Mothering When There Are Obstacles

Do you feel as if you can’t get around or over the obstacles in motherhood?

Episode 6

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Do you  feel as if your God-sized dream of Motherhood is similar to running a gauntlet? You’re not alone. There are obstacles in pursuing any God-sized dream. Obstacles don’t mean you are on the wrong path, it often means you are on the right path. The devil doesn’t mind if you start something, as long as you don’t finish it. Often, our attitudes are the obstacles. OUCH. Yep. A huge door of opportunity is open for us and with it mushrooming opposition (I Cor. 16: 9). We don’t have it all together. The Whole House CANNOT give you a five step program of how to clear the opposition. What we at The Whole House can do is say “me too”. We are down in trenches together. Join us on The Whole House Podcast and be encouraged and listen to Kathleen tell about five plates of spaghetti hitting the floor in one dinner.

 

 

Expect a Mom Meltdown This Christmas Season

Expect a Mom meltdown.

Last year during the Christmas season, my good friend Lori posted this on Instagram:

“I am in panic mode you guys. I worry about what I’ve gotten the kids, if they’ll like what they are going to get, who else I need to buy for, where are all the extra funds going to come from? I know this isn’t the reason we celebrate, but I can’t help it. I want to give my kids the world! They don’t ask for things. In fact, JR only asked for one thing and he said he didn’t care if he got nothing else. The stress of money and things have made me grumpy and to not enjoy this season like I used to. I feel so behind….not just with Christmas, but on the house, with school. My mind is rarely on the joy that Christmas brings. So, I’m going to try and combat that this week. We are going to bake cookies, maybe research how other countries celebrate Christmas, and read the story of Jesus’ birth….I need to be reminded why Christmas makes me so happy, and I need to release myself from the stress and let God take the lead (because I’m such a control freak).”

And… the feedback was in agreement. I shared “you are not alone” and other Moms agreed that they have meltdown before Christmas moments. Some blame it on peer pressure. Yep, it is there. But I think most of it stems from our wanting to make Christmas perfect for our families. A top notch goal? Right?

Expect
A
Mom Meltdown

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Blogs and articles this season have a wide array of advice about advent readings, the true meaning of Christmas, how to decorate the best tree, the best deals on gifts, yummy cookie recipes.

* * *

And these are all good things unless we Moms let them be the ruler by which we measure ourselves with. Then things get dicey. Our inner monologue becomes one of should haves and should dos instead of peaceful thankful thoughts.

* * *

I am not immune to the inner monologue or the meltdowns. I had one the other day. My inner voice says, you won’t have enough to get everything for everyone and you won’t have enough energy to do everything you need to do.

* * *

Biblical Application:

How do we combat these meltdowns and the negative speak? With the truth.

My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory. (Philippians 4:19)

Needs. Not wants. Needs. Not perfection. The truth is God will supply what it is in His will to supply. He is not  our perfection provider.

I traveled to my eldest daughter, Audrey’s for a cookie baking day. I picked up my second eldest daughter, Amerey, and baby Cecilia on the way. I was feeling pretty great about the trip. I had given all my baking supplies to Audrey the day before. I didn’t need to bring anything but myself and the dough. Here’s what happened:

The fog was so dense in the mountain passes that I missed my exit. I had to travel further down the road and turn around and try not to miss it again. I almost missed the turn into Audrey’s neighborhood because I was disoriented. We pulled in her driveway and jumped out of the car, “I forgot my cookie dough!”

“What?! Mom?!”

Audrey ran out, “What’s wrong?”

“I forgot my cookie dough!”

“Mom, I didn’t make any because you and Amerey were bringing some!”

We laughed. It worked out. Audrey ran to the store and bought some more supplies. We did make cookies. We did have a good  time.

* * *

A joyous Christmas season is not based on perfection. We’re just a bunch of human beings.

* * *

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: “

-Matthew 1:18

The perfect gift of Christ was delivered in much less than perfect circumstances- an unexpected pregnancy, an edict to travel, birth in a manger. Yet, the gift was still was and is perfect.

Expect a Mom meltdown. Let it go and move on. I pray that God shows you His presence in your imperfect circumstances. Speak truth to your inner self. Christmas joy does not demand perfection.

*This is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas (1)

Don’t Rain on My Eclipse

Welcome guest poster, LeeAnn Stewart, a dear friend who recently started a blog!

My children and I were standing outside staring expectantly at the sky. On our eyes were the eclipse glasses I had preemptively ordered weeks in advance, after much research on which ones were NASA approved. We had attached them to plates to block out any rays that may try to creep in and harm curious eyes.  We had science notebooks ready for careful observations. For days we had been experiencing dry, blaring heat and that morning was no different. As we stood on the porch staring at the sun in expectation, at exactly 1:10, the moment the eclipse was to begin, we were greeted with – clouds.

That’s right – a humongous cloud had parked itself right in front of the sun. We got peeks of the giant star as the black disc gradually rolled in front of it, but it didn’t take long for the clouds to roll back across. Then the clouds turned black. My son insisted it was going to rain; I told him that the forecast was not calling for rain and we would be fine.

Then it rained. Hard. We were probably the only neighborhood in our town, possibly within the entire line of the eclipse that had rain. I literally felt like Eeeyore in the picture with the rain cloud right over his head. Then there were tears – mine. Okay, it was more than tears. Usually I go with the flow in situations that cannot be helped, but I was angry. Really angry, a feeling that seemed out of place and extreme in relation to the situation. Even while I was experiencing it I knew it was an inappropriate response, but at the moment, I just couldn’t seem to control my emotions.

I told God that it wasn’t fair, that He was displaying His creation for all to see, but, like Lucy, he pulled away the football and said, “Not today, Charlie Brown. This show is for everyone but you. Thanks for playing.” I saw everyone else around me grabbing that ball and running while I was left with my head down, feeling let down, again.

After months of struggling to get my feet back under me after some unexpected circumstances,  I had felt like I was finally a fun mom again. I had planned something special for my kids. They were excited, I was excited, and we had spent time preparing. When the rain came, I felt like God had let me down, and I was hurt. After I had some quiet time with Him I realized that this frustration was really just the symptom of a bigger problem that had been brewing in me.

In the midst of my growing faith, I was feeling the ache of deferred hope. I felt the bucket of all of my hopes and dreams dumped on top of my head once again. All of the dreams that are now put on hold. The desires that I have that are on the back burner when they were just within my reach. Every time the football was pulled away from me flashed before me like one of those old filmstrips.

I thought about David. The same David who stood before Goliath with just a slingshot, the same David who was anointed by God to be a king, found himself on the run, afraid for his life. He hid in caves. He pretended to be insane. He spent so many years away from his family and the peace and comfort of home. All of this was due to circumstances outside of his control.

The book of Psalms is full of the songs of David. Many of them begin with David expressing his fears, his anguish, and his loneliness. I wonder sometimes if he questioned his calling when he was lying in quiet in the darkness. “I didn’t choose this God. You did. Is it worth it? Are you sure you picked the right person? Did you forget?” As strong as David was, he was holding onto a promise that God had given him, a promise that was deferred in its delivery. There were times that he questioned God and asked Him when he would be delivered from the weight of the life around him.

Did God forget about David? Did he choose the wrong person after all (“Oh, you’re David, with the RUDDY complexion. I was looking for David with the MUDDY complexion. Awkward.”)? Of course not, because we know that that is not in the character of God, and we also know the end result of God’s promise to David. Through him came Christ, and through Christ comes our redemption.

While David was real with God, he never wavered in his devotion. He always ended his laments with an acknowledgment of who God was. He reminded God of His promises. Even though he was in a place where his dreams were on hold, he knew that God would bring him through.

We can choose to either wallow in our circumstances or embrace them and allow God to change us during that season..png

As I was making dinner that night I turned on a podcast by Sarah Clarkson, the title of which was, “Overcoming Obstacles So You Can Own Your Life.” She talked about how we often throw adult-sized tantrums when we find ourselves in situations we can’t control that go against what we think we should have. We can choose to either wallow in our circumstances or embrace them and allow God to change us during that season. God provided me with what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it. It was a reminder to me that He does see where I am. He doesn’t turn back on His promises, and He hasn’t gotten so busy knocking someone else’s socks off that He forgot about me. In fact, David was a better king because of the times he had to lean on God, and we can become stronger people when we go through dark times.

I apologized to my kids for my behavior, and went to bed in peace, telling God of his faithfulness, and thanking Him for removing the clouds so I could see the sun, which He did literally and figuratively. The clouds parted at the peak of the eclipse, right at the height of its glory. That’s exactly how it happens when we trust in God’s timing.

You can follow LeeAnn here!  

When Nurturing Your Children Doesn’t Come Naturally

Friend Patty was sporty, fit and planned to become an astronaut. Instead, she became a wife and mother. Patty didn’t feel as if she had a mothering instinct. Lovey-dovey stuff didn’t come easy to her. She worked hard to curb her military manner. Because she worked so hard, she became an excellent parent. One of the best I have had the privilege of knowing. She lived in the moment and believed her children are precious. Her children are grown now and thriving.

Patty was my first honest Mom friend. She told me the truth about how she felt about Mothering. She felt as if she had to overcome many personality obstacles to be nurturing. By the grace of God, she did. I’m thankful for her honesty. She inspired me to work against the grain of my flesh and be a purposeful parent.

Honestly, being loving and nurturing toward our children is hard work. Why? Because it requires true Biblical love and that is the hardest kind of love on the planet. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t fail, hardly notices when it has been wrong and this kind of love believes the best of everyone.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (I Corinthians 13: 7b, The Message)

“Our culture depicts a “good mother” as an angel in the house who is naturally sweet, self-denying, and eternally loving. The media creation expectations that mother-love, like our culturally formed vision of romantic love, is something you fall into, a delightful sinkhole that leaves you so sated that you don’t want to climb out.”- Leslie Fields via Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

While there may be sunny days when everything goes just right for five minutes and we have coffee, most days aren’t picture perfect. Although we love our children, some days we just don’t like them. They behave badly and we’re exhausted.  We dangle at the end of our rope. It’s in these moments, behind closed doors,that Biblical nurturing love is hardest to walk out. It’s in these moments that we woman can not do anything in our own strength. It’s in these moments that Christ’s suffering is close. He meets us there on the battlefield. He understands. It’s in those moments when our flesh is fierce.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?- Galatians 5:17

We are naturally selfish beings. Our regenerated spirit wars with the flesh. What does that mean? We want our own way. We joylessly grab for whatever we think will make us happy at the moment, five more minutes sleep, one more chapter, a perfectly clean home, a late night movie. We develop a brutal temper when we don’t get what we want. When we do get what we want as a result of yelling or manipulation, we feel lonely, empty, depleted and a deep sense of shame. I know. Lived there in the pit myself. It’s muddy and stinky. There is no peace in the ‘me first’ land of motherhood.

So, what’s the answer? How do we nurture our children when we just want to be left alone? How do we become the nurturing, loving Mother we want to become. How do we fight our selfish nature? One moment at a time. One prayer at a time. One renewing our mind and our bodies at a time. One desperate prayer at a time. When we submit to God’s way, it doesn’t mean we will feel joyful at the time. We constantly have our own Garden of Gethsemane moments.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.- Hebrews 12:4

Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit..png

Motherhood may be the hardest work you”ll ever do. If you are having one of those days when you hit your nurture groove, enjoy it! If you are having a day when behaviors are straining every nerve, I hear you. I know. It’s hard. Keep praying. Keep asking. Don’t give up. Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit. Obstacles don’t mean you have failed. They mean you are running the right course.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.- Galatians 5: 22-23

Nurturing occurs on a battlefield for hearts and minds. It is on the home front we are winning souls and making disciples. “Discipleship is the work of a lifetime, and it comes… sometimes slowly… in fits and starts….two steps forward, one step back…When we develop a long-range vision believe God’s promise that our work will not go unrewarded. Grace is the heart attitude that grants others the freedom to listen and learn so that they grow, they master the skill of cultivating long-term relationships.” (Sally Clarkson) The goal of nurturing is attachment. The goal of attachment is long term relationships. Relationships with our children transfer to relationships with God the Father.

From Older Moms to Younger Moms- Three Things We Need from YOU

*This post was spring boarded from a post by Jessica Bolyard. You can find it here. 

My children aren’t small anymore. There was a season when I had seven children at home. It seemed as if it would last forever. There were meals to prepare. Diapers to change for years on end. The dishwasher/washer/dryer needed unloaded constantly. Kids were fighting. I couldn’t see the end in sight.

Other days, the sun shone. The children got along for a few hours or a child had a breakthrough in learning and I was there to see it. Or we made cookies and watched a movie. We stayed up late and watched the moon. I prayed those days would never end.

They did end. Kiddos grow up. Go to college. Get jobs. Get married. And we Moms enter a new season. Every season has merit. Every season has value. When Mamas enter the phase of life when the kiddos are not so little, things change. Drastically.  We enter a new phase of our lives. We become the mentors. It’s biblical. I like that.

 Older women similarly are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor addicted to much wine, teaching what is right and good, so that they may encourage the young women to tenderly love their husbands and their children, to be sensible, pure, makers of a home [where God is honored], good-natured, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.-Titus 2:3-5

I shared Rachel’s post above. When our kids aren’t little anymore, what we need from you who have littles:

  1. Listen to the wisdom that we share that is biblical and sound whether we can use Twitter or understand Tumblr. Knowledge of social media or lack thereof is not a measure of wisdom. Some of the ladies you need to hear from don’t Facebook or tweet. You’ll have to meet them for coffee ( I do social media but prefer real time coffee). We may not be able to see the pain in a tweet or post. We grew up seeing facial expressions, not reading emojis. When we say, WHAT? We mean we don’t get it. Don’t think we don’t have the wisdom or experience to meet you where you are if we don’t know how to tweet an answer in the characters allotted.
  2. Don’t discount our advice because our older children have chosen alternative lifestyles or left the church. Our wisdom and experience combined may help you. These are our children’s choices. Not ours. Your children will make their own choices one day. You probably don’t like all the choices they make now, but it seems so much more controllable when kids are small. When they are grown, be prepared to find a listening ear when your kids choose things you wish they hadn’t. Get your shoes of peace on. Apply liberal amounts of grace and keep the relationship going.
  3. Ask us. You may be surprised by our willingness to share. Just because we look as if we have it all together (myself excluded) doesn’t mean we haven’t had hardships along the way. We each have a story. When we tell them, healing springs forth for the listener and the story teller. We can’t step into your home and tell you how to run your household unless we are invited into your lives. We can’t tell you how to love your husbands unless you ask. If you’re asking the young mom at the soccer field what to do or finding your answers on social media, you may not be getting the wisdom you need. It’s not that these women don’t have some answers, they don’t have years of experience to draw from.

Younger moms, we are here for you. You aren’t alone. No, your season won’t last forever, but that doesn’t make some days feel like forever. I get it. Some nights seemed as if they lasted an eternity when babies were sick and couldn’t sleep. Those moments when everyone got a long for a few hours were glorious. I didn’t think the season of raising children would ever end. Now, I’m in a new season, trying to find my way around. I haven’t forgotten you, young Moms. I’m just a text or phone call away. Don’t expect me to have all the answers. I don’t. What I do have is a listening ear, experience and a prayer.

 

WHEN YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO PARENT AN ADOPTED CHILD, IS IT YOUR FAULT? Part 2

Last Monday, I made the point one is not able to parent your adopted child because you need to be parented oneself.(Read more here) You cannot take your child somewhere you haven’t been yourself. This week in part 2, I’d like to talk about some of the child’s reasons.

First of all, the parent must accept the fact that the issues the child has, behavior, learning challenges, sensory issues, RAD, FAS or _________ are not the parent’s fault. The factors that created those syndromes or delays were not on the parent’s watch.

The tendency of the adopted parent is to pretend their are no issues.The child joins the family and the parent enrolls the child in school or daycare (or homeschools) and chalks every behavior up to ‘being a kid’ or ‘everyone does that’. Time passes and the child’s behavior gets worse and his peers move on, maturing, making better grades in school, learning social graces. The parent stands there scratching his head, wondering what he did wrong and what’s worse, friends and family blame the parent.

I could write  a book about it (actually, I am, it is in the revision process right now, updates at a later date), but for today, I want to make two points:

  1. Acknowledge your child’s past. Denial hurts the child and prevents healing.

“Protecting ourselves by denying the true issues that the child faces keeps the issues alive and prevents healing.”- Parenting the Hurt Child

Children who have not had basic needs

Children who have not had basic needs met find it hard to form attachments to parents or caregivers (tweet that).

It’s painful to think about what my child went through before he came ‘home’ to my family. Hunger. Thirst. Abuse. Pain. Neglect. I don’t to picture my children suffering. Yet, I can’t erase the past and neither can you. The mere fact that your child was eligible for adoption means he had a life before you whether it was growing in another’s womb. being abandoned at a hospital, placed in an orphanage or foster care. All of those dates mean on the time line of his life, you did not come in a the zero point.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about excusing the child’s behavior. I’m also not referring to talking about it relentlessly questioning your child about his past. Neither of those practices is helpful. Instead, keep the past in the back of your mind while you parent.

2. Learn a new parenting style. You cannot parent a child from a difficult place the same way you parent a securely attached child(tweet that). Truth is, your child may not want to be parented. He needs to be parented. He needs to attach for himself and for his future.

“Traumatized children are afraid to be cooperative, compliant, and receptive. To them, such behavior represents giving in which translates to losing. They have learned to oppose anything that is suggested by others…they are experts at counteracting anything directed by others….they refuse to respond to anything that someone else wants. Consequently, they choreograph battles over the most insignificant issues.”- Parenting the Hurt Child

Sound familiar? Do you feel as if you are living in the middle of a war zone? Is your child rejecting your parenting? There is a reason. He is not fighting you. He is fighting to survive. He believes that if he gives up control, then he will die. Sounds drastic,  but just as a three year old believes there is a monster hiding under his bead, a child who has experienced breaks in attachment believes he must maintain control of his environment.

The child becomes stuck

The child becomes stuck in the first of Glasser’s five needs, survival. He cycles through the broken cycle of attachment and it falls short.

How do you parent this child?  You meet him where he is. It has often helped me to picture my child as half his age or more. It gives me a better perspective of his behavior and how I react to it. Also, here is the hardest advice of all, you cannot parent in anger. At all. It makes these kids shut down. When a child is in a cycle of misbehavior and he is only getting reprimanded (yelled at), he will stay stuck and so will you. Trust me. Been there done that.

Attachment parenting is a whole series of posts and I will get to that. Take heart if you are not able to parent a child and you have been parenting yourself. Remember the assignment in the first post of this series? Write a list of things a great parent would do and do them? Now, begin to do them for your child. Spoiler: your child may (will) try to sabotage your attempts. Do the activity anyway. Ignore the smart remarks, the child sliding under the table while playing scrabble or stomping off to his room after two rounds (true story). Keep trying. Keep doing the things on the list. Right now, you child may be frozen ground and you are a post hole digger trying to find a way into his heart. Eventually with time and connection, he will soften. You will have a moment. Maybe a second of softness and that will make the difference of a life time.

 

Everyone has Limitations

We sat on comfy overstuffed furniture in the cafe and sipped hot drinks at the Mom’s Tea last Friday. The topic was escaping. When I had previewed the lesson, I thought, this doesn’t really apply to my ladies. I know them. They struggle more with not taking a break then escaping into alternate realities through the internet and other avenues, like drugs and alcohol. It is a relevant topic for today’s culture. Are we living in the moment with our children in the real world or are we too busy posting seemingly perfect pics on social media? I’m not against posting an occasional update for friends and family. I do that myself. What we were discussing was much more serious in nature, having to do with addictions and not living in real life in real time.

Through our discussion, I gleaned some information that I find are reoccurring themes with Moms. See if you relate to any of these.

  1. Moms feel guilty taking time for themselves.
  2. Moms work themselves hard and expect more from themselves than they do from others.
  3. Those Moms who work themselves like pack horses are often too exhausted to ever do anything fun or  reward themselves.
  4. Moms who work themselves too hard, having unrealistic expectations, are prone to not only physical exhaustion, but sickness
  5. Moms feel as if they need to be the best ALL  the time (Perfectionism)

As you can see, our conversation quickly too a turn from escapism to guilt. Do you find yourself in any of these statements? Can I let you in on a secret?  I see myself in every one of them at one time or another. Maybe one or two a day.

Why?

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I’m speaking from the experience of a homeschool Mom, it’s almost as if there is some invisible edict floating around our culture that says if you choose to stay home, you had better do it perfectly. My house should be sparkling because I am home. My children should be clean, respectful, well-mannered, because I am teaching them. I should prepare organic meals that take me hours to prepare and my kids love to eat them. Or maybe you work part time, or full time and you believe that lie that you can have it all and do it all.

Guess what? I can’t do it all and neither can you. We are human. We have limitations. We might be bossed around by cultural edicts, but we can ignore them. Guilt might rear its ugly head if we don’t do everything all the time, but we can tell it to be quiet.(Tweet that)

We try to balance our bank account and not spend all the money so that we don’t have overage fees, yet we over spend our mental and physical accounts. When we do, everyone pays the overage fees. Our bodies shut down. We yell at our kids. We are cranky.  Instead of keeping up our standard of perfection, we crash.

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Back to the list. Guilt is a scary beast. Moms don’t like guilt. Don’t let it boss you around. Take some time for yourself. Jesus did.He wanted to get away from his public (Mark 7:24). I’m not saying run around town every day and ignore your kids and home. Schedule time to do something you like. Coffee with a friend. Writing. Crafting. Something you like. It’s important for your kids to see you doing something of value apart from them. Your children will eventually treat themselves the way you treat yourself. (Tweet this) 

As far as work goes, we Moms quote scriptures like ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might.’ That is a great scripture. Notice, it doesn’t say, do everything. How about one thing?  How about whatever is before you? Not the panoramic view. The one thing. (More on this in another post).

You are not a work horse. You don’t have to do everything all the time.

“Each day, ask God what god wants us to do today; then ask God to help. A simple request, but so profound and far reaching it can take us anywhere we need to go.

Listen: all that we want, all that we need, all the answers, all the help, all the good, all the love, all the healing, all the wisdom, all the fulfillment of desire is emodied in this simple request. We need say no more than Thank You.

This plan has been made for us and it is not one of deprivation. It is one of fullness, joy and abundance. Walk into it. See for yourself.”- Melody Beattie

Last, but not least, listen to your body. Don’t ignore the signs of stress. Don’t ignore that sore throat or exhaustion. God gave you indicators for a reason. Just as you wouldn’t ignore the oil light in your car, don’t ignore the physical and emotional signals that you need a break.

Ladies, we have physical limitations. We are humans. We hunger. We thirst. We need breaks and times of refreshing. It is profitable to take them. We reap a fresh outlook when we sow seeds of the proper sort of escape.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Wednesday! Join us!

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Three Opinions on Play dates

Wednesday I (Kathleen) wrote a post about play-dates for moms. If you missed it, you can catch up here.

Congratulations to Hollie Hart, winner of  a copy of Positive Adoption A Memoir and a ten dollar Starbucks gift card in our facebook contest.

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What do you think an encouraging play-date for Moms looks like?

Audrey:An encouraging play date for moms looks like a chance to talk and drink coffee and go on a walk. I love when I can chat and soak up some sunshine at the same time, especially since I tend to be bad about getting outside on my own. I like the occasional late night excursion, but since evenings are when my husband and I can hang out, it’s more stressful than encouraging if my weeks fill up with lots of nights out while he watches kids. I prefer play dates with one or two moms where we can talk while we let our kids play.

Kathleen: An encouraging play-date for me looks like a coffee date, lunch or sitting out on the deck with a friend/friends and being honest. I don’t do well with small talk. I am drained by it. I would rather talk with someone who is authentic and willing to empathize with me while I do the same for her. Complaining sucks the life out of play-dates. I think there is a definite divide between the state of sharing for caring and sharing to complain. I love to hear other mom’s stories and share my own. And I am sometimes prone to stop and pray.

Amerey: An encouraging play-date for Moms, is a play date that reassures Mothers that they are doing they best they can. A play date at another Moms house that shows that her house isn’t perfectly clean, or that her kids are not perfectly behaved. Also, a time were Moms can talk and be honest with each other about what they are experiencing in they’re mothering. Sometimes it is great to make something shiny, or bake something yummy just to lift your spirits.

1935107_1203126727925_6956380_n Audrey's wedding

What do you think is the most encouraging thing a Mom friend could say to you?

Audrey:Because I personally struggle with empathy, an encouraging friend for me is one who is empathetic. When I tell her I’m having a hard day, what I need from a mom friend is not just “you’re doing a great job!” but for the gentle reminder about what my kids are probably feeling, too. It makes me look outside myself and what I’m feeling and focus on those around me instead, and that’s so much more encouraging and beneficial in the long-term than a pity party. I know the opposite is true for some moms– they need less empathy and a dose of tough love for their kids, with the reminder that it’s okay to take care of themselves. I think it depends on the person, and for me, finding an emotional opposite of sorts helps me be around people who encourage me.

It’s also important for me to be around people who share priorities with me. It doesn’t mean I can only be friends with those people, but when I’m weak and in need of encouragement or help, I trust advice and comfort more when it comes from people who share the same long-term goals and similar short-term ones.

Kathleen: I think the most encouraging thing another Mom can say to be is “Keep going. Don’t quit. You’re doing a great job!.” I have struggled for years to find my place in the body of Christ and serve with the gifts and talents that God has given me instead of being a people pleaser and latching onto whatever ministry happens to be floating by (which drains me). So, an encouraging friend is not upset if I am not following her God-sized dream and supports me while I follow mine. And she tells me so.

Amerey: The most encouraging thing a Mom friend could say to me is, “I do that too!”

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What do you think a discouraging play-date looks like?

Audrey:I’m most drained by play dates that focus on complaining. It especially makes me uncomfortable and discouraged when I’m around moms that disparage other moms or their own husbands. I don’t like being around people who encourage me to indulge in being selfish, and it can be exhausting if our priorities in life are totally different and I’m using emotional energy to keep up or not come off as judgmental just because I’m doing something in a different way. I’m not talking about small parenting decisions, mind you, but life priorities.

Second up, and I’m guilty of this too, I feel left discouraged and discontent when conversation revolves around having or obtaining the “right” material things. I’ve been noticing this more and more in myself recently and I don’t like it.

Kathleen: A discouraging play date is one that I don’t feel right at. I feel wrong. I feel as if my clothes are wrong, my calling is wrong, It’s the kind of play date when no one else in the room is like-minded and they let you know your way of thinking doesn’t match their’s and you should join them. These are the events that sent me running for the door.

I also agree with Audrey, I am not comfortable on play dates that become “bash your family” dates. I cannot stand the dates that make you feel as if you need to go to the mall and buy more, more, more because i don’t have the right material things. Play dates should be about relationships, not material things. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great creative crafting play date! These crafting dates are therapeutic if they are within my budget.

Amerey: A discouraging play date looks like a day were you are trying to encourage a mom or be encouraged and the other mother is being a negative Nancy no matter what is said or done.

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Who has been a great play-date friend and how did she accomplish it?

Audrey: I have a friend that’s up for play dates with the kids or play dates after bedtime and the flexibility is awesome. She’s willing to listen to me without always offering solutions, sometimes she just says, “That sounds so hard.” And that’s enough. But she also empathizes with my kids and notices things I might not and isn’t afraid to suggest things that are good even if they aren’t easy.   Number one: she asks how I’m doing and doesn’t freak out or shut down if I give an honest answer.
Kathleen: I have many great play date friends. They are the kind of friends I am not able to see for weeks or months, but when we get together, we just pick up where we left off. We share our lives. We pray for one another. We are honest with each other and tell the hard truths as well as the easy ones. We celebrate together. We cry together. We grieve together. A friend accomplishes this by being honest and self-sacrificing. As an adoptive Mom, I am careful what I share about my children from hard places. I must have a few safe friend so share with who know where I am coming from. Being part of a support group helps meet this need!
Amerey: My sister Audrey has been a great play date friend because she is helpful and honest with my struggles, she is always open with me about hers, and she has always been awesome in encouraging me that, “that’s normal!”
Please share your answers to these questions in the comments, you never know who you will minister to. Especially when you say  “me too”!