My Mommy Secret to Surviving in the Overwhelming Moments

When Lydia was a baby, I was a supermom. I did everything: kept the apartment spotless, hosted guests, tackled projects, learned new things, and spent time with my baby. Abby came along and our world was turned upside down with several weeks in the NICU that stressed us beyond anything we’d ever known before. It was horrible. So, when Abby came home from the hospital, I stubbornly thought I had to prove it’s easier to have two at home than to have one at home and one in the NICU. I tried to “do it all” again and be a good mom to both girls all at the same time.

Do you know how that went? I broke. I snapped. I realized that I was acting in pride and living a lie. When I started being honest with myself and others, I found a lot of freedom. Being a mom is HARD.

During my pregnancy with Paul I was praying for the transition to three, but also preparing myself to be overwhelmed.

It’s just a season.

The house will be messy at times (most of them!).

I won’t be able to do projects the way I used to.

Taking care of three will be almost all-consuming, but we’ll survive.

Do you know what happened? The transition was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated. We do survive. In fact, sometimes the house is tidy and clean (rarely). Sometimes I cook meals with side dishes (special occasions only). I still have a quiet time alone (although, at 5:45 AM). I teach the kids, play with the kids, read to the kids, and I still manage to clean the bathroom, change the sheets, and vacuum. I still have time to plan meals and cook them, spend time with Dan, and read books (grown up ones, even). But, it’s still hard.

I have sat down on various occasions to seek advice from more experienced moms, ones that I really respect. I think one of my favorite pieces of advice that I try to put into place daily was on how not to be overwhelmed.

Pray.

One mom in particular told me about Susanna Wesley, mother to nineteen children (ten survived to adulthood), including two sons who eventually founded Methodism and wrote a lot of hymns still being sung today. As the mother of so many children, Susanna would get overwhelmed too. Then she would throw her apron up over her head to have a moment “alone” to pray for help.

Since the day I first heard about Susanna’s “apron prayers”, I’ve started to try to do the same, though, not with an apron since I rarely wear one. 🙂 Sometimes I go to my room, and sometimes I gather the kids around me and we pray together. Often I just stop whatever I’m doing, close my eyes, and let out a short, desperate, completely sincere prayer for help.

Well, last week I was encouraged when I was reading about King David and I saw him put the same tactic into practice.

David (not yet King David) had been running away from Saul for months and months. He hasn’t done anything wrong, and had, on several occasions, proved his loyalty to King Saul even while fleeing his persecution. Finally David fled to the Philistines and lived among them for over a year. One day he gathered his troops together and made a journey to help the Philistine’s fight their battles. However, the Philistine lords doubted David’s loyalty, so the king sent David and his men home. Bummer.

David and his men arrived back home only to receive devastating news. The city had been raided. Their homes had been burned down and their women and children carried away as captives.

As overwhelmed as I sometimes get as a mom, I can honestly say I’ve never had a day that bad. Can you imagine coming home only to find your house burned, your possessions destroyed or stolen, and your family kidnapped?

And what did David do? Well, he wept. I probably would too.

Things got worse for David when the people grew bitter against him. Then they started talking about stoning him. Do you know what happened next? (I love this part!)

“David strengthened himself in the LORD his God”.

And then…

“David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?”

God told David, “Yes”, to go pursue and overtake the band. David and his men pursued the band. They didn’t find it right away, but they found an Egyptian who pointed them in the right direction. Then David and his men went on to find the band, struck them down, and recovered “all that the Amalekites had taken”. When he got back home nothing was missing and no one was missing. With God’s help, David saved the day.

(See 1 Samuel 28 and 30)

So I’m no future king and my home isn’t being attacked and burned with fire, but I worship and follow the same God as David, and He is just as able and willing to help me with my little flock of Munchkins. Not only can I seek God for strength when I get overwhelmed, but I can also seek his direction in what to do in those moments when I’m tired and emotional and not sure what to do next.

I was going to post this last week but I just couldn’t get it to come out right. The next days were terrible. The kiddos were difficult and I was tired and overwhelmed. I realized God was not only preventing me from posting this in pride, but He was also giving me an opportunity to practice. (And I do need more practice.) But now a week later I can come more humbly and share the lesson I’m learning.

God hears us when we are overwhelmed (for big reasons or small). He wants us to come to him for help. He will strengthen us. And He can direct us in what to do next.

PS – For all you creative people out there who make words into pretty artwork, I think 1 Samuel 30:6 would totally make a mom-worthy print.

But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

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Tips on Moving Efficiently

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I can’t believe we’ve moved four times in one year. That on top of spending three months in the NICU with Abby and Dan switching jobs. In Lydia’s short life she’s already lived at five different addresses, and that’s if you don’t count her first six months of life spent in the hospital.

You might think that with all this moving Dan and I would be experts at the process, but that’s not really the case. You see…

Move #1: I was pregnant with Lydia, but took lots of time packing boxes. Some sweet girls from church came over to pack my entire kitchen, and the youth group moved us. Three days later I had Lydia and Dan’s parents and grandparents came down to unpack us. It was months before I even started organizing anything.

Move #2: I was pregnant, with Abby this time, and the members of our Bible study offered to move us. I, once again, did a lot of the packing, but as far as the moving went, I didn’t lift a box. This time I was able to do a lot of unpacking, but eventually Dan’s mom did come down and helped me with my kitchen.

Move #3: This move was because a moldy condo was making our family sick, so it was sort of an emergency move. The ladies from our Bible study came and packed us in one night and just a few hours at that. Some of the men in the Bible study did all of the actual moving the following weekend. And as for unpacking, we never did get to do it. The short-term solution was furnished so our stuff mostly just stayed in boxes.

Move #4: This move happened a week after Abby was born, and as I was recovering from the c-section, I didn’t help with it at all. Dan’s mom packed whatever needed to be packed and the youth group moved us again. They unpacked my kitchen. A couple weeks later, Dan’s mom and aunt came down to unpack us.

Move #5: This brings us to our current move. We evacuated our home with only a few hours notice. The basement where we are staying is furnished, so once again, a lot of our stuff was headed for storage. We packed as quickly as possible and are living on meager belongings while trying to keep the rest in boxes. The easiest things about this move were that we didn’t have a baby in the hospital, I wasn’t recovering from labor and delivery or a c-section, and I’m not pregnant. The hard thing was that we did it all with a baby and toddler in tow.

All that to display that we are not moving experts. But we have picked up a few tricks to optimize the time and money involved in the gruesome moving process.

Don’t pay for boxes.
Did you know you can walk into any GFS and ask for boxes? Sometimes the pickings are meager, but sometimes there are some really nice boxes just waiting to be broken down. Almost anytime we’ve gone, we’ve been able to snatch enough boxes to fill our car. We never bother to break them down, we just fit what we can. If you’re planning far enough ahead, you can have as many boxes as you need. Since we’re always making last-minute moves, we usually run out of boxes and have to get a little creative.

Oh, and don’t worry about only grabbing big boxes. We took whatever was available and found the little boxes great for certain kitchen items, office supplies, or even food.

Mark ’em up.
Label boxes. It only takes a couple of seconds and later you’ll be glad you did. I try to label boxes with the room and a brief description of what’s inside (ie – “Kitchen Spices”). If there’s an item you might need right away, label that too (“toilet paper”).

Use what you’ve got.
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Don’t use up big boxes to pack away suitcases and duffle bags. Fill those up too! Just make sure you don’t put anything in there that you’re going to need urgently as you can’t just write on these with a permanent marker the way you might with free boxes from GFS.

Pack with towels
When it comes time to pack the kitchen, wrap up breakable items in your bathroom towels and wash cloths. It’ll save the boxes you’d need for packing linens and it’ll keep your fragile items from breaking during the move.

Keep important items handy.
There are certain items that you’re going to need when you get to your new location. Keep that in mind during packing so that items are either left out or clearly labeled and you know where to find them. Some that we find important are:

Bedding (clean and ready to use) – Before you know what happened to moving day it’ll be late and all you’ll want to do is go to sleep. The first thing you should do when you get to your new place is make up the beds.

Overnight Bag – toiletries, pajamas, clothing for the next day

Diapers and Wipes – if you have little ones

Cleaning Supplies – I know everyone thinks they’ll be unpacked before they need to clean, or at least I always did. But one day you move, then you get busy and don’t finish unpacking, and next thing you know your bathroom is moldy (not that that’s happened to us once…or twice…)

Important Papers – whether it’s a social security card, medical records, or your tax returns, there are times when you’re going to need these and you’ll want to know where to find them, especially if you’ll be house-hunting (like us!) or are dealing with insurance companies while your preemie is still in the hospital on a feeding tube (don’t get me started on that one!)

Toys or Books – Again, if you have little ones. Something has to keep them busy while you unpack.

Food and Kitchen Necessities – I usually end up pulling out a pot or two, serving spoon, a bowl and silverware each, water bottles, cutting board and knife. Sure, you could just eat out until you’re unpacked, but that’ll cost more. And, you could just use disposables, but that would cost more too.

Dish Soap and Sponge – If you decide to go with the real dishes and homemade food route…

Computer and Camera – So you don’t have to take a break from any important emails, or from updating your blog, in my case.

A Wooden Spoon – This is Dan’s absolute favorite all-purpose kitchen utensil. If I want his help in the kitchen, there must be a wooden spoon handy.

Bag up closet clothing.
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We learned this trick when we ran out of boxes during Move #3. Instead of painstakingly folding up every item in your closet, grab some kitchen draw string trash bags. Rip a hole in the bottom center of the bag and stick a bunch of hangers through the hole. Pull the bag over the rest of the clothes and stuff everything in as you draw the bag tightly closed. Tie shut. Now you’re good to go. These won’t stack as nicely as boxes, but when you get to your new house you can stick them right in the closet and rip the bag off. It’s so easy, it’s worth the unstackability. And if you use white bags you can even label them with the correct closet.

Keep Things Simple
Unless you have some weird circumstances (like us) where you’re storing items for an extended period of time, moving doesn’t have to be complicated. Just box things up as well as you can and get them unboxed as quickly as possible so you can enjoy your new home. Things don’t have to be pretty and if you have to mix items from different rooms, that’s ok too. Even if you’re not on a time crunch, there are too many good things in life to waste away hours packing things perfectly.

Be ok with a Little Chaos
You might have clutter for a while. You might even have to put the beautiful “just because I love you” flowers from your husband in a free North Face water bottle. It’ll be ok. The mess will be cleared up soon, and even if it isn’t, the world won’t end over a little clutter and the flowers will still look beautiful.

I’m preaching to the choir here though because the clutter around here is driving me crazy. It’s likely that the girls and I will be escaping for a week up North at some point, especially if this chaos continues for much longer…

Well, that’s all. Happy moving. And if you want to give somebody a really nice gift, offer to pack their kitchen.

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