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Modern Missionary Mamas

Because you bear God's image everywhere.

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parenting

Resisting restoration

I don’t know about you, but I do my best thinking when I do menial tasks.

So this morning, while turning my compost, I got thinking about the idea of restoration.

In my country of origin, if something breaks, I usually throw it out and replace it. On the field, I fix it, mend it, tape it.

In my country of origin, if someone hurts my feelings, it is often easier to just avoid the person, ignore them. On the field, they’re probably my co-worker or one of my only friends. That’s harder to avoid.

And sharing the Gospel with anyone, anywhere, is ultimately an act of attempted restoration: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Darling, we say, he wants you back so bad. You broke the relationship, He’s fixed it. Come home. Come back. 

You live in countries with broken governments, broken economies, broken families.

Even in my parenting, I see where a restoration mindset could help. Shift my thinking from “how do I get this kid to do what I want him to?” to instead “how I help this kid see his family and God accurately? Because his attitude says that he doesn’t. How do I restore the love in his heart, so that he wants to do right?”

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Maybe I can’t. It’s not all on me, these problems are complicated. But I think some of the resistance in my own heart to different facets of my ministry is really just a resistance to restoration. To the messy. To stripping off the old paint that doesn’t belong, to finding the original sprockets and gears, putting them back on, to get back this object’s, this person’s original glory. The glory that reflects the goodness of their Creator.

I’m going to try to yield to that this week…I’m going to try to ask God to restore broken things, in my own life, in the lives of those around me, instead of despairing or throwing up my hands or grumbling or running away. I have benefited from his commitment to restoration more than anyone…you wouldn’t recognize me, mamas, apart from my Savior. I can’t forget that.

Does this change your perspective? What’s God teaching you this week?

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Out of reach

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I’ve been walking with some other mamas through tough roads lately. There’s always seasons of that, but this has been a particularly long one, and from every side, or so it feels. And there’s one thread that’s connected all these situations…

“I NEED X for my kid/nephew/sister…and it’s out of reach.”

Why isn’t God moving? Why am I being stymied at every turn? Why does it seem like the opposite of my prayers is happening; why does it feel like I’m only going backwards?

It’s hard to sing those songs about how God never lets us down in those seasons, isn’t it, without feeling like a hypocrite? Like a fake? Maybe you do feel let down, even if history will prove otherwise.

All I could say to comfort them was this:

“Someday, you will have a testimony, a story to share with this child. Someday, you will be able to tell him that you literally walked through hell to prove your love for him. And God gave you the grace and strength to do it, even if you didn’t to it perfectly.”

Valleys have their place. Walking through them sucks, but I urge you to find physical ways to remember that even when what you need is out of reach, your faith is not out of reach. I know, it’s stretched thin, but it’s there, and even paper-thin, it has an Author and a Finisher, and you can trust Him.

After all, He walked through hell for you, too, and came out the other side a High Priest who could empathize with any struggle. Talk to Him, mama. He hears you, I promise he does. The strongest women I know have figured out how to keep doing what God wants them to do, even when He’s not doing what they want Him to do. And you will, too.

You’ve got this.

Live the Life

Live the Life

I love this mama’s transparency; yes, comparison is the biggest mistake we don’t realize we’re making!

Self-care: Stress Breathing

So I’m stuck in Miami. I was flying back to the field, when craziness broke out and now I’m…stuck. It’s a good stuck, overall, except I have been with my kids almost every minute of every day for about three hundred days. Or maybe it’s only three, I can’t remember. The point is we’re super stressed around here, and I majorly lost my cool with my kids tonight when they wouldn’t go to sleep in our shared hotel room.

So.

Thankfully, I was watching a video unrelated to my parenting failures, and it reminded me about 4-7-8 breathing.

Mamas, this is my secret weapon, except I totally forgot about it until now. This helps me keep my cool 100% of the time, and I will totally be using it in the days ahead. So if summer’s got your hair falling out (or perhaps being actively ripped out of your head), let’s give this a try, shall we?

Breathe in for a count of four.

Hold your breath for a count of seven.

Breathe out for a count of eight.

Start over and do it again a few times until you feel calm.

That’s it.

Need a video? Probably not, but just in case, here you go: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

The science behind it is simple. When we’re stressed, we breathe IN a lot, but not OUT a lot. Breathing more out than in triggers your brain to feel calm. So if you can’t do a count of eight, just try for more than five.

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4-7-8. Repeat. You can save the above picture as a backdrop for your phone.

And the real beauty is that you’ll confuse the heck out of your kids, who will expect you to yell or storm off or do something. Standing there just breathing, they’ll probably make sure you’re not having a stroke. Have some fun with it.

Love you, mamas. You are doing a good job. Keep it up.

How to Help Toddlers Love Books

 

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How I Got My Toddler Back on Books After She Got a Taste of Screen Time

The struggle is real, mamas. Once those little people have a little taste of Dora the Explorer or Octonauts, there’s no going back. I’ve had some other moms ask me how I get my kids to read with me so much, and I thought this article had some good ideas. Here’s a few more:

-Start small. Maybe you can’t get through a whole book at first…choose a shorter one. A board book, maybe, that’s more tactile, with things to push or pull or touch. Then work your way up to longer ones.

-Choose appropriate books. Babybug and Hello magazines have some great little poems and rhymes, and you can get an iPad subscription now.  Don’t try to start them off with something heady or intellectual…there’s some rather academic picture books out there. Choose something sing-song, something memorable with interesting, colorful illustrations. Ebooks are okay, but most kids prefer to read on paper.

-Do the voices. Sure, I get that not everyone is comfortable with a dramatic reading, but come on, it’s a pretty friendly audience. Throw some silly voices in there and make it come alive!

-Put them on your lap. Kids love sitting with you more than anything, and it makes it easier to contain them, easier to see the pictures.

-Engage with the book. If it’s obvious you’re trying to get it over with as quickly as possible (what? No, I never do that at bedtime every night…), it’s pretty obvious to them. So go ahead and ask some questions. If the character is about to make a big decision, ask your child what they would do before you read what comes next. Have them make a prediction based on the title. Point out a little detail in the illustrations that the text doesn’t mention. Connect it to another book or life experience you’ve shared. Most of all, don’t ignore their questions! If you don’t know the answer, re-read to find out or look it up online.

-Choose books you liked as a kid. My own kiddos love to hear that this was a book Grandma read to me; it becomes more than learning. It’s tradition.

-Read nonfiction. Kids are curious about the world and love to know how to things work. When you hit the “why?” stage in preschool, nonfiction books are a nice outlet for that. And there is some AMAZING nonfiction out there now.

-Model for them. Kids want to be like you, right? (Trust me, they do.) So I let my kids see me reading books that are interesting to me, magazines, graphic novels, my Bible, a letter, anything. It makes reading part of your family culture, not just a school-type demand. Plus, it’s an excuse to put your feet up and ignore them for a few minutes in the name of good parenting! Win win.

You can totally raise a book lover. And it is so much easier if you start when they’re little!

You’ve got this, mamas.

MMM Podcast Episode 2: International Travel with Small Children

Here’s how to listen:

-Right in this post! Just click play. You can also download it from here. (Amazing, eh? I know your internet stinks, mamas; I’ve got your back.)

-On Soundcloud. They have a nice app for your phone and if you add to a playlist or a station, you’ll always see when a new one’s posted (I think). And please, if you like it, hit like and share it! Let’s spread the word.

And if you’ve got more questions for me, don’t miss out on our first Twitter chat! Here’s the post on that, in case you missed it. 

To-do’s and ta-da’s

Attainable goals, mamas! Self care counts!

Heard a great thing this week: we’ve all got “to-do” lists, but what about “ta-da” lists? Can you make a list of all the meaningful stuff you did, all the times you played megablocks, the times you let yourself be interrupted to have a conversation with a neighbor, the nights you spend working for the family instead of goofing off…I look at all that and say, “Ta-da! Look what I did!” Cheer yourself on! Give yourself a little pat on the back for those small choices; they add up to glory.

Happy weekend. 🙂

Monday Meme

…especially true when parenting TCK’s!

Scrapbooks Not Required

Mamas, meet my friend Tina. We were in Bible study together here in Haiti, and her words have spoken comfort to my soul for many years now. And now, she’s graciously agreed to share some wisdom with you, too! Enjoy. 

When we came home for a year between stints in Niger, West Africa, I went to my best friend’s house where she showed me the beautifully detailed scrapbooks of her two girls. Each page had typical American experiences including July 4th parties, dressing up, T-ball, church retreats. Being a world away from enhancing your child’s memories with coordinated stickers, I started to feel weirdly disconnected until I started to cry. My poor friend was wondering what kind of strange I’d turned into when I blurted out, “My kids will NEVER have those kinds of experiences!”

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I thought about how hard it was just to get their clothes clean, how they had no idea about movies and concerts their stateside peers were watching, and the fact that instead of neat uniforms and baseball leagues, they played soccer with a duct-taped flat ball in the street.  Their Wodaabe peers were finding wives at 14 and their missionary kid friends were just as clueless about the states as they were.  My children were in a “youth group” made up of maybe 10 people ranging from 6-18 and I remember their Sunday nights together involving games of Sardines.

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Would they ever be able to make it back in the States? Would they be impossibly out of touch?  Had I failed them?

My friend said something suitably comforting, and I moved on, but still struggled with doubts about our move to the Sahara with three sweet kids, and then later, to Haiti with my youngest, a girl of fourteen at the time.

The typical comment most missionaries say is, “They have a much richer life and perspective.  They will thank you for the differences later.”  I can agree with this, but like everything, it’s more complicated.  Sometimes, they felt isolated and didn’t understand why certain things were so important. “Why does it matter if I wear shoes here? I don’t understand why people won’t just say what they mean. Who cares if my pants are this length? What’s funny to them isn’t funny to me.”

Sometimes they felt superior or inferior or just weird. Helping them through that wasn’t always fun. Again, doubts. Did we let them down?

Fast forward to three married kids, one with his own children. The long view back over the years is a luxury I don’t take lightly.

My overwhelming sense now is simply that God helped them. He brought people along who taught them how to make the culture leap, interpreters and patient friends who could bridge the gap. He gave them a groundedness and faith that was vibrant enough to withstand the isolation. They became very insightful about American culture and good at navigating it while holding on to their early experiences.  And they became good friends to each other and to us.  And they DID end up able to enjoy July 4th celebrations, league baseball and dances.

The same one who called us, called and sustained our kids. As they allowed Him to direct and love them, they grew into beautiful whole people. I think about those days as a young mom and wish I could have patted my hand and said, “It’s truly going to be alright, scrapbooks or not.”

Consider your hand patted, mamas. Mine included. 

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