Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mommy guilt

I love to read inspirational stories. Stories about people who have overcome obstacles or who make mistakes and recover from them. I like stories where people find themselves in unexpected situations that turn out to be blessings-in-disguise. I see a lot of these going around facebook and I sometimes get them in my e-mail  They encourage and inspire me. I especially love stories that are written from a mom's perspective to other mom's to lift them up. A favorite that I have seen lately and even shared the link on my facebook page is this one from Short Stop. Check it out, it's a good read.

But, as much as I like those, there are some others that make me cringe. They're written with the intent of being encouraging, of reminding moms about the important things in life. They talk about stopping to smell the roses, about enjoying your children while they're young, about valuing people over things. All good things that we DO need to be reminded of from time to time. But beneath the pretty words and the sweet pictures they paint, they all say the same thing to me-"You're not doing it right." If I don't immediately drop everything to look at the watercolor rainbow my child painted, I've wasted a precious moment that I can never get back. If I don't allow my child as much time as she needs to pick an outfit for church even if it causes us to be late, I've rushed her and taken away her joy.If I put my child to bed and without reading the 10th "just one more story", I'm gong to regret it because someday they won't want me to read them bedtime stories anymore...

I read through these stories and poems looking for encouragement, but all I feel by the end is guilt. I remember all the things I didn't do right and I feel guilty because I can't change them. I don't get a do-over. I've messed up my kids and there's nothing I can do about it. I can try to do better tomorrow, but I'll probably just mess it up again.

 Instead of feeling inspired and uplifted, I feel used up and worn out. Am I the only one?

Some of my friends have lovingly teased me about being "super mom" or the "model parent". Believe me, I am FAR from being either of those. I mess up. I yell (*gasp*). I'm impatient, I don't always want to have the kids with me 24/7. I don't always listen to their stories or love when they bring me a handful of dandelions to put in a plastic cup on the windowsill. I'M NOT SUPERMOM.

But there's good news for me (and for you). God didn't call me to be supermom. He knew that I would have shortcomings and failures. He knew I would mess it up. He knew that I would never be able to do it right. But, it's okay.I don't have to do it all right because where my weaknesses lie, God's power takes over.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, " But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

What a relief! I don't have to strive to be the perfect mother with the perfect children anymore. I don't have to pretend to be strong and to have it all together when I don't. All I have to do is the best I can and let God take care of the rest. 

So, I'm off to turn in my Supermom cape. I don't need it anymore. Who's coming with me?


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Good soil

I have been so blessed to get to be a part of an awesome ladies' Bible study group for the past several months. I love it! We meet at the coffee shop on Saturday mornings and spend a couple of hours chatting, encouraging, offering advice, and studying together. I love hearing all the different perspectives and learning from the other ladies. I have made some great friends through our time together on Saturdays.
Our last study was on the book of Luke. I learned so much! One week in particular, God really spoke to me through the reading. We were reading Luke chapter 8, which contains a story that is very familiar to me.

"4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
I have heard this story so many times. Usually the emphasis is "we need to be the good soil and yield a crop for Jesus." But as I read through this passage again, a different picture came to my mind.
Think of a farmer sowing seeds. He depends on the seeds for his living, so he's not going to just carelessly toss them out anywhere. He wants them to fall on good soil, so before he sows his seeds, he invests time and energy into preparing the soil.  He breaks up the hard ground, removes the rocks, pulls up the weeds, and even adds fertilizer to the soil to feed his crops.
Good soil doesn't happen on it's own.
It takes effort to prepare it and work to sustain it before it can produce anything.  As Christians, this is our job. We can't just go around halfheartedly sharing our faith and hoping it "sticks" to those we come in contact with. We must be intentional.
Sharing our faith must be more than just wearing a t-shirt or posting a scripture on facebook. Not that these things are bad, they are, as people often say, "planting a seed." But if that's all we do, what are the chances of those seeds growing into anything more? How do we keep those seeds from being lost to the birds, rocks, and thorns of life? How do we help them grow?
We help them grow through relationship, through connection, and through love. Verse 15 says  " persevering produce a crop". I love the definition I found for persevere at "to bolster, sustain, or uphold".  This requires outside assistance. Good soil can't make itself good, nor can seeds that are sown grow and produce a crop on their own. Someone must continue to tend them and help them reach their potential.
We need to be there for people when they need us. We need to love those around us and invest our time into their lives to build relationships. We need to know when they're hurting and when they are struggling and love them through it. We need to celebrate with them  and cheer them on. This is how good soil is developed. This is how the seeds grow and produce a crop.
Lord, help me to go beyond the surface in sharing my faith. Show me how I can love the people you bring into my life like you love them. I pray that the seeds that are sown will fall on good soil and will produce a crop of souls who will come to know who you are by what they see in me. Thank you for your love for me that teaches me how to love.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cracked Watermelons

A few weeks ago, the kids and I ran into the grocery store to pick up a few things. My goal was to go in, get only what I needed, and get out as fast as possible-not an easy task when I have all my "helpers" with me. We were making good time,  with only a minimal amount of "put that back" and "we don't need that today," and were ready to head out the door. All we needed was a loaf of bread and we would be on our way.

To get from the bread aisle to the checkout counter, you have to walk through the produce section. I didn't have any fruits or veggies on my list, so it shouldn't have been a problem. Straight through to the checkout and on to the van.

Except that, directly in our path, sat three large boxes full of watermelons.

Well, what little boy can resist? My son ran right up to the first box and picked out the biggest watermelon he could see. It's almost as big as he is and way too heavy for him. "Please, mom! Can we get a watermelon?"

"Not today. We'll have watermelon for the 4th of July. Put it back." He was disappointed, but didn't argue. He walked back to the box and placed the watermelon back on top of the stack.

That's when it happened...

As he turned to walk away, the watermelon began to roll from the top of the pile. He saw it a moment too late and, before he could catch it, it landed with a loud crack on the floor.

I'm going to be honest and tell you that my first reaction was not what it should have been. Had I been by myself, I would have put that watermelon right back in the box and hit the road. But there were 8 little eyes looking at me waiting to see what I would do. So, I picked it up and put it in the cart. After all, "you break it, you buy it", right? So, off we went to checkout, the kids without a peep because they knew. Mom was NOT happy.

When we got in the van, I started with my mom speech. "How many times have I told you not to pick things up in the store? Didn't I tell you we weren't buying anything that wasn't on the list? If you had just listened to me, we wouldn't have this problem." You know how it goes. In the moment, I decided that the best consequence would be that he didn't get to eat any of the watermelon. That would teach him!

As we drove way, my little boy with his tear-stained face in the seat behind me, the anger started to subside and the reality of what had happened started to set in. Was it really a big deal? Yes we ended up spending an extra $5 we hadn't planned on spending. Yes, it had been embarrassing. Yes, the whole situation could have been avoided if he had listened to me. But was it really, now, that big of a deal? I fought the urge to go back on what I said. He needed to face the consequence of his actions. After all, he had been told a hundred times...

That's when God began to speak to my heart. How many times have I done things I shouldn't do even though He's warned me a hundred times? How many times have I tried to do things on my own and ended up making a mess of it? How many times has God tried to stop me from doing something that will hurt me but I have ignored Him? Ouch!

Then I thought of that tear-stained face. Landon was sorry. Not sorry that he got caught, not sorry that he got in trouble, but genuinely sorry that he had disobeyed and sorry that he had caused a problem. He was sorry that he had upset me.

So many times, that has been me. Running to God with my tear-stained face, sorry for what I have done to disappoint him. Sorry I've made a mess of my life. And his response has always been the same. Not a lecture. Not "how many times have I told you?" Not, "now you get to watch the rest of us eat the watermelon."

His answer is always GRACE. I fail. I mess up.I do things I'm not supposed to do. But He forgives me. He doesn't give me what I deserve, He gives me His love.

Acts 13:38-39 says "38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses."
Isn't that awesome? According to the law, I should be punished. I should have to face to consequences of what I've done. I shouldn't get to "eat the watermelon" and receive the good things God has planned for me. But, through Jesus, I am forgiven! I receive grace and love and freedom from the punishment I deserve.
I'm so thankful for God's grace! And I'm thankful for the opportunity He gave me to be an example of His grace to my kids that day. Landon did get to eat some of that watermelon and I got a great reminder of God's love for me.