I’m so excited to be a guest writer on my daughter’s blog! My newest phrase is “Such fun!”. This is a quote from the mother on the Amazon Prime series Miranda. If you haven’t seen it and need a good belly laugh, check it out. I just love British humor.
So, that’s the beginning of my advice to young mothers - laugh more. Don’t take everything so seriously. Play more. Enjoy the messiness of childhood and stop thinking you have to clean it all up.
I sat the other evening with a young mom, about the age of my daughter, and listened to a familiar theme. The young woman was worrying aloud, “Am I disciplining my children enough? Am I keeping the house clean enough? Are our meals nutritious enough? Am I volunteering enough at church? Am I teaching the children to read? How many clubs and sports can we afford? I’m running all the time and it makes me tired and not as patient as I want to be.”
I sometimes feel that my most important mission as a grandmother is to put a reassuring hand on a young woman’s shoulder and give her permission to relax. We are living in an atmosphere where society is constantly urging us to be more, do more and have more! This pressure is blared from the television, the computer, our smartphones and even the pulpit. Everything in your life should somehow be bigger and better. The whole family feels the pressure.
My recommendation is to step off the treadmill and refuse to let anyone force you back onto it. Don’t be bullied or pressured by your neighbors, your friends, your family (but Mom, everybody’s doing it) or even your church. If you want to teach your children good things, start with the basics.
Teach your children to breathe! Slowly! We all need to stop running, rushing, shallow breathing or worse hyperventilating. My Dad, who is now 81 was just released from a hospital to a rehab center. There they are trying to teach him to breathe deeply. He said he was amazed at how much of his life he has spent shallow breathing and how difficult it is to learn to slow down. He had no idea how much breathing impacts your health. So teach your children to breathe.
Teach your children to see, look and notice. I just read an article about children having neck problems due to being bent over tech devices all day. Here’s the remedy. Look up! When was the last time you spread out on the grass and looked up at the clouds, noting their strange shapes and movement? Encourage children (and yourself) to really looked at a flower and noticed all it’s parts. Did you know that not all blades of grass look the same? It takes a certain calm to notice details. Play games where you hide things in the backyard and let them search. Ask them if they remember what color shirt Daddy was wearing when he left for work, or what their sibling was wearing or doing five minutes ago. It will amaze you - both with how much they notice and how little we do!
Teach them to smell! Help them smell; not only the flowers, but also the musty, dirty laundry under their bed. Help them identify lavender, cinnamon, mint, modeling clay, baking, and the many fragrances in our world. Play the blindfold game and see if their noses can give them information when their eyes cannot.
Teach your children to hear. First go outside and listen to all the sounds on the earth - from nature sounds to the sounds of humanity. Then help them learn the differences between listening, hearing and understanding. You do that first by listening to them. They also observe how you listen to your spouse. Take time to communicate with your spouse over more than the mundane details of the day. Allow the children to witness you argue sensibly and even passionately, so they can see what it means to compromise, apologize, and make-up. Allow them to know that the real world requires negotiation.
Teach your children to taste. Okay, this starts early, from nursing to baby food to every toy they put in their mouth. Children instinctively want to taste life, so broaden their tastes by helping them try new foods Let them experience the difference between salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Explain that all tastes are relevant and remind them that sweet is not the only taste they should enjoy. Stop worrying that if they don’t finish all that new recipe that they will starve. They won’t. Our job is not to cater to their tastes - it is to help them develop their tastes.
Teach your children to feel! Allow children the wonders of all the textures they can touch with their hands, teaching them to touch small things tenderly and gently. But along with actual physical touching/feeling, also teach them to identify and feel and own their emotions. Help them find proper outlets for real emotions. My Dad once gave me a hammer, some nails and a log and let me pound out my anger in the backyard, driving in as many nails as it took to work out my feelings. Some people punch or bite pillows. Let your children have a good cry when needed. Give them a safe space to feel and work out their emotions. I personally feel our society is suffering the consequences of suppressed emotions. People who have never been taught appropriate acknowledgement of anger or sadness, reach a tipping point and react in sudden violence to themselves or others. We need to start young to teach children to acknowledge their own emotions and then they will also develop compassion and empathy for others.
What? That’s it? Encourage the five senses? What about reading, writing, arithmetic? What about thriving in a competitive world? What about extra curricular activities? What about technology? I repeat! Relax. This generation is asking the same questions we were asking in the last generation - how much screen time is okay? We were concerned about television and you worry about Ipads and smartphones. The truth is still the same, when the power goes off, and there are no screens, we are all back to relying on our five senses and the knowledge we draw from them. If they have been neglected, we all lose out. Screens will come and go, grow larger and then smaller. Technology will develop and then be replaced with better and more sustainable invention. Those children who have been taught to see and understand their surroundings and themselves will have the best platform and the best designs to bring into the next generation.
Avoiding devices completely is impossible and impractical despite how much we wish we might. The world is not suddenly going to spin backward, so it would be a disservice not to adapt to the times. I know a lot has changed and it is natural to wish for it all to just slow down. Good luck with that!
Our children are going to learn their boundaries from someone, let it be from us and not their peers who are creating multiple social media accounts to lead duplicitous lives. This age of social media is already bringing some scary things to the surface. The temptation of comparison just took hold in a whole new way. Privacy is nearly nonexistent. Cyber-stalking is real and knowing how to protect yourselves and those you love can seem a bit overwhelming!
How are we to keep our children safe as the new technology intrudes into our lives bringing unknown consequences? I can attest to only the short-term side effects because scarily, my own children are the guinea pigs for the long-term ones. I encourage you to pace your kids. Heck, pace yourself! A device without safeguards and boundaries isn't safe for anyone.
So, here are a few steps I have taken to keep my us safe. I will be writing primarily from the Apple perspective, sorry Android users.
#1 Go slow; give out devices when you are ready.
Missing out, and knowing what you are actually are missing out on, are completely different things. Just because all their friends have them doesn't mean they are ready to have one. Be sure you, as the parent, are ready for setting parameters. Boundaries only work if you stick by them and it is harder to set them after the fact. The moment you cave to your own limits you have lost ground which will only be regained painfully. Devices have an addictive quality and if you don't believe that, see how long you can go without subconsciously reaching to check your own phone!
We have a sharing policy in our house. All the devices are mommy and daddy's because we pay for them. Period. End of story! Using them is a privilege, not a right. The kids are allowed to use them as long as whatever requirements we have set are met. Requirements can be anything and everything - you are the parent - chores, attitudes, respect, and consideration. Sky's the limit!
Each house will be different depending on the age of the child and the parents' views. In our house, chores need to be done, schoolwork completed, and some time of physical activity performed before devices can be utilized. Road-trips and summer vacation we allow more leniency, but I try not to let boredom dictate usage.
We have already established the rule that social media platforms will not be happening until double digits, a history of trust and maturity in peer choices is established. This leads me to the next safeguard...
#2 Be the keeper of the passwords.
Start strong! All passwords should be known by mom and dad or the device is lost or restricted...more on how to restrict later. When I upgraded, my old cellphone programmed with my iTunes account was loaded with educational games for our kids. Anything that is downloaded to that device is also automatically downloaded to my own new one. I love this and see it as a great safeguard. I can easily delete the app without affecting the other. My kids have to come to me to input my iTunes password first. If a child learns the password (they are smart!) and wishes to bypass the asking step, I will be alerted and obviously, consequences will occur. I set up emails for my children and have full access to their accounts because mine is the emergency backup. That means any notifications of activity or password changes are sent to me.
Until they turn 18 or pay for their own phones, there will be set and discussed ground rules.
#3 Set device and app restrictions.
Under General, there is an awesome Restrictions menu. Thank you, Apple! There is even a separate restrictions pass-code (not the same as the unlock code!) on Apple devices which I highly recommend for safety. Do not give this to your child. If they are older and you trust them with their own iTunes account, great! BUT please turn off the explicit content at the very least. (sidebar: If you battle pornography, have someone you trust restrict your own device!) You don't want to deal with therapy issues when you can avoid that. Set your kids up for success! Children will test their limits and peers will be sure to enlighten them to all the wonderful and not so wonderful capabilities of their new device.
Location tracking is another beautiful thing to turn off under privacy. Switching apps to location tracking only to While In Use or Never will safeguard against cyber-stalking. Turning off all unnecessary app notification is a must for adults as well as kids. The device is a time suck, so limits its pull!
Ratings on movies, books, apps, and podcasts are adjustable under restrictions as well just to name a few. Take the time to learn the device and set the proper maturity settings. They are always adding new features which a quick internet search can help you utilize. Restriction of in-app purchases is a good place to start.
My kids are under ten, so I have restricted Safari, Siri, YouTube and all location tracking from applications on the iPads and iPhones. I downloaded OurPact which allows me to disable all apps on a certain time schedule. Facetime is linked to my device as well, so I am alerted to any incoming video calls for the present time. For a small fee you can add multiple devices and get access to more specific restricting capabilities, but I have only the free version. I find it very helpful - go to bed kid! There are many devices and apps to help do this too. The Google search engine has a safe-search mode and so does YouTube which I have enabled on all our computers in the home.
#4 Set personal restrictions.
Start off slow and let them earn more opportunity rather than having to take it away. Trust is earned and kids test their limits. Be aware of back doors (getting to things via another app - example - YouTube via Pinterest) and other addictive behaviors. Be sensitive to their posture and habits. You want to be aware if a child is changing apps when you walk into the room. A quick confiscation and double tape of the home button can reveal all open apps. I also ask that charging stations be in the main section of the house. Closed door and devices are a no go. Dinner tables should be sacred and bedtime reasonable. Bedtime means devices are dark.
#5 Ask for help.
In this day and age, we parents have a much wider village. Cousin Cody, across the country, can keep tabs on what your kids are up to and into. When social media has finally been earned, have friends and family accept your child's friend request. Hyper-vigilance can raise anxiety, so we need to have some established trust before our kids enter the world of social media. In this case, use your village to your advantage. Family and friends can help safeguard your child by commenting on their accounts or alerting you to dangerous posts. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes a bad. Have honest talks about the dangers of social media with your kids and encourage them to look out for their friends too. It isn't tattling when someone is getting hurt or could get hurt; it is called being a good friend. Have honest talks with your village about their sensitivity. You don't need to know every emoji your child has used, but have them monitor for signs depression or danger.
We can only protect our kids from so much. Hopefully this helps reduce a little anxiety. I am always searching for better apps and safeguards for this constantly growing and changing industry. Leave some tips for me!
This is my current read. After finishing Jen's Of Mess and Moxie book I knew I had to read her previous one. I am only a few pages in but already her witty humor is a huge draw for me. I'll post at the end of the summer with a further review.
Below are two groups of titles. One group I have already read this summer and thoroughly enjoyed. Most are fiction because summer is for chilling, but several nonfiction found their way into my library bag. And boy am I glad they did!
The second group is my current random grab from the library and online, so we shall see how they work out.
From left to right:
My summer started with a tale about connection on a flight, continued through a historical piece on Jewish midwifery, followed by a spiritual visit at an Amish bed and breakfast and - oh how I enjoyed the diversity!
After that, I was introduced to two new-to-me authors. One had me shouting Amen! The other's work astounded me. The internal dialogue was authentic and the spiritual journey was alongside Frank Peretti or Ted Dekker. The last in this group was probably the most beneficial. I know a reread of this book is the only way for it to be fully absorbed, so this one I purchased!
I enjoyed my random library grabs so much! (I have three kids, so I will admit to judging covers and only reading the back of a few of these ahead of time!) I only ended up returning two to the library that I was unable to get into at this time - So yay for the random grab method!! I am a big believer in timing. Sometimes you attempt to read a highly recommended book and nothing resonates, but you read the same book in another season of life and you can't get enough! If it doesn't grab you, don't sweat it - maybe next time!
These are the titles that I random-grabbed this last library visit. The last two were offline. One is a new author to me. Another is second in a series. Two of these are actually the same author but different genres. ;) These should keep me busy for the next week or two, but then I will need some more suggestions.
Another handy tool of busy moms is putting things on hold to pick up at the desk! So,what is on your summer list? Comment below with your suggestions!!
You ever stare at yourself in the mirror and wonder, what the hell happened? I wish I could pin it to something specific. One moment you are cruising along and doing well and then KAHBLAMMY!
I get that this parenting journey isn't easy or perfect. I get that life throws curve balls. But to go from one extreme to another, for seemingly no reason at all, that is when the logical part of my brain throws a fit. LITERALLY! I like to know the why!
I readily admit there are certain times of the month that hormones mess with me. Lack of sleep or sickness can easily throw me off kilter, but all that is understandable. I didn't realize that I was looking for someone or something to blame for my lack of self-control. I am an adult and I should be able to act like one, but... there are some days I don't! There are some days that I just suck and feel like giving up.
Normally, I can feel it building, but not always. I've tried counting to ten, retreating, meditating, or phoning a friend! Cheerfully, I can say, this has worked some of the time. As a parent, it's hard to get the you-time when you need it. Methods for chilling out and restoring balance are wonderful. Exhaustion makes it hard to use them, however. Mental exhaustion is just as real as physical. It sneaks up on you!
You see, when you are a mom, there are a lot of variables to your day. A lot of people are depending on you for countless reasons. The nurturing mentality oozes out even when it's to our detriment. The amount of responsibilities, worries, details, tasks, and demands that are placed on us or that we willingly take on are incredible. We don't even realize all that we are balancing. Even our subconscious is overworked.
Every year I hear about women doing more and more incredible things! We throw around slogans about Super Mom and talk about how we want our daughters to be able to do anything and everything they want to. We have seminars about empowerment and vision. Don't get me wrong; I am all for equal rights! But just because we can do something doesn't mean we should, right? And definitely not all at once! I need to be okay with my workload and not try to mimic all the Pinterest moms I admire.
I am still learning that I have a lot to learn: about myself, about priorities, seasons, and saying no. Too much of a good thing, striving until exhausted, people-pleasing, volunteering for one more thing - these are things you learn to stop most often by failing. I've had pretty great examples, but they weren't perfect! So, I am here to admit it. Aloud and unproud - no excuses -I lost it! Ugh!
The day before was amazing. I made pancakes with my kids, remembered to kiss and appreciate my husband, cleaned the house, homeschooled the children, and it was all Instagram worthy! And then today happened...
I wish I could blame it on the kids, my spouse, or even hormones, but nothing was different from the day before. My kids were fairly well behaved. It wasn't rainy and miserable. My husband said he loved me and told me he didn't have that long of a work day, so he would make supper. Yes, I married a good one! Then KAHBLAMMY - I was short tempered with the kids! I could see the bewilderment in their eyes. Maybe I felt overwhelmed by the little mess that had accumulated in the one day since we had thoroughly cleaned it, but really there is not excusing my behavior even if I couldn't pin down why. I was angry! I slammed a door and dissolved into tears, feeling like a total failure.
Talk about a roller-coaster, a great day followed by a suckfest! I justify my actions a lot by my circumstances. Did I get enough sleep? Did my spouse show me any appreciation or love for that basket of laundry I folded and put away! Were my kids kind and obedient? Was the weather too hot, cold or rainy? I didn't get my needed ____ (sleep, caffeine, chocolate, wine, etc.)! The list of excuses goes on and on. The fact was - I blew it! So what now? Hand in my kids? Delete my social media accounts because I am a not a supermom with endless patience for baking, crafts, sewing, and board games? Waaaaahhh! (Can you hear my pity party?)
If you are feeling like a bad mom, you are not alone! I had myself a good cry, thanked God for yet another do-over and went to hug my kids. Maybe you've had a day or 50 like mine? I've had more than I want to number. From one wanna-be-supermom to another, God offers endless redos. We haven't scarred our kids in some way God didn't foresee. It's okay for our kids to see that we get overwhelmed. It's probably the biggest and best lesson we can teach. Moms need to apologize too! Our good days and bad ones will shape our kids, but the potter is still on his throne. He is able to turn our lumpy attempts into useful vessels. Listen hard and you will hear him whisper:
I've got this; I'm good at fixing things. Back off the ledge and we'll start afresh together.
It has been a while since I wrote. Can't say I really feel guilty about that.
Starting up school, celebrating our tenth anniversary and surviving a hurricane took precedence over writing for a while.
We have all these ideals. The ideal way to start school. The romantic getaway appropriate for a decade of matrimony. What trials we expose our children to. We see what others do and we dream of what we might do, but until you are there and juggle the variables you really have no clue.
I remember pre-children watching people discipline their children and I'll admit - I judged. Until I had my own toddler throw a tantrum in public I had no clue what other variables played into the decisions and reactions of parents. I just assumed I would have the infinite patience and wisdom to be a tough but loving mom. We all have our ideal way we would do something, but what we have to keep in perspective is whether we ourselves are in our ideal state when said situation comes into play. This school year started off with a new board game. It was a flop. I'd like to say the first week was easy with everyone wanting to learn, but homeschool involved typical, cantankerous children just like public school. It takes us a few weeks find our rhythm.
I had this idea of what romantic vacation I wanted to take for our tenth anniversary, but time constraints, sitters, energy, and finances did not cooperate. Face-time is key....no not on your phone, but shoulder-to-shoulder enjoyment and laughter go way further in marriage sustenance than any perfect trip to the Bahamas. Because we tried that trip to the Bahamas for our fifth. Ha! What those Instagram photos won't show you is the hurricane that changed the course of our ship, the food poisoning that ruins your night of passion, and the inconsiderate wall mates who make too much noise for your to get proper sleep. Smile - this is the trip of a lifetime - snap! This time we got two nights to ourselves in the city, saw a show, swam and held hands. It wasn't nearly as Instagram glamorous, but I'm so thankful that after a decade we still dream and laugh together.
The real storms blow in and you are watching the weatherman attempt to predict and you realize he is no better off that you were trying to judge a situation from the outside with no idea what the variables really are. All you can do is patiently weigh out the pros and cons of staying or evacuating. The last hurricane was predicated as a direct hit at cat 4 maybe cat 5, so we chose to go. It wasn't fun, but we were safe. This time was all over the place in its predictions, but we chose to stay. We had a night of high winds and nerves were a little jittery, but life resumed the next day.
The thirties have hit hard with three kids, one income, and a mortgage, but my perfectionism still runs strong despite life upping the game. As part of my hurricane prep, I borrowed a puzzle. I normally love puzzles; I find them calming. This 2000 monster was making me angry despite a few friends helping her and there. It was mocking me from our only table four days later! I got down to just the sky which was one solid night color....absolutely no shading left. Just endless blue-black. Ugh! My ideal was in its completion. It would bring satisfaction! I always complete the things I start! I called my mother...
Earlier in the week, we had been discussing photo albums. I had helped mom scan them all, but she was having a hard time parting with the physical albums. I told her to have a bonfire and set herself free. She could keep her favorites, but she wasn't required to keep every photo from 6 decades. She has dreams, goals, and ambitions! It is hard to do the things you need to when you are carrying around baggage. So essentially I absolved her guilt about needing to hang onto every heirloom. She has all the photos online and can take her time making keepsake books to give away as we have children, but in the meantime travel and live lighter.
This time, she asked me a few questions... "Is the puzzle bringing you joy? (Not anymore!) Will it really bring you a sense of accomplishment? (For a few seconds, maybe minutes.) Are there other things that you would rather be doing? (Yes!) Then break it apart and relish it!" So, I did. I broke apart the pieces and felt very satisfied in choosing NOT TO DO SOMETHING! I didn't finish! I didn't complete that checkbox!
And yes, as a thirty-four-year-old, I needed my mom to absolve me from completing a puzzle! I will admit it. I call her pretty regularly to absolve me of guilt for lots of things: not being the best wife, the most patient mother, having the cleanest house, or people-pleasing. I just need to hear another sane person tell me I am not crazy for giving up or being human. I know God absolves me of it all, but sometimes you just need an audible voice.
So, I am back to my mantra with some tweaks -
Walk humbly with God today and do the work at my hands.
But I am learning to ask more questions about the word work...
How important is this work?
Does it really need to be done? ... by me?
What will happen if I don't complete it?
Work sometimes means to create and invest, not just drudgery. So...
What do I feel God is calling me to do today? - Everyone/everything else can wait!
As soon as Fourth of July passes, my thoughts start to shift into preparation mode. I know the shift happens for mothers and teachers way sooner than the students. Summer is still hot and fierce, but the wind of change begins to blow as soon as the last holiday firework smoke fades away. Kids are soaking up the last of the days by the beach or pool while we start preparing.
I am excited! I want to be ready for August and the first day of school. It is probably the cute holiday pictures with sparklers that starts my mind on dreaming up what we should do for back-to-school pictures. We have done signboards and black and white, so what should we try next? That thought then spirals into more checklists. What supplies are needed? Did I mention that I love paper? Yes, that is me in the back of Staples smelling that paper. Come on! You got to love that new paper smell. New pens, folders, and highlighters....oh yes I love office supplies! Don't get me started on sticky notes and new markers before the children get ahold of them...
We homeschool so I also get to ponder which curriculum tweaks need to be finalized. I have portfolio reviews from last year to send into the superintendent. This year we have new students, so a letter of intent needs to be brought in for one and fresh preschool supplies bought for the other. Preschool is the best - everything is so colorful and fun! Dropping off forms in person means I don't have to worry that they got lost in the mail! Thank goodness I don't have to worry about uniforms, or drop-off and pickups, but there is still plenty of other things to prep for when you are with your students all day. Ink? Check. Paper? Check. Grocery shopping and meal planning for easy lunches and snacks. They need to be quick, so as to not take too much time away from teaching, yet still be nutritious!
The structure of learning hours before free hours is definitely tantalizing to me by this point (maybe not to the kids quite yet). Summer and the freedom it brings to our family schedule is starting to wear off after two months of blissful vacation. The reality is lazy summer days mean I often have to fight off countless screen-time requests and arrange playdates! I am missing priorities, order, and goals. Seasons of rest and freedom are needed! But, by August, I am eager to get back into the cadence of learning and discipline. I love seeing my kids flourish into responsible people who understand play comes as soon as responsibilities have been accomplished. I enjoy seeing true appreciation for the fun times, won through self-discipline rather than an entitlement that Summer can breed. They become responsible masters of their time and future. Summer is nice, but life needs balance and mommy needs help.
I hate to shop, but I love Amazon! I can check reviews and order from the comfort of my home. Win! I have my go-to things for each school year but am always looking for new things to help us along this learning journey. Below I will link of a few of my favorites buys that have enhanced our schooling.
Please share with me some things that have made your schooling better!
I love to read! I normally have a stack of books beside my bed, a packed kindle list, and my Overdrive account has a holds list that is maxed out. Overdrive links to your local library and allows you to read digital copies. Kindle offers weekly deals that keep me well stocked with digital books. I confess I don't go anywhere without a book of some sort! While my husband pumps gas I am getting a quick chapter in. I will sneak away to the bathroom to get a page or two read. I am occasionally up to 2 AM with my screen dimmed to finish the end of a book. The addiction is real people!
I like to read a bit of everything. I try to balance out my fiction and non-fiction. I am not against audibles, podcasts, documentaries and Youtube clips added into the mix, but books are my favorite. With three young kids, it is easiest to read off my phone, but my purse often contains at least one paperback. At night I try to read a book on paper, so I am not delaying my sleep until 2 AM. I couldn't even begin to list all the great books I have read recently, but I picked a few of my favorites to share below:
Share with me your recent reads!
I am always looking for the next good book.
Why is it so much easier to help others find their boundary line than it is to find your own? When I talk on the phone with a friend, it is often clear as day where they should draw a line in the sand. Things sneak up on you and creep in without always asking for permission or consent. In my own life I can feel the line, but not necessarily always see it. I string along countless excuses why I allow my boundaries to be crossed, stretched or moved altogether. More often than not, it is guilt or people-pleasing that account for my loss of decisiveness and muddled thinking. The older I get the less it is people-pleasing. See, I am getting wiser. ;) I might even throw worry in there too as a factor for crossing boundaries, but that isn't as high up on the list as the others.
I am a lot bolder on behalf of other people than I ever am on my own behalf. I love being able to encourage others to rest and feel peaceful. I abhor watching family or friends pushed into exhaustion by other demanding people or life's crazy pressures. I am quick to remind others to take time for themselves and set healthy boundaries in place to allow for recharge. It seems the moment I make space in my own life to breath that something comes out of the woodwork to steal back that room or time. It is such a battle! I know this life is a journey, but I don't think it is meant to be an all-out sprint to the finish. To make it the end, I know the tortoise approach is wiser and healthier. Stop and smell the roses; take time to enjoy the life you have been given. Intellectually, spiritually and emotionally I know what is best, but I allow the roar of life to drown out common sense and what I know to be right for me.
Life shows us pretty quickly that there are seasons for everything. There are seasons when we need to keep our obligations low and our boundaries high for our sanity and/or health. We also need to take into account the health and care of those we share life with. There are rhythms that we need to adhere to if we are to make it without hurting ourselves or others. Doing for others at the expense of yourself and your loved ones is not called servanthood, but codependency. Getting the details is an important step before agreeing to take on anything new. Indefinite service will cause harm if not balance with rest. Don't give an answer! You don't have to make excuses or give an answer right in the moment. I heard someone say that they wanted to "fall exhausted into the arms of Jesus" and every part of my being cringed! God, the maker of heaven and earth, rested on the 7th Day, so I am a firm believer in following His example. I think we have forgotten what true rest looks like, however. If you have kids and a spouse it is harder to find true rest. Someone is always pulling at you. Keep in mind what season you are in!
We can't just wish our boundaries into place any more than a general can get his troops from point A to B without sending out the order. We can't reduce our obligations without saying the word - No. We can not rest without allowing space and time for it. Staying balanced is a constant ebb and flow of decisions and planning. It isn't a one-time deal and opportunities come and go, so it will never be flawless, but having some steps in place helps me retain my sanity.
My go to's:
1. Call a WISE friend - In this season of my life, I am blessed to have many friends who are also balancing the wife and mother roles. I am grateful for the telegram app that allows me to share a photo or a laugh, seek advice, empathy or sanity at the push of a button with my group of mom friends. It is good to have people who remind me of my limits and priorities. I am also blessed with a wise mother who walks a few seasons of life ahead of me and is gentle in her wisdom and nearly always available to encourage and/or listen when I call.
2. Just say NO - don't add excuses - So many times I have people approach with requests or opportunities that seem to need immediate answers. I love to help others and disappointing people is hard for me. I am still learning the art of saying NO! If it is at all feasible, I want to say yes, but that has bitten me one too many times! I tried to put things off by saying I would pray about it. Better, but not best! When I know in the moment that my answer should be no, but I feel like I need a "good excuse" I need to remember - no - is good enough.
3. WAIT & Pray & WAIT - When in doubt - Wait! Then pray specifically and give yourself time to wait for His answer. Not the answer that you feel guilted into or pressured into! A thing can be really good, but if it is not in it's proper time then it can turn bad and quick. I will make mistakes, but slowing down and waiting gives me the chance to make well thought out decisions about my boundaries and obligations. Time also allows me to ask wise people to weigh in on the examination process.
Tell me what are your some safeguards for balancing boundaries and obligations? I can use all the help I can get. ;)
The time has finally come to slow down, turn inward, and find me again. But, as with everything, there is a pendulum swing and I can take it too far. I start focusing on what I want, need, am entitled to and end up being unhappy, whiny and no one I want to be around. Focusing on what I don't have instead of counting my blessings slowly turns me sour - every time! Instead of balancing life with God's perspective I swing from not caring for myself enough to demanding too much for myself. I am learning (oh so slowly) that I need the Spirit's help to stop the swing from going too far one way or the other on any given day in every area of life.
Dynamic tension takes focus and intention!
It is a struggle to retain some healthy boundaries and a sense of identity in this rat race. Keeping who I am with God is vital because when I start to let my kids, husband, role, passions or job define me I am in trouble. One-on-one my kids can be amazing or moody tyrants and together, mostly they are a cute and noisy circus. My husband is sweet and seemingly perfect one moment and the next I think about hopping on a plane and traveling the world solo. Being a wife can be absolutely maddening, but thank God for those sweet happily ever after moments that keep you hoping to grow old together.
Motherhood is fulfilling sometimes and draining others. My passions can seem fulfilling but can place my priorities in jeopardy. One day work is fulfilling and the next I want to quit. My identity needs to be firmly in Christ so I quit returning to life in my own power. When will I learn that I need Him every hour - every moment to get the fullness that I am craving and the sustenance I need?!
Nothing and no one is important enough to allow crowding Him out!
Yes, He created me with strength and ability, but I have yet to learn which battle hill is worth dying on and which ones I should let Him conquer.
Just because I can, doesn't mean I should!
I am afraid I have been a poor example in strategic warfare to those around me. I have heard His voice in some matters and have been so blessed through obeying His call to drop certain balls so I can do what He is calling me to do better. I took my sweet time getting the message though, and it makes me wonder what I may have missed out on in my delay. I have battled so hard in one area and totally lost sight of others that were way more important! My days always have adequate time when He is in charge. On days I take control I scramble. He is sovereign and that I can rest in. My journey, though bumpy, will be a part of refining me through His grace and for His glory.
Why I am still amazed that on those days when I take my time to invite Him to lead, that things go not perfectly, but way more smoothly? I get, for those type-A peeps like me, way more accomplished! My eyes are opened to those special God appointments with my kids, the neighbor or my spouse. How great to feel that high of being a part of God's work! Let's make that happen more! I get peace even in the busyness and confidence in the turbulence. I know it is because I was fortified against the devil and remembering to be in tune with the Spirit that I can do all things through Him.
It is not more important to be right, fair, or honest than it is to love.
And to love right, you need Him! Simple morning devotions are good by keeping me connected, but now I know there are ways to turn up the juice! So here are a few of my go-to Jesus Strategies:
Anyone one of these is great but when I regularly do them all I can understand why Peter got out of that boat. Want to feel the power? Share with me some ways you connect in with the source of all power!
All that other stuff has a season but it will fade and then what will I be left with?
I wish I could say that I was one of those moms who prayed constantly for their children, or at least nightly. I like to think that I at least pray regularly. Sometimes I feel my prayers for them have become rote and repetitive. You have all kinds of plans and ideals with the first child, but somehow after the third things start to slip. After a long day, I'll admit, I tuck them into bed and then go fall in mine often without more than a "Night Lord."
Years ago, I found a sheet listing ways to pray specifically for your children which even included scripture to back up each point. I have held onto this for years, but rarely got past the first few sections. It was too wordy and it seemed I was always interrupted. Good intentions are all well and good, but carrying around a nice but essentially useless (for me) paper had to come to an end.
Above, I have recreated the heart of it combined and shortened into prayer topics. I have successfully been able to pray my way through this one. Yay! I am a busy mom so it probably will still not happen daily, but God knows my heart and He will grow my prayer warrior skills yet. I have this on the front of my homeschooling binder in hopes of furthering my skills. I will also put the plain pdf below if it would be of use to anyone else.
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....