This hard season of parenting? It’s temporary

This year the journey to spring has seemed like two steps forward, one step back, with 75 degree days followed by 12 inches of snow two days later. And right now everything just seems like a big sopping wet mess outside.

It’s pretty much how parenting feels, especially lately. It’s been 2 steps forward, one step back, sometimes feeling like I am knee-deep in mud and muck. Maybe you’re there, too.

Maybe you have just come out of a hard season with one child, seeing light on the horizon, only to have another one completely fall apart.

Maybe you have a child with a mental illness, disease, or learning disability and after months of doctor’s appointments, teacher conferences, medication changes, therapy, etc. you start to see improvement. Maybe even a few good weeks go by and you start to exhale a little bit and think the worst is behind you, and then suddenly you get the call. Your child has a bad day. A really bad day. And it feels like you’re right back where you were, with no end in sight.

Maybe you have a baby who has been crying for 6 months and not sleeping and you are 100 days past exhausted and weary to your bones. But then 4, 5, 6 nights in a row she sleeps. You sleep! It’s bliss! You start to feel semi-human again. Then on night seven she screams for six hours straight and you are on the floor next to the crib sobbing with her, wondering how anyone could handle this.

And you’re thinking, “One month! All I want is one month where everything is smooth sailing and everyone is healthy and happy. Is that too much to ask God? Why can’t we catch a break? Why does this keep happening to our family? Why?”

You’re knee-deep in the mud and the muck. And the glimpse of easy, smooth, and happy almost seems cruel if it’s going to be taken away. What’s one warm and sunny day if it’s going to be followed by more bitter cold?

But then, where did we get the idea that parenting is a straight path and you have to choose to either move forward or go backwards? Or that the end of a harsh season signified the beginning of a warm one? Who sold us this picture of parenting? And for goodness sake, why did we buy it?

Parenting, like the weather, is unpredictable. Seasons come and go, but not in a neat and orderly fashion. God’s word tell us that to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance;

a time to get, and a time to lose;

It does not say, however, that the weeping ends when the laughter begins. Or that once you start dancing, there will be no more mourning. Nowhere does God promise that our time of loss will be short and our time of prosperity plentiful. Only that there will be time for both.

Maybe the point is not to simply endure the hard winters of parenting, while you wait for spring to arrive. Maybe the point is to look for the beauty that can be found in each, knowing that God has promised there is purpose in it all.

This post originally appeared on the Neither Height Nor Depth Facebook Page.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Don’t let your dreams breed discontent

Reach for the stars!

Hard work and sacrifice pay off!

Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality!

She believed she could, and so she did!

If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it!

I think most of us have heard some or all of these motivational phrases during our lives, maybe we’ve even said a few to encourage our friends or children. Maybe we have posters hanging in our office or classroom with these or similar maxims.

{raises hand}

Chasing after super-sized goals and bold dreams is a beautiful thing. I think it connects us to our humanity. It crosses the divides of age, gender, culture, race, and religion. It’s how progress is made and change is initiated.

But there seems to be a growing wariness around the connection between dreaming big and feeling discontent. Especially among women.

Never have women had more opportunities available to us than we do today. Thanks to better access to quality education, greater opportunities for start-up businesses, and, let’s face it, social media, there’s been a rise in successful, seemingly “self-made” women cheering on the rest of us with their mantras of “lean-in”, “stop apologizing”, and just “say yes”. Women can now “brave the wilderness”, “live beyond fear”, and discover that “the universe has our back”. It all sounds so enticing doesn’t it? Wrapped up in pretty paper covered packages, it seems like success is just within our reach.

But is it?

Now please don’t misunderstand, this is not a criticism of these books or the authors, some of whom I happen to respect and admire. Admittedly, I have not read most of the mentioned books, and for all I know some of them may be chock-full of sound advice and truth. But what I do read are articles, blog posts and letters from women who feel like they are not enough. I hear friends share the overwhelming amount of anxiety and pressure they feel to do more, be more, achieve more. I see my daughters, still teenagers, combating an image of perfection that they believe they must achieve in everything they try. And I have battled my own feelings of discontent and failure — both professionally and personally.

Here’s what I don’t hear or read much of:

“I’m so happy with my life, right where it is.”

“God has blessed me with a season where I can slow down and smell the roses.”

“I am enough. Right here, right now, just as I am. I am enough.”

And it concerns me that we’ve mistaken chasing after dreams as an obligation to be more. We’ve misunderstood our goals to be a yard stick showing us just how we measure up (or don’t) based on achievement. We’ve decided our resumes are a better indication of our value and worth than our hearts.

It’s so damaging. So detrimental. So not in alignment with God’s calling for our lives.

God has no problem with us dreaming big or achieving success. Some of God’s chosen were very successful in life — just look at Job, Boaz, Joseph, and David. But God does make it clear that any success we have is to bring him glory. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

This is where I think some of the modern day mantra of chasing our dreams and striving for success falls short. So often the ones touting their own success — and their six simple steps to achieving our own — make it all about them, or me, or we. But never about He.

As long as we are dreaming big and striving for that glass ceiling as a means to bring recognition and praise to our own name, we are inevitably going to feel a sense of discontent. Even when we achieve a big milestone or goal, the feeling of satisfaction will be temporary, and we’ll already be looking at the next great thing; because when it’s all about us, it’s never enough.

When it’s all about me, having 2,000 people read my blog is not enough. When it’s all about Him, having one person touched or encouraged by something I wrote is enough.

When it’s all about me, having the same mid-level job for ten years is not enough. When it’s all about Him, working hard, demonstrating kindness and respect to my coworkers is enough.

When it’s all about me, staying home all day wiping noses, folding clothes, preparing meals, and vacuuming carpets is not enough. When it’s all about Him, loving on my children and caring for my family is enough.

When it’s all about me, pastoring a church with 75 members and never enough in the collection plate is not enough. When it’s all about Him, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and shepherding even one of those 75 is enough.

I’m not saying to throw in the towel and stop dreaming. I’ve still got big dreams for this little blog and my tiny, start-up ministry. But I also know that whatever success I have is only because of Him, and only so that I can bring Him glory. If my work leads to 10 more people knowing His name that will be a much greater success than 10,000 people knowing mine.

 

Success

Cover photo by Katrina on Unsplash

Guest post: The doctors said my son might never walk again

[One of the great blessings I’ve experienced since I started writing is getting to connect with men and women all over the world who read my words. Oftentimes it’s something simple like, “thank you, I needed that” or “me, too”. Sometimes I get asked to pray over a situation someone is going through, which is a true honor. And sometimes, someone reaches out and says, “I’d like to tell you my story.” A few weeks ago a reader I’d never met, named Lauren Findley said those words to me via Facebook. But I wasn’t prepared for what she was going to tell me. Her story, and that of her little boy, moved me to tears. Only a God as great as ours could do these things.

Lauren was gracious enough to let me share her story with all of you.]

My name is Lauren Findley, and this is a picture of my family.

Lauren findley 3

If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be asked to write about the gift of trust, I would have thought you were crazy. I have struggled with crippling anxiety my entire life. Proverbs 31 haunted me when it talked about “She was clothed in strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come.” I didn’t understand how anyone could laugh at the future.

On the morning on August 6th, 2017 my son, Ethan, and his cousin were running around our house playing tag. Ethan fell down and wouldn’t get back up. It wasn’t long until we realized that he couldn’t get up. He was hysterical and tried to tell us that he had sand all over his body. We realized that he was numb.

Robby, my husband, and I carried him to the car and rushed him to Cook Children’s Hospital. Ethan was immediately rushed into a sedated MRI. We then sat around waiting for him to wake up to find out what was going on. There was a lot of prayer and asking people to pray, but I was in denial that anything was really wrong with him. We were brought into a little room in which they made us sit down and the doctors began explaining that Ethan had a stroke.

They had no answers for us.

We walked into the Pedi ICU to find our precious boy screaming and not being able to see, sit up, or use the right side of his body. Later that day we were told that he had a stroke in the motor skills part of the brain, and they had no idea what type of a recovery he would have. They told us that they didn’t know if he would be able to walk again, have short term memory struggles, or get his cognitive skills back. They also ran more tests than I can count and every one was found inconclusive for what caused the stroke.

Lauren and Ethan

It was at this time I felt God ask if I could trust him even for a minute. I told him that I could trust him only for that long. He was going to have to handle the next minute. The Holy Spirit placed Matthew 6:34 on my heart “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have enough trouble of its own.” I told the Lord He was going to have to do it for me.

He gave me the strength.

A friend sent me 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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. 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.”

I clung to this passage. I begged the Lord to make me strong, because I was at my weakest. He followed through in amazing ways. He kept me going when I could not go anymore. These were some of the worst days of my life. God showed me that I needed to take every thought captive. I had to constantly fight the “what ifs” and live for the moment.

It was also at this time that I felt led to start posting exactly what was going on to Facebook, which seemed crazy to me, but I chose to trust. We quickly began seeing the goodness of God not only in the Holy Spirit but also through the kindness and loving encouragement of others.

Ethan opening presents in hospital

We were finally moved out of the PICU and into the Neurorehab floor of Cook Children’s. We started seeing progress in Ethan’s motor and cognitive skills, but we were told not to get our hopes up. He was in speech, physical, and occupational therapy three hours a day. My parents had been stuck in California due to bad weather, so we had to rely on others for help with our other son and everything else. This was a blessing, because we were able to see God work out every little detail when we didn’t have our family around. And Ethan’s sweet friends loved on him in ways that reminded me of God’s goodness.

On August 8th, my mom’s birthday, my parents arrived. My devotion that day was about waiting for God and my lack of control. It touched on the fact that God is in control, and He is so good, things that I desperately needed to hear. On August 12th I was given Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord. My soul waits. And in his word I hope.” On August 16th, we were shown how to work with Ethan to help him walk. We kept seeing huge progress, but we were told not to keep hoping.

After hearing that he may never walk over and over again, I felt God just saying “watch me, trust me.” On August 28th, Ethan looked and me and said, “Mom, look what I can do.” He proceeded to stand up and walk out the door all on his own.

The hospital staff freaked out and told me to stop him. They didn’t know what to do, because he shouldn’t know how to walk. I didn’t stop him.

On Sept. 1st, long before we were supposed to be released, we were allowed to take our boy home.

Not long after that we started him in an outpatient rehab for PT, OT, and speech therapy. I was asked what my long-term goals were for Ethan. I told them that eventually I would like for him to walk without a brace. They told me that wasn’t realistic, and once again I felt God tell me “watch this.”

A few weeks later, they asked Ethan to take his brace off and see what he can do, because his progress was so good. And he started running! The Physical Therapist started crying. She told me she had never seen any child with his type of brain injury heal like this before. She even admitted that it must be God.

We had many more scares that made his doctors believe that it was very possible that he might have another stroke. We scheduled a trip to the Mayo Clinic. Everyone was in a panic trying to figure out what was going on. Almost every day for a while I had to decide whether to take him to the ER or not. They knew us well in the ER. It was a dark, extremely emotional time. God gave me Psalm 94:18-19 “when I said my foot is slipping, your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

One day, our neurologist told me that he was going to try a medicine that probably wasn’t going to work. Since that day, we haven’t had a real scare. When I asked the stroke team why the medicine worked, they had no idea. I believe God made it happen.

Every time I ask the Lord why he did these miracles, He tells me it’s for His glory. So here I am telling you that He is amazing. He is able to do more than we can ever ask or imagine.

May we never forget the goodness of our Lord. I saw first hand that God cares and provides for the crazy huge things and the details of life. He cares about all of it and wants you to rely on him. He won’t disappoint. He is good, faithful, and fully worthy of your trust. Fully trusting the Lord is true freedom.

Psalm 66:5: “Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!”

 

Lauren Findley is from Fort Worth, Texas. She has an amazing husband and two sweet boys that she stays home with.

 

Wheelchair photo credit: TheExplorographer.com The View via photopin (license)

All other photos and video courtesy of Lauren Findley. All rights reserved.

Wonderfully made: breaking the cycle of self-loathing and an unhealthy body image

“I need to lose weight! I’m fat.” These are words spoken by my 13 year old daughter last week, and not for the first time. My beautiful, strong, muscular, dancing, soccer-playing, cross country running daughter. And my heart breaks a little each time she says something disparaging about her body.

I worry for her. I worry for her sister. I worry because every day they are faced with images that tell them what beauty is and then they look in the mirror and decide they don’t measure up. I worry for them because I have battled with my weight and self-esteem my entire life and I know what it’s like to have an unhealthy relationship with food and with the scale.

I went on my first diet when I was 12. I have used food as a means to numb my feelings, reward myself, and fight off anxiety. I’ve forced myself to throw-up and I’ve deprived myself.

But I am absolutely determined my daughters will not follow in my footsteps. That they will learn about healthy eating habits, taking care of their bodies, loving themselves, and seeing in their reflection what God see’s when He looks at them. I’m not always the best example, but I’m thankful that there are others championing the message of healthy bodies and self-love. There are people bravely sharing their battles to overcome an eating disorder, like my friend Danielle Sherman-Lazar. And there are organizations like Southern Smash, campaigning to end negative self-talk and raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders.

Southern Smash was founded in November 2012 by McCall Dempsey, an eating-disorder and self-love advocate who struggled to break free from her own eating disorder of 15 years. Southern Smash is dedicated to ending the cultural norm of poor body image and negative self talk. Through their SmashTALK panel discussions and empowering scale smashing events, Southern Smash challenges men and women to redefine their worth and beauty by letting go of those perfect numbers that weigh them down.

If you, too, want to empower our daughters and sons to know about healthy body image and self-love, you can come along and join Southern Smash by hosting your own event with one of their SMASHkits, by becoming a Smash Ambassador or Scale Ninja, or by donating.

Most importantly, though, remember that a healthy body image starts with us. Let’s stop the negative self-talk and demonstrate for our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews what real health, strength, and self-love look like.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

This blog post was written in partnership with the Blogging for Better Supporters, a collective platform to raise awareness and money for a different charity each month. #bloggingforbetter

If you’re gonna shout, let love be the cry

There’s a popular Christian song called “Bleed the Same” by Mandisa and Toby Mac that has this line: “If we’re gonna fight, let’s fight for each other. If we’re gonna shout, let love be the cry.”

There’s a lot of shouting and fighting that takes place these days. Oh sure, it’s not usually actual shouting and arguing, person-to-person, although that definitely happens. Instead, it’s shouting in the form of firmly worded Facebook posts painting clear pictures of right and wrong. It’s arguing in heated Twitter exchanges complete with name calling and derogatory insults at individuals and entire groups of people. And the worst part about all of this shouting and fighting I see? It is often coming from fellow Christians.

I’m a firm believer in standing up for what you believe in. After-all what is the point in life if you can’t find something to really believe in? But where I see a problem is the use of verbal absolutes on internet-based platforms that do not lend themselves to real conversation and understanding. When sharing our values in 150 characters or less we draw a line in the sand that says, I’m on this side, if you disagree, you are on the other side.

Me versus you.

Us versus them.

And I’m pretty confident no one ever changed their mind by being called a “them”.

It’s the main reason I shy away from controversial topics on my blog because I know that I cannot enter into meaningful dialog with anyone via WordPress comments or Facebook posts. It’s very hard for me to listen and hear another person’s heart from this side of my computer screen. And if I’m gonna talk about the hard stuff, the ugly, messy stuff, then I want you to hear my heart, and I need to hear yours in return. It’s the only way we will ever take steps toward each other and maybe begin to erase that line.

Interestingly, I find that often the issues that people shout the loudest about are the ones they have never had to struggle with. It’s easy to identify sin that we ourselves have never been tempted by or struggled with. It suddenly gets a lot trickier when it’s something we are battling. I think that’s why so many Christians are able to take a hard stand on issues like abortion and gay rights. Yet, I rarely see Christians picketing outside a divorce attorney’s office or courtroom to let the world know that divorce is a sin. I’ve never seen bumper stickers on cars that say “You can’t be Christian and covet my Mercedes”. And no one I know has said to me, “I’m voting for the candidate that is pro-sabbath.”

Why? Because over 50% of Christians have been divorced, and more of us touched by it in our families. Because I think it’s safe to say ALL of us have desired things that another person has; and find me the person who doesn’t want Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday after church.

We’ve cursed, we’ve refused to forgive, we’ve disrespected our parents, we’ve gossiped, we’ve not observed the Sabbath, and a million other sins every day. It’s a lot easier to have compassion for others struggling with these sins because we have struggled with them.

We live in a day and age where most of us would be outraged if a church refused to allow a divorced person to worship within its doors, and an entire day of rest and spiritual study is a “nice to have”, when the kids don’t have a soccer game and I don’t have to go grocery shopping, that is.

And let me be very clear here, I’m not pointing fingers or judging ANYONE here. Quite frankly, I have enough of my own sin to worry about fixing, I don’t have time to be pointing out other’s.

My point is that we seem to have arrived in a place where there are certain topics it’s OK to take a stand on — publicly, loudly, boldly –with the foundation that as Christians we have a duty to point out sin and fight for Truth. But I think we need to ask ourselves whether we’d be just as willing to publicly, loudly, and boldly take a stand on some of the many other sins listed in the Bible — the ones we struggle with every single day.

Or maybe the better question to ask is, would we better serve God if the only thing we were quick to post on public forums was that we serve a loving God? What if the truth we were loudest about was that none of us are worthy, and yet we have been forgiven? What if the message we shared boldly was that of grace?

What might those statements do for the church? How might they draw people to Jesus instead of turning them away? Would it allow for real dialog and conversation?

I can’t say for certain., but I do know this: Jesus didn’t gain followers by standing on a street corner and shouting his beliefs. He sat next to the people who were different from him and asked questions. He ate with them and visited their homes. He looked them in the eye, saw their pain, and loved them. He invited them to walk with him.

And in the end, his final cry was that of love.

Friends, my plea is that before you decide to share that article that labels others, or condemns someone under the veil of “Christian family values” and sin, ask yourself what sin you are struggling with and whether you are willing to post about it to social media just as boldly. Or perhaps, instead, ask yourself if maybe social media isn’t the right place to be having these conversations at all. And then seek out someone who thinks differently from you, invite them to lunch, and open your heart so that you may hear theirs.

 

But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12