Peace

Giving Grace to the Gap of Uncontrollable Circumstances

By Joy O’Neal

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Mamas, we have mastered the art of giving. We give our time, energy and body to our family. There is one person we often forget though and that’s the beautiful yet tired face that stares us back in the mirror each morning. Today, lets talk about giving ourselves something and I’m not talking about getting your nails done, getting a massage or scheduling a much needed night out; although I am a lover of all these things. I am talking about giving yourself grace! Grace to the gap of uncontrollable circumstances.

As mothers, grace is often forgotten amidst the sleepless nights, dirty diapers, mounds of homework, sibling meltdowns, toddler tantrums and empty milk jug corners, can I get an amen? Moms often construct the perfect picture of the Joanna Gaines meets Mrs. Walton moments and find ourselves confused on how they ended up looking more like Rosanne meets Peggy Bundy!

I remember when my two oldest were under the age of three, I painted a perfect picture for Mother’s Day. Sunday after church my husband, kids and I would have a perfect picnic on the beach.  I started prepping the food on Saturday, put all the beach toys and umbrella in the car. It was going to go off without a hitch! I would sit on the sand, eat my grapes and look at my cute little babies and sweet husband and feel so celebrated. When church was over my husband mentioned that a storm was coming. Oh, No! Not on my perfect day! I told him it would be fine and we should keep things as planned. When we arrived at the beach the wind picked up and again my husband suggested that maybe going out for some fresh seafood was the better plan. Again, I blew off his suggestion and recommended that sitting in the car a few minutes was all we needed. The storm stayed! Finally, I decided that maybe the wind wouldn’t be so bad once we walked over the dunes and closer to the water. My husband started to gather all of the wonderful things I packed for my perfect day. One thing that’s dangerous about preparing for an entire day is it allows an entire day worth of “maybe we should bring ______?” thoughts! I can still see my husband walking through the thick sand carrying a blanket, two chairs, a bag full of toys and ALL while pulling a giant cooler full of food. Once we got onto the beach and set everything up our children began to scream because the wind blew the sand like tiny pellets from Hell all over them and our food. We packed everything up, trekked back to the car and my Mother’s Day was a complete fail.

My plans were shot! The uncontrollable circumstances where there but where was the grace? Nothing had gone as planned and my day was wrecked!

Now it’s a funny memory but what about the mom moments that aren’t so funny? The ones that keep us up at night—the ones we replay over and over, fishing for how we could change the outcome?

When my youngest was sick for the first time (that she could remember) she laid on the floor and rolled back and forth moaning, “UGH, I didn’t see this day coming!” As to say, had I known I’d been better prepared? Isn’t that all of us? Life throws us curveballs and instead of giving grace to the gap of uncontrollable circumstances we force the picnic against the storm or roll around on the floor wishing we’d known it was coming so we could be better prepared.

I am so thankful that in spite of ourselves we have a God that weathers all storms and DOES hold each day in His loving hands.  

Over the last year the phase “Give grace to the gap” has become a bit of a personal tagline. God continually places me inside beautiful collisions that teach me the importance of giving grace to the gap and allowing provision to catch up to the promises He’s spoken over my life.

As a pastors daughter, growing up in church I knew the ending to every story. I knew Rehab and her family were spared, Daniel left untouched, the grave left empty and Jonah’s story didn’t end in the belly of a fish. These spoiler alert moments created a desensitized revelation that clouded an overwhelming truth!  Each one of these people had zero clue around their future while they were living in the gap yet their words of faith send my soul swimming in the goodness of God and the beauty of living as a true grace giver inside of the gap of uncontrollable circumstances.

Particularly Jonahs Prayer in Jonah 2:1-9, I listen as Jonah cries out in the depths with praise and certainty that his God will rescue and redeem him. Now that’s a grace giver! The bold declaration of an almost certain faith that his God is already at work in delivering him and in spite of it all he would praise the God he loved so well.

So as moms, what does giving grace to the gap of uncontrollable circumstances look like?

We all have patterns of fighting uncontrollable circumstances. For me, these battles always had signs of my combative approach that were undeniably byproducts of my lack of trust and grace giving.

A life lived without giving grace to ourselves looks a lot like worry, doubt, frustration and weariness. So what does giving grace to the gaps look like?  While looking back during times when I was able to give grace to the gap I found some familiar actions that I know are responsible for a positive outcome. Something I now call the 4S approach: Speak, Seek, Sing and Stand.

Thumbing through my journal I can see how I allowed women of faith to speak into my life.  I also found that I had a hunger to seek counsel.  Additionally, there was a pattern of praise, personal laments to a God who hears my cry. Finally, I stood!  I boldly declared His promise over my life and chose to speak the God breath truth into the gap.

I’ve only been in the mom game for 10 years now but I’d much rather stand inside the 4S approach then experience worry, doubt, frustration and weariness.

As moms, I am certain that we will continue to be plagued with uncontrollable circumstances but can I challenge you today to give grace to the gap? Our God is good all the time! He is drawing near, coming as close as a breath, standing shoulder to shoulder and declaring that we are His and He is ours. No weapon of mind, body or spirit formed against us shall prosper. We’ve already been given every ounce of today’s grace, today’s mercies and today’s spiritual bread needed to be courageous and victorious!

Cheers moms! You’ve got this!


Sometimes Things Don’t Get Done...And That’s Ok

 By Brittany Rust

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As I write this, it’s 9:30 PM on a Sunday night and I’m in bed (ready to sleep, too!). I deeply care about you mama’s out there and I carry you in my prayers often. Because I care about you so much I pray that the resources here are done in both intention and care. So the fact that I’m writing this so late in the game is something I’m not too excited about. But if I’m honest, our family have been going through a tough week. And I didn’t put the time into this post as I normally do or should have. 

I started feeling guilty and went straight to my go-to response: admonishing myself. I wasn’t too happy with me, let’s just say that! And as the guilt set in, I thought “man, these moms deserve better.”

But then there was that divine interruption to my earthly response. I had to stop listening to the doubts and start receiving a little grace for myself. 

I think there may be some moms out there in the same boat today—some amazing ladies needing to extend a little grace to themselves. Is this you, mama?

We are the pros at keeping it all together but even we run out of capacity every now and again. And you know what? That’s ok. Let me say it again so you don’t miss it: sometimes things don’t get done and that’s ok!

We all hit a day or two (or more) that just plain take it out of us. That are harder than normal. When the unexpected pops up. And if you have to let a thing or two take a seat on the bench this week, that’s ok, too.  

Mama, don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have the capacity to do all the things all the time. Love your family well, do your best, and above all, lean into Jesus. That’s what’s important!   

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
— Matthew 6:33 (MSG)

Focusing on God is the most important thing you can do each day. Loving your family like crazy is a given! And doing your best with what is in your hands in your responsibility. But everything else will be taken care of. God has you in His hands today, sweet friend, and He’ll take care of what’s important. 

So, take a deep breath of relief and extend a little grace to yourself. Jesus did and always does—His mercies are new every morning!


Releasing Control and Embracing God's Design for Your Family

By Mollie Talbot

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I really want a little girl. I don’t know why; they sound complicated, emotionally volatile, and terrifying but still, I know my husband would father a daughter so beautifully that I might feel remiss if at the end of our lives I don’t get to see that relationship lived out. Here’s where I should mention that I’m 35 weeks pregnant and we don’t know what we’re having. With both of our pregnancies, we’ve chosen to forego the gender reveal in lieu of a big ol’ hospital surprise. 

When we tell someone that we’ve chosen not to find out, we’re often met with the response “I don’t know how you do that, good for you, I’m just too much of a control freak.” Ladies, let me just tell you this is the exact reason we choose not to find out; because this is one of the few times in my life I can discipline my desire for control in a way that puts me in near-constant submission to trusting God’s will and design. So then when you find yourself at 35 weeks gestation with a desire to give your husband a little girl but almost entirely convinced you’re getting another little boy, you’re driven lovingly to your Father’s arms for comfort and reassurance. To crawl up in His lap and say “I’m doing it again Dad. I’m not trusting that your way is better than mine. Will you remind me again how far you’ve brought me?”

As believing moms, we’re in a constant tug of war with our desire to white knuckle the outcomes of our family or to relinquish control and trust our Father. We set up systems for success—plans and calculations that help maintain the heart of our homes. If we didn’t have some of these systems, we’d end up with hangry husbands, empty refrigerators, and some pretty creative means of accidental cloth diapering. We have to make it to the grocery store, or at least clicklist here and there and sadly, cleaning is an unfortunate necessity every once in a while. But when we can no longer accept interruptions to our plans and calculations as areas that God is present and working in, then the thorns of our sin will begin to draw blood.

Isaiah 55: 8-9 says,

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’

But do we believe this when our second grader comes home from school crying because the same twit from first grade is in her new class and tormenting her again?

Or when we find ourselves transactionally approaching our marriages, riding on a wave of building resentment? “I just cooked dinner after cleaning, running errands, and taking care of the kids all day and you’re telling me you won’t even be home for it?”

Do we believe God’s ways are higher than ours when we desire nothing more than to grant our husband his silent wish for a daughter when we just KNOW that we’ve got another boy coming… and it’s breech?

This is not a message saying you should suffer in silence, or submit and sacrifice your needs and wants—it’s merely encouragement to contemplate that even when you’re frustrated someone else has shown up during a nap time you were going to use to write, that God might have work and love waiting for you in a moment that looks completely unlike your initial plans for it. That His ways, His thoughts and His will are higher than yours and worthy of your whole-hearted trust.

I write this from the eye of the storm. I may be peace-filled enough right now to put language to the conflicting feelings in my heart about the gender of this sweet little baby and my fears about it being breech but I’m also prepared that the second wave of the storm will still come. That I might need to crawl back in my Father’s lap after a C-section and brand new baby boy to have Him walk me back down memory lane saying, “Mollie, remember when you stood on the steps of the AA hall smoking a cigarette and bawling your eyes out? When you threw your head back in defeat and asked, ‘Why me, God?’ You didn’t see Kyle’s love for you then; you couldn’t know Banks’ blonde curls; just as you don’t see what I have in store for you now. TRUST Me, but even when you don’t, you’ll know where to find Me because your posture toward Me will never alter My proximity to you.”

This morning, as if by some sort of sweet encounter with the Holy Spirit, I laughed hysterically with God when Banks, my two-year-old boy broke into my room at 6:45am saying “MAMA! ROLEY POLEY.” I laid there smiling in the dark at how sweet these moments are; that he woke up after thinking about roley poleys and rushed to come tell me about it. That was until I felt something small on my neck and realized he hadn’t been dreaming of pillbugs at all, but instead had legitimately found one on his floor and ran immediately into my room and put it in my hair. I laughed hysterically and began my day with an extra heap of joy as I recognized—I don’t know many moms who would calmly pick a bug from their hair first thing in the morning and thank their son for wanting to share it with them. Maybe boys are exactly what I need. 


Finding Balance (and Rest) in Motherhood

By Brittany Rust

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Finding balance and rest in motherhood is perhaps one of the hardest things to master as a mom. Sabbath days are like most days. Vacations are trips. An outing becomes work. It can be challenging to find balance and rest when your little one keeps you on your feet. Parenting is exhausting, am I right?!

I'm still trying to find a good balance here. I work from home which means, when Roman takes his two naps each day, I'm working. I try to fit in cleaning and laundry in the few moments he's occupied with his toys and cooking dinner usually means him attached to my leg, begging me to pick him up.

How have I found balance? Good question! Honestly, rest doesn't look the same now as it did before kids. I've had to redefine what it means and how it looks. Let's be honest--rest just looks different now. Here are a few ways I do try to incorporate balance into my life now:

  1. A Devotional Time: I've found that if I don't incorporate a devotional time early into my day, I'm a mess! It was hard for me to carve out time as a new mom with a new way of life, but now I've found a groove. As soon as Roman goes down for his nap, before I get to work, I take thirty minutes. I put on worship music, read Scripture, and pray. I have to! But don't feel pressured to do it the same. For a while, when I was working, I found ways to incorporate this time at work, in the car, or as I was doing tasks around the house. It can look different for you, too. The point is, find time in your day to connect with Jesus. The good news is, you can do this multiple times a day in ongoing dialogue while cleaning, doing laundry, or rocking your baby. 
  2. Retiring to Bed Earlier: I use to go to bed around 10 PM every night, but now, I retire to bed at 9 PM, read for thirty minutes, and then it's lights out. Holding to this allows me to soak in some mental and spiritual edification and get to bed at a reasonable time so that I can hit the ground running the next morning!
  3. Not Taking on all Responsibility: Sometimes as moms, we feel the need to do all the things. To be supermom. But I can promise that doing it all will leave you empty. And not doing it well. Don't be afraid to ask your husband to help with some things around the house or to do errands on the way home. I remember I use to get frustrated with Ryan because I felt I was doing more. But in reality, I was taking on more myself. Finally, one night when I broke, he said he had no idea! If I would just ask, he would be happy to help. Boy, was that a relief! People may want to help but if you don't ask, they don't know how to.
  4. Taking Time for Yourself: Mamas need downtime, too! Take a bath after bedtime. Go watch a movie at the theater on a Saturday afternoon. Go get that massage once a month. Add in little indulgences and find ways to get some time to yourself to replenish. Treat yo' self, mama!

These aren't for everybody but they are examples of what I've done to implement better balance into my life that perhaps spark some ideas for how you can too!

Honestly, the only real answer that will refresh you is found in Matthew 11:28-30:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

The rest and balance you seek are found only in a life surrendered to Christ. Here you will find freedom and a refreshing outpour of His love. Life won't be carefree and easy, but it will certainly feel a bit less chaotic and tiresome. Get with Jesus, confess your exhaustion, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

We want to know: how do you find balance and rest as a mom? Let the community in on what you've learned so that we can edify each other as mamas!


Patience Over Power

By Brittany Rust

Love is patient and kind.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4a

My precious, adorable, and loving 10-month-old had just hit me--his dear mama--in the face. I couldn't believe it. I thought, certainly he was too young to be doing such a thing!

"No!" I exclaimed in my half astonished and half outraged reaction. He looked at me with those big blue eyes and instantly, crocodile tears began to form. Also instantly, my mama heart felt guilty for the hot reaction and I knew I was entering a new season of motherhood.

Parenting has a way of testing your patience unlike anything else, no matter what season you are in. It's an incredible and painful avenue of pulling out the selfishness deep within you. When you start to experience impatience with your child, it's because something they are or are not doing is poking at something inside of you that doesn't want to be poked at.

  • Their struggle to go down for a nap is a poke at your time.
  • Their early morning wake up call in a poke at your rest.
  • Their hit in the face is a poke at your power.
  • Their lack of follow through on a command is a poke at your pride.
  • Their temper tantrum is a poke at your quiet mental state.

The list could go on. We all--and I mean ALL--face pivotal moments when patience is tested. How will you respond? With a short fuse or steady hand? Because how you choose to respond will have ripple effects in your child's life.

Now, let's be honest: none of us are going to get it right 100% of the time. We are imperfect, and as we looked at last week, our weakness leaves room for God's strength. Thank goodness for that! Sweet friend, stop pressuring yourself to have it all figured out or to nail parenting every single time. If you live under constant pressure, you'll break. So let go of those expectations and live in the sweet area of Jesus'strength.

However, let's circle back to patience over power. Your kiddo(s) are looking to you to guide them well with both tenderness and strength. It's our jobs as mama's to take our selfish inclinations out of the equation in order to parent from a place of love and gentleness.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.
— Ephesians 4:2

I know patience is one of those attributes that can be hard to wrangle in because you don't often know it's going to be a problem until you're in the moment and losing it already. Which is why it's one of those things that will require prayer and time and you know, patience.

Start practicing more calm, delayed, and kind responses with your children. When you're poked, take a deep breath, remember who they are and who you are in this relationship, and choose a more humble and gentle response. You won't bat one hundred but with some practice and a commitment to prayer, I truly believe God can help soften your responses towards your child(ren).

Here are a few practical ways to practice patience over power:

  1. Take a deep breath before you respond.
  2. Get proper perspective. Remember, your child looks up to you and is looking for guidance and support. For me, I remember that my son can't communicate and often throws a tantrum because he simply can't express to me what he wants or need.
  3. Pray often! Whenever you can get in those sweet moments with Jesus.
  4. Make time for yourself. Every mama needs a little space to be herself and rest.
  5. Have realistic expectations. Children will be children so don't expect them to follow your perfectly executed timeline 24/7. Leave room to be flexible with the ebbs and flows of your child's needs and wants.

For those moments you do lose your patience, pray you'll respond better next time. Also, tell your child you are sorry and ask for their forgiveness. It's amazing what this model will teach your kids and how that grace in between will strengthen your relationship with your them. The transparency and humility in that moment will be huge in how your child develops as a person.

Now, as soon as you see your little mini me, scoop them up into your arms and smother them with mama kisses!

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
— Romans 12:12

Yes and Amen!