Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Guest Post: From Deserts to Gardens

For this week’s mentor Monday, I’m overjoyed to have a guest post Debra from As I See it Now.  Debra has been one of my favorite encouragers for years.  A mom of an adult daughter, she has much wisdom to share with us.  Thank you so much, Debra!

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So there I was… out in the hot Nevada desert in 1989, newly-moved into a mobile home in a town far from any shopping malls, with 9-year-old Naomi and my husband, Tom, who worked four days farther out in the (bleak) desert then stayed home for four. Well, when things went smoothly. Often he worked longer stretches.

In that dried-up place, complaining about the heat, the sand flying in my face, the lack of scenery and fun things to do was easy. And since Nevada is the most transient state, even church people hesitate to form friendships with new folks who’ll just probably escape soon, so I felt ultra-isolated, as well.

I’d been a positive person, but in Nevada?  I caved-in and became morose. Naomi would leave for school and then I’d let myself go– I’d complain by the hour and for whatever reasons, I began sewing clothes for Naomi even though I hated sewing.  I gave-up trying to make friends (I’d always been shy) and instead, became passionate about writing letters to faraway pen-pals. 

Tom made more money than we needed, but spending it never cheered me up. (Wild, huh?)

Around noon each day, a cold, inky blackness seeped over me, nearly choking me and I’d try to run away by taking walks or driving to the supermarket where I’d pray someone would smile at me. Anyone. Then Naomi would arrive home from school and I’d force all these shattered pieces of myself back together for her sake, for I didn’t want her to remember a childhood with a depressed mother.

Most likely, being cheerful for her probably did much to save my mind. 


Finally, after some negative-minded, wasted years, I asked God to show me why I was so miserable. 

Oh dear. God told me my attitude stank. I wanted things He didn’t want for me and I complained about what He’d already given me (so why should He give me something better?). Resentment filled me with bitterness and spoiled the chance of new friendships, delights and adventures. 


He showed me I could have found happiness by telling others hello at the supermarket rather than waiting for them to show kindness toward me. 

After all, it is in giving that we receive. 


But most of all, He showed me the way to a rich life is to seek to know Him. Not just about Him, but to know Him so intimately that I feel Him beside me at the supermarket, the movie theater, the coffee shop. Everywhere.

Slowly God walked me out of depression. He helped me renew my mind so that I’d see things His way, not the world’s way (the world is so clueless and reactionary). And He showed me that His joy is my strength–lose that joy and I’m, well, sunk.

How different the past 18 years have looked! Oh, I’ve experienced the occasional bad days, but never has that inky black depression returned. God set my feet upon solid ground of His peace and joy and the desert in my soul vanished: He replaced it with a well-watered garden.

Facing truth about myself set me free, indeed. And that Truth wants to do the same for anyone who’s ready for a whole new life.

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

Hear it, Use It

On Your Heart

Soli Deo Gloria

Heart +Home Gathering

Titus 2sday


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One Way to Beat the Blues

Many years ago during a very dark time in my life, I kept a tiny journal next to my bed.

Each night before sleep, I wrote 5 things I was thankful for.

I attribute that one small habit with bringing light and hope and making the circumstantial depression bearable: a simple daily reflection on God’s goodness.

This week’s challenge: Keep a gratitude journal.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a place where you can jot down what you’re thankful for that day.  Three to five things seems to be a good number.

Help your children do this as well.  Gratitude helps turn their minds away from their own frustrations to a positive direction.

Here is another post where I wrote about this in relation to getting your day started right!

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Each month I am looking at one of 5 positive disciplines mentioned by Michael Hyatt in this podcast to re-order our family lives so we can use the internet for good and avoid its destructive impact.  The discipline for the month of September is Reflection.

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

WIP Wednesday

Women Living Well Wednesday

Works for Me Wednesday

Encourage One Another


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2 Questions That Will Change the Way You Mother

I don’t know about you, but even though I am home with my children all day, I sometimes get so busy with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and basic physical care that I forget to come up for air and connect with my kids the way I should.

Lately I have tried to ask myself two questions at the end of the day.

“How have I fed my children’s souls today?”

Did I pray with them?  Did we read a Bible story?  Did we have a spiritually meaningful conversation?  Better yet, were these things sprinkled through my day as a lifestyle of discipleship?  It’s not about a checklist.  Every day will look different.  But was I intentional in some way about nurturing their spiritual lives?

“How have I reached my children’s hearts today?”

Have I connected with each of them in a way that makes them feel loved and strengthens our bond?  Did I give enough hugs and snuggles?  Did I take time to listen to them?  Did I say “yes” to their requests for a game or a tea party?  Did I speak gently and with understanding?  Did I discipline with grace, mercy, and kindness?  Did we read together?  Did I laugh with them?

Again, each day will look different.  But I don’t want the days to slip away with so many mundane activities that I neglect my relationship with my children, and their relationship with God.

Asking these questions has been good self-accountability.  Day by day it may not seem like much, but it adds up to a years of little connections that build a solid foundation.

What is one thing you do to feed your child’s soul or win their hearts?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

On Your Heart

Soli Deo Gloria

Heart +Home Gathering

Titus 2sday


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The Benefits of Journaling for Moms and Kids

When I was 9 years old, I got a little pink journal in my Christmas stocking.

And I’ve been writing ever since.

At first it was very sporadic, but it whetted my appetite for what it was like to write for pleasure.  I chronicled the little boys I had crushes on (in secret code) and wrote about my loathing for chores and described my cousins’ wedding in detail.

It was an amazing way to learn the art of reflection.

Now I write daily, not just journaling but all kinds of writing—letters, articles, blog posts.

It’s how I process things, how I make sense of the world.  If I can’t figure out how to verbalize something, I write it down.

Some of my old journals are so embarrassing that I seriously consider burning them.  Others are enlightening.  They bring to mind God’s faithfulness as I read about things I’ve forgotten.  I notice patterns of struggle (my difficulty with housekeeping has been an ongoing theme for 12 years).  I see growth.  My favorite is the one where I kept a detailed account of my relationship with my husband-to-be, from the day we met until we got married.

This week’s challenge: Journal daily for 7 days. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.  Use an old notebook if you wish, or journal on the computer.  Jot down what happened that day.  Or what you are thinking and feeling.  Or write a prayer.

Here is a great post by Michael Hyatt about the benefits of a daily journal.

Bonus challenge: Help your children journal each day too.

I love this article at Frugal Girl about how she does just that.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to have your children’s lives documented in their own words and handwriting?

Do you find it challenging to journal?  If you already journal, how does it benefit you?

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Each month I am looking at one of 5 positive disciplines mentioned by Michael Hyatt in this podcast to re-order our family lives so we can use the internet for good and avoid its destructive impact.  The discipline for the month of September is Reflection.

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

*********

Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

WIP Wednesday

Women Living Well Wednesday

Works for Me Wednesday

Encourage One Another


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Mentor Monday: My Friend Gina

Never underestimate the power of friendship in the life of someone else!

At age 17 I had just been through the one of the most painful and difficult times of my life as my family had left a legalistic, spiritually abusive religious organization.

Not only that, but I was at an awkward stage, without any direction for my future.  I didn’t have a job (long story), wasn’t going to college at that point (another long story), and was basically at loose ends.  I was depressed.  Life felt meaningless.  I had no confidence that I could do anything.

That’s when I met Gina.

We started attending the tiny church in our equally tiny East Texas community.  Gina was our pastor’s wife.  A few years older than me, she was pregnant and on bed rest with her fourth baby.  I jumped at the opportunity to give her a hand.

Like my friend Natasia, Gina mentored me just by being who she was: a faithful follower of Jesus, a loving wife and mom, and a kind friend.

She reached out to me and believed in me.  I remember her suggestion that I apply to substitute teach at the local public school.  It was beyond my comprehension that anyone would think I was capable of doing such a job.  That one small comment boosted my confidence a thousand fold.

I noticed how she interacted with her children—loving them, caring for them teaching them.

One small statement she made changed the way I viewed children altogether.  She mentioned in passing that her goal was to help her children become independent.  I came from a narrow subculture where the goal was actually to keep children dependent on their parents as long as possible (strange as that may sound), and it was revolutionary to me that independence was a worthy goal.

We became good friends.

The best part is that after Gina and her husband moved away, they introduced my husband and me.  If our friendship wasn’t set in stone before, it certainly was then!

She also recommended the Bible study Search for Significance to me, which completely turned my life upside down in the best way, and helped me grow from fearful and insecure to strong and confident in my identity in Christ.

And after coming from a religious background that eschewed makeup, she gave me my first Mary Kay samples and showed me how to apply it.  (I owe her!)

She’s still one of my very dearest friends.  I go to her with questions about everything from teaching my kids to read to how to talk to my children about sensitive subjects.

Not only that, but four of her nine children are the same ages as four of mine—and they are close friends too.

What a joy to continue that legacy of friendship!

So you see, Gina didn’t necessarily set out to mentor me in any kind of rigid, planned fashion.

She was just my friend.  And because she was my friend, she changed my life.

Who has mentored you just through their friendship?  Who can you befriend today?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

Hear it, Use It


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How I’m Helping My Toddler Communicate

Recently my littlest has taken to shrieking.  It’s a piercing scream that can just about break glass.  And it goes on and on.

At first I corrected him.  “No, buddy, don’t scream.  Use your inside voice.”

He’s a year and a half.  He knew exactly what I was saying.  He grinned.  And the minute I walked away, he did it again.

Here is where I diverge from my old, failed way of parenting.  In the past I would “lather, rinse, repeat,” until BY GOLLY HE QUIT SCREAMING!  I had to win.

Now I’m a more thoughtful mom.

I wondered what could be causing this scream.  Is he doing it just because he can?

Nope.  I noticed that the scream comes after he has been in the oversized play yard his daddy built for him–for a while.

He can see everyone, he’s more or less in the middle of things, but he’s still confined.  And when you are less than 3 feet tall and a very active, social little person, any enclosure must feel isolating.

And he’s had the same toys in there for a long time.

He’s bored.  He’s tired of being alone.  And he just wants some company.

When I take him out, he stops screaming.  Or if I send a buddy to play with him.  That works too.  Or if I get him some new, fun toys or books.

My not-yet-very-verbal little guy has found a no-fail way to get my attention, and he’s using it.

Now it’s up to me to read his cues and recognize when he’s getting frustrated.  Or better yet, to not even let him get to that point.

He’s a sweet little boy.  He just doesn’t like being alone for too long.  Can you blame him?

He’s not trying to be willful; he’s trying to tell me something.

It’s up to me to help him learn a better way to say it.

How do you recognize your child’s needs?  How do you teach them to communicate appropriately?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

Fellowship Friday

Beholding Glory

Mommy Teaches


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The Gift of Stillness

When was the last time you were still?

We live in a culture that glorifies busyness.

Our minds and bodies were not designed for this.

But we take pride when we can say, “We’ve been busy”—and feel like slackers if we haven’t been.

Of course all moms are busy.

But there’s “regular busy” and an artificial busyness imposed on us from the outside—the busyness that involves tons of activities, driving, and excessive multitasking.

It’s hard on our children. 

We may not even realize it.  But how much time do your kids have for unstructured free play, rest, and just being?  This is the fertile ground where imagination and creativity grow.

Do your kids have dark circles under their eyes?  Are they tired all the time?  Do they beg you to just stay home?  Do they really want to be involved in all the activities they are in?

All of this leads to our Discipline of the Heart for September—Reflection.  For the most part, we’ve lost this ability in our culture.  We are always “on,” never still.

Why?  I’m not sure.  It’s more than the simple fact that we have a lot to do.  Maybe it’s the expectation of our culture.  We feel pressured to accomplish more, more, more.  And sometimes we try to stay busy just to drown out the cries of our hearts.  We don’t want to face the empty places.

This week’s challenge: Spend 15 minutes in stillness.  Not writing, eating, planning, worrying, or even necessarily praying.  Just be.

I know that’s a trick for moms.  This is the hardest challenge yet for me.

But during my quiet writing hour tomorrow, I’m going to spend 15 minutes of that time in stillness.

A bonus challenge:  Help your children spend some time in stillness too.

It may be just one minute.  Or five.  I have a child who has not been still from conception.  This can be a hard skill to learn.

But I believe it’s essential.

So quiet the house, light a candle, set a timer, and go!

Why is stillness so hard for us?  If you tried to be still for a little while, how did it feel?

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Each month I am looking at one of 5 positive disciplines mentioned by Michael Hyatt in this podcast to re-order our family lives so we can use the internet for good and avoid its destructive impact.  The discipline for the month of September is Reflection.

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

*********

Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

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Linking:

WIP Wednesday

Women Living Well Wednesday

Works for Me Wednesday

Encourage One Another


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Learn to Love Getting Older

As my birthday approaches in a few days, I remember that I love getting older—really.

I even have a “Naturally Gray” Pinterest board.

I think youth is overrated. 

Way overrated.

I don’t really like the person I was 10 or 15 years ago.

Not to say there’s not still plenty of room for growth now—there is.  I look back at the fearful, judgmental, immature, socially inept girl that was me and I thank God that he didn’t leave me stuck in that state.  My body might have been better but my soul was a mess.

My dream has always been to be a wise older woman.  Every year I grow a little closer to that goal.

What I didn’t count on is that growing wiser means regular attendance at the school of hard knocks.

Years ago when I set about to grow, I realized this truth: Growth means pain.

When you have a lot of dead wood that needs to be lopped off by pruner’s shears, just look forward to some pretty cutting circumstances.

That knowledge helped carry me through tough times though.  Even now when I’m going through difficulty I sometimes whisper to myself, “Growth means pain.”

There are a couple parenting-related things in particular that have been bitterly hard.  I begged God for years to remove them from my life.  They stayed.  I got mad.

(It’s OK, read Psalms, David got mad at God too.  He said something along the lines of “Just shoot me now!”  So raw, honest feelings are OK with God.  Really.)

I was pretty mad for a few years.

Then I realized something.

Those brutal, painful circumstances had forced me to grow in grace as a mom.

In fact, they revolutionized the way I mother. 

Not only that, but without that particular grueling situation, it’s unlikely that I would have grown in that area at all.  It took something dramatic to unseat me from my ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior.

The situation was hard, still is in a lot of ways.  It involved other people.  I’m not saying God caused the pain.  But he sure as heck used it.

Another year older, another year wiser.

God is slowly changing the circumstance that has been so hard, but mostly he is still changing me.

He’s making a new, improved version.

Seriously?  I wouldn’t trade all the youth in the world for that.

Why do you like or dislike growing older?  How have you  matured with age?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

*********

Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

*********

Linking:

On Your Heart

Soli Deo Gloria

Heart +Home Gathering

Titus 2sday


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Mentor Monday: My Friend Natasia

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of your influence, even in a short amount of time.

I only knew Natasia for a few months before we lost touch.

She was a young pastor’s wife at a local church we attended very briefly during an insanely difficult time in my early teens.

She was my mom’s friend, really.  I mean, I was there.  But I was a kid.

She was classy and beautiful, but that is not how she impacted me most.

She always spoke to me with interest and respect.

She didn’t treat me like I was little or silly.  She took a genuine interest in me.

She was even my pen-pal for a little while after we moved away.

She’ll never know what an impact she had on my life.

(Well, maybe she will.  I’ve gotten back in touch with her family through Facebook.  Have I mentioned that I LOVE Facebook?)

She was an example of faith and grace.  She loved her husband and her future children.  She had a great story about her commitment to wait for the guy God had for her.  During a time when it was easy to feel disillusioned with Christianity, I remembered her kindness, her love for Jesus, and her authentic life.  She inspired me to want to be like her.

Later, as a young pastor’s wife myself, I often remembered of the kind of pastor’s wife she was.  I knew she was the kind I wanted to be.

She mentored me just by being who she was.

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of your influence, even in a short amount of time.

 

Have you ever had someone who mentored you just by their example?  What about someone who influenced you through just a brief friendship or contact?  Share in the comments!

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

*********

Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall!

*********

Linking:

Better Mom Monday

Miscellany Monday

Hear it, Use It


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How to Convince Your Kids You are a Hypocrite

Years ago as a new mom, I embraced a child training philosophy that emphasized first-time obedience.

You might have heard it put this way: “Obey right away, all the way, with a happy heart.”

I believe obedience is important.

One place where I think this philosophy breaks down, though, is when we have higher expectations of our kids than we have of ourselves.  And not just a little higher.

Astronomically higher.

We want our kids to obey perfectly 100% of the time.  OK, 99.999%.  Some parenting gurus say that their very souls depend on it, and that if we don’t follow a certain model of discipline for every single infraction, we disobey God.

Yet Father God does not punish his kids instantly for every infraction—

Oh wait, we commit infractions?

We disobey?

Aren’t children supposed to obey “right away, all the way, with a happy heart?”

WHAT?  Christian moms don’t obey our Father God like this?

The thing is, we should.  And our kids should obey us.  But we don’t.  And they don’t.  Like our children, we are sinners who disobey our Father.

When we follow this philosophy, we operate with a huge double standard.  If we’re Christians, we expect more from our children in their relationship with us than we expect of ourselves in our relationship with God.  And when we mess up, we expect God to forgive us instead of dropping the hammer—but we can be so quick to mete out punishment to our kids for the smallest things.

Or maybe we do expect God to drop a hammer.  Maybe we believe that He is always ashamed of us or waiting to punish us.  Maybe we think that His love or favor depends on our performance, and that He withdraws when we mess up.  So it seems logical to do the same to our children.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus didn’t come to drop a hammer on you.  He came to offer forgiveness.

We do mess up, all of us.  We need someone to rescue us.  We deserve punishment.  I look at my sins and heck yeah, I think someone needs to knock some sense into me sometimes.

But the Jesus way is so much more gentle.  He just wants us to come to him and tell him how sorry we are, so that he can say, “I already paid for that.  I forgive you.”

Is that how we approach our children?  When they sin and mess up, do we drop the hammer?  Or do we understand their weakness and guide them toward truth?

I’m not saying that there should be no boundaries or consequences.  But what’s our heart toward them?  Retribution?  Anger?  Rigid expectations of perfection?

Are we surprised when they mess up?  Do we feel that we deserve better behavior from them?

Or do we get that we mess up too? 

Do our children know that we will quickly offer grace and forgiveness?

I don’t have this down pat.  Just as once upon a time I was too hard, maybe I am sometimes a little too lenient now.  Sometimes I fall back into old patterns.  I’m finding my way.

But I know this.  I don’t want to raise my kids with a double standard.  If I do, when they look at me they will see one thing: hypocrite.  That’s not what I want my kids to see, and I bet it’s not what you want yours to see either.

So how about it?  Instead of focusing on outward behavior, let’s guide our kids toward the great Heart-Changer, shall we?  Let’s give them grace!

How do you see God?  How does this influence the way you raise your children?

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Please feel free to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter!  I would be thrilled!

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Look for my eBook, Fearless Mothering, this fall.

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