There is always hope! Five things to do when you are discouraged!

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 9.51.21 PMSally,

I am so thankful for your blog and your books have been such a blessing in my life. I consider you my mentor though you do not know me personally. I’m sure this is the wrong “forum” to ask a question, and if you do not respond I understand. But I dare to ask anyway.

What do you do when your life doesn’t come close to how you believe it should look? I read your words and I’m thankful for the vision you cast. But for some time the vision I have for my home seems so far from my reality and I have no idea how to reconcile the two, even in my mind. Discouragement and frustration have started to seep in.

As a mama of three little boys, a homeschool mother, and a pastor’s wife, I don’t believe there is enough of me to go around and I’m starting to feel like I can’t even cover the basics, much less enjoy the riches of this season. I’m sure this is just part of the journey and a part of life that every wife and mother must face, but I don’t want to end up taking the wrong path because I gave up hope for the best.

I feel guilty for more and more things – what I cook (or don’t cook), allowing my children too much watch TV or play the Wii too long, not teaching them well or enough or the right things, not keeping up with just the daily things that make a house run, letting down those that I love most. Is there a way to hit the reset button and just start over once you’ve allowed habits to form in yourself and your children that you don’t like? I believe God’s grace is enough. And I value wisdom from those I know have walked this path and stayed on course."

From A heartfelt comment I received yesterday.How great her attitude to seek wise counsel. I would find wise women and then copy them!

Countless times, I felt like I was not accomplishing anything productive. This is such a hard job, to love, educate and help shape our children's faith. It is especially challenging in a culture that offers so much differing advice that brings voices into our heads, which then that produces guilt and inadequacy. This same culture is isolationist and  provides few support systems or Biblical direction.

So many moms feel this way, but feelings do not necessarily determine reality!

Five principles have helped me when I am overwhelmed.

1. Remember. God is with you to help you succeed.

"If God is for you, who can be against you." God is for you--for you. He wants you to succeed. He wants to work in your home. We are not adequate to complete the task of shaping our children's hearts, minds and souls by ourselves. When God's Spirit is working in our midst, He will take our fish and loaves, all that we have to give to Him, within our own limitations and together with Him, our labor becomes enough. I lived into this principle, asked God to make up for my shortcomings every day, and by faith lived as though what He promised was true. He is for you, mamas, if your heart is to serve Him. He has compassion on you, knows your weariness, and is your champion.

2. "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 There are always do-overs in God's economy. All of us mess up, (He is mindful that we are but dust! Psalm 103) Peter blew it royally when he denied Christ at his hour of need, but before he even sinned, Jesus knew what was going to happen, and told Peter he had prayed for him. Jesus had compassion before Peter had even committed the act of denying Christ.

I wonder why we have the illusion that we are supposed to be perfect. Mamas, don't be so hard on yourself and live within your limitations. You will not ever be perfect or do it totally right--not now, not next week, not even when you are 60! (Maybe when I am 70, I will be perfect1) And to live in guilt because you have blown it or yelled at your kids or made mistakes is a big drainer. Depression is often the result of disappointed expectations. And often we disappoint our ideals.

But this is the fallen world, and we will never be able to control ourselves, our circumstances, our children or the world the live in. We live in grace and move toward maturity little by little. And so do your children. I promise, little by little they will grow up.

And your children will never be perfect, either. Love them as they are. Believe in them, touch them. Let little boys be boys, as you train them little by little to be heroes and leaders--civilization comes from a mama who treats them with respect, and gives them a heart to be dignified.

Let little ones be innocent and enter into their stages of life with joy.

Living in the grace and knowledge that God forgives, knows our limitations, is not surprised or disappointed, but wanting to give us hope is so very crucial. Don't listen to the accusers voice. Of course you have fallen short--you are a mom and you are human.

3. "He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, "Arise, eat." I Kings 19:5

Elijah was so very weary from spiritual battle that he despaired of his life--wished he hadn't been born. But God knew he was extremely exhausted, battle worn, weary. So the first thing God did when Elijah poured out his heart to Him was to put him to sleep. He slept a long time--took time to physically rest. Next, and I love this, an angel touched him--physical touch, a hug, an embrace, a hand massage, a real massage, is a personal healer. I love it that God's angel touched him and brought him comfort. Then, he still didn't give him a lecture--instead, the angel fed him.

Sometimes mamas have been going for so long without a break, they start breaking down. A wise woman will learn her limitations and learn to say "no" so that she does not live in a constant state of exhaustion. And don't feel guilty for saying no. You can only hold so many ideals at once, so be sure to hold on the ones that matter. And do what you are best at doing--don't compare your life to someone else. And you may have to say no to some ministry at church for a season. Be reasonable--Jesus would never ask you to do everything--that is something you are putting on yourself--I know! I was in ministry and want to be available to everyone--but I just can't meet all needs and have peace in my home. You might just need to start out your new beginning with sleep, a touch of gentle love and eating well--perhaps exercising--and then take time to ponder and plan..

We are not just minds and hearts--we are bodies with limitations. If we over-exert, we will crash and burn. When others are taking from us 24/7, we must wisely learn that taking care of ourselves is essential to our emotional and spiritual and physical well being. This season, if you are tired, be sure to take a break--get some rest, seek some physical comfort and restoration, eat well. You deserve to be cared for--even if you have to plan for it yourself. I know I kept waiting for someone to give me permission--didn't happen. Finally, I took responsibility for my own happiness so that I could be happier and stronger for my kids on this long term journey.

I make beauty to remind me that I am worth something-I light candles, get some flowers at Sam's or Costco's--the kind that last 2 weeks, and I play music all the time.

4. "He who walks with the wise, grows wise, but  a companion of fools suffers harm." Proverbs

You might need some inspiration, some help, some counsel, some perspective. Find someone older, more experienced, wiser to meet with and ask them to help you come up with a plan. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But I have found that when I give up my pride and take the courage to pour out my heart to wise people or more mature people, I usually find compassion and often find help. This is not always true--be discerning about who you entrust yourself to as there is a lot of foolish advice around.

My mentors for many years, were books. I was always finding books that were written by women or men older and more insightful in life. People will die for lack of instruction. I would seek to read, educate myself, find wisdom, find models of wisdom, integrity and I was a learner. I determined to learn and to get better every year.

This means being teachable and changing when we need to. We were also built for community. That is why every book I have written, I have designed to be able to be used in a small group, because godly friends are essential to my long term growth. Find wise people, books, conferences, a church, the word of God and gain wisdom. Just decide to get better every day, every year--grow, progress--don't expect instant maturity on your part or your children's.

5."But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits." God's wisdom and leading lead us to peace, mercy and good fruit. Each of us must evaluate--what is stealing my peace? What is sucking my energy? How can I change it? This is a long distance run, not a spring--wisdom from above will teach you to pace yourself--and not to say yes just to please others. You are quite free to be yourself, live your own story, live within your own limitations.

What notions are misleading you? Boys are given testosterone from God for a reason--they are supposed to grow up and be strong! Work with them, accept their noise, invest in their hearts, don't try to control them--lead and inspire and train them little by little. (The 24 Family ways is a great tool for beginning to lay foundations for all the family together.)

What is not producing good fruit--your schedule? Your lack of rhythms and consistency with your children? Your lack of training with your children? Then put your finger on what is bothering you and make a practical step forward. How are you going to eliminate the stressors you have control over? How can you eliminate some of the drainers? What is one way you will become stronger and  more disciplined in the next month. Be very honest about what you must cut or quit doing or is your flaw and be vigilant about pursuing the wisdom that provides peace and good fruit.

Do first things, first. I always did devotions with the kids, first, every day. And then I read to them next. Because worshipping God has stayed with them as the oxygen we breathed every day and reading has taught all of them to think. So if I didn't get anything else done--thy would worship God and engage in ideas--this has made all of them intellectually strong.

Say no! Limit yourself. Don't accept responsibilities out of guilt. Don't join activities because of voices.  And also, write down what fills you, inspires your heart, gives you a break, helps to keep you going a little bit longer--that is wisdom--creating a life that is more pleasant for yourself, more doable. Don't copy someone else's life, and don't compare your children to others. Be yourselves and live your own happy story. God wants you to breathe and have freedom.

Well, I could go on for another 5. But, these are just a few of the things I have learned to do when I find myself walking a dark, discouraging path. Remember, there is always hope when you live in the love of God. This task of raising healthy, godly kids is not beyond reach. You just need to own your commitments, your wisdom, your choices and practice growing stronger. It doesn't happen all at once. And remember,

"The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until the fulll day." Proverbs--every day, a little more light, a little more progress, and eventually, full brightness.

I am praying for all of you--but even more, God is praying for you and loves you. Don't give into discouragement or inadequate feelings. With God all things are possible. He is so glad you are trying and that you care.  You are precious to Him and He is training your character to grow strong as you are training your children.

Off to bed, but I know you are going to be ok, because He will work in your life if you leave your burdens in His hands and He who began a good work will complete it--in His time, little by little, but fully complete it. God's peace to you today!