustrated FourI wrote a blog this week. It was full of hope and reminders of God’s faithful promises. I wrote it from a place of strength and confidence at the start of what I knew was sure to be a tough week. 

But the week that was harder than I imagined, and now my heart feels anything but strong and confident. Rather, I feel weak and vulnerable and incredibly fragile. 

I’m in a pit. A deep, dark pit. No one knows. My family, I’m sure, can sense that I’m not myself, that something’s not quite right, but they have no idea how much I’m struggling.

On the outside the struggle is simple. My mom is recovering from surgery and the care of the household is riding on my shoulders. I’m struggling with dishes, and laundry, and meals for the seven people that fill up this house. I’m struggling to keep up with homeschooling and writing, while being a gentle and patient mom and wife.

But there’s also this inward struggle. I’m desperate for time to write. For time to tap out more than a blog on my phone while nursing Belle.

I keep going to God. I pray, I read, I pray I read, searching for comfort, searching for help but He seems far away and mad at me.

He knows I’m a horrible daughter.

He knows I’m neglecting my kids, my husband, and Him.

He knows if I’d just get up earlier or go to bed later I’d have the time I need to write.

Why do I keep coming to Him with these failings and excuses? With these out of control emotions when the answers are so simple? 

He knows I should be thankful, aware of all He’s giving.

But this isn’t Him, this isn’t His voice. It’s the voice that’s out to get me. Out to keep me in the pit.

Life is hard right now. It’s far from ideal, and as John Eldredge writes in his book, Desire, “I must have life. I cannot arrange for it.”

Circumstances have created a challenge, a hurdle, and if I’m not careful, if I’m not vigilant in this fight for joy, this battle for my heart, I will get taken out. 

Throughout this awful week I’ve been under attack and I didn’t even realize it, I didn’t know. The enemy disguised his voice and tricked me so well. I thought it was me, I thought it was God.

Sometimes it’s not the storm but the spiritual battle within the storm that lands us in the pit. And sometimes realizing you’re in a battle is the weapon you need to stand up and fight.

The life I desire, the life I need, can only be given by God. At times like these, as I wait on Him, I have to understand how vulnerable I am, how much I need His protection. 

Why wouldn’t the enemy capitalize on the situation I’m in? On the vulnerable place in my heart? It’s the perfect set up for victory. His arrows almost got me but I see them for what they are.

I’m not crazy.

I’m not a bad daughter.

I do need sleep.

I’m doing what I can to turn to my Savior, to find time in my day to write.

I’m trying my best to be thankful.

At the end of my week, at the end of my rope, God gave me clarity, He gave me strength. He met me in my heart and gave me what I needed to live outside the pit. 

I have no idea when I’ll be able to write but God knows what I need, He knows my heart, and I know He’ll make a way.

With joy and peace and His magnificent armor around me I’ll be okay. I’ll be more than okay. I’ll be protected, provided for, loved.

My God is the God of Angel Armies. He has my back.

And I have Him.

Today Was a Fairy Tale

UPS

Photo by Landon Brown

Once upon a time there was a UPS commercial…

While watching college basketball during the NCAA tournament a certain commercial caught my attention. It was an ad for UPS and throughout the sixty second spot the voice-overs gave a list of all the things UPS was inviting their potential customers to bring to them. 

“Bring us your bafflings

Bring us your audacious

We want your daydreams

Your ‘ahas’

Your ‘easier said than dones’

We want your sticky notes

Sketchbooks

And scribbles

…Bring us your ‘need it done yesterdays’

Your impracticals

Your ‘how do we do that’

Impossibles

Your ‘what do we do nows’

Your down right inaccessibles

Bring us those things you’re not sure how to pull off

And you’re even less sure whom to ask

…Because we’re in the problem solving business”

While watching this ad it occurred to me that this list is right in keeping with the invitation God gives us each and everyday…this and so much more.

At the end of the commercial UPS declared themselves the “United Problem Solvers.” And this, too, made me think of God in new and different way. Instead of United Problem Solvers, God is our Ultimate Problem Solver and Easter is a reminder that none of our problems are greater than Him.

In addition to the big and little problems of our daily lives God has solved the unsolvable problems of sin and death. What else could be beyond Him?

The answer is, nothing. 

I replay the commercial in my mind, this time picturing the cross, this time hearing His voice over all that troubles my heart. 

“Bring Me your wounds

Bring Me your regrets

I want your fears

Your losses

Your ‘I can’t do this anymores’

I want your hopes

Passions

And desires

Bring Me your ‘I need helps’

Your worries

Your ‘I feel so alones’

Hows

Your ‘I don’t understand whys’

Your down right impossibles

Bring me those things that keep you up at night, that break your heart, that scare you to death.

Because I’m in the good news business. The bind up the brokenhearted business. The set the captives free business.

With Good Friday He solved the problem of sin. With Easter He solved the problem of death. With three words He solved the problem of the human condition as He clung and bled and died. As He poured out the solution of perfect love He spoke the answer: ‘It is finished.’

It is finished. All our problems are finished in Him. Today. Everyday. Forever.

And I see it again and again. Those three yellow letters. The UPS logo on TV, in the mail, on the truck. The reminder of fairy tale love and the answer to all my problems.

Cinderella had her Fairy Godmother. Frodo had Gandalf. The children of Narnia had the great lion, Aslan.

And we have the Great I AM.

Brave Prince, lovely Princess may you wake up this day, this Easter sunrise, to the fairy tale found in UPS, in the Ultimate Problem Solver, Jesus. May you take your problems big and small, bring them to the cross, and leave the business of problem solving with no one and nothing but Him.

Why It’s Time to be Done with Mom-Guilt

Barnes and Noble“How did I get here?” I wondered to myself as I sat in the middle of Barnes and Noble trying desperately not to slip into an ugly-cry meltdown.

Barnes and Noble…my happy place! What could possibly cause a mostly stable, high-functioning adult to wind up cuddling a stuffed Pooh Bear in the B&N cafe to keep from crying like a two-year-old? (Where, by the way, not even a tall vanilla latte with a side of frilly chocolate mousse could entice me to cheer up.)

Mom-Guilt. That’s what. I mean serious Mom-Guilt. I mean, mommy-meltdown-I- will-never-forgive-myself-for-being-such-an-awful-mother-kind of Mom-Guilt.

It was Frozen Day at Barnes and Noble. Frozen Day. We’re talking little girls dressed up like tiny Anna and Elsas everywhere. A real life Prince Hans roamed the store. The children’s department was transformed into Arendelle. Story time and sing-alongs were repeating every hour.

And I had no idea.

My sister, my girls and I thought we’d take a quick trip to our favorite bookstore. We thought it’d be a respite to get out of the house for a few minutes before it was time for my one-week-old baby to nurse again. My sister and I thought we’d let the girls play with the train set in the children’s section while we leisurely sipped fancy hot drinks and enjoyed some long awaited sister time.

But no. Frozen had thrown up in Barnes and Noble and I was caught holding the bucket.

It felt like the mommy equivalent of Pearl Harbor. I was taken by surprise and my sweet girls with their Anna and Elsa costumes at home in their closet were the casualties of war.

We couldn’t even stay for story time, and the guilt I felt was suffocating.

Now my girls, they handled the disappointment of our Barnes and Noble debacle far better than I did. With a couple of cookies from the café, compliments of their still-functioning Aunt, they were happy as clams. But me? I couldn’t get over it. When I got home and relayed the story to my husband my ugly cry broke free.

Looking back, from a slightly more stable perspective, I know it was never just about missing out on Frozen Day.

It’s the journal I never kept…or even started…or even bought…for baby number three.

It’s the crocheted blanket I didn’t finish.

It’s the intense anger I felt and showed against my girls when they woke me up from a much-needed nap.

It’s the baby that doesn’t always nurse quite right.

It’s the infant gas bubbles I can’t seem to fix.

It’s the attempts at homeschooling that never seem up to par and all the “I’m sorry Mommy can’t (fill in the blank) right nows,” that seem to riddle our days.

It’s a long list of ways I’ve failed or feel like I’ve failed or seemingly keep failing these precious ones I love so much.

During a recent doctor visit I commented to my doctor about the difference between being a mom of one and being a mom of three. “When I think of all the things I did with my first that aren’t even on the radar with my third I feel so guilty.”

“Just stop right there,” my doctor said, “because that’s not what’s important. What matters are the kids, and you give them plenty of love in hundreds of ways every single day. Trust me. Listen to me. Believe me. You have nothing to feel guilty about.” 

It’s the hardest thing to believe. I know it in my head but in my heart…

As I’ve tried to take my doctor’s words of wisdom to heart another voice, a still, small voice, keeps trying to teach me something new.

A truth that reveals the real truth about guilt.

The truth that teaches me that guilt is nothing more than the belief that God is not enough. For me. For them. For all my mistakes, my mean tos, my mishaps.

Whenever I allow my head, my heart, my feelings to bog down in guilt what I’m really depending on is myself, my own limitations, my own capabilities. I’m tricking myself into believing that it’s all up to me and that if I mess up or don’t come through the penalty will be more than I or my girls can bear.

Guilt leaves no room for grace.

Guilt leaves no room for God.

And this is precisely why it’s time to be done with the mom-guilt.

Because God is enough. He’s enough for me and enough for them

And there is grace. Grace that covers my shortcomings, my mean tos, my mistakes.

There’s the daily invitation to live close to Him, trusting Him to come through when I can’t. Trusting that He is capable when I’m not. 

Trusting that He has entrusted me with these little lives for a reason, that He has already given or will give me everything I need to mother my children well. 

So Mamas, (because I know I’m not alone), what if we decided to live mom-guilt free?

What if we chose to love ourselves the way we love our kids?

What if we chose to show ourselves the grace God shows us?

What if we stopped all the striving, performing, the high-pressure comparing, and simply sought the heart of God, and His heart for us, in all the mommy moments (good and bad) that fill our lives?

It’s time to be done with Mom-Guilt because even the most broken down, messy mom is a beloved child of God.