4 Things We Need To Do After a Long Day of Motherhood

I woke up at 6:30 to kiss my high schooler goodbye and I went back to bed- a rare luxury that only happens when you schedule a dental appt at 8:45 a.m. for two of your other kids.

I congratulated myself on my brilliance since I’d woken up with a headache. I set my alarm for an hour later.

I got my kids up and put frozen waffles in the toaster since we chose sleep over healthy food. I did put black beans in the crockpot for dinner, so there’s that.

They brushed their teeth for the third time because there’s nothing like preparing for a dental visit the morning of one.

Every Monday morning, we have 4-5 ladies (many young moms) come and serve at the Mercy House building in our backyard.  It’s a great way to start a new week and get a baby fix. They were coming to work on Fair Trade Friday stuff so I didn’t have time to wash my hair or shower. Choices.  Terrell agreed to run the kids to the dentist a couple of blocks from the house, so I could get the volunteers started.

Our new dog, Jane, which we rescued a week ago from the animal shelter has been acting sick for the past few days, so I reminded myself of the vet appointment at 6 p.m.. Lesson learned: Nobody just goes to “look” at dogs at an animal shelter.

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Terrell was back home by 9:45 with three cavities between two kids. But at least they didn’t find head lice (it’s a long hilarious story, but you know it if you’ve read  my first book.)

While volunteers stamped and licked 550 end-of-the-year statements and got February product tagged, I ran back into the house and took ibuprofen. We have more than 600 monthly members and every box gets 3-4 items. So that 1800-2400 items to tag every month.

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I took our youngest to school while he got to work on donor management software for Mercy House.

Somewhere in there my throat started feeling scratchy and I started coughing. Yay!

Our son had an archery tournament two days before on Saturday for the Texas Championship and as we were leaving home for the 3 hour trip, we noticed water pouring out of an overflow. My husband said this was bad news and he was right. Our water heater malfunctioned and water damage was already apparent in the garage. He called a plumber and I stayed home while they replaced it.

I watched them drive off and cried. Not just because of the $1000 check I was about to write.  I had to miss my son shoot. (He ended up getting second place for his age group.) He has had a hard time lately in the friend department (junior high can be brutal), so when he asked to stay home after his dental appointment, I said yes.

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I swept the house (it’s a daily compulsive habit for me), answered some email, wrote a blog post, unpacked new Fair Trade Friday product and at lunch time, my son asked me if he could spend his Old Navy gift card from Christmas. We ran to the store and he found some shirts and I picked up 5 shirts in the next size up for my youngest because they were $2.49 each. At this point, I was sure I was coming down with something. (Sorry, Old Navy).

I got back home by 2pm and got another hour of work done before my high schooler and youngest got off the bus. There was homework, laundry, a disagreement over something important like socks and dinner before 5:30 because it was also youth group night for my oldest. We wrote out Psalm 23 with only a few tears and only about 2/3 of us liked the new way I cooked the weekly pot of beans.

Terrell and the kids  helped clean up the kitchen (which is a polite way of saying there was some grumbling and complaining because my kids still gawk at the chore chart that’s been on the wall for 2 years) while I signed some school papers.

My husband took the kids to youth and my youngest and I took the dog to the vet. I was tempted to ask them to look at my throat. She had a cold, maybe kennel cough, and needed two prescriptions. We got back home and I spend 15 minutes trying to get Jane The Dog to swallow 2 pills. I was half tempted to take them myself.

My little girl had been asking for an hour if I would watch her new jump rope trick and I collapsed on the couch to do just that. After 3 jumps, she tripped and hit the hard floor with a smack. Twenty minutes and a bucket of tears later, she had her leg propped up with ice and Tylenol and was limping. Awesome.

That uncompleted foster care application on my nightstand mocked me.

When my husband got home, all three of us were piled in the bed debating who felt worse.  I asked my husband to look at my throat in the bathroom while my older kids took my spot on the bed, and he winced at the white pockets and streaks down my throat.

It felt totally redeeming.

My kids were impressed and scooted over to let me lie down in my own bed.

The crazy thing is–it was just a normal day of motherhood. Nothing big or bad happened. But it was long and hectic and I felt drained at the end of it.

A friend on Facebook posted a tired selfie and asked if there was a filter for motherhood, one that hides the dark circles and the exhaustion that comes with having little kids. I smiled at her wishful thinking. I think that filter might be called Pinterest.

I have to remind myself that it’s okay for not everything to be okay. That there is joy in crazy-busy-hard-but-overall-good days. We might have to look a little harder for it.  It’s good to confess our weariness and show off our tired eyes. It’s okay to ask for help when we need it and take time for ourselves.

Busted pipes and busted knees, sore throats and sores we can’t see, these are the days of motherhood. Older moms tell me I will miss them, today I want to survive them.

As I crawled into bed, I wrote down the 4 things I needed most on a piece of scratch paper.

Set of vintage retro photo frames

I’m determined to give them to myself. Maybe you should to:

  1. Rest-I took two naps the next day. And two hot baths. Yes, I was feeling crummy, but mostly I was tired. Moms don’t get sick days. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them. I asked my husband to take my share of carpool and a couple of things off my plate. He knows if I’m laying in bed in the middle of the day, I probably need to.
  2. Renewal-I scheduled a girls night out. Sometimes the best way to renew yourself is to surround yourself with other people who get it. I also ordered myself a book I’ve been wanting read–not for work, just one for me. I also thought about getting a pedicure, something that I usually reserve for a special occasion.
  3. Release-I had a good old fashioned cry. Yeah. Sometimes I can feel this building of emotions and worry and I know I need to let it go. Tears aren’t always the answer. Sometimes it’s exercise or a nice loud scream (those are harder to come by because you scare people have to death).
  4. Reflection-Sometimes the best way to face another day after a hard one is to look behind you. It’s easier to see how far we’ve come when we reflect on where we are. We don’t alway see growth when we are growing. Just a little perspective change can turn our grumpiness into gratitude.

Your Family Won’t Regret Doing This For The Next 30ish Days

I get it.

I know just how hard it is to get dinner on the table and five people around it who are all going five different directions at five o’clock.

On Monday night, my oldest two have church youth group and on Tuesdays my youngest has tumbling. Wednesdays are for meeting with other families for Bible Study and Thursdays, we have dental and eye appointments or –well, you get my point. Some days the window for all of us to be together is so small, it would be easier to just eat on the go or at least separately.

And other days when we have long moments to linger –that’s when the big kids irritate each other until an argument erupts and the youngest is picky and cries in her dinner and we have a big fat mess spilled all over our good intentions.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying.

Because dinner isn’t really about food. It’s about connecting. (When our kids were younger, dinner wasn’t always an option for connection. We found the best time to intentionally have a devotion together was one-on-one, right before bed. Don’t give up. Find something that works for your family in the season you’re in).

It’s about pursuing intentional, meaningful conversation that your children will never forget. It’s about building relationships and communicating purpose and goals. It’s about going deeper. It’s about breaking Real Bread together.

We’ve been working on memorizing Psalm 23 and last night, we took turns quoting it in different accents-German, Irish, Redneck. Unconventional yes, but still a seed planted in our heart.

It’s about the best 10 minutes of your day.

This time last year, I wrote an e-Book that has 30 lessons to complete in however long it takes you. There’s no pressure in this easy-to-use guide that encourages family togetherness, conversation, connection and fun around the table. I wrote it for you and it’s only $1.99.

Saying Yes to God As a Family has a suggested icebreaker to get your family talking, a highlighted passage of Scripture to read, questions to ask, a suggested memory verse and a prayer to lead your family in.

Saying Yes coverSample day (not final)

It’s designed to be read on a mobile device or printed into cute colorful cue cards. There are printables at the end to brighten your home and to go along with the daily activities.

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Practical Ideas to Make it Happen:

  • Plan a weekly crockpot meal so you aren’t overwhelmed once you get everyone at the table.
  • Keep a large family calendar in the kitchen and make sure at least 3 nights a week are free (even if it’s different every week.)
  • Keep a basket of Bibles near the table. Read them together.
  • Make the window of time interactive: This ebook Saying Yes to God As a Family: 30 Lessons for the Table from Rhinestone Jesus was created just for this precious 10 minute window during your busy day. Each short lesson has a suggested Bible passage and 3 questions to promote interaction and deeper-thinking.
  • Have fun. Painting our kitchen table with chalkboard paint was one of our best decisions to keep our kids around the table longer. Printing out paper placemats for drawing will also keep little hands busy (there are ones included in my ebook). Celebrate great nights together with ice cream!
  • Keep it short. Because kids.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Some nights I want to go straight to bed after dinner because it’s THAT BAD. But we do it all over again the next day. It’s worth it. Don’t give up!

When we persevere through the mess, we discover beautiful moments together, sometimes sandwiched between really bad ones. (That’s life, huh?) If we choose to be intentional, we have the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. We uncover glorious tidbits that carry us through the hard days. We giggle and laugh. We hear about one another’s day and learn more about each other.

We often find the best 10 minutes of our day when we look for them.

 

edited repost

We Were All Born to Ask This Question

It was an early Saturday morning when we loaded up the car and drove an hour to what we’ve been calling The Refugee Project for the past year. It’s really just a government housing apartment complex- one of twenty-two that line both sides of a long street, home to more than 50,000 refugees, relocated to our city.

It’s our Friday place.

But it wasn’t a Friday and we weren’t having class. Our husbands and kids  joined us to clean up the “clubhouse” and paint the place where our class has met the past year. It’s a vacant, musty three bedroom apartment filled with an assortment of books, broken chairs, dirty tables and walls.

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cleaning

We were having a work day and it’s a good thing because there was plenty of work. We sorted and scrubbed and swept. We filled holes in the walls and shelves with books. We taped and painted, mopped and moved piles of trash to the dumpster.

Everyone had a job. The kids wrapped more than 600 crochet bracelets onto cards with the word Thrive. It’s our hope- that these displaced ones will find a place in Christ and thrive.

thrive bracelets @refugeeproject.net

I looked around the apartment and smiled at my husband painting a wall. He hates to paint (at least that’s what he tells me every time I ask).  I found my son wrapping bracelets next to my youngest winding yarn into balls. My teen was in the bathroom painting little faces and there was a long line of kids waiting their turn.

I stood in the center of that room and thought my children haven’t complained once. They haven’t ask for anything. They didn’t think of themselves while they worked hour after hour. They found a need and filled it. And the next thought hit me so hard I had to pretend something besides a tear was in my eye:

My family is at its best-our absolute best- when we are doing something for someone else.

Purpose is deeply satisfying.

When our hands are busy serving others, we aren’t thinking about what we don’t have. Instead, we are reminded about what we do have. We were created for more than filling our time and lives with more stuff and more space. We were created for a purpose to live our lives with purpose.

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Do good.

The words are written on the chalkboard in our living room. And friends, even family, have cautioned against a “good works” mentality. I’m not worried. I know there aren’t enough good things for us to do to earn our way into an eternity that’s been freely given to us.

But I hope when you add up my works, the grand total isn’t a list of good deeds–I pray the grand total is love.

“Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” (‭Romans‬ ‭13‬:‭10‬ MSG)

Because that’s why we go. That’s why we do. Love is a driving force.

working @Therefugeeproject.net

It was after 4pm when we piled back in the car. It was a comfortable kind of quiet as we drove home. Satisfaction was thick in the air.

I asked my kids if they remembered meeting the 16 year old refugee girl who helped us wrap bracelets. They did.

“She asked if she could learn to crochet too, like her sisters and mom and grandmother in our class,” I said.

“Doesn’t she go to school?” My 15 year old asked. I explained that she did, but she wanted the money for something special.

“She plays the cello and is very talented. She earned a scholarship for a music school, but she still needs money to make her dream a reality,” I said.

The car was quiet and I thought maybe my kids were thinking about how much they love music. Or maybe they were thinking about the instruments they own and love or the opportunity to take lessons. Or maybe they were wondering how to help a girl their age do the same.

“Mom,” my 12 year old son broke the silence,  “I loved today.”

His words were thick with emotion.

we were born to answer this question

I think we were all created to answer this question: What can I do that matters?

As a parent, my job is to lead my kids to ask it.

24 Lessons I Want To Teach My Daughter (Before She Leaves Home)

I sat straight up in bed in the middle of the night, heart pounding.

“What is it, honey?” my husband asked groggily.

“Do you think she knows not to call boys? Have I told her that yet?” I asked.

He sighed.

It’s hard letting your daughter turn 15.

I remember being 15 years old. I think I cried every day that year, always trying to figure out how I fit in a one-size fits-all world.

She is more woman than girl now and she longs for independence and understanding. I’m learning to give her a little of both. She is strong—the change-the-world-kind.

24 Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughter (Before She Leaves Home)

Three years. That’s all I have left with my daughter at home. I long to teach her so many truths. Even though I know life is a great teacher and she’s got my stubborn streak. Yeah.

Last week at church, I watched a mom hug her 30 year old daughter goodbye as she and her family prepare to be missionaries in Africa. I cried seeing the look of pride and brokenness on the mother’s face. I don’t know where life will take my daughter, but I’m holding on a little tighter and learning to let go a little more every day.

And I’m making a list of the lessons I want to teach her (or continue to) before she leaves home:

  1. Less is more–less makeup, less skin, less perfume, less selfies
  2. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely: Life can be lonely, but you are never alone because God.
  3. It’s okay to be alone.
  4. One good friend is better than 10 who just like your new shoes.
  5. If in doubt, always wash your clothes in cold water.
  6. Failure is often a better teacher than success. Even though we usually prefer one over the other.
  7. Don’t pursue a guy. If he’s into you, you’ll know. You don’t have to call or chase or change who you are. Just wait. The right one will come (you know, when you’re much older).
  8. You are (skinnier) than you think  (prettier, taller, ____ fill in the blank). Embrace your looks. It’s a great way to say thanks to God. Looks aren’t everything, so don’t make everything about the way you look.
  9. Always carry a little cash in your purse.
  10. Make your bed. You’ll wake up one day and want your kids too (ask me).
  11. Compounding interest.
  12. People are more important than things. Always.
  13. Laugh at yourself.
  14. There’s nothing shameful about pausing or quitting a career to become a mom.
  15. A boyfriend doesn’t make you something you’re not.
  16. Save more than you spend.
  17. Procrastination always catches up with you.
  18. Serving and giving to others feels immensely better than serving and giving to yourself.
  19. This life is temporary. God is eternal (remember that on a hard day).
  20. Don’t wish away time. It’s a gift.
  21. Don’t waste your money on glamour and beauty magazines that tell you what you’re not.
  22. Be grateful for everything.
  23. Believe this: you were created to do something that matters. Don’t waste your life on things that don’t.
  24. No matter how far you travel away from me, I will always, always be closer than you think.

Maybe We’re Missing Something Very Important in This Parenting Thing

It was a hot February day in Texas. We only had a handful of volunteers and hundreds of needy refugees had already formed a line, so everybody had a job. Even our kids. Especially our kids.

From across the parking lot, I watched my 14 year old give directions to the handful of kids barely taller than her waist. This small army of children were  in charge of the mound of toiletry and hygiene items we were sharing with refugees in our city.

I blinked back tears as they divided the supplies into over 100 paper sacks.

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They sorted donations, led refugee families around the free garage sale, and collected their vouchers for needed items.

They worked for hours and never complained.

Earlier in the weekend, I felt guilty for roping my family into all this extra work. What started out as a simple yes, ended up being a time-consuming-several-day event that is now an on-going service project.

Volunteers helped us organize and sort a truckload of donations, spread out on our driveway. When my 6th and 8th grade kids got off the bus, their friends asked if we were hoarders.

I think that might be called Junior High persecution.

sorting donations

As I watched my kids work hard in preparation for that day, jump in and serve refugees and navigate a language barrier, I quickly realized they didn’t need an apology for not making the weekend fun! filled with more stuff! just for them! all about them!

It reminded me how healthy a bit of hard work is for all of us and how rewarding it is to serve other people. 

As parents I think we’ve missed something very important in our culture. In an effort to make family a priority and give our kids what we didn’t have, we’ve become a child-focused culture. In many ways, we’ve lost our purpose. The sense of entitlement our kids exhibit is fueled by a parenting model that is obsessed with giving our children what they want and by making our kids the center of our lives.

In a way, we are just too into this parenting thing. We used to have birthday parties where A CAKE made it special and now it’s an EVENT. We used to pass out store bought Valentine cards, now we have them professionally printed with photographs and candy and goodie bags and mylar balloon bouquets. We used to play outside with sticks and get dirty; now kids have a variety of expensive game systems and a lot of technology at their disposal.

This quote by Jerry Seinfeld made me laugh because it’s so true. But then it really made me think.

The bedtime routine for my kids is a royal coronation jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi circle of emotional support. I have to read 8 different moron books to my kids. Do you know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? DARKNESS. My parents would yell “Go to bed!”

We’ve all probably done the bedtime dance. I remember one of my kids had to have a certain color of pacifier to HOLD in her hand before she’d sleep. So, clearly, I’m no expert here. I’m learning from my parenting mistakes, too.

But in centering our world around our children and giving into their demands, we foster entitlement.

Most entitlement begins because we lack the courage to tell our children no or because we don’t exhibit the strength to keep our no a no

We continue to enable entitlement by rewarding our kids for everything they do.

We may be taking away the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from genuine achievement.” Jason Walsh, a special education teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessed this firsthand during his school’s fifth-grade graduation ceremonies. Some students received as many as 14 different awards. “The majority of the students didn’t know what their awards really meant,” says Walsh. The honors “didn’t reinforce a specific achievement—but a sense of entitlement and of being great.”

Kids don’t need more stars and stickers.

They need more hard work.

Kids don’t need more activities.

They need more unstructured time.

Kids don’t need more stuff.

They need more opportunities to give their stuff away.

Kids don’t need more store-bought or manufactured fun.

They need freedom to create their own.

Teaching our kids about serving

I looked at my exhausted, dirty children who gobbled down sandwiches in the car on the way home after our full day of serving, grinning silly and full and I didn’t feel bad at all. 

Because I realized I had given them something money couldn’t buy. I had offered them something more valuable than the latest technology or hottest brand. I had given them perspective. And opportunity.

A few days later, I wanted to reward my kids. I’m definitely not against a pat on the back. But as I offered a small token for their great attitudes and hard work, it occurred to me they didn’t need a sticker or star or reward from me for serving others. It was time for me to change the way I parent.

Because working hard and serving others was their reward. Just ask them.

 

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!