We Were Made For Friendships

Family Photo copyIt didn’t make sense. It was 11:00 at night. My husband had just gone to bed, and I was shutting down the computer to follow him when a simple picture of friends swept across the screen and loneliness swept through my heart. I turned out the lights and sat in the darkness.

It wasn’t that my friends weren’t there or didn’t care. It was that I was in an emotionally exhausting season and was too overwhelmed to connect like usual. I was struggling on my own, and I felt isolated. I needed the encouraging words of a friend to shed light and remind me that I was not alone.

Maybe it isn’t a picture in the midst of a too full plate that makes you lonely or hurt. Maybe it’s:

  • The cold stares from those moms who think your son is too wild in the church nursery.
  • That all your friends on Facebook have husbands who post praises to their wives and pictures of romantic dinners while yours falls asleep in the chair and you cry alone in bed.
  • That you feel like a terrible mom because you love your kids so much and yet you don’t like them because they’re rude and disrespectful and you’re sure no one else feels that way.

Whatever makes your heart heavy, I want to be that friend whispering into your darkness that you are wonderful and capable and accepted and loved. And that I understand your fears and your doubts because I have them too.

We were not made to go solo. We were made for community.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) says, Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Here we see that friendship provides greater success, help in need, warmth, strength, and wholeness. I want this and I want it for you.

It’s why I write here. For those of you who only know me by my blog photo, you matter to me. I want you to know that on the other side of your screen, I am here cheering you on. My heart breaks when you feel broken, and it celebrates when you feel joy. Every word I type is my effort to take your hand and say:

“We” is better than me!

And sometimes I need you to take mine because it can be lonely on this side too. The enemy often convinces me that what I do doesn’t matter. That my words are meaningless noise in an already too-busy place. But my writing is not for me. It’s for you. I share my stories and my thoughts to encourage and hopefully inspire you. So I will keep writing when I’m too tired or too busy because maybe it does.

Putting my heart on display for public scrutiny is not easy. With each post, I risk rejection and criticism. But friendship comes with a risk–there can’t be intimacy without vulnerability–and you are worth that. And I know that as we learn to share our broken pieces, we can fit them together to form something beautifully whole.

So, can I ask you to link arms with me in friendship? In a world where people are isolated and alone, will you remember that you don’t have to be? I hope so, and I hope you’ll leave me a message to tell me so. 

 

 

 

 

5 Tips For Becoming The Mother You Want To Be

Being a mother is a beautiful gift that can bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. Sometimes, though, we let the burdens and failures of motherhood make us feel inadequate and guilty. We get caught up in the fact that we don’t measure up or that others are doing a “better job,” and we can become critical of our efforts.

It’s okay. We’re all in the same boat here.

My sister has a magnet on her refrigerator that sums up how I’ve often felt. It says:

pabloLet’s face it—parenting is easy until we have kids. Once we do, we realize how little we know and wonder if we’ll ever figure it out.

As we head into the new year, please take a minute to remind yourself that you love your children more than anyone else could and that you are enough for them. Settle that first.

Then, we can look for areas we’d like to improve. And it’s never too late. Whether our kids are adults or are still in the baby stage, there is always hope.

So here are 5 tips to help on your road to being the mom you want to be.

1—Pray. This is my starting point for everything. I have 4 children, two of whom are adults, and I still find myself wondering what in the world I’m doing most of the time. I ask God regularly for ways I can improve and He is good at whispering His ideas into my mind throughout the day. He promises to give us His wisdom generously and “without finding fault,” (James 1:5). But He won’t intrude, so you have to invite Him.

2—Focus on one area you’d like to improve. Just one. Let’s say you’d like to have more fun with your kids. Maybe you could take an hour one day a week to go to a park or playground, or maybe take 20 minutes a few times a week to play a favorite board game. Once you feel you’re doing well in this area, then focus on the next. Tackling more than this can be overwhelming and defeating.

3—Find a mentor and learn from her. I have always enjoyed time with moms more experienced than me. It has helped me find ways to deal with challenges, and it has offered me hope to know that the “great moms” I look up to mess up also. One thing to keep in mind though is that you are you. You can benefit from the advice of experienced moms and learn from their mistakes, but take what suits your personality and parenting style without trying to be someone you’re not.

4—Take time every day to connect with your child emotionally. Hugs, smiles, and relaxed chitchat do wonders for our relationships. We never have to look very hard for opportunities to “train” our children, which means we are likely either telling them what to do or correcting them for what they didn’t do. Every moment can become an exercise in “character development”, which to them may translate into criticism.

During those times, my son used to give me this advice (which made me want to pinch his lips shut at the time, and still does actually). It was simply, “Chill Out Mom”—GRRRR! It was so annoying, but it was also great advice.

5—Have regular family meetings. Children often feel like they don’t have a voice about all the things that concern them. If there are regular times to come together to talk about what needs to be different and what is working, then everyone feels more valued. Teamwork is established and the family becomes a unit rather than the “parents against the kids” mentality and vice versa. My only advice here is to establish rules of respect. It can’t be a bash session on anyone, but rather a time of open communication where everyone feels safe to share without criticism or anger, whether they are agreed with or not. These times of sharing give great insight into your children’s hearts as well as communicate to them their importance.

Remember that failure is an integral part of the journey to any success. Parenting is no different, so look at failures as opportunities and let them teach you, not paralyze you. As we enter the new year, I hope you will embrace motherhood without fear of failure but instead with the expectation of becoming more like the mother you always wanted to be.

Happy New Year!

I’d love to hear from you. What is it you think you do best as a mother? What do you know you need to work on?

 

 

 

Why It’s Important to Speak Well of Our Husbands

As wives, we’re partners. As moms, we’re leaders. As women, we’re influencers. I have discovered that if I want to be effective in any area of my life, I must first and foremost be effective in my marriage. When it suffers, everything else soon follows suit. And conversely, when my marriage is thriving, then the other areas of my life and leadership thrive also as my passion overflows into everything else I do. I have also discovered that nothing sabotages my marriage more than my own words, especially words spoken publicly.ID-10034235

Lately, I’ve been buried in my husband’s business requirements–calls to make, forms to fill out, and emails to send on top of my own tight schedule. I’ve been tired and frustrated, and I have not been silent about it (um, for those who don’t know me, I’m not silent on much). The challenge to use my words to build up and not tear down has been difficult, and it’s reminded me that to speak life is not always easy, but always worth it, especially when it comes to our marriages.

I am convinced that speaking well of my husband to him and about him is one of the most important things I can do for my marriage. 

Four reasons why our words matter:

1. It impacts our attitude. The more we speak anything, the more we believe it. The more we believe it, the more our actions reflect it. This helps us find joy in our marriages as well as protects it from temptation.

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 21:23 (NASB)

2. It impacts our spouse’s behavior. Ever notice how inspired you feel when someone authentically praises you? Our husbands are no different. Our words are a powerful motivator. Be careful though to be genuine. Insincerity is manipulation not encouragement.

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)

3. It impacts our children. Oh how tempting it could be to give our children a front row seat to our grumbling, but what a mistake that is! Our children desperately need to trust their father, and right or wrong, our words can cost him his credibility which in turn have a powerful impact on every future relationship our children will have.

“A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1 (NLT) I would add that we do this most effectively with our own words.

4. It impacts our influence. Our marriage is the most visible way to demonstrate God’s unselfish love. It requires self-control to bite our tongues when we feel we’ve been wronged, but every time we choose to speak praise when we have reason to complain, we breathe life into our marriages and into those who are watching it. The world is broken and an intact marriage is refreshing and gives hope to those who get to witness it.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

I’m not talking about being fake with our words. I’m talking about being generous. All of us are fallible, imperfect, and at times difficult to love. Our husbands are no exception. Then again, neither are we.

I don’t want my husband to take my weaknesses and put them on display and I don’t want to do that to him either.

If you struggle in this area, then let me challenge you to make a change TODAY to find what is good and redeeming in your husband’s character and then be intentional to speak life-building encouragement, not soul-sucking complaints about him. It will change you, him, your children, and your world.

For more encouragement on the power of our words, please read, Toothbrushes and Other Things Not to Share.

Photo courtesy photostock at freedigitalphotos.net.

A Journey to Kindness

Kaila and Kieran, my grace givers

Kaila and Kieran, my grace givers

I remember the moment I spat the ugly words, punctuated with a piercing stare, “You act like children of the devil!” It was directed at my oldest children, who were then around nine and twelve years old. In the angry stillness that followed, Kaila, who has always been a mild-mannered child not given to back talk, looked at me with all her innocence and said slowly as though pondering some great mystery, “Mommy, if we are children of the devil, what does that make you?”

Time stood still and no one breathed as we waited for what would happen next.

The wind left my sails as I considered the answer and the truth in it. An apology followed and we salvaged what we could of the rest of the day, but my heart was pricked by yet another ugly stain on my checkered mothering past. We’ve since laughed about the day (along with others) Mom lost her mind and when they both were sure Kaila would lose her tongue, but secretly I’ve cried many times.

I’ve cried because I know love is kind, and I was not always kind. I was many things, but I was not kind.

I was intentional. I was nurturing. I was self-sacrificing. I was compassionate. I was generous. But I was not kind.

Kindness has been a journey for me, one full of determination and disappointment, but one also full of grace, both from God and from my children. I share it with you in the hopes that if you struggle with kindness, your own journey will be shorter.

My two youngest kindest teachers, Samara and Avielle

My two youngest kindness teachers, Samara and Avielle

Please don’t think I’ve arrived. I’m still broken many times over by my weakness in this area but I’m also reminded that it is my weakness that keeps me dependent upon God’s strength and that my children get to witness a life and a heart that is continually being changed by His strength as I remain teachable. I’m learning to love well as I learn to be kind.

Kindness changes everything. It softens hearts. It mends relationships. Kindness transmits love from head to heart, from knowing to feeling.

The scriptures say in Romans 2:4 that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Doesn’t it make sense then that it is the kindness of a mother that leads to the same in her children? Why then do we often choose harsh words, fierce stares, and cold responses when we love so much? For me, it’s been because I like results and I want them yesterday. Kindness, however, requires patience. It is selfless and humble.

In the day to day, kindness cuddles a toddler when he’s fussy instead of scolds him, realizing we all have bad days too.

Kindness gives a soft answer instead of yelling at children who are yelling at each other AGAIN.

Kindness looks a pre-teen in the eyes and recognizes the doubts and insecurities instead of labeling it rebellion.

Kindness reminds teenagers to be faithful with what they have instead of telling them how ungrateful they are for all they’ve been given.

Each day, it is kindness that compels me to say I’m sorry to my husband even when he’s wrong, and it shows me how to fight fair. I’m good at fighting. I can hurl my endless words and he can’t compete and I can win the argument, but I lose him in those moments. Kindness shows me how to fight for him and for us instead of for my rights so we can both win.

Still the one I learn the most from

Still the one I learn the most from

Love is kind.

And if I want my love to translate to my family, if I want them to not just know with their minds, but feel with their hearts, that I love them dearly, then I must not love without kindness.

Memories of my failures often threaten to bog me down in the quicksand of guilt. The tears well up and spill over even now as I type. Still, I have to choose to let grace, not guilt, cover my yesterdays and carry me into my tomorrows. I hope you will do the same.

When I do, I am sweetly reminded of a good God who will never give up on me and of a husband and children who have always extended more grace than I have deserved. And in such moments, I am grateful that I am the daughter of such a merciful God, wife of such a kind man, and mother of such forgiving children.

And I’m grateful to all of you who visit me here and see my heart through all my flaws.

What Kind of Parent Are You?

MWM blogger

MWM blogger

Don’t ask me why I thought taking this kind of quiz was a good idea. Perhaps I thought I’d find answers to why I act the way I do. Maybe knowing I’m a tiger mom or ostrich mom would make my actions throughout any given day make more sense.

Ha! Just ask my husband what a ridiculous notion that is!

Instead, I realized that I can’t be categorized any more than my children can or should be. I don’t like labels for them and I found I don’t like them for myself either. They seem to trap us forever behind their tag. Don’t get me wrong, personality quizzes are fun and can offer insight into our particular bent, but they are often misleading and can leave us feeling either superior because of them or judged by them.

After all, I’m every type of mother and I’m no type ever considered. I think the same is true of all moms everywhere. There are days and situations that call me to be a tiger mom who fiercely drives her children and days that I am the hovering helicopter mom because my child may need more protection than usual. And what about when I am more ten-year-old than fortyish-year-old and become another little monkey jumping on the bed? What would I be called then? Otter mom? Wait! That wasn’t on the list.

photo

My new-mama niece with her sweet one.

So what kind of parent am I? If you ask my children, I’m pretty sure four out of four will say a crazy one. Ask my husband, who’s crazy about me, and he’ll say I’m an awesome one.

Ask me and I say:

I’m a natural yeller who tries not to be.

I’m a comedian with no appreciative audience.

I’m an overscheduler and time-cruncher.

I’m a motivator, otherwise known as a demanding drill sergeant.

I’m a pusher of health food who can’t resist chocolate of any kind or ice cream.

But I am also,

A shameless cheerleader at soccer games and one-man (or girl) living room recitals,

A tireless nurse for any injury that band-aids and kisses can’t fix,

An unrivaled scones baker,

And a mother with four incredible reasons to keep on trying.

P1000197

One of those owies that needed extra snuggles.

God says:

I’m a redeemed mother–one who constantly gets it wrong, and yet through grace and mercy, keeps seeing it turn out right.

 

So what kind of parent are you? How about the perfect one for your child!

I think I’d like to talk more about that sometime. But for now, trust me on it. Some days you will be more strict and firm, other days relaxed and flexible, and that does not equate to inconsistency. Rather, like the ebb and flow of the tide, it can be beautifully predictable unpredictability.

Who can possibly put one label on you, mothers? You are far too beautiful and important and all-encompassing to describe so simply, but Proverbs 31:29 says it best perhaps:

“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”

I hope you believe it.