Modeling Motherhood: It’s bigger than blanket forts & tea parties

Hey! Remember me? Well I got a bee in my bonnet the other day and actually wrote a blog post!

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There was an article circulating on Facebook over the last couple of weeks and I may have even “liked” it as it was posted on someone’s feed. However, as I read it more carefully, as I would before I would share it myself, I was struck with its premise: Housework is meaningless and not nearly as purposeful as fun stuff. You can read the whole article here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/21/i-blamed-my-wife-for-our-messy-house-i-was-wrong-for-many-reasons/

“Sometimes I can either do the dishes, or teach or son how to ride a bike, or our daughter to walk. I’d rather do those things, frankly. I’d rather not be that mom who ignores our kids, and myself, because I’m so busy worrying about what the neighbors might think of our messy house.”

Sounds noble and I’ve taken up that sentiment before … and will likely do it again. There is certainly a time to put aside the mundane order & responsbility of life in order to live in the moment, create memories and connect with our family! The problem arises when we choose frivolity and fun as the priority rather than the gift and blessing they should be.

I submit that one of the many reasons that motherhood as a vocation receives such little nobility is this notion that it should look like Mary Poppins with a permanent IV hooked up to Pinterest. Not a care in the world regarding mealtimes, bedtimes or sanity. Not only is this notion unreasonable & irresponsible … it’s dangerous. At the end of the day what does the world see that an accomplished mother does? More importantly what do our children see?

There is a fine line between making memories & modeling motherhood. Is it really a fair reflection of the calling if they never see the responsibility and hard work that comes with keeping a home, caring for your husband, your finances, & your children? If they went to work with their daddy would he tell them that his job is all games, all day, all fun? Would he tell them “work can wait until you’re older?”

I don’t think so or at least not our daddy. He would probably strike a balance and share with them the importance of hard work and also enjoying his job, and that there can be joy in both. Setting up our children with the expectation for daily FUN, with mom delivering the goods, is a treacherous climb up a cliff to nowhere.

When my sister-mother-counselor-BFF Lea Ann was here last week, we pulled a few bees out of our bonnets. She shared some of these very same sentiments with me after she spent a morning mentoring some young mama’s at MOPs. She doesn’t want me to quote her but I’m ornery so I will anyway. Her wisdom is some of the richest and most applicable in my life!

“We are the only example of wife and mother they will see. Caring for the home and family is noble work, God given work and when we believe the lie that we should “let it go” for the “greater purpose” of play, we diminish who God made us to be and the work He gave us.” -lala

She went on to say that there are countless ways we can include our children in this work and all the while make memories, have invaluable conversations and make much of motherhood at the same time. Do we really want our children to grow up with the mindset that play comes first? That frivolity is key to life? Is that biblical?

Deuteronomy 5:13
Genesis 3:19
Proverbs 14:23
Ephesians 4:28
Proverbs 31:15
1 Timothy 5:8
Proverbs 6:6
(… and many more)

Don’t get me wrong. We do fun stuff every day. Almost every day. We ARE the Voiles … one of the most sentimental and FUN families I know. I kiss the heads & faces of all my children, read to them, engage in lengthy tickle whoopins, paint & color with them, show them how to make mud pies with mimosa leaves as sprinkles & bean pods as soup. I have an imagination and sometimes I don’t clean my house.

For days & days. But I also brush their hair, their teeth, cook their meals, wash their britches, sweep up their toenails, organize their Legos, clean out their garage (it is THEIR garage) and swat their hineys if need be. More days than not I spend the better portion working instead of playing. It’s real life.

There is much to be gleaned when our kids see motherhood as an occupation with biblical mandates and God-sized tasks that we can only strive towards with His grace. It’s serious! There are implications and consequences for trivializing this calling. It’s a juggling act for sure, but I submit that sometimes it’s the balls of laundry, groceries, disciplining & housework that have to be kept in the air.

Disclaimer: Every house, every mother, & family looks different! I don’t fold socks or underwear and have friends who don’t fold anything. Sometimes we eat home-cooked dinners and sometimes we eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s not about comparing homes & mothering to one another but rather comparing what the bible says about motherhood to how we live our lives. Period. Grace abounds and liberty is alive & well. Amen?

Blanket Fort, circa: 2008

Blanket Fort, circa: 2008

My Life is Perfect … and other notions of lunacy.

Oftentimes, I find that when a mama is feeling way-low, her mama friends are good to lift her up by reminding her that others don’t have it together either. I do this.

A LOT.

“Everybody’s kids act like morons at the grocery store!”

“Nobody’s husbands help like that! They are all the same!”

“It’s never as good as you think it is. Everyone has secrets and skeletons.”

“Her house is clean, but she probably never has fun with her kids.”

“She has fun with her kids but have you seen her house??”

And with social media feeding the envy & discord monster nice heaping portions it gets even harder. More pats on the back are needed.

“It’s not real life.”

“She only posts the good stuff.”

“Life is never that perfect.”

And while I think that it is an encouragement to know that you are not alone in your woes of life, it’s also fair to say that sometimes you may have genuinely drawn the short straw for that day (or week, or month, or year) and that quite possibly, your burden is heavier when measured on man’s scale. That truth is not just me trying to take my reality vitamin but also remembering that scripture tells us:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

The bible does a phenomenal job of bringing every truth back to our own hearts. It does not however, encourage us in our plight by way of tearing others down … barring the one example of Christ.

Christ was given the ultimate short straw. There is no burden to compare to that of the cross. There has never been nor will ever be a trial in our life that can be truly insurmountable, when we look to Calvary as the standard for suffering and Jesus as the example for tenacity, steadfastness, courage and above all … love.

And it’s so important to glean that we are not consoled by his suffering, as we are in our flesh when another’s load is heavier (at least made heavier by our own need for justification). We are consoled by his victory. It is that He is a great conquerer … OUR conquerer that brings us the ultimate in peace and true joy in his triumph.

Scripture is unbiased and so while we can claim all the good stuff, the suffering and trials promised are ours as well. We can’t be so foolish to believe that another’s life made harder by our own assessment can touch the unknown hurts and heartaches that exist beyond an Instagram pic or a Facebook status.

Life is hard. For everyone. But God’s grace and mercy is amazing, above all things. To focus on one and not the other is devastating.

Believe that God is equitable in ALL things. Not because blessings & burdens of this life are all the same for everyone but because as joint heirs we unjustly share in the same eternity with one who took on more burdens than all of our earthly burdens combined.

And my life is not perfect. It is full of joy, laughter, love, contentment & blessings. But you have to know if you believe God’s promises that it is full of so much more. Sadness, anger, betrayal, jealousy, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, discord … and more. Please don’t find solace in my pain but rather in His goodness.

We are real people with real problems … and thankfully a real savior.

And as far as social media is concerned, I am gonna go ahead and share my 50-cent while I’m here. In all honestly, social media is mostly for me. I share on IG because I love the journal it keeps, and that began many years ago with blogging. It’s quicker than blogging and so much easier. I have printed hundreds of pics from my IG account (try it!) and seeing our life in those sweet snippets is a blessing for me!

Through Pinterest & Facebook I am encouraged by others. Ideas for how to serve my family are refreshing to me. Homeschooling is a very loud & quiet place and the social media conversation helps with that maddening reality. Community within the “network” is a blessing (most of the time). The joy of others is infectious. I take joy in seeing happiness abound, whether it be poop on the potty or a trip to Hawaii. The only time these things breed discord in me is when I am grieving in my own spirit. Maybe on those days, social media is not a great place for me to be. But then again neither is my living room.

And I don’t share the personal misery of my family. I may share mine but not theirs. That’s private stuff, y’all. It doesn’t mean other people can’t do it with grace but it’s just not for me. See? Another area of imperfection 😉 If it encourages you to see me low then head on over any given Sunday night before the week begins. I will be drinking Diet Coke (which is bound to kill me), staying up too late and regretting much of what I said or did over the weekend. It isn’t a pretty place, I promise. But thankfully I am never alone and restoration is never far away.

So instead of seeing “perfection” in the lives of others I prefer redemption. The only good thing worth striving for is His redemption in my very imperfect life.

And instead of believing that others also have it bad and gaining momentum from their suspected hidden pain, I am motivated by His love and endless supply of “more” grace.

Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you … “My Perfect Family” portrait 😉
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7 Stockings

I sat here the other night and did this little exercise I’ve been doing since I was a little girl. When I was a kid, sometimes the world around me and the people in it were unkind. When it became unbearable or uncertain, in an attempt to survive emotionally, I would purpose to remember something in that very moment that was unrelated. I’m sure I am not the only one who coped this way, and I’ve wondered with a heavy heart if my own kids have done the same during unbearable or uncertain times.

Interestingly enough, the exercise served me well in the momentary escape but unfortunately the memory was seared into my head & heart. My memory had a mind of it’s own.

As I got older this process changed somewhat. I still used my “block it out” method (it’s since become more of an ostrich in the sand approach) but in addition I also found that I was becoming very intentional in taking inventory of the good stuff. I purposed with great deliberation to remember the beautiful things, people, feelings, places, words, smells, sounds, emotions … knowing they would have to share a spot in my memory with all the fear, sadness, grief and regret.

What my mama smelled like, back porch breezes and fresh-cut grass, my hand inside of the hand of my first love, my firstborn looking me square in the eye for the first time (I can see her face right this very minute), hearing the gospel and then standing shivering in cold water waiting to share my faith through baptism. The list has become infinite.

Yes. Beauty was beginning to replace the ashes.

But it wasn’t until I began writing them down that the memory married my words and I could truly visit that sweet and sacred place in my mind with such clarity! What a gift!

But sometimes even gifts, when they overwhelm you, can feel burdensome.

So that brings me here. Sitting in the living room several nights ago, alone and exhausted. It was very late and I had cried a good, hard, long cry. I was looking at our stockings … the names of babies that were longed for and prayed for … all growing strong in stature and in spirit. The truth of His goodness seems to permeate in the most magnificent way when I am alone. My life and who I am, who I was, being the mother to five children and the wife to a good man for half my life, and health, our home … you know it just doesn’t settle over you during the waking hours the same way.

And then not waiting long to have it’s turn … my flesh is ready to push its way in.

•It’s all changing.

•Only a matter of time.

•No more babies.

•Health is temporary.

•How much of my failure has marked them all?

•My days of influence are numbered.

•The horizon looks very different. And I hate change.

Oh, glory. Do I ever hate change! And sadness! I can run like a cheetah from sadness! I’ve stood on my front porch when people are leaving and nearly gotten MAD for the whole dang group of’em snotting and sobbing and waving and carrying on! I can’t go there y’all. I don’t come right back like most folks. Throw that car in reverse and get the heck out of here!

~And just know that if I give you a ride to the airport and you plan on not coming right back, it will be a quick “adios muchachos” at the curb.

So back to 7 stockings …

My way of marking these days with sentimentality and emotion, written words, pictures; it’s all a way of etching and storing memories. And with that, He’s pushing out the ashes and replacing them with beauty.

Amen?

The road I traveled during my childhood was paved with hard change and great loss. But that road brought me here, where I find myself clinging to the solace of the only stable life I’ve ever known. I want to write that I am trusting Him to carry me through these changes but it’s so hard. I like it the way it is God!

But oh, it’s all temporal. The reminder is both agonizing and comforting at the same time. We aren’t supposed to cling to solace found in the this life. It’s been predetermined to change and He has authored the instability and the loss for our goodness & His glory.   As difficult as it seems, I find peace in that.

So I’m working my way backwards to a time when I was more desperate for Him. Change is on the horizon and my heart races at the thought. But I will choose to stand at the curb and say hard goodbyes (even though I hate them!) to these cherished seasons because I know in that grief I will find His comfort. In the meantime, I will fight like heck to count the joy in this fleeting time and purpose to remember well …

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Thankful Day 3 – Church (FBC)

This Sunday morning has me at home with a little fella who was under the weather yesterday, but much better today! Just giving those cooties a day to scram 😉

Given the time to reflect on the thousands of Sundays gone by when I have gathered with the saints, my heart is flooded with memories of what the church has been to me and the impact it has had on my life. Every single church family that I have been a part of has not only shaped my faith but it has also shaped me.

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My church pilgrimage began at First Baptist in Cleburne, TX … breathtaking stained glass, stoic pews, cathedral ceilings, all the “pretty” people. Good thing we weren’t actually going to church there. Besides having nothing to wear, I was unchurched, uncouth, and unsaved. It was just a job. Working at their Mother’s Day Out was just a way to pay the bills and keep my Hannah with me.

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Still keeping her with me for as long as I can.

Little did I know.

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My 40th birthday surprise!

All the while I was “working” my way towards being a good grown-up, God was doing the real work at revealing how un-good I really was. In the midst of poop diapers, mothering woes and laughing through tears, my MDO director became a fast friend and solid confidant. It was during those days when we rocked the town’s babies and shared our life’s stories that the the veil was lifted. That friendship was the catalyst for conversion. One sheepish question at a time. Always a genuine answer … often not what I wanted to hear. It was only a matter of months before Chris and I were brought to the same place of repentance and went before that church to make our profession public and we were baptized together. Tiffany was just a few feet away, standing with the choir singing “Up from the grave He arose!”. I have no pictures from that day but I remember it with crystal clarity.

Well the “pretty” people turned out to be just like us with a little more style and a lot more wisdom. I only had two dresses to wear to church and I wore those same two every other week. I bet those sweet people don’t even remember that now. But I remember them … and how they poured into our lives. The way they loved my babies and treated us as if really belonged there. Up in the choir loft with tears streaming down my face gazing at the stained glass and “seeing” it like never before, sitting beside my little family in those stoic pews that quickly became “our pew” (we settled in like old-time Southern Baptists real quick), and for the first time in my life, hearing the word of God preached and drinking it in with the thirst that only a new believer can possess.

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A lot of life happened during that short season of just over 3 years. It was like elementary, high school and college all at once for my spiritual and emotional growth. Oh and the eternal friendships … don’t get me started. I’m already crying and it’s about to get ugly.

Just before our move to Virginia, I was in the church during the day and I was alone. You should know that I am wired in a way to take emotional inventory a lot. Not much gets past me without a good solid ceremonial goodbye. I cried when my children stopped wearing diapers, capish? It was the end of a season. Gimme a break.

I walked into the sanctuary and sat down in “my” pew and I drank it all in. From our first visit with stone-cold hearts and my embarrassing childhood bible (white with gold letters) to hearing the gospel for the first time and it piercing my heart. Easter pageants, missionaries, baptisms … all new to me and amazing to me … all made real to me in that sacred place.

The gratitude runs deep, FBC. Your investment is yielding quite the return.

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Thankful Day 2 – The Weekend

Today I am thankful for the weekend. The whole thing, top to bottom. For more than the first half of our marriage, Chris worked either a 12-hour swing shift and picked up shifts for overtime OR worked a straight shift with long days (12-14 hour days) and weekends. Those were HARD days. I’m thankful for the fruit of my husbands labor and for God’s provision during the lean times. I don’t think our hearts could ever really grasp the blessing of a Saturday with daddy without spending so many without him.

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Thankful Day 1 – Grace

I’ve tried in years past to journal the month of November with a thankful heart. I am not consistent to remember every day which immediately makes me thankful for grace. I don’t think I’ve ever done this little thankful project without mentioning grace because it goes before me every day and makes a provision for my sin and reminds me to extend that same grace outward.

Without grace, then even my feeble attempt at being thankful would already be a failure. There is no place in in my life where grace does not abound.

And I need an abundance, that’s for sure.
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“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

22 Years

I have written something each year on our anniversary and with the convenience of Facebook, I have neglected to record my thoughts here as often as I used to, which really should serve as our family journal. I’ll copy below what I shared on FB yesterday for our 22nd anniversary:

TWENTY TWO YEARS BABY! I have written a lot of deep sentimental stuff these last 22 years (24 counting the uber-mushy dating years), so this year’s ode to my man will be short(er) and to the point. 

Marriage gets easier … life gets harder. Thank God for His goodness and grace!    

And thank God for a husband who remembered this special day when I did not  In all fairness there is very little that I can remember these days but I DO know when English King John signed the Magna Carta! And I know which kids want their sandwiches cut into triangles verses rectangles! I have broad limits to my memory that affect mildly important things like birthdays, doctor appointments, and where I parked my car. NBD.

Spending more of my life with Chris than without, I have gleaned much (still working on actually applying what I’ve gleaned) so here is my short list of 5 nuggets: 

1.) Getting up with your husband early in the morning is invaluable and precious. I wish I had done it sooner in our marriage.

2.) Husbands matter more than kids. All the time. DEVOTE your heart to your husband first. Let the chips fall. 

3.) Husbands love food. Make them food as often as possible. And I’m gonna go old school and say that serving my husband (as in bringing him his plate) is still one of my favorite things to do. 

4. ) Let your husband feed your kids weird stuff when you are gone (cheese & applesauce count). Let your husband put them to bed in their clothes when you are gone (twitching while remembering this). Let your husband give them things that you wouldn’t (in moderation) because that is how daddies do it. It’s their show and the Daddy Show is pretty much the best gig around. Don’t ruin it for your kids. 

5.) Live the gospel every single day. Lay down your own agendas & methods and abandon the way of the world that seeks to serve self first. Love your husband sacrificially AND especially when you don’t think he deserves it. That’s what the gospel is! Undeserved love and forgiveness for a black-hearted sinner like me. Who am I to withhold? This list is not in order. This is always #1. 

Extra: Build up your husband with words and affection. “She does him good and not harm all the days of her life”.  Fight for your marriage and your man. Laugh more. Let it go. Cut his hair when he asks. Remember to put his underwear in the dryer. Hold hands. 

… And always remember the covenant.

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A Summer Day of Friends & Fun

We are so in love with the pool that we belong to and the community that has developed with that membership. The only problem is that we have an extended community that stretches far outside our little town of Chester. Our pool also has a fairly limited guest policy but we are able to have “parties” which gives us a bit more freedom. We couldn’t invite all those that we would have liked but the fellowship was still precious and sweet!

We had the added bonus of out-of-town friends, the Painter family ❤ What a treat! Sarah and her family are friends of the Byrd’s and we have just latched on to them like they were our friends all along 😉

Leech friends.

Glad they don’t seem to mind.

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Love his little armpit funk.

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Love his belly button. Among a hundred other things to love about Sam Byrd.

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Wow. A new little man to love. Both of those Painter boys are pretty special and not hard on the eyes either. ❤

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Gah! Adorable and could his smile get any bigger???

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My little man.

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Another one of Sarah’s impossibly gorgeous children, Mary Catherine.

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Lovely ladies who are getting older by the minute! Can’t believe they were just little girls yesterday. So sweet!

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Hello. You two are up to no good but those grins will get you out of anything!

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Eyeball alert. They are like gorgeous lasers. Such a kind-hearted fella.

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See? Told you they were up to no good!

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Have mercy.

So glad we were able to visit with this sweet family! Beautiful ladies!
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So glad we were finally able to visit with this sweet family! Beautiful ladies!

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The three little missies were all business. Not sure what business but it was for real.

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Clara teaching Annie her version of “swimming”. Ready, Set …

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GO!

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Tongue means he’s workin’ hard.

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A frog is always nearby.

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He’s coming for you! This pic cracks me up.

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Quilting circle. Except no quilts. And we aren’t in a circle.

Love my girls!
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Such a sweet pic of momma lovin’ on her babies.

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Handsomeness.

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Foolishness.

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Love these girls!

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Sweet Brenna!

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He’s just casually enjoying the contraband. NBD.

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Gorgeous Painter babies.

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The beautiful Lowe family.

So thankful we were able to squeeze in a fun day at the pool in between the monsoon season Virginia has been experiencing this summer!

Turning the Page

Hoping few to zero people see this blog while I am trying to work out the design kinks. I don’t want to spend actual dollars to spiff it up but it was a poor reflection of me before; both in style and content. Not that I don’t value all that content that I apparently needed to share with the world, but I feel my writing (just like my life) going in a different direction. I’m sad that I didn’t record more of my thoughts these last several years but maybe that is more defining than writing itself would have been.

I was truly overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed like, “the waves overwhelmed the small child and he was swept away into the current and he drowned.”

Like that. I was drowning.

But here I am. A little less overwhelmed. The tide that ebbs and flows slowed just enough for me to catch my breath and let loose of some shackles that made it dreadfully hard to keep my head above water. Still, I expect to find myself gargling in the waves in no time so be prepared for the typical hiatuses. I am nothing, if not consistently inconsistent.

But my heart is still full of sentiment, my thoughts still race a mile a minute and my children are relentlessly growing older by the minute. So, I hope to let that spill over here with words and pictures.

Because one day, my heart will long to be overwhelmed by these beautiful Mercy Days.


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