Cling to the Rock

I have been following the coronavirus since it was beginning in China. I had wondered if it would come here, and if so would it be a concern. For the last month I’ve been the crazy lady saying that the “sky is falling” and yet here we are and it all feels so surreal.

My kids are home for the next couple of weeks (at least), church is cancelled, we’re social distancing, and the economy is falling apart at the seams. It’s hard not to be afraid, especially for a “worst case scenario” worrier like me. It feels as though our world is crumbling beneath us and it’s terrifying, but today I am reminded to cling to the Rock.

Two weeks ago I taught the kids at church the Bible parable about the wise and foolish man. It was a lighthearted lesson with LEGO figurines and houses, sand, a rock, water and lots of giggles as the kids watched me tell it. But as I was food prepping, God reminded me of how relevant it is today. To this very situation.

If you’ve never heard this parable here it is,

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 

So basically, Jesus was teaching us that we need to build our foundation on God. Now how does this apply to today you may ask? We need to remember that! When the ground is shaking and we are afraid, we need to remember we are built on the Rock that is God and we need to cling to Him. We need to build and strengthen our relationship with Christ, so it can weather this season, just as we would build and reinforce our homes to weather any storm. And if by chance you haven’t built your foundation on the Rock, there’s no greater time than the present!

Will that give us immunity? Nope! I’m not one of those Christians who are going to preach about how God saves the faithful. Don’t get me wrong. We are saved, our souls are redeemed, but we are not immune to disease and death. God has not promised us immortality, so therefore we are not exempt from this. Good Christians have and will be infected. Faith filled believers have been and will continue to die, but what we as Christians have is hope! Hope in a God who loves us enough to hold our hand and guide us through the unknown. Hope because though there is so much uncertainty and all of this social distancing, with Christ, we are not alone, no matter how stormy life gets.

We don’t know what lies ahead. How many will be infected? What fate awaits us all, but we do know God is present and He is faithful. So when it feels like the ground beneath you is crumbling, remember to cling to the Rock, because when you do you can weather any storm.

Let’s Talk About Mom Guilt

Guilt is a heavy emotion, but my oh my does it ever kick in in motherhood. A bad day and a flurry of emotions results in moms everywhere wondering if they’ve ruined everything. Thoughts spiral as we contemplate the worst case scenario. Do they know how much they’re loved, or will our whole relationship crumble into a sea of resentment?

Heavy? You betcha, but conversations with friends have showed me that this is a burden that most moms bear. Mom guilt is universal. Every mom I talk to wrestles with it on some level, the difference is some of us feel it heavier than others. Some of us carry it, and let it overwhelm us day to day.

The problem with mom guilt is that it is incredibly unnecessary, unhealthy even. A little self awareness is important. It’s great to be accountable for your mistakes, but we don’t need to be weighed down by them.

The amazing thing is that grace covers all. My kids have shone in strengths that my husband and I just don’t have. Despite ourselves, despite the baggage we carry and sometimes pass down to them, they are turning out pretty great and that’s the grace of God. As Christians, we don’t parent on our own or in pairs, there is another Father in the mix, and He makes up for the things that we lack. When we rely on Him, He teaches our kids things that we never could. Things like grace for our mistakes and the areas that we fall short.

Mom guilt isn’t healthy. It’s heavy and burdens us with feelings of failure and regret, but what is healthy is being accountable for our actions. Yes, we will mess up. Lack of sleep, meltdowns, and messes are a recipe for disaster. We try our best, but the truth is sometimes our frustrations pile up, anger takes over and we lose it. All is not lost though, we have an opportunity in these moments. We can teach our kids how to deal with conflict as we own up to our behaviours and apologize. We can model good behaviour for them as we choose to acknowledge our weaknesses and make changes. I think thats a very healthy way to raise our kids. Acknowledging that sometimes we as people make mistakes. Sometimes we don’t cope well, but we don’t deny it. In our family we will recognize our issues, be accountable, and most of all, we WILL change!

We’re not perfect, but perfect isn’t what our kids need. They need to see parents who stumble and yet get back up again. Donald Miller writes a whole chapter about this in his book Scary Close (I highly recommend it). In it he says, “If you think about it, parents who are open and honest with their kids create an environment in which children are allowed to be human.” See our kids need to see us struggle and then grow. Make mistakes and then make changes. The beauty in this is it creates a safe place for them. A place where it is clear that they don’t have to hide from their mistakes either, but know they will be accepted and loved through them.

Our guilt is a heavy burden, but we can channel it into healthy growth that’s a model for our kids. With God’s strength and grace, our kids can watch us work through our weaknesses, and learn by our example. Not only will they know that they are safe to make mistakes, they will know that they can talk them through with us and we can grow together.

The moral of the story you ask?

Mom guilt has no place here! Instead we need to replace it with a healthy dose of self awareness, accountability, change, and most importantly rely on God for His strength and grace. Worrying never achieved anything. Chances are our kids aren’t holding every mess up against us anyway, so it’s time to let go and move on. There is lots of growing ahead, for all of us. Progress isn’t made dwelling in our past, but in the steps we make toward changing our future. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to do a lot less looking back and a lot more moving forward, and it starts with letting go of all the mom guilt!

Scary Close, Donald Miller p.158

Trust Your Gut Because Mama Knows Best!

The other day I had an amazing experience. Exhausted and tired in the ER for the second time that week, I had the opportunity to thank the doctor who admitted my daughter just a few short years ago. She saw my sick daughter and the fear all over my face three years ago and she admitted her. She admitted her even though the doctors the night before had dismissed my concerns and sent her home. I had a chance to thank that sweet doctor and tell her what happened after she made the decision that saved my daughters life. Twelve days of spiralling diagnosis’s, a night in ICU, and then two weeks of outpatient antibiotics. Truth be told, it was a terrifying ordeal, one where the doctors almost discharged my daughter more than once because they couldn’t see what I sensed, that my daughter was extremely ill.

So the other night, as I sat there watching my daughter, I got a chance to thank that amazing doctor for not just seeing the symptoms in front of her, but trusting my instincts as a mom.

There I was with the same child that she had treated and had a role in saving years ago, when she said something that meant more than she could ever know. “I always tell the other doctors”, she said, “Mom knows best! If what she’s saying isn’t making sense then dig deeper, because mom knows best!”

I’ve experienced some wonderful moments with doctors in the emergency room, in fact I once had a doctor who held me while I cried, but this meant so much. Her words will reverberate in my mind for years to come. See each time my kids get sick, I worry and I watch them closely. I have to. With four kids I have no choice but to pay attention and advocate for them, but boy can that be hard! I often question myself, and nearly every time I rush my kids into the ER I worry that I’m being irrational and the staff will think I’m burdening the system. It’s hard not to question yourself when your kids have to go the ER so much. At least it is for me.

My kids have severe food allergies which makes me the annoying mom always asking people to wash their hands. Each time I hover and give my awkward explanation it makes me cringe, it feels un-natural and overbearing, but I’ve got to do it. It turns out being the annoying mom helps keep my kids alive.

Then there’s the asthma, every cold and flu season we frequent the ER, often with symptoms that go undetected by most. In fact the other day I waited six hours in the ER because my son was having an episode. Triage didn’t detect the severity of his situation and I questioned my judgement with each passing hour, but with each breath his throat tugged deeper and I knew in my gut he needed to be seen. By the time my son finally made it to a room at 3 am, he needed oxygen.

I say all of this to say, sure we don’t always get it right. We all have days when our mom radar is faulty. Sometimes we’re just so tired from all the sleepless nights and being overcome with worry that we’re just plain paranoid, but most of the time we see what others can’t. Most days we see the beginnings and know what’s coming. We wait for six hours even after a good triage because we can sense that our kids need to be there, even if nobody else knows it yet.

Sure it’s hard! Our instincts keep us up at night as we watch them breathe and mull over what to do next. Sometimes we rush them into the ER, only to discover that we were better off at home, but for most of us, those moments of paranoia are few and far between. Most of the time our gut is spot on!

So Mama, keep up the good work! You know what to look for. Your instincts can sense something is wrong even when nobody else can see it, and thats just what your child needs. That nagging feeling that you can’t shake may be a pain in the butt, but it’s a gift that saves lives. So I’ll echo the words of that lovely doctor and say trust your gut, do what you’ve got to do for your babies, because “Mamma knows best”!

Cast Your Parenting Anxiety On Him

My son is nine today! He’s my firstborn, so his birthday always makes me extra sentimental. His birth signifies the beginning of parenthood for me. This means nine years of laughter and joy, but in my case it also means nine years of worrying.

I’ll never forget the intense anxiety I experienced as a new mom. My sons life seemed so fragile and I was worried about everything from SIDS and choking to random disasters. I remember constantly sticking my finger under his nose to make sure that he was breathing okay. I was so afraid all the time and emotionally I was feeling the weight of it all.

When I became a new mom I realized just how much of a control freak I am. Not with everyday things, I’m not one to try and micromanage, but with life. Trusting God was easier when it was just me. I could resign to His plans pretty easily, but when I became a mom trusting God felt a million times harder. Trusting God required me to let go of control of my baby and say, “I trust you with him God. I trust you no matter what happens. Good or bad.” It required surrender and I wasn’t ready to do that. I wasn’t ready to surrender. I wanted to control everything and naively thought that I could shield my son from pain.

It’s funny, because we never really have control, and yet we believe we do and try desperately to keep it. The truth is though, life was going to play out whether or not I liked it, I just had to choose who would walk us through it. Would I be driven by fear and constant worry, or trust in the God who would lead me through?

After months of worry and wrestling with God, I finally surrendered. Little did I know just how much I would need God to guide me through. The following years brought us three more babies, health scares and troubling diagnoses. In fact on more than one occasion I wondered if I would lose the precious babies that God had given me. Did surrendering my babies to God make me stop worrying? Nope! But it gave me hope.

When my daughter was in the hospital, tubes everywhere and progressively getting worse, I would sing and cry out to God. I was terrified, but I knew we were not alone. What a comfort that was. What a comfort that is to this day.

The truth is being a parent is scary. Kids are accidents waiting to happen and that can increase any parents anxiety tenfold, but we serve a God who is with us through it all, and He wants to lighten our load. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” What a comfort this is! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been worried lately. I’ve been reading one too many news articles and the world seems overwhelmed with fear over another possible pandemic. I can’t help but worry about all the implications it could have on us, but I’m reminded that God can handle my worries and fears. I know that whatever comes, we will not walk it alone.

I have experienced God’s comfort and peace my whole life, but never more than in the past nine years of becoming a parent. So today, on my oldest son’s birthday, I will not only celebrate him, but all that God has done, and how I found comfort in the surrender.

What’s the Gossip?

I’ve got to confess something, I struggle with gossip. I’m not sure when it all started, but somewhere along the way the line between healthy and toxic conversation got blurred. As I started to notice this about myself I realized a few things. Gossip grows bitterness, anger, and pride, none of which are beneficial.

There have been times in my life when I have needed support. I’ve needed a friend and that’s okay. I don’t have to do life alone. I can share my pain, grieve, and work through my circumstances gleaning advice.

With the right person, this can be fruitful. I have friends who have offered me so much wisdom and perspective. That’s great! The thing is, a good friend won’t let you live in your hurt and pain. See bitterness grows when we stay there. When our lives become one big long rant our perspective becomes narrow. We can’t see past ourselves, so no matter the situation we’re in we are always the victim. Even if we are the victim, gossip keep us from working through it. It traps us in self pity and makes it impossible to move on, forgive, and extend grace.

Not too long ago, I was ranting to my husband about someone who hurt me and he said, “You can’t just talk bad about someone to make yourself feel better.” His words hit me hard. He was right! I’d felt slighted and belittled and I wasn’t just hurt, I was angry! The words said to me by this person made me feel small, so in return I was picking them apart. Who am I to do that? What does that even achieve?

Over the years as I’ve wrestled with this, I’ve wondered where the line is. I’ve heard it said, that it’s not gossip if it’s true, but I’m not sure it’s that simple. Like I said, we are all entitled to a little support, but just how big is your circle? Do they challenge you? Or are they always on your side? Why are you telling the story? Is it even your story to tell?

I’m proud to say that though I sometimes gossip, I am a good secret keeper. Confidentiality is important and I respect that. Yet I’ll admit I’ve found myself participating in conversations I have no business being in. It’s an easy trap to fall into. How many times have you been in a room when somebody told you the latest news in somebody’s life and you just sat there and listened or chatted away with your opinion. It kinda feels good doesn’t it? Except when you feel the little twinge that somethings off. That maybe the “latest” wasn’t for your ears. Or even worse that awful feeling that it’s wrong. That you wouldn’t want someone else to be discussing all of your business, so maybe you shouldn’t be discussing theirs.

It takes intention to avoid gossip these days, discomfort even. The fact is it’s become such a natural part of so many conversations that it’s almost awkward to avoid it. As I recognize this struggle of mine I’m learning just how big a part of life it is. In fact avoiding it has meant being far less chatty with certain people than I was before. As a talker, the default is to discuss everything and anything. The thing is conversation can easily become a dangerous rabbit hole, and its not healthy. Avoiding it isn’t a simple task either. It might mean changing the conversation or boldly calling it out. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but I’m working on it because it’s necessary.

In Proverbs 27:19 it says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” I want a life reflects the heart of God and if I say that my speech needs to be loving, peaceful, compassionate, and controlled. I’m not there yet, but I’m glad that I have God to guide me along the way.

I will no doubt have to continue to remove myself from certain discussions, but I can’t wait to see what fruitful conversations open up along the way. If I want my reflection to be one that shows the heart of God, my words must honour not just Him but those around me. If I believe in God’s grace and love, my speech needs to reflect it. I need to be an advocate for people instead of adversary.

As with any struggle, the first step towards change is admitting you have a problem. Assess yourself. Think about the things you discuss, and evaluate. Are you constantly venting about how somebody wronged you? Do you find yourself chatting about other peoples business? If so join me in the decision to intentionally avoid gossip. Lets be careful with our words, and the conversations we find ourselves in. If by chance you struggle with what that looks like, follow the sage advice of moms everywhere and, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

There’s More to Love than the Fall

I got married young, like really young, and because of this I had a lot of opinions come my way when I was engaged. People would say, “You’re too young … it won’t work … you’ll change too much!” The thing was, I didn’t really agree with the way they viewed marriage. I still don’t.

Really at the root of it, I don’t agree with the way the world views love.

Love is and has always been a hot button word. People are obsessed with the idea. They search for the euphoria that is “falling in love”. I think the problem when it comes to love is that it is viewed simply as an emotion. Love is an emotion, but it’s so much more than that, it’s also a choice. It’s a decision to love them when they have swept you off your feet, AND when they disappoint you, or drive you crazy. That’s why I can’t buy in to the traditional view of love. Falling in love is amazing, but there is so much more to love than “the fall”.

See my friends were right about one thing. I would change, I have changed, so has my husband Joshua. Some of our changes have been great, but others have been pretty difficult to navigate.

We have both matured and that’s great, but I’m pretty sure the old pre-kids me was more fun than the mom of four I am today. Not only that, but our lives have changed. We’re busier and we have far more responsibilities than when we first met. Four kids, church, multiple jobs, studying for courses, and the never ending housework. It takes a lot to keep us connected these days. It’s hard!

I feel like marriage has its seasons. In some seasons of life I have felt so in love (emotionally) with my husband. I have felt so impressed and amazed with him that I was giddy. Times like this love feels easy. Everything he does is cute, and I can’t help but be thankful for how blessed I am. Other seasons haven’t been so rosy. When life has gotten the best of us, and all the stress and disappointments of life have stolen our joy, I have chosen to love him through anger, frustration, and pain. Sometimes I can go through this cycle of emotions in twenty four hours. Swooning, infuriated, giddy, hurt, but I choose to love him anyway, no matter what emotion I’m feeling or how much he changes.

See Josh and I HAVE changed, and we WILL continue to change until our dying day, but we are choosing to love each other and show love in the good seasons and bad, for better or worse. We are choosing to be vulnerable with each other and trust each other with our love.

That’s the other thing about love, it’s risky because it can’t be controlled. You can’t force someone to choose to love you, and thats scary, but there is beauty in the surrender required. When you trust someone with your love and invest it, you have the chance to build a relationship that is powerful and strong.

Marriage isn’t about avoiding change, or staying on an emotional high. It’s about navigating all of the changes and the highs and lows together. After all, if I waited until we would no longer change, that day would never come.

The other problem with that mentality is that change is bad. Many changes are positive, and even the negative ones encourage growth. Some of our toughest changes have pushed us out of complacency. In those seasons we have had no choice but to confront our issues head on and put in the work, and guess what, we’re better for it!

What my friends couldn’t understand about marriage and love, is that it’s about more than today. Real love holds weight, because it’s bigger than our circumstances, moods, and mistakes.

Is it risky? Sure!

Is it hard? You bet!

But the reward is a relationship that holds up through the storms of life and a best friend to stand by your side through it all. Marriage is tough, thats true, and sure it’s unpredictable, but it’s a beautiful place to build a relationship that is safe and lasts a lifetime.

Over the years we have changed a lot, and that hasn’t always been easy, but this crazy life of ours has been beautiful, and I’m so glad I took my chances and chose to love.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

God Help Me See the Joy

I was at a boiling point. The kids had been sick for days and I was up every night worrying and tending to fevers. They were finally on the mend, but I hadn’t recovered from my exhaustion and my house was a literal disaster with laundry overload, dish laden counters, and toys everywhere. A week of sickness had left the housework neglected and everyone tightly wound. I wasn’t coping well.

It’s not that I was actually losing it on anyone, it’s just that I felt like a ticking time bomb. Every whine was making me twitch, and I was becoming increasingly agitated and overwhelmed as I looked at the mess around me. Generally I default to ranting, but it’s not something I’m proud of, so I mustered all of my strength to try and not verbalize my growing list of grievances.

I felt like I needed a pause button, but that doesn’t really exist when it comes to life does it?

Some people call vacations a pause button, but my bank account didn’t allow for one, and even if it did, I needed to pause right that minute!

I was trying so hard to keep it together, because I didn’t want to lose it on my kids or my husband. I’ve been the angry ranting mom before, and I’ve always regretted my soapbox speech after I stepped down.

My kids have had moments when they’ve gotten frustrated and they just boil over and freak out. Each time I’ve said to them, “Your emotions are okay. It’s okay to be frustrated and angry, but you’re still responsible for how you deal with them. So you need to calm down.”

I wonder though, how am I supposed to teach them to calm down and control their emotions if I can barely do it myself?

The other day I skimmed an article about the voice in your head, and I realized that mine is often negative. Not all the time obviously, but more often than I’d like to admit my inner voice is anxious, angry, and self righteous. No wonder I feel the need for a pause button so often! In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” See I know that at the root of it I need to work on self control, but I can’t do it on my own. Self control takes surrender. It takes me giving over my negative mindset to God and saying, “Here! Take it God. Help me to see things in a new way. Show me the joy that I’m struggling to see!”

The truth is I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, but on days like this, I’ve had a hard time seeing it. This stage of my life is often so chaotic, and somedays it’s hard to see all the joy in the midst of it. So I’m starting something new. When my inner narrative becomes sour, when I feel like a kettle ready to blow, I’m going to take my thoughts captive. I’m surrendering my soapbox to Christ and asking for a fresh perspective in return. I must, because I know there is joy in every story, but so often I struggle to see it on my own.

Slowly, God is teaching me to see all of my blessings. I’m tired, but it’s because I’m blessed with four amazing kids to keep me up at night. My living room may be strewn with toys, but it’s also filled with laughter. And though my counters are a mess of plates, cups, and bowls, it’s because I have plenty of food to dirty my dishes. In the grand scheme of things, I’m living the good life!

It’s not gonna be easy changing my thought process. I’ve developed a bad habit of dwelling in negativity and self pity, but I know surrendering my thoughts to God is the only answer.

Sure a vacation sounds dreamy, but a pause on life isn’t what I truly need at the core. An escape is a temporary fix, and sure I would love some rest and relaxation, but what I truly need is a change of perspective that only God can give me.

I guess I’m not looking for a pause after all. Instead I’m asking God to hit the reset button for my mind, so I don’t have to check out, but can check in with a new mindset. I want to see my life for all it’s beauty and spend my days soaking it in instead of grumbling as it passes me by.