Nobody Told Me It Would Be Lonely

community

I’ve been told a lot of things about having a teenager. I was warned about the hormone swings. I was told about the attitude. I was given great advice about choosing my battles.

But nobody told me it would be lonely.

Nobody told me that many of my mom friends would go back to work and with the schedules of teenagers who can’t drive that we would see each other once every three months even though we live down the street from each other. Nobody told me that being the mom of a teenager would be as isolating as being the mother of a newborn was.

Nobody told me it would be hard to find five minutes to do anything for myself. Nobody told me that in a time when I needed the support of other moms more than ever, that support would be harder to find.

Because this is the truth about having teenagers: They suck almost as much of your time as a newborn does (but at least they sleep through the night). And they take a whole lot more of your emotional energy than younger kids do.

At the same time, a lot of the mommy support system you had in the elementary years changes. There are no more playdates where the moms sit around and talk while the kids play. There are fewer school activities that require your presence where you can interact with other parents. There are simply fewer opportunities to surround yourself with other moms who are dealing with the same things you are.

And you can end up feeling all alone.

We all need support. We can’t do this motherhood thing on our own. We need other moms who are striving to raise Christ-following kids to share our struggles and our victories with. We need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a friend to laugh with. No matter what age our kids are, we need community with other moms.

As the ages and stages of our kids change, though, our community often changes. When that happens, it can be easy to step back and decide we don’t have the energy or the time to create a new community. It can be too easy to simply try to go it alone. And that doesn’t help us be good moms. When we go it alone, we’re relying on ourselves — on our own energy and wisdom. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough of either one to be a good mom for very long.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that even God knows we need community. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who fall and has no one to help them up.

I’ve been in a season where I’ve been trying go it alone. I’ve been trying to do this mom thing without a good support system in place. I don’t recommend it. It will leave you feeling burnt out and frustrated.

But what do you do when your community changes? You build new community. You reestablish relationships that have fallen to the side, and you look for new ones. I guarantee that there are plenty of women in the same stage of life as you who are feeling as isolated and frustrated as you are. Reach out to them. Form a group that meets regularly for the purpose of simply sharing your struggles and victories as a mom and praying over your children. Find another mom to walk with or go to coffee with regularly. Reach out a hand of friendship to someone else. You’ll be surprised at how many other moms are feeling the same way you are.

Create community around you because being a mom shouldn’t be lonely.

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Do Over Review and Giveaway

Do over1

I received an advance copy of Do Over from  Family Christian and an appreciation certificate in exchange for a fair and honest review of this book. The opinions contained in this review are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

I spend a lot of time in this space talking about my role as a mom. It’s what this blog was designed to be about. But I don’t spend much time talking about what it’s like to be a working mom. Some of you may not even know that I work part-time.

In the hours that I’m not driving kids to a hockey rink, school, a soccer field or any of the other myriad things we do, I’m working. I do freelance editing and writing, and I teach writing at a homeschool enrichment program. I love the flexibility of my job. I set my own hours. I can say no to the work I’m not interested in. It’s a job that lets me be available for my family when they need me.

But it took me awhile to find my way. When I decided I wanted to add some work to my schedule when my younger daughter went off to first grade, I struggled to know how to find the work I wanted. I never really defined the “career” I wanted to have. I simply stumbled into some freelance work. Even now, I often feel like I should have a better grasp of where I’m going and what I want the work part of my life to look like.

When Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review Jon Acuff’s new book Do Over, I wasn’t super interested. I wasn’t really sure that it applied to me or to you, my readers. I was, however, interested in reading it for two reasons: 1) I’d read his book Quitter and was impressed with his writing style and his information and 2) back when I was about 7 years old, Jon’s dad was a pastor at our church (I only vaguely remember Jon, and I’m sure he doesn’t remember me at all, but it’s always fascinating to see people you once knew become successful.)

As I was reading Do Over, though, I realized that working is a part of many moms’ realities. It’s part of what we do, and just like any part of our lives, we need to address it. We need to recognize that chasing our own dreams is important even as we help our kids chase theirs. And that’s why Do Over is a great read for any working mom who wants to change her career or chase her dreams. It’s even a great read if you’re not in a season of life where you can chase your dreams because someday you’ll be in a season where you can.

In Do Over, Jon Acuff breaks down what you need to change your career path. He tells you how to declare a do over and start from scratch. The book breaks your do over down into four investments that you need to strike out on a new road: relationships, skills, character and hustle. He explains these with a nifty little chart that places each item on a scale of negative to positive and voluntary to involuntary. His basic premise is that relationships + skills + character x hustle = your career savings account.

Do over 3

When you declare a do over, you draw on that career savings account to launch yourself in a new direction. Jon talks about how to identify the relationships in your life that can help you succeed — from acquaintances to close friends who will advocate for you. He shows you how to recognize the tangible and intangible skills you already have and the ones you need to acquire. He points out the character qualities you’ll need to successfully navigate a do over, and the hustle you’ll need to apply to get there.

Sounds like just another career self-help book, right? Wrong. With humor and intelligence, Jon gives you all the tools you need to call a do over on your career. He doesn’t just tell you what you should be doing, he orders you to get out the note cards and Sharpies and start doing it. He gives you a plan to follow and exercises to do to get you to where you want to be.

So, why is this such a great book for moms? When we become moms, we often give up on our own dreams. We pour all of our time and energy into our families. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are seasons when our families needs as much time and energy as we can give them. But there are those other seasons — the ones where our families don’t need all of our time and attention. And a season is coming (although it may seem a really long way off) where your little ones will be grown. When that season comes, it’s important that we’ve built up a career savings account, so that when it’s time to follow those dreams that God gave us, we’ll have the resources to do so.

If you’re a mom with a dream — even if that dream is currently dormant — pick up Jon Acuff’s book Do Over. It’s available on April 1, but you can preorder it at Family Christian today. Start building a career savings account because someday it will be your turn to chase your dreams — and you want to be ready.

You can own your very own copy of Do Over by entering to win a $25 appreciation certificate from Family Christian. Just enter below.

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Glimpses of the Future

future

My younger daughter was walking to the mailbox. She had on shorts, her hockey warm-up jacket and a St. Louis Blues hat with her hair in a pony tail. I looked at her and was overwhelmed by how much I love this young lady who is truly her own person.

My older daughter was sitting in the movie theater with two of her friends. Bright smile on her face, talking up a storm. I looked at her and almost didn’t recognize this almost-14-year-old girl who has come so very far from the awkward, shy 11-year-old she once was. And I was overwhelmed again by how much I truly adore the young lady she is becoming.

I had those two moments almost back to back last week as we simply enjoyed a week off for our spring break. I’ll be honest. There are moments in parenting these two girls that make me want to tear out my hair. There are moments when I think I am never going to get through to them. There are moments when I just want to walk away.

But then God gives me these 5-second glimpses of who my kids are. He gives me a split second to realize that they are truly amazing. He gives me just a glimpse of what they may look like in the future. And it gives me hope.

Because when you’re stuck in the middle of the mess that is motherhood, it can be easy to look at other people’s kids and wonder why your kids can’t be like those kids. Whether it’s the infant years, the toddler years, the elementary years or the teen years, it can be easy to wonder if you’re ever going to survive (or if your kids will survive).

But here’s the thing: God sees the whole picture. He sees who your child has the potential to become. He doesn’t just see the mess. He sees the beauty beyond the mess. He sees where this whole parenting thing is leading. And every now and then, He lets us glimpse it, too. It may just be a glance that lets you see that the strong-willed toddler kicking and screaming as you put him in the car seat will become a teenager who can stand up to peer pressure. It may be a short conversation that lets you see that the shy, unsure sixth-grader will become a kind and compassionate high schooler who draws people to her because of her gentle spirit.

When we’re in the mommy trenches, we don’t get to see the big picture. A lot of days, we can only see what’s right in front of us. We can only look straight ahead. But even in the midst of those battles, even in the middle of the very long days, keep an eye out for the glimpses of the future. Be looking for just those small glimmers of hope that what you’re doing is going to matter in the end. Because they are there. God gives them to us to encourage us and to remind us that He sees the future — even when we can’t.

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What Happens When Mom Has a Meltdown?

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I had a big meltdown the other day. There was nothing big that started it. Just one more expectation placed on me by my family that become one expectation too many. And it took me two full days to work my way out of my funk.

Because this life thing can be hard. It can be overwhelming. Nineteen years ago I got married and agreed to let another person be a huge part of my world. Thirteen years ago I had a baby and agreed to put someone else’s needs above my own. Eleven years ago, I had another baby and started learning that this mom thing is a whole lot more draining than I ever thought it could be.

As women we wear a ton of different hats — so many that some days we’re not sure who we really are under all those hats. I always have this picture in my mind of the book Caps for Sale where the guy has a stack of different caps that he wears on his head. Here’s a picture for those of you who have never read the book. See his stack of caps? I sometimes feel like they’re all on my head.
But back to my meltdown. Having a pre-teen and a teen in the house means we have an awful lot of hormones raging. It also means that my girls need an awful lot of attention. I honestly feel like I did when my girls were toddlers. By the end of the day, I simply fall into bed exhausted — only instead of being physically exhausted, I’m emotionally worn out.

The other day, my emotional cup was empty — bone dry like a desert. And my husband had the misfortune of needing one more thing from me. And I kind of lost it. Not the scream and yell kind of lose it, but the cry all day for no apparent reason kind of losing it with no really good explanation for what was wrong.

But in the middle of that complete meltdown, I was forced to really think about what the root issue was. You know what I discovered? The real root issue was that I’m tired. I’m tired in a way I haven’t been since my girls were babies and toddlers. And I’m not just physically and emotionally tired. I’m spiritually tired.

For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been writing blogs, leading Bible studies, and teaching children and youth. And all those things are good, but I can’t remember the last time I was part of a Bible study or women’s group that I didn’t have something to do with leading. I don’t remember the last time I went to an event that I didn’t have a leadership responsibility for. I don’t remember the last time I simply did something to fill up my spiritual cup.

Truthfully, my quiet time with God has become a rushed affair, stuck in somewhere in the day that I could grab 10 minutes. One more thing to check off the list. Oh, I’ve been speaking and writing and ministering to others, but I’ve really been doing it from my spiritual reserves, not an everyday filling up on God’s love and truth.

And when you do that, you eventually run dry. You eventually reach the point where the expectations everyone has for you are too much, where the stack of hats on your head starts to wobble and fall, where you don’t have any grace, love, joy or wisdom to offer anyone else.

So, we’re re-ordering the priorities around here. My husband and I are trying to make sure I have time every day to fill up my spiritual cup. Time to take care of me. We’re trying to create enough space between the practices and the homework and the needs of two teenage girls to make sure mom has enough time to fill herself up — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Because we can’t be the moms our kids need us to be unless we are first taking care of ourselves. If we try to do it, we will eventually end up melting down. We’ll end up at the end of the rope without a whole lot of strength left to hold on.

So, if your cup is empty, if you’re worn down and on the verge of a meltdown worthy of a two-year-old, take a minute to evaluate what the root cause is. It may be that you’re not taking the time to fill yourself up with Jesus so you can be everything that your family needs you to be. And if that’s the case, figure out what you need to do to make time with Jesus happen. Because that time will pay dividends that your whole family will appreciate.

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Here, Let Me

cane

A few Sundays ago, the crew and I tried a new eatery in town.

We laughed. We cried. We bonded.

Okay, okay, I exaggerate.

We really just gorged ourselves with ridiculously good burgers that only one person refused to eat. And that, my friends, is what we like to call an “eating out” win. So it is no surprise that when the hubs and our eldest headed out to catch an afternoon movie, I waved the most blissful wave.

Blissful until…ten…nine…eight….

AAACK!

Somewhere between the waving and the making sure my four-year-old didn’t fall out of the booth, I had forgotten something vitally important.

I.HAVE. A. CANE.

It’s just a little somethin’-somethin’ I have to use when out and about so I don’t fall flat on my face. Having had a little stroke and a pregnancy that set-back my rehab, it was and is my best friend. But it’s also ridiculously awkward.

So much so that I have a set routine when I’m out by myself (which apparently only includes places with carts.) It goes a little like this…

I get out of the van with the cane, go to the cart corral, put the cane in the cart and then hold onto the cart until I get to the van whereupon I put baby carrier in said cart, all the while hoping the other children do not run amuck.

(I know, I know. Bless. My. Cane.)

But if I’m going anywhere else, I have the husband who carries the baby except for this one time where it was blissful until…ten…nine…eight…

AAACK!

I swear my palms were sweating and I may have even been hyperventilating but was too distracted to care. Sophie was still falling out of the booth. Drew was emptying the salt shaker. And Maddie’s face was the-you-know-exactly-what-she’s-doing kind of red. And the door seemed like it was a lifetime away.

So I took a deep breath and began cleaning up the trash when a sweet employee said, “Oh, here, let me.” Then I lifted the carrier out of the high chair and struggled to get it back to its proper place when a kind lady said, “Oh, here, let me put that away for you.” And then there was the walk to the door…

Oh. My. Stars.

Tripping. Bumping. Falling.

Suffice it to say all eyes in the house were on the crazy lady with the cane until the manager opened the door and said, “Oh, here, let me get that.”

Mercifully, the van was right in front of the entrance. And shortly after the last buckle was buckled, I sank into my seat with a deep and measured breath of relief. It was then that something between a scream and a sob welled up in my throat because let’s be honest, being humbled and weak isn’t exactly the Hallmark moment that we’re sometimes sold.

It’s wickedly hard.

And yet I know there is not a mama in the world that hasn’t ended up in that same seat, with the same measured breath and the same in-between sob and scream. Sure, we don’t all have canes or infant carriers or handicapped parking stickers but we all have those moments where we feel utterly and completely inadequate. The times when we’re certain someone else would be way better navigating the toddler years, the school years, the tween years, the teen years, the college years…

But God started something the day that our babies were place in our arms. He started a work in their lives and ours. And He’s promised to finish it.

Even through the awkward. Even through the failures. Even through the in-between.

He’s picking us up, loving us through the hard and standing ready for the moments when He must bend close and say, “Here love, let me.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.
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It’s About the Big Picture

big picture

My younger daughter walked onto the stage for her choir concert on Monday night, and I didn’t recognize her. It wasn’t because she was wearing a costume or because she looked all that different. It was the distance.

We were sitting near the back of the auditorium, and from that distance, it was hard to recognize this young lady who was wearing her hair down and was dressed like all the other sixth grade singers. When I finally identified my child after a few seconds of looking, I was stunned at how grown-up she looked. It was as if she had morphed into an almost teen when I wasn’t looking.

This isn’t the first time this has happened — although it tends to happen to me more frequently with my older daughter who has changed dramatically in the past two years. But this time, it reminded me that in the middle of this motherhood thing, we sometimes have to take a step back to see the big picture.

When you’re in the middle of the homework wars or the potty-training nightmare days or the seemingly endless sibling fights, it can be really hard to see the good work you’re doing. It can be hard to identify the successes when so many days feel like failure. It can be difficult to see the big picture because all you can see is the mess right in front of you.

But if we take a step back, if we look at the long-term, if we view the big picture, we will find that our kids are growing and learning and becoming independent people. We will see the hand of God working in their lives. We will be reminded that these kids’ choices and growth aren’t dependent on us — they are dependent on God.

Too often, we take the burden of our kids’ faith, their academic standing, their sports successes, and their relationships on ourselves. We think that if our kids fail at something, then it’s a reflection on us, on our parenting, on our own worth.

That’s simply not the case. Our job as parents is not to make our kids successful at everything. Our job as parents is to point our children to God. Our job as parents is to teach them the things they need to know to be independent. Our job as parents it to love our kids unconditionally.

The choices they make? Those are up to them. We can guide. We can discipline. We can advise. But we can not make their choices for them.

So when you’re in the middle of a day where all you can see is the mess and the failure, take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. And remember who’s holding the paintbrush painting the masterpiece of your kids’ lives. Because a little perspective can make us all better parents.

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Women Are Scary Review and Giveaway

Women are Scary

I received a review copy of Women are Scary from Family Christian along with an appreciation certificate. The opinions expressed here, though, are entirely my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

Women are scary.

When I received a book with that title from Family Christian, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to find inside. Women are scary? How? Why?

What I found inside was truth I needed to hear about investing time and energy in relationships with other moms — because women are scary.

We like to think we’re friendly and welcoming — not scary at all. But is there anything more intimidating than being faced with a roomful of women that you don’t know?

We’ve all been in the position of being the “new girl” whether it’s new to the neighborhood, new to the church, new to the school or just new to the playgroup. And when you’re the new girl, it can be hard to make friends.

That’s why Melanie Dale’s new book Women are Scary: The totally awkward adventure of finding mom friends is such a great read. We can all relate to how difficult it can be to find friends, especially the kind of friends who are going to stick with you through the puking kids, the years of no make-up and the hair-raising teen years.

Melanie breaks down the hows and whys of mom relationships. With amusing stories from her own adventures in “mom dating,” she perfectly illustrates how hard it can be to make friends and why they are worth it. Melanie outlines how to take a friendship from first base to home plate (or fourth base in her not-quite-perfect baseball metaphor), and she helps you recognize and overcome the struggles along the way.

By the time you get done reading Women are Scary, you’ll feel like you’ve just had a cup of coffee with Melanie Dale. I read a lot of books, and this is the first book that has ever compelled me to send a message to the author. Her wit and sense of fun come through on every page. She’s also a Doctor Who fan, which makes her ultra-cool in my book. (If you’re a Doctor Who fan, pay close attention in Chapter 17.)

Melanie’s message boils down to this: We all need friends. We need friends with whom to walk this crazy road of motherhood. We need friends who will lift us up, pray for us, laugh with us and cry with us. We need friends who love us when we haven’t showered in three days. We need friends who will simply show up in the midst of a bad moment.

Melanie sums it all up like this: “We need momlationships because they help us to be brave. They give us strength to stick up for our kids when they’re drowning in school, to chase the dreams that glitter like diamonds nestled in our souls, to fight for truth and justice for the kid down the street or the kid across the world. They remind us that we’re not alone, and we’re doing a good life’s work.”

Melanie walks you through the bases of a mom friendship — from the awkward first meeting to the fourth-base friendships that create a safety net of love around us. She even covers how to deal with a mom friendship breakup. One of my favorite parts of the book, though, is when she focuses on how moms can be a force for change in the world.

If you’re struggling to round the bases of a mom friendship, this book is a must read. If you already have a good group of friends, this book is still a must read because the truth that’s found within its pages is so dead on that every mom can relate. While the book is clearly geared toward moms with younger children, I found a lot to appreciate and apply to my own life as the mom of a tween and a teen.

Women are scary 2

And, really, anyone who can get a Dalek from Doctor Who and the Death Star from Star Wars on the same page as some God-spoken truth deserves to have her book widely read.

Women are Scary goes on sale on March 24, but you can pre-order a copy here. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a $25 Family Christian appreciation certificate, which you can put toward your own copy of Women are Scary.

Don’t forget to check out Family Christian on Facebook.

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What Do You Do When You Fail as a Parent?

failure 2a

Yesterday I sent my younger daughter to school in tears, and I came home a shed a few of my own.

We had a really busy weekend — three hockey games (one at 6:45 a.m.), church and softball practice. By the end of the weekend everyone was tired and crabby. And Monday morning, my daughter realized she had forgotten to do some of her homework.

Let’s just cut to the chase and say the morning was awful. My daughter was in tears the whole time. I was frustrated that she had forgotten the homework. I didn’t have drinks to put in the kids’ lunches because I had forgotten them at the store. And my husband was tired and grumpy, too. Did I mention my older daughter needed to be at school half an hour early? Disaster doesn’t even begin to describe our morning.

When I got home from dropping the girls off at school, I sat in the chair and cried. It was the worst way to start the week. I felt like I had failed as a mom. My kid was dropping the ball left and right, and I felt like I had set her up to fail because of the way our schedules had worked out over the weekend. I didn’t enforce some of my own rules, and that coupled with her choices made for a disaster of a Monday morning for all of us.

But in those moments of frustration and tears, I realized something. We all fail at this parenting thing sometimes. There’s no instruction manual. There’s no shortcuts. There’s no one thing that works for every kid. We’re destined to fail at some point. And what do we do then?

Well, I recommend a good cry, but then it’s time to throw ourselves into the arms of grace. It’s time to look up and realize that despite all of our failures, God is creating something beautiful in our kids. Though we may say the wrong thing, make the wrong choice or simply have a bad day, God is preparing our kids to do amazing things for Him. And He isn’t going to let our failures get in the way.

God uses the hurts, the frustrations and the failures to make us better parents and our kids better kids. If we choose not to wallow in our failures, if we choose to get back into the parenting fray day after day after day, then God can use us to grow our kids. He can use us to be examples of how great His grace and mercy are. He can use us to be His hands and feet for our kids.

And he does that in the middle of our worst days. He does that in the depths of our failures. He does that even when we aren’t looking for Him. He does that because He is grace and joy and love and mercy. He does that because He loves us and He loves our kids.

So, if you’ve failed at this parenting thing today, take heart in knowing that God is big enough to clean up your failures, and He loves you enough to forgive them.

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Let’s Talk about Sex

purity

Our church is having a purity event tonight for the student ministry. Neither of my girls is going for a variety of reasons, but the event itself has led to some fruitful conversations with my older daughter.

My 13-year-old daughter isn’t even really thinking about sex. She’s just now learning how to be friends with guys. Anything beyond that isn’t something she thinks a lot about at this point.

But this event has given us a lot of opportunities to talk not just about sex but about purity. It’s given me a chance to really evaluate how I want to approach those topics with both my daughters.

We’re a couple of years past the birds and the bees talk with both girls. They know that we think waiting for marriage is the best plan because it’s God’s plan. But that doesn’t mean we stop talking with them about sex and purity.

And here’s what I’ve discovered this week as I’ve been talking with my older daughter. I don’t want to put sexual purity up on a pedestal. I don’t want it to be a rule that shouldn’t be broken. I want my daughters to choose to wait for marriage because they have a relationship with Jesus. I want them to choose sexual purity because they love Jesus and want to follow His plan because they know it’s the best one for them.

I also don’t want to discuss sexual purity in a vacuum because I think for a long time Christians have put sexual purity on a pedestal. It’s a prize to be obtained, not a lifestyle choice made out of love for Jesus. We put a huge emphasis on sexual purity but don’t place the same emphasis on purity of speech, thought and action.

Do you know how many times the word sex is mentioned in the Bible? 77. Do you know how many times the Bible talks about our tongues? 133.

When we place a huge emphasis on sexual purity all by itself, we lead our kids to believe that it’s more important than our words or our thoughts or our actions. When exactly the opposite is true. If we help our kids focus on leading a pure life in words, thoughts, and actions, then sexual purity simply becomes a part of that lifestyle. It’s not something they have to aspire to. It’s simply an outgrowth of the life they’re already living.

Sex is an open conversation in our house. We discuss it just like we discuss any other topic. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s serious. But the door is never closed on that conversation. Just like the door is never closed on talking about words, thoughts and actions.

When we’re talking with our kids about sex, about waiting for marriage, about leading a life that’s pleasing to God, let’s remember not to do it in a vacuum. Let’s remember that leading a pure life in the eyes of God is about more than just waiting for marriage to have sex. It’s about pleasing words, taking every thought captive and treating others like we would want to be treated. Because God wants us to live a pure life in all areas, not just in the bedroom.

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamante at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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The Truth about the Proverbs 31 Woman

Proverbs 31

For a long time after I became a mom I tried to live up to this vision I had in my head of being the perfect wife and mom. You know, the mom that had it all together — perfectly dressed kids, dinner on the table every night, clean clothes always in the drawers and children who picked up after themselves.

My real life looks nothing like that. The reality is if it’s not written on the calendar, it doesn’t happen — and even then I’ve been known to miss an appointment or two. The floor might get mopped once every two weeks and the bathrooms cleaned about that often as well. My kids’ rooms often look like a war zone and more often than not you’ll find a hockey bag and a soccer ball in my living room where a coffee table should be.

For much of this journey of motherhood, I felt guilty about the reality of life. I felt like I wasn’t living up to the image of the Proverbs 31 woman — you know that girl in the Bible who is pretty much perfect. She works, she sews, she cooks, she cleans, she’s a great mom — and she’s pretty stinkin’ annoying.

But here’s the truth of the Proverbs 31 woman. All she’s doing is taking care of her family. That’s all she’s called to do. All those things she does, I do them, too. I may not be making bread by hand, but I have something she didn’t — a grocery store. I may not be weaving my own cloth, but my kids are clothed when they walk out the door. I may not be purchasing land and selling it, but I am working to provide for my family.

The picture we’ve been fed of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she’s this paragon of a wife and mother. She’s what we should all strive to be. But what too many of us have seen is something that has left us striving to be something God never intended for us to be. Are the attributes of the Proverbs 31 woman something we should strive to attain? Absolutely. Does that mean we all need to be the Stepford wives to do so? Absolutely not.

God calls us to as moms to care for our families. He calls us to offer wisdom, comfort and joy to our kids. He doesn’t call us to live by a checklist. He doesn’t call us to look like anyone else.

Our primary job as moms is to raise children who are seeking after God, making wise choices and becoming productive members of society. If we’re fulfilling that calling, then it doesn’t matter if you’re making your own bread, weaving your own cloth or cleaning your house every Tuesday. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom or a work-outside-the-home mom. It doesn’t matter if you breastfeed or bottlefeed. It simply doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing what you’re called to do.

So, let’s stop comparing ourselves to the perfect image of the Proverbs 31 woman and instead try to do what she did — follow our calling to take care of our families. Because the Proverbs 31 woman isn’t a description of a checklist we have to make it through to be a good wife and mom. She’s a representation of a woman following her calling to care for her family. And that’s what we should be striving to do, too.

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