Faithfully thinking: I may not think, speak or do things like you but God can still use me

“To be honest, I don’t know why I even write anymore,” I thought to myself one morning. “I don’t know much about anything and I’m full of very little wisdom. I’m a mom and a wife and I take photos for myself and that’s about it. I’ve never written a book, I don’t have a thriving business and last school year I was called a bad parent and it makes me try too hard at this blasted homeschooling thing.”

Cleaning the house? Don’t get me started. Actually, if you did get me started I would be completely overwhelmed and would end up in a fetal position crying and still nothing would get cleaned.

Cooking? I try my best but I often find myself imagining that cardboard with salt would taste better than my dinners.

Parenting? Last week my daughter bit her brother in the shoulder because he was sitting in the chair she wanted and my son is addicted to Minecraft. I have a huge “Fear of Missing Out ” (FOMO) problem but it’s mainly focused on my children because I already know I’m missing out and I’m so tired every single day of my life I don’t even care.

In other words, I’m a mess, or so I feel most days.

My one comfort is knowing I’m not alone, that I may be a train wreck but somewhere in this world there is another mom in another house feeling as inadequate as me.

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And despite how we feel, the truth is we are loved, we are worthy and we can be used by God even when others have written us off. I express doubts often and recently, after three weeks of trials stacked one on top of another on top of our family, I tossed out a few words of doubt on Facebook about whether or not God even cares for us.

I received an admonishment from a fellow Christian who told me: “Repent of your thinking” because nothing comforts a person dealing with trials by telling them they’re falling short in their Christian walk.

Those scolding comments are something that tends to make me pause and decide I’m not worthy to talk about faith or Christ, wonder why I even thought I should, and lead me to withdrawal within myself and vow to keep my inferior opinions to myself. The truth is, though, we are all on our own journey and on that journey we are going to stumble more than once.

DSC_5409Maybe God can use me even if I have doubts and I express them and I say things that don’t fit your idea of what a “good Christian girl” should say or should be. Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Those comments that don’t sound “Biblical” to you or don’t fit your personal narrative, those comments I throw out there in a moment of frustration or under the heavy burden of trial after trial after trial in a short amount of time, don’t dismiss me from God’s list of people who can be used for His Kingdom.

As I heard Pastor Steven Furtick say in a recent sermon: “There is nothing wrong with you that isn’t right with God.”

If you’re like me and feel your imperfect attitude disqualifies you from speaking your feelings about faith and God, let’s remind each other God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and maybe what some of us are called to do is let our messy moments show so others know they’re not alone.

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Frank. And only Frank. Thanks, Kid. I’m now sick of Frank.

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

Find time for your soul

There is usually at least one big blow up from me at bedtime on school nights and it’s usually directed at the 3-year old who thinks bedtime is playtime. I know it’s my own fault for trying to put two children with an eight year age gap to bed at the same time. I know it’s my fault for not remembering she’s three and that winding down to the point of relaxation can be hard for a toddler.

And I know it’s also my fault for not finding a little more free time for myself where my soul can be still and listen to my heart. 

After I’ve stomped away to pout and decompress in the bathroom on those crazy nights, I usually remind myself of all these things I should remember.

She’s exhausting and frustrating but I would never give up the playful moments we share between somewhat tired and incredibly exhausted nor the quiet moments when she finally gives in. I love to hear her and her brother’s giggles and watch her jump “jus’ one more time,” for the tenth time.

I love to feel her body tiny, warm, solid and completely surrendered to relaxation and rest against me. The moment I look down and see her eyes closed and her face relaxed is  full of internal elation because once she’s asleep I can have a little bit of free time for myself, if I’m not too tired.

Many times the free time I do find myself with is so short I try to do too much – watch a show, edit photos and write a blog post all at the same time. In the end I often find I have accomplished very little and my head is a jumbled mess of thoughts and sheer panic that I won’t have time to do all I need or want to do.

My goal this next year is to choose one task I want to finish in that golden hour between when the two of them fall asleep and my eyelids won’t stay open anymore.

Today I chose blogging during her nap. At bedtime it may be catching up on a favorite show (of which I have only a few) or reading a chapter in a book or listening to a podcast. Whatever I choose I am grateful for those little moments of mental rest when my soul gets some much needed attention.

How do you step away to recharge your soul?

Or do you?

If not, make that your goal this week. Find time to make space for your thoughts, your feelings and for your soul to breathe.

This mom stuff is hard

“I’m a horrible mom!” I sobbed into the phone at my mom while waiting for  a call back from the triage nurse. It’s not the first time I’d said these words and I’m sure it won’t be the last, even though I know it should be.

It was the second time we’d called the number in a week, both times for my 15 month old daughter we have affectionately, and aptly, nicknamed The Hurricane.
The first time we called she had fallen off the back of the couch, her favorite spot to perch on, much to the disapproval of her dad and I. On the way to the floor she cracked her head on a bookcase.
She cried and was fine within minutes, even though I had been sure we would be holding back blood on our way to the hospital. We called the nurse on call and I woke up 20 times that night to check on her. She was fine and was left with only a small bruise above her eye. Ten minutes after she fell, in fact, she was trying to climb the couch again.

The second call involved her walking out of the bathroom and toward me, down the upstairs hallway, with an empty bottle of allergy medicine in her hand and a thoughtful look on her face. It was a bottle which had previously been partially full. Apparently it fell off the counter and the lid was either placed in crooked or not tight enough. I had left the bathroom, expecting her to follow me.

Yeah. Right.

Why would a 15 month old follow their mom if there is so much they can get into in the bathroom?

I had pretty much convinced myself she’d been poisoned, but the nurse on call and Peggy at Poison Control felt, based on the fact much of the bottle had been poured on the floor, that our little girl would be okay. And she was, despite trying twice to do a somersault of the end of her brother’s bed while I was on the phone with the triage nurse.

She also emptied my entire box of feminine pads while I was on the phone telling her dad what Poison Control had said and spread them across the bathroom floor, as if she was redecorating.

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I often tell myself I’m horrible at this mothering job. What’s worse is I utter it out loud. A lot. In front of my children.

Being a mom is not a job I ever thought I would have. As a teenager I imagined myself traveling the world, photographing wars and famine and the beauty of nature, not raising babies in a small town only 45 minutes from where I grew up.

But, here I am, a mom.

And many days I question what God was thinking giving these poor children a mother like me.

The day the baby eats cat food off the kitchen island and my son feels ignored because I was chatting on Facebook longer than I intended. The day I yell at the elderly dog because he nipped the baby when she sat on him. The day I sighed heavily when my son talked about Minecraft again, making him feel like what he says isn’t important or of interest to him. Those days are the days I wonder what I’m doing as the mother of these two beautiful and amazing children.

Jonathan and my favorite movie these days is ‘Mom’s Night Out’ and toward the end of the movie Trace Atkins, playing a tattoo artist named Bones, tells the main character; “You all spend so much time beating yourselves up, it must be exhausting. Let me tell you something, girl. I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. So you just be you. He’ll take care of the rest.”

Oh Lord, it’s why I pray, so often throughout my days: “Fill in the gaps where I fail. Help me care for these children they way you’ve called me to. And most of all, please, Lord, don’t let me completely scar them for life.”

My brother chooses a word at the beginning of each year to set the tone for the upcoming year. He does this in conjunction with another blog and this year he chose the word reinvigorate. I thought the suggestion to choose a word for the year was sort of dumb, if I’m being honest. Still, when I started to think what words I wanted to choose as I moved forward into a new year, it only took me 30 seconds to know what words I needed: Peace and simplicity.

I complicate my life so much and when I do that I lose my inner peace. I lose sight of the peace that only Christ can give and let it be replaced by the chaos of the circumstances around me.

To have both peace and simplicity  I want to work on blaming myself less for accidents, recognizing what is my responsibility and what isn’t, and most of all being less hard on myself as a mother.

So, if you could choose a word, right now, even if it is the middle of the year, what word, or words, would you choose?