Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Disheveled December?

Sad looking Christmas tree

“Well, I’m looking at our Christmas tree, which already looks disheveled, and I’m thinking that’s how I feel.”  This text came to me last week from an overworked, overwhelmed mother of 4 young kids whose 15-month-old had HFMD (hand, foot, and mouth disease—ugh!) and whose pastor-husband is extra-busy all month and who has absolutely no family or support system living nearby. It happened to be from my daughter Erika. But, with a few slight changes in detail, I’m thinking it could have come from many of you.

Feeling disheveled? Done in by December? Ricocheting between the joys of the season and a dull aching exhaustion that doesn’t want to admit this but wishes it were already over? You are not alone. I am sure of that. I have heard it from many moms (and dads!). And I see it on weary faces everywhere I go. December is a killer.

And I think it is all the harder for those of us who really love Christmas. I know, because I am one of these. Every year I looked forward with delight to December. The fun. The parties. Choosing just the right gift for each precious one I love. Celebrating Advent. Getting (and sending? Well. Maybe.) cards from long-lost friends. The music. Oh, how I love the music! I even love the baking. Let me correct that: I loved the thought of baking. Until I actually did it. You know, the never-ending cut out Christmas cookies you do with your kids? The kind that spread frosting all over your family and dust the entire kitchen with a fine layer of flour and colored sugar? We did it every year. Some mamas never learn . . .

It all felt great in anticipation. And then I turned the calendar. Yikes! It was already full before I started adding Christmas. That’s when it hit me. There really ought to be a moratorium during December on normal things—you know, everyday life for moms. No annual physicals or dental check-ups or school conferences or PTA meetings or… Come to think of it, why do we have to keep doing laundry and dishes and meals during December? But there is no moratorium. Even though my kids occasionally ate Christmas cookies for dinner, basically normal life just kept on. Even though I wanted to do all those other fun things.

December. Truly my favorite time of the year. And also the most exhausting. And maybe the most dangerous. Dangerous because we can so easily miss the moments in front of us because we are drowning in to-do lists and distracted by disillusionment. We had pictured it so differently. The tree was so magical just a few days—or weeks—ago. And the planning so careful. We wanted to not miss Christmas this year. But sick kids and broken appliances and extra work schedules and complicated family. Those weren’t in our pictures.

And so it is that once again, an Ann Voskamp quote comes to mind:

“In the thin air of Advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it would be easier.’ And your God comes near: ‘I will provide the way.’ You may not even know who to tell: ‘I thought it would be different.’ And your God draws close: ‘I will provide grace for the gaps.’ You may not even know how to find words for it: ‘I thought I would be . . . more.’ And your God reaches out: ‘I will provide Me.’ (The Greatest Gift, p. 60)

There it is. The Gift. The Grace. GOD. What we truly celebrate in December. He came. He comes. He provided—and provides—grace for the gaps. We know that in our heads. But here is my December prayer for every one of you: May you know this in your hearts. No matter how disheveled you feel. No matter how disappointed you are. No matter what you didn’t get done on your endless lists.  Nothing keeps Him from coming. It’s just that He came so quietly that not many noticed. Except what Brennan Manning has called the “shipwrecked at the stable.” I want to be one of those. You too?

The Gift of Time

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about time.  For one thing, where has the summer gone?  Can it really be August?

And then there’s the Olympics.  Are you as fascinated by the incredible feats of those marvelous athletes as I am?  Think of the time—hours and days, months and years—these men and women have put in prior to that one race in the pool, that one gymnastics routine.  And then it is all decided in moments—seconds, actually.  How many medals have been lost to another competitor by one hundredth of a second?

But most of all this summer I’ve been thinking of the gift of time.  Specifically, the gift of more time with two of my grandchildren than I’ve ever had before.  Erika and Richie and their 3 ½-year-old Gabriella and 11-month-old Judah lived with us for 6 ½ weeks from mid-June through July.  What a gift that was!

It gave me opportunity to enjoy everyday moments with them.   Not just family outings, carnival rides, exploratory walks, or a dip in the lake.  Not just summer fun riding horseback at the Children’s Museum, splashing in the little backyard pool, and making 4th of July Little Cheesecakes.  But also just watching.  Watching Judah learn to crawl, build with with blocks, or play who-gets-the-spoon over breakfast.  Watching Gabriella feed her mom’s old Teddy Ruxpin, goof around over breakfast—or just wake up in the morning with all her friends.   Moments in time.  Memories made.

I savored every one of these memories.  Nanas get to do that.  There’s not so much time the first time around, when you’re raising your own little ones.  But it did make  me think of all of you.  Every one of you moms for whom summer may be flying by—or feeling like forever.  Every one of you Nanas who may be enjoying similar moments with your grandchildren.

Wherever this summer may find you—savoring or maybe just merely “surviving” (there are all these different moments in a mom’s life, aren’t there?)—I pray that you may take just a few moments to look at the faces before you.  Like Emily in the play Our Town, look at them like you really see them.   And now and then in your busy life, pause and take a snapshot—with a camera, or even with just your memory.  A moment in time.  A gift.  Thank you, God, for the gift of time.

Welcome to a new grandson

He’s here!   Praise God with us for a new grandson!  Judah Anderson Cronin was born in Dublin, Ireland, at 12:33 am on Saturday August 27, just 33 minutes into his due date.  Mommy, Daddy, and big sister Gabriella are doing well.  And Nana is loving getting acquainted with Judah as well as playing with Gigi (Gabriella’s nickname)  while mommy is busy with the new baby. His name means “I will praise the Lord,” and that’s just what we’re doing.  Please join us!


A Summer Treat: Bittersweet

Here’s a book to pack in your beach bag—or just curl up with at home when your kids are napping.  Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way,  by Shauna Niequist.   It’s a great “snatch book,” as each chapter stands alone (almost like a blog post), so you can savor it bit by bit as you have time.

I loved Shauna’s previous book, Cold Tangerines.   But this one is even better.  Maybe it’s simply because she has lived longer.  Shauna writes out of her life.  And Bittersweet is written out of a season in her life that has been just that.  A time of growth and accomplishment and fulfillment as a woman, a wife, a writer, and now a mother.  But also a time of great change, deep loss, and bitter disappointment.

How do we make sense of such a life?  It’s an important question to ask, because we will all live in such a season—if not now, then sooner or later.  When Shauna writes of finding grace and forgiveness and healing and hope—even joy—amidst hardness and heartache and barrenness, her voice rings true.

The book is also—trust me—a fun read.  The cover alone will get you.  Check it out and you’ll see what I mean.  When I gave the book to my daughter, her two year-old went for it immediately, exclaiming, “Mmmmm!  Chocolate!”  (A girl after my own heart, that child!)  You foodies will love how Shauna describes her journey in terms of memorable meals.  She loves to cook as much as she loves to write, and this is a delicious read.

But the book is more than that.  All mothers will identify with Shauna’s reflections on motherhood.  There’s such joy when she writes about her son, Henry.  And such wisdom in her call for community with other moms, rather than comparison and competition.  And her pleas for older, wiser experienced moms in her life. Of course, you know what I was thinking: “That’s just why we have Mom to Mom!”

On a personal level, I was deeply moved by the chapters dealing with miscarriage and infertility and loss: “Heartbeat,” What Might Have Been,” and “On Crying in the Bathroom.”  Having personally experienced the same kind of miscarriage Shauna had, it was “déjà vu” for me.  But it is important reading for all mothers—not only for those who have experienced loss, but also for those who want to walk well alongside another on this journey.

On a very practical level, the chapter “Things I Don’t Do” is worth the price of the book.  Shauna’s cure for the “Do Everything Better” syndrome is must-reading for every one of us recovering-perfectionist moms!

Ultimately, Bittersweet points readers to God.  As Shauna puts it:”My life is a story about God and what He does in a human heart.” (p. 240)   It’s a story worth reading!

You Gotta Keep Laughin’!

women laughing together

I recently returned from a trip to Michigan in which I met lots of moms – moms from three different Mom to Mom groups.  Some were young moms with their first new baby; others had a houseful of toddlers and preschoolers. Some were celebrating their kids going back to school, others bemoaning kids who’d left for college.  Yet others were mentor moms comparing notes (and pictures, of course!) about grandchildren.   We all had one thing in common.  Actually, we all had a lot in common.  But one thing that struck me particularly was that we all so desperately need to keep laughing!

I was speaking on the topic “Can You Really Love Your Kids and Your Life—at the Same Time?”  As I looked out on these audiences of moms, two things were obvious: First, these moms really love their kids.  They really, really do.  But also, these moms desperately need to be able to laugh with other moms about the daily “mission impossible” challenges of being a mom.  Sometimes it’s a matter of survival.  At the very least, it makes being a mom more fun.

As I talked with moms after each session, we found ourselves laughing a lot.  Not that we didn’t have serious conversations.  Some very heavy things were shared, and I find myself still praying for some of the moms I met.  But I also noticed how crucial it was for these moms to hold on to their sense of humor.

There was the one mom who came half an hour early for our Mom to Mom Dessert Night because it just felt so good to get out of the house and let her husband put the kids to bed.  She wasn’t in any hurry to leave, either, when the party was over.  Even though she spent a good bit of her time showing me pictures of her two adorable little girls.  🙂   And there was the mom who told me “Hey, we’re doing pretty well even though my kids are so close together in age.  I haven’t put any up on Craig’s List yet!”   Laughter really is one of the best medicines for a mom.

All this reminded me of an older woman I knew many years ago who influenced me more than she ever knew.    She was the woman I wanted to be when I grew up.  An older woman in our church that most people called Grammy Perkins,  she was one of the funniest—and Godliest—women I ever knew.  And that, I must say, is one fantastic combination!

She led the Tuesday morning women’s prayer group at our church.  And what mighty prayer warriors those women were!  I remember my dad often commenting that it was the prayers of those women that got him through the completion of a manuscript he was writing on the Old Testament—and even got it published with a big-name publisher.

Grammy Perkins was also one spunky lady.  One of the best stories I heard about her was how she got her driver’s license.  As an older woman (I don’t know how old she was.  She seemed very old to me—but then I was in fifth grade at the time!),  she had never learned to drive.  She kept telling her husband she was going to learn. “Oh, Julia,” he’s say.  “You know you’re never going to do that at your age.  In fact if you got your license, I would buy you any car you want.”  That was all Julia needed. Out she went and enrolled in driver training classes—right along with all those teenagers.  And, unbeknownst to her husband, she got her license.  Then one night he came home for dinner to find her brand new license hanging from the chandelier  in the dining room—along with a note on the kind of car she wanted.  And she got it!

But what I remember most about her was a little prayer she said she often had to pray: “Lord, fix me up, Lord, fix me up.”

Oh, how often I need to pray that prayer.  “Lord, fix me up, Lord fix me up.”  As a young mom with small children, as a mother of teens, even now as a grandmother.  It’s a prayer I need regularly.  And I notice, along with wonderful Grammy Perkins, that one of the ways God works in me, one of the way He fixes me up, is through laughter.  Truly, it is good medicine.  Often, it is God’s medicine.

I believe it was Charles Swindoll who said, “Of all the things God created, I am often most grateful He created laughter.”  I think Grammy Perkins would agree.  Especially for moms.

Praying and laughing—perhaps the two most crucial ingredients for a mom.  My prayer for you is that  you’re doing lots of  both!

SuperMom vs. Truly Having It All

Recently, I was asked to speak on the topic “The Myth of the SuperMom.”  My first reaction was: the title says it all—SuperMom is a myth.

SuperMom simply doesn’t exist.  Not in real life, anyway.  SuperMom is a figment of our mom-imaginations.  She is the mom everyone else seems to be—and the mom we can’t seem to measure up to.  The imaginary mom we come up with when we compare our inside (how we feel about ourselves as moms) with everyone else’s outside (the “successful” moms we see all around us).

But this is a very persistent myth.  Years ago, Erma Bombeck wrote about “Sharon,” the SuperMom.  Sharon not only “color-coordinated the children’s clothes and put them in labeled drawers, laundered aluminum foil and used it again, planned family reunions, wrote her congressman, cut everyone’s hair, and knew her health insurance number by heart”; she also “planned a theme party for the dog’s birthday, made her children Halloween costumes out of old grocery bags . . . and put a basketball hoop over the clothes hamper as an incentive for good habits.”

The problem was, as Bombeck discovered long ago, everyone considered Sharon a SuperMom except her kids.  They preferred hanging out at a neighbor’s house.

SuperMom, it turns out, would not really be that great a mom after all—even if she really did exist.  Why?  Because real kids do not need a SuperMom.

They do not need a SuperMom because, first of all, SuperMom is FakeMom—a mom who is trying to impress everyone within viewing distance that she has it all together—and so do her kids.  The real story tends to be very different.  The real inside-the-house story.  Just ask her kids.

Why?  Because SuperMom is trying to do so many things, accomplish so much, fit so many things into her schedule, that she often misses the most important things.  The things—or rather the people, the husband and kids—right in front of her.

In addition, SuperMom tends to do way too much for her kids—to give them too much, to protect them too much, to hover too much.  At the same time she tends to expect too much from her kids just as she does from herself.  After all, a SuperMom must have SuperKids, right?  Talk about pressure!

Furthermore, even if SuperMom were the real thing, she wouldn’t be much good at preparing her kids for real life.  The real life where we can’t do it all, be it all, have it all.  The real life most of us live.

No, your kids do not need SuperMom.  They need RealMom.  They need a real, authentic mom who acknowledges her human-ness, her limitations, even her mess-ups.  She is willing to apologize when needed, to live within healthy boundaries, and to learn along with her children.  RealMom laughs a lot more than SuperMom.

Most importantly, she is willing to acknowledge that she doesn’t “have it all.”  But she knows where to go to get what she needs.  No, she doesn’t have all wisdom, all strength, all patience, all knowledge.  But she knows the One who does have all these things.  The One Who promises to be strength in our weakness, wisdom in our confusion, and patience when ours has long ago run out.

Recently, I came across a verse that jumped out at me in a new way as a great mom-verse.  It’s 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (italics mine)

It’s a totally different perspective on “having it all,” isn’t it?  God doesn’t expect us to be SuperMom.  He already knows we’re not.  And He loves us anyway.  Not only does He love us; but He provides for us “all we need”—all grace at all times for all things.  That’s a promise I can live on.

And what’s more, so can my kids.  They learned long ago that they didn’t have SuperMom.  It wasn’t just the magnet on the refrigerator: “So I’m not SuperMom. Adjust.”   They knew it in everyday life.  But I like to think it was good preparation for their life as not SuperParents.  Now, I must say how grateful I am that my kids are such good parents.  But I hope they don’t expect themselves to be SuperParents.

Being real parents—real moms and real dads—turns out to be so much more fun.  You know you will make mistakes, but you also know that God—and kids—are very forgiving.  You know you don’t “have it all.”  But you know where to go to get all you need.  Very freeing, actually.  Much more fun.  Better for your kids.  And you laugh a whole lot more, don’t you think?

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