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When We Want Some Freedom….From Motherhood.

August 12, 2017

I sat across the table from a new friend of mine. Her own two boys snacking on breakfast, coloring, and playing with my son who I had brought along for the morning. There we sat talking of dreams, insecurities, struggles, and how God comes through. Always. I met Amelia last year at a Bible study, and today I wanted to learn more about her art, and life as an artist and mama. Amelia is an incredibly talented mixed media artist, telling stories through stunning layered paintings. It ends up she is not only skilled in telling stories through collage materials, resin, and paint, but also with words. I’m honored to have her share on the blog today.

 


“Mommy, you go away…” states my angry three year old as I once again tell him he can’t do something. I quietly mutter to myself “I would if I could, kid.” At this point in my exhausted and frazzled state, all I can think about is freedom from the day in and day out battle of raising two young children. An escape from this hard reality sounds like a dream. We all want a little reprieve from the mind bending, emotionally taxing job of forming our children into reasonable, civilized adults. Can I get a little freedom please?  

My eldest son, six, runs out of the kitchen screaming. This happens at least every other morning often for unknown reasons. My shoulders slump in confusion and defeat. What did I do this time? Was it a sound? A smell? He has sensory processing disorder and we live and die by our sound cancelling headphones. On days like this, I pine after liberation from the struggles of this disorder. I ache for freedom from the frustration and endless questions that accompany our day to day activities. I know I’m not the only one who yearns for an end to their child’s struggles, be it physical, emotional, social, or spiritual. Wouldn’t it be nice to be set free from this?

In the midst of life’s very real struggles, we can be tempted to chase after a false sense of freedom. We often think that breaking free from one circumstance, habit, or person will change….EVERYTHING. That’s often what the world tells us, right? But, is that really what is going to make the difference? I often wonder….

250 mg/dl…  What?! I had a salad today AND ran six miles! This is where I throw my blood glucose meter across the room. I have had type 1 diabetes for thirty years and I dream of a day when I can be free of the continuous food calculations, glucose testing, frequent doctor visits, low blood sugar episodes and feeling like an utter failure when all my efforts still go unrewarded by in-range readings from my meter. It doesn’t seem to be out of order to ask for freedom from a serious chronic condition…is it?

“We regret to inform you that your work was not accepted into….” gets really old after awhile. I’ve been a fine artist for ten years and no matter how many rejection emails, letters or phone calls one receives, they each hurt as bad as the first. I work with all my might to gain freedom from this rejection, pushing and stretching myself to become a more skilled artist in technique, content, and in marketing. I strive for acceptance and success thinking that this will finally silence the condemning whispers of those rejection notices. A little freedom from rejection, be it self-made or from others, would be so nice.

I think that I want freedom from my three year old, sensory issues, diabetes, and rejection. That doesn’t seem like a bad thing, right?  It’s really not, but there is something very subtle and sinister at work here. Pursuing and desiring this facade of “freedom”  causes me to ignore the very real and true freedom I already have. The thing that really does change EVERYTHING.  

Jesus set me free a long time ago when my mom and I sat on the kitchen floor and I invited Him into my heart. Since that day, the door of my prison has been jarred open. Yet, here I sit in my self-made cell content to seek illusions of freedom when the real thing is right in front of me. Though my daily struggles are very real, I am indeed free…it’s time for me to fix my gaze on THAT and walk through that door that He has gladly opened for me. It’s time to believe Him at His word: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)  It is through this very real freedom that I am able to tackle every challenge in my life that seems so captivating and enslaving. 

“What false freedom are you chasing after today?”

 


Amelia Furman is a mixed media artist and blogger. She has been involved in MOPS since 2011, assisting in leadership since 2012. She resides in Northern Colorado with her two young sons and husband.

Find out more about Amelia, life as an artist and mama, and see her incredible art here!

Follow Amelia on Facebook

And Instagram!

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When I Realized That My Child’s Projects Are Just As Important As Mine

August 8, 2017

“It’s a mineral! I found a mineral!”

His shrill voice, brimming full of excitement jolted me from my sleep. I had woken at least six times during the night, and was surprised this time, upon opening my eyes, to find sunlight streaming through the tent fly.

“Boys, quiet down.” I mumbled as I turned over to check on our two-year-old. Still sound asleep, somehow. He was nestled into his sleeping bag next to me. I closed my eyes, but the big boys’ banter continued.

When I gave up on sleep and at last emerged from the tent, the boys took their cue. Hearing my own tent zipper they asked eagerly from the next tent over, “Can we come out now?” I said yes. Our six-year-old Zeke counted it of first importance to show me the “mineral” he had discovered upon waking. It was a piece of broken glass. I thought for a moment, examined the glass, no sharp edges. “That is glass buddy, but it kind of looks like a mineral, doesn’t it?”

“Mom, I found a mineral, too!” Ellis, our four-year-old proudly held up his own piece of glass. “Can I add it to my collection?” He was referring to the collections he and his brother had started upon arriving to our campsite–plastic boxes displaying all sort of rocks and foliage they had discovered.

My first instinct was No, you can not play with a broken piece of glass. But then again, it was dull. And–something had told me deep inside, when they started those collections, that this was important. It’s so easy to brush those feelings off, is it not? When something looks by all means insignificant, but you feel as though you should treat it otherwise, for their sake. I let him keep the glass. Sorry–mineral.

A couple of days later after we packed up camp and were driving down from the mountains, Zeke shared an idea with us from the backseat. “Hey! What if we draw everything that we want to find for our collections. Then we can find those things, and make a museum!” We had yet to stop for coffee, and after three (beautiful) long days camping in the rain, I managed to muster just an ounce of enthusiasm. “Yeah Buddy, that’s a good idea. We can do that at home!”

“Alright!”

He brought up his idea four more times within the hour, and the final time I lost my patience. “Zeke, I said we would do it. You can stop talking about it now.” And that was that. For a week.

I didn’t hear another thing about the minerals or collections or becoming museum directors—until I brought it up. I was out by myself when the thought crossed my mind. I told him we would do that. It seemed he had forgotten. And I was plenty busy with projects. We’re selling our house, I’m in the midst of big book deadlines, and we’re in the middle of several projects for our small business.

Drawings in a notebook and dreaming up a museum seemed just a tad too insignificant given all that was on my plate.

But there I sat at the coffee shop, staring my projects in the face, and it hit me. My son’s projects or not less important than mine. Because his projects are what his dreams and aspirations are made of.

Our childrens plans will lead to greater plans and action and goals and a life lived on purpose—but only if we fuel those budding dreams in their hearts. Only if we offer a listening ear, and only when we invest ourselves in their aspirations. Whether it’s a lemonade stand, raising money to save an endangered species, building a rocket to launch to the moon, or gathering artifacts for a museum.

Something monumental happens when we grant credit to our child’s ideas. When we stop to ask questions, or offer them another perspective. Instead of their idea vanishing into time, it weighs time down. It slows time, offers it more meaning, perhaps redirects it. When we take the time to enter into their idea, it infuses them with confidence to give that idea a try. It makes them brave.

If we don’t fuel these dreams, I fear they will dissipate into adulthood. I’m so afraid that my children will forget how to dream. This is one reason I do have my own projects, ones that reflect my own passions and show my children what it looks like for Mama to chase her own dreams. But it’s also why I set aside those projects today, and sat next to my boy drawing tigers and sea coral. Because he has his own projects and dreams.

And they’re just as important as mine.

936Pennies Chasing Dreams Motherhood

Can My Dreams And My Motherhood Exist In Harmony Together?

July 22, 2017

From as early as I can remember, there was a dream tucked within my heart to be a mother. I think many of us share that dream. After my husband and I slipped bands of gold over each others’ fingers, and spoke hand-written vows to seal our love in promise, it did not take long for me to begin imagining the two of us becoming the three of us. My husband tried to hold this big change off for as long as he could. He adopted me a puppy. I think he thought this would satisfy my maternal stirrings for a while. I don’t think it worked for as long as he planned.

Before long, he felt ready too. And come our second wedding anniversary, we would celebrate with our tiny newborn boy. I was a mama, and it was every bit a dream come true.

I know that so many of you hold similar stories; the euphoric step into mamahood and how it completely overtakes you with a new depth of love you never thought possible. A lifelong dream come true.

Perhaps if we share in that same experience, you may be able to relate to another also. Those newborn bundles of dream-come-true learn to crawl and walk and talk–and this dream, although still dreamy, lacks a bit of luster among the day-to-day routines.

Motherhood begins to feel not enough. It feels lacking. But we dare not speak it, because isn’t this what we always dreamed of?

Mamas, I think we have been looking at this from the wrong, guilt-ridden perspective. Maybe it’s not that motherhood is not enough, but rather that it was never meant to be the whole picture of our dream. Maybe our motherhood is exactly what it was meant to be, and it can coexist with the other God-given dreams on our hearts. You know the ones. Those inklings and ideas that raise your pulse and increase your heartbeat with excitement. But we set these dreams on the back burner because, “It’s not the right time.” The dreams feel as though they are clashing with our current season of motherhood.

Yes, it’s true that in some cases, the timing is not right. But I think that we are writing these dreams off far too early. We are saying No, not now, too quickly. I believe that too many of our dreams are sitting on the back burner, sizzling away and evaporating before we ever gave them a chance.

I remember one of my first thoughts after I began to consider writing a book. I sat at my desk, contemplating this dream, and I felt that strong gut-deep friction. “This is awful timing.” I thought to myself. At the time we had a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and I was newly pregnant with our third son. “When will I ever have time to write a book?” I asked myself. And an even more weighty question tugging at my heart: “What if this dream takes away from my children?” What would my dream cost them? It felt ridiculous, to sacrifice time with my children in order to write a book with the message of making the most of the time we have with our children.

But God kept on pressing. And He kept aligning the smallest of details to affirm this dream in my heart.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

His timing is always perfect, right?

Three years later, with the book being published this coming February, I hate to imagine a life in where I would have said no to this dream. If I would have bought in to those doubts that this dream could never coexist with my current season of motherhood, then I would never have had this chance to see God work in miraculous ways, ways far above anything I ever could have done on my own. The Author of time–He made the time for me to chase this dream. And He makes the time for your dreams, too.

If we say no, not now, then we may never realize the beauty born when God brings together our dream of motherhood with the other God-given dreams on our hearts. When He convinces us to chase these dreams, then He can use the journey to usher us deeper into our motherhood than ever before.

Fellow mamas, God created us to be dreamers. We are crafted in His image, the image of the greatest Dreamer. We are His grandest dream, but not His only one. His dreams hold the majesty of mountains, the depths of oceans, the awe of a newborn’s cry, and the narrative of the greatest Rescue Plan ever. And He invites us–His favorite dream– to come along in the journey of these dreams; to be a part of the greatest story ever told.

We can do the same. We can chase the God-given dreams on our hearts while inviting our children right into the journey. They can be present and witness to their Mama working hard and showing up every day to chase her dreams.

And then, one day soon, they’ll take what they’ve seen and run brave after their own dreams.

936Pennies Motherhood

Everything I Know About Motherhood, Today.

June 22, 2017

I am nearly depleted by it, motherhood. Many days I think that I am, yet somehow by the grace of God I resurface. It empties me, nearly. Yet equally it fills me.

It is both great joy and great challenge, and on my best days, great joy in the challenge.

I know that far too often I feel as though I have nothing left to give. Guilt rushes in and crushes me as I hear my voice snap, tones I never knew it could hold. Fatigue and exasperation–perhaps desperation–coat my words.

And then a simple “Thank you” or “Love you” from your lips tilts the entire day, shifts everything, readjusts perspective, and reminds me that all is not wrong. There is grace yet to be found here. New mercies await us tomorrow, but we have not yet used up today’s. God’s reservoir always has a little more to give.

I know that motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever done. And one of the most rewarding, always. I know that I never knew that I could fear so deeply, or love so fiercely.

I know that you give me more grace than I deserve. Far more. And that while I am trying to teach you about patience, you know much more about it than I do.

I know that God chose me to be your mother, and that, my Love, is an honor.

I know that while many days I long for a break, I cannot imagine this life without you in it.

I know that motherhood has taught me deep lessons about respect–not only in teaching you the value of it, but so much more about what it means to respect you–who you are, and who God has made you to be, and the process of watching you unfold into that potential every single day.

I know that this is going too fast. And if we do not choose to live radically different from what we see around us in this world, then we are going to miss it. Me and you. We’ll miss us.

I know, or rather I am learning, that so much of motherhood is an act of observation. And that I am called to exactly that. Most days I miss the mark. But on those days I truly see you, motherhood is at its best.

I know that your laughter is the sweetest sound on earth.

I know that I would not trade even the most trying of days. And that I cannot take back my mistakes. And that your forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that I receive, and you give it freely. Over, and over, and over. You teach me what it is.

I know that I want you to see my weaknesses, to know that I am needy, too. And to see in me what it looks like to call out to Jesus from that need.

I know that God knew that you were for me, and I was for you, and that was the perfect plan.

This is everything I know about motherhood, today. I am certain you will teach me more tomorrow.

936Pennies Motherhood

I blinked.

May 10, 2017

I blinked. They told me not to, but I did. Who can stop it, anyhow? None of us, that’s who.

I blinked and your pudgy bare toes gripped tight to blades of green grass as you stood to your feet for the first time. I stared at you in disbelief from my knees, pausing from my task of plucking snap peas from their vine. Why did I blink?

I blinked and you clung to Daddy in that hammock with one hand, the other hand pointing to the clouds as planes soared across the blue sky, looping far above your head of white blonde curls. You shrieked in delight as you watched them.

I blinked and that test window blinked back at me. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Pregnant”. And then there was your brother.

I blinked and you timidly walked into the hospital room holding your Auntie’s hand. You approached slowly, taking in the sight of your mama on that strange bed in a silly gown, holding that tiny bundle of uncertainty. You kept your distance. But not for long.

Because I blinked, and then you were best friends.

I blinked and the two of you spent the entire day in the garden helping me dig and pull and plant and nurture. I blinked and you helped me pick of our bounty, warm red strawberry juice slipping down your chins.

I blinked and your little brother stared back at me from that crib, “I wub you,” the words slipping from his mouth for the very first time as I kissed him goodnight.

I blinked and again that plastic window blinked back. Timer. Timer. Timer. “Not Pregnant”. But I knew. And the next morning it agreed, “Pregnant”.

I blinked as I watched you and your brother bound through piles of fall leaves, your laughter mixing a melody with the birds’ songs from the trees. I blinked back the tears and the doubt, how would we do this again so soon?

I blinked at that screen illuminating the dark room, your grandma sitting next to me, us both watching to see. “I’m calling your doctor,” the nurse spoke. I blinked and the tears slipped down my cheeks.

I blinked and your baby brother came much sooner than I anticipated. Time stood still with him nestled in my arm, three days in that room just us, me getting to know him, and coming to see that we needed him. Yes, time stood still, but then I blinked.

I blinked and you and your brother held our tiny baby, and I knew it. In no time you’d be best friends.

I blinked and our whole world changed. From city to mountains. A whole new world for us to make our own. I blinked and it became just that—home.

I blinked and again there was new life in my womb. But then I blinked again and oh how I wish I hadn’t, because then that life was gone.

I blinked, and time went on. But our baby would remain in that time, those three days, until we meet again.

I blinked and your baby brother licked chocolate icing from his birthday candles. I wrapped myself warm in a blanket as the three of you bounded across rocks and slipped toes into icy river water.

I blinked back tears as I told you that I felt like a bad mom. I had yelled too much, I told you. “It’s ok,” you spoke back without even a moment to think. “I will always forgive you when you do something wrong” you told me.

I blinked and you became this little human who somehow understands love and grace and beauty on much deeper levels than I do.

They tell us not to blink. “It’ll be over before you know it.” They say. But how do we stop this constant reflex, a counting of time from birth until grave, a rhythmic reaction alongside of heartbeat and inhale and exhale. We cannot.

So I will keep blinking and you will keep growing and we’ll keep doing this dance of counting time and making time count. Because one day those words from friends and family and strangers will ring true. I will blink and it will be over. Only it won’t. Because we counted time. We slowed it and savored it and told it who was boss. And its treasures will always abide in our hearts—yours and mine—for forever’s keeping. So keep on making time so sweet, little one. Let’s make this business of blinking a sweet legacy of time well spent.

 

 

Living With Intention Motherhood

The Day I Nearly Killed My Son’s Compassion

February 17, 2017

Each cry from the back seat added another layer of tension to my shoulders as they hunched up closer and closer to my neck. My toddler was long overdue for a nap after a morning of running errands. Running errands is one thing. Running errands with three small children in car seats, who cannot buckle or unbuckle themselves, is a whole different thing. I was long overdue for a nap, too.

But that is when my middle boy spoke up softly. “Mom, look at that man. He does not have any food. We should give him some food.” This child, all of three years old with his soft voice and strong words knows exactly how to put a halt to the rush of our days.

I had seen the man too, of course, out of the corner of my eye. The toddler wailing and my blood pressure rising, I had hoped silently that the boys would not see him—would not suggest that we stop to help. Not today. Not now, when there is so much to be done. But then my boy reminded me that there was only one thing to be done, actually—and that was to help.

My boy’s words on that day, and his older brother’s exclamation of, “Wow, I feel great now!” after we rolled down the window and handed the man a gift card to a sub shop across the street—their words have stuck with me all these months later. Words that unearth the roots of your selfishness often do that. They stick. Not only did they show me a hard place in my heart, but they showed me a soft, strong place in my son’s heart; one bent on helping those in need. And I’ve come to see now that children are born with this bent within them.

Yes—kids are born selfish at their very nature; entering the earth with only needs of their own. But I believe that they are also born in the image of God; a God of great compassion towards those in need. And that compassion must be nurtured and encouraged, lest it be snuffed out by society.

Lest it be snuffed out by a mother in the thick of a rushed day, just trying to get home so the toddler can nap.

Last week at church we were given a bottle. Along with it, we were given the challenge of filling this bottle with change over the next few weeks. Then, with the bottle full, we’ll return it to church, where the money will be given to a local organization with a mission to help mothers and unborn babies.

As I picked up that bottle in my hand, it did not escape me that this is not the first time we have been given a container for change in church. Immediately I was brought back to that little stage, our toddler boy in my arms, the glass jar full of 936 pennies. I thought of the challenge we were given, to remove one penny every week; a poignant reminder of time being spent, and how are we spending it?

I stare now, these years later, at this bottle in my hands, ready to be filled for hurting mothers and endangered babies. I think of the organization helping mothers, and making sure that their babies will have a chance at their own 936 pennies. Their own 936 weeks with a family who loves them. And so we take our bottle home—three actually—to be filled.

Our boys have been doing just that. Day by day they ask for jobs to earn money. They’ve had their little hearts set on remote control cars for weeks, and have been working hard towards filling their own change jars, envisioning that trip to the store, and the picking out of their prized cars.

This week has been different, ever since bringing those bottles home. Now each day, after their hard work is done and it comes time to be paid, they divvy out their coins. One for their own jar, one for the moms and babies who need help. My second boy, the one who stopped us to help that homeless man on the side of the street months ago—he puts the majority of his change in the bottle for the moms and babies.

I count it grace that this comes so easy for them. It’s not always the case for me—take the example of the day I tried to drive by the homeless man. I see inconvenience. My sons see a Good Samaritan moment.

These Good Samaritan moments, and the conversations surrounding them, they teach our children, in a soft manner, the hard things of this world. As we talk about homelessness, moms who are frightened, babies without parents, and children without food—we coat the conversations with How Can We Help? And in doing so, our children grow up with an understanding that yes—this world is hard. It can be lonely and evil and scary and it is most definitely hurting. But—we can help. And this plants within them a sense of hope and purpose. It preserves that compassion engrained in their young hearts, so that it can outlast the hardship they will see and face as they grow. 

It teaches them that whenever within our power, we are never to just keep on driving. Because this world needs more people whose sense of compassion was never snuffed out as a child. This world needs more difference makers.

Faith Life Seasons Motherhood

When Your Limitations Are Staring You Straight In The Face

February 9, 2017

I saw it coming, though ever so subtly. I would be sitting at a table talking with a friend, and the whole room would shift as if balancing on a delicate axis. I’d sip water and concentrate hard—on anything—until it would pass, only to have it wash over me again like a line of unending waves in the ocean. It quickly accelerated from occasional to everyday. I’d find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a project, and having to brace the table before me to steady myself, although I wasn’t actually falling—yet. And so, on the day when it finally gave way, I was not too surprised to find myself collapsed on the couch for the whole of an afternoon.

It is difficult to remember that this used to be my regular existence.

Over a decade ago when I sat in that sterile room, my parents in those cheap chairs next to the exam table where I sat fidgeting; the doctor spoke it, “Yes, she does have Addison’s Disease”, and I wonder if we knew at all what it meant.

Back on that day, we wondered whether it would mean that I may not be able to have those three babies I kiss goodnight every evening now. Or that I should probably never try anything like running that half marathon I completed a couple of years ago, our third boy nestled safe in my womb as I crossed the finish line. I don’t think we knew back on that day, in that little room, when words of prescriptions and doses and tests were exchanged, really what kind of life I could expect to live. If I could ever chase big dreams like writing books or starting businesses or raising babies. We had no idea what to expect, aside from limitations.

Sometimes, on the hinge of words spoken or a diagnosis given or our own doubts crowding—we become a little afraid to dream. Because who wants to dream a dream that their limitations—be them physical, emotional, or other wise—will never allow them to chase after? 

In that first handful of years following my diagnosis, my parents fought hard to dissect this disease, and learn every little detail of how it might be affecting my body. And they fought even harder to encourage me to never stop dreaming. And then, five years after we sat in that sterile room, they handed over the position of Chief Encouragers to my husband, as we stood on that altar and exchanged vows. And as he took my hand, he eagerly took on that responsibility to never let me give up on my dreams.

And he’s kept that vow.

And so, on weeks like these, when seasonal colds and stressful weeks culminate in my disease reminding me—hey, I’m still around—I’m caught a bit off guard.

We have a way of forgetting about our limitations. Somehow we become comfortable with them. We tame them. We create a system, balance the weights, and set up safe guards. It’s what my husband and I have been fighting for over the past years, as we’ve learned how to live a life abundantly—with a chronic illness. It’s a good thing. But then, when we finally become comfortable and well adjusted—we round a corner to find those inhibitions staring us in the face—the floor falls out from beneath us.

Whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—whatever these limitations be, they have a way of reminding us that we are but clay and dirt and finite. We are limited. And it hurts, to want such big and beautiful and wondrous things for our lives, but to feel terribly hindered by things outside of our control. It hurt this week, in the midst of big dreams and plans and deadlines, to lay on that couch unable to even make dinner for my family.

And yet, I am discovering that my limitations are an invite.

This week, they invited me to lay and read that book I’ve been too busy to pick up. They invited me to watch my boys as they ran circles around the house in boy-made Superhero capes, exclaiming “It’s my pleasure!!” Every time I would ask them to grab my notebook or my blood pressure cuff.

My limits were my invite to not care about the dirty socks and half-completed art projects scattered across the floor, but instead to hold my toddler boy as he waited for me to fix his Lego truck. My limits were my invite to remember that I am, indeed, limited—and that’s ok. In fact, once in a while, I need to remember those limits. Because they have this stunning way of springing up within me a longing for that which is above and beyond and bigger than me and my limits. They make me ache for my Creator, who made me wonderfully, and calls me Very Good. The One who is my strength in weakness, my ever-present help. These physical limitations that drive me to that couch or my bed—they also drive me to my knees in prayer. And call me crazy, but it makes me a little bit fond of these hindrances.

Our limits have a thing or two to teach us about ourselves, our loved ones, and the pace of life. Sometimes they are our invite to rest, when we’ve been to stubborn to give ourselves a break. They invite us to ask for help, to accept grace, to stop. Refocus. Refresh. Restart. and Remember the One who gave us life, calls us to great things, and gives us everything we need—right in the midst of our limitations—to pursue those great things.

Back on that day when the doctor handed me a diagnosis I couldn’t, at fourteen years old, begin to understand the intricacies of, I couldn’t have anticipated the gifts hidden within. Limitations are funny like that, don’t you think? A blessing in disguise, if we choose to see and treat them as such. What is that limitation staring you in the face today? They stand there, intimidating and threatening and discouraging—and inviting. Take the invite today. The one that calls you to your knees, to rest, and to embrace a life that says that we are not enough—and that’s ok.

Faith Family Motherhood

When I Run Out Of Compassion For My Children

February 3, 2017

I felt him climbing ever so precariously across the bed towards me; each small movement pulling me further out of my sleep. He laid down across my stomach, face centimeters from mine, his little boy morning breath warm against my skin. I opened my eyes to just a squint and found them peering into his soft baby blues. “Mom.” He began, ever so matter of factly, “You are not making me breakfast.”

And so my day began.

As do many of them, right here in the beautiful mayhem of raising three small children. It seems as though most mornings, the boys roll out of bed right along with their constant stream of requests, ready to meet me before the dawn of the day, or any chance at that first cup of coffee.

Motherhood, at its very core, is a demanding call. It requires that we serve and serve and serve some more, and then wake to do it all over again tomorrow. It is sweet and humbling and wonderful—and depleting. And sometimes, if I am honest, I just don’t feel like giving any more. Or, I feel as though there is nothing left to give even if I tried. I’m guessing you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are right now.

It was in one of those extra demanding seasons, when I was feeling suffocated under projects and deadlines and baskets of dirty laundry and endless requests for more snacks or another episode of Thomas The Train that I glimpsed something within myself. And when I did, it stopped me in my tracks.

It was a recent morning while studying a passage with a room full of other mothers that I saw it. Or rather Him. Jesus— and His disciples, anchoring their boat along the shore, exhausted and hungry and anticipating rest and dinner. It came after a long shift of serving and healing and performing miracles and teaching. They were weary, and ready for a break. Much like I feel every single afternoon.

“And He (Jesus) said to them, Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while. (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) And they went away in a boat to a lonely place by themselves.)” Mark 6: 30-32

In all of the serving, they didn’t even find time to eat. Sound familiar? The anticipation of a break was palpable. But then…

“The people saw them going, and many recognized them, and they ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead of them.”

Their break— hijacked. I know the feeling; the disappointment, the frustration. When you lay your head down on the pillow and close your eyes, and then you hear that little voice calling your name from the other room. When you manage to wake earlier than the kids for a few moments and a cup of coffee to yourself, and they choose that morning to wake extra early, stealing that time away. Or when you lay them down for a nap, retreat to your desk, open the laptop to catch up on work, and he comes out asking if nap time is over yet. Your whole body aches for that little bit of rest. So much so that you can hardly even enjoy it when it comes, unsure of how long it will last. You’re afraid to drift into that sleepful state, lest a tiny voice yank you out of it, asking for another drink before bed.

And when those interruptions come, it becomes all too easy to overact; to voice my rights—what I feel I deserve after all of my serving. But then I look to that shore where Jesus and His disciples had just landed their boat, licking their lips at the thought of grilled fish and breathing deep at the anticipation of a good night sleep. And I see Jesus’ reaction.

“And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”

I have serious doubts that those “many things” Jesus began to teach the people were of His need for rest and their selfish actions to interrupt said rest. No, He showed compassion; without beating an eye or groaning under His breath. He laid aside His rights, and what He very much deserved, and He chose love.

Of course, He is Jesus. I, on the other hand, am a flawed Mom. Weary, tired, and often times selfish. But then, the Word says that He took on flesh. And, standing there on that shore teaching the multitudes—He certainly had. Flesh and blood and heavy eyes. Just as He would soon know the very real sensation of whips ripping apart His flesh before His crucifixion, I am willing to bet that He felt the very real sensation of fatigue after a very long week of serving.

He has been there, and He meets us there today, too, in our very desperate places. When we want to give up. When we don’t know how to keep giving. When we feel a little lost in this calling of motherhood. And He shows compassion to us, too. He meets us in our weakest places.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

The same compassion poured out over the multitude who chased them down and hijacked their rest—poured out over us in our most weary moments. It is a beautiful thing, to embrace His strength within us. To believe in it, live in it, claim it as true, and see it produce a new sort of compassion within us—one born of His grace, unfazed by the circumstances surrounding us.

And in those times when we do just need rest or a few moments of quiet, and the interruptions come—may our voices be laced in compassion when we explain to our children, “Mama just needs a few moments.” Or to our husband, “I really could use a couple hours by myself this weekend.” May compassion wind its way around our hearts, and through our actions and words.

Let’s embrace that kind of compassion today; the compassion Christ offers to each one of us, the kind that lifts us out of our tired, emptied state, and up to new heights. This compassion that overflows in us, out to our children, and can change the entire culture of our homes, and the legacy of our family. That kind of compassion that only Christ can create within us, when we run to Him on that shore, hungry for truth.

“but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When You Are An Introvert Raising An Extrovert With “So Many Words”

January 9, 2017

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“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t let you nap.”

My eyes are closed. I lay in my bed next to my five-year-old; his little brothers sound asleep in their rooms. He goes on. “It’s just that I have so many words. And I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.”

This seems to be the case lately. And can I just say it…that it’s exhausting? It is said that women speak, on average, around 20,000 words a day. Just the thought of that exhausts me. I am not, and have never been that woman. In fact, one reason my husband and I fit so well together is that we have a bit of a role reversal; he has always been the talkative one. During arguments (and yes, they do happen), he likes to talk things over, while I would rather employ the silent treatment, mull things over in my mind, and take a nap. I have never been the talkative type.

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And then I gave birth to the boy who is his father’s son. Just as Zeke put it that day lying next to me in my bed—he just has so many words. And some days, like today, it infuriates me. To get the same point across, I might use five carefully chosen words, while my boy would use twenty-seven to say the very same thing.

It has been a real struggle lately, to remain patient when I feel downright drained in every single way. He rounds the corner with another question, another idea, even another, “I love you Mom and you are the most beautiful Mom I know!” and it is just the sweetest thing. And exhausting.

If you’re the quiet type of mom who treasures her scarce moments of silence hidden amongst the chaos and noise of her day, you might just be nodding your head right now.

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It has been this terribly complex dynamic to wrap my mind around. As we prepare for my book to launch, which includes public speaking, I’m diving into this whole new exhilarating world. And I love it. I love speaking words that move people. And seeing them literally relax under those words and find space to breath again; wisdom to move forward. I love every single bit of it.

I also love quiet.

And how do I balance this type of life, where I can hardly call myself an introvert, because of my love for community and speaking, and yet holding a million conversations a day with my child is downright draining? I’m at a loss, most days. Maybe you feel the same, trying to keep up with just so many words from your little one.

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But on those days when I’m given a bit of extra clarity, I see it. That these “so many words” that my boy holds bottled up within him, they are his byway from young child to adolescent, and eventually adult. They are his only way to make sense of this world around him, where still so much makes very little sense at all.

His endless questions and limitless ideas, they are his only way to express all of those wonderings bottled up in that budding mind of his. With these “so many words”, he is trying to piece together all of the confusion, uncertainty, curiosities, and misunderstandings that surround him. And he is trying to figure out where he fits in it all.

These “so many words”, they need to be spoken, to find a voice and a space and an answer. It pains him to bottle them up. Just as he told me that day on my bed, “I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.” It is just the same with my writing. A thought or an idea enters into my mind, and I feel I must find a home for it somewhere. Whether it be in a notebook or a file on my phone or a text to my husband or straight here to the blog. It has to go somewhere, or else it might just disappear into oblivion, never to mature, develop, or move people. My boy feels the same with his ideas of snowboard designs and race car tracks and inventions. He needs those ideas and thoughts and questions and words to have a home, lest he lose them. And my listening ear provides him that sanctuary for his ideas, where he knows they’ll be safe.

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Every time we stop to listen to our child’s words, to really listen, and to answer, it is an invite. It invites them to be vulnerable and curious and to dream. And it invites us to step into their world, and glimpse those wonderings that dance about in their head all day long.

This open invite into their world, it’s a gracious offering that our children give us, and we can’t know for how long it will last. How long until they begin guarding those words; bottling them up and hesitant to share them with us? Now is the time, while our children are young, that we can provide them with a place of trust for their words to rest upon, so that even when they are grown, they will know exactly where they can go to for a listening ear.

So yes—it is exhausting—these so many words. But really, isn’t most of parenthood? And this piece of it—the opportunity to speak truth and life and love and kindness, to answer their questions in such a way that will satisfy their curiosity and teach them about the most important pieces to life—I’ll take that exhaustion any day. One question at a time. Let’s graciously give those so many words a place to be heard today.

Motherhood

I Wondered If It Was I Who Had Made Him Sick

November 18, 2016

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I haven’t breastfed for sixteen months. And so when the The Honest Company asked me to share my personal feeding journey, I felt a bit unqualified. Along with their feeding page to help us parents with the options we have for feeding our babies, The Honest Company has collaborated with many moms on this journey to share their real, honest feeding stories. It wasn’t that I felt unqualified for this writing project because I haven’t dealt with the strong emotions tied to feeding my children—but simply because I’m not in that particular phase right now. 

I felt that way until a conversation I had with my husband recently, when I stumbled upon a sentence I had ruled myself guilty of—something I hadn’t known that I was holding against myself.

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My family has been sick lately—a lot sicker than we’ve been in recent years. In the past few months, our three boys have suffered through bouts of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a stomach bug, and a respiratory virus. “I just don’t understand it,” I told my husband recently, “Why are they getting so sick? And with all of it, Willy seems to get hit the hardest each time.” Our youngest boy, Willy, is a year and a half. And through every recent illness, he has suffered the worst, and the longest. “Do you think…” I knew it was a bit ridiculous, but it was on my heart, so I went on, “Do you think it’s because he nursed for the least amount of time?” He assured me that there were a lot of factors, and that although nursing could be one factor, we didn’t even need consider it. His face said it all. Let’s not go there.

Our conversation opened my eyes to see that over these past sixteen months since our boy gave up breastfeeding, I have been holding it against myself. There has been a shadow hanging over my motherhood, and I am certain that the same shadow lingers over many mamas today.

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It could be argued that I should have tried harder. Perhaps I should have drank more mother’s milk tea, or ate more lactation cookies. Maybe our life was too stressful—we were in the midst of a move to a new state, and I was trying to run a business and secure a book deal. Maybe those ambitions were partly to blame. But I find that anytime I shift the blame, looking for a spot for it to call home—I am never satisfied. Playing the blame game only leaves me worse off.

Many of us moms are harboring guilt over the choices made around feeding our babies. There is so much out of our control. When our first son was five months old, I became very sick. While in the hospital, I was given medication that I could not nurse my boy on. Laying in that hospital bed, I pumped milk every two hours to encourage my supply. But I still lost my milk. The freezer at home ran empty of backup bags. I arrived home from the hospital to find my infant boy drinking formula from a bottle. It was all we could do–and I felt like a failure.

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Many moms face circumstances out of their control when it comes to feeding their babies. For some, their milk never comes in. For others, their baby never latches. For others, they didn’t meet their child until adoption brought them together, years after those feeding decisions had already been made. In our motherhood, there is so much that we cannot control. But sometimes the deepest peace is found in letting those matters go, giving ourselves grace, and shifting our focus to what we do have a say in.

When our youngest son gave up nursing at three months old, I was determined to find another way to bond with him. I missed his suckle, and the way he would lay pressed up against my skin, feeling nourishment pass from me to him. I missed it bad. And so I began carrying him on our hikes. Whenever we set out on a trail as a family, I volunteered to carry Willy in the hiking pack. As he sat behind me, taking in the wonderful world around him, smiling and chattering to me as we made our way down the path, he and I connected. We shared that experience of awe, adventure, and wonder. We bonded in a way that I will remember for all of my days.

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Whether the circumstances are within our control or not, our job is to look back on that time and remember the sweet cuddles, the middle-of-the-night lullabies, and the way our child rested securely in our love despite their feeding regimen. If you’re in this stage right now—make those moments matter. Weigh them down with your full presence. No matter the pressures, anxieties, and confusion permeating your own journey—rest knowing that the moments you will remember are the ones when you chose to love big despite the circumstances. Remember that your love for your baby is so much more powerful than feeding plans gone awry. And be thankful that even when things don’t go as planned, we still have good, wholesome options to offer our babies.

I am choosing to lay down this burden–the one I’ve been allowing to taint my motherhood for sixteen months. I hope you will do the same. Or if you are currently in the stage of making those decisions, that you’ll offer yourself some grace. With the immense pressure we face when deciding how to feed our babies, I think it would do us all well to step back and remember that what our little ones need most from us is undying, unconditional love. In our presence they find security. In our voice they find belonging. In our caress they find assurance. And in our own acceptance of ourselves as their mother, they find exactly the mom that they need.

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For more encouragement, be sure to read these Honest Feeding Stories over the the Honest Company!

 

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