Friday, August 20, 2010


When I was sitting at the registration desk at the hospital last week answering all sorts of personal questions, I didn't realize it was coming. The registration lady looked up at me and said, "And you are still...[sneer, cough] unemployed?" In the next few seconds I moved from shock, to wanting to argue, to sheepishly and defeatedly murmuring "yes".

When did the idea of motherhood go down the toilet? I mean seriously it wasn't that long ago that women were praised for choosing mothering. Why do we have to feel bad about the fact that we choose our children? Sometimes it's at class reunions, or if we "only" do day care or work part-time, or because we take days off so they can be at our child's school activities instead of off enjoying ourselves that women are made to feel like second-class citizens from loserville when they make their family a priority.

I borrowed "Walk the Line" from a movie loving friend of mine. I thought Mike would like it but it was too "slow moving" for him. I was intrigued with the Cash's family life. And I openly admit, I have a problem becoming obsessed with biographies. When I started reading the Little House books to Jenna, I read nine Laura Ingalls biographies in six weeks. It's weird I know. I already have more biographies on reserve.

Anyway, at the library I saw a biography by one of Johnny Cash's daughter and read it. In it she writes of both her mom and step mother as women who loved being mothers. All the other things they had done in life did not compare to their job as being a mom. I was especially captivated by her eulogy for her stepmother, June Carter who had a lot of fame and success in her life. Rosanne Cash writes:

"Recently, a friend was talking to her about the historical significance of the Carter Family, and her remarkable place in the lexicon of American music. He asked her what she thought her legacy would be. She said softly, "Oh, I was just a mother."
Composed, Rosanne Cash page 163-164 c. 2010

I have a friend that gave up her big career to stay home with her children. Just as she was going back to work a decade later, she was diagnosed with cancer. As her cancer returned and the battle raged on, our ECFE teacher said something interesting to me. Something like, I bet she doesn't regret those years she spent with her kids. That was pretty striking. No one can see the future. We don't know how much time we have. Do you think that she would look back from her cancer bed and wish she had spent more time in her career? Or that her kids wished they would have had more material things growing up and less of their mother? Yeah, I don't think so either.

Sometimes I wonder what I would have turned out like had I not become a mother. I was always pretty headstrong and had big ideas, big dreams. Maybe I would have had a great career and risen to stardom in something. I could have become a doctor or a wall street tycoon or a T.V. personality. Maybe I would have had a great legacy to leave the world.

Becoming a mom changes things. Once you have a baby it seems your heart is walking around outside your body. It's more fragile, fearful, faithful and vulnerable. It can easily be shattered, scattered and tattered. But it's also more tender, loving, caring, compassionate and courageous than it could ever have been before.

Mothering is an important job. It's important for our families and our society. Mothering is humbling and sacrificial. It requires great amounts of service. And that makes me think it must be important to Jesus because that's how He lived His life. He willingly surrendered himself for our sake on the cross. And let me just say that if it's important to Jesus, then it's important.

I like to think I don't need anymore validation or encouragement than that. I don't need a legacy beyond what I give to my children. The mission to pour our lives into our kids, to take them on outings, be involved in their lives and maybe spend days off reading to a bunch of fifth graders is not a wasted effort or an unimportant pursuit. It is what God made us for. I'm so glad He did.

But what do I know? After all, I'm unemployed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Slow Going

I've been recovering from surgery for a week now, but it feels like it's been a month. Healing is slow going. There's just no way to get around the fact that it takes time. As good as it sounded to lay around and rest and watch movies, it gets old fast. I was looking forward to a break from my kids, but when push comes to shove all I want to do is be healthy enough to take care of them. Screaming and all.

My usual and preferred pace is frantic. Like having 3 doctor's appointments and 4 dentist appointments in 4 days. Or having a houseful of extra kids. And why do I like to be frantic? I'm not sure. It may have something to do with avoidance. And importance. If I'm busy I don't have to deal with my feelings, my marriage, my kids or other people. It's a nice to have a barrier from all that sticky relational stuff.

As I've been laying around, there's been plenty of time for reading FaceBook statuses. Everyone is very busy. Busy, busy, busy. And I think when we say that we mean:

I'm super busy! = I'm a fun, important, popular person who is in great demand.
I'm not doing much. = I am an unimportant loser that no one really likes or needs.

It doesn't take long being around a "busy" person to start feeling like a loser or even unGodly. (Seriously, God wants us to be crazy busy right?) And that nothing you do matters. Or your personal problems could never be important to them. I think this especially pertains to those of us in ministry.

When Mike and I were young and just starting our ministry and family we were struggling with a few things. We were looking for someone we could go to for help and encouragement. The people we thought of were always so "busy" and "exhausted" from their ministry, we didn't want to burden them with our problems. So we never asked. We never got help. That being said I'm sure if we had gone to them they would have made time for us. But the busy mantra was not exactly a welcome mat, you know?

This year has been really different. Between the leave of absence this winter and now surgery I've been forced to slow down. And I must say I don't really like it. Maybe because I feel like if I'm not running all over I'm part of the loser bracket.

The good news that God is teaching me is that slow going does not throw you into loserville. God values the importance of rest. Genesis 2:2-3 says:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

And He provides rest for us, Matthew 11:28-30 says:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

When we take the time to slow down and rest, there is time for seemingly insignificant things like reading the Bible and praying, games, reading books alone and with the kids, watching movies together, going for walks and bike rides, teaching kids to tie shoes and read. Why is it that it feels insignificant and a waste to do things that are obviously more important than running to appointments, business meetings, church activities or shopping?

It's a timely lesson because we are three weeks away from September and the beginning of school, church and extra curricular activities. I tend to get a little carried away about what I should be involved in every fall. This year I'm going to go at it slow. I have two precious years left with Maren at home. I want to be home with cookies and a listening ear when my 6th, 5th, 3rd, and Kindergartner get off the bus. I want to spend plenty of time with Jesus and in the bible. I want to go on an insane amount of cheesy, romantic dates with my husband. I want to help him with the things God has called him to do. I want to be available to people that are hurting.

To do all that, I've got to slow down some other commitments. A lot of those outside commitments help me feel busy and important but don't help me be more Christlike or a better wife and mom. We are important and worthwhile simply because Jesus loved us enough to die for us and prepare a place for us with Him in heaven. We don't have to prove anything. Jesus proved it on the cross.

What's it going to take for you to slow down and focus on the important things God has given you in your life? It might mean saying no and disappointing people. It might even be saying no to *gasp* a bible study. Or maybe not taking on regular commitments in the evening after work so you can focus on your family.

I'm going to be praying about how my life should look and I hope you will do the same. I'm going to talk to my husband about it and I hope you talk to your spouse about the pace of your life and family.

I don't think being busy and trying to keep up with this fast-paced world is going to push any of us in a more God-honoring way of life. So, don't be afraid of slow going.

Matthew 6:31-34
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Psalm 62:1-2
My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship With Rest Areas

I never liked stopping at rest areas. They all seem like something out of a bad movie to me. I remember riding home from my Grandparents with some lady that everyone knew except me. We stopped and had a picnic at a rest area. It was weird.

Now that we have five kids, I still hate them.

Rest areas:

look like they were built around the 1950's. But I admit there are a lot of nice new ones too.

seem to be a haven for panhandlers. I do not know what to do about that.

have people walking their pets outside the designated "Pet Exercise" area where I intend to exercise my children.

are home to many, many nasty little creatures that want you to share your food with them.

have cigarette butts everywhere.

And yet, I must admit, I love them. A lot.

We started using them when I was nursing babies. Every year, on every cross-country trip I was nursing someone. I could nurse the baby while Mike fed, watered and exercised the rest of the kids. It seemed more relaxing than a fast food stop. That is, if there is anything relaxing about a cross-country road trip and a bunch of little kids.

Rest areas are:


have plenty of stalls for all four of my daughters and I to go at the same time without causing a twenty minute line-up outside of a one toilet restaurant bathroom. This was our first big trip with everyone potty trained so I spent plenty of time on bathroom detail. I don't need women coming in and out 15 times to see if we are done yet and giving me a desperate look. All while I'm obviously busy on my iPod.

have playgrounds. We stopped at a McDonald's playland that was beyond disgusting! I made everyone get out and bathe in hand sanitizer.

have picnic tables. Which is great because I just realized we've been to every stinkin' McDonald's between here and Wyoming. The kids will even say, "Oh, I remember this one. We've been here before."

green space for running kids that have been pent up in the car all day.

don't selling anything. Except Diet Coke vending machines. We don't really need much at gas stations except gas because we pack a big cooler full of food and keep it right between the front seats, Griswold style. That means no whining for candy or gum. Just what's in the cooler baby.

free coloring books.

and get this... FREE WI-FI! It makes driving through Iowa a pleasure!

So until we can install a bathroom, treadmill and wi-fi in our van, we'll be loving the rest areas.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Looks Can Be Deceiving

I've run in like three 5K's so I'm starting to feel like a seasoned pro. Ok, you can stop laughing now. I ran two this summer, one in Duluth and one in my little town. Duluth hosts a pretty large marathon every June so there are a lot of runner types. They are all pretty nice and don't laugh at those of us that have no idea how to put on the chip on our shoes or are just in it for the donuts at the finish line. And another freebie I learned the hard way: don't pin your number to over your sweatshirt zipper because then if halfway through the race you get hot there is no way to get the stupid thing off.

It was less intimidating showing up at my town's 5K. There were not very many runners. No results were listed online. However, several of my kid's friends did beat me again. But even at a small town event, it just never fails that there are people that show up at these things that look like olympians. They have all the gear; arm bands, expensive clothes, sunglasses and visors. They set their watches and GPS things the minute it starts. It doesn't take long before I start panicking: I don't belong here!

But once the race starts and halfway through I find myself passing some of these lookers in my $3 jogging pants from Walmart and the hat I dug out of my closet on my way out the door. I may have had to stop to puke but the fact remains, it doesn't matter how good you look, when push comes to shove it's what you can't see that matters.

It's sad how many times I have felt inadequate in life based on the way others look or the image they are trying to push. It happened a lot in the teen years but doggone if it still doesn't happen to me now in my grown up life. People who look like they have it all together intimidate me. They are fit, skinny, fashionable and I feel like a loser. They have beautiful homes, cars that have less than 100,000 miles on them, prosperous careers and I feel dowdy.

Their kids are dressed in name brands and involved in all the activities. And I feel like a slacker.

They talk the talk like a spiritual giant and I can't find my bible reading plan anywhere.

But looks can be deceiving.

It seems like often times people who try so hard to put out that perfect image don't have all that much perfection. It's what is inside that counts. Other people who look like super moms or have nicer things might look good on the starting line with their expensive diaper bag and over priced strollers but that's not what good mothering is made of.

Good mothering comes from being discplined enough to take those early morning training runs. It takes dedication to do the work that no one sees. It seems there's no glory in that. There's not a lot of glory in changing diapers, midnight feedings, defiant toddlers and runny little noses either. But without the everyday work, you're just a woman that happens to be a good shopper.

Now that I'm older, slower and saggier I've come to a great conclusion: Don't worry about how you look. You may look like a failure to some people. People may tell you that you are unemployed or assume you can't do better. You may feel like a loser some days. But if you are allowing yourself to be molded into the person that Christ wants you to be, you'll win in the end. Jesus wants to make us like himself; loving, selfless, humble, gracious. There is no greater thing you can do to better yourself for mothering than melt into His mold.

If there is anything I want to teach my kids besides about the love and grace of Christ it's this: Don't be intimidated by they way things look. You know that God loves you and is making you into His image. Molding you into just what he wants you to be. Don't worry if he's molding Susie into Barbie's image, just conform to his mold in your life. Whatever that may be. It may be a career woman or a stay at home mom. It may mean less financial security. It might involve great pursuits or seemingly simple endeavors. But there is no where better and more glorious to be than in Him.

Conform to HIS mold. Because looks can be deceiving.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."