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.

Jesus Please Hold My Hand in the Dark

We’ve been going through a bit of a tough season lately. A season where we don’t know what’s next and it feels like we’re walking through the dark grasping for a hand to guide us. In this season everything feels fragile and I fear it may all fall apart.

God is here with us in this season, I know it. He is guiding us through. I see His work in the all the little things that are carrying us. A cheque from a friend that arrives at just the right time, the support and encouragement of another, and that day when my online job went glitchy and I had no choice but to finally rest.

I’m scared though, because sometimes I don’t feel God’s hand guiding me and as someone who is security minded, I don’t like walking through life in the dark. I want … scratch that, I need to know what’s next. I need to feel secure and stable.

Instead I find myself asking “why”. Why us? Why are we standing here and it feels like the ground is crumbling beneath us? Is it me? Do I lack faith? That last question is rhetorical. I already know the answer. I do lack faith, BUT I also know God isn’t punishing me for it. Sometimes I have faith that is baffling in bleak circumstances, but this thing called security, it’s my kryptonite.

It’s crazy really, because I often fondly talk about years ago when we were in transition between jobs and had more money in our bank account than made sense. It was literally loaves and fishes, and yet here I am panicking, a complete and utter wreck.

I’ve always believed that we need to trust God no matter what, but that can be hard to do when you know bad things happen to Christians too.

How do I have faith, when so much is at stake. And is God really faithful in every circumstance? The truth is yes. God is faithful in the dark. God is faithful when I can’t feel His hand. He is always there. I can’t say I have constant peace in this season. It comes in waves, and then fear creeps back in, but thankfully I can say that He does provide.

I’ve been here before. I’ve walked through the dark when I couldn’t see. I felt alone, abandoned even, but in the end I’m glad to say I saw He was with me. He works in ways I do not understand, and many times it seems to not make sense, but He guides me through it. Now on the days when it doesn’t make any sense I will cling to Matthew 6:26-27 where Jesus says, “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?”

If God takes care of the birds, then surely we can trust Him to takes care of us! So even though I’m afraid and my legs feel shaky, I will step forward trusting He’s there to guide me, even when I can’t see His hand.

Dear Friend,

I wrote this months ago in a tough season. I am happy to report that so much has changed and God has taken care of us in big ways. I decided to share this to encourage others who need hope in a difficult time. If that’s you, don’t lose faith! God is with you and even though you can’t see it, there is light around the corner.

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.

Grace in Progress

This past week I was preparing to run kids church, and I was mulling over ideas for Thanksgiving when an illustration came to mind. Picture life as a pair of glasses. Glasses that are shiny and new, but eventually get dirty and scratched. Before you know it, it’s hard to see. That’s what life is like. Life gets tough, and sometimes bitterness becomes our lens, but when we choose to be thankful to God through the pain, our vision becomes clearer, and we begin to see. Our perspective becomes positive because we choose to focus on the good.

As I was going to bed I was thinking about my lens. With some people, my glasses are filthy. I’ve been hurt, and I find it hard to forgive. I would say I’ve tried, but the truth is I really haven’t. If I had, I wouldn’t filter through my pain. If I had, I wouldn’t choose bitterness instead of hope and joy. As I rested my head on my pillow, God said, “That’s you.” I’m Sarah with the dirty glasses. Sarah who refuses to be thankful and see the good, because bitterness and anger is familiar. The scratches and the dirt on my glasses are easy to see through. Or so it seems.

God wants me – He wants us, to let go. To choose to be thankful in the little things and have hope. He wants us to give over our dirty lenses and let God wipe them clean. It’s not easy, that dirt feels safe to me, a cautionary tale to keep certain people at bay. “They haven’t changed”, I say, “They never will.” I convince myself that my filter is necessary, that it protects me, but if I believe in a God who loves me despite my dirt and sees the best in me in my worst of times, I must be willing to let God clear my vision for others. I must surrender my pain in return for joy, and I think He’s trying to tell me that as I do, I’ll have so much more to be thankful for.

I can’t do this in my own strength, grace doesn’t always feel natural to me, but as I surrender myself to God, He will show me how to love unconditionally. His grace will help me see the good in people and have compassion for them on their darkest days. Through Him I can overcome my pain and choose to love. That means the people who have hurt me and haven’t even noticed. It means extending grace to those who haven’t apologized or don’t feel the need to.

As comfortable as I have become in my bitterness, I want to surrender my pain to Christ. I don’t like who I am when I filter through my pain. I am cold and distant. I am closed off to progress and growth, because I am stuck clinging to the dirt in the past. What a horrible way to live. I know that God has called me to more, and if you can relate He wants so much more for you too. A life of unconditional love and hope for change. A new lens and a joyful outlook on life. I know it will take time for me, but as the Bible says in Luke, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, so I’ve got some work to do. I’m so glad that I serve a God who calls me to a higher standard, not just for the sake of it, but because it’s whats best for me. He knows my bitterness is like a weed that comes in and chokes out love and peace, and He loves me enough to call me out of that. So, here I am surrendering myself, and asking for a new lens, strength to see past my pain, and grace to extend when it hurts.