Category Archives: Sisterhood

Moving On: Seasons of Motherhood

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Life is just.so.short.

I remember the season well, when my doctor informed me that “changes” in my body meant that I would likely not bear any more children.  It brought many emotions, fears and uncertainties.  I learned many of you had gone through the same thing, so I thought I’d share this again in case one of you is in this boat now.


Here I was thinking I would go quietly into menopause. You know, wait like most women do for those “signs” that tell us we’re transitioning from one season to the next.

So much for going quietly.  I’m being drop-kicked into it. It wasn’t really that we had planned on having more children, either. It was the idea that it had been decided for me—that’s what hurt.  That… that was a little harder to take.

This new season is requiring fresh faith. And surrender. Trust that God knows the future.

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I’ve had a few months to process this news now but here’s the fact.  Like millions of other women, I’m entering a new season of motherhood.

I’m moving on.

Tonight, I felt my unborn grandson moving and turning and hiccuping inside his mother—my daughter.

I have been doing a bit of soul-searching as I find myself in this new season of life—this season of in-between.

In-between parenting a toddler and mentoring a young mother-to-be.

As I was doing laundry, a blanket caught my eye. It boasts a  “Daisy Kingdom” pattern from 1990. I love this blanket. I stitched it together in my kitchen while I waited for my first baby to arrive. It has graced seven cribs now—and it’s time to grace a new crib. Time is moving on.

I went downstairs and gave the blanket to my daughter. It’s hers, really.  But my heart aches just a little for how quickly those past twenty-two years went by.  They told me it would go by fast. But I didn’t believe it.

The days can go by so slowly.

As I went about the house tonight, I thought of other things I wouldn’t need any more, things I had been holding on to “just in case.”  A newborn carseat snuggie. A handful of hand-made burp cloths.  A breast pump.  Nursing covers.  I gave them to my daughter.

A surrender of sorts.

I glanced up in my closet and saw bins of baby clothes, and noticed that little green coat that baby #7 outgrew too quickly.  I asked her to wear it so long that the bin it should have been put away in was on the shelf months before I finally put the green coat next to it.  It was time to move on.

“This is silly,” I thought to myself.  Look at those bins, just taking up space in my closet.

And in my heart.

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Moving on.

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Newborn.

Up all night.  The sound of little feet.

Math lessons. Tooth fairy.

Grasshoppers. Cricket catching.

Driving tests. Graduation.

College.

Married.

 

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Moving on.

New life.  And it starts again.

They grow so quickly, don’t they?

It’s impossible to grasp the brevity of the life we live.  I wonder, if we knew how fast the time goes, if we would stop longer, linger more.

Tonight, as I brushed the toddler’s teeth and put her dirt-stained little feet into the sink for a quick rinse, I had to smile to myself.

The world may see motherhood as little more than a “stop over” on the highway of life but I want to see so much more.

I want to soak up the seasons of my life in such a way that it pains me to see them pass.

Today, I felt that pain a little more acutely.

But something tells me that if it hurts, we’re doing it right.

Be surrendered,
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Heidi St John Guide to Daylight

A Little Grace Can Go a Long Way

A few years ago someone (who shall remain nameless) actually asked me why I am so “busy.”  I felt my insides shudder as I tried to think of a way to graciously put one husband, seven children (and all that entails), homeschooling, laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, yard care, running a homeschool ministry, extended family & friendships, bookkeeping, phone calls, e-mails, writing, and traveling into one sentence.  After a few minutes of trying, I gave up.  More important than giving up trying to explain was simply giving up the feeling that I needed to explain my busy life.
As my friend Margaret told me, “It is what it is, Heidi!  God didn’t create us all the same, and what makes you crazy makes another mom sane.”

She was right as usual, and I think her point was that we need to extend grace to each other.  Just because I don’t parent like you do doesn’t mean I’m right, you’re wrong or vice versa.  If it’s not a sin issue, I think there’s a lot of latitude we can give each other!  It’s amazing what a little encouragement can do.HeidiLove - Page 001
How often we’ve seen this in the homeschooling arena:  The constant comparison and need to be defined by a certain curricula or homeschooling style makes us forget that God created us all uniquely.  I may never be the Unit Study Queen and my children may not get to enjoy homemade bread every day but I make a darn good pizza and I’m working on having more fun.  Does that count?  Oh yeah, and my laundry is all caught up… or at least it was for five minutes.  That should count for something!

I think God smiled when he put such distinct personalities in each person.  What creativity!  What genius!  What an opportunity for growth in me!
Be yourself, busy mom!  Pleasing God is as simple as trusting and obeying Him.
And at the end of the day, He is the audience that really matters.  Everything else falls into place when our priority is on pleasing God and not men.
A little grace can go a long, long way.
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Heidi St John Guide to Daylight

To the Mom Who’s Forgotten to Be Kind to Herself

Be kind to yourself, Mom!

 

I sat back in my chair, exhausted. I closed my eyes and tried to take in the praise and worship music that was playing. Suddenly I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Until that moment, I had no idea how burdened I was.

As moms we tend to do that, don’t we? We take responsibility for huge parts of our circumstances and relationships as we navigate our marriages, children, and ministries. Often it feels like more than we can bear.

As I talk to other moms along the way, the one thing we all seem to have in common is guilt and often a heavy dose of condemnation.  Moms with babies worry about things like whether they co sleep, or cloth diaper, or what they feed their little ones. Moms of young children wonder if they are getting an early enough start on school, whether or not their child is keeping up educationally with others their own age or whether they are over protective or not protective enough.

Middle school and high school moms question whether or not they are being too hard on their kids, or not hard enough, letting go too soon or not soon enough. We worry that our kids aren’t going to like us or if we will ever have a peaceful relationship with them again. We say and do things we never thought we would and sometimes, in the heat of the moment, things we regret.

And moms with adult children sometimes see gaps in character or lack of maturity and are painfully aware that it’s too late to be the one to fix it. We feel regret.

Maybe you’re the mom whose family is undergoing great trials…trials you never expected or maybe even ones that you feel that you’ve brought on yourself? Life is HARD. It’s not what you had pictured for your family.

And then it comes…the heavy, wet blanket of condemnation. It’s suffocating. It’s debilitating. It makes us feel hopeless and alone.

And that’s EXACTLY what the enemy wants. Yes, you heard me right. This isn’t what it appears to be. It isn’t about us being the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect friend. This is a spiritual battle that the enemy wages on our souls to do what He does best…steal, kill and destroy. He knows if he can disarm us, or at the very least discourage us, he neutralizes our effectiveness for the kingdom of God.

It’s time to declare war! We need to be persistent in taking back what belongs to us. God said, “So there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1,2)

Did you hear that? NO condemnation. What does He give instead? He gives us His Spirit. He gives us FREEDOM. “So if the son sets you free, you are truly FREE!” (John 8:36)

Free to what? Free to trust God! Free to believe that what He says IS TRUE…”And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)

God knows we are weak. He knows we are dust. He has more than enough grace and power to cover our mistakes. And at the end of the day, when we doubt our decisions, we need to bring that doubt to God, repent if we need to, and ask for His covering. God is the GREAT Redeemer. He can even take what the Enemy intends for evil and turn it into good.

Maybe these feelings are really signals to pray over those specific realms. We need to take those areas we feel condemnation and make them part of our prayer strategy!

And we really need to stop being so harsh with ourselves. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to sin. But the minute we forget that we are saved by grace and are called to continue to live by grace, we give the Enemy a foothold he should never, ever have and, quite frankly, has no right to.

Jesus paid a great price for this freedom we have in Him. It’s ours for the taking. He loves to see us enjoy this gift just like we love to watch our kids enjoy the good gifts we give them.

Be kind to yourself, because HE is. His heart toward you is tender and it is good. Rest in it.

“Just wait until…” {three words to consider}

There are few words that can leave me feeling more defeated, fearful, and weary than these 3 following: “Just. wait. until.”

Oh, there’s nothing in the actual words.  Someone could be saying, “Just wait until you’re married, it’s so amazing!”

“Just wait until you feel that baby move, it’s such a cool feeling.”

Quite honestly though, that’s not usually the experience I have when I’m hearing these 3 words.

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Far too often, I find myself in conversations hearing these words with individuals in various stages of life ahead of myself, and it is usually more along the lines of “Just wait until they are teenagers, you think they are hard now?”  or “Oh sweetie, just wait until they do ____.”  And on goes the conversation that puts dread in me for the future. The intention is not always bad, and I’m sure the heart of these people is not to beat me down.  Nonetheless, as a mom of young kids, if I’ve just been vulnerable enough to confess that I’ve been angry at my kids, telling me to “just wait until…” is quite honestly, incredibly unhelpful for several reasons.

  1. It invalidates others’ feelings.
    Hindsight often shows us that past struggles were not as horrible as they seemed when we were in the midst of them. Sometimes we see that they were in fact just as difficult as we thought at the time, but in looking back we can see the work that God has done in our lives and hearts as He walked us through our trials.  Either way, the trials God allowed us were just that: trials!  So when we are in conversation with others that are a few years “behind us” in a life phase, minimizing their situation is a devastating way to invalidate their very real emotions and current struggle.  Don’t miss the opportunity to love and encourage a hurting friend in their struggle by invalidating their feelings.
  2. It does not bring encouragement or hope for the future.
    As a mom of one baby, I remember the overwhelming difficulty of figuring out what bothered my son’s tummy so badly that he threw up everything he drank.  It seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  I’ve now had 3 babies, my oldest is 6, and now the challenge is how to break the habit of an argumentative response to everything I say.  It’s different.  And yes, in some ways it is harder, and stretches me more.  But it doesn’t mean my new baby challenge wasn’t a challenge. And for me to go to a new momma struggling with a fussy baby and communicate that it only gets worse is a sure way to crush any hope for the great things that the future has to bring!  Sure, there is “different” hard in having 3 kids than when I only had one baby, but it wasn’t “less” hard, just different.  Let’s choose words that cast vision for the great things that are to come, not to instill dread in the hearts of our friends.
  3. It takes away from the message of God’s grace we could be sharing.
    I don’t know about you, but when I have a friend who repeatedly tells me to “just wait,” I’m much less likely to go to that individual for wisdom or solidarity!  What if instead of a “just wait until” approach we could say, “I completely remember how hard that was.  But look how God met me there!”?  What an amazing effect on our friendships and our mentoring relationships we could have if we could set our minds on communicating the grace that HE has given us instead of the struggle there was in the moments.

There is always someone in a phase behind us, and someone in a phase ahead.  Let’s try to remember the difficulties we’ve had in the past and be faithful to share who HE is and what HE has done in our lives as we talk to each other. Let’s choose to just wait until we see what the Lord will do as we encourage one another!

Finding a Work-Life Balance as a Work-at-Home Mom

I’m exhausted.

I might even go so far as to say — weary. And the trouble is, I’ve brought about the weariness all on my own.

For the past several years, I have been a work-at-home, homeschooling mom. My work has evolved over those years, from blogging and social media to book launches and writing an eBook. There have been wonderful opportunities and amazing lessons learned. As my experience and reputation grew, so did the project and job offers. I will admit I have had trouble setting boundaries and saying no. These were good people who needed help or encouraged me to write. I love helping others. I enjoy being told I’m indispensable.

But in recent months, there have been new lessons. Lessons about what happens within your own four walls when your family falls behind your work on your list of priorities. Lessons about  what happens to your already compromised health when you don’t make the time to take care of yourself. I am learning lessons about what happens to a life out of balance.

I didn’t see it coming, really.  One day, I was waltzing through my days, feeling successful in all areas, and then the weariness came. It felt sudden, but it wasn’t. The lack of balance snuck up on me. It came from a place of integrity — a desire to succeed by working hard for the folks counting on me. It came from a desire to work as unto the Lord. It hit me like a lead balloon. The people for whom I should have been working the hardest, the ones who really counted on me – they were the ones I was pushing aside.

There’s an old saying: “An entrepreneur is someone who will work sixteen hours a day to keep from working eight hours for someone else.”

This has come to describe me. In my old life as a registered nurse, I loved my work and made a decent income, but my schedule was not my own. As my son grew older and needed me home more, working for myself, from our home, became a more attractive option. I knew I would need to work hard to build a solid reputation in a business that is booming with bloggers trying to get a foot in the door. I was willing to do the work. I just didn’t realize that I would sink into those 16-hour days.

I never intended for things to get so out of control, so out of balance.

I knew that many moms chose to work at home to have more time with their family and then find out they’re spending less and less time with the people who are most important to them. I was aware and on the look-out, but it happened to me anyway.

Are you a work-at-home-mom? My best advice to you is this:

Don’t let your work cost you your family.

 Finding a Work-Life Balance as a Work-at-Home Mom

So, how do you find a balance between work and other aspects of your life? I have been searching my own heart for answers to that question. And over the past several weeks, I have been making the needed sacrifices work-wise to get everything back into proper balance.

Here are a few lessons I have learned.

Make sure you have the support of your husband and children.

I’ve known a few moms who decided they wanted a work-at-home job to have a little extra spending money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but especially if your income isn’t necessary for the life of your family, be sure your husband is on board. You’re going to need his support at times. Whether your job is necessary for your family or not, be sure your husband and children understand that your job is your job. It’s how you help provide housing, food, clothes, or extras for the family. You’re not playing on Facebook or chatting with friends on the phone. Let them know your needs and expectations, while being sensitive to their requests. They need you, too.

Set office hours and stick to them.

This is hard, but to keep a proper balance between work and family you need to spend time with your family. I literally got to a place where I was logging on to my laptop as soon as I got up in the morning, and logging off just before bed. I don’t recommend that for anyone. Now I have set office hours (and only 4 hours per day). Decide what times you’ll be working and when you’ll stop. This may need to be adjusted for special projects, but for the most part, stick to your schedule. If you want to add a new project, make sure you have time within your set office hours to work on it. If you don’t, then my advice would be to either give up something else you wanted to do, or say no to the new project. If you keep adding things on, you’ll wake up one day realizing you’re working 15 hours a day. I speak from experience.

Try to have a space set up that is for work only.

If you can set up a home office away from the common areas of your home, do so. When you walk away, leave the work behind for the day. Don’t take your laptop into the family room and work. When you’re with your children and your spouse, give them your complete attention. Learn to be in the moment with them, not just a pair of eyes occasionally peeking over the top of the computer screen.

Work at Home Mom Home OfficeEnlist the help of your family when needed.

If you have a special project coming up that is taken extra time, explain it to your family in advance and ask for their help in letting you complete the project undisturbed. If you have older children, hire them to help care for the younger children (and pay them a fair wage) when you need extra time.  Offer a reward for helping more with chores like cooking meals and laundry. Your children are less likely to resent your time away from them if they feel a part of what you are trying to accomplish. And please, make sure these special projects are few and far between, not your normal.

Don’t procrastinate.

There’s nothing worse than having a few weeks to work on a project and then waiting until the last minute to get started. You’ll snap at your husband and children about how you have to get your work done, but the truth is it’s your fault for waiting so long.

Keeping your appointments with your husband and children is as important as the ones with your clients. If you say you’re going to take the kids on a field trip or to the movies, then do so. When you tell your husband you’re going to hire a babysitter and go out for date night, then follow through. They’ll understand an occasional emergency, but if you make a habit of cancelling on them, they’ll quickly learn they are not your main priority.

Finding balance between your family and your work must be your top priority. Always remember what’s most important, and make the choice to not get so bogged down in day-to-day details of your work that you can’t take time to enjoy life with your family. There is no job worth that.

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Finding Your Community of Friends

As I got older in life I had this idea that friendships were only for the younger me. Once I became an adult, I gained more responsibility, had a busier schedule and I didn’t have any time to invest truly into someone else. I would think friendships were for those who had time, not for those running around with their hands in the air going from one busy thing to the next.

Man, oh Man was I wrong.

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In fact it wasn’t until I had kids that I found some of my lasting, strongest, genuine, selfless friendships in life. I remember being a new mom and deciding to stay at home to raise my kids. With this new identity of being a “stay at home mom,” came a lot of lonely days and not a lot of money to go out fill those days with fun activities. Having always worked out of the home, I was at a loss to even know where to begin looking for ways to get out of the house with a newborn, so I searched on my computer… ‘FREE ACTIVITIES IN MY AREA’. The first thing to pop up was the library, (which brought a giggle out of me because growing up I hated reading and thought the library was for nerds). There I was desperate to get out of my house in need of community and all I was getting was the library. I put my big girl pants on and packed up my baby and headed to the next class available.

Little did I know that the Lord was about to reveal to me a group of moms that would change my life forever. These moms from the moment I walked in understood me, they were in the same corner of life as me as new moms, new to staying at home and like me looking for inexpensive ways to get out of the house.

These ladies became my rock, my sounding board and my shoulder to cry on during some very emotional hardships in my life. I never knew the importance of community until I became part of one. I wasn’t the only one to connect to this community but also my girls had started to build strong lasting connection with the other kids in the group. My friends have become aunts and second moms to my girls creating an overwhelming sense of joy knowing that I have women in my life that love on my kids with a genuine love.

We are called to be in community and fellowship with one another. I want to challenge you to get connected if you aren’t already. Get involved with a community group at your church, local library, schools, sports, etc. The opportunities are out there if you are willing to put in the time to search. You will benefit from having solid friendships, your children will benefit and learn the importance of healthy friendships, and your family will thrive because you have a fellowship of ladies who know your heart and are involved in your life during the good the bad and the ugly.

Be bold. Be vulnerable. Be courageous. Be genuine.

Start praying now that God will provide you with everlasting friends and if you already have a group of friends then send praises up for them and pray that your relationships continue to grow to heights unimaginable.

Through His love,

Hilary

Are You A Gracious Friend?

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DRAMA! Who needs it? It can be self perpetuating and so hard to pull ourselves away from. Sometimes it’s our drama, sometimes it’s other people’s.  It needs to be said: we moms can be the most guilty. Maybe it’s the mother bear in us that seems to make itself clearly present once we have given birth or experienced even a short stint in the season of motherhood? It can be tempting to think that we have it all figured out and sometimes we are insecure and somehow feel threatened by someone else’s choices.

I look back at how I have hurt other moms along the way and I cringe. WHAT was I thinking? It usually wasn’t intentional, but damaging just the same. So many painful lessons learned about what NOT to do.

I have also had friends stand by me in ways I never thought possible and give me an example to follow that showed me what TO DO. I try to be that to others.

As women, we have an amazing ability to bring encouragement, hope and strength for the journey to each other, but it requires being intentional in our friendships, keeping grace in the forefront of our thoughts and actions. Here are some ways that we can do that:

*Try to only do and say what is helpful and builds each other up. Ephesians 4:29 says, “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” It’s like a breath of fresh air.

*Accept the fact that each family is going to do things differently. We cannot be criticizing each other for the choices we make as a wife and mom, but instead humbly embracing and appreciating our differences. It’s really easy to give unsolicited advice or to criticize because another mom has made different decisions than we would, but it’s rarely helpful.

*I hesitate to even mention this because we all naturally tend to speak too quickly (please tell me I’m not the only one!): Sometimes God does use us to help and provide counsel to others, but we we need to not be hasty in doing so. If we are truly concerned and cannot seem to get something off of our minds, we need to PRAY for our friend. WAIT and see what God does. And, after that, if we still believe strongly that we should talk about it with her, approach the conversation prayerfully, humbly and choose our words very carefully. SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE, truly desiring the best for our friend.

*Don’t be afraid to apologize. We all mess up, we make mistakes in relationships and sometimes they are doozies. I am so thankful that my friends have chosen to forgive me when I have shown poor judgment, and I try bear those moments in mind when others need my forgiveness.

We have all had people in our lives who, quite honestly, suck the life out of us. As wives and moms, we need to keep our relationships square with our priorities. We need to be good stewards of our energy by praying for wisdom in our friendships. If we invest well, we will reap the incredible results of godly friendships: friends that will walk with us through the joys and trials of life, who will be the eyes, ears, hands, feet and mouth of Jesus to us and we, to them.

Are you a good friend?

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