The Sigh of the Most High

“Keep going. They’ll eventually get it.”

This was a pep talk from my wiser than her years 15 year old. I am that person who needs affirmation from their own progeny.

We both knew how rough the morning had been. No one could find what they needed for a successful day – despite my rule about having your things together the night before. Attitudes were not stellar. Mouths were moving and excuses were flowing, but ears were closed and sense was halted.

It was a frustrating morning to say the least. I’d be lying if I said it was the first one.

And I sat there doubting in my minivan. “They will never get it!” I told myself.

Something no one tells you when you start your maternal journey is that children don’t typically learn something the first time. Repetition is key to successful parenting. And it may drive you slowly insane.

“Did you brush your teeth?” “Don’t forget to put your homework in your bag.” “Did you remember you have practice tonight?” “Mommy said you can’t wear that to school.”

The reason gray hairs come fast and furious is because you must often be the brain for however many children you have. It’s exhausting.

Parenting is a plodding work. Results are not usually instantaneous. It can take a lifetime to see results. And you most likely cannot take credit for the end product. (I can honestly say it is ALL of Jesus!)

Before you go swearing off children altogether, let me say this: the raising of children is the most important work on planet earth. The time, energy and money you spend is an investment in the future. It is of primary importance.

But in the mire of everyday life, motherhood doesn’t seem so life altering.

I arrived home from dropping my sage off at school so she could procure more inspirational quotes. I plopped down and opened my Bible to the prophets. And as I read I realized something.

I am just like my kids. They are just like me.

God gets my frustration.

How many times does humanity have to be reminded of the same things over and over by our holy God?

The Lord chose Israel, not because of their own merit, but because He could show His power through them. He gave them a code to live by. He repeated it several hundred times. Even the kings of Judah would write out the Torah to have their own copy handy.

But they broke the covenant. “All you have commanded we will obey,” they vowed to Jehovah. It didn’t take long to go back on their word.

Time and again God would forgive His wayward, forgetful children. He was firm, but patient. True to His Word though, this rampant careless disobedience would have to be punished so they would forget no more.

There is an interesting and much debated response that God has for His wayward children throughout Scripture. He repents them. Literally, He sighs over them. How often have you seen kids making obviously bad choices and just… sighed?

I do it. I sorta get what God was doing in those instances. It isn’t regret for creating, but a holy frustration with continual error.

The interesting thing is, this repenting (or the ESV word, relenting) also gives the idea to let up on or turn. The notion is that despite our sin and stupidity God shows mercy. He does not give us the punishment we truly deserve. Ever.

Millennia later, not much has changed. I sit here forgetting often as the cares of life and my own sin blur God’s presence and practices in my mind. Oh, He is still there. My perception prevents me from noticing.

And just like my kids who think mom will never find out, I play the same game with God. The difference is, He sees not only my actions, but the thoughts behind them as well.

At this point, if I am at all serious about my relationship with God, I must run to His Word to see the reality of my life. To be reminded of what I have forgotten.

In the Bible, through the Holy Spirit’s enabling, I find the means to adjust my perspective because I am reminded of what is true about myself, my children and my God.

He knows we will forget. He has provided the Holy Spirit and Scripture to remind us. And what’s crazy is that He never goes crazy in reminding His wayward, careless children of His ways. But He may sigh.

Still, God sees something in us that seems unattainable- we will eventually get it. We will someday no longer need the reminders and drilling because it will all be written on our hearts and ever before us.

Until then, press onward and upward. Live in the knowledge that God understands the frustrations of reminders. He does the same for us.

Why My Kids Aren’t “My Whole World”

I love kids. You don’t have seven of them if you hate children. For as much as they can drive you up the wall and challenge everything you ever believed about humanity, they are amazing!

We love their sense of humor and their imaginations and the funny things they say. We adore the snuggles and kisses and “I love yous”. We breathe deep each stage, enjoying their milestones and cherishing the memories of their better moments.

Seeing as these little sweeties need so much of our time and attention- especially at the beginning of their lives- it is so easy to let their little lives consume us. They can become our whole world.

My kids have been my whole world many times. The most obvious time was after the twins were born. It seemed for at least a year that there was time for nothing else but them! Feeding two, changing two, bathing two, cherishing two… and then add the other five that still needed a mom as well.

There are seasons where we must spend a majority of our time wearing the hat of Mom. It is a worthy and God-blessed position to hold. But there does come a line where motherhood and family becomes idolatry.

Idolatry is when we put any person or thing or idea above the Creator. The basic commandment is Exodus 20:3- “You shall have no other gods before me.” The sentence presupposes that something or someone else can be put before God.

Sure, there are obvious examples. Wooden or metal sculptures representing lesser deities being bowed to and venerated. In Luke 16:14-15, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for making money an idol. Verse 13 points out that money can be served instead of God.

Matthew 6:21 tells us that what we place the most value in is where our heart is. Now, don’t mistake me here- our kids are precious. More precious than possessions and fame. Worth the investment of our time and energy and prayers…. but should they be our entire heart? Our whole world?

It really comes down to this: who do we love most and how is that apparent in our lives? In one of the harshest portions of Scripture, Jesus seemingly puts off his flesh and blood and declares that whoever follows God wholeheartedly is His family. (Luke 8:38-39) Never mind the countless times He talks about leaving family to take His cross.

So let’s set this straight. Your kids are an eternal work. They are precious souls you have been loaned to bring up in the ways of their Creator. You are a steward of souls-just as your parents were for you. You teach them the ways of God through your lifestyle, speech, and behavior towards them.

This is a vital calling. It is crucial to civilization and the eternal purposes of God. But parenthood is not the only calling you have. And I think, amidst the pouring of ourselves into these little ones, we need to remember God comes first.

When God comes before kids, we are going to make time to learn more about Him. We will make corporate worship a priority for every member of our family instead of making our kids the excuse for sitting out. We will say yes to the non kid tasks God has for us: whether it is discipling that new believer, or singing in the choir, or cleaning the church. Even if it takes time away from our babies.

This is all part of your training of their souls too- they need God first to be patterned in your life so they know what it looks like for their lives. They need to know that they are not the center of anyone’s world, and if they want to be great in God’s Kingdom, they must become a servant.

We have raised a generation that is, by and large, convinced that they are the center of the universe. They believe their parents are there for them alone. When diminished in any way- which will happen- their self worth crumbles. And the rest of the world is held hostage to maintaining their fragile egos.

You see, this idea of family idolatry isn’t an either/or situation. You can and should love your family. They ought to have your time and attention and affection in ways that no other earthly thing should. But not above God. And your utter devotion to God is not to the detriment of you family, but to their ultimate benefit.

I say that as someone who has been there. I have made my kids the excuse. I have not modeled a servant of Christ for them perfectly. And God gives grace… so much grace. But I fooled myself into thinking that my only job on earth was to be their mom… nothing else. And, eventually, the prospect is maddening because I knew that I was created to be their mom- and other things as well.

I’m a wife. I’m a very part-time accounts receivable person. I’m a writer. I’m a Sunday school teacher. I’m a comedian (in my head). I’m an Uber driver (for the kids). I’m a sewer and baker and historian and counselor and…. I’ve got other callings. They help me to be a better mom to my kids, but ultimately they help me to be a better servant for my Lord.

But guilt. Guilt will do a number on you. Make you do things that make no sense. Create a martyr instead of a mentor. I have thought that it is selfish of me to need a break from the kids. I have thought that getting together for a Bible study or coffee with friends was not something I needed. That my kids needed me more.

Truth reveals. It reveals that, in my case, I have plenty of time with my kids. I’m a stay at home parent. The few hours they are out of my sight are not likely to undo the countless hours I have poured into them. They need a mom who has her cup filled with Jesus more than they need her to watch another movie or play another game with them.

Another truth revealed: I am not raising children to stay children forever. They will become adults before you know it. And yeah, we can share lessons and formally teach them things about being an adult. The most they will learn is from the patterns you show in your own life. So what kind of adult do you want your kids to be? Model that, as best you can. You want them to make no time for individual pursuits? You want them not to be a faithful church member? You want them to be a taker and not a giver?

And since we must raise kids to be adults someday, we do have to teach them independence from us, painful though it is. Why? I, personally, want to be able to sleep when my kids leave the house. If I don’t start giving them independence at appropriate intervals, I will always doubt that they are able to handle the real world. Brief separation is healthy. Most seasoned parents never share this difficult but real part of raising children.

So, yes, I’m going to say it: Your kids shouldn’t be your whole world. It isn’t healthy for them and it isn’t healthy for you. Point your kids to the One we should be doing all things for- let Him be everything to you.

Why Being “The Cool Mom” Isn’t the Goal

I don’t try to gain accolades from Gen Z-ers. Really. I’m a geek if there ever was one. A middle-aged minivan mom who watches Great British Baking Show and knits and has a great fondness for plants and quilts and documentaries. As I write this, I am wearing elephant pajama pants, an “I ❤️Coffee” sweatshirt and a fuzzy pink bathrobe. Not really a cool mom wardrobe.

And if you have ever been around me, you know that I’m am not out to make friends with my kids. I’m the mom, and that relationship should be more than a mere friendship for my kids. The months I carried them and the hours of labor and the extra weight I’ve gained on their behalf means we are more than friends. We are family.

But there are things that I think and do intentionally to keep an open line of communication for my kids. I try to learn their lingo. They think it is dorky when I throw shade, but I remind them that they are just recycling trends from my day. Word.

Photo by Neringa Šidlauskaitė on Unsplash

I do sniff around social media to understand trends and fads and things that I notice the kids take an interest in. The Biblical challenge to be “harmless as doves but wise as serpents” I take to heart.

The realization is that I am not training children to be reclusive. While I do not want them adopting every societal more out there, I do need to train them to engage the culture we live in to reach them for Christ. It requires hard conversations about personal standards and self control and spiritual discernment.

My husband and I do not talk down to our kids. We let them have opinions and ask their ideas. We value their thoughts within reason. We use the knowledge we gain to have meaningful discussions about music, social media, modesty, relationships and more.

Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

Because of my acquired knowledge, I have often heard that I am the “cool mom.” I am honored that my kids’ friends think of me that way. Not because I was a dork growing up (true) and am looking for validation in the next generation that insists on wearing socks with sandals. (Just. No. Not again.)

No, the reason that I will accept this badge is because I know that they know I am a mom they can talk to who will listen. I will not shut them down. We parents spend a lot of time eye rolling and dismissing our kids without trying to understand the whys. Ironically, we spend a great deal of mental energy trying to pass along traditions that they don’t understand because we don’t share the whys.

And there is balance here. Be Biblical. Be the parent. You do know more about life than they do and always will just by nature of your 20+ year age gap. Your kids ought to respect you as an authority. Rules you have for them have purpose.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

But do keep a door of communication open. Don’t just bury your head in the sands of time and refuse to see or know anything about this current generation. That is dwelling in ignorance instead of knowledge, and it does no service in cultivating a good relationship with your children. It does nothing to help you disciple them to reach a world that desperately needs Jesus.

You don’t have to start wearing joggers and socks with sandals (please don’t.) or use a hydro flask or randomly spew out the word “yeet.” (Although it can be fun…) The basic challenge is to learn about the world your kids live in so that you can effectively help them navigate it according to God’s Word.

Breathe.

My sister is the best. She buys me the coolest, trendiest things. Often times, she opens up my world to possibilities I never consider myself. Clothing, accessories, coffee creations and restaurants. And the best part is, she never steers me wrong because she knows me so well.

Nothing points this fact out more clearly then when she visited after the twins came to our home. Life was overwhelming. Not just because of the twins, but because I was still trying to figure out how to run a household for 9- something I never imagined doing in my wildest dreams.

Christin observed. She loved on her nieces and nephews. And she gave me a gift. A bracelet.

Now, I like jewelry. But bracelets seem distracting to me. I see it and feel it and sometimes they get in the way. So not my favorite thing.

But this bracelet was different. I wanted the interruptions it might offer.

You see, this bracelet is made of clay. With an elastic band. It isn’t fancy, but it is the most beautiful thing I’ve worn on my wrist.

On this chunk of hardened clay was imprinted this word: breathe.

I left it on everyday for over a year and thought about that word daily. When the stress piled and I didn’t think I could manage anymore; or when the frustration and annoyance built up; or even when I had a moment to myself- this word was fitting to dwell on.

The reminder to breathe did many things for me.

1. It calmed and soothed. When you focus on breathing for a brief moment, you realize that stressing out and being anxious makes the most simple of tasks seem foggy. The most basic? Breathe. If I can step back and take a breather, I can break a mounting obstacle into small tasks. (Matt. 6:34)

2. It reminded me that life is not a hurry. We are trained to think that life is to be rushed through. Go from one thing to the next. When we savor something, what do we often do? Breathe deeply. Slow things down so they can be enjoyed and not just quickly observed. (Eccl. 3:13)

3. It reminded me of who I am. I am a child of God. He created me and breathed life into my frame. I am precious to Him. And those people around me, my “tribe”? They are from the breath of God as well, and I need to cherish them like He cherishes me. (Gen. 2:7)

4. It reminded me of where to turn daily. Not myself. Not my can do attitude. No, I need to breathe in the God-breathed Word. The Bible. Inspired means literally “to breathe.” If the breath of God made me, then it also must sustain me. (1 Tim. 3:16)

5. It reminded me to pray. Even when I didn’t know what to pray exactly. I recalled that even when we can barely breathe out a prayer, the Spirit utters it for us on our behalf. (Rom. 8:26)

6. It reminded me of how quickly this life passes. The craziness of child-rearing will be replaced by an empty nest soon enough. Life is but a vapor- a breath. (Jas. 4:14)

This word was the word I needed to hear often in that first year as a family of nine. I still need the reminder. The band on my bracelet wore out, but the message has stayed in my heart.

And now? When I am unsure of the next step to take, or the tension mounts, or I need to step back and enjoy when everything screams to keep mindlessly busy- I breathe.

P.S. If you are looking for a bracelet to be a reminder to you, visit mudlove. Not only do they provide beautiful, handcrafted gifts for you and your loved ones, but their customer service is also superb- if your band wears out, just mail it in and they will replace it for free! And if that’s not enough, every purchase helps provide clean drinking water to people in need.

**This is not a paid advertisement, just a recommendation from a happy customer. I have not been solicited or reimbursed in any way for my post.

A Ministry of Realness

I was in a gym, surrounded by people who seemed to have it all together. Curled hair, makeup flawless and outfit on point. With older children, these moms get to sit and watch their kids play sports without carrying two bags of necessities, a beast of a stroller, or a preschooler who dead sailors every time the moment requires legs.

I was a hot mess.

Oh, I dressed to impress. Made myself all purdy. Did my best to be prepared for keeping Evie and the twins preoccupied and fed. Got to the game early to get set up.

And yet, it all fell apart.

Car rides have become a given in this stage of the game. We spend around two hours a day toting kids. So the moment my babes are out of a car seat, they are ready to roam. Not conducive with volleyballs flying about. Add to that a reclusive preschooler and you’ve got yourself a hostile situation.

And I get it. This is just a moment in time that will eventually pass. I know that all too well as I watch my teenage daughter in this tournament whilst holding a one year old. Or two one year olds.

But that moment across the court. That is fleeting too. And once again, as a mom of many, I’m wrestling with how I split my time with seven.

In the midst of this, I have to pick up the other three kids from school. Fortunately my grandparents show up at the game and offer to keep an eye on a baby so I don’t have to lug my monstrosity of a stroller all over campus again. They are angels, I tell ya!

So on goes this day in a chaotic fashion. I am in no way trying to be in the way with all the kids, but it is kinda hard not to be.

And as I try to listen to my boy talk about school, while pulling my 4 year old off the ground for the 237th time, in the midst of a building with the acoustics of an airplane hangar, filled with screaming girls and projectiles going all over- the thoughts and feelings rise from their crypt.

“You are just a nuisance. Take your insanity and go home.”

“I’m just certain these people are thinking that you are a mess.”

“Could you not pull off perfection for one day?”

Now, before I get a bunch of messages confirming the opposite, let me make some thing clear: these are thoughts. Thoughts that cross my mind in the heat of a stressful situation. And I share them here because I know- I KNOW that there are others reading this who get the same feelings. We are human. They happen, and if you say they don’t come to you, you are not being honest.

I tell you these stories to say you are not alone. We all need confirmation that our struggles are not abnormal. There is nothing new under the sun. I also share to say don’t let feelings dictate your actions and your thoughts about you or others for that matter. Feelings are not a good indicator of truth, they simply are your expressions about any given situation.

What really happens after these thoughts enter your cerebral cortex is entirely up to you. The Bible tells us that our thoughts need to be taken captive. Feelings and thoughts need to be evaluated under the microscope of truth.

“I am loved by God. That same God gave me these children and these opportunities. He also gives me the wisdom to know when to do something and the strength to do it.”

“No one in this gym is perfect. Everyone has their own problems and burdens. They are too busy to worry about mine. And if they are judging, they will stand before God to give an account. That is on them, not me.”

“Perfection is unattainable-like chasing the wind. God doesn’t give me merit for being perfect. He gives me favor because I am His child. Besides, the Bible tells us to confess our faults one to another. I’m confessing without having to say a word. That’s great multitasking.”

And even if I’m still not feeling it, I tell myself the truth and eventually my stubborn heart falls into line.

The world needs real Christians. Not people who put on a perfect persona. I can be harried and joyful. I can be struggling and hopeful. I can be grieving yet grateful. The Christian life isn’t a formula for perfection. It’s the way to travel though this life of ups and downs with joy and peace, giving glory to our Maker.

As I recounted my day and my thoughts to my husband, he said to me, “Maybe that is our ministry. To be the realest people in the bunch.”

A ministry of realness? I can get behind that.

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