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.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

We are HERE!

The Irby family is so very excited to be in America, safe and sound.  Our journey started when we left Sarajevo April 13 and drove 8 hours to Budapest Hungary.  We stayed with our "extended family" up there, The Sanders.  Mark and Lezlee have been good friends of ours since they opened their home for us to stay 3 weeks waiting for the arrival of Adeline in the Fall of 2011.  They have four children: two in college and two in high school.  The two who are still home, Kirk and Annie, love our kids.  And of course, our kids think they hung the moon!  While there, Elijah learned how to shoot a basketball into a hoop and throw a baseball.  But the weekend wasn't without drama, as Israel came down with a 24 hour flu making her throw up 10 times in a day :(  Also, while tossing the baseball back and forth, Elijah's lip bust open a little.  But all is well now!

The plane took off from Budapest early morning April 16.  We flew from Budapest to London-Heathrow.  After a five hour layover we boarded our next plane to Atlanta.  Upon boarding we realized we left Israel's beloved Mimi (her little bunny lovey) at security, as well as our front pack baby carrier and DVD Player!  Fortunately every seat had a screen with unlimited movies, so the kids were happy.  Israel was very mature about loosing Mimi.  Needless to say she was very happy when we heard from the airport that they found her and she will rejoin our family soon!  Another event on the plane: Adeline threw up all over Josh who didn't have an extra shirt!  He had to take off his shirt and wear his fleece jacket...what a good attitude he kept!

From April 16 Tuesday until Sunday, we had a sweet reunion time with my family.  My mom and sister were able to take the next couple days off work.  We ate delicious food (CHICK FIL A! MOMMA'S COOKING!), visited fun places (TARGET!  STARBUCKS!) and just enjoyed being a family.  The fun didn't come without jet lag.  Our kids woke up all hours the first night.  I was very thankful my mom stayed awake with them so we could get some much needed rest.  Sunday morning we enjoyed our home church.  I was moved to tears as I saw children in Children's Church embrace our kids as friends.  They were made very welcome and even went without tears to Sunday School without me!  Walking into the second service, I was able to hug my dear mother in law and sister in law and then...surprise!  Our nephew Ethan was there too!  It was so nice to see them all and spend time with them in the afternoon as they came to the house we are staying in for the next six weeks.

We are completely blessed to stay in the home of Jim and Ida Bell.  This sweet couple have been friends and ministry partners with us for over a decade.  I have come to their house before just for some time to rest between morning and evening services.  Their beautiful home sits in a gorgeous area of town and has an amazing garden to the side and a large backyard the kids can play in.  They have eleven grandchildren, so their house was fully equipped for us to move in!  

The children started school Monday at the Heiskell School, a private Christian school.  It has been a tremendous blessing for us and for them.  They have already learned so much.  Israel is now writing in cursive (she just picked it up!) and both of them are making so many friends.  We are grateful for the love this school is showing to our family.

Currently, we are looking to share our experience of Bosnia with as many people as possible.  If you are interested in hearing from us either one on one or in a small group, please contact us and we can arrange a time.

Thank you for all your love and prayers!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to Make Someone's Day

Ever experience road rage? I do. Almost every. Single. Day. But now, I have a new plan for dealing with it.
Something hilarious happened Thursday night. Okay, maybe it won't be as funny to you as it is to me (I blame it on my weird sense of humor) I found myself laughing the rest of the night. Even during poor hubby's conversation with me about something serious, I was a laughing mess. "Okay, Taylor...we'll talk about it later. I see you are clearly still thinking about that." He's sharing his hopes and his dreams about his blog (haven't subscribed yet?) and like an immature child I'm holding back laughter as tears stream down my face. Sorry honey, I can't keep it in.

On Valentine's evening we were driving Israel home from school. There is this section of town (Baščaršija for those of you who know Sarajevo) where there is this weird cut-through that looks like a pedestrian street. It was dark outside and there was a man standing in the middle of it looking the other way. "Watch out for that man!" I called out. Josh laid on the horn. The man shot us a very angry look and screamed out, hands shaking in the air, "THIS IS NOT A STREET!!!" (Um. Yes it is, silly. I drive this street all the time) As we passed him I had the urge to throw my hands up as usual and put on an "you idiot!" this will help him learn the lesson that I am right and he is wrong, very wrong indeed. But something in me, last minute, changed my hand gesture. As we passed this angry man, my hand lost control and I started waving—a huge red clown-like grin on my face. For a moment I caught the changing expression on his face. I imagine what must have been going through his head:

"You idiot! You almost hit me! What are you doing driving in MY street?!"
"Oh, wait a minute. This must be someone I know trying to get my attention. She's waving at me. Wow. I feel silly yelling at her like that."
"Wait...who IS that? I must know her...we don't wave and smile at people we don't know!"
"I guess I'd better play it safe and wave and smile back!"

 It absolutely floors me to laughter to think that there is some man in Sarajevo looking for a silver Opal Zafira with top storage trying to figure out who in the world I am?! So the point of this post? Not much of a point at all really. But I think I learned that night that I have a choice in a moment to try to prove I am right or to swallow my pride and just smile. There's no use proving to the other driver/pedestrian that I am right. So now, instead of leaving the interaction stressed and angry, we both left laughing (and maybe on his side a bit confused, but that's okay)

INSTEAD OF MAKING SOMEONE PAY, MAKE THEIR DAY! (okay, easier said than done, but pretty catchy, right?  Too corny for you?  Blame Josh Irby!)

How do you deal with road rage?

Ever done anything that absolutely surprised someone or made their day?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On prayer

Over the past ten years, I have off and on followed a prayer structure suggested by Kent Ostby, a dear friend of ours and my Bible study leader when I was fresh out of college. The list is broken down into a daily list and then lists for every day of the week. On the daily list, I pray for several people, including my family: Josh, myself, and my kids. For years I have prayed that my kids would be obedient as I find myself stressing out over some of their behavior and choices. Then one day recently I realized something: I need to pray that I would be obedient and that I would change MY attitude! For all these years, I have tried to control my kids...during this prayer time I realized that I can't do that! That's God's job. My job is to love them and show them Jesus be open to God working on my heart and their hearts. I've often thought what is the point of prayer if God knows everything anyway? I think this is one of the purposes of prayer. God shapes us and makes us see the truth in our lives. Although I'm still praying that my kids would know and follow God their whole lives, I have started praying that God will change MY heart towards my husband, children and general outlook on life. How's that for a plank in my own eye? :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Heart of Hospitality

Wake up. Unload dishwasher. Cook. Make the coffee I never drink. Play. Tidy up. Load dishwasher. Repeat. Such is the life of a mother of three who hosts several people in her home weekly...but is this all there is? We are blessed to have a beautiful home with enough space to host a lot of people at one time. We have hosted over 40 hungry souls in our apartment comfortably. I load the chili in the crock pot, pull the casserole out of the oven, or take the ice cream out of the freezer. Pour hot drinks into big mugs and serve to cold hands. And the dishes pile up. And pile up. And crumbs litter the floor. And baby crawls and consumes. (oh, is this the way we feed our child?)
At times I become bogged down, overwhelmed. Under the pile. I endlessly scan the homemaking blogs trying to make parties better. The beautiful colors. The mouth watering food. The perfect decor. The smiling author tells me I can do this too. However, my experience tells me something different. I'm not that woman. Sure, I can pull together one heck of a party with amazing decor. Fit for a blog post, even. But at the beginning of the party, how do I feel? Tired. Wishing it was over. And my kids feel the tension. Recently, I decided I'm quitting. At least for now, while I still have a baby. No, I'm not quitting hospitality. I firmly believe that God has given us this home to fill it with people. Hearts come weary and leave full. I'm a firm believer that we are to use our gifts to serve God and others. We are to fervently love each other, as if our lives depended on it (1 Peter 4). I'm just going to go about it differently. These past few months I've been joining thousands of other women around the world in the Maximize Your Mornings challenge. We have been reading 1 Peter together and discussing it online. It has been transforming...I'm growing and changing. One topic I have learned about is hospitality. I believe I have this gift, at least it has grown in me since living here. But I think I have suppressed it by complaining in my heart when doing the "not fun" parts of it...mainly, the mundane. I decided in my heart this past weekend to heed Peter's advice "Be hospitable without complaint". We had three events in our home this weekend. I delightfully did dishes. Then I felt a little six-year-old daughter. "Mommy, can I help?" "Sure," I giggle and hand her the dish rag. She washes, I dry, and we have heart conversation over the sink. It made me reflect on the heart of hospitality. I'm to think of others over myself. That may very well be the key to not complaining. And as the weekend draws to a close, I can honestly say I enjoyed all three events and think our guests were blessed too.