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!

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

Rose Coloured Glasses

The other day as the kids were winding down before bed, one of them (who shall remain nameless) got angry and started melting down. I did everything I could to try and diffuse the situation, but in the end I had no choice but to put them to bed early. When we got upstairs they were distraught and still cranky, which any parent knows, does not make for an easy bedtime.

I laid down next to them and started to calm them down. After they settled I began to share all of the words that described them. Not the words that described them in that moment, but all the words that declared who they are, and who they are becoming. “You are kind, funny, smart”, I whispered. “You are compassionate, patient …”. As I continued to speak these words, God reminded me that this is what He does with us. When we are feeling the weight of our actions and emotions, when we are feeling frustrated, ashamed, and unworthy He says, “Sarah, she’s my kid. She’s amazing! She’s so sweet, and selfless. She is patient and wise.”

Even on my darkest days, my God, my Father whispers these words over me. He sees every part of me, and yet He defines me by my good parts. Some days He speaks words over me that don’t even describe me yet, but He knows that deep down they are there, so He tells me who I am. He sees me like a proud parent with rose coloured glasses. A parent who loves unconditionally and sees so much hope for a bright future. We all know that parent, the one whose endlessly bragging about their kid, even when it doesn’t make sense. That’s Him! He’s our number one fan, our advocate.

Parenting has been my most challenging adventure yet, but it has also been such a blessing. Over the years as a young mom, God has taught me so much about His character, grace and His unconditional love. I’m so grateful for these moments when He reveals Himself to me and I pray that each day I can hear His words over me. I hope that I can hear the voice of my proud Father louder than my own insecurity and shame and grow into who He tells me I am. I’m pretty certain that if you’ll listen, you’ll hear His words for you too.

Inadequacy in the Box

Inadequate. A word that has hung heavily over my head for most of my life. A word that has kept me away from my potential. See my whole life I have felt inadequate for just about everything. Afraid of trying, because trying risks failure. Every job I consider, every new venture, parenthood, serving, and leading at church… inadequate. 

This very blog, almost didn’t happen because, as you can guess, I felt inadequate. In fact I’ve mulled over all the reasons not too. What if it’s all to depressing? What if I run out of things to say? What if no one wants to listen? What if I let them see the real me, and it’s all just too much? Risk is scary, and so I often compromise my dreams and settle for comfort.

In comfort, I wonder how much I’ve missed out on. Sometimes I even stop dreaming, because the dreams are to big for a person like me. Inadequate. Unqualified. Afraid. These feelings and fears are so real to me, constantly in the back of my head. The little voice that says, “Don’t do it, you’ll just fail, why bother.” Those words echo through my mind, but if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that those words are from the enemy, and the enemy is a liar!

God has a plan for me. He has a plan for each of us, but the enemy wants to keep us in a box. On the outside this box looks like a box of comfort and safety, but it’s deceiving, because the box is a cage––the box is fear. When I wallow in my fear, God likes to remind me of my favourite passage in the Bible. In Jeremiah 1:5,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah knew exactly what I feel. He too felt inadequate and unqualified, but he trusted in God despite his fears of falling short, and God used him. God has called me, and you, to so much more than our boxes. He has called us to a full life of serving him– to a purpose and a plan. He has big things in store for all of us, and because of Him we are qualified. He gives us the words to say and the courage to speak, but only when we lean on Him. 

I find that sometimes when I believe the lies of the enemy, I keep God at bay, because I know He’s calling me to more, challenging me to obey Him and see what happens, but I just can’t bring myself to listen. I put my faith in my fear, instead of God.

Today, I’m taking a step out of my box with this blog. I am choosing to let God use me and speak through me. Trusting that he will give me the words. Here I will share with boldness, and trust that God will use my pain and struggles, joys and triumphs for His glory. It’s scary and daunting, but I know that God has strengthened me, and I’m excited. If you understand what it feels like to feel inadequate, I hope you’ll join me on this journey in trusting God, as we step out of the box.