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

Sit at the Feet of Jesus {Anchored Souls Series}

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If I used one word to describe my dear friend Leigh Ellen Eade’s writing, it would be “authentic.” She lays out her her soul for the world to see, and it is both beautiful and refreshing. I’m am thrilled that I get to introduce her to you on the blog today. Please give her a warm welcome as she shares a touching story about becoming a mom.

Sit at the Feet of Jesus

When the news came that we were expecting our first child I jumped into planning mode immediately. Within days, I was designing the nursery, collecting reading material and filling the freezer with meals for our first months as a family of three.

Every plan was carefully crafted to ease our transition into parenthood. When it was time for baby to arrive, I road to the hospital expectantly and walked blissfully into the delivery unit. What happened seven days later took me by surprise.

Caring for our son one morning I was hit suddenly with the realization of how dependent he was upon me to live. For years I had been responsible for only myself. I enjoyed coming and going as I wanted. Now, I was responsible for myself and the life I stood holding. Suddenly, my life no longer felt like my own, and the journey was only beginning.

For the next fourteen months I sat awake in the nursery holding our son every night as he slept. I relished the opportunity to hold him close, but longed for sleep at the same time. Each morning I’d watch my husband leave for work, and question if I had the ability to care for our son alone.

With growing exhaustion and fading strength, I knew I needed to turn somewhere.

Have you been there? Has change ever left you scurrying for help? Are you there now?

As I began to walk in my new role as a mom there was much I needed to learn. My friends and family were wonderful resources, but some of the greatest lessons I learned were on the pages of God’s Word.

In Mark 1:40-42 we are introduced to a man who had a problem he couldn’t fix. In fact, his problem was such that society labeled him “unclean.” His only hope was Jesus.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed.

“If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him.

“I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.

Leprosy was a terrible disease. It often left its victims cast out from society, unable to work or see their family. I imagine it never held a place on this man’s to-do list, yet in his story, we find an answer for our troubles today.

when-you-cant-standsit-at-the-feet-of-jesusWhen you can’t stand, sit at the feet of Jesus.

Life has a way of throwing twists and turns onto our path. Sometimes these twists are good; other times they can leave us grappling for help, scared or even at rock bottom.

As an expectant momma I didn’t foresee sleepless nights and feelings of helplessness when I was planning for our son’s birth.

Maybe you are in the middle of a circumstance that’s left you staring at the unknown and wondering what to do.

When you can’t stand, sit at the feet of Jesus.

The man with leprosy was bound by a disease thought to be incurable. Life was limited for him and his future looked bleak until he came to the feet of Jesus.

While others may have avoided him; Jesus moved toward him. Jesus didn’t see his disease as too big; too “untouchable” or incurable. Rather, Jesus was moved by his faith and He reached out to touch the man and say, “be healed.”

We may not be able to physically see Jesus like the man with leprosy did, but we can still sit at His feet by:

  • studying his Word
  • praying to Him
  • praising Him
  • worshiping Him
  • giving thanks to Him

While our circumstance might not change (or it might), we can expect ourselves to change. For at the feet of Jesus we receive hope, peace, and ultimately, a fresh perspective.

Is there something you need to surrender to Him today?

You don’t have to spend another moment burdened, find your place at His feet and trade your trouble for His triumph.


leigh-ellens-headshotLeigh Ellen Eades is a writer on a mission to tell Jesus’ story. She’s passionate about her family, treasures coffee with friends and relishes quiet moments reading a book. You can connect with Leigh Ellen on Facebook, Twitter or her blog, www.raisinganarrow.org

The Most Important Ministry of All

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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.

An Open Letter to the Mom Who Feels Invisible

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When I was growing up, I wanted to be one of two things- a writer or an interior designer. I love to string words together and tell stories, but I also love creating a warm, welcoming environment. I get a vision for how everything will look when a room is put together and hunt for just the right piece to complete a look.

Right now I’m in full fledged nesting mode and the interior designer in me is making herself known. I feel my internal clock counting down the days until baby Elise’s arrival, and scour countless websites looking at wall decals, valances and quilts.

My emotions soar back and forth between being stressed and elated.

I know she won’t spend her first days noticing the decor. But I also know at this stage of her life, I am expressing my love for her in one of the few ways I know how. Each stroke of the paintbrush on the wall is me saying, “We’ll be ready for you, girl. This place will be your home.”

The other day as I was surveying her room, I felt a little nudge in my spirit. I almost ignored it, but it was persistent.

You know I’m preparing a place for you too, right?

I answered without giving the question much thought. Of course I knew that. It says it in right in scripture. But I knew God wasn’t asking me to recite verses. He was getting to a deeper issue. A heart issue.

I was falling into the old, familiar habit of striving again. But I wasn’t striving toward the goal of Christ Jesus. I was striving to earn something, like I wasn’t enough. The weight of hundreds of responsibilities was crushing me, and I didn’t feel like I measured up.

Words never intended to hurt made me feel defensive and emotional. Sure, my hormones were raging but something else was raging inside too. A deep need to be seen and heard, to be acknowledged and not forgotten.

At times I wanted to scream, “Don’t you see me here? Don’t you see how hard I’m trying to be a friend, a sister, a wife and a mom?”

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And as I stood there in the room we will bring our daughter home to in a few weeks, I knew what God was saying.

I see you, child. You are not invisible to me. I hear you. You don’t have to earn my love. Just rest in it.

Perhaps you’ve felt the weight of striving lately. Like there’s some invisible measuring stick between you and eternity, and you are constantly trying to reach one step higher. And higher and higher.

Perhaps you think there’s no way you’ll ever be the person God wants you to be, or the person you hope to become.

Can I tell you something? God already sees you. You don’t have to make him notice you or wave your hands in wild abandon to make him notice the heart you pour into your home, your community, your life.

He loves you so much he’s preparing a one-of-a-kind place for you. Just you. And it will be better than any nursery or family room designed by a top-notch HGTV star.

It will be perfect.

Think about the love you feel when you hold your child in your arms today. Then multiply that love by eternity. You won’t even come close to the way he feels about you.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

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

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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.

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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