Being An Undivided, Whole-Hearted Mother.

Last year I read The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. It is, by far, one of the best books on motherhood I have ever read. And, when I read it, my soul felt a thrill of joy. Finally, finally, a woman spoke the language of my heart for motherhood. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. Here was a woman who embraced, fully and completely, the task and call of being a mother and didn’t let anything pull her from this eternal task.

In fact, I put up a picture on Instagram the moment I dived into this kindred-spirit-of-a-book:

Now, when I say that I didn’t feel so alone anymore, I mean this: It is not that I think other mothers are less, or that their choices for their families mean they are not wholehearted. I would be lying if I said that I don’t compare, struggle with pride or insecurity. It’s just that, despite all the amazing mothers I know, who love love love their kids and do their very best, I just feel…different. Odd.

Perhaps, it is perspective. Perspective is definitely what got me here today, pursuing undivided, whole-hearted motherhood. You see, the reason I believe in this so deeply and passionately is this: I had a mother who loved us deeply, but also had a divided heart. There are so many reasons for that – her own upbringing, her own life experiences, insecurities – and I feel sad for her. But, because of choices she made, her children suffered.

This is not going to be a blog post bagging my mother. I love her. There are many qualities I so deeply admire in her. And she is an amazing Nanna! But part of my story is the living and working through the failures she made as a mother. Without going into details, though a loving mother with great strengths {she is better at nursing her sick children than I ever will be}, she had a divided heart. She wanted motherhood, but she wanted more too.

Is it wrong to want things outside of motherhood? No. But the plain truth of the matter is that we cannot have it all without sacrifice. Either our families get our best, or something else does. It is impossible for us to be 100% for everyone and everything.

“In that moment the two conflicted drives of my heart stood out in stark contrast – my commitment to motherhood versus my lurking desire to have life my own way. And from that moment on, I became a little clearer about which path I needed to follow if I really wanted to reflect God’s design. I began to see my children’s care and nurture as God’s best will for my life during my season as a mother… If I didn’t commit myself wholeheartedly to the demands of motherhood, I would never be able to do my best, because my heart would always be somewhere else.” ~ Sally Clarkson {emphasis mine}.

Growing up, my little child-heart sensed – then grew to know – my mother’s heart was always somewhere else. I knew my mother loved me and I relished her love. But there were parts of my life where I felt her absence. Distinctly I remember feeling forgotten, shunted aside for more important pursuits, and, verbally, that we {my brother and I} were burdens.

It is still painful now, especially since I have become a mother. The pain is raw, the vulnerability I felt as a child still lingers. But, and a great but it is, God is a God of redemption and he has redeemed my life, so deeply. 

“[What is] sown in weakness, is raised in power.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:43

Only recently did God press this verse on my heart. Because of Christ, because of his blood purchased on the cross for me, all that is sown in weakness in my life can be raised in power. If we commit our pains, hurts, wounds to God, he lovingly and carefully restores goodness, truth, healing and freedom into our lives.

For me, he has raised in me a passion for wives and mothers to embrace living their lives fully for their families. I do believe this is biblical and the way it has always meant to be. But we’re broken, fallen and wayward, and we’ve lost the truth that our families need us – all of us. And I know that that can produce in us a feeling of panic, of drowning – “What about me?” we ask, “What about my needs? My dreams? My life?”

I get it. In many ways, it is natural. But in a lot of other ways, it is cultural. Our culture demands that we give ourselves up for no-one. Our lives should be determined by ourselves and if anything requires sacrifice, don’t let it swallow you.

By encouraging undivided, wholehearted motherhood, I am not saying lose your identity, or what makes you you. God made you unique and essentially you. You and your personality were written in the Book of Life from long ago, and God delights in you. But he also delights when we love others so much that we put them and their needs first. As crazy and as mental as that sounds, in the biblically-mathematically-rule-of-nature-and-life, when we lose ourselves to others, we gain life. True, abundant life.

But if you are a Christian, you know this. You know that to follow Jesus, we emulate him, and we lose our lives by giving them up for others, and we gain eternity. We know this. Yet, we’re still dipping our toes in the pools of selves along with everyone else, and we’re wondering why we’re still lost. But isn’t obvious that if we look to what is broken to fix us we’re just going to end up as messed up as everyone else? And, not just us, but our children.

As Sally realised in her early years of parenting, she couldn’t have it both ways. For the season when her children needed her, she knew that she had to put aside the pursuits that would draw her heart, her mind and her body away from her family. And that is what we need to remember, it is just for a season. It isn’t for always.

Again, I am not saying you can’t have hobbies, or outside accomplishments, or a job. But we need to make sure that get it all in the right order. Some people say we need to find balance, but I personally don’t think it’s possible. It is more that we get things in the right order. Family first, then other stuff. Our family get our best. By God’s strength and grace, they get our best. And whatever we struggle or fail in {because we will}, we pray that whatever we sow – ignorantly or deliberately – in weakness, that he would lovingly raise in power in the lives of our children.

Bullet Journaling: Why I’m Never Going Back to Traditional Planners Again.

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I love planners. I’m not a good planer per-se, but I love fresh, clean and blank journals all ready to be filled up with words. I need planners, too. Since having kids, this “baby-brain” thing has plagued me no end. {The amount of times I have left my house keys on top of the car and driven away, seriously. In one week, I left my purse behind at the grocery store at two different supermarkets. Mum’s lose their minds, it’s legit.}

I have specific requirements for planners, too. They need to:

  • be week-to-view BUT have decent daily sections
  •  not be rigid with times {because what stay-at-home mum can be, right?}
  • have extra pages for notes, doodles, lists
  • be spacious but not so big I can’t take it around with me
  • be sturdy
  • be pretty {most important aspect, surely}

After struggling through different planners over the last few years, near the end of last year I stumbled upon the term “bullet journal”. I can’t remember where, perhaps it was on my Pinterest feed I’m not sure, but all I can say is this: I love it and I am never going back! Here’s why:

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It’s Flexible {or, It’s Forgiving}

One thing that I struggled with pre-made planners is that they never perfectly suited my life and the things I need as a family manager. There are buisness planners, student planners, blog planners. I even bought a “mom” planner – and it seemed to be a good fit – but in the end, it wasn’t. There is always something not right for me: I don’t need timed days; I need enough space to list, cross out, add to etc. Space is a huge thing for me, and free space, too.

Bullet journalling is when you have a lined journal, some favourite pens and that’s it. You design it to perfectly fit you, your life, your goals, your priorities.  So, as a stay-at-home mum, with kindy mornings, church commitments, friendships to pursue and an entire house and garden to manage, I can create it to fit ME.

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As a stay-at-home mum, I am doing things all day long – but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. I clean the living room, yet thirty minutes later, the kids have walked sand in through from the sandpit outside. It’s the best and worst thing. So, to help me feel like – at the end of the day – I have accomplished a lot, I jot down all the things I want to do today, as well as later I add in things I have done. I tick them off in pink, I cross with purple if I didn’t get round to it. The next day, those purple items are moved to the top of the list {if appropriate}.

It’s bliss seeing things done. I feel accomplished, even if I was kid-wrangling and running around endlessly breaking up bickering all day. I don’t add things I do by rote {like kitchen clean-up, make beds, tidy up etc}. I write the things I do on top of our daily routine.

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It’s Unique

I love it that I can put whatever I want, wherever I want, in my journal. All the things I’ve always wanted in a planner,  I can put in. For example, at the start of a month, I have a title page of the month, a month-to-view, a half-page goal tracker and then, the month of days {the pages are divided in half for each day}. At the end of the month, I have a “Thoughts From the Month” to reflect on what’s been going on.

I can also put in lists that I might have elsewhere in a random diary but which I never get round to again. The bullet journal has them all in one convenient place! I have a weight goal tracker, a books read in 2016, my goals for the year etc. And the beauty of the journal is, I go only a month at a time. Half way through the month, I write out the next month. I can leave a few blank pages between each month for random pages {like my Books Read in 2016 fits between January and February}. Also, if something isn’t working, I can just change it: I’m not bound by any system.

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It’s Creative

I love doodling and decorating and creating. Whenever I was looking for a planner, it had to be attractive. And though planners have gotten prettier recently, again, I’ve never found one that perfectly suited me. But bullet journaling answers this problem and need so well. As you can see in all the picture, I love taking the time to have nice handwriting, add doodles, Scriptures and pictures and washi tape.

There are definitely more creative people out there, but that’s okay. This planner is for me and I’m making it for me. It doesn’t matter if one of my doodles looks a bit silly, I can paste a picture over it. And because I’m going month by month, what didn’t work creatively the month before can be let go. If one month a want florals, I can; if the next month, I want it more spartan, I can. Brilliant for the creative mind, like me.

Some people adult colour, I adult journal :).

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For inspiration, go on Pinterest and scroll through the bullet journal beauty. Plus, for more specifics, try:

People use:

  • Moleskin diaries or
  • Leuchtturm diaries {see Boho’s post on that}
  • Good, thick inked but thin tip pens, like Faber Castle

I use Typo {an Australian company} for both my diaries and pens.

So, do you bullet journal? What do you think?

PS: The Amazon links on this page are affiliated. Thank you for supporting me.

How Accepting My Limitations Has Brought Me Peace.

“You keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” ~ Isaiah 26:3

As someone who has struggled with anxiety most of my life, this verse used to bring me a sense of despair. I felt despair because no matter how much I fought to stay my mind on God, I couldn’t. I was stricken by fear and anxiety and, as part of this struggle, I believed that for some reason, this part of God’s Word, was not for me. I would never have perfect peace. I trusted God, but there was something wrong with me or I was not enough because my mind didn’t get better.

{Side note: Only after the birth of our son, when my anxiety came on in full force as part of postnatal depression, did I understand that I had an illness and my struggles were not something I could just grow out of or even have enough faith to be healed from.} 

But as I speed along towards my thirtieth birthday, I see now that this verse is not about anxiety really at all, nor is it offering some sort of solution from an anxious mind. Yes, anxiety does lessen when we place our trust in God over everything and in every moment of anxious need. But, anxiety can be an illness for some and in such cases, only medicine and therapy can help a person get through and get help.

No, an aspect I didn’t understand about this verse in my younger days was this:

Peace comes when we accept the way God has established things in this world, and peace keeps our hearts and minds as we live in thankful and joyful submission to his perfect ways.

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Something our world doesn’t understand anymore, but which it did for centuries, is that there is a way the world works best; a way which is ordered, which has a beautiful harmony of rule, submission and union. Our world has rejected terms like authority and submission because they aren’t egalitarian enough; they confine, they limit, they are the “enemies of freedom”. But, unwillingly, in rejecting this way of order, our world has lost the key to true freedom.

And what is true freedom? Living in submission to the will of God.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so at the proper time he will exalt you.” 1 Peter 5:6

Who knew that humbling, submitting and obeying could lead to exaltation and honour? But, you know,this is what the world has forgotten. And women, I believe, are paying an enormous price.

There is something called a feminine instinct. It is not a result of cultural conditioning. There is a reason why girls nurture, care for, tend to, and check on when they play, just as there is a reason boys save the world, dominate, and burn physical energy in rough and tumble. Of course boys can nurture and girls can play with swords, I’m not eliminating that; but there is a basic instinct to which we are called, a part we follow by nature as well as by nurture. These are “rules” so-to-speak, and part of the order by which God made the world to work.

Birds, for example, have wings. These wings help them fly, but they do not help them swim. Do we see birds rebelling against the rules of their body? Do we see them trying to redefine the function of their wings, trying to find some freedom outside of their limitations? Do we see birds trying to be elephants or elephants trying to be birds?

No. These creatures accept the way they are, they do what they are called to do, they live happily with what they have and function as they were designed to be. Now, we as humans may call a particular part a limitation if we think a creature could be something they are not. But a bird doesn’t know it has a limitation, it is just the gift to fly.

Today, women have cut off their wings. The wings that enabled them to fly – that is, nurture, receive, give, feed, bring life to, uphold, strengthen – were seen as a limitation, a curse. Now, many of our sex are disfigured, seeking the gifts that were given to men. Many have believed the lies of a few.

“The special gift and ability of each creature defines its special limitations. And as a bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird up – up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom – so the woman who accepts the limitations of womanhood finds in those very limitations her gifts, her special calling – wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

Perfect freedom. Perfect peace.

In a few months, I will be thirty. Youth is fading, but not my peace. You see, the older I get and the more I accept my womanhood, the calling that my body and soul demands, the more peace I experience. It is a peace that comes from embracing God’s ways, of believing and seeing with clear eyes that God knows best, and that, as Elisabeth said, he sets no traps.

It’s no trap that you are a woman. And being a woman holds no traps. Trying to be what you are not, however, does. But accepting yourself as female, different from male, brings a peace no activist will find. Let us fully embrace being women then, and stop cutting off our wings. They are what cause us to fly.

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{Affiliate: All excerpts are from Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman, the book every Christian woman should own and have dear to their heart.}

One Deadly Sin I’m Turning My Back on in 2016.

 

I feel like 2015 was an insecure year for me.

I had lots of moments of worrying about what other people were thinking of me, as well as judging others and their decisions or actions. I spent a lot of time feeling insecure and doubting decisions and wondering whether choices I had made were “right” because they were different from other peoples’. I struggled with these sorts of doubts and criticisms quite a bit.

I mean, we all struggle, don’t we? And we will always struggle, right until the end. Thank the Lord we know that one day we will be completely, utterly and blissfully as white as snow and whole. But now, now we struggle on – against the tide, against what comes naturally, against all that is against love and good.

And this struggling against comparison is a big thing for me. I compare myself to others, and others to me, a lot. I even bought a book on it {that I heard recommended at conferences}, though I haven’t gotten to it yet. {By the way, it’s called Compared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment by Sophie de Witt.}

And you know how people *generally* fall either into the “Pharisee-I’m-better-than-everyone” camp or the “Woman-Who-Cried-All-Over-Jesus’-Feet-No-one-Is-As-Bad-As-I-Am” camp? I don’t. I am both. In one day, I could feel self-righteous over a sister in one area, and then feel like I’m the biggest sinner and weirdo compared to another sister. It makes me feel a bit barmy honestly, and horribly horrible.

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The areas I tend to compare myself with others are:

prettiness

godliness

weight

motherhood

godliness

choices

and godliness.

By godliness I mean, who is a more godly mother, who pursues a more godly marriage, who has a more godly view on beauty, parenting, clothing, modesty, schooling… Basically, everything. When I’m worrying about godliness, I’m being Pharisaical. And yet, in my self-righteousness I doubt, and I see my ugly heart and I think, no-one can be as awful as me. And frankly, my heart is just one ugly, dark place sometimes.

And why is this deadly? Because it is sin. And all sin leads to death {1 John 5:17}. But how do I change? How do I move past this easy, addictive sin of comparison?

It is, like Theodore Roosevelt said, a thief – a thief of joy. Joy is a deep satisfaction and contentment in the Lord – in Him foremost, in the salvation offered to us in Jesus, in all that he has given us {our talents, our life story, our comforts, our gifts etc}. When I am comparing, I am saying to the Lord,

“Lord, you don’t know what is good for me but I do,” and;

“Lord, you are not enough for me and all that you have done for me is not enough.”

And when I think of all God is and all that he is done, this brings so much shame to me. Comparison doesn’t seem like a sin unless we set it before God and see what our heart’s are truly saying when we become discontented with our lot in life.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but the LORD is my strength and my portion forever,” ~ Psalm 73:26

“I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will hope in him.'” ~ Lamentations 3:24

I want God, and God alone, to be my heart’s desire and joy. I want to be thrilled, grateful and happy with all that he has chosen for me. Not only is he my portion – my life situation is my portion. God has decided I don’t need this, or that I need to go through this, or that this is the path our family need to take. If my eyes turn to others, I am rejecting the Lord’s portion for me.

But here comes the relief — I am saved from this. I am not bound to keep sinning in this area because I am rescued, saved, cleansed and forgiven by Jesus. I have been set free from the slavery I used to be under. I have been redeemed.

I know this is true because I am aware of the ugliness in my heart and it grieves me. If I were not saved, I wouldn’t care an inch. And, more than that, I don’t want to be this way. I want to change. When I want to think I am better or think ugly thoughts, I want to love, just love, my sisters in Christ. When I feel like no-one is as awful as I am, when I’m the worst wife, mother, human being, I want to believe that there are redeeming qualities in me because of who I am in God.

I asked before, how do we stop?

We turn to Jesus. We hear his words to Peter, indignant about the suffering to come to him and not to John. Peter asks, “What about this man?” And Jesus replies,

“What is that to you? You follow me.” ~ John 21:22

What happens to someone else is no business of mine. My life, my family’s life, is my business. Jesus is asking me to follow him. He’s asking me – my strengths, my weaknesses, my biological make-up, my emotional propensities, my physicality, my marriage, my children, my home – to lay it all down at his feet and do with it what he asks of me.

When we turn to Jesus and we hear him saying what he said to Peter to us, our hearts are directed back to their right place: before him, accepting the portion he gives to us, and saying, “Yes! This is my portion. I will have hope. I will live it with joy.”

The Top 3 Reasons Why I Want to Homeschool.

The topic of how we want to educate our children is an on-going discussion in our household. We are in the unique situation of having few options. And by few, I mean three. One is a definite no, which makes two: a local Catholic school and homeschooling. The reason why we have so few options is based on this premise: We feel led to stay local.

We live a low-economic area, of mixed races and backgrounds. There is a lot of state housing, gangs and normal, hard-working people. If we were on the Titanic, we’d be with Jack below in third class {even with the possible means of buying, at least, a second-class ticket but choosing not to}. Coming from the higher end of the spectrum growing up, living here would not have been my picking – but you know how God is 🙂. Now, after six years, I love it. Yes, I have to fight for contentment and the temptation to keep up with the Jones’ – but all in all, with all the relationships we’ve established in our street and surroundings, this is our call.

So, in terms of schooling, we want to stay local. We don’t want our children having long car trips to school. We don’t want the people we know here to feel isolated if we chose a more private school and think that we think we’re “better”. If we are here, we want to be all here.

But because of the earthquakes, many schools in our area have closed down. There is a merger school happening, but with the government using it as a sort-of guinea pig experiment, as well as issues with the environment, and the push to do MLE {Modern Learning Environment}, it is not an option.

And then, one day, after never particularly liking the idea, homeschooling entered my heart and it has been there ever since. I’ve done a lot of reading and research, and though it’s not set in stone, it would be amazing if we could. The choice whether or not to will come down to Tim and I am so thankful that he is prayerfully and carefully considering it. {In fact, because we don’t know anyone personally who does, we’re having lunch with a family we don’t know – only heard of in family circles – who do, so we can see, watch and learn.}

Tim asked me recently to write down my top three reasons why I want to homeschool. Being an English nerd, I joked, “Can they be essays?!” I thought long and hard, because there are so many reasons other than having few schooling options. And here they are, I thought I would share:

 

  1. It is the kind of lifestyle I would love our family to have.

From all that I have read from books and other homeschooling families, though it is hard work and requires sacrifice, the way of life it creates is more relaxed, more natural, and freer. Families spend their days together and learning about life together in a seasonal way. It provides opportunities for family excursions, trips and spontaneous activities that can enhance our family life and their learning abilities. I may be wrong, but it makes more sense and families lived this way for thousands of years.

  1. It lends itself to a well-rounded, richer and more natural education for the children.

It’s obvious that children learn better in a one-on-one environment where they get the attention, help and support they need. If a child excels in one area, attention can be paid to this; if they struggle, they can learn at their own pace {no need for shame, feeling left behind etc}. I believe education is more than learning facts and figures – it is learning to love learning and living in real life, understanding that all truth is God’s truth. They can take tests if needed, but their academic learning {in the early years} needn’t be depended on what standards they are or are not living up to {according to the government}. The early years is all about rooting down the love of learning and life and discovering all that God has made in the world and the world to be.

  1. We have a more significant influence – spiritually, socially and educationally – in their early years in order to prepare them to being “lights” later.

Though the Bible doesn’t talk about education the way it is today, there are so many passages speaking to parents and telling them to live, train, teach, guide, grow, disciple and discipline their children “in the way they should go” {Proverbs 22:6}. This is why I believe education is more than facts and figures: homeschooling is a modern term for an ancient, biblical way of life. We cannot determine if our children will be Christians when they are older, but we have a duty to God to do our very best to love them and set them on the right path for life. As they get older, we let go of them more; but I believe five is too young {even up to eight} to be dealing with what goes on in schools now, both from their peers and from the teachers/government/curriculum.

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There you have it. I would have written essays with scripture, quotes from role models, or even statistics. But Tim wanted brief and simple, he didn’t want justifications. And it is good to cement in my mind in a straight-forward way the why of homeschooling because there are so many people who don’t and want to know {even if they are thinking, “Why on earth?!}. Like I said though, we may not. I trust the Lord to guide Tim and the decision he will make. I’ve laid out my heart, my reasons, my hopes. Now I leave it in God’s hands as He guides Tim.

Do you homeschool? Do you send your children to school? What are your reasons?