And The Years Flew By

This past summer I took a break from social media; from posting on my blog to Instagram to Facebook. I also deleted all the games on my phone. Here’s what I found: All my missing time.

Okay, so maybe all the extra time also had to do with taking a break from homeschooling, BUT, I had time to do my work, time to relax, time for devotions, and time to have friends over for dinner. I made a wedding cake, I learnt some Spanish, and I memorized 3 full chapters of the bible, plus some other verses as well! I had time to be with my kids; I taught them how to enjoy work and they taught me how fun being a mom can be. We got to make a summer bucket list together and we almost completed our whole list! We went camping. I hosted some out of town relatives for a couple weeks. I planted and actually took care of a garden.

Despite all of this, I still had time to sit and think! I thought about how much time my phone took of my life (I honestly never want to hear the full tally of the hours I’ve spent on it!) I thought about how I’m half done raising my oldest three kids. I thought about the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve done right. Mostly though, I thought about how short life is and what a gift our time on earth is.

Time is a gift. A precious gift. Each moment spent can never be gained back! This means every person who pauses to send me an encouraging text, or who takes time to have coffee with me is giving me a tremendous blessing: their time.

I suppose none of us in the early years of parenting really know what to do with the elderly who stop us with our new babies, gaze into their faces and dreamily say, “Enjoy this stage because the years fly by!” I mean, we think we know what they mean, and we nod in agreement, but in our hearts the days still sometimes crawl by; the endless checklists cause us to hustle about from morning until night and lets face it, the sleepless nights seem even longer. Sometimes we just think to ourselves: “I know it’s true, I do, but right now I just wish I was out of this stage.”

It reminds me of a lady at church who smiled at me, shifting in my seat uncomfortably at the end of my first pregnancy. Her little kids were crawling all over the pew around her and she said, “Just enjoy the peace while you still can!” Then about eight years later, that same lady watched me as I juggled my five kids around me trying in vain to keep them quiet and she looked at me with older, wiser eyes and said, “Enjoy the busyness, my kids don’t even want to sit with me anymore!” And I smiled to myself and thought about the irony of her statement.

Of course us humans do that, wish for the quiet when we’re busy and long for the busy when it’s quiet.

I’m turning 30 next year, about one third of my life is over…and I’m reminded of an old Psalm:

“Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thanks to our busy culture, rarely, if ever do we stop and take time to number our days. We pack our schedules full of sports, school, work, church activities, volunteering, social engagements, but when it’s all said and done, do we spend time on what matters in our lives?

When I’m old and most of my life is behind me, I want to be able to look back on the way I’ve spent my time and have no regrets. I want to pour more of my life into people, rather than things. Sometimes, it just takes a break from “things” to realize how much time we gave to them. Sometimes, it takes a break from the “likes” to realize how little we actually need them.

Oh that my generation would see the slap in the face it is to everyone around us when we continuously choose to pine away hours of time! We sit down face to face with each other, yet spend more time on our phones than with each other. It’s actually ridiculous, that one would prefer to stare at a screen over watching their baby’s first giggles, or joining them in picking that fresh bouquet of wildflowers. And our wasted time is a loss not only to our children, but also to the elderly who sit by themselves day after day, to our friends who struggle with depression yet feel completely alone because we are “too busy” to listen to them ourselves.

So why am I here, you may ask. If blogging and social media are such a huge waste of time, then why don’t I just stop complaining about it and delete it!

To be completely honest, I thought about it …but then I remembered something, something my generation often forgets about, a little something known as self control. Social Media, games, Netflix, blogs…these things aren’t the enemy. They aren’t bad. We don’t need to delete our accounts or block them out! Facebook and WordPress are nothing more than tools. If used wisely and correctly, they can help communication, they can keep us in touch with those we would forget otherwise. But if used incorrectly they become harmful and sometimes even deadly to us and our relationships.

My break from it all taught me how much I’ve been misusing these tools. My misuse of them led me to frustration in parenting, lack of energy and time and the false sense of acceptance from the likes I’ve received. Blogging helps me put my thoughts into words, it improves my writing skills…but I don’t need to spend any time watching the stats, because really, knowing how many people are reading my writing doesn’t help me improve. Facebook helps me to share moments of my life with others and to share in the joy of others special moments, but I don’t need to check it fifty times a day!

I’m grateful for my time off this summer. I’ll never regret it. It taught me an important lesson: I still have time to change.

Time that is ticking.

My years of raising children are literally flying by and I, for one, don’t want to miss one more precious second!

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#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.

Living Free from Offense

A couple days ago I got an email from an old friend. There were a lot of painful and hurtful things in it, a lot of assumptions about me based on gossip they’d heard, or people they’ve talked to.

It stung. It more than stung. I wept. I wept and wept and wept because I realized they were completely set on finding all the bad in me and pointing it out, just to prove a point.

And I realized that I could:

a) Write back and pick them apart the way they had done to me.

b) Write back and defend myself.

c) Go tell everyone about this person and how unfairly I had been treated.

or d) Forgive and pray for them.

I am SO thankful that I’ve been reading “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere, or I probably would’ve chosen the first three options and left the last one out. Fortunately for me, God had already known that this was going to happen, and led me to this book on forgiveness just two days prior to this situation.

If you haven’t read it, GO GET THAT BOOK AND READ IT! It is amazing!!! It gives biblical examples of people who had been seriously wronged like Joseph, or David (looking at their trials make mine seem rather pathetic) but it points out how we need to forgive and forgive and FORGIVE. Even those who seemingly ruin our lives (like Joseph’s brothers) or who hate us and seem to be out to get us (like King Saul) or those who will never say sorry.

One of my favorite quotes in the book says: “Absolutely No man, women, child or devil can ever get you out of the will of God. There is only one person who can do this and that is YOU! If you lay hold of this truth, it will set you free.”

People can do a lot to us. They can abuse us, hurt us, they can wrongfully judge us, they can turn others against us, they can lie to us and about us…but you know what? They can’t get us out of God’s will for our lives. They just can’t! However, if we become enslaved to bitterness and offense against them WE can ruin God’s perfect will for our lives.

Take David for example. If he had become bitter at King Saul, a crazy, demonic man driven to kill him although he had done nothing wrong, he would’ve killed him the first chance he got! He could’ve EASILY justified it too, saying that God delivered Saul into his hands. He could’ve told himself that he was avenging all the innocent priests Saul had murdered. But you know what? He didn’t. He refused to lift his hand against God’s anointed leader! I believe this is one of the reasons that God chose David to be king.

How did he do this? He realized the one simple truth that is so easy to forget: God is a good Father. It is his place to avenge and his alone.

It is not our job to carry out justice against those who have wronged us, it’s God’s. David trusted that God would make things right, even though it was YEARS before God carried out his judgement against King Saul. And in the end, David could’ve cheered that his moment had come!

But he didn’t. He mourned for King Saul as one would mourn for a Father, he showed kindness to his grandson and let him eat at his table like one of his sons. Now THAT is a heart free from offence.

This is who I want to be.

Jesus, when faced with horrible accusations which were totally untrue, stayed silent. He didn’t defend himself EVER. Not a word. Why?

Because he knew who he was!

When we recognize who we are in Christ, we don’t need to defend who we are. We don’t need to fight for our rights. We don’t need to respond to those who accuse us because the devil, who loves to accuse, actually feeds on this.

We can boldly say ‘God I know these words are not from you. Your words bring life! These words speak death.’ The difference? John Bevere put it so perfectly:

“When the Spirit of God show us our sins, He always does it in such a way that it seems separate from us. This brings conviction, not condemnation.”

Oh brother or sister, have you been hurt? I bleed with you! Have you been wounded by those dearest to you? I understand. Yet let us not fall into the trap of satan. Let us not listen to his condemning words against us nor his words that encourage us to feel victimized! Instead let us be like those who have gone before us and forgive. Like Joseph who said, “It was not you, but God who sent me here ahead of you!” Let us believe that He is great enough to work through our suffering! He loves us FAR too much to let us go through our painful trials for nothing.

He is a good, good Father.

 

 

 

Finding Joy in Hardships

Joy is easy…when times are good. But what about during those darkest of times, when everything you dreamed of comes crashing in?

Joy is easy…when times are good. But what about those darkest of times… those days, weeks, months or  even years where you find that everything you dreamed of comes crashing in?

These past few years have been the hardest years of my life.

Now if you know my story, that’s probably a bit hard to believe. But what about your teenage pregnancy?? What about the loneliness of losing all of your high school friends as they went on with their lives without you? What about the months you watched your son suffering in the hospital, wondering if he was going to live to see his first birthday? What about the time where your spouse lost his job and you had no idea how you were going to feed the three young babies depending on you? Harder than those days? Yes. A hundred times…yes.

It hasn’t been the outward kind of hard, where everyone can see what’s going on and rushes in to help. Our health is great, our finances have been good, our marriage is doing well. These are things we so often take for granted until they’re gone. Losing a loved one, failing health, money struggles, or a rough marriage bring very dark times as well. But these aren’t the type of hardships I’ve faced this past year.

I was quite suddenly faced with a totally unexpected confrontation, during a very difficult season of my life. This brought about a dark feeling of rejection that I can’t, try as I may, find the words to explain. Maybe it’s hard to explain because I’m not free to tell the whole story… just vague little pieces to protect those involved. I think only those who have felt so hurtfully accused, deeply rejected and so utterly confused as to WHY, could fully understand what I’m talking about. But the hardest thing wasn’t that it happened…it’s that was happening for over a year. For months, I went to bed almost every night with my pillow soaked in tears, wondering if I would ever again lie down with peace in my heart. And for the most part, I carried these burdens alone – desperate to talk to someone, anyone who would listen…but my heart was torn because it involved those I loved SO dearly, so I kept silent.

My life, to the very core, was being shaken. At one point I truly believed that I had lost the favour of God on my life. I began to do everything I thought I could do to win his favour back. I tried so hard to admit all my faults, to confess and confess and confess, to not be defensive, to take the blame, to restore the peace…and through it all, I began to let go of something very important; my joy.

My joy was gone. Somewhere along the way, my eyes had turned from looking at Jesus and I began to focus on the problem. Like Peter among the waves, I had stepped out of the boat in full confidence; only to lose sight of the fact that I was never meant to walk on water…I was simply supposed to look at Jesus. When I realized this, healing could begin.

Here I was faced with one of the most difficult questions to ask during a trial: How can something like joy be found again…even if your circumstances haven’t changed?

The first step was to recognize the devil’s lies. I realized that I can’t do works to earn God’s favour. Period. God’s children receive his favour as they look to him. And when we have our eyes on him, he loves to pour out his favour.

I also had to let go of the way I wanted things to turn out. I felt that if I just did my very best, if I prayed hard enough…then God would make things better. As it turns out, God never promises to make the road easy or better. He does promise to work everything for the good of those who love him. And I needed to trust this promise. As soon as I was free from focusing on my problem, I could fully turn my attention to pleasing God.  Then and only then, could I follow the steps HE wanted me to take.

The final piece in my journey to rediscovering joy was found in the book of Philippians. If you haven’t read it before, or even if it’s been a while, read it. It’s a true gem. Here is a book written by a man almost 2000 years ago, who had been through so many trials. At the time he wrote it, Paul was in prison, facing a very lonely future, a trial which could’ve led to his death, and hearing of people against him actually preaching – all while he sits under house arrest. Despite all this, the letter is one of the most joyful and thankful books of the bible. Instead of complaining about the negatives events that surround his current circumstances he chooses to see the positive side of things. He also shares two secrets about finding joy and peace that I began to cling to:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. That much I had done. Telling God what I need. Check! Thank him. Thank him! Thankfulness is part of the secret to having the peace of God in your heart. And I began to thank God, even in my pain. Declaring his goodness out loud is SO POWERFUL! As I began to thank God, day after day, I slowly started to see some good things that had come out of my situation. And then, the final secret to joy:

“…I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I can have joy because he gives me strength.  

This realization, that God wasn’t just watching me suffer from the sidelines – but actively walking through the fire with me and holding me up, brought me great joy! Every painful moment, he was there. Every night I cried, he was holding me. And in my weakness he is beside me, giving me strength. I am not alone. Now that is a reason to have great joy!

“In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11