The Best Encouragement A Weary Mother Will Ever Need.

I’ve already mentioned this week that we are exhausted. Sleep is really strange at the moment – between the cold I had and Rosalie just not knowing night-time is for sleeping – my days feel long and heavy. Disciplining, mothering intentionally, keeping house, loving and caring for my hard-working {and equally exhausted} man, connecting with church fellowship… All are necessary for the good life, the abundant life.
And my life is abundant. I love it.
But abundance doesn’t mean it isn’t always easy. Jesus lived the perfectly abundant life. He laboured, he fought, he loved, he cherished, he gave, he poured out, and ultimately, he died. And he said that he – the Christ – was the abundant life!
If we compare his promise of abundant living to what our western world says is “the good life”…Well, there is no comparison. Only complete contrast.
Within me battle two desires: 
  • the desire to have Jesus’ version of the true, good life,
  • and the desire to have it easy, like everyone else.

But we cannot have it both ways. If we are truly his, we are in him and he in us… so life is going to be hard work.
Today, after another really hard weekend which never stopped, and a night that was full of children waking {one for over two hours, ahem, not mentioning her name} and earthquakes and left-over coughing, we woke up before dawn {because our kids like to make things interesting}, and I thought,

“Why? Lord, I prayed for good sleep. Why???”
When I got home from dropping Josiah off at kindy and I put Rosalie down for a sleep, I really fought with the Lord. I prayed,
“Father, I really want to sleep right now, but my soul needs you. Please, please speak to me. Give me encouragement and strength through your word.”
And this is what he said:

“He [Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” ~ Colossians 1:28-29

Now, I have slowly been going through Colossians in my quiet time. These were the last two verses left of the chapter. I had no idea they were coming, but here they were, and they spoke directly to my bone-weary soul.
Why do we do this? Why do we live this life? Why do we work so hard each and every day, pouring everything we have out for our children and our husbands and our homes and our friends?
We do it all for Christ. 
Don’t stop reading. This isn’t some cliche – this is God’s Word speaking directly to you, as it did for me. We do it for him! He is our goal, he is our end! 
Every word of correction, every moment of the night we are awake with children, every time the ground shakes us out of the sleep we were barely having, every time we just want to have a moment’s peace because we don’t think we can keep going – –

He is our joy to behold, our “hope of glory” {vs.27}, he is our purpose, our goal, our end for all our efforts. And, he doesn’t leave it there.

“I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

We work hard, we pour out to almost nothing – and, if we call out to him, he is faithful, he fulfills his word, he pours back into us. He gives us the energy to do this life. He gives us the power to do his work. And later, in Timothy, Paul says we are, in Christ,

“Equipped for every good work.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:17

Friends, if life is hard right now, don’t give up. We have got this. We’ve got this because of Christ. Not only is he our goal, he is our help. He is everything we need for this life because he is true life. 
Let me finish with this beautiful version from the Amplified Bible for your encouragement, as it is for mine:

“We proclaim Him, warning and instructing everyone in all wisdom [that is, with comprehensive insight into the word and purposes of God], so that we may present every person complete in Christ [mature, fully trained, and perfect in Him – the Anointed]. For this I labour [often to the point of exhaustion], striving with His power and energy, which so greatly works within me.” 

Tired mother, how are you? Has this Word spoken to you today? Please share. 

Today My Best Parenting Was From the Couch.

Friends, these last few days have been rough. Not only have I had The Cold of the Summer of 2016 {aren’t colds in the summer the worst?} but all the lack of sleep I have had since the start of the year has caught up with me. I am sleep deprived and sick. The best of combinations.
Since the start of the year, Rosalie has not slept well overnight. Either waking several times and going back to sleep and/or waking up for several hours at a time, crying/whining on and off. It has been frustrating/hard/exhausting. Catching this cold has just brought me to the wall I was heading to faster than if it had just been lack of sleep.
And I still tried to do everything. 
Despite every inch of my body and shrivelled-up brain screaming at me otherwise, I still took the kids out to the museum this morning. I still did the chores I intended to do. I still pushed myself when I should have been resting. As a result, this motherhood thing became the last thing I wanted to do. Impatient, low, irritable. I was grumpy mum. And the kids matched me one-for-one.
Until I sat lay down on the couch. Then I did the best parenting I had done in days.

I played. We giggled. We read books. I had more to give because I was giving my body what it genuinely was asking for: rest. Granted, no mother can fully have what she truly needs when she’s sick and still taking care of little ones. But I did what I could, and there was grace in that.
While the kids were having their allocated TV time in the afternoon, I sat down in the shower for time to breathe, space and hoping the hot water would wake me up and stop my eyes from burning from lack of sleep. I prayed, “Lord, please help me. And please help me be able to give when Tim gets home.”

And it was after that shower that I stopped trying to run to my agenda and I ran to my body’s agenda and, truthfully, to the kid’s agenda. Rosie and I played “Where’s the Pom Pom?” which is her favourite game. I hide a little pom pom in my clothing or hers, and she finds it, giggling the entire time. It is a simple game that doesn’t require much of me, but which gives much to her. And it gave me joy. We bonded. 
And when Tim came home, and he was as equally tired and worked-to-the-bone, I had empathy. Not a sense of competition {the “Who Is More Tired Game?”}. Not a sense of “What about Me?”. No, by grace, I had enough to care. And he cared for me. It was a gift of mercy to two very tired parents, by their kind Heavenly Father.
Mothers, the point is this:
Most days, our agenda’s work. We run to a general schedule of play/food/work. We generally have energy, sleep-happy minds, generous hearts. But sometimes we don’t. And we shouldn’t fight it. 
Sometimes we are sleep-deprived from newborns {or daughters at twenty-months-old}, sick from bugs, exhausted from the general chaos of living. Don’t try and prove to yourself/God/another-mother/some-invisible-person-of-your-making that you can do this. You can’t. So don’t try.
Rest. Recover. Parent your best from the couch. And receive the grace that is waiting for you to take. You’ll be a better mother from the couch than you would be ticking off your to do’s. 

“Out of his fullness, we have received grace upon grace.” ~ John 1:16

PS: Since writing this, I have learned that Rosalie doesn’t need her day sleep anymore. I dropped her nap and she slept twelve-hours straight. I praised the Lord.

Why We Didn’t Say “I Do”.

This week Tim and I have celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. It feels like a great celebration. These eight years have brought amazing highs and deep lows. There have been moments where it seemed unlikely that we would make it. But we did. And, by God’s grace, we’re still going.
Pondering the wonders and mysteries that is the Christian marriage, our vows have been running through my mind. I remember so clearly sitting down and picking which set of vows we would say. Belonging to the Anglican church {The Church of England}, we have set vows pre-written for us. We can choose to do our own if we like, but we decided to follow the traditional version that has been used by the CoE for centuries.

The vows are the most famous of vows. The ones you see in most movies. But there is a difference, and it is a difference that I treasure. The difference is that we didn’t say, “I do.”

We said, “I will.”

 

 

Being an English major and an ex-English language teacher, the difference is immediate. In grammar, the difference is this: the present tense compared to the future tense. One says I commit now, the other says I commit now and into the future.
Now, before I go further, please don’t think I am saying that every single person who has said “I do” is wrong or any such thing. It’s sad that I have to even add a sort of disclosure. We’re so sensitive to difference, even amongst Christians, that we often take offence when none was intended. Saying “I do” is just as fully-committed from the heart and mind as saying “I will”. The point of this post is to highlight something beautiful in the tradition of the Anglican church, the church which followed the Reformation and established what we now know as Protestantism.
Just like old hymns, testimonies of the pioneers of our faith, the eloquent words of great minds gone before – there is something beautiful and deep in the carefully chosen words of liturgy and traditional church confessions. So it is with the traditional wedding vows.
When we say, “I will” we are consciously pre-empting the “I won’t”.
We are saying, I have, I am and I will all in one. We are saying that, on the days this marriage is glorious, we will. And we are saying that, on the days this marriage causes us the deepest of sorrows and pain, we will. We will whether we feel love or fall out of love. We will whether we know the person next to us in the dark night, or not. We will try our hardest to commit to loving each other.
We will.
You see, marriage today is so irrevocably different to what God established it at the beginning. Aside from a few, it doesn’t image Christ and the Church. It doesn’t mirror the great love God has for us and us for him. It doesn’t gently reveal the beauties in the roles of headship and submission which reveal the mysteries of something heavenly.
Marriage today is a poor reflection of something great; a fleeting vision of something eternal. And, at the time of getting married, though I didn’t think there was anything bad/wrong/sinful in saying “I do”, coming from a broken family, my young twenty-one-year-old heart was stubbornly determined to make this marriage different from my parents.
And let me tell you, without spilling the secrets of our covenant, choosing to say “I will” has made a difference. There was one particular moment, my face drenched in tears, as I stared at our wedding photos and couldn’t recognise that young couple, and knew only by God’s grace, could I continue to choose to say “I will” to my husband. And, it has been the same with him to me.
I am sure there is something poignant in creating your own vows, as many modern weddings do now. But if you are on the verge of getting married, I would love to encourage you to choose words that have stood the test of time. 
Choose words that were used when married couples did stay together…
Choose words that were used when marriage was understood to be a commitment before God. ..
Choose words you know that you can rely on when the going gets tough, because it will…
We can say meaningful words to one another at any given time in our lives as a married couple. But we have one chance to say, before God and to those who witness our wedding, words that truly commit to this covenant that mirrors our Jesus and us, the Church. As the minister says at the beginning of the service,

“We have come together in the presence of God to witness and celebrate the marriage of N and N, and to pray God’s blessing upon them now and in the years ahead.
Marriage is a gift of God our Creator, whose intention is that husband and wife should be united in heart, body and mind.
In their union they fulfil their love for each other.
Marriage is given to provide the stability necessary for family life, so that children may be cared for lovingly and grow to full maturity.
Marriage is a way of life to be upheld and honoured. No one should enter into it lightly. It involves a serious and life-long commitment to each other’s good in a union of strength, sympathy and delight.” {source}