(There’s a giveaway at the end of this post, so make sure to read to the end!)
I was the boyfriend girl.
Meaning, I was always wrapped up in a guy and never made time for deep friendships with girls. Which is a major bummer because I missed out on the friendships you always hear about, the great high school and college friends who “always will be.”
Sure, I had a couple friends, but we all went separate ways for the most part, and then I got married, and then I had kids, and then…who has time for friendship when you’re exhausted and barely making it. I probably needed friendship the most in my desperate years, but it was those years I just couldn’t seem to find the energy to find or make new friends. First it was the boyfriends, then kids, then just plain exhaustion. So, I decided I was a loner. I wasn’t any good at friendships and maybe I just didn’t really need them. I was fine. Really.
But I wasn’t. I had no idea how important and wonderful and good life-giving friendships were.
Until my mid-30’s. In my mid-30’s I met my dearest friends.
And not only do I now have these beautiful, life-giving friendships, I am learning how to be a good friend. The fact is, I’ve not always been one. I’m not a natural at friendship, which is weird, I know, but true.
Maybe you struggle with finding friends or being a friend, or maybe you think you don’t need friends. Maybe you’re just worn out and can’t even muster the strength to work at friendship. I hear you. But let me offer this: If you don’t make the effort for friendship, here are some things you might miss out on:
You might miss the encouragement your soul needs to keep on. My friends know me so well, they know when to call or text or vox and send Scripture or encouraging words or drop off a coffee or take my kids. My friends fill a place in my soul that I never even knew I needed. I would be missing a great gift if I stayed in my “loner” thinking.
You might miss really fun girl nights out. One of my favorite things to do with my friends is head out once every couple of months to a restaurant and eat lots of bread and salad and drink wine and laugh and cry and have wonderful conversations with my friends. These nights refresh my heart and help me to keep on in the dailyness of life.
You might miss knowing you’re not alone. Knowing that my friends go through similar struggles as I do is comforting; we can comfort each other and share how God has helped and what He’s doing and what works and “here’s some chocolate, it’s been that kind of week.” I also know when I’m feeling in the depths, I can call on my friends and they will rally and lift me up, as I will do for them. My husband is my best friend and my greatest supporter, but my girlfriends are a lifeline that is so sacred and special to me.
You might miss knowing you’re loved even at your worst. Real friends love you anyway…they love you, tell you the truth, walk with your through the dark times, and never condemn you. They listen. They are honest but kind. Their arms are wide open. This is the grace of kindred friendship: that you are loved even at your worst.
You might miss out on growing in faith and loving God more. My dearest friends teach me so much. Their love for God is inspiring, and I come away from them wanting to know and love God more. They sharpen me, teach me, and through their struggles and faithful obedience to God, I am encouraged to keep on.
Now maybe you know this, maybe you are desperate for friendship and want to make friends but aren’t sure how or where or what to do. Here are some thoughts for you:
First of all, friendship is like dating…you don’t give up just because the first (or second or third) doesn’t work out (tweet that). You’re not going to have chemistry with everyone, and that’s okay. Stay open.
Second, ask God. Ask God for good, true friendships. Back to the dating analogy for a moment, in the book Little Women, Amy says to her sister, “You don’t need scores of suitors. You need only one… if he’s the right one.” I feel like this about friendship. You don’t need scores of friends, one good friend is worth gold (think of Anne and Diana). If you get to have two or three dear friends, well that’s just extra grace. Ask God for a kindred friend.
Make the effort. Yes, friendship takes effort to develop, but soon it becomes natural and sweet. My dearest friends are those I can let down with, be myself, and not have to worry about pretense. My friend Amy always says, “No eggshells!” You don’t have to feel like you’re walking on egg shells with good friends, and I love that. But even after the work and you’ve settled into a friendship, you’ve still got to work to love well, because it’s easy to let friendship just be. It’s important to keep caring, to do the work of writing down birthdays and dropping off a coffee now and then, writing a note telling your friends what they mean to you, or saying, “Let me take your kiddos so you can get a break.” Friendship, like marriage, like life, takes work and care. But it’s so worth the effort. So make the effort to invite that woman from church over for coffee. Make the effort to get together with that other mom from your child’s dance class. Make the effort to go to the dinner you were invited to even though you’re born weary. Every time I feel too tired to go see a friend, I’m always refreshed after; I never regret it. Make the effort.
I didn’t always have these beautiful friendships. Maybe you’re in that place right now, praying and hoping for kindred friendship. Don’t give up.
Today, to encourage you, I want to tell you about Craving Connection, a book that is not only a lovely offering about friendship, but has challenges to help you make and become a better friend.
Craving Connection is a book that will take you on a journey and offer you real-life stories, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges that will encourage you to:
- Embrace the desire God has given each of us for connection
- Invest in meaningful relationships, right where God has you
- Become the friend you wish you had
The book is by the (in)courage community writers, and they invite you to grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair to the table, and commit to creatively and prayerfully fulfilling your cravings for connection.
Giveaway and FUN
Now for some fun. First of all, if you want to learn more and/or buy the book, check out cravingconnectionsbook.com.
Second, head to your local bookstore where you might find a Starbucks gift card tucked into the book so you and a friend can have coffee together, thanks to (in)courage.
Lancaster, PA people, I’VE GOT YOU COVERED. Head to your local B & N or Lifeway and you’ll find a little somethin’. 😉
To win 1 of 3 copies I’m giving away, just fill out the form below! Contest open to U.S. residents. I will pick the winner TOMORROW at 9pm EST! GOOD “LUCK”!
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER! The winners are…
“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 falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastics 4:9-10
Here’s to the gift of friendship!
Love, Sarah Mae
Thank you so much B & H for sponsoring this post. Such a gift to be able to offer this book to those who are hungry for kindred friendship.
I blew up at her.
I was already on my last nerve with her not listening to me. Oh, she obeyed, kind of.
“Did you do what I asked?” “Yes.” You did this, this, and this?” “Yes.”
And then I check and she didn’t actually do the thing. She meant well, but she wasn’t tuning her ear to my instruction. She was distracted by what she wanted to do.
I was mad.
I yelled at her and I was harsh and I was just so mad.
I hadn’t been feeling well, plus I was irritated in general, and her not listening tipped me over. But really, my anger had been building. She just happened to be the one to get my wrath.
I went and sat and calmed down and felt kinda awful for losing it on her. “Lord, help me.”
I thought the situation over in my mind and it occurred to me that I showed her zero grace. Yes, she did something wrong, and that needed to be addressed, but I was too harsh. I could have handled it better. Do I ask forgiveness so quickly after being the yelling mom?
Yes, because it is grace that always changes me and gentleness that encourages me to be better and to keep on.
I called her to me after she was finished doing a job I had set her to do as a consequence for her not listening. I asked her if she would sit with me. She did. I wrapped my arms around her and I said, “What you did, not listening to me, was wrong, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you; I was too harsh. I hated being yelled at as a girl and it never helped me or made me want to change. You know what helps me? Grace and gentleness. In fact King David said to God in a psalm, “It’s your gentleness that makes me great.” Will you forgive me for yelling and over-reacting?”
“Yes, and I was wrong and I’m sorry too. Will you forgive me?” Her big grew wide and sweet, and then she squeezed me. “I’ll be right back!” She hopped off me and a minute later I got this:
It was the most perfect thing, and when I say perfect, I mean the most complete. We forgave each other and all was well.
I love these moments and I don’t know why I ever doubt them. When I obey God, when I tune my ear to His ways and His instruction, good comes. He’s right!
Sometimes I think, “I can’t possibly ask forgiveness again. Especially when they did do something wrong, and yea, I did too but again? Really? Won’t they get sick of it, mom asking again?”
No. No they don’t. Because I mean it when I say it and we all work together to be better…to treat each other with love and respect. We don’t ask for forgiveness just to move along and say the right thing. Our spirits compel us to love and forgive and be gracious and gentle because God is that way with us, and His Spirit is in us. We change, we mature and get better at loving because He is doing that good work inside us.
Thank you Jesus.
So if you’re wondering if you can ask forgiveness, again, yea, you can. Reconciliation is so sweet.
Love, Sarah Mae
Recently I was asked if I would watch a friends kiddos for a half a day plus an over night – an 11 year old, 9 year old, 7 year old, 3 year old, and a one year old. Plus my kids.
I thought back to my desperate days and told them I would do it. I knew they needed a break. But after saying yes I began feeling extreme anxiety. It crept up my shoulders and latched into my heart and all I could think about is how much I was dreading watching all their kids plus mine plus an overnight.
Why was I so fearful and anxious about helping my friend? What was wrong with me? I kept thinking, I’m so stupid, this is silly, people watch kids all the time and don’t panic about it! I’m just being ridiculous.
As I went to bed with all this on my mind, I asked the Lord to untangle my anxiety and help me understand my physical reaction to the upcoming situation. And as I thought and prayed, the Lord spoke to my spirit and I remembered.
I immediately was back to the days when I had two toddlers and a baby and felt so alone. I was desperate for a break, for some help, for something and I didn’t think I could face my days. I was jealous of others who had a mom to help them. I was envious of people who had help period. I felt like I was drowning and I didn’t know how to catch my breath.
Perhaps I had some postpartum stuff going on, I don’t know, maybe I’m just prone to depression and anxiety, but there were days I didn’t think I was going to make it.
Yet, here I am. I’m through those desperate days and I’m delighting in my children. But it’s interesting to me that just knowing I was going to be back with a toddler and a baby plus other kids, alone, overnight, triggered all my anxiety. I mean I physically felt it. Is there such thing as post traumatic stress disorder for those who had babies and toddlers? I’m thinking yes, because I can’t explain the fear and stress one babysitting job gave me. I’ll tell you what I do know: mothering can be traumatic.
Just recently I received an email from a mom who is carrying the weight of guilt that she is failing her kids because she is so overwhelmed. Here’s a portion:
“I feel like I can barely keep my head above water most of the time. I am angry, short-tempered, anxious, depressed, and completely overwhelmed… I just find that I don’t even have the energy or willpower to love them, at least in ways that seem tangible to them, most days. How’s that for terrible? I just feel like I’m screwing them up for life. I don’t even know what to do…I’m feeling heartbroken and awful, but it seems like I feel this way every evening, and then the morning comes, and all the ugly and awful just starts all over again.”
These are the kinds of letters I get and they bring me to tears. Because I know how hard and lonely motherhood can be. I know how you can feel so boxed in and heavy and you’re scratching for a way out just so you can breathe and then you feel guilty all the while because you think you’re ruining your kids. It’s an awful burden to carry.
And as your sweet kiddos grow up (time will actually move on and they will grow up), you’ll be surprised at the triggers.
So for all the moms out there who are drowning, for all the moms who don’t know why they have anxiety around small children or RUN LIKE CRAZY when they are asked to watch the toddler room at church, I have some words for you.
First of all, you’re not crazy and you’re not a bad mom.
You are (or were) an overworked, legitimately exhausted woman who is caring for little people who are uncivilized. Yes, uncivilized sin-natured sweet-as-pie-but-also-crazy little people who don’t even have their brains formed yet. Cut yourself some slack in the guilt department unless you are abusing your children. If you are, you need to send out an SOS stat. Call someone. Tell your husband. Reach out to your doctor. GET HELP. If you’re not abusive but just feeling so overwhelmed and confused (you want these kids!) and depressed, CALL SOMEONE. Tell your husband. Reach out to your friends. Get out of the house (library, Fast food kids area, etc. – free or cheap). Read encouraging articles and books and blogs. I heard of a woman who kept her bible open on the counter just so she could get snippets in the throes of motherhood. TALK TO GOD. He hears your cry. And also, snuggle and kiss and smell their little heads because I promise you, they will grow up. And those sweet little feet that you kiss now will be so stinky there will be no kissing them.
I barely even remember her at this age! Oh but she’s so cute, my little Caroline!
Here’s another thing: You can face this.
A counselor friend of mine told me that anxiety is believing that you can’t face reality, like it’s just too much. You can’t handle it. You won’t make it. You feel like you might die.
That is pretty much how I’ve felt as the approaching date for my babysitting loomed and that’s how many of you feel right now, like you just can’t do it.
But then she told me that you actually can face reality and you aren’t going to die. And that’s the truth: You can handle it. You will be okay. You’re going to make it. You have what it takes because God made you a mother, and when you don’t have it, He will help you.
One day at a time. Slow and steady. Deep breath.
My friend Amy says that when you get anxious feelings, don’t push them away, but listen to them for they are a window into the deeper parts of your heart. What is going on in there? Say to those feelings and anxious thoughts:
I won’t push you away, I will get curious.
I won’t say my feelings are stupid, I will ask why I have them.
I will listen to the Lord and take into account my life and pay attention to what my body is telling me.
I will bring the truth to the light, honor it, and not stuff it.
I will not let my anxiety rule me. I will go forward in the truth.
How you are feeling as a mom is real and valid. Listen to it. And then wash your face (as a dear older woman once told me), and go forward.
And one more thing, tell your husband how you’re feeling. Tell him all of it. Tell him you’re drowning and need him to throw you a rope instead of you swimming harder. Work something out so you can get out or stay in while he takes his kiddos out for awhile. You’re in this together, so tell him your needs.
By the way, that babysitting job for my friends, it happened, and I was fine. I didn’t die.
We can do hard things, and we can keep on and we can know we aren’t alone.
Much love, Sarah Mae
P.S. I’m giving away THREE copies of my book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. And some chocolate, because moms need chocolate. Just leave a comment to enter. Share this post on FB so other moms can see it and let me know if your comment and I’ll enter you three more times. Just want to get the book and get with other women and read it? Get it HERE for under $10.
You asked, I’m answering: What does your homeschool day look like?
Well, I’ll tell you, but first know that my day and your day can be wildly different and they can both be right for our families. There is no formula, just grace, a lot of Jesus, and faithfulness. Okay, here we go…
I kid you not, this is it:
Wake up at some point Lord willing before 8:30am.
Eat breakfast based on what mom is in the mood to do or not do, so either cereal or ALL THE THINGS. I love breakfast.
Sidenote: I usually give the kids some free time in the morning so I can drink my coffee and read my Bible.
Sidenote 2: Chores (we call them jobs) are sprinkled into the day.
Instagram Story at Instagram.com/sarahmaewrites
On our good days, I read the Bible out loud, some of the modern version of Pilgrim’s Progress, go over spiritual truths and a scripture we are learning. All of this while I’m in my comfy chair drinking coffee and they are on the floor drinking tea or eating breakfast.
My oldest (11) gets to it – she has Bible time (right now our church is going through something called Eat This Book where kids read through parts of the NT as a challenge), math (Math-U-See), English (Rod & Staff), history (Story of the World), handwriting (cursive), reading, spelling (Institute for Excellence in Writing – audio course), and then whatever else I feel like giving her (politics during the election, etc.). She’s also taking a creative writing class this winter. (Near Lancaster, PA? Join the writing class HERE).
My middlest, my boy (9) has reading, spelling (words from his reading books which are Ginn readers which are WONDERFUL if your child has reading difficulty), math, handwriting, and history (he listens to Story of the World). And whatever else I decide to do based on what’s going on in the world.
My youngest (7) has reading, spelling (we use worksheets from k12reader.com for now – they are free), math, and handwriting. And whatever else I decide to do based on what’s going on in the world. For example, all my kids have learned all the presidents of the U.S. I buy the Classical Conversations CD’s and just use them for when I want to teach them something through song. 🙂 We are not in CC and have no plans to be (NOT my personality at all).
We just sit around the living room or dining room and work on these subjects until we are done. My oldest usually works on her own unless she needs help, my youngest loves to cuddle in my lap while she works. My son just wants to get it done as soon as possible so he can rip stick or shoot me with his nerf gun.
We are usually done by 12pm, with the exception of my oldest who has the most work and sometimes goes past 12. After 12, all is up for grabs. Sometimes we do errands, sometimes they pursue creative endeavors (my oldest is really into movie making right now so she is all over that), and sometimes we watch a show or have a read-aloud (we usually do tea time and read-alouds around 2pm on a good day). School kids get home around 3 and then my kiddos play with them (SOCIALIZATION FOR THE WIN, AMIRIGHT?!).
There it is. BADA BING BADA BOOM.
If you want to peek into our day, follow me on Instagram where I use Stories (the short videos on mobile).
What do your days look like?
P.S. On Mondays my kids go to an academy for the performing arts. They love it and I get 4 hours to myself. Winning.
P.P.S. My oldest is joining a creative writing class this Feb and there are SPOTS OPEN. It is taught by the fantastic Shawn Smucker (children’s book author and ghost writer) and you can register HERE (there only a few spots, so if you’re in Lancaster, PA, GET ON IT).
There is an affiliate link in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.
Apparently, parental burn-out is a thing.
And let me tell you, I HAVE HAD IT. How do you know you’ve had it or are in it? Well…
You find yourself swearing more (even if just in your head), and this isn’t your normal self.
You lack motivation, in pretty much everything.
You really, really, really care about mothering, but still just can’t.
You feel like you’ve given up. IT’S ALL TOO MUCH.
You LOVE your kids cuddles, but don’t want to be touched. BY ANYONE.
You want a vacation away BY YOURSELF for a whole week. ALONE. Did I mention alone? Doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert. ALONE.
You have the “don’t give a what’s”
T.V. feels like a saving grace and even though you don’t want them on a screen, you don’t a give a what.
You know this is a mental game and you have the Holy Spirit and you know your parenting matters, but…you don’t give a what. IN THIS MOMENT, you don’t. You can’t. Because you are done.
The white flag has been raised.
Desperate texts have been sent.
YOU ARE DONE.
You don’t even know what that means exactly, you just know you are.
We’re going to go ahead and have a safe space right here right now because THIS IS REAL AND TRUE AND NOT WHAT YOU WANT. We must bring this mother burn-out to the light if we want to get better.
Me at the end of the summer, feelin’ IT
Real Answers, Real Help
Bring the Truth to the Light
We must be being willing to be honest about the FACT that mother burn-out is real. It’s real and normal and it kind of makes you crazy. Except that you’re not crazy because it’s ACTUALLY NORMAL TO EXPERIENCE THIS. Everyone understands getting burned out with a job or a test or a paper due or project deadline, but seem to forget that motherhood is ongoing and demanding and exhausting and WONDERFUL and beautiful and painful and ALL THE TIME. Therefore, it’s so NORMAL to get burned out by the constant-ness of it. But if we’re going to come out of it and keep on, we need to bring the truth to the light.
“…everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
If you are burned out, done, dying, feeling crazy or alone or ALL OF THE ABOVE, admit it. It’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad mom, it just makes you honest. And when you’re honest, you can get better. It all starts with the truth.
Know the Difference Between Guilt and Shame
I read a fantastic article on showing children the difference between shame-parenting and guilt-exposure, but I think some of us could use the lesson for ourselves.
“Guilt’s message is, “I did something bad,” and needs justification and forgiveness. Shame’s message is, “I am bad,” and needs an identity shift and relational connection. Sin leaves both in its wake, and shame is what lingers even after forgiveness has been sought and granted. Shame feels like it’s welded onto you, but guilt feels like something outside of you.” -Heather Davis Nelson, 10 Things You Should Know About Shame
Push off condemnation and accusation and be gentle with yourself. Really, be gentle with yourself. Your heart will accuse you, the voices in your head from over the years will accuse you, and the enemy will accuse you. But God is greater than your heart, the voices of condemnation, and the enemy. He doesn’t shame us, He teaches us, guides us, allows us to feel pain, and leads us as we mother. If you are feeling overwhelmed with feelings of failure, go to His throne of grace where He will give you mercy and help if you ask.
“…let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Know Your Needs
When I was feeling crazy at the end of the summer my husband asked me, “What do you need?” Well, I said, a maid and a weekend away by myself at a hotel.
Those were the things I really wanted, and they felt like needs. The helpful thing was to get away and have some help with the house. My husband told me to leave (in the nicest, pushiest way), and so I left for a couple of hours. When I came home, he had WASHED THE SHEETS (that was a new one!) and cleaned our bedroom. He said, “I know we can’t afford you going away or getting a maid, but I wanted you to feel like you had a clean, relaxing space to be in. Also, I’m going to take the kids out for the day so you can have the house to yourself.” GLORY HALLELUJAH. Revival was about to take place.
What I learned in this was to be honest with my needs (or what would really help), knowing that they might not all get met, but to ask and say them anyway.
Have a “Horn of Gondor”
In the Lord of the Rings there is a scene where Frodo and his friends are in trouble. One of the men blows a loud horn, the Horn of Gondor, and it is a call for help. When it’s used you know that help is on the way.
That is how I feel about my friends. When one of us calls, when we feel downcast or worried or unsure or just need a night out, they rally. Help is on the way.
We don’t always need fixed but we do need to know we aren’t alone and that help is on the way.
Reach out to your friends. Let yourself be vulnerable enough to let them in. Don’t hide. And if you don’t have close friends, ask God for them. I have made the best of friends in my 30’s. If you’re still looking for deep, honest, safe, grace-filled, fun friendship, don’t give up. Keep praying, keep looking, keep asking. It’s all worth it. It’s all a gift.
(Looking for some time away with women who GET IT? Check out A Night to Breathe.)
These are the women I do battle with. They are my sisters, dear friends, and I know when I call HELP IS ON THE WAY.
Use Other Words with Your Kids But Also Be Honest
When talking to your kids in the midst of losing your mind, replace “OH MY GRACIOUS OF ALL HOLY THINGS LEAVE NOW OR I’M GOING TO I DON’T EVEN KNOW!” to, “YOU ARE A GREAT KID! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!” 🙂 🙂 🙂 You know what I’m sayin’. K. Don’t put your crazy on them. At least try not to. When/if you do, ask forgiveness.
Be honest with the fact that you do NOT have your stuff together, but that it’s not them, it’s you, because really, IT IS. Kind of. Mostly. Point being, YOU NEED JESUS. Tell them. Show them. DESPERATE FOR JESUS. They are watching real life unfold. If we’re honest, we can show them that life might be hard sometimes, but we can overcome with Jesus…He is our help, our strength, and our gentle Father. He listens to us and He cares. Let your kids see this.
And lastly, for now…
Get Out and Make Some Fun
Sometimes, in the midst of the crazy, you just have to get out and make some fun.
On October 5th I loaded my kids in my mini-van and drove 40 minutes to get free coffee at a Pop-up Luke’s Diner for a Gilmore Girls event. Did my kids have any idea about the Gilmore Girls? Not really. They’re too young, but you know what, WE HAD FUN. I made a spur of the moment decision to go when I couldn’t find anyone to go with. It broke up the monotony of the day (of the month?) and it was a memory made.
Sometimes you just gotta go for it!
Here’s the thing, all of us moms will have those days, those weeks, those months. But we will make it. We will keep on.
If you are feelin’ it, the burn-out, you are not crazy and you are not alone. You are normal. You will get through this. You just might need a horn of Gondor and some coffee. All your work as a mom, loving, nurturing, teaching, dealing with conflict, and “one more kiss goodnight”? It’s totally worth it.
Keep on sister.
Love, Sarah Mae
P.S. You might also need A NIGHT TO BREATHE. It’s an event I’m hosting with my dear friend Amy Smoker. It’s a time to get away, relax, enjoy, eat, drink, and be filled up so you can go home refreshed Also, cupcakes and clean sheets. Check out the details HERE.
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