On re-learning how to dream

I used to dream of teaching my children all of the wonders of God and His world.

I used to dream of being a loving wife, never nagging or cranky (ha!).
I used to dream of being a great friend, a listening ear in hard times.

I used to dream of a job I'd be passionate about waking up to.

And then life got in the way. I got tired and anxious and depressed. I resisted help and advice, tried to be strong on my own, was stuck in survival mode for too long. I focused more on what I couldn't do than on what I COULD.

As I've journeyed with dozens of other working moms through the (in)couraging working new moms group, I'm learning that I can still dream. For too many years, I believed the lie that working meant that I couldn't be the mom and wife I dreamed of being. And now, I'm seeing that there are amazing working moms out there who love their jobs AND their kids (::cough::Girl With Blog::cough::).

God is showing me that my dreams are still valid and good, even if they might not look the way I expected, or happen in the timing I would like.

Maybe our family won't homeschool, but we will teach our kids about God in so many ways. We'll be involved in their schooling, and will make sure they're learning everything they need to be happy, productive, and hopefully God-following adults.

And even though marriage is way harder than I ever expected, even though I need so much grace from my husband each day (and need to show him grace too), we can still have an awesome marriage. We can connect and re-connect and each day is a new chance to grow our love and forgive.

Even when friendships ebb and flow, even when I'm overwhelmed and wish I could do so much more... I can still send an encouraging text or card. I can still pray and show up when I'm able.

And when work is challenging, or stressful, or tedious, I'll remember how grateful I am for flexibility and kind co-workers. I'll take the next step toward using my skills and passions. I'll dream of the future.

What are your dreams, my friend? What's one way you can move toward your them this week?


Working moms -- let's find some peace.

Between sixteen hours of Business Analyst training this week and the meal-planning  discussions on our (in)couraging working moms page, I've been thinking a lot about efficiency. I'm not normally very orderly or organized, and usually I think in circles much more than linearly. But after dealing with anxiety for over a year, while working out of the home and managing a household, I'm realizing that I need to find a way to live with more order. Maybe you can sympathize?

Disorder and peace are contrasted in 1 Cor. 14:33 -- "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." Order creates peace, and God sure knows I need more peace. :) I'm realizing that part of my postpartum struggle happened because I stayed in survival mode too long. I was dealing with life as it was thrown at me instead of being proactive. I kept doing the same things expecting better results, but lacked the motivation, energy, and clarity to think about finding a better way.

In my BA training, we've focused on "mapping" the flow of processes, breaking them down to their smallest part in order to see the gaps, raise questions, and create a common understanding within a group. As we practiced mapping, I kept thinking of how useful this concept could be in analyzing my own life processes -- from getting ready in the morning, to the flow of my work day, to making dinner in the evening. Where is there redundancy? Confusion? Unnecessary steps?

Of course, I don't have the patience to draw out every single process of my life. But I have started to shift my mindset. When I get frustrated, I try to ask myself "Why?" (a BA's favorite question). Is there something in this process that could be changed to be easier next time? Could I feed the kids a snack while making dinner, instead of getting frustrated that they're hungry and begging for attention? Even small changes can create so much more peace.

The other phrase that stuck with me from BA training was "sticking to the happy path". When a Business Analyst studies a process, they focus on the main tasks that need to happen, not on every exception that could derail the process. In my life, am I focusing on the main tasks, or getting derailed by worrying about "what if's"?

Here are a few tips that may help, if you're in need of a little more structure too:

1. Scheduling (home & work) - free planner from The Mom Writes
2. Meal planning - Pepperplate (free app)
3. Cleaning - I use a basic list of reminders for each day, and try to pick up as I go, nothing fancy. :)

I'd love to hear any tips or tools you have for working toward a more orderly life! Are you in need of some peace, too?

This post is part of a series for (in)couraging working new moms. I'm so grateful for the ladies who do battle alongside me and teach me so much!


Talking about God with kids

We sat around the dinner table, talking about Heaven. My tender four-year-old, J, put his head down into his arms, face crumpled. "I'm a mean boy," he cried.

Everything in me wanted to tell him he was wrong, but the truth is, he was pretty mean that day. For the past few weeks he's been angry and disobedient more than usual. I had prayed with him a week before, that God would help him to obey. I've been praying for God to convict his heart, to give him a heart of flesh instead of stone. Even at this young age, I know God can do this.

And so I said, "Does it make you sad when you're mean?" He nodded. "Does it sometimes feel like you have to be mean, like you can't be good?" He nodded again. "You know we love you even when you are mean, even when you're naughty, right?" Another nod. "Did you know that God can help you obey? That when you ask Him to help you, He will give you His Spirit and help you obey?"

"What's Spirit?" he questioned. I fumbled for a response. "I mean, what's His name?" he asked.

"Ah, the Holy Spirit," I replied. "The Holy Spirit is God, and He can live with you always."

"Do you think my Mama Tiger can go to Heaven?" he replied, changing the subject to something more tangible.

These conversations make my heart sing. It is a little terrifying to talk to my children about God, a little scary that I won't know how to explain things, or won't know the answers. But it's incredible to watch J's heart soften, to hear how much he remembers from our previous conversations.

More than anything, my husband and I long for our children to know God as their Redeemer, Savior, Father, and Friend. We long for them to boldly obey Him and share His love and truth with the world.

We've spent the past couple of mealtimes dreaming of Heaven. We want our kids to know that Heaven is a beautiful, perfect place, filled with all things good. We don't want them to be scared of it. And so we dream of the wonders we'll see and do there.

"I'll ride on a tiger, and Daddy will ride on a lion. What do you want to ride on, mommy?" J asks. In Heaven, all things are possible, all things are good. So why shouldn't we ride on lions and tigers and bears together? Why shouldn't Mama Tiger come to life and be J's best friend still? I love these conversations, because they encourage us to hope in God, to focus on His goodness to us. Not to mention, growing our imagination and creativity. :)

Father, help us to use our words to guide our children into Your truth. Open their hearts to hear who You are, and to know You as their Savior and Friend. Give us boldness to ask the right questions, to tell stories of how You have worked in the world and in our lives. Amen.

"Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates." Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 MSG
Can you remember a favorite conversation about faith with your parents when you were young, or with your kids? I'd love to hear it!