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.

Everything Smells Like Pee

A few months ago I spent an entire day scrubbing baseboards, cleaning walls, floors and bathrooms. One of our family favorite dinners was roasting in the oven I even had left a Kitchen Spice Yankee Candle burning out the counter, all before my husband walked through the door at 5pm. It was a glorious day as conquering dirt demons brings me deep pleasure and abundant joy. But when my husband came through the door, casually and unassumingly he commented, does it smell like urine in here?

And more recently I had one of those days when I walked around my house tidying as usual. Specifically paying attention to the bathrooms as I like to do on the day the garbage makes the journey from the backyard down to the street and then across town to the dump.

But I only became increasingly more frustrated as I tidied. All four of my bathrooms had just been comet-cleaned by my husband just four days before my quick garbage night swoop through them but yet the smell of pee was everywhere. Pee left in the basement toilet (for seriously a disgusting amount of time) from non-flushers, pee on the carpet from our joyful new four-legged friend, pee around the back of the toilets on the floor from bad aiming soldiers and pee in the laundry from tiny accidents from a girl I know.

And as I became more annoyed with the overwhelming pungent smell of urine surrounding my semi-put together home I decided: everything smells like pee and I quit. I quit, quit, quit.

I truly thought potty training four kids would rid our house of the smell of pee pee. But as I walk in a new season of six people toileting in my home, I’m thinking the smell of pee pee is here to stay, at least until my little soldiers move on to the next chapter in their lives.

I could scrub everyday and try to return my bathrooms to the sparkling clean they once were in a world before four kids and a dog.

Or I could breathe (not through the nostrils and not too deeply or course) and accept, everything smells like pee. And that brings to freedom to stop. To quit. To try to enjoy this new season of six people sharing bathrooms.

I quit trying to restore life to what it once was before kids. I quit over working myself to bring the porcelain in my home to pristine perfection. I can accept us, our family, as we are, living life together making pungent messes and I can confidently walk in a season of life with four kids, a dog, and pee-pee crusted toilets.

This is where we are. There will be pee. And yes husband, our house does smell like urine.

I hope if you get to come over you will accept us too. Because everything here smells like pee and I just quit fighting the battles I can’t win.

passionate. not terrible. passionate.

She sits there in her room, tiny plastic pieces of treasures, books, pink feather pens surround her, a crooked tiara on her head and streaks of orange marker are drawn on her leg from her kneecap to her hot pink painted toenails.

She is forty pounds and forty some inches tall. She is three and she is the fiercest tiny human I have ever known.

I can’t remember whether we were discussing which pajamas she should wear for the night or who should put them on her. But I remember her being assertive with me. She was fierce when she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, No mommy. I will do it myself. Humpf.

After having three boys in three years when I discovered I was pregnant for the fourth time I was certain it would be another boy. Boys were what I knew. Surely God was not going to challenge me with the newness of raising a daughter. 

Oh but God has a funny way about things and He did in fact turn my world upside-down and gave us that daughter. We have loved more than we thought we could love and I personally have been challenged more than I thought I would be raising something supposedly filled with sugar and spice and everything nice.

We are so grateful. I am so grateful for her. Our little girl, the last of four children in four years and the only girl, she is precious to all of us.

But she is so fierce. Frustratingly fierce. Passionate. Wanting to go about things her own way. Princess dresses, painted-toes, Batman masks and Boba Fett blasters.

She regularly will grab her brothers and scratch them so close to their eyeballs, leaving Harry Potter-like scratch marks on their foreheads.

She pushes smaller children at play dates. Moments worthy of making me want to crawl into the playhouse and hide or maybe cry.

She was the first of my four children to try out a passion-filled shut up to my face while I was correcting her.

And a few weeks ago while we were visiting my grandmother and grandfather in New York my grandmother had asked one of her kind friends if she would watch our four kids for us while my husband and I attended a grown-ups only event. When we returned there was my girl asleep on the floor. She had protested with my grandmother’s friend all night long. My grandmother’s friend reported to me that the boys were great and she couldn’t understand much of what my girl said all night except when she looked her in her eyes and clear as day said to her, “YOU are NOT welcome here.” 

She just straight-up tells selfless, helpful friends of her great-grandmother they are not welcome. sigh.

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My sweet forty pound daughter. The girl with the big bows in her whispy brown hair and bangles all the way up her arm can be quite challenging. And yesterday as she was being assertive with me I felt the words creeping into my head. Terrible Twos. Even though she is not two anymore. Those words terrible and twos were lurking in the back of my head.

I had to remind myself.

Challenging, yes. 

Terrible, no. 

Fierce, tenacious, passionate. Yes.

Terrible, no.

Assertive, opinionated, strong-willed. Yes.

Terrible. No.

In the moments when the anger starts to bubble beneath the surface and my vat of patience is running low I find myself grabbing on the posh words of parenting which often flash in my face on the Facebook Newsfeed. Terrible Twos, threenager. This is how the world sees her.

And honestly. I have written about this before and finding myself needing to write about this again. These posh sayings are not helpful to me as a parent at all. Parenting is difficult enough. And when you are drowning the last thing you need is the world chanting bitter snarky sayings to you from the top deck. Oh you’re drowning, yeah that’s terrible. It will be a year of terrible, terrible drowning. And then the next year of it will be even worse, but good luck with that.

What I need when I feel the hard prongs of raising up children is someone to throw me a life preserver and hop in the water with me.

And when I breathe deeply, I remember God is with me in the difficult waters. Not shouting unhelpful sayings from the boat but right in the difficult waters.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.

Isaiah 43:2

I can chose to breathe deeply, step out of my frustration, my impatience and on Sundays the crazy eyes produced by my aching pride when she is tenacious in front of a crowd in the front row at church.

I can pray for more peace. More patience. More self-control.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled.

John 14:27

I can breathe deeply and see the child standing in front of me, in the middle of the tiny plastic pieces treasures, books, and feather pens; with the crooked tiara and the orange marker drawn on her leg.

I can breathe and I can see her as God sees her. Precious. Uniquely knit together. Wonderfully made. A passionate girl in a crooked tiara trying to sort out this thing called life the same way I am.

And then I can be moved to compassion for her. I can remember that sometimes feeling great passion for things produces great emotion. And while I am a grown up and do not experience great passion about pajamas, my sweet girl has only been picking out and putting on her own clothes for a few months now and she does indeed experience great passion about pajamas.

And in my compassion I can correct her outside of my anger and impatience. I can help teach her proper words and tones for communicating independence because while I can be gracious and identify with big emotions and tenacity I will not tolerate sass or disrespect. Girl may be fierce but girl must be respectful to her momma.

And I can remember she is in the waters too. That God is with her. The rivers of passion and difficulty will not consume her either.

That in these challenging passionate days in the middle of tiny plastic pieces of treasures, books, pink feather pens, crooked tiaras and streaks of orange marker down her legs, the Lord is near and He is working on both of our hearts.

We are on a journey. It feels terrible but we will get through it. And God promises the waves of difficulty will not overcome either of us.

The Last Load of Laundry

There used to be a time when I had my family’s laundry situation under control. I was able to follow the schedule, put the clothes away and keep the bins from overflowing in a manner that felt natural and protected me from feeling bitterness over the bountiful bins of what seems to be a never ending battleground of washing clothes and undergarments.

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But now here in this present time, I can’t seem to keep up with our laundry situation any longer. My bountiful bins are more often dirty than clean and our sock situation has my children buying into the idea that everyday is “silly sock day” at school.

Even this weekend as my husband and I have rallied; I have been faithful to get the clothes in the wash and into the dryer methodically while he has been the precise and ever important folder swooping in to complete the job. Our new weekend rule is if my husband wants to watch a game of some kind on television he must be folding and watching.

Even with our go get ’em efforts and even as we see the end of the dirty laundry coming into view, I realize it will only be moments before another article of clothing will be dirtied and the cycle and balance of the bountiful bins will begin once again.

And again and again and again.

Until (what feels like) Jesus comes back and there will no longer be laundry.

As my heart became discouraged thinking about the eternal cycle and endless bountiful bins, I took a deep breath, a step back and I remembered that every discouraging phase I find myself in as a mom has always simply been a phase.

A moment. A blink. A millisecond.

Just a millisecond ago I was washing 0-3 month baby clothes in Dreft Detergent.

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And a millisecond from now my children can start folding their own laundry while they watch Saturday sports with their dad.

And a millisecond from then I will be back to folding laundry for a party of two once again. Because in a millisecond these precious kids, whom I only have for such a short while will be grown and gone.

So as I anticipated the last load of laundry, after taking a breath and a step back, I found a moment to be thankful for the bountiful bins, mismatched socks and moments of feeling like I am in an endless cycle of wash, spin, dry, fold.

This quote is borrowed from something I saw on Etsy from a Laundry Room sign I want to hang up in my home as an everyday reminder to be thankful for this phase in motherhood of bountiful laundry bins and what seems to be endless cycles.

“Today I will be thankful for all the little socks, the grass stained jeans and the endless piles of laundry. For there will come a day when the laundry basket is empty and these days will be profoundly missed.”

Thinking about a day when the baskets will be empty makes me feel thankful for the bountiful bins today because there will be a day when that last load of laundry will bring grief and sadness instead of relief.

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If you loved this post or connected to my words in anyway would you mind sharing this with a friend or commenting below? Thank you for stopping by.

Rachel

For The Love

A few years ago I had my very first school Valentine’s Day experience as a parent. I took my then one-year-old, two-year-old and four-year-old boys to Target the week before V-Day and bought some valentines in the seasonal section. I believe that was the year we picked some kind of Transformer cards. I signed their names for them and sent their valentines to school in a ziploc as requested by the teacher.

It was easy, the boys had fun picking out a manly valentine and I felt really good about what we had accomplished.

Until days later.

I had been out of town the day of the parties and I remember coming home to neatly stacked papers from school and both of the boys’ Valentine’s Day bags sitting on the counter.

As I opened their bags, I was expecting tiny store bought cards just like ours but I soon realized I was actually looking at tiny works of art, hand-crafted by two and four year olds. It then occurred to me that preschool valentines weren’t exactly as I remembered them.

My store bought Transformer cards brought me shame as I pieced through the Pinterest inspired mountain of love and friendship in front of my eyes.

So the following year I gave into my shame. The haunting shame shaped how I felt about my parenting. I caved into hurtful phrases like “What kind of mother sends their children to school with store bought Valentines?”

This may seem laughable to you but at my very core this is truly what happened to me. I let something as simple as measuring up my preschooler’s valentine to someone else’s shape the way I saw myself as a mom.

I found my worth and value in a piece of paper passed out at school, instead of the deep ultimate satisfaction that can be found in my identity in Christ alone.

I let comparison steal my joy. And that stolen joy and the shame that went with it had me living to be someone who God just hadn’t made me to be.

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I felt pressure to do Valentine’s Day like everyone else instead of being secure in who God made me to be, a store bought valentine kinda mom.

Year two I stressed about valentines. I researched Pinterest a month before Valentine’s Day. I selected a homemade craft valentine which included one hot wheel car per classmate. I was even impressing myself with my new found craftiness and I felt the ugliness and pride of a stroked ego when I thought about how other families may be impressed with my accomplishments as well.

There was no joy in making valentines with my kids that year. I trudged through the process. I was stressed and I was irritable over the valentines being perfect. There were even tears and some yelling at the boys because it all had to be just right.

Even when their bags came home and their valentines really had been some of the cutest, I still felt shame. The high I had felt from my impressive valentine was over before it even began. There was no lasting joy or pleasure. I had pressed on towards the goal of bringing praise to myself instead of bringing glory to a great God.

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I became angry about how I let comparison steal my joy and how the valentines I made with my boys weren’t a reflection of sending out love and kindness to friends at all because our valentines were actually made as a byproduct of a month of stress with the intention to impress a crowd.

I took a step back and in the quietness of my heart I was convicted when I asked myself, “Who were those Valentines for?”

Even after ten years of walking with Christ it seems to me that I still find myself slipping in to old patterns. It is still so easy to find myself standing on the shaky, insecure ground of wanting to impress others and stroking my ugly ego instead of standing firm on the secure foundation of living for the glory of God alone.

I felt sick when I realized what I had done in year two.

Year three I found myself back in the seasonal section at Target with my kindergartener and my two preschoolers. I thought I had learned my lesson but just recently I found myself, here in year four, perusing Pinterest. I am thankful for my failure in year two because I now know for the love of bringing glory to God I have to ask, “Who are you doing this for?”

For the love of your reputation as a mom? Or for the love of doing something uniquely you and spreading love and kindness the store bought way with your kids.

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Truth is, I am the kind of mother who buys store bought valentines and sends them to school for my kids to pass out at their class parties. It doesn’t make me worse or better. But it makes me uniquely me. And being uniquely me is enough for my kids, they told me they actually prefer buying their valentines from the store.

As I fight the valentine battle this year in my own heart I am hoping to find beauty in being ordinary and remembering that I am enough as a mom with my store bought cards. God says I am enough just as I am and that is the truth I am clinging to this February season.

I am enough with my store bought cards.