Love is Not Irritable

In celebration of an incredible “launch” of the First Corinthians study, and due to the fact that I still haven’t quite gotten back into my blogging groove since it ended (i.e., all I’ve felt like doing with my free time for the past week is watching Gilmore Girls) , I thought I’d post one last excerpt from the study. Enjoy!

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

 

For each characteristic of love given, our response needs to be, “Am I . . . . ?”

Am I patient? Am I kind? Am I free from jealousy, bragging, and arrogance? Am I rude? Am I self-seeking? Am I easily provoked? Do I keep a mental record of the wrongs done to me? Am I more prone to rejoice in unrighteousness or in the truth?

Our individual answers are a BIG deal. Remember, apart from love, we are nothing (v. 2).

NO-THING!

This is serious stuff.

Because I can only speak for myself, I want to address the quality of love that needs the most work in my own life: love . . . is not provoked (“easily angered”, NIV). I don’t have “anger issues” in that I don’t scream and yell, punch walls, break things, or emotionally explode when things don’t go my way. But as I was studying the word translated “easily provoked” I came across the word “irritable.” Ding, ding, ding! That’s me. That’s my struggle.

Irritability, which I define as the tendency to be easily annoyed or frustrated, is something I fight every day. Since having my son 3 years ago, the battle has gotten even more intense. Unfortunately, I didn’t birth a perfect child, nor am I a perfect mother. He doesn’t always listen. He gets into stuff he shouldn’t. He usually can’t tell the difference between a washable marker and a permanent one. He doesn’t always want to nap (usually on days when I need a break the most). He messes up my house as fast as I can clean it. He asks “why” 5,789 times a day. He has no appreciation for sleeping in. After months of peeing on the potty, he still insists on going “number two” in his underwear. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Kids pretty much guarantee that a mom’s day isn’t going to go quite like she planned. There will be interruptions, messes, boo boos, tears, time outs, and human waste to clean off of who- knows-what. Some moms are great at tackling that stuff with optimism and grace.

Not me.

I am irritable.

As the small annoyances multiply, the tone of my voice starts to change. The force with which I close doors, drawers, and cabinets gets a little more intense.  When my husband calls to check in, I get less and less chatty. I soon become totally incapable of seeing good qualities in my family members and I get more and more critical. The next inconvenience that comes my way is usually met with complete insensitivity to the needs of others. It’s a downhill spiral that will end with me yelling and screaming if I let it continue. My irritability forces my family to walk on eggshells. It communicates to my child things I would never, ever say to his face. Things like “you are an inconvenience”, “you don’t do anything right”, “you are in my way”, or “I would be better off if you weren’t here right now.” Just typing those statements makes me sick to my stomach, because they are the complete opposite of what I want to communicate to my precious little man.

Irritability, while not as obvious as anger, is no less sinful. And left unchecked, it is no less damaging. It is contrary to love which our passage describes as slow to get riled up, frustrated, upset, or testy . . .  even when things don’t go as planned. When love rules our hearts, no one walks on egg shells. Doors aren’t slammed harder than usual. Words don’t get short and snappy. When love rules our hearts, inconveniences are seen as opportunities. Frustrations are met with self-control. Annoyances are graciously overlooked. Offenses are forgiven. The needs of others are put first.

Love is not irritable. How about you?

 

{Copies of the 1 Corinthians Bible study workbook, Becoming a Woman of Conviction in a World of Compromise, can be purchased here. The teaching sessions that go along with the study can be viewed here.}

For My Mom

Not all beautiful baby girls are born into beautiful families.Some are born into brokenness.

Some are born into poverty.

Some are placed into hands that are well meaning, but ill-equipped. Some are entrusted to hearts that want to love, but can’t.

Some are brought into houses too ravaged by sin and selfishness to ever really be homes.

Not every beautiful baby girl gets handed a beautiful life.

Some have to reach out and take hold of it for themselves . . . some have to choose a different path . . . some have to cultivate a new family tree . . . some have to really believe that all their yesterdays do not predetermine their tomorrows . . . some have to utterly forsake failure and run hard after freedom . . . some have to resolve to stop the sin cycle in its tracks and birth a whole new generation that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.

My mom was one of those baby girls.

And today I want to say thank you . . .

  • Thank you for saying “yes” to Jesus, not just the day you asked Him to be your Lord and Savior, but every single day since then as well.
  • Thank you for choosing forgiveness and, in turn, choosing to love with a whole heart.
  • Thank you for choosing to learn what your mom wasn’t able to teach you.
  • Thank you for making our house a home . . . a haven . . . a refuge . . . a little taste of heaven on earth.
  • Thank you for loving and serving my dad so faithfully.
  • Thank you for adopting my brother – a long, hard, OH-SO-WORTH-IT act of faith that continues to reward us all.
  • Thank you for making all of our special days so very special. Every tradition we have, you created. It thrills my heart to carry them on.
  • Thank you for allowing Jesus to bear your burdens and tend to your wounds so that your children never had to.
  • Thank you for loving God’s Word. Obviously, it was contagious.
  • Thank you for proving that in Christ dysfunction is a choice and for never allowing it in our home.
  • Most of all, thank you for showing me that the gospel doesn’t just have the power to transform individuals – It has the power to transform generations.

Not all baby girls are born into beautiful families, but I was. By God’s grace and the faithfulness of a woman who chose to walk a different path, I was.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you mom.

I love you so very, very much.

My mom holding my boy.

My mom holding my boy.

 

MOTHERHOOD – VISION = MISERY

I was never really the type to get depressed.

Until I became a mom.

Since then, sadness and an overall sense of “blah-ness” is something I fight on a fairly regular basis. Not every day. Not every week. But often enough to be annoying . . .often enough to affect my life . . . often enough to make me ask the question, “What in the heck is wrong with me?” more than I ever thought I would.

My husband recently had blood drawn to test for anything that might be causing some fatigue and sluggishness. After I expressed to him that I feel the same way most of the time, he suggested I have some tests run too. My response:

Oh, I don’t need tests. I know what’s wrong with me. I have a really severe case of – “Overwhelmed and exhausted mom–itis.”

It’s actually a very common condition affecting 99% of moms. Symptoms include strong urges to sleep any time/anywhere, routine fantasies about running away to remote tropical islands, a strange affinity for anything chocolate, an intense desire to lock oneself in the bathroom, and regular attempts to cope with life by walking around Target with Starbucks in hand.

One of the first posts I ever wrote was on the “misery factor” which I defined as the gap between our expectations and our reality. Never is that gap so wide than in the area of parenting. You bring that first baby home from the hospital looking all cute and cuddly, thinking about how “complete” you are now and how fulfilling the days ahead are going to be.  Then you have your first night of sleeping in 2-3 hour stretches. Followed by another night of that. And another. And another. Until you start to feel like a zombie who might need to be committed to a mental hospital if the sleep situation doesn’t improve . . .like. . . NOW.  Then, that sweet bundle of joy sleeps for a whole 6 hours straight.

Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!!

You text it, Facebook it, Tweet it, and tell everyone you see. You feel like a new woman! But, alas, it’s just a joke. A cruel, cruel joke. It doesn’t happen again for weeks. All the while, those island fantasies of yours get more and more vivid by the hour . . .

I never thought that motherhood would be easy, but I had no idea how challenging it could be. How mundane. How exhausting. How humbling. How monotonous. How frustrating.

It’s not always like that, of course. Please don’t think that I don’t like being a mom. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! My son has enriched my life more than words can even express. We have a lot of fun around here! My heart is wide open to God blessing us with another child.

But I’d be lying if I said that I always like it. Most days I have to fight for joy in my role as a mom. I know that motherhood is vital ministry, but if I’m not careful it can lead to misery. I can get depressed. I can start to long for a “bigger” life. I can get sick and tired of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and crawling around on the floor pushing matchbox cars.

When that happens, there’s one thing I know for sure: I’ve somehow lost my biblical vision for motherhood. Because here’s the thing:

MOTHERHOOD – VISION = MISERY

It’s a proven fact. It’s a sure as 1+1=2. If we don’t choose to see beyond bottles, diapers, car pools, homework, time outs, laundry, and all the other stuff that makes up our mommy lives, we’re in trouble. We’re headed straight for “blah-ville.” Before we know it we’ll be sitting on the floor in our bathrooms, stuffing our faces with chocolate, and trying to figure out why in the world we’re crying so hard when we have so much to be thankful for. In those moments we have to choose to see the bigger picture. We have to trade our “in the trenches” perspective for God’s “I’m working all this for your good and My glory” perspective.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” That is so true in my life. More specifically, where there is no vision, my emotions are unrestrained. When it comes my role as a mom, the only way to move from self-centered misery to Christ-centered ministry is to renew my mind with the truth of God’s Word. I have to regularly “marinate” in what God says about parenting and motherhood. I have to ask for new eyes to see the majesty in my mundane, the big in my small, the order in my chaos. Here are the core truths that make up my vision from motherhood:

  • My child is a blessing, not a burden.

I am fully convinced that one of the most subtle ways that worldliness creeps into our lives is in our perspective on children. Though some really great things came out of the feminist movement (I’m glad I can vote, for instance), it has propagated a lot more lies than it has truths. One of those lies is that children are a burden. They are living, breathing speed bumps that keep us from using our talents and honing our passions to the best of our abilities. They are seen as life-choice menu items that one selects whenever it’s convenient and financially feasible to do so.  Motherhood is something you squeeze into your life if or when there’s a little extra space. Don’t believe me? Just walk through a store wrangling more than one kid and take note of all the “pity stares” you get.

God’s has a very different perspective on children. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Scripture does not sugar-coat parenting nor does it glamorize family life. But from cover to cover it practically shouts at us that children are to be treasured and seen as precious blessings, not burdens.

When it takes me 2 hours to run 1 hour worth of errands; when I have to say “no” to the fun ladies lunch date because I can’t find or afford a babysitter; when I have to go for a walk around the block in 98 degree weather when I’d rather be blogging; when I have to leave my favorite store in the mall to deal with a tantrum; when I am awakened from a much-needed nap by a toddler who doesn’t feel like sleeping anymore; when I have to exchange my beautiful coffee table centerpiece for a train track; when I look in the mirror realize that my stomach (among other things) will never, ever look the same; when I have to say “no” to the speaking engagement or teaching opportunity . . . when motherhood feels so incredibly burdensome; I have to remind myself again and again that my son is a gift. He is a reward. He is a blessing from a good God who delights to give good things to His children. I don’t have to wait until my kids are grown and the “mommy fog” has lifted to believe and act on that truth! I choose to do it now!

  • Motherhood is missional.

I can hear you asking, “What in the heck to you mean by ‘missional’?” The word is defined as “relating or connected to a religious mission.” The “religious mission” we undertake as moms is HUGE! It’s the shaping of our children’s souls; the preparing of their hearts for the seeds of the gospel; the cultivation of their appetites for what is good and right; the imprinting of their consciences with the truth of God’s Word; the exposing of their need for a Savior; the formation of their identity and sense of purpose; the protecting of their impressionable little minds from the filth of this world; the fostering of an all-consuming desire for the world-wide proclamation of the gospel . . . and that’s just the short list!

When I yearn to be on a platform teaching the Bible . . .when I look longingly at the list of short-term mission trips my church is offering . . .when I wish I had the time to do more with this blog . . .when I get envious of other female Bible teachers who are really “doing ministry” . . . when I start to wonder when it will be my turn to make a “big” impact for the kingdom . . . I have to remind myself that motherhood is not a hindrance to ministry – it is ministry. It is not a hindrance to doing missions – it is missions. It is not keeping me from kingdom building – it is kingdom building.

The body of Christ has hundreds and hundreds of Bible teachers, but my son has one mommy. I’m the one and only woman who God has appointed with the primary task of shaping his soul and shepherding his heart. Though it doesn’t always feel like a high and holy calling (like, when I’m covered in throw-up for instance), it is a high and holy calling.

  • My son is making me more like Jesus.

Every single believer has been predestined by God to “become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29)  In other words, at any given moment – whether you feel it or not – God is as work to make you more and more like Jesus. This lifelong process is called sanctification. And nothing, I mean nothing works us over quite like motherhood. It is a journey to selflessness and sacrifice like no other. We can go kicking and screaming, or we can go in willing submission, but go we must. The second that stick turns pink, it ceases to be an option.

As we engage in the journey we can be certain of one thing – God is using every diaper, every tantrum, every spilled glass of milk, every disastrous trip to the mall, every act of rebellion, every sink full of dishes, every crayon-marked wall, every sleepless night, every mountain of laundry, and every “can I please just ship them off to grandma’s” moment to empty us of us so that we can be filled with Him.

This “daily grind” of mine is not just about Shepherd. And it’s not about me. It’s about making God known and bringing Him glory. Motherhood increases my capacity to do that. And no matter how bad a “mommy day” I am having, that precious fact is a wellspring of joy.

The next time you get depressed, start running for the chocolate stash, escape to the bathroom for a good cry, or fanaticize about being anywhere but your house with anyone but your kids – check your vision. Chances are, it’s way too small.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Because what you do as a mom is really, really big.

“Who can measure motherhood? Who can measure the long-term effects of nurturing helpless infants, supervising wandering toddlers, discipling self-willed children, and counseling self-absorbed adolescents? Of family outings planned, traditions built, memories made, books read, songs sung, Scripture taught? That’s why motherhood belongs under the heading, ‘Engage the World’; no one shapes generations or fashions cultures more than mothers.”(Jeff Purswell)

Motherhood is the most wonderful, fulfilling thing in the world. . . and other myths

First, I want to say that motherhood IS wonderful. And at times, incredibly fulfilling. It is one of the most precious things this side of heaven. But let’s be honest. It’s hard. REALLY hard.

REALLY . . .

REALLY . . .

REALLY . . .

HARD.

I used to pride myself in being an emotionally stable, competent, confident, godly woman. Since Shepherd came into my life, I break down into tears at least once a week, have a constantly nagging sense that I know nothing at all, fear I’m the most incapable woman on the planet for this job, and am routinely amazed (not in a good way) at the sinful thoughts and attitudes that are present in my heart. For me, motherhood has been a much more agonizing journey to Christ-like selflessness that I ever imagined. It’s been good. But did I mention that it’s also been hard? (Note: Not looking for sympathy or advice here – just keepin’ it real!)

I had one of “those days” last week. You know, when the only word you can think of to describe your child is “annoying”; when it feels like your house will NEVER be clean and organized; when all of your friends and potential play-dates have other plans; when your husband unexpectantly has to work late (again); when you look in the mirror and find 4,789 things you’d like to change about yourself (but can’t even find the time or energy  to tend to your severely neglected toenails); when you look in the pantry and [gasp!] you are out of coffee (oh the pain, the misery!!!); etc.. Ever had one of “those days?” If not, can I come live with you?

When I was done with my emotional breakdown that night, I looked at Greg and said, “I wish I was one of those women who found motherhood more fulfilling.  What am I doing wrong? What am I missing?”

My husband is smart enough to know that I didn’t want an answer to that question – I just wanted to be heard. And I’m sure he was more-than-happy not to give one.  But it’s something I think about a lot. A question I actually would like to solve. One that I’ve been seeking the Lord about lately. I don’t claim to have found an answer, but I have been reminded of some really important truths that I pray will encourage you as much as they encourage me:

  • No earthly thing is supposed to fulfill us completely.

No human being has arms long enough to reach our deepest needs. No relationship can satisfy our hearts entirely. Those days when motherhood feels utterly unfulfilling are days that point to the reality that there is only one relationship that truly satisfies and fulfills. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst” (John. 6:35). No one or nothing else can make that claim! To look to my role as a mom to fill me to overflowing with an abiding sense of joy and satisfaction is to seek from it that which can only be found in Christ. And last time I checked, that is pretty much the definition of idolatry. Perhaps the simplest explanation as to why I don’t always feel fulfilled by motherhood is that I’m not supposed to.

  • Our holiness is of much greater value than our happiness.

Shepherd is not just my love, my little dude, my buddy, my first-born – he’s a tool in the hands of the Master Sculptor who is shaping, molding, and (at times) violently chiseling me into a more beautiful reflection of Jesus. The temper tantrums, humiliating public meltdowns, stubborn disobedience, entire bowls of cereal and milk dumped on the floor, refusals to use the potty, teething-related demon possession grumpiness, ridiculous pleadings for independence (“No mom! I do it myself!), beads stuck in the nose at the worst possible time, poop rubbed in the carpet, and all the other stuff that can turn an ordinary day into one of “those days” . . .  it’s all good-old-fashioned sanctification girlfriend!

By “sanctification,” I mean that process of God changing us into who He desires for us to be. Sometimes He uses major life events to cultivate character, but more-often-than-not He uses the little things (such as “those days”) to make us more and more like Jesus. You and I can rejoice in knowing that if it doesn’t kill us (haha!), it truly will make us stronger, more dependent on the Lord, and more surrendered to His will.

I once heard that ANYTHING that makes us more aware of our need for Jesus is a blessing. “Those days” of motherhood sure do that for me, and so I will choose to count them all joy even when I’m not feelin’ it (James 1:2-4). A happy mommy is great, but a holy mommy is far greater. They often co-exist, but once-in-a-while you have to sacrifice one to get the other.

  • Sin hinders our capacity to enjoy motherhood to the fullest.

At the root of almost every one of “those days” I’ve had as a mom is an ugly combo-pack of selfishness, ingratitude, and laziness. (Which happens to be a great recipe for a full-blown pity party.) Why? Well, since Shep has come along I have more play dates than date-dates; the Food Network and HGTV have been replaced with Barney and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; leisurely lunching with girlfriends is a distant memory; I now pick a mall based on the quality of the play area rather than the quality of the Macy’s; the restaurant choice is now more determined by the presence of macaroni and cheese on the kid’s menu than the taste of the food; and “sleeping in” has no relevance in my life anymore. Sometimes I flat out don’t want to spend my morning at the park or my afternoon “playing trucks.” And to be really honest, I rather sit and watch paint dry than rehearse (for the millionth time) the difference between a triangle and a square, count to twenty, or review the primary colors.

Here’s what I’m getting at: Motherhood is a journey to selflessness like no other. It requires us to demote (and at times even put to death) our own desires and interests for the sake of a child or children who are not yet able and may never be willing to sincerely thank or applaud our sacrifice. And we do this not just once, but over and over again, day after day, year after year. And let me tell ya – as long as sin abides in us, that will be a LOOOONNNNGGGG, hard road to walk. If we aren’t diligent to weed it out, sin can make motherhood absolutely miserable.

Um, Aprile, I thought this was supposed to be encouraging!?” Oh, it is! You see, God has provided the perfect remedy for our sin. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can confess the contents of our sin-laden hearts and rest in knowing that He forgives ; that His mercies are new each day (praise God for do-overs!); and that through His Spirit we can possess selfless, grateful, servant attitudes even when another one of “those days” comes along ( 1 John 1:9, Lam. 3:23; Gal. 5:16). There is great hope for weary, grumpy, self-centered mommies in the transforming message of the gospel! And for that, I am DEEPLY grateful!

So, the next time you have one of “those days” and start beating yourself up for not being the “Super-mom” who loves to spend every waking moment with her children and never, ever fanaticizes about running away to a remote, kid-free island where she can watch endless hours of HGTV, eat at fancy restaurants, and read an ENTIRE book without interruption – STOP IT!

First of all, “super-mom” is a figment of your imagination. (Unless, of course, you know any moms who have achieved sinless perfection. NOT!)

Second, that kid-free island fantasy is ENTIRELY normal. (Right? Please tell me it’s normal!)

And third, motherhood – as amazing and wonderful as it can be – isn’t supposed to fill you up. That’s Jesus’ job.

So pull the plug on that pity party, open your heart before the Lord, and soak in some truth!

And don’t forget – “those days” don’t last forever!

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