Don't Be So Hard On Yourself!

..If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." -Galatians 5:25

I think we set a record this week for our family. We have only cooked one time and we have even had  breakfast out several times. Every other night we have bought some kind of meal from somewhere else, not our own kitchen. I have not walked as much, eaten too many pieces of cinnamon toast with cups of tea and have put aside a lot of our regular rituals. Picnics out on our front porch or deck every night to give a few minutes of reprieve. Didn't God make cocoa beans so we could have the pleasure of chocolate and water to swim in and sunsets to celebrate?

I have too much on my plate this week--a book edit deadline, gathering endorsements, packing up my two who are here for moving to another country, taking care of medical issues and getting ready for a wedding for my sweet first child thousands of miles away from home in another country. So, this week is a week to flex, to put aside ideals, to make it through.

But, as I know my sweet Joy will be gone from home for almost a year far away in Scotland and Joel will be sequestered in Cambridge, not so far from Sarah in Oxford, I did not want to spend the little pleasure time we had left cooking and washing the dishes. But doing our favorite rituals every night, eating, drinking, going for a walk at sunset, watching a fun dramatic series that we love, and making the most of our time left.

. As  mothers, we strive to make the best possible decisions, set the perfect boundaries, and have the correct rules that we believe will somehow cultivate "spiritual" children. However, we can't by sheer force or the right rules or the right devotional curriculum make our children spiritual.

And we certainly cannot cultivate in them faith if we haven't first celebrated life together. Laughter, love, playing, cuddling--these must all proceed a true understanding of a true spiritual life. Our children must taste of the sweet things with us, beyond our rigid ideals before they can understand the verse Taste and see that the Lord is good. They can better imagine what they have experienced--grace, freedom, pleasure, love,  that they observe in our lives in a tangible way so that they can imagine a God as good because He made these possibilities.

But we have to live in the freedom and pleasure of His acceptance of us as we are for them to truly see that even as we give ourselves grace, and rest in the tension of our imperfections amidst ideals so that they will expect grace from us amidst their own imperfections. 

That being said, there is a mysterious process by which the Holy Spirit leads our children to see their need for Christ as we seek to cultivate their hearts. But it is entirely led by grace, informed by love, and carried out by the help of the Holy Spirit amidst joyful moments of life.

We are putting so much pressure on ourselves as mothers. Each time we find ourselves too busy to cook (so we opt for fast food), too exhausted to clean, or so hectic in our lives that we didn't do a devotional with our children one week, we feel absolutely defeated and believe that we somehow failed our children. Instead of choosing to enjoy life, to make the best of every kind of week, to blow out the stress and take time to enjoy and celebrate days.

Often, I receive comments or letters from mamas who say, "How did you enjoy life? How did you manage to live by faith, when everything around you was out of control?" And then they will tell me the very difficult circumstances or exhaustion or loss of job or marriage problem.....

The grace of God is given in spite of our circumstances, his peace comes when our difficulties would suggest otherwise. When we cast our burdens on God because we cannot handle them or when we choose to exercise joy because we know,"in His presence is fullness of joy," and we need a little break or when with our inadequacies in all areas are filled in by the invisible grace of His own doing, we always have hope and reason to be at peace and then our children rest in the aura of our peaceful hearts.

While it is incredibly wonderful to set our standards high and live within these great ideals, we must hold ourselves to a standard of grace, not perfection. We won't be able to have grace for our children if we do not have grace ourselves. Galatians 5:1 tells us that, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Are there any ways in your life that you are trying to live up to the false expectations of others?

In my home, we did our best, but our best was certainly not perfection. We just had committed hearts toward our kids and the desire to shape their souls to respond passionately to their Creator. He came with grace and truth to bring life and wholeness into our hearts. We strive to follow His example in the lives of our children. We are not guided by culture, or what other moms feel is the "right way", but we are led by God. We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and rest in His grace.