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A week ago I decided to spend some one-on-one time with Avy, my three-year-old. One of her favorite things to do in the world is go to our local gymnastics studio’s “open gym” for preschoolers, where she can climb, jump, hang, and flip to her heart’s content. So I dressed her in sweats and drove her to the studio, prepared to cheer and applaud as she showed me all her newest “tricks.” When we arrived we found that the gym was absolutely packed, overflowing with rambunctious three and four year olds and exhausted looking parents. Then I realized – it was spring break in our town, and none of the pre-schools in the area were in session and some of the day-cares were closed as well.
Avy was oblivious to the crowd, happily jumping on the trampoline, and catapulting into the foam pit. But I couldn’t help noticing how dismal and depressed most of the other moms seemed.
“I can’t wait until nap time comes today,” one mom was saying to her friend, “I’m going to make them sleep for three hours while I collapse on the couch in front of the T.V.”
All around the gym, I observed moms staring blankly into space, looking tired, drained, and burned-out. A week of no school had taken its toll on these parents, and now their little ones were running wildly out of control as they sat and completely zoned out, or vented to their friends about how difficult their children were and how chaotic their lives felt.
There have been plenty of times in my motherhood journey when I can fully relate to those sentiments. Usually it happens when our normal routine is interrupted and life is busier than normal, or when we are going through a major challenge or trial in our ministry that causes a lot of distraction. Suddenly the kids behavior seems to go south, the house looks like a tornado hit it, and I start having the distinct feeling that I’ve just been in a train wreck.
In fact, the other night was one of those times. Eric had been out of town for three days so I was playing the role of single mom. The weather had been strangely snowy and cold despite the calendar saying it was spring. So, as a result, the kids were cooped up in the house, bored, and missing Daddy. They were emotional, needy, whiny, and hyper. I was also in the middle of a huge organizing project, which meant that there were piles all over the house that kept getting bigger as the kids dug through them looking for “treasures.” I was frustrated that the house seemed to be getting messier and messier, and even more frustrated that the kids didn’t seem to be able to play happily for more than five minutes at a time without some kind of meltdown.
It’s hard to get perspective in those times. Exhaustion and depression begin to creep over my emotions. And my life as a mom starts to seem overwhelming instead of triumphant.
From the conversations I’ve had with other parents over the past few years, I’ve realized that exhaustion, burn-out, and depression is something that many young moms struggle with. But I firmly believe that the sacred calling of motherhood was designed by God to be joyful and triumphant, not exhausting and demoralizing. And, if we are willing to receive it, He provides every bit of grace that we need to live out our calling with joy, peace, energy, strength, and victory – even in the challenging times.
I’d like to share with you some practical things that have greatly helped me whenever I start having the train-wreck feeling in my motherhood. These simple actions transform my perspective from depressed and dismal to energized and hopeful. I believe they can do the same for you!
As simplistic as this sounds, it’s easier said than done when your life is feeling chaotic. But remember, your relationship with Christ is the anchor of your soul. If you allow it to fade into the background, every other area of your life will be out of whack. But when we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, everything else in life just falls into place. So do whatever it takes to have time with Him each day – if you have to get up earlier, sneak away to the prayer closet while your kids nap, forgo Facebook time (I know…gasp!), or even turn on a movie for your little ones (an edifying one, of course!) spend time in His presence each and every day. Pray, journal, study Scripture, and pour out your soul to Him. Especially if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed, remember that running to Him, not away from Him is the solution. His Word says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) When your emotions take a downward spiral, don’t turn to Facebook, T.V. shopping, or venting to your friends – run to the One who truly saves those who are crushed in spirit. You will not be disappointed if you turn to Him!
When we are feeling run-down or emotionally exhausted, usually the last thing we want to do is exercise or get outside and take a brisk walk or an invigorating bike ride. However, it’s one of the best ways to clear your mind and refresh your body. Don’t allow the voice of self-pity to speak. You know, the one that whispers, “You poor thing; you have had such a hard time lately. You deserve to stay in bed!” or, “You should take it easy, you know. Lay on the couch and watch movies all day. You are too depressed and tired to do anything else!” Taking that bait can be deadly to a mother’s soul and toxic to your family environment. Your husband and children need you to be active, involved, energetic, and available. It brings great insecurity to kids when they see their mother lounging around in exhaustion and depression. God has called you to be a keeper of your home, and He will give you the grace to live that calling out if you listen to His voice, and not the voice of self-pity or depression.
So get out of bed, get off the couch, and move! Get some uplifting worship music in your headphones and take a brisk walk outside, or go for a bike ride and enjoy God’s amazing creation. Or, if the weather is not good, find ways to move indoors. I have found that the days I discipline myself to exercise (especially doing something active outdoors when the weather is nice) my emotions are far more stable and calm than on the days when I’m too busy to make time for it. Exercise (when done for God’s glory and not self-glory) is one of the best cures for depression and exhaustion. So ask Him for the grace to get moving!
Remember, our motherhood calling was given to us by God. It is a position that we must take seriously before Him, and treat with dignity and respect. When we dress like slobs, we tend to feel slob-ish, tired, and unmotivated as we go about our daily tasks. But when we take time to dress purposefully for our job as keeper of the home, it reminds us of the importance of what we are called to and helps bring energy and dignity to our role. This doesn’t mean that you need to mop your kitchen floor in an evening gown and high heels. But even if you are just staying home all day, don’t just throw your hair into a messy ponytail and wear grungy sweats. Take a few extra minutes to “beautify” in the morning – whether it’s layering a colorful cardigan over a casual shirt, putting some curl in your hair, or adding some lipstick and a bit of fun jewelry – taking time to polish your appearance will give you purpose and energy for the incredibly challenging role you play each day as Mom!
One of the best purchases I ever made was an audio version of the Bible called The Word of Promise. I download the audio files to my Iphone and listen to the life-giving words of Scripture as I get ready in the morning, do projects around the house, and drive in my car. Filling my mind with Truth is energizing. It grounds me in Him instead of allowing my emotions to take control. It brings a sense of peace, order, and comfort to my mind and heart, even when my circumstances feel chaotic. It also keeps me spiritually sharp and focused on eternal things throughout the day, instead of allowing my mind to meditate upon meaningless earthly distractions.
Listening to worship music is also edifying and life-giving. It brightens my entire perspective on life when I play a song that leads me into the presence of the King. I like to put worship music on when my kids first wake up in the morning, and right before they go to sleep at night. It seems to set the right tone for our morning and evening routine. (And as an extra bonus, when my three and four year old are busy singing along to worship songs they forget about the toy that they are squabbling over, or the fact that one of them just stepped on the other one’s pinky finger.)
Motherhood is not easy, and never will be. There are a lot of times when I flip open a Pottery Barn Kids catalog and find myself wishing that my kids’ rooms could always look that perfect, their bedding could always stay that crisp, their clothes could always stay that clean, and their attitudes could always stay so peacefully content. (Hmmm, maybe if we just had that cute table and chairs, or that adorable bedspread in the girl’s room…?)
But the reality is that all the boutique kids’ clothing and designer furniture in the world can never create a truly peaceful and orderly home or a thriving family life. It’s a supernatural gift of grace. And it’s only found when we align our lives, hearts, and attitudes with the Author of peace and joy! So next time you are feeling that train-wreck approaching, run to the One who can turn your exhaustion into exhilaration. Faithful is He who called you, who also will do it! (1 Thess. 5:24).
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