When You Simply Can’t

I distinctly remember feeling like I had no idea how I was going to make it through the day.

Numerous interruptions in my sleep over an extended period of time left me feeling irritable and frustrated. It’s not that I couldn’t sleep; it’s that my sweet babies needed me night and day and I. was. tired.

I know the desperate feeling of burnout.

It’s no fun to feel like you’re at the mercy of your emotions. Many of us have grown up in a culture where emotions were something to be suppressed with a quick, “Suck it up, buttercup. Pull up those bootstraps and get a move on! Let’s make it happen!”

But what happens when you simply can’t?

Is there space for rest and healing?

I opened up my social media pages the other day to a loud debate. One side was frustrated with the constant barrage of instagram images that encourage us to only focus on our feelings and listen to our hearts, the other side bristled at the thought of ignoring our emotions out of sheer duty. Both sides used Scripture to support their point of view. Each was convinced that the other side was missing something important.

It kinda got me thinking, I guess.

Genesis 1 teaches that God looked at all He created and saw that it was good. We are good creations made in God’s image, with great worth and value. Genesis 3 teaches that humans were completely changed by the Fall, when sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

Good creations who have become completely fallen with no hope of redeeming themselves, except through the absolutely free gift that came through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection made a way for us to be restored and returned to the One who made us in the first place.

When you put your faith in Christ, you are no longer under sin but under grace! And you have an eternal hope that cannot fade away.

So what does all this mean for us on those days when we feel like we’re worth absolutely nothing and can’t stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror?

We are loved. We know this, because the entire Bible is filled with truth after truth about the love of a Father for His children. We are made perfect in Christ. We know this, too, because we read more truth about how while we were still sinners, working against God, Christ died for us to bring forgiveness, redemption and new life. We experience God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ, and from that moment on we are changed and renewed, transformed into people who are forgiven and accepted into the family of God forever. We allow the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives, growing not only our relationship with God, but even with those around us.

And this is all wonderful objective truth that we hold onto, as we dig into His Word and discover more about who God is.

The problem is, we are forgetful.

We easily forget the truths many of us have been taught from birth. We forget because we live in a fallen world, and although we are redeemed, we still fight against sin.

We are bombarded by messages of putting ourselves first, all the while knowing that God deserves first place in our lives. We are encouraged to “put on our own oxygen masks” so we can better take care of our families. We hear that we can’t “pour from an empty cup”, so we look for ways to fill ourselves so we don’t feel depleted.

But what kind of oxygen are we breathing? What are we filling our cup with?

Maybe the conversation should be less about whether or not it’s godly to get some sleep, enjoy a cup of coffee and plan a girls night when we’re feeling low, and more about the basic truth about who we are in Christ. What we believe about that crucial bit of theology forms how we live our daily lives and learn to love God, ourselves and those He has placed in our circle of influence.

I am the mother of four small children. It has been no easy task making sacrifices day after day after day for the past eight years so I can care for my family in the way I understand God has called me to care for them. I have been through deep valleys, struggling at times to see my worth and value even in the middle of this very important job of raising tiny humans and loving my husband. I also work in a ministry position where I have the absolute privilege of speaking truth and hope into the lives of thousands of people every weekday on my radio show and to our social media followers. And I have days where I wonder if I am making a difference at all. I lead worship and am involved in my beautiful community of faith, full of people who know me and us and are journeying together through some of the most faith-forming years of my adult life. And still, I wonder at times, would anyone miss us if we had to move?

Let’s be honest. We all struggle to varying degrees with feelings of inadequacy and unimportance. And our constant movement toward self-care is an acknowledgement of our human limits as we attempt to stay afloat in circumstances that are at best, trying, and at worst, a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It is biblical to take time to rest and recuperate and reconnect with the One who created us with deep love and care in the first place.

It is called Sabbath.

And we forget to take it and enjoy it as the gift that it is.

We forget because we are human. We forget because this world is fallen. We forget because sin tempts us and lies to us and we cannot see clearly.

God is working in each one of us to draw us closer to Him every single day. We open the Word and we drink in His message of love and truth. We look at this beautiful world, and we see carefully crafted, picturesque places that thrill us completely. We see one another and we know His love and grace through relationship and connection.

It’s wise to take a break. And it’s wise to have regular habits in place so you don’t end up in survival mode in the first place! Please take that mental health day. Sleep. Exercise and eat healthy food. Talk with your doctor. Visit a counsellor. Walk your journey in the company of those who deeply love you! We need each other. We need rest and balance. We need enjoyment and refreshment! These are beautiful gifts from the Giver of Life!

But let’s not be deceived that a weekend away can sustain us. We need more. We need something real, something that will never fade away. Only Christ can reveal to us a God who does not abandon His beloved children! He is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do.

And as we continue on in our journey of learning what it means to be human, let’s not abandon truth for the sake of a feel-good cure to a deeper need. The only way to weather the ups and downs of self-worth and identity is to deeply root ourselves in the One who is never shaken – Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

tulips

Last year’s tulips

The Sweetest Hour

I wrote this a few years ago when my second daughter was not quite two and I was expecting our third child. Tired did not begin to describe where I was at! But I treasure these sweet memories.

***

My head hit the pillow last night at about 10:30, and my aching body gave way to glorious sleep.  I don’t remember a thing.

Until about 3am.

A tiny little voice was just enough to jolt me awake.

“MAMA!  W’AR YOU?!”

Little one. Awake.  Again.  Thanks to some new teeth breaking through and a penchant for middle-of-the-night chatter, she stood at my door in her little striped purple footie jammies.

“Mama?  Cuddles?  Couch?”

I scooped her up in her white crocheted blanket, gave her Snoopy and Raffi (her stuffed giraffe), and held her on my lap.  She talked about the stars that were projected onto the ceiling from one of those ladybug lights.

I closed my eyes, and felt a little hand on my face.

“No, Mama.  No close eyes.  Open eyes.  Count the STARS!”

Oh my goodness, I thought she would wake her snoring big sister for sure.  (They’ve been sharing a room for a month and  a half.  We’re still working out the kinks.)

Nope.  The oldest sawed logs while the younger one chatted about how the pink stars are up there, and could she touch them or taste them, but no they’re not food.

“Stars not food Mama!”  she laughed.

“No, stars are not food.  Shh… go to sleep…” I tried.

Her blanket was freshly washed and dried with vanilla scented dryer sheet.

She smelled like a warm vanilla cookie.  What a delicious moment.

3am gave way to 4am, and I decided it was time to put her back in her bed.  I only had to bring her back about three or four times before she stayed until nearly 7am (what a miracle!).

Her big sister was up just before 6am, looking for a Berenstain Bears book to read.

The day officially began.  Even though it kind of already began at 3am, with an inquisitive “Mama, w’ar you?”

Although sleep-deprived today, I really wouldn’t have missed that hour for the world.

feet

Tiny toes

The Time Machine: Strong-Willed Much?

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

This morning I’m sharing more thoughts on this Sunday’s Advent theme of Peace. My life is still every bit as crazy as it was when I first wrote it, since we’ve added a baby to the mix this year. Four kids almost seven and under is BUSY and finding a moment of peace can be tough, so I find myself praying this prayer again this season.

***

I’ve heard that strong-willed parents create strong willed children.

Oh my.  I must be very strong-willed.  Haha!

But seriously, though.  This week we’ve been spending time thinking about the next theme of Advent.

Peace.

What in the world is that when you’re butting heads with an almost 5 year old over a scooter, helping an almost 3 year old sort through her very big emotions about sandwiches, and keeping an almost 1 year old from biting her sisters while she pulls every book off the bottom shelves?

Whew.  I am feeling weary today, friends.  I understand that the care and raising of tiny humans makes up only a short season in a person’s life.  I have it on good authority (from friends who have been here) that these years are formative and important, and that the way I am spending this time is going to make a difference in the future.  I know that one day I will look back on these ridiculous moments and remember them with complete fondness and not even a hint of frustration.  I may even laugh about them!  (hmm.  Not quite there yet.)

But most of all, I believe that parenting is actually simply running to Jesus every single step of the way – in the amazing moments and the not-so-amazing moments.  (An awesome thing I read in a book called “Hoodwinked” by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk!)

The funny thing is, every day is filled with both.   Isn’t that some sweet kindness from the Lord?

Jesus, be my peace in the middle of this chaos.

Be my hope when despair sneaks in.

Be my joy when sorrow knocks on my heart’s door.

And be my love when I feel spent.

nestled in the tree

Nestled in a tree

The Time Machine – This Doesn’t Look How I Thought it Would

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

Today I’m sharing something from just last year, something that I’m still learning moment by moment. 

***

The little clay sheep was unrecognizable. But for once in my life I was happy to leave it alone, instead of “fixing it”.

We had this brilliant idea of making our own Nativity set this year out of air-dry clay. And by “we” I mean me. My oldest asked if we could bring out the clay and make something together. But what? Christmas is coming so I suggested we make Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus. That, of course, evolved into the whole cast of characters.

First, we made the stable out of an old cereal box and brown construction paper and the girls drew and cut out the Star of Bethlehem. We’ll glue that to the top later on.

Out came the clay. She worked on Mary as her younger sister squished Baby Jesus flat. I helped her make him more like a little swaddled baby and she used a green toothpick to carve out his eyes, nose and mouth. Then we worked on the manger and Joseph. I watched as she took that toothpick and again carefully shaped his features.

At one point, the oldest paused to survey her Mary. “This doesn’t look how I thought it would.”

Sometimes the kids have these one-liners that pretty much sum things up in general, you know? haha! But I digress.

“It’s okay,” I assured her. “Sculpting takes practice.”

“We need sheep!” she cried. She formed a sheep out of several balls of clay, and her sister squished and poked her lump of clay into something that did not resemble a sheep at all.  But there it was. Done for the day. We’ll add the shepherds, angel and wisemen later.

When I suggested we make our own Nativity set, I had a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t be getting perfect figurines fired in our old-fashioned kiln, hand-painted with the greatest detail and then placed in a fine cedar stable with fresh straw from the neighbour’s farm.

Nope. More like little clay blobs, one with arms outstretched, standing in an old Cheerios box, awaiting a coat of cheap poster paint.

I don’t know why I see such beauty in the plainness of life, but when I looked at that “craft” on our piano later that night, I was amazed. My daughter’s Mary has her arms outstretched, as if she’s worshiping. Surprisingly, it really touched my heart.

To a bystander, it probably all looks ready for the heap. When I tried to move Joseph his arm fell off – so we’ll have to figure that out. But you know, when I look at these figures, I see something infinitely more valuable than an answer to that internal question “have you done something with the kids today?”.

Of course I see all the important things – spending time together, enjoying their creativity, celebrating THE best time of the year, teaching a true story about Jesus.

But I also see evidence of God’s amazing power to free someone from the prison of perfectionism.

Since becoming a mom, God has been whittling away at my perfectionist tendencies and my desperate need for control of all the things. These little clay blobs mean more to me than a thousand perfect Nativity sets. They stand for the gradual transformation from a tough to tender heart.

MY well-controlled life has become OUR beautiful, messy life.

MY orderly home has become OUR lived-in home.

MY perfect Christmas has become OUR wonderfully imperfect Christmas.

What freedom I’m finding in this brand new place!

nativity set 2016

The Time Machine: The Girl and the Old Woman

The Time Machine series features posts from years past.

Today I’m sharing a short story I wrote in November 2015, the year our third daughter turned one. It was a tremendously busy year, and I was struggling with feeling guilty for not being able to do everything all the time. After I wrote it, I printed it and put it on my fridge as a reminder to myself that it’s okay to be busy with the very important work of raising kids. My dishes can wait (for a little while, anyway!).

***

story

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She was beautiful and ambitious with a courageous heart and a feisty spirit.  She grew up in a world where everyone told her, “you can do it all!”.  So she tried.  And she found that she really could do it all!

Then one day she met a handsome prince and fell in love.  They got married.  She continued to do it all, and she did it quite well.  Everyone praised her for how she took care of everything.  She beamed with pride.

After a while the girl and her prince decided they wanted to add to their family, and soon she was with child.  How wonderful!  She loved the idea of having children.  She loved preparing the nursery.  She loved imagining what their life would be like with such a joy.

And what a beautiful baby she was.

As the girl held her own tiny daughter close, she began to realize that she now only had one arm to do it all.  So she tried doing it all with her one free arm.  But something happened.  She began to drop things.

She was stunned.  She had never dropped things before.  She had always been able to handle it all with ease.  But something had changed.  Her heart began to ache with feelings of fear and failure.  She thought, “Surely there is something wrong with me.  I’ll just try harder.”

So she did.  Everyone kept telling her, “you can do it all.”   So she kept going, but her heart was very sad and she grew very tired.

One day, she came across an old woman who had raised her own family many years ago.  Her eyes were full of kindness and wisdom.  Surely this woman would have the answer to her heart’s biggest question!

So the girl said to the woman, “I must know!  How did you do it all?”

The old woman smiled with deep understanding.

She patted the girl on the hand and said, “Oh my dear girl.  I didn’t.  And that’s okay.”

She Cut Her Own Bangs.

My daughter cut her own bangs.

Last fall, I found a little strand of hair and some scissors in the kitchen under the table, and I didn’t think anything of it. Then I saw another lock of hair by the fridge. Weird, I thought, and went about my day.

A few days later, I saw more hair under the computer desk, and noticed that she had a new ‘do.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a particularly happy discovery for me. And since I am the parent who tends to freak out about all the things all the time, I was really working hard to manage my emotions on this one. I mean, if you freak out over EVERYTHING, then when something is really worth freaking out over, do they even notice? It’s something I’ve really been working on.

I took a deep breath and counted to five. Then I asked her about it.

“Did you cut your hair?”

“No,” she replied.

“Really?”

“YES Mama, I did NOT cut my hair!”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “This is your last chance to tell the truth.”

She looked worried, then instantly her expression changed to repentant. She sighed a heavy sigh. “Mama, okay. I did it.”

“Hmm,” I said, wheels turning in my mind. I mean, is it really THAT big of a deal that she cut her own hair? Nope. But hiding it from me IS a big deal.

“Well, scissors are for paper, not for hair. So, you won’t be using scissors without supervision for a little while. And you can’t get up early and do art by yourself for the rest of this week.”

Her most favourite time of day – 6am at the dining room table, working on drawing and coloring and art and all manner of cutting and gluing and so on.

It was as if I had cut off her right arm. She wailed, “Mama! Why?! OH PLEASE, WHY?!”

We had talked about trust in the past, so I reminded her what it was and how important it is for our family. And I explained that when she cut her hair and hid it from me, she had broken my trust and would have to show me that she could be trusted to do art by herself.

After a week, we were back to 6am drawing sessions. But unsupervised scissors took a bit longer. Eventually, even those returned.

Fast forward about a year, to last Sunday.

She wore a headband to church, which was not unusual, and I didn’t even notice that the scissors had struck again. But later that afternoon, some little bangs caught my eye.

I am pretty sure smoke blew out my ears when I realized she had cut own her hair AGAIN. I took a deep breath and counted to five, then calmly asked her the question.

“Did you cut your bangs?”

“No,” she tried to lie.

“Are you sure?” I looked in her eyes.

“I didn’t.”

“Really? Because it looks shorter in the front,” I said nonchalantly.

She relented. “Yes Mama, I did.”

I took another deep breath. “We’ve already talked about this,” I said. “Scissors are not for hair. When did you cut it?” I led her to the bathroom mirror so I could inspect the damage.

“Before church,” she admitted.

I fiddled with her new baby bangs, trying to find a way to keep them from sticking up.  We put a bit of water on them, and it helped. A little.

Sighing, I pressed my lips together, searching for the right words AND the right way to say them. “I don’t think I can fix your hair. I was going to take you to the salon for a haircut, but since you already cut your bangs we’ll have to wait until they grow out.”

“Oh,” she said in a small voice.

“Can you tell me why you cut them?”

“They were in my eyes,” she said.

“Okay, well, you know that you are not supposed to cut your own hair, right?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. “I won’t do it again.”

“Ever,” I added.

“Ever,” she repeated. She was waiting for an angry loud exchange, followed by a lecture.

Instead, I put my arms around her shoulders.

“Well, at least it was after picture day at school. And at least you didn’t grab a bunch from the top,” I said. “I know some kids who just grab any spot and cut away. And then it REALLY sticks up,” I laughed.

She burst out laughing at the idea.

We both relaxed.

“Listen,” I said tenderly, leaning down to meet her eye to eye. “I love you, and I know you know not to cut your own hair. I am not going to give you a consequence, but I hope you can remember this moment and remember that scissors are for…”

“Paper!” she finished. “I love you Mama,” she said.

We hugged.

The funniest part is, she actually did a really good job. Both times. And for a kid who is dreaming of being a hairdresser when she grows up, a pair of leopard print scissors are just dying to be tried out on her long thick hair!

scissors