HOPE #5

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Wildflowers.  They spring up unexpectedly and sometimes in the most unlikely places: our weedy front yard, freeway onramps, dry creek beds.

Seemingly, out of nothing they spring. But, that isn’t really true.  They are rooted, watered, and given life by our creator.

We recently took our girls to see a bit of the California Super Bloom that everyone is talking about.  Carpets of wildflowers brightening up dry fields and pastures.  A sea of purples, whites and yellows. All grown by God.

What hope there is in the wildflower.  That something so beautiful can grow from nothing, but the will of the Lord.  So, too, are our lives.  Whether you are in a desert place or in a fertile garden, you can grow and God can do beautiful things in your life.

Don’t limit yourself to your circumstances.  God is bigger than them.

 

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. psalm 115:3

 

 

HOPE #3

butterfly

We raised 4 butterflies.

They came to us as tiny caterpillars, no longer than a fingernail.  Over time they grew and grew and grew.

Then, they were shrouded in darkness as each caterpillar formed a Chrysalis around itself.  There it hung, no movement and no beauty, until finally one day it emerged.  A butterfly!  Weak at first, but beautiful and new and complete!

Much like Christ, who hung on a cross and was shrouded in cloth and laid in a dark tomb, but emerged alive and whole and new and perfect.

Isn’t that how hope is?  It grows in us, the longing becoming stronger and the dreams becoming larger.  Then, perhaps you feel it is snuffed out. Darkness covers it and it seems hidden.  But, you can not see the work that God is doing or the changes he is weaving beneath that darkness.  Then, one day, it will emerge.  It will be new, perhaps look different even, but it will be beautiful and perfect and whole.

Don’t lose hope in the darkness.  That may be the place where the most work is being done.  It is simply being done by hands greater and more skilled than your own.  Simply rest in that dark place and wait.

 

psalm 71: 5-6, 14

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.

I will ever praise you.

As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

butterfly2 butterfly3 butterfly4 butterfly1butterfly3butterfly1
    

Why it is actually ok to “lose yourself” in Motherhood

Have you seen the titles?  The instagram captions?  They are meaningful and honest and well-intentioned.

How to not “lose yourself” in motherhood, or why you shouldn’t “lose yourself” in motherhood.

I’m not sure where this idea came from that motherhood inherently makes you lose part of who you really are?  Does motherhood change you? Yes, definitely.  Is that inherently bad?  No.  Is motherhood sometimes all-consuming. Yes. Is that wrong? No. Does motherhood define you in many ways? Totally!  Does that make you less of a woman?  Absolutely not!

It saddens me that many of the very women who seem to praise and love motherhood, are also belittling it by suggesting that in order to stay true to yourself you can not give your whole self to the task.  I do not believe that is the case.

After all, the same can be said for any phase of life. You can “lose yourself” in school and studying or in your career and work, or in a marriage. I think it is the word lose that really gets on my nerves. If you are lost then that means you are confused about which way to go, you are unsure, you have no direction.

That’s not really what we are talking about here.  What we are talking about is self-denial, yet also self-realization.

If I have always been a creative person, and then I become a mom and I use my creativity to plan a super adorable first birthday party, have I “lost myself” in motherhood?  Or, rather, have I just used a part of my personality to benefit my children?  If I love photography and my children become my main subjects, have I “lost myself” in motherhood, or am I just using my gifts for the people that are most important to me.

It seems to me that motherhood often makes us MORE of who we are, rather than detracting from us.  The difference is that we are no longer using our gifts, interests and abilities to merely serve ourselves.  We are using them to serve our children and our families.  The world says this makes us less of a woman and that we are “wasting” our talents or we are “losing” ourselves.  I disagree.  Who we give our all for or where we choose to demonstrate our personalities is not what matters.  It doesn’t change the worth.

A woman who sings beautiful grammy-award worthy lullabies to a crying infant is not less worthy than the woman on the stage.  A woman who cooks gourmet meals for a husband and hungry children is not more lost than a woman who constantly serves strangers in a five star restaurant. A woman who paints murals on the nursery wall for her coming child rather than for a museum is not wasting her talents.  She is still herself.  She is not lost.  Her personality has not changed. Rather it has more purpose.

If daily learning to deny myself and to serve my family is considered “losing myself” to motherhood, then so be it.  I am happy to be lost.  This “loss” has grown me and shaped me and fulfilled me more than any other pursuit of my life.  It is harder and lonelier than many other experiences I have had.  But, it is life-changing, eternal work I am doing.

After all . . .

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” philippians 3:8

So, mamas.  Don’t feel like what you are is not enough.  Be who you are IN your motherhood, not outside of it.  Tap dance in the kitchen, dress your children in the latest fashion, hike and travel with your kids, do what you love and be who you are FOR them and don’t be ashamed of it.

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Real life photo of my motherhood, and just for fun . . .  a LINK to a post on this same topic that I wrote very shortly after my first daughter was born.

How to Mentor Yourself.

This title is misleading.  One can not simply mentor one’s self.

I truly believe that mentorship is not only important, but a Biblical call.

Here’s a piece of my story:

I had two kids (only two!), but I felt overwhelmed.  Discipline was not going well, nobody was napping, I was working, I was hormonal, I was overwhelmed.  I found myself in the bathroom with the door shut, on the floor and crying.

Why was I failing at this?  All I had ever wanted was to be a mother and here I was mad at my kids, barely surviving and generally failing at the one career I had most longed for my whole life.  I was at a breaking point.

I was pouring out day after day with nothing to fill me back up. I was desperate.

My whole life I was shy and lacking in confidence around adults, so asking a woman to mentor me would have been a monumental task.  The thought horrified me, and honestly, I still haven’t brought myself to do it.

Instead I set out to “mentor myself”. With very few friends and very little time, I knew I had to be creative. I had been inspired by a book called Women Living Well (by Cortney Joseph), which had outlined a mentorship program she began at her church. I ached for something similar.  A way to be mentored without having to find some random woman and ask her to “HELP ME, PLEASE!” I began e-mailing the women’s ministry director at church about a mentorship program, but it was not to be . . . yet.

So, here is what I did and here are my tips for you:

  1. Podcasts:  

This was the turning point for me.  This was how I got out of my rut and began to thrive, rather than merely survive.  I started strapping my two kiddos into the stroller with some snacks and sometimes a bag for collecting nature items.  I’d plug in my iPod with some freshly downloaded podcasts and I’d walk and listen and sit under the wisdom of a godly woman.

The podcast I chose was by Sally Clarkson.  She and a younger woman (Kristen Kill) speak on many topics, but with motherhood at the heart of it all.  I was encouraged, challenged, and inspired by her!  They still record podcasts, so it is a great resource! Since then, I have added in the At Home podcast, which is also wonderful, but often focused on homeschooling.

Sometimes, if I hadn’t had a chance for a walk and I could tell I was losing it, I would ask my husband to watch the kids for a bit when he got home from work, and I would sneak off to my room to fold laundry and listen to part of a podcast.  Hearing fresh encouragement and wisdom always geared me up to finish the night strong.

 2. Instagram:

I know, I know . . . the rest of the world is all “stay off social media”, “don’t compare yourself”, “instagram is not reality” . . . but, hear me out. I found that there were certain people who used instagram as a ministry of sorts to speak encouragement and wisdom into other women.  Having these people in my feed contributed to seeing positive and inspiring messages during my week. Here are a few of my favorites:

@sally.clarkson

@athomepodcast

@proverbs31ministries

@gracelaced

@womenlivingwell

@yourfavoritehousewife (for her Theology Thursdays)

   3. Books: 

Gradually, as I got my life back under control and began to come out of the fog I had been in, I was able to manage my time and life more in a way that allowed me to add in some reading time here and there.  Of course, the Bible is the best book of all, but there were some specific books on motherhood that really encouraged me during this time.

  • Women Living Well
  • The Mission of Motherhood
  • Raising Godly Tomatoes
  • The Life-Giving Home
  • Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe

4. Real-Life Mentorship:

Real life mentorship is the obvious goal and has the potential to be the most life-giving and practically helpful.  I reached out on a mom facebook group when my kids’ bedtime routine was driving me insane.  I emailed a parenting expert at my church when a particular behavior issue with my child was challenging me. I was still too scared to talk to anyone in person, but this less personal methods still helped me a lot! I also switched my work schedule, so that I could attend a women’s Bible study once a week and I made sure to join the groups with leaders I knew would offer valuable wisdom.

I also continued to hound the women’s mentorship director about a program at the church. HA!  Eventually, we got together and a new ministry was born at our church.  We are preparing for our third mentorship event right now.  This event invites experienced women to lead a table on a specific topic.  Women sit at the table to ask questions, hear wisdom, and be encouraged.  It is a beautiful model of mentorship that requires no long term commitments (but opens the door to them) and no initiating on anyone’s part to begin a mentorship relationship (Shy people, rejoice!)

 

What resources do you use for “self-mentorship”?

 

Also, remember, you too are further along . . .

mentor

 

 ****And here is one more thought for you.  I have heard people say that they cannot follow someone on instagram or listen to a certain podcast, or read a certain book because the person sounded too perfect.  Or they felt discouraged because the person was doing more than they were.  DON’T BE LIKE THAT!  Remember, a mentor is a mentor because they are further along the road than you.  Just because they are succeeding in an area that you may be struggling in does not mean that they have never struggled! Rather than feeling discouraged that you have been convicted or challenged, be encouraged.  If you see a flaw in yourself, that is GOOD.  Without seeing it, you cannot change it. Don’t seek mentors who tell you that you are great as you are, seek mentors who encourage you to be all that God called you to be.  That will give you so much more hope and joy in the end!

 

Hope #2

{ This hope series is designed to chronicle my “word of the year” as well as to enourage you wit scripture, resources, and more.  Enjoy!}

hope2

I am still focused on hope.

And, the funny thing is that hope breeds gratitude and gratitude lessens your tendency to hope for frivolous things.

There have been times that I have had such hope for a larger and more practical home.  Yet, this stormy season has brought such gratitude.  When I see rain pouring and wind raging outside, I am so very grateful for my home and my desire for something larger fades into the background of a thankful heart.

Thus, rather than longing for things, I am content in what I have already been blessed with.  Because, at one point, this very home is what I was hoping for.  This home is a hope fulfilled.

Gratitude reminds us of God’s provision in the past, it reassures us that we can hope again, but it also lessens our desire or hope for so many different things.  Hope is good, but we don’t want to spend all of our thoughts and prayers hoping for more.  Rather, believe that God can and be content even if he doesn’t.

“The iron did swim.”—2 Kings 6:9. Here is a great scripture and a link to a mini Spurgeon sermonthhhhgra that inspires hope.

Morning.

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields… Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness. “
– Mary Oliver

How do you do mornings?

I always have the best of intentions.

But, falling asleep later than usual combined with middle of the night wake- ups, early risers, and pregnancies, leaves me seeking the comfort of my bed until the last possible second.

That has been my trend.  And by last possible second, I mean 6:45am on a good day.

However, something has got to give.  My oldest two don’t nap and my days are filled up with raising children, cooking, cleaning, etc. until 7:30pm and then it is tidying up from the day and work and hopefully spending some time with the husband until we fall exhausted into bed.

So, where is there room for meeting with the Lord?  For filling up on Him?

rise

Although I attempt to sneak in a few pages from some sort of Bible study book during my kids quiet times, or listen to a podcast while washing dishes, this is not the same as reading God’s own words or meeting with Him in prayer.

I’ve known for some time that the mornings are key and that this is where I can find time.  Oh, but I’ve had all the excuses and they are legitimate excuses.  But, I don’t like starting my day rushed, overwhelmed, or frustrated with my kids the second they arise.  Add to that, working at 8:30 am two days a week and I have felt a constant urging to make my mornings better.

So, I started.  I have done nothing drastic.  I don’t set an alarm.  But, here is what I do: When I wake up, whether by one child who has to use the bathroom early, my I’m-pregnant-and-need-to-pee wake up call, or my husband’s alarm . . . . THEN I GET UP.  I don’t roll back over.  I don’t attempt to sleep more.  Let’s be real, you don’t get any good sleep at that point any way.

morning

Instead, I hop (ok, maybe roll) out of bed, throw on sock and a sweater and shuffle to turn on the heater and the stove top.  While the hot water heats, I make my husband’s lunch (one less distraction once the kids are awake). Then, I stir a warm beverage, light a candle and snuggle under a blanket in the cozy chair by the window. I may only get 15 minutes, maybe less, but it is something.  I read a psalm, I copy down a verse that really convicts or encourages me, and I take a few moments to pray over something specific.  There may even be another child rising at this point or a baby that I grab out of her crib to get a diaper change by daddy, but I am doing something. Something is always better than nothing. I downloaded Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening onto my Kindle and I may add that into my morning time as well.  I don’t know.  The mornings are still unpredictable with kids.

It hasn’t happened every day and it isn’t always perfect, but it is still so good.  Those few moments to prepare my heart and to recognize that the day WILL have challenges and to ask the Lord to be my strength in them, those moments are so good.  Having time to drink a little something warm and to get a few tasks out of the way allows me to be more present in the morning for my family.  As much as it seems unfair, we moms set the tone in our homes.  If we are rushed or cranky in the morning, then things can quickly get out of control.  If instead, I am calm and prepared to serve breakfast as soon as they wake, then the morning goes much smoother!

So, I plan to keep on making the most of my mornings even if I am only starting simple.  Sometimes, simple is best.

Do you have a morning routine?  Are you longing for one?  How to you steal away moments of silence? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and suggestions!

A Word.

Last year was the first year I chose “a word” for the year.

I typically avoid trends like that, but for the first time I truly felt as though God had placed certain words on my heart. So, I held those words close and pondered them throughout the year and looking back I can see the positive impact they had. This year, without really intending too, I chose another word. Or, perhaps, it chose me? The word that has been lingering in my heart and fluttering about my mind is this: Hope.

I’ve been trying to rise earlier to read God’s word and just breathe before the pressures of the day begin and I began by looking to the Psalms.  Many of the verses that jumped out at me and whose words I copied onto 3 x 5 cards, contained that simple word: hope.

hope

I think this word is dear to me now, because of our life season.

  • We live in 816 square feet with three small children and one on the way and we see no possibilities for us to find a larger home in our current town.  For that situation, we need hope.
  • We both work and my husband is often exhausted from his job and I often resent the time that mine takes away from my family and we are decreasing my work hours in the fall without knowing if we can financially handle such a decrease. For that situation, we need hope.
  • We are pregnant with a fourth child, which will give us four children five and under very soon, a blessing and a challenge for sure.  We are nervous about our upcoming ultrasound due to some concerns for the baby and my history of miscarriages. For that situation, we need hope.
  • We dream of living on more open space, but see no means. We dream of me not working, but see no means. I dream of deeper friendships, yet I wait. We dream of many things that seem to be merely that, dreams.  For each of those situations, we need hope.

Are you clinging to a word?  A phrase?  Or, like me, are you merely resting in hope?

I’ll leave you with a few of the scriptures that have really resounded with me at the start of this new year, and THIS message from Charles Spurgeon.  Hold fast to hope, my friends.

PSALM 34: 4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

PSALM 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

PSALM 33:22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

PSALM 36:7 – 9 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

 

xo Jenny