Friday was the last day of school for our children. It was only a half day, and I attended the awards ceremony which took up most of the day. One of the things they do, which I love so much, is in the last hour of their final day, the teachers each take their classes up to the alter and speak a blessing over each and every one of their students. As I sat there, and I watched children crying with the sadness of moving on from their beloved teachers, and teachers choking up and wiping away tears; one particular teacher sweetly sobbing as she led her class out of the chapel for the last time, I thought, how could I have ever worried about sending our children to school?
Let me backtrack just a little. When our oldest two children were 5 and 4, I began homeschooling them. I homeschooled them until they were 8 and 7, after having our fourth child. The homeschool schedule became difficult for me to keep, and I was struggling with serious back trouble after a very large baby. I was tired and stressed, and felt as though they weren't getting the best of me. As the thought of sending them to school crept into my mind, I was then filled with such a devastating guilt, that I would often cry over this decision. When I reached out to a couple of homeschool mom friends of mine, who were doing it with more children than I, I was left more discouraged than ever. There seemed to be this general idea that we were supposed to suffer, that it was for the greater good, that it was supposed to be hard. Don't get me wrong. It is hard. If it were easy, so many more families would do it. But I was made to feel like a failure, as though my friends, with 2 or 3 more children were tougher and stronger, and pushing through, and I was just giving up on what they felt was the best option.
They did not mean to make me feel this way. Of that I am certain. I believe that they were trying to encourage me to do what I had originally felt so called to do. But what I really needed to hear was, It's OK.
It's OK to need help. It's OK to change your mind. Sometimes, it's ok to quit.
You. Are. Enough.
Life is fluid. It doesn't always flow easily. There are sometimes steep drop offs, often jagged rocks, and turbulent waters, but it keeps moving. As we move through it, sometimes we need to adapt and adjust to the changing currents.
The thing about being enough is that we have to be able to recognize when we need to make changes, when we need to ask for help. Truth?
Sometimes we aren't enough.
What I needed to wrap my brain around, in that moment, was that I wasn't quitting on my children. I wasn't quitting because it was too hard, or because I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do it. I was adapting. I was changing the plan to better suit the needs of my children. I was asking for help. I was praying. And while a few of my friends didn't understand what I needed, God did.
And so, this little school that was randomly suggested by an acquaintance in passing, this school that wasn't even on our radar to contact, suddenly became one of the greatest decisions of our lives. It is a place where our children are literally loved to tears, a place of great growth and learning, a place where our children are learning how to walk with Jesus, a place that has afforded me the opportunity to coach my son in a sport we both love, a place we can trust with our children while I now have more freedom to grow a business from home and contribute to the income of this ever growing family. But listen, it is a place we never would have thought to look...on our own.
The enemy will tell you that you're not good enough. The enemy will tell you you're a quitter. The enemy wants you to feel like a failure, and if you're trying to do all the things on your own, he will feel victorious, and you will feel defeated. Because you aren't meant, on your own, to be enough. You weren't supposed to be. You were designed to need Jesus, and what He has to offer, is more than enough.
My youngest, had slept long past the time she would normally wake from her nap. I went up to wake her, and as I opened the door, her sleepy eyes slowly opened. She didn't look grumpy. Nor did she look like she was quite ready to move. I walked over as she lifted her arms up to me, and I slowly lifted her into my arms. Sitting down on her sister's bed, I cradled her 3 year old body over my lap, and rocked her back and forth, asking if she enjoyed her nap.
In the stillness and quiet of the room we just sat there for a moment. With her face pressed up against my chest she calmly asked, "Mommy, what are you doing?"
"I am rocking you," I replied.
"No, you're not," she said, in a very matter of fact tone.
"I am cuddling you," I tried again.
"No," she said again with a deep sigh. "You are giving me breath so I can breathe."
If you knew my wild, strongly opinionated, and volume control challenged 3 year old, you would understand what an absolutely precious moment this was. She simply needed to recharge, and she clung to me.
What if, in our completely exhausted moments, when we don't feel like we can move, or even get out of bed, we clung to Jesus like a phone to its charger.
What if we just sat, in the stillness, like a cradled child, breathing in His presence?
If ever there was an eye opening moment for me, showing me how to be more child-like, this was it. When I become fatigued, stressed, or frustrated, I tend to busy myself even more. Even in my rest, I am browsing on the computer or on my phone, reading a book or crocheting. I fill my rest with distractions. When am I ever just still? When are any of us just still?
My 3 year old, who is almost always go-go-go, taught me a valuable lesson in stillness. When you are tired, when you need to recharge, turn off the noise, put away the distractions. Allow yourself to be held in the quiet presence of the Lord. Take a deep breath, and allow Him to breathe new life into your exhausted body.
If you are a Christian, chances are you have read Proverbs 31. If you are a wife, or a mother, or a woman desiring or engaged to be married, chances are you have read this and thought, "How on earth...?"
I know I have often thought that this is a ridiculously high standard to be upheld. This woman is perfect. This woman does it all. This woman never sleeps. She makes everything by hand. She's a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur.
She is not real.
She is a standard of measurement, and not even for women. It is believed that Proverbs 31 was written as advice, from a mother to her son, who would grow to be king. He is named at the beginning of Proverbs 31 as King Lemuel, but some have speculated that it is actually advice from Bathsheba to her son Solomon.
When you look at this from the perspective of motherly advice, how much more sense does this make? Of course we have ridiculously high standards for our children. Of course we want absolute perfection for them. Also, we know that seeking those high standards has a natural way of weeding out that which is not good for them.
Reading over Proverbs 31 this weekend, I gained a new perspective, and a new appreciation for its importance, and I felt as though I was seeing it with fresh eyes. This woman we try to emulate (or not, due to fear of inevitable failure), was not only (very likely) designed to advise a future king in choosing wisely, but she has servants. (v 15) When I think about how much I could get done, how many patterns I could write, how many chores I could get done daily, how much more quickly I could grow my work-from-home business, if I had hired help...well, the answer is a lot. This is a well off woman clothed in fine linen and purple (v 22), with a respected city leader for her husband (v 23), and servants to help her each day.
Does this discredit who she is? Does this make her any less worthy of striving toward? No. Because we learn, at the end of the chapter, the most important thing.
Her virtue determines her value; not the ongoing list of her daily chores, not her business transactions, not her fine linens. In fact, later on (v 25) we no longer hear of her fine linens, and instead see that she is clothed with strength and dignity. This is a woman who fears the Lord. This is a woman who does all things for the glory of God. This is a woman who serves her husband, her children, and her community by loving God. As such, then this is a woman who took the commandments seriously.
Moms, even God and even...even the Proverbs 31 woman rested on the 7th day. Let that sink in. By all means, strive for those high standards. But remember, we will all serve in different ways. The Lord has given us each different skills and talents with which to serve. He has also given us a day of rest that we so often refuse to take. Take it. And thank and praise Him for it. It's not about the hustle. It's about the heart.
I have spent at least half of my life in competition. At a very early age, I learned how to compete with myself. This taught me a great deal of self-discipline, and it helped me to improve my basketball skills daily. When I was older, this competition spilled over to other areas of my life. I competed in tennis, basketball, and I also competed academically.
Competition was a driving force in my life. I thrived on it, but not in an unhealthy way. I respected the competition. I loved competing against the best. Winning tough games was that much more satisfying, and losing tough games came with lessons which made us better. I have always believed that competition taught in a healthy way, is good for our children, and I believe they should learn how to work hard to win, and they should learn how to take a loss.
Sometimes a love for competition can make for a rough transition into adulthood, business, and life in general. People find themselves competing at work, as parents, friends, family; who is the best at all the things?
What becomes lost is the idea of a team. Competition is nothing without teamwork, and often we jump into adulthood competing in all the wrong areas. We've forgotten about building up our team.
This has created the idea that we can do everything by ourselves. We've stopped taking help from the village. We want good teachers, but they shouldn't be too involved. Don't tell me how to raise my child. We want good mommy friends, but don't discipline my kid. Don't tell me how to raise my child. We continue to create this island in our lives, and then complain about exclusion. We then complain when things get hard, and no one shows up. We have created a society of people afraid to step on toes, and offer help where it wasn't asked for.
.This verse isn't about all of us agreeing with everyone, all the time. It is about coming together. It is about harmony. Harmony cannot be done alone. We may not always do things in the same exact way, but we all play an important role.
This is a lesson I recently learned in the handmade community; community over competition. We all have a common goal. We are all trying to grow, and we can't do that by tearing each other down, or pushing others away. We can't do it all by ourselves.
It is easy to get caught up in competition. I have gotten caught up in this too! My heart has fallen a bit, in frustration, when I've seen another artist get to an idea that I had, before I did. This is futile! I have learned that it is better to team up, than to cause conflict. It is better to accept help, offer advice, and cultivate a community of friends, than to make enemies.
As early as Genesis, when God created Eve, He did so saying, "Man should not be alone." We weren't designed to do it ourselves. We were meant for teamwork. Reach out to your church. Reach out to your friends, your family, even your competition, and get off your island.
As 2017 drew to a close, I knew that there were some things I had to change about my business. I was burnt out. I had planned new content on my blog twice a week, nearly all year long. I had a new pattern release or recipe almost every single week, along with my weekly Monday Messages. It would have been a lot for anyone, but for a mom with four children; two of which are still home, it was way too much.
I was expecting too much of myself, and at what cost? My children saw a lot of the back of my head as I worked on patterns and blogs on the computer. Admittedly, not all of my patterns were the quality I would have liked, and my food photography for my recipes really needed more work.
When I began planning for 2018, I found a happy planner by me & my BIG ideas which said, "grace upon Grace," on the cover, and had so many perfect Bible verses for me on this journey, found throughout the pages. I decided then and there that my word for the new year would be GRACE.
Little did I know just how much of it I would need.
Three weeks into January, I had fallen so far behind, that I hadn't produced any new patterns or recipes since well before Christmas, and I didn't have any ready to go any time soon. My husband was laid up in bed for weeks with his back injury. Scenes of the stomach bug in this house resembled that of an exorcism, and I was struggling with my emotions, missing my crochet, and stressing about actual, real, upcoming deadlines.
Many things in this house were ruined during the course of this time. We literally had to order a new couch, and we may need a new dryer, and to add insult to injury, the final vomiting episode came down right on my "grace upon Grace," perfect-for-me, happy planner.
I know. Here we are on week three of you guys hearing about how lousy this month has been for my family, but I do hope you get my intended purpose for these messages.
Because it isn't about me.
I am weak. I am a human being, with struggles, and anger, and sin. I share my stories with you so that you may know just how heavily I rely on Him...even when I don't, even when I turn my face from Him in anger, even when I cry out in doubt and fear, even when I forget to trust Him....He is there.
Do you remember being a teenager and being so angry with your parents you never wanted to speak to them again? Do you remember slamming doors in their faces? Maybe you even told them you hated them, or wrote that thought in your journal. Maybe they did something, "for your own good," that you couldn't fully understand at that time in your life.
But when you needed them, they were there. You still slept in their house, ate the food they provided, and wore the clothes they bought.
I had been angry with God over my husband's pain and inability to work, over the kids' sickness, over the vet bills and expensive things needing replacing, over the pain I've been seeing in the world, but I still ate of His food, clothed in His provisions. Even in my anger, He sent us blessings in the form of loving family, church family, and friends.
HIS power is made PERFECT in weakness.
His GRACE is sufficient.
I bought myself a new planner, one which will be kept carefully away from any future vomiting children, and I've wrapped myself in His grace.
Whatever it is that you're striving for, whatever it may be that you feel has been keeping you down, wrap yourself in His grace. It is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weakness.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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