My Two-Year Old, My Mentor, and the Gift of Motherhood

image1Through batting eyelashes, my two year old daughter looked up at me.  Struggling to get the final things together to leave for the weekend, her words seemed a distraction. “Mommy, tell me a story about when you were little.” What mother’s heart wouldn’t melt at the sound of these delightful words? But in the moment, I was distracted with tasks that seemed non-negotiable. I settled down for a minute and looked into her deep, blue eyes. It did not last much longer than a second as I quickly shifted to the next task. I was off to gather my notes, my luggage, my coat. I wish I could say I responded in the moment and took the time to tell her a story from my childhood, about some magical day lived on my family’s Iowa farm. But I didn’t. I was overwhelmed, frazzled, just trying to get out of the house in one piece, semi-put together.

I needed some space, to step away, to be surrounded by other women who are walking along a parallel path. I was looking forward to thoughtful conversation and a night’s sleep with no children in my bed. Yes, this would nourish my soul.

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My mentor and friend, Sally Clarkson was leading a conference, ‘Own Your Own Life’. I was grateful to participate as a speaker on a panel, and to attend with friends and fellow moms from our church. Sally truly lives what she teaches. I know this because she has invited me into her home, her groups and her family for almost the past decade. Gently encouraging me to seek a vision for my family, for motherhood, for my life since the day we first met, Sally is a gift and her message is a rarity.

Here are a few themes that resonated with me at her conference:

Your home is a place to live, but is it a place of life? Life looks like taking the time to cuddle, pray and read with our kids each night.  Life looks like taking a fifteen minute nap with my two year old at 8:30PM. After all, in this stage, a late-night cat nap with my sweet daughter will only last for a short season, and these precious moments of lying down with her will be gone before I know. Plus, this little nap gives me just the amount of energy I need to stay up a few more hours!

If you are faithful in the hidden places, these places will become the foundation of your story The very place you are is where God is building character. I hope and pray my character has been and is continuing to be shaped as I have been quietly and freely giving my life to my children. I pray that my persistence, my patience, my diligence in motherhood for years is part of the foundation from which I can now give from and lead from.

We can all lead someone. We’re always ahead of someone and have our life to share, despite that we don’t do do it all perfectly.  We can choose to see our story as a a God-given gift spent for the life of others.

Your baby who was created to be dependent on you will not always need you like she does now or your toddler who gets our of bed 15 times in a evening will eventually stay in his bed. Or the utter exhaustion you feel from not sleeping will not always be. The postpartum hormonal imbalance will get better. You will make it. You will get through. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

I wonder if it’s not so much that ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle’, as much as it is that he enlarges our capacity as we step out in faith to do the hard thing.

What are you not doing because you’re afraid? What are you not saying no to because you’re afraid?  I’m currently at a worship symposium at Calvin College listening to my brilliant theologian husband teach a few seminars, while entrusting my precious children with my incredible in-laws. Being away from my children hasn’t always been an easy for me; in fact, it has been a source of great anxiety. And yet I know I have a God whom I can trust.  So I’m choosing to step out and trust Him today and believe that He has my family and me in His hands.

Is there something that is keeping you from stepping out into what God has called you to for this season? Maybe it’s a call to shape your home with truth and beauty. Maybe it’s a call to truly see the Maker of the stars as you lay aside the daily and take a walk in His creation. Maybe it’s a call to gather a group around your table for a meal. Maybe it’s a call to be present to the husband and children your Father has given you.

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When I returned from my weekend away, I swept my two year old Jane into my arms and whispered, “Let mommy tell you a story about when I was little.”  Of course she said, “Yes!”

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Find Sally’s latest book, “Own Your Life”, HERE.
Find out more about Sally Clarkson’s ‘MomHeart’ conferences HERE.

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Being Fully Present Today

It’s now a tradition. For the past five years, Glenn and I have embarked on a prayer and planning retreat around the new year somewhere in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

IMG_0001As we sat in silence looking out the window at the snowflakes fluttering to the ground, I sensed the small, still voice of the Lord inviting me to draw near. With no children running in the background or cries to attend to, I had a moment to be still. Actually, be still. My desire of the Lord in that moment was to hear something from Him. Maybe a word that would lead me into his calling for me this year. No sooner than I asked, I heard. And I don’t often hear so easily. Oh how I wish I took the time to be still, to listen more often. But what matters now, is that I’m listening.

And the word that I heard was, Abide.

Packiam-50My babies are growing up. It doesn’t seem long ago that most days were filled with nursing, cuddling, and rocking them. My youngest is now two and half. And yet, I’m entering a new season of sorts, one that might give me a little space. Space to step out, even if just a bit, to attempt to lead, teach, and maybe write. But at the center, He is stirring me to abide. To be rooted in Him, founded in Him rather than being caught up in what others are saying or doing.

His question to me…What have I called you to?

As I abide, I’m choosing to live intentionally, choosing to be fully present each day. And isn’t it a choice we continue to make every single day? As with so many things in life, we want to decide to love, to be at peace, to be present once and for all but it just isn’t so. As Kathleen Norris says in The Quotidian Mysteries, “When humans try to do everything at once and for all and be through with it, we court acedia, self destruction and death. Such power is reserved for God, who alone can turn what is ‘already done’ into something that is ongoing and ever present. It is a quotidian mystery.”

In this new year, I’m asking the Lord, “How can I live fully each day?” I can’t, without Him giving me eyes to see Him and ears to hear Him.

If it’s the only prayer I offer at the start of each day, it might sound something like:

“Lord, help me to truly see you today. Help me to be fully present today.” 

So simple and short but it’s a prayer that focuses and grounds me.

IMG_0002I’m asking the Lord to awaken wonder in my heart, to see this world as He sees it. I don’t want to miss the brilliant, white snow falling to the ground this season or the opportunity to draw my children to the miracle of a snowflake. Or the moment to engage in a meaningful conversation when my child asks a question as we read books aloud. Or taking the time to lay down with my two year old when she calls out, “Mommy, I need you.”

Lord, help me to see what is truly most important. None of us can escape the menial tasks of life, but we can choose to believe that God is truly everywhere, in every moment with us.

“Let us remember that the life we ought to be interested is ‘daily’ life. We can, each of us, only call the present time our own….Our Lord tells us to pray for today, and so he prevents us from tormenting ourselves about tomorrow.  ~ Gregory of Nyssa

Let’s be present, fully embrace each moment…even in the piles of laundry, dishes stacked to the hilt, muddy footprints tracked through the house, popcorn trails from the living room.

Let’s abide.

He Was There

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I thought since I had shared all my goals and desires for the Advent and Christmas seasons that I should also share my struggle and the unexpected joy in retrospect, even though we’re well into a new year now.

It was Christmas Eve.  I was fighting an inner battle.  Fighting the sad feeling of what felt like loss in the two weeks prior.  Like so many, we had been sick with the flu and croup.

As I blogged about earlier, I had high hopes, a vision for the Advent season.  But my memory of many days during the Advent season— even now—was resting, laying cold cloths on my children’s heads, emptying bottles of essential oils in our diffuser, filling humidifiers, washing germ filled bedding and on the list goes. It can feel like lost time, lost memories, or even lost meaning.

I have a choice— even now— to see those weeks as lost or to ask, “Was God there? What was He doing?”

He was there.

He was there when I woke early to the glorious pink and purple sunrise after a restless night of little sleep. Oh how that moment spoke to me of his love, beauty, and care for me.

He was there as I lay awake at night with my two year old cuddled by my side listening to her barking cough and praying she would breathe steadily through the night.

He was there when I lay in bed with my two younger ones for days when we didn’t have the energy to stir.

He was there when we dragged our sluggish bodies to the table for a short evening of catching up on Advent readings.

And in the midst of it all, however lovely or unlovely I felt, I was reminded of His unfailing love.  In the midst of our weakness and sickness, our frailty and brokenness, He came…to rescue, to redeem, and to bring new life.

Did I see it then?  Not always. Often, I felt the sadness of not being able to fully engage. But as I ponder now, I see how how the whole family came to one another to serve, to love, and to sacrifice. We slowed down and looked in each others eyes, and asked, “How can I help you today?”  My sweet husband— spared our sickness— was always there in an instant to bring us soup or get up in the night to the aid of a crying child.

Just before Christmas, I had a tearful moment of feeling depleted and despairing about what felt like a loss of a meaningful Advent season.  As my husband gently embraced me, his thoughtful words stilled my anxious heart.  Glenn whispered, “You know, I wonder how Joseph and Mary felt on that night their blessed child was born?”  The first Christmas, after all, wasn’t a perfect scene.  And yet, there was peace.  He had come.

More important than my hope or desires for the Advent season is the radiant truth that Jesus came.  And he comes to us still, in our chaos and disappointment, in our sadness and sickness.

And I’m so grateful he does, in Advent, in Christmas, and beyond.