No One is Grading You.

 “No one is grading you.”
Those words echoed through my head recently, making me stop and regard them somewhat suspiciously.

I always thrived on grades. From the day I was handed a flag to carry for earning my middle school team’s highest GPA, they came to define me and I suppose I welcomed the definition. I always wanted to prove myself. I looked forward to geometry tests (proofs are fun people). I became physically ill before cross country races because I felt so much pressure. Looking back now, I see the pressure came from no one but myself. 

I’m beginning to see how that pressure has translated into adulthood. The floor I haven’t had time to mop seems a direct reflection of my failures. The days that I feel totally overwhelmed seem a direct assessment and condemnation of my abilities to manage life. “How do I stop being so hard on myself?” I voiced to my husband on just one of those days.

I tend to roll my eyes a little when people tell me to love myself or be kind to myself because I think, in general, an abundance, not a lack, of self-love is our problem. And yet…there’s something there, something of Jesus offering his easy yoke, something of him telling Martha to stop hustling and bustling and just sit with Him.

Jesus was tough on those who were blind to their failures and gentle with those who saw them all too clearly. For the latter, the gospel comes gently, like a mother who picks up a too-tired toddler to shush them to sleep. It means the pressure is off. The test is over or rather, someone else was tested in our place. Now we aim for excellence, not to earn, but in freedom, because we are already accepted and approved.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe, but I want to believe it more in 2023. I want, as Peter commended, to stand firm in the true grace of God which tells us we don’t have to earn rest. It tells us God is just as glorified in our rest as He is in our labors. Maybe even more…because the one who can rest is the one who has marinated their souls in the gospel so much they know they’ve got nothing to prove.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you also need to intentionally leave the colossal mess in the kitchen to go bask in the sunshine because who cares? No one is coming to inspect your kitchen. Maybe you need to hear it too.

No one is grading you.

The Imperfect Servanthood of Motherhood

I’ve been thinking about servanthood which may as well be a synonym for motherhood. The tasks of motherhood are tasks of service: making meals, refilling cups, cleaning spills, wiping butts, re-wiping the butts that were inadequately wiped. From morning to night, I am a servant. Too often though, I am a grumbling servant, a proud servant, a servant who doesn’t want to serve anymore.

Philippians 2 describes Jesus in three forms: God, man, and servant. As God, He had the right to demand to be served, yet He came as man so that He could serve us. He had every right to grasp, but instead, he surrendered. He had every right to demand, but instead, He gave. “Have this mind among you…” Paul says.

I’m praying I can become a more humble and joyful servant, but I’m also really thankful I don’t have to earn or prove anything. I’m thankful that the Gospel isn’t merely “Here’s Christ’s example. Go do it,” but “Here’s Christ’s righteousness. He did what you could never do for you.” I can never be the servant Jesus is, but I can pursue growth out of freedom and gratitude. We should want to serve better because Christ has served us…but we can also receive grace when we serve imperfectly because we have been so perfectly served by Him.

Receiving the Appointed Bitter Gifts of God

Writing a book is a funny thing because it becomes like your little shoulder angel, whispering in your ear, reminding you of all the fine words you wrote that you’re supposed to be also putting into action. Maybe God has a little chuckle watching me deal with the many opportunities I have to do so. Like, oh you wrote about sacrificial love? Here’s a 6 am wake up call, some poop handprints on the bathroom wall, and a vomit covered toddler. Enjoy.

It sounds stupid, but I’m often taken off guard when life is hard. I can be personally affronted by inconvenience. Do something hard and unpleasant? Surely, not ME. Maybe we never grow out of this childishness without a perspective shift…because if we believe our lives are fundamentally about us, then our daily difficulties seem out of place. If we think we’re the director and star of our own drama, we will be continuously perplexed when our storylines go awry. 

While we’d like to think that our lives are self-made, scripture tells us that they are appointed to us. “Only let each person lead the life that the LORD has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17). Our lives and every day that makes up their sum, including its difficulties, has been assigned to us.

If we see this, if it dawns on us that perhaps we are not the stars of this show nor the authors of this story, but recipients of a part to play in God’s grand narrative, we might begin to see our daily difficulties differently, even as a gift. I’m not sure I can ever look at poop handprints and think, “What a lovely gift,” but I think at least, we could see such inconveniences as bitter medicine with a sweet purpose. 

Every hard thing is meant to remind me that I am here on this earth to magnify Him and not the other way around. I can fight what He has assigned to me or submit myself to it, receiving the hard things as God-ordained and therefore, good. The toddler tantrum has been assigned to me. The poop handprints have been given. Though I might regularly pray, “Lord please let this cup pass from me”, the dishes and the laundry have apparently been appointed unto me for all my days under the sun. Yet I know from whom they come. I know who holds my lot and draws my boundary lines. The path He’s set out for me may include many things I’d rather leave out, but I know where it leads. To life. To joy. To pleasures evermore.

Big announcement! Upcoming Book

Thank you to those who are following along on this blog. I started this blog as a fresh out of college philosophy graduate. I, and my writing, have changed a lot since then, as I am now a stay-at-home homeschool mom of five. God began to help me hone what I wanted my writing to do: enlighten and encourage. And naturally, it has veered mostly toward the topic that consumes my life: motherhood.

A few years ago (3 1/2 to be exact, but who’s counting?), a handful of people told me I was funny and I should write a book about motherhood. Apparently, that was all it took to convince me that I’m funny and I should write a book about motherhood. But truthfully, it had always been a dream of mine to have a book published though it felt a little like dreaming of making it on broadway or becoming the queen of England.

Nonetheless, I started writing. I set out to create a book that gave moms in the trenches what I believed they needed: real gospel encouragement for the calling of motherhood and help laughing at the parts of motherhood you have to laugh about or go crazy.

I began to send it to publishers which felt like a big shot in the dark in a world where it’s very hard to be traditionally published, but God opened a door and led me to a publisher that was interested in my book.

Lots and LOTS of waiting, uncertainty, pandemic delays, hours and hours of editing, more waiting, and two babies later, it’s finally coming together. The cover is still in process and release date TBD…but stay tuned.

I am SO excited to announce that Majoring in Motherhood, my motherhood crash course, is coming soon. 🤗

For the Unholy Mother

I thought I would be holier by now.

I thought surely eight years of motherhood would turn me into a June Cleaver who smiles beatifically through the travails of raising children. I wake up with the resolve to be more like this, but somewhere between the morning oatmeal smeared on the table and the fiftieth exclamation of, “He hit me!” My resolve crumbles.

God’s love is described as steadfast, like the waves that relentlessly hit the shore. My love often feels fickle, pulled back and forth by a moody, unpredictable tide. I want to grow to be more like Him, more steadfast, but instead I feel like I’m just “fast.” Fast to anger. Fast to grumbling.

But maybe, that’s a big part of becoming holier: first seeing how unholy you are. Maybe the work of sanctification in motherhood is seeing just how wide the chasm between you and righteousness really is. We are not just a little worse than God. We are so very human while He is completely “other”, in a category of holiness we could never even come close to achieving on our own.

“If you O LORD should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

Salvations means God has descended down into our depths and hauled us back up to stand in the field of grace. It’s as simple as that and yet, there’s tension here. Grace is free, but not cheap. We are welcomed to its throne, but we must not tread flippantly on holy ground.

I thought I would be holier by now.

But maybe, the holiest person is the one bowed down to the dust, the one who reaches for the cup of salvation with trembling hands, knowing their only hope of receiving it is to plead the merits of another.

Reverence and redemption. Mourning and joy. Forgiveness and fear. How closely are they intertwined.

Moms, Grow Like a Tree

We’ve recently added number 5. Elijah Nicholas joined us in May. Four boys! Picking a name this time was hard…never planned on picking FOUR boy names, but here we are.

Lately, I’ve had a few people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” which makes me glance over my shoulder and check to see who they’re talking to…because inside I still sort of see myself as a new mom with wobbly Bambi legs. I remember once looking at women with lots of kids and wondering the same thing. How do they do it?

But now I know. They just do it one day at a time. They just grow little by little and in His kindness, that’s the only way God asks us to grow.

On a walk recently, I was looking at the trees and thinking about how they grow in three ways. They grow down, digging their roots deeper and deeper. They grow up, reaching towards the sun. And they grow outward, ring by ring, year by year, gradually becoming bigger and stronger so they can support a greater load and offer more to those around them.

Growth in motherhood is a lot like that. One kid is hard. Two kids is hard. And so on. But then one day, we look up and realize that like a tree, we’ve gained a few rings of growth. Our roots are a little deeper. Our branches are a little stronger. And we’re managing more than we once imagined we could.

And here’s the things about trees. They’re amazingly resilient. Storms or droughts come and wipe out all kinds of stuff, but the trees? They’re often still there, not because they’re so strong or sufficient in and of themselves, but because they’ve rooted themselves in the right places. They’ve fed themselves with the right things

So, here’s to all the moms, new, veteran, young and old, who are growing little by little, one day at a time. Every day we’re getting stronger and every day, if we’ve rooted ourselves in Him (Jeremiah 17:7-8), God will give us what we need to bear our load and weather what storms may come.

I put the pretty picture first, but let’s be honest…this is more accurate of life since adding number 5 😂

P.S. I’ve got some exciting news coming soon…a dream I’ve been working on for years. Stay tuned! I’m glad you’re here.

God’s Love is Under the High Chair. A Poem.

God’s love is under the high chair

The one who stoops down will find it

She condescends, descends into a lowly realm 

to scrub dried applesauce and mystery goo 

As she bends to peel spaghetti noodles,

noodle by noodle she discovers

God’s love is under the high chair

For before her, there was another 

who condescended, descended into a lowly realm 

to cleanse hearts and to redeem

Now, there is no job too low, no work too humble because 

God’s love is under the high chair

Motherhood: Looking for a Harvest

This morning I started my day here as I try to do. Bible open. Coffee in hand. Prayers for supernatural patience and grace and love and all the things I desperately need for the day ahead. Tonight, after finally getting all the kids to bed, I picked up the debris of the day: stray legos, burp rags, and lidless markers. And I stared at the Bible still left open and thought about how it felt like eons ago that I sat there.

I once wrote that motherhood is a marathon and sometimes, every day of motherhood feels like it’s own mini marathon and I’m actually just running the same loop on repeat. I wake up knowing what awaits me. Sibling fights. Juggling homeschooling and the baby’s schedule and the three-year-old’s mischief. Today, it was the usual pooping and peeing of the pants and stand-offs over ridiculous things. Slightly better than the clogging and overflowing of the toilet two days ago.

Sometimes, I wonder…am I accomplishing anything? Is any of this producing anything? But I’ve also been thinking about how motherhood takes a lot of faith. Like…crazy amounts of faith. I think of the farmer tilling his ground, sowing his seed, watering bare dirt for days, never knowing exactly when or how or which seeds will grow and someday produce fruit, but believing firmly that they will. 

I think motherhood is like that. We’re just showing up every day with a handful of seeds and some meager faith, ready to care for what’s in front us. We never know exactly what God is doing beneath the surface, buried under a foot of dirt that no one but Him can see. Most of the time, it looks like a big fat nothing is happening. But faith expects. Faith hopes. Faith knows. Great things grow from small seeds. Life stirs under dormant earth. The one who sows shall reap. Someday our eyes will see…harvest.

When Rest Is Hard

Rest. I never used to have trouble doing it, but somewhere along the way, with the addition of four kids, five zillion loads of laundry, and the realization that I am the adult in charge here…rest has become difficult. I find it hard to sit still in my own home because when I do, I’m usually just staring anxiously at all the things that need to be done and fighting the sense that with every second I sit there, everything is devolving further and further into chaos. Sometimes, I feel like that little boy with his finger in the dike, the one small barrier holding back a complete eruption.

And yet, we are commanded to rest, to cease from our labors, not when they are done because they are never done. There’s always another load of laundry, another dirty dish. The floor we mopped yesterday is already covered in crumbs and sticky spots again. There is no finish line to our work. There’s only more work. So, the command to rest is meant to be a gift, permission to stop trying to achieve what we can never achieve. It’s a gift wrapped in humility though. It’s hard to receive because it ultimately means relinquishing our illusion of control and trusting that there’s someone else holding it all together besides us and our little finger.

Isn’t that what the Gospel ultimately is? An invitation to rest? A gift we can only receive if we cease striving and start trusting in something outside of ourselves? In the same way we lay ourselves down in bed at night, trusting that the bed will hold us up, we lay ourselves down in the grace of God, trusting that the work of Jesus will hold us up. It will atone for all our unfinished work and all our futile strivings. He finished His work once for all and sat down at the right hand of God. Now, because He sat down…we can too.

And so today, I’m setting aside the to-do list and turning a blind eye to the random mess and baskets of unfolded laundry. They will be there tomorrow…and every day until the day I die. I’m trying to be better at receiving this humbling gift…“just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace.” 

Motherhood Musings on Juggling and Struggling

“Struggling isn’t failing.” I stop and say the words out loud to myself as I’m cleaning up the kitchen. 

My mind feels chaotic as the many things I need to accomplish for the day come at me like missiles, missiles that circle back around every few minutes to land again. Get my son to piano lessons. Finish school for the day. Shower. Maybe. Schedule that appointment. Call about getting the baby’s shots up to date. Put on makeup before my doctor’s appointment so I don’t look like a cast member of The Walking Dead. Everyone needs baths…and their nails cut. Why are there so many fingernails that insist on growing?

The chaos in my mind is mirrored by the chaos in my house. There are crayons. Everywhere. In the corners of the kitchen. By the stairs. I’m convinced they’re multiplying. Dress up has been discarded on the floor. Magnet blocks all over the living room. There are mac n cheese noodles stuck to the floor under the three-year-old’s chair. The lid to the coffee creamer wasn’t shut when I shook it and it spilled everywhere in front of the refrigerator. It is now a giant sticky spot that is collecting dirt and hair and who knows what else. I need to mop…I need to vacuum…I need a maid. 

It’s too much. There’s not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough of me.

I am struggling. And it feels like failing. 

I’ve never been sure if I should call myself a perfectionist. My disorganized drawers would suggest no, but the meltdown I had after my first B would suggest yes. Sometimes, less than perfect doesn’t bother me, but others, it feels devastating.

Why is it so devastating? I’ve been trying to figure that out. I think ultimately it’s because it means that I am lacking. Lacking means deficiency and deficiency means failure. That is the path my mind naturally takes and that is why I find myself talking to myself in the kitchen, trying to take the thoughts out and examine them to see where I’ve gone wrong. 

What if the lacking was supposed to lead me somewhere else? To someone else?

We are uncomfortable with our limits. We balk at the reality that we only stretch so far before we break. My struggling feels like failure, but it’s actually just a reminder that I am a finite being, bound by time and space and the ways God has made me. It’s actually just God telling me I am not enough and this is a good thing to remember because it points me to the One who is. He exposes weakness not in condemnation, but love. He gives me more than I can handle so that He can give me more of Himself. 

The struggle is where He meets us. It’s where He pries our battered, ruined self-sufficiency from our hands and says, “I have something better.” 

“Struggling isn’t failing,” I say again. “It’s a gift.”

“She is clothed with strength and dignity.” And also probably armed with wipes and coffee…

Photo cred: my 3 yr old