Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Should We Respond?

Yesterday I wrote about Psalm 30:11, and God turning my wailing into dancing. This morning I read verse 12:

that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.
There is a song in my heart and as I consider what the Lord has done for me I want to sing!
I read that verse aloud a few times and lingered on the phrase and not be silent. After all God has done for me, when I consider who He Is, I know I must not be silent.
As I read over the entire Psalm I recognized once more how much of "me" there is in those words.
*being lifted out of the depths
*calling for help
*having confidence when I feel secure
*being dismayed when I feel insecure
*crying out for mercy
*being redeemed
*recognizing the goodness of the Lord and rejoicing in Him

My friends, God is good. Whatever your situation is today, He knows it and He can handle it. I believe He will use our sorrows and hard times for our good and His glory in His perfect time. And when He turns our wailing into dancing, when He removes our sackcloth and clothes us with joy, may we each respond by singing and not being silent - giving thanks to Him forever!

I finished my time of meditation by creating a "Thank You for..." list in my journal. What a great exercise. May I recommend it to you?

Finally, if you have never meditated through a psalm before, may I suggest giving it a try? The way I do it is I pick a psalm and read just one verse per day. I read it several times, look up any words I don't know (Like pestilence in Psalm 91 - what a lovely word. Eewww!) and spend time praying asking God what He wants to say to me through that verse. I write the verse on a piece of paper and carry it in my pocket to refer back to throughout the day.
I am so thankful for the ways God has loved me through the psalms in this time of meditation. The psalms become much more personal and I believe my relationship with God has grown stronger. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

He Turned My Wailing Into Dancing!

This morning I read Psalm 30:11.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
I read this verse out loud a few times and I smiled as I recalled the events of this morning:
* Watching Joshua read Mitt, the Michigan Mouse and smiling in amazement as I heard him say, "I don't want to stop reading." (Yes, God still does perform miracles! This statement came from the same boy who usually fights me when it comes to reading.)
* Accompanying the boys to the bus stop and receiving bountiful hugs, kisses and "I love you. You rock!" statements before they boarded the bus.
* Walking home full of love for my kids and joy in my role as their mom.

So I sat on my couch with my Bible on my lap and I read Psalm 30:11 aloud. I remembered the wailing I have done. I thought about the times I have been flat out on my bed in tears, at my wits' end, wondering how I will ever survive motherhood. There have been days when I simply didn't know what to do and I just wanted to run away. I am sure I will never forget the day I sat on the step outside my kitchen, crying out to God, honestly (and with all due respect!) questioning His wisdom in giving me children.

But He turned my wailing into dancing!

Although on occasion I still wander back to those moments of despair, though sometimes I still wonder if I am going to make it through these days, I can truly say He has turned my wailing into dancing. Besides giving me hope that He is using my children and my struggles as a mother to make me into the woman He wants me to be, God sprinkles joy on me in the form of events like the ones which occurred this morning.
Yes, He has removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

As I sat on the couch loving God and my children this morning, I began to think about other moms. I know there are so many who are wailing and who are still wearing sackcloth. Sometimes I receive emails from them, and my heart breaks as I get a glimpse of their despair. How I long for each one to know Hope!
This coming Thursday and Friday I am going to be speaking for MOPS groups and I realized this morning, God knows which of those women are wailing right now. He knows which ones will come to the meetings in sackcloth. My prayer is for God to give them hope, and turn their wailing into dancing.

How are you doing today, friend? Have you got your dancing shoes on? I know God is in the business of redemption, of turning wailing into dancing. Get ready!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Fall Y'all Giveaway Time!

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It's here! It's here! It's finally here!
Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer is hosting a blog giveaway carnival, so I am going to give away a copy of my book, Confessions of an Irritable Mother.
I want to thank my kind friend, Annie, for making this button for me to help with my giveaway.Isn't it cute? If you will grab this button and put it on your blog with a post about my giveaway and leave me a comment saying you would like to be included in the drawing, I will "put your name in the hat" for my book. If you are technologically challenged, like me, and you can't grab the button just give me your email address and I will send you the code.
If you do not have a blog, you may still enter the drawing. Just leave a comment, or email me telling me you would like to be included.
If you live outside the US, you may still enter the drawing. I am willing to pay the shipping charges. If you want the book, go ahead and enter!

For a very long time, I really did despair of motherhood. I thought my kids were ruining me - that they were preventing me from becoming the woman God wants me to be. How wonderful it was for me to discover God is actually using my children and my struggles as a mother to make me into that woman. This journey, the hope I have in it, and the hope I believe you can have, too, is what I have written about in Confessions of an Irritable Mother. Want to read more? Enter to win!
I will be announcing the winner Sunday, November 4, so enter by midnight on the third to be sure you make it in.
Please be sure to leave your email address in your comment if it isn't available on your blog. Thanks!!!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Psalm 30:9

In my quiet times with God I am currently going through Psalm 30, one verse at a time. Today I was on verse nine.

What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Though this verse sounds rather despairing, I assure you the psalm is extremely uplifting. This verse comes from David recalling a time when he was dismayed, but is surrounded by recollections of God's faithfulness and calls to praise.
However, as I considered these words this morning I had to ask myself, Am I any better than dust? If I were destroyed or lost in a pit, would the dust make up for my absence? In other words, would anyone - specifically God - notice I was gone? (Of course I know God and others would notice. I ask these questions to make my point.)
I thought about this verse and these questions, and grew in my resolve to to be a faithful witness to the goodness of God. I want to live a life which gives Him praise. Every day, I want to proclaim His faithfulness. I don't ever want it to be said of me that, if I was destroyed, the dust would give praise to God as much as I ever did. I want to be better than dust.

This morning in church our pastor spoke about the holiness of God. He is majestic. He is perfect. He is set apart from us, and yet He loves us. I have said it before: I do not understand why He loves me. As I consider in my puny little mind how great God is, I cannot fathom why He would want anything to do with me, but I trust He does and I am so thankful. So, until I breathe my last breath on this earth and then on into eternity, I will proclaim the goodness of our God!

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hold Me, Please

I had time today to work on my new book. Ahhhh. It felt good.
Right now I am primarily working on the "Your Turn" sections of the entries. As I write I am praying for the women who will read this book, and it thrills my heart to realize God knows exactly who they are and He will orchestrate their days to bring these words and their circumstances together at just the right time.
I commented to Brian about this thought while we were eating lunch and he said, "Do you realize He also knows the women who will read your fourth book?"
My fourth book?
I said something about not being sure I would be writing a fourth book. Brian just smiled and said, "I bet you will."
He is my best cheerleader.

So, while I will be talking more about my first book next week (participating in the Fall Y'all blog give-away party) today I am sharing from "Book Two." Yeah, that's how I have it labeled on my computer. Haven't settled on a title yet, though I am leaning toward, Got Hope? More Confessions of an Irritable Mother.
I welcome your feedback on that title, BTW!

Hold me, please

I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready when I heard Matthew scream from outside. It sounded like an Ouch! That hurt! kind of scream, so I went to meet him at the door and find out what was wrong. When he came into the house I sat down on the step and Matthew just climbed up on my lap so I could hold him.
Sitting there together, Matthew did not say anything and I really did not do much either. I just told Matthew I loved him and I knew he was hurting. I rubbed his back and assured him he would be OK soon. As far as I could see, there was no blood to wipe up or dirt to brush off. So I rocked him and told him I loved him until he was ready to get up and go play again.
I remember sitting on the step with Matthew thinking, Gee, I am not doing much for him, am I? With no obvious ailments to treat, I was wondering about my usefulness. Tender words and touch did not seem very practical for treating whatever had happened to make him scream. He never did tell me what happened. It seemed he just wanted to sit on my lap until he felt better.
In time he did feel better, and rushed back outside.
After Matthew was off on another adventure, I considered how the scenario in which I had just played a part was like a picture of how God tends to my needs. He understands when I am hurting and is always waiting for me to come to Him for comfort. When I come, God tenderly holds me and assures me of His love. He gives me confidence to know I will be alright.
I have come to realize God has full knowledge of every situation which is hurting me and He may or may not do much about it. Sometimes God moves in the circumstances and eases my pain. On other occasions He allows time and circumstances to work themselves out. God alone knows what is necessary and I am convinced whatever He does is perfect and right – even if I cannot see it at the moment. And just as it was with Matthew and me, now I understand sometimes it may simply be God’s comfort and love I need to get me through a difficult time until I am able to run again.

Your Turn: How are you doing today? Is there a situation in your life right now which makes you want to yell, “Ouch! That hurts!”? Your Heavenly Father knows all about it, and He cares about your pain. Will you allow Him to speak His love to you, and to assure you everything is going to be alright?
Imagine yourself sitting on His lap, leaning upon His chest. Sometimes I wrap my arms around myself or cup my face in my hands, as if they were His own, and think about Him physically holding me. As you are sitting there, ask the Lord what He wants to say to you. He is your Abba Father, and He loves you so much! Can you hear Him telling you of His love?
God does not mind if you wet His shoulder with your tears. Go ahead and tell Him about your pain, and let Him lift you up as He covers you with love

Praying you will hear God speak His love to you today!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

God Hugged Me

I don't know if I have said it here before, or not, but I am convinced God hugs me, kisses me, and tells me He loves me through the arms and mouth of my seven year old son, Matthew. If you have heard me speak or read my book, you know the story about Matthew wetting his pants (again!!!) and God taking that opportunity to tell me He loves me. Well, it goes beyond that story and today was another occurrence - this time in the hugging department.
I was working with the boys on their spelling homework, practicing for the tests they each have tomorrow. After I corrected their work I told them they needed to write each word they had misspelled, five times. Joshua didn't like my decision and was putting up quite a fuss. (He was also mad at me because I had orignially told him he'd spelled "built" and "build" correctly, but when I looked more closely at his paper - and when it wasn't upside down to me - I realized he had gotten them wrong.)
How quickly we moved from, (quite calmly)"You need to write these words five times each," to, (mustering up all the self control I could find to keep from screaming)"Don't talk that way to me, young man. You need to sit down here and write those words...Get back here! I don't want you walking away from me when I am talking to you."
I let Joshua go into his room to write his words, on the condition he didn't slam his door on the way. Meanwhile, I stood in the dining room breathing deeply, trying to remind myself, This, too, shall pass.
Just about that time, Matthew came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist in a tender hug. I started to pray - asking God to grant me wisdom in this thing called mothering, and for the grace I need to love these kids. I thanked him for Matthew, believing He was hugging me through him, and at just that moment Matthew squeezed harder and held on.

I'm telling you, God hugged me today!

I wonder if you pay attention where you'll see Him show up, and who He will use to love on you!?

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rehearse the Truth

Ahhhh. I had a great weekend!
My mother and I attended the Spaghetti for the Soul conference. This conference is a relatively new event put together by Kathy Troccoli and Ellie Lafaro. Actually, it was put together by God. Kathy and Ellie are His instruments and He uses them wonderfully. You can go here to check out Kathy's schedule and see if they are bringing the conference to a location near you. I highly recommend attending if at all possible.
Both Kathy and Ellie shared great teaching (and, of course, great singing!) and I could write several posts about the things I heard. There is one thing, however, which particularly resonated with me and it is that one thing I am choosing to write about today.

Kathy spoke about Elijah and his response to the threat Jezebel made on his life in 1 Kings 19:1-15. Prior to this time the prophets of God had been put to death by kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord. Elijah had just had all the prophets of Baal put to death and when King Ahab reported the news to Jezebel she sent a message to Elijah saying, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them." (19:2) On hearing this message Elijah was afraid and ran away.
In verse four it says he "went away a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said.'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'" Kathy asked a great question. "What did Elijah do with that day while he was journeying? What was he filling his mind with?"
I think we get a hint as to what Elijah was thinking that day by the response he gave to God later in the chapter. Twice when Elijah was hiding in a cave and God asked him what he was doing there he replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (v.10 and 14) Elijah was rehearsing all the things which had gone wrong when he answered God, and I have a feeling those were the same thoughts filling his mind as he walked along the road that day.

Can you picture him?

Poor Elijah has just had a bounty put out on his head by an evil woman. She is even willing for her gods to deal with her ever so severely if she doesn't have him killed! And he's walking along thinking, Oh, what do I do? I have been totally sold out for God, but for what reason? His people aren't listening to me. They have rejected Him. They have ruined the altars which were set up for Him. They've killed all the prophets before me, for crying out loud! And I'm next in line!
If I had been mulling over those thoughts for a day's journey, at the end I think I'd be asking God to take my life, too.

That is why I loved Kathy's encouragement for us to rehearse the Truth. Elijah's circumstance (and ours, too) didn't reflect the Truth or God's power. This morning I read the events leading up to Jezebel's threat.
* During a drought in the land, God sent Elijah to a brook where he could get water and He sent ravens to bring Elijah food every morning and evening. (17:1-6)
* God provided an endless supply of flour and oil to a widow so she could provide Elijah with food every day. (17:7-16)
* God brought the widow's son back to life after he had died. (17:17-24)
* God showed Himself to be the One True God, and Baal to be false, when He sent fire from Heaven to burn up the altar Elijah had built, and which he had also drenched with water three times. (18:16-39)

What if, when Elijah heard Jezebel's message, he reminded himself of all the amazing things God had been doing. What if he responded to Jezebel's call for her gods to "deal with her ever so severely" by reminding her that God Almighty had just proved her gods were nothing? What if, instead of rehearsing the things which were going wrong, Elijah rehearsed the Truth?
* God is all powerful.
* God is perfectly faithful.
* God has always taken care of me.
* God will care for me in this situation, too.
Do you think Elijah would have found himself sitting under a tree asking God to take his life?

So, my friend, Kathy asked the question of those of us in the audience, and you know I have to ask you. When your circumstance is troublesome, what do you rehearse in your mind? Do you play the difficult situation over and over in your mind, looking at it from every scary angle? Or do you speak Truth to yourself and remind yourself of Who God Is?
We need to rehearse the Truth.
* Our circumstances will continue to change, but God never will.
* He is bigger than every problem we have and more powerful than every trial we face.
* God will never leave us nor forsake us.
* He loves us with an everlasting love.
* No situation will come upon us which God will not use for our good and His glory.
* He is holy and perfect, and we can fully trust Him.

I don't know what circumstance you are facing today, but I know what is True. I pray you will be encouraged as you rehearse the Truth.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Needing Grace, part 3

I cannot believe I didn't think of this aspect of needing grace when I started this series. But yesterday I spoke for a moms' group and much of the conversation around the table after I was finished centered around this topic. As I sat and listened I thought, Yes. There needs to be a Part 3!
More than having angst over a perpetually messy house, and more than feeling worthless as "just a mom," I have struggled significantly with trying (and failing!!!) to be a perfect mom. And judging by the conversation I heard yesterday, I am not alone in this struggle.
Before I had children I thought being a mom was going to be easy. The moms I watched on television as I was growing up seemed to always get it right within their allotted thirty minutes. I never noticed (or cannot recall) my mom being less than perfect. Everywhere I looked I saw moms and I thought, How hard could this mothering thing really be???
When I got married and started hanging around married people, naturally I was exposed to more women having babies. Even they made it seem easy. Just read this book. It will tell you everything you need to know! Or, Listen to these tapes. Your baby will be sleeping through the night in no time! With so many great resources floating around I was sure if I just did my studying, I would be well equipped to be a perfect mother.
Silly me.
Sure, I got some great advice from those books and tapes, and from other moms who have "been there." The thing I found out, however, was all that great information didn't make me perfect. Talk about a rude awakening!

One of the moms yesterday related a similar frustration. She said before she had kids, she was an engineer. For every problem she encountered on the job there was a book to read which would provide a solution. And it was always the same - Every solution worked. Every time. She could encounter and overcome her problems at that time. She felt good about it.
Not so with kiddos. As the kids grow up, every mom realizes there are no books which will address and perfectly solve every problem, every time. Rather than knowing how to manage things perfectly and thereby feeling good about ourselves, we find ourselves surrounded by children who are a constant reminder to us that we are not perfect. How easy it is for us, in this situation, to lose hope. How tempting to think, I cannot get it right. I will never get it right. I'm probably ruining my children's lives. They need a better mother. I should just do them a favor and run away!
Thoughts like that one have honestly run through my own mind more than a time or two.

Several years ago I thought I was the only mother who struggled with the concept of not being perfect. Truly, I thought every other mom had it all together, and I was the only one who didn't. How wonderful it was to me when I learned I wasn't alone. None of us moms is perfect.
Therein is the third dose of grace I believe we need to extend to ourselves. Say it with me, I am not a perfect mother. Knowing we aren't perfect, and admitting it, frees us to throw off the unrealistic expectations that we will do everything perfectly as we raise our children.
Yes - We do, and will continue to, make mistakes.
Yes - We will encounter situations and offer what we believe is the best solution, only to find out later we were way wrong.
Yes - In spite of our best efforts our children will accuse us of being mean and unfair, and sometimes they will be right.
Yes - We will be driven to tears over our failures time and again, wondering if our children stand a chance of becoming well-adjusted adults.

It would be understandable to me if you were thinking right about now, So where's the hope in all this??? The Hope I have found is in the knowledge that, while I am not perfect and never will be, my Heavenly Father is perfect and always will be. He loves my children more than I do. He knows perfectly what they need. And in all His love, knowledge and wisdom, He saw fit to make "imperfect me" the mother of my children.
Because I trust God and believe He knows what He is doing I am able to accept my imperfections, with confidence my children are going to be okay. Yes, I will fail. But God is bigger and more powerful than my failures and He can handle it!
So, what do you say? Will you extend yourself the grace which tells you it's OK that you aren't perfect? Because God IS!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007 contest!

We interrupt this series on Needing Grace (Yep. There will be a part 3.) to bring you the following announcement: is hosting a contest to find the meanest mom in the blogosphere. And the prize for being the judged the meanest mom? A copy of my book, Confessions of an Irritable Mother, and a $25 Super Certificate to spend as you choose. Not bad, eh?
Yes, I am still going to do a give-away of my book on this blog at the end of the month, but you really should check out this contest. I can't wait to read the entries. I'm hoping I can prove to my kids I am not the Meanest Mom in the World, after all. *grin*

Check out the details of the contest here.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Needing Grace, part 2

So we seem to be in agreement on the house issue. (BTW, all the bathrooms got cleaned in my house today! New thing we started with the new house: I clean my bathroom, Elizabeth cleans hers, and the boys clean theirs every Saturday morning. I love having everyone pitch in!) Now, how about the other issue that seems to keep surfacing. The one about being "just a mom"?
I know some of you work outside (or inside!) the home, so maybe you don't struggle with this issue as much. But many women I've spoken to who refer to themselves as SAHMs feel like they don't "do" anything. When meeting someone for the first time and the inevitable question, "So, what do you do?" comes up, many SAHMs respond with, "Nothing," or, "I'm just a mom."
But why? Why do we often feel like we don't "do" anything? Is it just because we don't get paid for it? Honestly, when I get the annual statement from Social Security which shows my income and the amounts I have paid into Social Security over my lifetime I think, Was I really contributing more to society when I was a junior in high school than I am now?
I think this feeling of nothing worthwhile was a bigger struggle for me when my kids were younger. I remember Brian coming home when Elizabeth was a baby and telling me about some great evangelistic conversations he had on campus that day, or the out-reach events he and his students were planning. I would listen and think, How nice. Well, let's see. I changed three poopy diapers today and washed the sheets again. Oh, and I made it through the store in spite of having a crying baby for half the trip. Yeah, I'm really making an impact for the Kingdom. *sigh*
At another time Brian was taking classes toward another degree and would tell me about the things he was learning. It was right about then I realized my brain was turning to mush. Green Eggs and Ham was the most intellectually stimulating thing I had read in months and, as much as I love Dr. Suess, it just wasn't making me feel like I was doing anything which would allow me to make a difference in the world.
As I said, this area isn't as much of a struggle for me personally anymore but I have talked to and heard from enough moms who are battling these feelings now that I wanted to address it here.

Being a mom is important.

Mothering does matter.

Read those statements again, and read them aloud if you need to!

Mom, your children need you. They can't pay you with more than hugs and kisses and they have no retirement plan to offer. (Except they'll pay you back for all the love you're pouring into them right now!) Although sometimes it feels like they're fighting against all the good things you're trying to do for them, you really are making a difference - in the Kingdom and in the world - because you are taking care of your child(ren).

Just as I believe we need to extend grace to ourselves in the realms of our homes, I believe we also need to receive it in our roles as mothers. You matter to God, and what you are doing matters to Him. Though sometimes we think being "just a mom" is insignificant, God doesn't think so. He has entrusted you with a child He created, and your role in that child's life is crucial.
God knew what He was doing when He made you a mom. He delights in you. He is always with you. Now, lift your head up, ask the Lord to strengthen you for the work He has prepared for you, and go love your kids!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Needing Grace, part 1

Have you ever had an experience wherein you find yourself having a very similar conversation with several different people, and you begin to wonder if God is trying to tell you something? That's been happening to me over the past several days and it has led me to want to write about it here. At this point I am thinking this will be a two-part post, but I will leave it up to God to decide when it ends!

This first installment is prompted by an email I received yesterday from a mom who has just started reading my blog, a conversation I had recently with a mom who just had her fifth (!) baby, talk which was going around the table at the MOPS group I spoke for this morning, and countless other conversations I've had with mom friends throughout the years. Survey says, We are tired of our messy houses. We don't want anyone to just "pop in" because we will be humiliated at the condition of our abode. We don't know how we can have both kids and a clean house, and we are frustrated! Are you in agreement here?
I have struggled with this issue for years. Before kids I had a strict weekly cleaning regimen and, due in part to the fact my husband and I were the only ones "making messes," my little apartment was so clean and tidy. I took pride in my home. It was orderly and I felt in control.
Three kids later, I still have a strict cleaning regimen. I am constantly picking things up and feeling like I need to be more strict.

Brian, install a shower in the garage.

Kids, you must shower before entering this house.

No playing in the dirt - you might bring some of it in the house!

If you have to eat, do it outside. I don't want any crumbs in my house! So what if it's 30 degrees out there. If you're hungry enough, you'll eat!

Toys? Why do you need toys? They'll just get left on the floor and I'll trip over them. No more toys in my house!

Do you see where I'm going with this line of thinking? Kids are kids, and even the best ones get messy. We can train them to be careful and take care of their things (and, oh, am I trying to get that done!) but the bottom line is, if we have kids in our house we aren't going to be able to escape that "lived-in" look.
I think each one of us mothers would agree with that statement, yet so many of us still seem to battle with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to the condition and cleanliness of our homes. Why??? When you go over to another mom's house, do you scoff at the basket of unfolded, or worse yet - unwashed, laundry? Do you count how many dirty glasses are sitting on the counter? Are you bothered by the books lying on the floor, rather than neatly stowed on the bookshelf?
No? Why not? Oh, because she's a mom and you realize she is taking care of her kids in addition to trying to maintain a household? I see. You're extending grace to her. That's nice. And that's what we do, right?
I remember picking Matthew up from a friend's house once. His mother apologized to me for the mess as we went to the basement to get the boys. Honestly, I didn't know what she was apologizing for. It just looked to me like boys had been playing. Everything seemed as it should be.
And this woman who just had her fifth baby? I took a meal over to her and as I stepped over a few toys to get into the kitchen, she also apologized for the mess. Are you kidding? Although I was aware of the mess, I really didn't notice it. Or at least I didn't care. She'd just had a baby for goodness sake! I couldn't imagine having five kids, let alone an orderly home with a newborn.
So I wonder, if we can be so reasonable in what we expect of other mothers, if we can give them all amounts of grace, why can't we extend grace to ourselves? Why must we have unrealistic standards for our own homes?
I am not advocating throwing in the towel on trying to maintain a nice home, or giving up on teaching our children responsibility for taking care of themselves and their things. What I am desiring is for each of us uptight moms to adopt realistic expectations for our homes, and to love our kids in the midst of the messes.
Do you think that's possible? Can you come to the place where you will be OK with someone dropping in unexpectedly? I love the saying a friend shared with me several years ago: If you're coming to see me, stop by anytime. If you're coming to see my house, please call ahead. I would like to think my friends are more interested in me than in my house. I know that's the way I feel about them! And I bet your friends are more interested in you than the condition of your house, as well.
I remember when I went to Florida to speak for some MOPS groups last year. The woman with whom I was spending the night told me in an email that, although she had two boys and a small house, she would do her best to make me comfortable. I responded to her by reminding her I'm a mom, too, and if she had a basket of laundry in the hallway, if she didn't dust before I came, and if she left drops of dried milk on the table I would feel right at home and would be very comfortable. It was so easy for me to give her that grace. But I knew if the roles were reversed, if she were coming to stay at my house, I would be working like a mad woman to get everything cleaned up.
(That reminds me of one day when I was dusting - just because it needed to be done - and Elizabeth asked me quite excitedly, "Are we having company???" She's very observant! LOL)
So, moms, what do you say? Can we agree to give ourselves grace when it comes to our homes? In the end I think this attitude will benefit not just ourselves, but our kids, too. I don't want my kids to think a clean house is more important to me than they are. How about you?

Having said all that, I want to share a resource which has been very helpful to so many women when it comes to keeping the house under control. Lots of great ideas and encouragement there! I especially love the concept of doing a little bit at a time. Baby steps. I can do that!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Prayer for Failure Moms

A couple of days ago I put a counter on my blog so I could gain more information about traffic to this site. One of the things I have just found as I am looking at my account is this: I can see what key words people enter into search engines which ultimately lead them to this blog. Kinda cool, eh?
There is one mom out there for whom I am earnestly praying today. She found my blog after typing in the phrase, "I feel like a failure as mother of teenager." Reading those words, I could only imagine her sitting at her computer - perhaps after a fight with her child - feeling utterly hopeless, feeling like she is ruining her child, wishing that child understood Mom wants what is best for him/her but afraid said child only sees the Meanest Mom in the World. And so she types in what she's really feeling. I feel like a failure.
I have soooooo been there! In fact, even though it's a rotten place, I still visit every now and then. And those are the days I most question whether or not I really will survive motherhood. I question whether or not my children will survive motherhood!
But, friends - fellow moms in the trenches - there is Hope!
This morning I started memorizing Psalm 30. (On occasion I memorize a Psalm by meditating on one verse per day, writing that verse down and carrying it in my pocket and referring to it throughout the day. A week or so ago I read Psalm 30 and knew this was the next one I wanted to commit to memory!) Verse one says this:

I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
As I meditated on that verse, one of the things I did was thought about my "enemies." I told the Lord, I don't consider my children to be my enemies but sometimes mothering feels like an enemy. Er, maybe it's my expectations that are my enemies. Yea, like my expectation that I'll do everything perfectly. Or pride. Yes, pride wants me to do everything perfectly so people will look at me and think I'm so good. Lord, do not let pride gloat over me. I want to exalt You - not me.
I have come to understand God is strong and I am weak. And in my weakness He is glorified because He gives me the strength I need to make it through. I know what it is to feel like a failure mom. I know how it feels to be afraid your children are never going to understand you really, truly have their best interests at heart. Some days I actually ask them, "Do you think I wake up every day thinking of ways I can make your life miserable? I don't want to make you upset. I am trying to train you and shape you. My desire is for your good!"
Somehow in the midst of this struggle I am finding more and more Hope. I am becoming more convinced my children are going to be OK. It is true I am a broken, imperfect woman, which translates into a broken, imperfect mom. Sometimes I feel like a failure. Can you relate?
But my friends, here's the Hope. God loves our children more than even we do. He is bigger than our failures and imperfections. He has made us our children's' mothers on purpose and He will faithfully see us through this journey.
Pray. Pray for your children. When you are at your wits' end with your kids, pray that God will calm your heart. Pray that He will open their eyes to see your love for them. Pray that He will guide and protect them through their future. And trust in His faithfulness to do these things.

So, where are you today? Feeling like a failure mom? Please let me pray for you.
Father, perfect Father, thank You for loving this imperfect mother. You know her heart because You formed it. You know her fears because You listen to her cries. You know her weaknesses and her needs because You know everything about her. Today I am asking you to cover her with Your love. I am asking You to fill her to overflowing with hope in who You Are. Lord, please give her the confidence she needs to know You are in control and working all things for good. When she is feeling weak please remind her You are her strength and help her to trust in You. And, Lord, please give her children the grace to understand she loves them even when she seems tough, and she really does have their best interests at heart. Thank You, Lord, that in the midst of holding the universe together in perfect balance You are concerned about the things concerning us. Amen.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

My Own Give-away

So the other day when I was posting about who won Tricia Goyer's book, the thought crossed my mind, Hey, I ought to do a give-away with my book. Then a couple of you left comments to that same end, and I have decided I'm going to do it.
My dear friend Annie is going to make a button for me when she gets home from vacation. I haven't decided if I'll do a random drawing or make you work for it - like tell me in 50 words or less why you need a copy of Confessions of an Irritable Mother. I figure I still have time to think about it, but I wanted to give you a heads up.
Hope you're having a great day!

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Open for Business!

OK, so I have told you previously we have a room in the basement which we are planning to use as an office and guest bedroom, right?
Little by little, we had been working on that room. We had painted the walls and Brian installed a couple extra electrical outlets. He was changing out the light fixture (It had been a neon light - very bright and rather noisy. Just didn't seem fitting for a bedroom.) and my job was to paint the ceiling, which I planned to get to - someday.
Someday came upon me quickly. We had a guest coming Friday night, so I painted Wednesday, bought carpet Thursday and had it installed Friday - a full six hours before our guest arrived! Sometimes I need serious deadlines to get things finished.
So, we are officially ready to receive guests. Here's a picture of the room waiting for you whenever you're in my neighborhood.
Seriously, if any of you blogging buddies of mine are ever in mid-Michigan and need a place to stay, you are welcome in my home!

Of course, if you stay here, you're going to need to be OK with bugs. Ring did it again. She laid another egg sac last night. I didn't know a praying mantis could lay more than one egg sac, but now I do. Yep, we have three egg sacs which Joshua is already planning to carefully place around our yard in the spring.
But don't worry, the bugs are all kept in Joshua's room upstairs and the guest room is in the basement. The only other critter in the basement (besides Elizabeth!) is Chloe, Elizabeth's mouse. You should be safe enough. *grin*

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

And the Winner is....

Polly P.!!!
How fun to do my first give-away. I very scientifically wrote each of the entrants name on pieces of paper and picked one! Oooooo Ahhhhhh
So a copy of My Life, Unscripted by Tricia Goyer will soon be on its way to Polly in Ireland. For the rest of you who wanted a copy, you can still head over to Barnes and Noble, or even Amazon if you don't feel like leaving the house.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

This Means so Much to Me

Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) is to make more disciples.

Two dear blogging friends have given me an award. Karen and Heather have both passed on the Mathete's Award for excellence in discipleship. Awards are fun, but it is what each of these two said about me, and the ways God has been speaking to my heart lately that make this particular award so meaningful to me.
Karen said, She has a passionate desire for other Mum's to draw closer to God and to press in whilst going through the refining fires of parenthood. She is humble, motivated and open to go wherever God will lead her on this path. God has gifted her in writing, with compassion, with truth and with a refreshing 'realness' that we can all relate to.
And Heather said, She's on my wavelength. She exudes Christ in all she does and truly is a mentor to me on my spiritual walk.
It has truly been my desire to be used by God to draw women to Himself. Lately I have been thinking about how I might be able to be a greater influence for Him, for the gospel, in my writing and speaking and it blesses me to no end to have these friends recognize this pull in me. So, thank you, Karen and Heather. You have both encouraged me tremendously!

As blog awards often do, this one also has "rules." They are simple.
Winners of this award must pick five other "disciples" to pass it on to. As you pass it on, mention and provide links for:
1) Dan King of Management by God as the originator of the award.
2) The person that awarded it to you.
3) Name and sites of the five that you believe are fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ.

One thing I love about the blogosphere is the community of Christian sisters I have found here, and so with joy I will pass this award on to five of these wonderful women.

Jenny at A Coach for Life, because she is shares honestly about her relationship with God. Not just the rosy times, but the struggles, too. It is Jenny's real-ness that moves us to seek God with integrity, and I absolutely love that about her.

Sweet Mummy at It's OK to be Weird, because she also is real - in her pursuit of God and her quest to be a good mom. She has learned wonderful things from the Lord and willingly shares her heart, and I think that's just what a disciple should do!

Jenileigh at Jenileigh's Journey, because she is passionate about God and her family. Jenileigh is another sister who shares her ups and downs and allows us to grow through her experiences. I'm so glad she is a part of this community!

Annie at My Life as Annie, not just because she is discipling me in computer stuff (!!!) but because she is a model of grace and perseverence to me. This woman has been through so much with her daughter Izzy, but she still sees God as faithful and she wears (and writes with) a grace I want to grow into.

And Karen at Karen's Ramblings, though she's already received the award I must give it again. Karen prays, she is shaped by God, and she shares these things with us - on her own blog and when she comments. There is no question Karen deserves this award twice - or three times, or four...

Karen also told me she thinks I am Totally Fabulous.
She is so sweet!
I will happily pass on this award to a few fabulous friends: Heather, Penny, and Shawna. You guys are awesome!!!

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Parable of the Loose Tooth

He did it again.

God spoke to me tonight through a very ordinary circumstance, and even through my own words.

Joshua has been working on a loose tooth for a couple weeks now, and when he came home from school today he gave me a big smile and pointed to a new hole in his mouth. I smiled back, "Oh! You lost your tooth!" He didn't make too big of a deal about it at the time, but as I was saying Good-night tonight, Joshua wanted to tell me more.
He said when he was standing in line to go out for recess he told his friend, "No matter what I have to do, I am going to lose this tooth today!" But it just wouldn't come out. A short while later, when Joshua wasn't "messing" with his tooth, out it came. As he retold me the story he said he was surprised that when he was trying to pull the tooth out it wouldn't come, but when he left it alone it came out. "Isn't that weird?" he asked.
I looked at my dear son and said, "You know, honey, many things work that way. Sometimes we try and try to make something happen, but we can't get it done. And then when we let go, the thing we've been trying so hard for finally comes through."
At the very moment those words were passing over my lips, it were as if God was saying to me, Listen to what you're saying. These words are from Me. And I immediately thought about the issues I've been trying and trying to bring into being. I've mentioned briefly some things I'm struggling with regarding Matthew, and there are other issues with Joshua. As I considered Joshua's tooth tonight I realized I've been trying to pull a few teeth around here, too. But tonight God was reminding me He's the Dentist, and I'm just the hygienist. I need to help the kids "keep their teeth clean" but the pulling is up to Him.
It isn't always easy to remember my role. I want to see results now. I don't want to wait. Tonight, through a simple conversation about a loose tooth God reminded me my role is to trust and obey - and let God be God.

How about you? Have you been trying to pull some teeth?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My Life, Unscripted by Tricia Goyer

When you were an adolescent, how did you make decisions about guys and relationships? Did you think things through to their logical conclusion, or did you let your heart do all the “thinking”? Who helped script your life?

I wish I could say I prayed and sought the Lord on everything, and I entered my marriage with no regrets or lingering memories. But that would be a lie.

The truth is, I didn’t meet Jesus until I was a freshman in college so seeking His input during my teen years really wasn’t an issue. And pretty much the extent of any other leading I had was a very simple script. My mom said, “Nice girls don’t do it.”
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not faulting my mother for the decisions I made as a teenager. I knew she didn’t want me to do what I was doing. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been sneaking around. But her admonition did nothing to motivate me.
As far as I could see, Nice Girls weren’t very desirable. They got teased and called names (and not nice names, either). They were never welcomed into the “in crowd.” People snickered at them when they walked by, and looked down their noses at them. Nope, being a Nice Girl wasn’t going to motivate me to make (what I now realize are) good relational decisions.
So I followed the crowd. I did what “everyone else” was doing. I felt used and unloved but, in my messed up adolescent mind, I thought I was acceptable.

I am so thankful I met Brian, and that he introduced me to Jesus. In both of them I found forgiveness, true love and real acceptance. Along the way God put a desire in my heart to speak honestly with teens and encourage them to make better choices than I had. As a result, for four years I spoke for an abstinence education program called S.M.A.R.T. (S*xually Mature Aware Responsible Teens) – two years as a volunteer, and two years on staff. And now that my daughter is approaching her teen years I have a renewed sense of urgency to think about teens and relationships.
I believe it is the combination of my past, present and near future which make me so excited about Tricia Goyer’s new book, My Life, Unscripted. In this book, Tricia draws on Biblical principles to guide girls through the tumultuous teen years by teaching them to have a plan of attack before temptation or hardship come. I love how Tricia says it:

Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder ... What was I thinking?

The truth? I wasn't. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted ... and, well, it didn't go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. Yet my prayer is that when teen girls are asked Who's Writing Your Life? their answer will be ME ... with the guidance of God, My Director.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading My Life, Unscripted. Tricia writes to adolescent girls. She relates with them in a been there, done that, learned my lesson the hard way so you don’t have to, here’s a much better way to go about it kind of way.
While I am not planning on relinquishing my parenting duties to Tricia, I am absolutely planning on giving this book to Elizabeth to read in a couple years. (She’s only eleven now…) I am sure it will be a great tool as, together, we work through her teen years.
If you would like to take a peek at the book, you can read chapter one here.
You can get your copy of My Life, Unscripted at Barnes & Noble where it is part of their back-to-school end cap promotion. OR, you can leave a comment here letting me know you would like to be in a drawing for a free copy. I will select the winner from all comments submitted by midnight October 5, and Tricia’s assistant will send you a free copy. Feel free to let your friends who have teenage or pre-teen daughters know about this give-away so they can enter to win, too.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Live and Love TODAY

Oh, friends, God is so good!

Remember that neighborhood Bible study I mentioned joining? The one with the rat lovers? Well, we are studying the book of Isaiah and this morning I finished Lesson One. At the end of the lesson we were asked to consider our first impressions of Isaiah and his message and then to note any response we had to what we observed. Maybe it is because I am so desperate, but the thing which really stood out to me in the overview of Isaiah was hope. Some things we looked at in the overview seem harsh but I kept seeing it come around to restoration, and that always gives me hope.
The last verse for this week's reading was Isaiah 65:19 and it truly jumped off the page and into my heart today.

I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Right away I thought of my kids. Could I say, "I will rejoice over this house and take delight in my children"? Sometimes I honestly don't feel that way.
We've been having some trouble with Matthew - his behavior, his attention (more accurately, his lack of attention), general obedience. Sometimes he does well and other times, not so much. I want to raise him to be a responsible, respectful young man. I want him to be a joy to his teachers, classmates, and everyone else with whom he comes into contact. I am trying so hard to teach him well, but some days I feel like a total failure and I think maybe I should send him to his room until he's 18. Have you been there?
So, anyway, this morning when I read about God rejoicing over Jerusalem and delighting in His people I was encouraged, but more so when I read that "the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more." It was as if God were reminding me once again we will make it through these hard times, and the kids will be fine when they grow up. There will come a day when I won't feel like crying over some failure or imperfection every day. Those sounds will be heard no more!
I just sat with those thoughts and thanked God for His never-ending patience with me and for the amazing hope He gives me every day. I wrote, I can delight in my children and trust the day will come when there will be no more weeping or crying.
Sitting in that hope, however, I was reminded of another thing God has put on my heart recently. I don't want to miss today because I'm too busy hoping for tomorrow. Yes, today has challenges in it but I know there are good things, too, and I don't want to miss them. Like the joy of waving to my boys when they're riding off on the school bus, and the hugs they give me before they leave. I don't want to miss those! And the heart-felt apology Joshua gives me after he has yelled at me. I don't want to be so looking forward to freedom from trials that I miss his tender plea. I want to live and love TODAY. And so my closing prayer for my quiet time this morning was, Lord, help me to love them now and enjoy them now even as I trust You to take us through the hard times.
Here's to a wonderful day, today.

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