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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Homegrown Kids or, Why We Keep Our Kids Home {A Series}

We’ll soon be coming up to a year since we began wrestling with bringing our son home from preschool. Though we didn’t pull him out of preschool until May, the first quarter of 2016 was a time when I did a lot of wrestling in my soul over our son, our daughter coming up behind him, and our vision for the growth and direction of our family.

Our son was two when we enrolled him two mornings a week {for three hour sessions} at a local preschool. It was a lovely centre with caring teachers and a great outdoor area. It took some time for Josiah to settle in. He would cry when I left, and I would talk to myself as I walked away with another person holding him as he cried {often screamed} for me, “It’s okay. He’ll get used to me not being there. This is good for him. He’s getting more independent.” I hardened my heart against his feelings because I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do. Everyone does it. It’s normal.

But, despite him getting used to being without me over time, something in me would not rest easy. He had fun and did learn to “socialise” better with kids. BUT. We noticed him changing. He became less and less like the little boy of before. He was naughtier, meaner to his baby sister. He was more dissatisfied with home life, with his toys and playthings. He has always been an energetic boy, but I would find him even more worked up when he came home at lunchtime.

When term holidays would come round, especially the long summer January holidays of 2016, our little boy would return. Life would become easier. Our day-to-day wasn’t such a battle anymore. He was more obedient and kinder and a joy. But as soon as preschool started again, his behaviour would regress. I found that it would take two or three days to de-preschool.

The uneasy feeling I had about letting my little boy spend time apart from me, despite it being what everyone did, continued to grow. Both my husband and I could see so clearly what an effect preschool had on him. We asked the Lord for wisdom and help, and He did. We made the choice to pull him out.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I had to have a lot of courage in the Lord to approach the teachers, sign the forms, explain to other mothers why we were bringing him home. I grappled with doubt and feeling faint of heart. It’s hard when people don’t understand. No-one ever disparaged our decision, everyone was very supportive and helpful. But I know they didn’t understand, and if they disagreed, they were really kind to not share their thoughts with me. I probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, despite my beliefs. I’ve always struggled with trying to please everyone. But, as I’m learning, you can’t!

I do remember, after officially unenrolling him, on the second to last session til he finished, walking with Rosie in the buggy to pick him up and getting a call saying that Josiah seemed to be unwell. I hurried my steps, thankful I was only five minutes away. When I got there, he was lying asleep on a little kids couch that he was too big for, pale, shivering. He looked so fragile and small. I gathered him up and took him home. He said to me, “I cried and wanted mummy. I want to go home.” My heart broke.

What seemed so normal at the beginning, now seemed really unnatural.

Within a week, our life with our three-year-old was transformed. His beautiful nature returned and he was our happy boy again. I remember the first week of having him home again, I felt incredible amount of relief. I knew he belonged at home with me.

Since then, despite how hard it can be and how much I have to give of myself, that belief has only grown and grown. As we have sought God for wisdom, guidance, and help, He has so graciously provided everything we have needed – including times of rest from burnout.

My passion for raising children at home – or what I call Homegrown Kids – has grown and deepened, and I really want to share these thoughts with you.

This isn’t to condemn, at all. I know how varied our world is and the pressures there are on modern families. But, I really do believe this is best for most children, so I share this in the hopes that it will encourage other mothers. I especially hope it will encourage mothers who may be thinking of doing something similar, but are scared to make that first step, or just want to hear of someone else’s experience. I know I scoured blogs, particularly homeschooling blogs, looking for encouragement and inspiration and guidance.  This is for you, dear mother, and the heart you have for your children and for their future.

I plan to write three more posts in this series. When they are finished, this will be the landing page where you can find the rest of them. They will be:

1. Homegrown Kids: Keeping Our Kids at Home Series {You are here}

2. Why I Believe in Homegrown Kids.

3. How to Be a Full-Time Mother of Young Children {Without Going Mental}.

4. Resources for Raising Homegrown Kids.

I’m really excited to write this series, and humbled, as well. None of this is my husband or I. We had to make the practical, earthly decisions for our family, but it’s been completely God above it all. I’m really grateful that this is the story He is writing for us. Please share and comment below with any thoughts.

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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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One Blessing From Suffering.

I remember when I first became a Christian and learned in the Bible that I was going to suffer in this life. I wasn’t a stranger to suffering. In fact, I was still in deep pain when I came to the Lord. But for some reason, I thought that when I became a Christian, everything would be all roses and butterflies.

So when in every book of the New Testament, and throughout the Old Testament, I read that in this life, there are going to be some pretty hairy and hard moments – well, it felt like a pretty big downer.

And it made me a little bit fearful. What kind of suffering would I go through? Would it be too much for me? Would I survive? What would the Lord allow me to go through?

 

Well, within a few years, I went through a period of great suffering. It was an anguish-of-the-soul type of suffering. It was the type where, not even those whom love you best, can understand the grief and pain you are experiencing. I was fully alone in my groaning. Like David, I could say,

My tears have been my food day and night.” Psalm 42:3

It was terrible. And it was all that I had feared suffering would be like: a harrowing valley of darkness you don’t know why you’re in and how long you’ll be in it for. It was, to quote St.John of the Cross, a dark night of the soul.

But.

I can say with an unwavering surety that that period of suffering was the greatest blessing of my life. It changed me forever, and I am so grateful that God brought it into my life for His purposes.

What was the greatest blessing in that suffering?

It was just me and God.

Don’t get me wrong, my suffering involved other people. In fact, my suffering was caused by other people I loved. This, in many ways, made it all the more worse. But, it also made it all the more sweet.

Now only, could I turn to God.

Now only, could He be the one I called out to.

Now only, could He be the one to shelter under.

Now only, could He be the one whom my heart trusted fully.

Only He understood my particular situation, my particular pain, my particular grief, my particular sorrow. As I cried day and night, He alone caught my tears and bound up my brokenness.

Sometimes the primary reason suffering comes into our lives is so God is our only answer.

Many times we can turn to people, or things, or even ourselves for help. But very occasionally, the situation is so unique, a person is truly alone in their suffering. No-one can understand the broken heart and tears and questions but God.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

When a man is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time.”

I know from my own experience that this truth is very real. The pain is very bitter, but the quiet joy of being so dependent on the Lord is very, very sweet.

Mercifully, that suffering for me passed. And God has used it mightily in my life and the lives of others. He has truly turned my mourning into dancing {Psalm 30:11}.

Not only this, but I have a quiet place in my soul that has communed only with God, and it is a place I treasure. I know that that special communion with Him can only have come in the throws of a tempest —

So if that is you today, hold fast to the Lord and commune with Him alone. He truly understands your grief and your suffering. Because, at the end of the day, we stand before Him alone. He really is our Only.

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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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To the Mother Dreading Advent {Rest in the Cross this Christmas}.

Are you dreading Advent and Christmas this year?

Are you a mother with young children? Are you depressed? Having marriage issues? Are you deep in grief? Are you overwhelmed? Are you just struggling to find joy?

Advent can be a really hard time.

This is the season when Pinterest is really in it’s element. Almost every single link on my page has suggestions {sometimes requirements?} on how I can make this Christmas the craftiest, the tastiest, the most joyful, the thriftiest, the grandest, the least stressful, the most Christ-like…

And I wanted to encourage you {because I’m encouraging me} that you don’t have to be Super Christmas Mum. You don’t have to do the calendars and reading plans. You don’t have to craft every day with unwilling children. You don’t have to bake all the Christmas things. You don’t have sew your own stockings. You don’t have to craft together a wreath for the front door made out of past Christmas cards.

If you want to do these things, then do them merrily and with cheer! But if you don’t want to or can’t, be free not to.

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Just like so many areas in life, social media and the internet has just made life harder for us. With the beautiful photos and happy moments captured then shared, our natural inclinations to be discontent, jealous, and to compare with judgement {on others and ourselves} are aroused more easily and more frequently.

This is one of the reasons I went off Facebook almost two years ago. I knew what it was doing in me. I would get envious. I would get proud and want to show off {under the guise of “sharing”}. And I was becoming the mother I didn’t want to be: glued to a screen and missing out on real life with my family.

{Because who is anyone kidding – the internet is not real life. It is a medium, sure, of sharing life and learning and connecting. But it is not real, in front of my eyes, moving, breathing, soul-living life. And I want that more than I want fresh feeds or the latest gossip.}

The internet can be a friend or a foe. And during the festive season, I find the internet can be more of a foe.

So, sweet friend who feels like a failure for not creating an Advent calendar from scratch that comes with scriptures and hand-drawn decorations to add to the tree…

So, sweet friend who feels like making a big feast worthy of going viral would swamp her under to a place she thinks she couldn’t surface from…

So, sweet friend who is dealing with pain and confusion and a sense that life will never be the same, yet knows her kids want and perhaps need this Christmas to be more special than ever, but she just doesn’t has it in her…

So, sweet friend who feels pressured by family to be a big part of the celebrations but who hasn’t had a full night’s sleep for a long time…

Just rest. Please.

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All these expectations and pressures were not present on the day Jesus was born. He wasn’t born into this world to add burdens to you. He took your burdens on his own shoulders and died with them on a tree. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. :: Galations 5:1 ::

He wants you to celebrate His birthday, but He doesn’t want you to idolise the experience of it. Just as He came into the world simply and humbly, so you can celebrate and worship Him with the same manner of heart.

::If you want a very encouraging devotional that will meet you right where you are this Advent, please head to Sarah Geringer’s site where you can purchase her new devotional, Christmas Peace for Busy Moms, and follow along with all her posts in the lead up to Christmas. ::

If you’re taking Advent easy this year but still plan to do a few easy things to make it special for the family, please share below.

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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!

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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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How I Recovered From Mummy Burnout.

Less than a month ago, I was almost on the edge.

I was really, really tired. I was emotionally all over the place. Every day dragged and I was constantly irritated with the kids. Situations with them were trying even when, normally, they wouldn’t have been.

And, like always, you never know how tired and at the end of yourself you are. You keep pushing through, hoping you’ll wake up one morning and feel better. But you don’t. I certainly didn’t.

This year has been a very busy year and hard. Tim is out a few nights a week, working often 50 hours +, on a billion different rosters at church… And being alone with two kids under three much of the time is amazing, but draining.

One Friday morning in the shower, I had had enough. I text Tim and said, “This is too hard.” And I sent lots of arrow prayers up but, when you’re in a bit of a state, your brain tells you that God isn’t listening. Or that He isn’t close. Or that you’re going to feel like this forever.

But, of course He is. Always.

{And I laugh at myself because, how many times must He remind me of how amazingly awesome He really is?}

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That Monday, Tim hurt his back. Badly. It was disasterous at the time, especially when the physiotherapy actually made his back worse. After never taking more than two days off work in his life, he was forced to stay home for over two weeks.

But God knows, doesn’t He?

Both of us were burnt out. Both of us were at the end of ourselves. Both of us desperately needed space, time to rest, recover, and recouperate. Being a husband/father/provider is hard work; being a wife/mother/homemaker is hard work.

So when it was obvious that Tim wasn’t going back to work anytime soon, we went into holiday mode. And, oh, it was glorious.

By the time Tim went back to work, we were different people. And for me, I felt like a new wife and a new mother. I felt like the real me again. The one who loves this life. The mother who was writing about having a vision for motherhood while struggling to retain her own was behind me. I was back.

God had made it really clear that Tim and I needed to have a break. So here’s what we both did to help ourselves get better.

Rest

We both took lots of different times to have space to lie down. Obviously Tim had to do lots of lying down for the beginning because of his back, and it was really beneficial for him. And when he was able, he took charge of the kids and enabled me to rest. So I slept. At 2pm, I would sleep for over an hour. I did this lots of times over the two weeks. We took turns getting up with the kids in the morning while the other one slept.

We were really generous with one another and cared for the other person’s needs. Sleep was much needed for both of us.

And I would say that sleep is the foundation for a person needing to recover from burnout.

If you have trouble sleeping, I really recommend natural sleep drops {not an affiliate}. When our daughter goes through a period of time when she doesn’t sleep well, sleep drops really help encourage sleep. They’re not addictive or bad for you. They are completely safe.

I would also recommend using an essential oil like lavender. I put one or two drops on my pillow and I really believe they help me calm to sleep. Again, I put this on my daughter’s pillow every night and I believe it makes a big difference for her sleeping patterns.

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Relax

Relaxing may sound exactly like resting to you, but I believe they are quite different. Whilst resting is doing exactly what God did on the Sabbath {ie. He stopped creating}, relaxing can quite easily involve doing.

Rest is giving your body {and mind, soul, and heart} a break. To me, relaxing is doing anything that brings you joy. It revitalises your soul. It restores your emotional and mental well-bring. It reminds you that you are you and you enjoy relaxing in this way because it’s part of who you are.

Do you relax by exercising? reading? hiking? cooking? writing? coffee catch-ups? watching tv? playing games? painting? organising? sewing? helping? doing the dishes?

The way someone relaxes will look completely different to another person. I think it can often depend on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. An introvert {like me} would love nothing better than to be alone and read a book or write a letter to someone. An extrovert might completely thrive and relax by shopping in a busy mall and catching up with a friend.

Whatever it is that feeds and nourishes you – the way God made you – that is relaxing. And when you’re trying to recover from burnout, doing what relaxes you will be incredibly healing and restorative to your mental health.

Regroup

What do I mean by regroup?

Once you feel on the mend and you don’t want to run away from everyday things that threaten to overwhelm you, start evaluating your life. Look back on the period leading up to your burnout and be honest with yourself about why you ended up where you did.

Have you over-committed yourself? Have you taken on things that are good but just aren’t for this season of your life? Have you over-committed your children to too many things? Are you having enough down-time at home? Are your standards too high? Are you living a “by works” faith? Are you having regular relationship time with God? Are you feeding your soul so you’re not pouring out on empty?

There are many questions we need to ask ourselves. It can be hard, but it is necessary.

Once you know why you’re in this place, make active changes. Cut back on roles. Change routines. Set up a routine. Have a planner so you can see your life on paper and manage it just as if you were your own PA.  Allow yourself a break. Ask God to show you what to do.

Life is as complicated as you make it. It can be as simple as you make it. But YOU have to make it that way.

The biggest thing we need to do as married women with children is remember that God expects nothing more of us than: loving your husband, loving your children, run your home, and care for your neighbours as yourself.

{There is a reason why Paul told the older women to instruct the younger women. Those young women were being busy and nosey everywhere else but in the sphere God had placed them in for that season. And because it’s in the Bible, God knows we need it today in our crazy, hectic 21st century.}

Burnout is a horrible place to be in. Life still demands you. You’re still needed. But you can recover from it. You need to be active in getting the rest you need, the relaxation your well-being requires, and the opportunity to get your priorities in order. This is what I did and, by God’s mercy and grace, I’m out on the other side.

Have you ever gone through burnout? How have you coped and recovered?

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