Mombarded by Doubt

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Am I doing a good job?
Am I doing this right?
Who is the expert? Who should I trust? Why are there so many varying opinions about this?
What if I mess up?
How will I ever get through this?
Have I scarred my child forever?

We all doubt ourselves as moms. To be honest, we all doubt ourselves. Period. At least in some area(s). We don’t have all the answers, and we never will. We get more confident—in some areas. In fact, we’ll often share more advice as our children move beyond the stage for which a younger mom needs advice, because hindsight is always 20/20. We become experts, but in reality, we never really were, and we never really are.

Doubts can be crippling, but they can also be a good thing. People who rarely or never doubt what they’re doing tend to jump into things blindly, and while they may never acknowledge the costs, rest assured, there are costs. They look at people who have doubts and think, “What’s wrong with those people? Why are they so insecure? Why can’t they just put on their big girl panties and deal with it?” The people who have doubts look back and either think, “I wish I could be as confident and carefree as her” or “I may not know what I’m doing, but at least I’m not as careless as she is!”

Perspective.

Whether or not you doubt yourself, you don’t need to spend much time doubting others. You really don’t know where they are or where they’ve been. You could try to follow the old advice of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but just so you know…it’s not really possible. You can’t walk in two pairs of shoes at once. And you can never truly leave yours behind. You can never fully assume someone else’s perspective. Even she doesn’t know everything about her life.

However, you can have empathy. You can support others by encouraging them, listening, asking questions, helping them search. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t. And if you’d try to answer every single question, you’d lose credibility with people. Think about how we women respond when we want to process, and the men in our lives just want to swoop in and fix the problem. Many times, it’s not about the problem at all. It’s about us. We don’t want to feel as if we need fixed. We want someone to care about us, not change us. When we don’t listen to each other, that’s what ends up happening.

We can use the same advice on ourselves. We can search, question, reach out, listen, and process without expecting everything to be tied up in a neat bow. We can find assurance even when there is confusion. We can do our best, and trust God to fill in the gaps. He does it anyway, whether we acknowledge Him for it or not.

What gaps of doubt do you need to ask and trust God to fill today?

Mombarded by Expectations

expectationsToday’s post is excerpted from Mombarded: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life: a devotional journey that gives you 52 devotionals (and space to journal) to encourage and challenge you to help you continually grow as a mom…through the mombardment of responsibilities, emotions, pressures, frustrations, and adventures. Preorder today and receive free shipping.

I sat across the table from another mom, and we shared our struggles. We realized just how similar we are and wondered how similar we are to other moms out there. We look around and see others’ lives and think they’re so much better or worse off than we are, but how can we really know that unless we take the time to get to know them, listen to them, share with them? Even then, we’re not going to be able to get to know everyone. So, the least we can do is not project our expectations onto them or assume they’re projecting their expectations onto us.

It hurts when someone doesn’t respect your choices as a mom, especially when it’s someone whose respect has value to you. Don’t be surprised when someone thinks your choice to be a stay-at-home mom means you don’t have much to do or that you are solely dependent on your husband or others. Maybe people think you’re too child-focused or not smart enough to get a “real job.” Perhaps they think you have it easy because you’re home all day. Also, don’t be surprised when someone things your choice to work full-time is a priority of money over caring for your kids, that you’re more interested in your position than your kids’ security. Maybe people think you’re shirking your parenting duties. Perhaps they think you have it easy, because you can do what you want instead of letting your kids’ schedules influence your choices (as if any parent really believes that’s a real option).

No matter what your choices—and sometimes a lifestyle you didn’t actually choose—people will stereotype. So will you. What do you assume about unmarried moms, divorced moms, older moms, teen moms, working moms, homeschool moms, work-from-home moms, adoptive moms, homeless moms, and the list goes on? In some cases, you might have an immediate positive response, but I imagine you also have some strong negative responses or assumptions. We think someone has it easier than we do, someone is slacking, or someone is doing the whole mom thing wrong.

Why do we do that?

While it might not be true all the time, the main reason is: we’re threatened. We don’t understand why someone would choose the way we didn’t choose. We want to justify ourselves. But it’s not all about choices. And even when a choice was involved, who are we to say that person didn’t choose the best option for herself and her child as they faced their specific situation? Even when she didn’t choose the best option, shouldn’t we be a bit more understanding? After all, I certainly haven’t made the best decisions every step of the way.

Be more compassionate and understanding. You can encourage someone even if you don’t completely understand or agree with how she’s parenting. Maybe a little patience and compassion is just what she needs to take the next best step. Judgment certainly isn’t going to help.

Meanwhile, lighten up on yourself a bit, too. When someone judges you, extend compassion and patience…to her and to yourself. Someone else’s expectations of you don’t define you. Neither do your own.

Who have you recently judged?
Identify the assumptions you’ve made, then extend an apology, patience, or mercy.

Click on Mombarded and order today.
Click on Mombarded and order today.

Mombarded by Helplessness

pandaToday’s post is excerpted from Mombarded: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life: a devotional journey that gives you 52 devotionals (and space to journal) to encourage and challenge you to help you continually grow as a mom…through the mombardment of responsibilities, emotions, pressures, frustrations, and adventures. Preorder today and receive free shipping.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do.
How can I get my baby to stop crying?
How can I help my baby fall asleep?
How can I help my little one learn?
How can I help my teen get over rejection and judgment?
How can I help my nearly adult child make those important life-guiding decisions?

Every time we face a new problem, we’re reminded that even though we’re older, more experienced, and perhaps wiser than our children, we still go through things for the first time with them. Even as we have younger children go through similar circumstances, we continue to learn, because our children are different. We’re not completely confident in everything we do. Our children sometimes see us as having it all together, and that might give us a boost of confidence, but we know better.

We’re just trying our best.
T

he more humble we get, the more we realize that it’s actually okay to not know it all. It doesn’t let us off the hook. We still have responsibility. But it relieves some pressure. We get to move forward with uncertainty but with determination. We have a confidence, not in what we are capable of doing, but in the assurance that God gives us as we follow Him.

We’re not as helpless as we feel, because we always have God’s help.

It doesn’t mean we are always fully confident we’re following well or that He’s completely invested in what we’re doing—even if we deeply believe that but situationally doubt it. Our confidence doesn’t rely on the outcome as much of the process, the relationship of our dependence on God. It means we trust Him. We know Him. We go to Him.

When God is our help, we are never helpless. We may be incapable at times, but He isn’t. We may not have the wisdom and perspective we know we need, but He does. We may not have the strength to persevere, but

He does.

He doesn’t always give us a specific answer to a problem. Our baby still cries. Our toddler still struggles. Our teen still gets overwhelmed. But we persevere toward God through the variety of situations. We know that our response is important, not just because we need a quick solution but because we have a reliable God. Honoring Him becomes more important than getting the solution we want.

Helpless doesn’t mean hopeless.

How do you need to have hope?
How much do you trust God to help you?

Click on Mombarded and order today.
Click on Mombarded and order today.

 

Mombarded by Limits

fenceToday’s post is excerpted from Mombarded: When Motherhood Bombards Your Heart, Mind, and Life: a devotional journey that gives you 52 devotionals (and space to journal) to encourage and challenge you to help you continually grow as a mom…through the mombardment of responsibilities, emotions, pressures, frustrations, and adventures. Preorder today and receive free shipping.

We can’t do it all.

Our children can’t do it all.

We’re limited.

And you know what? I’m glad! We put enough pressure on ourselves. We fill every nook and cranny of time. We push the limits. Which assumes there are limits.

God didn’t create us to do it all. I don’t even know what “doing it all” entails. Do you? We each have assumptions of what it might entail, but isn’t it just that: our own assumptions? We all know we can’t actually do it all, but we want to be able to do the all that we think is most important.

We really can’t even do that. Even for those moms who are pretty laid back and take things as they come, let go of things easily, and find contentment in everyday reality, there are times when they go to bed with something undone they would have preferred to have done. They have moments of “I probably should have” or “I probably shouldn’t have.” They might be less wracked with guilt than other moms, but limits press in on them just the same.

Then there are the moms who try to live nearly every detail of their lives within limits. They usually set most of those limits by themselves, and if they’re really honest, many of the limits are unrealistic. Instead of looking at the realistic possibilities, they focus on dreams and ideals. They often underestimate the time, money, or organization something is going to take, so they end up feeling pressed for time, money, or organization. Sometimes they rely on organization too heavily, so that if you were to pull one thing out of place, the whole day might cave in…along with the family’s sanity.

But most of us fall somewhere in between. We might teeter toward one end of the spectrum or the other, but we have moments of needing to define and live by limits and moments of tossing them aside to be spontaneous. We can’t live with either extreme, because limits exist, and we are indeed limited. Once we recognize that, life gets (a little) easier.

God puts limits in our lives, not to restrain us as much as to give us boundaries to fully enjoy the freedom of the lives He has given us. Limits give us the boundaries to know that we can step on every single inch of ground within the limits and savor, explore, claim, nourish, and enjoy. There will be enough challenges within those limits. We don’t need to constantly run to the fence and climb it to long and reach for what is on the other side. When we do, we miss out on what’s on our side.

Yes, time, energy, relationships, opportunities, and abilities are all limited. But the possibilities within those limits contain way more opportunities than we’re taking. Focus. Not for busyness sake but for intentional attention’s sake.

What really needs your attention today?

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Click on Mombarded and order today.

Controlling Your Children

98602479We don’t have control over our children. It’s something we should know. We claim our children belong to God, but we invest in them so much that they feel like ours.

It’s difficult to give up control, especially when we try to control along the way. When they’re young, we have to do everything for them. As they grow, we continue to teach them new things, and they soak it all up. They look at us with adoring eyes. They’re curious sponges. We see ourselves in them, because they reflect what they see. But they begin to meet other people. They make friends. They watch videos and read books. Their interests change. They move out. They make their own decisions. At least, we hope they do. But it’s still difficult.

From an early age, we want and encourage them to stand on their own two feet, but when they do, we wonder if the way they’re standing will hold them up for long. We see better ways of doing things because we’ve “been there, done that.” But we haven’t, really. We can’t completely stand in their shoes or see through their eyes. We think we know them well, because we grew up with them, literally. But we’re not them. We can’t decide everything for them. It doesn’t just start when we send them to school; their decisions begin a long time before that. They have thoughts that we don’t even know. We can’t control them. That’s okay.

I don’t know about you but I have enough trouble making the choices in my own life. I don’t handle my own decisions well all the time. I struggle to determine how to follow God each step of the way. What was easy in one situation isn’t easy in another. Yet, I want to add the decisions of my children’s lives to the mix, too?

Of course, there are many decisions we need to make for our children when they’re young. And there are even more that we have to help them make for themselves. Making choices for them seems much easier. It seems quicker to jump in and fix something than to take the time to process alongside them, searching for the best option, teaching them to think instead of giving the summary of our own thoughts. But it’s not nearly as beneficial.

Asking questions and searching for answers is a much more important skill than following answers without a hint of why or how. Self-control is a much more important skill than imposed-control. It takes a lot of time to teach and learn, and sometimes we’re not sure we’re passing it all on well, but as long as we assume control of our children’s lives, we lose the self-control we need for our own.

Surrender control. God is the best parent of all…for your children and for you.

Growing Up with Kids

Each step our kids take as they grow up is an opportunity for us to grow up, too.

parentingWe get so busy helping them grow up that we might miss the opportunities we have to grow as well. When they face a new situation, we help them sort through it. We give them advice, tips for dealing with the newness. We listen and encourage. What about when we face a new situation as parents? Do we respond using tools that have worked in the past, or do we patiently consider the best response to the specific situation? Do we take a deep breath and face the change with the same courage we try to give our kids?

When our kids are hurting, we comfort them. But we also tell them to get back up. Try again. Be brave. Do we tell ourselves the same things? How do we respond when our kids are the ones who have hurt us? Maybe not intentionally, but they need their space. And we want them to have it. We really do. But do we respond as if we really do?

When someone has hurt, ignored, or bullied our kids, we want to pull out our mama bear claws and go after the person, but we look into our kids’ eyes and realize they need us more. We comfort them and help them heal. We help get them strong enough to face anything. We tell them not to let other people bother them, not to be jealous, not to take revenge, be the bigger person, take the high road. Do we do the same, or do we continue to steep in the anger, talk about people behind their backs, retaliate, and refuse to forgive?

We prepare our kids to leave the nest and lead responsible lives. We want them to grow up. We really do. But what happens when they leave? Do we try to emotionally pull them back? When we continue to teach them to depend on us, who is more dependent on whom…them on us, or us on them? Are we willing to leave the nest, too? Not physically, since we likely stay in the same house, but what about emotionally? Are we willing to admit that we don’t have to watch the nest so closely any more? In fact, we can enjoy long flights away from the nest?

We invite our children to change into adults. We listen to their excitement about their new experiences. We hear their struggles, too. Do we try to live life with them and share every single thing we’ve learned, giving advice when it’s unwelcome, and making their lives more about us than them…or do we let them make decisions, including some poor ones, learn through mistakes, and own the lessons they learn? Do we spend more time watching them become adults than growing as adults ourselves?

If we don’t grow, who will our kids look up to? Eventually, if we let their lives overwhelm ours, we miss out on our own lives, and they lose the influence we can give them.

We share our faith with them, but what if we only teach them the basics? What if we don’t let them know there’s something beyond what we’ve taught them, something beyond what we even know right now, that we’re still growing and struggling and searching? That God isn’t limited to what we’ve shared about Him. In fact, He’s not limited by anything or anyone. How can we encourage them to keep asking questions and searching and growing?

Are we asking questions and searching and growing?

Do you have a dynamic faith that stands firmly on the truth of God but trusts Him to constantly prune the baggage, assumptions, and legalism so that you grow into the person He wants you to be so that you not only honor Him well but you also honor the children He’s entrusted to you?

God is giving your kids steps to take as opportunities to grow. He’s giving you steps to take, too. Respond well.

Getting Moms Together (and a Giveaway to help!)

womenAll moms are not the same. Some work outside the home. Some work from home. Some moms are young, and some are…um, a bit more “mature.” Some moms have one child; others have many; moms of multiples have several at once! Some moms parent only girls; some parent only boys. Some are raising biological children; many have grafted additional members into their family through foster care, adoption, and spiritual adoption of kids who wouldn’t have a stable family life without them. Some moms are single parents. Some are raising stepchildren. Some have clusters of children of varying ages because of multiple marriages, later-in-life surprises, or realization that there are more children that need parents than there are parents who are willing to step up to the plate and do the hard work. Some moms have older children who have moved away (or one or more who have moved back), but they’re still moms. Some moms have lost their children, but they’re still moms, too.

Despite all the differences among moms, we share some basic similarities.

We can compare ourselves to others and think we have it harder (or easier) than other moms around us. We can feel isolated and think no one else understands. And while it’s true that no one else leads the exact life we lead, we can support one another through the common needs we have not only as moms but as women.

Look around you. Who needs support and encouragement? What can you do to reach out to others? How do you need support and encouragement? How are you building trust with others, planting and cultivating healthy relationships that stand the tests of time and trials?

Don’t get so busy with everyday life that you don’t do life with others. Even when you’re in the middle of chaos, you can find solace in the relationships you build. Invest in others. That means pouring into others, sharing your experiences, listening, laughing, and crying through moments and seasons of life. It also means allowing others to pour into you, inviting authenticity and accountability. Sharing burdens isn’t just about carrying others’ burdens. It’s about letting others carry your burdens, too.

There are women around you who need you, and you need them.

You might not see how you can fit another thing, event, or person into your life right now, but if you’re not intentionally investing in others’ lives, you’re making it very difficult for others to intentionally invest in your life. So, grab a friend and get some coffee together. Skype a friend while the kids are napping. Go for a long walk and reconnect or get to know someone. Invite a handful of women from your neighborhood or work to get together to connect, study, and share.

If you’re looking for an excellent resource to jump start your connections or to facilitate any size of group gathering, consider the new Where Moms Connect moms’ ministry curriculum. It provides everything you need for groups of any size, and it includes enough lessons for an entire year (18 lessons). You can pick and choose what best fits your group, or you can use every bit of what’s included. Moms get the opportunity to connect with each other, connect to a topic, connect with God, and apply what they’re discussing and learning to everyday life. There’s even an added option for children’s lessons. For women in ministry who need something for moms groups of varying sizes, there is clip-art, publicity, registration resources, and more. For women  wanting to connect with a few friends, Where Moms Connect is simple enough to use for any setting.

And I’m giving away a full Where Moms Connect curriculum kit ($149 value)!  Click the Where Moms Connect graphic below and enter multiple times every day until the giveaway on August 1st!

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