Intentional Mothering

What Children Do When They Don’t Attend Preschool.

By on August 13, 2017

People often ask me what our days look like with both my children at home everyday. Some are curious, some are perplexed, some think we’re just a bit weird (which is okay, really, since we are). Because most young children spend part of their weeks in childcare/preschool, I’m sure people must wonder how children who don’t fare.

It’s been well over fifteen-months since we pulled our son from preschool and I can’t imagine life any differently now. It took a few months (after the initial Sigh-of-Relief period when everything was hunky dory) to adjust to having two little ones with me all the time, but now – like I said – this is normal, everyday life for us.

So what do our days look like and what do the kids get up to?

A Preschooler’s Life at Home

We read. A lot. My 4-year-old now sits through some chapter books with me.

We go on outings.

We take a moment to explore new weather experiences.

We garden. And make nests.

We do lots of walks.

We climb hills.

We get messy.

We discover God’s world.

We learn letters.

And we learn new skills.

We do many, many other things. We play together. We bake. We build with Lego. We make huts. We play Play-Doh. We ride bikes. We jump on the trampoline. We have playdates. We go grocery shopping. We go on errands. We go to gymnastics. We go to church.

I do not believe our children miss out on anything. They have a wonderful life at home where we are all learning how to be a family. How to laugh at our weaknesses. How to say sorry when we hurt each other. How to work as part of a family around the home. How to build each other up. How to know we are loved even at our worse.

It definitely isn’t easy. There are fights and bad days and grumpy moods and times for discipline (as much for me as the kids!). This mama is often praying for the Lord to help her know what on earth to do about either – or both! – of the children.

I think this is the greatest blessing of homeschooling: because we are together most of the time, we are doing real life together as real people. And I think that is one of the best things parents can pass on to their children: teaching them how to relate to one another in a way that is real, messy, familiar, and safe. As the years go on, the roots will deepen so the fruit of this living-together will be born when they are older and relating as adults.

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Intentional Mothering

The Best Thing A Wife of a Busy Husband Can Do

By on August 8, 2017

No wife ever feels that she is experienced enough to share snippets of wisdom learned through her own marriage. We always believe that other wives will know more or understand how to love a husband much more than we do. And, in some ways, this can be true.

But I do believe that God uses all marriages – however short or long they have been going for – for His glory and His purposes. And part of those purposes is encouraging other wives in their commitment to loving and helping their men.

In our marriage, one experience I can share on is being married to a hardworking, busy man.

My dear man is a man of integrity and works always to the very best of his ability, working for his employer like he is working for the Lord. This means that when he walks out the door in the morning, he’s not coming home until he believes the work has been done for that day.

Being a commercial builder, this means long and physically hard days. From 7-5pm, with some Saturdays, and even very early mornings (like 2am) on concrete pour days. Also, as he works his way higher in position, so it comes with more responsibility and pressure.

But my husband not only is busy with work. He is busy writing and leading a Bible Study group, serving on two rosters at church, mentoring, and catching up with mates when he can. Not to mention, the priority in all of this, is being a husband, father, and caring son.

He is a busy man! And, dear friend, I am sure your husband is, too.

I’m sure you feel like the young wife I spoke to at church last Sunday, who said she felt bad about her husband’s busy schedule and her feeling unable to help in anyway. I could sense her feelings of helplessness and guilt when he’s out a lot and she doesn’t have the same responsibilities and pressure. 

What are wives of busy husbands to do? What is the best way we can love and serve our men?

My Number One Piece of Advice Is…

Take it easy. I’m not kidding.

Possibly the worst thing you could do – especially if you have children – is to run around trying to work as hard, in the same manner, as your husband does. You will run yourself into the ground. You will be miserable and tired and grumpy. You will have a messy home and barely-put-together meals. You will use most of your energy on parenting the children. So, when your tired husband comes home, you will have nothing left for him.

Trust me.

Sometimes it is easy to feel guilty as a hard-working stay-at-home wife and mother. Because we don’t have set hours, or employers, or projects that are due in, or pressures, or long meetings, or commuting… we sometimes feel that we are not working as hard or doing enough to match all the things our husbands do.

As easy as it is to do that comparison, we shouldn’t. Do you know why? We’re not supposed to be the same.

Get Rid Of The Guilt

The measuring stick of “hard work” is not the same for every person, in every job, in every role, at all times. The Queen’s busy day would look very different to a teachers, and a teachers day would look very different to a carpenters. An invalid’s day would look different to a pregnant woman’s, and so does a wife’s day look different to her husband’s day.

God gives us different roles with different responsibilities. So don’t work yourself to the bone trying to be like your husband. Your husband may be managing a large company, or driving trucks long-distance, or doing night shifts. In your heart and in your mind, lay out your priorities and see them for what they are: but you are shaping people, molding hearts, directing futures, and creating homes.

Not better or worse, just different. And that role requires a different looking day. Don’t ever forget that.

Mother Culture

So, let’s say, when you are tempted to “keep going” in the hour you have left before you begin to get dinner on the table as the kids are climbing the walls and your man is walking through the door – stop. Don’t keep going. You need a breather.

Schedule out little pockets of time during the day to kick your feet up. Nap. Rest. Read. Cultivate the gifts that God has given you that make you you – piano, writing, art, pen pals, singing, crafting, sewing. 

It is not wrong to do this during the day. In fact, I would say it is absolutely necessary.

Charlotte Mason called these pockets of time, “Mother Culture” (link to explanation). Basically, Mother Culture is when a mother continues her education during the years she is heavily mothering.

Why?

Because she needs it. You, dear mother, need to take time to care for and to educate yourself. Don’t let yourself wither and shrivel and become some unknown person your husband doesn’t recognise. Just because you have children doesn’t mean you become dumb.

And it doesn’t mean you don’t take it easy, either.

So. Plan out pockets of quiet time. Do what you need to rest and refresh yourself. Stretch your brain. Stretch new abilities and hobbies. When your husband comes home from a busy day at work, shattered and in need of companionship (or quiet!), you will be ready and willing and able. There’ll be good food on the table. And the kids will be settled (reasonably) because they have a happy, growing mother.

And your marriage will thrive.

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Intentional Mothering

Being Okay With Being Okay (The Freedom That Comes From Self-Forgetfulness).

By on July 22, 2017

This post is dedicated to two friends both old and new, Cat and Emmy, who intentionally encouraged me to keep writing when I just want to give up on myself. Thank you for believing in me and reading what I have to say.

I’m slowing climbing out of a period where I made my life all about me. It was the kind of time when things just seemed hard and annoying all the time, but I didn’t realise that the problem was me.

I didn’t realise that the reason why I was –

…so moody,

…so grumpy with the kids,

…and so rebellious in spirit toward my dear husband

 – was because I was so focused on ME.

All I did everyday was grumble – inwardly and outwardly – about lots of different things and how hard everything was.

Mothering. Having a hard-working and busy husband. A house that always needs to be cleaned. A body that just keeps failing. My poor self-discipline. And why didn’t it just get any easier?

Then the Lord started to gently show me the hole I had put myself in.

He used my husband to pull me up in a conversation, pointing out how miserable I was being about things he couldn’t control even though he was doing all he could. (And being so patient with me.)

He showed me in my sense of guilt over how much of a grumpy mother I had become. Not letting the kids jump in puddles because I couldn’t be bothered with the clean-up. My son hiding something he had broken because he didn’t want Mummy to get angry. (Ouch.)

He also showed me in a book I’m reading how the high the standards I set myself cause me to stumble and not rest in the complete, all-sufficient grace of Jesus. And how, when I am not resting in His grace for myself, I’m not letting other people rest in it either. So, more grumps because you know, we’re all sinners and always let each other down.

And so on, and so on.

At one point late last week, with yucky, argumentative thoughts battling it out in my mind and my spirit raging with unpleasantness, I asked God, “What is wrong with me? Please, help me!”

***

And then I remembered how to get out of this mess. I remembered that no-one else had got me into it, and no-one else would get me out of it. This was my responsibility, my problem. Not my husband’s. And certainly not my children who, remember Sarah, are children – and not fully life-trained adults (so they do annoying things, like trudging dog poo into the house without realising).

The were only two ways out of the miserable and self-centred pit of a hole I had got myself into.

First, talk myself out of it.

Talking to yourself isn’t just for crazy people, you know. Or, perhaps I am crazy.

That being said, telling yourself the truth does wonders. And I don’t mean, just any “truth” like the world tells us is true. I’m not saying that I would say glib things to myself like, “You’re worth it!” or “You deserve happiness!”

No. This is the Truth I preach to myself:

I’m being a self-centred sinner and treating my family horribly. But Christ died for me. My sin is nailed to the Cross. I have died to sin and it no longer has a hold on me. I don’t have to follow these woe-is-me feelings. Love my family more than myself through the strength Jesus gives me in His Spirit.

What a beautiful and precious gift we have in the Gospel. And preaching the Gospel to myself – that is, the truth of the Cross and Scripture – breaks the bondage of sin and sets me free.

And friends, it works.

Not always immediately. Sometimes, depending how bad we are in the trenches of our minds, it can take some battling. But light breaks through the dawn, and we get there. We start moving beyond ourselves to truly loving others before ourselves. 

Second, forget about myself.

As I’m walking about like a crazy woman talking to myself, I am also simultaneously practicing what Timothy Keller calls “the freedom of self-forgetfulness”. It seems opposing to be talking to myself whilst trying to forget about myself – but it’s not. Not really.

You see, the more I focus on Jesus and doing what He’s commanded me to do –

loving Him

and loving others

 – the less I will be so wrapped up in myself. And it is so good to forget about myself. Following Jesus is all about forgetting about what I am feeling, what I think I need, what I think are my “rights”, what I believe will make me happier than what I am right now.

The less I entangle myself within myself, and instead concern myself more and more with those God has called me to love, the more joyous and selfless and delighted and peaceful and content I will be.

Even though I stumble in sin everyday – which includes at the top of the list, being obsessed with my own sins and failures – preaching the Gospel of Truth to myself will help me rest in that precious grace of Jesus. As Tullian Tchividjian says in the book God is using to  change me, One Way Love,

The Gospel, in other words, liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We can stop pretending that we are anyone but who we actually are. Which means we can admit our weaknesses to ourselves without feeling as if the flesh is being ripped off our bones. We can take off our masks and explore our self-justifying compulsions from a distance.”

So, if you are a sinner like me and have been so particularly lovely to be around recently, seek forgiveness from the Lord and your loved ones. That’s the next step to find freedom from yourself. Then, start and keep on preaching the truths of the Bible to yourself. Slowly, you’ll find yourself being and feeling more loving, and in doing so, be less entangled with yourself. Finally, rest in the grace offered in the Cross that it’s okay to just be okay.

And keep repeating the cycle.

Because, as you know, we’re not going to get any better than just being okay until the other side of Heaven. And that’s okay. Because we have Jesus and He made us perfect.

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Intentional Mothering

An Update & Why I Won’t Be a Blogger Anymore

By on March 29, 2017

So, it’s been quiet around here. If this were a house, I would be in deep-dusting mode.

In mid-January we finally got to move out of our house so it could be fixed for the second time. {Our city went through a gazillion earthquakes about five years ago.} It was repaired just before our son was born, but it wasn’t done properly {eg.the builders didn’t fix the foundations, so the house has continued to slowly sink these past four years, incurring more damage}. So it was very overdue. Many dreams for our little house have been put on hold.

But God is good. So good. He provided a home for us for the past nine weeks. A giant, beautiful home right by the beach all through the summer. And, for free. Amazing.

And the house has been fixed really well. We’re home. We missed it so much. It still needs new bricks put on it and the lawn to be redone. But other than that, we’re at the place we’ve been waiting for.

***

It’s been quiet here on the blog because, at the house we were staying at, there was no internet. I mean, none. For nine weeks. We had to check emails, do internet banking etc. at our family’s house. Have you ever gone nine weeks without access to the net? Let me tell you, it was glorious. I loved it.

Of course, it was hard at times. I had no access to news, so WW3 could have started and I wouldn’t have had a clue. I didn’t hear about the London terrorist attack until a day later. And, it was a pain when we couldn’t quickly google an answer for something.

But, aside from that, I didn’t miss it at all.

I had nine weeks of fully present, uncluttered living with my family. And it was really, really edifying.

***

So what did we DO without the internet?

I read about eight books. I journalled. We walked A LOT. We read lots of books together. We made Lego houses. I got into the daily habit of reading my Bible and praying. We cut back on TV for the kids. We were limited to what we could watch because we didn’t have Netflix {oh my}. We had the Concert Radio playing on in the background. I didn’t get any gossip or entertainment noise in my head. I wasn’t bombarded by Professional Blogging.

I almost felt like I was living back thirty years when I was born. In simpler, more mundane times.

Oh, and aside from the interent, I didn’t have a dishwasher! So, despite having only had it less than a year, I was transported back to doing dishes twice a day. And it was really nice.

We were forced back to simple. Back to connected. Back to present. Back to quiet living.

***

And I didn’t miss blogging.

I began to think, I am nobody. Who am I? I am a young wife and mother, not an older woman who has been there, and gained God’s wisdom for life. Who am I to put my opinions out there that could be detrimental to a sister-in-Christ? I felt challenged about things I have written here in the past – not that they were wrong per se…But that it may not have been loving to put them out there. Or even the right thing. I know I have been affected by reading blogs and getting confused.

At the same time, I missed sharing. My favourite blogs are not “helpful” ones or ones that push opinions out there, even if I like the advice or share a similar opinion. The writers I love share their heart. And they share it humbly, in a way that isn’t overt, but rather, this is our life and how we live and I want to share that with you…

That’s the kind of writer, if I am to write at all, I want to be. Writing is my jam. I love it. I missed it. But not blogging. I don’t want to be a blogger.

So, as I wait and pray and seek to continue a simpler life now that the pull of the internet is around again, if I keep writing here, it won’t be as a blogger. It won’t be because I’m trying to persuade you to live like me {even if I think you should, lol!}. Rather, this place will be a writing space where I can journal, share, and communicate our life with those who are interested. My thoughts and opinions will be there, but you can take it or leave it. Your life is God’s, not mine.

Much love in Christ,

Sarah

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Intentional Mothering

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

By on January 16, 2017

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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God's Mercy

One Blessing From Suffering.

By on December 21, 2016

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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God's Mercy

How I Broke My Brain.

By on December 16, 2016

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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Intentional Mothering

My Favourite Reads of 2016.

By on December 10, 2016

My Favourite Reads of 2016.

I love reading and think I have read about 50 books this year. I feel like that is a good accomplishment, but nothing compared to others. I read a blogger the other day who said that she has read more than 300 books this year {and that doesn’t include all the read-aloud’s she does with her kids}.

300 books. I mean, wow. That is an amazing accomplishment. A few of mine have been close to, or over, 1000 pages – does that count?? 🙂

Anyhoo, I’ll get straight into it so you can have a quick nosey and add any of my recommendations for your reading list for 2017. {And all links are affiliate links.}

Coming Home, by Rosamund Pilcher

Coming Home

I literally finished this book two nights ago. I have read it before and loved it then. Several years later, I’ve read it again and I’ve love it even more. Friends, this is a beautiful, beautiful book. It is a coming-of-age novel, centred around Judith and her connections with the Carey-Lewis family of Nancherrow. It spans ten years of Judith’s life, from when she is 14 and living in a Cornwall boarding school; through the years of WWII to the beginning of her new, settled life back in Cornwall. It’s about a girl learning about loss, and love, and understanding the need for roots and a place to call home. The Carey-Lewis family are rich characters that add fascination and warmth, as well as adding the twists and turns this novel takes. It’s lengthy {the said 1000 pages!} but so worth it. It has been my favourite novel for years and it would take something incredibly special to replace it at the top.

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskill

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I read Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskill at university and, after forcing myself into it, ended up really enjoying Gaskill’s passion for the Industrial era of the mid-1800’s. When I read North and South, I was not disappointed. This is a passionate and endearing story with, I believe, parallels to Pride and Prejudice. There is prejudice and judgement between Margaret Hale, a vicar’s daughter from the “enlightened” south, and John Thornton, a cotton mill manufacturer of the north. The feisty and clashing conversations were a great read, as well as the growing love John has for Margaret. The novel faces the grim truths of the cotton mill industry of the era, from both the hard position of the manufacturer, as well as the hard-working and poor employees. I love how Gaskill was a really intelligent woman and wrote with passion, insight, yet tenderness. The BBC’s version of this is exceptional.

Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior, by Kimberly Wagner

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This is the book that defined my Christian reading this year. It was a book that God gave me because I really needed it then, and I still do. Kimberly’s testimony is about how God took her broken marriage, mostly due to her destructively hardness and manipulation {her so-called “womanly strength”}, and made it into something beautiful that reflected God’s design. The Lord humbled Kimberly deeply and changed her hardened heart into one that was soft. He helped her see her husband for the man that he is and how her behaviour had been so emasculating for him. Now, they both have a challenging and very encouraging ministry around the world. This book came at the right time for me and God has used it to challenge parts of me that ain’t so pretty. I have loved it so much I have lent it to many other wives and have done a bible study on it at church. Kimberly and her husband, LeRoy, have also done a follow up: Men Who Love Fierce Women: The Power of Servant Leadership in Your Marriage.

Can Any Mother Help Me? by Jenna Bailey

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This book was such a find in my local library: the title caught my eye and, just loving history and motherhood and true stories, I couldn’t help myself. This is a biography of sorts on a secret motherhood society that spanned almost the entire twentieth-century in Britain. In 1935, a young woman wrote to a woman’s magazine in desperate need of company and help. The replies to her letter were so enormous that a circular letter magazine was created, called “The Cooperative Correspondence Club”. Many, many wives and mothers joined over the years, sharing their lives and loves and losses. It is a fascinating and endearing read. Jenna Bailey’s research on these women gave such insight to how all women, in all ages, struggle and love and fight for their marriages and their families. It shows how women need other women to be encouraged and helped and understood. And, despite being set during all the war years and further, I feel like these women were the bloggers of their days – the community they built in their writing and letters is inspiring.

By Design: God’s Distinctive Calling for Women by Susan Hunt

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What I really appreciated about this book is that, rather than being another “this is what the biblical design for men and women looks like”, Susan Hunt assumes that the reader already understands and accepts biblical womanhood and, instead, shows women what this means for the real, broken, hurting, and searching women of our Church. This book both convicted and challenged me. It opened my eyes to true stories of women utterly in need of healing and help sitting in the pew next to me. It forced me to ask myself, am I a woman other broken women can come to for help, comfort, and direction? I shared this book at our women’s bible study and we were all challenged by it. Less than a month later, God brought to me a woman in desperate need of friendship, prayer, encouragement and practical help. Biblical womanhood in the church looks like women helping women as women, and supporting and encouraging, and even mediating with, the male leadership in your personal church. I highly recommend Susan Hunt, and she has other books on female mentoring and biblical womanhood.

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 Well, I think I’ll leave it at that. I’ve obviously read many more books but these are the ones that really stood out to me. They all left their mark on me, prompted me to examine myself, encouraged me to look outwards, drew me to love better and more affectionately, deepened my understanding of history {and of women in history}, and basically, helped me love reading more and more. {Can that even be possible when you’ve loved reading for, well, ever? :)}

Tell me, have you read any of these books? Do any of them catch your eye? What was your favourite read of 2016?

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Intentional Mothering

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

By on December 3, 2016

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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Intentional Mothering

How I Recovered From Mummy Burnout.

By on October 17, 2016

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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