September 29, 2014

11 Things Every Mom Needs to Start Doing

As a mom, it seems that on some days my to-do list is bigger than I am. Don't worry, this "to-do" list is designed to be a blessing rather than a burden. Here are some practical ways to improve your day! 
  1. Focus on the positive: Practice gratitude. It’s easy to highlight the negative, but be intentional about counting your blessings. You’ll discover it brightens both your outlook and your day.
  2. Plan ahead: A little advance preparation can save you a lot of stress. Take a few minutes to create a meal plan or a housekeeping schedule. Planning ahead is a sanity and time saver. I use the Motivated Moms App to plan for Housekeeping. Fly Lady also has some excellent resources. I've used E-meals in the past, and currently use Build a Menu for meal planning. (I really like that BAM donates a portion of their profits to orphan care).  
  3. Eat Well: Feed your body what it needs. Proper nutrition boosts your mood and improves your health.
  4. Stress Relief: Stress is a natural part of parenting. It can take a toll on you both mentally and physically. Be intentional about finding healthy ways to deal with stress. Take a walk outdoors, pour a cup of hot tea, or take a bath. Discover what restores your soul, then do it.
  5. Sleep: Don’t throw things at me. In some seasons of motherhood, sleep is more of a fantasy than a reality, but if you are able to get sufficient sleep, please do. Pinterest can wait. If you’re anything like me, my level of patience with my children is directly connected to how well-rested I am. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  6. Unplug: Technology is amazing, but it can also be all-consuming. Be intentional about having time away from electronic devices as a family. Spend time connecting with the people who live in your home. Model for them the behavior you hope to see.
  7. Date: Children are a temporary assignment. Eventually, your kids leave the nest and you will be alone together again. Take the time now to nurture that relationship. Have fun together. Invest in one another.
  8. Stop Comparisons: Stop it. Just stop. It’s always tempting to compare yourself to someone else who seems to have it all together. I’ll let you in on a secret: they don’t. Nothing healthy comes from the negative self-talk that accompanies the comparison game.
  9. Community: We were made for relationships with one another. Isolation often leads to discouragement. Connect with others through groups in your community and church. If you're the mom of young children, I highly recommend finding a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The friendships I've made through MOPS have been a lifesaver (and sanity saver) to me. 
  10. Pursue Passions: We are each gifted with unique talents, passions, and abilities. Motherhood does not mean dreams need to be put on a shelf. Seek out ways to do the things you love. It’s good for your soul, and it’s good for your children to see you pursue your dreams.
  11. Show yourself grace: Motherhood is a series of mistakes and victories. You will mess up, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Kids do not come with instruction manuals. We learn through trial and error. There is no such thing as a perfect mom. Do your best. It’s more than enough.

    Challenge: If you could pick three things to focus on this week, which would you choose? 

September 24, 2014

Word-Filled Wednesday - 2 Corinthians 4:18

**Do you have a favorite verse that you would like to see featured? Leave it in a comment below and maybe it will be your pick will be featured soon!

September 22, 2014

The Ministry of the Messy

The doorbell rings. My heart stars racing. My eyes scan the room. My mind quickly races through all of the possibilities of who could be on the other side of that door. Maybe it’s just a package being delivered. It could be an obnoxious door-to-door salesperson. It’s probably not anyone I know.  I squint through the peep-hole, praying for once that it’s someone trying to sell me something.

It’s not. There in all of her unannounced glory is a lady from our church.

I don’t want her to see the way we really live. Dishes cover the entire surface of my sink, reaching sky-high like a dirty dish mountain range. The dishes that couldn't fit in the sink teeter haphazardly on a nearby counter.

I didn’t vacuum last night, although, judging by the current condition of my carpets, you’d think I hadn’t vacuumed in over a year. A half-eaten peanut-butter cracker lies on the floor in the entryway next to a sippy-cup that anoints my floor with a sticky, juice drip.

I take a deep breath. I open the door and invite her inside.

She doesn’t pass out. She doesn’t even acknowledge that my house still smells faintly of the last dirty diaper I changed. She comes in and has a seat on my stained couch and we have a chat. She just wanted to stop by and see how I was doing. I almost cried. Sure, people ask me all the time “How are you?” but you get the impression that they don’t really care to know the honest answer. I could tell that she genuinely wanted to know how life was going.

I apologized on the condition of my house. I ticked off all of the valid reasons that my house was a disaster: my youngest was gassy and I was up half the night with him, my oldest loves to dump all of his toys directly onto the floor. I failed to mention the fact that I really don’t like doing the dishes and that I opted to play a game on Facebook instead of attending to my housewifely duties.

Am I allowed to say that? Can I admit freely and openly that I don’t like to do housework? That I will put off doing the dishes until we run out of clean ones to eat off of.  That I would rather write a twenty-page book report than spend twenty-minutes ironing clothes.

The sad thing is that I feel like I’m supposed to WANT to do these things. I think, if I was a really good wife, I would keep my house looking immaculate. If I was a good mother, I would have taught my children how to separate and store all of their toys in carefully labeled bins (I tried that once, they learned that they could dump the toys out of the bins and use them as stepstools to reach the cookies I placed on the kitchen counter.  Mom-0; Toddlers-1).

I struggle with balance and expectations. Could I have a spotless, show-case worthy house? Yes, probably, but it would come at a price. It would mean little rest and one stressed-out mom. It would mean hiding my children’s toys and spending hours scrubbing the floor instead of snuggling with my little ones.

I’m getting to the place in my own journey where I’m learning how to be comfortable with my own imperfections. I’m learning which expectations are realistic and which expectations are likely to cause me to have a nervous breakdown. I’m learning that despite my own pre-conceived ideas, very few people actually live in immaculate houses.

I read a quote by author Shauna Niequist that said  “People aren’t looking for perfection. They’re looking to feel at home.” When people come into my house, I want them to feel at home. I don’t want to give the impression that I have it all together when in reality I don’t. I don’t want them to go home feeling guilty that their home is less than perfect because I gave the illusion that my house is always this way. It’s not.

Should I take care of my home? Absolutely.  Should the appearance of my home determine my self-worth and value as a woman? No.  I think that’s where I got myself into trouble. I made the mental leap from a messy home meaning that I myself was less than worthy. If they saw the condition of my carpets, they might think that I’m a bad human being. When you write it down, it seems ridiculous, but in reality, that’s the leap my mind was making. Messy house = bad person.

It can be terrifying to open the door and let someone else see your mess, to let the world know that you don’t actually have it all together. You are forced to face the fear of rejection and judgment, and the very real possibility that they might tell someone else that your home smells like sauerkraut and that you have socks on your floor, but, what if they do? What if the truth is out there? What if we are free to admit that we are less than perfect?

I think we would feel relief. I think the tension of holding up this mask of perfection would slowly fade away, and I think we might find that we are not alone. If we showed up unannounced at a friend’s house we might discover last night’s dishes in the sink or an overflowing laundry basket. I think a true sign of friendship is a willingness to let someone else to see who we really are.

When people come to my door these days, I welcome them in. If the house is a mess I say “Hey, sorry about the pile of socks on the sofa. We live here." I don’t tell them all the reasons I failed. I don’t give excuses; I just acknowledge the fact that my home is less than perfect and then move on.

That is the ministry of the messy. It's the freedom to invite others into our mess, to drop the masks of perfection, look someone in the eye and hear them say "you too?"

September 17, 2014

Word-Filled Wednesday - Psalm 119:103

Introducing Word-Filled Wednesday
God's word is powerful and has the ability to challenge, encourage, and change us. Each week, I'll be featuring a verse on the blog. Feel free to print the image for your own scripture memory use, or save it to your desktop. 

This week's verse is Psalm 119:103:

**Do you have a favorite verse that you would like to see featured? Leave it in a comment below and maybe it will be your pick will be featured soon!