How Being a Mom is Like the Relationship Between Earth and Jupiter

How Being a Mom is Like the Relationship Between Earth and Jupiter

In science this week, the boys and I have been studying Jupiter and the curriculum we are using, Apologia Astronomy, compared Jupiter to a mother protecting her children. Jupiter’s size and position in space are crucial in protecting Earth from rocks and debris that would otherwise threaten catastrophic destruction.

As we were reading through these comparisons, my mind started to wander (as it so often does!) and I started thinking about my relationship to my kids and how often I have sought to protect them from the hurts of this world. A great deal of the pain I have experienced in my adult life is the result of absorbing the “rocks and debris” that have been hurled at my kids.

This morning, my husband hung a picture of our 2 1/2 year old daughter and 6 month old son from a photo shoot eleven years ago. As I once again gazed upon this picture, memories were stirred from that day. The rocks that were hurled at me on that day no longer sting, but they are still firmly embedded in my memory. It was my first attempt as a mom of two at getting pictures of my kids taken in a studio. It was Ethan’s first Christmas and I wanted a picture of my two little ones dressed in red for Christmas cards.

I was perhaps a little too optimistic about the results of this shoot. Optimistic and naive. I was still adjusting to the stubbornness and sassy behavior that Lindsay was beginning to display with the advent of a baby brother, but it hadn’t been enough time for me to forget the angel baby she had been for the first two years of her life. She had always done well when I took pictures of her (and I did this rather frequently, posing her with flowers and dolls and books! Certainly her baby brother would be no different, right?!!).

But there were a few things I did not anticipate. The studio happened to be in the middle of a department store and the room they put us in was walls of windows on three sides. In addition to this, the photographer didn’t seem particularly comfortable with children. Huh. I can hear all of my fellow mamas groaning. You know where this is going.

Lindsay was incapable of sitting still in this scenario. She wanted to explore all of the new equipment, not sit next to a baby and smile when prompted. Every time someone walked by (which was often!), she HAD to see what they were doing and where they were going. No correcting or cajoling was working with my precocious child and I could sense that the photographer was beginning to grow irritated. I kept attempting to get Lindsay to cooperate, praying that she would sit still for at least a moment. I was feeling frustrated with Lindsay and with my inability to get her to do what the photographer wanted her to do.

And then the stones were thrown. The photographer told me that I should probably reschedule the shoot and inferred that I was not a very good mother and my daughter was a horrible kid. This was when I kicked into Jupiter mode. The thoughts that went through my head at break neck speed were these- this woman must not have children! Does she have any idea how much work it took for me to get a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old to a scheduled appointment on time and dressed perfectly? Does she know that trying to attempt this feat again is like expecting a comet to appear twice in a lifetime?

I quickly moved from the mom who was seeking to let the photographer do her job to the customer who was not being treated respectfully. I asked to see the manager and with an eye roll, she acquiesced. I think the manager may have been a mom, because when I explained the situation, she offered to take the pictures herself and moved us into an enclosed studio.

The results? Great pictures of my kids and one that became an 18 x 20 portrait that is once again hanging on my dining room wall.

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I became like Jupiter that day, absorbing the harsh comments and the poor treatment of myself and my child, but not allowing them to destroy me. The depths of my heart and my love for my children mean that I am able to fight for them when they are too weak (or little!) to defend themselves.

In addition to Jupiter, God has provided the Earth with an ideal atmosphere that protects the earth from meteoroids and asteroids. Likewise, my children are blessed to have adults in their lives who care about them and want the best for them. But there are still people who for whatever reason are like that photographer and are quick to throw rocks and stones at my children. As they get older, my role is changing. I can’t absorb or deflect all of the rocks coming their way. In fact, I must not. They need to learn that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). It is crucial that they learn that they must depend on their Creator the one who has “overcome the world”!

The craters in their lives, the hurts and the heartaches, are important for their spiritual growth and so I must be careful not to be overprotective of them. But I will always be a Jupiter (sharing their hurts, protecting them from catastrophic destruction) in their lives and I pray that my children would “shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:15).

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A picture at home from that same memorable day! Lindsay still struggles with distractions and unfair expectations, but she thrives when adults are willing to meet her struggles with compassion. When they do, they get to see a beautiful girl, dimples and all!

Impress or Inspire

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Do I do what I do to impress others or to inspire them?

This is a question that I ask frequently of myself. In the past, I have  answered it based on the ways I assumed others would answer it. Did she think I was trying to get attention for myself? Did he think I was trying to prove something? There were aspects of my creativity that I allowed to be stifled as a result of the way I answered these questions.

I have been using the past tense, but the truth is, I still struggle regularly with these issues.

It’s hard to let go of people pleasing ways, especially when you have developed a lifetime habit of seeking to live up to the expectations of others. If I perceive that someone is disappointed with me or if they are annoyed or irritated with something I have done, I have a tendency to isolate myself and not try again. Inevitably, my frustrations will grow, because I blame the other person for misunderstanding my heart and for keeping me from doing the thing I was made to do. Even as I write that down, I recognize the ridiculousness of this reasoning. First off, perceptions are not to be trusted. But secondly, even if someone IS truly bothered by something I have done this should not be the thing that determines what I do or don’t do.

As I have been praying about my one word for the year, submit, I have been deeply challenged to let go of my need to please others and to seek only God’s glory. The question of impress or inspire has to be a heart check rather than a question of what others will think.

The truth is God has given me a passion for life. I love to celebrate anything and everything. I find ways to make even the most mundane things fun. I’m the kind who dances while mopping and wears a tiara when vacuuming. I cry weep when I see a child succeed. I want to support every beautiful cause, be there for every important moment, exuberantly cheer on friends, lavishly love others and live life to the fullest. There are times when I feel like I could just burst with emotion, because of the deep feelings I feel.

The problem is that for the people in my life who don’t understand my personality, there is a tendency to believe that I am competing, trying to be the center of attention or even that my actions are born from insecurity.  For the people pleasing side of myself, this is the worst! I so often feel misunderstood and like I am not good enough. I want to explain why I do what I do, to convince them that this is not an effort to put myself on a pedestal, but that it is actually the personality that God knit into my very being.

But there are some things that can’t be explained and submitting is teaching me that this is okay. Because God does not judge by outward appearance (or by what He sees me do). Instead He judges the heart and so I can trust that if my heart motivation is to bring glory to Him, He will know this and it doesn’t matter what others perceive or assume about me.

The problem is that I can know this in my head, but I hate feeling the disconnect between friends. I love openness and authenticity, but my bruised heart has had to put up guards and boundaries that are completely contrary to my “I want to be best friends with everyone” personality.

Pinterest is one of my favorite social media outlets, because it inspires me and stirs my creative bent. For me, it is not about trying to compete with others or to impress them. It is all about giving an outlet to the creativity that wells up within me. When I get an idea or have a picture in my mind of what I want something to be, it becomes a launching pad for more and more ideas. Birthday parties are a natural opportunity for me to express this creativity and I am so grateful that my children appreciate my creativity. For those who look at Pinterest as a place that is about competing or one upping each other, they will not be able to understand the creatives in their life who simply love to create, because they are inspired and want to inspire others!

Being faithful to who God has made me to be means that I will continue to live with passion, to turn brownies into footballs, to decorate with balloons and streamers, to celebrate others with exuberance and to write in this blog. I’m pretty sure I will always struggle with wanting to please others and feeling upset when I feel a disconnect, but I have an audience of One. And He is the one who answers my heart question of impress or inspire.

 

 

The Excruciatingly Painful and Important Work of Mentoring

The other day, I was reading through a devotional that was talking about mentors. As I pondered the women in my life who have poured into me, I was reminded of how blessed I have been to have so many wonderful examples. In each stage of my life, God has blessed me with women who have pointed me to Jesus.

A few years ago, my whole view of mentoring was challenged. For decades, I had been pouring into younger women, sharing my heart with them, opening the Word of God with them, encouraging them and challenging them. I listened to hurting and broken hearts and sought to love them well. I didn’t always do this perfectly, but it was always my desire to honor God in these relationships.

And then one day, I discovered the ugly side of investing in others. It wasn’t the first time I had been hurt; disappointment had been a frequent part of my journey. But on this day, I was accused of being the reason for poor choices and bad decisions (according to the accuser’s perception). I was taken aback, but after a lot of prayer and an attempt at resolution, I learned that not everyone will be willing to see my heart and there are some situations that will never be resolved.

This was extremely hard for me to accept. At first, I was completely surprised. Really? You’re blaming me for seeking to help this person that you say you love? But then I was angry. Seriously? How can you not see that I have always wanted the best and for God to be glorified in this person?!! But as God worked on my heart and I sought to forgive, I was left with sadness.

Sadness for what is missed when we don’t seek to learn from others. Sadness that kindness is so easily disregarded and that unity in the body is ignored as if it is simply a nice suggestion, but not a command. Sadness for sin that so easily entangles.

It has taken me a long time to pour into others again. I’m still a little gun shy, afraid of being hurt and betrayed again. Little hurts or disappointments that in the past would have been a slightly painful now open the scars to some deep wounds. But those wounds drive me to my knees and they cause me to cry out to the Lord for He is truly my strength and my song. I wrote a haiku the other day (because that is what homeschooling moms do it seems!) that expresses my heart.

Falling to pieces

I cry out to my Savior

He gently sustains.

This journey has caused me to question many things. Do I pour into others because I like feeling that I am important in their lives? Or do I truly pour into others because I want them to see Jesus? If someone has an issue with me, do I take that personally or do I really believe Matthew 5:10 when it says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”?

Before this experience, I believed that if I mentored young women based on the Word of God all would go well. People would see me heart and trust my motivations. I now know this is not always true, but I am even more convinced that it is necessary. Because Titus 2 is not just a nice suggestion; it is a command. Older women are to teach what is good to younger women. Period. I must first be seeking God’s Word to impact and change my life, but then I am compelled to share with those God causes to cross my path.

This experience has also taught me to be deeply grateful for the women who pour into my daughter’s life. From the time she was little, my girl has been a challenge. She is ridiculously creative which sometimes makes her an oddity to her peers and causes friction with authority figures. For her people pleasing mom, this has been extremely difficult. I just want her to fit in, to not rock any boats, to be compliant and respectful and gracious and generous. You can see the struggle, right?!

It has been fascinating for me to watch her personality unfold and to see the responses of older women in her life. For those who are accustomed to working with children who fit into the nice and neat boxes of expectations, my girl does not fit. But for those who are willing to love her for who she is, understanding that God is most certainly not done working on her, I have watched a beautiful relationship develop.

And so, to the mentors in my daughter’s life, past and present, I want to extend a wholehearted thank you! Thank you for seeing past her idiosyncrasies and loving her anyway. Thank you for seeing Christ in her and seeking to point her to the truth of who she is in Christ. Thank you for not jumping to conclusions, but instead dealing gently with her heart. Thank you for challenging her when she sins, for praying with her and for allowing Christ to change her heart.

Mothers are not supposed to be the ONLY ones who mentor their daughters and I have learned this fully and completely. I am continually grateful that my daughter has many older women who pour into her. I know that she will make bad choices in the future (just as she does in the present!), but I will never blame anyone else for those choices. I know better!

Mentoring is important, but it is hard. If you have been hurt in a mentor relationship, how are you allowing God to heal your heart?

One Word~ Submit

My one word theme for 2016 was “thrive”. I entered the year with great anticipation. My kids were doing well in school and I was feeling the stirrings to pursue my passions. But by the time May rolled around, I had forgotten what my one word for the year even was and I felt buried under pressures, hurts and disappointments.

As I examined the debacle of 2016, I realized that much of my floundering was not due to circumstances, but was instead the result of unmet expectations. The summer became a season of reflection and by the end, I was convinced that thriving could not occur if I was waiting for all of my circumstances to align perfectly. Rather, thriving must start with the internal workings of my heart.

I read through the book of Isaiah and as the words of the ancient prophet washed over me, I began to understand what thriving truly meant.

O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you.

Be our strength every  morning,

our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2

He will be the sure foundation for your times,

a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;

the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Isaiah 33:6

I am he who will sustain you;

I have made you and I will carry you;

I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

I had settled on a faulty assumption in regards to thriving. I thought it was about reaching my own goals and desires and experiencing joy and happiness as a result. Instead, thriving is about God and about Him alone. It is about his graciousness, his strength, his salvation, his wisdom, his knowledge. He is the one who sustains, he is the one who has made me and will carry me, and he will rescue me.

I knew all of these things on one level, but walking down the dark and twisty roads I was asked to walk, taught me these truths in a new and fresh way. Just in time really! It was soon after our homeschool year started (THAT is another blog post entirely!) when I was faced with the biggest challenge of the year. My mom fell during the night on an excursion and it was horrifyingly difficult for my sister who was unable to care for her. This began a decline in her health and a roller coaster of emotions.

How does one thrive in these kinds of circumstances?

Fresh on my heart was the reminder that my hope cannot be in my own plans, but instead must be firmly anchored in the truth of God’s Word. As my heart broke, God held the pieces of me close to His heart and he did indeed rescue me. Not by healing my mom or resolving hurts that threatened to consume, but by giving me Himself.

As 2017 begins, I am no longer focused on my plans, my passions, my goals or my future. While thriving is a wonderful thing and a blessing from God, it cannot be on my terms. And so, I am seeking to submit to the plans God has for me, to allow him to give me the desires of my heart as I delight in him (Psalm 37:4), to trust his work in me and to yield my future to his design.

“Thrive” was not what I expected it to be and I am beginning to think that is exactly what God is trying to teach me. Don’t expect, be surprised!

And so I’m ready to be surprised by this year as I learn what it means to “submit” in all areas of my life.

Have you picked a “one word” theme for 2017? If you are a blogger and have written a post on the subject, please share your link in the comments. I would love to read your posts!

Happy 2017!

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