A Life Stirred

The Motherhood Paradox

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

“Enjoy every moment.  They grow up so fast.”

“This too shall pass.”

“Don’t wish the time away.”

Anyone who has been a mom for more than a day has probably heard one or all of these comments.  They’re meant to encourage and give perspective.  And they kind of do.

Except they kind of don’t.

Most often, I hear these types of comments as a response to a mom’s frustrations in her current season.  It certainly does give a big picture perspective of how long this current season will last, but it does nothing to affirm the mom’s feelings in the moment.  If anything, it dismisses her frustrations, and tells her to suck it up because someday her frustrating baby will be gone.

See?  Not so encouraging.

And yet, all those statements are absolutely true.  The days are long, and the years are short.  They do grow up fast.

Case in point: This was 3 years ago yesterday. That definitely went fast.

Case in point: This was 3 years ago yesterday. That definitely went fast.

So what do you do with it all?

It’s the Motherhood Paradox.  As a mom, I experience this paradox every.single.day.

It’s fast.  It’s slow.

It’s enjoyable.  It’s torture.

It’s fulfilling.  It’s absolutely draining.

I love my kids.  I….still love my kids, but need a minute alone (or a few hours).  (Anyone else?)

But you know what I’ve realized?  Motherhood can be all of those things at once.

You can also absolutely love your three year old, and her blossoming personality and language.  And you can want that very same threeanger to hurry up and be four.  It doesn’t take away from enjoying this stage.  And it does nothing to actually change the speed of time.  (Spoiler Alert:  Time is constant.)

You can love having all little kiddos.  And you can wish for the day when you don’t have to change diapers and wipe poo.  (TMI?  Maybe…but we’ve all been there, right?)

So, vent those motherhood frustrations, and don’t feel guilty for one minute.  (Because, seriously, don’t we all have enough mom-guilt as it is?)  Enjoy your kids in their current season, and wish for the next one.  It’s the Motherhood Paradox*.  And it’s ok.

*I should put a trademark on that phrase and make millions.  Because apparently, you can do that.

This delightful moment was followed up with a toddler melt-down. Thank you, Motherhood Paradox.

This delightful moment was followed up with a toddler melt-down. Thank you, Motherhood Paradox.

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The Baby Question

Remember when you were a senior in high school?  Do you remember the question everyone asked you that year? What are you doing next year?  Family, friends, neighbors, fellow-church members, even the occasional chatty grocery store clerk, everyone wanted to know where you were headed.  If you had a plan, it was no big deal.  You answered the question and moved on.

But if you didn’t have a plan, it was the.most.annoying.question in the world!

Same thing happened senior year of college.  And then at each life stage there seems to be another similarly annoying question that everyone asks.  When are you getting married?  When will you start a family?  [Aaaaah!  Just let me enjoy my life for a minute!!]

And then you have a baby.  It’s a joyous moment.  But it doesn’t take long before someone asks the new question, the one that will follow you until menopause:  Will you have more kids?  

I'm pretty sure I was still in the hospital with this adorable squish when I got that question for the first time.

I’m pretty sure I was still in the hospital with this adorable squish when I got that question for the first time.

Before I go any further, I should confess.  I have absolutely asked that question to nearly all of my friends (and some strangers).  I’m just fascinated by family size, kid spacing, and my friends’ dreams for their family.

Actually, the question itself doesn’t bug me.  Not as much as the what’s-your-plan-after-college question did, anyway.  (Sidenote:  I had no plan, and there was only so many times I could say, “Haha, well, I’ll figure it out when I get there.”)

I think that question is generally asked out of a genuine interest…or an attempt at small talk.  Neither of which is annoying.

However, I’ve been hearing (well, reading) a version of that question on a few blogs and instagram lately.  Specifically, “Are you done?”  The comments to that question are always plentiful.  It seems like everyone has an answer…or rather, no answer.

Very few women have a clear we’re-done feeling.  And it got me wondering why.  Why does the desire for more kids linger in so many of us?  Why are there so many women who “struggle” with the not-done feeling?

Is it a lack of contentment with what we have?  Is it just part of being a woman (we can procreate so we feel we should)?  Is it that little kid clothes are just so stinkin’ cute!?

I mean, obviously, they are.  But I don't think that's the reason.

I mean, obviously, they are.  But I don’t think that’s the reason.

Or is it maybe something else entirely?

For the moms who still feel a pull towards the baby-stage, maybe that doesn’t necessarily mean birthing more babies.  Maybe it means adoption.  Or foster care.  Or serving in the church’s nursery (a place that almost universally needs more volunteers).  Or serving a new mom.  Or a million other ways to be involved in the baby stage.

Maybe that not-done feeling means you’re not done.  But it might just look different than you thought.

Obviously, this isn’t the universal answer for that not-done feeling.  Sometimes you feel not-done because you’re not done.  Everyone is different.  Just something to consider, I think.  I know I will be considering it.

What about you?  Are you done?  (And seriously, I’d love to hear.)

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Ten on Ten :: The Every Day Edition

Why, hello there, Blog.  It’s been a while.  I haven’t forgotten you.  It just turns out that I can only have one hobby at a time.

But today, Blog, it’s your turn because it’s TEN ON TEN!  Woot, woot!  And today, I made a point to take pictures of completely ordinary activities.  Because someday (and that someday will be here before I know it…because time is crazy), I will have forgotten all the completely ordinary activities we did when we had a 3 year old and an almost-2 year old.

Ben put on the "Classical for studying" Pandora station and calls it "Princess Music."  He obviously knows the way to our girls' hearts.

Ben put on the “Classical for studying” Pandora station and calls it “Princess Music.” He obviously knows the way to our girls’ hearts.  (PS Look!  Basil!!)

I'm a sucker for freshly bathed kiddos and their piggie toes...and their zoned-out-watching-Curious-George face.

I’m a sucker for freshly bathed kiddos and their piggie toes…and their zoned-out-watching-Curious-George faces.

Almost two and too cool for school.

Almost two and too cool for school.

Bonus Picture:  Because every 10 on 10 needs a little dose of reality…

Proof that we aren't always happy and perfect.  (Though still cute...don't tell her.)

Not everyone was as cheerful about heading out to run errands.

Sending off some fun mail.  I want to be better at sending snail mail.  It's a lost art, and I want to revive it.  (Because, seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn't LOVE getting fun mail!?!?)

Sending off some fun mail. I want to be better at sending snail mail. It’s a lost art, and I want to revive it. (Because, seriously, is there anyone out there who doesn’t LOVE getting fun mail!?!?)

Playing a game at the library...this was about 30 seconds before they melted down at the suggestion that it was time to go home.  (Also, note Claire's hat change...she found this one in the car and decided it was a better match with her outfit.)

Playing a game at the library…this was about 30 seconds before they melted down at the suggestion that it was time to go home.

  Naptime!  That glorious mid-day break.

Sometimes you just have to put up your feet and snuggle under a blanket.

Aaaaand both kids are asleep.  Pardon me, while I go take a nap too.  It's a perfect nap day!

Aaaaand both kids are asleep. I may or may not be doing a happy dance.

Post-nap train playing.

Post-nap train playing.

Dang, we are cute.

Dang, we are cute.

"We are AWANA Cubbies.  Were happy all day long..."

“We are AWANA Cubbies. We’re happy all day long…”

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That Sneaky Part of My Heart

It seems that in every playdate I’ve had lately, the same topic keeps coming up–school.  Apparently, once your child hits 3, it’s time to have an educational plan in place.

She knows 3/26 letters, so we're thinking Harvard next fall.

She knows 3/26 letters, so we’re thinking Harvard next fall.

Really, though, this is a natural progression in mom-conversations.  It’s totally normal to think ahead.  I mean, really, Pre-K is only 16 months away.  [Anyone else have heart palpitations at that thought?]

Anyway, Jo is 3.  And suddenly, there is all this pressure to have a school plan and to be involved in a variety of activities (for the college applications, obviously)!

I think this kind pressure was always there.  It’s just changing as our kids’ skills are changing.  This new pressure fells weightier.

Is Jo going to be in dance?  You can start at three, you know?

Does she do swim lessons?  It’s great to start young.

Did you hear about the preschool at the high school?  You have to enroll early.  There’s a wait list.

Here’s the crazy thing, though.  For the most part, I am completely satisfied with the parenting choices we’ve made.

And yet…

And yet, there’s this sneaky part of my heart that starts to get stressed out and starts to question if I’m doing the right things.

So, of course, I’ve been thinking about where this sneaky pressure comes from.

And surprisingly, it has some very familiar roots.

Comparison.  Identity.  Insecurity.

[Goodness, Lord, really?  Why do I always struggle with the exact. same. issue over and over?  Can’t I have something new?!  Just for variety?]

This sneaky part of my heart reveals quite a bit.  I have a propensity towards insecurity in my parenting choices.  I’ve placed some of my identity in my children’s ability to be successful and excellent and advanced (because it makes me look good).  I measure my kids against other kids so I can prove (to myself and others) that I’m a better mom.

Yeah, that’s not cool.  Thankfully, God can (and will!) change my heart, and He can help me gain freedom.

As a mom and friend, I long to be quietly confident in the choices I make for my family.  I want to share what we do, when others want to hear it.  I want to eliminate competition from my conversations.  I want to support my friends in their choices.  I want to decrease comparison and increase encouragement.

So, do you have a sneaky part of your heart?  (Please tell me I’m not alone.)  When does it sneak up on you?  What have you done to eliminate it?

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Ten on Ten: The Unconventional Edition

Let’s just be honest.  I forgot it was the tenth.  Motherhood does lots of weird things to a person…not the least of which is that I hardly ever write the date anymore.  I mean, I’m vaguely aware that it’s April…and I think it’s Friday (although I’ve been thinking that since Wednesday).

So, please sit back and enjoy “Ten on Ten”…or as I’d like to call it this month, “A Handful of Pictures on an Undetermined Day.”

It’s April…so they say.  April here isn’t really a spring month.  It’s more of a snow-melting, mud-everywhere kind of month.

And sometimes there are ice storms.

And sometimes there are ice storms.

Sidenote:  So, I’ve been thinking about our long winters.  It’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated by winter in March and April.  Especially as pictures of other people enjoying actual-Spring start cropping up on Facebook, Instagram, and blogs.  But isn’t that just a comparison issue?  I don’t live in an area of the country that has grass by Easter.  I shouldn’t really expect it.  And yet, as I start to see everyone else enjoying warm weather and flowers, I get a little jealous.  Comparison really *is* the thief of joy!  I’ve gotta stop doing that…

Anyway, moving on…Once I realized that today was the tenth, I thought I should at least take a few pictures to document the day.  So we did lunchtime selfies!
My sweet Bear-Bear.

My sweet Bear-Bear.

Oh, JoJo, you are a joy!

Oh, JoJo, you are a joy!

We are adorable, and we know it.

We are adorable, and we know it.

Right now, there is a naptime miracle happening upstairs!  Both girls are napping!!  At the same time!!  Clearly, that is worth lots and lots of somewhat blurry pictures, right?

A three-year-old napping.  It's as elusive as Bigfoot.

A three-year-old napping. It’s as elusive as Bigfoot.

Not as elusive, but worth a picture.

Not as elusive, but worth a picture.

I will leave you with that.  Hope you have a great April 10, 2015.  (I know the date now…aren’t you proud?)

ten on ten button

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What do you do well? :: A Follow-Up

So, last week, I asked a question:  What do you do well?

I got one response.  One.

<insert cricket chirping>

Now, the number of comments isn’t generally important to me, but it got me wondering why so few responded.

Maybe no one responded because it was Friday afternoon, and who has the time to comment on a blog?!

Or maybe no one responded because it is unnatural to talk about where we excel.  It feels prideful and gloat-y.

Or maybe no one responded because it’s hard to think of anything we do well.  We can easily list off about 27 things we need to work on, but where we are gifted is harder.

Suppose if I asked a different question.  What do your kids do well?  How has the Lord uniquely gifted and wired them?

Don't even get me started on the awesome-ness of these two!

Don’t even get me started on the awesome-ness of these two!

That’s a lot easier, right?

I bet you could go on and on about your kiddos’ gifts.  Even without much thought.  Even on a Friday.

So, God is our Heavenly Father.  He loves us as His child.  He sees us flaws and all.  He sees the “silly” little things that we’re good at (and that bring us joy), and He sees the ways He’s uniquely equipped us to serve Him.

I guess my question has two parts now.  (Drat.  I wanted to make this easier to answer.  It’s just getting harder.)

1.  What is one “silly” thing that you’re good at?

2.  What is one way you are uniquely wired to serve God?

I’ll start.  That only seems fair.

I am a good organizer.  I love my planner (like really, really love it!).  I can knock out a to-do list like a boss.  It’s a gift.

Sometimes I even take pictures of my to do lists.  For posterity.

Sometimes I even take pictures of my to do lists. That’s not weird, is it?

Obviously, it’s harder to see how God has equipped me to serve Him.  Because generally I feel so unqualified.  But I think God has given me an ability to encourage others.  It brings me such joy to be able to speak encouragement to those around me and to stir their affections for God.

Ok, your turn!  Don’t be shy.

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What do you do well?

I read a lot of blogs these days.  Because 5 minute chunks of time for reading is about all I can handle.

[Sidenote: Sometimes I worry that I’ve broken the part of my brain that could focus on a mental task for more than 10 minutes.  I’m blaming motherhood for that, but I wonder if it’s more a cultural trend.]

So, anyway, I read mostly Christian, mom blogs.  [Maybe I should diversify my blog-reading, but that’s not what this post is about…]

Generally, these blogs strive to encourage and challenge other moms in their walk with the Lord. Which is great.  I need that.  The Bible even tells us to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

BUT lately, it seems like everything I’m reading focuses on areas where we might be falling short.  Presumably because those are probably the areas where we most need encouragement.  Things like being patient as a mom, practicing hospitality, housekeeping things, developing a regular prayer time, loving our children well, loving our husband well, being a good friend, focusing on self-care and on and on.

And before I go any further with this post, let me say clearly, there is nothing wrong with those postsNothing.  I need all the encouragement I can get in most of those areas (ok, ok, all of those areas).  There’s a reason I read the blogs I do—I want to be spurred on towards love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).  And heck, I do the exact same thing on my own blog (or I try to)!

However, with all the focus on areas where we need help and encouragement, I think we forget an important piece.  We don’t often acknowledge the ways where we are doing well, the things that do come easily to us

No matter who you are, there is something that you do well.  There are areas of motherhood and life where you don’t struggle, areas where you actually shine!

Maybe you are really good at keeping your house clean and organized.  Maybe you find joy in mopping.

Maybe you are naturally patient with your kids.

Maybe you find joy in throwing elaborate, Pinterest-worthy birthday parties.

Maybe you are thrifty.

Maybe you love inviting others into your home.

Maybe you are consistently in the Word and in prayer.

Maybe you do super-creative educational projects with your kids.

Maybe you are really good at selfies in the mirror aisle at Hobby Lobby.

No gift is too small.

Not as easy as it looks.

Do you get the idea? You excel in some way.  Yet, too often, we push those gifts aside or long for a different gift or dwell on the 318 ways we could be doing better.

Granted, I know that it wouldn’t be healthy (or fruitful) to spend all our time talking about the ways we do things well.  But I think there is value in sharing our gifts.

So, today, I want to hear from you.  Yes, really, you.

 What do you do well?

And if you share (and I hope you will), don’t make excuses or be apologetic about your gift.  Be proud of the gifts the Lord has given you.  I know it will encourage my heart to hear how you are uniquely gifted!

[P.S. If you can’t think of anything, ask someone who is close to you for some ideas.  I bet your friends could give you a few ideas.  We are often so critical of ourselves (and even of our own gifts) that we are blind to our strengths.]

 

 

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Trickle-Down Identity

Ok, ok, so three days ago, I didn’t have a word for 2015.  But a lot can happen in three days.  A lot of thinking can happen…especially when you have a chance to take a break from everyone under the age of 3 in your family.  Not mentioning any names…

Why would I need a break from these two?  (Someday when they form a sister rock band, this will be their cover.)

Someday when they form a sister rock band, this will be their cover.

Anyway, I have a word now.

Identity.

But specifically, I want to have a trickle-down identity.  This year, I want to…

2015 word--identity

1.  Be in Christ securely.

This is where my identity needs to start–in Christ.  That means 2015 needs to be a year marked by regular and focused time in the Word and in prayer.  I want to listen to God’s voice before all others!  (Well, what do ya know? My 2014 Word is making a 2015 appearance!)  I also pray that I will believe what God says about me through His Word.  Because as a long-time Christian, I know what He says, but I often fail to really believe it.  I want to be SECURELY rooted in Him.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord,

so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith,

just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  

Colossians 2:7 (emphasis mine)

2.  Be me boldly.

As I root myself securely in Christ, I believe that will free me up to simply be me.  To be who God created me to be without insecurity, comparison, jealousy, or discontent.  I want to be able to embrace who I am (weird quirks and all) and just live my story (and not desire a different version).  Honestly, this is my biggest dream for 2015.  I have lived in comparison and insecurity for waaaaay too long.  I long to break free from that and be me boldly!

For freedom Christ has set us free;

stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  

Galatians 5:1

3.  Be in relationships selflessly.

This is the final step of the trickle-down identity.  As I find my identity in Christ and step out to be who He made me to be, I will be able to have relationships out of an overflow of love and grace.  Instead of looking to others to fill me or be my identity, I can simply serve and love and encourage and support others without expecting anything in return.  I believe this will dramatically affect my marriage, parenting, friendships, and leadership.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  

You are serving the Lord Christ.  

Colossians 3:23-24

Identity is a big word for one year.  I suspect I won’t have it all figured out in the next 360 days.  Yet I know that God is able to do big things in my heart when I am open and obedient to His voice.  And that makes me eager with anticipation for this new year!

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2014 in Review

So, it’s almost 2015.  Doesn’t that sound surreal?

Where’s my flying car?

Maybe it’s because I love to plan.  Or because I love lists.  But a new year stirs in me a level of excitement and anticipation that I just can’t explain.

Eeeeeee!

Really, I think it’s because a new year feels so fresh.  All those I-wish-I-had’s of 2014 can be fulfilled in 2015.  I really can lose weight/mature spiritually/be more hospitable/exercise more/develop deep friendships/floss daily/pray more…

But the truth is:  I can’t do all those things.  Not in my own strength.  I will always fall short of my goals.  UNLESS it is God who gives me the goals and the ability to pursue them.

So, let’s talk about 2014 for a minute, shall we?  I didn’t make any resolutions or goals, but I did have a word of the year: listen.  Obviously, I didn’t know how it would play out, but I felt that the Lord gave me that word as a focus for the year.

Last January, I had all kinds of ideas about what that word would mean in the coming year.  But as only God can do, He took that word (and all my ideas) and did something even better!  He showed me the joy that comes when I listen to and obey His voice.

In May, God asked me to let go of facebook.  I really didn’t want to; it just seemed too hard, too lonely, too weird.  But I did it.  And it was seriously one of the best decisions I made in 2014!  Facebook had a hold on me that I didn’t quite realize until I shut it off.  That’s not to say it’s been all easy and sunshine and rainbows.  (But I’ll write more about that later.  Lucky you.)

Then in August, God showed me that I had been a gossiper.  I had been far too casual with my words for far too long.  God spoke to me about my sin, and I listened and allowed Him to work in my heart.  And by His grace, He transformed me, and I am not the same!  I even spent a whole month writing about Taming my Tongue, which actually had more to do with listening that I realized!

So, as I look at the fresh start of a new year, I can’t wait to see how 2015 unfolds.  Sure, I will probably make a few lists and pick a word for the year and write some goals.  But really, I want 2015 to be year marked by more listening.  Listening and obeying God.  Because that is always worth it!

Yes!

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Christmas and Control

Well, then.  Christmas.  It’s here.  It’s over.

Somehow I’m always surprised how quickly Christmas is here and then gone.  It shouldn’t surprise me.  We spend a 24 days (or more) preparing and getting excited for Christmas.  And then, like any other day of the year, it’s over in 24 hours.

To me, Christmas is really a balance of eagerly anticipating the birth of our Savior and enjoying the season and all the festivities associated with it AND keeping my expectations in check.

Not an easy task, really.  But I thought I was nailing it this year.  I purposefully kept things simple and avoided over-commitment.  We did a nightly Advent reading as a family.  It was all going well.

And then about a week before Christmas, I looked at the 10 day weather forecast.  Christmas day was going to be 45° and rainy.

I hate to even admit this…but that forecast bothered me for days.

For crying out loud, we’ve had snow on the ground since November 1st!!  If anyone deserves a white Christmas, we do!  Rain?!?!  45°?!  That’s ridiculous!

A few days later (after a lot of pouting weather in my head…and out loud a little), I realized that the forecast was shining a spotlight on my need for control.  I was mad because I couldn’t control the weather.  How silly is that!

But then I started to realize that the weather wasn’t the only thing I was trying to control.  In my head, I had a list of things I wanted to be just-so before Christmas Day.  And those things (or the absence of them) determined my joy (or lack of it).

I didn’t really figure out how to release my desire for control on everything.  This longing to control my environment runs deep and extends to more than just Christmas.  Yet, I think I made progress this week…by recognizing the problem (that’s the first step, right?).

In any case, it was 45° and rainy today, and it didn’t ruin my day.  So there’s that.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

PS I know this isn’t the kind of post you’d expect on Christmas day, but it’s been on my mind lately.  And I wondered if I’m the only one to struggle with Christmas Control.  I suspect that I’m not…

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