Tag Archives: parenting

Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

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To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

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My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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A Blessed Collision — Mom Seeks God (part 1)

Friends, to wrap up our “Be Mom” focus in May and to launch into our “Be Inspired” series for June, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Julia Roller. She’s recently written a great new book looking at two of my very favorite topics: that blessed collision between motherhood and spiritual disciples. It’s called Mom Seeks God. Join me for a two-part conversation with Julia about the spiritual side of motherhood.

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Julia, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Julia Roller lowresMy husband, Ryan and I have two boys, ages 4 and 7, and live in San Diego, where we are often busy driving to (seemingly) every soccer and baseball practice and game in town. I love reading so much that I do it while I’m cooking (which is probably why I almost invariably burn the garlic bread). I often wish I were more crafty, but alas, I use Pinterest mainly to find quotes about reading and new ways to trick my children into eating vegetables.

I love the title of your new book, Mom Seeks God, because it sort of describes my everyday life. Can you tell readers more about your book? What motivated you to write it?

You receive a lot of warnings about life after becoming a mom—you’ll be so tired, so covered in spit-up that you won’t even care that you may never lose the baby weight, etc.—but no one ever warned me that becoming a mom might lead to a time of spiritual dryness. As much as the incredible love I felt for my new baby taught me about the inexhaustible nature of God’s love for us, I also struggled to feel connected with God after becoming a mom because my new life seemed to leave little time for prayer and Bible study the way I had practiced it before. Mom Seeks God is the story of my journey to figure out how to reconnect with God in the middle of the busy life of a mom with small children.Mom Seeks God jacket

Yes, I totally get that. The same experiences led me to write a book too! Like you, initially, as a new mom, I found my spiritual desires sort of colliding with the reality of motherhood. The practices I wanted to do didn’t seem to fit with my reality. What are some of the specific struggles or spiritual challenges you faced as a new mom? Continue reading

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading

Be Mom Series

Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a sound I often hear. Let me be honest: My gut-instinct response is often irritation  because whoever is yelling my name is probably in trouble (danger), creating trouble (messes, experiments, etc.) , or is about to get in trouble (for summoning me as if I were a maid or butler).

But the truth is, I’m deeply grateful to have this moniker. And, behind all the exhaustion and stress and work and irritation of motherhood, I need this reminder of my gratitude. This job, this privilege, this name is a blessing.

be mom seriesAnd so, this month, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a new series: be mom.

We’ll look together at how we can be more proactive as parents in taking on this great privilege of momhood.

We’ll consider how parenting both challenges and enriches our spiritual lives.

We’ll think about how we have the power to foster an environment within our homes that can profoundly shape our kids and strengthen our relationships.

AND we’ll have fun sharing great, creative ideas.

Join me . . . be mom.

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An important caveat. I hesitated in choosing this topic because I know some of you, dear readers, are not mothers. You may, in fact, long to be a mom — and this may be a painful topic for you. So please know that you, too, are welcome in this conversation. You, too, are a mother to the younger people you know and love — nieces, nephews, students, neighbor kids. I hope that this series still feels welcoming and inviting to you — a place where you can engage with ideas and find encouragement. 

While the theme this month is on motherhood, the broader focus of this blog is spiritual encouragement for all readers. We are each more than the roles and labels that attempt to define us. My hope is that we all can find nourishment here as we each, on our own journey, draw closer to being — being ourselves, being with God, being true and whole and loved.

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When “Father” is a Bad Word

eggs nestAs I shared in my last post, your intimacy with the cherishing Father enables you to more deeply and intimately cherish your familyBut what if intimacy with God the Father is hard — maybe even seemingly impossible — for you because of the deep wounds you carry from your childhood and your painful relationship with your own human father? Or what if your father was absent and your feelings of abandonment are coloring your ability to trust in God? Or what if your  mother abused or emotionally damaged you, rendering it extremely difficult for you to understand the nurturing parental love of God?

My friend from decades back — like when I was an adolescent! — Dan Kuiper has just written a powerful book called When Father is a Bad Word. Keep reading our conversation about how healing is possible. (And please consider sharing this interview with friends or loved ones who may be dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain of a deep father- or mother-wound.)

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dan kuiper 04Welcome, Dan! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

I am the husband of one wife (one of God’s many good ideas) and am a father of three and grandfather of two. I am a speaker, writer, story teller, and conference facilitator. My first book, When Father is a Bad Word, was released earlier this year.

This month on my blog we’ve been discussing family life. One way we learn about family love is through the love of our heavenly Father. How has God’s character and fatherly love influenced the way you love your own family?

Since I began my journey toward discovering just who my Heavenly Father really is, the attribute of God that has stood out the most is His unconditional love. I still have trouble wrapping my little brain around that — that my Father in Heaven loves me completely, absolutely, and irrevocably.

Perhaps I still struggle with this from to time because the love we humans offer so often has strings attached. The non-verbal message we give, sometimes even to our own children, is, “I’ll love you if . . .” The Heavenly Father gave me a bit of an epiphany after my first grandchild was born. As I held that beautiful little boy in my arms, it struck me just how much love I had for him. And this despite the fact that he hadn’t done one thing to earn it. At that point, all he did was eat, sleep, and poop. Yet, my love for him was and is so deep that I would die for him. That’s how the Heavenly Father feels when He holds His kids in His arms. As I’ve been coming to grips with that love I have found it imperative to not just verbalize but demonstrate Father-like unconditional, unalterable, and unending love to my family.

For some, the topic of “family” is very painful because of the hurt they’ve experienced in their family growing up. You understand this struggle, don’t you? 

Oh, my, yes. My father was an alcoholic. And if you know anything about alcoholism, you know that it is a family disease. A parent’s behavior will affect — either positively or negatively — every person in the home. Alcoholic family systems, in particular, produce children who judge themselves unmercifully, who live for the affirmation and approval of others, who have no idea what genuine love is, who are terrified of intimacy, who feel that they can never measure up, who live with a pervading sense of shame and a belief that they don’t matter. Continue reading

Savor Everyday Mercies

How do we cherish our families? Part of it comes in learning to see the beauties hidden in the small moments of life. So I’m very excited to introduce you to my dear friend Darcy Wiley — a great cherisher of moments. Darcy blogs over at Message in a Mason Jar and is “Mom” to three kids.

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Darcy, tell my readers a bit about yourself!

cherishfamilyThanks for hosting me, Kelli. It’s a joy to be at your place today. I always say I’m a world traveler turned stay-at-home mom. I try to go about my domestic life with the same eye for discovery that I had during my decade adventuring abroad. The kids definitely keep things fresh. The world is an amazing place when filtered through the lens of a 6-year-old boy, an almost-4-year-old girl and their baby sister. We love to ride bikes, do gardening, read books, go creek stomping, and lots of other things. Full-time motherhood is a pretty amazing gig when you think about it. I take a lot of pictures, but my real favorite way to gather mementos and to process a meaningful experience is in the written word. Right now, I’m in a catch-22, where the kids give me all kinds of material but often my work of caring for them leaves me with very little time for writing a complete piece.

As you reflect on the last few months, what has God been teaching you about cherishing your family?

I’ve been learning how love needs space to flourish. To me, that means clearing the schedule as much as possible to allow for unexpected challenges and to allow time for interacting without the grumpiness that hurry brings. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable that I say no to a task they think I should volunteer for. But anytime I’ve given into false guilt at the expense of my family’s sanity, I’ve regretted it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the pull between my two callings of parenting and writing. A few weeks before my daughter was born this spring, I had put a lot of creativity and time into the Take Heart series on my blog. As much as I loved that, I found myself surprisingly excited about being forced to slow down on posting in order to focus on the intense neediness of a newborn. It has been a re-centering time when I felt the privilege of tending to my flesh and blood as my first priority. In fact, as much as I want to share my thoughts and feelings and writing pieces with a greater population someday, I feel the Lord often reminding me that these children are the masterpiece I’m sending out into the world.

It’s so easy to take loved ones for granted. Cherishing them is a choice! What are some ideas you have for concrete ways women can cherish their families? Continue reading

PERFECTMOM . . . not!

I did a really dangerous thing a few years ago. . . and then I did it again.

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I wrote a book about being a mom.

Faith-Filled.Moments.coverAnd then I wrote a book about parenting.

Am I NUTS????!?!?!?

Here’s the danger: We live in a culture — and particularly a church-culture — enamored with the false god of the “perfect family.” Magazines, books, blogs, and  Pinterest feed this obsession of family perfection — ideal meals, fantastic activities, lifelong memories, problem-free relationships, etc. And tied into this is the pressure to be PERFECTMOM. To cook, clean, craft, parent, work, love idyllically. (It’s not a new pressure! Check out the family picnic instructions from an earlier era!)family picnic

So let me say, right off the bat, that my books on parenting (The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival and Faith-Filled Moments) are not — I repeat NOT, NOT, NOT — written from some perspective of me having it all figured out, doling out advice to PERFECTMOM wannabes. NO WAY. My writing is always about the journey — and I’m a fellow pilgrim on the road who trips up just as much as you. (Check out my bruised shins for evidence!)

So . . . this gigantic “disclaimer” sets me up to share part of the vision for my newest devotional guide Cherish Your FamilyIf your family is ideal and you’re PERFECTMOM, then you don’t need this book. But if you’re a human being — a woman who loves your family and has a dream to love them better even as you stumble along the way — then I hope this excerpt ministers to you.

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But . . . Family Life is Hard!

A happy Christian family.

What came to mind when you read these words? A family of perfectly-behaved children who pray reverently during nightly family devos? A couple with endlessly romantic love for each other—who frequently pray together, never fight, and have a problem-free, passionate sex life? Some idealized myth of a Christian family that’s forever out of reach? With some fairy-tale “perfect Christian wife and mom” who you’ll never measure up to? Continue reading

Cherish Your Family

What words would you use to describe family life? For most of us, it depends on the moment we’re asked! We might say joy, laughter, bonding, closeness, cuddles, smiles, wonder,  joy, love, delight, acceptance. Or we might say exhaustion, frustration, end-of-the-rope irritation. Or we might say pain, hurt, betrayal, loneliness.

cherishHidden behind these words are other realities of family life that we may not realize as we hum through the busy nature of daily life: the testing, the opportunities to grow, the conviction and means to change we find in family life.

“Family” looks different for each of us. It may be a decades-long, empty-nest marriage. It may be marital singleness but, of course, an ongoing connection to siblings, parents, nieces, nephews. It may be a marriage and a house full of kiddos. It may be a house full of kiddos, but without a spouse at one’s side. It may be marriage without children. It may be beloved grandchildren. It may be some other arrangement of relatives, of friends, of loved ones that make for us a home, a family.

However you define your “family” one thing is certain: Mixed in with the joy and delight, there are hurts, misunderstandings, frustrations. And through it all is a challenge — an opportunity — to more deeply love the loved ones in your life. To stretch far beyond instinctive self-interest. To choose forgiveness over bitterness. To choose hope over discouragement. To choose appreciation over that ever-looming temptation to take others for granted. To treasure. To embrace. To cherish. Continue reading

The Busy-Mom Life . . .

Connecting with God can be difficult in many stages of life, but I must say, the stage of young kids is an uber-tough one! Gone are the long times of quiet prayer . . . replaced by utter, blessed, beloved, mind-numbing family chaos!

And yet, through it all, courses a deep desire: For real intimacy with God. For meaningful connection . . . somehow!

Busy Mom's Guide coverWhat happens when the spiritual ideals of Brother Lawrence collide with the realities of mom-of-young-kids-life? Consider this excerpt from my book The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival.

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Picture for a moment what it might be like to live as a “Mother Lawrence.” Constant communion with God through diapers, wiping runny noses, cleaning toys, disciplining, dealing with continual interruptions—could it be possible?

Yes.

This isn’t about doing anything outwardly; it’s simply a re-focusing of our inner perspective. My friend Amie describes her mind-set shift this way: “I can’t count the number of times in the past six months that I have sat down to read a passage from Scripture or to pray or to enjoy a quiet moment when the cries of my son have broken in.

“I used to think that God wanted us to pencil him in—that he was as linear and Western-minded as myself and that he was really much more pleased when I had ‘prayer time’ and ‘Scripture-reading time’ and had my life sufficiently organized so that as long as he occupied a certain percentage of my day planner he was appeased and all was well. But he breaks in like a crying child. He is in the interruption. He shows me that he is always there—on the subway, while I am changing a diaper, in the supermarket, behind the window where the widow sits alone. And whether I choose to acknowledge him or not is up to me.”

Amie has zeroed in on the foundational idea of practicing God’s presence: simply recognizing the truth that as a result of our salvation, God’s presence is continually with us. We just need to attentively focus on this truth and not lose sight of it even in the midst of interruptions and distractions. Though outward demands of work or home can draw our minds away from God, “It is the heart…whose attention we must carefully focus on God.” Developing this type of mind-set (maybe “heart-set” would be a better term) requires some effort on our part as we constantly remind ourselves: God is here. God sees my life. God hears my heart. God knows my needs.

God doesn’t require that our prayers be “deep,” well-formulated, or profound; God doesn’t mind if on some days 99% of our conversation with him is made up of S.O.S. prayers: “God, help!” In the presence of our loving God, we can just be real. Our conversation with God can be as simple as speaking phrases to God like…

“I feel stressed right now. God, please help me to calm down”

or “Thanks for my son, God. He’s so adorable”

or even “Potty training drives me crazy! God, show me how to help my child learn this!”

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Consider reading, praying through, and trying out more of the ideas in my book The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival. You CAN connect with God and experience his presence during this stage! It just may look quite a bit different than other stages of life.

Small Acts: Meet My Friend Leslie Leyland Fields

Readers, as I edited this interview, Leslie’s words literally brought tears to my eyes. This is a gives-you-goosebumps kind of interview: beautifully honest and spiritually deep. Just what I needed as I edited it, and hopefully just what you need to read in this God-ordained moment right now.

So, as you can tell, I’m really excited to give you this chance to hear from Leslie Leyland Fields. She’s an author, a regular columnist for Christianity Today, a mom, and a woman with a unique job: participating in her family’s fishing business. Keep reading for some interesting, compelling, and honest thoughts about calling, motherhood, real-life, and the adventure God has in mind for each of us. 

leslieWelcome, Leslie! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I almost always identify myself first by where I live — I live on two island in Alaska, on Kodiak Island in the winter and on a small island in bush Alaska in the summer where my family and I commercial salmon fish. But I also resist being defined by where I live — there begins the paradoxes I live between and among. I’m mother to six children, ages 24 to 10, and I’ve delivered eight books into the world, all facts that contain both tension and blessing. But I know no better place to live.

This month we’re exploring the idea of “calling” in our lives. For some women, this is a really inspiring and invigorating idea. For others it’s frustrating because it can bring with it an expectation of doing something grand and important; meanwhile their real life feels so . . . normal. What’s your gut-reaction to the idea of having a calling? Why?

I believe in calling. Most of us know the root word for “vocation” is vocare, meaning “to call.”  That term and idea was used by the church for a vocation within the church, but we have a fuller understanding that the world cannot be riven into sacred verses secular arenas. We’ve all been “called” to go out and make disciples, but we’ve been called in different ways, and each according to her gifts — and her afflictions. Fulfilling our call is very rarely going to look dramatic and grand. It’s going to look and feel small, especially to us in this culture when everyone lusts after fame and a global platform. It’s going to be small acts done in private spaces, away from the cameras and microphones: a cup of cold water, a call to a neighbor who’s just returned from the doctor, mentoring a teen, helping a friend through a marriage crisis, feeding strangers. We can and we must do these kinds of things as part of our calling. But calling is more than this. It’s about fostering the particular gifts and afflictions that God has given each one of us for the up-building of his Kingdom. If you’ve got a beautiful voice, sing. If you’re an amazing gardener, garden. If words on the page are your passion, write. And afflictions: If you’ve been through serious illness, gone through marital pain, whatever burden of witness God has given you, exercise that witness among others in need.  Here is what I’ve written in my Writer’s Manifesto about writing and calling (but it applies to any gift):

Writing is a vocation, a calling, a kind of pilgrimage that takes us, like Abraham, from one land to another, through, of course, wastelands, where the promise of a promised land appears invisible and impossible, but the writing inexorably, day by day, moves us closer to holiness, the city of God.

Any calling, if it is of God, will include all of this: struggle, suffering, and yet a steady movement toward God and His holiness.

parentingmythOne reason I wanted to interview you about this topic is because I loved your book (with its critical subtitle!): Parenting Is Your Highest Calling–And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. Why do you think this idea that “parenting is one’s highest calling” can be so dangerous for moms? And why, in your opinion, is it a myth?

As Christian women and as mothers, we’ve been fed this idea since we were young: that our greatest contribution to the world, to the church, to the kingdom of God is the children we produce and raise. Continue reading