Tuesday, August 14, 2012

10 Things I've Learned as a Mommy of Two (Under 2!):

I've been reflecting on the past two months with our newest addition, baby Elijah.  Just when you think you've learned (and relearned) it all as a mom, you get to go through the process all over again.  Here are some things I've learned.

10.  Whatever your expectations are, lower them.  Right now.  I know as a mom I tend to have really high expectations for myself (oh really, you too?).  I want everything to be just right for my children, want to be there for them, to provide for them, and to take care of them.  All the while juggling an entire household, a career, and somewhere finding room in there to get a shower.  I've learned to cut myself some slack these past few months, and realize that it's okay every now and again to get nothing "done" around the house.  No dishes done.  Nothing made for dinner.  Even let the laundry pile up.  Sometimes, all you can do in a day is just be a mom...and some days, that's all your supposed to do. 

9.  You are not alone (everyone else is feeling just as overwhelmed as you are)!  I remember one day early on when baby Eli was just a few weeks old calling up my friend Jessie, who informed me she was having a really bad day.  "You are??  I'm so glad!" was literally the first statement out of my mouth.  I was having a pretty rough day trying to juggle both kids, and just hearing my friend's transparency was all that I needed.  In this world of social media and Facebook sharing, you can fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else has got it all together but you.  As if all the other moms are juggling 5 kids, all while engineering the cutest Pinterest activities, cooking gourmet meals, and keeping their house spiffy clean- and taking pictures to prove it!  Not reality.  It's good to be real with each other, because those kind of friends are the ones that I have really found comfort in as a mom. 

8.  It's good for children to "get a little dusty".  My doctor reminded me as I left the hospital that kids are like furniture, a little dust on them is protective.  I didn't exactly get what she meant by that.  Now I do.  My children have seen a little "dust" the past few weeks.  Not getting everything they want just when they want it, but getting what they need.  Have they had to stay in PJ's a little longer than usual some mornings?  Yes. Have they had to wait their turn to get milk refilled, diapers changed, or books read .  Yes.  Have they had to share their mommy's attention some times?  Yes.  But all the while they have felt undeniably loved and always cared for.  And that is all that truly matters. 

7.  Ask for help, and then accept it!  I have some really amazing friends and family who have come right over, cooked, cleaned, folded and played for me the past few weeks.  And I have had to really learn how to let them.  I am very independent, and I don't usually ask for help unless I'm desperate.  I've learned to break that habit in order to prevent myself from becoming desperate.  It's preventative maintenance!  When help is there I've learned to receive it, and to be okay with it...and have even started enjoying it....a lot!  And when it's not, I've learned to ask for it.  And it has made all the difference.

6.  Seasons come and seasons go.  Being a mom of two has found me less short sighted than I was before.  I realize that these moments of infancy (hard as they can be) are going to pass right before my eyes just like they did with my daughter- who I cannot believe will be 2 in a month and a half!  I'm learning to enjoy them as much as I can (though getting waken at 4am will probably never be entirely enjoyable...). 

5.  Saying no is a great thing.  During these early months of being the mother of a newborn, I've realized how limited that makes me at times.  Babies require a whole lot of time.  I've learned to say no and be okay with it.  I've put things on hold including ministry, outings, and at times church in order to keep myself focused and keep my energy poured into the things that really need it right now- namely two little ones.  There will be a time when I can pour into a lot of other things, but for now, it's time to just pour into them.   

4.  Pouring into them, means pouring into me!  I'm being deliberate about pouring into myself.  I am really drawing on strength from my husband to give me the encouragement I need when my love tank is running low.  After pouring into two kids all day, you need to find people, and things, that will pour back into you.  A quick shopping trip for some retail therapy.  A good conversation with a friend.  And most importantly, learning to carve out time just to be with Jesus.  I need His love, affirmation, and affection to be poured on me all day.  Otherwise, how would I have anything to pour out?

3.  Grace is a must.  If one child is a reminder of my inadequacies, two doubles that realization.  I make mistakes, lose my patience sometimes, and get overwhelmed.  But I have really learned to allow God's grace to be real in my life, each and every single day.  I've learned to let my weaknesses draw me even closer to Him, and to allow His strength to carry me through whatever lies before me.  He's been faithful.  And His grace limitless. 

2. Embrace your calling.  More than ever I am seeing my job as a mom as a real calling and ministry.  This is what God has called me to, and He has chosen me to care for these precious little ones.  Their personalities, quirks, and characteristics were formed specifically for me.  And I was made just for them.  There is something powerful about seeing your children in that light.  They are your "match made in heaven" and it's because only YOU could do for them what you are doing.  I claimed and believed that truth a lot the past few months.  And it's really changed my outlook.  They are my calling.  I am called to them to love them, nourish them, discipline, and direct them- and they are called to me, to refine me, challenge me, and to bring my life so much joy. 

1.  My life is full.  The other day someone said to me, "Debbie, your life is full".  My first thought was, I don't always feel that way caught in the moment of the 3rd diaper change in an hour, nap times, snacks, sippy cups, baby crying at 6am, more diapers, and then bed time.  The day is a whirlwind sometimes, and sometimes life sure doesn't feel full.  But I'm learning to see past the temporary, and to see beyond it into what God is doing in my life and in the lives of my children.  He is using me in ways I can't even fathom right now, and he's using them to bring joys, richness, and fullness into my life.  And they have brought that in so many ways.  I'm learning to see my role as a mom, but I'm also learning to see my role beyond it: as an encourager, a minister, a counselor, and a nurturer to my children- yet allowing those things to overflow into the lives of others around me.  God has bless me.  My life is full.  I'm learning to fix my eyes on the blessings of what I have, rather than that of what I want. 

So, to all the moms out there, be encouraged.  You are doing exactly what you were meant to do and have been equipped with everything you could possibly need to do it.  Right here. Right now.  No room for guilt, shame, or unrealistic expectations in God's sea of overwhelming grace.  Can I get an amen?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Reclaiming Identity: What's Your Measuring Stick?

I wrote an article for Relevant about 5 Things I Wish I'd Known About Dating, that flooded my inbox with reader emails.  It was awesome to see how many young people connected with the myths I had struggled with through my dating years.

But one thing in particular that kept coming up again and again in my emails was the question about Identity in Christ.  In the article, I briefly mentioned the idea that your beliefs about yourself have a great impact on the kind of person you will end up with, and how you must learn to change your beliefs about yourself and root your identity in Christ.

I don't think any Christian would disagree with this idea of finding our identity in Jesus...but what does that actually look like?  More than anything else, the emails I received were asking that same question. 

This isn't an easy topic, and I don't think one blog post has the ability to do it justice (though I am working on an entire chapter about this in my book...even then I think I could turn this single topic into an entire book series!).  But I want to take a moment to address two parts to what finding identity in Christ has meant in my personal life.

1. Acknowledging my measuring stick:  A few years ago a good friend of mine used this term "measuring stick" and it has stuck in my mind ever since.  What is your measuring stick?  What is it that you measure yourself against to determine your value, your purpose, and your worth?  Is it friendships?  The approval of your parents?  Relationship Status?  Is it your job, your grades, or your accomplishments?  Your athletic abilities, talents, or physical appearance?  There are so many things that we can measure ourselves by...and that we do measure ourselves by each and every single day whether we are aware of them or not.  

But the problem with rooting our identity in these things is that they come and they go.  Their presence in our lives is inconsistent and always changing.  When my identity is grounded in my relationships, what happens when those relationships change?  When it is in my appearance, how beautiful, skinny, and fit is enough?  When it is in my accomplishments, what happens when I fail? 

Life can be a roller coaster of emotions when these things are our gauge.  Our identity suffers instability and insecurities measured up against such volatile things. 

2.  A new set of standards: Each and every day I have to wake up and replace my old measuring stick with my new one.  Rather than constantly living for who I want to be, I have learned to fix my eyes onto who I already am...according to my identity in Christ.  The identity He has set for me.  The identity He has created while I was just in the womb (Psalm 139). 

I have to take the old beliefs and measure them up to these higher standards.  God's word is filled with truths about who we are in Him, and it takes a lot of practice to start believing those truths, especially when we've been believing lies our whole lives.  Here are just some of the truths that have really helped me:

1. I am God's child- John 1:12
2.  I am Christ's friend: John 15:15
3.  I am noticed: Psalm 139
4.  God has good plans for my life: Jeremiah 29:11
5.  I am forgiven: Ephesians 1:8
6.  God has chosen me: Colossians 3:12
7.  I have purpose: Psalm 138:8
8. I am God's creative expression: Ephesians 2:10
9. I belong to God: 1 Peter 2:9
10. I am loved: 1 John 3:1

This is truth.  This is the measuring stick upon which our lives should be set.  Scripture is filled with thoughts and ideas about who we are and what it means to place our identity in Christ for those who are seeking.  It takes hard work to reclaim our identities from the enemy.  For some, it's a daily struggle...

But we will live out the kind of life that we believe we deserve.  And according to God's word...by His grace and because of His mercy, we deserve a whole lot.  Exchange your measuring stick for His.  Reclaim your identity...Rooted in Christ...Founded in truth.