Motherhood

Embracing Your Season

Just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. Embrace the season you’re in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.
— Lori Fairchild
design_blossoms-103.jpg

The sun is shining, and it's warm here today. We're probably still in for some more cold weather, but it's clear the seasons are changing. Spring is on its way.

My writing in this space has been sparse lately. Those little girls in the header picture at the top of the page aren't so little any more. They're growing up fast, and I'm trying hard not to miss it.

Because just like winter turns into spring, there are seasons in life. And in this season, there hasn't been a lot of time to write. There hasn't been a lot of time for me to even breathe, much less dream my own dreams.

You see, in this season, my kids have needed me. My husband has needed me. And my calling has been to minister to them.

And sometimes, that calling can seem small. They're only three people in this very big world. I could reach hundreds or thousands if I was blogging regularly. But those three people, they are my first calling. They are the people God has said to love first.

And that's hard sometimes. Honestly, some days if I have to help do one more algebra problem or one more 7th-grade project, I feel like I might just lose it. If I have to take my older daughter to one more doctor or sort through one more day of girl drama, I just might create my own drama. And if I schedule one more date night with my husband to have it be interrupted by someone at his work scheduling a 7 pm meeting on Friday night, I might throw my phone across the room.

But this is the season I'm in. This is the season where my family simply needs me more than they have in a long time. We're juggling a kid who has had multiple medical issues in the past year, a middle-schooler struggling to find her place in this world, and my husband's parents who both need specialized care. None of that leaves much time for writing and dreaming and creating.

Am I selfishly ready for this season to pass? You betcha. I want to write and dream and create. I want to chase my own dreams. But there is going to come a day when my house is empty and silent. The bus will go by my door, and no one will come running home to share their day with me.

So, if my calling right now is to focus on the other three people in my house, then that's what I'll do. Because as sure as winter is changing into spring, this season will change into another one.

When God calls us to a season, he does so for a reason. We need to embrace the change. Just as winter brings the fun of sledding and snowmen, Christmas and Valentine's Day, spring also has it's great moments -- the first daffodil, Easter and warm weather. Our seasons in life are like that, too. Each will bring challenges, but they will also bring some perfect moments, moments we would not trade for anything in the world.

If God is calling you to a season that seems to be leaving the things you want to do behind, remember that He's calling you to that season for a reason. It may be that things you want to do require that you walk this path before you can walk that one.

Whatever the reason, embrace the season you're in. There are beautiful moments to be found in it.

When Mom Isn't Enough

When disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.
 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

“I didn’t get invited to the birthday party.”

“My friends were mean to me at lunch today.”

“Everyone else has a date to the dance.”

Any one of those statements is designed to break a mom’s heart. And over the 14 years I’ve been raising two girls, I’ve heard each of those and many more.

Every time it happens, I look at whichever child is uttering those words and wonder. I wonder why others can’t see what I see. I wonder why they can’t see that my quiet, loving, sensitive child is a force to have on your side with her strong sense of loyalty and wicked sense of humor. I wonder why they can’t see that while my quirky, exuberant, brilliant child may not fit any mold that’s ever been cast, her different way of thinking brings so much to the table.

When your child gets left out or hurt by others, it’s hard to help them. It’s hard to convince them that they are beautiful, smart, funny and worthy of friendship and love. Because you’re their mom. You have to say those things, and they know it.

There are no magic words that can heal the hurt. There’s no amount of ice cream or brownies that will make the sting go entirely away.

All we can do is be there when they cry, pick them up when they fall, and love them through it all. Because growing up is tough. They’re going to get left out. They’re going to get hurt. And we’re not enough to heal the hurt.

But God is.

God is the ultimate healer. He heals the broken-hearted. We know that we can’t fix all of our kids’ problems or heal all their hurts. And our kids know it, too. That’s why we have to point them in the direction of the One who can heal them. While we’re loving our kids through the disappointments and the hurts that life brings, we have to point them toward their loving Father who is ever so much more powerful than us at bringing healing.

Because as much as I love my girls, God loves them more. He delights in binding up their wounds. He hears their heartbreak. He collects their tears in a bottle. Because He loves them. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them.

So, when disappointment and heartbreak come, love your kids. Wipe their tears. Hug them tight. Wrap them up in the knowledge that they are worthy of love. Then point them to God and let Him love them, too, because He’s so much better at this healing thing than we are.

10 Things I Wish My Kids Knew

In our house, we're in the midst of the tough pre-teen and teen years. The easy days are few and far between. If it's not one child having a crisis, it's the other. Hormone-induced tears are a part of nearly every day. Some days I'm my girls' best friend, and others, I'm the worst mom in the world. Being a mom in this season is tough. You never really know which kid is going to walk through your door after school -- the happy, care-free one or the moody, the world is ending one. There are days when I really would like to throw up my hands and just walk away.

But these two girls? They are the living extension of my heart. They are precious and amazing. They are mine. And there is so much they don't know about what goes through my heart and mind as I parent them through these turbulent years. Here's what I wish I they knew:

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

  1. I really don't like disciplining you. I only do it because I want you to learn to make wise decisions. I want you to know how to exercise self-control and think about the feelings of other people.
  2. When you're curled up in my arms sobbing your eyes out because of something someone else did or said, look up. There are tears in my eyes, too. Because I remember what it was like to be your age. Even though you think I don't understand, I really do. I was your age once, and mean kids have existed since the beginning of time.
  3. When someone treats you badly, I'm going to tell you that you need to forgive them and move on. But even as I'm saying those words, I'm fighting my own battle to do the same.
  4. I don't just make up rules to make your life miserable. I make rules to keep you safe and to teach you boundaries.
  5. I've never done this parenting thing before. I'm going to make mistakes. Please know that I'm doing my best.
  6. I am always praying for you because even though I mess up sometimes, God never does.
  7. I am trying to give you the space you need to become the person God wants you to be, but it's hard. In my mind's eye, you're still my little girl.
  8. I am always on your side -- even when it seems like I'm not. I always want what's best for you. I always want you to succeed. I always want you to be happy. Sometimes, though, those things only come through tough lessons.
  9. Letting you fail at something is one of the hardest things for me to do. But I know that if I always step in, you will never learn the lessons that failure can teach you. Just know that when you fail, my heart hurts as much as yours does.
  10. I will always love you. No matter how much you screw up or how much you push me away, I will always love you. I will always be there to pick you up. When the days are long and the crisis hits, I will always be a safe haven for you.

Not So Picture Perfect

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

by Sara Cormany

Once upon a time I loathed being the girl in the photograph.

I hid behind so and so. I offered to take the picture. Or I’d excuse myself to the restroom to the point I’m sure everyone in my family thought I had a bladder problem.

This at a time when I was the size of a toothpick, had not one wrinkle or gray hair and nothing sagged. (Mamas, you know what I am talking ABOUT...MMMMHMMM.)

Fast forward to today…

Where I am the proud owner of wrinkles and gray hair and flab (especially the kind that jiggles when you wave your arms.)  And the sagging? Oh friends…

Forget. About. It.

On top of the obvious differences between 28 and 38 and four children later, I also have a body that’s been through the physical ringer in the last few months.

Bruises in random places. Feet that turn blue and look like they have been borrowed from a 90-year-old man with frostbite. A face that is preciously puffy from steroids. Hair that’s thin on the top and looks like a small animal took up residence on the bottom. And lest we not forget the not-so-fashionable roots that only exist because I am NOT spending money on highlights that are going to fall out.

(Bless your little heart, Dave Ramsey.)

In other words, 2015 will never be called, “The year Sara looked like a supermodel.”

But you know what?

This mama has been in a RIDICULOUS amount of pictures.

Because the one thing I’ve learned in surviving a stroke, losing a dad and fighting through life-threatening health complications is this, my sweet, sweet, mama friends:

Pictures of us aren’t for us.  They are for the littles, the tweens, the college kids and even the grown-ups that are someday left behind.  And I promise you, they don’t care if you are a size 2 or 22, if you’ve had a bad hair day or even if your face is the size of a small planet.

All that they want is you in the picture.

You may find it hard to let go of your insecurity.  You may give yourself a pep talk every now and again (I know I do.)  You may even have to remind yourself that it’s not about you.

But as you enter the season of pumpkin patches and field trips and Christmas bedhead mornings, remember this:  You are just as beautiful as you were ten years ago.  And really?

You are probably even more so.

Because nothing is more beautiful than a broken vessel used to do great things. For the more we break, the more beautiful we become. And the more beautiful we become, the less we notice our broken bodies and the more we pay attention to the hearts they house.

So go on, mamas, take that picture or two or twenty.

Take it for your loves. Take it for the one who has to fight to stay in it. Take it for the one who knows it might be her last.

Just. Take. It.

And even as the camera flashes, know that real beauty comes from a heart filled with Jesus-sized love and the rest is all just dust.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail.

Don't Let Fear Rule Your Parenting -- The Rest of the Story

As our kids head back to school, let’s be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them — even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

A little over a week ago, I wrote this post about not letting fear rule your parenting. The next day, I got a phone call from my 14-year-old daughter in Ecuador saying her throat felt like it did when she had an abscess in it.

If you want to know fear, send your child to a foreign country and have her call you and tell you she's sick and needs medical treatment. She got to spend part of her day in an Ecuadorian hospital and ended up on the first flight home, cutting her trip short.

After writing that blog post about not letting fear rule your parenting, I was confronted with a situation that made me wonder whether that was the right tactic to take. If I'd just kept my daughter home, she would have been here when she got sick again. I wouldn't have spent 24 hours wondering if she was going to be OK. I would have had her right here where I could check on her. All of those thoughts went through this mom's very worried mind last Tuesday morning.

But do you know what one of my daughter's first questions was? She asked me if she could go back to Ecuador next summer. Despite not feeling good and being scared and sick in an Ecuadorian hospital, she couldn't wait to go back. The experiences she had, the friends she made and the joy she found while in Ecuador for a week ministering to others far outweighed the crumminess of getting sick and having to come home early.

I know that God wanted my daughter on that mission trip. He's given her a huge heart full of love and compassion along with a fearless spirit that revels in new experiences. He wanted her to have a taste of what that looks like on the mission field.

But Satan did not. There's nothing Satan wants more than for us to hide behind our fear to keep us from doing what God asks of us. Satan would have loved for fear to have kept me from putting my daughter on that plane. He would love for fear to keep me from letting her go again.

But even though this experience was gut-wrenching for me as a mom, even though her trip didn't end like anyone had planned, God still triumphed because we didn't let fear hold us back. My daughter should be good as new soon (she's having her tonsils taken out on Aug. 31), and she's already started working to earn money to go back to Ecuador next year. She had an amazing experience in Ecuador that will change her life forever. She has the best opening line of a "What I did this summer" essay that I've ever heard (I started my summer in an American hospital and ended it in an Ecuadorian one). And I was stretched as a mom to let go of my fear and trust God with this child of my heart more than I ever have before.

I was reminded once again of something I learned when my kids were very young. They are not mine. They are God's. I just get to be in charge of them for a little while. My biggest job as a mom is not to get in the way of what God wants to do in their lives. And when I do take steps to allow God to work, I have to be ready for Satan to attack because he doesn't want me or my kids growing in our faith and confidence in God. He wants fear and worry to hold us back.

Won't you join with me in not allowing Satan to have that kind of power over us and our kids? As our kids head back to school, let's be parents who choose to let our children walk in the path that God has laid out for them -- even when it means we have to set aside our own fear and worry.

The Measure of Success

Success is not measured in dollars and fame, it is measured in lives touched as you walk the path God has laid out for you.

I turn 41 today. And to be honest, I'm having a really hard time with this birthday. I didn't have any trouble at all with turning 40 last year. I've always had the opinion that age is just a number. But this year, I think I've let the world's definition of success creep in and derail my ability to be content.

To be honest, I feel old. I have a daughter who started driving last week and who is going to high school in the fall. I've been thinking about what my 20-year-old self thought life would look like at this age, and the reality is very different than the ideal. I have a great life. I have two fabulous kids. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends who are there in the good times and the bad ones. I have the important stuff.

But today, I've gotten caught in the trap of looking around and comparing myself to what the world considers a success. I don't have tons of money. This little blog doesn't get millions of hits a day. I haven't written a New York Times best seller. I'm a mom. I write a little blog. I teach writing to homeschoolers. I clean house, make meals, run the Fairchild taxi service and offer homework help. And sometimes that doesn't seem like enough.

 photo credit:  designblossoms.com

photo credit: designblossoms.com

When I look around and see other blogs that are bigger, when I see other moms who have high-powered jobs, when I find myself wondering what it would be like to have the time and energy to pursue those big writing dreams, I wonder if my reality is enough. I wonder if this really is what God planned for me or if I missed the turn I was supposed to take back when I was 30 or 35.

As I ponder all of this with not a few tears in my eyes, God reminds me of something important. It's not the big stuff that matters. Maybe I'll still write that New York Time best seller. Just not right now. Maybe someday this little blog will get millions of hits a day. Just not right now.

Because right now, success is measured in putting one foot in front of the other on this path -- the one I'm walking right now. The one that has a child on either side. Because yesterday, I took four teenagers to Starbucks and we studied what it means to thrive and not just survive. We talked about God's plans and dreams for their lives. And that hour in Starbucks mattered. It solidified friendships. It dropped some Truth into their lives. It let them know they are loved by adults other than their parents. And that mattered.

Today, I'm writing this blog post that won't get a million hits, but it just might be read by another mom struggling with the same emotions. And that will matter.

This fall, I will teach writing to a bunch of kids with a dose of love and Jesus on the side. And that will matter.

Tonight, I will pray with my kids and kiss them goodnight, and that will matter.

Because God doesn't call all of us to do the big things. We're not all going to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or New York Times best-selling authors. But our actions, the things we do every day, matter. They matter to the lives we touch. They matter to God who asks us to do them. They matter in ways that getting a million hits on the Internet does not.

So, if like me, you're struggling to see the significance in what you do because the world is busy telling you that success is measured in dollars and fame, remember that God sees you. He sees the smallest things you do. And those things matter. Because success is not measured in dollars and fame. It is measured in lives touched as you walk the path God has laid out for you.

When Parenting Just Stinks

stinks Sometimes, being the parent just stinks. Watching your kids walk through difficult circumstances, watching their hearts break, watching their dreams shatter -- none of that is fun.

My mom once told me that something I was going through hurt her more than it hurt me. I didn't believe her then. But after doing this parenting thing for almost 14 years, I do believe that when our kids hurt, our momma hearts break as well. When we watch our kids work hard and chase their goals only to fall short, I think we may shed as many tears as they do. We may do it behind closed doors where they can't see, but our hearts are breaking, too.

But then we wipe those tears away, open that closed door and pick up the pieces of our shattered kids. We remind them it's not the end of the world. We let them mourn what they lost. Then we point them in the direction of the future.

But it is so hard, and it is so not fun. These are the parenting moments I hate the most -- the ones where I have to find the silver lining when for the most part all I see is the clouds, too. But we do it -- because we're the moms, and that's what our kids need.

I know that many of life's most valuable lessons are learned in the hard stuff, but sometimes I wish I didn't have to convince both my kids and myself that the hard times are what make us stronger, teach us the most and force us to rely most heavily on God. I wish these teachable moments weren't so very hard.

I want so much to protect my kids from hurt and disappointment, but that isn't how the world works. Tough stuff happens. Things out of our kids' control cause problems that they can't fix. They make mistakes that have consequences.

And they learn. Oh, how they learn. They learn the world isn't fair. They learn that despite working hard you don't always achieve your goals. They learn that sometimes you fall down and the climb out of the pit you fell into is higher and steeper and harder than you ever thought it would be. They learn that there are people in this world who may never be able to appreciate them for who they are and that they may never get along with.

While I know my kids need to learn these lessons, the learning process is, oh, so hard. So excuse me while I shut my door, shed a few tears and have a long talk with God. Because on this long road of parenting when my momma heart breaks, there's only one place to go to have that broken heart healed. The only way to get through these tough moments is to trust that God has it all under control. He loves my kids more than I ever could, and He knows exactly what they need. He even has enough strength and wisdom to get me through the tough mom moments.

It doesn't change the fact that sometimes this parenting thing just stinks, but it does help to know that we're not alone on the journey.

Everyday Truth: The Book

3d coverI've often been asked when I was going to write another book. The truth is I already had one written. That book you see at the top has been sitting on the back burner, just waiting its turn to be published. I'm not really sure why it took me so long to put it out there. Publishing these days is pretty easy, especially if you publish it yourself. I think the biggest reason was the one that holds so many of us back from our dreams: fear. What if I put it out there and no one wanted to read it? What if no one but my mom likes it? What if it's a huge failure?

But here's the thing. God has called me to be a writer. He's given me the talent and the drive to go after this. He's led hundreds of people to this blog every day, and a couple thousand to the Everyday Truth Facebook page (which you should go check out if you haven't already). So, who am I to balk at the next step He's asked me to take?

2 Timothy 1:7 says "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." If I let fear keep me from taking the steps God is asking me to take, if I let a timid spirit hold me back, then I'm letting fear control my life instead of my love for God. And that's no way to live.

So, here it is, the next step on the Everyday Truth journey -- Everyday Truth the book. It's a hybrid Bible study/parenting book, and it's packed full of scripture and practical things you can do to take the everyday stuff in your life and turn it into teachable moments to turn your kids' hearts and minds toward God. It's probably most useful for those of you with preschool and elementary-age kids, but you parents of teens will probably find some useful tidbits as well.

If you want a sample, you can check out the first chapter here. I love this book. It's my baby. It's the parenting book I wished existed when my girls were younger. It not only teaches you what the Bible says, it gives you step-by-step help to put it into practice. My goal for this book is that those who read it will be blessed and finish it feeling encouraged and empowered that they can teach their kids about God.

So, here it is. My book. Right now it's available in paperback, but the Kindle edition is coming soon. I hope you like it. I hope that even if you don't read it that you are encouraged to not let fear hold you back from taking the next step that God is calling you to. But if you want to buy it and read it, click the link below.

Buy Everyday Truth now

Nobody Told Me It Would Be Lonely

community I've been told a lot of things about having a teenager. I was warned about the hormone swings. I was told about the attitude. I was given great advice about choosing my battles.

But nobody told me it would be lonely.

Nobody told me that many of my mom friends would go back to work and with the schedules of teenagers who can't drive that we would see each other once every three months even though we live down the street from each other. Nobody told me that being the mom of a teenager would be as isolating as being the mother of a newborn was.

Nobody told me it would be hard to find five minutes to do anything for myself. Nobody told me that in a time when I needed the support of other moms more than ever, that support would be harder to find.

Because this is the truth about having teenagers: They suck almost as much of your time as a newborn does (but at least they sleep through the night). And they take a whole lot more of your emotional energy than younger kids do.

At the same time, a lot of the mommy support system you had in the elementary years changes. There are no more playdates where the moms sit around and talk while the kids play. There are fewer school activities that require your presence where you can interact with other parents. There are simply fewer opportunities to surround yourself with other moms who are dealing with the same things you are.

And you can end up feeling all alone.

We all need support. We can't do this motherhood thing on our own. We need other moms who are striving to raise Christ-following kids to share our struggles and our victories with. We need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a friend to laugh with. No matter what age our kids are, we need community with other moms.

As the ages and stages of our kids change, though, our community often changes. When that happens, it can be easy to step back and decide we don't have the energy or the time to create a new community. It can be too easy to simply try to go it alone. And that doesn't help us be good moms. When we go it alone, we're relying on ourselves -- on our own energy and wisdom. I don't know about you, but I don't have enough of either one to be a good mom for very long.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that even God knows we need community. "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who fall and has no one to help them up."

I've been in a season where I've been trying go it alone. I've been trying to do this mom thing without a good support system in place. I don't recommend it. It will leave you feeling burnt out and frustrated.

But what do you do when your community changes? You build new community. You reestablish relationships that have fallen to the side, and you look for new ones. I guarantee that there are plenty of women in the same stage of life as you who are feeling as isolated and frustrated as you are. Reach out to them. Form a group that meets regularly for the purpose of simply sharing your struggles and victories as a mom and praying over your children. Find another mom to walk with or go to coffee with regularly. Reach out a hand of friendship to someone else. You'll be surprised at how many other moms are feeling the same way you are.

Create community around you because being a mom shouldn't be lonely.

Glimpses of the Future

future My younger daughter was walking to the mailbox. She had on shorts, her hockey warm-up jacket and a St. Louis Blues hat with her hair in a pony tail. I looked at her and was overwhelmed by how much I love this young lady who is truly her own person.

My older daughter was sitting in the movie theater with two of her friends. Bright smile on her face, talking up a storm. I looked at her and almost didn't recognize this almost-14-year-old girl who has come so very far from the awkward, shy 11-year-old she once was. And I was overwhelmed again by how much I truly adore the young lady she is becoming.

I had those two moments almost back to back last week as we simply enjoyed a week off for our spring break. I'll be honest. There are moments in parenting these two girls that make me want to tear out my hair. There are moments when I think I am never going to get through to them. There are moments when I just want to walk away.

But then God gives me these 5-second glimpses of who my kids are. He gives me a split second to realize that they are truly amazing. He gives me just a glimpse of what they may look like in the future. And it gives me hope.

Because when you're stuck in the middle of the mess that is motherhood, it can be easy to look at other people's kids and wonder why your kids can't be like those kids. Whether it's the infant years, the toddler years, the elementary years or the teen years, it can be easy to wonder if you're ever going to survive (or if your kids will survive).

But here's the thing: God sees the whole picture. He sees who your child has the potential to become. He doesn't just see the mess. He sees the beauty beyond the mess. He sees where this whole parenting thing is leading. And every now and then, He lets us glimpse it, too. It may just be a glance that lets you see that the strong-willed toddler kicking and screaming as you put him in the car seat will become a teenager who can stand up to peer pressure. It may be a short conversation that lets you see that the shy, unsure sixth-grader will become a kind and compassionate high schooler who draws people to her because of her gentle spirit.

When we're in the mommy trenches, we don't get to see the big picture. A lot of days, we can only see what's right in front of us. We can only look straight ahead. But even in the midst of those battles, even in the middle of the very long days, keep an eye out for the glimpses of the future. Be looking for just those small glimmers of hope that what you're doing is going to matter in the end. Because they are there. God gives them to us to encourage us and to remind us that He sees the future -- even when we can't.

What Happens When Mom Has a Meltdown?

This post contains affiliate links. I had a big meltdown the other day. There was nothing big that started it. Just one more expectation placed on me by my family that become one expectation too many. And it took me two full days to work my way out of my funk.

Because this life thing can be hard. It can be overwhelming. Nineteen years ago I got married and agreed to let another person be a huge part of my world. Thirteen years ago I had a baby and agreed to put someone else's needs above my own. Eleven years ago, I had another baby and started learning that this mom thing is a whole lot more draining than I ever thought it could be.

As women we wear a ton of different hats -- so many that some days we're not sure who we really are under all those hats. I always have this picture in my mind of the book Caps for Sale where the guy has a stack of different caps that he wears on his head. Here's a picture for those of you who have never read the book. See his stack of caps? I sometimes feel like they're all on my head. But back to my meltdown. Having a pre-teen and a teen in the house means we have an awful lot of hormones raging. It also means that my girls need an awful lot of attention. I honestly feel like I did when my girls were toddlers. By the end of the day, I simply fall into bed exhausted -- only instead of being physically exhausted, I'm emotionally worn out.

The other day, my emotional cup was empty -- bone dry like a desert. And my husband had the misfortune of needing one more thing from me. And I kind of lost it. Not the scream and yell kind of lose it, but the cry all day for no apparent reason kind of losing it with no really good explanation for what was wrong.

But in the middle of that complete meltdown, I was forced to really think about what the root issue was. You know what I discovered? The real root issue was that I'm tired. I'm tired in a way I haven't been since my girls were babies and toddlers. And I'm not just physically and emotionally tired. I'm spiritually tired.

For the past 15 years or so, I've been writing blogs, leading Bible studies, and teaching children and youth. And all those things are good, but I can't remember the last time I was part of a Bible study or women's group that I didn't have something to do with leading. I don't remember the last time I went to an event that I didn't have a leadership responsibility for. I don't remember the last time I simply did something to fill up my spiritual cup.

Truthfully, my quiet time with God has become a rushed affair, stuck in somewhere in the day that I could grab 10 minutes. One more thing to check off the list. Oh, I've been speaking and writing and ministering to others, but I've really been doing it from my spiritual reserves, not an everyday filling up on God's love and truth.

And when you do that, you eventually run dry. You eventually reach the point where the expectations everyone has for you are too much, where the stack of hats on your head starts to wobble and fall, where you don't have any grace, love, joy or wisdom to offer anyone else.

So, we're re-ordering the priorities around here. My husband and I are trying to make sure I have time every day to fill up my spiritual cup. Time to take care of me. We're trying to create enough space between the practices and the homework and the needs of two teenage girls to make sure mom has enough time to fill herself up -- physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Because we can't be the moms our kids need us to be unless we are first taking care of ourselves. If we try to do it, we will eventually end up melting down. We'll end up at the end of the rope without a whole lot of strength left to hold on.

So, if your cup is empty, if you're worn down and on the verge of a meltdown worthy of a two-year-old, take a minute to evaluate what the root cause is. It may be that you're not taking the time to fill yourself up with Jesus so you can be everything that your family needs you to be. And if that's the case, figure out what you need to do to make time with Jesus happen. Because that time will pay dividends that your whole family will appreciate.

Here, Let Me

cane A few Sundays ago, the crew and I tried a new eatery in town.

We laughed. We cried. We bonded.

Okay, okay, I exaggerate.

We really just gorged ourselves with ridiculously good burgers that only one person refused to eat. And that, my friends, is what we like to call an “eating out” win. So it is no surprise that when the hubs and our eldest headed out to catch an afternoon movie, I waved the most blissful wave.

Blissful until…ten…nine…eight….

AAACK!

Somewhere between the waving and the making sure my four-year-old didn’t fall out of the booth, I had forgotten something vitally important.

I.HAVE. A. CANE.

It’s just a little somethin’-somethin’ I have to use when out and about so I don’t fall flat on my face. Having had a little stroke and a pregnancy that set-back my rehab, it was and is my best friend. But it’s also ridiculously awkward.

So much so that I have a set routine when I’m out by myself (which apparently only includes places with carts.) It goes a little like this…

I get out of the van with the cane, go to the cart corral, put the cane in the cart and then hold onto the cart until I get to the van whereupon I put baby carrier in said cart, all the while hoping the other children do not run amuck.

(I know, I know. Bless. My. Cane.)

But if I’m going anywhere else, I have the husband who carries the baby except for this one time where it was blissful until…ten…nine…eight…

AAACK!

I swear my palms were sweating and I may have even been hyperventilating but was too distracted to care. Sophie was still falling out of the booth. Drew was emptying the salt shaker. And Maddie’s face was the-you-know-exactly-what-she’s-doing kind of red. And the door seemed like it was a lifetime away.

So I took a deep breath and began cleaning up the trash when a sweet employee said, “Oh, here, let me.” Then I lifted the carrier out of the high chair and struggled to get it back to its proper place when a kind lady said, “Oh, here, let me put that away for you.” And then there was the walk to the door…

Oh. My. Stars.

Tripping. Bumping. Falling.

Suffice it to say all eyes in the house were on the crazy lady with the cane until the manager opened the door and said, “Oh, here, let me get that.”

Mercifully, the van was right in front of the entrance. And shortly after the last buckle was buckled, I sank into my seat with a deep and measured breath of relief. It was then that something between a scream and a sob welled up in my throat because let’s be honest, being humbled and weak isn’t exactly the Hallmark moment that we’re sometimes sold.

It’s wickedly hard.

And yet I know there is not a mama in the world that hasn’t ended up in that same seat, with the same measured breath and the same in-between sob and scream. Sure, we don’t all have canes or infant carriers or handicapped parking stickers but we all have those moments where we feel utterly and completely inadequate. The times when we’re certain someone else would be way better navigating the toddler years, the school years, the tween years, the teen years, the college years…

But God started something the day that our babies were place in our arms. He started a work in their lives and ours. And He’s promised to finish it.

Even through the awkward. Even through the failures. Even through the in-between.

He’s picking us up, loving us through the hard and standing ready for the moments when He must bend close and say, “Here love, let me.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew, one-year-old Sophie, and her new little miracle Maddie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

It's About the Big Picture

big picture My younger daughter walked onto the stage for her choir concert on Monday night, and I didn't recognize her. It wasn't because she was wearing a costume or because she looked all that different. It was the distance.

We were sitting near the back of the auditorium, and from that distance, it was hard to recognize this young lady who was wearing her hair down and was dressed like all the other sixth grade singers. When I finally identified my child after a few seconds of looking, I was stunned at how grown-up she looked. It was as if she had morphed into an almost teen when I wasn't looking.

This isn't the first time this has happened -- although it tends to happen to me more frequently with my older daughter who has changed dramatically in the past two years. But this time, it reminded me that in the middle of this motherhood thing, we sometimes have to take a step back to see the big picture.

When you're in the middle of the homework wars or the potty-training nightmare days or the seemingly endless sibling fights, it can be really hard to see the good work you're doing. It can be hard to identify the successes when so many days feel like failure. It can be difficult to see the big picture because all you can see is the mess right in front of you.

But if we take a step back, if we look at the long-term, if we view the big picture, we will find that our kids are growing and learning and becoming independent people. We will see the hand of God working in their lives. We will be reminded that these kids' choices and growth aren't dependent on us -- they are dependent on God.

Too often, we take the burden of our kids' faith, their academic standing, their sports successes, and their relationships on ourselves. We think that if our kids fail at something, then it's a reflection on us, on our parenting, on our own worth.

That's simply not the case. Our job as parents is not to make our kids successful at everything. Our job as parents is to point our children to God. Our job as parents is to teach them the things they need to know to be independent. Our job as parents it to love our kids unconditionally.

The choices they make? Those are up to them. We can guide. We can discipline. We can advise. But we can not make their choices for them.

So when you're in the middle of a day where all you can see is the mess and the failure, take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. And remember who's holding the paintbrush painting the masterpiece of your kids' lives. Because a little perspective can make us all better parents.

Women Are Scary Review and Giveaway

Women are Scary I received a review copy of Women are Scary from Family Christian along with an appreciation certificate. The opinions expressed here, though, are entirely my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

Women are scary.

When I received a book with that title from Family Christian, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to find inside. Women are scary? How? Why?

What I found inside was truth I needed to hear about investing time and energy in relationships with other moms -- because women are scary.

We like to think we're friendly and welcoming -- not scary at all. But is there anything more intimidating than being faced with a roomful of women that you don't know?

We've all been in the position of being the "new girl" whether it's new to the neighborhood, new to the church, new to the school or just new to the playgroup. And when you're the new girl, it can be hard to make friends.

That's why Melanie Dale's new book Women are Scary: The totally awkward adventure of finding mom friends is such a great read. We can all relate to how difficult it can be to find friends, especially the kind of friends who are going to stick with you through the puking kids, the years of no make-up and the hair-raising teen years.

Melanie breaks down the hows and whys of mom relationships. With amusing stories from her own adventures in "mom dating," she perfectly illustrates how hard it can be to make friends and why they are worth it. Melanie outlines how to take a friendship from first base to home plate (or fourth base in her not-quite-perfect baseball metaphor), and she helps you recognize and overcome the struggles along the way.

By the time you get done reading Women are Scary, you'll feel like you've just had a cup of coffee with Melanie Dale. I read a lot of books, and this is the first book that has ever compelled me to send a message to the author. Her wit and sense of fun come through on every page. She's also a Doctor Who fan, which makes her ultra-cool in my book. (If you're a Doctor Who fan, pay close attention in Chapter 17.)

Melanie's message boils down to this: We all need friends. We need friends with whom to walk this crazy road of motherhood. We need friends who will lift us up, pray for us, laugh with us and cry with us. We need friends who love us when we haven't showered in three days. We need friends who will simply show up in the midst of a bad moment.

Melanie sums it all up like this: "We need momlationships because they help us to be brave. They give us strength to stick up for our kids when they're drowning in school, to chase the dreams that glitter like diamonds nestled in our souls, to fight for truth and justice for the kid down the street or the kid across the world. They remind us that we're not alone, and we're doing a good life's work."

Melanie walks you through the bases of a mom friendship -- from the awkward first meeting to the fourth-base friendships that create a safety net of love around us. She even covers how to deal with a mom friendship breakup. One of my favorite parts of the book, though, is when she focuses on how moms can be a force for change in the world.

If you're struggling to round the bases of a mom friendship, this book is a must read. If you already have a good group of friends, this book is still a must read because the truth that's found within its pages is so dead on that every mom can relate. While the book is clearly geared toward moms with younger children, I found a lot to appreciate and apply to my own life as the mom of a tween and a teen.

Women are scary 2

And, really, anyone who can get a Dalek from Doctor Who and the Death Star from Star Wars on the same page as some God-spoken truth deserves to have her book widely read.

Women are Scary goes on sale on March 24, but you can pre-order a copy here. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a $25 Family Christian appreciation certificate, which you can put toward your own copy of Women are Scary.

Don't forget to check out Family Christian on Facebook.

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The Truth about the Proverbs 31 Woman

Proverbs 31 For a long time after I became a mom I tried to live up to this vision I had in my head of being the perfect wife and mom. You know, the mom that had it all together -- perfectly dressed kids, dinner on the table every night, clean clothes always in the drawers and children who picked up after themselves.

My real life looks nothing like that. The reality is if it's not written on the calendar, it doesn't happen -- and even then I've been known to miss an appointment or two. The floor might get mopped once every two weeks and the bathrooms cleaned about that often as well. My kids' rooms often look like a war zone and more often than not you'll find a hockey bag and a soccer ball in my living room where a coffee table should be.

For much of this journey of motherhood, I felt guilty about the reality of life. I felt like I wasn't living up to the image of the Proverbs 31 woman -- you know that girl in the Bible who is pretty much perfect. She works, she sews, she cooks, she cleans, she's a great mom -- and she's pretty stinkin' annoying.

But here's the truth of the Proverbs 31 woman. All she's doing is taking care of her family. That's all she's called to do. All those things she does, I do them, too. I may not be making bread by hand, but I have something she didn't -- a grocery store. I may not be weaving my own cloth, but my kids are clothed when they walk out the door. I may not be purchasing land and selling it, but I am working to provide for my family.

The picture we've been fed of the Proverbs 31 woman is that she's this paragon of a wife and mother. She's what we should all strive to be. But what too many of us have seen is something that has left us striving to be something God never intended for us to be. Are the attributes of the Proverbs 31 woman something we should strive to attain? Absolutely. Does that mean we all need to be the Stepford wives to do so? Absolutely not.

God calls us to as moms to care for our families. He calls us to offer wisdom, comfort and joy to our kids. He doesn't call us to live by a checklist. He doesn't call us to look like anyone else.

Our primary job as moms is to raise children who are seeking after God, making wise choices and becoming productive members of society. If we're fulfilling that calling, then it doesn't matter if you're making your own bread, weaving your own cloth or cleaning your house every Tuesday. It doesn't matter if you're a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom or a work-outside-the-home mom. It doesn't matter if you breastfeed or bottlefeed. It simply doesn't matter as long as you're doing what you're called to do.

So, let's stop comparing ourselves to the perfect image of the Proverbs 31 woman and instead try to do what she did -- follow our calling to take care of our families. Because the Proverbs 31 woman isn't a description of a checklist we have to make it through to be a good wife and mom. She's a representation of a woman following her calling to care for her family. And that's what we should be striving to do, too.

It's OK to Be Ordinary

ordinary 2 We were in the car on the way home and the song "We Are Young" by Fun came on the radio. I heard the lyrics "We are young so let's set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun," and I started thinking. I turned 40 in June, and I don't think I qualify as young when it comes to the lyrics of this song.

I remember graduating from college, thinking I was going to change the world. I had a list of so many things that I was going to do. As I drove, I reflected on the things I've done in the 20 years since I graduated, and I realized I haven't done anything the world would consider extraordinary. For a moment, I felt a bit defeated. What happened to that energetic young girl who was going to set the world on fire?

But then I looked in the rearview mirror, and I saw a curly head in my backseat. I heard the happy sound of my daughter telling me about softball practice. And I realized that my "ordinary life" is nothing to sneeze at.

I may not be writing best sellers or saving the world one rainforest at a time, but I am raising two kids. I love my husband. I make their world a safe and happy place. I have a little corner of the Internet where I can share the things on my heart with all of you, and I have jobs that I enjoy.

Doctor Who is my favorite TV show (my kids and husband would tell you I'm slightly obsessed and are probably rolling their eyes as they read this). I love the show because it is incredibly well-written. But I think I love it most because the hero is this guy (an alien called a Time Lord) who can control all of time and space, yet the one thing he longs for is an ordinary existence. One of my favorite lines in the show is when the Doctor is talking to a couple about to get married as time comes apart around them. He asks them how they met, and they tell him they met on a street corner waiting for a cab. He says, "Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I've never had a life like that."

ordinary

And I think we should all be a bit more like the hero of my favorite TV show, longing for those ordinary moments, that ordinary life. Instead of looking at the day to day of our lives as boring and ordinary, we should view it as the important thing that it is. God put us in a certain place for a reason. He entrusted these kids to us. God wants us to live every ordinary day as the adventure He designed it to be.

If God didn't think ordinary was important, He surely would have found a more extraordinary way to send His Son into the world. He would have chosen someone more important to be Jesus' parents than a simple carpenter and a teenage girl. If God didn't think ordinary was important, He would have figured out a more headline-grabbing way to save the world.

We may not be making headlines in the world, but we are always making headlines at home. Our ordinary lives are important to those around us. Our ordinary days are the ones our kids will remember.

We don't have to be people who burn brighter than the sun so that the whole world can see us. We just have to burn brighter than the sun in our own ordinary world to the ordinary people around us. God asks us to be a light to the world, but He doesn't ask every one of us to do so in a hugely public way. He simply asks us to follow Him where He leads. For some people, that may be the world stage. For the rest of us, it's in our ordinary lives, on our ordinary street, with our ordinary friends.

God simply calls us to do whatever we're doing to the best of our ability for Him. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23)." As long as we're doing what we do with the right attitude, it's all important. It doesn't matter if it's ordinary or if anyone ever sees what we do. God sees, and God loves us and our ordinary lives.

Why We Should Stop Telling Moms to Enjoy Every Moment

Enjoy I was in Aldi with both my girls the other day. My older daughter stepped on my shoe for the third time in the store. I turned around and said, "Will you please stop walking on my feet!"

As soon as I was done speaking, another mom with two young girls looked at me and said, "Oh, you ruined it. I was so hoping it gets better. I was just watching you and thinking how you were me in a few years. And then you said something that I say all the time in the same tone of voice."

We had a good laugh, and I assured this mom that those moments she just saw were much fewer and farther between than they are when you have preschoolers. Then I opened my mouth to remind that mom to enjoy the stage she was in -- and I stopped. I stopped because I remember when I was in the midst of those days when everyone needed something from me and I would have sold nearly everything I owned to simply get five minutes alone -- even if it meant going to the grocery by myself.

We're often quick to speak to another mom who is a stage or two behind us and tell her to simply enjoy the moment. We do it because we realize our kids are growing up quickly. We do it because we can view that stage with the rose-colored glasses of hindsight. We do it because we think we're being encouraging.

But the reality is that saying those words to an overworked, overtired mom who is just in need of a few minutes of peace often just triggers guilt. What if she's not enjoying the terrible twos (or the terrible threes, as we had in our house)? What if she's so tired it's all she can do to keep her kids well and fed? What if she's in the midst of a rough stretch with her kids?

When we tell another mom she should enjoy the stage her kids are in, we're implying that she's doing something wrong if she doesn't enjoy it. We're simply heaping more mommy guilt on a mom who probably already feels plenty of her own.

I love my daughters, but I really didn't enjoy the baby stage from about three months old to nine months old. I don't miss those days, and I don't want to do them again. They were hard, especially with my second daughter. Were there moments of joy? Absolutely. Were there moments that I loved? You betcha. Would I say even now that I enjoyed that stage of my life? Not really.

Not all stages of parenting are enjoyable. We really won't miss some of those days. Yes, we should try to enjoy our kids as much as possible. But we really shouldn't keep telling other moms to enjoy the stage they're in. We're not walking in their shoes. We're not living the day to day in their house.

What we do want to keep in mind even in the tough stages of parenting is that God is growing us and our kids. He is at work even when it seems like He's not. When there's no light at the end of the parenting tunnel, God is still walking beside us in the dark.

So, the next time you see a mom with kids a stage or two behind yours, offer some encouragement. Let her know that the load does get lighter. But don't tell her to enjoy the moment she's in. She probably has lots of moments she enjoys. She just needs to know that this particular stage doesn't last forever. She needs to know that even if she's not enjoying that particular moment, day or month, she's still a good mom.

Because, truly, as much as we love our kids, we don't have to enjoy every moment. We just have to be faithful to being the parent God made us to be in that moment.

When You're Not Ready

Ready My older daughter is 13 1/2. She goes to high school next year. So far, this teenager thing hasn't been too bad, but changes are coming that are going to make parenting her a bit more challenging.

In six months, she can get her driving permit (because in our state, we think it's a good idea to let kids drive at 14). Her list of people she texts has expanded in just the past month to include some boys she's friends with. She's going to Ecuador on her own with our youth group on a mission trip this summer.

These are all big changes that are stretching my momma's heart. They all require that she have more independence and more responsibility. They require me letting go of a lot of control and trusting her to make the right choices.

I have to tell you, I don't think I'm ready.

I'm pretty sure it was just yesterday that she was taking her first wobbly steps. Wasn't it just hours ago that I sent her off to kindergarten?

But the truth is that our kids grow up. They move to different stages in life. They require a different kind of parenting. And, as parents, I don't think we're ever ready to leave one stage behind and move on to the next. The truth is, though, that we don't have to be ready. We just have to be willing to follow where God leads. Because whether we're ready or not, He is.

I know that God holds both my daughters close to His heart. I know that He is busy molding and shaping them into the people He needs them to be. I'm simply a tool that He uses to do so.

God is never surprised by the new stages that our kids enter. He is not startled by the addition of boys to the texting list. He is not concerned by a driver's permit. He is not worried about an out-of-the-country trip. He is in control.

While I'm adjusting to the new norm of this new stage of parenting, God is already in the midst of it. He is busy working in my daughter's heart and my own heart. He is there to offer up wisdom and guidance to this mom who sometimes already feels in over her head. He is simply waiting in the wings for me to acknowledge my need for Him.

So, as we enter this new stage -- one that includes boys, driving and independence -- I'm not ready, but God is. And that's enough.

A Mom's Prayer

moms prayer Here I am again, God. Here, on my knees. Asking for help.

You see, I've got these two precious daughters that you somehow thought I was equipped to raise. The thing is, though, I'm kind of lost.

One of them is struggling to see you, hear you and know you. She asks me questions like why didn't you send Satan to Jupiter instead of sending him to earth and why hurting hurts so much more than feeling good feels good. I have to tell you, I don't know the answers to those questions, and I don't even know where to find them.

The other one is growing up so fast. She's getting interested in boys and all the teenage girly stuff, and I'm really not ready for that. I'm not sure I'm equipped to guide her through those waters in this day of texting and social media.

With two girls in middle school, I have to say middle school is tough. The expectations are high. The world is pulling them in all sorts of directions -- none of them pointed at you.

What's a mom to do? How do I raise them and guide them and lead them to you when I don't have the answers they need. How do I protect them and yet let them spread their wings to gain some independence? How do I know we'll navigate these waters together and come out in one piece on the other side?

This age of teens and pre-teens is kind of frightening as a parent. There's only so much I can do. I miss the days when they were little and I could control so much more. This life of a pre-teen and teen mom is so much more than I thought it would be -- both good and bad.

And I can't do this on my own. I'm not smart enough or strong enough. So, here I am on my knees again asking for the strength and wisdom to get through this day. Let me show my kids grace. Let me show them love. Let me fill them with your wisdom and your strength. Let me trust you to get through to them and touch their hearts when I can't. Help me be the mom they need. Because I certainly can't do it on my own.

They Don't Need Supermom

supermom I want to be supermom.

I want to be able to do it all.

I want to have cookies after school and homework without tears.

I want to have a successful blog and write a book.

I want to be a great writing teacher who inspires kids.

I want to make nutritious dinners and have fun family nights.

I want to be a great wife who makes her husband feel valued and loved.

The reality is, though, that I don't succeed at these things even half the time.

Many days, my kids are lucky if there's food in the house to have for a snack and homework time often degenerates into frustration and tears.

My poor blog can go days, sometimes a week, without my attention, and that book is currently sitting in my head.

On the days that I teach, I'm sometimes lucky to have a lesson plan, and I'm often less than inspiring.

Nutritious dinners are, at times, found in the apples included in a McDonald's happy meal. Fun family nights consist of telling jokes in the car on the way to soccer or hockey practice.

My husband and I can go days without having a decent chance to have a conversation of more than two sentences without being interrupted. We can be ships passing in the night as we go separate ways to take children where they need to be.

This is my life. This is the life where I often fail as much as I succeed. This is the life where I don't get to be supermom. This is the life where many days I simply put one foot in front of the other to make it through the day.

And, yet, I find I don't need to be supermom. I don't need to be perfect. I don't need to be any more than what my kids and husband need. Because they don't need perfection. They don't always need a mom or wife that has all the answers, makes the perfect dinner, writes books and conquers homework without issue.

What they need is a mom and wife who loves them. What they need is a mom and wife who is doing her best to follow Jesus. What they need is not perfection but a mom and wife whose weaknesses are used by a gracious, loving God to guide and love them. What they need is for me to fall at the feet of Jesus and let Him build me up to be the mom and wife that meets their needs.