Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Will You Be?

This morning, the little kids and I had an interesting conversation on the way to school. (Actually, it wasn't that interesting but it did make me do some serious thinking.)

We were discussing occupations. Jonah mentioned that when he grows up, he wants to be a farmer. Sounded manageable. Then Vivienne said she wanted to be Sophia when she grows up. (For those of you that don't know who Sophia is, she's a princess. Perfect.) Then Jonah asked this question: "Mom, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Cue the silence.

My response was, "Well, I'm a mom. I've always wanted to be a mom." And while this is true, I have always wanted to be a mom, something about my response gave me pause.

Look, I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way. I love that I get to stay home with my children. We have been very blessed (and we have sacrificed quite a bit) so I'm very grateful for this opportunity. And to be honest, even though I loved working as a speech-language pathologist and helping children learn to communicate, I still always longed to be home with my kids. But sometimes I feel like I've lost my identity as a person.

(Some of you who are working moms may be rolling your eyes at me right now, wishing you could stay home. Or maybe you don't want to stay home. Maybe your career is your calling. This post isn't about the mommy wars and I'm certainly not trying to offend anyone.)

But here's the thing. I can sort of divide up my life into "pre-Jonah and Vivienne" and "post-Jonah and Vivienne." (Doesn't that sound awful??) Anyway, when Brienne was little, I never really felt like I lost who I was. I was still working full-time and hanging out with my girlfriends and singing in choirs and worship bands. I was participating in things that made me feel like a whole person, not just "Brienne's mom" or "Peter's wife."

But the more kids I had, the less I felt like "me." I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've spoken with other young moms as well as other men and women who are struggling to find who they are and what their purpose is.

(And then there are people like my husband. Peter has known from a very young age that he wanted to serve his country by being in the Air Force. While he can't understand how I've never felt a calling to a particular career, I can't understand how he has always known he's been called to a career in the military.)

Before we moved here, I was part of our church's worship band. Y'all. I loved that so much. I felt like I was fulfilling (or attempting to fulfill) my calling by helping lead worship. I looked forward to Wednesday rehearsals and Sunday worship. It gave me purpose.

But I feel like I've been in a diaper-changing stupor for the past four years. I know this is part of who I am right now, a mother to young children. And I love it! Please don't get me wrong. I honestly do feel called to be home with these precious children that God blessed our family with. I know that they are only mine for a few very short years and I desperately want them to feel loved. I 'm thankful I get to raise them and watch them grow.  I love being able to kiss their boo-boos and hang out with them and put them down for naps and tell them stories and play ball and baby dolls.

But sometimes we need to know who we are apart from everyone else.

I think I'm just now starting to come out of that diaper-changing stupor. I got to sing in the worship choir at our church on Easter Sunday. While it was different from what I had done in the past, it was still nice to be singing again. I've also started writing this blog and it makes me feel accomplished and happy.

I wonder how these things will play out in my life. Will there ever be a day when I am able to be part of a worship team again? Or is my part now helping Brienne develop her skills in this area? I've also seriously considered writing a Bible study for tween girls or writing a book based on things I've learned but it all seems a little daunting considering most of my brain power is used up with grocery lists and meal planning and keeping track of everyone's schedules.

I realize that I could get all Christian-ese on you and say that I know God's purpose is for me to bring glory to Him. Yes, I know that's true. And it's something I try to do. But I feel like there must be more to it than changing diapers and shuttling Brienne to swim practice, even though I can definitely glorify him in those mundane, everyday routines. But there must be some way to carve out time to cultivate talents and passions God has placed on my heart. Maybe not yet, not in this busy season of life. But soon.

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 2:10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God has created each of us for His good works. He has given each of us a set of gifts which we are supposed to use for His glory. And when we utilize those gifts, our lives will feel full of purpose.

I'm still trying to figure out my gifts and how to use them. I'm attempting to find time each week to do things that make me feel fulfilled, whether it's reading a good book, writing this blog, playing the piano, or singing along with Brienne as she plays the piano. (This drives her nuts, by the way.) I love being a mom to my three kids and I am eternally grateful to be given the opportunity to be home with them. But I think it's important that they also see me thriving and participating in things that I love; things that God has created me to do.

My question to you is this: What are your passions and how do you fit them into your busy schedule? Is there anything that you've given up during your busy season of motherhood? I would love to hear your responses!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I'm Exhausted and It's Not Funny, Big Bunny

Today I feel like I got hit by a truck. I would love to be able to blame it on Daylight Savings Time because, well, losing an hour of your life stinks. But I think too much time has passed for that to be the cause of my exhaustion.

And it's not just lack of sleep that is contributing to my overwhelming feelings of exhaustion. It's the constant instruction and discipline that come with raising three kids. It is hard. Nobody ever tells you how hard it actually is.

I really do try to discipline my children correctly. I often use Scripture to train them on a certain trait like selfishness or sharing. My focus is to change and train their little hearts. Sometimes, I'm successful, but more often than not, this is how it goes down:

Vivi: (screaming about something she wants) Or (screaming for no apparent reason)
Me: Vivienne, you need to have some self control. Remember, we talked about controlling our voices? Let's ask Jesus for some self-control.
Then I usually say a quick prayer while Vivienne glares at her lap. And as soon as I say "Amen," her little head snaps up and she yells at the top of her lungs,
"Noooooo! Nobody have 'trol! I don't want 'trol!"


Jonah usually gets into trouble for hitting Vivienne. (A lot of the time she sort of deserves it because she likes to swipe his toys while he's playing with them. You see, mostly I'm just a referee.) Anyway, I can usually talk to Jonah, possibly put him in time out for a few minutes and then he will hug Vivi and apologize to her. It's not always very sincere but hey, it's a start.

And Brienne. Well, let me just say that the tween years are no joke. Right now she is caught between being a child and being an adult so she's not quite sure how to act. And honestly, most days I'm not quite sure how to treat her.

This parenting thing is hard. I just pray that the good moments outweigh the moments that I screw up.

Sometimes, in the midst of tantrums and chaos, all I can do is laugh. One afternoon, I had all three kids with me in the car and Vivi was fussing about something. Brie and I just sort of laughed about it (because it was either laugh or cry) and Vivi looked right at us in all seriousness and said, "It's not funny, big bunny." Um. What? It's not funny, big bunny? Where does she come up with this stuff?

There are times, though, when I can see that all my hard work and all my prayers are working.

Vivi had a little New Testament Bible that she carried everywhere. She loved that little Bible. One day she took it into Publix while we were shopping and somehow we lost it. It must have fallen through the holes in the grocery cart. Honestly it seemed to just disappear so that when we got finished shopping, it was nowhere to be found. Needless to say, she was very upset when she discovered it was lost. But once she calmed down, we were able to talk about how another little girl who might not have a Bible may have found hers. And now she can read about Jesus. Then Vivi said a fairly sweet prayer for the little girl. Sometimes God can use situations like this to reach the hearts of our kids.

And sometimes he uses Bible stories to convict their little hearts.

One afternoon, I had escaped (I mean, I went shopping) and I had left Peter in charge of the kids. Apparently Vivi had a rough morning while I was gone because she had an accident in her panties. (I'm sorry if this is about to be TMI for some of you.) Anyway, when Peter discovered what happened, he asked her why she had pooped in her panties and not in the potty. Her response? "I not poop in my panties. Jonah pooped and put it in my panties."

Say what? I don't think so, little girl.

That evening as I was putting the children to bed, I read the story of Zaccheus. After I finished reading and singing the song (which the kids thought was hysterical, by the way), we talked about how Jesus loves us no matter what. Even when we do the wrong things, He still loves us. Vivienne looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said, "Mama? Jonah not poop in my panties. I pooped in my panties."

Aaaah. The sweet mercies of conviction. She felt better for confessing about lying and I felt better knowing that her little heart is not beyond reach.

Sweet mamas, I know the days are long and the challenges are difficult. I am right there with you. In the thick of it. Every day. It is hard and discouraging and sometimes it's impossible to see the sun. But guess what? The Son is shining. And He uses every little detail to help you mold and instruct and love your babies. Even during those times when you don't feel qualified and you don't think what you're doing is making any difference, it is. I promise. Keep praying for your children. Keep sharing the love of Christ with them. Keep asking for forgiveness from them. And trust that you are exactly who they need.

I'll leave you with this picture. Our sweet Vivienne, who can be such a strong-willed, hard-headed child, is learning so much just by sitting with her daddy and "reading" her Bible. Let's remember to sit with our Father and rest in Him too.