The Power of the Tongue

“No one ever wants me around because of you guys!”

Those were the words I spoke to my children the one day when I was frustrated by their behaviour. Immediately I regretted them. For they were not true, they were deeply hurtful, and I could not take them back…I could only apologize. And apologize I did, but I knew that those words were still there, in the minds of my children.

And the truth is that those words didn’t come out because of my kids actions. Those words came because of my undealt with pain. They came out from my heart, where deep within, I have experienced rejection, hurt and judgement which was linked to me being a young mom and also having a big family.

Yes… I felt rejected by my friends when I became a mom. And although I chose to let go of some of my friends because of other reasons, some of them quietly disappeared from my life as I slipped into a different stage of life than them: Motherhood.

I was 18, a child myself, and my three month old baby had just been admitted into the Children’s Hospital, he was sick. Very sick. And many times that first week I thought we were going to lose him. I lived off of 2 hours of sleep or less a night and the hours I was awake I was in constant fear and stress. I felt like I had failed my son. I wondered if he was sick because of me, or my lack of knowlegde in parenting. I wondered why they couldn’t find out what was wrong with him. And I watched them poke him every hour for blood. I watched them dig IV after IV into his arms, legs, and head knowing that even if they were successful in a few hours the tiny vain would collapse and they would have to do it all over again. We lived at the hospital for six long months. And the pain of watching him suffer was unimaginable. It took all of my attention and all of my energy.

DSC01775.JPG

But there was another pain…during my sons entire six month hospital stay, only TWO of my high school friends bothered to stop by. The rest had forgotten me. Oh we had lots of support… family, new church friends…but MY friends, they were gone. And because I had so many other things to deal with at that time, I swallowed the pain and tried to forget the fact that becoming a mother meant loneliness.

Time and time again, I pushed down painful things said to me, like the time one of my friends called me just two days after I had my third baby, asking if I could come to her show that evening. I told her that I’d love to see her but I couldn’t, because I had just had a baby. She got upset at me and never called again.

Or the time after I had four kids, when one woman told me that she would love to have my family down if we weren’t so big.

And that time I excitedly announced my pregnancy to someone who instead of congratulating me, informed me that she didn’t think she would be able to watch ALL of my kids. I was hurt that this was the first response that came to her mind, as I rarely asked her anyways.

Words! The rejection of them sting. And here they laid dormant in my heart, not held against those who said them, but rather my own precious children…who had absolutely nothing to do with them! The wounds caused by these careless words hadn’t been dealt with properly and as a result, I began to inwardly blame my kids for all the friends I had lost. For every time I wasn’t invited. For those lonely moments where I realised that we weren’t welcome somewhere because of them. And that day, I spoke very hurtful and careless words that may someday sit in their little hearts, needing to be healed.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

I sometimes wonder why our words hold so much power. Why we’ve been given such a powerful gift, to speak life and death. And I wonder how many careless words I’ve spewed, which I will someday be held accountable for…

How many words have I spoken to my husband or kids that will sit in the back of their hearts, only to come out in times completely unexpected and unrelated to me?

Our words can really hurt! And they can cause huge damage! I’m sure every one of us still remembers the sting of at least one hurtful word said to us on the playground at school or at home with our parents or siblings. And the problem with the tongue is that no one has complete power to tame it. No one can completely watch what they say one hundred percent of the time:

“…the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest on fire. The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing…” James 3:5-10

So does this mean all is hopeless? No one can tame the tongue, so we should all just give up trying?

Not at all!

Our words reveal our hearts, there’s a verse in the bible that says: “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

This verse is saying that as long as we’re holding on to our pride, anger, bitterness, self-pity, or frustration our words will in fact reflect these things and bring death to those around us.

But if my heart is alive with love, joy, humility, peace, patience and kindness my words will bring life.

This means there’s GREAT hope. Because while there may not be a way to control our tongues the way we’d like, there IS a way to get rid of the hurt and the lies we hold in our hearts. We can break every lie with truth!

So when my thoughts start going in that downward spiral, when I feel like everyone has abandoned me, I can say “NO! That’s not true! We have MANY new friends who invited us over and enjoy being with us, not just in spite of our children but BECAUSE of the connection our children have given us!” and I can choose to let go of the pain of rejection, of holding on to friends that have moved on without me and I can rather embrace and thank God for the new friends and blessings he is pouring into our lives.

Taking every thought captive is work. It’s HARD work. Because sometimes I just want to curl up into a ball in cry and feel sorry for myself. And sometimes I do. But I have to tell you it’s SO worth it. Because when your words start bringing life and healing, not only will others love being around you, YOUR heart will be filled with joy because your words are reflecting it. And that is the kind of fruit I want to eat.

 

 

 

Stop Claiming your Thoughts are God’s

There are not many things that make my blood boil… but there are a few things that make me furious… these include:

Children being abused, neglected or  abandoned.

People abusing their authority over others who are weaker than them.

A person in power who turns a blind eye to evil and refuses justice when it is in their power to judge.

Rich living comfortably at the expense of the poor.

And I’m sure there’s a few more but one thing that bothers me just as much as those listed above are those who say “Thus says the Lord” when the Lord Almighty has not spoken.

Now don’t get me wrong, God speaks. God speaks today in many ways. He speaks to me and guides me in many ways…he comforts me when I’m hurting, he gives me courage when I’m afraid, he corrects me when I’m wrong. He’s even given me clear direction when I’ve felt completely lost and told me very specific things about my children so that I may better know how to raise them.

But there’s one thing he doesn’t do…he never tells me that I’m the centre of it all and that the people around me are here for my benefit. Actually, his message never is centred around my life completely. His message always points me back to himself. His message never puts down other people. His message brings life, repentance, forgiveness and truth.

Now what on earth got me to start writing about this today? Well today I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and I saw this:

IMG_5948

And it really, REALLY bothered me. Not because the message was entirely untrue…. actually there is some truth to it. But because the message was not biblical and it claimed to be straight from God’s mouth.

And if it said: “The reason some people have turned against you and walked away with from you without reason, has EVERYTHING to do with you, because they will not go where you are going next. They will only hinder you on your journey because they have already chosen their purpose in life. Let them go and keep moving, greater is coming,” I might even agree!

This would be true in many situations for me. I have had to let go of many good friends in my teenage years, because if I would have held on to them I would not have become a good wife or a good mother. I couldn’t hang out with people who drank and did drugs if I wanted to move forward in my life. I couldn’t go to those parties or bars if I wanted to live purely before God. I couldn’t go on hanging out with all sorts of other men and expect to have a healthy marriage. And it was ENTIRELY because of me! I had changed. I was a new creation. I was no longer content to live for myself.

But the thing is:

a) I completely changed what the quote said to make it biblically true,

and b) I didn’t say “God says” because he didn’t say it! I actually made that quote up!

Now sometimes God does remove people from your life, for seemingly no reason. This last year he removed some very dear friends from mine. It hurt. It stung SO bad. I’ve cried and begged him to bring us back together. And I don’t know why it happened, or why he allowed it. But I know for certain he didn’t do it because they were “hindering me” or because I was “hindering them.” In fact these people were always a positive influence in my life. They spoke truth. They did not compromise their relationship with God for lesser things. And honestly I am who I am today because of these dear people. But God, for now, has seemingly led us on different paths. Whatever the case, I believe he still leading all of us… we’re still all going in the same direction, we’ve just parted ways for now.

And here’s my problem with lies spoken in the name of God: when we believe that God is only on our side and against those who’ve hurt us, we have made false image of God that we are bowing down to. It’s not him. It’s not God. You are bowing down to an idol. God doesn’t bring people into our lives so they can serve their purpose in our self-centred world and then remove them when they can no longer meet our needs. That’s called Narcissism, a belief that everything exists for MY good.

God brings people together so that they can learn to serve and love each other. He wants us to stop and care for those around us who have fallen, not to shove them aside and keep climbing higher. Now if those who stumble are dragging you down with them, then yes you may have to leave them in God’s loving hands, or turn them over to someone who’s stronger than you to help them. But it’s not a light decision and it’s definitely not because they’ve “fulfilled their purpose” in your life…as if God would create people to serve you.

Now, the last thing I want to do is to make people fearful of sharing any encouraging words or things that God has spoken to them. But please, PLEASE, if what you’re sharing isn’t directly out of the bible, do not say “God says” or act as if it’s a direct quote from his mouth. Share it as your thoughts or say, “I felt like the Holy Spirit was speaking this to me today.” Then you will not risk deceiving those who may not know the Living God or the Words he speaks.

Because one of the greatest tragedies in the church today are people who think that their thoughts are God’s thoughts and speak/judge accordingly. We are often so blinded by sin that we cannot see clearly and as good as our intentions are, they aren’t pure like God’s. We see things dimly, but he sees it as it is. We judge partially, but God’s judgements are based on truth. And let’s face reality here: God does not think like man.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

So please, dear friends, take credit for your own thoughts and give God the glory for His.

The Search for Peace in a House of Seven

It’s funny for me to look back on some pictures. Like this one for instance…I was babysitting, which put the number of kids in my house at 7 kids under the age of 7. And I remember running around like a crazy woman…changing diapers, solving toddler fights, then running back to the kitchen , where I accidentally stepped on a piece of Lego, while making a camp-sized portion of mac and cheese. I shrieked in pain and hobbled to the bathroom to get a bandage and as I looked into the bathroom mirror I literally fell down laughing. I looked like some frazzled housewife off of a reality T.V. show called, “The Crazy Bunch.” For some insane reason I thought that I couldn’t hold this humor all to myself, so I took a selfie.

And now I have this memory of one of the many absolutely psychotic days I’ve lived through, which I probably would’ve completely forgotten about had I not chosen to laugh in the chaos.

Wait? Did I call this post “Peace in a house of seven?” Ooops…my mistake, it should be called “Laughing hysterically at the chaos” or “The Day I finally lost my Mind”… because at some point I had to realize that Joy and Peace weren’t just going to happen. Actually just the opposite, I was going to have to make them happen.

And sometimes it meant laughing when I felt like crying. Or when my kids embarrassed me so badly I just wanted to disappear. Or taking a picture of the moment rather than running from it.

Because while we love to share moments like this:

DSC04971.JPG

In reality our lives look far more like this:

DSC04975.JPG

Or this:

IMG_0302.jpg

Or this…

DSC01408.jpg

Or this…

IMG_3680.jpg

Or this…

DSC00578.JPG

I really could just keep going here…but for the sake of my readers I’ll refrain…ok maybe just one more:

IMG_0283.JPG

 

Bahahaha!!! Good times…

So anyways, where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, after years and years of searching for this peace that I felt we must be somehow missing…I’ve realized that in a family of seven – five children, two (sort of) adults, peace could not be found in behaviour or rules. No amount of order or discipline could achieve peace. All the nap times and the quiet times and the movies in the world could not bring peace.

Peace can only be found in my very own heart when I say, “Ok, ok this is really really crazy right now but I’m actually going to laugh instead of doing whatever it is that I really want to do (yelling, crying, running into a room and humming with a pillow over my head)”

Because the peace that Jesus gives isn’t about circumstances. Otherwise Jesus himself wouldn’t have had peace since his life was full of many LONG days of ministry, disciples that were constantly arguing about who was the best, huge groups of people crowding around him so tightly that he couldn’t even walk through towns… and many other troubles. But he was a man who had abundant peace. In fact he was so overflowing with peace, that he freely gave it to others:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

And if I was claiming to be his follower, it was my RIGHT to claim this peace, because he gave it to me!

But is it really that easy? Honestly, yes…and no. Yes, because it’s YOURS you can have it, all you need to do is seek it. And No because our flesh screams when things aren’t peaceful…we want to fight for more control, for more quiet, for “me” time, for order. Yet peace in my life has been found when I just let go. I say, “God, this is honestly too much for me and I’m giving it to you. I can not carry the weight of my children’s decisions on my shoulders for the rest of my life…they’re in your hands now. I can’t change their hearts when they’re fighting so badly I just want to throw them all in a box and ship them to Timbuktu. I can’t change the way my toddler demands HIS way and it comes with screaming FOR HOURS. But you can, God, and they’re in your hands.”

I’m not saying it’s easy to choose peace…but it’s possible. It’s possible for me to see a damaged floor in our brand new house from my kids dragging furniture around the house and stay calm…because I can see it as an opportunity to show grace. I can laugh when I go out shopping with a big piece of blueberry in my teeth, only to see it afterwards because really, I can either stress about it, or laugh with the rest of the world. And I CAN enjoy the crazy days and laugh about them later. And you can too!

Just remember to take LOTS of pictures, and please share them with me, so I can share in your laughter. And in 45 years when the silence is so loud your ears hurt and “peace and quiet” actually means loneliness; when you’re shaking the dust from those doilies on your coffee table…you’ll look back to those pictures of muddy children in the spring time, smeared makeup and frizzy hair morning snuggles, kids all screaming in the family picture and you’ll smile because those memories will be filled with peace.

The Day I Adopted my Own Children

As the little girl climbed onto my lap, I could tell she was from a foster home, probably recently placed there I thought. She had a certain essence about her that I can’t quite explain. You could feel it coming from her very being – a longing to belong, a longing for love. It is so distinct in the really little ones, it’s much more than just a friendly kid. She clung to me, a stranger, because she supposed to cling. It’s how children are made. Naturally they choose their mothers, yet when that relationship is broken they will find the connection they crave somewhere else. I gently stroked her little arm and noticed the rash, I could tell it went beyond her arms. She scratched at it and my heart broke for her.

He acts up every time he’s with his peers. He’s the one that seems to not care what anyone thinks, the one that all the teachers have their eye on from the moment he walks in the room. They blame him before he’s really even done anything because by the time he has, he’s already completely out of hand. The leaders strictly order him around, and he barely listens, apparently because he doesn’t care about authority. But I know better, I know he has had a HARD life. I know he has been abandoned by his own father and mother. And really, he cares more than any other kid in the room what the leaders think of him. Because he’s hungry for love…you can feel the yearning from across the room. He’s seeking attention he never gets anywhere else.

I love children. I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. Even in my most selfish, hardened teenage years, I found children impossible to resist. I loved all children, but I REALLY loved children who needed the extra love. Those from broken homes, those neglected, those who were rejected by peers, those who acted out in their pain, those who struggled with authority. THOSE are the ones who had my heart, THOSE are the ones I wanted to help… “The least of these” the bible calls them.

Some people don’t like kids. They find them annoying and gross. However when these people who dislike kids have their own, often I see something magical happen – they fall in love. Parents can’t help but admitting to having a special love for their own children. It’s normal, it’s how we’re wired. So naturally, being someone who already LOVES children, I figured that I would be an amazing mom someday because my love would be that much stronger for my own kids! It took a long time for me to realize that it wasn’t that simple.

One day, as I was racing around my house doing all the little things that needed to get done before starting school that morning, my two-year old boy was crying at my feet. Ok, more like tugging and screaming. I sighed, very annoyed because I knew from experience that he would continue to cry and cry for me until I stopped everything I was doing to hold him in my arms. And as I sat down on the couch holding him with resent in my heart because this child was keeping me from my “more important duties” the realization struck me like a brick in the face:

I have far more compassion for everyone else’s children then my own flesh and blood.

The realization shocked me. Why do I have so much more love for other people’s children, difficult children even, than my own precious kids? What is wrong with me? Aren’t most people opposite? And even more starling to me was when my five-year old sat down beside me, he snuggled up close and as I slowly pulled him in to stroke his arm I noticed the rash. How long has THAT been there? I wondered. How in the world did I notice and care so much about the rash on the little girl in the nursery at church and not on my own son? Do I ignore them that much? Or was this hitting something deeper?

Throughout the next few days I realized the problem. You see I didn’t choose to have kids the way many people do. They came into my life when I wasn’t ready for them. From my first pregnancy when I was only seventeen years old, to my fifth child when I was 25. I hadn’t chosen to be a mother to them, it was simply a responsibility I’d been given. And, little by little, I was giving myself to serve and love these children who “had it all.” They are from a good home, they have had everything they need and more. They didn’t act out because of some need that wasn’t being met, they acted out because they were just being kids. And here I was, stuck in what I felt was a “lower” calling: Mothering my own children. Because where is the respect in THAT? It’s nothing special! Is it? I’m just doing what’s expected of me! I’m just doing my duty!

Now raising the unwanted – the difficult, the sick, the neglected, the abused, that’s a more worthy calling!

Or is it?

This calling of motherhood. It wasn’t as heroic, it wasn’t as fascinating, it wasn’t different or extraordinary. It came with stretch marks and back troubles. It meant patience with kids who’ve always had everything they need.

It meant letting go of the idea that the call to “missions” is any different then the call to “motherhood”.

Because here really lies the problem: we Christians (really I’m talking about myself here) have a certain pedestal we put people on…that the young man who leaves his home and family, who sells his possessions to bring the gospel to the nations is obviously FAR more spiritual then the one who takes a wife, and builds a home, who has a family and provides for them. We do this all the time. And we need to STOP. I need to stop believing this crap.

It’s garbage, really.

You know what is really spiritual? Following God wholeheartedly whether he chooses for you to be a king…or a shepherd boy, a ruler…or a servant, a missionary…or a fisherman, a person who rescues abandoned children and starts an orphanage…or a mother. Because the ONLY calling that is heroic is following the one that God gives you. EVEN if you didn’t choose it. EVEN if it just sort of happened.

I was given five children, even if I didn’t choose them. But today I am adopting them into my heart. I choose each one of them because they each have a huge need that only I can fill. They need a mother who has chosen them.

And that my friends is a high calling. Not just because of what I’m doing, but because of the One who called me.

 

 

Ask if I’m Okay

For all my friends and loved ones out there who have dealt with depression or who are still dealing with it, I wrote this for you. I’m here for you if you need to talk, or even if you can’t talk, but just need someone to know that you’re struggling. You are NOT alone.

 

Dear Friend,

I know you’re there. You’ve always been. I know that if I have a baby you’ll bring me a meal. I know that if I’m faced with a loved ones death, you’ll hold me when I cry. I know that you’ll smile and congratulate me about any new and exciting event in my life. I know that you’ll do that. It’s what friends do.

I know that you’ll listen with excitement as I tell you all about my vacation and if I tell you about my problems, you’ll give your best advice. I know that you’ll laugh at my jokes even if they’re lame, or tell me a story about your rough day to make my day feel better. And if one day I’ve just HAD ENOUGH, and my washing machine has broken down while my kids have the flu, I know that if I call you…you’ll be there. You’ve always been. It’s what friends do.

But there’s one thing you never do, and it’s ok because until now I’ve never done it for you… It’s never probably crossed your mind, because it never crossed mine either.

Please, dear friend, just once in a while: ask if I’m ok.

And most likely you’ll hear me say: “Yeah, I’m good! Why? What’s up?”

And you can say, “Oh nothing, I’m just checking because I want to know if you’re not”…because a lot of the time I am okay.

But once in a while I’m not.

And then on those days, when I feel so alone, like nobody cares,  I can think back to the time you asked me if I was okay and remember that if I’m not okay, you’d want to hear about it.

And I’m sorry. Sorry for not doing that for you, because I understand now that some pain is just too hard to bring up on it’s own. Some pains are so deep that they need a friend to come and say, “Are you okay? I want to know if you’re not, because I care.”

I understand now that it’s awkward to bring up some types of pain, because you don’t know what to say…often you don’t even know what’s really wrong…but the pain is very real and it is crushing you. I understand that now. I understand why you pulled back and withdrew, why you avoided family and friends, not because you didn’t want to talk…but because you didn’t know how to. I now understand why you seemed to want to be alone, not because you didn’t want me around…but because you didn’t think I would be able to process feelings that even you couldn’t seem to work through.

And I want to tell you today that it’s ok. It’s ok to call me to cry, even if you don’t have the words to speak to me. It’s ok to tell me that you’re not ok and it’s ok if you don’t explain any further. It’s ok if you let me know those ugly feelings and thoughts, those ones that you want to run from. It’s also ok if you don’t. I just want to let you know that I’m here. It’s what friends do.

It’s also ok if you have nothing to offer me other than your tears. So if you ever feel completely alone, or that no one actually wants to hear the true response when they ask you a casual, “How are you?” Please know that you can be honest with me. I’m not afraid of your feelings, even your darkest ones. I want to know that you’re okay. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything for listening. I’m not a therapist. I’m just a friend who may have little to offer you other than a shoulder to cry on and my prayers. I probably won’t have the answers to your problems. But you don’t have to apologize for the way you feel, or for “being a downer”, because I want to be able to walk this road with you. I want to be there! My dear friend, you are not alone! You are loved. You are deeply cared for!

Are you okay?

I’m here to listen. It’s what friends do.

The Struggle and the Blessing

So…I actually accidentally published this already before it was done. If you happen to follow me, you will have received an email with a blog post that made absolutely no sense. It’s the way I write, sometimes I start a thought and then I add a completely different thought to another paragraph. Once I put it all together it makes sense, but I’m afraid if you enter my brain while I’m writing it’s like entering the brain of a four year old with ADHD who has just finished drinking a 2 litre bottle of pop. Just be happy that it was only an email and that you don’t have to live inside my head.

Lots of people ask me if I’ve always wanted five children. I really don’t mind answering that question. I actually enjoy it, for the question amuses me.

The answer is no. Never in a million years would I have chosen to have five children. Nor would I ever have thought that I of all people would be a mother of FOUR boys. I didn’t even like being around boys when I was really young. I grew up with only sisters. I was much too calm, too organized and I liked all things girly. I also liked being alone, playing or reading quietly. I remember being appalled at the boys I did come in contact with who would burp or fart loudly and then obnoxiously laugh. These such people I avoided at all costs.

The question on the heels of that answer is, “So why in the world did you have five children?!?” Ha! Another good question. And there are actually two answers to that one.

First of all, I changed. I no longer look at life as something I can mold and manipulate to be what I desire. I discovered through many hardships, that some of the biggest challenges bring with them the biggest blessings. And when I try to control circumstances around me to fit what makes me feel safe, what provides me with stability, and what essentially is ‘my way’ often it doesn’t be turn out to be what I expected. So I became open to see what life would hand me, rather than what I could make it do for me.

Second of all, we were never the type to carefully family plan. We got pregnant when we got pregnant, simply because I was unable to go on birth control and we weren’t a fan of some of the other methods out there.

When I had my first two kids – a boy then a girl (exactly the genders I wanted and the order I wanted them in), I very seriously considered being done having kids. We had one of each, the million dollar family – or so it’s called. After all, there is a lot more you can do with just two kids. Hotels are set up for four. Cars easily fit a family of four. Two parents…two kids, each one takes a child and it’s SO much easier to have control. I could make sure that they get disciplined every time, that I can always be there to comfort them if they get hurt, that we could afford to buy them all the things they need. Each child gets new clothing, no hand me downs.

And yet…I knew deep down that as much as this life may be the goal for other families (and it’s totally great to see families of four) that this is not what I really wanted. I enjoy big family gatherings, with lots of cousins. And I wanted someday to see my family come together at Christmas with lots of personalities and games. That’s what I grew up with! So I was torn between what I felt I could handle (two) and what I wanted deep down. My husband wanted four boys and so I humoured him that we would have kids until we had exactly that.

After we had our third, parenting as I knew it changed drastically and I became aware of who I really was. For some people this happens after one or two kids…for me it was three.

It’s SO easy to act like you have it all together when everything is good and under your control. It’s when hardships come that we are faced with who we really are. Not to say that my first two kids were perfect by any means…there were huge challenges there as well, but things changed. I couldn’t go out and feel safe with my kids anymore, I only had two hands – one to hold that five million pound car seat (praise God I’m done with those!!!) and another hand to hold the hand of my 18 month old daughter. My firstborn son, who was still two at the time, had to listen perfectly or he ran the very real risk of being in danger. If three kids woke up at the same time in the night, I could no longer give my husband a nudge to take one and I the other; we were now outnumbered and one kid had to learn to wait. And when I was nursing the newborn, my toddlers would fight!! Now what? My poor new baby never got to finish a meal!

I became frazzled, feeling like there was no peace, like there was never enough of me, like someone ALWAYS wanted SOMETHING from me and I just had nothing left to give. And it was no longer possible for me to dress them the way I wanted, to discipline them every single time, to spend the daily one on one time with them, to do my devotions, to make the fully balanced homemade meals, to have the spotless house, to get my workout in, to…well you get the idea. Suddenly I was forced to choose: What is really important?

And you know what? Slowly things in my life that at one time had seemed like necessities (nice clothes, staying in shape, clean house, perfectly obedient kids) now seemed less and less important. I began to ask myself, who do I want my kids to remember me as? A beautiful woman, who got sitter after sitter while I did my hair, nails, workout, tanning, etc? A woman who had the perfect, spotless house that they could barely play in without damaging? A woman with a strong career they could be proud of, that provided enough for name brand clothes and fancy vacations? The woman who constantly yelled at them because they were never good enough?

Or did I want them to remember me as simply ‘mom’? Who was there for them, in my bed, bible on my lap when they came in the morning for snuggles? Who wanted to spend time in the morning preparing my heart for the day, rather than my face? Who cleaned, but also knew when to stop cleaning to read a book, or build a Lego house?

I wanted to be a person who cared more about my children then the mess they were making. I wanted to spend time training them to help me with the housework, rather than hiring someone who would obviously do a much better job, even though it meant a house that felt disgusting to me at times. I wanted to be a mom who saw children as a lifelong blessing, not a temporary inconvenience.

Children ARE a blessing. They just are!

Yet why is there that content struggle in us, whether we admit it or not, to see children like a burden to carry or as a season to bear through? Why do we Mothers (and Fathers) constantly think to ourselves: When they just get a little bit older, or, once they’re done this stage, THEN I’ll enjoy them more? Why, when we look back to when they were smaller, do we all feel at least a slight twinge of regret knowing that deep down we wished some of the most precious years of their life away? I don’t want to live like that!

It was after my third child, that I came to embrace the struggle of motherhood with all that I am. And how appropriate that Jonas’ name means “a gift from God” for this is exactly what he is, he was a gift that made me realize that struggle is not something to be avoided at all costs. For in the day-to-day struggle, in those difficult stages, memories are being made, characters are being formed and I am growing more and more into who God wants me to be. And some days (ok LOTS of days) I still see that old girl, the selfish me, who wants the quiet house, the clean house, who wants order and control, who would rather finish my doing my hair before church then clean up the box of Cheerios that was just dumped all over the floor, who would rather finish this blog post then be interrupted yet again by another fight to solve…but that’s not who God wants me to be.

Because in the struggle He’s answering those prayers I’ve been praying all these years: he’s making me more patient and less selfish. He’s teaching me to gently guide my children rather than to harshly require right behaviour. I’m becoming less independent and relying on him more. I’m becoming a servant, rather than a boss. I’m becoming like Jesus.

And then I look at the neat little life I would’ve planned out for myself and I go ‘Ha! I’m glad God ruined my plans!’

 

Helpful or Harmful?

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen at least one of those “helpful” lists on “what not to say if…”. And believe me, there are SO many situations for which these lists are written! A few examples: What NOT to say to someone who is grieving. What NOT to say to someone who is depressed. What NOT to say to someone who is gay. What NOT to say to a mother of four or more children. What NOT to say to someone who is unable to conceive. What NOT to say to someone who has had an abortion. What NOT to say to someone struggling with a terminal illness. What NOT to say to a homeschooler…

And can I just say for a second, that as helpful as these lists can be for those who are trying to comfort or support, or maybe even help those in the situations above… these lists actually can cause more damage than good?

Some of you, who are naturally empathetic and who naturally want to protect those around you who are hurting, may have no idea what I mean. You may even have written one of these lists yourself or shared them on your news feed, trying to protect your loved ones who have been the brunt of some very rude comments. And hear me out, because I have actually been in a few of the situations above… and those lists, they NEVER helped me…they hurt me.

How? You may ask? How in the world can some compassionate advice HURT you?

Well for one, not everyone reads these lists and so it actually doesn’t stop the comments from coming. And now, the only difference is that I have read the lists, so when the hurtful comments do come (and they will), instead of brushing them off, realizing that well-meaning people can say some thoughtless things… I begin to feel a very real sense of being wronged.

For example: I’m at the grocery store with my five kids. People stare, I don’t really pay much attention to them. But a man I don’t know stops and says: “Are these all YOUR children?!?” And I smile proudly and nod at him, then he goes on to say, “Don’t you know how to use birth control?” (This comment also comes in the form of: Don’t you know when to stop?) To which I force a smile and, depending on the mood I’m in that morning either say a quick, “I love children, they’re such a blessing!!” or a gentle, “That’s not a very nice thing to say with my children present” or once in a while a sarcastic, “You know what? I’ve never thought of that!!! You’ve just saved me from having 20 more children!!!” And once the man has left, I shrug off the event, thinking that maybe he was just “simple” or maybe he had never been taught manners, or maybe he himself had a large family and was giving me advice he had wished someone else had given him! Whatever the case, I can move on, because he has really just made himself look bad and done nothing to harm me.

BUT…after I read the list of “what not to say to a mother of four or more children” suddenly I view the event very differently. Suddenly, I feel a very real sense of, ‘that man wronged me’, or ‘my friend needs to read this article’. And I begin to believe that those who do not understand me have actually wronged me.

This opens a HUGE door to offence! If I truly begin to believe that those who do not understand me are wronging me, think of the bitterness I will begin to feel toward those well-meaning people, who really don’t know any better! And think of how many situations I would be wronging people, just for not being able to understand them!

I don’t understand how it feels to be told that I have cancer, and to feel as if I’m staring death in the face.

I don’t understand the pain of a woman who has been trying for years to get pregnant and ends up with another negative pregnancy test!

I don’t understand the unimaginable pain and aching loss of burying a child or a spouse!

I don’t understand!! And as much as I try to empathize, to listen and to comfort, I will NEVER completely understand! Not unless I’ve gone through it myself. Just like there’s no human being out there who truly understands me, and all of the trials I’ve gone through! And if we are going to start holding grudges against our fellow brothers and sisters, just because they don’t understand us, then WE are a part of the problem.

People, this isn’t about that one person going through that one painful situation, but rather many people going through many different journeys. And we absolutely can work at becoming more compassionate, but even in my most well-meaning encounters, I run the risk of hurting those I don’t understand. Should we rather distance ourselves from those different from us? Should we rather avoid talking to strangers, lest we offend them? Should we avoid that friend who was just diagnosed with depression, because we have never dealt with depression and may hurt her?

No! I would far rather have people talk to me and say the wrong things, then to not talk to me at all! That is, if I keep in mind that they really mean well and do care for me.

So maybe that man at the grocery store has no idea how to relate to large families, but maybe he has stage four cancer and would be an excellent comfort to those facing that difficult road. Who am I to demand that he understand absolutely everyone? And if I am rude to him back and embarrass him for talking to a stranger, will I actually be holding him back from speaking to the next person who he may have actually brought comfort to? This is not to say we can never correct people, or to gently let them know that what they’ve said is hurtful. Not at all! I want to know if I’ve unknowingly said something to hurt you, so that I can learn to be a better comfort the next time.

But if you’re going through a trial, the best thing to do is to completely avoid any lists that enable you to be offended at the very people trying to help you. You don’t need to add bitterness or unforgiveness to the hardship you are facing!

Just forgive, gently correct those who say the wrong things and remember above all to realize that those lists, they aren’t for YOU, the one who’s hurting… they are for YOU, the one who’s helping.