Feeling Drained

Spring has sprung here in western North Carolina! The buds are bursting open and each day I look forward to seeing which flower has bloomed. It also means cleaning up from winter’s effects – the dead stalks of last year’s flowers, leaves that avoided fall’s leaf raking, and weeds that seem to push up first in their effort to take over.

We have had abundant rain this spring so the little branch that runs through the yard is flowing swiftly. The pipe that carries the water to three little pools by the garden was barely flowing, so Saturday my husband set out to fix it. He ended up digging down to the buried pipe and discovered a leak. He also discovered that the pipe was plugged with a tangle of roots about six feet long. It was such a dense mess that it is surprising that any water at all made it through. He pulled out the roots, patched the leak, and soon the water was flowing clear and free.

It reminded me of times when our children were small that I felt completely drained. Just like those tangled up roots, I was so caught up in the cares of life that I felt like all the life had drained out of me. Nothing could get in – so nothing could flow out. I was plugged up!! Now I am by nature a people person. But at this point I felt that if another person asked me to watch their child, fix a meal, or sell ___for a fundraiser, I WOULD SCREAM!!! I had nothing left to give my own children, much less anyone else’s. I was completely drained. What was wrong? I was a mother committed to the well-being of my children, why did I feel this lifeless, empty feeling?

John 7:37-40 (NIV)

 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 

I believe the problem developed because I was trying to do it all myself. There were several things I needed to do to “refill” my dry and lifeless spirit.

  •  Allow the Holy Spirit to flow through me. For water to flow out of a pond or lake, water must flow in first to cause the overflow.  If there is no flow, the water will become stagnant. I must refresh my Spirit with God’s Word, worship, and fellowship to prevent spiritual stagnation. Then “rivers of living water will flow from within me!”
  • Allow others to help me. That may mean humbling myself and admitting I can’t do it all. It may mean going to a counselor or doctor for treatment.
  • Prioritize my responsibilities so that when I feel drained, I know what is MOST important – and I do that first (and maybe nothing else.)
  • Remember that there will be seasons of feeling drained, suffering, trials, etc. Yet I don’t need to stay there.

The following prayer that Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus is a beautiful expression of the Father’s love for us and His desire that we experience that love.

Ephesians 3:13-19

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family  in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Instead of feeling drained, our heavenly Father wants to fill us to overflowing with His love. Use these verses as a prayer for yourself and your family members. You will be blessed!

BORING!!!

I hope to set you free from one of the myths of mothering – it is not your responsibility as a mother to entertain your child!  So… now you are free from that burden.  Not to say that there aren’t times when it is fun to sing loudly with silly faces and make your child laugh. (remember, girls?)  But that should be FUN, and only done when you are so moved. You are not duty bound to make sure that every waking moment of your child’s life is fun or entertaining!

My father taught high school biology for 40 years and for several years was a naturalist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On days off, our family would pile in the car and drive through the park or on the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for the flora and fauna of the Smoky Mountains. This was before in-car-videos, cassette- tape players, and even the radio was ineffective because there were not radio signals on most of those remote roads. We were a captive audience. We would drive until Dad spotted a specimen, and then he would stop the car and we would wait until the light was just right for a picture.

I admit there were times I was bored. I know I complained. But eventually something began to happen. I started to see the world around me through my father’s eyes! I began to notice bee balm and orange fringed orchids blooming by the roadside.  I started to spot butterflies in damp puddles left by rain, or the fiddle heads of unfolding ferns. I was no longer bored! The world around me began to unfold as an infinite source of wonder and beauty. My father’s awe of God’s creation gradually became my own and is now the inspiration for my art work.

My father was not concerned about whether or not my brothers and I were having “fun”. He wanted to share with us something that he enjoyed and it was up to us to “take it or leave it”. I hate to think what would have happened if my parents had given in to my complaints and not exposed me to the wonders of my favorite place on earth – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As mothers we are bound the hear those whiny words, “Mommy, I’m bored.” At that moment we must be strong and not get sucked into thinking it is our fault and we must “fix it” so our child is happy again. It is our children’s choice to be bored – it is also their choice to be happy. These are feelings humans have and they are based on our reactions to circumstances more than the circumstances themselves. One quick remedy to boredom is a job – something to do. When our children said they were bored, their dad gave them a job to do. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that they either needed not to tell us they were bored, or better yet, figure out something they wanted to do. It was not our responsibility as parents to find something that they wanted to do.

James Bryan Smith in his book The Good and Beautiful God says that boredom is a symptom and the solution is being present where you are. I love that! I found that to be true on trips with my parents as a little girl. Taking in the beauty around me was engaging. It also began a life long habit of looking at plant and animal life. (to this day, my family and friends do not like to ride  with me when I am driving because I like to look around me!)

Some people become people watchers, some are music lovers, there are so many ways to be present where we are. This is an important skill to impart to our children. One of our children would count things. Ceiling tiles in church, panes in windows, rows of columns, she would occupy herself counting things which may have led to her proficiency in math. Our world is full of fascinating people, places and things. Helping our children appreciate the world around them will be a gift they can enjoy throughout their lives.

Psalm 19:1-2

 1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech,                                                                                                                   and night after night shows forth knowledge.

 

The result – freedom from boredom!

Making Messes

I was reminded again this week that a transformation takes place when you become a grandmother. Now I must be totally honest and upfront by acknowledging that messes have never bothered me very much. Yet, I can honestly say that they bother me even less now that I am a grandmother! I realize the main reason for this is that I don’t have to live with the mess, after the grandchildren return home, I can pick up at my leisure. I also admit that as an artist, it takes a mess to create so I am used to messes.  That is true with sewing and cooking as well, messes are the by-product of these endeavors.

One of the lovely young mothers in our community shared the following incident that illustrates making a mess.

My dear friends,

I just walked in the door from Moms Night Out with you! I walk in to see my mom sweeping up powdered sugar. My mom proceeds to tell me that while she was putting #2 to bed #1 decided to play like she was cooking.  Too bad she didn’t use her play kitchen. Too bad she used real ingredients! She had decided to cut an apple, put it in a cupcake holder,(no pan) sprinkle it with powdered sugar and was fixing to put it in the oven. I know you can imagine the mess. Thankfully she can’t turn the oven on yet!

Oh the joys!

It was a joy to this little girl! The issue of making messes is not “cut and dried”. We don’t want our children wasting cooking ingredients or endangering themselves and others.  Yet there is a time and place to make a mess – maybe it’s with a grandmother! There is also a time to have things clean and neat  – free from mess. A word of warning – beware of your method for achieving neatness – it may follow you in infamy as happened to me.

ONE TIME, I wanted to let the kitchen floor dry after mopping it. So, ONE TIME I asked our 4 children to play outside and not come inside until the floor was dry. To ensure that they followed my instructions,  I locked the doors, ONE TIME.

Of course, after two minutes they needed to use the bathroom, get a drink, every excuse imaginable to get in the house! These were the same 4 children who were nowhere to be found at meal time or bed time, no, they never wanted to come in the house then!

To this day, our children love to tell about their mother who locked them out of the house and wouldn’t let them in – like it happened all the time!

Looking back I realize that a clean floor is not all that important. Erma Bombeck once said that she was amazed when she mopped her kitchen floor after everyone went to bed and when she got up in the morning – it was still clean! My mother once told me not to worry about messes because before I knew it the children would be gone and then there wouldn’t be anyone around to make a mess. She was right. (except I am still here making messes)

Jesus addressed this issue in Luke 10:38-42

 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”   41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  
This Scripture does not address messes specifically, but it does speak to the issue of what is really important. Jesus was pleased that Mary had chosen to spend time with Him, listening at His feet. Jesus did not regard the preparations Martha made as valuable in comparison to the time spent with Him.

Preparing meals, making cards, painting pictures, all these tasks make messes. They also can be completed more quickly and neatly by ourselves. Yet making the extra effort to include our children and grandchildren in these messes builds a relationship. That is what Jesus  wanted with Mary and Martha. That is an example for us as well.

One Guarantee

Years ago, as a young parent of four young children I read many parenting articles and books on parenting. I attended several Christian parenting retreats and conferences. The whole time I was looking for the “magic formula” that would guarantee that my children would become Christians and fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. I wanted assurances that the effort I was investing in parenting would result in a return that resulted in godly offspring. This may seem like a positive goal for parenting, but the truth is – it is not based on Scripture. God’s Word says:

Ephesians 2:8-9  (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  
“not by works”… which means not even by my works as a mother, or grandmother. That verse also says salvation is by faith, the faith of the individual, again not the mother or grandmother. It is a gift of God, and the giver is our Heavenly Father. This truth gradually began to sink in, and I admit I resisted accepting this truth because I wanted to be in control!

Two situations specifically stand out to me that God used to illuminate His truth. One was a Valentines Day banquet where a couple from our fellowship shared. They were a lovely couple who had been married over 40 years at that time. They were respectful and supportive of each other and fun to be around. They shared how their marriage had not always been that way. ( I honestly was surprised!) They had experienced several crises that had caused them to doubt their faith and God’s love. One was when their daughter rebelled, ran away, and became pregnant. They had three sons, all of whom were walking with God and letting their light shine – yet the heart-break of losing their daughter this way was devastating. She has since come back to the Lord and renewed fellowship with her family, but the three long years she was gone, without any word for months at a time – were demoralizing.  Later I asked the mother how she dealt with the anguish and pain during her daughter’s absence. She said that it weighed heavily on her heart and for several months she constantly felt pain until gradually she just felt numb. That was the reality.  This mother did not turn her back on God, she was trusting His grace and love, yet her daughter was gone with no outward sign of returning. She told me she “hung in there” believing God is faithful no matter the circumstances. This took a toll on their marriage as well – but again, God was faithful. They did not separate or divorce and God restored and renewed their marriage to the encouraging relationship we all saw. This couple’s willingness to share the heartbreak of a “prodigal daughter” opened my eyes to see that even though they had raised their children according to God’s plan, one child chose to walk outside God’s will.

The second situation was at a women’s retreat. The wife of a well known Christian leader spoke – if I named him many of you would recognize his name. They have eight children and several grandchildren now. This mother shared honestly the tragic story of her son who was addicted to cocaine. This family had “done it all right” as parents. They were active in a local Body of Believers, they had family devotions, they had home schooled/Christian schooled their children, yet this precious son had chosen a course that was leading to destruction and death. All of us wept as this mother shared the pain of hearing a siren and thinking it was the police coming for her son. The pain of not knowing if a knock on the door or a late phone call was the hospital or morgue was something she lived with day by day. All seven of their other children had chosen to follow the Lord, yet her mother’s heart was breaking for this son. This mother shared that her faith was in God’s faithfulness, in spite of her son’s situation. Her honesty in sharing her pain again opened my eyes to the fact that just as I had to come to God in repentance and asked forgiveness for my sin, each of my children (and now grandchildren) must do the same. Even though our children’s salvation is not based on my performance as a mother – it is still my responsibility to train my children in godly ways as an act of worship and honor to my Heavenly Father.

The one and only guarantee we have as parents is that God is faithful!  No matter what – God’s faithfulness is enough.