July 22, 2013

For When Motherhood is Kicking your Ass


This is a letter to the mom who feels weary and burdened and broken today.

For the mom who went to bed last night promising herself she'd have more joy and patience and energy today but doesn't.

This is a letter to the mom who's constantly trying to find the balance between work and home, healthy and convenient, clean and clean enough.

To the mom who sometimes silently fears that she's made a huge mistake.  That she's in over her head.  That maybe she can't do this mommy thing.

To the mom who feels like everyone is keeping it together except her. Who scrolls through her facebook feed feeling inadequate because everyone else seems to have a picture perfect life and you can hardly manage to keep up on the laundry.

To the mom who knows that her children are blessings but just doesn't feel it lately. 

To the mom who fears she's failing at the thing she most wants to succeed at. This is what I want you to know today...



Friend, know that you aren't alone. You so aren't alone. The more I tear down the walls between myself and the women I know, as we probe deeper into each others lives and bare our own souls and find community in our own brokenness, the more I learn that we are all weary and weak and struggling sometimes. You are not alone.

Motherhood is hard. It is reasonable and rational to feel overwhelmed by the huge task set before you. Simplify. Prioritize. Choose to be present when it's easier to get lost into the computer screen. Be good to yourself. Ask God for strength and patience. Cry a little.

Please stop comparing. You and your children each possess a unique set of skills and challenges, joys, strengths and fears. You aren't your mom or your sister or your best friend or your favourite blogger. And nobody is asking you to be. So stop comparing and dig in to what it means to be fully you.

Brokenness is the beginning of grace, and boy are our kids going to need to know how to extend and receive grace. The grace of God, the grace to navigate relationships and life and love, the grace to forgive us one day for all the mistakes we will make. We learn about grace together, big knees and little knees knelt together on cheerio laden floors.

Survival mode is okay. You aren't planning any paper bag crafts or cooking a four star meal, you are just making it through until bed time. Maybe tomorrow will be easier, maybe it won't. Survival mode is okay.

It's okay to need help. Whether it's from friends or family or a Molly Maid or ordering takeout or making an appointment with your family doctor. We weren't designed to be independent and perfect and alone. It's okay to need help.

And finally, let's commit to remember these days. I am so thankful for women in my life who remember what it was like to have little people at their feet needing them all day and are willing and able to stand in the gap and help me and encourage me through this season of motherhood. Commit to remember, so that one day you can hold a friend's baby while she showers alone.

Keep going, mama bear. You can do this. 

July 12, 2013

29 Things I Learned in my 29th Year


Tomorrow is my first annual 29th birthday (please laugh, I've been waiting to use that joke for years now), and this past year has been challenging and exhausting in a million small ways I can't articulate right now. And Blessed. Blessed with my sixth child who is hands down the happiest baby I've ever met, blessed with friends who know me and get me and see the needs of my spirit far more clearly than I do and blessed with a marriage that is stronger today than it was a year ago, that speaks safety and strength and love as truth into both of our lives, and into our children's lives as well.

And so to celebrate my birthday, and because I'm a list maker by nature, I want to share 29 little (and big) life lessons that I have learned this year:

1. When a kid says from the back seat "I think I'm going to puke" pull over. Immediately.

2.  Having two year old twins is pretty much never ending chaos. Beautiful, messy, exhausting, blessed chaos. Is it nap time yet?

3. Every time I step out of my comfort zone and share my soul with another person I discover that they can relate and we are all pretty much silently struggling with the same stuff. Every.Single.Time. 

4. Dark coffee actually has LESS caffeine. I feel gypped.

5. When we apologize with a simple "I'm sorry" without any excuses, we give the other person a chance to truly, freely, unconditionally forgive us. And being forgiven like that, not because you could excuse your behaviour or defend yourself well enough but simply because the other person values the relationship? That is a great feeling.

6. Grace. Far from perfectly, but increasingly, I am coming to learn the meaning of grace.

7.There's this thing called "yarn bombing" and it is both nonsensical and awesome.  Go google it if you don't know what I'm talking about. 

8. Telling people "You're wrong" has a way of really shutting down discussion. Must work on that.

9. Facebook arguments are stupid. Really. Ain't nobody got time for that. Also, refer back to #8

10. I think I've finally convinced myself to stop trying to put an "a" in the word definitely.

11. I am officially too old to dye my hair fire engine red. I'm not saying that you are too old for it, just that I am.

12. That cute little kid Anakin turns out to be Darth Vader. Don't Judge me, I hadn't seen all the movies until this year.

13. Feelings are real, but they aren't always true. Accept your feelings, but don't let them lie to you.

14. Building your own sofa and covering it in patchwork fabric? Really stinking time consuming.

15. Children's birthday parties don't need to be big and fancy and themed. In fact, they can be planned without any crafty ideas from pinterest or custom invitations. Back in the day, our moms made us a cake from a box and stuck a dollarstore pin-the-tail-to-the-donkey on a wall in the basement and what happened? We had a blast.

16. I will never ever be the June Cleaver mom I thought I would be. I own pearls and a vacuum, but I rarely use either on it's own, let alone at the same time. And that's okay. (Full disclosure: the idealized mother figure I hoped I would be was more of a June Cleaver/Angelina Jolie cross with a dash of Martha Stewart thrown in.  Either way, I'm not it.)

17. Grains make me tired and moody. Paleo makes me poor. I'm at an impasse.

18. If you are having trouble loving someone, serve them. Humbling yourself in voluntary service to them will soften your heart for them.

19. It is really *really* easy to pass our fears and insecurities on to our children. Sometimes you just have to choke on your own terror and say "Go ahead, sweetie, try it. I'm here."

20. When someone is suffering and you don't know what to say and you are afraid to open your mouth because what comes out might be trite or awkward, say something. Something is better than nothing. I was told this by a friend after the tragic loss of her baby and it speaks so much truth to my avoid-the-awkward-at-all-costs tendencies. Those awkward words of sympathy are so much better than avoiding eye contact or pretending that the world as they know it hasn't just shaken and broken and changed forever. So say something. Even if it's a stammering "I'm so sorry, I wish I knew what to say...I love you"

21. You will never be caught up on laundry. Ever. You would have to be naked to be caught up. So stop trying.

22. Giving away an item a day for 100 days will totally completely change you. It will change your home, your shopping habits, the way you clean and declutter, your attitude towards stuff and people and life. And there is a good chance you won't even miss the stuff.

23. This need to make everyone think we have it all together and that we don't really need anybody? It is drastically, devastating contradictory to what God wants for us.

24. It's okay to feed your family convenience foods once in a while. Aunt Jemima is not the devil.

25. Facebook is not real life.

26. A splash of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water several times a day can help cure a sinus infection.

27. Building blanket forts is so much more important than washing dishes.

28. Kids will make a mess. If it's not at the kitchen table with watercolour paints it will be in the bathroom smearing 5 dollar hippie toothpaste all over the mirror. May as well choose the controlled chaos and let them paint.

29. My readers are a fabulous, encouraging, funny and delightful community of women who really "get" me. Thanks so much for reading. I love having this happy little corner of the blogosphere.


 

July 2, 2013

What our Daughters (and sons) Need to Know about Modesty

Every year around this time I see articles circulating facebook and blogland that detail exactly why a christian woman ought not to wear a bikini or some other "immodest" article of clothing and I am reminded, as much as I love the church, how broken our view of womanhood and modesty are.

The argument goes something like this: Men are visual creatures and immodest clothes cause men to lust over you. And since the apostle Paul says not to cause a brother to stumble, you need to cover up.

I can see at least four major problems with this line of thinking.

First, it's legalistic. It's tempting to chose rules over relationship, isn't it? The maker of the universe who begs for our every devotion is a little intimidating and it is so much easier to make rules and follow them than to walk in freedom and follow Christ. So we make rules in place of relationship. I do it, you do it, we all do it.

But the rules suck. They don't make sense. They don't account for cultural differences and personal convictions. They don't get to the heart of the issue and they don't have any power to set us free. Jesus came and died and rose again because rules weren't enough.

How much thigh should a swim suit cover? Or how much leg can a skirt show before we turn ourselves into meat for the male mind? These are impossible to answer because modesty is not a type of clothing, but a heart issue.

Secondly, it objectifies women. You heard me. Biblical modesty is about valuing a person as much more than a body, but the above mentioned legalism combined with the shame and manipulation used to get women to cover up is really just telling us that our hearts don't matter, our bodies do. That ultimately our relationship with Jesus comes down to how much cleavage we are showing.

Thirdly, The scriptural defense is weak at best. Let's look at what the bible has to say about modesty.

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 1 Timothy 2:8-10

It seems pretty clear to me in this verse, especially in light of similar verses like proverbs 31:30, that the discussion is more about not gussying ourselves up to impress the world, but seeking to please God with our lives instead. To care more about God's definition of beauty than the world's. And like it or not, it leaves a ton of room for cultural and personal interpretation.

What about not causing a brother to stumble? That's what this is all about, right? The whole reason we aren't supposed to wear bikinis or short shorts or anything that someone could possibly call immodest is supposedly because these items, in conjunction with the female form, cause men to stumble. This claim seems to have been hijacked from 1st Corinthians chapter 8 and Romans 14 where Paul says not to dress like a hussy lest you cause men to stumble.

Oh, wait, that's not there?

Actually, he's talking about eating meat that has been offered to idols, which is no big deal because idols aren't real. He says to enjoy your freedom and go ahead and eat. But if someone else doesn't realize how free they are, use caution. It would be better to never eat meat again than to have someone who looks up to you follow you into something they think is sin. Even if it's not.
If we were going to convert the food-offered-to-idols example into clothing choices instead, it seems to me that a better parallel would be that we aren't to tell a friend who has chosen not to wear a bikini that she should wear one.  Or to tell a friend who chooses to cover her head for worship to stop. Paul is telling us to be careful how we influence people; not to use our freedom to lead them into something they consider sin. Applying this verse to a woman's clothing choices somehow being responsible for a man's heart is a big stretch. If you want a verse that deals specifically with lust, look at 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.

And lastly, it paves the way for victim blaming and rape culture.  Victim blaming is the act of accusing a woman of somehow bringing about the violent crimes committed against her. Rape culture is a society where prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape. When one in four women will be sexual assaulted by the time she finishes college and nobody talks about it? That is rape culture.

Now tell me, how much of a leap is it to go from "Don't wear a bikini on the beach because you will cause men to lust after you" to "Of course she was raped, did you see that dress she was wearing? She was practically asking for it."

By telling young women that wearing certain clothing causes men to lust after them we are setting them up to believe that their actions can cause violence and sexual assault against them. As much as it sickens me to even type these words, we are grooming them to be good complacent victims. 
 
And what message are we sending to our sons? That they are untamable animals, subject to their bodies desires? We ask them to grow up to be godly men, the whole time saying oh, boys will be boys. Don't we want freedom for our sons too? freedom that doesn't depend on what the girl next door is wearing?

I was at a church once where a teenage girl was asked to change the way she dressed because some of the older men in the congregation were being tempted by her sweet summery dresses. The young lady was both livid and ashamed. There is something wrong when the young woman in that scenario is shamed and asked to change but the older men aren't called to repentance, accountability and self control.

Bottom line? You are not responsible for another person's choice to violate you; whether with his mind or his eyes or his heart or his hands. None of it is your fault. Ever.

Here's what I most want my daughters to know about modesty: Girls, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are treasured and valued. It is not your clothes that make you beautiful, but your spirit, your love, your joy and service and the very fact that you are a creation of The Most High. And although there is forgiveness for sin and God is in the business of redeeming our mistakes, there is great beauty and blessing in saving certain pieces of yourself,physically and emotionally, for the man you will spend your life with. God cares what you wear, because he cares about your heart. Seek him first, and whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.

And son, I want you to know that ultimately lust stems from the human heart, not a woman's body. You are responsible for where your eyes go,where your mind goes, what your heart chases after. But also that you are capable. The world is trying to brand you as simple and weak, but that is not who you were made to be. You are not a hopeless pawn in a world saturated with sexual desire but are able and equipped in the strength of the holy spirit to see your mind renewed.

And to all of us, His mercy is new each morning.

Thank you.

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