If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Battle Fatigue

I had planned to write a cute and funny post today. But I don't feel very cute or funny.

I mostly feel battle-weary. And sad. And angry.

Raising a teenage girl in today's rot-gut culture is the hardest war I have ever waged.

As prepared as I try to be, I often feel, as a parent, completely ambushed by a barrage of gut-wrenching challenges and dilemmas.

I try to protect her, but the onslaught feels crushing at times. Under fire from all sides, I wonder how she'll emerge from the teen years without being a casualty. More than that, my heart's desire is for her not just to survive, but to emerge victorious!

Of course, I know that prayer and God's intervention is what I have to continue to rely on. I know He is the best Warrior I could ever imagine.

But that doesn't mean that I don't feel very small and alone in this at times. That I feel like my ammunition has run dry. That I fear I'm not courageous and wise enough to wage the war that I'm engaged in daily.

I love my daughter so much. I know that He loves her more. I just don't want to fail her or Him.

But the battleplan isn't always clear. And I know I've already made many tactical errors. I'm ashamed of the times that I haven't been brave.

No matter how old your daughter is, pray for her today. The culture has made our girls a target in a way that is downright frightening. (Case in point: When I was looking for a photo to go with this post, I had a terrible time finding a woman soldier who was fully clothed.)

I know He is stronger. But today this soldier is feeling a little weak.

I'm linking up again this week to Shell's Pour Your Heart Out meme. Apparently, I'm a gusher lately. :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Waiting to Be Ready

Moms do a lot of waiting. It’s an occupational hazard.

Waiting in the parent pick-up line. Waiting for soccer practice to end. Waiting for kids to get ready for school. Waiting for our offsprings’ undying gratitude … cough, cough.

So you’d think after 14 years of the waiting game, I’d be good at it. Or at least used to it.

But waiting still makes me anxious. Restless. Jumpy. Discontent.

And right now I find myself in a very big season of waiting in my life.

God put in my heart to write for Him about 11 years ago. I had very little idea of what I was to write, who I was to be writing for or when that might happen. At the time, I had a toddler and soon I would be pregnant with my son Micah. Who had time to write? Or finish a thought, for that matter. What I did write was for healthcare companies (which I still do to some extent). We needed the money.

The writing God had called me to do seemed elusive, but it was always in the back of my mind. Then, four years ago, I believe He opened the door for me to go to a Christian writing conference. It was life-changing. It was how I began writing for Focus on the Family and some other publications. And I've gone every year since. This summer, I also went to the She Speaks conference in North Carolina.

Throughout these past four years, God has refined me and told me who I am to write for: struggling, imperfect mamas like me who need to experience and feel God's grace. Still, I feel my efforts are clumsy and feeble at times. Am I even following the right path? Considering the struggles I have with my own children, am I worthy or qualified for this calling? (The answer is NO, but He is.)

Right now, I have the opposite problem that I did 11 years ago. I have so many thoughts and ideas about things I want to speak and write about. But God has brought me to a realization in recent weeks: I’m not ready. I’m still in process. I still have too much to learn to write the book that’s been burning inside me for the past decade. I need more wisdom and the gift of experience and perspective.

So, in the meantime, I’m taking notes. I’m trying to be obedient by seizing the opportunities He’s giving me now to use the limited wisdom and experience I have. Someday, the wait will be over. And, by the grace of God, I will be ready.

What are you waiting on in your life right now?

Today I'm linking up to Shell's Pour Your Heart Out meme. Go check her out!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Sheriff in Town

The long arm of the law had finally reached them.

But they didn’t believe it.

Who could blame them? Too often, they’d been allowed to commit infractions without penalty. At times, my parental inconsistency was borderline criminal.

About a month ago, a new day dawned around here. Through a series of events and simply being sick and tired of doing things my own (ineffective) people pleasing way, God opened my eyes to the damage I was doing by seeking my children’s approval and comfort and doing things for them that they should be doing themselves.

So shortly after Thanksgiving, armed with new insight and resolve, I told my children:

Things are going to be different around here. You’re going to be assigned regular chores. I’ve been doing too much for you and I’m not doing you any favors in the long run. I’m going to quit nagging and reminding, too. You’ll make your own choices about your behavior, but then you’ll have to own the consequences. (See my Cracking the Chore Code and Morning Glory posts for more about my new approach.)

Molly: Um, not to be rude, Mom, but we’ve heard this before.

Micah: Yea, I hate to say it, but she’s kind of right, Mom.

Knowing that this time WAS different, I simply said: Just give it time. There’s a new sheriff in town.

They both thought this was very funny.

Until the sheriff started enforcing the “laws.” And then you could see the panic set in. Crap! She’s serious.

Yesterday, a month after my epiphany, both kids asked me to do something for them that they were too lazy to do themselves (this is happening less and less often, though.)

When I refused, each of them responded: Oh, yea, there’s a new sheriff in town.

But this time, the disbelief was gone. Along with a good deal of my stress.

Three parenting laws that I started obeying in late 2010 are helping me stay on track. With God's help there will be (minimal) law-breaking in 2011:

Law #1: Consistent Enforcement. This has always been a weak area for me as a parent. I tend to go in cycles. I’m great about keeping the kids on track with chores and behavior, but then get busy or burned out and let things get out of control.

I know it’s only been a month, but this time IS different. Instead of doing it on my own strength, I’m relying on God like never before. And I have a couple of people who I check in with to keep me accountable and encouraged in this area.

Law #2:
No Nagging or Reminding. I don’t think anything chips away at a relationship more than nagging. I’m learning to just let my kids suffer the consequences. I say it once and give them a deadline. If it’s not done, there’s a price to pay. Period.

Law #3: No Tunnel Vision. I can get very caught up in the moment and want to give in to my children’s pleas or demands. But I’m doing a much better job of keeping the big picture in mind. I ask myself, “If I give in to this, am I moving them closer to being a responsible, caring adult?” This also helps me not break Law #1.

Whenever God opens me eyes to unhealthy patterns, it’s wonderful but difficult. Changes have to be made. I look back with grief and regret over the damage I’ve done.

One day recently when I was feeling rotten about the past, I read this in the Bible Study I’m doing: “God is always big enough to work inside of our mistakes. No matter what the size of the problem we have gotten ourselves into, His ability to rescue us is bigger still.” (from Living with Unmet Desires by Shawn Lantz)

Thanks to God’s grace, my mistakes don’t mean a life sentence – for me or my children.
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