Tag Archives: grace

Dear Exhausted, Weary Mom

Can I just say it is extremely difficult being an exhausted mom? There are moms who are exhausted because they have done an exhausting amount of work in their day. Those are the ones I marvel at. I watch them, I see the unfathomable (to me) amount of energy they put into pushing, pulling, running with, and chasing their kids, and they do it with genuine smiles and laughter. They sing, they play patty-cake, they bake WITH their kids (which I just can’t comprehend) and they do things like (gasp)- craft time. I get tired just thinking about it.

There are moms who pour themselves out for their kids, from morning until night, and it seems to me the feeling of accomplishment must be very satisfying. I am one of those mom’s too, pouring myself out all day, yet it looks so different. Oh, for the energy to do craft time- and clean up after it, and be able to move on to another task without needing to pump yourself up like you’re playing in the Super Bowl. Oh, to exert strength playing with your children, and not feel like all the wind has been vacuumed out of your sail.

I have so much admiration for the energetic moms I know, and that well-earned exhaustion they feel at the day’s end. I hope I join their rank soon. I feel like I’ve had, here and there, too far spread out, glimpses of what that kind of normal mom life might feel like. Those are bright days in my memory bank.

But there are other moms like me. I can think of at least five that I know off the top of my head, and so I know I’m not alone. There are moms struggling through physical or mental health issues, single moms, moms of multiples waddling their way through the third trimester of another pregnancy- who are like me, and yet not so different from the energetic moms. You pour yourself out from morning until night too, but it looks small, and it seems like you are below ordinary. You get your kids dressed, and that’s hard, but you do it. You feed them, and it’s hard, but you do it. You go to the park, you smile, you make effort to be an involved momma, and it all looks so normal, but it’s costing you. It’s a sacrifice. You love it, yet, you wish the simple things weren’t just so draining. You wish the trip to the park, didn’t mean feeling paralyzed later.

Your house is far from spotless, cookies come from a box, craft time is a coloring book, learning comes from a green frog on a device, “outings” are restricted to a 2 hour time frame, and you probably need to bring along help. This is me, yet I have no doubt that I am doing my best. I am giving it my all, and sometimes it feels like more than my all.

To not be able to be the “you” that you really are inside, and that you really want to live out as a mom, can be devastating. I have had my break-down moments. These are some simple truths that have helped me. Continue reading

Confidence in the Face of Fear

I’m going to be straight up with you- it’s been rough lately. I’ve had this weird cough that comes out at night for weeks, and a muscle spasm in my back for a week straight which isn’t loving the cough, and among all this I’m trying to process and go through the rigors of figuring out what is going on with this tumor I’ve been diagnosed with.

But the regular daily routines continue, and I’m keeping up with them as best I can. Laundry. Dishes. Groceries. Diapers. Children to chase and keep occupied. I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who works from home full time and has prepared 90% of all lunches and dinners for the past- how many years? I don’t know, but he’s a gem, that is for sure.

Almost strangely, by the grace of God I’m sure, I have been ok for the most part. I’m taking one day, one task at a time, and trying to enjoy what I can in this life, as much as I can. Mostly these days, I’m enjoying watching my tiny person start to explore her world, and interact with it. I mean- there was that moment today when I took my eyes off her for 30 seconds and she got into the garbage can, started eating a banana peel, and I kind of lost it, but overall, she is just this tiny little package of contagious joy.

I just love my kids. They make my head spin sometimes and I am crazy tired at the end of the day, but there is nothing I would rather be doing.

I recently shared an article “Worrying About Your Future,” and by the grace of God I have actually stomped my foot down on occasion and said “No. That’s it. Not going there,” put the worries about my future behind me and carried on with my day. I like that groove. It’s working for me. I don’t like to think about things I have no control over. For example, when I had a scheduled C-section last year, I prepared by not reading a single article about C-sections. If there were potential complications, I preferred to remain in the dark, because what could I do about them anyway? But when they brought me into that bright and surprisingly busy room, it suddenly hit me: I have no idea what is happening here. What on earth was I thinking?

I met with the surgeon this week who might be doing my surgery, or might not be. This surgery seems to be more complicated than I would have hoped, and it sounds like she will be involving more people in the matter. There were many more maybes in this appointment than I would like. So many potential things that “might” result, or treatments that they “might” try, or methods that they “might” use to “maybe have to” reconstruct my stomach. Just so many maybes. And I’m supposed to do my research on these maybes, I suppose, so that I’m not surprised by them. Continue reading

Still Learning Through Suffering (A Life & Health Update)

God has moved in my life in mysterious ways, to teach me lessons I would not have learned by any other means. I have a wandering heart; I have an idolatrous heart. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love, here’s my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above,” is a song that I can sing and mean.

After Liza was born (you can read about that treacherous pregnancy here), I was done with suffering. I needed a chance to breathe, settle, heal, and adapt to life again with a newborn. The trials were behind me, and it was onward and upward, or so I thought. We had sleepless nights (of course) and nursing difficulties (again), but those things were expected, and I was just content to finally have my girl in my arms. That first month was hard, recovering not only from a C-section, but from the horrific pelvic separation I get during pregnancy. I remember having NO idea how I was going to care of this baby, but my resourceful husband tied a sturdy basket to my walker with soft blankets inside, and that is how I got her around our house the first month. It was difficult, but it was happy, so happy.

I don’t think Liza was more than a month old when my church split. Blogger Land isn’t the place to divulge all that, but let it suffice to say it was sudden, unexpected, and drastic. It was upheaval that I certainly wasn’t looking for at the time, and it shook me.

I was tired then, really tired, but who isn’t tired with a newborn who has her days and nights mixed up? But then one night, when Liza was 2 months old, I fainted and my husband couldn’t wake me up. He called 911 and I woke up by the time they arrived, but fainted again when I got to the hospital. My hemoglobin had crashed dangerously low, and I needed a blood transfusion.

I continued to be tired, and honestly, I have been tired ever since, and have especially struggled to raise my iron levels.

Somewhere in the mix of this, I realized Liza was not meeting her milestones. At three months old she still couldn’t raise her head off my chest at all, and wasn’t able to turn her head to look to the side well either. I didn’t handle that realization well at first. Why couldn’t I move past these long years of difficulty? Why would God put me through all these difficulties, and then place me in a situation where I worried daily for the baby I had waited so long for? I felt like all my happy moments were being tainted by the foreboding that hovered in the back of my mind, and I was driving myself crazy over it.

But you know what? God taught me about surrendering while I waited for that little peach to lift her head. He worked in my heart to accept whatever His hand had in store, and not to worry or be afraid. He took that worry from me, and when she was four months she finally lifted her head. And guess what? At 15 months old, she has started walking. She is doing great, and I have had extra joy at all of her milestones.

I turned 30 last September, and wrote about some of the lessons I learned in my twenties here. What I didn’t say, is that I really hoped, and even believed, that somehow the dawn of my thirties could mean the start of easier happiness. I don’t know if that expression makes any sense to you, but it does to me. Maybe my health issues could stay behind me. Maybe I could succeed in some of my goals. Travel somewhere. Further my education. Publish a book. Run around freely with my kids. Hike mountains with my husband.

Man I hate when the things I hope for in this life turn to disappointment. But I’m still just 30 right? There’s a lot of space between here and 40. Hoping can be such a difficult and painful endeavor.

Well, I think we have found the reason for my ceaseless exhaustion. I had a scope done through my throat and into my stomach before Christmas, which showed blood in the stomach and a large tumor which can be seen pressing into my stomach, changing the shape- kind of like how a fist pressing into a balloon would appear on the inside. The doctor said it has likely been developing for years, and it will need to come out. Continue reading

Evil Suspicions

Context

1Timonthy 6:1-10 gives us incredible insight into the sinful motivations and hang-ups of false teachers and I welcome you to read it before continuing. We see first that they teach different or “new” doctrines, and do not agree with the words of Jesus. Jesus’ teaching leads to godliness, while their teaching and nature is conceited and puffed up, producing things opposing to godliness. Verses 4-5 says about the false teacher:

“He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

The false teacher has chosen a controversial and likely “special” revelation which he thinks he has had, and narrows in on it. Likely, he obsesses with one, or a few select topics, which do not point people to Jesus Christ for salvation. He chooses scriptural phrases which suit his message, and twists them, or gives them a whole new meaning, and if he is corrected he fights back. The products of his pride and error are envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction.

The false teacher is motivated by money, plain and simple. He is “imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” He is looking to Jesus for financial wealth, because money is his first love. He (or she in more recent times) will point their hearers to Jesus for the same thing.

The Christian, on the other hand knows that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment,” and should bear fruit consistent with sound doctrine and right motivations, primarily love for God. 1 Timothy goes on in fact, to tell us how the “man of God” must “Flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (verse 11).” A Christian should not bear fruit similar to that of the arrogant false teacher. Continue reading

The Desolation of Smug

Trials have a way of killing smugness. I suppose some little wave crashes upon a boulder and he doesn’t feel it much. But there are waves that beat upon a stone without relent, and sometimes he thinks “I’m surely going to crash into this sea like so many tiny pebbles do.”

It’s the long relentless trials, often repeated, in which desperate men cry out for deliverance with parched throats and eyes that dim of scanning the horizon (Psalm 69:3)- these are the trials which put a knife to smugness.

To be smug is to “be contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.” You can see it in the life of people who store up their treasures and say to themselves “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry (Luke 12:20).” We see it in those who simply live without acknowledging God or His ways, fill up their measure of sin, and tell themselves “He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us (Jeremiah 5:12).”

It’s easy to identify smugness in unbelievers isn’t it? And we might have some patience for that, since after all, they don’t know God. But there are some sins, or struggles the smug believer thinks he or she would never be tried with. The things “good” and “real” Christians just don’t do, or even think of doing. Good Christians don’t get divorced. They don’t curse, or hit things, or hit others. They don’t hurt themselves or have “mental breakdowns.” Good Christians aren’t tempted to use alcohol or drugs to dampen the pain and difficulties of life. They don’t get bitter. They don’t experience large scale moral failures. The “true” Christian doesn’t question God’s purposes and never thinks- “perhaps a different path would have led to a happier, easier life.” That “real” Christian never has doubts about His God or His faith.

The smug believer thinks he doesn’t do those thing because he simply couldn’t do those things. He is too good a Christian in fact. It would be impossible for him because he has climbed too high for such a heinous, ignorant, and disgraceful stoop. He knows too much truth and has too pure of motives. His reasons for coming to Jesus were right; he follows Christ for Christ alone, and nothing else that might be gained. Take the world but give him Jesus, and he will be just fine. He is sure.

The problem is not that he despises the thought of ever sinning or struggling in such ways, but rather that his trust is in himself, and his attitude towards failing believers is one of quick readiness to judge and deem them cut off. But trials are not so easy and glamorous a tool of refining believers as sometimes they are made to sound. People talk about their victories but we often don’t hear how trials will prove you ugly before they start to make you pure. Consider this excerpt from a poem I have written reflecting on this topic:

“Did you think
To put you in a furnace
Would not scorch your skin?
To come out gold
With easy glee
And not the surfacing of sin?
Or that boiling water hot
Would like a warm bath
Scathe you not?
Like sinking in so comfortably
To fire should come easily?”

When a Christian goes into the boiling pot and stays in it for a long time, God will undoubtedly grow and refine that Christian. I look back on this long trial with chronic pain and I see a hundred idols slain. But it is not as if they crumbled down themselves. They’ve been slain through tears, constant battle, and much travail in prayer. The longer I go through the trials, the more I see that there is no temptation uncommon to men (1Corinthians 10:13), and there is no temptation or sinful thought too sinful for myself. I see those idols slain, but I know their root lies in my own heart and when my eyes go off my God how quickly they resurrect. I see that this battle isn’t won until I finally find myself safe in the arms of God. I will overcome and conquer one doubt or one sinful wish, but it will rear its head again. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as killing a sin (including smugness!) once and for all. When you’re living in a trial it is constant war and you must kill the flesh daily or quickly lurch towards destruction.

If it were not for God you’d find my faith somewhere dashed upon a rock. I’m certain of it. Trials have had their way of desolating smugness in me, but there is (thank God!) a higher rock than I (Psalm 61:2). Smugness and security are not the same thing. Eternal security- the promise of God that He who began a work of salvation in me will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)- is my hope and joy. It is my confidence in the day of trouble.

My confidence is a person. My trust is in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I’ll echo these words from hymnist John Berridge:

“Thou poor, afflicted, tempted soul,
With fears, and doubts, and tempests tossed…
What if the billows rise and roll,
And dash the ship-
It is not lost;
The winds and waves and fiends may roar,
But Christ will bring thee safe on shore.”

About the smug heart, I have written previously:

Did you think endurance
Meant to never fall?
So with steady steps
To conquer all?
So worthily you might
Win the crown?
And say at last
“Was me who won
By never falling down”?
The valiant and strong
Shall win the prize!
All Heaven will esteem me
With their eyes!

Do you see how that attitude differs from the Christian who has seen they are a ship who left to their own will drift off in the turbulent seas and be dashed? Oh, but even if he drift for a time, even if the winds, and waves, and fiends assail him, and he approaches his shore as one almost sunk- be it certain, Christ will bring him safe on shore. He is not lost.

That is the hope I’m clinging to, and am learning to embrace with godly fear- fear that takes seriously the warnings in scripture that urge us not to fall away, while clinging to the only Savior who can sustain our hope, our faith, and our strength. Eternal security is not a doctrine that leads to sin, unless we have careless hearts which cast ourselves on a doctrine rather than a person (Christ), with an attitude of smugness. That is dangerous, and a real threat. But when shattered hearts lean into the Everlasting Arms, resting safe and secure from all alarms, that indeed, is a beautiful thing. God who sees the heart knows the difference.

I end with a portion of scripture that seems fitting:

1Corinthians 10:12-14 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”

Hem Me In

He had hemmed me in
Behind and before,
Drew the lines that fall
But I thought to soar
Past sunsets that looked
Like bars might prove more.

Pastures green, like plain
Bread, stale and dry
Rolled on for days; Streams
Meandered nearby-
My eyes gazed elsewhere,
I refused to lie.

“Pleasant places, these,”
Said a lamb. I nod,
Pretend, but o’er the
Valley there’s a broad
Place with less restraints-
To please! But not God…

Oh, but there to taste
To spread like wild vine!
Should such a pleasure
Be deprived of mine?
Can sweet fruit not grow
Among fainter lines? Continue reading

Before the Throne of God Above: A Hymn For the Sin-Grieved Soul

Sometimes Christians lose sight of the gospel. I’ve been there. You give yourself over to ruthless self examination and slip into works righteousness thinking that loses sight of hope. You’ve seen that your heart is fickle. One second you worship God and the next you curse men who are made in God’s image (James 3:9). You read Proverbs about fools, and nagging wives, those who are quick to anger, stinginess, pride, and laziness, and you see more of yourself painted than you would like to see. Perhaps you read Matthew 5 and 6 and you’re struck by your own harsh words, love of money, lustful thoughts, or nagging anxieties.

If you lose sight of the cross, then you lose sight of God’s love for you. You think only of His holiness and wrath and start believing He does not want to hear from you. Do you need to grovel? Do you need to be punished? Do you need to just “get right” before you can approach God again? How can He be appeased?

Examining yourself, sorrow over sin, focus on holiness, and a desire to change are all very good things. But to think about these things without remembrance of the gospel, God’s power and promises towards you, your thoughts will not only become burdensome, they will become faithless. The soul in that place, dear friends, whether saved or not, is in desperate need of the gospel of grace. Continue reading

He Will Not Let You Drown

Now it seems His hand has turned
Against you,
Yes, has seen you sinking
And has pressed your head
Beneath the waves.
You think “To catch a breath,
‘Tis one small favor,
Can’t He see?”
But yes, He sees;
So why do gray skies
Blacken more
And gray waves
Lash upon the shore?

But oh, His hand does stretch
To reach you,
See Him walk on stormy seas?
All around control has left you,
Where has gone the Lord of peace?
Your eyes are full of salt
You think you saw the Savior frowning,
Do you really think
He stands aloof while His loved one’s drowning?

Lift up your eyes, He rends the Heavens
His presence dooms the tempest,
Robs of power death’s cold sting
For drawing near, salvation brings
A smile yet, with warmth and love
Though seems abandoned from above. Continue reading

“A Meaningful Life”

There is an innate desire in human beings for our lives to be meaningful, a God given desire that has all too often gone astray from Him.

One of my best memories from childhood is laying on the grass in our backyard and staring at a baseball. I would hold it above my face, rolling it in my fingertips, and feeling the stitches. Baseball was to me a marvelous sport, one that I loved everything about. I loved the dust that would fly and hover in the air when I slid to home base, I loved the crack of the bat followed by instantaneous sprinting, I loved the comfort and smell of my well broken-in Wilson leather glove, and the ball rolling off my fingertips and striking people out. I just loved it.
And I loved to be good at it. I loved for my talent to be recognized and to be “the” pitcher and feel as if winning a tournament was an honor to be solely bestowed on my shoulders.

The child like delight of playing faded over the years and in grade 11 I found myself on a rep team that had already primed the “it” pitcher. It wasn’t me. I didn’t look forward to the game anymore; I was stuck in the outfield. That was my last year of baseball, one in which I felt unrecognized, unappreciated, and unimportant. My team won tournaments, and had success, but I couldn’t enjoy it. I skipped the end of the year celebration, because well- it wasn’t about me. When it was all said and done my coach phoned and asked why I hadn’t been there. I can’t remember what I said, but I’m sure I had a lame excuse. He told me that the girls had voted for the Most Valuable Player on the team, and they had chosen me. I wasn’t there to accept that award. I was shocked that they had chosen me, proud, but also ashamed. Ashamed because I’d been too proud to imagine I had any value unless I was the star pitcher. I’d let a good year pass by miserably and I had missed the celebration.

As a kid you do the things you do because you love to do it. When you grow up, reality strikes and in a big way life becomes about making money. It’s a natural progression I suppose. In Christian communities, for women, it’s not so much about the money, but about the home making and children raising. Whatever you find yourself doing you wonder, is it enough? Enough for me? Enough for God? Enough in the eyes of others? Important enough? Impressive enough? Worthy? Valuable? Memorable? Continue reading

Sanctification: Ugly, Hard, Beautiful, and Full of Grace

I recently asked myself the question: what word would I use to describe my own (slowly) progressing sanctification process? The first word that came to mind was “ugly.” The second was “hard.”

When God first took out my heart of stone and gave a heart of flesh, life was good. Life was in fact the best it had ever been. Salvation was awesome. The relief from shedding the weight of sin tangible, and I was ecstatic. Jesus was my new best friend and His word was my treasure. God kept me safe, if somewhat secluded, and gave me a peaceful year to sprout.

God knew what He was doing then, and He knew just how I needed to begin my Christian walk. It wasn’t so hard, or so ugly at first- it was mostly awe and reveling.

Life had become profoundly deep and meaningful, but looking back now I can see that my faith was still shallow. A seed in good soil to be certain, but vulnerable, with threadlike roots barely taking hold of ground.

But God is a faithful vine dresser; One wholly determined that His people bear fruit. And the best fruit doesn’t grow from trees planted in shallow soil, so He sets out to dig and to nourish (Luke 13:6-9). He labors to prune and cut every branch in me He sees that could bear more fruit. He wants me to see, and to feel that apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15:5). Continue reading