Turning Around a Bad Start to the Day

This morning arrived with a stuffy nose and a pounding head ache. I’ve been suffering through recovering from a head cold for a few days now, and I’m still not quite sure if I’m over the hump yet.

In another life (one without responsibilities, ha) I would have just stayed in bed.

Sometimes I just have an “off” day, whether due to lack of sleep or getting over a cold. It can be easy to just go with that frame of mind, and let the whole day spiral down into a vortex of gloom.

But I usually find that with a bit of self-awareness and some little changes, I can nip that bad mood in the bud and turn the day around. Here’s what I do:

  1. Light a scented candle. My favourite is Watermelon Lemonade. I don’t have any of these at the moment, but I do have a box of supplies waiting to be made into candles! (Anyone want to join me? I keep procrastinating from this task…)
  2. Put on some uplifting music. Lately I have been really enjoying the album “Mighty” by Beckah Shae. Her music is so upbeat, her lyrics are Bible-based and she has seriously good hair:
  3. Write my thoughts out to God in my prayer journal. Ask for His joy and peace.
  4. Go outside and sit in the sun. This is especially lovely now as it is winter here. The birds are out, the air is crisp and the sun on my back is delightful!
  5. Run around or wrestle with the kids. Their little giggles are infectious!
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  6. Do some colouring in – I like to colour in Bible verse pages and then hang them around the house.
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  7. Have a cup of coffee. I like to have my coffee first thing, before anyone else wakes up, while I read my Bible. Some mornings (like today) I press the snooze button so I don’t have time for my coffee before school drop off. So when I do get to have my coffee, I try to take the time to really savour it. Something about coffee just makes the whole day go better.
  8. Do something productive. Could be making something simple or tidying a long-overlooked area of the house. But I find getting one productive thing done at the start of the day can make me feel good about my acheivement and have a cascade effect on the rest of the day.

These ideas are quite simplistic, but they work for me (most of the time). How to you turn a bad mood around?

The Danger of Discipline

As the middle of the year draws closer, I’ve been reflecting on my goals and my focus for the year. This year I decided to make goals with a focus on one “theme word” – discipline.

And it has turned out to be a highly relevant word for me this year.

When each of my babies have turned one, I’ve found life enters a new stage. A more predictable, rhythmic stage.

The other day I got house work done for about 20 minutes while T crawled around the house, finding things to play with.

That is quite a feat, let me tell you! And it’s quite different to the newborn stage, where you can’t really put them down and every minute is sucked into a vortex of activity.

I mean, a mobile baby brings a different kind of busy. I’m cleaning up more messes, for example.

The other day I sent my husband this picture (of his side of the bed), with the message “This was the cost of doing the dishes today”:

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Mmm, tasty bin tissues – good for the immune system, right?

(I did then clean it up, but I often like to share little things from my day with my husband while he is at work – the good, the bad and the hilarious!)

But as I enter this season of having a baby who is more able to entertain himself for little chunks of time, it is a season that requires greater discipline because there is a temptation to slack off.

And what I am finding as I work to apply discipline across the various areas of my life is that discipline breeds discipline. It is addictive.

I guess you could call it “habit-forming”, which in the early stages requires repetition and consistency.

I’m particularly enjoying the fruits of applying discipline to my eating habits and exercise. The result is that I have more energy, I feel good and I am actually looking forward to exercising.

Some days I have to push myself to make it happen, or pull myself away from bad food choices (that’s the discipline part). But most days, it’s not a hard choice. The more I eat healthy food, the more my body craves it. The more I exercise, the more my body wants to move.

I find this to be the case across the other areas of my life where I am becoming more disciplined as well.

But then the thoughts start to creep in… “Hey, I’m really nailing this!”, “Wow, I’m really good at this discipline thing!” or the more subtle, “My hard work is starting to pay off.”

The problem with these thoughts is that they are rooted in pride.

The more my thoughts turn towards how well I am doing, the more they turn away from how dependent I am on God’s grace.

You might think, “Well, if you’re doing well on your own, why can’t you acknowledge that? Maybe that means you aren’t dependent on God’s grace?”

And that might be true for a while. I might have a good run in being disciplined and making good choices, and seeing results, but ultimately my own strength and personal resolve will fail.

It would be like saying, “Wow, that’s a beautiful rose! It’s doing such a great job of growing and looking lovely!” while ignoring the whole bush, roots, soil and sun that all worked to make the rose beautiful.

My dependence on God is the reality. My personal discipline is the result.

To believe that I can get the result of discipline without the reality that I am dependent on God is to believe a lie.

Ultimately, this is the danger of discipline – that we set up good habits for ourselves and it fools us into thinking that we can achieve anything in our own strength, that we are pretty good people and we don’t really need God.

Colossians 2:20-23 warns about these dangers:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 

I am speaking here about self-discipline, of course. But I think this also applies to disciplining our kids.

Of course kids need to be taught obedience and morals.

But we need to be so careful that in teaching them to do what is right and flee from what is wrong, we don’t set them up to pridefully think they are good people.

I was raised in a loving Christian family, and I was taught how to obey God from a very young age. But unfortunately, this also grew a heart of pride in me.

Even when I copped grief from other kids at school and I didn’t quite fit in, I held onto this attitude that at least I was doing the right thing.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s good to love doing what is right!

Psalm 119:97 says:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

But following God’s law won’t save you.

And when I was a child, I never really had a sense that I needed to be saved. I knew the rules. I followed the rules. And I thought that made everything okay.

(I mean, I knew Jesus had saved me – I just didn’t think I really needed it.)

It wasn’t until some events in my late teens that I truly realised how much I needed grace, and that I really couldn’t make it to heaven on my own (I might tell you the long story of that another day!).

This is an ongoing struggle for me. The struggle of falling back into rule-following and a prideful heart.

So even as I pursue greater discipline in my life, I need to be ever-mindful that it is only through God’s grace that I can make lasting changes. And it is only through God’s grace that I am saved.

It’s a change in posture from a standing tall, “you go girl” kind of self-discipline to a kneeling down, “God, please change my heart” kind of self-discipline.

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Our olive harvest the other day.

 

 

 

Should We Think of Motherhood as a Career?

Whenever I meet new people, the question is inevitably asked: “Do you work?”

I usually answer, with a grin, “Yes, I work a lot, I just don’t get paid.”

Now, there’s no hint of resentment there – the Lord provides for our family abundantly through my husband’s income. But I answer this way because I often think of my role as a mother as my career. This is my job, and I think it’s the best job in the world.

But recently I’ve been quietly self-critiquing this concept of motherhood as career. The way we think and talk about things matters, so I’ve been trying to figure out whether thinking about motherhood as a job does more harm or good – to my relationship with the kids, to my motivation levels and to how others perceive motherhood (especially younger women).

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The benefits of viewing motherhood as a career:

  • It helps me to spend my time during the day more wisely and productively. In fact, just recently, I confided in my husband that I felt one of the main reasons I was feeling so overwhelmed was that I was spending too much of my time on social media during the day, which meant that the important things weren’t getting done. In order to change this, I proposed that I implement a “work hours” policy, where I don’t use social media during specific hours of the day, and I asked his advice on what these hours should be (because, let’s face it, mothers often have demands on our time for all of our waking hours – and even some of the sleeping ones). He said 9-5 would be reasonable, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do since then – thinking of myself as being “at work” from 9-5, and not allow myself to slack off from the job.
  • It leads me to be more serious and intentional about motherhood. I make plans and I try to take advantage of the teachable moments with my kids. I realise that I am “it”, and I’m not waiting around for someone else to come and teach them all the stuff they need to successfully get to adulthood. This is the “thing” I do with my time, so I need to do it well. I guess the opposite of this would be if I just saw my kids as people who happen to be in my life now, and each moment passes by accidentally, with much thought or consideration. Or worse, if I just viewed motherhood as something to get through or something that is a hindrance to my “real life”. Thinking of motherhood as my career leaves no doubt in my mind about where my efforts should be directed.
  • It helps me to feel more valuable and appreciated for my contribution. If we can think and speak about motherhood in the language of career, it helps us to feel like we are doing something worthwhile with our time. Sometimes I have referred to my husband as the Chief Executive Officer of our family, and myself as the Chief Operations Officer.

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The drawbacks of viewing motherhood as a career:

  • The flip side of that last point is that this view of motherhood as a “job” or “work” comes from a capitalist system where people are valued based on their economic contribution to society. So there is a pressure on Stay at Home Mums to justify their existence in economic terms, or else risk being labelled a “drain on society” (as this recent OECD study said). When we talk about motherhood as a career, we are playing into this kind of thinking that people are only as important as the money they make (or save) and what they “do” for a living. This thinking is contrary to the Christian perspective, which says that people are valuable because they are image-bearers of God, not because of anything they do.
  • Another problem is that viewing motherhood in terms of a job often leads to a focus on fairness, rather than the service and selflessness that should characterise the Christian woman’s life. Let’s face it – there is so much about motherhood that is unfair. We often don’t get to go to the toilet alone or when we want to. We share our meals, or eat them cold. We have less time to devote to our own interests. And on it goes… Looking at it purely through an investment/return paradigm, we might be tempted to grow bitter about how much we “give up” for our kids, compared to how little we get back (at least in the short term). We can also be tempted to compare our “work day” with our husbands and think about how much longer and demanding our hours are (depending on what he does, of course – my husband has informed me that he too is frequently unable to go to the toilet when he wants to and often has to work through his lunch break!). Constantly thinking about whether something is “fair” or not is a sure fire way to lead to resentment or stinginess. Because even if things are fair, by your approximation, needing to vigilantly watch out for fairness will mean even what you do give is tightly meted out, being careful not to give or do too much, lest you tip the scales into “unfairness”.
  • When I think of my role as mother as my career, it can lead me to measure my success or failure based on things like how much I get done or whether I complete my to-do list. I’ve fallen into this trap before – going from elation when I get lots done to despair and overwhelm when I don’t. But then I realised that much of the work of motherhood is not measurable with pen and paper (or even Excel spreadsheets!). How do you quantify an hour spent in the sunshine, rolling around in the grass with three little munchkins? Even a note added to my list and checked off after the event – “play with kids” – seems hopelessly inadequate at capturing all that was achieved in that hour – the smiles shared, the fleeting embraces, the close examining of the leaves, the time spent watching a beetle, the discussion about why God made the trees. Some of my best “mum days” have been absolute failures according to my to-do list!

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How should we think of motherhood?

As I’ve thought through the points above, it’s become clear to me that I need to stop thinking of and referring to motherhood as my career.

Sure, I should take it seriously and be intentional about it, but I think using the language of jobs and career does more damage here than good.

So how does the Bible view mothers and motherhood?

 

Motherhood is fruitfulness:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” Genesis 1:28

 

Motherhood is hard:

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

 

Motherhood is a position of honour:

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

 

The happiness of a mother is caught up in the character of her children:

A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” Proverbs 10:1

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
    he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad;
    let her who bore you rejoice.” Proverbs 23:24-25

 

The mother/child relationship is secondary to the Christian’s love for Jesus:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37

 

Mothers are gentle and caring:

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

 

Motherhood is ministry:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6: 6-7

 

Motherhood is a conduit of love:

 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” Titus 2:3-4

 

“Mother” is not my job title.

To call motherhood my career would only diminish what it is that I do.

It goes beyond the 9-5 and it is more than any list of tasks I can achieve.

It’s who I am. It’s why I was put on this earth. It is my calling and my passion and my joy to raise these little ones to know and love Jesus.

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Red – an Easter poem

I wrote this poem in 2008 at our church’s Tenebrae service as I reflected on the Bible readings about what Jesus endured on the cross and what that meant for me. I hope it is a blessing to you as you reflect on these things this Easter.


 

Red was the blood

that flowed

through his veins –

flesh and bone,

God and Spirit.

 

Red was the blood

that dripped from

his head – droplets

of anguish and

anticipated agony.

 

Red was the blood

that splattered ‘cross

his back after

endless lashings.

 

Red was the blood

that trickled down

his face,

past eyes that

saw the world

and loved.

 

Red was the blood

that poured from his side,

punctuating the torment and

darkening the sky.

 

Red was the blood

that spilled from hands and feet

as, with Life’s

last breath,

they pushed and strained

for air.

 

Red was the blood

on the hands

of soldiers –

naïve at first but

beginning to see

the one who hung

dead.

 

Red is the blood

that covers me

from head to toe,

painting beauty and holiness

with strokes of white.

 

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On Fathers

It’s Father’s Day today, and the lead up to this day, with all the advertisements and catalogues in the mail, have had me thinking a bit about fathers.

I have extra space to think today (or less space, depending how you look at it) as my husband is away on business for the weekend.

I expected I would miss him (and I do!) but I also expected that I wouldn’t find it too challenging, since I do most of the child caring stuff anyway. But, surprise, surprise – it’s harder than I thought!

So, when I saw several posts on Facebook today saying “Happy Father’s Day to all the single mums doing double duty” or something, it made me pause.

Now, being the sole parent in the house for 4 days is quite different to being a single parent. For one thing, even though I’m the only one here, I still don’t have the burden of financially providing for our family. And we’ve also enjoyed sending my husband pictures and updates of our days while he’s been away, so while we are physically separated, we are very much still together.

But what has made this weekend so hard is not that I have had to “step up” and somehow fulfil the role of both mother and father. But it is that we feel the lack of the father in the house. That is, it’s hard precisely because I, a woman, cannot fulfil the role of father.

I can discipline the kids, but my words don’t seem to carry the same weight as my husband’s. The kids’ activities have not changed much, but they seem more listless. My daughter keeps asking me, “Mummy, are you sad because Daddy’s not here? Here, I will give you a cuddle.”
Instead of looking forward to that special time alone together at the end of the day, I seem to be literally just collapsing into bed about an hour after I get all the kids to sleep.

How arrogant of me to think that this wouldn’t be too hard!

In our culture, feminism tells us that men and women are interchangeable – that they can and should do exactly the same things. That there is no “mothering” and “fathering”, just “parenting”.

You guys, that is a lie! It’s not how God designed humans. He didn’t make us all the same, he made us “male and female”, to His glory. He made mothers and fathers, not just parents.

The Father’s Day posters at my local shopping centre have really been grating on me over the last month or so – they say “Don’t Forget Dad”. Plastered all over the place.“Don’t Forget Dad.”

It’s very apt for our culture. And I think this is why is grates on me.

Why are we likely to forget Dad? Why do Dad’s go so unnoticed and unappreciated?

Let’s make sure this is not the case in our households. Let’s make sure our dads and our children’s dads know how much they are needed, and how uniquely valuable to the family they are.

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Bro, Do You Even Read…

… the Bible?

bro do you even lift

Let me just say, I get great encouragement from worship music and mini sermons that keep me focussed on God throughout the day. Which is why I still listen to the Christian radio station.

But it is also the source of one of my biggest pet peeves – Christian music with poor doctrine (or perhaps just poorly thought-out lyrics).

I’ve posted about this before: Happiness is Not a Virtue

So, in the next instalment of “songs that get on my nerves” we have…

 

Steven Curtis Chapman – Live Out Loud

Wake the neighbours, get the word out
Come on, crank up the music, climb a mountain and shout
This is life we’ve been given, made to be lived out
So la la la la, live out loud
Live out loud, yeah

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbour early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.
Proverbs 27:14

Kerrie Roberts – What Are You Afraid Of

So what are you afraid of
Show ’em what you’re made of
The shadows that you’re scared of
Are usually your own
They’re not the great unknown
You don’t have to wonder
You’re not going under
Grace has got you covered
God is in control
Go on and let it go
What are you afraid of

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Romans 6:1-2
As an aside: I know, I know, these songs might not mean what I think they mean. Take this post in a light-hearted tone 🙂 I just can’t enjoy a Christian song if it has lyrics that grate on me like these ones.

 

If you’re a crafty person, you might want to head over to my other blog, Make it in the Margins because I have finally put up a couple of new posts.

Including this dotty apron which I started while I was pregnant:

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Feels good to get out the old sewing machine again and finish a project!