The Power of Encouragement

I’m moving.  Yeah, I know I talk about it all the time but it’s a big deal to me.  I’m sure you’ll be glad when the move is done, then I can drone on about trying to get adjusted to our new town. 🙂

Moving is hard, in so many ways.  First, there’s the physical aspect of packing and moving an entire household of goods into a new space, figuring out where everything should go.  Then there’s the emotional aspect of leaving what you know and heading out into the unknown, and that’s enough to set anyone on edge.  If there are children involved, you can multiply the emotional stress by twice the number of kids involved, because they stress a lot about movingAnd finally there’s the endless to-do list, which also includes the “lasts”:  last doctor visit, last day of school, last haircut, etc. before we leave.

When we moved here from Knoxville, we had some awesome friends and family who helped us through the process.  They were a physical presence who helped me with the kids, with sorting our belongings and all the detritus that comes with ending life in one town so you can start over in another.  One family even came with us when we moved and helped us put our new house in order.  Pretty awesome, huh?  And then they went home and we were left with telephone calls as our only contact.  (This was before the age of Facebook)  I felt isolated, and I couldn’t remember anymore how people made friends.  That sounds weird, but I had lived in one place for so long, I had kind of forgotten how it’s done.  I started to worry I’d be friendless forever.  I’m not, because God sent me friends at just the right time but there for a while I wondered.  (And now I’m leaving them – augh!)

And now here we are moving again.  But this time it’s a little different.  This time I have a cheering section, and they live in my computer.  I have found an online community that lifts me up in prayer and lifts my spirits when I start to think I can’t do it anymore.  When the fear of the unknown hits, they remind me that God is in this move, and He will provide.  They remind me that I’m going to be just fine, my kids are going to be just fine, and we will get through this.  They tell me that things might even be (gasp!) better for our family in the new place.  Somehow, just at the right time, I hear the sound of encouragement, and it keeps me going.

I cannot overstate the importance of a positive word when it feels like life is overwhelming.  It can be the difference between hope and hopelessness, courage and despair.  A simple “I believe in you” is a lifeline to someone drowning in fear.  The kindness of asking “how are you doing today?” and then listening to the answer is like water to a thirsty soul.  A note in the mail can be just the thing to refresh a weary outlook.

It doesn’t take a long time, and you may never know the importance of your phone call, or email, or card, or just a kind word.  But the other person does, and it matters

 

Move: It’s Getting Real

I should have known it was too good to be true.  Apart from some tears from the older one when we first announced our move, and some general crabbiness and grumbling from the younger one, our kids seemed to have accepted the inevitable fairly well.  No threats to nail themselves to the floor, or run away from home, or stay here and live with friends.  As we approached the last few weeks of our lives in SC, I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, this move was going to be easier than I thought.

And then it happened.  One night recently the dam broke, and so did my heart.  My youngest girl got into the car after gymnastics practice and sobbed all the way home.  She cried and she begged me to “convince” her Daddy to change his mind, to find a job here, anything so we wouldn’t have to move.  “We can’t go!” she repeated over and over.  She begged me to homeschool her so she doesn’t have to go to a new school.  I could have reminded her of the positives in our move (and there are plenty) but it wasn’t the time.  I could have just been hard-hearted and told her it’s too late to change course.  But the truth is she’s entitled to her opinion and her grief.  I don’t need to jolly her out of it.  What I did do was make a lot of sympathetic noises, letting her know I understand that she’s sad and that it’s OK to feel that way,and that I’m sad to leave my friends too.  Making the whole thing even worse is that we were driving in the car and trying to get home before bedtime, so I couldn’t even hold her in my lap and comfort her while she poured out her heart.

We moms are designed to be the nurturers, the boo-boo kissers.  We make things all better.  But this, this, is one thing I cannot fix. They will be sad and that’s OK. We all must learn to manage our emotions or they will manage us.   Sadness is not going to kill them, and it will pass. 

I don’t have any smooth answers or formulas for ways to make this transition easier for my girls.  I sure wish I did.  As an adult who can look past the scary newness of it all to the reality, I know that they will both make friends.  The younger girl is a friend-magnet, that one.  She’s bubbly and fun and smiley, and kids are attracted to her like moths to a flame.  Her older sister is quieter and more introverted, but with such a sweet spirit that people can’t help but love her.  However none of that helps them right now.

I will confess to a tendency to want to skip the forest and get right to the clearing.  I don’t like dealing with messy emotions, and will just as quickly laugh at “The Notebook” as cry.  (OK, the truth?  I always laugh at “The Notebook”.)  You might call me hardhearted for that but on the flip side, I tear up at certain commercials.  Anyway, I’d rather just skip over the rough, finding-our-footing part and get right to the enjoying-making-new-friends and starting-to-feel-at-home part, yet I’m realistic enough to know that the process takes time.   So this is where we are, and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.  But it will get better.  Right?

I finally got the little one to sleep and went to bed myself.  I cried more than a few tears for my hurting daughter, and then I did what I felt prompted to do:  I went to her, put a hand on her head (gently so as not to wake her up), and I prayed over her.  I prayed for peace that passes all understanding.  I prayed for both my girls to find friends in our new place, that they will find some positives in this move.

In the end, once again, I have to trust that God has a plan for the transition time, just as we have so strongly felt His hand in the whole moving process.  It’s scary not knowing when/if/how you’ll find new friends, even for ME but I rest in the assurance that God works all things to the good (Romans 8:28).

Five Minute Friday: Grateful

Joining with some of the finest wordsmiths on the world wide web to write for five soul-baring minutes on a single prompt, then link up back at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place and spread some encouragement.  Join us?

I’m not sure when I started to forget that my children are blessings.  Was it when I realized that their needs would be superseding mine for a very long time (like 18 years)?  Was it the time I wanted to go out for some much needed “girl” time and had to jump through hoops to find a decent sitter?

And then this week, I started reading all about the #bringbackourgirls movement, designed to rescue some 200+ young girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria by a terrorist group who plans to sell them into slavery.  And I thought about the families who were missing their girls, while mine were safe and sound under my roof. I thought about that roof, which covers our house, which is comfortable and secure.  I thought about all of our “stuff” in that house, and I thought about how if my girls were missing, I would give up the house and everything in it to have them safely back home and I’d do it without a second thought.

It’s so easy to forget that God intends my children to be gifts when they’re asking for a third snack in 15 minutes, or leaving dirty underwear on the bathroom floor – again – or pounding on each other.  But just like I expect them to be grateful when I give them gifts, God desires that response from me.  It’s easy to forget that my home is a gift when I’m feeling weary of cleaning the same messes over and over again.  It’s easy to forget to be happy about the resources we have when we feel the pressure to keep up with our neighbors.

I believe the old hymn had it right:  “Count your blessings, name them one by one… see what God has done.” So I’m counting… 1, 2, 3… (this could take a while).  The rest of my lifetime, in fact.  I never want to forget what He has done for me.

A Very Special Mother’s Day Guest Post

Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m thrilled to share a guest post by the amazing Lisa-Jo Baker.  This is one of my favorites because it reminds us mothers that nothing we do goes unnoticed by a loving and compassionate God, and we are all in this together.  By the way, Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 11, and if you haven’t bought/made something for your mother already, you’re running out of time.  If you need a gift idea, may I suggest Lisa-Jo’s book Surprised by Motherhood?  It will make you (and your mother) laugh and cry, and sometimes both at once.  It’s a beautiful memoir from a mother who never wanted to be one, and it’s available on Amazon (link below), Barnes & Noble, Christian bookstores, and pretty much wherever you buy books.  At this end of this post you’ll have a chance to win one of three bookplates signed by the author herself.

You are Mighty Because You Mother by Lisa-Jo Baker

There are those who say that this is ordinary. But don’t let that fool you. “Mother” will always be the bravest, least ordinary, most difficult and utterly challenging career that anyone ever hopes to lay claim to.

While others might hear, “diaper-changer, food-maker, car-pooler, bottle-washer, laundry-doer, sweat pants-wearer, life-on-hold” wanna be doing anything else woman, the Truth, whether it feels like it some days or not, is that you are in fact a shelter from the storm.

You are a Cape of Good Hope.

You are a warrior who will battle for your children’s hearts, souls, attention, innocence, education and memories.

Go to battle my friends. This is your time.

We will hold strong on either side of you. We will pray over those bottles, through the dark watches of the night, when doubt comes and children break, when adults fail them, when they push and push as hard against us as that day we delivered them into the world we. will. not. be broken.

We may ache and see cracks tear through our hearts, but we will get up again tomorrow and load the clothes and say the words that need to be said. Again and again and again.

And when the world tries to claw at them, to break them, to smash the beauty in them, may our walls hold true. May the lessons we’ve told, the truths we’ve lived, the life we’ve spoken into them come back easily, predictably, with wash and repeat ease.

Kingdom business. Jesus work. This shaping of souls. This raising tiny humans.

There are those that say that this is ordinary. Don’t buy that for a second.

Mighty. You are mighty, because you mother.

{To see the video reminder of why mothers are braver than they know, click here}.

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This guest post comes with love from Lisa-Jo Baker to our community in celebration of Mother’s Day. If you haven’t already – treat yourself, your mom, your sister, your BFF or your grandma to a copy of her new book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom. No matter what stage you’re in when it comes to motherhood, we promise it will encourage. And remind you that you are braver than you think.

If you’d like to win a signed book plate for your copy of Surprised by Motherhood (or your Mom’s or your sister’s or your Grandma’s or your BFF’s copy), just leave a comment below and you may win one of three nifty book plates:

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Winners chosen randomly and announced on Friday!  Good luck!

Five Minute Friday: Mess

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the gang for Five Minute Friday, where we write like crazy for five minutes on the same one-word prompt.  And here we go…

I’ve spent so many years waiting for things to be just right.

For the kitchen to be spotless so I can try some new recipes.

For my house to be clean and neat so I can sit down and read, or play games with my kids.

For my focus to materialize so that I can…well, focus.  And maybe get something done.

For change to happen within and make me the kind of person I imagine I am or wish I was.

I’ve found myself waiting over and over again for the situation to be perfect, and I’ve finally admitted that is just not going to happen.  It’s not going to happen with me either – I’m never going to be perfect.

I’ve spent far too much of my life waiting for things to be different, so that God can use me best.  Or so I think.

But what if God wants me in spite of?  What if He can use me best by not smoothing over the rough places?

There is such freedom in admitting that I’m a mess.  Yes, I am.  My name is Kim, and I am a mess.  My brain and my body are all over the place.  I can rarely focus on one thing at a time.  My kids are not well behaved.  Our family schedule is jam packed.  My body is falling apart, from what my physician tells me, and my house is a wreck because we’re in the middle of a move.  It’s the end of the school year and I’m sick to death of signing agendas and reading logs.  A mess.

But God…  Are those not two of the most beautiful words in the English language?  But God shows up and reminds me that He is here in the middle of my mess.  A verse of scripture, a song on the radio, a word from a friend – all these are reminders that He is here.  And I may as well face it:  I feel my need for God more when life is out of control.  It’s when things are going well that I tend to forget I’m not in charge.  The mess swirling around me reassures me that I don’t have to have it all together because God does.

And I don’t have to wait until my heart, my home, or my situation is all cleaned up to be used by Him.   I don’t have to be perfect, just willing.  He wants me right where I am, right now, mess and all.