Stop Making Excuses and Use Your Outdoor Voice

I’m a chatty person and yet I have spent so much of my life using my indoor voice. I don’t mean that literally, I mean I’ve been quiet about my faith, making up excuses that it wasn’t my time to share.

See I felt like I wasn’t ready yet. I was a work in progress, so how could I possibly have a voice when I didn’t have my act together. Here’s the thing though, I don’t know where that thought came from, but it isn’t biblical. The people we read about in the Bible weren’t finished works, they were very much in progress, and yet through them we have learned about love, grace, and hope. In fact, if the Bible only had people who had their act together, I’m pretty sure it would be a much smaller book!

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about asking God to remove the thorn in his side and it says in verse 9-11 , “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.” Now I’m no theologian, but it seems to me like Paul thought this thorn, or “weakness” rather, needed to be removed for him to serve God, and yet God says no! NO?! What’s up with that? Why wouldn’t God remove his weakness? Wouldn’t he want Paul to be serving him in his prime? Nope, He says His grace is enough and His power is shown through weakness! Can I get an AMEN?!

I wasted so long being quiet, literally telling God I wasn’t ready yet, humming and hawing through life, not because God didn’t want to use me, it was my fear and insecurity holding me back! Yet God was there waiting for me to trust Him and be used. Not because I’ve got the answers, or I’m an excellent role model of perfect Christianity. Nope! I wish! He has been waiting to extend me grace, and to show His power through my weakness as He works through me.

How beautiful is that? We serve a God who writes a beautiful story of grace and redemption in the midst of the mess and pain. He changes the narrative when all seems lost. He offers us a message of hope that the world needs to hear, and we just need to have the courage to share it.

Don’t be like me. Don’t waste time minimizing the story that God has written for you. No more excuses! Use your outdoor voice! Be bold! Speak up! Share what God has put on your heart. Maybe your story is just what someone else needs to hear. Maybe they need to hear what you’ve got to say to remind them of God’s love and grace. Your story may be exactly what someone needs to know they are not alone.

The first blog I wrote was about how inadequate I felt, but you know what’s interesting, the more I use my voice to share what God has put on my heart, the more confident and secure I feel. Not in a cocky way, it’s different than that. I have a sense of purpose and determination that fuels me now. See I think sometimes as Christians we can excuse insecurity. We can be deceived into thinking our insecurity is humility, but that’s a lie. You can be confident in what God has called you to and still be humble. You can use your outdoor voice and still be meek and mild.

The other day I was watching Reese Witherspoon’s new show, Shine On. She was interviewing America Ferrerra and she said something so profound that I rewound it several times just to soak it in. She said, “The number one thing that it takes to take action is courage. You have to be the one to say, ‘My voice matters, my experiences matter. I’m gonna find the courage to use my voice even if my voice shakes.’” Now I realize that this doesn’t directly apply. We are not alone in this as Christians. The Holy Spirit gives us boldness, but in order to speak we still have to obey, and that takes courage on our end. It takes guts to open our mouth and speak up. For me, I’ve chosen to obey and use my voice for this blog, and even though I’ve started and put a few blogs out there, it still takes courage. Some of these blogs are so personal, that my voice feels shaky even as I use it on these pages, but I know that God has called me to use it, so I will.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone is called to blog or speak. I couldn’t possibly assume that, but I know you all have a story to share. God has given you a voice and talents and He wants you to use them in a unique way. Maybe you’re not sure what He wants you to say or maybe you are, but you’re scared. Either way, spend time, listen to him, and have the courage to obey. Don’t make excuses, for goodness sakes! Ditch the silence of insecurity and use your outdoor voice!

Choose to Celebrate Your Spouse

Yesterday I read a long post where a woman was ranting about her husband. Other wives joined in adding their marital grievances. It was as though they were all forming an unofficial angry wives club. 

I understand that some people are in bad marriages with abusive spouses or cheaters, but this was different. This husband certainly didn’t sound like a peach, but for the most part, it just seemed like he was being annoying. Like maybe this man had some growing up to do. 

As I read through the rant and comments, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Sad for this woman who didn’t feel comfortable talking with her husband about her frustrations. Mostly I felt sad for what rants like this do. They cause us to look for the bad in our marriages and feed our dissatisfaction. Simply put, rants like this are a trap. 

One piece of advice I was given early on in marriage is to be wary of airing your dirty laundry. It’s not that you can’t talk to anyone when you need support or wisdom (that would be some bad advice), but you must be careful. If you’re struggling with your marriage and you must talk to someone, choose a mentor. Talk to a friend. If it’s serious, choose a counsellor. Carefully choose someone with some wisdom and discernment. Someone who values your marriage and respects your spouse. Above all please choose a friend who doesn’t always have your back. Confusing? Maybe, but I mean a friend who will be unbiased for your benefit. One who loves you enough that they are willing to challenge you and call you out if (Shocker!) the problem is you. Choose the friend who if need be can talk you down from your high horse and give you some perspective. 

Don’t only choose that friend, be that friend!

And here’s the thing, choose to celebrate your spouse. See if I’m not careful, even on our best days I can find something to pick at. I can easily join the angry wives club and find my husbands flaws. I can hold a grudge and keep my list of grievances like the best of them, but the truth is I’ve got a good one. 

Does he drive me crazy at times? He sure does, but he manages to make me laugh even when I’m mad at him. He volunteers to make dinner and always cooks it with flair. Though he’s not always about romance, when he is, he does it right and makes it memorable. The man never fails to amaze me as a dad. He volunteers at our kids school, prioritizes family dinners nearly every night, and sometimes he plays his guitar and sings at bedtime. When it comes to the house he washes dishes, folds laundry, and once Marie Kondo’d my whole wardrobe because I was in desperate need of some organizational help. I think I’ll keep him!

I can choose to nit pick all of the things that drive me crazy about him and keep a mental pro/con list, or I can make a choice to focus on the things that make him wonderful. Nit picking will send us down a dangerous path of anger and resentment. Celebrating him will help me to appreciate him more and make him feel more valued in our relationship. It’s a choice of how we choose to see and speak about our spouse and it really impacts the health of our marriage. 

I realize some of you may not be so lucky. Some of you may be in abusive relationships or have a spouse that has been unfaithful. Maybe your marriage has some serious issues that need addressing and if that’s the case, do what you must and please get help. 

Chances are though that most of you have got a good one. Or a pretty good one at least, and I’m tired of watching dissatisfaction in marriage increase as we gather our silly pet peeves and treat them as deal breakers. Marriage is so much more valuable than our need to be right. 

So, when your all fired up with your righteous indignation, choose your words carefully. Talk to your spouse. If you must talk to a friend. Talk to someone who will offer you wisdom and an unbiased perspective. And for the love of well … LOVE, choose to celebrate your spouse! 

Don’t Just Dream It, Do It

It’s that time of year. The time when we recap all of the good and bad of the last 12 months and make goals to move forward. It’s exciting as we anticipate the new year and the opportunities it will bring.

For me, 2019 had a lot of lows, but it’s still a year I’ll never forget. 2019 is when I finally realized a dream I’d carried for years. This year I stepped out of my comfort zone and started this blog. It’s funny, because as I set out for this year I had absolutely no intention of starting anything. In fact, I felt a little lost.

I’ve been a stay at home mom for years, and I had no idea what my life would look like once all of my kids went off to school. That day seemed like it would never come and yet here I am less than a year out from having large amounts of actual free time. As exciting as this is, I found myself becoming more anxious at the thought of freedom, not because I’d miss my kids, I mean I will of course, but because I didn’t know myself. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had no clue what my purpose was beyond being a mom, and in you’re thirties, that’s a scary thing to admit!

Up until now my purpose has been clear, to focus on my kids. Caring for them and loving them 24/7. It’s been challenging, but also simple, comfortable even. Sure I’ve been pushed to the brink of exhaustion and I’ve had a lot of growing up to do, but my purpose was clear and I knew exactly what I had to do.

This year has been filled with uncertainty as I figured out what was next for me in 2020. I’ve spent countless hours worrying about what’s next. What am I supposed to do with my life? Do I chase a paycheque or work towards a dream? What exactly are my dreams?

In the spring, my husband started a blog and began to ask me to guest post. He mentioned it often and each time I would shrug it off saying, “I dunno. What would I write?”. Finally, on a sunny day in June, I was inspired. The words rushed out of me like water out of a tap. I wrote about my struggles. It was cathartic. It felt important. A couple of weeks later it happened again, and I poured my heart out into another guest post. Like a diary, for all to see. Suddenly I began to dream!

Now I’m usually a starter, not a finisher, but I felt this dream birthed in me. I felt a sense of purpose, so I prepared and launched this blog with intention.

I say all of this to say, what’s your purpose? What dream has God birthed in your heart? Are you doing your part to see it come to life?

I didn’t really realize it, but it turns out writing has been a passion of mine all along. Since starting my blog I’ve found embarrassing diary entries from my preteen years, odd little short stories, and blogs from two years ago that I didn’t have the courage to share. I found a dream that had been put aside too many times and was finally stumbled upon. I discovered my dream from long ago and I finally pushed my insecurities aside and stepped into my purpose.

So what is your 2020 going to look like? Are you finally going to step out and see your dreams realized, because if you’re like me you can become complacent in comfort. You can procrastinate on fulfilling your purpose. Dreams can seem like impossible fantasies, but God has called us to the impossible. He calls us to things we can’t do in our own strength. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. We can achieve our God given purpose, because of HIM! We know we have found our purpose, when we are living out our dreams that are just plain impossible without God. Let me tell you, it’s scary! It requires trust, and risk, and a whole lot of vulnerability, BUT it’s exhilarating! It’s a thrill relying on God for strength each step of the way as you navigate the unknown and dare to dream even more.

So in 2020, don’t settle for comfort, but beyond that, do more than just dream, actually do. When you’re captivated by your dreams, with the purpose God has given you, take action! You’ve heard it said, “Don’t just dream it, do it!”. Let this be the year! Step out and may your dreams become reality, as you “do it” in His strength.

Awe and Wonder

Today I will wake up to awe and wonder. To squeals of joy as my son opens the car track he’s been hinting at for months. There will be a lot of “WHOA!”, and “I always wanted a _______”, and “Thank you!!!”. I have spent the last couple of months carefully selecting special gifts in anticipation of this moment, and I will soak it all in.

I love these special Christmas mornings, but I confess I often get lost in all the giving and receiving. The morning exchange is only a small fraction of the awe and wonder of Christmas. There is so much more!

This year I’ve been trying to refocus. Trying to take time and really meditate on the true meaning of Christmas. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I know that’s not your typical Christmas verse, but in my opinion it sums up the basics of the true meaning of Christmas. As I read it, a new perspective stood out. He GAVE His one and only son, not only did He give Him, He lived as one of us. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!

Have you ever been going through a tough time and felt like nobody understood you? Friends would try and offer their support, but you knew they didn’t understand. How could they? They’ve never been through what your going through! Not Jesus! He gets it!

Lost a loved one? So did Jesus. Scared? Terrified? Jesus has been there. Being bullied? Jesus knows exactly what that’s like. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Jesus gets you! He understands, because God loves you so much that He sent His one and only son to be born in a manger on that special day that would change history.

Christmas is about so much more than our gift giving on Christmas morning. It’s about celebrating the birth of God’s son. A man who lived as one of us, and loves us. A man who understands us and has compassion for us. A man whose life represents hope for each one of us.

So today I’m filled with awe and wonder, because He lives!

Drowning in Defeat

I can’t tell if I’m the only one, or if everyone else is just better at covering it up, but sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in responsibilities. A messy house, a growing to do list, forever forgetting just about everything. Throw in procrastination and a lack of motivation, and I feel just plain defeated.

Sometimes life feels like a hamster wheel. Like your running and running and running all day long. Laundry, meltdowns, dishes, repeat! Over and over and over again, and yet nothing ever seems to be done, or stay done. Yesterday, I was like the energizer bunny working away all day long, but do I have anything to show for it? NOPE! Even my most productive days don’t seem to cut it. It’s never enough!

It’s hard on days like this to crawl out of the deep pit of defeat. My mountain of laundry seems insurmountable and when the kids yell “Mom! Mom!! MOM!!!”, my patience is low. For someone who battles feelings of inadequacy and failure. I feel like I’ve lost.

I spoke to someone today about our mutual struggle with procrastination, and she mentioned how she stalls on the big tasks with mopping, doing dishes, and folding laundry. *Sigh* What I wouldn’t give to have her kind of procrastination “skills”. To be a productive procrastinator. Unfortunately I’m the, “Not today, I choose Netflix!”, procrastinator and that really puts a wrench in productivity of any sort.

I think a large part of my problem is that keeping up with everything seems like an impossible task. Maybe it is (mom of four here), but the more I think about it, the problem may be my expectations. I have this gold standard in my head of mothers who get the job done. You know Leave It to Beaver style, keeping a spotless home, greeting her kids after school with freshly baked low sugar organic cookies. The mom who always knows what to say, and never looses her cool. The mom who is always organized and put together and never ever late for the bus stop. In my head, thats the other moms on the block. They’ve got their act together. They’ve got, “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place”, and I’ve got piles of school papers and one too many junk drawers. I envision the other moms with pristine houses, organized toy bins, and Pinterest worthy meals on the table every night. I want so badly to be that mom thats got it all together, but sadly I’m not. Who knows, maybe the truth is that mom doesn’t exist.

My mother-in-law has a sign in her house that says, “This house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy”. I’ve read it for years and just never let in sink in. I think a large part of why I am so overwhelmed is my expectations are so unattainable. Frankly, I’m not even sure they’re healthy. I tried to be the “that mom” once and I was exhausted. The floors were spotless, the laundry bins empty, and the food was always from scratch, but our family suffered for it. See though the house was immaculate, I was cranky, high strung, and barely spent any time with my kids. It wasn’t good for anyone!

Somewhere along the way,  we women have learned to determine our worth and how good of a mother we are, by the state of our homes. Don’t get me wrong, we have a responsibility to take care of our homes and kids, but we’re not measured by it. 

My kids aren’t going to grow up and reminisce about how mom was so tidy, and who cares if Karen down the street has a cleaner house than mine? Not me! Well, maybe a little bit, but I’m working on it.

So, maybe the new standard should go something like this. The mom whose house is lived in, but not too chaotic. The mom who always loves on her kids more than she yells at them, and the mom who has it mostly together, and is sometimes still late for the bus stop. I think that’s doable, and maybe just one more, the woman who isn’t too hard on herself and not only sees her losses, but celebrates her wins.

When Jealousy Comes Easier Than Joy

Lately I’ve been noticing a growing unrest in myself. A longing for something more and it’s taking it’s toll on me. See I’m not talking about ambition, I’m talking about jealousy.

This year has been tough! Despite our budgeting and saving, finances are tight. We’re emotionally and physically exhausted, and twenty nineteen has been filled with injuries and multiple frantic trips to the ER because one my kids couldn’t breathe. It has been hard and at times I find myself jealous and resentful even at others seemingly simple lives. I find myself questioning when our hardships will end. Overall I find myself growing in frustration as life seems to throw hurdle after hurdle at us.

Lately though, God has been speaking to me in the gentle way He often does, and it all boils down to one word. Grateful. Confusing I know. Twenty nineteen has been one for the books, BUT there has been so much good! Things that up until now, I have chosen to ignore in favour of self pity. 

My marriage is probably the best it’s been in 11 years, we’ve finally got our budgeting and savings on track, and I have four healthy children. Really that last one is huge for me. My kids have asthma, severe food allergies, and my daughter had sepsis when she was one. Each of them have nearly died, BUT they are here, and for the most part, they’re healthy. I have been fortunate enough to always leave the hospital with my child. God has blessed me beyond measure.

This week I have been reminded of the commandment to “not covet” and how important it is. When I was a kid we were often taught about the Ten Commandments and I remember thinking that one was weird. I mean the others make sense. Don’t kill, don’t worship other Gods, don’t cheat, those are givens, but coveting? What’s that and what’s the big deal with it anyway? 

As a little kid coveting was explained to me as the desire to have what someone else has. I can’t say I really understood the significance when I was little, but as I got older coveting has become a really big struggle. 

See at the surface this commandment seems really insignificant, but I think it may actually be at the root of a lot of our troubles. I think that most of us struggle with coveting on a daily basis, because what coveting truly is, is jealousy and dissatisfaction. It’s a dangerous blend of envy and ungratefulness. Often it’s what causes people to lie, cheat, and steal. You may be thinking “Phewf, not me! I’m in the clear on this one”, but if your like me, coveting is a daily issue, just in a more subtle way.

Now, coveting isn’t a commandment because God is gonna smite us for being jealous of our neighbour and wanting what others have. No! This commandment is for our own good. Jealousy has a sneaky way of stealing our joy. It makes us resentful and angry at God and man, instead of being grateful for all that we have been given. It paints our worldview with sadness, frustration and anger and causes us to be dissatisfied with life. It seems minor, but coveting has a domino effect. 

Truthfully I think I struggle with it almost every day. I covet my friends homes. I covet all the pretty things I see on Instagram. I even covet the success of others. This seemingly innocent act ends up having a big impact on my life. The more I covet, the less satisfied I am with life, and the more frustrated I become with God. I begin to feel like I’ve been gipped.

One of the things I really struggle with coveting is talent. Over the years I’ve questioned on more than one occasion why I couldn’t be talented like __________. I would talk to God and say, “Why didn’t you give me that? Why couldn’t I have that talent? How come they get to have all the gifts, and I have none.” In His gentle way, He would reply, “But I gave you talents Sarah. I just gave you different ones”.

He’s right. He has given me talents. He’s given me a voice to sing and words to write, and yet I have been so ungrateful. I have been greedy for more, I have been jealous of others blessings, and sometimes I’ve even resented them for it.

 I don’t want to live that way anymore, so I’m choosing to be grateful and ask God to give me contentment in all seasons. Some days it won’t be easy, but I think that even in the worst of times, we can all find something to be grateful for. To start, I’m thankful for a God who changes my perspective.

So though coveting seems like such a minor thing, I encourage you to look for it. Search your heart, because though it starts small and seems innocent, coveting is huge. It steals your joy, it distracts you, and it can make you greedy for things that were never intended to be yours. Coveting is a trap you can’t see until your already stuck in its clutches. God wants more for us. He wants us to live in gratitude and contentment. He wants us to see our lives as abundantly blessed and to use what He has given us instead of longing for what He has given to others. So, may we learn to claim our joy, instead of trading it for jealousy.

Life Takes a Village

People say it takes a village to raise a child, but our society doesn’t seem to work that way. Don’t get me wrong, we support each other in little ways, but there also seems to be another side. Over my nearly nine years of parenting I’ve noticed a lot of comparison and competition. Under the surface though I see something else entirely. Beneath it all I hear, “I don’t have a village, so neither should you”.

I’ve heard it disguised in conversations more times than I can count, and it makes me sad. I know that I often want and need a village. Maybe you didn’t have one, or maybe at this moment you’re all on your own, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our very best to be a village for each other now.

In Luke 6:31 Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (NIV). When I think of this verse I think of a village. I know I could really use one. See a village isn’t just for the child, it’s for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of each of us. So maybe it should be, “Life takes a village”. It takes a community of support and care. It takes people reaching out to each other to encourage them and walk with them through their darkest days.

The enemy wants us to live for ourselves, and try to do life alone. He lies to us and says, “Life is a competition. Show no weakness. You can do it on your own. Better yet, show them you can do it even better!” I’ve fallen for it before. Trying to paint a picture of the mom of four who makes it look easy. I’ve tried to earn my status in life by powering through, because that’s how it’s done. Truth be told though, on the inside I was drowning. I was trying to prove I could do it on my own, but really I was dying for a helping hand, and yet I felt so ashamed for it.

As I’ve listened to these conversations around me, touting independence and strength, I can’t help but wonder how many people are just playing the game too? How many are like me? Playing a role, and yet wishing someone would see through the act? Somehow over the years independence has become the definition of strength. Like the holy grail of life achievements is proving you can do it by yourself. Sometimes though, I can’t help but wonder if true strength is in admitting you are weak and you can’t do it on your own. Maybe strength is actually found in seeking community, for wisdom, encouragement, and support for when it’s too difficult to stand on your own two feet.

If you were treated how you wanted to be treated would you have a village? What would it look like?

I’d like to build a village. Not just to raise my kids, but to raise me up in hard times. I’d like to build a village where I can do the same for my people. I’d like to build a village where we don’t have to pretend like we know what we’re doing or we have it under control. Beyond that I’d like to go further, because talk is easy, I want to build a village where we go the extra step, to give each other just what we’ve needed to get through those tough days or weeks or years.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus had in mind all along. The problem is the enemy tells us we can’t do it. We’ve got too much of our own to add in the needs of other people. He tells us that this world is everyone for themselves, but I’m tired of living that way.

So let’s drop the lone wolf act; leaving our comparison, competitions, and pride in independence behind. We can build a village, and together we can raise each other up!

I Am the Girl Next Door

Most of my life I have felt pretty ordinary. Mostly for superficial reasons. I used to feel like my name was boring, and if you braid my hair I look like a shoo in for Anne of Green Gables. I’ve never been crazy about makeup and my curly hair often becomes so frizzy that I resemble Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. Aside from all of that though, this feeling has filtered through my life on a deeper level. I’m a pastors wife, and the women I look up to in ministry and life in general are bold, trendy and look like they are ready for their book deal. I’m just the girl next door, plain and simple.

A few years ago I was going through a phase of deep insecurity. My husband and I had just moved and were about to plant a church. I’ve always been low maintenance, but I decided for the first time in my life I was going to be polished, I was going to be fashionable, I was going to be THAT woman! Everyday I straightened my hair, or brushed out my curls and put my hair into a neat and tidy bun. I wore jewelry, lots of jewelry, and makeup almost everyday. I Iooked GOOD, yet even the polished new me still felt unsatisfied and insecure. I didn’t know who I was!

My worth and identity were caught up in my appearance and what people thought of me. I wanted so badly to be admired, emulated, envied even. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. Thankfully, I had a powerful moment where God spoke to me reminding me of who I am and why I am. See I AM the girl next door. I’m a bit of a hot mess, I’m basic, but I am approachable. Those women that I admired are doing great things, thats true, but sometimes women like me can’t relate to them, in fact I’m often intimidated by them. On the other hand, I’ve only ever intimidated the big kids trying to butt in line at the school fair. I’m unassuming and approachable. Thats who God has made me to be. I can’t serve Him, all the while trying to be someone else. Honestly, at the root of it, I wasn’t even trying to serve Him in trying to be someone else. I was serving myself and my ego. I got side tracked. 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the dangers of the mold. See in ministry and life in general, I believe we’ve created a mold of sorts. There is this underlying concept that every person must look a certain way, speak a certain way, and act a certain way to serve God. It appears there is this unspoken mold, and I was trying so desperately to fit into it, but I can’t and more importantly, I shouldn’t. God didn’t make me to fit in someone else’s mold. He made some people that way, and they’re having great success living out their God given purpose, but life is not one size fits all, and the only person we should be emulating is Christ.

God made me ordinary, but there is beauty in my ordinary. There is beauty in the fact that though I fall short and am insecure, God has given me the opportunity to encourage others. There is beauty in the way God made you! The lie from the enemy is that we are JUST ordinary, because God’s plan for us is unique, and the mistake is trying to be someone else instead of who God created us to be. 

So here I am basic, plain, ordinary. I’m not the model wife, mom, leader, and I’m definitely not an influencer, but I am me. I know I am fulfilling my purpose, and I feel confident in that knowing that God is using me in extraordinary ways, just as ordinary as I am.

It’s ok if your the girl next door too. God can shine brightly through you, all you have to do is embrace it, and let God do His thing. Who knows what doors God is waiting to open for a girl like you.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography

When It’s All Too Heavy

Lately  I’ve been thinking a lot about life and how overwhelming it can be for so many of us. How heavy life can feel with work, family, sickness, and sometimes even tragedy . Right now, my life is just a little crazy, but there have been seasons when I was in way over my head and just plain drained.

When my kids were very little I was living in a season of exhaustion. I remember feeling tapped out, like I had nothing more to give. Josh and I didn’t have the extra cash for any kind of a trip away, so there seemed to be little chance of a break. It felt hopeless, like I was doomed to a perpetual lack sleep and running on empty. In my desperation, I used to fantasize about being hospitalized for something minor like dehydration, just so I could have a good nights rest, and binge watch Netflix in peace. Crazy? Maybe, but it was my reality. I was burnt out with life!

Around that time when I was worn out and having a hard time coping, we were given the opportunity to go on a retreat in Quebec City at the luxurious Chateau Frontenac hotel. It was all expenses paid, no kids, and just what we needed. I remember at the end of it ugly crying into a mic in front of three hundred people about how much it meant to me. It was such a blessing, and was the rest I needed as a weary mom. A much needed refresh button when life felt too heavy.

Fast forward to today, life is pretty good. It’s hectic at times, but it’s slowed down a bit, and I’m finally getting some sleep. Would I love a vacation, sure, but I can manage okay without one. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve spoken to people who have a lot on their plates, and as I thought about them I was reminded of this verse in Matthew 11:28,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It made me think of that retreat. Or a couple of months ago when money was tight and I was working crazy hours tutoring English online. One day I logged on but my internet was faulty, so I had no choice but to rest and be encouraged by a good friend. It made me think about shortly after, when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills and someone gave us an extremely generous cheque, so we were finally able to breathe without the pressure of finances on our shoulders. 

That day when my internet went glitchy I was able to get together with my friend Lisa. It’s not often that we can get together and have a good chat, but I was so stressed and panicked, I couldn’t enjoy it. “I NEED to work!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got bills to pay!”. She looked at me as the tears fell down my cheeks and said, “Maybe this is God’s way of making you take a break, so you can rest and spend time with Him”. I never thought of the technical issues as a gift, I was too busy worrying, and yet it was just what I needed. A free day where I had no choice but to rest and to listen to God. Maybe thats your rest too. Maybe it’s not obvious, it could be a blessing in disguise, but when we go to God he refreshes us in unexpected ways. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and when we surrender to Him He provides. He takes the weight off our shoulders, even if it’s just for a few hours, and sometimes He even lightens our load.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now, but I do know what rest in Jesus looks like. It may not be a free retreat to a glitzy hotel or a generous cheque, it could as simple as peace, wisdom, and the support of friends and family. Whatever season you’re in, whether one of balance and simplicity or one of chaos, I encourage you to seek after God, and pay attention to what He’s doing. You might be surprised with the rest your given, and how it not only refreshes your body, but your soul. 

Even as I finish writing this I’m feeling tired and a little weary. I stayed up too late (yet again) milking every second of peace and quiet to watch tv. Just as I finally surrendered to my heavy eyes and snuggled into my pillow my daughter woke up crying in her bed, so up I went, to tuck her in and wipe her tears. Now it’s nearly midnight and I know I will trudge through the next day tired, but I will press on because I know tomorrow holds it’s own little blessing. Tomorrow I get together with Lisa for a mom’s night out and tacos. It’s only a little rest, but I’m gonna eat my fill and soak it all in!

Self Control for the Cranky Mom

This past Sunday was church AND our family photo shoot. Now maybe for you that would be fine, but for me it was a recipe for disaster. See we’ve got four kids and are church planters. That means every Sunday is crazy! Get up, get everyone somewhat presentable, try and maintain peace in the chaos, get out the door, set up, do church, manage a small child’s tantrum and/or tears, and finally tear everything down. Every Sunday it’s pretty much the same, and we handle it pretty well, but throw in family picture day, and for me, it was a lot!

I knew I would be a little stressed, but when I got up that morning I woke up cranky, and it was all downhill from there.

For starters I was awoken from my sweet slumber by my son losing his mind and yelling, “Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!”, all for me to get him his cereal. Ugh! Not the way I wanted to start my day. What followed was a series of whiny moments from my kids and and a general defiance to anything that required cooperation.

I would like to say that I was calm and composed, but you know by now that would be a lie. I was just plain cranky! My poor husband had to listen to me rant and freak out while I tried to wrangle our kids and get us ready for the day. Thankfully he was patient, kind, and self controlled, all things that I lacked.

I remember singing songs about the fruit of spirit as a kid. In Galatians 5:23 it says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” I gotta say, sometimes I find it to be really challenging to have self control as a mom. See sometimes motherhood is great, the kids are listening, they’re getting along, and things are just peachy! Then there are those other days. The ones where it feels like your working a bad customer service job. Seriously! It’s tough and sometimes I can feel like I’m on the cusp of losing my sanity!

So what I’m wondering is, how do you as a mom or just a human being have self control? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I have it figured out. When it comes to self control (as with many things) I fall into the “work in progress” category. I see my freak outs and ongoing issues with patience and all that, I even have some ideas on how to deal with it, but I really have to lean on Jesus and others to hold me accountable and help me out.

That morning as I was prepping things ready for church, I felt Gods gentle whisper, “They’re just pictures Sarah. They’re just pictures”. It was kinda ironic really. Here I am writing week after week about accepting yourself and living in reality, and I was literally going nuts over everyone looking perfect for this staged shoot. Yikes!

I’m so grateful though for grace, and a God who loves me enough to gently remind me of what’s important and adjust my perspective. Throw in a little wisdom from my husband and it helped me to process everything that was going on and try not to lose my poop.

I can’t say it was an instant fix for my mood and snappy self, but it did help. Sometimes I just need a little perspective to get out of my head. Maybe you do too. When all else fails, I recommend an extended trip to the bathroom to calm down. Bonus points if you can be stealth and disappear unnoticed.

At the end of the day, I was able to settle down and mostly roll with the punches. The pictures turned out great, and all was well with the world. Hopefully these photos will stand as a reminder to myself to calm down, because everything’s gonna be okay, even when its all seems a little too crazy!

Photo Credit: Lindsay Berringer Photography