Show Compassion For What You Cannot See

Cold and flu season has hit my house in full force and it means that I’ve had sick kids for a week with little end in sight. I’m exhausted, but not just physically, the worries of this week have me feeling emotionally drained.

Yesterday I took my daughter to the ER. It was the busiest I’d ever seen it, filled with sleep deprived parents and crying babies and poor little worn out kids. You could feel the anxiety in the air, as each parent stared nervously at their child. It was heavy.

As I waited for my daughter to be triaged, I felt her forehead hot with fever. I watched her nose appear to flare slightly with each breath. I gazed at her eyes, so heavy after days without a good nights rest. I wanted somebody to make my baby better and take away her pain.

As the waiting area filled a nurse began to take down our information and symptoms. One look at her and it was obvious that she was not only overwhelmed, but annoyed. “What are their symptoms?”, she would ask as parents would relay their concerns. I felt her frustration grow as parents would give their list of symptoms. Then she came to me. “Why are you here?”, she asked with a sharp tone. I hurriedly tried to plead my daughters case. I was worried, I’ve seen my babies go downhill before so fast, but as I shared my daughters symptoms I could sense the attitude, I think I even caught an eye roll. 

After triage it became clear, my daughter was sick, but probably not as sick as I thought. Her fever was high and her heart rate was elevated, but despite my fears, her breathing was okay. Our nurse was kind and told me to come back in an hour to have her fever checked again. She sensed my concern and she trusted it. I appreciated her kindness.

As the minutes dragged on it became clear that our wait would be long. My daughter was becoming increasingly irritated as she kept trying to get comfortable with no success. I decided to have her temperature checked one more time, and make a choice from there whether to stay or go home. 

Unfortunately we ended up with the cranky nurse.

She gave me attitude in droves and became snappy as I asked her if she thought I could treat my daughter at home. I politely told her we would go home, and left.

I was NOT impressed. In fact I was angry. Not just for me, but for all the other parents who were trying to take care of their kids, but were met with a sharp tone and not so subtle eye rolls.

When I got in the car, I began venting to my husband. “So it turns out I was being a little paranoid!”, I said, “She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know what I’ve been through! She doesn’t know that so many times a simple cold turned into an ambulance call, or being admitted for days! I worry every time they get sick! I worry because I’ve seen what can happen.” At first he sided with me, but then he said, “She doesn’t know what you’ve been through, but you don’t know what kind of a day she’s had.”

I’m not gonna lie, even as I type this I’m still a little frustrated, but he made me think.

She didn’t know. She didn’t know that last year my sons low grade fever turned into a full blown seizure that seemed to go on forever in slow motion. She didn’t know that the year before that my sons fever triggered a rare anaphylactic reaction to his virus. She couldn’t possibly know that years before, I rushed my daughter into the ER with a high fever and fast breathing and she spent the next 12 days fighting for her life.

Yesterday I was being a little paranoid, its true, but it’s because I’ve had to be, but she didn’t know that.

Truth be told, I don’t know either. 

I don’t know why that nurse had an attitude. I don’t know her story. Maybe she’d dealt with one too many rude parents or coworkers. Maybe she wasn’t feeling so good herself or she was going through some stuff at home. 

I don’t know and I never will, but it made me think about compassion and how much we all need it. 

I know I needed it yesterday, I know I need it most days, but that nurse probably needed it too. Especially on a tough day with a packed emergency room. 

It’s not easy. I still want to be annoyed with her for how she treated us, but the truth is, I need to learn to show more compassion in situations like this. To let things slide instead of getting angry and choose to give people the benefit of the doubt.  

I know I’ve had days when I’ve been snappy and rude, and I’m grateful that people haven’t written me off for it. We all have our moments where its all too much and we don’t cope well. 

Society teaches us to confront attitude, to stand up for our rights, to speak to a manager and say our piece, and sometimes it may be needed, but more often than not, we need to let it go. We need to recognize that there is often so much more going on below the surface. We need to make a choice to greet attitude with compassion, because we all have our moments, and sometimes we just need a little grace for all the things you cannot possibly know or see.

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 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

Overated Adulting

As a child I was so eager to grow up. Adults had it made in my eyes. They could watch MTV, eat a whole pack of raw cookie dough, stay up late, and buy whatever they wanted. It was obviously totally awesome. Or so I thought, but here I am “adulting” as they say, and it’s tough. If I had to choose one word to describe life as an adult, it would probably be overwhelming. Now I realize that sounds pretty intense, and its not all bad, I can eat a whole pack of cookie dough without getting in trouble with my mom, but I tried it once, and I didn’t feel so good. Seriously though, life can be overwhelming. There’s always something, to stress over.

Four kids, one husband, two jobs, volunteer work at church, bills, dishes, and oh so much laundry, always with the laundry *sigh*. Somedays its all a little much, and when it’s all a little much, I usually do one of two things. One, I panic and two, I procrastinate. It’s a skill really. I can procrastinate like the best, and my panic and worry fuels it, because I put off doing things so I can worry about not getting it all done instead. Crazy, I know! In the midst of all the craziness I seem to forget about God. I don’t forget that He’s here, just that He’s at work in my life. I try and take control of my chaotic life, instead of handing it to God. 

One example of this is with money. Recently we have been following the Dave Ramsey (aka money guru) method. This means budgeting, saving for everything, and side hustles (thus my second job). Its been great for us, and I’m so proud of the hard work we have been doing. We have been working hard and its been paying off, but instead of celebrating this victory and thanking God for how He has provided, I’ve spent countless hours panicking over how we will pay for the next thing. Dental bills, clothes, Christmas, next summers expenses even. This fear is so irrational. Josh and I have had seasons of our life where we have had loaves and fishes type moments, and way more money has been in our bank account than should have been. Right now though, life feels overwhelming. My to do list seems huge, our bills seem too high, our schedule is insane, and I’m exhausted. 

Life is hard, but I’m grateful that as I sat here panicking God reminded me that He is here, and He’s got it covered. It says in Matthew 6:25-27, 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

My constant panic and planning doesn’t achieve anything, in fact it cripples me and slows me down. In verse 31 to 34 it goes on to say, 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Isn’t that the truth! Each day has its own struggles to deal with, and yet here I am worrying about next year! God has always provided for me, He has done miraculous things in my life, and yet I seem to forget so quickly, so as I was sitting and spiralling in my thoughts God reminded me of what I needed to do with one simple word, SURRENDER. It’s a tough one for me. I’m not a productive control freak, but I am a control freak. I so desperately want to have all my ducks in a row, I want to know that everything is going to be ok. As an adult there are many things to worry about, so much pressure, but thankfully  I am not on my own. When I seek after God, when I trust Him, He will provide. Not just money (I’m not preaching the prosperity gospel here), but strength, encouragement, guidance, wisdom,  and energy for the daily grind. God is faithful, and He loves me, and I’m learning to surrender control to Him. It’s scary at times I’ll admit. Surrender takes trust, even when life seems to be a out of control, but I know I can’t do this adulting thing on my own, and I’m glad that today I was reminded I don’t have to. Now, if you have any ideas for my laundry, I’m taking suggestions, cause were drowning in it over here.