The Courage to be You, Bravely, in 2017

It’s funny how sayings stick in your head. “Be You, Bravely” was the theme for my Mother’s of Preschooler’s group (MOPS) in Dallas a few years ago and I have reflected on it a lot the last several months.

Whether it comes through scrolling down the highlight reels of friends on Facebook and Instagram or comparing myself to what another person has in her life, God is teaching me to be me. And me alone.

The temptation is to believe that other friends have it better, are more gifted, and suitable for their work. But the truth is that we all have challenges in our lives – some obvious, some unseen. We’re all gifted uniquely for God’s purposes – fashioned according to His will.

Purpose in Publishing

Recently, I was given an exciting opportunity from a Christian publishing company to be one of three writers to submit writing for an upcoming project they are working on with a respected author. They seemed very interested in my sample writing and was hoping I would move forward in letting the author see my samples. The problem was that I thought it was going to be a co-write and soon learned that it was a ghost-write. My heart immediately became unsettled.

If you aren’t familiar with ghostwriting, you are hired by a publisher to write the story/content that is officially credited to another person – in this case it was someone quite famous in the Christian world. In ghostwriting, you take on their voice but you receive no credit on the cover and you cannot reveal it in your portfolio. You’re usually given a good sum of money in ghostwriting, too. There are pros and cons to it.

I know writers that ghostwrite and I don’t judge them. But in my heart, I didn’t feel it was right for me. It also wasn’t in line with my personal goals in my writing career. It was hard to let the publisher know I wasn’t interested in moving forward, but I felt peace.

God had purpose in that experience as it led me to write my own book and collaborate with like-minded friends and it has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, especially hearing from readers and friends who have found hope and encouragement through it.

Boasting in Our Weaknesses

I believe that staying true to who we are takes a lot of courage, indeed. Not only staying true to our calling in Christ and who he has created us to be, but also not hiding who we are in our brokenness and weaknesses.

I love what the Apostle Paul says,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. – 2 Cor. 12:9

Paul gladly boasted in his weaknesses. He didn’t exactly have a stellar resume before Christ met him on the road to Damascus. He didn’t pride himself in who he was, because he knew what he was before Christ, and it wasn’t pretty. Being true to who we are requires that we take a good look inside our hearts and our own shortcomings. We are not self-sufficient, but Christ-sufficient.

When we acknowledge and admit we are powerless over our struggles and sin, we give God room to work. We allow him to search who we really are. I know when I allow him to do that, I find that I am utterly dependent on him for any good thing. I rarely can do good apart from him. Even on my best day, I still fall short.

A Great Opportunity 

It takes courage to be You. And no one else. It’s much easier to be busy about what others are doing, instead of taking a good hard look inside your own heart and seeing what God is doing in you. Who has he made you to be? What dreams has he given you? What scars and brokenness do you have that can be shared for the benefit of another friend?

In a culture where social media offers “all the feels” as Jen Wilkin recently wrote in her article Beware the Instagram Bible in 2017“It [the Instagram gospel] preaches good news in part, but we need the whole. It may move us in the moment, but it cannot sustain us through the storm.”

As women who follow Jesus, we have a great opportunity in 2017 to shine the light into who we truly are. We have a great opportunity to get to know our friends in real time, beyond the mere scrolling of our thumb on a phone screen. We have an opportunity, like never before, to come out of hiding and show others how great our God is.

 

Samantha Krieger is a wife, mother, and writer in rural Colorado. She is the author of the new devotional for moms: Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.  

 

Facing My Greatest Mom Struggles

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Waiting to get cider and popcorn at the Christmas tree farm

This particular evening we had friends and family over for dinner and my 3-year-old daughter was in a destructive mood, throwing things and screaming. She had already banged her head into our hard wood floors that morning from not getting her way. I was sitting on the couch and before I knew it, she launched one of her toys straight at me and struck me right in the forehead. Tears welled up in my eyes from the pain. I gazed into her blue eyes with anger and yelled her name. My blood was boiling inside.

This was just one of the many incidents of the past months. Constant disobedience, name-calling, extreme fits over how I squeezed the mustard on her hot dog to what clothes I put on her head, to her socks being too thick and refusing to wear them so we could never get out the door.

I could never satisfy her. No matter how hard I tried, she refused my help. I immediately got up to discipline her and I felt like it was just never going to end with her behavior. If you could call me a “closet cryer” – a term I heard recently from a mom friend – I was by all means one of them. And I won’t lie, a good cry is sometimes the best medicine.

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A captured moment at the botanical gardens. Thanks Cori! No one is crying.

This was my life the past two years with our second, strong-willed child, Rebekah. In that time we also welcomed her sister and brother so life had its joys and challenges. Rebekah turned 4 this past October and the past four years in raising and attempting to love her the best I know how, I discovered new fears and struggles in motherhood I never thought possible:

  • Am I scarring and screwing her up for life?
  • Will she ever be able to make friends?
  • Does she know and even feel my love for her?
  • Will we ever have a good relationship?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • Is all the hard work I’m doing day in and day out, enough?
  • If anyone knew how I treated her in the desperate moments, they’d look down on me
  • Why did God choose me to be her mother?

If you’re reading this and have a strong-willed child of your own, you know that one “determined” child can feel like you have 3 extra children. Your energy is depleted. You’re emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. You can feel far from God because of the guilt you feel from not being able to handle the behavior in a godly manner (Ie., resorting to yelling, spanking in anger, cussing under your breath, and more). You just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You feel like a horrible mom who has a child that no one can understand. You often feel alone in your struggles. “God, help me” is your daily prayer. I get it.

In reading the new book Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt (President and CEO of MOPS – Mother’s of Preschoolers), my heart has been so encouraged. In her chapter, “There is No Perfect Child,” she writes how as we are raising our children, their personality struggles and behavior issues are mere snapshots into their life.

No single snapshot can convey who your child will become– the complete, complex album of a life which reveals God’s good plan for her. It is this creation – this series of life portraits of your child- which will endure, not the frustrating snapshot moments. God’s album for your child gives the big picture of lessons learned, of temperaments refined, of maturity blending with experience to produce a beautiful person indeed. (pg. 89)

These snapshots don’t make up the whole story or define their whole life. And as we look into the mirror as moms, our imperfections don’t define us either. I have found freedom knowing that there is a bigger story going on and it’s not over. I have found freedom that God’s grace covers me in my weakest moments.

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One of my favorites of Rebekah smiling at me Thanksgiving weekend

Today, our Rebekah is still a fireball. But she is smart as a whip, courageous, and has a beautiful soul. I have found ways to her heart like letting her have control in the kitchen with me cooking up recipes. I used to fear she would burn down the house, but she’s proven herself as cautious. She loves Pioneer Woman on Netflix so we watch that together. She enjoys creating with her hands. I discovered that giving her opportunities to stimulate her senses helps calm her down: giving her a warm shower, rolling play dough, building legos, painting a picture, and playing with rice and bean bins (a mess on the floor is worth her enjoyment).

She still tells me she doesn’t like me at times and name-calling still spills from her lips. But when I was gone on a trip for 4 days recently she told me to “never do that again.” She still has fits but they are less. She is making new friends too. She still refuses to put her socks on before we leave, so I put them in the car so when we reach our destination she has no other option. She still struggles, just as I do, but I’m learning to love her even when it’s not reciprocated. I’m learning that God made her just the way she is.

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The fears and struggles I have are real. I’ve definitely had my share for today. More are coming in the future. But my struggles are making me into a braver mom and helping me realize that I’m doing the best I know how as I ultimately surrender my strong-willed child to God and allow him to create a beautiful and God-honoring portrait of her life, and of mine too.

This story was inspired by the book Brave Mom: Facing and Overcoming Your Real Mom Fears and has been linked up with MOPS International. Their editor has given me a copy to giveaway. Please leave a comment if you’d like to enter to win.

One Fact in Motherhood: Some Days Everything Falls Apart

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my baby boy (2 mos)

{written last night}

Today was a circus.

The 5 year old, almost 3 year old, 1 year old, and baby were all cranky from the moment their toes hit the floor. Okay so not the baby’s toes exactly. But anyway, constant noise, screams, and whines echoed through the walls all day long. The 5 year old lied three times and threw some verbal punches at his sister. Careless words I’d never heard before. Pinching, hitting, crying, and the like. No one napped on schedule like they usually do.

We converted the almost 3 year old’s crib into her big girl bed and what was supposed to be a joyous occasion was quite interesting. Jeremiah had spent most of the day getting a new mattress and box spring up north and putting it all together when he got home. Our precious little girl seemed thankful and excited for a short time but ended up throwing fits and calling Daddy and Mommy names.

While all that was happening, the 5 year old was out playing wonderfully with the 1 year old and then he decides to push her in the one spot of the yard with mud. Her face and arms are caked with mud. More discipline came after that and then I scrubbed her off in the tub. Meanwhile, the 2 month old baby is fussy and needing all my attention and dinner needs to be served next, but the chicken chili is too hot and the older kids are complaining they don’t like it. (They liked it a few months ago.)

My head is spinning and I feel like I’m going to pass out from being up 3 times the night before. It’s all I can do to focus on the next task.

And then Daddy and Mommy have about had it with all the noise and fuss and start getting on each other and World War III (like the Sara Groves song) is about to erupt in the kitchen. Oh wait, it sort of already did amongst the dishes and debris. All little eyes are staring us down.

So Mommy runs upstairs to escape the chaos and have a good cry because let’s be honest, if that didn’t happen, all you know what would have broke out because when Mama’s not happy, nobody is. I didn’t want to hear the word “mommy” one more time.

Yes, this is reality some days. Thank goodness days like today aren’t this bad. I wish it was prettier. I wish I could say I got through the day because I thought about how I would miss this when they’re teenagers or that I got through the day because of the blessings and joys of being a mom regardless of the challenges. Or that it goes by so fast and I need to enjoy it.

But it wasn’t like that today.

Nope.

It was survival mode from the minute my feet hit the floor. I barely had time for a shower. No time for makeup. My husband and I have barely looked each other in the eyes today and it was his day off.

And right now, I’m so glad they’re all in bed and I can breathe and hear my fingers hit the keyboard as I write this.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, Jeremiah,” I said to my husband a few minutes ago.

He gets it because he’s right with me through it all. The emotions, physical exhaustion, the spiritual battles, the sleep deprivation, the demands… There is so much that goes into loving and raising our children that we had no clue about before kids.

And I think to myself, is this what we signed up for? Holy cow. Four kids all still so young. God, you really think I can handle this?

After bellies are full, thing simmer down, and I’m able to think I ask my husband for forgiveness and we reconcile. I ask my older kids for forgiveness and we hug and talk about the conflict.

And that’s when the only thing that comes to mind is grace and God’s goodness. That’s all I’m left with at the end of the day. When all the happenings in my home are squeezing the life out of me and it’s all I can do to hold back tears from being so overwhelmed, God’s still voice says:

Anyone in these circumstances would struggle, Samantha.

It’s not going to be easy.

This is your sanctification.

But, I’ve got you.

Motherhood is your mission.

There is purpose in this.

I’m with you.

I’ll help you hold on.

Everyone’s going to survive.

I will use this for good.

I love you.

Even in times of brokenness, chaos, feelings of failure, shame and absolute exhaustion, His arms are open wide to carry the burden for me.

And I am so thankful for that tonight.

He is who I will cling to when my head hits the pillow. It is He who I will ask to help me better love my children the next day. It is He who I will trust to bring new mercies and change me in the beautiful, messy, joyful, necessary, difficult, rewarding, purposeful work of motherhood.

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