To the Mom Whose Hands Are Full

We are so close to returning to civilization, our hands totally free. They will no longer be filled with a tiny hand as you cross the street or with that squishy little body in the rocking chair; we won’t have to use them to spoon-feed a mouth or turn the pages of a book; we won’t use them to haul around a bag full of 18,000 essentials or to clean up twice as many messes.

keeping our kids separate, keeping them from experiencing God

When I Realized My Family Was My Idol

In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe!”

What My Two-Year-Old Taught Me About Asking for Help

“I don’t want you to help me! NO! NO! Don’t touch it!” she screamed as she aggressively jammed the “outie” part of the zipper against the “inny” part of the zipper over and over and over again to no avail.

“Charlee, we have to go. Let’s make a good choice. Would you rather get frustrated and cry or just ask Mommy for help?”

No response as she repeatedly attempted to “DO IT ALL BY MYSEE–EE–LLLL–FF!”

Five minutes later I gathered her limp body off of the living room floor, exhausted from the sobs and the tireless slamming of the jacket against the wall. She had clearly chosen to “get frustrated and cry” as opposed to the alternative, “ask for help.”

Sadly, she gets this from her mother.

I recalled a few months earlier when I had also had my very own “zipper moment.” I had been checking my watch every 38 seconds to see if Clark was off work yet only to realize he wouldn’t be home for 4 hours and 38, no, 37 minutes. Will we all still be alive by then? I could make no such promise. Hattie was 5-months-old and had recently arrived at her “I have acid reflux; WHY THE HECK CAN’T ANYONE FIGURE THIS OUT” stage and Charlee was 22-months-old and getting a head start on the Terrible Twos. And I was done. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually depleted.

Charlee was in her room throwing a fit about fruit snacks. I sat on the foot of the guest bed holding the littlest crying one, bouncing up and down like a rabbit on 5-Hour-Energy, trying breathlessly to control my aggression, hoping not to approach the threshold for Shaken Baby Syndrome. As I bounced, I remember audibly repeating, “Please. Stop. Crying. Please. Stop. Crying.” Maybe one out of the three of us would listen.

Then my phone rang. It was Clark.

“Hey Babe, I’m gonna be home late today.”

I couldn’t get a word out of my throat. I felt a huge knot form and before I could stop he could hear the sobs from the other end of the line. “O…. kay….”

“Has it been a bad day?”

Um. No. It’s been fan-freakin-tastic. Can you hear the two of them? They’re screaming because we’re all having so much fun playing Candy Land and creating educational crafts.

“Call your mom. Tell her to come over. She would love to help you.”

“O… kay…”

“No seriously. Call her. I’ll leave as soon as I can.”

“O… kay… Bye.”

Ten minutes later my phone rang. This time it was my mom.

“Hey, how ya doing? Clark called and said you might want some help. I’m on my way over right now.”

My husband knows me way too well. He knows my independent, youngest-child, I-CAN-DO-THIS-ALL-BY-MYSELF heart would never surrender and actually ask for help. Are you kidding me? I don’t need help. I am perfectly capable of handling this motherhood thing on my own, thank you very much. I got myself into this gig and I can get myself through it with my teeth gritted and my fists clenched. I’m a REALLY good mom, DANG IT, and REALLY good moms don’t need help.

But can I tell you how happy I was that he called her? I let out a breath. I could see light through the darkness and hear birds chirping amidst the heaving.

I’ve struggled with asking for help my whole life, but it took me 6 months with two children to finally bring to my attention that this was a real issue, not just a quirk or a personality trait. I knew my resistance had a lot more to do with pride than I cared to admit. God began to show me that asking for help isn’t a show of weakness but in fact the ultimate sign of strength and humility, the admission that I am not God and I was not created to do this alone.

It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to admit that today has sucked. Hard. It’s okay to need a second to come up for air every now and then. And it’s even okay to call your mom (or sister or neighbor or BFF) to rescue you… when you’re 29.

In Exodus 17, Moses has just brought the Israelites out of Egypt. But while traveling they are attacked by the Amalekites and forced into battle. Moses, in his old age, heads to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur while Joshua chooses the strongest men to go down to the battlefield.

Moses raises his staff as his men fight in an appeal to God for help and enablement. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Ex. 17:11). Moses is old and tired. An entire battle is a long time to keep your hands raised up in the air. Thankfully, he has help. Verse 12 says, “When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up — one on one side, one on the other — so that his hands remained steady till sunset.”

I also feel old and tired most days. I also feel like there is a battle raging under my roof most days. And I also, like Moses, can see a difference in the outcome of my battle when I hold up my hands in surrender, in an admission that I can’t do this on my own. Sadly, my arms get tired pretty quickly.

God knew they would. He didn’t create me or Moses or you to hold up our hands on our own. He never expected us to fight our battles in isolation.

But I am not Moses. And I lack the humility to admit that I need someone else to bring me a rock to sit on or someone to prop up my hands. So I just watch my army go down in flames because I am too prideful to admit that I need reinforcements.

I need encouragement.

I need validation.

I need coffee.

I need help.

I have plenty of Aarons and Hurs that are willing to prop up my hands and pull up a rock. And so do you. It’s just a matter of asking.

So are you more like Moses or Charlee? Will you accept the help and win the battle? Or would you rather lay on the floor in prideful determination, throw a fit and refuse to accept the perfectly capable help that stands inches away?

I have chosen to be a two-year-old much more often than I care to admit. Perhaps it’s time to listen to my own advice.

Jordan, would you rather let yourself get frustrated and cry or just ask for help?

FINE. It takes a village, right? Well, welcome to my village. Care to pull up a rock?

 

 

My Utopian Marriage

Clark and I, like most engaged couples with responsible parents, were encouraged to go to pre-marital counseling before our big day. I remember taking that test that diagnoses problem areas within the relationship — a way to pinpoint what needs to be discussed during each session. We had one problem area: that we had no problem areas.

Our counselor told us that we had something of a utopian complex, a “rose-colored glasses” syndrome. He feared we might naively skip into our marriage thinking it would be a lot easier than it actually would be. We assured him that we were prepared, that we knew this was going to be very hard, that just because we got along really well right now didn’t mean we always would. We weren’t unrealistic about the difficulty of marriage. We understood. Seriously. We were good.

But it ended up actually being perfect. We never had any problems.

Wait…. no.

“Stop. Just stop. Shut the H up. No you don’t.” Surely that would have been the appropriate thing for the counselor to say to us in that moment. Surely that’s what he wanted to say. Why didn’t he say that?

Because it wouldn’t have mattered. It is impossible to understand marriage before you are married. It is impossible to watch funny YouTube parodies on what couples fight about, to experience the ebbs and flow of your parents’ relationship, to walk through divorce with friends or family members, to see the tears of desperation from an unhappy spouse, and understand. Because no matter what, “We are different.” Or so you think.

I remember when we were dating, thinking, “Oh my gosh. We are SO similar. It’s crazy how alike we are.”

Then we got married, and I was like, “Um. He tricked me.”

Here’s the truth. When you get married, you are entering a battlefield. But you are up against an adversary much greater than your spouse.

Satan hates marriage. If he can destroy a healthy marriage, all the collateral damage is his to watch and smirk at. The effects of a failed marriage are much more far-reaching than just the spouses, or even the children. Its crumbled ruins tumble onto communities and schools and friends and faiths. From its ashes rise the lesser known Fruits of the Serpent: resentment, discontentment, anger, bitterness. It destroys faith in people, faith in marriage, faith in healthy relationships, and most importantly, faith in God.

This marriage deal sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? That’s the kicker. It totally is. All The Hard — the not-getting-your-own-way, the “intense discussions,” the crying, the pit in your stomach — it’s worth it. Because The Hard ends up being the heartbeat of your marriage. It’s the part that restores your faith in changed hearts and transformed people — and I’m not talking about my spouse, I’m talking about me. God turns The Hard into grace, compassion, patience, understanding. He turns “This is impossible” into “I am so thankful for him.”

So it’s hard. Don’t do it if you aren’t determined to make it work from the beginning. Because, did I mention it’s hard? But there are ways to help it function a little better. These are a few principles I wish I’d realized a long time ago.

You have to care more about your spouse (and your spouse’s needs) than you do about yourself (and your own needs). Deny yourself. Deny yourself. Deny yourself. This works really well when you both put this into practice.

Your spouse is not your enemy. So stick it to the real enemy by not giving up on your spouse.

If you keep complaining about what he/she is or is not doing, check yo self before you wreck yo self. Maybe you could change a few habits or do a few nice things first.

He wants respect. She wants to be taken care of. If there’s a vicious cycle of not offering respect because he won’t show affection (or vice versa) … find a way out. Quickly.

Prioritize. Your relationship with your spouse should be numero dos, only behind that with your heavenly father. Not your kids, not your parents, not your friends. Did I mention, not your kids? Your honey always, always comes first.

Pray like your marriage is ending, even before it is. Like, right now.

Marriage counseling is not a last-ditch effort. There is no marriage that is too healthy or too dysfunctional for a third-party. Best thing we ever did.

I hesitate to even post this because it might lead you to believe that I know a lot (or THINK I know a lot) about this topic. Trust me, I know I don’t. I’m still a rookie.

Obviously, we haven’t been married for 50 years, and we probably haven’t hit the biggest bumps in our road.  The only think I know is that the warfare against marriage is unrelenting. BUT, “…BUT thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58.

When You Doubt Yourself

You can do anything you set your mind to.

I hate that phrase.

What does that mean? It’s so generic. So broad. So cliché. It’s the exact opposite of inspiring, because every time I hear it, I think, “Really? ANYTHING? Let’s get real.”

Let’s revamp that phrase into something specific, something a little more practical, something that makes sense.

You are more capable than you realize.

… We can do better than that …

You can do things outside your realm of normal.

… Truth … but there’s more …

Don’t limit yourself to who you THINK you are or what you THINK you can do. MOREOVER, don’t limit yourself to what others believe you can do. (A) Because they probably don’t think what you think they think (follow me?) and (B) because they are who the enemy uses to keep you from being amazing.

Those doubts you have? They are, in fact, confirmation that your ambition could turn into something incredible. Satan hates incredible.

Several years ago, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance. He didn’t know me, just knew of me. He knew what I did, not who I was. However, he’d apparently already formed an opinion on me based on that. He was explaining to me that his brother was writing a book. At an attempt at lighthearted conversation I laughed and said, “When I was younger, I used to always write books. I bet I started ten books that I never finished,” to which he replied, “Oh yea? What did you write about? Shopping and cheerleaders?”

(secretly… okay obviously not so secretly… I hope he’s reading this)

The fact that I can remember this conversation after two pregnancies is proof that this struck a very deep nerve. I have never been so offended, so (excuse me but…) pissed off in my life. I am SO passive aggressive, but that’s the closest I’ve ever been to exclusively being aggressive. I hate to call him Satan, but it is what it is. Because I had always had this idea of what others thought about me — and in that moment, he spoke over me what the enemy had been whispering for years.

Somewhere in my life I started listening to voices, confirming my roles. “This is who you are. Know your role. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Others will know you’re a fake. Don’t try to drive outside your lane.” And at some point I’d turned God’s gifts into my own twisted list of faults. I had turned Academic into Not Smart Enough, Athletic into Butch, Low-Maintenance into Plain, Laid Back into Irresponsible and Lighthearted into Silly and Shallow.

I have lived in this identity my whole adult life. While I think I hid it well, I hated myself every time I locked my keys in my car, every time I forgot my homework, every time I misplaced the nipple shield (shout out to all you breastfeeders), every time I did something that would allow someone to say, “Typical.” Because what that translated to me was, “That is who you are. And you can never be more than who you are.”

Well. There is more to me than Athlete. Mom. Wife. Teacher. Goofball. Just because those are my expected roles, doesn’t mean they are my only roles. They don’t define me. I can live outside of them. I can be more than them. Because God made me more than just them.

And humility doesn’t mean I can’t be proud of that fact. I love this quote by C.S Lewis: “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” I’ve totally had that backwards. for. ev. er. I have coupled ambition and boldness and purposefulness with pride and arrogance and “taking yourself too seriously”ness. And I have mistaken humility for sheepishness and self-mockery. Confidence is not cockiness, it’s a commitment to God to take advantage of what he formed in you, an admission that what he created is pretty dadgum awesome, a determination to thank him by actually putting it to good use.

Here’s the bottom line. We can allow God to use us in ways outside of our normal, our realm of “okay.” We don’t have to just be who we’re expected to be. We only have one life, so we might as well squeeze the life out of this one that we have.