#MomGuilt

From the moment I saw the hash tag “mom guilt”, it bugged me. Another real, deep life issue had just been turned into a clever marketing scheme…and I didn’t like it! I still don’t like it. Businesses are doing it more and more often and it’s very clever indeed! Advertisements are playing on our emotions and they stay in our memories…but in the end they do absolutely nothing to address or help the deep ache inside that mothers really feel every single day: Guilt for doing their absolute best!

Telling a mom, “Just don’t feel guilty about it, you’ve done your best!” does absolutely nothing to heal the self-condemnation many woman feel day after day after day. Turning it into a light-hearted joke may temporarily ease the pain but in the end, mom-guilt is very, incredibly real and it comes from deep within causing restless nights and illegitimate worries. It causes outbursts from insecurities of our intentions and abilities. It brings many into depression. It causes some to give up and check out emotionally on their children.

Where we started motherhood gazing with wonder into the beautiful faces of our newborns, motherhood slowly turns into an endless checklist of chores, appointments, and things to remember.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. But it is.

There was such hope for SO MUCH MORE!! But that hope just seems to fade a bit more everyday, until we check ourselves out of the mothering day as soon as our little ones are in bed, exhausted from the pressure and stress we were never meant to feel in the first place.

Real Mom-guilt story: When I was 6 months pregnant with my third child, I went on a marriage retreat with my husband. It was winter and there was a hot tub at the event. Now, being very self-conscious about my body at that point in my life and during that stage of pregnancy, I really did not want to go in. First of all, because I knew I really shouldn’t for the baby’s sake but also because I was too embarrassed! It so happened that a nurse was along on the trip and she casually mentioned that as long as I was comfortable and stayed in a short time, it was totally ok. So one evening, I went out to the hot tub with my husband when no one else was around. It was really cold, so my plan of just putting in my feet a few minutes quickly changed to me plopping myself down fully emerged in the very hot water. After ten minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable so I stood to get out, but as I stood a huge group of people came out to join us and I awkwardly plopped back down because I was totally self-conscious in my swimsuit. I sat there for another painful twenty minutes until I realized I was feeling very sick and got out anyways. The next few days I was physically sick as a result of this and I kicked myself for it…for caring so much about my appearance that I would put my own health and my baby’s health in jeopardy…but that wasn’t the worst part of it: I felt like the dumbest, most selfish mother on the planet and I worried for the next three months constantly that I had done something that would cause permanent damage to my baby.

You know what’s the craziest part of this all? My son is now eight years old and that memory still haunts me. Because my boy has trouble making friends, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, he tiptoes when he walks and deep down, I blame MYSELF. Every. Single. Day. Is there something wrong with him? Are the issues in his life a result of that one poor choice? Probably not! But I don’t know for sure…I never will. And it haunts me. And this is just one example of the hundreds of ways we Mothers feel guilt!

When I hear my children yelling at each other… it must be my fault for once in a while yelling at them.

When I see my children use bad table manners…it’s probably my fault because I haven’t trained them properly.

When they get sick…I should’ve not let them go outside without their jacket!

If they say something awkward…my fault, I’m homeschooling, they probably don’t get out enough.

If they’re all over tired, fighting and throwing tantrums…my fault, we’re probably too busy and not at home enough.

When we leave them at childcare or crying with a sitter…I am a failure, I can’t even be there for them.

If my boy pees his pants and I forgot extra clothes…I’m such a horrible mom.

It goes on and on and on and ON!

I have personally talked with mothers of kids who have disabilities who blame THEMSELVES!! It’s not their fault! It’s obviously not! But still the nagging, taunting dark questions plague their minds: Maybe I have bad genes, I shouldn’t have had children…Maybe I ate something wrong…Maybe the immunizations did it. Maybe I wasn’t there for them enough…maybe….

REALLY?!?

As if our children were just these flawless, perfect little angels sent straight from heaven, with only the purest of nature, and holiest of thoughts and somehow we RUINED them.

But this is REAL, and it’s deep. And it’s a lie that needs to be addressed head on! I’m sorry to say that there’s no quick solution to this. I can’t just go and tell all the mom’s in the world, “Oh it’s not your fault” and end all the guilt…because sometimes it IS our faults. And as grown ups we need to be responsible and admit when it is. Yet as mothers we can’t separate our failures from what’s actually just our children’s human nature.

But here’s the best steps I could come up with to help heal and move past the guilt that plagues us mothers:

  1. You will make mistakes. Big ones! Don’t waste ONE minute wallowing in “what if’s”…instead use that time to make positive changes. Change your habits. Get help. Ask for forgiveness! You can not change the past, but you can learn from it and change the future.
  2. Your child WILL make mistakes…even if you’ve trained them the right way… because they’re HUMAN. Their choices are NOT your fault.
  3. Be careful of the influences in your child’s life. Friends, caregivers, and media will play the biggest role in their values and who they become. Chose caregivers wisely, allow only good media in your home and encourage positive friendships. If you find out that you’ve made a mistake in one of these areas, do your best to make changes…but remember the first “rule”!
  4. Spend your time wisely and find a balance. Your messy house isn’t a big deal…your kids will NOT remember it. But use your time wisely – if it’s really messy because of hours spent on social media, or Netflix bingeing, take time to develop a balanced schedule of “me” time, “together” time, and “clean” time. Just don’t be so “responsible” that you forget to enjoy life. You will NEVER regret the time you spend just enjoying your children.
  5. DON’T worry about the small things…feeding your children McDonald’s won’t kill them, letting them watch an extra hour of T.V. will not ruin their lives, taking a year off from extra curricular activities will not ruin their chances of playing sports or learning an instrument someday, throwing a simple family birthday party will not damage their future. Life is so much bigger than the type of lotions you buy for your kids or the clothes they wear. Please just don’t go down this trail!! Use your best judgement and respectfully block out unwanted advice!

But above all, learn to accept GRACE. God has unending grace for our shortcomings. Receive this grace. Let it pour into your heart and mind until you can not help but have grace for yourself, your kids, and everyone else around you. God’s grace heals, restores and brings hope to EVERY hopeless situation.

The guilt…it doesn’t go away over night…but it does get better. And when you live your life out of a standpoint of grace, you will begin to see the truth: Mother’s are the first and best gift that any child ever recieves… and to your children there is only one YOU!

YOU are the PERFECT mother for your child! Embrace this and you will find much freedom from that dreaded, ugly #Momguilt.

When Children Grow Up too Soon

I have a girl who’s almost 10. That’s her in the picture at the darling age of 3. She is an excellent reader and extremely mature for her age. Now, seeing that her books were getting far too easy for her reading level, I went in search of something that would challenge her. First I tried the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. She found them boring (as I had at her age, but to be fair to the series, I only read the first couple chapters of the first book.), then I tried a series called “Heros of the Faith”, which she absolutely loved. The first books are so interesting, yet as the series goes on the books are hit and miss. So Bella lost interest after reading two in a row that weren’t as exciting. Then finally I gave in and let her read my “Mark of the Lion” series by Francine Rivers, after all, I had read them around 11 or 12 years old. She loved these books so much that she sat in her room for days reading them! She finished them in three days (I was surprised because they are REALLY thick!)

All was good until one day, I scanned through the books again since it had been years since I’ve read them…and my heart dropped. These books may have been right at her reading level, but they were far, FAR to mature for her.

I may have forgotten the content, but I realized right there and then that I had I completely failed my girl by giving her the books. It was my responsibility to scan through before giving them to her and now she had already read them. I felt terrible! If you’ve never read the series, these extremely well-written books have quite a bit of history in them and take place in the years following Christ’s death. The setting is in Rome and the Romans are more bloodthirsty than ever. Terrible persecution is happening to the Christians and the Jews. The Colosseum is at its height in entertainment. People are starving while the rich feast away watching their deaths. The tale includes ongoing wars and slavery which also comes with gladiators, rape and temple prostitution…now your probably wondering why anyone should ever read it! Great book for a nine-year old girl hey?

So I went and apologized to her, letting her know that I was wrong in taking away some of her innocence by allowing her to read those books. Her response? “Oh Mom! That’s okay, I could handle it.”

Tears welled up in my eyes, for the words were far too familiar to me. Of course she could handle it! But just because she could, doesn’t mean she should.

Throughout ancient history and in some places even now, girls have been taken to be brides at ages not much older than my little girl. They become mothers as young teens and grow up with their children. Could they handle it? Sure, most of the time, I guess they could…they were forced to! But that doesn’t mean that a 13-year-old girl should have to take on such a heavy load of managing a household!

The same goes for children who are orphaned in third world countries. Overnight the oldest child becomes a caregiver to his or her siblings. They care far too deeply about their little brothers and sisters to do otherwise. And often, given the conditions they are living in, they do a better job than I would be able to do – fetching water, gathering food, earning a few dollars a day all while carrying a baby on their back.

And we cry when we hear these stories because they shouldn’t have to bear such a heavy load! They shouldn’t have to grow up so soon! They have a whole adult life ahead of them to “handle it”, they should be able to be just kids for a little while.

My daughter Bella, she’s a beautiful young girl…but of all my children she grew up the fastest. And with a house full of babies I did not complain. She talked in full sentences before any of my other babies could even say ten words. She walked the earliest. She could read before she was in kindergarten. She’s been the first to ask the hard questions. She gives in before anyone else will. I get it! She’s always been ready to be older than she is. And being my only girl, it’s difficult for me to let go of the innocence in her, to watch her grow. But it’s one thing to let go and let her mature, it’s quite another to realize when I’ve sped up the process.

I was the same as she was, always reading things, learning things, watching things way before I should have. I enjoyed knowing. I always could handle it well (or so I thought).

But man, I wish I hadn’t.

I rushed my childhood away, my innocence away before it’s time and I missed out on friendships. My favorite teddy lay in my closet, hidden away lest my friends would see that I still liked it. I missed out on playing with my last doll who sat in the corner watching me try to be older than I was. I missed out on the Polly Pockets which I sold at a garage sale just a couple of years before I was really ready to let them go. I missed the youth events with innocent, good fun and laughter. I missed out on much of my youth and I regret it because I can’t get those years back. I had my whole life ahead of me to be strong, why did I choose to grow up so young?

Sweet little daughter, take your time. Don’t rush the process and don’t slow it down either…let your maturity run its course. Adulthood will come and you can and should take on your responsibilities when it does. I know you’ll do great, I know you’ll handle life well.

But for a little while longer, just be my little girl.

When Love is Letting Go

I don’t let go easily.

If something is important to me, I hold on to it for dear life. Close friendships are one of these things. They are priceless, difficult to find, time-consuming to build and they take a lot of effort to keep strong. They are more valuable than diamonds, worth more than money can buy.

That’s also why I value relationships and people in my life far too much to just walk away when I’m hurt or to shut them out of my life. When a conflict arises, as they sometimes do, I will try again and again and again to work things out. I will work to the point of insanity to keep the peace. When I am in the wrong, I am usually the first person to go apologize and make things right. When I don’t think I’m in the wrong, I’m still search for something I did that I can apologize for, because I am a firm believer that there are NO situations where I act perfectly. Even if I physically did nothing wrong, in my heart there could be jealousy, or pride, or self-pity, bitterness, anger or frustration. And I can apologize for that because maybe the other person was sensing something in my attitude toward them that I wasn’t even aware of!

And most of the time it has been well worth it. Many friendships have been saved and many wrongs have been forgiven because of my tenacity. It’s hard work to hold on to friends!

” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love ALWAYS hopes, love ALWAYS perseveres, love NEVER fails…therefore I came to the conclusion early on in life that “letting go” was the opposite of love.

That is, until this year.

I desperately tried to find some way to mend a relationship I valued, but each attempt seemed to harden the person towards me more and more and more. Each attempt brought with it sleepless nights, days of working through hurtful words said to me and much heartache in forgiving them over and over again. And it was so tough! But I kept telling myself, “It’ll be worth it! Once they see my heart of love for them it will be worth every tear!” So I forgave and kept holding on.

I prayed for them, oh I prayed! I sent little gifts to show my love. I emailed encouraging words. I defended them when others spoke against them. Still, the person wouldn’t even respond to me. Finally one day I asked God what I could possibly do more for them to show my love…and very softly I heard the words: Let them go.

You know what’s harder than forgiving someone who’s hurt you? Letting them go.

You know what’s more difficult than working through the same issues over and over again with someone who has little regard for your feelings? Letting them go.

You know what’s more challenging than speaking kindly of someone who speaks harshly to you? Letting them go.

You know what’s more loving then holding on to someone who has set their heart against you? Letting them go. Because it feels like giving up. And love doesn’t give up! Ever! But letting go is not the same as giving up.

Giving up is hardening yourself to the situation…letting go is staying soft.

Giving up says, “I don’t care what they think!”….letting go says, “I care too deeply to let this go on.”

Giving up is making an enemy, letting go is preventing one.

Giving up says, “I will never let you hurt me again!” Letting go says, “When you’re ready, I’ll be waiting.”

Giving up is losing hope, letting go is hoping in God’s timing.

Why does life have to be so hard sometimes?!? Why can’t everything just fall into place if we try hard enough?!? Why?!?

I don’t have the answers.

I wish I had the ability to see into the future, and to see all the good that will come out of this. Oh, I wish I did! But I don’t…all I know is it’s time to let go. And it’s hard as hell.

But I can do it, because of one special promise written down just for me, just for a time like this…

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

In all things.

Ok God, I trust you. I’m letting go.

Finding Hope in Loss through Suicide

First of all if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you or someone you know has lost a loved one through suicide.

And I want you to know that I’m so so sorry.

I’ve also experienced loss through suicide, although never someone who was really close to me like a sister, or a parent, a friend or a child. And the pain of knowing them hurt enough. I can not imagine your pain or the hopelessness you’ve experienced.

I actually don’t often write about such hard topics because honestly, I don’t feel qualified. I’m not a bible scholar, I’m not highly educated. I’m not a councillor and I haven’t even lost a close loved one to suicide myself. But the other day I read something that bothered me so much, that I felt the need to share.

Now, there’s a reason I blog instead of getting involved in Facebook arguments and comment wars. It’s because I hope, that by not making it personal and by not verbally debating with someone who’s already in defence mode, I can maybe reach a greater audience with the truth, with hope, with healing.

The debate topic was this: Can a person who commits suicide go to heaven? The cold, uncompassionate responses by a few fellow Christians were alarming to me. First of all because they used scripture to back up their points and the scriptures they used actually weren’t about suicide at all, and secondly because I wondered: don’t they realize that of all the people reading what they’ve written, the chances are that at least ONE of them has lost a very dear loved one to suicide and that their comments would cause TERRIBLE pain?

Then finally, it bothered me because it’s not a debate topic!!! IT’s not!! We can not use such painful topics as topics of debate! This doesn’t HELP anyone, it just causes pain, and quite possibly it forces those who are seeking healing within the church, to turn elsewhere for help. And I want you to know that it is not only possible to find healing through Christ, it is the best way to find true healing. So I decided to write about something that happened in my own life that may help to bring healing to those who’ve been walking through this dark road of unending grief.

Almost two years ago, I was going through a very dark time in my life. I was battling with depression, loneliness, and helplessness. God was doing something very special in my heart, a work that only happens through life’s greatest pain…he was teaching me to take off the masks I had been wearing for years. The “I have it all together” mask. The “I can do it myself” mask. The “I don’t need anyone” mask. I had worn these masks for far too long, because in my early years of mothering I always felt the need to prove to the world that I had it all together, that I could do this. I was so determined to prove that I wasn’t the teenage-mom burden on the world that they expected me to be. So what God was doing in my heart was actually a beautiful thing: He was teaching me humility, openness and honesty. He was teaching me how to ask for help. He was teaching me that I am weak and that his strength is made PERFECT in weakness. He was teaching me to share my struggles, instead of hiding them away in my heart.

But there were certain people who saw this struggle and what it looked like to them was that the once “happy” girl they had known was now sad. From what they could see it looked like bitterness, unthankfulness and self-pity. So because of what they saw in me, they tried to “help me” in a way that actually was harming me. They encouraged me to pull myself together and to not turn to people for help, but to heal from these terrible things in my life that were obviously not from God. This taught me something about life that I will never forget: When God is working on someone in a deep way, it can sometimes appear to us from the outside completely OPPOSITE of what is actually happening on the inside.

Think of the story of the sinful woman found in Luke 7:36-50. On the outside, the Pharisees saw this sinful woman inappropriately kneeling and perhaps from his point of view, she was even seducing Jesus and touching his feet. What she did was certainly culturally unacceptable. But Jesus saw her HEART and what he saw was faith, love and repentance.

We can not see people’s hearts. Period. Now before you think I’m saying that everyone is going to heaven, which is not at ALL what I’m saying, I want to share something that I have not shared with many people because it is extremely close to my heart. I also knew that many people would doubt its actual occurance, so I never bothered to share it. After reading the ongoing debates about other people’s salvation I felt I NEEDED to share this, as personal as it is.

About the same time this dark struggle had been going on in my life, I was weeping and praying. I asked God where he had been the past years when I felt so alone. I reminded him of the promises in his word that he would never leave me and I asked him why he had left me.

Then God gave me a vision. Now I don’t get visions often, only a couple of times in my life have I even got a small picture, but this one was as real as a dream except that I was awake and it helped me to see God in a very real and dear way. As I was praying, scenes from my life flashed before me eyes and each scene was very familiar. I saw horrible times, lonely nights of holding screaming babies, moments I had been in all alone without anyone to help, and I saw something so beautiful that I never doubted God’s presence again. In every picture of my life what I hadn’t seen at the time, but I could see clearly in my vision was Jesus. He wasn’t just standing and watching me as I went through my trials. EVERY SINGLE SCENE he was right there, cradling me in his arms, holding me, crying with me. And in that moment I truly understood the meaning of his name Emmanuel: God with Us.

Now this was life changing for me, but the last picture God showed me was completely different from the rest because it had nothing to do with me. I saw a man I knew hanging. He was in his final moments, struggling and fighting for his life and for a moment I was horrified because I had no idea what this had to do with the rest of my vision. But as I watched the scence unfold I saw something amazing. Jesus was standing right in front of him reaching out his hand. At first the man couldn’t see him because he was overcome by his struggles but in the final moments he saw Jesus and he grasped his hand. Jesus held him close in his death.

And from that moment I KNEW that the young man was in heaven with Jesus.

We have no way of knowing what is going on in other people’s hearts. But God does. And he is present in every moment of every single person’s life. All they have to do is reach out and grasp his hand. He’s waiting.

You are Not Your Sin

There have been people throughout history that have used ridicule and shame in attempt train a child, thinking that the lower the child feels about himself and his/her accomplishments, the harder they’ll work to succeed. This has actually been proven one of the most ineffective methods to train a child, and it’s obvious why: if a child believes he is worthless and can not make any difference in the world, he will often give up even trying. It has been proven again and again; the lowest scoring and most troubled students often come from difficult, broken homes. This is why childhood educators are taught that positive reinforcement goes a much further way in a child’s life then yet another detention. We all love to hear those uplifting stories of children who felt completely worthless in life, yet completely turned around and succeeded the moment that one adult/teacher took time to see good in them and believe in them!

Most of us parents learn these things and recognize them in our own parenting. If I yell at my children from the next room for not cleaning up fast enough, they’re rarely encouraged to work harder. In fact, the next time I ask them to clean they seem to dread it and work slower than ever!

But if I take the time to work alongside my children and train them carefully, encouraging each positive step I see, rewarding them when they work hard, the result is amazing! After only doing this a short time, my son actually came and offered one day to help sort the laundry! He was seeing it as an opportunity, not a punishment!

When my child tells me a lie, which is the right way to train him? To call him a liar and to hurl insults at him, that he’s a terrible person and tell him that he’s on his way to hell?

No way!

We know that would never shape a child’s heart the right way! He needs to be corrected, disciplined, loved, and encouraged that what he did was bad, but that he has so much more potential for good! The lie was absolutely wrong, but that’s not WHO he is!

Yet as much as most of us would agree with this line of thinking, there are so many adults in the world today that believe they are what they’ve done.

I believe this is the number one thing that is keeping many people from turning to Jesus. They feel that they’ve been on the wrong path for too long, that they’ve chosen the wrong friends, that they are unworthy of anything else, that they’ve messed far too much to go back. If this is you, I want to tell you something completely life changing: YOU ARE NOT YOUR SIN. God is not repulsed by YOU, he’s repulsed by sin. God doesn’t hate YOU, he hates sin.

God doesn’t see you as you see yourself. He doesn’t even see you as others see you!!

Want to know how God sees you? Here’s a thought: ASK him! Then listen. You may be surprised by what happens next.

God truthfully HATES sin, and his anger at sin was shown by what happened on the cross. I’m not writing a blog post on how God is okay with sin. He’s absolutely not! He is furious at it. Sin caused his own Son’s death on a cross!

Sometimes we see injustice on the Earth and ask why God allows it all? Here’s why: Because he doesn’t see you as equal to your sin! He knows that the moment he comes to put an end to it all and make all the wrong things right, times up. The Bible says that God’s patiently waiting, for ALL people to turn to him. This is why God is ever beckoning us to leave our lives of sin, to turn from evil and repent! If he believed that we were equal to our sins, he wouldn’t wait! He’d demand justice NOW!

But he waits so patiently, you can almost hear him groaning, for he hates the injustice far more than we do, but he LOVES his people SO MUCH.

Now I’m actually not just writing this post for those who have not yet turned to Christ, because I really wanted to address something that I commonly see in Christians as well.

There is a heinous lie that is being taught in many churches that the lower you think of yourself, the more spiritual you must be.

This is completely false.

It sounds good, until you actually stop and read what God’s word has to say:

You are a child of God (John 1:12). You are God’s friend (John 15:15). You are the Apple of God’s Eye (Zechariah 2:8). He died because he loved YOU enough to sacrifice himself for YOU (John3:16). You are the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13). You are God’s Temple (1 Cor 3:16). You are a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor 12:27)!

Humility and low self-esteem aren’t the same thing, they are actually enemies.

One can not have true humility by thinking that you’re worth nothing, or that you are the problem with the world. That’s actually just self-hate.

True humility comes not from putting yourself down, but rather from lifting God up.

When you really see the greatness of God, you can’t help but be humbled…and when you realize that He chose YOU, you can no longer feel as if you are worth nothing. This brings about confidence AND humility.

Confidence because of your immeasurable worth to God, but humility because you had nothing to do with it! It was God’s work that made you clean, it was his Spirit living in you that changed you, it is him who works all things together for your good.

How do I end this? What do I say? I long with ALL my heart for everyone I know to KNOW the one true God, the one I love and I ache when those who do know him, still cannot see the difference between themselves and their sin. There is such a HUGE difference between godly conviction and the hopelessness of condemnation.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

You are NOT your sin. You are CHERISHED. You are WANTED. You are LOVED.

The Road Less Travelled

Today was a good day.

Homeschool was finished early today and we packed up a lunch, my kids and I, and went outside for our first picnic of the year. The sun was warm and out came the shorts and summer dresses.

The best surprise of all, curled up in a little ball, was a new litter of baby kittens born fresh this morning! And so began my thoughts for this blog post.

I am happy here, with this little life I’ve chosen…yet in some ways, not chosen. I am blessed here among my littles, at home. Yet the paths that got me to where I’ve come today were by no means easy to choose. And the paths I didn’t choose, were oh so difficult to follow, but they have brought me to this very moment. Here. Today. Right now.

And I’m reminded of the most beautiful of poems, a favorite of mine since childhood, written by Robert Frost. Read it slowly, it is so true…you can almost feel the paths he describes:

The Road Not Taken
By: Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This has simply felt like my whole life.

After all, not many teens get pregnant (although its becoming somewhat more common), decide to keep their baby, and get married at 18. Not many decide to buy an old trailer instead of rent a newer place. Not many mothers choose to stay home, although I felt like my hand was forced in that decision when my firstborn was hospitalized for six months as a baby. Not many chose to go without birth control. Not many choose to homeschool…It seems with each step I’ve made, I go further and further into a series of forks in a road, without really knowing where this road will take me. It doesn’t mean I’ve always chosen the “better” paths. Sometimes my choices have reflected a strong sense of “right” and “wrong”, but sometimes I’m just very simply curious: Where will this path lead me? Sometimes I’ve chosen the wrong path.

Yet once I choose it I can’t go back. But if it turned out to be the wrong choice, I have learnt an important lesson and gained wisdom for the next fork in the road.

Homeschooling was one of those forks in the road for me and it has taken me and my children to where we are now. Was it the “right” choice? I don’t know! Was it the “better” choice? I couldn’t honestly say!

But I don’t regret it. Not for a second!

It was one of those choices that knit me and my children strongly together. A choice that daily forced me to lay down my lists and my desires for the day, and to move at a slower pace. It forced me to work through some of those personality clashes instead of bearing with them until I could send my children off to school. It forced me to multitask. It forced me to do errands with my large crew during school hours and get asked questions. Awkward questions. It shaped my friend groups, and caused other friendships to slowly fade away. It forced me to stop and notice my children, which I may not have done otherwise. Or maybe I would have!

But that’s the thing, I’ll never quite know!

And sometimes I wish I could re-live these past 10 years, making different choices, just to see how different life would be if I had chosen this path, or that one…but when it’s all said and done, I’m happy here. I’m at peace. I’ve done my best.

In the captivating words of Robert Frost: I’ve taken the road less travelled by. I like to think that it has made all the difference.

A Thousand Broken Pieces

Life right now feels alot like broken glass.

There are so many painful feelings, so many confusing thoughts about life in my head…yet no way to reconnect them all.

You know that feeling? When glass shatters everywhere and you try to neatly clean it all up, carefully picking up the big pieces and sweeping away the smaller ones, but when you finally think you’ve dealt with every single piece, you step on another little shard of glass that was hidden from view.

Then you wonder how many more are left.

And for some odd reason, all the pieces seem connected to the same situation. A situation that has friendship, trust, right/wrong, motherhood, compassion, hurtful words, betrayal, lies, forgiveness, confusion, gossip, waiting, obedience/disobedience and salvation all in the same story. It’s a messed up story, one that has played out over the course of many years and one that seems like a nightmare that may never truly end. Yet it will end. But the waiting is painful.

One thing is certain: Sin really messes things up. Things that were once black and white, become grey. Things that were once easy to decide become tricky situations. And one hurt led to another, which led to another and what started as a little smouldering grass quickly became a forest fire.

And while my head says: “move on”, my heart can’t do that. It just can’t.

In high school, I once wrote a poem about love. It went like this:

Love

To wait for a moment you know will never come,
To have hope when all is hopeless,
To dream of day when night has just begun,
that is what love is.

It’s why my heart just can’t let go. Because it is full of love for the people in this situation. I still hope for reconciliation, even when my head knows there is no possible way for things to go back to the way they were. My heart still hopes. And the moment my hope dies, I fear my love will too. Love is the only thing that can cover over everything that has happened:

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

For the longest time I used to say, “as soon as this stage is over, then life will get easier” but then it would be over and the next task, activity, stage or problem would arise. As soon as I was done high school, I dove into motherhood. As soon as I began to get the hang of that, sickness entered the picture. Then as soon as that was over there was another child on the way. And after me and my husband got used to parenting two, then we would have another crisis! And on, and on, and on. I thought that if I could just get over these big distractions and troubles, I would finally be able to REALLY get on with my life.

And then I finally realized that the problems and struggles WERE life.

This changed everything. To miss out on all of life, waiting for everything to be perfect is a great tragedy. Those who believe in Jesus, know that someday everything WILL be perfect.

Just not yet.

And that doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy in the pain, laughter in the struggles, peace in the heart ache, happiness in hardship.

Childbirth is one of the best illustrations of this. For my first child I absolutely DREADED going into labour. The fear of the pain was terrifying, the embarrassment of being exposed in front of so many people was humiliating, the helplessness of feeling betrayed by my own bodily functions and the awkwardness of everything to me was just horrifying. But as each child came, I came to appreciate more and more about it: The excitement in the air, calling the midwife, the soft talks between contractions, being treated like the queen of the hour, being loved, served, and taken care of. It still hurt. It was still humiliating. It was messy. But there was good to be found. And the sweet sound of a new crying baby, stroking those smooth cheeks for the first time, marvelling at the tiny fingers and toes, breathing in that perfect newborn smell; those are some of the most heartwarming memories of my life. And yet they were the most painful.

I guess what I’m saying is this: look for good in the pain. It’s there, I promise.

When one friend betrays you, focus on the others that haven’t. When the children have been fighting all day, remember the sweet snuggles they gave you in the morning. When your spouse forgets your birthday, think of all those texts you got all day. When you experience loss, look at all those around that you still have comforting and loving on you. When you crash your car, be thankful that you’re still around. When you’re all alone crying because you feel as if no one understands or cares, look again. Find Jesus. He’s there. He’s taking care of you in your darkest hour of need. He’s right beside you. I promise.