At the End of Patience

Raise your hand if you are ready for school to start. Are you finding yourself at the end of your patience?

I love my children and the slowness of summertime. I love the freedom to go to the pool, ride bikes, catch fireflies, and the excuse to eat more ice cream than normal. We have had a sweet summer, but as we inch closer to the start of school the inches of my patience are slowly disintegrating.

My Close Knit Kids Are Tried Of One Another

At the beginning of the summer it was so sweet to see my four children reunited. They played well, shared their toys, and encouraged one another. After two months together, I have noticed a large increase in tattling, screaming, and selfishness.

Just yesterday, a dear friend and mentor called me and when I picked up the phone there were children screaming in the background. Last night we came home from church camp and my children were screaming in the driveway.

I Am Tired

You all, I am so tired. I mean how many times can I say my coined momma phrases with a Mary Poppins attitude?

Listening is loving.

Ask a question if you want something instead of demanding it.

If someone asks us to stop we stop. 

First is not the worst when we get in the car. 

God has given your younger siblings two parents, and you as a sibling have the freedom to not be their parent. 

You are playing too rough.

No biting.

If our brother asks us to eat a piece off the cactus in his room, you don’t have to do it.

I have lost touch with my inner Mary Poppins in the recent days, found myself to be more like Maleficent, and I have wanted to give up.

God Is Not Tired

I was soberly convicted this morning about my impatience and lethargy when it comes to hanging in there with my children for these last few weeks of summer. God has never given up on me in seasons where I have been doing much worse than eating cactus. God is a pursuing God, God is an active God, and God is a patient God.

When we find ourselves tired as parents, we can find everlasting patience in Him.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary,  and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40: 29-31).

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

As I stepped out of my feelings of weariness this morning I refocused on God and His Word. It is a high calling to show my children Jesus, and a great privilege. I am so grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning and today can be the first new day to model repentance and faith to my children.

How Can We Walk Alongside Those Who Are Tired When We Are Tired Ourselves?

First, we repent of our shortcomings and lack of patience with our children and we remind them of the truth that God is a pursuing and patient God.

Then we point our children to truth in God’s Word. I used a short devotional today from Susan Hunt’s Big Truths for Little Kids.

Next we pray. We explain to our children that the kind of love and patience we are asking for is supernatural and cannot be accomplished in human strength. We love simply because God first loved us.

And in a few short hours, we will probably do this all over again. This is perseverance and a testimony of a real an active God to our children.

Hope For Those Who Are Tired

Today, I am thankful for a pursuing God who is teaching me to depend on His patience instead of my dried-up well of human patience. This is a truth I know, but even though I know the truth, as a human, sometimes, I fail to walk in the truth.

God is redeeming His people all the time. We simply need to come to Him. I pray I can show my children more of my  life of  dependence upon a loving and patient God rather than a worn out mother operating out of a dried-up well of human patience.

God never tires. His mercies are new every morning. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Great is His faithfulness, even when He needs to remind me of the same thing over and over again.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 28-30).

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20).

My heart loves control. I like to keep my schedule predictable and I prefer to be prepared in advance for anything (I have a freezer full of meals in case I happen to die).

It is difficult for me to step out of my schedule and my comfort because I fear unpredictability. This comes from a deeply woven thread in my story; because my mother passed away when I was a teenager, I try to protect myself from the pain of losing again with human effort and control. I have a distorted belief that if I can keep everything in its neat little box and stay within the five-mile radius of my suburban bubble I can protect myself and the ones I love from pain.

I have lived this way for as long as I can remember. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was only seven years old. But now as an adult woman with four children of my own, and as a woman who professes faith in a completely in-control God, I have to take my thoughts about human control and my neat little boxes captive.

I wonder. Am I limiting my faith by staying inside of my predicability and control? How can I grow in my connection with God and my trust in His provision if deep down I am limited by fear of the unknown?

This deeply woven gospel issue is difficult for me to unravel. It takes baby steps and small ounces of faith—little by little and day by day.

A month ago I went on a church trip with my husband to Croatia. In the months of planning and preparation to leave my four children there were many moments I was arrested by the fear of the unknown. I wrote a twenty-four page guide for my children and sister-in-laws to reference while I was away. In the months leading up to the trip, I experienced several sleepless nights worrying over what may happen if I die, how my children could drown while I wasn’t right there watching them, and how my house could catch on fire. One particular afternoon I spent several hours sobbing and writing letters to each of my children upon my death.

From January until mid-June all I did was dream up all of the horrible, most terrible things that could happen when I stepped out of my suburban bubble and predictable schedule. From January to mid-June I was a slave to my fear and anxiety, instead of a faithful, trusting follower of the Good God I claim I trust in.

In preparation for the trip, I went one step at a time, and God provided for me with each and every step. I asked for help with my children and two family members committed to helping me right away. I wrote letters for financial support, and though the body of Christ, ninety percent of the money for my trip was raised.

On the day of the trip, getting in the car was the hardest part. Then getting on a plane, and another, and another. But one step at a time I went, trying to embrace faith over fear, and fighting to remember that I do not control the world.

It is Satan who wants me to be a slave to my fear and cling to my neat little boxes and my five-mile suburban radius. It is Satan who wants me to be tangled up in the wounds of my past. But God wants me to thrive as I learn to leave fear and control and trust Him. God wants me to have faith that when I step out into the unknown, He will hold me up because He cares for me. And He will hold up my children too.

It is the one step at a time, faith of a mustard seed that made the mountain of fear in my heart move and slowly unravel away.

And the one step at a time, faith of a mustard seed yielded greater blessing than I could have ever asked for or think up. I made dear friends in Mačkovec, Croatia. Friends who I would have never met tangled up in slavery to my fear. My children thrived while I was away and were cared for by so many friends, family, and church family.

And thankfully, no one died, drowned, or caught on fire.

On the other side of my trip to Croatia, I have a little more faith, and a little less fear of the unknown. I am thankful for the faith of a mustard seed that can move a mountain fear within my heart. And I am thankful for a God who wants to unravel me from my neat little boxes and predictable schedule. He really holds up the world. Even when I fail to trust Him.

 

Simply A Sojourner

Motherhood has given me several hard seasons. Seasons where I found myself at the end of resources, the end of ideas, the end of sanity, and just holding fast to hope in something Greater than myself. Breastfeeding for the first time, adjusting to newborn sleep schedules, toddler stand-offs, potty training, lying and crying on the floor meltdowns (both adult and child), sibling quarrels, and currently first grade spelling and third grade homework.

This month my first born had his ninth birthday. Ninth. Last year in a single digit age, last year I can consider him as a primary grade student. Halfway to eighteen, ninth birthday.

As I have gulped down the cup I have been given, I have thought about my first born turning nine. My thoughts have turned to how my time with my nine year old as his legal guardian has sifted halfway through the hourglass of our time together. And each year seems to pass more quickly than the one before it.

I have left the physical exhaustion of lifting him, carrying him, feeding him and entered into the emotional exhaustion of fighting for his heart. Of listening to him at bedtime when he is ready to talk and I am ready to pass out. Listening as he talks about his friends,  his budding interest in girls, his compassion for others, his frustrations with injustice, his struggles on the bus ride home, and his knowledge about the energy our world uses to keep the lights on.

I’ve pondered how we got here, through the sweet seasons and the stretching seasons. I’ve realized how I want to hold on to the sand in the hourglass of my time with him. I thought about how I don’t want the hourglass to be halfway empty. I want to be present and see our hourglass as halfway full. Full of memories we’ve build together in the bottom, and full of memories to come in the top. I want the time to slow down, my time with him is sifting though my clenched fingers. My time with all four of my kids is sifting away with each moment.

As I have taken a deep breath in and gazed at my clenched hands, God has brought me to a place where I now know, my job as a mother is not to hold on to the sand in our hourglass of time, gripping on to the moments like I have the power to make time stand still. But instead, release the sand I am trying to hold on to in my clenched hands and clasp my hands together in prayer. To let go of the things I cannot control and simply pray for a heart that is ready for the things in motherhood which lie before me and the things which lie ahead. I know I am not the one in control of time or seasons. In the times and seasons, I simply am an agent of God’s love to the things and people He places in my lap.

“He changes times and seasons” Daniel 2:21

Letting go feels difficult because I deeply desire to be the one in control. In the unclenching of my hands I feel God’s invitation to deeper intimacy and trust in the good and perfect plans He holds for me and for my children.

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In motherhood, I am stilled when I think of the sweet seasons and the stretching seasons and realize, I am simply a sojourner alongside my children in each of them. Each season where I find myself at the edge of sanity, I am only passing through. I am simply a sojourner in the season of holding a newborn, a sojourner sitting on the bathroom floor singing songs and reading books about going pee in the potty, I am a sojourner passing through the seasons of tough toddler stand-offs, endless picture books, spelling lists, and children who need my help with their homework.

My hourglasses of time with each of my children somehow are sifting more and more to the halfway mark, we are halfway and we are full. Full of memories we have built with one another as we have sojourned through the sweet and the stretching.

Yes, I am and will always be mom to all four of my children, but how my children need me in each season will always be changing. As simply a sojourner, all I can do is pray that God gives me what I need in the changing seasons, and hope that God is giving my children what they need as they grow into their own unique little people.

He is the Lord over the times as seasons of their lives. I am sojourning alongside as an agent of His love and grace. In the sweet and the stretching I am a sojourner, just simply passing through.

When The House Is Still

I just put my youngest child on the bus. She is almost four and attending a four-day-a-week, half-day preschool for the year. I know her teacher and trust her fully, she has a friend in her classroom, she rides the bus with her two older brothers, and her bus driver has been driving my children to school since before my youngest daughter could even walk.

For all four of my children, this year, I know all of four of teachers and feel confident that each of them will be loved, nurtured, and academically challenged in their classrooms. This is the first year my mind is not clouded with worry nor occupied with fear. This is the first year I feel complete peace, joy and thankfulness about sending four of my most precious possessions on the school bus and into the hallways of the world.

With my mind not occupied with worries, what ifs, and if onlys, I find, I am sitting in a quiet house. Windows open and nothing but the sound of the wind rattling the leaves on the oak tree outside my office window.

For a moment I let the memories of the last eight and a half years come to mind amidst the rattling leaves. The noise of newborn cries, toddler tantrums, the sound of the pantry door constantly opening and closing. The messes of spit up, baby food crusted in the highchair, arms and legs covered in Crayola marker, legos and matchbox cars all over the stairs. The fierce battles on the bottom step as I discipline each of them and fight to get to their hearts. The moments I hold them, rock them, pray with them. The moments I open a book to read to them and find four kids, all piled up right in my lap, craving snuggles, connection, and the need to find themselves caught up in a story. The moments when their four personalities captivate me and I find myself caught up in their little life stories.

I have dreamed of this day over the last eight and a half years like many mothers behind me and before me. This moment. The moment when my house would not feel turned inside out and upside down. The moment when the house would be still. The moment when I felt my children would be secure and confident enough to embrace the world without me by their side. The moment when I could entrust their little hearts and lives into the hands of others who are reliable and able to nurture them and teach them alongside me.

And oh how quickly this day has come. Everyone tells you the house will be still soon enough but amidst the chaos you never believe the day of a still house will truly come. But somehow, the day is here. Today, right now, my house is still for a few hours.

And I have a choice. Transitions always seem to lead me to a place of nostalgia and wishing back what I once had before. When the house is still I can hold on to a ghost of the past or I can choose to look back at these last eight and a half years, with contentment, knowing God was writing a story for us amidst the messes, the noise, and chaos to get to this place. I can embrace a new season, with thankfulness because I am confident that God grows us and gives good things to be nostalgic about in every new season. When the house is quiet I can reminisce of the years gone by or dream big about the things which are to come.

When the house is still there are so many possibilities and so many opportunities to wish and wait on a Good God who has been faithfully writing a story in each season for all of us. I am thankful and changed by the memories I have from an inside out and upside down house, but as I still here in a still and quiet house, I look forward, with eager expectation to see what God will do in a new chapter of our family story. God is always working and He is always able.

What Are you Afraid Of?

My blonde haired boy with the gapped-tooth grin stands on the edge of the diving board. This is the hundredth or so time he has climbed the ladder, walked his Barney Rubble like feet down the textured white board and stood with his toes dangling off the edge ready to jump into the deep refreshing waters beneath him.

Each time he reaches the edge of the diving board he considers this act of faith. As he reaches the edge he wonders if the unknown waters below will consume him and he wonders if he can trust in his previous swim training. A hundred or so times over, my blonde haired boy has done an about face after weighing his options, letting the fear of the unknown consume him instead.

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Fear clouds the truth about the waters below and whether or not they will consume him.

Fear prevents him from remembering the strong swimmer he has become.

Fear skews the lens through which he views his world.

I go to him. In my flesh I am frustrated for him. I know he can in fact swim. I know he is letting fear overcome him. In my flesh I want to fix it for him. I want to accelerate the process. I want him to overcome this fear in my timing.

I ask him, “What are you afraid of?”

He replies to me he is afraid of “the drowning”. My blonde-haired boy with the gapped tooth grin has given his big fear a big definite article.

My flesh overcomes me and in this parenting moment on the side of the pool I list how my blonde haired boy should feel instead of entering into the dark with him. In my flesh I see his fear with a definite article too.

Beside the pool I remind my son of truth. I remind him of the hundred or so times his has jumped off the edge of the pool into deep waters and how he swam in them well. I want for him to overcome this so badly, I miss the opportunity to be vulnerable and speak my fears to him. I see the problem and I fail to see my son as a person standing before me. I forget we are both human and a fail to remember the times when I too have stood on the edge of fear, uncertain whether the waters below would consume me.

Times when I stood on the edge of uncertainty and failed to trust in a God who promises he is with me and faith in the truth that because God holds me, the waves will not consume me.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

Times when fear of the unknown provided a skewed lens to see The Blessed Controller cleary.

Times when fear skewed my own lens for how I viewed my world, when I too gave my fear a definite article.

Pema Chodron defines compassion as “knowing your darkness well enough that we can sit in the darkness with others. It is never a relationship between the wounded and the healed. It is a relationship between equals.”

So I wonder, as a parent, do I understand my own darkness well enough to sit in the darkness with my children? Am I able to access my big fears, the big fears with the definite articles and remember what it feels like to have my toes dangling over the edge, uncertain whether or not what lies beneath me or before me will consume me? Can I remember when I too have failed to trust in my own training and the times God has shown up for me along the way?

As a parent can I extend compassion and patience in the same way God extends his abundant grace and mercy to me? How many times I have faced uncertainty with unbelief and fear even though God in his word says fear not more than a hundred times over. God is a God of compassion who sits with us and pursues us even when our hearts are pulled towards fear and unbelief.

Oh how I want to parent with patience, compassion, unending mercy and grace. Oh how I want to see my blonde haired boy with toes dangling off the edge and instead of being quick to see his problem, I want to see his heart. Oh how I desire to parent with this kind of compassion.

Eventually my blonde haired boy will jump into the waters beneath him once his faith and his trust become the faith and the trust and when the faith and the trust make the fear seem like a small shadow in comparison to them. Until then, I desire to sit in the darkness with him. I desire to be human alongside him. I desire to pray alongside my blonde haired boy with the gapped tooth grin that we both would overcome unknowns and uncertainties together because God promises He is with both of us.