Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Finding Purpose

I have been talking to more and more moms (mostly those who stay at home), who are struggling with their sense of purpose. If you have chosen to give up your career and stay at home, maybe you identify with this.

At our old jobs, we were good at what we did.  We felt like we were accomplishing something when a deadline was met, customers were pleased, and goals were achieved.  We had tangible rewards, such as a paycheck, a raise, or an award.  Even at a difficult job, getting paid was a motivator to keep coming to work each day.

At home, it can be a different story.  There's no paycheck calling your name. Maybe you feel like you rarely do anything right.  You work hard to clean, but the room is destroyed 10 minutes later. You have half-finished projects lying around. Bills are lost in piles of papers. You haven't even had time to put your makeup on. After a few days, then a few months, then a few years of this, it is easy to see why mothers can get discouraged and feel lost. Many of these moms I have spoken with feel confused, sad, and bored.

There are some moms who seem to be so good at what they do, and it comes so natural to them. Yesterday I was talking to a good friend about her new life with three girls under age 3. She exclaimed, "I love, love, LOVE motherhood!" Indeed, she finds her greatest fulfillment in staying home with her girls, and it seems to flow easily from her very core.  I do love motherhood, but staying home has been one of the most difficult aspects of it for me.  I wouldn't trade it or change it, but it has forced me to work on every single weakness that I have, every minute of every day.

It's not that we would give up our lives, or don't love our children, or aren't thankful for the opportunity to stay at home. Yet if our identity was in our job, our accomplishments, or our degrees, it is hard to make that "shift" in our thinking to realize that our children are now our job and our accomplishment - especially when we are dealing with simultaneous meltdowns in Target while judging eyes are watching.

So how do we find a new identity as a stay-at-home mom? For awhile, I joined outside mommy-groups, which were a life-saver to me. I made new friends, got involved in leadership, and felt a sense of purpose. Yet when it came time to move on, I was again faced with that question, "What do I do now? Who am I?" In other words, how do you find your identity when you are not in a position of influence outside your home, yet that is what you enjoy so much?

I truly believe that God leads us into seasons of influence, and seasons of rest. We are always called to influence our children, yet many of us long for more. We read of other moms getting to do what they love, and we want that, too. Yet we are day-after-day stuck inside of our houses folding laundry and doing chores, yearning for the day we can chase after our passions once again.

It is during these seasons of rest that we find out who we really are. Do we have a true relationship with God apart from what we do for Him? Do we seek Him as much when we're not in a position of influence? Do we still get fed spiritually when we're discouraged, or just give up?  Our true character comes out.  We are put to the test with our patience, our love, our forgiveness, our anger.  We get frustrated easily. We cry. We lose it.

Yet here is something that I have learned over these six years:  this season of me staying home is not only about my children's character development - it is about my character development.  It is about me becoming more like Christ and experiencing my weaknesses to their full measure, and watching Christ use me, love me, and forgive me despite myself.  I want to run, and get out of this house, and find fulfillment outside of these 4 walls.  Yet God keeps calling me back in.  "I'm not done yet," He says.  "It's not time yet," He whispers.  My heart grows impatient, but He does not grow impatient with me.

It is tempting to focus on all we are not getting to do.  I struggle with this every day, because I am a do-er.  I get energized when I have a deadline to meet or a goal to accomplish.  Here, I don't have any big looming deadline or goal that propels me forward, and so I can easily get depressed and bored.  The other day, though, I had a small revelation.  Instead of focusing on the larger picture of my life, and all that I am not getting to do right now as I stay home (besides have an eternal impact on my children), I will try to just stay focused on today.  Today a friend called who needed me, and I was able to encourage her.  If I didn't accomplish anything else, today that was my purpose.  Yesterday I spent time in prayer for someone else.  If I didn't accomplish anything else, that was my purpose yesterday.  Somehow that perspective is keeping me going, helping me to move forward.

We all know that this is "just a season."  Yet there is still purpose in this season. That purpose is your children, but it is also YOU.  Welcome to your purpose - God is changing you day by day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Funnies

I was helping Micah get his pajamas on when he asked, "What is that smell?"  Martin and I asked, "What smell?" and he said, "I don't know.  Mommy, come closer."  He pulled me close to him and leaned in to my armpit.  "Lift your arm up," he said.  "Now move closer."  "THAT smell!" he exclaimed.  "That stinks!"

Micah:"I have a lot of poop in my body today, mommy."
Micah was looking at a poster of all of the US coins.  He said, "Who are these guys?"  I explained that they were presidents.  He looked at the dollar coin and asked, "Who is that lady?  Why does she have a baby on her back?"  Then he looked at the quarter and saw a picture of a horse on the back - "Is that a bad guy riding that horse?"  Earlier in the day he explained to me that there are good horses and bad horses, and the bad horses carry the bad guys around who carry guns.  Apparently this was one of those bad horses.
Micah overheard a boy in his classroom say that he got hit in the private area during lunchtime.  When I picked him up, Micah said, "Beau got hit in the peanuts twice today!"
Jaden has been asking me a lot of questions about heaven lately.  On the way to school, he asked what will happen to our clothes when we go to heaven, and I explained that we will get new clothes.  He's still a little confused about what  happens to our bodies, and he asked, "So when we get to heaven, God glues our bodies back together?"  My sweet boy :)

(Yes, I know many of my Friday Funnies have to do with farts and poop. Welcome to the world of boys!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Heart Faces- Red

When I saw this week's theme over at I Heart Faces, I immediately knew which picture I would post.  You may remember the story behind this photo shoot here.

Trinity and Alyssa are best friends, and are two of the most special little girls I have ever met.  Trinity (on the right), who is 8, was afraid of people with disabilities, and her mother desired to help her overcome this fear.  A mutual friend suggested that Trinity meet Alyssa (on the left), age 7, who is blind and was diagnosed with cancer at age 2. When they met for their first play-date, they became fast friends and played "tea party" while Alyssa held Trinity's hand to "see".  Trinity was able to overcome her fear of people with disabilities when she met Alyssa. When I heard the story, I was deeply touched, and I was even more moved when I did a photo shoot for both of them at the park.  Both girls are precious and enjoyed an afternoon tea party in the park, holding hands the whole time.  When I asked them to lay next to each other, Trinity started telling Alyssa a story about "The Fart Man," and both girls giggled the entire time.

Two days after this shoot, Alyssa entered the hospital for brain surgery and had to have all of her beautiful red hair shaved.  This did not diminish her beauty in any way. She emerged from brain surgery seizure-free until recently, and may now have to undergo a second surgery.  I'm sure Alyssa's family would appreciate your prayers for her.  She is a strong and brave little girl, and I am so honored to have met her!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Mama's Song

   He calls me for the 369th time today - "Mommy!  Mommy!"
I cringe
   I just sat down, and had barely sighed.
Maybe if I just pretend I don't hear it this time...
   But it doesn't work.   He persists.
I drag my heavy legs over to the room and find a new mess.
   A new crisis, a new chore.

They told me to treasure these days,
  And I laughed inside my head.
They said they would fly by,
  And I secretly rolled my eyes.
For they don't see the long and tiring days.
  They must not remember
that they go by so slow, and feel so long.

  He runs the other way when I call.
My throat hurts from the reminding, the admonishing,
  The warnings.
Maybe if I just don't say anything this time....
  But I can't not speak up
For it is his safety and his very life
  that I have been entrusted with.

They told me to hold him tight
  For one day he would run
But he's running now, and for just a minute
  I want a little break
They said he would run right out the door
  and not look back, one day
But it's hard to see that far ahead
  and so for now I let him go.

He wants me to sleep with him, again.
  He begs and cries, and I cannot resist.
So I snuggle in close and he wraps his arms around me
  And all I can think about it everything I have to do
"When can I get up?"  I wonder
  And I hear his breathing grow heavier
His eyelids finally close
  I'm left holding this little life
And I realize

The time is slipping away
  and this is all I have
He will one day run
  But for now he's this close
I can hear his breath, I can feel his heart
  And my tiredness doesn't fade
But my love grows more and more

They told me to treasure the days
  They said they would fly by
They told me to hold him tight
  They said one day he'd run out the door.

But for now he is this close
  And I will hold him closer still
I will remember to cherish this night
  Because the days are flying by.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Super Bowl Sunday.  I was in bed, sick, and woke up 3 minutes before the half-time show.  Awesome timing, if I do say so myself :)  We stayed home all day, took naps, and watched the commercials.  It wasn't a party, but it was relaxing and good.  I heard this was the most popular commercial on Super Bowl Sunday.

Is it just me, or did this commercial make you want to cry happy-tears?  Why do we love it so much?

I think we love it because it depicts the best part of childhood - Wonder.  Wonder is what makes our children's faces light up with joy when something magical happens.  Wonder is what makes their eyes twinkle with excitement.  Wonder is what makes their eyes stay open when they're so tired.  Wonder is what makes life fun for children.

I saw wonder in Jaden's eyes this morning, as he looked down into the heater grate and saw two of his legos.  "I think we're going to have to ask Feivel the mouse for some help tonight Jaden!"  "YEAH!" He replied excitedly.  "We can ask him to get the legos out for us while we're sleeping!"

I saw wonder in his eyes when he woke up this morning and came out of his room wearing a Transformer mask on his face, his knight amour, and holding his Batman gun.

I saw wonder in Micah's eyes when he woke up one morning recently and saw that the Tooth Fairy had left him 2 gold coins under his pillow.

Wonder is the BEST.

Somehow as we get older, we lose that wonder.  But it's not hard to find again if we try.  We can find wonder when we glance out our kitchen window and see a hummingbird feeding on a flower.  We can find wonder when someone calls to encourage us, when we were feeling down that day.  We can find wonder in an answered prayer, in a clean house, in a quiet moment while our kids are (finally) sleeping.

It's easier to find wonder when we're walking in daily communion with God.  When I'm not, I cease to find the wonder.  Instead I find bills, endless chores, cranky children, a car that needs repairs, a diaper that needs to be changed.  When I'm walking in communion with God, I find myself more thankful for the little things that happen throughout the day. They may be small, but they are gifts from Him to me.  And in those small gifts, I find wonder again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Funnies

This week's Friday Funnies:

Micah:  "Watching Caillou makes my butt hurt!"

We have a CD with a song called "Blessed are the Pure in Heart."  I overheard Micah singing, "Blessed are the Human Farts!"

I got a notice from Micah's school that someone in his class had pink eye.  When he told me his friend Tyler was absent, I asked, "Oh, did he have pink eye?"  Micah looked at me confused and replied, "No, he has different eyes."

Jaden climbed in bed one night with us (around 2am) and quickly fell asleep between us.  After he was sound asleep, we heard a huge fart, and Martin and I both sat up and looked at each other (it really was that loud).  We looked and Jaden, and he had a huge smile on his face (in his sleep) and he whispered, "I did that!" and giggled for about five minutes.  So funny!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Blessing of Sickness

Tonight we went out as a family for the first time in a month.  It probably wasn't the best idea - I have a second case of strep throat and Jaden is still recovering from a double ear infection, but we had no food in the house and were on the hunt for dinner.  We ended up at the mall for some Chik Fil A and discovered they were about to start their monthly kids' show, where almost 100 kids showed up to watch a bubble show.  As my boys sat on the carpet with their daddy, I watched as they laughed and stared in amazement at the bubbles.  After a month of being inside from various bouts of illnesses, this was the first time we've all been together outside where I saw their smiles return, and it was so nice.  I ended up drinking the end of Martin's Coke Zero, which is why I'm wide awake at 12:29am and will likely suffer for this tomorrow!  Oh well - it was worth it.

This past month has made me quite introspective, as lying on a bed with a fever for days on end will do to a person.  Coupled with the inability to speak from strep throat, I have been quieter than ever before and it was probably good for everyone. :)

What has stood out to me this month is that when you are alone on your bed, left with only your thoughts, you start thinking about who and what are really important in your life. I saved my voice for only those who I cared the most about - my family and close friends.  Those conversations were short but encouraging.  My kids heard less yelling and nagging, and more "I love you," and "I miss you."  My phone conversations were less idle chatter, and full of more encouraging and sweet words.  Sometimes less is truly more.

I started to think about how I spend my time:  so many days spent running here and there and everywhere, mindlessly filling my time with busyness.  As my schedule had to be cleared, I saved my energy for the things that were most important to me - time with people I loved.  I went to a Women of Worship night at my church and sang, and it was wonderful, but the next morning got sick - again.  I felt better and went to a birthday dinner with some good friends, and the next morning got sick - again.  It's like my body was trying to recover, and the minute I tried to fill my time with even good things, it rebelled against me again saying, "I told you to REST."  I haven't had energy to shop, or peruse through stores (like that happens a lot), or just do much of anything.  Only the things that were most important rose to the top.  Sometimes less is truly more.

I was also reminded of those who reached out to us, and it made me think twice about my relationships. For some I thought I was close to barely noticed, while others I barely knew made gestures of love.  One woman, a mother of one of Micah's classmates, called me three times this week to check in and see how we were doing. She stopped by one afternoon with a bag full of DVD's, puzzles, popsicles and treats.  I was brought to tears by this woman who we barely just met.  I know we were not struggling with some disease or anything, but the feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming in a season such as this.  I received encouraging emails from people we barely knew at church, as well, reminding me that the church truly is our family in time of need.

I don't think we went through this season for a particular "lesson", although I hope to take away insights from a time like this.  After $500 in medical bills this month alone, 4 antibiotics, blood tests, and 10 doctors' visits, here is what is priceless:

-Knowing that my family will be okay
-Realizing that I need to spend my time on what is truly important, instead of just being busy
-Enjoying my time with my family
-Cherishing our friends who have reached out to us
-Talking less, listening more
-Knowing that less can be truly more.