“Mama, ah woll up?”

your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. 

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Every day after breakfast I get my two year old dressed (that little ham on the far right). It’s the same routine, every day. I grab new clothes, change his diaper, put the new clothes on him, and invariably he asks me the same question. 

“Mama, ah woll up?”

He has this thing, and if his pants go under the bottoms of his feet, he Freaks Out. I’m talking, emotional break down like he’s being wounded. When he first started doing it I kept thinking he was hurt, being tormented by siblings, or had had an appendage slammed in a door. But no. It was his pants. Under his feet. Every time. 

So now, I do it automatically. But he still asks. And it’s adorable. 

For me, there was a learning curve to figure out what it was that he wanted. But now that I know, I meet that need, usually as he’s asking me I am already in the process of rolling up his pants. 

God knows what we need. And not just the petty, selfish, little things we ask him for. But what we really need. Needing more of Jesus. Needing more holiness. Needing humility, and gratefulness, and the Holy Spirit. He is there, meeting our needs before we even know to ask him for what we truly need. So often, I think that I need a bigger fridge, fewer bugs in my kitchen, less stress in my life, I WANT MY PANT LEGS ROLLED UP!!! But God knows what I really need. To be refined, to be changed, to grow in holiness and affection for God. And he is continually working to meet those needs WAY before I even ask.

I’m so grateful he meets all my needs.

(text Matthew 6:8)

Seeing myself in my kids

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Lately I have been taking a lot of time to analyze the situations I get into with my kids. For lots of reasons that I will go into in another post, I have been doing a lot of reflection. And I’ve noticed something: I see myself in my kids ALL the time. 

I see myself in Siena when she frets and worries about what the day will bring. She’s a planner. I’m not. And she has such a hard time letting go! She asks me again and again, “what are we doing today, mom?”. Or when that doesn’t produce the desired result, she starts trying to plan it for me. “Well, I was thinking we could go out to the store. What do you think about that?” She finds it so incredibly difficult to rest in my “I don’t know, we’ll see what the day brings”. 

I see myself in Augie, who is a sensitive little guy, and quite often will completely overreact to the smallest affront. All will be well, kids playing happily when all of a sudden Augie is bouncing and wailing and throwing his head back, quickly ending up in a writhing pile on the ground before I can even figure out what went wrong. I tell him again and again, “Augie, I will help you, just tell me what’s wrong! Don’t throw a fit. Talk to me. I’m here for you.”. But it’s not enough, in the moment of his thwarted will the only option he sees is panic and despair. 

I see myself in George. He has been acting up SO much lately, displaying a rebellion I would not have thought possible in a not even 2.5 year old. Before, he would easily say “yes ma’am” when prompted, or at least after being reminded with a light switch. Now, I never know what will set him off. But when he gets in a mood, nothing will deter him. No matter the scenario, he is hell bent on having it his way, and letting you know how frustrated he is, and literally screaming at everyone around him to let us know IT IS NOT OKAY. He is angry with those trying to help him, trying to understand, trying to love him.

If there’s one thing God has been showing me the past few months, it is the sin in my heart. I’ve been convicted again and again, and even while frustrated with the kids (another manifestation of my sin) he has been using them to show me how my flesh rules me and I have so much refining to do! I have been grieved at how often I worry, how often I overreact to my present circumstances (instead of looking to the eternal), and how often I rebel against an amazingly good and holy God. Oh how little I trust him!! Oh how often I fail! 

Seeing these lovely expressions of humanity in my children can be frustrating, but God has been showing me a way that I can combat that frustration. It is by recognizing that the behavior I get tired of dealing with in them is a mirror of the sin that is in my own heart. Their attitudes are my attitudes.

When I start to get exasperated I can remember that my great God has patience and mercy on me, even when I act the same way they are acting. And why does he have mercy on me? Why does he not judge me for my sinful heart, when I am so deserving of that judgement? It’s because my sweet Savior gave everything so that I might be washed and made clean, and stand pure and spotless before the Father. I am justified and made alive, brought out of my sinful state and promised sanctification (someday I will be free from this sin that so easily entangles!!). So humbling, and such a cause for great joy!! 

Now I have to go help put my kiddos to bed, which always results in some manifestations of these character qualities previously mentioned. :) But by God’s grace I will walk in patience and love and hope, remembering these eternal truths that God has been so gracious to teach me. 

Well, is teaching me. It’s a continual process. :)

And in case you needed a visual……

For His Name’s Sake

Yet He saved them for his name’s sake.

Psalm 106:8

By way of exhortation to believers, O admire his goodness, admire his name. He knows all your sins against him and against his name, yet he shows mercy. Let sin against so good a God be abhorred; let his goodness lead you to repentance more and more. Praise him for his mercy, truth, faithfulness. Credit all mercy you meet with to his name, and do your best to meet reasons for God’s name to be more and more glorified, on his using his name for your help. For though sinners have a ground of hope that he may do for his name’s sake, yet saints have a ground of hope that he will do for his name’s sake. His name is pledged.

He has a name suiting every need. Do you need wonders to be wrought for you? His name is Wonderful; look to him so to do, for his name’s sake. Do you need counsel and direction? His name is the Counselor. Do you have mighty enemies to debate? His name is the mighty God; ask him to exert his power for his name’s sake. Do you need his fatherly pity? His name is the everlasting Father. Plead his pity, for his name’s sake. Do you need peace external, internal, or eternal? His name is the Prince of Peace; seek, for his name’s sake, that he may create peace. Do you need healing? His name is Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord the healer and physician. Do you need pardon? His name is Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness. Do you need defense and protection? His name is Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord your banner. Seek, for his name’s sake, that his banner of love and grace may be spread over you. Do you need provision in extreme want? His name is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide. Do you need his presence? His name is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is there; Immanuel, God with us. Do you need audience of prayer? His name is the Hearer of prayer. Do you need strength? His name is the Strength of Israel. Do you need comfort? His name is the Consolation of Israel. Do you need shelter? His name is the City of Refuge. Have you nothing and need all? His name is All in All. He has a name suitable for your supply; he has wisdom to guide you and power to keep you, mercy to pity you, truth to shield you, holiness to sanctify you, righteousness to justify you, grace to adorn you, and glory to crown you. Trust in his name, who saves for his name’s sake.

- Ralph Erskine (emphasis mine)

I don’t struggle with fear of man

For most of my life I’ve been a leader. When I was in 1st grade I couldn’t find matching socks to wear to school, and ended up creating a new fashion trend with my mis-matching socks. Into my teenage years, everyone loved me. I was the oldest in my age group of friends, and I was a model student and daughter. I wore all the right things, said all the right things, and led Bible Studies. All the moms said that I was a catch! On some level, I was just “being myself”, because I like making people happy. But I have discovered something. Deep down, I didn’t feel a lot pressure to perform, or not be myself, because I thought my deep-down-self was pretty good. I did love people! I did want to do the right thing! I loved Jesus and wanted to serve him with my life.

But I thought I was pretty good at doing those things.

Thing is, I’m not. God has shown (especially in this last week) that I’m not good at loving people, being patient, giving up my rights, doing the hard thing. Not when it’s a sacrifice for me. I’m so grateful for my kids, and how God has used them in my life to show me my sin. It’s always been there, but it was very well hidden. I wasn’t pushed to my limits, I wasn’t stretched beyond myself in ways I never thought possible. And now that I am being stretched, more and more (it’s God’s grace to allow me to be put under this pressure), I’m seeing it. In all it’s ugliness.

I am not that model Christian teenage girl. Or that model Christian wife and mom. I am in desperate need of Jesus. I was hopelessly lost in sin, and though I am saved and made a new creature in him, my flesh resists the change vehemently. So even though I still don’t struggle much with what people think of me, I am seeing myself in a whole new light.

It can be embarrassing to admit that I’m such a failure at being “good”. But there is good news. Jesus paid for my sins. Not only did he save me, he continues to sanctify me. He doesn’t leave me where I am, he molds me and breaks me and makes me holy. Sometimes I can’t see the change (I’ve struggled this week with feeling hopeless that I’ll ever change!), he promises it, so I know it must be true. And I can trust him.

Discipline

I have been struggling a lot with my kids. This is not a rag on my kids, they aren’t any crazier than the next one! It’s on me, I know that. But in the moment of frustration and feeling overwhelmed, I don’t like to admit it. I like to blame my circumstances for my reactions. My sinful reactions. I feel like a lot of what I’ve been struggling with is the same thing that I’ve been struggling with for the past 6 months, which is why I have hesitated to write another post about it. It seems like I’m going around on a circle. I get frustrated/overwhelmed, I get convicted and repent, I act better for a short time, then repeat cycle.

But today. Today God spoke to me in a new way. My heart is full. I’ve cried a lot of tears. It’s been a difficult, emotional last few days for me. Which sounds ridiculous to admit because there’s nothing particularly difficult going on. Like I said, it’s just me. But yesterday was a really, really rough day. For a lot of reasons. I woke up this morning still feeling heavy from the day before, though I went about my day as normal. I wrote in my journal (I’ve started keeping a handwritten journal again and it’s been amazing. I forgot how therapeutic and freeing it is to write with a pencil…). I wrote down my pain, and finished it with, “God come and show me”.

And he did. Today was one of those days when my Bible reading time had a million interruptions and felt like it did no good (the Word of God never returns void, so I’m not saying it DIDN’T do any good, I’m just saying it didn’t feel like an emotionally spiritual experience). But I didn’t get to read the last portion of my daily reading, and so this evening after I got all three kids in bed, and while Steve was busy with a class, I sat down to read the last chapter before I watched one of my TV shows. I was trying to be good. Do what I was “supposed” to do and finish my daily quota. And God used that silly attitude of mine and came and rocked my world! This is what I wrote, this is what he told me:

“He came. He showed me. Hebrews 11 today, and I couldn’t stop reading and bawling. Convicted by the faith of those who saw the promises and greeted them from afar, but didn’t receive them (11:13). Of whom the world was not worthy (11:38)…. Because of them, let us run with endurance and look to Jesus (12:1). And then it talks about sin. Have we resisted to the point of death (12:4)? Resisting sin, the pain of it is God’s loving discipline (12:7)! It is for our good so we may be holy (12:10)! We aren’t approaching him in the old covenant, but in the new, and we had better answer him (12:18-25)! My endurance of the temptation of sin, of not growing weary or faint hearted is my acceptable worship to God. And I better do it with reverence and awe, because he is a consuming fire (12:28-29). All this struggle I’ve had with my sin of impatience and frustration with the kids, every time I fail and “lose it”, I’m losing sight of ALL this! God is using my precious kids to root out the sin in MY heart, and discipline me to bring me to holiness. I just didn’t realize how tightly I was holding onto it. I thought it was mostly my kids, and a little bit me. But I see now that it’s all me. It’s all my sin. Life is overwhelming because I don’t trust God and have FAITH in him. I have not been running with endurance. So many people say “man, I don’t know how you do it! Three kids, wow, that’s hard!” and I let it go to my head. Rather, I used it as an excuse to lose my temper. But thankfully, God uses everything to bring me closer to himself, even my failures. And I have plenty of those. Oh God, I just pray that these truths would sink deep into my soul, and that your Spirit would transform me. Give me patience, knowing that we put our hope in Jesus, not how tidy the house is, not how little/much the kids watch TV, not how many fights we break up each day, not how good or bad of a parent we feel like in the moment. Only Jesus. Only Joy. Looking for the peaceful fruit of righteousness (12:4).”

People have told me to cut myself some slack. Life is hard, you are doing a great job, you’re a great mom, this is a difficult season…. But I see me. I am there when I yell at my kids just because I am struggling with my emotions. I am there when I get all over my 3 year old for doing something any normal three year old would do. I am there when I manipulate my 5 year old because I know she gets it and it might work. I am there when I use a swear word in the middle of the night because my 2 year old still rarely sleeps through the night. I see my sin. I see it in all it’s ugliness, although I have to admit that up until now I was making a lot of excuses for it. I am just praying that my great God strips away the glaze that I’ve tried to use to cover it up. That he won’t let me sugar coat it anymore. That I will stop looking at what is seen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:18). The messy house, the scribbles on the wall, the paper they use to draw on that is always everywhere, the dirty dishes, the full inbox, the dirt on the floor, the grime on the toilet, the poop on the clothes, the dried playdough, all of that is temporary. The souls of my kids? That is eternal. My actions before my God? That is also eternal. I am accountable for what I say to them, for how I treat them, for how I love them, for how I show them Jesus. If he has done so much for me, why do I feel like it is such a sacrifice to do things for my kids? Things like listening when they take forever to tell me a pointless story. Helping them put their shoes on when I know they can do it on their own. Having patience when they throw a tantrum (instead of yelling at them because I don’t want to deal with it). Have we yet suffered to the point of death?….

I have been struggling with my kids, not because they are difficult. But because I am selfish. Because I am impatient. Because I don’t believe God when he says that he works every situation in my life for my good (Rom 8:28). And graciously, God is pulling the weeds out of my heart. He doesn’t let me stay selfish and impatient. He is revealing it, revealing it’s ugliness, and bringing me to repentance, to grace, to Him. His grace is sufficient when I am weak. And I am counting on that. I repent of my sin and am throwing myself onto the merciful arms of my Savior, and I know that he will catch me.

I’m baring my soul, here, guys. I want everyone who knows me to know that if you see me having patience with my kids, it’s the grace of God. If you see me with some amazing level of kindness, even in the face of incredible craziness, you will know that it’s his strength in me. It’s not me. I don’t have it in me. If you see me serving, even when I feel like my feet are about to fall off, you can be damn certain that God is incredible, because it’s HIM doing that work, not me. So don’t tell me I’m doing great. I need him with every breath, and it’s in these times of feeling broken that I can actually feel it.

So with that being said, we have some news.

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This may or may not be one of the reasons I’ve been so emotional lately…

How to be a Good Mom

This past month I’ve struggled a lot in my motherhood. I’ve been frustrated a lot. I’ve been exhausted. I’ve been completely overwhelmed. I’ve felt like a bad mom, and then felt guilty for being a bad mom. I’ve yelled at my kids every single day (most times I apologized, but there were times I felt so justified in my anger that I just let it slide. Since we’re being completely honest here….). Siena has told me multiple times a week, “mom, why are you so frustrated?”. And I’ve tried so hard to get better.

I’ve prayed.

I’ve read my Bible.

I’ve read encouraging blog posts.

I’ve talked with other moms that I love and trust and as we go around the room sharing our struggles we all nod in agreement of the difficulties and the desire to do better.

But nothing changed me. I am not good at faking it in front of my kids. If I’m having a hard time, they know it. I even tell them, “mommy’s having a hard day, can you please try and get along?”. Then I feel guilty that I can’t even handle being their mom, and I try to paste on some smiles, do some fun activities, and I do enjoy it. But it’s been hard, in what feels like a never ending exhaustion of kid care. I’ve even had nights out, Steve watched the kids and I got some “alone time”. But did that refresh me? Did that give me a new perspective and make the burden light? Only for a few hours, after which my old exhaustion, and frustration with the bickering and constant neediness kicked right back into full gear.

I read lots of blog posts about patient mothering, having a yell-free 2014, reminders to “do less” and “it’s just hard right now and that’s ok”. There are good things in those posts, and they were encouraging. But they didn’t change my heart and give me more patience. I loved the idea of them, but had no idea how to translate it from the page to my own situation and heart.

I’ve thought about people who have cancer. Who have kids who have cancer. Whose husbands have disabilities and don’t have the kind of support I do from Steve. Who don’t even have kids but want them desperately. And did that change me and make me a joy-filled, patient, and loving mom?

No.

Sigh….. Talk about hopeless!! I hadn’t given up because I trust in our great God, I knew that he would come through. But I didn’t know how. And I didn’t know what to do with this hard time I was walking through. I was just plodding through, hoping I wasn’t causing too much damage to my kids as I worked through my own issues. I needed a miracle.

And I got one. A few days ago, I “got over the hump”. Which is a silly way of putting “God miraculously changed my heart and gave me patience and joy and LOVE for my kids!!”. It’s like someone flipped a switch, but really what happened is that the God of the universe reached down and touched my heart, my heart, and made me more holy, more like himself. He showed me how weak I am, how much I need him. He made me desperate so that when the change came I would know it wasn’t in my own strength, it was all him. Yesterday I read this in 2 Corinthians 12:

“Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul knew he had reason to boast. But to guard him from pride, God gave him the thorn in the flesh. And not only was he protecting Paul from exalting himself, he was showing His strength in Paul’s weakness. The end result was that the focus was taken completely off of Paul and all he had to brag about, and completely focused on God’s power and strength. God gets the glory, Paul is made holy and has joy. Win-win.

See, God works amazing miracles every day, but sometimes we’re expecting the big flashy ones so we miss the subtle ones that are completely life changing! And that’s what I got. Now all those encouraging mom chats, and blog posts have context. I feel I can apply some of the advice because my foundational outlook has shifted. And I can’t even describe it all, I just know I have joy.

I’m so grateful, y’all. God has been so good! I’m blown away by the transformation, and it is not me. I have had so much joy in my kids’ little sentences and accomplishments. I’ve had patience despite spills and craziness, and an overwhelming demand for mom in almost every moment of the day. I’ve been smiling, happy. It’s like God revealed all the more that he is on the throne, he is good, he is worth walking through difficulties. There is an end goal, and that goal is glorifying God forever, and I’m excited about that again! And it makes the every day bumps seem so small, and it reminds me of all the beautiful blessings he’s given me in these short moments I have here on earth. I can be grateful again because I remembered the One who deserves that gratefulness!

Better sign off. Have to go shower, and hopefully take a short nap. We were ALL up late last night and everyone’s a bit grouchy today, so I’m using more of that God-given patience today (and yes, I’ve gotten a little frustrated and said sorry a couple times. God has given me so much more repentance when I mess up!). But if you’re looking for a way to be a great mom, remember this:

It’s all God. Ask him. He’ll give it to you. Maybe not in the way you expect, but trust me, he’ll come through.

Happy New Year!

How to be a Good Mom