More Than a Mom

I didn’t realize how easy it would be to place my worth in my mothering skills, essentially handing this small child control of how I feel about myself based on her behavior that day. It snuck up on me, this assigning of my own value to my ability to “make” this child do what I wanted her to do.

And so it began. It seems that many moms are given a compliant firstborn child, one who lives to please Mom and follow the rules. This was not my experience, and so it became easy to compare my firstborn to those of my friends around me, other kids at church, the kids at the park and the store. As they sat sweetly in the shopping cart at Target, my child screamed, protesting the forced confinement to a seatbelt and crying as though I had done the most awful thing she could imagine.

It was a hard switch for me, spending my days as a children’s pastor, beloved by kids and parents alike, to spending my days as mom with no accolades and lots of frustration. A couple of years later when my son was born, there was an easier stretch of time because he was such a great baby and toddler. I finally realized that the behavior of my oldest wasn’t completely due to parenting, but also included the influence of her own personality and choices. The experience of having a second child with a very different personality was very eye-opening for me. I honestly don’t think I knew how much my own self-worth was based upon what I perceived to be my success or failure as a mother until my second was born.

My third child was born a few years after the second. Three weeks after she was born, my oldest went to kindergarten. This was when the full weight of finding my self-worth in my “performance” as a mom came to bear on my soul. I was looking forward to sending her to school, to having time with the baby and having someone else take care of her for a few hours. Unfortunately, it was not the blissful experience I was expecting. I quickly discovered that my phone would ring with each misbehavior. I came to dread my phone ringing. Anxiety would fill my heart when I saw the school on my caller ID. They were so kind and gracious with her and with us, but it could not negate the fact that I felt like the worst mother on the planet who could not figure out how to get her child to behave.

The stress and depression was intense, and coupled with post-partum depression, it was a very sad and hard season for me. I found that it was hard work to untangle my value and worth from my identity as a mom. God was using these challenging times to shine a spotlight on my soul.

My awesome, spirited, independent kids

I was so frustrated that I couldn’t just read a book and fix it or follow a three step plan to make everything better. I am honestly still in this battle to find my value in who God has made me, who God says I am. It is hard work, but I know it is worth the effort. When I live out of my value in Christ, I am less likely to ride the roller coaster of finding my worth in my kids and their behavior or choices that day.

I find myself jumping into the conversation when I hear a mom say something like, “I can’t believe their kid did that. They must not care at all about his behavior.” I am so quick to remind them that a child is his own person, and he often makes choices against what his parents have taught him. Toddlers, teenagers, and everything in between are testing boundaries and seeking independence. Let’s offer grace to parents who are struggling with a challenging season of parenting. Let us remind the mom next door of her worth and value because she is made in the image of God.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV

Rain or Shine

A few weeks ago, we had an amazing 70 degree day. I was talking to Matt after dinner, and I asked him a question.

“When it’s sunny and warm, do you feel almost giddy? Like over the top, crazy happy inside just because of the sun and warmth? Because I felt SO good today. I couldn’t believe how happy it made me to feel the warm air and sunshine!”

He agreed, which kind of surprised me. I figured it was just me, that he would say it was great but not as great as I described it. But he said he felt just as amazing that day. Then I wondered: does that mean people who live in warmer climates with sunnier skies feel this happy all the time? I lived about 8 hours south of here for 7 years. It was a much milder climate, but I don’t remember quite having this feeling.

My friend who recently moved to Florida was visiting, so I asked her. She said living there makes a huge difference for her husband, but it isn’t as impactful for her. I was on the phone with another friend last week, and I asked her the same question. She said that we probably have this feeling because of the full range of weather we experience. We get enough cold and snow during the winter, that when the sun and warm air arrives, we can’t help but feel ecstatic.

I think she is right. If we didn’t have the cold temperatures and gray skies of winter, we wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine and warmth as much as we do. I believe this is true in the story of our lives as well. When we face hard times and dark days, the joy that comes when we experience blessings is increased. The depth of sorrow is mirrored in the height of joy.

Some people don’t like winter. It isn’t my favorite thing. But after 20 years of living here, I can say that I am grateful for the range of seasons we experience. I love that it makes me so thankful for a beautiful spring day. I love that it reminds me of the way God works in our lives. Winter doesn’t last forever. Spring is on its way.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Flashback Friday: Fine Arts

In the spring and summer of 1999, I found myself working a part time job at my church that I loved and about to graduate from Bible college. I had not expected to graduate single, and I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I loved Springfield and the life I had there, so I focused on staying and finding a full time job for the time being.

After a few interviews that didn’t excite me, an opportunity came my way to work in the National Youth Department of the Assemblies of God. A friend circumvented the typical hiring process to interview me, and I knew I wanted to work there. I hated to leave the youth pastor for whom I was working at the time, but I knew this was the right job at the right time. As my mom reminded me a few times, you need a job with insurance after college. 🙂

I found myself buried in a summer season that was all about Fine Arts Festival. Processing registrations involved hiring high school students for data entry. I worked for the Speed the Light Director, so I learned a lot about that amazing program and about working for someone who travels all the time. Everyone in the office was traveling to Fine Arts in August, but I was late to the game and was going to stay behind. A few weeks before the event, the Fine Arts Director asked me if I wanted to go. My travel-loving heart was thrilled!

It was such an intense week, and one I will never forget. Our hotel was next to the convention center, but the convention center was a mile long. This was before step counting was a thing, but we walked an unreal number of miles that week. It wasn’t good news when you forgot something in your hotel room.

I don’t remember what exactly I did that week, I just know that hosting thousands of students for an even of that magnitude was an enormous feat. At the end of the week is the celebration service. Each category had an Award of Merit recipient who would sing or preach or play their presentation in the service. It was an amazing culmination of the exhausting, amazing week.

I was able to attend and help execute 2 more Fine Arts Festivals while I worked in the youth department. In my last year there, I headed up planning for the National Youth Convention in Kansas City.

I reminisce about Fine Arts Festival because I am looking forward to evaluating performances for students in my state this weekend. It has been a long time since I was able to be a part of a Fine Arts Festival, and I am so excited to help encourage these youth in their gifts and callings. God used experiences just like this to encourage me when I was this age. I believe He will do amazing things in the lives of these young men and women tomorrow. Fine Arts has expanded to include many areas it did not include 23 years ago, and I am thankful that it gives more kids the chance to showcase the gifts God has given them.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Forever and Ever and Ever…

Forever. I used to try to think about forever in heaven when I was a child. I felt like my mind was spiraling as I thought about time never ending. It’s been a long time since I let my mind wander in that way, but I have been thinking about how God always has been. There was no beginning to God. He is eternal, which means He is without end or beginning. In order to believe that we will live forever in heaven with God, we must also believe that He has always been in existence. If He has no end, He must also have no beginning.

I know, I don’t delve into deep theological concepts often here, but I hope you will stay with me. It won’t be a long one. The fact that God has always existed is great news for us. A God who was not created but is Himself the Creator is a God worthy of my worship. If your god was created by someone else, wouldn’t that other person then be worthy of worship? If you worship a god who has a beginning, then he must also have an end. If your god has an end, well, how powerful then is that god?

The God I worship is eternal. I take comfort in worshipping the God who stands outside of time even as I am bound by time and all its constraints. I make decisions using the information I have in the moment, but if I seek Him and ask for His wisdom (James 1:5), He offers the wisdom that takes into account all things past, present, and future. I can trust that He knows what is best for me because He knows it ALL.

Pondering God’s eternal nature gives me peace and hope today. I pray that you will find the same.

““I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬