Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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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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Has Mothering Burned You Out?

Today’s Mentor Monday is not by a mom, but a dad: Jeff VanVonderen, who is also a seasoned pastor, counselor, and writer.  Jeff’s writings have been essential in my growth, particularly as I came out of legalistic religious organizations and belief systems.

“[T]oo often…the work we do as Christian spouses and parents is not the right job at all. 

We focus on “unspiritual” or wrong behavior, then we set out to apply pressure, control behavior, and do everything in our power to change our spouse or children. 

As I have seen with numerous couples and families, this is the primary cause of exhaustion, depression, and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all.  When people spend their lives trying to transform their spouse and their kids, the natural results is tiredness and discouragement and the desire to quit…

The first step is easy—if we will do it: We must learn the simple difference between God’s job and ours. 

God knows you have done the best you could, using the tools you’ve had.  But God may be…saying to you, “I can see that you’ve worked really hard to help me and to please me.  But—I don’t quite know how to tell you this—you have been burning yourself out doing a job I never meant for you to do…”

I am talking about learning how to be continually empowered by God’s grace, and therefore able to empower your spouse and children to learn and to grow.  And to do that, we have to make the frightening step of giving up our fear of people and our drive to conform outwardly to what other Christians expect of us, or seem to.

God’s job is to fix and change.  Our job is to depend, serve, and equip.  This is the work of grace.  And it is more restful than you can imagine.”

~Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen

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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 Mondays


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How Many Children Should We Have? Part 2

{Read Part 1 here.}

Here’s the thing.

Biblically, I know that we live in a broken world.

I believe that in a perfect world, every person would be able to fully care for as many children as they could biologically produce.

In a perfect world there would be no pain or sickness, no conditions that require intense times of special care (of children or parents), unlimited energy, time, emotional resources, finances, mental resources, food, and help.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.  Sin and Satan have conspired to break everything good.

In light of the fact that God does not condemn birth control, and that we live in a broken world where sometimes people are too sick or exhausted or poor to care for another child, I still don’t believe it’s an easy decision.

To me, it’s choosing the better of two bad options, the only options given us on this sin-shattered planet.

One is to disallow the life of another human being in order to steward the resources God has provided us for those children He’s already given.

The other is to have more children, realizing that it may be difficult to adequately care for them (financially, emotionally, or in some other way).

Yet I have to know that God sees our hearts, and that we can be blameless if our hearts are right before Him.  Do we seek Him?  Do we have His heart toward children?  Do we view them as a blessing or a curse (both those we have and those we might conceive)?  Do we have children, or not, according to His directive?  Are we willing to do whatever He asks us to do, whether it’s to have more children or not?

These are questions and thoughts I struggle with.  I wish there were an easy answer, a solution at the snap of our fingers.  But there’s not.  It comes back to our relationship with the Author of life.

And seeking God brings peace.  Following Him brings peace.  Obedience brings peace.

In peace, we can rest.

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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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How Many Children Should We Have? Part 1

I don’t have a Mentor Monday post today.  Instead, I’m going to share about a topic I have wrestled with for many years, and the fruit of those years of study, thought, and prayer.

“Should we have another baby?” 

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of conversations with other women about family size.  It’s a decision that is supposed to be easy to make in our culture, but usually it’s not.  When my friends share their hearts about this topic, I so appreciate their transparency and boy can I identify.

I grew up in a large family and loved it.  I have always wanted a large family.  And now I have one.  No regrets.

I know some Christians don’t struggle with the idea of family size at all.  They view it as a decision for them to make, they make it, and they don’t think twice about it.

Then there are those on the other end of the spectrum, like the Duggar family, who don’t believe in limiting family size at all.

I believe the Biblical view falls somewhere in the middle.

I believe what God says when He tells us that children are an unqualified blessing.

Any child conceived is an eternal soul, made in the image of God.  I think we forget this sometimes in our cavalier attitude toward not having them.

I don’t believe that it’s ever a mistake to have another child.  Children are not a mistake.  They are precious to God and should be to us also.

I realize that, according to Jeremiah, God knows our children BEFORE they are conceived.  I have always had a great fear (respectful fear, not terror) of not having a child God has planned for me.

Our desire should be to have God’s heart toward children—He views them as a blessing, a reward, a gift, He loves them and He calls children to come to Him.

The Bible doesn’t address the issue of birth control at all.  And yes, it existed in Bible times, albeit not in the sophisticated forms we have today.  Scriptures used by “quiverfull” advocates are twisted and pulled out of context, proof-texts turned around to support their view.  God does not forbid limiting family size.

I respect the decision of any couple to have as many children as they desire, including the decision to forego all ways to limit or space children.  I believe that if God leads a family in this way, He will also provide for them sufficiently.

I believe that if a couple chooses to limit their family size, they should choose a way of doing so that does not threaten the life of a child they might inadvertently conceive.  Some common methods of birth control are potentially abortifacent.

I know that a lot of people claim that they can’t afford more children when in reality they don’t want to do without luxuries.

I have talked to many, many older people who wish they had had more children.

I have never talked to a parent of many who regrets any of the children they have.

I believe that most people pray more about whether to get married, change jobs, move, or buy a new puppy than about whether to conceive another child, another eternal soul made in God’s image.

But there’s a caveat.

{Read Part 2 here}

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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 to Better Mom Monday

A Pause on the Path

Deep Roots at Home

New Life Steward

*For those who have linkies in which I participated this morning…I am having difficulty linking back.  Please be patient, I do want to link to you!*


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How to Reach Your Child’s Heart Part 2 (Parenting Lessons from Inc Magazine)

I’m looking at parallel thoughts inspired by Inc Magazines article 10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic People.  Find part 1 here.

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Remember that your kids are valuable because they are made in the image of God, not because of their performance.

In our families, we can become so consumed with good grades, proper behavior, or how our kids reflect on us, that we can fail to love and accept our children just as they are.  They are far more important than straight A’s or making the football team.  Do they know this?

Praise.

Do we praise our children when they do right?  Do we share their success with others?  I don’t mean we should brag obnoxiously, but our children should know we are proud of them.

Use positive words.

Do our kids hear us complain about what it’s like to be a mom?  Do we constantly talk about the sleepless nights and discipline troubles?  Or do they hear us talk with joy about what we do?  Yes, it can be hard.  But it is also one of the most amazing and rewarding jobs in the world.  Do we talk this way around our children?

Don’t be critical.

Don’t have a critical spirit toward other people.  If your children hear you constantly criticizing others, they will lose trust in you as they realize that it’s just a matter of time before that criticism is turned on them.

Be quick to make things right.

Tell your kids when you mess up.  They already know.  Seek their forgiveness.  Nothing is more attractive than humility.

When it comes right down to it, becoming “charismatic” in the context of our families this is simply following the golden rule: treating our children the way we want to be treated.

How are you treating your kids today?

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How to Win Your Child’s Heart Part 1 (Parenting Lessons from Inc Magazine)

Our kids want to feel valued and accepted.

They want to know they are some of the most important people in our lives.

Do we always communicate this in a way they understand?

Inc Magazine recently published a great article called 10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic People, which basically outlined how to make others feel valued.

Charismatic people are just people who make others feel significant, special, wanted, loved.  That’s attractive.  Some people might use these principles selfishly (faking an interest in others so they’ll be liked or gain a business edge), but as moms, we can genuinely employ this universal wisdom to help our children feel loved, and in turn to open their hearts to us as we become attractive to them.

I thought about these 10 principles and realized that there are similar ones that apply to parenting. Here’s what I came up with.

Listen, don’t lecture.

Having a conversation with a kid takes a lot of time.  It is so tempting to cut them off and just give advice, but this won’t win them over.  I find that when my girls are upset, sometimes I have to hold them, let them cry, and listen to their hearts for about half an hour before they actually find the words to express the real problem.  I would miss that if I jumped right into into fix-it mode or advice mode.

Don’t just hear what you want to hear.

Moms, we need to truly listen to our children and seek to relate to them.  Don’t brush off their thoughts and feelings even if they seem silly to you.  Remember what it was like when you were a kid?  Share that!  Let your children know that you “get” them!

Give them your full attention.

Turn off the computer, put away your phone, stop scanning while you half-listen.  Look them in the eye and focus on them.

Serve selflessly even if you don’t feel rewarded or appreciated.

Mothering can feel like a thankless task sometimes.  I confess, I have been guilty at times of saying something like, “I went to all the effort of (repainting your room, cooking your favorite food, throwing you a party)—and this is the thanks I get?”  I know, not my finest mom moments.  But true sacrificial mothering doesn’t look for something in return.  It just serves like Jesus.

Don’t lord your position over your children.

“Because I’m the mom, that’s why!”  Who hasn’t said that—or at least thought it?  We mamas shouldn’t lord our authority over our children.  There was a time in my life when I thought good mothering was strict and adversarial.  That authoritarian attitude drove a huge wedge in my relationship with my children.  When I started exercising my parental authority in a gentle, sacrificial way, I saw my children’s hearts open to me.

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Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

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Everyone Welcome Here

When I was younger, I was part of a few exclusive Christian groups.  The kind who feel righteous because we were not like those sinners–to quote the holier-than-thou Pharisees in the Bible, the ones Jesus had harshest words for.

Oh, we would never have verbalized this or even let ourselves acknowledge it in our own heads, but it was still very much there.

I’m so ashamed of my part in that now.  I’m a wrong-doer, a sinner, just like anyone else.  I know some people don’t like the word sinner and I’m OK with that.  Personally, an honest look at my own condition reveals a lot of brokenness, much of it self-inflicted by my own wrong choices.  Sin.  And as a Christian, I believe that the world’s sins, the ones Jesus came to die for, include mine as much as the next girl’s.  I needed a helping hand to rescue me from myself, and Jesus gave me that.  How can I look down on others with the idea that I am somehow better?  I can’t.  When I truly understood God’s gracious love toward me, there was no way anymore that I could hold myself above others.

Not only that, but this knowledge precludes me from treating others unkindly, or thinking about them unkindly, no matter how they live or what they believe.  I’m on the journey too.  My journey led me to Jesus.  And yeah, I believe that there are things Jesus calls sin.  Self-righteousness for example, along with gossip and gluttony and arguing.  The Bible says that you can’t have grace without truth and vice versa.  So if we are in a conversation we might disagree about topics like sin, or what constitutes sin.  That’s OK.  I can handle it.  I just hope that when I join those conversations, I’m gracious about it.  That I don’t feel better than anyone else.

My faith is who I am, and it’s going to come out when I write and when I talk.  I just hope that if you disagree or aren’t a Christian, or if you’re an atheist or a pagan or if you don’t even know what you are, that you will feel welcome and loved here all the same.

I realized recently that in an effort to improve my blog, I’ve fallen into the trap of copying the voices of others to fit in.   I’ve fallen back into what’s easy and comfortable and natural to this native speaker, the language of the Christian ghetto.

I’m all for encouraging other Christian moms—I want to do that—but there are a lot of great ladies out there doing that too, and the last thing I want this space to be is a happy-clappy mommy blog that feels like part of some exclusive club.  A place where it’s Us Four and No More and if you aren’t like me I’m going to wave a sign and carry on about how you are the problem with America.

I’m not going to write for an increase in page views.  I’ll work hard to improve my craft, but my goal isn’t stats, it’s people.

We’re all a sisterhood of moms on a journey that’s rocky at times.  We can all learn from smart women who have gone before us.  We all want to know how to better love our kids, how to protect them, what to feed them, what to do when they melt down in the grocery store, how to educate them, and how to meet their emotional and spiritual needs.  We want to know how to care for ourselves as moms, and what can heal the hurt and empty places that we all have in our hearts.  And as I learn myself, those are the things that I want to share with you.  Me?  I think a lot of that will have to do with Jesus.  But even if you aren’t a Christian, I hope you’ll find something to take away.

So thanks for reading.

You aren’t alone.

No matter where you are on your journey, I care about you.

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How to Tame the Internet Dragon

I was raised kind of Amish.

Well, not really.  My family liked electricity and our rotary phone.

But my parents thought the Amish were the bomb dot com, and decided to live counter-culturally and pattern our lives after the Plain People as much as they could.

The results were a mixed bag.  You can imagine how awkward this was when we tried to interact with normal people.

But the positive side is that we kids learned some good skills and habits, like a great work ethic and the disciplines of silence and solitude.

As for technology, we didn’t know how to reboot a computer, much less how to get online.  On one hand, again, this was a major handicap when we joined the modern world.  On the other, we knew—and still do—that we didn’t need the internet to be happy.

Several years ago I saw a blog challenge to unplug for 24 hours.  This gave the person issuing the challenge a lot of anxiety.  She was asking herself, “Can I really do this?”  A lot of her readers echoed her anxiety.

At the time, I just laughed.  Seriously?  We had gotten to the point that living for 24 hours without the internet was almost unthinkable?

While I still think my unconventional upbringing gave me an edge in my ability to disengage from technology, it’s much smaller than it used to be.  The more I’m online, the more I want to be, and the more restless I am when the internet is not available.

I also see how the internet sucks in my kids.  Even though we have some strict limits on what and how much they are allowed to access online, it feels like fighting a three-headed dragon with a dagger.

So what’s going on?

This week, Michael Hyatt hosted a podcast calledWhat the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (And What We Can Do About It).”  In the podcast, he summarized a Newsweek article called, Tweets, Texts, E-mail and Posts: Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?”  Turns out, the internet is doing a lot of damage, especially to our kids.  Michael then shared his thoughts and ideas for how to harness the positive power of the internet, while guarding against its negative impact.

Michael outlined five disciplines that can help us avoid the crazy-making of the internet: rest, reflection, reading, recreation, and relationships.

At first glance, this might seem like a common sense list, but do we actually make room for them in our lives?

I’m not against technology.  In fact, growing up without it gave me an incredible appreciation for the opportunities of the internet.  But along with Michael and the authors of the Newsweek article, I fear that it’s horning in on our lives so pervasively that it’s causing us and our families a lot of harm.

Anyone who lives in the modern world is impacted by the addictive power of the internet.

How is it affecting you as a mom?  How is it affecting your marriage?  Your children?

Go listen to the podcast.  It gave me a fresh determination to keep the internet in its place and to, as Jeff Goins says, “live a life worth writing.”  What good is all this information if it doesn’t stem from something real?

On Wednesdays from August through December, I am going to focus on one of Michael’s five disciplines on my blog (and in my life).   Each week, I will issue a simple challenge related to the current discipline as it relates to family and mothering.

First up: Rest.

Come back on August 1 for the first challenge.

Let’s tame this monster and take back control!  The sanity of our families is at stake!

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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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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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