Do You Welcome Inconvenience?….me neither.

cheer photo

Sometimes being a single mom is so inconvenient.

The other night – a school night – when I should have been rocking little ones to sleep, we were just finding our seats at the varsity basketball game where my oldest daughter was cheering.

I love watching my daughter cheer…she rocks at it!  But it’s just no fun having to drag everyone out in order to do it.  It’s exhausting and I can’t help but think about how late the night is going to be and how early and fussy the morning is going to be.

On that particularly day we only had a bit of time after school before I had a piano lesson so I fed everyone a super early dinner.  I knew after the lesson we would have to bust a move to get my daughter to the game an hour early.  Unfortunately for the rest of us that meant we were going to be at the game REALLY early…it’s hard enough to entertain my two little nuts during the game much less for an extra hour. 

Honestly, I’m so busy messing with them I miss most of my daughter’s cheering.  But I really just want her to know that I care and I’m always gonna be there for her…no matter how inconvenient!

I can’t tell you how envious I am sometimes of the other moms.  That night a bunch of moms were discussing the upcoming cheer competition trip they will all be going on as chaperones.  I so want to be able to do that… it’s just so difficult to ask friends to take my kids.  I don’t want to ask too often.   Actually those opportunities are not the things that bother me the most…it’s the little shopping trips that my daughter goes on with friends and their moms, the lunch dates, the dress shopping, the get-togethers I just can’t make because I don’t have a built-in babysitter. 

I feel like I’m missing so much.  I know that I’m not.  I know that we really do have a wonderful life.  I know that God provides so many opportunities for me and my daughter to bond.  I really am blessed that she and I have such a great relationship.  I know that is unique. 

This is yet another one of those situations that isn’t ideal – another situation that makes it pretty in my face that things aren’t the way they should be.  But is anything truly ideal?  We live in a fallen world.  When sin came in, ideal went out. 

I’ve been thinking lately about how God still has a great plan for my family.  It isn’t a future plan, it’s a now plan.  A now plan for today…for dealing with missed opportunities, late nights and difficult days.  A now plan for opportunities to connect with my children.  I have the precious opportunity to connect every night with my littlest daughter while I rock her and we sing songs together.   I have sweet moments with my 6 year old daughter while I brush and braid her hair —between the yowling!  She can get some serious knots!  My 11-year old son still loves our time reading together every day.  I do too.  My teenage daughter and I have wonderful spontaneous talks about everything and anything.   We also like to stay up late together watching taped episodes of our favorite shows. 

It sounds funny to say but there is a camaraderie my children and I share that is beautiful.  I think it’s having walked a difficult path together and finding that we really are doing okay.  I also think there are many things about our relationship that wouldn’t necessarily have been the case were I not a single mom – not all those things are great, but most are very good – the opportunity for late night talks and time with each child just to be and talk and read and rock and sing.  I know that being a single mom also means there isn’t a good buffer between me and my children when I really need a break.  I know that my children don’t have a clear understanding of how a husband and wife team works – I wish they did because that is a lovely thing God designed for blessing and security for them.

I know that God loves us just as much as if we were a two-parent family.  He wasn’t surprised by our situation… He has a plan for us to be blessed in this place.  The blessings might appear a little different; the opportunities to bond might not come in big extravagant ways but rather the exquisite small daily ways.

Looking back at that game, I see that God really did bless me with little moments.  We were able to drop my cheerleader off and run and grab Slurpees – which is always hit.  I’m partial to coca-cola Slurpees.  It was also fun to have one to give my daughter at half-time.  My little girls enjoyed playing with the big kids – watching my children be happy is always a blessing.  My son and I were able to visit a bit and that is very cool.  I also had the opportunity to talk to a teacher and be encouraged about one of my children.  That was worth the price of admission!

I’m thinking maybe if I went into situations – no matter how inconvenient – with an expectation of what God might do to encourage and bless me, I’d find that He really does do it an awful lot! 

 

All You Need to Do is Just…

Recently one of my dearest friends called to tell me she had my next blog topic.  She’d been at a women’s Bible study where they were discussing their crazy busy lives.  After the moms in the group had lamented their situations, one of the ladies shared her “simple” solution which began with the phrase,

“All you need to do is just…”

In this case, the solution was prepare freezer meals.  My friend is practically a gourmet cook and couldn’t think of how that would be an appropriate solution for her problem.  She is one of the most accomplished women I know – a very successful attorney with her own practice and also the mother of a toddler and an infant.  She also finds time to minister to others at her church, help people organize their houses and lives, as well as just simply be a good friend and encourager.  I’m sure there are thousands of other things she does…oh and she and her husband built a 2nd story addition on their home…themselves…while she was pregnant with number 2.  So, yeah…I don’t know if freezer meals are the answer to her already busy life.  The amazing thing about this friend is that she is more than able to handle all that she has allowed to be placed on her plate…if she doesn’t shower daily.  I’m kidding…sorta.

She and I talked about how women really do expect that we can do it all.  I am here to tell you in big bold faced letter

I CAN’T DO IT ALL…

IN FACT, I CAN’T DO MOST OF IT.

There I said it.

Even this exceedingly amazing friend of mine admits she can’t.  Oh, we can give it a try, but really it isn’t very pretty most, if not all, of the time.

I’m sure the lady that suggested freezer meals had the best of intentions.  We all do, don’t we?  We all want to help each other to discover the next best thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my hope in some product or idea or chart or book that was going to finally make me organized, patient, or thin.

I’m always exceedingly disappointed, because the answer doesn’t lie in my doing something differently, more efficiently, or even better…although all those things would be phenomenal!  I believe as the saying goes it is more about being than doing.

What if when we were all sitting around the coffee table sharing our struggles, frustrations and fears, we offered each other the hope of the gospel?  What if we listened, comforted and empathized, but didn’t try and provide yet another thing to add to our ridiculous to do lists…the ones written down with all the phone calls, emails, chores, and projects we need to accomplish or the ones we keep in our heads that include all our hopes as well as all our failings…you know the lists I’m referring to right?

What if we simply loved one another?  What if we shared our struggles but also the hope we found in Scripture.  Maybe it would look like this,

Me.        “I’m so overwhelmed.  I feel like I simply can’t keep one thing moving in the right direction.  I read books about parenting that convict me and condemn me all at the same time.  I feel hopeless.  I don’t think I’ll ever truly be the mom I’m supposed to be for these children.  How can I expect them to be kind, patient, loving and slow to anger when half the time I’m frustrated, impatient, unkind and angry?  I know I need more sleep…but how?  I know I need to exercise…but what do I stop doing?  I know I need to get my home in order…but these little people keep messing it up behind me.  I know I need to prepare healthy food and snacks…but how do I do that with the schedule we are keeping?  What do I give up?  Who do I say no to?  If I could I would…I’m down to bare minimum involvement in church, school and activities and still I’m crushed by our schedule.  There is no way around it with 1 parent and 5 children.”

A Friend.  “I can’t imagine what you are feeling.  I know it must be so difficult.  Please know that God gave you those sweet children because He knew you were the woman for the job.  God wanted you, with your personality, struggles and situation, to be their Momma.  You and those 5 children is not a mistake.  And God has a plan in the midst of this.  Remember that verse you love, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13) God is the Father your children really need…and He is the husband you need.  He will help you, friend.  He won’t leave you or forsake you.  He’s got your back.  Lean on Him.  I will pray that the Holy Spirit will help you see Christ more clearly and that your circumstances will dim in comparison.  That you will find that peace which passes all understanding to guard your heart and your mind in Him.  That your heart will overflow with gratefulness for the children you have been entrusted with.  That you will know how very much you are loved by me and by Him.  Can I pray for you right now?”

That’s just an idea.  I mean sometimes it might be that you just say, “I’m so sorry.  I’ll pray for you.”  I always find it such a blessing when friends say what they are going to pray for me or even pray for me right then and there.  I love it!

I was talking with a friend at church recently about all the unsolicited advice she gets.  I believe we single moms get A LOT of advice we don’t ask for…or want.  It’s not always easy to receive it gracefully.  I told this friend that I think I’d like to get a t-shirt made up that says, “Just Shut Up and Pray for Me!”

I confess I can’t because my family is anti-shut-up, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that since we all say it and then instantly someone says, “Hey, you can’t say shut up!”  It’s a struggle.  I’m trying to decide if it is a hill I want to “die on.”  But that’s a conversation for another blog.

My point…after all this blathering…is that I want to encourage us all to offer each other some grace…or a lot of grace.  Let’s give each other the freedom to share without condemnation or recommendations.  Let’s extend encouragement and understanding instead of instructions and ideas.

Let’s be honest – most of us know exactly what we need to do practically in order to get our lives in order.  We just find it hard to do it.  Life is difficult.  Growth is a process.  Grace is continual.

What I’d like to add at the end of that phrase is this…  “All you need to do is just…

know you are loved unconditionally

regardless of what you accomplish in a day

regardless of the words that fall out of your mouth on a bad day

regardless of the state of your home

regardless of the behavior of your children

regardless of the comments of others

you are loved unconditionally.

 

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19

Big Things…BIGGER God

Lately it seems that everyone I know is going through something.  Not little things…big, giant, crushing things.  It feels like every day a new heartbreak is revealed to me.   This week I found myself wishing I could be blissfully unaware of all the issues that surround me.  Unfortunately that is not the place or situation God has given me.

I believe I’m called to comfort with the comfort I’ve been given.  But the reality is I am a single mom with 5 children and a couple part-time jobs.  What do I do to be the friend and encourager I want to be when I can barely be mommy and encourager for my children?

Don’t we all struggle with this dilemma to some degree?

There are some pretty big things going on around us all.  Some people who could use a listening ear, a hug and a word of encouragement.  I believe God calls us to be there for each other.  But when your own life is overwhelming, what does that ministry look like?  Today God gave me some perspective.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the LORD, from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 131

How beautiful is that?  God completely spoke to me.  He’d been preparing me for these verses for days.  I was finally ready to say, “God I don’t know it all or even most of it.  I’m choosing to trust you”

I don’t need to keep trying to figure things out that are frankly none of my business.  What I do need to do is pretty clear.  Trust God.  Calm down.  Be quiet.  Rest in my Savior’s care.  Hope in Him.

The reality is that there is no situation that I can “fix” on my own.  There is no person that I can truly comfort the way they need to be comforted.  There is no longing that I can fulfill.  No heart that I can change or heal.  When I get all twisted in knots over someone’s situation, or even my own, it’s usually because I’m trying to take things into my own hands and figure out a way to make it better.

When will I learn to turn to the Lord?  When will I understand that all I’m supposed to do is calm and quiet my anxious thoughts and let God use me the way He knows is  best.

So often I want to jump in and fix things…including almost everything in my own life.  Sometimes there are fixable things… like my attitude, my schedule, my focus…you know, my stuff.  But much of the time the things that truly bring me anxiety are things that I try to carry that really are out of my hands – things that serve only to bring disquiet to my heart and mind when I take them on as my own.

God desires for me to give it all to Him…even my friends and their concerns.  I like to help people…I like to listen…I like to encourage…I like to be needed.  I might use the word “like” but “love” is probably a more accurate word.  I believe that my desire to help is good but sometimes I think maybe my motivation isn’t.  Maybe I want to be the hero of every crisis or at least someone known as one.

My Father is showing me that He has everything handled and I don’t need to stress so much about things.  I don’t need to wrap myself up in knots trying to figure out what to do because He has already revealed my recipe for peace:

  • Approach things with humility – understand that I don’t have as much power, strength, and ability as I think I do.
  • Don’t think I can fix everything…some things are too enormous and only God can handle them.
  • Calm and quiet my soul…relax and let God handle it.
  • Hope in the Lord for today and all my tomorrows.