Friday, January 12, 2018

Motherhood: "Is This It?"



As I fellowship and talk with fellow mothers in my life - and online - one thing is so clear to me: this way of life is hard. It really is. The differing lives and circumstances of each mother doesn't change the weight of child raising: these are tiring, draining, wonderful years. 

Some women wonder if this is normal... Is motherhood supposed to be so hard? A friend with newborn twins felt shocked by the dichotomy of absolutely loving being a mother (after such a long battle to get there) and yet, struggling under the weight of all that goes with having a new baby, plus one. I, too, remember pacing the dark room with a baby boy who would just not sleep anywhere else but on me, and wondering, 

"Is this it? Is this motherhood?"

There really is nothing quite like it. The mixture of joy and grief, delight and frustration, sweetness and anger, exhiliration and exhaustion, confidence and insecurity...And above all, the incredible blessing and love of being a child's mother - we love this so much - whilst having our feet tied to the daily ordinary of wiping, cleaning, hugging, and tearing. For many women, myself included, this dichotomy can create a sense of emptiness and doubt.

What Makes Motherhood Harder

From young girls, we have been drip fed this idea: we can do anything. We can do great, great things. We have so much to offer this world - brains, heart, strength, character, beauty, and femininity. Be a nueroscientist. Traverse the rain forest. Study those species. Solve that humanitarian issue. Deep, meaningful things that bless our world immensely. And we can do these things. We must be part of these activities.

Yet, when we become Mother, the great, broad world of anything is suddenly - and often, painfully - narrowed down to minutes and hours, the walls of home, the kitchen sink, bending in the laundry, following behind toddling feet. Day after day. The same dishes, the same clothes, the same letter learning, the same books, the same little faces.

How do we get from up there - in the broad horizon of anything - to the carpet floor building Lego and correcting speech? And how do we do it with joy, contentment, vision, and humility?

Choices We Can Make

The reality is, most of us don't know how to do it. Many give up because the abyss is so big. This is frightening and creates anxiety so they return to what they know - how they know they thrive - trusting others educated to institutionalized mothering. 

Others keep on for years - hard, painful years - sensing the doubt and insecurity but not knowing how to deal with it, thinking it is a character fault of their own.

A few have blessedly brought up to know what motherhood costs and takes. 

The rest of us want beautiful, noble, life-giving motherhood and, because we haven't been shown or taught how to, we muddle our way to find it. 

Has It Always Been Such a Shock?

For generations, ordinary mothering was normal. No-one knew anything different. Making meals, cleaning clothes, feeding stock, milking cows, educating at the table. That was a woman's life for forty or fifty years. It has only been in the last one hundred years that ordinary has been scorned for extra-ordinary, forgetting that the majority of people on earth will only ever have ordinary. 

I encourage you, dear friend, to not fear the doubt of "Is this it?" Yes, this is it. This is your life - if you do it wholeheartedly - for years. 

But, the depth and breadth of the rewards for a life of service to young children is incomparable.

Beyond The Question

One day we will see the fruit of our labour that God produces by His good pleasure. 

One day we will see the great and glorious tapestry of our days, which on the back were a mess of tangles, colour, and snags, and our hearts will sing for joy over His sovereignty and love. 

When motherhood comes calling, then, the change is on us. The struggles we have are our struggles and we must battle to face them. We must use Truth and choice and wisdom to grow beyond what we find hard. When something in us balks at the Groundhog Day-like life we begin to live, we must speak Truth to our souls. We must lift our eyes above our feelings to that which is solid, and true, and noble, and eternal, and real - Him who is beyond us and who perfectly designed the small and ordinary for our enjoyment and His good pleasure.

I write more in-depth about the cost and reward of complete motherhood in my e-book:


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Saying "I'm Sorry" When I Have a Bad Day of Mothering


Golly, I had such a lousy day as a mother.

And it all ended with me snuggling next to my almost-5-year-old (who bore the brunt of my parenting brilliance) and saying, "I'm sorry I have been so grumpy today. Will you forgive me?" And with the beautiful sweetness of a child, he said lovingly, "That's okay."

I could explain all the legitimate reasons why I was so grumpy... How my husband is away for the week...That I've come down with a cold...That both kids were late going to sleep but up just after 5am etc etc. There is no doubt that all these factors - and more - are reasonable situations to have caused said grumpiness in me. But, in the end, I can't be telling my preschoolers their behaviour is unacceptable when my own is equally so.

I was a grumpy mother today. I yelled, was not gentle, and definitely took it out on my boy who is going through some emotional changes himself at the moment (and is needing extra loving and patience).

It is always hard saying "I'm sorry" - especially to other adults. We have to acknowledge that we are not right, that we are not perfect. We are making ourselves vulnerable because, quite often, there can be a "I told you so" kind of response.

But children can be different, can't they? Even though his mother had been no fun at all that day and made her fair share of mistakes with him - and had certainly not been what he needed - he had not held it against me. He didn't say, "You should be sorry. Look at how you've treated me!" He didn't hold a grudge. He didn't manipulate me to make me feel worse.

He exhibited Christ to me. And he didn't even know it.

What's beautiful, too, is that he started telling me how he had been wanting to "listen to sin" today and be bad. He said he had tried to say "No". And I replied, "Well, Mummy didn't even try to say 'No' to sin, buddy." We got to talk about how when we ask for forgiveness from God, all the bad stuff we have done is gone - to the deepest of seas and forever!

What conversations I could have missed with my wee boy if I hadn't acknowledged my own sin before him. 

It's easy to want to look like the perfect mother, but it is more loving to our children to admit we're not and that we need a Saviour. 

Our children - if we've been teaching them about right from wrong and our need for Jesus - know very well that they aren't perfect, too. They need their parents to come alongside and say, "I'm not perfect, too" and head to the foot of the Cross together. It is not just individuals that need the blood of Christ, but families, too. 

May our apologies and asking for forgiveness be an important witness to our children's hearts as they grow up and battle with their own acknowledgement in needing Jesus as their Saviour.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Food For Thought #3


The first one, from Kari Patterson, is about how we naturally take the path that requires the least resistance. But, in doing so, we forget that the way to true life is by the narrow road - and it is a road that requires work and hardship. This was so good, friends.


And another from Mystie (because she is that good!) about how we, as mothers, just cannot let ourselves go. And not just our bodies, but our minds, too. I'm so passionate about this!


And a blogger, Cassandra, who I have loved for so long and who really introduced my heart to homeschooling and Charlotte Mason, now only guest posts (which made me so sad, but I am so happy I can still find her thoughts online) wrote about the beautiful and necessary like in the ordinary. It was perfect.


***

Hope these are hopeful, encouraging reads over your weekend. 

Next week I will be writing about how when we fail as mothers the best thing we can do is say sorry to our kids. I'll be writing from experience!!!


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cultivating Your Heart in 2018: A Word, A Scripture, A Quote



"Each of us has in his possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as habit."
~ Charlotte Mason

In my last post, I shared with you how I have been thinking about this past year (of 2017) and how I have been preparing for the year ahead. This could quite possibly be a very big year for us - we definitely are beginning our homeschooling journey from March, and we may be heading overseas for a year in August (at the moment, it is quite a maybe!).

With all this in mind, I have been praying and I have felt really led to organise all that thinking in a succinct way. I am a very visual thinker - I work best when my thoughts are down on paper. (And it helps if it is pretty!) I have also felt led to broaden how I prepare my heart for the coming year. 

This has led me to create a three-part focus for cultivating my heart for the new year: a word, a Scripture, a quote.


Why All Three?

I believe this is a really helpful way to get my heart ready. Having all three aspects is broader than say, just having a word for the year. It acknowledges that having a word for the year is a helpful anchor to keep you on the path you believe God is leading you down. 

As a Christian, however, our anchor is God and His Word. Anyone can pick a word for the year, but the Christian has the Word of all eternity to hang on to. And, not just to hang on to, but to be absolutely transformed by. And that is our hearts - to be made new, transformed, changed into the woman God wants us to be. So picking a verse to guide us - that brings a living truth to our intentionality - this is what binds it all.

At the same time, we also don't want to ignore the wisdom of many godly men and women who have things to say that can change our lives. Gleaning biblical truths based around the theme you are cultivating in your life is the other bookend to the three-part focus. Being an avid book reader, God has used many books as tools to create Christ-like change in my life. So we shouldn't forget the wisdom of others for our focus.

So, I'm sure you want to know - what are my three?

My Word: Habit

This has been a word playing over in my mind for awhile now. I believe it is building on the faithfulness God has been helping me pursue in my daily life. And I am needing more of that building! I know how much we need good habits in our life - not just myself, but my children, too. And I don't just mean physical habits, but also habits of character. This is why I love the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education - it is holistic, taking in the whole person of the child (and mother).

My Scripture: "For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galations 5:22-23

I am surprised by this verse, actually. I actually had a different one from Galations in my mind. As I was ready to write it down in my journal, I opened up the last section of Galations and my eye fell on this one. And I knew: this was the verse the Lord wanted me to anchor my year on. 

In some ways, I know why: this new year of homeschooling will hold it's own challenges that I will need the strength for this kind of mothering. God has also been working on gentleness and self-control in me this year. He has been changing me just so much as a mother! (Which I am increasingly grateful for as I see how wrong I have been in different ways.)

Yet, in other ways, I have no idea why this is the verse for my year: but I trust Him and His Spirit that leads us when we ask for guidance. Only He knows the whole picture as to why this is the verse He wants me to stay my heart on for the coming year.

My Quote: "Mothers work wonders when they are convinced wonders are demanded of them." Charlotte Mason

I will probably write a whole post on this another time because it is such a challenging and beautiful thought from Charlotte Mason. But, altogether, it sums up my heart for motherhood: that when we submit our lives fully to God then, as mothers and through Him, we can nourish and raise His children the way they need to be. This is always what I mean by "wholehearted". This is something I need to be reminded of daily as I seek to be the mother I know God asks me to be.


So friends, I really encourage you to do something similar for yourself as we begin a new year. Goals and resolutions are good - but often they can fail because we forget an important factor of change. Before any outward change can take full effect, it is our hearts that need to be transformed first. It's taking me so long to learn this, but it is a truth I really need to grasp. I really believe it will make the difference in the year ahead for myself and for you, too.

Free Printable

I have created a printable planning page for those interested in doing something similar. There are a couple of questions to help flesh out your thoughts and to pray over where God might be leading you, or what He may be revealing to you. Then there is a page to copy down your three-part focus. You could put it in your Bible, your journal, binder, or put it up on the wall. 

Click to Get The Printable



If you use this, I would love to know if it has been helpful!

Tell me, can you relate to any of the work God has been doing in me? Has God been leading you to a particular focus for 2018?


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thinking Back For Thinking Forward


I hope this post isn't going to be cliched, but it is that time of year again. People take stock of the year that has been and make resolutions and goals for the year to come. I, for one, am not one of those people. I do take stock - but not to make resolutions or goals. Maybe it is my personality (or the fact that I know my flaws quite well), but I know I won't keep any goals or resolutions. So, I don't make any.

But, that isn't to say that I don't do something about the thinking I do. Rather than goals per se, I try and have a focus for the year ahead. (This is actually going to be a post in itself, so stay tuned.) The focus I prayerfully choose is usually based on the struggles and growth I have seen in myself and life from the year that has just been.

For example, this past year, my focus has been faithfulness. Some might have said that was my "word" for the year, though I don't think I had it in mind like that. Rather, at the beginning of this year, when I was looking back on 2016, I knew that God had been calling me to be more faithful in my daily life. I have struggled in the past (and still do!) with inconsistency. That seemed a major thing that God kept bringing up last year.

Though it hasn't always been on my mind, over this year, I can definitely see how I have grown in faithfulness. I am not where I would love to be, but I can see so much growth this year, and I know that growth has come because my heart has been prayerful and aware over it. I am so thankful!

For the year ahead, I have been thinking over all that God has been doing in me - the struggles and growth - and have decided that my focus is going to have three parts: a word, a scripture, a quote. I am still working on this, which is what I will share on soon. But perhaps this might help you as you think over this year in your life? 

Talk to the Lord about your focus. Be honest with your weaknesses and struggles this past year. Let God's Word speak on those heart and behavioural issues. Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you seek to have an intentional focus for your days coming in 2018. Only God knows what is ahead and I have met with many people before who have chosen a focus or word and have been awed how God used it (or led them to it), often in a way they never expected.

So we know that we can trust God with the year coming, just as He has kept us this past year. Whether 2017 was the worst year of your life or one of the best, let our hearts consider the works God has done and prayerfully look to 2018.

"Let us number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12
---------------------------------------- 

In my next post, I will go into more detail about my three-part focus for 2018. And I hope to share a printable with you, too.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Food For Thought #2


This week I found two posts I just really loved and wanted to share.

The first one is from my blogging friend over at Ready to Be Offered:

Keeping Things Simple With Little Children

and

Refocusing My Blog's Mission and Design

by Accounting My Blessings.

Hope these bless you over this almost-Christmas weekend!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

When It's Hard, Step Upward.


Don't deprive your soul of the agility which it needs to mount up to Him. ~ St John of the Cross
Sometimes I am faced with two choices.

On the one hand, I know what is required of me as a disciple of Christ in a certain situation. Whether it is showing love to someone that is risky or that might possibly backfire on me to denying my needs for the needs of someone else - those are what I know I ought to do.

Yet on the other hand, I have within what I really want to do and that which is easier. Whether it's dwelling and indulging in emotions that rage like currents in my veins to doing what I want even if it denies another person something good - those are what I know I want to do.

So on that threshold before action (or inaction), it comes down to two choices: I will or I want.

And sometimes that choice isn't really coming from a selfish or sinful moment. Sometimes the days are just long and hard and giving one more ounce of myself out for another feels like it would require something of me that isn't there anymore.

Truthfully, often enough, there isn't anything left. The tank is empty. The spirit and will is weak. The right choice is too hard, the wrong choice is more natural. In that moment, I cannot deny my soul the exercise it needs to mount the heights to Him who beckons me.


A simple "Lord, I need your help. I just can't do this," lifts the soul upwards and begins the Spirit's work within to equip me to do what I ought and not what I want. Something is awakened within to the light that calls a heart that is His. If I don't cry out my need for Him, the darkness remains within and makes it harder to choose the life offered to me.

And never, ever, has He failed me. When my cry is genuine, He always meets me where I am and helps me in my need. He is ever faithful and ever willing to help me choose holiness. And in choosing holiness, I am becoming more like Jesus - Him who lived only to please the Father. May each threshold be an opportunity for me to step ever closer to Him, in heart and in deed.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Food For Thought: 11th-17th December, 2018


With blogging and linking up around the web, I come across so many great posts. I'm not really on much social media, but so often I want to share what I read. So I thought I would create a (hopefully) weekly post that holds all my favourite reads of the week in one place.

I hope what I share encourages you, edifies you, challenges you, convicts you, and mostly, points you closer to Jesus.


Self-Control Not Self-Care by Mystie Winkler @ Simplified Organization


How to Create a Peaceful Homeschool by Jennifer @ Deliberate Homeschooling


Is My Home Conformed to the World? by Nicole @ Redeeming Home

Thursday, December 14, 2017

When You Want More Than The Muddle of Motherhood (But, Really, Life Is a Muddle).



If you are anything like me, you strive for the perfect day. Each day, or at the beginning of each week when fresh days are before you, you think, "Now I will carve out the perfect days with my children." 

You have a daily schedule you hope will get you there. You have a Morning Basket you're aspiring to begin your days with the children. You have set up a cleaning schedule to stay on top of dust and cobwebs and dirty walls. And you think you're the Budget Queen - nothing this week will throw off your finances.

Oh, how I long for perfection. 

And yet, at the end of each day, the only perfection in my life I seem to have is the feeling I have of being perfectly disappointed and perfectly frustrated at my lack of making our life coherent. For example,

  • I sit in front of the computer instead of opening my Bible.
  • I plan a day at home but my dear husband needs me to bring something to work for him.
  • I create a daily plan that will make everything "sync" - but I barely make it through two days.
  • I believe in helping the children learn to help around the house but it's just easier to do it myself most days.

And, I know so well, that almost every single wife and mother longs to not be muddling through motherhood. We want Instagram-like days of peace, serenity, and schedules. We want those moments captured of children doing wondrous exploring of the world or cuddle round the family's favourite book. We want order. We want control. We want to feel like we are succeeding in keeping the chaos of life at bay.

But, friends - and how I am saying this to myself - LIFE IS MESSY. Marriage and motherhood are messy. Those Instagram pictures that we all love to aspire to - they are just moments. Moments of joy. Moments to treasure. Moments to glorify God with. (I love what Stacey said here, because it is so true.)

Precious sisters in Christ, if you're getting into God's Word, you will know firsthand that no-one documented in it had it together. Martha - the homemaking queen - didn't have it right. And Mary - who was captured by Christ and got that part right - also doubted Him and His choices. Those women - and every single person in the Bible - are what makes God's Word so needful for me: it is a historical document of people muddling through life with God's hand on them, never letting them go.

But those who suffer He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction." ~ Job 16:15

Though most of our days are not spent in suffering, the muddles of the mundane does not negate us from our Good Lord's deliverance. But, don't think that He picks us up out of the ordinary and drop us into the victorious (that comes later, when we step into glory). 

Rather, as we muck and make up...or interruptions occur that throw us off our schedule (again)...or things just don't go the way we want them to (in order for us to feel "successful")...God delivers us by speaking to us. Our hearts are taught, our souls knitted more closely to His, our bodies are bent towards service more devotedly.

So those moments where visitors are about to come and the house is still a warzone? Capture it on Instagram. And when your husband is burdened by the work on his plate and you're feeling alone in this parenting thing? Relinquish it all to Jesus. Don't fight back. Bend in and let Him lead you.

None of us have it got it. Perfect days. No one really knows what they are doing (though some have more experience at things and so blessedly share their knowledge with us). We are all muddling through this together. And, the more I bring one foot up out of the mud and put the other one down, the more I think this is the way it is meant to be this side of eternity. We just need to remember to stake the Cross right in the midst of the muddle that we might not sink.

--------------------------------------------------------------


Need some encouragement for mothering as a Christian in today's world? My little e-book, Wholehearted Motherhood: Raising the Next Generation With Undivided Hearts, might meet that need.

Monday, December 11, 2017

How A Lady Said I Was Strong (When All I Feel Is Weak)


A post wrote a post last week (When You're a Low-Energy, Easily Tired Wife and Mother) has resonated with a few. And I'm thankful. It is so helpful to be honest as Christian women. I don't believe in sharing everything, and especially not to be negative and degrading... But, to be honest so that we can share one another's burdens, or to give a little joy or hope to another...That is so encouraging.

Since writing that post our week has been so busy. We have celebrated a wedding, and grieved the death of a church family member. I have shared my husband to our church for three nights in a row, and we have had a Christmas picnic with his work. I have also run a book study for the mother's group at church, as well as helping my husband lead our own house group.

At said mother's group, as I was finishing the photocopying for the book (this one by Elisabeth Elliot), a lovely lady mentioned how I didn't often come to the mother's group. Feeling a little embarrassed (as I always do when I reveal I am not perfect in the way I wish I was), I said,

 "No...I have to be so careful with our weeks for my mental health." And then I added, "I feel rather like a weakling, really." 

To my surprise and encouragement, she said, "Oh no. To me, that just makes you a strong woman."

I felt so lifted in that moment. Taken aback. But mostly thankful that in God's currency, being weak is what makes His children strong. It all filled me in that moment. I sensed God's care for me and His acceptance of me...just as I am. I knew that He didn't hold my weakness against me.

Just a few days later, as I was listening to a good friend fill me in on her week and all the things she and the kids had been doing...and I felt my heart sinking with shame. Not because she was gloating or anything at all. Instead, her family were so incredibly busy and thriving. Her capabilities and strengths in those areas far exceeded my own. I imagined myself in her shoes and felt anxious and exhausted just thinking about it.

And just momentarily, I thought to myself, What a weakling you are...

"Therefore, I shall boast about my weaknesses..." ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9b

Boasting? About what a weakling I am? How I often need naps? Or how I always feel behind or useless as a housewife? Or how I have a baby belly that I can't lose? Or how I struggle with gentleness with my children? Or how I can be so unfaithful to the Lord?

Paul, in his great many weaknesses, said that he could boast in them to people for two reasons:

1. Because of God's grace.
2. Because of the power of Christ.

God actually spoke to Paul that His grace was all that Paul needed in his weakness. Paul wanted victory, or healing, or a sense of mastery over his weaknesses/sins/failures. But God said, "No". God wanted Paul to continue on as a weak human being so that His beautiful, wonderful, life-giving grace would abound all the more in Paul.

And God wants the same for me. And you.

As Paul remained in his weaknesses - whatever they were - abiding in God's grace, the resurrection-power of Christ would rest on him. That power would enable Paul to continue on, to accept who he was and what he was weak in, and know God's love and care. More than that, God would help Paul be used in his failures for God's glory. 

Therefore, Paul said, he "delighted" in it all: weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties. He didn't reject them. He didn't allow himself to feel ashamed. He didn't try to push himself onwards to conquer those aspects of his life. He delighted in them that Christ might be forefront in his heart and to other people watching him.

So when I am tempted to shrivel inwards with shame or the sense that my weaknesses are something to conquer...I need to turn my eyes upwards. To Him who wants me to abide in His grace and to His Son who wants to give me the power to glorify God in my humanity. In this way, my weaknesses become my strengths...God's strength in me. And you.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Advent Devotional for Essential Oil Lovers!

"A Must Read! In The Essence of Joy, Lynn Watson intertwines Scripture with the uses of oils and spices mentioned in the Bible. I was left with a feeling of wonder, a new way of looking at God's word. The book is educational, entertaining, and uplifting. There's history, fun-facts, even recipes. The author brings devotionals to a new level, giving biblical insight to the problems modern women encounter today. The Essence of Joy is perfect for both bible study groups and those who are just starting out on their spiritual journey." ---Jeri McBryde, Eight-Time Contributing Author to Chicken Soup for the Soul

Welcome to The Essence of Joy by Lynn Watson Book & Notepad Giveaway!


Today's post is part of an amazing Blog Tour to celebrate and promote Lynn Watson's latest devotional, The Essence of Joy: Filling Your Heart with the Aromas of Jesus' Nativity. As a lover of essential oils, I was immediately keen to be part of this - and you are going to love it.

Did you know...?

  • Many holiday scents like cinnamon, citrus, and cinnamon are found in the Bible?
  • That there is a rich heart connection attached to many of the plant essences found in Scripture?
  • That Myrrh is such an important essence we can follow its trail from Genesis to Revelation with many significant stops along the way?


This is what I really loved about Lynn's book - seeing how oils were used by the people of God throughout His Word. From Genesis, to the Temple, to the Cross - essential oils have always been part of the daily life of people, from ordinary moments to the extraordinary. 

I also loved how in each chapter, Lynn corresponded an oil with a characteristic of the Christian's life, that is, our relationship with God. For example, Lynn coupled the strength of the cederwood tree with Jesus' strength and shelter for us. She also coupled mint with giving, palm with celebration, rose with love, - and many more.


Beautiful Lives of Women


The depth of Lynn's devotional comes with intertwining the lives of women in the Bible and the experiences of God they had. Whether it is experiencing God's love, or His security, or His strength - Lynn works each of these characteristics in with the scent of the chapter and the characteristic that is coupled with it.

In a Stable a Baby Lay...


As an advent devotional, all the stories and information and inspiration through the essential oils, it all comes down to the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. And, of course, His resurrection. The focus of all of Lynn's work is in Jesus. Her heart for Christ and loving His people shines through.


Giveaway!

Lynn is going to give away a paperback copy of The Essence of Joy as well as a set of notecards. To be in to win, please leave a comment below, come back Monday for me to let you know the winner. Good luck!

You can find Lynn Watson at these places:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...