motherhood and when you lose sight of who you are.

For me, it happened right around the time my first baby, Lily, turned one. Our first real summer.

Gone were the days of toting a sleeping infant wherever I wanted to go. She was mobile and had fallen into a routine, and so, by 7:30 every night, I was on my couch scrolling through pictures of all the summer fun my childless friends were having.

It was in those quiet evenings in my own home, that I started to feel lonely and trapped and a little aimless.

It’s strange in those early days of motherhood, I think, because your former life is still such a tangible relic. You feel the same as that carefree version of yourself and yet a million miles away at the same time.

You lose yourself a little. You forget who you are.

It probably happens at a different point for every mom, but I don’t think it’s an avoidable reality. At some point, you’ll likely find yourself staring into a mirror and wondering, “Who am I?”

Now, I (obviously) don’t know everything about parenting. I don’t know how to get babies to sleep through the night or how to convince a three-year-old to wear shorts or how to get two preschoolers to play longer than 10 minutes together without someone crying.

But that question? The one you ask yourself while staring into the finger-smudged mirror? Well, I do know that the answer changes everything.

Sure, you’re a mom, and that fact has great implications and impact. But that’s not all you are.

And, if you spend your days defining yourself only by your ability to put kids to bed or feed a tiny army, well, unfortunately you’ll always come up short.

Because that’s not all you are.

We’ll always come up short if we base our worth on the things we do.

There’s not much sure footing in parenting anyway, is there? Just when you’ve got a handle on something or feel pretty good about where you’re at, the tide comes in and shifts the sand underneath your feet.

Nothing stays the same. It can’t. When people are involved, tiny or grown, everything moves and adjusts and muddies and changes.

Well, except for one thing.

One Person.

I lose sight of my identity still sometimes.¹ It happens on long, whine-filled days or weeks where Jake and I pass only like ships in the night. Weeks when I remember how much easier it all used to be before this season.

And it’s in these moments that I remind myself who I am.

Loved. Chosen. Redeemed. Confident. Complete.

I am who He says I am. Nothing will change this fact.

And that’s all the matters.

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The days are still whine-filled (we’re working on this one, believe me). Jake’s hours are still long. The sacrifices parenthood demands are still real and hard and draining.

But I choose to live in light of Truth.  I choose to wake up each day and hang my hat on who Christ says I am. To be thankful for the sacrifices asked of me because I see how they have refined and shaped me; how they have taught me to love more fully. How much better I am because of them.

I know that lonely, aimless feeling of motherhood well. Doesn’t every mom?

But I also know the feelings of joy and restoration and wholeness that come from knowing who I really am. 

That girl on the couch three years ago? She was just on the cusp of the good stuff.

I think we all are. It’s just a matter of choosing.

 


¹ This is a recurrent theme in my life. I started thinking about identity 13 years ago (what!) when I read the book Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson. In it, Anderson lists 27 aspects of who we are, and because the Internet is a magical tool in which everything is hidden, I found them all here in this handy PDF file in case you’re interested in reading more.

accepting the invitation to wholeness.

I set out into this year with a pretty simple, albeit, kind of intangible goal: Let hard things change me instead of trying to change the hard things.

So, about that.

I have been reminded lately that when you start praying to see change in your own life, you will, in turn, start to see the things in your life that need changing.

Shocker, right?

And, as it would be, I have recently become convicted of some pieces of myself that need changing.

They are things which, were we to sit down and discuss them over coffee (that sounds nice, actually), wouldn’t overly alarm you. They are “small” things–mindsets, habits, tendencies. They are pieces of my personality that I could probably chalk up to, “Well that’s just how I am,” if I really wanted to.

But I’ve always believed that particular excuse to be moo¹ and sneakily able to hold me back from who God wants (and calls) me to be.

And so, for a few weeks, I tried to change. I said various generic statements to myself:

Stop feeling that way.

Stop thinking like that.

Stop worrying about this.

But then nothing changed.

I still felt like the ugly things had some fingernail holds, and I couldn’t shake them despite how many times I prayed that they would just go away.

It was then that I stumbled into a few verses from Psalm 119.

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Those verses stuck in my brain. I thought about them and thought about them and thought about them, and realized that I had been trying to get rid of the ugly parts of my soul without replacing them with anything Good and Worthwhile. I was just willing them to leave and then hoping to just move on without them.

I don’t think that’s how transformation works.

It was when I started inclining myself toward Truth that I noticed my heart start to change. It was when I started to prioritize the time I spent reading through what God promises and wants for me that I realized how futile it was to try to change without actively acknowledging what He actually had to say about any of it.

And it was then that I started to feel the life in His ways.

(Although I certainly still have a long way to go.)

And then, a few days ago, I read an essay Sarah Bessey wrote² which subsequently helped cross a few more “t’s” in this particular train of thought.

Here’s an excerpt from the end of her essay:

I think that conviction has gotten a bit of a bad rap in the Church over the past little while. It’s understandable. We have an overcorrection to a lot of the legalism and boundary-marker Christianity that damaged so many, the behaviour modification and rule-making and imposition of other people’s convictions onto our own souls.

But in our steering away from legalism, I wonder if we left the road to holiness or began to forget that God also cares about what we do and how we do it and why.

Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation. It’s an invitation into freedom. It’s an invitation into wholeness.

Perhaps our choices towards those invitations from God are really an intersection for our agency or free will and the Holy Spirit’s activity – maybe that’s where transformation begins.

Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation.

It’s an invitation into freedom.

It’s an invitation into wholeness.

This is the kind of change I want for myself.

And what I’m seeing clearly is that accepting the invitation into wholeness is not passive.

Transformation will not just happen to me by sheer willpower alone.

It starts with the choice to change and is heavily dependent on what I choose to fill myself with. And then?

The promise of life and wholeness through the transforming work of the Spirit.

And, well, that seems pretty worth it to me.


¹ If this reference is not lost on you, then we are already friends, and you understand me on a very deep level.

² Here is the link to Sarah Bessey’s essay again. It made me think about a lot of things. It might make you think about a lot of things, too. You should read it in its entirety, and then we can discuss it over coffee.

what finding things taught me about lost things.

I’ve been thinking about lost things today.

This train of thought started a few weeks ago when Lily found an opal stone in our driveway.  The stone had fallen out of my grandmother’s wedding band six months earlier, and I had given up hope of ever finding it. (I’d like to emphasize that this tiny, white jewel sat on our driveway for an ENTIRE WINTER of snow and ice only to be found by a three-year-old one warm, summer night. It was incredible.)

Then, this week, I lost one of my favorite earrings. I realized it was missing long after it had fallen out, and again assumed it was lost in one of the various cavities of our house.

Last night, Lily swooped in yet again. She picked up a very tiny, silver arrow stud from her bed and said, “Hey mom, is this your earring?”

(That kid notices the small stuff, let me tell you.)

So, I’ve been thinking about lost things today.

I love a good metaphor (old English teacher habits die hard), so I’ve been wondering in the broader scope what exactly the lost things in my life are. What are the things that need to be found?

That question took me to Luke 15 and the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal (lost) son. Every story follows the same structure: Something is lost. Something is found. A party is thrown in celebration.

Those lost things? They are people. Those lost who are now found.

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About five minutes after I read those parables, I got a text message from my friend, Breanna, with an excerpt from Interrupted¹  by Jen Hatmaker (which seems to be wrecking her life much the same way it wrecked mine a year ago). Our conversation ultimately ended with her sending me this quote from The Tangible Kingdom² (as referenced in Interrupted):

Change must be about new, which to us means “fresh, bright, something that intuitively feels right, that causes us not only to dream but to move on our dreams.” That kind of new is good if it compels us into a world of faith again where we can battle fear and despondency with action that makes a difference. That kind of new is okay, but it really isn’t new. It’s just been hidden, or covered, or we’ve been distracted from it…

This type of new is about a returning. Returning to something ancient, something tried, something true and trustworthy. Something that has rerouted the legacies of families, nations, kings, peasants.

Something that has caused hundreds of thousands to give up security, reputation, and their lives…What we need to dig up, recover, and find again is the life of the kingdom and Jesus’ community..the church.

So, to summarize: I asked myself what the lost things in my life were and, 15 minutes later, I had all that sitting in front of me.

The answer to the question is people, most certainly, but, I think it also comes down to uncovering a life that brings me to those people. In the times when I start to get comfortable, God reminds me to dig up and recover the life of His kingdom now. To return to the true and the trustworthy which is really about finding ways to love people well each day.

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It really is about rerouting. A willingness to give up security, reputation, and even the comfortable life.

Not easy. Easily worth it.

I’ll start by throwing a party in honor of all my found things. You’re all invited (and can hopefully help me find the library book that went missing a few weeks ago. That’s the one thing Lily is yet to uncover.)


¹ Hatmaker, Jen. Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. NavPress, 2014.

² Halter, Hugh, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community: The Posture and Practices of Ancient Church Now. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.

how to deescalate a tantrum.

 

Jake, the girls, and I drove to Michigan last week, and about three hours into our drive home, I lost it.

Oh, you thought this was going to be about how to reduce toddler tantrums? Sorry, I haven’t figured that one out yet. I only know how to deescalate myself.

Now, our girls are champion travelers for the most part, but for whatever reason, last weekend they were especially owly. They’d yell for a book only to throw the book on the ground. They’d yell for their water only to throw the water the ground. Eventually, they were just yelling to yell, and, I’m not proud of it, but they broke me.

Luckily, when Jake and I are together, it seems like at least one of us has it together when the other hits a breaking point, so as any good parent would do, he lied and told the girls I was asleep, so I could chill myself out.

It always gives me a little perspective and grace when I realize that sometimes I just want to throw a tantrum too.

I was thinking about it today, and I realized that tantrums are almost always the result of a lack of control: a kid trying desperately to assert herself and a parent realizing she, in fact, has no ultimate control over said kid’s choices.

I can control my own responses though. I don’t always (see: usually don’t) do this well, but today I have been trying especially hard to breathe in some reminders so as to keep my cool.

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She doesn’t fully understand emotions yet. It always helps me to remember that I literally know my kids better than they know themselves. This won’t always be the case, I know, but for now, I am able to put words they don’t even know to the feelings they don’t even know they are expressing. It helps me to remember that sometimes tantrums come simply because they don’t know the words to say.

She’s not actively trying to destroy you. Right? Please tell me this is true.

She’s watching you. This is the one that usually stops me in my tracks, and I see it more now that Lily periodically tries to calm Norah down amidst her own fits of wild rage. Sometimes, she will calmly say, “Shhhh, Norah. It’s okay.” Other times, her voice rises with frustrated emotion. Both responses could have equally been learned from me (although the latter often seems more likely).

I am the dependent variable. The control factor in each thrown tantrum around here. I can coach and I can teach, but I am only ultimately able to control myself and my own responses. At least, If I choose to.

I stumbled into James today (a remarkable “coincidence”) and have now added a necessary new mantra to my daily interactions with the girls: Quick to hear. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry.Don't complicate your mind..jpg

If I can breathe those phrases in each time I feel my body temperature rising, then maybe, just maybe I can set an example worth emulating for my girls. If I can choose to respond well in my heightened states of emotions, then maybe they will start to respond similarly in theirs.

And then I suppose I’ll be ready to write my next post: How to Eliminate Toddler Tantrums Altogether.

[insert all the laughing emojis]