How to Ruin a Really Good Day

With every passing minute, my neck muscles tightened and my blood pressure climbed. Everyone else was enjoying themselves, but I was becoming increasingly more impatient and irritable. The bad odor wafting in the air? That would be my stinky attitude.

The day started with great promise. I wasn’t expecting much – a relaxing beach day with my family. Was that too much to ask?

The problem was everyone else had the same idea! Traffic was horrendous, parking a nightmare, and the beach was crammed with people jockeying to make my space their space.

“Maybe spreading out my chairs and stuff would create some breathing room?”

Didn’t work. People traipsed over my stuff tossing sand in my food leaving my snacks with a crunchy, grainy texture.

“Ugh. Don’t people respect personal space anymore?!”

My family wasn’t bothered by the inconvenience. Nope. They were having a grand time smiling, surfing and splashing in the waves while I was forgotten, left to fume and fight for a sliver of space on a beach becoming more congested by the minute.

To make my experience even more uncomfortable, a bird conveniently dropped a big blob of poop on me!

You don’t have to say it. I know what you’re thinking, “Poor…little…me.” Ahem.

As I sat there huffing, complaining, grumbling to the brink of almost-ready-to-cry frustration, I decided reading a book might help.

The book I grabbed just happened to be on evangelism.

Oh, the irony.

Like a pressure valve releasing steam, immediately the presence of God began to diffuse my irritability while also convicting my heart.

My contingency for enjoying the day had been all about my happiness, my space, my time, my convenience.

Me…ME…MEEEE!

Friends, allow me to share a little secret with you –

a me-centered life will lead to misery.

A full life is experienced when we extend our life to others, not shrink into solitude.

When my eyes focus outward and my heart opens to be used by God, I’m able to see the world through a completely different lens – one that places a premium on people, seeing them not as bothersome, but with the care and compassion of Jesus.

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When Jesus encountered people, He saw an invitation to make an impact, not an inconvenience to his schedule.

Jesus didn’t withdraw from crowds; He drew near to them.

Crowds of people didn’t frustrate Jesus; He emanated compassion – a deep sympathy for their brokenness and compelling desire to alleviate their suffering.

With compassion, your me-centered day becomes others-oriented, full of potential with hope that God would use you to enfold his hurting children with the love of Jesus.

That day, God broke my heart afresh for his hurting children. He reminded me of people’s great worth and the price He paid for them.

Investing my life there will make for a really great day.

 

What Really Matters to Our Kids

I have a couple of confessions to make. Here it goes. Deep breath. First, my kids ate cereal for dinner twice this week…. TWICE! And, we had Taco Bell another night. Secondly, as a mom, I’ve come to realize I can’t do it all. Honestly, I’ve tried and failed miserably.

Moms, would you agree that some days we’re just trying to hold the family together? Helping kids with homework, driving the nightly Uber to sports practices, breaking up fights, keeping up with laundry, cooking meals, entertaining toddlers and scouring the house searching for enough popsicle sticks for your child’s project that happens to be due the next day. (Yes, with just days left in the school year, this did happen.)

For years as a mom, I wavered between exhaustion and guilt, striving to do it all so I could at least have the appearance of having it all together (Key word: appearance). Let me be honest with you, that level of perfection is a sham.  It’s unattainable. Exhausting. And not really that important.

Not once, have my kids complained that the house wasn’t vacuumed or the dishes sat in the sink overnight. They don’t complain about the dusting of beach sand covering my floors either (although, that one really bothers me). I’ve come to be happy with a moderately clean house, unimpressive meals and a philosophy of, “If you want a drink, wash your own cup.”

My conclusion after many years of conversations with countless moms, we’re too hard on ourselves. Cut yourself some slack, mamas! Don’t cower in shame, carry condemnation or relentlessly compare yourself to other moms.

If we’re to be really truthful, most of the expectations are those we place on ourselves. We compare ourselves to an ideal picture of motherhood that is unattainable for anyone to achieve.

Years ago, I read a precious devotional by Ruth Bell Graham and her daughter, Gigi, titled Mothers Together. In this devotional, Gigi asked one of her sons what a home was and how he would describe it.

His response was perfect,

“Home is a place where you come in out of the rain.”

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I sincerely believe if we do that, we win.

If we create a safe place, rich in love, laughter and affirmation, our kids will grow up to be just fine.

If we give them a refuge to come to when they encounter life’s storms, they will know the importance of providing love and comfort to others.

If we provide them with a place to talk, be themselves and even cry sometimes, they will learn the value of authenticity and respect.

Motherhood – it’s difficult, heart-wrenching, tearful, messy, joy-filled and beautiful. It gives us the opportunity to shape a little heart. To etch God’s loving truth forever into their souls. And, like wet cement it will solidify over time, providing them with a solid foundation on which they can build their lives.

Dear mother, you are enough. Enter the abundance of God’s grace.

Don’t listen to the voices nagging you, “do better” or “try harder”. That’s not God’s voice speaking to you. Here are the words Jesus speaks to his children, to YOU,

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

Jesus doesn’t place an endless list of expectation on moms. There’s not a “prescription” to follow for creating a well-rounded child. There isn’t a “Christian Mom” to-do list for you to earn an Awesome Mom award.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Throughout scripture, we see Jesus taking away regulations and requirements. He’s the best at reminding us to pare our lives down and focus on the essentials, the non-negotiables.

Jesus’ yoke is not a crushing burden. It’s not an extensive to-do list. It’s an invitation to love Him, trust Him and extend that love to others. As mothers, that’s our most important  task: to model for our children a loving, life-giving relationship with God that makes Jesus attractive to them.

As Elisabeth Elliot once said,

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” 

Trust for God’s grace and goodness to flow out of your incompleteness today. You got this. You are enough, because He is more than enough.

Graduation and a Mama’s Growing Pains

May has an emotional month. I’m trying to hold myself together, plow through and not let it get to me, but frankly, sometimes I can’t help it. I find myself a little weepy, vacillating between tears of joyful pride and a longing for my kids to be little again.

My oldest son graduates high school today and in just a few days, my youngest child leaves elementary school for the daunting middle school experience. For the time being, it’s extra Kleenex and waterproof mascara for me.

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I realize my job as a parent is to prepare my children to eventually leave our home. To fly out of the nest and make their own little nest apart from me. Ooohh, but the reality of it is painful sometimes. Something inside me wants to keep them little, contained, to control them. Strapping them in their car seat was much easier than standing at the front door watching them fasten their own seatbelt and drive away!

I want to remind them how much they need me by recalling all of the things I’ve done for them. “Would you like me to walk you to class one more time? Remember when you couldn’t sleep and were afraid of the dark? What about that homework you didn’t understand? Who was there to talk with you when your heart was broken? How are you going to navigate this ginormous world without me?”

As an artist approaches his marble slab searching to discover the masterpiece hidden inside, as a mom I’ve spent years chipping away marble, smoothing rough edges, drawing out the uniqueness of each of my children, working to release their full God-given potential. I’ve gently handled these precious masterpieces God has entrusted to me with extreme care. Now, just like that, I’m supposed to let them go?

My kids have been a part of every day of my life for years, how am I supposed to be ready for this? How can I be expected to disconnect my emotions like some robot?

I keep reminding myself that more desirable than keeping them little, I aspire to see them become. To grow to become everything God created for them. To walk with them (Although I promise I won’t hold your hand in public), to love them (I promise I won’t kiss you in front of your friends), develop them and teach them to love God and love others in a healthy way. A way that values people and reflects their value before God. To live in a way that honors God and makes Him smile.

So in the meantime, I’ll keep wiping my tears and sniffling my way through the next few days, holding onto memories as precious treasures tucked in my heart.

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Congratulations kids. Even though I may look like a wreck right now, I’m incredibly proud of each of  you – of all you’ve accomplished, all you aspire to be and, most importantly, the beautiful people you are.

As you venture into the big world lying before you and embrace new opportunities, this is my prayer for you,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

Shine brightly, dear children. And don’t forget to call your mom.