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Following the Spirit to Public School

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. 

 John 3:8

My kids started public school a few weeks ago.

(I know, weird and surprising.)

To put this in perspective of the randomness and weirdness and unlikeliness of us putting our kids in public school, my husband reminded me that I told him that if I ever died to never put the kids in public school. (No pressure or anything). I don’t know why I was so adamant, but apparently I was. It’s all a blur now. All I know is that last month I found myself thinking about it all, and then I found myself driving to the district office for enrollment papers, and then I just casually filled them out “just in case” and all I can really say is, I guess the Spirit moved.

I’m not being silly. There is no way to explain why we all of a sudden put our kids in school. But we did, and we follow God and are in His will, so, so be it. We follow the Spirit even when we don’t know where He is going, or why this is happening. It’s all a faith walk.

Now a few things about the decision I want to share with you:

  1. It felt agonizing at first to even consider putting our kids in public school. I wrestled with feelings of failure and selfishness. I wondered, was I sacrificing my kids? Why was I even considering this?
  2. It felt, and feels, surreal. We’ve never considered public school, at least no since they were babies and my husband and I first discussed schooling options. We keep looking at each other and saying, “This is so weird.”
  3. I was so scared that my anxiety would keep me up at night if we put them in school and I begged God for peace if this was from Him.

Now let me dive into the things I just mentioned:

Am I a Selfish Failure?

Shame runs deep, and when you believe you are selfish and a failure, especially as a mom; it’s gutting. I kept telling a friend of mine, “Is this selfish? I just feel so selfish if I put my kids in school, because if they’re in school I’ll write, and I like writing and working, and that’s just selfish of me.” She said, “Is that selfish though?” And that question got me thinking. And thinking. And praying. No, it’s not selfish to put my kids in school and it’s not selfish to like working, because we are following God. Also, my husband thought the whole selfish thing was messed up. He said, “If you put the kids in school, don’t be a martyr about it, enjoy what God has next.” Yes. I like that. And it’s true.

I spoke with another friend over my questions and feelings and she reminded me, “God is good, and God is faithful, and God is gracious. Ultimately, it’s the Lord that goes before you and it’s Him who’s going to fight for your children. This is not law, and we don’t find our righteousness in how we school. Our righteousness is in Christ and in Christ alone. Nothing at all changes in who you are and how you are viewed by what you choose to do with your children and school. This is not a sin issue, a righteousness issue, and this is not a law issue. You are under grace. So be free.”

Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m not a selfish failure.

It is Weird

At first, it was super weird to not have the kids with me. I cried for two weeks and then I went to a doctor and got on anti-depressants. There is more to this story of course, but I can see now that having the kids with me all day was covering up something inside of me and God, in His kindness, was going to be peeling back the layers of my heart. Now that’s it has been a month that the kids have been in school, I can see more of why God led us the way He did.

Peace AND Joy

After I made the agonizing decision to put the kids in school, I got the peace. The peace came after the obedience, as it usually does. And not only do I have peace about the decision, I have joy. I feel grateful and joyful and confident in what the Lord is doing with our family.

“Not only is it to the Father’s glory that we get to bear fruit, but we actually get to find joy in it!” -Beth Moore

As an aside, some of you read this post on my depression, and I want you to know I’m doing well. The meds seem to be working and I’m feeling like myself again, light shining in the darkness.

God is so kind.

Love, SM

 

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Grieving the end of the little years

Is it weird to cuddle your adult children? Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to cuddle them when they’re grown.

I almost can’t handle the fact that right now my oldest is over cuddling, and even when she tries, it’s so brief, so fleeting, so…gangly. Arms and legs everywhere. It’s just not the same. And she’s just not into it.

How long do I have before my son and youngest are over the cuddles? I CAN’T HANDLE CUDDLES BEING OVER. I told my mother-in-law tonight that when they won’t cuddle me anymore I’m going to need them to go ahead and have some babies so I can cuddle grandbabies.

I know. Don’t say it. I don’t really want my kids having babies young. Just, you know, maybe in their early 20’s.

WHY AM I EVEN THINKING ABOUT MY KIDS HAVING KIDS?!

I’ll tell you why: something happens when one day you look at your people and you realize, in a blink, they grew up.

I mean, I feel it now and my kids are only preteens. BUT I FEEL IT NOW. The pull, the break, the moving towards more and more independence. Yes, even my 8 year old feels like she’s growing too quickly. Wasn’t she just three?

Having kids is like water, it just slips through your hands and you can’t quite grasp it.

First you parent in a fog, when you have little ones, but then you parent in a blink, because it goes so fast.

Today I went onto the Please Touch Museum website to see about taking my kids one last time before they were too old and you know what? They’re too old.

We missed the last time I would take them to the Please Touch Museum. And all of a sudden it hit me, this blink, this growing that’s happen in hyper speed.

The loooooooooooong days of babies and toddler-hood and all the fog that comes with it is gone. And now I can’t keep up.

My sweet, precious babies are growing up, and I just want to pause.

But there’s no pausing, no extended breath to get “it” together. There’s only now.

There’s me observing that my heart is grieving the years going by quickly and the realization that NOW IS THE TIME, the time to KEEP GOING, invest in, listen to, lean in, and stay strong.

And by strong, I mean beg Jesus to help me keep going, give me energy and vision and motivation and EVERYTHING I NEED to MOTHER ON during these golden years.

I want to feel the ache of time so that I won’t take for granted these fleeing, special years.

This is the time.

These are the years.

I will keep going. I will give what I have to impress upon them, teach them, nurture them, disciple them, and love them. I will do this out of my weakness but with perseverance and the power of the Holy Spirit who is ever with me.

I will mother on.

And you can too. Don’t give up. Don’t regret these years. Keep going. AND GET AS MANY CUDDLES AS YOU CAN WHILE YOU CAN.

Love to you today, SM

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (The Message)

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Parenting in the dirt of our humanity

The other day I was sitting with my one of my children when they looked up at me and said, “Mom, you look like Rumplestiltskin. Under your eyes are all scaly and kind of purple.”

THIS is the Rumplestiltskin they thought I looked like.

I know.

I said, “That’s not a very nice thing to say.” They grinned. They didn’t mean to be unkind, they just thought it was interesting and funny and fascinating, like they were just making an observation.

We carried on with our day, but a little while later I had a “tea and discipleship” time with each of my kids individually. I had each child come into my bedroom with some hot tea and cookies. I asked them what was on their heart, and then I shared with them what I saw in them and then addressed an issue I saw that I felt like needed to be acknowledged. When it was the child’s turn who told me I looked like Rumple, I began to open the Scriptures when, as though they couldn’t contain themselves, said again, “I just can’t help it mom, you look like Rumplestiltskin under your eyes.”

It was then that I started to cry.

It just happened; the tears flowed out and I covered my eyes and said, “That really hurt my feelings.” As I was wiping away my tears I saw that my child was crying too. So there we were, both crying, and both tender-hearted, and we hugged and my child said, “I’m sorry mom. You’re beautiful. I’m so sorry.”

I looked at my sorrowful child who felt the pain of hurting another person and said, “I know you’re sorry and I know you love me. I don’t mean to cry, but your words hurt my feelings. It’s important that we use words that build people up, not tear people down, do you understand?”

“Yes” came out through the sniffles.

My sweet child was repentant and they felt what I believe to be godly sorrow. They saw that their words hurt someone, and they felt it and they didn’t want to do it again. They didn’t want to use their words to hurt and tear down.

I’m glad I cried in front of my child. I wouldn’t have chosen it, but I’m glad it happened and I’m glad they felt sorrow.

After the sorrow came forgiveness and grace. And that’s the part I love the most, the forgiveness. It’s in forgiveness that my child gets to experience being in the light after something dark. It’s there where I can show them the sweet gift of gentleness and grace and kindness. Forgiveness in purity is the best. My hope and prayer is that forgiveness becomes an ingrained part of their psyche, this knowing that they don’t have to be ashamed or locked up, but that they can experience good guilt and then be set free to keep on in grace.

This is the dirt of parenting: vulnerability and humanity laid bare before our children; honesty mixed with love and grace and forgiveness. It’s in this dirt, I think, that our kids learn to be kind and compassionate and forgiving. I think it’s where they learn they are in it with one another, and this “in it-ness” leads them to know they are loved and that they can love. They are loved in the mess of their sin and humanity, as we are loved by God in our sin and humanity, and they can turn around and love others in their sin and humanity. Love and grace and forgiveness sets people free.

This is why God says to love and forgive, over and over and over, even when it’s hard, even when it hurts.

The hope is freedom.

So I’m hoping today that I will lead my children towards freedom and that you will too. I’m hoping that we will be women who are not afraid of our humanity or our tears or our mess laid bare before our children; that we are okay to not have “it” together. I hope we’ll be women who show our children that we are in this dirt with them. Messy and loved and free.

Thank you Jesus.

SM

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I’m going to screw up so many times

Dear kids,

Yea, so I’ve been losing it the last few days. I know, you know, WE ALL KNOW. Some of it is hormones, some of it is just trying to figure out how to work (write) and raise you all well and keep a decently cleaned home (heh), homeschool you, and make dinner instead of ordering pizza, again.

I’m sorry.

But I’m just in this weird place of trying to figure it all out. I’m trying to figure out how to discipline you all so you listen and honor me and my words and for gosh sakes STAY IN BED. I’m trying. And sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy because there’s three of you and one of me and your daddy is working so hard and I just…am going to screw it all up sometimes.

Right now, I’m locked in the bedroom and one of you is singing in a high pitched voice and I want to scream, “PLEASE JUST BE QUIET.” But you’re also giggling and enjoying each other even though I was harsh with you. You’re playing together and I love that.

Sometimes I just want to hide away, go under, under, under the covers until there’s quiet. I feel guilty for this, because somewhere in me there’s this twisted notion that I should have it all together by now, especially as an adult, a mom, a Christian. But here’s the thing kids, I do not have it together. Obviously. And it’s why I need Jesus and it’s why you do too, because I will let you down. I will fail you sometimes. I will yell and I will regret it, and I will say I’m sorry a thousand times and mean it every time. And I will get better because God’s working in me, but I won’t ever be completed this side of heaven.

I am dust. And dust is messy.

You are dust too.

Here’s the good news: we are dust together, imperfect, prone to screw up, humans through and through, but we have the breath of God in us and the Holy Spirit divinely entwined with us.

I am weak and strong, holy and sinful. We have this in common, you all and me.

So what I really want to say is this: I love you so much it hurts, and I am grateful every day that you are my kids, my people, my team. I love who you are and I see God in you and I love watching you unfold into who you’re becoming. I love you and my love never changes, even when my moods do. Even when I lose it or when I hide away, it’s never you, it’s me. I am learning every day, by faith, how to keep going and mother you well and be okay with this frail me.

And don’t you think for a second that I’ll give up. I won’t. I will keep going because that’s what love does. Love never fails.

Jesus never fails. He will never let you down, and when you think He has, you wrestle it out with Him and cry and go through all the guttural feelings as you pray, “Teach me to see you, God.

When you have wrestled it out and settled it in your soul that He is good, you will see Him. And you will know down into the deepest places of your being that He will never leave you or fail you or unlove you.

Hang on for dear life to Him.

I will too.

Because we’re in this together.

Now, as a wise older woman once said to me, “Go splash some water on your face and get back to it.”

Here I go.

Your mama, SM

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For When You’re Done Feeling So Angry (and you don’t want to yell at your kids anymore)

It’s weird how the smallest things can set a mom off.

And by weird I mean normal because oh our sinful hearts.

The other day I got so mad at one of my kids. I had asked them if they wanted to do something, they said no, then changed their mind so I gave them an instruction based on that, they changed course, and BOOM, set me off. It was so dumb that I would get mad, but I felt so mad. It didn’t help that I was already in an irritated mood. My child had blocked my goal, unintentionally, and it threw me and my heart came up out of my mouth and I said some unkind things to my child. I also gave them the “mean” look. You know the look. I don’t like wearing that look.

I took a deeeeeeeeep, deep breath, and calmed down.

I hate when my kids see my claws.

I looked at my child and I said, “I’m sorry I sinned against you in my anger. I was wrong. Will you forgive me? Come here, let me hug you. <good cuddles> Also, you need to obey when I tell you something. I need you to do your best to listen to me, okay?”

Hugs, forgiveness, we made it another round. All is well.

There is just something about sharing close spaces with people day in and day that can make you a little crazy. Throw in our sin nature, our bents, personalities, life, and sometimes we are primed for an explosion. We are human. We’re going to blow it, which is why we need Jesus. And it’s why our kids need Jesus. We are all loved but in desperate need of help.

To the moms out there who are reading this and feeling like you’re just so angry sometimes and you don’t want to be, but you think you’ll never change, listen: It can get better. 

I used to think I’d always be this hormonal, angry, emotional mess, but I have seen God work in my life and calm my anger and my sinful reactions. And I am already seeing Him do that in my children, as we talk through things and I give them my time, and pray. All of this imperfectly, but with earnest desire to love well.

If you want to see change, if you don’t want to blow up so easily, if you want a good relationship with your kids that isn’t clouded by anger, read on. I have some hard-earned, God-is-so-kind-to-help-us, wisdom to offer you.

Check Your Heart

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 (NIV)

“…what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing.” Matthew 15:19 (Message)

Anger is an awful feeling when it lets itself loose and does damage. Anger, in and of itself isn’t bad, but what can come from it if not checked is. Lashing out in anger makes you feel out-of-control. It makes you feel ugly and dirty and self-righteous and so many mixed-up things. But the worst is the aftermath, after you’ve let loose and you wish you could take back what in the moment seemed so justified. I had a mentor in college say, “99% of anger isn’t righteous anger.” I don’t know where he got that stat but I find it to be true in my own life. Most of the time our anger is wrapped up in the lies we believe about ourselves, the world, and God. There is also our histories and wounds and sinfulness and self-protection and just plain selfishness there too. It’s hard to lay down our anger when our blood is pumping and our senses are heightened and the dark feels stronger than the light.

If you get what I’m saying, and you overcome by your anger, if you find your kids setting you off more and more and you’re not sure how to control it but it’s eating you up, there is a solution. Just like the check engine light in your car goes off if there’s a problem, your anger is alerting you that there is a problem. Ask God why. Ask God what is going on in your heart. Ask Him about your anger, and ask Him to lead you in the right way. He will answer you, but that doesn’t mean a quick fix. Often He’ll reveal something to you and you’ll have to go through a time of uncovering, healing, and suffering to get to the other side (soul work is often gutting). But He hears you, and if you’re willing to let Him lead you, your anger and angry reactions will lessen. You will become a calmer person; you’ll have more peace in your heart, and you’ll know how to slow down the anger train.

I know because I’ve seen God work in me. Do I still get angry sometimes? Yes! Do I still blow it? Yes! But not as much, not as quick, and not as harmful.

There is hope for you and your anger.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Pay Attention

Whenever I’m talking with someone who is depressed or anxious or angry and they are trying to figure out what’s going on, I tell them to write down every time they are triggered. What happens right before the explosion or the anxiety or the depressed feelings (not talking chemical depression). Often, especially in regards to anger, something has hit on a button that is unique to that person. For example, when I was fresh out of college I began to meet with a group of college girls to read the Bible with them and mentor them. Another woman, who was older than I was, talked to these girls about doing something with her as well, a leadership type thing to train them. When I found out, I was so mad! How could she go behind my back to “take my girls”? I called up someone who oversaw our ministry and I told him what she was doing. That is when he said to me what I mentioned earlier in my post, “99% of anger isn’t righteous. Let’s talk about this.” At first I was taken back. What is he talking about, she is clearly wrong and I have every right to be angry! I realized later that my issue with her was really my issue with me. I struggle with the lie that I am not good enough, and when she approached the girls about doing something with her, my lie triggered like a heart punch. My heart was screaming, “See, you’re not good enough! She is doing this because you really are no good.” She was blocking my goal of me feeling good enough, smart enough, capable enough. But she really wasn’t. She was just offering these girls an opportunity to also learn how to become leaders. It had nothing to do with me.

All this I shared might not make any sense because it isn’t rational. It’s a heart thing. I guarantee you have triggers that make you snap, and you don’t even know why you are so angry, but your heart knows, and it’s trying to protect you. You have decided that you will be a good mom, or a smart mom, or a perfect mom, or something, and when that goal is blocked, the claws come out because your heart will do anything to protect you from pain.

A good start to figuring out why you’re so angry is to pay attention to the triggers. Get curious. See if there’s a pattern. Write it down. What can you can learn? What questions can you answer? God will be working with you on this, so just pay attention.

The more you deal with your junk, the less damage you’ll do to your kids. (Tweet that.)

Hi Hormones

Every few weeks I turn into a crazy lady. I am crying one minute and wanting to stab someone the next. My friends in college used to joke that I could never be President because I would bomb someone every month.

It’s probably true.

I am a VERY hormonal woman. So was my mother. She used to put on the calendar when to stay away from her lest you be in her path of destruction.

I’m not making excuses for anger, but I am saying hormones are the real deal and can seriously mess with your steady-ness. Know your rhythms, take care of yourself, warn your people, and walk away.

Know Your Tipping Points

Bedtime.

That is my tipping point. If my kids get out of bed after I’ve put them in bed, I LOSE MY MIND.

If I hear them talking after I’ve put them in bed, I LOSE MY MIND.

Bedtime is my tipping point, so I have to be wise and kind with my kids and myself around bedtime, making sure everyone has their water, is tucked in, prayed for, and set for a good night sleep. If I take the time to prepare for bedtime and give my kids what they need, I have reduced the bedtime angst.

It’s worth the time.

Speaking of time…

Take the Time

Speaking of time, the truth is, if you don’t want to be so angry at your kids, you’re going to need to teach them, discipline them, nurture them, and see them as the precious, eternal souls that they are and that mothering is Kingdom work (tweet that.)

There is no shortcut here. The more you spend time with your kids, loving them the way they feel loved, correcting them, and guiding them, the more delight they will bring you. More delight, less anger. And yes, it’s hard and you will do this so wildly imperfectly, but don’t give up. God made you a mother and your work is eternal and good and planned before time!

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” Proverbs 29:17

Ask Forgiveness Over and Over

Take that deep breath, grab your kiddo, and ask for forgiveness. Every time you sin in your anger, ask forgiveness. Tell them it grieves God’s heart when you sin against them in your anger. Be honest. Tell them when they’ve done something wrong, but also apologize for your part.

Kids are so gracious and willing to forgive with such genuineness, but you must acknowledge your sin and ask. I am so grateful for the sweetness that comes from forgiveness.

Here’s to more peace, less anger, and genuine delight in our mothering!

Mother on!
Sarah Mae

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