My plumb line

Zechariah 4 v 9-10

“Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. 10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Honestly, last week was not great. Tim went away to a Community Development conference and I have been running on empty for a few weeks now; a perfect storm for becoming unhinged. Mid-week I came across this scripture on Instagram:

 

This post on Instagram took me on a little journey as I read the whole chapter in context and became captivated by the phrase ‘plumb line’ at the end of verse 10. This term can also be found in Amos and a few other places depending which translation you use. Not being a builder, I immediately searched on Google and did some reading (I found this blog really insightful). If you can’t be bothered looking into it yourself, a plumb line is a tool used to ensure buildings are built straight – think of it as an ancient ‘spirit level’.

A few days later as I hid in my garage away from my kids, I thought about the plumb line. I realised that in this season my kids are using me as their plumb line for life. They look to me to see if things in their own little lives are on track. They look to me to know what is right, what is acceptable and what the boundaries are. They like to push me and there are times when the pushing causes me to feel unstable. They have also been known to frequently grab onto me and give me an almighty shake. My sister and I often encourage one-another to ‘hold’ in the moments when we feel unstable. I am often reminding myself to ‘HOLD’ my centre and not allow the conflicts and uncomfortable moments in life to push me around. However, I am not a perfect parent, so naturally there are times when I end up swinging out of alignment. During these moments, I often feel like a failure and am discouraged that I am not holding my emotions or reactions in check as much as I’d like.

So, back to the garage… as I sat (shamelessly hiding) behind the car trying to get a moment to myself, I sent up more “Help me Jesus” prayers and felt myself coming back to centre. I felt God reassuring me, reminded me that although I’m a plumb line for my kids, He is my plumb line and He is never shaken. If I keep holding onto Him through prayer, worship and reading His words, when I am faced with the bumps and swings of life, I will naturally come back into alignment. I don’t have to fear the shaking; sure, the shaking of life will continue to happen, but it’s not something to fear.

This timely, gentle reminder carries a lot of freedom for me. There are many times when I overthink my reactions, but knowing that swinging doesn’t equal failure means I can continue to endure life’s ‘pushes’ until my head and heart get back into alignment. Instead of looking at the plumb bob swinging out of control and making myself dizzy, I’ll just keep looking up, because that is where my strength comes from.

Let me close with these thoughts – I may be my kids’ plumb line at the moment, but God is mine. He is my plumb line. I want to encourage you if you feel like you are swinging out of control… don’t fear, be still, He is a firm foundation. Keep looking to him and not at the plumb bob; we’ve got this. Big breath, remember the plumb line.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Yes, I went and bought myself a plumb bob/line from Bunnings while processing this all, because sometimes I like a physical reminder of what God is speaking to me about.

Church Parent Rooms – Five reasons to keep going

What I’m going to share isn’t new information at all, but I think parents need to be encouraged anyway. Each new group of parents can benefit from learning from those before them, I know I certainly have. But first, some stories…

A story:

One day I went to church and spent the whole time in the nursing Mums room making awkward conversations with women I couldn’t remember the names of. Meanwhile my (childless) friends and husband got to sit in church like adults. My baby managed to do an explosive poo, getting it all over her clothes and we had to leave straight after the message finished, I should have just stayed at home and had a much better time.

 A story:

One Sunday I was in the parents room all by myself. For some reason none of the ‘usual crew’ were there. The vision and audio on the TV wasn’t working and I spent the whole time keeping my baby from pulling cords out of the wall and feeding him snacks. I was exhausted by the end of the service and just wanted to get out of there.

 A story:

One morning I was really eager to hear the message, but ended up spending the whole time in the parent’s room with my grumpy baby. The room was packed with other parents who were talking and letting their kids run wild. I tried to listen to the message, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I left church frustration and empty.

The question I hear a lot from (new) Christian parents is why do I even bother coming to church? I spend the whole time in the parents room with my kid/s, don’t get to worship, hear nothing of the sermon and go home without feeling connected. I have honestly been through seasons where I have thought the same thing, wondering why I put so much effort into something that felt like a waste of time. Or to be brutally honest, like ticking the ‘went to church’ box.

 

The answer to the question many flustered parents ask “Is going to church really worth it?” is – Yes. From my experience and those who have gone before me, here is five reasons why I would encourage you to keep going.

1. Community

You will make friends in that Parents room. If you are a new parent, connecting with others can be so valuable, but just remember that connection and relationship building takes time. Your little ones will grow up together and right now is a great place to cultivate friendship. Sometimes churches can have tight friendship circles, but in the parents room… we’re all in this together. You will meet people of all sorts of personalities and backgrounds that perhaps you would not normally get to meet. You won’t instantly connect with everyone and that’s ok, but you might feel less alone and who knows, maybe you’ll meet your next best friend.

2. Triage

Sometimes, the parents room at church becomes a sort of emotional triage. Parents (often Mums) share their frustrations, struggles and worries while others get around them to commiserate, encourage and provide a sympathetic ear. At times, I can be that person for them, giving encouragement and sharing my snacks, and other times; I need them to be that for me. Look, you may miss out on being prayed for by that Spirit-filled visiting speaker, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, when the audio cuts out in the parents room, sometimes that’s when God does his best work.

3. Growth

God has taught me a lot in my years in various parent’s rooms. I have learned a lot from other parents too and I feel my faith is richer for it.  My security comes more from what God thinks of me, than the preacher on Sunday. My faith expression is more than a once-a-week service. I’ve realised that being unnoticed suits me rather well and I prefer ministering and being ministered to in unexpected places where there is no where to hide and I’m at my most vulnerable. I’ve had to develop patience and learn to relax my ‘God plans’ a heck of a lot more, my Sunday church plans rarely work out like I think they should.

4. Go with the flow

Some churches have amazing resources and facilities and are able to cater to so many different needs, while others can’t. Don’t take it personally. Goodness me I’ve heard some parents say some interesting things while I have sat quietly in the corner pretending not to hear. When we are put out, we tend to take it personally and feel we are being deliberately overlooked when often it’s not the case. How many times did you think about parents with young kids before you had them (unless you worked in kids church that is). Many churches are doing the best they can. Speak up when changes need to be made, but don’t get yourself all twisted up in knots. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. You should be pretty good at it… you have kids 😉

5. Seasonal

Time with your littles in the parents room doesn’t last forever and it will get easier. Perhaps your church attendance will look different to how it did in the past (that’s fine by me), but stay connected because this too shall pass. What might be difficult for you could be a pathway to change for others.

 A story:

We had a terrible sleep that night up and down with the kids, but woke up and rallied to go to church. Our oldest threw a major tantrum refusing to put on her shoes while our middle child spent 20 minutes talking to a bug he found in the bathroom instead of brushing his teeth. To top it off my youngest son did a poo just before we got into the car to leave, so as usual we ended up being late to church. After dumping my older kids with the amazing kids workers (God bless kids workers)  I went into the parents room with my son. As I put down my bag and sat on the floor I realised I had forgotten to bring his snacks and we had a looooong way to go until we would be home again. One of the Dads saw my dilemma, generously sharing his grapes and laughing with me about how my carefully prepared snacks were probably sitting on the kitchen bench. Another five minutes went by and one of the single mums started openly sharing about how her older son was going through a really stubborn phase, refusing to do simple tasks and that it was really driving her up the wall. She had no idea what to do to reach him and I felt like I had found my people, I knew just what she meant. Before I knew it five of us were sharing tips and encouragement and I felt like less of a failure as a parent. If these amazing parents were going through the same things as me, I didn’t feel so alone. At the very end of the service, I felt encouraged and empowered. We even got to listen to the last five minutes of the sermon without anyone’s kid screaming. I left church feeling a little tired, but less isolated and down on myself than before I came.

So dear Parent with young kids, I see you. I understand, and goodness you are doing so very well. Keep at it, keep at least trying to connect with your faith community. Sometimes it is wonderful, sometimes it’s a challenge, but hey… we’re all in this together and often that helps.

Love Jess xxoo

From struggling to learning

I will be honest, moving from two kids to three kids has been a struggle for me. I won’t go into the finer details, but those with a sideline view into my life hear all about the tantrums, fights and other parenting conundrums my kids are throwing my way. On a few occasions I have said to my inner circle “I am struggling”.

My church recently had Ben Higgins, from Life Church as guest speaker. He spoke a timely message about encouragement and being mindful of the words we speak to others and ourselves. During that message, Ben spoke the words:

“Our words shape our future – they don’t just speak to what is, but what will be.”

It was a good reminder for me to be mindful about what I’m speaking and the atmosphere I’m creating with my external and internal dialog. One morning last week, as I made the bed and contemplated what the day held, I really felt these words strongly in my heart:

You’re not struggling, you’re learning.

And you know what, it’s true, I’m learning. I love how this shift in language and understanding can change the way I view a situation or myself. I am learning how to be a Mum to my growing family. Sometimes I make mistakes and often it’s difficult… because I’m learning and so are my kids.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

This verse has become a bit of a mantra for me during difficult moments with my kids. My weakness, lack of insight or parenting mistakes are ok because that’s when God shows up. Sometimes, He shows up by giving me keys to a situation, sometimes He shows up by giving me a hug and encouragement to try again next time.

And so, I will focus on the learning, not on the struggle. Today’s lesson is in the language I am speaking over my heart and what this season is producing for the future. To approach this season of parenthood as learning rather than struggling is somewhat freeing. It allows me to move from things that restrict me to things that release me:

Another day dawns, here I go, watch me learn again today.


Love Jess xxoo

Digging Deep into Bravery

Digging deep, sigh, it can be tough. I had one of those days yesterday, but instead of digging deep and finding my inner strength and peace, I think I just ended up digging myself into a hole. A hole filled with frustration, emotion and lots of chocolate. Yep, I confess I was not my ‘best mummy self’ yesterday as I screamed at my two-and-a-half-year-old and messaged Tim telling him I didn’t like our kids very much at that point in time. Apparently, having one of my kids deliberately (and defiantly) pour a cup of water onto our laptop brings out the Hulk in me. My bravery abandoned me as I questioned what we are doing having baby number 3 and how on earth I was going to mentally cope with an extra little person in the house. However, even in my moment of (let’s be honest) blind rage, I could hear my sister encouraging me and reminding me that I had chosen to be brave and bravery is only present when there is something to fear or overcome.So, I write this little note to myself and to any other readers out there who have decided to be Ten Times Braver.  To one and all, remember that during your bravery journey, you will come across difficulties. You might find yourself wondering what you have gotten yourself in to and question if you have what it takes. Can you really dig any deeper into your faith/inner strength/reserves and find hope in this situation?

We all have days (or months) like this. Sometimes it’s during a busy workweek, other times in chaotic family life, perhaps friendship dynamics or creative blocks. Whatever the reason, there are days and seasons where digging deep is hard and the sense of bravery we felt before is just a little bit on the thin side right now.

But… We can do this! Yes, YOU dear friend, CAN do it. You can try again tomorrow. You can rise again from disappointment. You can give it another go. You can try something different next time. Keep being brave, keep pushing forward and remember… it’s ok to feel fear or confusion, frustration or discouragement. It is in those moments, when you choose to believe things will be ok, that your truly brave self emerges. If it’s not difficult, you wouldn’t need to be courageous would you?My girlfriends and I frequently encourage each other by send this pic (below) as a powerful reminder of how we see each other. This lady right here, the characteristic she exemplifies, are there inside you too – Dig deep, big breath, here we go (again).

As a side note, you’ll be pleased to know that the laptop was not damaged from its little baptism by Bella and I do still love Miss B, despite the epic battle of wills that occurred most of the day.

Love Jess xxoo

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Ten Times Braver

One day I sat at work with some people, and over terrible mocktails (I don’t know what I was thinking) I asked the question: “What would you do if you were ten times braver?” The answers they gave were varied, but all very brave and transparent.

I love asking people this question. I like to connect with people in a deeper way and see what is under the surface. This question pushes people to look deep into their hearts and find their secret desires. It also allows people to be encouraged to pursue something they may not have done. When you sit around with people and share something you wish you could to face, they will automatically be encouraging you to go for it. They help you find the reasons why you should overcome your fears; it’s hard to walk away from this question feeling discouraged. In fact, most of the time, people will realise that they were ten times braver all along.

Would you like to know what my answer to this question was?

I said I would have another baby. I confided that I would ignore the (realistic) concerns about finances, I would push pass the possible struggle of actually trying to conceive and the anxiety around the whole process. I would face the physical and mental exhaustion and realise I’m stronger than I feel and the provision would be there when we needed it.

Now, if you have followed any of Tim and my story on this blog, you’ll realise that we often face our fears and say to ourselves… why not? God is with us, He’s placed this dream in our hearts, let’s go for it! And so, a few weeks after I shared this question at work, Tim and I sat on the couch in our house and contemplated this question.

“What would we do if we were ten times braver?

We would have a baby. So, that’s what we’re doing. We are having a baby, due in early April. Yes, I am pregnant with number 3 and we are so very excited! We are being ten times braver! God is so good!

Our girls are so excited and constantly talk about if it’s a boy or girl, what Baby’s name should be and how they are going to play with Baby. It makes it even more special to share it with them and our family and friends.

          

Now over to you dear reader… What would you do if you were ten times braver?

What is stopping you? Go for it whatever it is! It’s perfectly normal to be scared doing it, that’s part of bravery. It is ok to fail; it’s ok to try something else if it doesn’t work out. You can do it. You are braver than you look. So, enroll in that course, apply for that job, plan that holiday, start a family, submit that book, play that song for someone, ask that girl out, say yes to that date, renovate that house, face your fear of heights, see a counselor about your past trauma, get that blood test, start to exercise, change your diet and lifestyle completely, whatever it is, at least give it a go.

Let’s be braver together. We can do this, we can try, and we can make plans and set ourselves time-lines. If I can be ten times braver, so can you.

Love Jess xxoo

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

It’s ok to sleep

We recently went to Darwin to visit Tim’s youngest brother and his wife (YAY). We came into this trip off the back of a number of unusually full weeks and Tim and I were both exhausted and recovering from illness.

Whilst there we had the opportunity to attend their once a month church gathering. We arrived 30 minutes early to take a look around and observe Mark and Christine in their ‘natural environment’. My darling Bella decided to throw a stellar tantrum about 3 minutes after the service officially started, complete with body thrashing, screaming and hitting. It really was rather impressive, so I’ll give her points for that. After removing ourselves from the main hall, I tried all my (patient) mum techniques and finally managed to calm her down. We rejoined the rest of humanity and I placed Tim in charge of both my little cherubs. I tried to engage in worship, but seriously, I had nothing. As I looked around the room at people’s heartfelt ‘worship’ faces, I couldn’t help but be amazed that they had any energy left to stand, let alone sing. I looked up at the lyrics of the song on the big screen and read:

“All the Sons and Daughters,

Wake up from your sleep.”

And man, all honestly, I just wanted to punch someone in the head. Wake up! You’ve got to be kidding me, I’m a working mum with small kids, I’m always awake. Goodness me, how much more am I meant to be giving? I exhaustedly told God that I didn’t want to wake up, I actually just wanted to sleep.

You know what I heard Him say?

He said, “That’s ok Babe. It’s ok to sleep, you’re exhausted.”

Phew.

When I heard Him say that, I felt so much release. He gave me permission to feel tired without guilt. I realised that He does see me in my current season and instead of being disappointed in me, He is cheering me on. I felt so much liberation that I packed up my two tired girls in the van and drove them home to sleep and rest.

It’s funny how I sometimes slip back into performance with God instead of authentic relationship. Sometimes, I still get caught up in comparison, not just with others, but also with my past seasons that I lock myself in a prison of self-criticism.

What I’m continuing to learn in this season is the fine art of balance and acceptance. Acceptance of myself and how I function as a mum, friend, employee, wife, daughter and sister. Sometimes I can’t give what I want and I have much less to offer than I have been able to in past, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. Let me repeat… it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. If my capacity is less than someone else’s, that doesn’t mean I’m not living a full life. I am not less, I am me.

And so, there may have been other mums in that church hall with screaming kids hanging off their arms, able to sing that song with all their heart and that’s great. I can cheer them on without feeling competitive or bitter and I hope that they can cheer me on, (whilst I sleep) without judgment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kid-free day, so I’m going to hang out the washing, make myself a second coffee and read my latest lighthearted acquisition “That Hathaway Girl”.

Love Jess xxoo

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

A victory on a hard day

Disclaimer: This little blog is for me – I am celebrating a seemingly small victory 🙂

I had one of those days where my little people were either, fighting, crying or touching me. It was difficult and long. I lost my cool more than once and when Tim finally got home I went and had a looooooooong shower.

20161230_171113-png

Usually on these days, while I am struggling to keep my sanity, an unhealthy critical voice joins the downward spiral. The negative thoughts about who I am as a mother, a wife and a person overwhelm me and I feel bad about feeling bad. Everything I’m not doing or not doing well is amplified and I feel like a failure.

But today, today I had a little victory – I had self-compassion. Even as I shut myself in my bedroom saying a desperate prayer for help, I didn’t feel bad. Why? Because jeepers being a parent is hard. I saw today for what it was… a parenting nightmare and I took it easy on myself for once. I didn’t think about how other people would handle it, I didn’t get depressed when I saw all dirt on the floor or the washing that needed to be put away. I didn’t feel like a failure because my kids were driving me up the wall. I didn’t think about all the mothers in Syria or any of the other painful comparisons that I’m usually unable to block out. YAY! This is a big thing for me, so join me by lighting a New Years sparkler and pulling on a party-popper as I celebrate this little triumph.

20161230_171152-png

Next time I may or may not be able to do the same, but that’s ok. I will celebrate today! Hi, my name is Jess and I survived this day by using self-compassion…

… and a whole lot of Justin Bieber tunes.
(Yes, Justin Bieber, I love that kid)

Love Jess xxoo

Living Simply without the shops – Part 2

At the end of August I wrote a blog about trying not to spend unnecessary money in the month of September (read it here). Having just realised that it’s now October, I thought I’d give you an update on the month that was.

It was a rather interesting 30 days for me and I’ll try to be as transparent as possible. During the month of September I wanted to incorporate three things into my every-day-life. These three words were my mantra for September:

Simplify. Enrich. Focus

It was important to me was that it wasn’t a pass/fail ‘project’, because that would totally undermine the point and only become a burden. My approach to September was not to just have nice ideas, but to have practical ways to incorporate these ideals into my life-style. I wrote down nine things to could do to simplify, enrich and focus my life during September and off I went. Some I did well in and others went by the way-side… I didn’t end up planting those herbs after all. Looking back, I think there were two things I really wanted to do: stop spending unnecessary money and create a culture of thankfulness. Realistically, this meant staying at home more and being mindful of my thoughts.

20150923_141445

Obviously, just because you can’t spend money doesn’t mean you can’t go out. You can go to the park, visit a friend, go on little adventures and a host of other things all of which are fun and interesting. Unfortunately, little Bella does not like going out. My little darling will scream the whole way of a 30 minute car-ride at times and a trip to the park can require more emotional energy from me than I used before having kids. There are times when Bell-Bell is awesome during an outing with not a tear in sight, but they aren’t that common. A trip in the car, no matter how short can easily be a joy killer. It is the age and stage – this too shall pass.
20150928_154829

(Cheeky monkey)

Two and a half weeks in, I was waking up every morning seriously depressed. After a few hours (and a double shot coffee) I would find myself again and the day would be pretty good. Bella was still doing two to three nighttime wake-ups, I was with the girls 24/7 without a break and we were all coming out of our third bout of illness. However, my morning depression was pretty bad, so having had horrible post-natal depression with Amy, I took myself off to see my GP. The diagnosis? Exhaustion… of course. So, I decided to ignore my Simplify and Focus mantras and took myself and the girls straight from the doctor’s office to get a coffee and some cake. It was time to relax and enrich my life a little. I believe Bella screamed the whole way home (as usual), but I had some real coffee and the memory of a nice ‘date’ still in my mind.

20150926_104250

From then onwards things got easier. Bella started sleeping more at night, we all became healthier, I upped my coffee intake and I knew what was going on with my emotions, which that helped at lot. On the whole I enjoyed the month of September and I know I will continue to do some of the nine things I wrote out. It’s odd that to living a simpler life in our culture is something you have to ‘fight’ for at times. You would think it would be easier, but it goes against cultural norms. Why be happy with what you have when you can have and/or could afford more?

With September at an end, I have $45.60 to donate to a worthy cause. I don’t know who I will donate to yet, but I know it will focus on children either in trafficking or community development.

And if you’re wondering… yes I did my share of baking and slice making this month 🙂

Love Jess xx00

PS – I read this awesome blog this morning and just had to share… Are you living Deliberately?