Pressing Deeper Into Motherhood {How Having No Internet Revealed Closed Places of My Heart}.

In my eight weeks without the internet, I really did some big changes. I had no idea that our time away from home while it was repaired would cause such a work in my heart. I certainly didn’t go to the temporary house thinking, “Yes! No internet! I’m going to love it!” I went with an itchy feeling, like I was going to miss out on a whole lot of stuff {though what stuff, I don’t know}. But now, on the other side, I am so thankful for the challenge it was.

There are so many things that God showed me as the weeks went on about my relationship with the internet, particularly blogging and Instagram. I’m certainly not a prolific blogger or photo-taker, but that doesn’t mean things were right on the inside of me. The time being internet-free showed me some pride issues and assumptions about my opinions and how the world really needed to hear what I had to say {because I’m, like, so right on everything}. It was – and is – still humbling.

But the biggest change in me through that time was my perception on motherhood and my work ethic around the home. I don’t think that I would be exaggerating when I say that God has made some life-changing surgery on my heart.

As the days and weeks went on with no distraction or pull of the internet, I found myself being fully present in my days. Seemingly little changes – like sitting with the kids at breakfast instead of on the couch checking emails – became big habit changes, and heart changes. With none of our kid-friendly things around the house that they would normally play with on their own, I was forced to do lots of things with the kids.

That sounds rather horrible, doesn’t it? Being forced to play with my children. But that’s the point God was making with me, I think. He showed me how easily it was for me to be pulled into the internet/blogging world and see my children as a distraction. He showed me how hungry my heart got for me and my needs the more I spent doing those things.

By playing loads of puzzles over and over again, and reading lots of books, and painting, and doing big walks together and – quite simply – spending all our time together God showed me how much more I could be pressing into motherhood than I had been.

It’s not that I haven’t been an {imperfect} intentional mother. I am fiercely devoted to motherhood and giving my children the best of me. And I’m not saying that God’s telling me I can’t have down time or creative outlets or anything like that. It’s more like God showed me that there is a deeper level of motherhood that He’s asking me to grow into.

Earlier this year I re-read Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood. Reading that again as well as Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake brought me to a place where I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to give even more? Am I able to offer up what God is asking of me?”

Two of my favourite books on motherhood.

In Clarkson’s book, in a section about discipling and teaching our children, she gave the example of Jesus. He is our ultimate example in all things, especially motherhood. And how did He spend His time with His disciples? He was with them all the time. How did they learn from Him? By living and being with Him all the time.

Jesus did not allow any distraction to take Him away from all that God had asked Him to do. Despite the temptation, Jesus actively chose whole-hearted life of ministry with His disciples so they might serve the people He had come to save. Is this not the same for me and the little people God has asked me to raise up in the way they should go? I can see how, since becoming a mother, little by little, the Lord has slowly being prying open my closed fists and bringing down the walls of my heart that I’ve used to prevent myself from giving up all of me.

God also showed me how much more capable I am of caring for our home than I have allowed myself to be before. Not only am I capable but, in a study of Proverbs 31, I saw how in the original language God has called wives to be strong and warrior-like in their task of managing their homes.

Not only did I not have the internet but I didn’t have a dishwasher. I was reminded again of how simply we have been called to live. All the gadgets that are supposed to free our time up have actually made our lives more complicated {by raising the standard of cleanliness and by allowing that time to be always filled up with activities and stuff}. I was amazed at how much more efficient I was without those two “hindrances” in my life. I set up better routines and found that I gained so much satisfaction at the end of the day when I had worked hard with a full and honest heart. I didn’t have the guilt pressing down on me about how I had spent my time that day.

These challenges may not be challenges to you. You may already be fully pressed in towards your children and working hard around the home. But if you aren’t, I want to come alongside you and encourage you – as God has so gently and firmly encouraged me – to evaluate how you are spending your days as a wife, mother, and homemaker.

  • Is the internet {or, something else, fill in the gap} causing you to see your family as a distraction?
  • Are you easily annoyed or resentful when your children require a hug, or a correction, or a time of play when you’re involved in that particular activity?
  • Is there a place in your heart that you have closed off to the Lord? Are you, in keeping it closed, saying to the Lord, “Yes, Lord, I give you my life – but please let me keep this part all to myself?” Oh yes, I have.

If you are then, just like me, go to your Father in Heaven. Seek His wisdom and His care. Repent if need be and start working on pruning those things out of your life.

As you can see, I have the internet now {and a dishwasher again!}, so they are still part of my life now that we are back in our own home. I have been weak and allowed myself to get sucked back in. But, oh, I so want something different for my life – and God has knocked on that closed door so strongly that I cannot shut myself to Him. So I pick myself up when I’ve failed, cry out to the Lord for strength, and keep going.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance, and sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Can you see that? It is not just sin that weighs us down and prevents us from living this life for Christ – there are also encumbrances. If you love the Lord deeply, you will look at your own heart and life and know what sins and encumbrances are weighing you down from loving your God and your family well.

As George MacDonald said in his novel A Quiet Neighbourhood,

“I was planning to preach about the cloud of witnesses and explain this did not mean persons looking at our behaviour – as if any addition could be made to the awfulness of the fact that they eye of God was upon us – but witnesses to the truth, people who did what God wanted them to do, come of it what might, whether a crown or a rack, scoffs or applause.”

What truth is God calling you to press in deeper to? What does it require of you? And are you willing to obey, no matter the cost or “come of it what might”? Seek Him and He will show you the way. Not only that, I can guarantee from my own life, He will go with you and give you His strength.

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For the Overwhelmed, Exhausted Wife & Mother

I wrote this on Instagram the other day:

I am so tired. This full-time motherhood, investing in future generations, character building, loving, feeding, nurturing thing is just exhausting. I never knew my dream job would take so much of me. It is relentless. I desperately need encouragement every single day.”

It’s not just that I’m physically tired – and I am that, definitely. There’s the lack of sleep, post-Christmas deflation, a week single-parenting while my husband was away, the cares and sorrows of others on my heart… All on top of the endless, relentless job that is full-time, intentional motherhood.

It is shattering in every sense of the word.

When I first became a mother and was absolutely dumbstruck by the responsibility and work it required of me, my beautiful mother-in-law told me, “I remember – after my second child sixteen-months after the first, my husband away in the navy, hanging out another line of clean nappies –  thinking that I would likely have another twenty years of this – and I wept.”

When I tentatively lift my eyes to the unseen future, exhausted to the bone, and know there are many years to come of what has already taken place – broken sleep, sickness, tantrums, endless character training, no time to breathe, a house to be tidied and cleaned continuously, loudness, messes, broken furniture and toys, scrapes, arguing back, impatience rising, inadequacy – it is enough to make a grown woman weep. And many women have.

This motherhood thing is not for the faint-hearted.

And, actually, it isn’t just motherhood.

It’s cultivating a loving and devoted marriage, making sure my husband gets my firsts {under God}.

It’s maintaining a house, accepting that it’ll never be perfect, and making it a home.

It’s making sure I have adequate rest, disciplining myself to have time in the Word and with the Lord, getting out to exercise, nurturing what makes me me {that is, hobbies}.

It’s being a present and supportive friend. It’s remembering I have parents and a brother to pray for and be there for. It’s being an active, serving, participating member of the local Body.

So let me re-phrase the one-liner from above:

This Christian life thing is not for the faint-hearted.

And to cure the pressure, burdens, and exhaustion that comes from throwing everything into the genuine things that the Lord gives us {because, let’s be honest, not everything we commit ourselves to is from God but, rather, us over-doing ourselves}, we tend to come up with band-aid-type solutions.

Simplifying our lives {ie. minimilism}.

Planning each day to a minute {ie. planner perfectionism}.

Creating more breathing space {ie. putting kids in preschool}.

Seeking balance {ie. saying ‘no’ to more things}.

Cutting back the noise {ie. coming off Facebook}.

None of these things are wrong. I have done them all {and retracted on some}. Each and every one of them has a certain appeal and value and usefulness. Simplifying our homes does make life easier. Having kids in preschool does give you more time to relax. Coming off Facebook certainly cuts out a lot of rubbish and noise that wastes time.

But even doing all these things, are we less exhausted? As each day of our life for Christ begins, is doing any of these things creating the peace within we so desperately need?

I desperately need peace. I need an anchored joy tethering me in the midst of noise, errands, squabbles, endless dust and lawns to be mowed. But I seek solutions and I don’t find peace. Only self-guilt. Or regret. Or a sense that, no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to do enough to be at peace with all the chaos.

As I was processing this post in the midst of processing my worn-out feelings {“I just want five minutes to myself, please, with no whining, thank you!”}, a thought entered my mind that brought genuine relief to my weary soul.

Rest.

It was like His Spirit whispering, “You’re not resting in Me.” 

And it’s true. I’m a complete Martha. I’m doing all the doings and not resting, where Mary is, at Jesus’ feet. Do you remember what Jesus said about Mary to her sister?

“Few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for working hard at her responsibilities. And when I say that we need to be resting in the midst of motherhood or marriage or homemaking orhomeschooling etc. I’m not advocating taking up being lazy. Jesus wasn’t asking Martha to give up her work to be lazy. He was asking her to rest in Him in the midst of it all. Jesus was asking Martha to let Him be her anchor. He was asking her to give up her soul-striving so that she might find soul-rest in Him. 

It is possible to be a crazy busy wife and mother and be peaceful.

I can have emotional kids at my feet, dishes undone, a husband shattered, a dog needing walking, weeds to be pulled, walls to be wiped – and be at rest. These things don’t need to stress me out. My kids don’t need to emotionally drain me if I’m resting at Christ’s feet. But if I’m striving to be perfect and complete it all like a champion, every single thing is going to overwhelm me and I will be a miserable woman.

And I have been, really.

I’m needing to learn a big lesson. And it’s a lesson I’m always learning: grace. I am completely awash with grace through the Cross, but I need to accept it. I need to see that embracing that grace upon grace is not a weakness, but a glory. 

I know that I’m going to start striving again. It’s a compulsion. Most of the time I don’t even know that I’m doing it. But, when I feel the pressure rising and I am finding motherhood a drag, it’s a clear indicator that I have let go of free grace again and taken up trying to earn it.

But Jesus has said that our striving is not needed. Only one thing is needed: resting at His feet.

Have you been at rest in the midst of it all? Or have you been striving, pushing away grace like it’s a sign of weakness?

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How I Broke My Brain.

Yes, you read right, I broke my brain.

I had a pretty wonderful and settled childhood. We moved to the country, lived by the sea, played in the hills all day. I remember thinking as a young teen how lucky I was, and I couldn’t imagine a future where our family wasn’t together.

And then, at fifteen, my parents broke up in pretty unusual, and very painful, circumstances. My life took a dramatic turn, and I had to learn how to cope with all that had happened, all that was going on inside me, trying to sort out my emotionally dysfunctional family, and dealing with being a teenager.

I didn’t know it at the time but, in doing all of the above {that is, coping with what life had thrown me}, I broke my brain.

How I Broke My Brain.

Yeah, apparently you can do that. Break your own brain. Who knew?

I only found out yesterday, actually. Remember how I wrote how I had gone off my anti-depressants? Well, I’m back on them again. As much as I want to feel like a failure about that, I’m not going to. Because, actually, this anxiety disorder isn’t something I can “fix”. My brain is a bit broken and, no matter how much I try my best and work hard to be my best, at the end of the day, I’m a bit sick and need medicine.

Anyway, how did I break my brain?

In part, it’s genetics. And that is something you definitely can’t do much about. The other bits are personality and family. {It’s the whole born vs. raised thing, which really, isn’t either, it’s both.}

When my family world fell a part, I had to deal with a lot of revelations, burdens of other people’s hurt and sin. I had to cope with living in different places, I always had a suitcase. I had to cope with my own trauma and emotional pain. I made bad choices as a young woman – as a way of taking control of my own life – but it made it all so much worse.

I kept everything inside. Some things I pushed down, deep down – and kept doing that even when those thoughts/feelings/memories kept rising up. I was faced with repulsion and a side of human nature I had not known before. I tried to think about it and process it all.

Somewhere, in those few years, something happened. All the pressure, all the pain, all the intensity of emotion must have broken some neurons or brain “switches”, because the chemical make-up of my brain changed. I did not know it at the time but, instead of talking to a counselor or someone I could trust, all that internalising damaged me.

I was very unstable. There was not a rational thought in my mind. If there was one amongst the crowd of thoughts that were constantly going through my mind like factory-line, it was drowned out by the louder voices of fear, condemnation, lies, pain.

I was emotional all the time. I would cry or feel like something terrible was going to happen even if nothing indicated that it was. I expected bad things to happen to me, like it was my due. And despite being saved at nineteen and God helping me get my life on track, I was a mess.

By God’s grace, He sent me my husband who came from a family with strong, solid theological roots. For the first time, the Bible made sense to me. Truth started pouring into my broken self and God started freeing me from certain ways of thinking and feeling. In the almost nine years we have been married, I am a far cry from what I used to be. Having a loving husband has healed me. Growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible has healed me. In many ways, becoming a mother has been the making of me.

But my brain is still broken. And, in all likelihood, will always be.

I am not depressed. Anxiety gets lumped into depression, but can be quite different from it. As my doctor told me yesterday,

“Some people get depressed so bad they get into this hole that is hard to get out of. You, on the other hand, are a little bit bad all the time. And you need help.”

When I came off my medication, I was great. I had felt normal for three years, and felt it was time. But I’d forgotten that this broken brain of mine is not something I can make better by shear force of will. I would love to make myself better. The perfectionist side of me feels like a failure for not being able to “pull my socks up”, as my mother-in-law would say.

But the truth is, this anxiety is part of me. One day, when life is less hectic and busy and sleepless {yep, we still have those times}, I may be able to do it through cognitive therapy. But right now, that is so much effort. And just another thing I have to work on in my list of all the things to do. So I’m back on my pills, and I am accepting that in God’s grace.

And to my readers who have broken brains, too: We’re okay. We’re not nutters, even if there are periods of time when it feels like a crazy person is living in our brains. That’s just wiring gone a bit haywire. It feels real, the fear is overwhelming – but it is not Truth. The Truth is you are loved, cared for, held in the hands of an Almighty Father who, in His wisdom and mercy, enabled medicines to be made that can help us. So don’t be afraid to seek that help. You’re not a failure. It is wisdom. It’s wisdom to get help so that you can wake up one morning and think, “Oh yeah. This is what it feels like to be me. Life is good.”

For more on my journey with mental illness, read this series.

 

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If the Husband is the Head, What is the Wife?

Headship. Submission. That’s what I’m wanting to talk about today. But not to you, to me.

Huh?

What I mean is that, if I were talking to myself, I would know that I have read, understood, accepted, and am trying to live out the Biblical design for men and women in marriage: of the husband being the leader of the family, and of the wife being his helper and submitting to his leadership. This way I can get straight into what has been on my heart and mind, and I don’t have to do all the preamble of theology etc.

So, you’re me, got it? 🙂

Right. Let’s do this!

Headship and Submission

If I’m being honest, in this year of 2016 I have found it really hard to submit to my dear husband. There is so much behind that struggle which I won’t go into, and it’s been a long time coming, but I really feel like this year God has been asking me this question:

“You tell me that you agree in My design for marriage, but do you really believe it is good and My best for you?” 

Over and over this year, as I have been faced with opportunities to submit and come under my husband’s leadership and have struggled – sometimes with an ugly, selfish fierceness – God has been gently, but persistently, knocking on the door of my heart. I feel like He’s been asking me again and again,

Where is your joy?

Don’t you trust Me?

Don’t you know, from my Word and your history, that I am trustworthy and I always do what is best and good?”

When I see it put that way, my heart cries, “Yes! I know You are good! I know that all Your ways are THE BEST. I don’t doubt it! I want and need Your Truth in my life!” So I look at myself and I know that it isn’t God’s Word and His laws that are doing me harm or making submission hard —

It’s me.

I am the problem. Always. As Dave Harvey says in When Sinners Say I Do {best marriage book ever, by the way},

There are no marriage issues. There are only sin issues.

Sin. The obvious, but always elusive, culprit. We are apparently good friends. Especially when it comes to me trying to truly love God, and truly love my husband, a friend who gets this spirit-and-flesh-battle we’re always in.

A big thing my flesh and spirit have been fighting over this year is the feeling of What About Me? {I know, it’s always about me.} If it’s true – which it really is, Sarah, so deal with it – that God lovingly crafted men to be the leaders of their family units, what position did He lovingly craft women to have?

We are helpers. We accept and respect our husband’s leadership {ie. submit}. Yes, Truth.

But what does that all really mean?

As the head of the family, all responsibility is laid on the shoulders of our husbands. On Judgement Day, the state of our family will be laid at his feet before the Lord in all His glory {Ephesians 5:25-27}. Will he have led well? Imperfectly, yes, but still, will he have led well?

And when I face the Lord, thankfully, that weighty responsibility will not be at my feet. But my responses will be. How joyful was I as his helper? How caring was I in showing my respect of him? How honouring was I in sharing my opinions and, subsequently, how gracious was I in submission when our opinions differed?

This is big stuff that I have been grappling with. And, as I have mulled over it more and more, and faced with it practically again and again, I realise it all comes down to this:

How is my heart?… Because I am the heart.

If my husband is the head of our family, then I am the heart. We all come under his care, we are all cared for by me.

This is what Sally Clarkson says in The Mission of Motherhood:

I realized again that the ultimate key to providing a nurturing environment in my home is me…In the end, though, what my children and husband need most from me is not a perfect home or perfect training or a perfectly spiritual role model or a wife without faults – but a mother and wife who is committed to doing what it takes to love them and make a home for them.

They need to know that they are cherished by someone who is a champion for their cause, a cheerleader for their lives – someone they can always count on in the light and dark times of life.

Accepting the responsibility of being the overseer of my domain with all of the heart and energy and faith I can muster is what nurtures my family best and provides my children with the sense of security and stability they need. My attitude is ultimately what makes our house a peaceful haven.

What Sally is saying is that if mama ain’t happy, then no-one is happy in the family. We are the emotional thermometer of our homes. Our attitude sets the tone. That’s a big responsibility. It may not be the burden our husbands bear, but it is a hard one. Basically it means that we have to work hard to keep our joy, keep our peace, keep our hearts aright before the Lord all the time.

This doesn’t mean we can’t have bad days. Of course we can! But, for the most part, if we want our family to be happy, healthy, joyful, and content then it is our work in our own hearts that matters, and we need to be disciplined and persistent in cultivating a relationship with the Lord. We can only be the heart of our homes by the grace of God.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have this job than my husband’s. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with wanting to be in control and having things my own way. I’m a daughter of Eve, after all. But, when I consider it, I would rather be the beating heart of our lives than the working head. This suits me perfectly because I am a woman. I am a nurturer.

I am so grateful the Lord has worked this all out in His original design, and I am grateful for all the struggles I have had this year to help grow me and make me more into the woman – and the wife and mother – the Lord would have me be.

What do you think about being the heart of your home? How do you keep your heart joyful, at peace, and content so that your family thrives? What evidences of God’s grace can you see in your struggles and will to follow Him?

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Why We Still Want to Be Wives And Mothers {And Keep House}

Each week when I link my posts up around the web, the majority of writing authored by Christian women is about three things:

  • marriage and being wives
  • motherhood
  • home

Within these three popular topics, women are writing about:

  • the purpose of marriage,
  • how to get through struggles in marriage,
  • how to love our husbands well,
  • how to love our children well,
  • how to raise them up in a godly way,
  • how to educate them,
  • how to make our homes beautiful for our families,
  • how to keep them organised,
  • how to make yummy meals.

As a Christian, I find this both heartening and astonishing. For a society drenched in post third-wave feminism {see description here}, who knew that women still want to be home, raising littles, cooking delicious meals from scratch, and greeting their husband at the door every night? It almost feels a little scandalous writing such a sentence {since, from childhood, I have been encouraged to see the image of a wife above as a derision to the empowered, free modern woman}.

Why We Still Want to Be Wives & Mothers {and Keep House}

The Changing Landscape

With everything that has happened to the traditional role of womanhood in the last sixty/seventy years and all the “glass ceilings” that have been smashed for women in the workforce, it truly is amazing that so many women are still choosing that which is “less”. It seems to me {and I am not saying this with research up my sleeve, just observation} that more and more women are marrying younger, having children younger {and more of them}, and are staying home longer to raise them.

Many of the daughters of feminist mothers are turning their backs on the teaching they have received. See articles here, here, and here.

It seems that the desire and yearning to love, to be loved, and to pour ourselves out for our family is still within us as women. It seems it cannot be stamped out of us.

Germaine Greer, the “head” of the feminism movement {yes, the irony is not lost on me there}, wrote in her 1970’s book The Female Eunuch, that women should see family life and anything to do with childbearing as a handicap and an illness. For someone who completely abhorred her natural feminine nature, and who spent her entire life degrading marriage and housewives and raising children, in the end, she realised her mistake. She wrote,

Ruby lit up my life in a way that nobody, no lover, has ever done. I was not prepared for the incandescent sensuousness of this small child, the generosity of her innocent love. {source}

From the little I know of Germaine Greer, the overwhelming sense I get from her life is one of sadness and a great life’s effort to deny what makes her a woman. We can have as many lovers as Greer thinks is good for us, we can be a president of a corporation, we have the social mobility, and the time to spend as we like – but if we are not nurturing in some form or another, we are lacking as women. Ms.Greer discovered {or admitted} that the only thing that can meet the internal drive for love and intimacy and joy is in the pouring out of self in the nurturing of another.

What They Don’t Get

And for those who truly seek a life of loving God and His ways, we get this. Living a selfless life doesn’t come naturally because of our sinful selves, but when we’re given new lives in Christ, we begin to see that true fulfillment in life comes not from taking and taking, but from giving and giving. We find, by losing; we live, by dying.

We understand this because our Saviour demonstrated it so fully for us. Jesus, who deserves every single heart’s full devotion and obedience, came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” {Matt. 20:28}. The man who poured out everything of Himself commands that you and I “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” {16:24}.

Why We Still Want to Be Wives & Mothers {and Keep House}

This is where people lose their way. This is where the Ms.Greer’s of this world and movements like feminism break down and fail to deliver what they promise. A life of me, me, me, me will give you nothing but regret. It is actually the denial of our lives and living for others – for Christ – that true life – abundant, fulfilling, freeing – can be had.

Women like Germaine Greer are frightened of limitations. They preach freedom of choice … yet, they don’t seem to realise {until it’s too late} that their choices of freedom come with limitations. If you want a childless life, you will get one. If you want many lovers, you won’t get that one, true, committed companion. It’s simple mathematics, really.

Elisabeth Elliot once said,

The special gift and ability of each creature defines it’s special limitations. And as the 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, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom – so the woman who accepts her gifts, her special calling – wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God. {p.31-32, Let Me Be a Woman}

As a woman, I am limited. I must accept this. {And really, the world over accepts this – why the separate races for men and women in the Olympics?} Men and women are made differently for different blessings, different challenges, different limitations, different freedoms.

If I try and run away from this biological fact and attempt to manipulate my biology into something it isn’t {and can never have}, then I am condemning myself, not to so-called freedom, but imprisonment. I would be stuck in a body I hated,  with functions I believed redundant {yet still working as if they were not}, always trying to be what I am not. Exhausting.

But, if instead, I accept the fact that I am a woman, and favour the natural limitations of my sex, then I am freeing myself to live the way I was designed to be. I will find joy in my marriage. I will find peace in childrearing. I will find contentment in the work I do at home {and there is plenty of it!}.

I may have wanted to be a Spice Girl when I was little with as much “girl power” as I could muster, but I feel completely empowered as a wife and mother. There are limitations on my life, but I am free – so free – to move around within them. I am my own boss. I run our days the way I want. I have a man I love and who loves me so well. We’re committed to doing life together, and the law constrains us and limits us to make us keep our promises. And our love is great and true and enduring. And I am rocking my cradle here at home because I know, down the track, that my children will be ruling the world. Even Abraham Lincoln got all this, the man who enabled freedom for so many.

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If you have any thoughts, please share.

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Feeling All The Feelings: Life After Anti-Depressants

For more posts on mental health and motherhood, click here.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that for the past three years I have been on anti-depressants. You will know that I haven’t suffered from depression but rather a cyclical anxiety disorder that was triggered off when our first child was born in 2013.

The first three months of his life were a giant hole of crazy. I drowned under all the noise in my mind and the hormonal imbalance that were causing me to cry a billion times a day. A great fear of foreboding gripped me from the moment I woke up and only left me when I had moments of sporadic sleep with a baby that would.not.sleep over night.

Going to my doctor one day, who has known me for years, he kindly told me that I needed some help to get out of this episode. Normally I could work my way out. But I was a new and overwhelmed mother, sleep deprived, and I just needed to have a little help pulling me out. Because I certainly, at the time, was barely able to function let alone pulling the bootstraps of my mind up.

So, Prozac became my friend. I called them my “happy pills”.

{Although, technically, they don’t make you happy. Happiness/joy is a choice. The pills just get us into a place where we can choose joy.}

I have always been open about being on medication. We need more women in Christian circles speaking out about the okayness of taking medication for mental health issues. I always say that, if we were diabetic or epileptic, we would need medication – so why would mental health be any different?

Well, today I am here to tell you: I am pill-free. Woo!

lifeafterantidepressants

The first question I’m asked when I share this with friends is: how are you feeling?

I feel great.

I have known that it was time to come off my pills and I think I have been ready this past year. I’ve known because originally, when I first took them, they made me feel like myself again. I remember one day, about two or three weeks since I had started on them, and my mind felt calm again. All of a sudden I could think freely! My emotions were stable! I was me!

In fact, I felt so good I remember thinking, “Wow. So this is what normal feels like.”

You see, I have had enormous hormonal/emotional struggles since my mid-teens when my parents separated. They got particularly bad when I was about nineteen/twenty after my DTS with YWAM. I came home such a mess my father thought I was bi-polar. But no, I was just in great need of healing: of having a stronger knowledge and life in the Word, of having a home, of having stability, of having someone who truly loved me.

After Josiah and those pills kicked in, I felt and was thinking the most normally I had since I was a child.

In the past year, I knew that I was me again and that the pills were no longer the buffer I needed. But I was scared. Scared of falling back into that horrible pit of anxiety. Scared of not being a strong wife and mother. Scared of becoming as self-absorbed as I used to be.

So I prayed and over this year, I just felt the desire to go it alone grow stronger and stronger. I knew that I would be okay. I knew that I was able now to work on my thinking and have the strength to say “no” to feelings that liked to direct my moods {and therefore, my days, my behaviour, my reactions to my family}.

Therefore, in October, I did it – I weaned myself off. And I’m feeling pretty good.

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The biggest thing that I am having to do is re-learn how to think, and therefore, how to act and feel.

Having the pills helped me be pretty stable emotionally. If I cried, it meant whatever it was was really important to me. I was also pretty clear-thinking. I could identify thoughts that were dumb and I was able to disregard them fairly easily. Since I no longer have that buffer, I am feeling all the feelings again.

Now, these feelings aren’t extreme like they were. Now, I’m just more easily irritated or more easily affected by a thought. And when I follow a thought {however brief or fleeting}, my mood is more easily swayed.

It’s been a learning curve. And not just for me, but for my lovely husband, too. We both haven’t had to deal with mood changes in me for three years. But we’re both giving each other a lot of grace {oh, he covers me with so much grace, that amazing man}. If I seem irritable or more stressed than usual, we talk about it. If I feel like something could trigger me off, I speak it out loud to him {which usually gets me back on track and out of my head}. If I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, I go to my room, get on my knees, and talk to God. He is my ultimate peace.

 

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I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot:

“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

Motherhood and mental illness has taught me so much about my great need for God. He has given me such a vision and goal for our family, and it is my nature to set out on my own, striving to perfect myself and my character so that this vision can be accomplished. But how much the good Lord knew I needed this thorn in my side. I need this weakness of heart and mind to keep me close to Him.

One of my favourite hymns, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, has a stanza that speaks so deeply to me. I sing quietly to the Lord and ask Him to answer the prayer of that song in me so that He, and He alone, is all I need to do this life He has given me, in my broken jar of clay.

“O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace now like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Are you a mother that struggles with illness? What scriptures, quotes, or songs encourage you on hard days?

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Why Pursuing Perfection Makes Me Less Faithful.

For many years I have struggled with a pursuit of perfectionism.

It is a drive I have that pushes me forward in many ways, though this desire for perfectionism doesn’t stretch to all areas of my life. I don’t, for example, want a perfect house. {Which, those who know me, would nod in agreement because my house is never, ever in a perfectly ordered way.} Neither do I desire to have perfect cooking skills or perfect sewing skills. When I craft, it’s in a very wing-it sort of way.

Yet, despite that, I would call myself a perfectionist {and that’s not in a positive way}. You see, the kind of perfectionism I seek is character perfection. I demand a lot of myself. I demand very high standards of my character and my behaviour. I demand excellence.

Now, before I get all theologised — I totally and completely get that I am not, nor will ever be, on this earth, perfected. I believe with all my mind that I am saved by faith and by grace alone.

It is God who directs people to Him.

It is God who shows them their dark state.

It is God who helps them repent.

It is God who saves.

It is God who begins the good work in a saint and who will complete it into perfection.

“There is none that is good.” ~ Psalm 53:1

I am not good. I know this very, very well.

But my heart? My heart likes to lead me into all kinds of deception {Jeremiah 17:9}.

My heart fools me into thinking that I can actually attain perfection, in and of myself, with my very own hard-working hands. It purrs with self-satisfaction when I feel like I have achieved a high standard I have placed upon myself … And it churns with false guilt and self-hatred when I fail — which is everyday.

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It is exhausting to be someone who seeks perfection in themselves, all by themselves. The standards are high, and they are never lived up to. Jerry Bridges, in his book Transforming Grace, called this the “performance treadmill”. We can never get off because we’re always running to reach the standards we set ourselves. And we kill ourselves in the process.

Thankfully, God has slowly been working in me. My brain and my heart are connecting on this issue, and I am being transformed by His grace.

Recently, I have noticed however, a new aspect in my pursuit of perfectionism that I didn’t see in me before. I have noticed inconsistency in my actions. I’ve seen how I drop something completely if I don’t do it perfectly. My heart has been opened to the reality that, when I pursue perfectionism in the things that I desire to be perfect in, I am less faithful in them.

Take our preschool-at-home, for example. I’ve had so many plans, so many ideas. I’ve made routines and lists {perfectionists love lists and boxes to tick!}. I’ve tried to implement things into our days. But then —

  • the kids won’t have a bar of it
  • it’s raining
  • there are too many errands to run
  • it’s too hard
  • I’m tired
  • the house is a mess
  • etc etc.

Something, or a few things, will get in the way of my great plans and, because I’m not meeting those standards of mine, I just stop. I don’t continue. I feel like I’m a failure. It’s too hard. I can’t do this perfectly, so I won’t do it at all.

Losing weight. Being consistent with exercise. Daily time with God. Homekeeping routines. Building a blog. I could go on about all the things that I have continued to drop and start again because of this pursuit of perfectionism. There are many.

But God is showing something to me. Not only is the Good News {that I can’t be perfect and I need Jesus to be perfect for me} getting more rooted and becoming more life-giving in me, I’m being stunned by these simple words that keep cropping up in my life:

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being faithful.

Being faithful: that’s all God wants of me. He wants me to listen to Him, obey Him, and be faithful.

Being me? He just wants me to be faithful with the person He made me to be.

Being a wife? He just wants me to faithfully love and care for my husband.

Being a mother? He just wants me to faithfully love and raise up and admonish the children.

Being a loving neighbour? He just wants me to faithfully love those He puts in my path.

In all these things, He wants me to faithfully obey Him according to His Word. He knows I’m never going to live up to it all. He knows – and sees – how I muck up everyday.

I eat too much chocolate – again.

I snap at the kids – again.

I put myself before my husband – again.

I ignore a chance to witness to Christ because I’m scared – again.

Again and again my pursuit of perfectionism hits the dust.

“When people insist of perfection or nothing, they get nothing.” ~ Edith Schaeffer

If I continue in this, I will get nothing.

But instead of nothing, I can turn my eyes upon Jesus and receive everything. I can accept that He’s done it all for me. The light of the Cross falls on me. I don’t deserve it. But He covers me in His grace.

And because of that grace, and of that mercy, I can sit comfortably in being imperfect. I can pursue consistency. I can be a faithful person in the tasks God gives me to do. 

Can you relate to this at all? Please share.

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Motherhood & Mental Illness: When I Am Weak

This is now part of a mini-series found here:
Anxiety. Mental Illness.
They can be hard words to swallow about myself. But I do.
This week I have been reminded that I live in a frail and fallen body. It’s easy, when things are fine, to fool myself into thinking that I have it all together, that I am strong and able to cruise through life independently and alone. And then, something happens and medication isn’t enough to keep my anxiety at bay: once again, I’m thrust into the whirling pit of a speeding mind, the sense that something is very wrong, intense emotions and a body wound up like an old-fashioned toy.
I have been “fine” for so long. It’s two years since my last pregnancy and post-partum struggles. It’s been well over a year since I have tried to wean myself off my medication, only to have my old friend come creeping back through the brain stem of my mind. Life has trundled along – busy, routine, safe. I’ve been okay.
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How I Went Under Again

Last week Tim was suddenly put on night shifts {who knew builder’s could be on night shifts?} and everything was turned upside down. I was sole parenting day and night; I was stressed trying to keep a toddler and preschooler quiet during the day in our small house so as not to wake Tim; therefore, we went out and about everyday. It was a struggle. By the end of the week, the muscles around my shoulders were sore from being tense all the time and, by the weekend, I could feel the unnamed panic starting to creep over my heart, my mind like a deer in headlights.
Now I wasn’t handling things as I normally do. Squabbles, disobedience, dawdling filled me with irritability at best, rage at worst. Long days in sole charge of the kids from sun up to sundown {Tim has night classes several times a week and is gone for work by 6.30am} built that pressure of responsibility to bursting point as I struggled staying on top of it all.
Finally, by Wednesday, I acknowledged to myself that I wasn’t well and needed to stop trying. This brought a sense of relief. It usually takes me a little to face my anxiety; I often keep going as before, productive and ignoring my rising tension. I think I don’t need help. And then, I realise I can’t – –
and I throw myself before God and simply ask for help. “Give me grace, O Lord. I just can’t do this without you.”

Why I Accept This Thorn

And that is what this thorn in my side is really for. God knows me so well. He knows I love comfortable and, more than physical comfort, I crave idolise emotional comfort. And He knows that when I ask, in trepidation, to help me need Him and desire Him more than anything else, the thorn shifts and I’m reminded that it is weakness that keeps us within the safety of His refuge.

Peace and safety certainly don’t come from striving for the perfect life or being the world’s best mother. These are the goals of my flesh. They war with the God-directed spirit in me – the new me – that only wants Him and His ways and His will. These two parts of me grate against one another like the plates of the earth, and it is my anxiety that is the earthquake, shaking me around a bit, keeping me at the foot of the cross.

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry –
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

I used to plead this illness away. I used to fight it and deny it and crucify myself for being so weak. I feel shame that I need such a quiet and uneventful life to keep me steady, that such a minor thing like Tim working night shifts can throw me off “my game”.

But part of the valley I experienced after Josiah’s birth helped me see it with a humble heart. I saw this world and our broken bodies differently, for what they are – tents, that flap in the wind a bit, and which pegs sometimes get ripped out of the earth. We are clay vessels, we’re easily broken.

Grace Upon Grace

Our culture emulates perfection – perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect families, perfect wealth. But what a lie. We will always come against the fallen. This world is not meant to be it.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

… So the power of Christ may rest on me. Did you hear that? We aren’t meant to strive in our brokenness. Rather, we are meant to rest in His grace, His power, His mercy, His blood. We can acknowledge who and what we really are, and divorce ourselves from perfection. We are to pursue holiness, but that is not the same as pursuing perfection. We are to pursue being a set apart people, who trust and obey God.
Now, however much I hate my illness, I accept it. I embrace it. I acknowledge that it is a gift from God. Yes. A gift. I would rather be sick, on my face before the throne of God in desperate need of Him, than cruising through life thinking I’m awesome and invincible. I would rather see myself as a weak wife and mother, than sit on my high horse, not able to be real and in the trenches with other needy women. I would rather experience the Gospel in pain than understand it in perfect theology, sitting comfortably, unscathed by broken. I am really, really grateful I’m broken. It makes me need Jesus.

Do you struggle with anxiety or another form of mental illness? How do you accept it as a struggling mother?

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You Can Slow Your Life {and your family will thank you for it.}

It’s Saturday night and we put our son to be at 5:55pm. I don’t think he has ever been to bed that early. But he was tired and burning up. His eyes were puffy with tiredness and when we said, ‘Early night tonight, buddy’, all he said was, ‘Yeth’. {Yes, he has a cute lisp.}

This week, despite ever being conscious of how we spend our days, has overtaxed our children. Compared to other families, it may have been a fairly normal week, but for us, it was busy. My kids don’t do well with busy. They tend to get a bit crazy and, at worst, come down sick with temperatures. Hence, a toastie of a little boy, in bed an hour before his normal bedtime.

And me? I don’t do well with busy either. Introverts with a tendency to be anxious go better with a slow life. So, when I make sure our life is stable and peaceful, it’s not just for the children – it’s for me, too. Happy mummy, happy campers.

Living a quiet and slow life is a passion of mine. But I’m not perfect at it. There are still weeks where we get out too much or there isn’t enough downtime at home. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but for the most part, it is possible to live a slow life.

Principles for Slowing Your Life Down
Keep family your main priority. When your family come first, it is much easier stripping the unnecessary away. Perhaps you’re like me {in Myers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ} and you love helping. If someone needs help, I will put my hand up. Or, when we commit to something, we really commit {and so go to the group even if it is the last thing we should be doing}. As a wife and mother now, I say no to everything that does not add to our family life. Even if it would add to my life but would cost someone else in the family, I say ‘no’. This may seem extreme, but this full-on motherhood thing is only for a season. I won’t always have this amazing opportunity to pour everything into my family. Oneday, I can do things for ‘me’. But right now, they are my priority.
Accept the different seasons. As mentioned above, there are many seasons in life, and each will mean saying ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to others. We don’t need to feel guilty about this – it really is a fact of life. Limitations during different seasons are not meant to be constricting; they are perimetres for keeping the ebb and flow of daily life in check. Within those boundaries is great freedom and peace. Just like seasons of life, there are also the seasons of the year: we slow down in winter, and become more active in the warmer months. This is a natural timeline that God has made for our lives, but we have forgotten it in our modern life.

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Do what makes life a joy. ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ Reading books on the couch, cuddles close, kisses buried in golden curls, tickles with boisterous boy-giggles. This is pure joy and it is enjoying Him in the moment because His hand is all over it. Stuffing kids in cars, rushing here, stuck in traffic there, tempers rising, irritation. There is no joy there. And it isn’t what life is about. Walks in the park, make towers with blocks, reading good books, painting pictures, planting bulbs in winter soil for the spring. Glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.
Keep your eyes wide open. Don’t just accept the status quo because that’s what everyone does. Just because busy is what our culture endorses doesn’t mean it’s good. Read our culture, read history, put everything into perspective. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit kooky. In the end, what other people think of us doesn’t matter – it’s Him we’re wanting to honour. Let us submit ourselves under His way of living for each of our own lives.

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There are other things to keep in mind, too:
  • re-evaluate when needed
  • keep Scriptures hidden in your heart to keep you focused on what is important for your family
  • be bold even when you feel nervous to be different
  • keep communicating with your husband and his dreams for your family
  • accept the busier moments in life {ie. Christmas} then return to slow as soon as possible
  • watch and listen to your child’s cues {they may not be able to articulate their need for more or less}

The blessings of a slow life are just enormous. And I don’t believe it is something you can regret. As mother’s, if we were constantly busy, we would look back and think: ‘I wish we had taken things more slowly; enjoyed the little years more; read more together; had more home days…’ But I don’t think, in living a slow life, we’ll look back and think, ‘I wish we had been busier.’
It’s never too late to start. It’s okay to quit clubs and extra life fluff to scale back. It may take awhile to adjust – your bodies will be used to going, driving, spending, hurrying. There will be urges you need to master. But a morning will dawn and your heart will think of the slow day ahead and be content. 
And, I promise, you will be a more patient, more enjoyable, more joy-filled wife and mother for it.

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Reading Scripture with the Right Spirit {and Free Printable}.

When I sit down for some time reading the Bible, it can be so simple. The words are there, the Spirit is within me, my mind is capable – I read, I absorb, I believe. Sometimes, of course, there are passages that I’m not sure about. But there are very reliable sources I can turn to for help as well as my lovely, learned husband. As a someone commented on another post of mine the other day,

“God doesn’t want His will for us to be a mystery.”

And that is so true. That is why we have this blessed book called the Bible! It is His breathed out will, written by men, inspired by His Spirit. Surely that means God’s Truth can be known? Surely the pages we hold can be understood – and not only by those who are learned, or studied in theology – but for regular believers, like myself?
So why then, my heart ponders in confusion, is there so much debate out there? Why can so many of us just not agree? How can particular passages divide strong believers, Christ-like followers? Why are there so many “interpretations”? If this is confusing for me as a Christian, I can imagine what it is like for those watching in from the outside. No wonder the Church has so little integrity in the world today.
Call me naive, but I do believe the Bible is to be taken – in general – as it is read. And when I say, in general, I mean that we in our post-Christ age read the Word with Gospel eyes.  Of course there are elements of Israelite law that just do not apply to us anymore because all of the Law’s promises have been fulfilled and have their their “Yes” in Jesus {2 Corinthians 1:20}. And cultural context does come into play when we look at the New Testament {as in, life is just different now}.
But surely God knew this when He put the Bible together? Did the Middle Ages with serfdom and plagues and monarchies take Him by surprise? Or the Reformation or the Enlightenment or the Industrial Age or our Post-Postmodern world with it’s terrorism and gender-nuetrality and sexually obsessed culture?
When Paul sat down and wrote this letters, did God not know ahead of time the issues, the cultural differences, the wars, the history, the people that were to come?
Of course He did. Paul didn’t know what was to come. He just wrote what the Spirit guided Him to, having lived and learned with Jesus, alone, for three years {Galations 1}. What Paul wrote he learned directly from Jesus, something none of us can ever say. So why do many people just not accept or believe or want to obey some Scriptures?

 

Again, call me naive, but this is my simplified observation: the way that we believe and live out Scripture stems from the way our hearts approach God’s Word. Now I don’t want to say how others approach Scripture, I just want to write about how I want to approach Scripture: with the right spirit.
A quotation that inspired my heart to write this post was written by a Christian man from long ago. His name was Thomas A Kempis and he loved the Lord during the 1400’s. In his devotional, The Imitation of Christ, Kempis wrote:

 

“Every holy writing ought to be read with the same spirit wherewith it was made.”

The same spirit wherewith {in which} it was made.

 

 

 

What kind of spirit did Moses have? Or David? Or Isaiah? Or Paul? Or Peter? Did they have a spirit of arrogance or conceit? Did they want to write what they wanted to? Did they write with a spirit of falsehood or with a chip on their shoulders?
Yes, every single man that God used to write His Word was that, a man. But that doesn’t mean we cannot trust the Bible. We can trust it because each of these men were filled with the Spirit of God and it was His Spirit that caused the words of their hearts and minds to flow out. This is why we can believe that the Bible is inerrant {not wrong} and all we need {2 Timothy 3:16}.
So if we know that the spirit the writers of the Bible was God’s own Spirit, then we know that their intentions were: honourable, righteous, meek, loving, God-seeking, Christ-glorifying, selfless, and in fear of the Lord.
Because we are fallen creatures, we will never read the Bible exactly as God intended it to be read. This is the biggest reason why none of us can agree. But, we are responsible for how our heart’s are when we come to God’s Word. James tells is that we are to receive the Word “humbly” {James 1:21}.

Is my heart humble?

 

Is my heart meek?

 
Is my heart truly wanting to please God and obey what He wants?

 
Is my heart clouded by own desires or preconceptions?

 
Is my heart darkened by worldly lies?

 
Is my heart seeking God’s truth even if it costs me?

Finally, is my heart reading the Holy Scriptures with the same spirit that the original writers had when they wrote the very words of God?
When I think on this thought, when I think of what God was thinking when He wrote the Bible, I want to want Him. I want to want His ways, even if it chafes with something in me. I want to remember that if someone has to be wrong between God and I, it’s me! 
 
Perhaps, just perhaps, there would be less confusion, less strife, less broken churches and broken people if we had a right, humble spirit in respect to the Bible.

 

 — Free Printable —
Will fit 8’x10″ frame

 

 

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