Tindell Baldwin »

Proverbs 18:21

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

I remember after Claire turned two telling my hair dresser (cause that’s what the cool kids call them) I didn’t know why they called it the terrible twos, she’s a pretty compliant kid and has not caused a lot of trouble in her little life with the exception of the newborn stage. My hairdresser has older kids and laughed, and said “the twos are fine, it’s the threes you have to worry about.” I laughed her off and thought well at least I have a whole year.

Well we are three and half now and I guess she was right. Two was easy. Two was breezy. Two was beautiful. Three has been a beast of attitude and drama that I didn’t know you could find outside of reality TV shows. The hardest part, I miss my daughter, the buddy I had when times were simpler and every day was not a battle. I miss being a fun mom, not the angry fat one at the pool (I’m 6 months pregnant but fat sounds funnier to me).  I miss who we were. Now we are in the thick of it, dealing with the real issues, not just don’t touch the outlet kind of stuff but don’t punch your brother (I’m sure your kids don’t do that) because he has something you want. We are getting to the heart of the matter if you will, the why’s behind the don’ts, and it’s utterly exhausting.

To make matters more tiring nap time is nonexistent, which was my actual saving grace every day, and for the past week I have silently wept a little because I honestly don’t feel up for the task. I have been praying for God to change her heart but this morning I realized he needed to change mine. I have wanted quick fixes to life time problems, I have wanted discipline to result in heart change, but heart change takes time, sometimes a life time. Heart change takes guidance not frustration. Each long day I keep singing that silly song in my head, “oh you can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait, love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take.”

We can’t rush motherhood. I can’t rush to the good part without first trudging through the swamps of threedom. I can’t make her understand the matters of the heart if I won’t take my time to teach and love her through it. In a way she’s doing exactly what she should be doing, she’s being a kid, and she’s asking me to teach her (in not so many words) and I have a choice, will I rage like the hulk and bring death with my tongue or will I love as God loves me, patiently guiding and discipline in love nudging her to be the precious daughter God made her to be?

I admit I’ve been more hulkish lately, I have missed opportunities to take her in my arms and just tell her I love her even though she’s being difficult. Each time I have walked away and heard God whisper to my heart, “is that how I love you?” No. it isn’t. Consequences are unavoidable if you disobey but my relationship with her should never be up for grabs. I don’t want her to ever wonder if she crossed the line beyond what my love can bear. If I am sending her a message like that then I am not pointing her towards Jesus. I don’t have any illusions that I will be perfect but she needs to understand that God loves her no matter what, just as he does all people, and if she doesn’t think I love her no matter what why would she think a perfect God would?

So I will stop rushing this thing, I will take the time to teach when I want to scold, I will hold her when I want to walk away, and I will expect her to be three. I will find ways to look at the good and not focus on the bad. I will ask forgiveness when I get it wrong and I will send her a message of love instead of one filled with disappointment.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

James 3:17

  • Alayne Blankenship - Thank you for this!! I so needed it! I have three and half year old b/g twins and I feel like all I do is referee, warn, yell, and dole out consequences all day, every day. Then the mom guilt suffocates me at night once they are finally asleep and I come face to face with the fact that my actions were mostly fueled by anger all day, yet somehow I find myself right back at my wits-end before breakfast the next morning. It’s a vicious, exhausting cycle. God has really been speaking to me that my mommy heart needs a change. If I’m going to bring them up in the ways of the Lord, then my eyes must be fixed on Jesus. I must love them like He loves me. “Heart change takes guidance, not frustration.” Convicted my heart!

    Hosea 10:12 NLT, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - You’re most welcome, sometimes its just nice to know other people are struggling in the same way. Hang in there, motherhood is no joke and that is a great verse!ReplyCancel

I don’t travel outside my tiny world much these days but on the rare occasion I am at some social function with just Ben or meeting people for the first time there is a question that makes me panic, “So what do you do?” Mostly because I find myself answering the same way every time, “I’m just a mom, but I used to be….”

Ah the “Just.”

What do so many of us feel the need to dumb down our lives with a word that makes whatever we do feel so much less significant? Maybe its culture, and honestly Christian culture especially, measures the value of our lives by the number of things we are juggling. I often hear as a women the message that I must do more. I must manage my live like a well pinned board on the internet that looks neat and clean and pretty. Especially pretty.  I would say men feel this tension too but my husband seems content with a pretty demanding job plus being a very involved father, I have yet to hear him say “just” when talking about his roles.

I met a friend at the park recently and we hadn’t caught up in way too long. I lost touch with a lot of the outside world for the first year after Briggs was born. I was asking her how life has been and what she’s been doing and she looked at her three year old bounding across the playground at her and said, “I’ve been doing this, I’ve been trying to do this really well.” She was almost ashamed, like that wasn’t enough, like she should be bringing baked goods to friends or crafting wreaths that make her front door look inviting in her spare hour a day before she collapses into bed in exhaustion. I told her you go girl, because I’m super cool like that, and genuinely understood what she meant.

There is no reason to water down what we do with the word “just” whether its “just” being a mom, or “just” being a college student, or “just” having however many little people, or “just” volunteering at the local church, or “just” being a good wife, of “just” an assistant, etc etc etc. What we do will not be measured by the titles we held but the people we impacted and loved well. I might “just” be a mom right now and that might mean writing gets put on hold and I don’t take all the opportunities that come across my plate but my title means a whole heck of a lot to two tiny people currently resting quietly (so I’m thinking nicer thoughts about them than between say the hours of 5-7). I have learned what my threshold for chaos is and I like to stay somewhere between “I’ve got this covered” and “I might lose my mind at any moment.” I hope one day I have a threshold for more, and I believe I will, but not today and probably not for a few years if I’m honest with myself. And that’s ok.

We are so used to seeing women in social media who have gorgeous houses, neatly dressed kids, and a side career that is a combination of both demanding, impressive, and puts her three littles in private school. Look I’m not knocking it but I also know that’s not reality for everyone. Sometimes its survival and your job is just ok, or your kids are just kind of clean, and your house… well it has enough baskets to mask the mess. Each of us is uniquely gifted to do something. That means our lives will look different and our metaphorical plates will be filled with different things. I think we should change not only our language but how well we measure our success. A friend told me tonight that she heard Jennie Allen say on a podcast that her idea of success was “being obedient to God.” That was it.  It might not be the corporate chain or maybe it is.  It might be the way we love our neighbors, it might not be how clean our kids clothes are but how intentional we were with our time with them, and then we can run our own race with our own titles and feel totally fine to say, I am a (fill in your own title) and its great. No just. No justifying and no shame if you wish you could do more but you JUST can’t. I am being obedient to the one who called me, the one who gave me what I have, and that is success.

“The master was full of praise. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

Matthew 25:21

“Mom are you going to put me to bed tonight?”

Every night I am home I get this same question, right around bath time, and after we have eaten. I can never understand it. She has been with me all day. With the exception of preschool, our days together go pretty uninterrupted. So why every night does my little girl, going on four, want to know if I am going to put her to bed? My husband is by far the more fun parent, often making up stories and taking extra time for cuddles. His time is precious and limited, and she should want him. She has such a sweet bond to him so I couldn’t figure out why the bed time question every night. We alternate nights so that my son and daughter both get equal tucking-in love, and on the nights it is my turn to put her to bed she cheers in delight. It has puzzled me.

Then this weekend, as I spent my ample airport time reading a book called Hands Free Mama I realized why. For all the “time” we spend together this is one of the only times my phone is placed far away. Bedtime is our time. We talk, read, and I scratch her back and sing the same Christy Knockels song that I have sung to her since birth. It’s called “For Your Splendor,” but she has renamed it”the deep end song,” and she begs me to sing the same chorus (to go ahead and answer the question, no I don’t sound like either of my brothers). Recently my husband tried to sing it to her, and she turned to him with an indignant voice and said “you don’t even know that song.” It was special. This is the time of the day I put away everything else for her, and I tell her not-so-subtly that for a half-hour I am choosing her.

It saddens me to my core when I realize that the reason my daughter has been begging for my attention at bedtime is because I have been spending my days wrapped up in things that matter far less. I have always been a person who likes to accomplish things, and the hardest part of staying home is my accomplishments cannot be measured when it comes to my children. I can do everything right, and they can still hit another child on the playground, pick a fight with their sibling, or speak disrespectfully to an adult. Motherhood cannot be measured, BUT you know what can? Emails, laundry, dishes, full calendars, cleanliness, trash emptying, words on pages, speaking engagements booked, and so when my husband arrives home from an engineering job I barely understand, I can feel like less of a bum because I did the laundry (it’s a rather complicated process). However I have been missing the real reason I wanted to stay home in the first place. I have been putting my kids’ hearts on hold in an attempt to feel better about my insecurities of accomplishing.

My daughter’s bedtime pleas have been nothing less than smoke signals to let me know that she needs me. Suddenly moments I have missed come flooding back to me: my son toddling up to me and saying “mama up,” my daughter asking me to color with her, my son begging me to do bubbles, the 1000 times I barked that we were going to be late, the messes I wouldn’t let happen, and for what? For a cleaner house, a more booked schedule, and less contentment?

I was crying to my husband the other night (hormones) that I have been feeling so discontent, so restless, so useless, and so inadequate in my current role. I have actually wrestled with the idea of getting a job because it feels like I am currently failing at the one that is most important to me – my family. I have blamed everything from hormones to summer to staying home without looking at the reality, that I am fully to blame. I have been choosing lesser things. I have been choosing distractions over my children. I have been holding my phone to my face, and begging it to give me significance.

We are in this short season of summer that will end in a time when I can’t come play because I have to nurse or hold a crying baby. This will be the last season before we add another, and I have decided to fully engage with my kids instead of biding my time until it gets easier (which I’ve heard is as mythical as a unicorn). It is hard, but it is also good. Almost everything worth having in life comes from hard work.

My impact on my kids’ lives starts today. It starts with saying “yes” to the things that feel less important and “no” to the things that don’t matter nearly as much. In what will feel like blinking I won’t be able to pick my son up anymore, and my daughter won’t want to put on shows where she dances around singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” With each day my role in my kids’ lives slowly lessens, like sand slipping away one grain at a time, and if I’m not careful I will have missed all the days where they wanted me the most, and I was available the least. If I’m not careful I will be desperate for them to communicate with me only for them to say it’s too late. As our pastor Andy Stanley has said before when it comes to life, “the important rarely feels urgent and the urgent is rarely important.”

My kids are important but they are rarely urgent, except when my son throws himself from furniture… that feels urgent. Coloring pictures, building blocks, running in the sprinkler, playing pretend, and pushing my kids on the swing are not urgent tasks, but they are vastly important in my child’s world. Don’t get me wrong – I will still relish in those nap time hours and breathe a sigh of relief when they are both asleep. However I will choose them, when it’s inconvenient, when the laundry has piled up, when the bathrooms are dirty, and the dishes are stacked. I will choose them and tell them clearly that they are more important than social media, emails, and my free time. I will say “yes” instead of “no,” knowing that one day they will stop asking, and I will mourn it. Knowing one day this will all be over, and I will have to ask myself, did I really do the best I could in the years that were most vital?

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  • Caitlin - Thank you so much for this post, Tindell. I am a new mom and this is something I struggle with a lot. It is nice to get some encouragement from another mom who is a bit more seasoned (ok, going on 3 times more seasoned!) and has been though enough mom moments to be able to look back and learn something from them.ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Im sure you are doing a wonderful job! Motherhood doesn’t ease you in, it throws you right into the deep end. Glad I could encourage you and if it helps I don’t feel “seasoned” at all 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Zobrosky - Wow, I needed to read this!! Love it!!ReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Thanks girl! You should read the Hands Free Mama book its so good.ReplyCancel

  • Julie Key - This was a wonderful reminder…our older 2 are 11 and 12 and I’m constantly struggling with, “Did I/have I done enough?” They are already spending less time asking for time with me, and I have a new resolve to fight for every moment! Great words, girl! Proud of you!!!ReplyCancel

“Fear is very much a story we tell ourselves, so I choose to tell myself another story”

Wild, Cheryl Strayed

On our way home from a recent beach trip Ben and I were reliving the glory days of our dating life in college. In other words we were laughing about how ridiculous we were in both love and everything else. I had sudden flash backs of my former crazy self. It all started because I asked Ben why he had broken up with a previous girlfriend and his response was “I think she was a little clingy or something” (men are super descriptive).

This made me burst out in laughter because clingy is a step up from the kind of crazy I was when we were dating. Before Ben I had been in a series of ugly relationships were both parties were severely selfish and I ended up with a busted heart and a little crazy in the brain. Then I met Ben who was both perfect and way out of my reach (don’t you love how family will always tell you the truth) and I laughed at the idea that I had experienced real love before him. I knew he was the illusive “one” BUT instead of being excited about finding an amazing man who loved me I was terrified I might lose him. So what do fearful girls do the boy they desperately love and fear losing more than life itself? We cling tighter, thus suffocating our significant other in an attempt to maintain control.

I took crazy to a whole new level when we were dating but managed to mask it well enough to get him to marry me. (Your welcome babe) I used to sit up at night waiting for him to call and if he hadn’t called by a certain time I would come up with elaborate stories of how he had either died or left me for Jessica Biel because those were the only two options when you are hoped up on both love and fear.

fearFear is much like a pet, it starts out cute and manageable but the more you feed it the bigger it gets, and the bigger it gets the more it hinders daily life. Slowly it makes you see things that aren’t there, it makes you worry about things you have no business worrying about, and it owns a little part of your soul. Fear is no friend, it is no pet, and fear is the enemy of living a full life. Fear hinders it does not protect, it consumes it does not set you free, and it overrides wisdom with its intense emotion and heart quickening whispers.

We cannot control the onset of the emotion but we can control how much it devours of our life. We can starve fear with truth. We uproot it from our life when we combat it with the wisdom of what we know to be true.  Fully knowing my husband now I know that if he forgets to call its cause he hates the phone and it turns out Jessica Biel has never even visited his engineering firm. I also know he loves me and is a loyal husband and father to our kids. I know him, so when fear creeps in I replay the tape of truth instead of coming up with a story of fear.

I also know that God is a good father and trustworthy with my heart so even when I am not OK I will be OK. I think my fear in dating was part not knowing Ben’s full character part not believing God wanted good things for me. This is why I tell girls not to date guys they wouldn’t want to marry because your heart can be tattered before it is ever broken. I took all my brokenness and projected it on Ben and then begged him to prove me wrong.

The flip side of the fear was that I was not believing God had good things in store for me, I thought God wouldn’t give me a man like Ben because I knew the kind of woman I had been. I thought God wanted to punish me not bless me. Why would God bless someone who had run from him for so long? Because he loved me and he never gives us what we deserve. He gives us grace, mercy, redemption, and a chance to start new.

The lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Psalms 118:6

You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. Proverbs 34:11

Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1-3

I understand now that there are real fears that are crippling, much more significant than a breakup. I have kids, I have had scary dr. apts, and phone calls that dropped me to my knees. But I also know fear never prepares you for the unexpected, it doesn’t aid in your faith,  and it doesn’t help you when real gut wrenching heart ache enter your world. Fear is simply hoping we can control the outcome of a very terrifying world. We can’t. We can’t control people and we can rarely really control life. We have to trust and choose to pour truth over fears lies, and we must believe God is good even when life is not.

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As mother day approaches I think about all the seasons I have been in as a mother. New mother, newborn, toddler, mom of two, exhausted and blissful, tired and angry, a little bitter, and greatly overjoyed. As soon as I got the hang of one I would instantly be thrown into a new emotion, a new season, and wonder if I was thriving or just simply surviving. At some point in each hard season I would try to hurry to the next.

We are about to enter into yet another new season, another season of hard and exhausting and while I know there is light at the end of the tunnel there will be no way around the hard. No way around the sleepless nights and hormonal ups and downs, no way around the crying and the straight up fear that comes with having a newborn. No way around the utter joy and yet very real challenge of having three kids ages 3 to 0. Sometimes there is just no way around.

When we were on car trips as kid my mom had this camp song she would sing with us to pass the time. We would pat our hands on our knees one hand at a time so it sounded like walking and say “going on a bear hunt… oh there is a lake, can’t go around it, can’t go over it, got to go through it.” This went on for what seemed like hours (doesn’t everything feel that way as a kid) with all different scenarios where you had to go through the challenge for this bear hunt (we were a super cool family). I have been thinking about that silly song as I think about motherhood.bear

Sometimes you just have to go through it. The good the bad and the ugly. The challenges, the joys, and the unknown. Don’t blink or you will miss it, don’t wish it away or you will regret it, and if you enjoy it all see your nearest psychiatrist (kidding). I am very much on my bear hunt and every day seems to have a different challenge in store for us that I must go through.

However none of my diaper drama seems to compare to all the mothers in a season of loss, where mother’s day might be sweet but also have a twinge of real pain. I have asked God many times why mothers must ever go through the pain of losing a child. It seems senseless, unfair, and just plain cruel.

Our community is currently reeling from a tragic car accident at UGA that killed four young girls. I am thinking about the hunt their mothers are on, a tearful journey to find peace in the midst of unbearable pain. The process of going through the bear hunt without one of your cubs. If only motherhood came with guarantees of healthy babies and days that looked more like those diaper commercials. It never seems to be that way. Motherhood seems to be a process of going through season after season where we are refined into the woman God needs us to be. At a vigil for these young women the mom of one of the girls said she was of course in terrible pain but still believed God was a good father. Wow. That is a voice of a mother refined by fire. Sometimes the only guarantee that we can cling to is that God offers hope in the darkest of days. Even when our seasons are terrible he is still good.

My sister in law said recently said she’s so glad she’s not the woman she was before she had kids and I couldn’t agree more. This hunt of mine has lead me through so many challenges that has refined my soul. I’ve needed each season. There is no greater teacher than selfless servanthood.

So no matter the season, press on, go through it. Find that bear, and lean into our Good Good father when the journey seems too much.

 

  • anna Etheriedge - …If you have contact, please tell that momma that our daughter has been greatly impacted by the tragedy at UGA, getting caught up accidentally in the crowd at Tate Hall. Some much needed questions have finally been asked and God has been using that very situation of death to bring “new life.”
    BTW loved your blog. 3 wasn’t bad (even 3 and under)… until I got pregnant again 🙂 After that, nothing phases you!ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Semeria - Hi, I’m that mom. You don’t know me, but…. 🙂 I came across your blog and know your brother Kristian from Passion. My daughter Christina went and heard you speak at UGA and bought your book and told me how much you touched her with sharing your life. She loved your authentic and vulnerable style. I love how you love others and how you are helping others in their shame and darkness to come into the light and know they aren’t alone. I don’t think I’ve ever written a message to someone that I don’t know, but I felt compelled and moved by the Holy Spirit to share some of my story to bless you. My “beautifully broken” story. I’m a Mom of 4 beautiful children. Two boys and two girls. My youngest 19 year old daughter Christina “Tini” Semeria was one of the 4 UGA girls that was killed in a car accident on April 27th, 2016 after praying off campus before their finals. The accident happened around 8:45 @ dusk and they weren’t speeding, texting or drinking. They were filled with joy and laughter as Tini and her 3 best friends went to be with Jesus together hand in hand that night. Tini’s heartbeat was to reach the least the lost, the last and the hopeless. She is a worship leader, a singer and a songwriter. She was bold and fearless with her faith. She wanted everyone to know Jesus. She was an AXO Sister and an active member of UGA Heroes. I believe the Lord has prompted me to share this with you to share Tini’s song that she wrote, is singing and playing the guitar. The song is called “Be Still” and she wrote it in July 2015 while serving on Summer Staff at Young Life’s Trail West Camp in Colorado. I hope this song will minister to you as it has to over 50,000 and more the past 8 months. I’ve also included her blog that she had just put together called A Stirring Heart and a blog post called Spark in the Dark. I believe that you are that spark in the dark that Tini writes about. Keep sharing your heart, you are indeed showing hope, love and HIS light to others. I know the Lord has called me to write a book and one day when I can think again I believe the Lord will show me how to do that. I’m praying for you. Can I ask you to pray for me and my family? I miss my sweet girl so much. I believe she would LOVE you and I hope that one day we can sit and have coffee and share stories. I go to Passion City and spoke at the December Grove 2 nights on hope and help from heaven. I’m leaning in and have a tight grip on God’s hand trusting that He will hold me tight and never leave me. God Bless you.
    https://m.soundcloud.com/christina-semeria/be-still
    https://christinasemeria.wordpress.com/about/ReplyCancel

    • Anna Etheriedge - Cathy, my daughter, Sarah 22, was so very touched by the events at UGA surrounding your daughter’s death. She has since had a huge change of heart and path… an awakening of her soul. I loved your comment and wondered if I might share it on my blog and your daughter’s beautiful song. I really love it! What a testimony and amazing voice she sings with. My email is ace@etheriedge.com and my blog is “ForGlorySake!” etheriedge.wordpress.com. Thank you for sharing this comment, AnnaReplyCancel

    • Tindell Baldwin - Cathy,

      Forgive me for not getting to your heart felt comment sooner. I ache for you. I cannot imagine all you have struggled through in the past months. What you have lived through I shudder to think about. When I first got saw your comment I was rocking a crying baby at 3am and felt the lord tell me not to take for granted any moment. What a gift it is to know she loved Jesus. I know that doesn’t ease your pain but I grateful that you knew she loved the one who says there is more than this love. That doesn’t diminish your hurt though. I am honored you would share part of your story with me. Thank you. Tindell BaldwinReplyCancel

      • Cathy Semeria - I’m so grateful that the Lord spoke to you through my sweet Tini’s life and hope that you’ll download her song Be Still – it’s on iTunes now and all proceeds are going to ministries Tini is passionate about including Passion. You can download here – christinasemeria.org
        All my love and hope to meet you someday soon. Give your sweet baby a hug from me! Cathay SemeriaReplyCancel

Thursdays are my “day off” which simply means both of my kids are in preschool for a blissful 3.5 hours and I get to be an adult who carries a purse instead of a mom who has diaper bag full of snacks, wipes, and lord knows what else rotting at the bottom. I get some time to be just me. It’s a pure luxury but as a stay at home mom there isn’t one part of my life that doesn’t scream “I have small children”, except for Thursday mornings (and my car because I’m one of those impractical people who refuse to drive a minivan). So with summer fast approaching I am contemplating just how I am going to make it, because some weeks feel that way.

How am I going to have 5 days a week full of wonderful (but exhausting) three year old questions and horrific two year old tantrums? How am I going to run all my errands, both of them in tow, and handle 3 meals a day for 2 months with no one to step in and help? If it sounds like I am being a bit dramatic it is because preschool and salvation are the only two things that have ever saved my life. For me losing my freedom has been the hardest part of motherhood. I can handle the chaos (most of the time) and insomnia has helped me cope with seasons of sleep deprivation but chaining (figuratively) me to the house and telling me to keep everyone alive and happy is hard. I used to feel bad that this was hard. I used to beat myself up because I didn’t love every single part of parenting but now I know that’s just how it goes. I love staying home, I think it’s a huge blessing but it has its challenges, just like any job, such as trying to go to the bathroom alone (who knew this would be an actual issue).

Motherhood is just hard. It’s just hard work. It’s exhausting and draining and requires your blood, sweat, and tears (literally). So how do we do it? In every hard season (for many moms I’ve talked to that is summer… I mean how many times can you really go to the pool?) we just make it. We put one foot in front of the other, suck it up, and try to focus on the truly wonderful yet fleeting moments when they come. The good moments always come, when the sun stays out late and you watch them run around the grass with sheer joy written all over their face. They come when you least expect it and give you a glimmer of hope but its ok when it’s just hard. Hard seasons don’t make me a bad mom, they make me human. How I handle it is on me, but accepting it’s hard and admitting it doesn’t make me any less of a mom. I’ll do the right thing, I’ll rally, and eat mass amounts of chocolate when my coping methods get poor. It’s ok for it to be hard. It’s ok to have a hard season and ask God for help every single day of the sticky hot summer with nowhere to go and two sets of eyes looking up at you saying “what are we doing today mommy?”IMG_2645

So feel free to cry with me as April rolls into May and the calendar warns me I only have four more weeks of sanity. We will make it. It will be hard but we will make it and if you’re one of those moms that loves summer and can’t wait to spend uninterrupted quality time with your littles….well… Bahhumbug.

 

 

<—– where I will imagine I am every day between May 15th and August 15th

“You have a choice.”

It’s the line I feed my moody three year old when she can’t decide if she wants to obey or break down crying for no real reason. Apparently, being told you must go potty (the word you only use after becoming a parent) before you leave the house warrants tears and wailing like you just got run over by an 18 wheeler.  I want her to know that actions have consequences but the choice is hers. It’s become something I say daily now with the terrible threes looming on for what feels like eternity (whoever made up the terrible twos just used two because it sounded better). I have spent the last few weeks very tired (I blame the tiny human I am growing), cranky, and a little bit fed up with the attitude my previously sweet and loving daughter has been dishing out. I want her to choose well.

Last night when I couldn’t sleep I was thinking about the choices we all have to make. Choosing well doesn’t quit when you turn 4, it keeps on presenting itself but the consequences get bigger and more detrimental the older we get. Real life is so much harder than three year old life. Jesus always invites us into the choice though. He never chooses for us.

“You have a choice” he whispers into our heart for every season of life we are in.

When babies are draining and life seems daunting and you just want to veg out to TV and waste away the precious (yet hardest) season of life.

“You have a choice” he whispers, when you are waiting for what seems like a lifetime to be married, pregnant, or whatever you are dreaming of.

“You have a choice” he pleads, when you want the quick fix instead of the long road. When right now seems good enough and your future feels far off.

“You have a choice” he calls, when you feel like the world owes you something and people have let you down. When everyday isn’t what you dreamed of, when people are constantly letting you down, when your life altogether isn’t the picture you had in your head.

You have a choice, he says, and I hope you choose me. Choose me, when you want to run to the world for quick comfort. Choose me, when you want to harbor bitterness instead of extending forgiveness, choose me when you don’t know where to take your dreams. Choose me, when you don’t know who to trust or where to run. Choose me, when you are lost, angry, alone, and weary. Choose me, because hate never cured a broken heart only arms spread wide on a cross can. I am never biased or uninterested in your fear or anger. I am never weary of your burdens or tired of your pain. I am most careful with the things that are most precious to you. Choose me, I have already gone to great lengths to make a way for you to have that choice.

Choose well.

He invites you in. No matter the story or the circumstance. We too often want to be three year olds flailing about like our life is the only one that is unfair. We hold our love from the God who loves us most like we might be able to convince him to give us what we think we need. Look around, the world is broken, everyone is hurting. I believe he was broken for us on that rugged cross but in the midst of our breaking world he is asking us to come as close to healing as possible. He is asking us to choose Jesus.

So often what keeps me from making the best choice is my pride, because Jesus asks me to do the things that are most unnatural to my selfish heart. Forgive, love without pretense, be patient, put others first, don’t harbor bitterness, he asks too much of me. I have often asked God when I can hear him telling me to do one of these things, “then who will look out for me?” If I put others first who will put me first, if I love unconditionally then I might get hurt, if I forgive I let go of a debt I think is owed to me. Then who is looking out for me?

“I am” he says.

It says he is near to those that draw near to him. It says he took all our shame and pain to the cross making him the perfect advocate on our behalf. HE looks out for me because he cares for me so I can choose him with full confidence. I can choose him because he went to the cross for my heart and no love has been greater. The pain will still come, the choice will still be hard, we will still have to wrestle our human hearts to obedience but what joy for those who find their hope in Jesus.

“Choose me” -Jesus

“Claire, tell them what Briggs is.”briggs1

“He’s spicy nicey”

And then fake laughter ensues because no one thinks your kids are quite as funny as you do. Its our party line (we go to very different parties than you… think more grape juice less wine). It came from reading a book Briggs liked that said spicy nicey combined with a brief biting stint he went through (and by brief I mean 6 months of his only 20 month life). It was cute when Claire started saying it and you know if the shoe fits.

Sbriggs3ee my first born is the sweet rule follower, she tricked me into believing I had this whole parenting bit down, so then he brother came along a short 19 months later to humble the proud. My in laws laugh now because they knew what I only recently realized, about 99% of my parental success of my first born was pure temperament. She genuinely likes making people happy, she enjoys helping, and when I told her no she simply accepted that as an answer and went on her merry way (while I pated myself on the back and wondered why everyone said this parenting thing was so hard). Enter Briggs, my spirited second born, who I should have known wanted things his own way when he made his arrival 3 weeks early. He thinks “come here” means run away quickly and hide. He thinks “no” is something you shout back at someone when they tell you not to do something and he thinks all toys are “MINE.” In short he’s spicy nicey. The nice part is added because he also is a big cuddler, loves his sister a ton and shows it with large bear hugs turned tackles, and will makes everyone laugh. They are pretty perfect compliments and while I often find him in a corner trying to open the liquid Tylenol to make sure I know where the nearest ER is he is perfectly him.

If we aren’t careful we can label our children in two ways… good or bad. Claire by the world standards is good and Briggs is bad. I don’t agree, I think some kids are just better at faking it than others.
I want my kids to know even the best faker doesn’t fool God or meet Gods standard of holy. See we are all rebels, it is planted in our hearts from the fall, we want to run from God/authority and some of us just suck at faking it.

I was one of those kids, one of the bad ones. My parents affectionately referred to my brand of childhood antics as having “one of those.” It was not a mystery that Ibriggs4was a hard kid. I wanted to be obedient, I really did, but I was so curious and mischievous and I had three boys to help me accomplish such things. Now my parents were also good at praising my good qualities but this isn’t a blog post about that… moving on. I remember believing early on that I was a lot to handle. I was never a “typical” girl and I often wished I could be less loud and more graceful. I wasn’t. I was just me. I was ADHD to the max and never exceled greatly at school or sports. I know now that who I am is just fine (the whole writing a book bit helped… kidding). As an adult I’ve learned a lot of the things God created in me are the things he knew I would need for his kingdom. He has gifted me perfectly to pour my life back into him and I believe he has done the same with each of my children. I think all too often the qualities the world labels as “bad” are things God sees and says, I can’t wait to use that.

Claire and Briggs have been in swimming lessons and let’s just say Briggs hasn’t enjoyed it quite like Claire has. I was telling a few people separately that Briggs hated lessons and his teacher overheard me and said, “Don’t say that… he will believe whatever you tell him.” So simple yet so profound. My kids will believe whatever I tell them. If I send Claire the message that she can get by in life on her own as long as she keeps everyone happy she will never see her need for God. If I tell Briggs he is wild and crazy he will believe it and never understand that wild and crazy can be great things when aligned with the right passions. Whatever we tell them, they will believe.

I have stopped praying for God to make Briggs less strong willed or more compliant, instead I have prayed God would teach me to turn his passion and will into a man of God who stands for all the right things. Let’s be real the world could use more men like that. I don’t want my son to roll over in the face of injustice or cruelty, I want him to stand strong and yell NO right back at it.  I don’t pray that Claire keeps making my life easy all the days of her life, I pray God would be real to her, I pray she would see we can never perform our way to perfection. I pray she sees that mercy and grace are her best friends.  I pray she knows God loves her even on her worst day. I want my kids to always know, that they were perfectly created for God’s purpose. I tell Claire all the time she is beautiful and then I ask her if she knows why I think she’s beautiful. She smiles big and asks why, I tell her because God gave her a beautiful heart that loves others. God can make any heart beautiful, let us never forget it.

Ezekiel 36:26New Living Translation (NLT)

26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.[a]

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