Embracing Your Season

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The sun is shining, and it’s warm here today. We’re probably still in for some more cold weather, but it’s clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren’t so little any more. They’re growing up fast, and I’m trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn’t been a lot of time to write. There hasn’t been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They’re only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that’s hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I’m in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We’re juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband’s parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that’s what I’ll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, spring also has it’s great moments — the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He’s calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When Mom Isn’t Enough

Healing

“I didn’t get invited to the birthday party.”

“My friends were mean to me at lunch today.”

“Everyone else has a date to the dance.”

Any one of those statements is designed to break a mom’s heart. And over the 14 years I’ve been raising two girls, I’ve heard each of those and many more.

Every time it happens, I look at whichever child is uttering those words and wonder. I wonder why others can’t see what I see. I wonder why they can’t see that my quiet, loving, sensitive child is a force to have on your side with her strong sense of loyalty and wicked sense of humor. I wonder why they can’t see that while my quirky, exuberant, brilliant child may not fit any mold that’s ever been cast, her different way of thinking brings so much to the table.

When your child gets left out or hurt by others, it’s hard to help them. It’s hard to convince them that they are beautiful, smart, funny and worthy of friendship and love. Because you’re their mom. You have to say those things, and they know it.

There are no magic words that can heal the hurt. There’s no amount of ice cream or brownies that will make the sting go entirely away.

All we can do is be there when they cry, pick them up when they fall, and love them through it all. Because growing up is tough. They’re going to get left out. They’re going to get hurt. And we’re not enough to heal the hurt.

But God is.

God is the ultimate healer. He heals the broken-hearted. We know that we can’t fix all of our kids’ problems or heal all their hurts. And our kids know it, too. That’s why we have to point them in the direction of the One who can heal them. While we’re loving our kids through the disappointments and the hurts that life brings, we have to point them toward their loving Father who is ever so much more powerful than us at bringing healing.

Because as much as I love my girls, God loves them more. He delights in binding up their wounds. He hears their heartbreak. He collects their tears in a bottle. Because He loves them. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them.

So, when disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.

10 Things I Wish My Kids Knew

wish2In our house, we’re in the midst of the tough pre-teen and teen years. The easy days are few and far between. If it’s not one child having a crisis, it’s the other. Hormone-induced tears are a part of nearly every day. Some days I’m my girls’ best friend, and others, I’m the worst mom in the world.

Being a mom in this season is tough. You never really know which kid is going to walk through your door after school — the happy, care-free one or the moody, the world is ending one. There are days when I really would like to throw up my hands and just walk away.

But these two girls? They are the living extension of my heart. They are precious and amazing. They are mine. And there is so much they don’t know about what goes through my heart and mind as I parent them through these turbulent years. Here’s what I wish I they knew:

  1. I really don’t like disciplining you. I only do it because I want you to learn to make wise decisions. I want you to know how to exercise self-control and think about the feelings of other people.
  2. When you’re curled up in my arms sobbing your eyes out because of something someone else did or said, look up. There are tears in my eyes, too. Because I remember what it was like to be your age. Even though you think I don’t understand, I really do. I was your age once, and mean kids have existed since the beginning of time.
  3. When someone treats you badly, I’m going to tell you that you need to forgive them and move on. But even as I’m saying those words, I’m fighting my own battle to do the same.
  4. I don’t just make up rules to make your life miserable. I make rules to keep you safe and to teach you boundaries.
  5. I’ve never done this parenting thing before. I’m going to make mistakes. Please know that I’m doing my best.
  6. I am always praying for you because even though I mess up sometimes, God never does.
  7. I am trying to give you the space you need to become the person God wants you to be, but it’s hard. In my mind’s eye, you’re still my little girl.
  8. I am always on your side — even when it seems like I’m not. I always want what’s best for you. I always want you to succeed. I always want you to be happy. Sometimes, though, those things only come through tough lessons.
  9. Letting you fail at something is one of the hardest things for me to do. But I know that if I always step in, you will never learn the lessons that failure can teach you. Just know that when you fail, my heart hurts as much as yours does.
  10. I will always love you. No matter how much you screw up or how much you push me away, I will always love you. I will always be there to pick you up. When the days are long and the crisis hits, I will always be a safe haven for you.

 

Not So Picture Perfect

 

Pictures Once upon a time I loathed being the girl in the photograph.

I hid behind so and so. I offered to take the picture. Or I’d excuse myself to the restroom to the point I’m sure everyone in my family thought I had a bladder problem.

This at a time when I was the size of a toothpick, had not one wrinkle or gray hair and nothing sagged. (Mamas, you know what I am talking ABOUT…MMMMHMMM.)

Fast forward to today…

Where I am the proud owner of wrinkles and gray hair and flab (especially the kind that jiggles when you wave your arms.)  And the sagging? Oh friends…

Forget. About. It.

On top of the obvious differences between 28 and 38 and four children later, I also have a body that’s been through the physical ringer in the last few months.

Bruises in random places. Feet that turn blue and look like they have been borrowed from a 90-year-old man with frostbite. A face that is preciously puffy from steroids. Hair that’s thin on the top and looks like a small animal took up residence on the bottom. And lest we not forget the not-so-fashionable roots that only exist because I am NOT spending money on highlights that are going to fall out.

(Bless your little heart, Dave Ramsey.)

In other words, 2015 will never be called, “The year Sara looked like a supermodel.”

But you know what?

This mama has been in a RIDICULOUS amount of pictures.

Because the one thing I’ve learned in surviving a stroke, losing a dad and fighting through life-threatening health complications is this, my sweet, sweet, mama friends:

Pictures of us aren’t for us.  They are for the littles, the tweens, the college kids and even the grown-ups that are someday left behind.  And I promise you, they don’t care if you are a size 2 or 22, if you’ve had a bad hair day or even if your face is the size of a small planet.

All that they want is you in the picture.

You may find it hard to let go of your insecurity.  You may give yourself a pep talk every now and again (I know I do.)  You may even have to remind yourself that it’s not about you.

But as you enter the season of pumpkin patches and field trips and Christmas bedhead mornings, remember this:  You are just as beautiful as you were ten years ago.  And really?

You are probably even more so.

Because nothing is more beautiful than a broken vessel used to do great things. For the more we break, the more beautiful we become. And the more beautiful we become, the less we notice our broken bodies and the more we pay attention to the hearts they house.

So go on, mamas, take that picture or two or twenty.

Take it for your loves. Take it for the one who has to fight to stay in it. Take it for the one who knows it might be her last.

Just. Take. It.

And even as the camera flashes, know that real beauty comes from a heart filled with Jesus-sized love and the rest is all just dust.

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.

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Don’t Let Fear Rule Your Parenting — The Rest of the Story

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A little over a week ago, I wrote this post about not letting fear rule your parenting. The next day, I got a phone call from my 14-year-old daughter in Ecuador saying her throat felt like it did when she had an abscess in it.

If you want to know fear, send your child to a foreign country and have her call you and tell you she’s sick and needs medical treatment. She got to spend part of her day in an Ecuadorian hospital and ended up on the first flight home, cutting her trip short.

After writing that blog post about not letting fear rule your parenting, I was confronted with a situation that made me wonder whether that was the right tactic to take. If I’d just kept my daughter home, she would have been here when she got sick again. I wouldn’t have spent 24 hours wondering if she was going to be OK. I would have had her right here where I could check on her. All of those thoughts went through this mom’s very worried mind last Tuesday morning.

But do you know what one of my daughter’s first questions was? She asked me if she could go back to Ecuador next summer. Despite not feeling good and being scared and sick in an Ecuadorian hospital, she couldn’t wait to go back. The experiences she had, the friends she made and the joy she found while in Ecuador for a week ministering to others far outweighed the crumminess of getting sick and having to come home early.

I know that God wanted my daughter on that mission trip. He’s given her a huge heart full of love and compassion along with a fearless spirit that revels in new experiences. He wanted her to have a taste of what that looks like on the mission field.

But Satan did not. There’s nothing Satan wants more than for us to hide behind our fear to keep us from doing what God asks of us. Satan would have loved for fear to have kept me from putting my daughter on that plane. He would love for fear to keep me from letting her go again.

But even though this experience was gut-wrenching for me as a mom, even though her trip didn’t end like anyone had planned, God still triumphed because we didn’t let fear hold us back. My daughter should be good as new soon (she’s having her tonsils taken out on Aug. 31), and she’s already started working to earn money to go back to Ecuador next year. She had an amazing experience in Ecuador that will change her life forever. She has the best opening line of a “What I did this summer” essay that I’ve ever heard (I started my summer in an American hospital and ended it in an Ecuadorian one). And I was stretched as a mom to let go of my fear and trust God with this child of my heart more than I ever have before.

I was reminded once again of something I learned when my kids were very young. They are not mine. They are God’s. I just get to be in charge of them for a little while. My biggest job as a mom is not to get in the way of what God wants to do in their lives. And when I do take steps to allow God to work, I have to be ready for Satan to attack because he doesn’t want me or my kids growing in our faith and confidence in God. He wants fear and worry to hold us back.

Won’t you join with me in not allowing Satan to have that kind of power over us and our kids? As our kids head back to school, let’s be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them — even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

The Measure of Success

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I turn 41 today. And to be honest, I’m having a really hard time with this birthday. I didn’t have any trouble at all with turning 40 last year. I’ve always had the opinion that age is just a number. But this year, I think I’ve let the world’s definition of success creep in and derail my ability to be content.

To be honest, I feel old. I have a daughter who started driving last week and who is going to high school in the fall. I’ve been thinking about what my 20-year-old self thought life would look like at this age, and the reality is very different than the ideal. I have a great life. I have two fabulous kids. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends who are there in the good times and the bad ones. I have the important stuff.

But today, I’ve gotten caught in the trap of looking around and comparing myself to what the world considers a success. I don’t have tons of money. This little blog doesn’t get millions of hits a day. I haven’t written a New York Times best seller. I’m a mom. I write a little blog. I teach writing to homeschoolers. I clean house, make meals, run the Fairchild taxi service and offer homework help. And sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough.

When I look around and see other blogs that are bigger, when I see other moms who have high-powered jobs, when I find myself wondering what it would be like to have the time and energy to pursue those big writing dreams, I wonder if my reality is enough. I wonder if this really is what God planned for me or if I missed the turn I was supposed to take back when I was 30 or 35.

As I ponder all of this with not a few tears in my eyes, God reminds me of something important. It’s not the big stuff that matters. Maybe I’ll still write that New York Time best seller. Just not right now. Maybe someday this little blog will get millions of hits a day. Just not right now.

Because right now, success is measured in putting one foot in front of the other on this path — the one I’m walking right now. The one that has a child on either side. Because yesterday, I took four teenagers to Starbucks and we studied what it means to thrive and not just survive. We talked about God’s plans and dreams for their lives. And that hour in Starbucks mattered. It solidified friendships. It dropped some Truth into their lives. It let them know they are loved by adults other than their parents. And that mattered.

Today, I’m writing this blog post that won’t get a million hits, but it just might be read by another mom struggling with the same emotions. And that will matter.

This fall, I will teach writing to a bunch of kids with a dose of love and Jesus on the side. And that will matter.

Tonight, I will pray with my kids and kiss them goodnight, and that will matter.

Because God doesn’t call all of us to do the big things. We’re not all going to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or New York Times best-selling authors. But our actions, the things we do every day, matter. They matter to the lives we touch. They matter to God who asks us to do them. They matter in ways that getting a million hits on the Internet does not.

So, if like me, you’re struggling to see the significance in what you do because the world is busy telling you that success is measured in dollars and fame, remember that God sees you. He sees the smallest things you do. And those things matter. Because success is not measured in dollars and fame. It is measured in lives touched as you walk the path God has laid out for you.

When Parenting Just Stinks

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Sometimes, being the parent just stinks. Watching your kids walk through difficult circumstances, watching their hearts break, watching their dreams shatter — none of that is fun.

My mom once told me that something I was going through hurt her more than it hurt me. I didn’t believe her then. But after doing this parenting thing for almost 14 years, I do believe that when our kids hurt, our momma hearts break as well. When we watch our kids work hard and chase their goals only to fall short, I think we may shed as many tears as they do. We may do it behind closed doors where they can’t see, but our hearts are breaking, too.

But then we wipe those tears away, open that closed door and pick up the pieces of our shattered kids. We remind them it’s not the end of the world. We let them mourn what they lost. Then we point them in the direction of the future.

But it is so hard, and it is so not fun. These are the parenting moments I hate the most — the ones where I have to find the silver lining when for the most part all I see is the clouds, too. But we do it — because we’re the moms, and that’s what our kids need.

I know that many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned in the hard stuff, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to convince both my kids and myself that the hard times are what make us stronger, teach us the most and force us to rely most heavily on God. I wish these teachable moments weren’t so very hard.

I want so much to protect my kids from hurt and disappointment, but that isn’t how the world works. Tough stuff happens. Things out of our kids’ control cause problems that they can’t fix. They make mistakes that have consequences.

And they learn. Oh, how they learn. They learn the world isn’t fair. They learn that despite working hard you don’t always achieve your goals. They learn that sometimes you fall down and the climb out of the pit you fell into is higher and steeper and harder than you ever thought it would be. They learn that there are people in this world who may never be able to appreciate them for who they are and that they may never get along with.

While I know my kids need to learn these lessons, the learning process is, oh, so hard. So excuse me while I shut my door, shed a few tears and have a long talk with God. Because on this long road of parenting when my momma heart breaks, there’s only one place to go to have that broken heart healed. The only way to get through these tough moments is to trust that God has it all under control. He loves my kids more than I ever could, and He knows exactly what they need. He even has enough strength and wisdom to get me through the tough mom moments.

It doesn’t change the fact that sometimes this parenting thing just stinks, but it does help to know that we’re not alone on the journey.

Everyday Truth: The Book

3d coverI’ve often been asked when I was going to write another book. The truth is I already had one written. That book you see at the top has been sitting on the back burner, just waiting its turn to be published.

I’m not really sure why it took me so long to put it out there. Publishing these days is pretty easy, especially if you publish it yourself. I think the biggest reason was the one that holds so many of us back from our dreams: fear. What if I put it out there and no one wanted to read it? What if no one but my mom likes it? What if it’s a huge failure?

But here’s the thing. God has called me to be a writer. He’s given me the talent and the drive to go after this. He’s led hundreds of people to this blog every day, and a couple thousand to the Everyday Truth Facebook page (which you should go check out if you haven’t already). So, who am I to balk at the next step He’s asked me to take?

2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” If I let fear keep me from taking the steps God is asking me to take, if I let a timid spirit hold me back, then I’m letting fear control my life instead of my love for God. And that’s no way to live.

So, here it is, the next step on the Everyday Truth journey — Everyday Truth the book. It’s a hybrid Bible study/parenting book, and it’s packed full of scripture and practical things you can do to take the everyday stuff in your life and turn it into teachable moments to turn your kids’ hearts and minds toward God. It’s probably most useful for those of you with preschool and elementary-age kids, but you parents of teens will probably find some useful tidbits as well.

If you want a sample, you can check out the first chapter here. I love this book. It’s my baby. It’s the parenting book I wished existed when my girls were younger. It not only teaches you what the Bible says, it gives you step-by-step help to put it into practice. My goal for this book is that those who read it will be blessed and finish it feeling encouraged and empowered that they can teach their kids about God.

So, here it is. My book. Right now it’s available in paperback, but the Kindle edition is coming soon. I hope you like it. I hope that even if you don’t read it that you are encouraged to not let fear hold you back from taking the next step that God is calling you to. But if you want to buy it and read it, click the link below.

Buy Everyday Truth now

Nobody Told Me It Would Be Lonely

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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.

Glimpses of the Future

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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.