Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dear Mom Who's Trying to Make it {Guest Post on Missional Women}

I'm writing at Missional Women today...

Dear Mom who’s trying to make it,

Did you know you are a superstar? No, you really are.

You may be covered in your child’s favorite breakfast, desperate to get the house in order, scrambling to get dinner together, and overwhelmed with the never-done job. To escape, you dive into the never-ending hole of the internet. Scrolling through Pinterest, you find a post that sparks your interest. This is it. This will make you more organized, more satisfied, more patient, more, more more...or will it make you less?. In pulling yourself together, are you pushing your children away?

Read the rest here at Missional Women!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Taming Your House

I'm reading a book called "Desperate: Hope for the Mom who Needs to Breathe", by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. It's renewing my calling as a mother. This morning I woke early to steal a few moments to myself with a cup of tea and this book. The chapter I read is called "Taming the Beast of Housework". I laughed to myself. It never ceases to amaze me how appropriate each chapter is for what I'm dealing with at the moment. You see, I have four crazy kiddos who have been on summer break since June 12. They won't go back to school until September 7. There are lots of messes and little schedule or rhythm to our days in the summer. The artist in me loves this kind of life: running around barefoot through sprinklers, playing cards in the treehouse, taking the dog on long walks (did I tell you we have a dog for a month? So fun!)...but after a few weeks of this my soul starts to feel a little crushed. The messes begin to take over and they take me with them. I start to scream loudly for all to hear and my children buckle under the weight of it all.
"When a mom complains and fusses as a regular way of life, it will inevitably go into the hearts of her children with great force." -Sally Clarkson, Desperate, p. 108. 
This quote hit me hard with conviction. How often do I complain and fuss? I rant and cry when I feel overwhelmed. I forced myself to look 20 years into the future. My oldest daughter will most likely have children of her own by then. How will she see her responsibilities? How will she react to the messes her children make? My heart began to break when realizing that the attitude I choose will probably be the attitude she will take on. I don't want her to feel that way.
I sat with my children after they woke this morning and apologized. I told how even though I'm frustrated with the mess I'm taking it out on them and have the wrong attitude. They graciously forgave me.
I am thankful for the system we have in place. There are still six people living in this house (...where there are oxen the barns will be dirty!) but having a plan helps. Everyone is different so you have to find a plan that works for you. My oldest is 9 and this is the first summer I have found something that works for us. I have been through chore charts and cards, rewards, sticker charts...I'm just not  organized enough to keep up with those. But this has been simple and gets everyone cleaning all at once. I would love to share it with you in case you would like to try it out.

FlyLady has been helpful to me in the past with how she divides her house into zones and focuses on cleaning one zone at a time. I decided to modify this method for our family, so we divided our house into 5 zones:
Zone 1: The entryway, garage and car
Zone 2: The Kitchen and patio
Zone 3: The Bathrooms
Zone 4: The Living and Dining Rooms
Zone 5: The upstairs landing and "book nook" reading area

At any given time, I give the children a five minute warning for zone work. At that point each child goes to their designated zone. My two older kids (ages 9 and 7 1/2) get two zones each. Adeline who is only 3 1/2 gets one zone she shares with me. Zoe (age 2) has no zone work (yet!) Each week the zones rotate, giving each family member an opportunity to clean each zone. On the doorpost or wall of each zone I put a list of expectations for cleaning that zone (i.e.: in the bathroom: straighten the rug, make sure there is toilet paper on the roll and the reserve container, make sure the sink is clean and the garbage isn't overflowing, etc) so they know what they should do. I have been amazed at how this system actually works when I remember to call for a daily zone clean! As I mentioned before, I'm not a consistent person when it comes to systems so we don't have a specific time of day we clean the zones, but I generally just go with my gut feeling: is the house overwhelming to me? Zone work will probably make it better. And it does. Miraculously! Do my kids love it? No. Do they whine and complain about it? You bet. But it keeps me from being the only one cleaning and developing a bad attitude.
There is one thing to remember when dealing with housework and little kids at the same time. Messes come with the package. It is part of the job of the season. It will get better! Remember, your goal is not to get rid of the housework, it is to tame it! Finding a system that works for you and your family is key to eliminating overwhelm.

What are ways you deal with the never-ending chores around the house? Please share in the comments!

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Well Watered Garden

“The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well watered garden, like a spring whose waters will never fail.” -Isaiah 58:11

I love gardens. I come from a long line of gardeners: my grandmother and great aunt cultivated beautiful gardens, winning awards. I cherish the memory of planting flowers with my mother, spending time together. Naturally when I left home I was excited about starting my own garden. I skipped to the local nursery and bought an assortment of plants. However after a few short weeks all the plants dried up under the hot Georgia sun. What went wrong?

My friend Ida offered to mentor me in gardening. I learned some significant life lessons during this time. 

Today I'm writing over at Missional Women! Click Here to read the rest.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Better Friend Than Food

Food is a fickle friend. It’s joy and stress.It’s love and hate.It can bring people together, enhance traditions, and channel creativity. But too often, it imprisons me.

As long as I can remember I have been addicted to food.  In high school, I hid cookies in my room.  As an adult I binge on chocolate. Honestly, I attend some functions just because I know there will be good food.  When at a party, you’ll find me by the table, munching away. Sometimes it gets out of control and I’m simply sugared out, my mind a fog and my spirit discouraged.  Even when I don’t want to eat, I still do. I feel like I’ll never change. Why?  Because food promises comfort.  It’s an escape.  But it’s not.

Today I'm writing at Missional Women! Click here to read the rest!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Renewing Our Minds as Mothers

I sat down in my hotel room, breathing deeply.  Another day was complete. All the children were finally asleep and I was comfortable in my pajamas and ready to have some time to myself.  Our family was at a conference full of meetings, activities and seminars.  That particular evening I managed to successfully bring four small children through the crowded, stressful cafeteria (only lost two of them for about 10 minutes!), led them to the room, helped them dress and get ready for bed, and tucked them in.  My husband Josh had meetings during and after dinner, so I was responsible for the exhausted and cranky kiddos myself.

Just as I was about to lay down and read a good book, my phone buzzed.  It was a text message from Josh informing me that he had another meeting during a meal time the next day. I put the phone down and sighed deeply before I could bring myself to reply.  Since arriving at this conference we had not a single dinner together, and a few other meals had been taken, too.  I was starting to get tired and frustrated.  And I was a little too familiar with where my heart wanted to go.

"I want to redeem this, Taylor.  Let me.", a still small voice whispered in the deepest chambers of my weary heart.

I resisted.  I have a right to whine!  I have a right to complain!  No one understands me at this moment!  Lord, it's just not fair!

"Let me redeem it, dear one."

As I thought through it and resisted laying down my angry, selfish, beaten down will to the One who knows me best, I heard Him speak.  

Josh knows it's hard for me.  He doesn't take my work lightly.  He sees the sacrifices I make so that he can freely do his job.  If it were his choice, he would spend every meal with us.  If I give him the cold shoulder, or curse him under my breath, or cut him down with words and pile on guilt, what good would that do?  None.  It would only set him in chains while he is trying so hard to do his job—to be used by God to change the world.

My children are precious, sensitive, and can hear and sense my emotions and feelings.  If they can see an angry mama because she has to be with them, what message will that send them?  Could it be that they will feel unwanted, a burden, unvalued and unloved?  Maybe even that they are the source of all Mama's stress?

What about others watching?  Will it make them fearful of having children?  Or having more children?  Or agreeing with their husband to take on a leadership position?

After letting God speak, I picked my phone up and replied "ok."  I knew it was okay not to be thrilled about the idea, but not to choose a bad attitude.

I want to share some ideas to help you if you find yourself in a similar situation.  Maybe your husband travels a lot, or works late hours.  Or you are at your end and can't seem to find the strength.

1.  Remember God has called your family to something great.  Everyone has a role to play and the roles change over time.  Ask Him to reveal His truth in the situation, His perspective.

2.  Respond positively.  Even if you don't agree or wish things were different, speak kindly to your husband about it.  It doesn't mean that he shouldn't know your feelings, but share them in a kind way.  Talk through it together.  For example, after talking with Josh about these things, he tried to schedule meetings that could be done with the family over meals with other families when possible.  I also learned through our conversation that he doesn't like to be away from us during these conferences.  It helped me see that he isn't off having all the fun and leaving me with the difficult challenges.  We are both working hard.

3.  Recruit help!  I'm very thankful for the help from women without children and moms whose children were grown.  This made a difference!  Don't feel bad about asking for help.  Many women are happy to serve you.

4.  Reflect on your needs:  This one is critical.  If you need some time alone, talk about it with your husband.  Maybe a Sunday afternoon you can steal away to a cafe to have some time alone while he watches the kids.  Maybe you need a girls' night out, or a date night.  Hire a sitter or ask a friend to trade off watching children.  Do whatever it takes to refresh your soul!  A worn out mama is of no help to a house full or people who need her.

[If you genuinely feel like there is a problem or an issue with your husband being gone too frequently, please talk with him about it.  Many mothers suffer silently because they know their husband is doing "good works" in ministry.  One should never put ministry before his or her family.]

During our conversation Josh said something to me I want to pass on:

"You know that your job can have a greater impact than mine, right?  I'm meeting with people who are interested in ideas.  But there are four little children watching you and that you get to raise.  You carry the weight, especially at matters and has eternal perspective."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

3 Lessons Learned in the Pit

Yesterday we had our first Moms Encouragement Group!  This is so exciting for me, as I have wanted to do this for a long time.  I'll work on another post soon about making dreams reality, but this is a summary of the talk I gave yesterday to this group of 17 amazing ladies!

I have a confession to make.  I am a fan of The Biggest Loser.  You know that reality show where they take obese people and put them through grueling workouts and they lose weight?  Yeah, that one!  Last year when Adeline was taking long naps and I was pregnant with Zoë I forced myself to lay down for an hour each day and watch The Biggest Loser.  And I was sucked in.  These amazing people pushed themselves to the limit, and it was worth it.  They saw amazing results.

One guy in particular, Jackson, was a quick favorite of mine.  Growing up bullied in school and picked on for his weight, he never felt good enough.  One particular Biggest Loser challenge was a relay race through a bubble gum pit.  As soon as Jackson jumped in you could see his struggle.  He was surrounded by waist high Bubble gum on all sides.  His face grew pale.  We knew what was about to happen…Jackson was notorious for throwing up.  But all of a sudden, his face changed as he looked up and saw his team cheering him on.  Then, with determination, he pressed on through the bubble gum and made it to the other side.

Thinking about this episode made me realize that this is a lot like being a mom. Lots of days seem like I am struggling just to lift my feet off the ground and make it one more step. The laundry. The dishes. The messes. The poop…ohhhh the poop. But in this pit is a blessed place of growth.  It will stretch us and change us and grow us like no other.

Here are three lessons I have learned while in the pit.

1. We Are Not Alone.
Doing this thing called motherhood day in and day out can be isolating.  Few adult conversation.  Lots of time with small people and little time to yourself.  The mundane chores.  You can feel alone.

But it's not true.  You are not alone.  There is a team of moms all over the world cheering you on.  You can do it!  It is possible!  Keep running through the bubble gum!  You're going to win!  More than that, there is a God who loves you who is not only cheering you on, he is in that pit with you.  And on the days you feel you can't lift your leg, He is carrying you.  He rejoices when you choose the right choice and He redeems the mistakes you make. There are daily failures and daily victories and each one of those is not unseen by the One who created you.

Action Point: Connect yourself with a group of other moms.  Ask nearby churches if they have support groups (MOPS, MomHeart) Ask God daily (and moment by moment) for strength in this journey of motherhood.  He is right there waiting for you!

2.  See Beyond the Gum
Jackson's perspective changed when he looked up and saw that team cheering for him, depending on him, encouraging him.  Then, he saw past that pit.  He did whatever it took and found a strategy to get through it.  And not just to get through it, but to enjoy it and overcome!

In this journey of motherhood, it sometimes feels like there is gum ahead of us, to the side of us, and behind us with no way out.   How would life look if we didn't see the pit as just that…a pit?  What would we do differently if on the other side of that pit there was a great treasure?  Proverbs 14:4 says "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox."  I'm sure a farmer caring for the ox doesn't get excited about cleaning the stall.  But he rejoices at harvest time, as that ox's strength is what brings the harvest!  At the other side of the pit is the precious treasure of our children's strength—world-changing strength.  And you, Mother, you are the one who built that into them. Wether its a small pit (like potty training, learning to drive a car or helping study for a test) or a big pit (sending them out into the world) your influence on your children builds strength for eternity.  Press on!

Action Point: Create a personal mission statement.  Resources (Inspired to Action Motherhood Mission Statement and Franklin Covey Mission Statement Creator)

3. You are a Big Deal.
I love to listen to Kat Lee's Inspired to Action podcast.  I highly encourage subscribing to it. After each episode, I'm inspired to be a better mom.  At the end of each podcast, Kat closes with "You are a mom…you're kind of a big deal…now go be awesome."  It's true!  You may feel like you are "Just a Mom."  But you are the primary influence in your kids' lives.  They need you. They will learn how to live in the world through your words.  CEO's are replaced daily and forgotten.  But mothers can never be replaced and will never be forgotten.  To those children you are their world. So take heart, weary one.  What you are doing is of great value.

So if you are in the pit right now, you aren't doing it because you love the mess.  You are doing it because there is a team beside you (and God is with you), there is a great treasure on the other side, and what you are doing is the most important job in the world.

Now go do it.  Be that mom God created you to be.  You are awesome!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It Was to be the Perfect Morning...

Ahh...Friday morning.  That's the morning dear Husband gave me the gift of walking my Israel to school and taking an extra hour for myself in town.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  I love walking my spunky seven year old to school.  Her cute little bob hair cut (which she doesn't like but everyone else, including myself, wants for themselves!) and stylish skinny jeans (seriously, who could be cuter than my daughter?) and absolutely beautiful heart fill me with joy as I push the stroller with little bit tucked inside, away from the cold through the oldest part of Sarajevo.  Down a cobblestone hill.  Through a cobblestone street, onto a tiled path, then up a hill to her school.  But this Friday was different.

I was really looking forward to it, but with the adjustment to four kids, I'm not thinking on my game as normal.  Last year Israel's bag was ready and packed by the front door.  All my things needed would be gathered and ready to go.  I woke up plenty early to get ready. We left at 7:30, giving us plenty of time to be slow and really enjoy each other.  This Friday was hurried.  I woke up early, but didn't factor in time to do everything needed to be done.  Israel's bag was ready, but the stroller was not.  Last year I pushed an older baby in the stroller, so just a blanket was needed.  With Tiny Zoë, I need a car seat, fleece insert and blanket, and she needs to be extra bundled.  The car seat was still in the car when it was time to leave the house.  I couldn't figure out how to get it on the stroller.  Curses running through my head.  All the time saying "Why didn't you do this last night?  Why didn't you get it together?  WHY ARE YOU SO DISORGANIZED?!"  I stopped right there.  Sweet neighbor Diana is a counselor and dear friend to us.  I can remember last year when I attended one of her small groups for women.  A theme that repeated was the question of why we speak badly to ourselves so often.  It does no good and brings no life.  In fact, it brings death.  A lie I have believed nearly my entire 34 years is that I don't have it together.  So repeating that to myself when I make a simple mistake is just enforcing the lie. It's just a mistake...we all make them. I decided to not go with it any longer or say it out loud.  I forced myself to remain calm and not take it out on little miss Cute.  Finally I got the stroller together and began our way down the hill.  A quarter of our way down our hill (it's a steep one!) I noticed Israel's back...without the bag.  Oh no!  Back up the hill.  I held back passing on the lie "Why did you forget it?!" and extended grace instead.

We were running too late to walk, so we needed to take the tram.  God bless that tram.  It runs the length of our city and cuts the time for our walk.  But that's just it.  It cuts the time out of our walk.  The one morning I get to catch up with her.  The luxury of a beautiful cold morning in Sarajevo (seriously, little things excite me like that).  I get on the tram begrudgingly.  I want to curse that morning and go back in time to the night before where the stroller was ready by the door and all I had to do was walk out.  You know flylady?  She is wonderful, but (and she would tell me I'm wrong here) I'm fighting the need of perfection to be orderly.  But this Friday morning I fought the urge to be angry.  I took the two minutes I had on the tram with Izzy and used them to love her.  As well as the brisk walk up the hill to school after the tram stopped.  She was only a little late, and I was out of breath from hauling it, but you know what?  IT WAS A GOOD FRIDAY.  No, it was not perfect as I would have dreamed it, but it was perfect for us.  It was a gift.  I'm looking at it as a way God used to exercise my fighting lies muscle.  And I feel a little stronger.

"Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow."  -James 1:17

Perfect (Greek: teleios): which has achieved or reached its goal, objective, purpose"

After dropping her off, I got my leisurely walk through town. Not with my older daughter, but with my youngest daughter and with my Jesus.  We even had a Hazelnut Latte at McDonald's (my first choice Torte i To was closed and I was prone to be angry about that, but pushed it aside).  The time was sweet and I am thankful.

I look back on that morning and realize something.  If I would have given into the lie which I so often do, it would have led to anger and frustration.  I would remember that morning as unenjoyable and probably would have taken that out on Israel.  But by God's grace, I fought the urge.  A big victory!  I am remembering that morning now as a sweet memory for two of my daughters and me.  And I'm stronger inside.