“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” (Proverbs 14:4, NIV)
Some of you married farmers. Most of us did not. Still, the imagery here is full of application for every mother in every messy home: You want a fruitful family? Then you’re going to have a messy house! You want your little people and their friends and neighborhood kids all dropping by? You want to host home group with your church friends? You want children who have the freedom to finger paint at an easel and play in backyard dirt? Then you’re going to have to deal with muddy shoes, sticky fingerprints, and careless spills.
You can wrap your mind around that concept, can’t you? And yet, the reality feels overwhelming in your day-in and day-out lives as dishes and laundry pile up. Your husband is working out of town again this week, so the load falls squarely on your shoulders. You set a plan in place, how you’re going to get it done after you tuck your children in bed for the night. All eleven loads of laundry are piled in a wrinkled mound upon your bed, and you have vowed to get every last piece of it folded and put away before you hit the sack! Except the youngest keeps coming out crying about “scary thoughts,” and the oldest has leg cramps, and your husband texts, asking you to send him the phone number he scribbled on a scrap of paper three weeks ago that he’s sure is on the back, right-hand corner of his desk. So you snap!
Messy homes are many women’s triggers. And the problem is that as soon as we soothe our twitchy tendency by getting the place cleaned up, it’s shot to pieces all over again—along with our nerves!
Here’s how it looks in our family: Our weekly routine is that the children all lend a hand and get their bedrooms and the family room picked up on Sunday nights, so that we’re ready for a new week. Then it’s off to bed and out the door in a hurry come morning. Needless to say, Monday is my happy, peaceful day. Except, within 18 seconds of getting home from school that afternoon, every Lego set we own, and every superhero ever made, carpets the floor once again. And…they’re hungry! How DARE they be hungry when my stainless steal sink is so shiny and sparkly, without even a water spot? But in they come, like a herd of elephants, ripping through the pantry and grabbing granola bars, tearing off wrappers, sending pieces of their crumbly snack flying across the ground. And as I holler, “Grab a plate and eat that at the table…” another child pulls a juice box from the fridge, punches a hole in it with their straw, sending a sticky stream of kiwi-strawberry down the front of my cabinets…and I come undone. Again.
This is one of those triggers that I feel great shame over, because it’s so predictable. I ought to have figured this out…conquered it by now. The confusing problem is, this isn’t really about my house at all… my need for order in the home goes much deeper than a woman’s affection for a freshly swept floor and Windexed windows. What I’m learning about my need for a clean home is that uncluttered countertops are a tangible way to rank the control I have over my life. When I can’t control my husband’s work schedule, my children’s volume, their behavior at dinner or in their beds at night…I want to have just one aspect of my life in order. Just one. That’s all I ask!
“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:10)
Women, the application is simple. Hard, but simple. God is holding your every day in the expansive palm His hand. We are held in that hollow place beside every other thing under His sovereign control. The weight of eternity, the wars that rage around the globe, and our loved ones battling cancer. God is holding your life today, your family home today, your anxious heart today. We can surrender big tears and big angst when we believe that a big God is in control.
He is the one who has ordered your footsteps, His is the light that illuminates your path, His breath fills your being, and His Holy Spirit invites you to “be still and know” that He alone is God…even in the chaos.
Would your house be cleaner without your darling little mess makers? Would the wood floors stay shiny longer than the span of time it takes for them to dry? Would you only need to run the dishwasher (or the washing machine, for that matter) a time or two a week, rather than multiple times each day? Would your countertops and windows be free of peanut butter smudges and maple syrup fingerprints? Would you ever step again on a stray Lego in the middle of the night? Would your proverbial stable be so clean you could eat off of the floor?
The thing is, my dear friends with twitchy little trigger fingers, we don’t have empty stalls. Our homes are full of strong little people with strong personalities, dirty socks, and toothpaste-crusted bathroom sinks.
The farmer and the mother are both keenly aware that the harvest can only be brought in from the fields with the help of strong animals. And God knew that much of our fruitful mothering lives happen in busy, bustling homes. Our children are part of the harvest themselves, our refinement is part of the harvest, and neighborhood and school friends may be part of the harvest as well, if we are willing to swing wide the stable doors. Embrace the harvest in your home, and thank God for the strong little creatures who are with you in the field each and every day.
It’s all perspective!
This post is an except from the book, “Triggers: Exchanging Parents Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses” by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia.
If you struggle with feeling powerless in your mothering, and are desperate for God’s strength to carry you through those long, emotionally taxing, mothering days, I encourage you to dive into Triggers. Co-authored by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia and published by BRU Press, a division of The MOB Society.
Order your copy of Triggers here.
For those of you who just completed our 2nd Annual 40 Day Sugar Fast… HIP-HIP-HOORAY! We’ve been more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Looking back over these 40 days I see many recurring themes, and all of them straight from the Bible.
– We talked a lot about letting our hunger pangs drive us to the only One who can ever satisfy our soul’s great hunger. (Psalm 90:14)
- We recognized that when we “hunger and thirst for anything else, we hunger and thirst in vain.” (Matt. 5:6)
- We confessed our tendency to emotionally binge rather than bring our emotions to the Lord. (Ps. 139:23)
- We collective heard Him say, “Thanks for the sugar, but what I really want is all of you.” (Mark 12:30)
- Likewise, we admitted that once God shook this shackle free He immediately convicted us about other idols in our lives. (Leviticus 26:1)
- And finally, we’ve heard women joyfully confess, “I’m finally satisfied.” (Psalm 107:9)
More than anything else was the call to be in God’s Word throughout the fast. Instead of running to the pantry (for chocolate chips to get us through) we ran to Him, His Word, His Holy Spirit power! We encouraged Bible study and Bible memory, and reminded each other that nothing else is sweeter. (Psalm 119:103) It was a liberating and life-giving 40 days! And none of us are eager to turn back to captivity. We want to keep walking in freedom and pursuing the One who set us free indeed. And so we are going from fasting to feasting…
We have developed a holy hunger to “taste and see” that the Lord, indeed, is good. (Psalm 34:8) Are you ready to go from FAST to FEAST? Beginning this coming Monday, May 16th, 2016, we’re diving into the Psalms as a Spiritually starving group of women. We’ll keep our private Facebook group alive and use it to “break bread” together, metaphorically.
If you have been one of the courageous women who went without sugar during this fast, it is my prayer that you’ve experienced the Lord’s abiding nearness like never before. And I hope you’ll join us on this next leg of our journey towards intimacy with Christ. But if you didn’t fast with us this spring, but are hungry for time spent with the satisfying bread of life, you are welcome too!
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)
What do you say we taste and see for ourselves?
Here’s the challenge, brave ones: simply read one Psalm a day, Monday – Friday. Saturdays and Sundays can be used for catch up and reflection.
Perhaps you’ll choose to journal some of your thoughts and prayers, along with your favorite verses. Some of you may choose to copy some of these Psalms in their entirety. Maybe a handful of you will will even do a little creative Bible journaling with colored pens and watercolored paints. Whether you will read first thing in the morning, or dive in once your little people are down for naps, it’s up to you and the Holy Spirit’s lead.
The how and when and posture of your Bible Study is between you and the Him, but we invite you to share what you are learning each day on our private Facebook page. Each Monday – Friday one of the Fast2Feast admins will write the date and the Psalm number, followed by her personal reflection and an invitation for you to share yours. Sweet and simple.
Would you like a lovely little reminder? One of the ladies who joined our fast is a jewelry designer who has offered to create a series of bangles to remind us to fix our hunger upon the One who promises to satisfy every need, both now and forever more!
“Bind them continually on your heart;
Tie them around your neck (or your wrists.)
When you walk about, they will guide you;
When you sleep, they will watch over you;
And when you awake, they will talk to you.”
(Proverbs 6:21-22, parenthesis added)
Order one, or order all three! Choose your favorite metal and our resident jeweler Jennifer, from The Finest Kind co. will ship it to you ASAP! Use the code: WENDY for 25% off – created especially for us!
I’ll see y’all tomorrow as we dive into Psalm 1.
“Lift with your legs, not with your back!” I hollered to my husband as he drove off down the rode, the truck loaded with our three sons and a mountain of work tools.
He gave a wave from the open window, as the sound of boyish laughter added a living harmony to the melody of U2 pumping out of speakers. “Good thing we don’t have neighbors close by,” I thought as they rambled away noisily. The early morning air stung my nostrils causing my eyes to prick with tears.
My husband is a hard worker. He sees a need and gets it done. Whether the need is chopping down a tree, fixing sprinkler heads, cleaning out the rain gutters of an elderly woman down the road, or heading out the door for an extended business trip, he’s always going – always working. During the years with multiple babies in diapers this was difficult on me. For some reason, needs like baby baths, dishes, and tuck-ins didn’t register as his job, and no matter how I tried to ask for help, he was out the door sweating in the sun or loading up his truck with an overnight bag for another business trip.
These were the days I felt abandoned and abused. Like a victim. Left alone to care for his children.
Our roles have always been clearly defined. Though it’s all rather June Cleaver in a pencil skirt, it actually worked for us… that is until I was outnumbered by three strong-willed children, whose muscular tendencies took after their father. And I felt like the world was against me, my world was against me. I felt like a victim.
“I bring home the bacon, you fry it up.” He liked to joke in his Ward Cleaver way.
Trouble is I can’t seem to manage it like June. I’m still wearing the yoga pants I wore yesterday, slept in last night, and now they’re speckled with grease stains as I stand at the stove frying up the bacon he brought home. Packing lunches, serving orange juice and muffins, laying out math sheets for the homeschooled kid who keeps me busy on school days. And my man’s whistling as he takes a hot shower, shaves, straightens his tie, and slips the laptop into his briefcase. He heads out the door with a, “Love ya, Babe.”
He does love me. He does.
And the truth is, in the quiet spaces of my life, when I’m not torn in multiple directions by multiple little people needing me all at once, I love him too. And I love the way he serves us. Though I often feel alone as I manage the ordinary needs and routines of family life, I really love what he does do. When I manage to step beyond the victim pool I tend to wade in each long day, I know instinctively that I’m attracted to his brand of busy. His sun bronzed arms, testify to the masculine strength that drew me to him in the first place. Our rose garden and lemon orchard always produce, and the boys sleep in the tree fort their daddy built them, back beside the garage that houses their camping gear and the big orange scout that makes us all laugh happy. There’s always music playing when my man’s around, whether he’s listening to Third Day or crooning “Pretty Woman” as he strums the 12 string guitar beside our bed. Though it’s more work for me, I love the way he’s always inviting friends over for a Saturday afternoon bbq, or a dip in the pool after church. And the bills are paid.
His bible is on the coffee table even now as I type this missive of remembrance out. I’m remembering what I love about him. I’m speaking it to my own heart in the quiet of my house this morning – as he takes the boys early to serve a family in need. I’m remembering what is true.
Remembering what is true about our husbands is paramount in keeping the victim mentality in check. They are not perfect. They will not meet all of our needs or heal all of our hurts. But they will be the men we married. They will continue to be who they are, who we fell in love with, and even who they continue growing up and into – the good and the bad – the helpful and the hard – till death do us part.
All of that is true and what I am thinking on today.
I remember sitting in church as a single 20 year old woman. I went by myself most Sundays and sat near the front of the sanctuary. The pastor welcomed the congregation one morning and gave a few announcements, he then acknowledged an older couple in the church who were celebrating their 70th anniversary. Pastor Joel stepped down off of the platform and walked decisively to the frail woman standing just down the pew from where I sat. Her husband stood beside her, a hand resting protectively on her shoulder.
The pastor asked her directly, “Given the longevity of your marriage, what advice do you have for young married people today?”
She smiled and nodded, then said, “When this man here asked me to be his bride I went home and made a list of everything I didn’t like about him.” I laughed. We all did. Then she went on, “I took that list and looked it over good and asked myself, ‘Well, knowing all this is true, do you still want to marry him?’ To which I answered myself, ‘Yes, I do.’ So I folded that list up and put it in an envelope and tucked it away in my underwear drawer. It’s still there, but I’ve never looked at it again. The point is, ladies, every time I find something about this man that I don’t like very much I tell myself that it’s on the list.”
It’s on the list.
There are plenty of things that are much harder than I knew they were going to be. Some of them are big and some of them are small. I thought my man was going to change diapers and get up during the night and help with dishes and rub the midnight growing pains from our sons’ legs. But he doesn’t do any of those things. I also thought he was going to lead me in Bible study before bed each night. He prefers laughing beside me over YouTube videos. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.
But I did know that I loved him. I loved his laugh and his strength and his masculine dreams. I loved his faithful, fierce commitment to friendship and his willingness to serve those in need. I loved his generosity too.
In the midst of it all I’m easily overwhelmed, it’s true. It’s true, it’s true, it’s true! But I also love this man of mine and the life we have together. And every hard thing, I tell myself, is written on that list in my underwear drawer.
We are moving toward the end of our series, “You are not a victim, you’re a mom.” You are welcome to start at the beginning, or sign up here for the upcoming conclusion. This theme has deeply ministered to my own heart as the words have poured through my fingertips. Thank you for letting me know that it’s speaking to you too.
The last few weeks have been intense around our home. Ironically, (or not so much) as soon as I committed to writing a brand new parenting series with my sweet friend (and co-author of Triggers) Amber Lia , I started feeling like an absolute parenting disaster. Needless to say, I’ve been waiting to pen my first chapter. Waiting to ARRIVE! Waiting to have it all figured. Waiting until my boys’ behavior is suddenly better, if not brilliant! Then, and only then, could I share from my storehouse of perfect parenting tips.
But that’s not realistic, friends. So much of what Amber and I unearth is mined from the hard earth reality of raising real little people, on ornery and ordinary days. As Amber often reminds us, “It takes a childhood to raise a child.” Obviously I’m not done yet. And so, it is from that “…still training them up in the way they should go” place that I bring you today’s Parenting Script: “When Brothers Fight.”
Our home has lacked peace in recent days. It seems not 30 seconds pass without injustice or insult flying between brothers. Yes, if you were wondering, it IS exhausting. However, it’s not just exhausting for me, I can see on their faces that my boys are worn out from it too. They’re caught in a negative pattern together, tearing eachother down.
Last night at the dinner table in a rare moment of calm, we had a “Come to Jesus Meeting.” Here’s what I shared with them.
“Boys, I want your eyes on me, because I’m going to tell you something that could change your life for the better. Not just here and now, but better forever. Do you want that? Do you want things to be better here in our home? Do you want to have better relationships with one another and better relationships with all of the friends you’re ever going to have forever and ever?”
Of course they nodded, hair flopping forward in their eyes.
(Let me take a moment to point out a couple of things. First of all, I waited for a calm and collected moment so that my correction did not feel like a fight. There had already been enough of that. Secondly, I purposefully didn’t bring up all of their recent wrongs. They knew. So I continued…)
“God gave us one another, just the five of us around this table, to learn together how to treat people. If we can figure this out, here in our home, all of the relationships we ever have will go better!”
One child started to complain about his brother and why being nice is impossible. I stayed calm and put my hand up for him to stop.
“Son, right now it’s just my turn to talk. Okay?” He nodded again.
“So, I’m going to tell you three things that will likely happen IF you continue to argue with one another. Are you ready?”
All eyes were on me.
THREE THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN BROTHERS ARGUE
1 – “If you continue to yell at each other all days long, you will damage your friendship. Not only will you be angry today at your brothers, but you will likely grow up to be men who won’t want to be around one another.” I summed it up clearly, “If you don’t stop the arguing and mean talk, you could hurt your friendships with each other so badly that you won’t be friends when you’re men.” A couple of crocodile sized tears slipped down the plump cheeks of my youngest son at the thought.
2 – “If you refuse to learn to prefer your brothers, to encourage them and enjoy them, it will affect all of your other relationships both now and in the future. You will have a hard time honoring and enjoying your friends, your college roommate and professors, your future boss and co-workers, your future neighbors, and even your wife and your own sons one day.” Their eyes grew wide. “However, if you do learn to honor and enjoy each one of us at this table, you will know how to honor and enjoy all the other special people God brings into your life in the future. GUYS, THIS IS WHERE WE LEARN IT! God did such a good job when He gave us one another. Let’s enjoy each other and learn to have good relationships here in our home. Let’s be an encouragement to one another and build each other up.”
I didn’t hit them over their heads with scripture references, but they recognized the verse just the same.
“Mom, I remember that verse, ‘Encourage one another and build each other up!’”
“Exactly,” I affirmed.
Another child chimed in, “How about ‘Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God has commanded you so that all of your days will go great!” I smiled at his translation and gave him a thumbs up across the dinner table.
“Boys, if we learn to honor one another here in our home, God says that our future (and that also means our future friendships) will go well. Who wants to do this?”
They all smiled at one another. Then the middle-est asked, “What’s number three? You said that three things happen when we argue.”
3) “Boys, this last one is just another sad side-affect of what happens when you continue to argue with one another all day long: Your father and I don’t enjoy being around you. I know it sounds mean, but I also know this will make sense to you. It’s not fun, and it doesn’t feel good to have to constantly be breaking up fights and sending you to your rooms. I’d rather bake cookies, laugh at your jokes, play board games and watch funny videos with you on the iPad. But when you fill our home with nasty arguments, your dad and I want to send you to your rooms or hide in ours.”
“I don’t want to argue anymore,” said the oldest. The other two looked at him lovingly in agreement. “I want to have fun as a kid with you guys and I want mom and dad to have fun with us too. And I want to have fun with my friends and my kids and wife one day.”
The brothers giggled at the thought of their big brother married with kids.
“One last things, boys. I’m not going to give you warnings or reminders anymore. On the days you guys are struggling, I’m simply going to send you to your corners, each to your own room. You can play or read or listen to music by yourself, but you can’t be together for a whole hour. I won’t be angry at you, but I will do this each and every time, so that you can remember this important lesson: If you argue instead of honor, you won’t have good relationships and it won’t go well with you in the future either. We get to learn this this important life lesson together. Just the five of us!”
Of course your conversation will take it’s own shape – this script is merely intended to inspire in you new, gentler words to deal with those stress-filled mothering moments.
During last year’s 40 Day Sugar Fast I learned and relearned one overarching lesson, day by day. It was as though The Lord was reaching into my humble offering plate, tracing my meager mite with His finger, and saying with a gentle whisper, “Thanks for giving me your sugar addiction… but I want it all. I want all of you.”
My dear friend Katie M. Reid is joining me for a second year in a row. Last year she experienced a similar call on her heart: “Yes, I’ll take your sugar, but I want your anger too.” This year He’s taking her deeper still and asking for more.
When the Sweet Fix Makes You Sick
By Katie M. Reid
Edmund was already feeling uncomfortable from having eaten too many sweets, and when he heard that the Lady he had made friends with was a dangerous witch he felt even more uncomfortable. But he still wanted to taste that Turkish Delight more than he wanted anything else. -C.S. Lewis (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
Sometimes when you first taste a sugary treat it is delicious. The sweetness melts in your mouth and satisfies your craving. But have you ever indulged past the point of what you knew was reasonable? What once tasted divine leaves you with a headache, a stomach ache, or just an all-around lousy feeling.
The more you eat, the worse you feel.
That’s how it started for me. One taste led to another and soon I couldn’t stop. What began as something that made me feel satisfied morphed into something I couldn’t live without.
The constant stream of sugar I used to feed my emptiness filled me temporarily until the next fix. But the more I indulged the more I craved and the lousier I felt with each encounter.
I’m not really talking about sugar though.
I started this fast giving Him my sugar, but within the first 24 hours I knew that sugar wasn’t my vice. I’d grown addicted to a different sort of sweet.
The Fix that Breaks
The likes, the hearts, the thumbs up, and the shares that I received on social media began as beautiful encouragement to my discouraged soul. However, over time they’ve become something from which I can’t easily abstain.
An addiction to approval has a bigger hold on me than my afternoon delight of semi-sweet chocolate chips smothered in peanut butter. And that’s saying a lot!
It’s hard for me to go too long without checking who likes, notices, and approves of me.
When I’m especially discouraged I reach out, with shaky hand, to get my next affirmation buzz.
A few likes are no longer enough. I hunger for hundreds more and then it will be thousands. And when will it ever stop?
The addiction grows in power over me, controlling my happiness, constantly demanding to be fed.
I look to the attention of others, the stats, the approval ratings to see if I’m okay. Even when I feel acknowledged it isn’t enough. I set my sights on bigger and better, but I’m left with an ache; feeling lousy.
I walk away from the fix more discouraged then before because it doesn’t fulfill my soul.
Encouragement is a powerful tool. Pats on the back and thumbs up can lift us when we’re down. But when we take what was once sweet and prostitute it to fill us, we are left with a cheapened experience.
I want to stop playing the harlot—stop using people to make me feel good.
I’m sick of my self-indulgent heart keeping me from the pure delight of Jesus’ love.
I want to be made well.
The Break that Fixes
It’s hard to admit the ugliness of my sin, yet confession points the way to freedom.
When I see how others are seeking Him, unadulterated, I am tempted to retreat in shame—not feeling worthy to be among them. Feeling dirty—mixed motives present—in their company.
Yet, then, I think of her…the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). She was called out, caught in the act, yet Jesus did not condemn her. He had every right to accuse and find her guilty, but He chose another way. The heavy stones dropped as He picked up grace and wrapped it ‘round her with tenderness. Jesus did not leave her there in her filth. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” She was released to live differently. She was handed a clean slate, given a fresh start, freed to choose a more excellent way.
This is why I’m taking a break from sugar, because something is broken.
The allure of man’s approval has left me wanting. And I yearn for the genuine thing—approval found in Jesus alone.
Only Jesus’ affections and affirmation will truly satisfy.
We can find approval in Christ because of what He did on the cross. He took all of our sin, our addictions, our hidden faults and died for us so that we could be forgiven and restored to God. Jesus then rose again so that we can live victoriously and eternally.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
This is sweet news indeed. This is the hope that can be ours if we admit our need for Jesus. The world offers an artificial concoction of affirmation that leaves us sick yet longing for more. Jesus reaches down to pick us up, in the midst of brokenness, and wraps us with grace. He helps us to our feet and points to a better way—the way of Love.
When we feel discouraged draw us to Your Presence.
When our flesh craves approval may we run to Your unconditionally love.
Instead of indulging in unhealthy binges may we feast on Your Word that fills.
Instead of reaching for temporary fixes may we lift our hands to worship You. Amen
Katie M. Reid is a tightly wound woman who fumbles to receive and extend grace in everyday moments. She delights in her hubby, four children (with one more on the way) and their life in ministry. Through her writing, singing, speaking and photography she encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life.