Recently I interviewed Kristen Howerton (visit rageagainsttheminivan.com to find out more about her). I read her book Rage Against the Minivan in 24 hours. It was that good.
I’m not a huge fan of parenting books, tbh. They usually end up making me feel even worse than I already do about my failing parenting skills. But Kristen met me right where I was with this book and I couldn’t put it down.
One thing she talks about in the book is “Opting In” and “Opting Out” of certain activities for you and your kids. Gosh, I loved the practicality of that idea. So, I’ve starting making my lists of what I am “Opting In” and “Out Of” so I don’t opt out of my every-loving-mind.
- At least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with Mom a day (when I can): Whether that is just talking, playing a game, watching a show, coloring, or baking. Just taking a few minutes out of my day to make sure my kids know they are a priority is important to me. It fills their tanks and mine.
- Family dinners: Most nights out of the week, we sit down around our farmhouse table for family meals. I love this time because we always ask the kids what their best part of the day was. I feel like the kids share, laugh hard, and get our undivided attention.
- Cleaning schedule: I have a cleaning schedule that I follow almost to the letter because it keeps me from spending several hours one day a week cleaning the whole house. Instead, I do about a room or two a day. It’s been amazing and leaves me feeling like the whole house is always clean!
- Cooking: We used to eat out all of the time and it was expensive, stressful, and unhealthy. Covid forced me to slow down and cook at home. It also helped me organize my day so that I was always sure we were home by a certain time for me to make a meal. I have found cooking is like working out for me: It keeps me focused on the task at hand and reduces my stress and anxiety.
- Music on: Alexa sits on my kitchen counter and is always playing some tunes in the background.
- Candles Lit: I love a cozy smelling house. So between my candles and my music, I feel like I’ve set a relaxing tone for my house. It helps my mind center and reminds me that I am safe and can create safety for my family.
- Working out: I don’t workout more than an hour a day. I take the kids for a run (25 minutes) and then do a 30 minute workout at home. It reduces stress and helps me maintain my health. It’s also a good example to the kids. But anymore than that and it begins to jeopardize the rest of my day. I also workout at home now using Beach Body on Demand. I used to go to the gym and enjoyed it, but I would stress wondering how much time I was taking away from being home.
- Living life: The past year has taught us that you don’t have to take every opportunity thrown at you, but like, why not? Why not go all in, balls to the wall, and really LIVE? So we don’t get bogged down by the “what if’s” because we don’t want to have any “if onlys” later. But, here are staples to living this way: A budget, communication, values. Those three things will put guardrails around each of your decisions so you don’t derail your life.
- Time with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. We will plan our weekends around parties and gatherings with/for family. They are our people.
- Sex night: This has revolutionized our marriage. Pick one night a week when YOU KNOW you are going to have sex. Ladies, this will help you know what is coming and how to prepare for it. Do you need to nap? Do you need to do less so you have energy? Is that sexy outfit ready? etc etc etc. This may sound lame, but our sex life has grown EXPONENTIALLY because we’ve invested in it. And, we now have sex WAY MORE than one time a week. But we also don’t pressure ourselves because we schedule sexcations where we get away without the kids to catch up if need be.
- Prayer: I have started making this a staple of my day and it has changed everything. I write in my prayer journal or pray while I run. I just list out my concerns, stressors, fears, and then spend some time thanking Jesus for stuff. It’s amazing how writing it down or talking it out releases the pressure and allows me to better focus on my family and the day at hand.
- An uncluttered house: I am trying to learn that allowing the kids to use their imaginations and play requires some mess. And noise. Both of these things tend to trigger me because I fear the clean up and the energy it will take to organize the chaos. Instead, I am choosing to let the kids be kids and embrace the mess, because, one day, I am going to miss this.
- Mowing the lawn: We hired a lawn service and a pool service a few years ago. I used to do those two things myself, but the time it took away from other stuff wasn’t worth it. Also, we didn’t want Bryant spending his time off on the lawn and pool and not the kids. So it is a staple in our budget now.
- Empty laundry baskets: Some weeks I’m better at this than others. But guess what? I now have five other people who can help with the laundry and I’m not afraid to employ them on the task!
- Perfect grades: My kids do their best. End of story.
- Extra curriculars: We just haven’t gotten started with these yet. Idk when we will. We value our week nights and weekends too much.
- Nights out: Bryant and I get one night a week to be out if we need it. Due to our jobs, we sometimes have to schedule things in the evenings. But we aren’t away more than once a week.
- A huge circle of friends: We honestly don’t have time for tons of friends. Or the energy. Our job requires a lot out of us emotionally, so we have to have very secure and confident friends. We have a few close friends who we invest in, and that’s it.
So there are a few of the things I’m opting in to and out of. What about you? What do you need to opt in to and out of? I’d love to hear in the comments.
So I can’t get past the life changing message in 2 Chronicles 20 (Who would have ever guessed there was such awesome stuff in Chronicles? Who even knows where Chronicles is in the Scriptures?).
Let’s Get Caught Up
To get caught up with this blog, read Juggling. Here’s a quick recap: We know that King Jehoshaphat is up against an army he cannot defeat. He cries out to God and says: “We are powerless against this great horde…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
God responds: “The battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.” Wow. I can’t get over God’s answer. He says in essence, “You can’t do it. You will fail. Watch me do my thing.”
God wanted to show off to His people. He knew that they could not do anything on their own; only He is self-sufficient. He wanted to prove this to them. So what were they to do during the battle if they weren’t going to fight?
2 Chronicles 20:21: “And Jehoshaphat appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise Him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
The army simply praised God! And God blessed them…He “gave rest all around”.
I love this story because it proves what I know intellectually, but need to be reminded of emotionally. I can do nothing. I am simply a branch. Do you remember in John 15 in the Scriptures when Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches”? Have you ever wondered what that actually meant?
It means realizing that the vine gives the nutrients. The vine causes the growth. The vine protects, sustains, and fortifies. I simply get to know who Jesus is and then let him come in and do all of the work. The more I get to know him, the more like him I become. I just am because I am a part of the Almighty I Am.
Who Am I?
I’ve said this before, but some of you don’t know who you are because you don’t know who Jesus is. Wait, what? You are trying to find your identity in anything and everything because you are too afraid to slow down and really ask the questions: Does Jesus love me? Does he accept me? The answer is a resounding YES! But some of you have been taught a Jesus that doesn’t exist. You’ve been taught a Jesus arrogant Christians made up to control you. It’s time to stop running from him and figure out who he actually is.
A great place to start is in the Gospels. When I was deconstructing my faith, I started reading in the Gospels. My views and relationship with Jesus were transformed as I read how he interacted with people and loved them unconditionally.
What Happened Next?
And would you know, I started slowing down. Saying no. Leaning into my identity as someone who is loved and accepted by Jesus and so no longer needed to prove herself. I started getting healthy in counselling and loving people with no strings attached. I started being thankful and praising Jesus for the good things in my life that I was finally able to slow down and enjoy. It was not overnight, but gosh was it life-changing.
So what about you? Are you brave enough to come to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Scriptures) and see who Jesus actually is?
Why is it so hard for me to accept that God does not need me?
I need to be needed. I need to feel like I matter. Like people’s well-being depends on me. Cause if people don’t need me, they will leave me. And then I will be alone with my thoughts and feelings and that scares me. I don’t want to have to face my past…I want to distract myself from my past with my busy present. And so I tend to run around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get things done so I don’t have to think. To feel. And I exhaust myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
There is nothing wrong with being busy. Busyness is a part of life. But sometimes my “busyness” is self-inflicted to either distract myself or to find my identity in something else.
And so we always say yes and never say no and now we have so many things on our plate, we aren’t balancing anything, we are juggling everything. God never meant for us to “juggle” our lives. What is that verse in Matthew 11:28? “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Nothing in there about Jesus’s work requiring juggling, or causing anxiety or exhaustion or overwhelmed feelings. It just says what Jesus asks us to do is “easy” and “light”. Gosh, how do I find that work? Must be nice.
The First Step
In 2 Chronicles 20 in the Scriptures, King Jehoshaphat (crazy name) is in a war that he knows he will not win. He is facing an overwhelming circumstance that he cannot avoid. See, that’s the first step in going from anxious and overwhelmed to easy and light: It’s setting down those things that don’t matter – those things that are just distractions. We will face enough in life that we have no choice but to confront. Why are you exhausting all of your mental, emotional and physical margin on things you don’t have to do? If you are having trouble saying “no” to certain things for fear of being replaced, rejected, or abandoned, that’s a tall-tale sign that you need to find a good counselor and get to work on yourself.
Back to our story: Jehoshaphat turns to God and cries out for help: “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand You…We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” Wow. To have the courage that Jehoshaphat had to admit that he was nothing and could handle nothing apart from God…
Whether it’s your fear of your past, the intimidation of counselling, or just the looming circumstance in front of you that you cannot circumvent, you have to have the courage to invite God into your situation. You are not strong enough…big enough…brave enough…healthy enough…But God is.
Here is God’s response: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”
God doesn’t need me
I tend to believe that God needs me…because I need to be needed. I have so many fears and insecurities that I try to temper by being needed, which in my mind is a sure way to evade rejection and abandonment. But if God did need me, then he isn’t God at all, is he? And that scares the sh%$ out of me.
A.W. Tozer says: “This truth [that God is self-sufficient and needs no-one], while a needed rebuke to human self-confidence [ouch], will when viewed in its Biblical perspective lift from our minds the exhausting load of mortality and encourage us to take the easy yoke of Christ and spend ourselves in Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God and the good of mankind. For the blessed news is that the God who needs no one has in sovereign condescension stooped to work by and in and through His obedient children…In the meanwhile our inner fulfillment lies in loving obedience to the commandments of Christ and the inspired admonitions of His apostles. ‘It is God which worketh in you.’ He needs no one, but when faith is present He works through anyone.”
I have to have faith that God is going to come through for me. That he’s not going to drop the ball. Unbelief, Tozer says, is deadly because I am believing in myself, not God, and I am only human. I will fail. Do I really believe God has got this…whatever the “this” may be in my life at any given time? If so, I will allow Him to dictate my day (“Spirit-inspired toil for the honor of God”) and I will be freed up to love and to serve other people (“the good of mankind”). I won’t be distracted by finding ways to make myself feel wanted and needed and irreplaceable. I will be able to focus on loving God and loving others, which is exactly who God created me to be. I will be living my divine purpose, and there is nothing more fulfilling.
Where to start?
Here’s where I’m starting: I am trying to find 10-12 minutes each day where I can pray uninterrupted. I like to write my prayers – it keeps me focused. When I can’t write them, I like to run and pray or walk and pray. In those 10-12 minutes, I am pouring out all of my anxieties, insecurities, fears, feelings of being overwhelmed, and confused. Then, I get up from that time fully surrendered to do what I know needs done next. Not what will necessarily distract me or make me feel better, but what actually needs done. My yoke actually does feel lighter because I’ve left all of my negative emotions with Jesus, trusting that He will take care of those things. And then I live in the moment.
Want to join me? How and where will you spend you 10-12 minutes in prayer today?
We were up late last night dealing with a crisis AND a one year old that was extremely constipated and unhappy. On top of that, I haven’t been feeling well and have the looming stress of a busy weekend weighing on me. I’ve also been a bit discouraged by the fact that a few of our holiday traditions have been canceled. And I have a cold.
So. When our alarm went off this morning, I was like NOT TODAY SATAN. Bryant whispered, “Let’s just sleep in and take the kids to school later.” Amen and Amen.
Well, I wish I was that easy going. I had to have a come to Jesus moment where I reminded myself that no one was going to get behind. No deadline was going to go unmet. I wasn’t failing. The house may not be spotless and the laundry may not be caught up and my work may not get done as fast as I want it to, but what’s most important, my and my family’s mental health, was being taken care of. The kids got extra time together. We decided to get donuts for breakfast. It felt so nice to get ready for the day without the pressure of being on time (the only day where we don’t have to worry about time constraints is Saturday…that’s it…so an extra day here and there is so nice).
When I got home, I had to remind myself that I could let certain things slide. Yes, today is the day I usually clean my bathrooms. So what if they don’t get clean? The dishes may need to pile up in the sink and there may be a few extra crumbs for my already fat dog to find. But that is okay. Because by saying no or just not now to some of those things, I’m saying yes to what’s so important: The Right Now.
The past few weeks, I’ve just been stopping throughout my day to really soak in my kids. They are growing at such a rapid pace and I know if I’m not intentional, I’m going to miss it. So I have been disciplining myself to just slow down and take them in. I’ve tried to plan a few fun things for us to do together throughout the week and weekend: Watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, reading Christmas books (see a theme haha), writing letters to great-grandparents, making ornaments, decorating. And yes, some things on my to-do list have to be readjusted so I can make time for these important moments. But what will I regret more…something on my to-do list that didn’t get done or a wasted opportunity with my kids? I think we all know the answer to that question.
I try (try being the key word) to cut off with all work (homework, ministry, housework) by the time the kids are in bed so I have several hours to unwind before I go to sleep. One of the things that helps me the most is to delete Socials in the evenings. Yes, it’s annoying cause i have to reinstall them in the morning. But I will tell you, removing the temptation to be sucked into the vortex of the social world is so refreshing. I honestly can sense a difference when I don’t. But you will need to replace that with something practical you can do to unwind: A book, a movie, music, whatever. For me right now, it’s Hallmark Christmas Movies. Here’s why getting rest at night is so important: I want to be fresh for my kids in the morning and send them off on their days in a good mood and not frustrated with them. It sets me up to be more present and productive.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is what every other blogger is saying during this season: Embrace the moment. Be present. Figure out what you can let slide. Remind yourself that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. Messy bedrooms, piles of laundry, dishes in the sink, dirty floors: They all mean you’ve made time in your day for what’s most important – people. You aren’t a failure for not getting everything done. But you will fail if you miss this season with your family. So decide now – What can go? What has to stay? And how are you going to invest in those people who are most important to you?
Sometimes I just feel like I’m owed. You know what I mean? Like everyone should see just how hard and long I’m working without any complaining (at least no “outward” complaining – but that’s good enough sometimes, right?). I am craving being noticed. Complimented. Praised. Loved. Needed. Seen. Sometimes we just pour out everything we have and if we got the kind of reactions we are working for and think we deserve, it wouldn’t be so hard. But when we don’t, it sucks.
And it sucks even more when we realize that this reveals something about our hearts: That it’s not about Jesus. It’s all about us. Me. Ugh. Smh (it took me FOREVER to figure out what that stood for -“Shaking my head” for those of you who are like me).
The holidays seem to accentuate the ugliness. We decorate, bake, buy, dress, wrap, clean, perform, entertain – we do it all. So much of it is for those we love, absolutely. But how much of it, honestly, is to prove something to ourselves, our families, our parents, our exes, our ______________?
The problem is, when people don’t appreciate all of our hard work, we tend to get resentful and bitter. I mean, not hardcore. But like passive aggressive. Oof. When God graciously lets us have “out of body” experiences and see just how badly we are treating people, we have a choice…We can continue to act like people are our pawns sent here to serve us. Or, we can practice the truth in this verse from Scripture:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”
Life was NEVER about Jesus. It was NEVER about being noticed or seen. It was ALL about GOD the FATHER and saving me. The me who would try to make life all about her – especially when things aren’t going her way. Ouch.
Jesus, help me. I don’t want to live for myself. I want YOU to live through me. Change my heart. Give me Yours. I want to love and serve others the way You love and serve me. Help me to be in the moment and to enjoy those around me by serving them.
Just say no. We all know the phrase. We say it often. But we don’t live it. We can’t. If we did, wouldn’t we be bored, alone, ignored, worthless, useless?
That’s dramatic, you may be thinking. And I would agree with you. But seriously, then…why don’t we just say no?
I was watching a webinar (that is literally the dorkiest word I have ever heard), and the speaker challenged us to write down a list of our priorities. So here are mine:
- My relationship with Jesus.
- My relationship with my children (notice I said “relationship” and not “being a mom to”…there’s a difference to me).
- My relationship with my husband.
- My relationship with myself (rest, exercise, Sabbath, writing, etc.).
- My relationships with my extended family and closest friends.
- My Church.
Then, she encouraged us to jot down our obligations. So, here we go again (these aren’t necessarily in order):
- Serving my husband.
- Taking care of my children.
- Managing our home (cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry).
- Leading the church with Bryant.
The speaker told us that if our obligations are not lining up with our priorities, something is off and we are saying yes to all the wrong things/people.
Now, you will notice two things are missing in my “Obligations” list.
- My relationship with the Lord.
- My relationships with close friends and family.
Yikes. So, relationally, I am off. Notice, I am not talking about surface-level relationships (a blog on friendships is sure to come). But those deep, gut-level relationships that sharpen me and keep me on track. Those people who know my insides, the insides I don’t really want everyone seeing. Additionally, I am majorly off in my relationship with Jesus. Seems like everything else and everyone else is vying for my attention. That’s why so often I feel torn in 50 million directions and on the borderline of an anxiety attack. He’s not my first priority. So how in the world will my other priorities line up and my obligations fit appropriately? When He’s not invited into my everyday life, I am going to face situations that I can’t and won’t be able to handle. I am going to bite off more than I can chew because He is not going to be the One I am seeking to please. Everyone else is. And that’s a form of bondage I just can’t afford right now.
So, I have to rearrange my life and make sure He doesn’t just fit, He’s it. He’s the One I am living for … seeking to please.…
How do I do that practically? Well, what specifically has HE called me to RIGHT now?
- Following Jesus
- Being a wife
- Being a mom
- Loving others
So, I do them all for Him. I take care of myself so I can follow Jesus. I serve Bryant for Jesus. I love my kids for Jesus. I minister to others for Jesus. And when someone asks me to do something that will compete with one of those three major callings, I say no.
Now here’s the hard part: I need to learn to say no without feeling like I have to explain myself. Ouch. I like to talk. I like to explain. I like to make sure everyone likes me. So this is a hard thing for me to learn. But I have to. Otherwise, I will exhaust myself and I will inevitably and unintentionally communicate to someone else that they just aren’t as valuable to me as what I am doing instead (adapted from the webinar — ha). It’s tough. But, if I am finding my identity in Jesus Christ, I won’t be basing my self-esteem on what others think of me and whether I am meeting everyone else’s expectations. I will only be concerned with what Jesus Christ thinks…and last time I checked, He thinks I’m pretty awesome.