Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Last night I got together with a good friend at Starbucks. Having tried a variety of the chairs and tables at that particular Starbucks, I knew the best table to choose--the one that has a cushy seat on one side and a regular seat on the other. It's next to the wall, nice and private, and away from the speaker for when the music gets too loud.

So I used my influence to get her to agree to that table... "Does this one look okay?" (as if I had no opinion). She went to get her drink, and I sat down in the regular seat, leaving her the cushy one.

When she got back, she smiled. "You left me the soft seat, that was very unselfish of you, but I guess with four kids, you know a lot about self-denial."

We laughed, and I said something about mommyhood taking self-denial to a "whole nother level."

It does. Doesn't it? Really plunges the depths, testing our ability to give and give and give ...

I have to admit, sometimes it's really hard. Little things like never owning your very own Diet Coke. Honestly, sometimes I don't want to share it. "It's MY Diet Coke, and you can't have it! Mine! Mine! Mine!" I feel like that at times, but I usually end up sharing. Same goes for chocolate or a new perfect pen or even a just a few quiet minutes alone. Stuff that used to be all mine, now is shared with eight grubby little hands.

Self denial also hits on an emotional level. When my older kids pierce me with angry, painful attitudes, I don't always think, "Yea! What a great teaching opportunity. I'm going to help them learn a life lesson." No, more often, especially when I'm tired or overwhelmed, I'm tempted to indulge myself by throwing good discipline out the window and lashing out in sarcasm or manipulation.

How do I keep from getting sucked into this yucky cycle? Well, I learned a really great thing about self-denial. I do it not to somehow change the kids' behavior or make myself look like a good mom. I deny myself simply because that's what Christ did. It's not out of a sense of duty or guilt, but because I love Him, and His love, joy, and peace fill me up. If instead of focusing on the things I'm giving up--Diet Coke, chocolate, or an indulgent self-centered attitude--I focus on serving the Lord, self denial becomes a joy rather than a sacrifice. And when I serve out of joy, those grubby little hands don't bother me. In fact, there's nothing I'd rather do than serve them.

"Serve the Lord with gladness." Psalm 100

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Cheerful Heart is Good Medicine

Last week I went for my annual check-up. Fun! No really, it was fun. Why? Because my doctor is so cheerful.

He's been our family doctor for years now, and I would never go to anyone else. He greeted me with a big smile and a "How are ya?" He asked, "How are those kiddos of yours?" and also made sure I wasn't too overwhelmed by mommyhood. While he was stethescoping my back, he had to take a phone call, and, after apologizing for the interruption, he grinned and said, "Don't go anywhere." Like I could while donning that paper blouse. I laughed--imagine, a doctor who'll joke with you.

I overheard a bit of his phone call (not on purpose!) and he exuded friendliness to that person too. "Hey Joe, thanks for calling me back." He had that smile in his voice they tell you to have. Yeah, the check-up included all the uncomfortable stuff, but I left with a smile on my face. It felt good to be around a happy person for an hour.

I want my home to be like that. After my appointment, I began assessing my cheerfulness level. I think I could be a lot more jolly with my kids. So I tried it. We've been laughing more, and when I get all serious about the "To Do Lists" in my day, I've been trying to slow down and smile instead of growl. It's not that difficult to do, and guess what? They like their mom better this way--and so do I.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Me Overwhelmed? Weird--or Not

"The thing is," I told my friend Sarah, "I feel overwhelmed all the time." Sarah is one of those un-assuming, yet remarkable, women whose easy-going attitude and great kids (five of them) inspire me.

What nugget did wise Sarah give me in response? Her brow scrunched in compassion, and she said, "Well, you have four little kids, you homeschool, you edit (something I do to help financially), you have a house to take care of...You're going to feel overwhelmed all the time."

Huh. It took me a minute to let that sink in. I'm going to feel overwhelmed all the time. As she waited patiently, still smiling empathetically, the meaning of her words swirled through my thoughts.

Sarah was telling me that my state of being overwhelmed was not abnormal. In fact, considering all I do, it's perfectly reasonable to feel like I'm drowning.
I looked up from my pondering and said, "Thanks. That's a real comfort."

It was. Her kind and wholly rational words reminded me that God knows how I feel like flood waters are whooshing over my head--all the time. He knows how my stomach turns at the thought of keeping up with the laundry, or how a messy diaper at the wrong moment (like when we're already rushing to be on time)can send me into frantic, crazy-lady mode.

He also knows how I feel like a failure when one of my kids shows his sinfulness by lashing out at me with disrespectful words. Or another one refuses to forgive, holding a grudge for hours. Or when I, rather than exemplifying loving, Christ-centered behavior, instead lash out right back at them.

He knows that these and the many other challenges of parenting overwhelm--all the time. And rather than stressing and struggling like a panicked swimmer, I can trust that this is the heat I'm supposed to be in--not an easy one, but worthwhile. I can rest in Him, trusting His ability to save me--be my strength.

"Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Prov. 3:5-6