I came home from the Colorado Mom Heart Conference with my cup overflowing, ready to dive back into life with my man and kids. The renewed sense of vision and commitment to ideals—imparted at the conference—kept me afloat for a few weeks as I returned home to sick children. Ear infections, viruses, sinus infections, and a couple of rounds of the stomach flu hit us—back to back and with little respite in between. It didn’t take long for my cup to feel depleted once again.
These seasons of sickness and sleepless nights can be so tough to weather; they are the seasons that I feel like I get into a rut— of loosing patience and snapping at my children and more frequently than I’d like to admit, arguing with my husband more often, dreading my days, or losing a sense of vision and significance in my role as a mom. In his book Christian Coaching, Gary Collins refers to research on why individuals or organizations get stuck in life (aka in a rut). The research showed that most of us get stuck for at least one of the following reasons:
-Overwhelmed. This involves a feeling that there is too much work, too much scrutiny, or too little time, energy or people to get everything done.
-Exhausted. Tired people lack energy. They tend to lose vision, purpose, and enthusiasm. Team camaraderie fades. Patience is in short supply. Conflicts and criticism are more in evidence. Everything stalls.
-Directionless. Everyone may be busy working through to-do lists, but sometimes there is no vision or big picture of the future.
-Hopeless. When there is no sense of achievement (often because there is no clear purpose), the motivation to keep working dries up and effort does not seem worthwhile.
-Surrounded by conflict. It’s difficult to keep moving forward in the midst of disagreements, communication breakdowns, misunderstandings and gossip.
-Worthless. Motivation and progress stall when individuals or team members feel unappreciated, overlooked, unrewarded, or unacknowledged.
-Alone. A feeling of isolation.
Though this study was conducted and written by a business consultant, I couldn’t believe how accurately this list reflects the life and struggles of a mom—especially a mom of young children! Some of these things are within our control—like choosing to find our value in being God’s Beloved instead of believing a lie that we are worthless (maybe rooted in the fact that our hard work as moms can go unacknowledged). But some of these things just come with the territory of motherhood—like exhaustion. If you feel like you are in a rut or that you really relate to the list above—know that you are in good company, but also that God does not intend for us to stay stuck in a rut!
In the midst of such a season, I am asking God to show me what it looks like to choose to celebrate instead of being overcome by these rut-inducing and all-too-familiar, soul opponents.
Philippians 4:4 in the Message says, “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!”
I’m asking the Lord and myself what that looks like. To me celebration elicits thoughts of joy, unity, feasting, being present in the moment, laughter, intentionality and planning, an awareness of the sacredness of life, focusing on relationships instead of to-dos, a time of rest, lingering in the togetherness, an atmosphere of love and beauty.
So here are some ideas for getting out of a rut and for making room for celebration:
-Ask for… and be willing to receive, help. For me this meant re-working our budget so that I could get help cleaning the house a couple of times a month. It could mean help with meals, childcare, housework, or something else.
- Self-care is essential. What is truly life-giving to you- what makes your soul feel revived? (Reading? Taking a long walk or getting some exercise? Getting together with a girlfriend for coffee? Visiting an art museum or attending a concert? A bubble bath by candle light? Gardening? Spending time in nature? Writing or journaling? Creating art? Baking?) Make room for these things. We all know how busy motherhood is and how hard it can be to find time for ourselves, but we can ask God to show us how to get creative with our days in order to carve out some space to take care of ourselves.
-Make rest a priority. Rest is God’s idea and design—Sabbath one of His commands. Get to bed earlier or let the housework go so you can take a nap. Sleep makes such a difference—I am so much more loving and patient as a wife and mom when I am rested.
-Recognize God’s grace-gifts that are awaiting us each day. Stop and drink in a sunset, take a moment to observe the flowers blooming, to feel the sunshine on your face or appreciate your child’s smile. Listen—really listen—to beautiful music while you do housework. This all requires being present in the moment. What provisions are you overlooking that God has set in your path to bring you refreshment and to make you aware of His presence throughout the day? Seize these moments that will bring restoration to your soul instead of passing by them.
-Renew your mind with the Word of God. This is what helps us combat the lies that we are worthless or that our situation is helpless. I think it can be helpful to remember that we are at war. The enemy would like us to stay stuck and discouraged but aligning our minds and lives with God’s word is spiritual warfare, and warfare implies that we’ll have to fight. Fight by preaching truth to yourself. (All throughout the Psalms, David would preach to himself— for example telling his soul to bless the Lord. Many of his Psalms were written in the midst of hard times.)
-If you find yourself in a season of conflict in your marriage or relationships, consider getting counseling. Instead of fretting, pray. Pour out your frustrations to God. Read the Psalms and take comfort in them.
-Find and spend time with your tribe. Cultivate friendships with women of God who you relate to and who will encourage you, pray for you, and spur you on. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated. I had to cancel play-date after play-date the past few months because of sickness and it did feel isolating… so finally I made plans to get together with girlfriends at night when my husband could stay home with the kids.
-Read books or blogs or listen to sermons that renew or impart vision to you. Sally’s books have imparted so much vision to me in the area of motherhood. Ask God to give you a vision specific to you and your family. Imbalance occurs in our life when we have no clear vision- we react to life’s circumstances instead of living purposefully. As Andy Stanley says, “Vision doesn’t stick without constant care and attention. The urgent and legitimate needs of today quickly erase our commitment to the what could be of tomorrow.”
-Do something fun with your kids! Get out of the house if you need to. Create space for laughter, joy, relaxing, connecting, and engaging fully… become like a child- give your burdens to the Lord, and give yourself over to play.
Take heart, mamas!
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. 1 Cor 10:13
Cling to Him through the hard, in-a-rut seasons and He will see you through!