When You’re Critical of Your Reflection

When I stand in front of the mirror with my daughter, I wonder what she sees. Does she recognize her reflection or see a playmate as she lunges toward the glass?

I hold her snug in my arms and we twirl around the room.

I tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her she’s loved. She smiles and waves her hands without a worry in the world. She doesn’t care what she’s wearing or how many ruffles are in her hair. As long as she has someone to coo at and a finger to grasp, she’s happy.

In my core I hope if I tell her the truth about herself enough times, she’ll grow up believing it. I know one day she’ll hear other voices besides mine.

Voices telling her she needs to be thinner or dress a certain way. Voices telling her she needs to accentuate this feature or that one.

I can’t say exactly when she’ll hear those other voices, but I know they’ll come. Perhaps you’ve heard them too?

Sometimes the voice we hear in our own heads is the one we need to silence the most.

On a weekday not too long ago, I heard it. I was standing in front of the mirror, and this time my daughter was taking a nap. It was just me and my reflection.

I saw the extra pounds I hadn’t lost yet since giving birth in November. I saw the thin scar stretching across my abdomen, where the surgeon brought my baby girl into the world. I saw dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep and years chasing little ones.

I saw all these things, and I was critical of my postpartum body.

Later that evening, I was cleaning up dishes and my firstborn gave me an unexpected hug. He’ll be nine in a few months, and his hugs are getting fewer and farther between.

But this week, he’s stopped me mid-sentence to give them out. It’s like he senses my need for it. My little thinker who’s so compassionate and intuitive knows his mama better than he realizes.

As I squeezed his frame, I saw the life God gave me. The life he allowed me to bring into the world. I saw the way my sons interact with their baby sister, running to her side when she cries.

I saw the goofy antics my middle child uses to get baby girl to laugh, always the comedian.

After putting the kids to bed, I sat on the couch watching T.V. and my eyes drifted to my belly. My husband saw me and could read my mind.

“When I look there I see the beautiful family you’ve given me,” he said with all the pride of a husband who is also a father.

I knew he meant it.

And in that moment, I stopped being critical of myself and was grateful. I was grateful God gave me a body that can bring forth life and memories and hands to hold them.

I was grateful he gave me a husband to remind me that postpartum bodies are just as beautiful as those who have never carried tiny frames.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see work to be done, or memories to be made? Do you see wrinkles, or a life well-lived?

I pray you see the reflection of a woman who is enough. Whether you’re middle-aged, enjoying senior benefits, or still in your twenties, I pray see God’s work.

 

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Hope for the Days When You Feel Like You Got Nothing Done

My eight-year-old always stops and says “hi” to his baby sister when we pick him up at the bus stop. He climbs straight over little brother, who blocks his way and clamors for his attention. But he lingers a while over Elise. He smiles and grabs her hand while she coos.

Our four-month-old is teaching us all the art of savoring. She’s showing us how to slow down a bit, to stay in those the little moments.

But oh, how I fight it. It takes an intentional choice to be present, to look my kids in the eye, and focus. To stop thinking about what I have to get done. To stop scrolling through my phone.

A few weeks ago I shared how I felt overwhelmed as I navigated life with three kids, but I think another translation of that statement is, “I’m not getting enough done.”

It’s how we base our worth, isn’t it? The dishes are out of the sink. Check. The laundry is in the washer. Check.

But what if we put a check mark next to the time we spent cuddling the baby? What if we added another item to our to-do list: roll around on bed with five-year-old.

What if we placed as much value on the time spent loving others as we do to getting that work project done?

When my firstborn was a baby, I didn’t savor the time. After leaving my full-time job where productivity was measured in numbers, I felt like I had no compass or boundaries. It took years for me to navigate a life with no commute or schedule.

There are still days when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. But every now and then, God gives me a glimpse into his heart. He shows me what’s important, even when I’m forgetful and stubborn.

Jesus was intentional about every moment he spent on earth, but he didn’t rush. And perhaps more importantly, he didn’t make people feel rushed either.

Last week I went through a short study highlighting seven things Jesus said before he died, and what struck me was this: He loved people right up until his dying breath. He didn’t check out emotionally or ignore the people who stood there mocking him and watching him die.

Even while he hung there and suffered, he thought about his mother. He made sure his family was taken care of.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

 John 19:26-27 NIV

Time spent loving others is never wasted.

When we take our last breath and the people around us look back on our lives, they won’t remember how clean we kept our house. And I’m not saying the never wash another dish, although that would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

They will remember the way we loved others. They will remember the relationships we formed and spent time cultivating.

With each child God gives me, he’s teaching me. And baby girl is teaching me how to savor. She’s teaching me how to love all over again.

 

Joining these link-ups: #ChasingCommunity

Giving Your Kids the World When You’re Running on Empty

give-your-kids-the-world

Sometimes the things we do to bless our kids end up blessing us even more. We serve a God who shows up in unexpected ways.

A few months ago, my firstborn started taking piano lessons. He has an amazing musical instinct and was playing songs in no time, filling our house with Christmas carols in December.

Since we welcomed our third child around Thanksgiving it’s been increasingly difficult for me to get him to his lessons on time. Most days I sit in the car and nurse our newborn while little brother sits in the back watching DVDs, popping his head between the front seats every now and then to tell me about the scene in a movie.

One afternoon I was feeling defeated and overly tired. I almost forgot about firstborn boy’s lesson altogether.

When it was over I debated whether I should walk in and chat with his teacher. Baby girl was sitting in her car seat, happily fed, so went to the front door and found my son there, putting on his shoes.

His teacher told me they’d been learning movie theme songs. Superman was a big hit.

My son had explained to her how there were some movies his dad and I wouldn’t let him watch yet.

“You’re really smart for doing that,” his teacher said. “They’re so vulnerable at this age.”

It was a small affirmation, but in that moment it was huge. Even in the struggle and transition, she gave me confidence we were doing something right.

And each week she continued giving me little nuggets of encouragement.

It reminded me how whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re always planting seeds. And the good seeds we plant in our kids will always yield a harvest, whether it’s immediate or years down the road.

That same week, I began reading a beautiful children’s introductory bible called Bible Basics to our baby girl. She fussed a few minutes after I started and I admit I wondered why I even bothered.

bible-basics-review

But even through my discouragement, I know I’m planting seeds.

She may not understand the words yet, but her little mind is expanding like a wet sponge. If some of the first truths she hears are about a Creator who adores her, I know I’m doing something good.

Bible Basics: A Baby Believer Counting Primer is filled with colorful, vibrant illustrations and staple verses for children to learn as they grow. It is perfect for a baby or toddler-aged child. It teaches kids the core tenets of Christianity in a way that is easy for them to understand. I am confident that the more I continue reading it to my daughter, the more she will enjoy it.

I know there will still be days when I wonder if I’m doing anything right. I will forget to sign homework and lose my patience with the kids. But when I doubt, I’ll continue planting seeds.

I’ll keep telling them about the amazing God who created the universe, but is still compassionate enough to care about each hair on their heads. I’ll keep looking for ways to make faith part of their everyday lives.

If you’re looking for a way to introduce faith to your kids in a simple, easy-to-understand way, I highly recommend Bible Basics. It is a great resource for parents of young children, and the illustrations are captivating.

Let’s keep sowing those good seeds. You never know when God will show you the fruit of your harvest.

Sometimes it’s in ways you least expect it.


GIVEWAY:
bible-basics-coverHey friends, I’m giving away a copy of Bible Basics to one of you lovely readers! To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment below. You can be entered multiple times by sharing this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Make sure to let me know you shared the post in your comment.

I will announce the winner next Thursday, January 26th.

 

*Two copies of Bible Basics were provided to me by The Blythe Daniel Agency in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review.

 

 

The Most Important Ministry of All

the-most-important-ministry

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 (NIV)

I knew what God was asking me to do, but I didn’t like it.

Slow down. Take a breath. Focus on your family.

For months, I’d been saying “yes” to every ministry opportunity that came my way. I knew I was overextending myself, but saying “no” felt like torture. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, so I ended up saying “no” to the people who mattered most of all: my family. Complaints were few, but I knew my priorities were skewed.

I believe most times God uses that still, small voice to speak to us, but when we ignore it, the still becomes more like a two-by-four to the head. With one swift turn of the earth on its axis, I entered a season of “no.” But I wasn’t the one saying it. Doors that were open became closed, and again I knew what God was asking me to do.

Slow down. Take a breath. Focus on your family.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m honored to be sharing over at Remade Ministries. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

GIVEAWAY:

Congratulations Mandy Hughes! You are the winner of a copy of The Broken Way. I am so excited to share this book with you. Thanks for reading.

Stop the Cycle of Mom Guilt: What Our Kids Crave the Most

stop-the-cycle-of-mom-guilt

My kids never cease to amaze me. I love how even at a young age, they can pinpoint what’s important.

The other day I was taking my oldest son to piano and as we stopped at a red light, he piped up from the back seat.

“You know, Mama. When little Elise gets here, I’m going to hold her, and hug her, and kiss her…. And… well, that’s about it.”

I laughed out loud, knowing what he meant but utterly enjoying his cuteness. He told me about the various stages his sister would go through and how one day she will be able to chase him and his brother through the house.

He knows during the first few months of her life, cuddles and plenty of love will be the main things baby sister needs. Play will come later. Fights over toys, hopefully much later.

Aside from feeding, diaper changes, and plenty of rest, he had Elise’s needs pinned down to a tee.

It made me wonder. At what stage as parents do we forget the basics and start shaming ourselves?

The other day, I had a near panic attack because baby girl’s room wasn’t ready. I was still seven weeks from my due date, but my nesting instinct was in high gear. I scoured quilts and wall decals on Etsy, trying to find the perfect combination to create a warm, welcoming environment.

When I couldn’t match up shades of turquoise I was irritable. Then, God reminded me of scene from a few nights ago. I was getting ready for bed, and as I walked by the nursery I saw my son helping his dad convert the toddler bed back into a crib.

She will have a place to sleep. She will have food to eat and arms to hold her and comfort her when she cries. Will she care if her room isn’t perfect?

I think our guilt often stems from a misconception that our kids should have trouble-free, pain-free lives with little to no boredom and a schedule filled with activities. If we’re not carting them from one place to another and living vicariously through every victory, win and trophy, we feel empty.

stop-the-cycle

But as Jen Hatmaker so aptly states in her book, For the Love, our kids’ lives are not a Nickelodeon set. Nor should they be.

There comes a point where we have to stop the cycle of shame and settle for good enough. Because when it comes to parenting, perfect doesn’t exist.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a Christian radio station and during a Focus on the Family segment, they talked about the things kids remember about growing up. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t the mistakes their parents make, the times we lose our cool or the boo-boos they got when they were two.

They remembered the bedtime stories. The time spent cuddling on the couch. The prayers and the moments just being together.

My eyes were wet with tears at the sheer simplicity of it. When did I forget?

Friends, our kids know what’s important. So when today is over and you’re sitting on the couch, shaming yourself because you were late to the practice, ask yourself this: Did I love my kid today?

It’s time we stop worrying about perfection and give them what they crave the most: ourselves.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup

Why I Never Want to Let the Title of “Mom” Define Me

being a mom doesn't define me

I remember the first time our eight-year-old realized I had a name other than “Mama.” And his dad had a name other than “Dadda.” We were sitting at the dinner table and my parents were visiting. Of course, they do not call us “Mama” and “Dadda.”

It was as though a light bulb went off in his growing brain. The fact that we were people before we became parents was new territory to be explored. Questions came pouring faster than he could formulate words.

I smiled, but made sure he knew that to him, my name would always be “Mama.” Or “Mom.” Or some variation of it. But never “Abby.”

I wear the title proudly like a badge because motherhood changes us, doesn’t it? And yet at the same time, I don’t ever want to let it define me.

There are times when I have to remind myself that my identity exists outside of the roles of wife, mother and friend. These different roles shape me and mold me, but they don’t determine who I am.

Some of you reading this might be puzzled so let me explain. My search to discover who I was at a core level began after I became a mom. I remember those first days when I couldn’t get my newborn to stop crying, and I would cry right along with him.

Everything about my supposed birth plan had failed. Instead of forgoing the epidural, excruciating back labor made me decide to take one in the early stages. Instead of delivering naturally, I had an emergency c-section.

I clung to breastfeeding like a lifeline, but when the nurse thought I had a pulmonary embolism a few days after leaving the hospital, I almost had to give it up too.

In the days after family left and my new baby and I were alone, I tried to cling to something stable. I had always clung to labels, but they were eluding me.

Student, worker, daughter, wife, and now mom.

being a mom

I felt like I was failing miserably at the last two, which were both new to me. And because I felt unsuccessful in my roles, I didn’t think my life was worth anything.

To be quite honest, there were times when I thought my new child and husband would be better off without me.

Somewhere in my darkness I sent up a simple prayer: “Help.” And because God doesn’t care about the eloquence of our words but the heart behind them, I got my answer. Not in one lightning bolt of truth but in a slow, constant rhythm.

Although I couldn’t see them at the time, his answers were like fingerprints on the story of my life.

Over time, He showed me I would never know who I was until I learned who He was. And the more I learned about Him, his love and unchanging character, the more I discovered my own unique identity.

I learned these different hats I wore- mom, wife, friend, employee- were meant to enhance the person I already was, but never define me.

Because if you hang your identity on a finite role, you will never discover who you are as an eternal being.

He created each one of us to leave an eternal mark. And while our families are a huge part of that, they are only one part. It is up to us to discover the distinct gifts he gave each of us, every one given to reflect his glory.

Do I love being a mom? Yes. Over time, I’ve grown to love it more and more.

But when my children are grown and it’s just me and my hubby, I will still be me. And if it takes me a lifetime to discover who that person is, it will be worth it.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

An Open Letter to My Daughter (In Utero)

an open letter to my daugher

Sweet baby Elise,

I had your name picked when I was pregnant with your brother, Gabriel. And although I wouldn’t trade him and his silly antics, endless energy and confidence for the world, my heart leapt when I heard God was giving us a girl. You were a hope deferred and nearly lost for a time, but the Lord turned that hope into a tree of life, growing and becoming stronger with each day that passes.

Since the day I heard you were here I’ve sent up countless prayers to your heavenly Father. I pray for your health, your development and delivery, but I also send up pleas which go beyond those first few days into your future.

Here are a few of the things I desire for you, my girl. When I feel anxious about your future or overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility, I come before Jesus and ask these in his name.

I pray you will be a woman who knows who you are. That you will see how your Creator formed you and planned you before you were ever a plus sign on piece of plastic, and he has a unique purpose only you can fulfill.

I pray you see at a young age that it’s okay to be different. God does not create clones. He creates unique masterpieces. Each one made to reflect his glory in a special way that can’t be imitated or bought or sold. If he wanted you to be someone else, he would have created someone else. Embrace your one-of-a-kind identity. And if you’re not sure what your niches or gifts are, ask Him to show you. He will answer you with grace and patience.

a letter to elise

I pray you know He sees you. Even when no one else does. Even when it feels like you’re invisible and no one appreciates what you have to offer, your Father sees you and loves you with an everlasting love. He cares about each aspect of your life and knows when you rise and lie down. When you feel unseen, remember there is only one person who fully sees us and can fill the deepest desires of our hearts. His name is Jesus. Call on his name.

I pray you love selflessly and fearlessly. I know there will be times when you will be heartbroken, and I will always be here to offer a hug, and shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. But I pray you keep reaching out and being vulnerable. I hope you look to our Savior, who risked it all and was promised nothing, and follow Him as the ultimate example of fearless love.

Elise Skylar, I can’t wait to meet you. I imagine what you will look like, what unique personality God will give you and can nearly hear your first cries within me. As you grow and change, I’ll keep praying. I’ll never stop. Because your Daddy and I believe prayer changes things. It makes a difference.

And you, my child, were made to make a difference in this world. Never stop dreaming or reaching for the stars your Creator put into place.

We love you to the moon and back,

Mom