My MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group recently had a discussion on minimalism and it was one of the most engaged meetings we have had in a long time.
Well, thanks to Marie Kondo we now have The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up at our fingertips on Netflix. I still remember watching Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls driving herself into a frenzy deciding what “sparked joy” for her as her daughter Laurelai (Where my GG fans at?!) urged her to STOP tidying up and start focusing on some deeper issues.
Why do I stockpile things?
The truth is, I love to tidy up but I am not a tidy person. Yep, I said it. Maybe you resonate with this. Let me put it this way- I am a recovering hoarder/ messy girl. For MANY years I embraced my inner 7 enneagram before enneagram was a THING. I knew I was a creative, an adventurer, a procrastinator, and someone who worked best on the fly. That was me. Everything I worked in looked life a hot mess… but it was MY hot mess and I knew how to navigate it. How dare you move my paper pile before asking me… my letter to Congress was paper number five under the top three manila folders.
I will never forget the time I was outed. My boss needed to borrow the company car. And guess what was sitting right there in the cup holder.
An old banana peel…. DAYS old. Cringe. I think back and want to cry. But my twenty year old spirit didn’t know how to do the simple things with so many “big” things spinning in my mind. Like march that butt over to the trash and throw away my rotting banana peel.
I am now in my thirties with two kids of my own and I realize I have a deeper issue to confront. It is totally ok to be an adventurer and a creative, but I need to reverse some terrible habits I have accumulated. The biggest issue for me is not about what sparks joy, but how do I take care of what God has given me. Stewardship over happiness. Stewardship in time leads to joy. This isn’t all about me. Thanks be to God that He has given me so many great blessings. How do I care for these things?
Glory to God
In the midst of tidying up my home, I have turned to the Lord to help me find my flow. It is truly less about me finding more joy and more about me trusting God. Do I really need ten pairs of the same types of shoes to live a good and productive life? Um, no. Let’s donate some of those and think about other ways to spend my money on things that matter. Hint- I am clearly NOT a shoe girl. Purging my jackets has been a serious difficulty for me.
In the end, trusting God leads to me desiring to create a cozy and simple home for myself and my family. Trusting God allows me to wait patiently on Him to provide our needs rather than run to debt or crazy sales to get more. When I steward the things I have well I am not focused on accumulating more, I have plenty to take care of.
What is minimalism, anyways?
When asked what is minimalism, Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist says “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we value most and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
Wow. What a great idea. As a Christian, wouldn’t my promotion of my relationship with Christ be my number one motivation? Of course. So, minimalism has less to do with THINGS and more to do with the condition of my heart.
This thought is incredibly freeing when I decide to Marie Kondo my closet. In the end, this is a privilege and not a hindrance, and every Good and Perfect Gift comes from the Father above.
Where is true joy found?
20 We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.
To my messy, untidy friends on a journey of undoing habits like me: don’t give up. The Lord is where we find our ultimate hope, and every step towards stewardship of his belongings should bring us peace and joy. It is less in the things and more in Him.
” A song of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. “
I shall not want.
What a bold statement.
The gospel is like a salve to my soul. My wandering heart is prone to search for all types of things to fill the hole in my heart. Last week it was a new pair of cute black Nike’s with a rose gold swoosh that would match my little girl’s pair. Seriously. In all seriousness I spent a good two hours pondering that purchase and deciding if I should buy them.
They came in the mail and sure, they are super cute and comfy and replaced my year old shoes that were falling apart.
But what if I spent time with the Lord that intently and that excitedly? Daily?
It is almost embarrassing to bare my soul in this way and to admit that little things bring me such rush of excitement. A Starbucks latte and stroll through Target after a rough, late morning drop off at school. One hot yoga class on an afternoon that is normally full of chaos, naptimes, and homework.
The truth is, I fully recognize my humanness and also selfishness. It is when I do fully turn to the Lord, tune out the world and my little (and big) problems, and focus on God rather than myself that I DO NOT WANT the things of this world as much as the things of God.
When I sit down with God and allow him to comfort me with his goodness, I truly can rest in everything. In His timing, in His goodness, and even in my deepest fears, for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
On my own I will not lie down in rest. I will wrestle and struggle against myself and the world in an attempt to fill my needs with things that will never fill my deepest need.
Yet God restores my soul. It is when I spend time with my maker that he changes my desires. He fills my heart with my deepest longings of love, worthiness, comfort, peace, joy, and life. I do not wonder about what I am missing out on when my eyes are fixed on the abundance of what I have.
Thank you Lord for this passage. Thank you that you do truly lead me beside still waters even in the chaos of this life. Thank you that YOU alone restore my soul. There is nothing I could do with my own bare hands that could come close to how you care for me. Thank you for taking a selfish and unrighteous lover of the world like me and make me righteous.
Sometimes our endings are not what we expected but everything we had ever hoped for.
This past week I had the privilege to finish reading Genesis and the portion on Joseph. I was incredibly moved by the story and felt the need to really meditate on the verses and the implications for my life. As a mother, I often surrender my emotions to fear and worry. It is easy to fret over both the small fry stuff as well as the big things. For example, I worry over little things like dentist appointments and the fact my six year old has her first two cavities. Then there is the big stuff. When my mind GOES there to the dark places and quickly ponders what might happen if I got cancer, or my husband died early, or…
A brief summary on this passage in the bible, please don’t mind my quick delivery, I am no theologian, just a mom who loves to read/ listen to the bible- Joseph is Dad’s favorite… and his brothers don’t like it. He gets his beautiful gift of a coat from his Father and the brothers cannot stand it. They decide to get rid of him, so they pretend to kill him and play a cruel joke on their Dad and little brother by selling him off. Joseph then ends up a slave in a land far away, and experiences all kinds terrible things. He is wrongly accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into jail even when innocent. That alone would cause me deep panic. Still, he perseveres where he is and in his circumstances and manages to be a right hand to the prison guards, earning him respect as he then becomes an interpreter of dreams to the royals and eventually Pharaoh. The story ends with him having all the upper hands- he’s basically in power over the lands food supply and appointed an overseer- when he’s confronted with his childhood wound. His brothers pay a visit. (I don’t know about you- but nothing unnerves me like a familial wound from my childhood). And Joseph weeps. His heart longs for reconciliation with his Father AND his brothers. What? That’s a weird twist. What happened to revenge or payback? Bitterness over time? I mean, they sold him off when he was just a kid!
I always knew the story, but this time around it hit me particularly hard. I had always sensed some sort of pity for Joseph- poor guy, he got a bad lot. His mean brothers selling him off. Poor Joseph getting stuck in jail. Poor Joseph spending most of his adult life misunderstood, alone, often put in dreadful circumstances… definitely not getting easy way out.
How often do we do this in our lives? We take side glances at our peers and think those completely common yet poisonous thoughts… “If only I had their money…”, “If I was that beautiful…” or “If I had a husband that romantic…”. We compare and think we got the raw deal. I’ll be vulnerable to say that I struggle here. I look at the outside representation of other people’s lives and think they have it easier. It could be based off one instagram pic of a remodeled home, or a Facebook post of a couple in Tahiti. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for me to envy and assume friends of mine have it easier than I do. Cringe.
But God was at work in Joseph’s story.
This time, when the story concluded, I was in AWE of Joseph’s strength in God. He knew who he was (loved), where his meaning derived (the Lord), and he was strong enough to hold back and do the will of God. He extended mercy not as a sign of weakness but of intense and courageous love. He was bold in his requests and bold in his forgiveness. In all his trials he was not beat down. He was learning to lean on the Lord and his courage and faith grew. I’m always weary to make bible characters heroes because the truth is all “are sinners and fall short of the glory of God.” He wasn’t the hero. God was. But God used him mightily and he accepted, and what a beautiful picture of the Lord blessing him in his obedience with reconciliation, life and abundance and God getting the glory in it all. This story grips my heart. Who doesn’t love a story of redemption, with all the loose ends tied up?
19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
What does this mean for us? This redemption story is so rich with mercy, forgiveness, and love that it’s difficult not to be moved.
It is a good reminder for me not to skip ahead. I want the ending so bad. The happy reconciliation, the comfort, and the reward. What about the space between?
That is where I’m being molded by my Heavenly Father. It’s the pressure cooker. And I so often hate it and want to be removed. Oh those days of suffering and mourning.
+The time I lost my 19 week baby due to an unknown infection.
+The friends I’ve lost and never understood why.
+They failures of never seeing the fruition of my hard work in a business.
+The feeling of not being sure if I’m doing anything meaningful with my life day to day.
+The terrible words spoken over me in my past.
+The divorce I didn’t expect in my early twenties.
Heartache will continue to make it’s visit in my heart and my only hope is that I’ll trust my redeemer in those dark moments that he’s up to something good in the big picture.
Reading this story has given me hope to endure my trials and to think differently on them. It doesn’t make hard times any easier and definitely doesn’t remove them.
I can only pray that my faith would move me to a place where I can truly say in the hardest of times, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for my good.”
I have decided to undergo writing about something very foreign to myself.
Much of the time I feel like a teeny, tiny, scared little wimp hiding in the corner. That has been my M.O. for most of my life. Never the first one to cliff dive or try a new trick on the trampoline, I would describe myself as cautious, careful, calculated, and concerned. All these C’s add up to one big unCool.
Lately, something has been stirring inside me to write about my failures.
Largely, because bravery is something I have been churning around in my head a lot these days. My kids need to see me be brave if they are ever going to try and be brave themselves. These beautiful children I am raising are such a huge motivation. I want them to try new things, take adventures and risks, and live life fully. But the hardest part is knowing I must model it for them.
Boy, have I failed.
Not like years ago, this year. Not small, but huge. My checkered past includes so many things I won’t go in to in depth, but let me just say, I have made some giant mistakes.
Take for instance, this space you are reading. My blog. My very heart and soul. Seven years I started this space. It was something I loved. But along the way it became something I hated. Soon I found myself on social media way too much, consumed by what people thought of me, and curating my life for everyone BUT my God and family. I had to quit, and quit for a long while. I had lost a sense of myself and why I started writing to begin with. I failed.
Then, along the way, I got pregnant with a second child.
I lost that sweet baby. And while deep in my gut I know it wasn’t my fault, everything in my post-partum grieving process told me it WAS my failure to bear.
Next, I started a small business. Without going into too much detail, I spent two years pouring my heart and soul into it to realize it was not my true passion. Once again, I had failed.
But do you know what is crazy?
While I keep failing, I sense something stirring in my heart that is wild, beautiful, and wonderful. I may fail, but the love of my Lord and his strength never fails. This year, in particular, He has set before me new and incredible opportunities in ministry I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams. Closed doors have given me and my life space for new open doors, leading me down pathways that completely and perfectly align with my talents, gifts, and desires.
My failures have 100% set me up for something new I am confronting: bravery.
Seven years ago I would have NEVER written this post.
Four years ago I would have NEVER known how precious and fragile life is and how I MUST fight for the dreams of my family and the will of God in my life.
And two years ago, I would have been too frazzled and stressed out to realize what I really wanted for my life, or, what God wants for my life and what I have been wired for.
My failures have given me something precious: vision, direction, perseverance, and dare I say, the desire for bravery.
Bravery, to me, doesn’t look like much more than a person willing to do something even though they are terrified. As an adult, and a perfectionist, how often do I put myself in that situation anymore? I can tell you, almost never, unless I am forced to.
Yet, I ask my kids every day to do something they are terrified to do but must in bravery. Getting a vaccine, for example. Making a new friend at school. Getting up in front of the class to do a speech.
My failures in my adulthood have been some of the greatest blessings I could have EVER asked for.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in all you do, and he will give you success.
Tonight I was laying in bed thinking about something that had nagged at my heart for years. Recently my little girl turned seven. Seven was a big leap for us. She actually opened her presents at her birthday party with grace and patience telling each person thank you. Normally she bursts into our home ready to play games with me. This time, she went home and put them away and asked to play with her friend Zoe online.
I felt Mom guilt for not enjoying playing in the traditional sense…
Which brings me to tonight, reminiscing all those sweet days when day after day, hour after hour I heard those little words, “Mom, come play with me!!”. For her it was always My Little Pony or Barbie, and she never wanted to play really, more like order me around about pretend this or pretend that. But here’s the thing. I never really loved to sit down and play with her. Stick with me here before you think I’m a mean mom or a mom trying to lay the guilt on myself. I had to set timers for 15 minutes to sit still and play. I can’t explain it. I’ll never forget one day another mom I knew confessed to me she spent the whole day playing Legos with her son. I remember her saying she “got lost in the fun”. To be honest I was a little weirded out, then, yep, guilty. When was the last time I got lost in the fun of Legos with myyyyy kid?
How my mindset shifted…
But that’s ok and that’s where my mindset has shifted.
Because I can think of MANY times I’ve got lost in the fun with her baking. Or at the park. Or watching her piddle around the house. I can think of times reading her books and tearing up and times holding her little body at the doctor’s office and wanting SO bad to switch bodies for the day. I can think of moments I felt so proud my heart would jump out of my chest and moments I felt so much love I wanted to yell!
I’ve also had moments where I wanted to flee my home in the middle of tantrums. Moments when the dark closet looked like a better spot than standing in front of the piles of dishes from lunch. Or moments when I swore that if those clothes didn’t get picked up in five minutes I was bagging them up for Goodwill! I’ve yelled, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve disciplined wrong, I’ve wished for redo’s.
“I’m the person who brought her into this world, protected her and nourished her and kept her safe the first years, and am preparing her for adulthood. Every moment we’ve had is a storybook, a journey, this unfolding thing that is both terrifying at times and glorious.”
Recently, my daughter has started asking me how old I am. Why I’m getting wrinkles. What would happen if I died. I wondered about these things when it dawned on me. I’m her MOM. She’s my daughter. This is something profound. Something so simple and clear but something so mysterious and wild I cannot wrap my head around it. She doesn’t want me to die because I cannot be replaced. I’m the person who brought her into this world, protected her and nourished her and kept her safe the first years, and am preparing her for adulthood. Every moment we’ve had is a storybook, a journey, this unfolding thing that is both terrifying at times and glorious.
Through it all, and by God’s grace, I’ve come to realize God appointed ME to raise my kids. Not because I’m great or perfect. Not someone else better at playing Legos with five year olds. Me! With all my quirks and shortcomings and failures, me with all my love for adventure souch I struggle to stick with anything, busyness, and fear of missing out (FOMO for those of you who don’t know). Recovering helicopter mom, hot mess mom, lady who breastfeeds until my kids say “boobies”, Mom who never got her kids to sleep in their cribs until 18 months- ME! Mom with the temper who says the SH+& word here and there. Mom with occasional anxiety. Mom who sometimes stress eats. Yep, all of that. They adore their Mom and I freaking adore them.
To give myself a little credit here, I am pretty great at some things. Like I am decent at making sure these kids see the sunlight often, I could spend days and days playing with them at the museum or library, and nothing in the worlds beats a Saturday morning cuddle session with these girls for me. I make homemade pancakes sometimes and even have fun sandwich cutouts. And I actually love play-doh and slime. That’s fun stuff. One of my favorite things is reading to my kids. I could get lost in that.
“You are enough. Because God is enough.”
But that isn’t the point of this post. The point is that I want to encourage other moms like me that your gifts, your lacking, and your entire makeup is exactly what God had in mind when he picked you to be the mother of your children. You are enough. Because God is enough.
I’ll use some scripture to back up my post:
Psalm 139: 13-17
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand'” (1 Chronicles 29:14)
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).
God sees our unborn before we do, he knows them, knits them, gives them a plan, generously gives us our babies and the life in them, choses us, works out our lives, and gives us so much hope. It is glorious. I could go on and on right here even on the faith of our children, but that’s for another post.
What I’m trying to say is as a new mom I was ready to rock the Mom Life. I read books and blogs and articles and compared myself to other mom’s way more than I studied the above scriptures for motherhood. God used some dark times in my life to illuminate his goodness and sovereignty over my life… the loss of a baby, anxiety, and the grip of letting go of control.
“I felt compassion and a sense of belonging with and for other moms, not jealousy. Suddenly I was able to see myself in a more honest light.”
When I was able to let go and trust God, I stopped comparing as much. I looked vertically more than horizontally, at God more than my peers. I felt compassion and a sense of belonging with and for other moms, not jealousy. Suddenly I was able to see myself in a more honest light. In earnest I apologized a lot more to my kids and meant it. And most importantly, I felt less guilty about what I wasn’t doing and more joy about what I GOT to do. I finally could see what a gift this is, how God is enough to supply my needs as a parent to my children, and that when I fail he is sanctifying me for the benefit of my relationship with Christ and with my kids.
Parenting is not just something we do, not just a position to hit out of the park.
It’s a relationship. One that goes beyond the office hours and one that cannot and shouldn’t be marked only with accolades and stars.
I love my kids with all my heart. Yet I’m incredibly limited in my energy, thoughts, and abilities. It’s humbling and hopeful to remember that God has put me in this privileged role… he’s showing me the path to do this. The same God who ran to his beloved prodigal son, the God who is not lacking energy, thoughts, or affections, that God is my Father, and the Father of my children. If that doesn’t spring up great encouragement for me as a Mom I don’t know what will!
Mom’s, today be encouraged that in Christ you are enough, the perfect parent for your children, and exactly who God intended to raise them. Let the guilt go and let God fill you with joy and encouragement. You’ve got this because He’s got this!!
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139:17
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127:3-5
“We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19