Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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How to Tell Your Brain It’s Time for Sleep

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 August is Rest.

So how did it go this week?  Did you get to bed earlier?  Do you feel more rested?

Some nights were better than others for me, but I found that making a plan to go to bed earlier made me more intentional about hitting the hay at a decent time.

Here’s this week’s challenge:

Turn off any glowing screens after 7 PM.

The blue light from computers, TV’s, and phones tells our brains that it’s time to be awake.  This interferes with our sleep and makes us feel less rested.

I understand that sometimes we may have husbands who want to watch a movie later in the evening.  Don’t fight it.  If your guy prefers to decompress this way, that is fine.  But for yourself, try to put away the screens and choose a more soothing activity.  Just try it for one week and see if you feel a difference.

I think this is extra-important for our kids.

Older children are losing huge amounts of sleep because they stay up late texting.  They start checking their phones and texting before they are even out of bed in the morning.  This is exhausting!

Our children have to turn in all devices (phones, iPods, kindle) around 7PM.  We have a little lock box that we store them in if we think they will be tempted to retrieve them.

This might seem extreme, but consider removing TV’s from your children’s rooms.  YES, it will probably cause a huge fit, but they will get over it.  Make sure that you offer some kind of alternative—put on some soft music or an audiobook and let them read or draw for a little while before sleep.  Try it for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference in how they sleep.

I used to always check Facebook and my feed reader last thing at night before bed.  I have stopped doing this for the most part.  It will all be there in the morning.  I thought it would be a difficult habit to break, but as I have focused on changing the place these rituals have in my heart, it has actually been very easy.  For this weary mama, remembering how nice it is to feel rested helps me make better choices too.

Lastly, if you don’t do anything else, stop watching or reading the news right before bed.  The world is a negative, scary place.  The media makes it about 100 times more negative and scary.  They notify us (in sensational fashion) about every horrible thing that happens locally and around the world.  This does not make for peaceful sleep.  So stay informed, just not at bedtime.

Instead, read something peaceful.  I love the Bible book of Psalms (which are songs/prayers to God) and the Gospels—the stories of Jesus.

How are you most tempted to use screen time in the evening?  Will you try turning off your screens at night for just one week?

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Linking:

WIP Wednesday

Women Living Well Wednesday

Works for Me Wednesday


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Mama Self-Care: Our Surroundings

I have a special treat today!  I asked my sister Leah to guest post on the topic of caring for ourselves by taking care of our homes as the final post in this series.  Leah is the most dedicated and loving wife and mom I know.  I want to be her when I grow up!  Enjoy!  (And check out her blog here!)

Webster’s dictionary defines home as “a house, a close place, or a place of rest.” It goes on to say, “The primary sense is probably to enclose, to cover, or to make fast.” I love that! In my mind, I picture a medieval castle, a fortress against the stress and grime and ugliness of the world. This is something that, as moms, we create for our families, but before that, it is something that we create for ourselves. Our home is our domain, our castle, our safe place.

I don’t think that it’s going too far to say that creating a home is a way of feeding a woman’s soul. This is what we were designed to do. And so the way that we create or don’t create our “place of rest” can have a direct impact on our health and well being, our mental state and how we feel about ourselves. Speaking from experience, when my castle crumbles, the rest of my life quickly follows. I am by no means an expert in this area, but here are a few things that I am learning about being a home-maker.

It must be a priority. This means saying no to a lot of things. I heard someone say the other day that every time we say yes to an outside activity, we are saying no to our homes and families. Of course, this is a place that we must find balance—we must certainly never sequester ourselves away and refuse to engage the outside world—but I am learning that I must put first things first. At this particular time in my life, with four children under eight years old, that means that I don’t do a lot of lunches and shopping dates with friends. But at the end of the day, when the living room is not in chaos and we all have clean clothes to wear the next day, I am much more relaxed and peaceful than I would have been if I had spent the day at the mall while my home fell to pieces.

Clutter is your enemy. Seriously. Treat it like the deadliest snake you can imagine. It will never completely go away, it will be an ongoing battle, but don’t ever stop fighting! Maybe it doesn’t affect everyone the way that it does me, but as a minimalist, I find that when the house gets too full of stuff, I start to get depressed. I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in a place that is extremely cluttered, and by the end of the week I felt like a mental case. If this is an area that is a struggle for you, start small…create one clutter-free zone in your home. Maybe it’s a whole room, maybe it’s just one corner, maybe it’s just one area of your kitchen counter. Or the top of the refrigerator. Just have one place that you can look at when things feel overwhelming that is clean and simple. Then you can add another zone, and another.  Empty space is good. I actually feel peaceful when I have some blank walls and empty corners in my home.

In my house, I don’t allow toys in the master bedroom. Every morning, I make the bed and straighten the room, and throughout the day, when I need a place to breathe, this is where I go. Just two minutes in a peaceful space recharges me!

Home-making doesn’t have to cost money.  Your biggest tool, decluttering, is free. In fact, you can have a yard sale with all of that stuff that you cleared out and actually make money from it! But then beautify your home with what you have. Several years ago, I lived in a tiny farmhouse that was literally falling down around us. Money was somewhere between tight and non-existent. Some of my floors were just exposed plywood and I didn’t have two pennies to put into decorating. I spent several months feeling discouraged and overwhelmed and just “getting by” in the housekeeping department. Then one day I decided to pull myself out of the rut I had fallen into and look at what I did have rather than what I didn’t. First of all, I rearranged the furniture. Then I took a baby quilt that my mom made for one of my kids and hung it on the living room wall with thumbtacks. I had a pair of old, rustic shutters that I had gotten at a garage sale for fifty cents and I hung them on another wall. I picked some wildflowers and stuck them in a glass of water. Then I swept and dusted, and you know what? That shabby room sparkled to me! I went on to do the same thing in the master bedroom and the kitchen, and I ended up absolutely loving that little house. It may not have impressed anyone else, but it was my haven.

Fill your home with music and God’s Word. Hymns and praise music are free on www.pandora.com and they provide such an uplifting backdrop to the nitty-gritty of family life. Write scripture on index cards or scraps of paper and place it around the house where you read it often. I like to tape encouraging verses in my kitchen window to read while I wash dishes.

Don’t expect perfection. I tend to be a perfectionist, so this is something that I work on daily. People are more important than things!  Yes, I want my home to be a place of order that nourishes my soul, but if keeping it spotless keeps me tied in a permanent knot, then I have completely defeated the purpose of home-making. Having small children has forced me to relax about things like cobwebs, dust and crumbs on the floor.

Take time every day to enjoy your home. I often get so caught up in my to-do list—some days in just surviving—that I forget to enjoy what I am working so hard to create and maintain. I try to take a few minutes each day to sit down (preferably in a fairly uncluttered room) with a cup of coffee or a book or some knitting and just be, just enjoy my sanctuary.

Take advantage of online inspiration but do not fall into the comparison trap. Sites like pintrest and decorating blogs can be incredibly inspiring, but they can also cause discouragement and guilt that your home doesn’t measure up. I am learning to be very, very aware of this. I start to get depressed over the fact that I don’t have fabulous window coverings or that my boys don’t have a bunkbed that looks like a pirate ship or that I simply do not have the time to craft artsy little candle holders to put on the mantle…and that discontentment totally steals my joy. Which brings me to my final and most important point…

Cultivate a thankful heart. This, for me, is key.  Whether I have much or little, whether I live in a spacious three-bedroom or a micro-house, whether I can afford curtains and rugs or not…God has given me this home and it is my privilege and my joy to turn it into a soul-nourishing haven. When I start looking—really looking—at what I have with gratitude, it changes my attitude about everything. It gives me inspiration and energy to make my home what it is intended to be, which is a life-giving space.

Here is my home-making formula boiled down: Live simply. Cultivate beauty. Praise God.

Here are the other parts in the Mama Self-Care Series:

Part 1: Spiritual Self-Care

Part 2: Taking Care of Our Bodies

Part 3: Creatively Feeding our Souls

Part 4: Relationships

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I would love it if you would like me on Facebook!  (See clicky thingy on the right, yep, I am so on top of things today! :) )


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Mama Self Care: Relationships

The other day I was reading one of my favorite blogs by a wise and loving mom with a lot of kids.  But she was expressing sadness that she has no one near her age who is part of her life.

I kind of wanted to cry for her.  It is SO easy to get so bogged down, especially those of us with big families, that we fail to nurture friendships like we should.  Thing is, God has created us for friendship, relationship, community, connection—yes, even you, introvert!

We may not be able to have the intensive BFF friendships that we did when we were single women, but we must make time to squeeze friendships into our lives!  Here are a few ideas.

Text or email “How are you doing?” or “I have been thinking about you today.”  Even if you only have a second, let your friend know she is on your mind.

Throw some PBJ and cookies in a bag and meet a friend and her kids for a picnic at the park—even if it’s just an hour every now and then.

On your way to run errands, meet a friend at the local fast food place during the morning hours when it’s not busy.  Drink something yummy and let your kids play while you visit, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.

Get involved in a small group at your church.  Hopefully you already go to church anyway—it is so worth it to go a bit earlier or stay a bit later and build friendships with other Christians!

Kid swap.  Keep her kids so she can go shopping for the morning or have a lunch date with her husband.  Then trade and let her do the same for you.

Leave her a facebook comment or like.  I know Facebook is controversial and a lot of people feel that it sucks too much time away from mothering, but I find that it is a quick and easy way to stay connected to friends.  It can mean the world to a young mom when she gets a quick comment of encouragement or understanding.

Reach out to someone new.  Another great use for social media.  Touch base with another mom that you don’t know very well.  Extend a hand of friendship.  You never know what might come of it!  She may need a friend even more than you do.

Don’t forget your most important earthly friendship, your husband!  It is so easy when you are in the throes of motherhood to let your conversations devolve into, “Guess what, Junior used the potty today!”  Remember what it was like when you were dating and newly married and talked about everything.  What are you interested in besides kids?  What about him?  Make an effort to talk to him about those things.  Send him sweet texts during the day, make time for sex even when you don’t feel like it (yep I said it!), and do fun things with him.  Keep your relationship strong!  It’s one of the best things you can do for your husband, your kids, and yourself!

You may feel too swamped or even depressed to pursue a friendship.  Maybe you have been hurt by others before and you are afraid that will happen again. Honestly, though, just take baby steps–if you keep trying you won’t regret it.  The only important things in life are Jesus and people.  So stay connected to others!

This is part 5 of the Mama Self-Care series.  You can find other posts in the series here:

Part 1: Spiritual Self-Care

Part 2: Taking Care of Our Bodies

Part 3: Creatively Feeding our Souls

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I would be thrilled if you would like me on Facebook!


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Mama Self Care: Creatively Feeding our Souls

I find that so often mamas neglect the special gifts and passions God has given them, the things that make them uniquely THEM.   God has made us body, soul, and spirit, and He wants us to take care of all of those parts of ourselves.   These creative things sometimes seem so unimportant in light of the urgencies of daily life with little kids.  But I’ve noticed—when we don’t cultivate those special creative gifts He’s given us, we kind of wither inside.

That’s not to say that we should express creativity at the cost of our families, but there are ways to flourish in the small moments!

I believe as people made in the image of God, we are all creative in some area.  For me it is writing, making things, and maybe art?  (Something new I am exploring.)  For you, it might be cooking, event planning, decorating, organizing, serving others, or any number of other things.  Don’t get bogged down in what you can’t do.  Just do what you can.  Find simple expressions of your passions.  At risk of sounding like I have this all figured out, because I so do not!—here are a few ways I am incorporating soul-nourishing passions into daily life.

Write for just 15 minutes before the kids get up.  It’s not much.  One mom I read recently said, “I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block.”  Seriously, that is so true.  I hammer something out and it may or may not be good.  But at least I am writing!

Very, very simple craft projects.  I have a super simple brainless knitted dish cloth pattern that I have done while I school the kids or sit in a waiting room.  It would be nice to make a sweater or a pair of socks, but sister, that ain’t happening right now!  Sometimes I sew pillow covers.  Straight lines that take about 5 minutes.  That kind of thing.

A little art here and there.  I nature journal with the kids.  I stapled together a few pieces of paper for a mini sketch book and put it in my purse.  Experts say “Are you sketching every day?”  Well, no.  That would be nice.  Maybe one day.  But just because I am not sketching EVERY DAY, I am not going to let that discourage me from sketching AT ALL.  And every now and then, I just push aside the mess on the table and pull out my watercolors.  Now that is fun!

Maybe you take one photo a day, plan a simple tea for a friend, or paint one wall of one room. Maybe you just organize one drawer.

These are ways to slip a little creativity, a little passion, into our daily lives.  It may not be the perfect ideal we have in our heads, but those tiny moments can make such a difference in how we feel emotionally.

So: How are you going to incorporate a simple bit of creativity into your life today?


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Mama Self-Care: Our Bodies

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All the information out there about how to be healthy and attractive is just overwhelming.  Sometimes so overwhelming that we just don’t do anything because it’s all too much and we end up unshowered in holey lounge pants and a greasy ponytail.  We CAN take care of ourselves WITHOUT too much time or effort!

I want to divide this little post into a couple different sections.

First, the outside.  In my opinion, it gives moms a big lift to feel pretty.  It’s good for our kids to see us taking care of ourselves and our husbands appreciate it too!  This doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. 

Hygeine.  Shower daily, even if it’s a 2-minute shower.  It is OK if baby cries for just a few little minutes while you clean up, and this is coming from a mama who doesn’t let babies cry!  Since you are taking that 2 minute shower, keep a razor in there to give your legs a super-fast shave while you are at it!  Seriously, it takes seconds and if you do it every day you can get any spots you missed the next time around!

{Hannah from Cultivating Home has such great, practical mom style!}

Clothes. Jeans and a cute t-shirt are just as easy to put on as sweats.  It is so hot here, and I am not a shorts kind of girl, so I’ve been collecting some little skirts and dresses that are easy to throw on with ballet flats or sandals.  {Side note: Flats are especially nice when you don’t have time to keep your nails done!}  Target usually has inexpensive jersey a-line skirts that flatter just about everyone.  Cute and easy.  Some of us (coughmecough) have a few pounds of baby weight hanging around.  Don’t let this stop you from buying some cothes that FIT (I got most of my stuff from between 50 cents and $5 at the thrift store) and wearing cute stuff!

Makeup. You don’t have to choose between a full face OR no makeup.  Why not just a bit of concealer, a touch of eye makeup and some gloss?  It only takes a  couple minutes to really brighten up your face!

Accessories. I am a huge believer in cute dangly earrings!  Even on the busiest day, it only takes 2 seconds to add earrings.  There is something about earrings or other simple accessories that give off an “I care” vibe.  I’m no expert on accessorizing, but I have noticed that statement accessories, like big earrings or chunky bracelets pack a big punch without being fussy.

Hair. Can we get out of the pony tail rut (I suggest as I sit here in a pony tail)?  Jen has been doing a series on simple hair styles that go beyond the pony.  Some of them take hardly any time at all.  It’s nice to take time to do your hair all the way sometimes, and I try to do this a few times a week in the winter, but in the summer it’s just too hot.  I have enjoyed learning creative ways to branch out!

So in 10 minutes or less, we can get out of that frumpy rut that moms so easily fall into, and look cute for the whole day!  Trust me, I am a novice in the looking-nice department compared to most girls, so if I can make some effort, anyone can!

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Now let’s talk about health.  There is so much conflicting health advice out there, and it can all seem overwhelming!  We all know we should eat more whole foods, exercise, and drink water.  But this does not have to mean going to the gym and paying a gazillion bucks for perfect food (although that is good if you can do it).  Start with baby steps and you will be amazed at how quickly the small changes add up.  Play outside with your kids.  Put baby in the stroller and walk around the block.  Eat fruit, a hard boiled egg, or a handful of nuts for a snack instead of chips or cookies.  Measure out your water first thing in the morning and keep it in a pitcher on the counter or the fridge.  Go to bed a few minutes earlier.  Once those things come naturally, let yourself think about another small change to implement.  And that’s all I will say about that.  When we are just barely able to fall out of bed in the morning, there is no point in piling on the guilt if we can’t make the BEST choices today for our health.  Let’s focus on just making BETTER choices and one day we will probably find that we have worked up to the BEST!

So go for it, mama!  Pull out that cute, comfy skirt that you only wear on Sunday, throw on 5-minute makeup and some earrings, pour a tall glass of water, and have a great day!


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Mama Self-Care: Spiritual (No Condemnation!)

~Philip Hale~

Sorry for the spotty posting.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  I’m kicking off a season of more regular writing (hopefully!)  with something new.

I’ve heard it said that we moms need to take care of ourselves first or we won’t have any strength to take care of our families.  You know what, it’s true.  But how easy it is to give ourselves the leftovers when the urgencies of family life demand our attention!  I’m starting a little series on Mama Self-Care, easy ways to help us moms take care of us so that we are able to take care of those placed under our care.

The first and most important way we need to care for ourselves is spiritually.  If we aren’t filled spiritually, then all the other self-care we do won’t make that much difference.

~via pinterest~

But listen.  If those first sentences gave you a stab of condemnation or guilt, don’t let them.  We serve a God of grace and freedom who understands our weakness and is loving and gentle with us.  I love Isaiah 40:11 from the Bible: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

A friend told me not long ago about a women’s conference she attended where one of the speakers, a well-known Bible teacher, harshly judged young mothers who struggle to find time for “serious Bible study.”  There are many reasons that this rubbed me the wrong way, not the least of which are that this teacher had only two children (not dissing those of you with two, but the honest truth is that logistically things were much easier when I had two than when I have five), and that her young mom days have been over for about 40 years.  There is a season for everything and we should not let the drains of motherhood make us feel condemned if we cannot have the kind of quiet time or Bible study someone else—who has never walked in our shoes—says that we should.  God sees our hearts.  I know, I just commited Evangelical treason with those statements.  I am not saying that we should not spend time with God, but simply that we should find a way to configure it to the realities of this very intense time of life.

I do have a set time for prayer early in the morning.  I don’t want to set an alarm that will wake the babies, so I have asked God to wake me up on time and virtually every day, he does.  I pray while I lay in bed (if I can trust myself not to go back to sleep), while I feed the baby, or while I make my bed.  This is not my ideal, but it is better than nothing.  If you are offended, I am sorry.  I think Jesus would rather I talk to him during those times than skip it because the circumstances are not perfect.

The rest of my Jesus time requires more creativity, since my early risers are up shortly afterward.  I read the Bible on my iPod touch (yes, I am behind the times, I don’t have a smart phone) while I nurse the little one, put on the audio version of Psalms or the Gospels while I am in the kitchen, pray throughout the day.  I read Bible stories to the kids and pray with them.  We pray in the car before we pull out of the driveway.  I think about what I have read or heard as I wash dishes or fold laundry.

~Renoir~

There are lots of other creative ways to make our relationship with God a lifestyle, not just a time set apart from the rest of my day.  Leave a Bible open by the rocking chair or in the bathroom, listen to worship music and sing along, teach the kids old hymns, write scripture on a card and place it in the window sill, the mirror, or the dashboard of your car.  And I encourage you, don’t neglect church.  It is so easy to do when we are so very tired.  I have missed more church in the past months than I have in years.  When you have 5 kids, the odds of someone being sick or indisposed during the winter increase a lot.  But if it is possibly in my power, I go.  It might mean jeans and a ponytail, but I am always so happy that I made the effort, even if it was a struggle to get out the door.  Worshiping with other Christians is essential.

All this is to say: Make the effort to feed yourself spiritually, and don’t let perfectionism keep you from your relationship with Jesus.  Run to him!  He hears you when you are scrubbing potties just as well as when you are kneeling at an altar.  Maybe the bathroom is really what he had in mind when he talked about going to your “closet” to pray!  ;)

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