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Deep Breaths

No offense to whoever came up with the term “Home Manager,” but I’ve never really cared for it. Maybe it’s because I never wanted to go into management as a nurse? Maybe it’s because I prefer to be a follower, not a leader (Should I be ashamed to actually admit that? Oh well. It’s true!). But more than that, I think I dislike it because aren’t we *more* than merely managers of our homes? We chauffeur and plan schooling careers and weed through extra-curricular activities, we work, we clean, we cook. But we also care for more than just the outside activities coming *onto* our families. We notice when one of our children is quieter than normal, or their little eyes get that tired-kind-of-glazed look in their eyes. We take note when our husbands need a little encouragement, or maybe his favorite snack waiting for him after a long day at work. Our eyes roam like hawks when our kids are on the playground and we help them navigate the crazy kids and the tall, looming, “oh, it’s FUN!” slide.

 

We are LIFE facilitators.

 

And sometimes, facilitating life means giving yourself grace. If your husband’s working late for two weeks? You are going to need grace, my friend (I’m there!). Give yourself a break. Maybe your kids would like a break from the meat and potato dinners and simply love a little mac n’ cheese. Take the time to soak in the tub and read your favorite book for a few nights. Because YOU, my dear, are going to need extra energy to keep yourself in a good mood. TRUST me. 🙂 Let the laundry get backed up. Go outside and play with the kids. Will the house get on your nerves? You bet it will. But I’ll bet you a million bucks that you’ll stay more sane by getting through the “this-is-a-bit-stressful” times of life by taking some really deep, tangible breaths of refreshment than by running yourself ragged, trying to keep up with your normal appearances.

 

Because you, you wonderful mama friends, YOU are the fragrance of the home. When you gasped for breath and sweat beaded your brow and that little bundle let out its first cry? That was only the beginning. You continue to be the giver of life in your home as your family grows.

 

And aren’t we glad that we have an even Greater Giver of Life? To help. To guide. The Grace-Giver.

Joy in the Nesting

Anyone who may be reading this will probably laugh at me, but I *finally* feel like the post-holiday, can’t-find-my-groove slump is actually dissipating. January’s been a month of snowstorms and sickness so any sense of normalcy has been nearly non-existent.

 

I’m not complaining (today). I promise. 🙂 Just stating a fact. I’m just reveling in the refreshing feeling of climbing out of the rubble and brushing the dust off my shoulders.

 

So, today is just a day of trying to be faithful in the little things. Trying to love and care for a home that is not our own while learning that any house where we’re all together *is* our home. Today, I’m discovering wide-eyed wonder over things like the superpowers of a Magic Eraser or actually seeing the bottom of our clothes’ hamper. Or even the authority my voice can carry (while inwardly shaking in my boots) over a HUGE, bear-like, neighborhood dog who decided to terrorize the girls and me while we were innocently trying to enjoy today’s beautiful, spring-like weather. 🙂

 

While half the house is momentarily bright and shiny clean, the other half still needs desperate tending. But I’m steadily tidying our little nest, while trying to keep the girls feeling loved and nestled under my wings. I know that come Monday, the house will already need re-mopping and de-cluttering, but right now, I’m savoring the joy of gearing up for another weekend of us all being together and spending time with friends.

 

And the fact that I’m savoring the joy? That’s pure grace.

 

Pure grace.

 

My prayer for you and me today…

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

Wisdom Nuggets from the Trenches

No matter whose amazing book we may have just read, or whatever eloquent interview just played on the radio, or even that astounding blog post we may have just happened upon, when it comes right down to it, some of the most life-changing, attitude-adjusting words can come from the women in the trenches next to us.

 

I’m not even kidding. There have been several times in the last few years that a friend has casually said something in passing and while she’s already moved on to the next topic, I’m still trying to catch my breath from what just came out of her like it was nothing.

 

Let me explain. I’ve said before that I am a perfectionist. But you’d never know it by looking at my life on the outside. My house is usually disorganized . . . well, really, my life is a bit disorganized. You see, unlike the perfectionism which drives most women to be Superwoman, my particular brand of perfectionism usually paralyzes me into doing nothing. Start some new project? Well, you see, I know it won’t come out the way I want it, soooooo, I just don’t do it at all.

 

This is a suffocating, boring way to live, and by the grace of God, I am working on this. But my fellow-mama, well, really just woman-friends, the ones who’ve been right next to me, fighting in the kid-raising, house-cleaning, husband-loving trenches? They help release my tightly-clenched, perfectionistic grip.

 

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Back when I was in my last year of nursing school, I had a friend about 20-25 years older than me tell me, “You can do anything for a year.” She was a nurse herself. She had lived the life I was currently living and my weary soul sopped up every ounce of her words. She was right. I did it. I frequently think about her words in parenting. Because when you’re taking care of a newborn who’s waking every two hours and you’re not getting any sleep? It feels like life is never going to change. That you’re going to be stuck with no sleep for the rest of your life. Thankfully, in parenting (at least in parenting young children), there are rarely things that you have to do for a whole year.  Children hurry along through their little phases so quickly and just when you’re getting used to them, you’re left with an aching heart, wondering how that phase was over so quickly….

 

Potty-training?

 

Teaching a little heart not to whine?

 

Pulling a little climber off the dining room table for the fourth time in 5 minutes? (Ahem, this would be me)

 

“You can do anything for a (fill in: a few weeks, a few months, a year).”

 

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When I was pregnant with my firstborn, several women shared mothering advice at my baby shower and a little nugget stuck with me.

This was from a woman with seven children. She lived in the trench.

 

“When you walk in a room and find your children have created a disaster and you just want to cry? Take a picture of it. It gives you a bigger perspective and will make you smile.”

 

Oh, have I taken this fun advice to heart….

A recent "tent" made by Firefly.

Crayon . . . on our glider's ottoman. It all came out. 😉

Dove is ALWAYS getting into my makeup....

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And then there was the time a friend and I were talking about keeping our houses clean. I was talking about how I just never have time to mop or dust as much as I used to and how I thought her house always looks nice.

 

This mother with three children replied, “You know, my house is rarely clean. I just keep up on clutter. Every time I walk through the house, I carry something with me that needs put away.”

 

Hmmm . . . that sounded manageable.  Much more manageable than keeping up with two young children 24/7 and have a spic and span house. I’ve found her words empowering. Clutter. A manageable enemy. And if I do keep on top of it (I’m still working on it!), then it’s much easier to actually clean because I have a clean slate.

 

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And last, but certainly not least, I have a friend who completely changed my attitude about being a good mother. She’s one of those girls who when you meet her, you instantly feel like you could tell her anything and she would still give you a big ol’ hug and send you home feeling like you’re the most special person in the world.

 

We were at a women’s Bible study one day, both at the coffee/tea counter, grabbing something warm to drink beforehand.

 

“Hmmm . . . I’m not sure which tea flavor to choose. I already had my mug of coffee this morning,” I said, trying to make small talk.

 

“Oh?” she asked with her raised eyebrows. “Are you still nursing the baby or something and watching your caffeine?”

 

“Oh, no. I just try to be good and limit my coffee to one mug a day,” I explained.

 

“Well, let me tell you something, girl,” she said, like she was letting me in on some deep secret. Little did I know, she was. “I’ve found that I’m a much happier mama if I sit down at 4:00 in the afternoon and have me an oreo and another mug of coffee. If I get that little boost in the afternoon, I can make it through bath time and actually be a fun mama while doing it. I’ll work on my caffeine intake in 10 years or so when the boys are putting themselves to bed.”

 

I’m telling you, girls. That was revolutionary thinking to me. Because she showed me to look at the big picture. Not every single detail of my life is going to be perfect. But so what? There are some battles just not worth fighting in particular seasons of life. So, if an extra cup of coffee helps me be a happier mama? I’m going for it.

 

So, listen to your friends, dears. One little sentence might just rock your world.

Big Picture Truths

Some days, I desperately feel like I just need my fellow mama friends around me in a huddle. You know, a pep talk. Arms on shoulders, heads bent into our circle’s center.

 

I guess some days, I need to feel that cloud of witnesses cheering me on (Heb 12:1) – albeit my personal race is small and everyday compared to others’. Because I’m just a stay-at-home mom. And sometimes the gloomy thought raises its ugly head and I wonder if we stay-at-home-mamas try to glorify our vocation a bit much. Maybe we merely seek to make ourselves feel better in our daily humdrum. Believing that shrewd lie, even for a minute, causes my soul to crumple in weariness. But, He lifts my heart to dwell on truth. Because whether you are a stay-at-home mama, a working mama, or a single mama, we truly do have a high calling.

 

So if you’re having a day that’s got you down and dog-tired, come join me in the huddle.

 

 

C’mon girls,

 

 

We are driving the future.

 

We are bringing up the next generation of doctors and preachers,

teachers and researchers,

or maybe even more stay-at-home mamas.

 

The atmosphere of our homes is set by us.

 

We are memory-makers.

 

Our children are people –

little, yes, but someday, they will be all grown up with real thoughts and ideas, dreams and solutions –

we lay their foundations.

 

Others will come alongside us to help raise up our children

– teachers, peers, family, pastors, etc. –

but we are the underpinning.

 

We shape future mommies’ and daddies’ views on home.

 

To our boys, we lay the groundwork for their views on women.

 

To our girls, we teach what it is to be woman.

 

We are often given the honor of hearing a soul’s first prayers.

 

We see ambitions light in their eyes and we can either stamp them out, or fan the flames.

 

We can teach boys to be gentlemen.

 

We can teach girls to wait for one.

 

Every day, we can either fill their love tanks, or let them empty.

 

It may feel like our little mama-lives are hidden in the looming shadows of the world’s great humanitarians, missionaries, politicians, and blog and movie celebrities . . . but He brings power to the small, life to the dying, strength for the weary.

 

We plant a multitude of seeds.

 

Let’s water and illuminate.

 

Go get ’em, girls.

 

 

Deliverance

I shook my head again and again. “I can’t do this,” I kept saying – only internally, because the pain wouldn’t let the words leave my lips. Wave after wave of uterine contractions. One hand gripped the bedrail, the other clutched onto my husband’s poor hand. I searched his eyes, begging for help. He encouraged and said all the right things, but I just wanted to run away from myself. The baby was coming, nonetheless, and I could only be delivered from the pain by embracing more of it. I had a job to do . . . liberate a baby from my body-cocoon, but I was in the dreaded “transition” and I had run out of resolve. I had done this one time before, so I knew where I was, what was coming, and that the memories of the pain would fade. Regardless, I was in that frantic, feverish state, just wanting someone to deliver me.


Any woman who has ever delivered a baby knows that you have no choice in the giving up. You have no power to stop that baby from coming. And you don’t really want to. But you do. Because childbearing is one of the most taxing things you will ever do for the good of another life.

 

But the urgency for deliverance doesn’t end in the delivery room, does it?

 

The last couple of days, I feel like I have been in emotional transition in this childbearing phase of life. Delivering those babies of mine was only the beginning. If you are raising children, you know, you are giving up your body, mind and spirit every. single. day.

 

Because when that sippy cup is dropped on the hardwood floor for the twentieth time and the sound reverberates and the very vertebrae of my spine rile, I need to swallow that “contraction”, pick up that dropped cup, maybe say, “No, no” and let it go.

 

Every time the contraction of arguing with Firefly about whether or not to wear leggings under that dress, or wearing her brown sneakers instead of her adorable black boots, wears upon my soul, I need to take a deep breath, be the parent, not react, maybe let her decide, but definitely direct her heart.

 

Every time the contraction of seeing those toys on the floor that I just picked up (not three minutes ago) comes around, I need to stifle my murmuring and hold tight to the One whose grip will not let me go.

 

These are just the little contractions of motherhood. But they are constant. The seemingly little things can wear a mother thin, dissipate any semblance of confidence in her abilities, and make her want to run away and hide from the very things that she treasures with all her heart.

 

Whining.

 

Load after load of laundry.

 

Crumbs continually on the kitchen counter.

 

Toothpaste in the bathroom sink again.

 

That afore-mentioned sippy cup battle.

 

Battles of the will.

 

Another dirty diaper?

 

Knocks on the bathroom door when you’ve only been missing for 30 seconds.

 

“But I wanted such and such for dinner!”

 

Forgetting to stash the diaper bag.

 

And the wave after wave of giving yourself up for these simple tasks, directing a child’s heart, or the overwhelming desire for just a little break, is enough to make a girl wonder if she was cut out for a 24/7 job like this.

 

But I keep thinking on this passage:

“And women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 1 Timothy  2:15

 

What on earth does that mean?????

 

I wonder if it means more than just physical labor and delivery . . . do you think it means childrearing? Because I certainly feel like motherhood helps me see more and more of my need for His cleansing sanctification than anything else.

 

I desperately need to have faith that he has given me enough strength and will give me enough wisdom to raise these two beautiful, little lives.

 

I desperately need true love for these two girls of mine. Love that guides, disciplines when needed and helps me lay my own wants and desires down at the foot of the cross.

 

And I desperately need a holy propriety in daily living with my children. All too often, I’ve been known to yell, become frustrated too easily, react and give in to plain, old grumpiness.

 

Oh, dear Father. Rescue me from running away from true deliverance. Because the more I fight to have more “me time”, or quiet, or a spotless home that bears no resemblance to one housing a busy, living family, the more the contractions of motherhood take the breath of your Spirit from me.

 

Please, yet again, bring life to my limits.

Lifelines

I am completely out of my groove. It’s no one’s fault, it’s not even December’s fault! I’m just in “party” mode and don’t want to do anything “ordinary”. =D

 

As much as I love the Christmas season (yes, I almost dread Christmas day because then it’s OVER, isn’t that pathetic?), I have to admit, the boring responsible side of me is looking forward to January and all the new beginnings that it brings.

 

These are a few of my lifelines – things that keep me in my groove when I use them!

 

1) I love this weekly menu planner! I used to just write up my own versions of this, but I love using a “real” sheet. =D I usually just put it right up on the fridge along with….

 

2) These beautiful prayer calendars, freely given by Kat, over at Inspired To Action. I have both the husband’s and children’s prayer calendars up on my fridge as well, so if I’m good, everyone gets prayed over every time I open the fridge. 😉 And Kat is *truly* inspiring! She’s always writing about maximizing your mornings – she even has a free e-book about it! My little Love Dove should be close to being weaned around the first of the year and as much as I hate that she’s growing up, I am looking forward to “maximizing my mornings” a bit better. Now if I would only go to bed before midnight, I’d be doing great. 😉

 

3) An online Bible? Sign me up! Over at Online Bible Study Tools I’ve been slooooooowly working my way through reading the Bible in a year. By the time I’m done, it will definitely have taken me a lot longer than a year, but I’m doing it! You can choose from several various versions (I intentionally chose a version I don’t normally read) and you can choose several different ways of reading the Bible in a year. You know, chronologically, Old/New Testament in same day, etc. This has been wonderful for me since it is much easier to hold a computer screen in my lap while nursing a baby than holding a big book with fragile pages. Plus it has a check off list. That’ll always make you feel good!

 

4) This website keeps tabs on all the grocery deals here in the south. I have to admit, I haven’t couponed in a quite a few weeks – Wal-Mart has just been so much easier lately because couponing was just taking so. much. time. I think, come January, I’ll try couponing at the drug stores for our toiletries and just shopping normally at Wal-Mart for our groceries. I want to use my time and money wisely.

 

Now I just need a good housekeeping chart, some sort of exercise routine, and a good, healthy dose of self-discipline and I’ll be good to go! That’s all. 😉

 

And if anybody has any tips or wants to share your little lifelines, I would *love* to hear them!  This young mama needs so much help and learns so much from the other women around her!