Tuesday, June 20

Celebrating and Reminiscing a Decade of Motherhood!

I turn 39 today. I know, way to close to 40, right?!

Ava turned 10 two weeks ago. My baby, the one who made me a mother, turning the double digits and almost as tall as me to boot! We keep telling her to stop growing...she just won't listen.

What does that all mean? Well, it means I've been a mother for approximately 3,650 days, give or take a few. 

It means that I've learned, grown, stretched, been challenged, tested and inspired in many more ways than I can count in those 3,650 days. It means I've been more tired than I ever thought possible, more befuddled by parenthood than I ever dreamed imaginable, more inspired by watching my children grow than I could have ever understood. 

It means I am still the same woman, but a completely different woman than I was ten years ago. 

It means that I have been a mother for a decade. 

I delivered Ava on June 4th, 2007 at the early morning hour of 12:24 a.m., thus ushering me into this new adventure, this whole new world, this crazy life called motherhood.

The sweet little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl, who clung to my leg every time I dropped her off in the nursery, who taught herself how to ride her bike, tie her shoes, and braid her Barbie's hair, who loved Curious George but hated The Little Mermaid because it was too scary...That little girl is growing up right before our eyes.  

How did it happen so fast?! How did we get here already. We all ask that question so many times throughout this journey. I will continue to ask it at all of the different "here's" that are still to come.

She's changed, we've changed, Ella and Aubrey joined the party 8 and 4 years ago respectively-- they've changed changed too! I supposed if there is one tried and true thing to say about family life, or perhaps life in general, it's that there is perpetual change: always!

We are constantly evolving as individuals, and as a family...sometimes that feels good, other days it feels hard, sometimes it's plain old messy. But then someone will do something extraordinary (paint a picture, learn to ride a bike, make a really good cake, run a race, plant a garden, make a new friend, dance in a recital, learn a new song on the guitar) in the middle of our crazy  family life and we all smile and celebrate together.

It's in those moments that everything feels just as it should be.  Crazy. Messy. Blessed.

I laugh at times because I can't remember anything else I've done for an entire decade (besides being being a wife, but that's another story entirely!). After  college, I worked in several jobs that I enjoyed-- one in publishing, another in fundraising at Christian school in Massachusetts, and then as a high-school English teacher for what amounted to about a year and a half.

In each of those positions I'd jump right in whole-heartedly, only to meet the inevitable challenges and frustrations of the job, and eventually decide that maybe it was time to look for something new. I'm  embarrassed to admit this, but I was a bit of a job jumper in my 20's-- always looking for the "right fit".  I won't offer reasons or excuses, though I've learned a LOT about myself in the last 10 years and could give a pretty good synopsis if you asked.  The reality is that I never stayed in one place long enough to really, really, grow as a person.

That has been the delightfully funny and hilariously ironic lesson in motherhood-- no matter how hard it gets, you can't back out. When you get that inkling that maybe you and this motherhood thing aren't  'quite the right fit', well, you better figure it out because you can't send your resume elsewhere.

When you start to feel unqualified, and oh boy have I ever, there is no where to go...

But, actually, there is.

If Lesson #1 is Things are Always Changing...Lesson #2 is You Can't Do This Alone. Along the way, over the last 10 years, I have realized that I cannot be the mom I want to be without God's guidance and wisdom on a daily basis. I'd be a mess without God's grace by my side. I might still be a mess somedays with Him by my side, but I like to think I'm less of a mess!

I'm thankful for His presence. I thankful for His wisdom. Motherhood has taught me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what dependency on God means. Big, whole-hearted, daily dependence on God to equip and guide this often unclear, unmapped, journey. 

Years ago, in one of my mom's groups, I received a book called Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul by Angela Thomas. I remember the book resonating so deeply with my experience as the mother of a 3 and a 1-year old at the time. I was tired, overwhelmed, and astonished at how demanding the daily responsibilities of a stay at home mother were. Here are a few of Thomas' words about a mother's identity:

I did not know that being a mother would change me forever. In motherhood, I don't even recognize myself anymore; I am some new version of who I used to be. I kind of resemble me, and sometimes I sound like me, but his new person has lost all sense of fashion and vocabulary...No one ever told me that mothering would require more than I posses, the at the same time it would be energizing and draining. Mothering has strengthened me as a person and yet challenged me right to my core. Loving my children can fill me up, but some days, it will completely empty my soul. To raise children means you are constantly giving-- all of your energies, all of your emotion, all of your time. Often I realize that my well is empty, my mind is numb, and my heart is heavy. There is nothing left for anyone. 
Ultimately, the book is about nurturing your soul in the middle of these years of pouring out. Thomas goes on to give us hope in the process,

As a woman of God, I must care for the condition of my soul. As a mother, I must set my eyes on the Author and Perfecter of my faith, committing above all things, even the precious gifts of my husband and my children, that my Jesus will come first. I must do whatever it takes to maintain the wellness of my soul- pursuing God with great passion.  
His mercies to be will be new every morning, strengthening me for every task and frustration, teaching me how to celebrate life, and caring for my soul. And from that place of grace and intimate fellowship with Jesus, I will be the mother God intended.

I have been a mom for 10 long-ish/short-ish, years and have been irrevocably changed by the journey. Depending on the day it has felt like an eternity and a millisecond all at the same time.

It's hard to put your finger on how motherhood changes you because the changes feel so monumental, and yet they happen so slowly-you can't always see exactly what's happening. In some ways, we grow right along with our kids. Just as we don't actually see them grow that extra inch over night, it happens in the quiet moments.  Suddenly, one morning, they are taller and you are hopefully a little bit of a better parent than you were when you first started out.

I'm thankful for the growth. I'm thankful for the journey. I love my kids like crazy and am awed by the privilege of getting to do life alongside of them.

Since a list of all the ways I've changed would be far too long, I decided to have a little fun and put together a list of 10 Ways Motherhood Has Changed Me in honor of this 10 year celebration!

10.  I'm more tired and I have a lot more gray hair (yes, that's 2! But, they feel like they go together!)

9. . I have far less time to make meals that look the ones on the cover of the magazines, even though I salivate over those very covers every time I'm in the checkout line.

8.  I pay far more library fees than I ever thought I would.

7.  I find myself saying things I never thought I would. Things like, "Please don't lay on the bathroom floor in the Target stall. That's the most disgusting thing I've seen all day! All year! In my entire life!!"

6.  I rarely read entire books anymore. I think I have 4, or 7, or maybe 14 unfinished books sitting on my shelf right now...with another several dozen I've ordered on Amazon because I really, really LOVE books and fantasize about reading them when I'm passively browsing Amazon late at night. Maybe I should turn off the computer and open on of those books, huh?

5. I just started driving...gasp...a gray Toyota minivan. I felt like I joined some sort of undercover mom mob society when we first got it two months ago- I never noticed just how many of them were on the road, but there are a LOT!!! It sort of feels like a part of my mom uniform that was a long time coming.

4. I can be gloriously proud and feel completely blessed by one of my children one moment, and yelling at someone moments later. It's a roller coaster ride that seems to go up and down all day long. Summer vacation is notoriously full of these days!

3. My house feels like a perpetual cycle of disorganization, attempts at organization, like it's almost organized/cleaned up, and then it falls apart all over again. Quite honestly, at this stage, I'm not even sure what the word "organization" means anymore. Does it mean there are piles ALL over your house, but when someone asks you where the new toothpaste is you know just where to find it. If that's the case, I'm doing well!

2. I have learned to "let go" in a bazillion more ways than I ever thought possible-- that's a whole blog post in and of itself--all the things you have to "let go" of as a mom. It took me a l-o-n-g time to be peaceful about the letting go of some things, and I'm still in the process of letting go of others, but that saying, "let go and let God"...mamas, it's the only way.

1. Like the Grinch whose heart started in one place, but was slowly changed by his experience as the story goes on-- my heart has grown 32 sizes (maybe more!) in the last 10 years. 

In addition to my top 10, I am a more resilient woman than I was 10 years ago. The words perseverance and endurance have more meaning to me now than they ever have before.  I've learned to take the long-term view on life because there are too many things in my immediate view that serve as nothing more than distractions (like the 63 unmatched socks on my living room floor).

I am also more patient...though I don't always feel more patient! My logical explanation is that while God has stretched my patience barometer by light-years, He continues to stretch it even more...I'm not sure if you ever fully "arrive" at this one, but I'm hopeful.

And, at the end of the day, I've come to appreciate the "stretching"...perhaps that's Life Lesson #3, Sit Back and Embrace the Stretch...It's An Important Part of the Journey. 

After all, the experts all say that stretching is good for you, so here's to embracing the stretch!

If you have a moment, leave a note to say "hello" or tell me one way that motherhood has changed you the most.

Friday, April 28

Chasing Famous: Living the Life You've Always Auditioned For (A Book Review)

Chasing Famous: Living the Life you’ve Always Auditioned For  is a book that encourages readers to take a look at their lives and consider how they can use their “story”, “gifts” and “every day moments” for the glory of God. It’s a book about not running after fame, accolades, or the admiration of others for the purpose of trying to fill yourself up, or reach some worldly standard of success, but to make God famous by embracing your God-given call and inviting other’s into His story.

Lisa Lloyd creatively uses her own story and experience as an actress as a clever way to organize the chapters of the book.  Each chapter title is a term or idea from “the business”, as she puts it.  Chapters like “Find Your Light” (about discovering your gifts and using them to serve others and glorify God),  “Waiting for Your Cue” (waiting on God’s timing),  “Love Scene” (how your marriage can honor God), and “Booking the Job” (listening to God’s call in our lives) all point to the bigger, overarching theme that God has deliberately crafted every detail of our lives to reflect and glorify Him.

The chapters tend to start out with an explanation of the title or topic, move into honest,  personal narrative,  and then offer Biblical story or scripture to support that topic or idea. The chapters end with some personal application suggestions and several well-crafted questions that prompt you to think about your own life in terms of the topic.

For example, I loved how in Chapter 10 “Booking the Job”, Lloyd takes us back to the life of Moses and the moment when God is calling Him to free the Israelites from slavery. Quite frankly, Moses wasn’t so sure he was up for the task!

(Excerpt from Chapter 10)
“As we will see, God loves to use ordinary people to fulfill His plan and glorify His name. For His fame, not ours. 
Moses asked,  “Who am I?” 
So God replied to Moses, “But I will be with you”. Why didn’t God answer Moses’s question? Come on, now. Moses didn’t ask, “Who’s coming with me? Moses asked, “Who am I?”

The answer Moses received was not, by any stretch of the imagination, an assurance of who he was. Moses didn’t get an “I’ll tell you who you are, Moses. You are perfect. You are called. You are talented. You are adequate. You got this, buddy.”

But here, who Moses is, is not the question God wants to answer. But rather, Who is with Moses to get the job done.

Moses asked, “Who am I?” implying his complete inadequacy. God replied, “I will be with you” implying His completely adequacy.

I love that! 

And, I found it speaking right to my own full of inadequacy heart.

So, while I wasn’t sure I would connect with the  actor/actress framework when I first received my copy of Chasing Famous, I have to say that Lisa Lloyd won me over by the end of the book. Her honesty, conviction, passion for God, and desire to see herself and others walking into their God given purposes as women, no matter how timid or “less than” we may feel, was refreshing and encouraging.

This book would be great for college aged women and up who are trying to discern their path and calling. That said, it was just as relevant for me as a stay at home mom who sometimes feels like part of my calling (besides the mom piece!) is buried beneath dishes and laundry somewhere.   I can assure you that you'll walk away feeling refreshed and with a little more confidence to lean  into what you feel God may be calling you to do with the pieces of your own life. 

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review]


Lisa Lloyd is a charismatic speaker and writer, dedicated to helping women break
free of the lies that convince us we don’t have a purpose, when in fact God has created us to herald His fame. She reminds women of who we are in Christ, and no matter what the world tells us, God wants to use our past mistakes, our current talents, and our future choices for His glory. Each year, Lloyd is the keynote at women’s conferences and mom’s groups across the country, being uniquely vulnerable in her communication, vision casting through stories, and bringing her listeners continuously back to the truths of Scripture.
Lloyd graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BFA in theater. She met her husband, Markus, when they were performing on stage together at Dallas Theater Center in the musical, Guys and Dolls. A few of her acting credits include What Would You Do?Prison BreakThe Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful. She has performed for many theaters. You might see her on current commercials or on billboards in the Dallas area.  
The Lloyds live in McKinney, TX, and have two sons. 

Keep up with Lisa Lloyd’s speaking schedule, read her blog, and more by visiting www.lisalloyd.org, following her on Facebook (LisaJLloyd), or via Twitter (@LisaJLloyd).

Monday, February 20

Making Marriage Beautiful: A Book Review

The title of Chapter 1 (posed as a question) in Dorothy Littell Greco's new book, Making Marriage Beautiful, says it all:

Marriage Will Change You: What Do you Want That Change to Look Like? 

This is a convicting question, and I'm not sure that the answer is immediately clear for many of us. Of course marriage changes us, but often those changes result in division and tension in our relationships, rather than deeper connectedness and reconciliation. 

So, how can we create positive change and stronger marriages? Reading Making Marriage Beautiful is a good place to start.

Dorothy is a talented and honest writer. She is genuinely self-aware and willing to share with her readers what the difficult bits of her marriage have been. You often laugh along with her as she shares stories about things like "not putting extra spaghetti sauce on the table" when she and Christopher have one of their first dinner parties-- a choice that led to a huge argument early on in their marriage. 

We laugh genuinely with her because as ridiculous as it sounds, we all know that it's often the smallest things that lead to the biggest fights. We also know, it's never just about the 'spaghetti sauce', so to speak. 

So, what is at the root of those arguments? If we can gracefully and humbly dig deeper, reconciliation and unity can be the outcome rather than ongoing divisiveness. In this particular case, it was differing cultural "norms" that both Christopher and Dorothy carried into their marriage. While neither "norm" was "right" or "wrong", our pride can often let these small issues become big problems.  

Throughout the book, Dorothy humbly and with great wisdom, digs into important issues that impact our marriages: Things like gender expectations, disappointments and anger, addictions, confession, forgiveness, choosing joy, and so much more. She offers a good balance of scripture (both convicting and encouraging) and personal story. She also includes one marriage story, outside of her own, to each chapter to help reader's connect to whatever the topic of that chapter is. 

I happened to have the privilege of spending some time with  Dorothy and her husband Christopher at a church in the Boston area many years ago. They are a great couple, who love Jesus, and are passionate about ministry and helping other people in their journeys towards healing. This book was certainly born out of that genuine and authentic passion. 

While there are plenty of "fluffy" marriage and self-help books out there, this is not one of them. Many of the chapters prompted me to really take a look at the "baggage" I carried into my own marriage simply from my upbringing, and several unhealthy patterns I saw modeled in my parent's marriage. While none of this is to cast blame (my parents were living out of their own woundedness brought on by their own families of origin), the book encouraged me to take an honest  look at these things in an effort to move more towards God's design for marriage, and in effect establish a new and healthier legacy for my own children. 

Amen to that, right?! 

So, if you're ready to answer that question, "What do you want that 'change' to look like?", grab this book and dive in. You won't walk away, unchanged. I promise. 

Here are a few (of many!) underlined quotes from my first reading of this book.  It is a book I'll put on the bookshelf in our office and refer back to for years to come. 

"Regardless of how we got our scars and how they manifest, they don't magically disappear when we get married. We bring all of who we are into our marital covenants: our gifts, talents, and strengths but also our weaknesses, limitations and brokenness. Our spouses are typically the first people who have gotten close enough to notice those scars."    (Chapter 2, "Not Your Mother's Lasagna") 
"Maybe I was withholding a key detail when I wrote that joy is a gift from God. Receiving a gift implies opening up our hands and accepting what's being offered. Living in joy requires something from us: we must push back against the darkness through worship, gratitude, and prayer."      (Chapter 9, "Choosing Joy") 
"Being on the receiving end of sacrificial love is amazing. However, as many of you know, giving sacrificial love can expose our limitations like nothing else. In order to succeed for the long haul, we need grace, mercy, patience, humor, shared mission and intimacy."      (Chapter 11, "Made Beautiful") 

To learn more about Dorothy and her book, Making Marriage Beautiful, check out her website at:

About the Author: 

Dorothy Greco and her husband, Christopher, have spent their entire twenty-five-year marriage helping men and women create and sustain healthy marriages. They have served numerous churches in the Greater Boston area for thirty years. Dorothy's writing has been featured in "Relevant Magazine," "Christianity Today," "Sojourners," and "Her.meneutics." She is a regular contributor for "Gifted for Leadership," "Today's Christian Woman," and "Start Marriage Right." The Grecos have three sons and live near Boston.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Litfuse Blogger program. There was no requirement for a positive review and the views expressed are my own.

Saturday, February 18

Control Girl: A Book Review and Giveaway!

Controlling? Me? No…definitely not!

Of all the words I might use to describe myself at times (sensitive, anxious, sometimes impatient) “controlling” would not be a word that fell into the list. Most of the time, anyways. 

However, after recently reading Control Girl, by Shannon Popkin my eyes have been open to the many subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, I have fallen into the control trap in an effort to manage circumstances in my life. 

The moment I read the description of the book and watched one of Popkin’s Facebook videos, I knew I had something to learn from her story.  The way she effectively grounds her own experiences with substantive evidence from seven Biblical women who had control “issues” themselves (Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel and Miriam). 

As an aside, I had the privilege of meeting Shannon at the Breathe Christian Writer's Conference last October. She was sweet, nurturing, and spent a few minutes authentically listen to me as I talked about the bazillion writing ideas that I'd love to pursue, but how it's hard to find time to pursue many of them during these years of stay at home motherhood. She was so kind and encouraged me to continue persevering-- that it is a worthy call to be a writer, but an even worthier one to be a mother. I left the conversation with nothing but respect and admiration for her as a Christian woman, mother and writer herself. I knew when her book came out I wanted to be one of the first to read it! 

Truthfully, from that meeting, I would not have guessed that her book would be about how control issues show up in women's lives, but I suppose that is part of the point. Sometimes they are subtle and unrecognizable unless we take an honest look at ourselves in the mirror, or consider our circumstances through the lens of some else's story. That is what this book does so well. 

The reality is that while many of us do not intend to be controlling, when our daily circumstances start tipping out of “control” for whatever reason (and they will!)—sick kids, differing opinions with our husbands, a messy house (messes not made by you!), parent-child tensions between your own children, or sometimes your adult parents—our flesh begins to concoct all sorts of ways to pull things back together…to get things back on track. We women are good at putting a plan in place when any of these things (and many others!) start to feel like they need fixing! 

And, while problem solving is good, especially when done with God, that’s not often where we start. We often start, in the heat of the moment, by plotting our own “take control” actions inspired by our own angry, frustrated, discouraged or anxious hearts.

If I’ve learned one incredibly important thing in my time as an adult, in my season of mothering, in my role as a wife—it’s that planning to do anything out of a place of fear, anxiety, discouragement, or even just being plain tired—is never, EVER a good idea…and, quite frankly, usually leads to plenty of bad ideas! 

So, as we learn to pause, and to not react or “manage” out of our frustrations, what is the next step?
It’s God, of course. Taking our “stuff” to him. Laying it out in prayer and patiently waiting for a response.

In the book Popkin says, “As we try to control things we can’t control, we tend to lose control of the one things we can—ourselves. God invites us to reverse the process…”

Several pages later, she goes on to say (and I LOVE this!): 
“Some mornings, I wake up with agonizing Control Girl regret, then I trip back into the same rutted-out behavior even before making breakfast…The Bible not only instructs us to stop our sinful habits, but also says we must start doing the opposite, correct things. So, to curb greediness, we practice generosity. To reverse selfishness, we practice putting others first. And to overturn a pattern of control, we practice surrender.
Surrender is counterintuitive to a Control Girl. We have a natural posture of holding on to control rather than releasing it to God. In order to reverse our natural bent, we have to cultivate a new demeanor toward God: surrender.”

I love that word…surrender.

Well, the truth is, I love the idea of surrender. The actual act of following through is sometimes another thing all together.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and learn a little bit about surrender, too. You won't be disappointed. 

The book is laid out in 38 lessons, making it easy to read and digest. Each lesson starts with a suggested scripture reading, offers insight into the Biblical story, shares personal lessons, and ends with suggestions for further scripture reading, some questions and a final mediation. 

The book would work well as a daily devotional, particularly for busy moms wanting some depth of scripture and a structured lesson to focus their thoughts for the day.  

Shannon's publisher and publicity group are currently offering a giveaway package with some super cute stuff. Click on this link to read more about the giveaway (which ends on 2/21!!). 


Shannon Popkin is a wife and mom, a speaker and teacher, and a leader of small group studies. She’s been published by “Family Fun,” “MOMsense,” “Focus on the Family Magazine,” and other outlets. She is a contributing blogger for True Woman.com and has blogged for several years at shannonpopkin.com. “Control Girl” is her first book.
Find out more about Shannon at http://www.shannonpopkin.com.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Litfuse Blogger program. There was no requirement for a positive review and the views expressed are my own.

P.S. I don't usually post book reviews back to back, but I happen to have another one coming for you on Monday! 

If you want to hear more about the book Making Marriage Beautiful (another fabulous book by a writer I happened to go to church with in Boston years ago!), stop back on Monday. Or, hop over to Dorothy's website to read about it now!

Monday, January 23

When Everything Comes Undone

It happened again.

Scott and the girls were all out of the house , so momma did what momma does best-- put on some loud music, jumped into crazy-cleaning-Ninja-lady-mode and got down to work.

 I folded blankets, lined up shoes, wiped countertops, vacuumed the mudroom, swept the floors, put toys away, threw toys away (shhh, don't tell anyone, it's part of the undercover Ninja bit), stuffed coats in closets and socks in drawers, and anything else I could see to do in the short time I had. That place (the downstairs, anyways) was spic and span by the time everyone came home.

"Wow, mom, the house looks so nice and clean!" Ava and Ella side, with big shiny eyes, like they were surprised that our house looked like that.

Ahhh, proud mom moment.

You know the feeling, don't you?

Everything was nice and shiny. It felt orderly and tidy. I found myself actually thinking clearly for a few moments, and knowing just where each item was as I pulled out napkins, plates and forks for the Italian take-out dinner they had brought home  (the only thing better than a clean house is take-out in a clean house!). We enjoyed our dinner and Scott and I even found ourselves relishing a few quiet moments to read the paper and watch TV after the kids were in bed because the house was already picked up.

You all know where this is going, don't you?

Fast forward to Monday morning when everyone is barreling out the door for school. Folders, socks, sneakers, violins, lunch boxes, hair ribbons and pencils fly through the kitchen like confetti on New Years Eve. Apparently, in the 36 hours that had commenced since our nice tidy dinner, a small wind gust had whipped through the kitchen and living room, which now looked more like the aftermath of a large garage sale than an orderly home.

All of my work, completely undone. Surfaces recovered, coats evidently grew legs and walked back onto the floor, school papers flew from folders and onto the kitchen table. There was a colorful menagerie of socks, hangers, tights, and headbands everywhere the eye could see. 

When I opened the refrigerator after everyone left for the morning (which I had neatly organized just a few weeks ago) to put all of the breakfast and lunch makings away, I realized that over the last few weeks, despite my instructions to everyone about where the ketchup was to be stored and how the "yogurts should go in that little container I had purchased from Home Goods", the insides of the fridge were were  a disheveled heap of produce and condiments, mixed together like some abstract art installation.

 All undone.

Why? Why do I bother? I thought.  Doesn't anyone in this house know where anything belongs?! 

My heart quickly moved from graceful to grumpy.  It was in that moment that I realized how undone I can become internally when things start to come undone externally. 

In the life of a mom we can tend to exert a lot of effort on things that inevitably become undone: a clean kitchen, the blankets we fold so nicely and drape over the couch, the bathrooms we clean out of love, with secret hopes that someone else would follow suit (or at least put their toothbrush away!).  There's the laundry, and the clean windows, the vacuumed car, the basement stairs...we all know the list is endless.

On many days, I tighten up my proverbial laces and keep running through the tasks repeatedly.  I get it. I have young children and young children require lots, and lots, and LOTS of extra guiding, teaching and training. I gracefully re-tell them all where the containers go, and their coats, and toys, and all the other trinkets around the house.

I take deep breaths and practice gratitude for all of the stuff and my beautiful kids. I remind myself that these "messes" are all reminders of an abundantly full life.  I thank God for the groceries, and the dishes and His presence in my life, guiding me when I don't have the type of structured plans I'd like to have in place to do this job called "mom".

But some days, all of the undone, it starts to tug on my spirit like the loose thread on a sweater. Slowly, one tug at a time, my emotions start unwinding on the inside. One mess at a time that string unwinds, and unwinds, and unwinds until my heart doesn't resemble that peaceful, gracious, heart anymore--it's a mess of thread that leaves me graceless and impatient, in a tattered heap on the floor.

I'm working on not letting that string come undone so often. On letting go of my expectations, and perhaps even my perceived sense of control over the house management stuff. 

In the brilliant book Triggers, co-written by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia, the authors (both moms) brilliantly outline 31 different "triggers" that tend to trip us up as moms. Everything from backtalk and sibling rivalry, to lack of personal space and, yes, messy homes.

This excerpt from "Triggers" goes straight to the heart of what so many of us feel and experience on a daily basis:

"Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest." 
(Proverbs 14:4)
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 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, there reality feels overwhelming in your day-in and day-out lives as dishes and laundry pile up...You set a plan in place, how you're going to get it all 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 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! 

Oh my goodness. Am I the only one shouting amen to that?!

Yes, yes, yes! The desire to create a bountiful, playful, creative home. The hope that my children would be free to express their creative and artistic interests. The anticipation of fun, laughter and camaraderie in every nook and cranny of the house. And, the plan. Oh, the plan. I always have a plan for how I'm going to get it all done, pull it all back together and how the "messy" things we like to do won't be so messy if I'm super organized about it all, right?

But alas, as Wendy so aptly reminds us, thats not how it usually goes.

She finishes the chapter with a quote that I have written on a fluorescent orange index card and posted on the bulletin board in my office, right under a favorite family picture-- a picture that reminds me of the joy of family life.  The quote says, "Embrace the harvest in your home, and thank God for the strong little creatures who are with you in the field everyday. It's all perspective!" 

Here's to refining our perspective. Here's to letting go of our ideals of what we thought life would like while we are raising little ones, and embrace the reality of what it really is. It is in this gracefully living together, even in messy homes, that we will begin to really demonstrate to our children what real abundance, blessing and love look like. I certainly don't want my kids to remember me as a nag, or with that "look" on my face. I want them to remember the joy and the laughter that were present in our home-- I kind of think that's what God wants for our family too.

Now, excuse me while I go reorganize the refrigerator (;