Light and Love in the Darkness of Christmas

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candlight in the darknessI’ve been pondering the sadness of the season today. Perhaps “the sadness of the season” sounds as odd to your ears as it does mine.

As I’ve passed a particular street on my walks this month, I’ve been mindful of a family who lost one of their sons around this time last year. I don’t know the family, but I say a prayer for them as I walk by their street, and I imagine the dissonance they must be experiencing as they feel their pain in a season when retail holiday tracks sound, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

A family I know is currently unemployed. I don’t know the details of their financial situation, but I’ve imagined myself and my family in their shoes. I think of how hard it would be to try to celebrate Christmas in the way that we’re used to, with a dwindling bank account and the uncertainty of not knowing when we’re going to see the next paycheck. Would I welcome the generosity of others toward me and my family or would I go into a kind of hiding, finding it too humbling and too difficult to be on the receiving end of giving.

On one hand I imagine the difficulty of telling our kids that we’re not going to be able to buy any gifts this Christmas. On the other hand, I find myself envying the simplicity of that kind of Christmas. I could send out an email saying, “You know our situation. We won’t be able to buy any presents this year, and we know you won’t hold it against us. Thanks for your love and understanding.” No shopping, no rushing around, no worrying about whether people will like my gifts or find them lacking.

I don’t have any personal wounds that are triggered by the holidays, but I’m sensitive to the pain of others. This morning as the fourth Advent candle, the candle of “peace,” was lit in my church, I couldn’t help but think of the violence that exists around the world. I couldn’t help but think of victims of injustice who are not experiencing peace right now.

During our worship gathering, one of our pastors asked us to consider how we have experienced the good news of Christmas recently. I had to think about that question for awhile before I came to an answer that resonated as true for me.

What I appreciate most about Christmas is the season of Advent. I’m grateful that our foremothers and forefathers chose to set aside a month-long season leading up to Christmas to focus on waiting, to sit with the longings of their hearts, and to ponder darkness and light.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

The good news that I’ve experienced about Christmas is not that it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.” The good news of Christmas is that God came and continues to come into the deepest longing, sorrow, and darkness of our world. God is not far off, removed and immune to our pain. God is near. God is here, with us. God is with those who suffer, mourning with those who mourn, grieving with those who grieve.

I trust that God is comforting the mother, father, and sibling of that young man who died last year, whose street I pass on my walks. I trust that God is providing for my friends who are between jobs, and that God is giving their family a special joy this Christmas that has nothing to do with gifts or financial security. I trust that God is with the girl trapped in the sex trade, holding her close and counting her tears.

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8

This trust compels me to accept God’s invitation to be a part of the work of Light. One of the greatest comforts to me at Christmastime is realizing that my family and I can be bearers of Light in our dark world. Through partnering and giving to organizations like International Justice Mission, Grace Ministries Thailand, and others, we get to push back the darkness by adding to the light. 

If you feel like crying this Christmas, please do. Allow yourself to grieve your own losses and to grieve with others who are grieving. Thank God for the empathy and sensitivity that exists in your heart. Then ask God how you might add to the light in some way for others. If you are going through a particularly dark season yourself, ask for the grace and the ability to receive from God more of God’s light and love for you.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23

May you experience the Light, the Hope and the Peace of Christmas, even as you experience the pain of the darkness. And may you know that you are not alone. Immanuel, God, is with you.

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Christmas Gifts You Don’t Have to Shop For

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My article “Christmas Gifts You Don’t Have to Shop For” was published by Relevant Magazine today.

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I remember the first year my husband and I decided not to give our friends and loved ones stuff for Christmas. Instead of giving tangible, wrap-able things, we gave “relational” gifts.

We gave my brother- and sister-in-law a homemade gift certificate for an evening out together, just the four of us. My sister-in-law is an artist and they both enjoy good food, so we made the gift certificate for something called the Alberta Street Art Walk and dinner at a restaurant of their choosing.

As Christmas Eve approached, I got nervous about the gift. What if they think it’s lame? What if they don’t want to spend time with us? What if they’d rather have a traditional thing to open and take home with them? Doubts and second guessing persisted. But on Christmas Eve, they unwrapped our gift certificate and genuinely liked it.

We enjoyed two family members whom we’d never spent time with outside of extended family gatherings, and they seemed to enjoy spending time with us, too.

I was first introduced to relational gifts five years ago by Advent Conspiracy. Taking their cue from the first Christmas—God giving himself relationally by coming to be with us—relational gifts are rooted in the gift of presence.

For most relational gifts, it makes sense to create your own gift certificate describing the relational outing that you and the receiver will experience together at a later date. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

For the Theater Buff

Go to a play together. Buy tickets in advance or let your theater friend choose the play. Print out show listings from local theaters and include them with a homemade gift certificate.

Tip: Community theater companies, acting schools, community colleges, colleges and universities all offer good shows at lower prices.

For the Music Lover

Go to a concert together. Buy tickets in advance or make a homemade gift certificate that’s good for going to a 2014 concert together. You can print out concert schedules from local venues and include them with your gift certificate.

Tip: Many cities have a free outdoor summer concert series. Make a gift certificate for an outdoor summer concert including a picnic dinner. Make the dinner yourself or order it. Be sure to bring a nice blanket, drinks and tableware (the real stuff, not paper or plastic).

For the Foodie:

Going to a restaurant is sort of a no-brainer, but maybe think a little beyond that. Take a one-time cooking class together. These popular classes usually have 8-12 participants and end with everyone eating the meal they prepared. Do an Internet search or call a specialty cooking store to find classes. Cook up more fun by adding more friends or family to the mix.

For the Art Lover:

Go to an art show, art walk or art museum. Or take a one-time art class together. Community centers often offer one-time art classes on Saturdays or Sundays.

Tip: Many cities have a free once-a-month art walk where local art galleries stay open late and sometimes offer complimentary appetizers or wine.

For the Dancer (or wannabe dancer):

Totally impress your significant other by signing up for a multi-week group or private dance class (6-8 weeks is typical). Consider the type of dance—swing, salsa, ballroom, etc. Ask a subtle question (or get someone else to) to find out which style your partner would most enjoy.

Tip: Do some research to find a venue with live music and dancing, as well as a dance class at the beginning. The cover charge is usually low and the dance lesson is often free.

For the Book Worm:

Go to the best bookstore in town together on a weekend night when they offer something special like a reading by a featured author. Take your time meandering the aisles together with no timeline or agenda. Part of your gift might include buying a book for your bookworm. Add lunch, dinner or dessert to round out the experience.

For the Sports Nut:

Sports fans are used to getting jerseys, new footballs and memorabilia, but nothing rivals the best and most obvious gift for any sports nut: go to a game. If your sports nut is game, dress in goofy team color outfits and cover as much skin as possible in face paint.

For the Outdoor Adventurer:

Plan a half-day, all-day or overnight trip. Go hiking, snow shoeing, rock climbing, snow mobiling, horse back riding, skiing, ice skating (outdoors), snowboarding, or cycling. Make the trip even better by purchasing or preparing some really good food.

For the Kids:

Consider going on a special date with your child, godchild, niece or nephew doing something that fits her or his unique interests—Swimming, go-carting, trampolining, zoo, paint-your-own pottery, sporting event, bowling, movie, skating, etc. Go out for cupcakes, ice cream or dessert of any kind afterwards and you’ll be golden.

If the thought of spending evenings and weekends Christmas shopping depresses you, or you’d like to help debunk the myth that Christmas is about getting and giving stuff, try giving relational gifts this year, even just one, and see what happens.

5 Ways to Celebrate Nelson Mandela With Your Child (and Instill a Passion for Justice)

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Mandela book coverToday or anytime this week is a perfect opportunity to help instill a passion for justice in your child by talking about Nelson Mandela’s life and impact.

1. If you watch the news on TV, call them over to watch the coverage of today’s memorial service in Soweto, South Africa. Or show them an online news video of highlights from today’s service.

Or watch this 4-minute tribute poem by Maya Angelou together.

2. If you’re a turn-up-the-music-and-dance-in-the-living-room kind of family, find a South African song on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube and celebrate freedom and justice through dance. A few song suggestions: “Lion in a Cage (Nelson Mandela)” by Dolores Keane, “Freedom is Coming,” or “Siyahamba” (We are Marching). Dance is a powerful, embodied way to celebrate and educate. (This morning I danced to “Lion in a Cage” with a small group of women in an African dance class. It was awesome!)

3. Check out a children’s book about Nelson Mandela from your local or school library this week and read it with your child.

4. Share with your child in your own words why you are grateful for Nelson Mandela’s life. You could also share this video of a song tribute to Mandela by the Soweto Gospel Choir in a Woolworths store in Johannesburg. (With English translation.)

5. If you come from a Christian tradition, tell your child that God is passionate about justice–that justice is part of God’s character–and share a verse like Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Or Isaiah 1:17:

“Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.”

Any day is a good day to seek to instill a heart for justice in your child. But days and weeks like this one are particularly excellent opportunities.

Christmas Doesn’t Have to Be This Way!

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My article “Christmas Doesn’t Have to be This Way!” (below) was published online this week by Today’s Christian Woman in their Parenting section. You can find it on their website here

Chistmas woman 2Christmas Day 2004 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the Christmas where the proverbial poop hit the fan—when I finally said to my husband what I’d been stuffing down for the eight years we’d been married:

“I hate Christmas!”

Taking my cue from some of the psalmists, I decided to vent. I grabbed a pencil and paper and scribbled down everything I hated about Christmas.

I despised traveling at Christmas—the stress of packing, crowded airports, and traveling with kids. I disliked the lack of physical and mental space I experienced when we stayed in someone else’s house with two other families. I love my extended family, but living under one roof with them for 10 days does not foster “peace on earth and goodwill to men,” moms, or nephews.

Trying to come up with gift ideas for 19 relatives who already had everything they needed exhausted me. I was bitter about spending my evenings and weekends shopping. The facial expressions of the strung out shoppers around me all seemed to ask the same rhetorical question: Why are we doing this?

When our kids unwrapped gift upon gift from loving, well-meaning relatives, my husband and I pictured our house piling up with more toys than our kids could possibly play with. After we’d loaded all of the gifts into our van, we stared in shock at the snapshot of excess and consumerism before us.

Chistmas womanThe final item on my list was the pressure I felt to try to fulfill the expectations of my parents, in-laws, grandparents, husband, and children, and the stress I experienced when one person’s expectations conflicted with another’s. Trying to make everyone happy was emotionally exhausting and impossible.

When I put my pencil down, I felt a deep sadness that the Christmas season, which was supposed to be a time of worship and meaningful reflection, was instead a season of strain and stress. I sat with this sadness for several minutes in a silent prayer of lament.

Then I had an epiphany: Christmas doesn’t have to be this way! I awakened to the reality that I could choose to say “no” to excess, people pleasing, and the things that, for me, crowd Jesus out of Christmas. I realized that in saying “no” to these things I could say “yes” to a more peaceful Advent season that gives my family and me the space to ponder the mystery and miracle of Christmas.

Since my “a-ha” moment, our Christmases have gotten progressively better. We’ve stopped traveling at Christmas, and instead travel to see extended family during the summer. We gently encourage our parents to give our children fewer gifts, and we spend less time shopping by giving relational gifts of quality time. (We make and give gift certificates that are for spending time together, doing something we know they’ll enjoy—taking my parents to a play, for example.)

My husband has released himself from the pressure to spend two cold, miserable Saturdays on a ladder hanging up and taking down Christmas lights. I’ve released myself from the pressure to send out a Christmas card with a shiny happy photo of our family. I’ve also finally rejected two culturally ingrained mother myths—one, that there’s such a thing as a perfect Christmas, and two, that it’s my job to make everyone happy.

Is God nudging you to re-think the way you approach the Christmas season? Trust the Spirit’s promptings and enjoy the freedom and space to worship Jesus fully this Advent season.

“You’re Playing Like a Bunch of Girls!” Parents and coaches need to rethink the way we talk

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volleyball spike 2I wrote this article for Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. It’s featured on Christianity Today’s homepage today by the title “You Play Ball Like a…Sexist.”

Last week NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins because of alleged bullying and racial threats from his teammate Richie Incognito.

The story caught my attention because it’s about sports and justice—two things I’m passionate about. As a coach and parent, I’ve become increasingly concerned about another form of injustice taking place in locker rooms, living rooms, and around water coolers across the country.

A frustrated middle school boys’ coach calls a time out and yells at his players, “You look like a bunch of girls out there! Come on ladies, get your heads in the game!” A dad says to his five-year-old son, “You’re throwing like a girl. Let me show you the right way to throw a baseball.” A high school football kicker misses a field goal that costs his team the game. The next day, he opens his locker and finds it full of tampons.

There’s a common message in all of these scenarios. Femaleness is equated with being weak, passive, and a loser. The accompanying message associates maleness with strength, aggression, and victory.

Sadly, kids and adults are as likely to hear this message at home and at the church picnic, as they are to hear it on the school playground or the local youth sports league. It’s the same kind of language we’ve heard for decades, kids calling each other “sissies” and men calling each other “pussies.” But in 2013, we can do better.

Coaches and parents, please ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Is denigrating women in order to motivate male athletes the best I can offer as a coach? What kind of character am I modeling and developing in my athletes when I demean their mothers, sisters, and fellow athletes?
  • Does belittling women align with God’s heart toward women? Did Jesus make disparaging remarks about women in order to motivate men or otherwise?
  • As a Christian, am I called by God to love all children—male and female? If so, how can I love girls as wells as boys with the words I choose?

In his book Setting the Captives Free, pastor and domestic violence educator Ron Clark says “labeling feelings and behavior as male or female” keeps men from becoming like Jesus. We stunt the social and spiritual development of boys and men in our churches when we offer a narrow, impoverished view of masculinity. Similarly, we constrain the development of girls and women when we offer constricting ideas about what it means to be feminine.

“The NFL has a masculinity problem,” said Michael Geertsma in a recent article on the Dolphins incident. “The same could be said of the church.”

If we want to raise boys and girls to become healthy, whole men and women who live and love like Jesus, we must release our gender stereotypes and embrace the complexity and paradox of being human. As image-bearers of God we are all strong and vulnerable; brave and fearful; aggressive and peacemaking.

People have told me that I’m “ballsy.” One of my mom’s friends once said that he imagined her strapping on her cojones(Spanish for “balls”) each morning before going out to take on the world. Isn’t it interesting that we choose to name a sex organ, even one a person does not possess, rather than choosing to name the character quality we see in that person? Courage, boldness, strength and tenacity are gifts of character that come from God, not from a pair of testicles.

When male athletes aren’t giving their best in practice, don’t say they’re playing like girls; tell them they’re playing sloppy or lazy. Be precise with your language. Then find a way to inspire them to work harder that doesn’t involve throwing half of humanity under the bus. As your athletes observe your on-going love and respect for women, they’ll gain a role model they can truly respect and emulate.

Speaking of “the tongue,” Jesus’ brother James said, “Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God” (James 3:9 NLT). Think about the cumulative effect that sexist language will have on a girl over the course of her life. The words we choose matter; they have the power to bless or to curse.

Some Christians write off all discussions of language as “political correctness” or “language policing.” In doing so they excuse themselves from the hard work of empathy, self-awareness and theological reflection. My hope is that many more followers of Jesus will take seriously our responsibility to use the power of our words to make our culture, particularly our youth sports culture, an empowering place for all young women and men.

Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage

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UnravelingCoverOne of my Redbud Writers Guild colleagues, Elisabeth Klein Corcoran, just released a new book called Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage (Abingdon Press).

Q&A with author/speaker Elisabeth Klein Corcoran

Question: What is your book about?

Answer: It’s basically a road map of emotions taking women through the really hard journey of a Christian marriage coming to an end.  I encourage women to feel every single feeling they’ve got, pretty much for as long as they need to.

Q:  Why did you want to share your story so publicly?

A: I’m not sure I wanted to necessarily, it’s more like I felt compelled to do so.  About six months into my separation, I realized I was being asked many questions but they were all boiling down to these three main concepts: people who didn’t hold to my faith wanted to know why I had stayed married so long; women in difficult Christian marriages themselves wanted to know how I had stayed married so long; and some Christians who disapproved without knowing the whole story wanted to know why I wasn’t staying married forever.

Once I realized I was hearing the same questions over and over, I wrote a series for Crosswalk and it sort of took on a life of its own.  Once I saw both the controversy and the resonance coming from the commenters, I realized that this was a topic that was being discussed but usually only from theological perspectives, not from the inside of an actual unraveling Christian marriage.  So, I decided to start writing, and changed the focus of my blog from pretty much every topic under the sun to difficult Christian marriages, domestic abuse, divorce in our Christian culture, and how the Church handles all of it.

Q: There are a lot of books on divorce out there. What’s different about yours?

A: There are a ton!  And I read most of them!  But each one I read was written after the fact.  And don’t get me wrong; that was great.  It was good and important for me to see that there was hope and joy and light down the road for me.  But I began writing this book at the beginning of my separation and all the way through my divorce, putting the finishing touches on it one year after my divorce was final.  So it was me – raw, uncensored basically – through the entire journey; not six months after the fact.  I had been looking for a book that would sort of hold my hand through being handed the divorce papers to walking out of court unmarried to lying in bed all day to finally, maybe getting back on with life, a little bit at a time.  And when I couldn’t find that book, I wrote that book.

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Q: Why do you think divorce is so taboo?

A: First, I think that the average church-attending Christian doesn’t really know what the Bible says about divorce.  So, when someone they go to church with is going through it, they are holding up their skewed biblical lens (thinking to themselves how “God hates divorce”) and then judging.  Not everyone does this, of course, but as someone who didn’t have a clear picture herself of what God’s word says on this topic, I know that I did this quite a bit, especially as the women’s ministry leader at my church.

Also, I think – and this could just be me – there’s something to be said for, not divorce rubbing off on someone by any means, but the forced authenticity that seems to come with such a public brokenness.  And so, say if you’re in a difficult marriage too and you see another person going through it, it might scare you and freak you out a bit – how hard it all looks to go through it; and it might even make you think, “If I have to stay married, so should they…”  Again, it’s looking at someone through a judge’s lens.

I think we just don’t let each other into our lives enough.  Because most judgment, if you think about it, comes from someone outside the inner circle, not within arm’s length.  And if we were walking more closely with each other, I think we’d have much more empathy and understanding when anyone hit any kind of dark season.

Q: Any advice for women who are divorcing?

A: Just know that it may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better, I promise.  God has walked me through this so gently.  There has been so much pain and many moments when I felt utterly alone, and yet I believe that he has been with me during this entire thing…hard marriage all the way through now.  So, basically, it won’t always be this hard, and you are not alone.

Q: Any advice for someone who has a friend going through a divorce?

A: Love her, love her, love her.  Ask good questions.  Listen well.  Be patient: the grieving process may be messier and take longer than you’d expect.  It’s a death and should be treated that way.  Bring her a meal or take her out to dinner. Include her and her children in some of your family’s activities.  Check in with her regularly: divorce can be super isolating.  And love her, if I didn’t already mention that.

Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaks several times a month to women’s groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild. During her time at Christ Community Church’s Blackberry Creek Campus in Aurora, Illinois she began and led their women’s ministry for ten years prior to moving to the city’s Orchard Community Church. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com/difficult-marriage-divorce/ or https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran.  She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at elisabethkcorcoran@gmail.com if interested in joining.

Find Your Tribe, Use Your Gift

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redbud_logoAt the end of the summer I found out that I’d been accepted into a community of writers called Redbud Writers Guild.

Redbud’s tagline is “Fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities, and culture.” Last weekend I went to Chicago to meet 30 of the Redbuds at the annual retreat.

I can’t begin to describe how good it was for my soul to be there. This group is intentional about fostering a spirit of support, encouragement, and non-competition.redbud-Oct-1013-008-©DGreco

At the retreat we talked about living out of a theology of abundance, rather than scarcity. This means that there is enough room for all of us at the table. There’s enough space for all of our voices and and all of our gifts in our culture and communities. Our God is a god of abundance, not a god of scarcity, and invites us into abundant living.

If you are a writer and sensing that God may be nudging you to put more energy and focus into your writing, consider applying to join us. I’m currently the only Redbud in the Northwest and would love to have more members in the area to get together with for motivation and encouragement.

Do you have a gift that you feel is atrophying and are craving to use? Look for a tribe, large or small, national or local. Creativity is loosed in us when we belong to supportive, empowering communities.

No One is “Just a Mom:” Revealing ourselves more creatively

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handshakeAs an at-home mom I’ve hated that moment when I meet someone new at a party, or some other social or professional gathering, and they ask me, “What do you do?” I’ve hesitantly answered, “I’m a stay-at-home mom,” and once I used the J-word: “I’m just a mom.” Ouch!

These answers were unsatisfying for me and my new acquaintances. Potentially interesting conversations ended prematurely as the generic job title I share with millions of other women left me feeling painfully ordinary and uninteresting.

“The world does not live and die by the categories of at-home mom, working mom, and alpha mom,” says Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira, author of Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. “These labels come in handy for marketers…but in real life they aren’t useful.”[1]

Rivadaneira suggests that mothers take their cues from God, who chooses to reveal himself in myriad ways, and answer this standard question more creatively.

She suggests using the “I’m a mom and a _______” approach.[2] For example, “I’m a mom and an activist.” Or “I’m a mom, a runner, and a writer.” This gives your new acquaintance two or three windows into who you are as a whole person, not just one role or part of you. It also gives them the opportunity to ask a follow-up question about whichever aspect they resonate with or find most intriguing.

Rivadaneira also suggests using a grammatically ‘active’ approach to your answers by focusing on verbs.[3] So rather than saying, “I’m a mom, a student, and a dancer,” you might say, “I raise kids, study theology, and go salsa dancing as often as possible.”

As moms learn to describe themselves in more creative ways that reflect their beautifully complex identities, Rivadeneira says they move “out of mom anonymity”[4] and are “seen and known as both fully mom and fully something else.”[5]

I can’t help but think of how great it would be if fathers also came up with better ways of describing themselves that included their passions, as well as their work, and affirmed their love and commitment to raising their children.

How would you like to answer the question “What do you do?” more creatively?


            [1] Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.: How to reveal the real you behind all that mom (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2009), 127.

            [2] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., 128.

            [3] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., 129.

            [4] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. 129.

            [5] Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. 128.

Mother’s Day Do-Over

screaming womanWas your Mother’s Day a flop? Did you cry or scream because you felt like you hated being a mom, on Mother’s Day!? 

It’s okay. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other moms felt the same way.

Sometimes husbands get sick or have to work on Mother’s Day. Sometimes your child’s birthday lands on Mother’s Day.

Sometimes you spend so much energy giving to your own mother on Mother’s Day that you miss out on receiving. And sometimes kids are just especially whiny, demanding, and irritating on Mother’s Day.

If for any of these reasons, or another, your Mother’s Day was a flop, you need a Mother’s Day Do-Over.

1. Name your feelings.

How did you feel on Mother’s Day? Did you feel unappreciated? Did you feel sad that your husband didn’t take time to help the kids do something special for you? Did you feel hurt that your husband didn’t express appreciation for you, either verbally, in a card, or with a gift? Did you feel disappointed because you felt that you worked just as hard on Mother’s Day (or harder) as you normally do, and you were hoping to be pampered just a little bit.

2. Discern what you need.

Take some time to be still and pray. Take some slow, deep breaths. Consider asking God, “What do I need? What do the feelings I experienced on Mother’s Day reveal about what I truly need?” Let these questions linger in your heart and mind while you wait for an answer. You probably won’t hear an audible voice, but you may get a sense of what it is that you need (that you didn’t receive on Mother’s Day).

3. Talk with your husband.

If you sensed that what you need is a break, talk to your husband about it and make a plan to get away for a day or a weekend. Think about whether you need to get away by yourself, with your husband, or with a friend.

Perhaps you sensed that what you need is to hear from your husband that you’re a good mother and that what you do on a daily basis matters and is appreciated. Share this with your husband. Ask him to put into words, spoken or written, how he feels about you as a mother.

mother's day gift and flowersMaybe you sensed that what you need is to experience your husband going out of his way for you, like he used to before you were married and had kids.

It’s normal for spouses to become less attentive to each other once kids come along. Ask your husband to take you on a date in which you choose the restaurant, activity, destination, etc.

Or if you like surprises, ask him to plan the date on his own. (My favorite combo is when my husband plans a surprise date and arranges the childcare.)

If Mother’s Day left you feeling bitter or blue, it’s not too late to salvage it. Don’t suppress your needs and feelings. It doesn’t work. They just show up bigger and uglier later.

If you need a Mother’s Day Do-Over, take one! Self-care is a win/win/win for you, your husband, and your kids.

‘Loss of Self’ & the Evangelical At-Home Mom

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disappearing womanAt-home mothers who identify themselves as evangelical often suppress their callings to things beyond the sphere of home.

They often suppress their desire for intellectual stimulation, their need for connection and community, and their desire to be seen and known for the unique, gifted, complex persons that they are. The cumulative effect of this suppression often results in a ‘loss of self.’

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira, former managing editor of Christian Parenting Today magazine, says that the moms who contacted Christian Parenting Today struggled with identity issues and felt as though “they’d lost themselves and their abilities and dreams in the midst of motherhood…These moms were convinced that no one knew who they really were and, worse, that no one cared.”[1]

“Read a mom-oriented magazine…and you’ll hear it: again and again moms rate loneliness and loss of self as two of their biggest issues.”[2]

Part of the problem stems from a lack of guidance and truth-telling in the evangelical community on core issues of a woman’s worth and identity. One mother describes her experience this way:

I was beginning to listen to the common teaching that a woman’s chief role is to be a support to her husband in his ministry, be a homemaker and raise children to follow the Lord. I was a woman at war with myself. While I tried to agree with my conscious mind to a view that limited a woman’s contribution to the kingdom, my subconscious revolted within me. …Trying to fit into the role of submissive homemaker, I felt myself losing my identity.[3]

This mother’s internal struggle resulted in many months of undiagnosed sickness and a deep depression.[4] Her experience, both the internal wrestling and the fact that the emotional turmoil manifested in physical symptoms, is not uncommon. “Emotions show up as body responses,”[5]says Dr. Virginia Todd Holeman, professor of counseling at Asbury Theological Seminary.

“Many women focus so much on pleasing other people that they are out of touch with their own desires and needs,” observes spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton. She continues:

A married woman may feel that her purpose in life is only to support her husband in the priorities of his life or to help her children find their niche—rather than finding one of her own where both husband and wife are encouraged and supported…[6]

Another reason evangelical mothers tend to have an underdeveloped sense of self and identity is because evangelical culture has misjudged and mislabeled the development of self a ‘selfish’ pursuit.

disappearing woman 2Thinking about “who we are and who God made us to be isn’t selfish and doesn’t mean we’re sacrificing our children on the altar of the god of Self. To the contrary, wanting to be known and loved as our true selves, as the complete, gifted, purposed women God created us to be, is a God-honoring way to live,” observes Rivadaneira.[7]

Holeman states, “Finding your self is a key to being able to truly give yourself fully to others—just the opposite of selfishness or self-centeredness.”[8]

Do you feel like you’ve lost parts of yourself since becoming a mother? How do you combat the gravitational pull toward loss of self? Right now, jot down three ways you can be more intentional about developing your self, then share them with a friend and/or in the comment area below.


[1] Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira, Mama’s Got a Fake I.D.: How to reveal the real you behind all that mom (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2009), 3.

[2] Rivadeneira, Fake I.D., 35.

[3] Ruth Haley Barton, Longing for More: A Woman’s Path to Transformation in Christ. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 31.

[4] Barton, Longing for More, 31.

[5] Virginia Todd Holeman, Reconcilable Differences: Hope and Healing for Troubled Marriages. (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 105.

[6] Barton, Longing for More, 33.

[7] Rivadeneira, Fake I.D., 37.

[8] Holeman, Reconcilable Differences, 97.