motherhood: when I just want to give up.

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This morning I posted a picture from last night on my instagram – it describes the magical feeling we had while sitting on our neighborhood beach with our littles watching the fireworks all around the Sound as we nestled into each other in a peaceful spot.

Ah.

We walked back late in the night with tired kids who wanted nothing more than to be home snuggled in their beds.  As I tucked them in and hugged and we smiled content smiles, my son informed me he would most likely sleep in very late.

Then morning came and the sleeping in did not materialize and I have not dealt kindly with any situation that has come up.  I have snapped, shouted, and said things I immediately regretted.

This is not the graceful, peaceful way of being a mama I want.

This is not the tone I want vibrating through my home.

This is not who I have been in the past.

I used to be so. much. more. calm.

So what do you do when everyone is screaming and crying and you are pretty sure you have made things escalate more than necessary and it seems like you can’t come back?

You come back.

You stop.

You breathe.

You keep people safe.

You hug.

You calm your voice.

You start over.

You say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness and start over and come back to love.

You ask for help.

Whether thats from them or someone else or in a prayer.

And you try again.

Something I tell myself very often is that just because I made one (or two or five or twenty) wrong choices in a day, does not mean my day is doomed down a bad path. My next choice does not have to also be a bad one.  You ate two pieces of cake, you don’t have to eat a third (or in Jim Gaffigan’s case, the entire cake). Maybe – OF COURSE – it could have been better if I had made better choices, but the fact that I didn’t does not disqualify me from future better choices.  I can reclaim my day.  I can reclaim the peace and the love and use it to patch up the tears.

Mothering is hard.

It takes a lot of surrender. It takes giving up and trying things and energy and some times you want to just quit, but you can’t really. And I think there will always be gaps, because how can we be so much to so many people in so many different capacities?  Some of us work or are trying to bring in some income to survive, or going to school to make things better but in the meantime, it’s a struggle.  Or we feel stuck at home with young kids and barely know what to do to get through each day, just waiting for our spouse to get home, and each day feels so similar.  And at times it can be hard to see what other families are able to give their kids and we want to be so much more.

And it can just kill our joy, and we in turn can suppress and strangle the joy out of those around us.

But.  I think more important than focusing on what our life situation is or what we have or don’t have is remembering that our kids are watching us.

They are watching the grace with which we live in this world.

And mornings like this, I shake my head, because I have not displayed grace.  I have not displayed an ease in accepting others (their) flaws, I have not been generous with my kindness, I have not shown them that being unselfish is worth the effort and a good thing to do.

I admit it and know it is true – sometimes I am not a pleasant person and my standards are higher for others than what I hold myself to, and my kids and husband see the worst version of me that exists.

And it is very easy to get fixated on the negative moments and forget the many times that as siblings they worked things out between each other, or the times when they do make good choices and show kindness and compassion to others, the times when I know I am doing my best and being a solid and safe place for them to land when they are struggling with something or bubbling with an abundance of happiness.

Today is not my everyday, but I don’t ever want it to become that.  This is just a real and honest struggle, but many times, it is hidden within our home.  Although, I am certain we have all seen struggling moms and dads at parks and stores when we and our kids are at our best, and we are thankful it is not us in that moment, or perhaps a little too judgmental about their lack of grace.  So many times I have been that parent, but many times I have been the other, also. Isn’t that just all part of it?

But, grace. Whether tantrums are being thrown or no major event is happening, displaying and being a person who lives out grace is what I am longing for these days.

I love my kids, I am glad I get to be with them as much as I do, and I want so desperately to continue to grow as a person and a parent.

-b.e.

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stuck on repeat.

Days gently melt one into the next.

Some days repeat themselves.

We trip over our own feet again and again, brush off the dirt, kiss the bruises, and forgive and forget again.

Some times it feels so very mundane.  I wonder how a week, even a month, has passed by and when asked details about it, it is seldom I can recall many moments that stand out or what we spent our time doing.

But I know.

I know we cuddled on the couch and read and laughed.

We ran outside through the grass and dug in the dirt.

We went to the library and brought home a much too large pile of books and racked up a small fine after returning them late, even though we had read them the first day.

We ate popcorn and watched a movie, three snuggled deep in a blanket.

We wrote and learned lessons and did simple arithmetic and went to classes and played at parks and made new friends and fought with old ones.

We quarreled and stamped our feet and threw some things and screamed a bit.

I held my head in my hands and wondered what I was doing and if I could ever figure this parenting thing out.

We came back  and looked at each other in our tear stained eyes and all apologized and forgave again.

We allowed the tide to chase us back to the shore and froze our toes in the cold, salty water.

The sun is shining more and we wait for the green new sprouts to spring out of the garden boxes. We sit and revel in the warmth on our faces. We find ourselves continually longing for more of that warmth to come.  Oh summer, my heart is yearning for you.

It is easy to feel that the days must mean nothing since I barely seem to notice one from the other.  I look forward to bedtime beginning at the lunch hour, and wake up feeling tired and not quite ready for the day to arrive.  But oh how I am reminding myself right now, as I type these words and think about what our days have been full of, how important this time is, and how it is merely one season.

Young ones, so full of life, learning so much and sharing so much and needing so much and yet, becoming so independent at the same time.  And here I am, failing and loving hard, and learning about second chances and grace and what it means to become and just be.

Keeping eyes open hard to find the gems tucked throughout.

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– b.e.

these words are hope for a mommy who needed a break

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I have been enjoying summer and love being out with friends and doing things as a family. Beaches and parks and day trips and so much more.  But there has been a lot of stressful moments and pinging feelings of failure as a mom.

This week so much has adjusted.  Not just by itself like I hoped it might.  No.  It took conviction and thought and intention and planning and work.  And it may not look like a big deal or anything, but it is movement in a better direction, and after 5 days, I see small progress.

We have slowly stumbled into some sort of a cadence for our daily life, and fine tuning happens each day, but everything has slowed down and become simpler, less rushed, better.

I have almost finished the book, “More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting” by Serena Miller.  It has impacted me more than I thought, as I didn’t even expect to want to read the entire book. For the past few years, I have tried to embrace more of a simplistic lifestyle.  We have come a far way, but we have also gone back to the way things were many times.  With each new stage my children enter into, I see new needs – or old ones I have stopped paying attention to.  I have noticed more of my ill modeled actions being echoed in these little mirrors, actions I chose in desperation to make things better when I had no idea of what to do.

Consistency failing because I never had the answers and my husband and I  didn’t always see eye to eye on how we should respond.

One thing we have decided to do is put down our phones. We disconnected our internet at home and haven’t had it for almost a month now.  While we can access it with hotspots on our phone, it is very slow and really only to do things like pay bills, check email, or to blog, etc., and it generally takes place in a condense period of time after the kids are in bed. Not only are we saving money, but so much time.

I started planning and using our days intentionally. I began to think of motherhood as a job – not because I feel like I need some sort of affirmation of the importance of what I do, but rather to raise more of an accountability for how my everyday goes.  If I was at work, I would not be “checking out” on my phone, I would check it only on a break or for important calls.  I wouldn’t leave what I was doing to answer a text or check my email. I realized how much time this adds up to and how belittling it must feel to my children when they are less interesting to me than a text. And how I limit their screen time, but not my own.

It has made our days so much better.  I am learning to watch my children and enjoy them – they are young for so little. I have slowed down my words and looked them in the eye and I am seeing tones change and respect for everyone becoming greater. We are cooking together, creating together and playing wildly together. Shea loves racing on his bike against me on my longboard – today we did it for nearly an hour in an empty parking lot, and didn’t want to stop even then.

We are pursuing interests they have that I never had the energy to teach before, always giving the answer “not today”. Shea has been reading books to me every day. Small, short ones, but he is growing more confident and it has remained fun.  I taught him how to use my sewing machine and he sat there and competently sewed a small dress for his sister’s plush duck with just a little guidance and practice. We find our way into the backyard or a local park and come up with as many variations of hide and seek as we can think of and I am joining instead of trying to read a book or catch up on articles and facebook posts. we are so happy to get in bed and sleep soundly at the end of the day.

We read and read and read.

And some times, I still grow tired and we do put in a short DVD, but it is treated as a reward now and often we just enjoy it as a family rather than as a babysitter.

There is so much joy to be had when we turn off  and limit our access to the screens, because we don’t realize how much time we are wasting until we are sitting there in the void. We become more selective about the information we decide to read and what we do with our screen time and whether it will be a positive addition to our lives or not.

What for a while felt like a daily battle where at the end of the day, bedtime – which had never been hard for so long – began to feel like that last uphill climb at the end of a run that drains every last bit of reserved energy, has now changed so suddenly.

I wonder how children feel when after a day of spending time with them, mom collapses on the couch and of course they come wanting to cuddle and dad says, “mommy needs a break”. What message do they get from that?  Yes, it IS tiring taking care of children.  Yes, some days it feels like I am spending the entire day teaching them something I thought they already knew. Reminding them again and again. YES.  Because this is parenting.  And parenting means making a lot of sacrifices and realizing that many of the things we want to teach our children we never learned to do ourselves.  Slowing down has brought peace back to our household.

It has been a tremendous amount of encouragement for me how one huge desire and a few small steps can create momentum and purpose.

And I write about all of this because I don’t know how many parents I have had to see do and say these things before I tried it. I don’t know how many days I have sat there thinking about how tired I was and how I couldn’t understand how my children could behave the way that they do and how that reflected on me and what an awful parent everyone must think I am and how my life had turned into just waiting for the “break” at the end of the day.

When so many of us are just figuring things out from the pieces we were given from our parents and experiences. It is so easy to judge from one moment.

Or several.

And read into all the things that someone is doing or not doing and not really give any encouragement because we are too busy talking about it to others and justifying the good things we are doing and excusing the areas we are failing, because at least our children “don’t do that”.  (And when I say “we” I am definitely talking about myself). Grace abounds and we can be transmitters of that grace to others.

These words are maybe a mess and spewed out from a jumbled heap of thoughts being processed late at night as my heart has ached and prayed desperately for my children and a change of my own heart. But. They are hope.  And they are tangible and real ways I am seeing my prayers answered. Once change begins, it is hard to go back. It is a constant and moving process, but I no longer feel like a helpless bystander.

I have been given these beautiful children.

I have been given this assignment of raising them.

I am better for it.

And it is a beautiful place to be.

– b.e.

finding balance

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I have had so many thoughts swarming my mind, but every time I sit to write, nothing really seems to matter enough to put into words.

I have been tired and slow and fast and life is wonderful and hard and challenging and easy.  Balance is found in the tension and some days are harder than others, but I have found that when I become less preoccupied with all the things I want to get done in a certain time frame, and slow down and not try to accomplish so much so fast, I see more moments.

moments like the giggling and cooperation of my children playing a game together, when my older is displaying patience and gentleness toward his little sister.

the little expressions that I am never ready to catch on a camera, but leave an imprint inside of me, perhaps more deeply because I know its the only record of it.

small conversations that are mundane yet important.

the deep soul look into my husband’s eyes that allows us to re-connect and remember why we are here together and sometimes it speaks more than the words.

Many blogs and articles I have seen popping up on feeds and blogs I follow have seemed to follow this theme of balance.

I couldn’t agree more that living a life that is balanced is essential to our health and that of those around us.

But I also feel like many of these posts have been pointing to this idea of never being extreme, never allowing ourselves to believe in something deep enough that we become a little “obsessed” for a while, because something else will suffer and thus, we will find ourselves “out of balance”.  But some times, something is already suffering and we don’t even realize it, because it is our “normal”.

I don’t advocate obsession.  My husband has a habit of becoming very one-track minded.  I have known this about him since we first started dating, and over the years I have gotten used to this tendency and in our relationship we tend to balance each other out (me going every direction, him only one) but at times, it still drives me crazy.

At times, however, becoming more focused on something in particular is beneficial.  What are we doing when we enroll ourselves in school?  We are focusing in on something specific for an extended period of time in order to master the subject.  We place authority figures (teachers, mentors) above us in order that we are put in a place of accountability to help us maintain this focus and discipline.

Do we expect to do this forever?  Of course not.  I don’t think we would do it if that were the case.  Think of medical students.  I can only imagine what they feel after the years of intense training they go through, and how they stay motivated in the midst of it.  After schooling is over, when the discipline has been learned to an extent, it becomes a part of us.  We can now use those skills and depth of understanding we have learned in a practical way, and soon there is a new area to learn balance in.

I have seen this in my own life many, many times.  Some times I share the things that we decide to try and I am sure to some I have come off as legalistic, extreme, and foolish.  For me, doing is integral to learning.

And many times, after doing something a bit “extreme” for a time, I see firsthand the benefits or cons in my life and adjust. This is how I learn to balance.

Balance does not mean that every day I spend a certain allotment of time doing specific things.  I believe life is more holistic than that.  There are seasons.  I think of the Jewish calendar and how it has so many feasts and holidays to observe through out the year.  They signify different times of our life, a rhythm.  There is time to rest to feast to fast to celebrate to mourn.  They are reminders to hold us accountable so we flourish, so we stay humble, so we remember.

I don’t have any clear answers of what this means on an individual basis.  What it looks like for you or me to live a balanced life.  We learn what to say no to, what to embrace, some times we follow a gut feeling.

For me, I know that I am not perfect, and to appear as such is not my goal.  I know I would love everyone to think that I am always gentle and kind and disciplined and self-sacrificing, but while I occasionally can be described as this and have come a long way in the past few years, I am not.

I can be very mean-spirited and judgmental.  Some times I treat my children like a mean older sibling would their younger.  Some times I sit around in my pajamas half the day and hardly get anything done.  I’ll eat extra pie. I say mean things about others.  I gossip.  I think up all sorts of great comebacks and comments to justify myself against someone I think has me all figured out (thankfully I don’t usually think of these until much later when I am not able to say them, but still I am intentionally thinking up words to harm someone).  I think awful thoughts about others to make myself feel better about myself. I compare.

Thankfully, oh so thankfully, I have a loving and supportive family that sees beyond these awful traits to something more valuable.  They remember me at my best and over time, forget and forgive the worst.  Some times balance comes over a long period of time, as we test and try and learn and become more refined.  It is a constant process.  We need to be willing to be wrong at times and change our minds and make the best decisions we can about what we will do and pursue.

It is hard, because it will not always be understood by others, and at times we may not really be sure about what we’re doing ourselves.  Here we need to extend grace not only to ourselves, but toward those who see things differently.

To be willing to listen, because perhaps we are wrong,

learn to discuss without tearing each other apart,

be open to having parts of our lives challenged, although I’ll admit that I am not always at that point or ready for it,

and to realize that things can take time and some things will never happen during our lifetime.

– b.e.

What my ink means to me

 

inkmeanstomeThis year has brought about a lot of inward changes in myself that are just beginning to surface.

For most of my life, I have been so focused on who I don’t want to be, what I don’t want to be associated with, how I never want to come across as.

So I previously began to distance myself from these people and places and ways of living and organizations.  Although I don’t know if I always chose the best route, I do believe that this was an essential part of where I am today and I found that it is some times necessary to cut off areas of our life that are unhealthy.

Only recently have I realized that my focus has shifted.

I am no longer so concerned about who I don’t want to be.  I am starting to look forward to and embrace who I actually want to be.

And it is an empowering and exciting new direction in my life.

Instead of isolating and distancing myself from others, I am wanting to find those who already have much in common with where I feel called to be and surround myself with them.

Words are powerful and meaningful.  I think of Jesus words when he defines Peter’s name as the “rock” in context of how his church will be formed.

How did receiving that word shape his identity?  Who he believed himself to be and thus who he saw himself become?

It is similar when people speak words into our lives and something about it rings true and deep within and we somehow just know there is something to it.  And we remember it.  And it helps shape us.  It gives us a new lens in which we see our life and selves.

I wonder how different would we be if we hadn’t received certain words in our life?

The child who grows up being told how well they excel and intelligent they are.

The one who is more rambunctious when young and blamed for many circumstances.

The A+ student,the class clown, the tough guy or girl, the ladies man, the useless loser wasting away their lives, any type of person you have ever met or can categorize.  How much of this comes from the messages being sent to them from others?

Some are not so easily defined or found.  We are fairly good at adapting and fitting in when we need to.

But this is all part of life.  We can’t remove ourselves from it.  It is part of who we are and there is nothing to do about it.

Except.

Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are given a new name.

We are co-heirs with Christ.

Set free from the bondage of the titles we have been so carelessly given and have so easily accepted.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Freedom to be who we are, to celebrate the diversity there is between us.

In the past year, I have found a few words that have taken on a deep meaning in my life that I have felt become part of my identity.

 

September 013eucharisteo.

I was first introduced to this word while reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  It is taken from the gospel of Luke, where it is translated as “he gave thanks”.

The root of this word is “Charis”, which is grace, and also contains the derivitave “chara” which means joy. (here is a conversation with Ann Voskamp if you would like to read further about the meaning she has personally found behind this word)

For me, this simple word becomes a reminder of finding grace and joy in giving thanks for even the smallest things in life, and beyond that, to extend that hopefully outward to others.

peacetatoo2Peace, be still

This is a small and simple phrase.  It’s the beginning to a song by Elevation Worship called, “all things new” which embodies the message that Christ wants to restore all things to their proper place and have all creation share in the fullness of his peace.

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bold

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about this which you can view here.  This word has acted as a catalyst for me in many ways.  To be bold in my gifts, abilities, identity, and faith is a challenge and it is causing me to grow.

I am not deciding to do things just for the sake of being bold, but rather I am no longer shying away from the things that I am passionate about because of the words of uncertainty I have accepted in my life for so long.

I am tired of striving so hard to fit into a mold that is not made for me or to impress certain people or to seem so perfect that I don’t do anything out of fear of failure.

I believe that as followers of Christ, as those who are to bring a message of hope and peace and kingdom principles here on earth, a great amount of boldness is needed.

– b.e.

further reading:

Your Name In Christ – (in)courage blog

Seeking the Peace of Christ: Christianity and Peacemaking

Justice = Forgiveness – EmergingAnabaptist

short words today

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I fail so many times.  Some days, it feels like I can’t get back walking straight again.  But JOY IS here and I am finding PEACE and GRACE in the midst of it all, even for myself.  Thankful for where I am, who I am, who I live life with, and where we are going.

Lent is about longing and transformation, clearing away the clutter in order to see and think and feel and grow more deeply.    I am beginning this day with the reminder to be fully present, mindful, and loving; to extend grace to those around me and allow peace and kindness to fill this day.

– b.e.

as of late

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Yesterday, we brought home a little flock of 6 chicks from my lovely friend who has generously shared some of her newly hatched chicks with us.

I had no idea I could become so smitten over some little birds overnight.  They are currently living in a tub on our kitchen counter, where we all stop throughout the day to watch them meander around, seemingly mesmerized by these chirping little creatures.

Shea held one for a moment today and his giggles of delight reminded me how such simple things bring us such great joy and how meaningful even these little birds lives are, as short as they may be in the scheme of things.

Why is it that I am continually amazed by how much I grow and learn by taking care of those weaker than myself?  My children have taught me and pushed me farther than I could have imagined before they were born.  While meeting the daily needs of these chicks, who most likely have no idea I am providing them with anything at all, I am reminded of God’s tenderness, patience, mercy and grace in how He provides and cares for me, even in my ignorance of His presence.

– b.e.

what is a gift?

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Gifts seem to be given for many different reasons and in many different ways.

They can be large or small.  They may be given out of abundance or from what little is had.  Some are given out of obligation, to impress or woo, out of joy or pity or frivolity. Some are given with a great deal of thought, and others with hardly any thought at all.

Some come in packages wrapped in pretty paper and tied with ribbons and decorative tags, while some cannot be wrapped in a physical sense at all.

Last winter and over the summer, I read two books which focus on gifts.  The first one was One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, which is about receiving joy through counting blessings and being thankful for even the most minute things in life.  This has been a great discipline to practice and can change ones attitude and perspective from being ungrateful to having a heart full of joy.  The second book I read was one my husband picked up at the local thrift store titled, Organic God by Margaret Feinberg.  The author focuses on different attributes of God in each chapter which she has encountered not only in scripture, but also through experiences in her own life.

While the first book was a valuable source of inspiration for finding joy and grace in the every day, one particular chapter in Feinberg’s book which focused on God’s generosity helped me shift my focus from things in life just being about gifts for me, to the things I do being gifts for others.

Here I find an essential transformation from inward growth to outward action.  It has given me a fresh perspective of the impact and importance of my actions and words.

Much like picking out a Christmas gift for someone, I can choose what level of generosity I will give with.  Will I skimp?  Will I give a little bit because I only have so much energy?  Will I only give as much as I feel obligated to give?  Will I give with an expectation of gaining something in return?

Or will I give generously and lavishly as God gives?

And how can I apply this to every area of my life?

Because how many gifts have I been given, and how many opportunities to multiply them have I missed out on?  Many times it is my own selfishness that hinders me.  I choose to focus on something I want more than on what someone else may need at that moment.

Feinberg writes about how her heart began to change when she realized that when she held back gifts from others, she was really holding back herself from seeing and receiving God’s gifts in her own life.  She writes, “At times I foolishly hold back that which should be freely given, or I am tempted to give for the wrong reasons, but slowly I’m finding more joy in generosity…God doesn’t just want me to give until it hurts, but rather to give until it feels good.  If I wait until I am in the mood to give, it might be awhile.  If I go ahead and give out of obedience or in response to a need, joy usually follows.” (pg. 134)

These following few lines resonate so deeply within me, that I see no reason to rewrite them in my own words.  I have seen this truth in my own life, and my greatest hope for the year to come is to give more fully without expecting anything in return, live more boldly, and adopt the values of God’s kingdom.

“When we give freely, we become more free ourselves.  We become less attached to the things of this world and more attached to the world to come.  We make the transition from having an inward focus to having an outward one, and in the process we reflect the radiance of our Creator.” (pg. 135)

God is inviting us to be a reflection of His grace and generosity in this world.  It might be just in our own homes or at our place of work, but how can we hold back what we have been so generously showered with? How can we question whether we have enough to give, when we have all been blessed with something?  Maybe it isn’t always a material possession, but something deeper from within us.  And maybe if we don’t feel like we have something to give, is there something to humbly and graciously receive?

How will you choose to respond to those around you this year?

-b.e.

Further reading and sources:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
also check out her blog, A Holy Experience, for more inspiration.

Feinberg, Margaret (2007) the organic God 
Zondervan MI:Grand Rapid

teachable moments

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Photogram-20131119065342 Photogram-20131120024931Feeling so fully blessed with the life in our home.  We witnessed a major 4 year old melt-down this morning (common occurrence around here).  It is hard to feel this way when in the situation, but I am thankful for these teachable moments.  Yes, for my child, but at times even more so for myself.  To be able to learn from my own parenting failures and from suffering alongside my child in their pain and frustration.  I am grateful that when we own up to our mistakes and forgive one another, a day that seems destined for ruin can take a turn toward redemption.  I am amazed by what my children (just as any mother is of their own) are capable of understanding, doing, and emulating.  I desire to be a better example for them and am praying for my children to grasp what it means to be generous, compassionate, and tenderhearted.

– b.e.