Monday, March 30

10 "It's OK" Statements to Get You Through Your Day

Greetings from rainy, dreary, Buffalo NY on this Monday that feels like a…well, I’m not sure what day it feels like anymore. It kind of feels like a getting-back-into the swing-of-things Monday after a long vacation, except that everyday right now feels like Monday after a long vacation.  And I’m not sure there is a really a swing of things to get back into for the moment, at least not one that is consistent.  

How are you all doing? Are you hanging in there? Are you maintaining your sanity?

 My sanity feels like it varies moment-by-moment, day-by-day, right now. One minute I’m relishing the fact that I’m baking cookies or taking a long walk with my kiddos at 3:30 in the afternoon, and the next minute I feel like some sort of crazed lunatic who needs to brush her hair and teeth and who is frantically looking for a quiet closet to hide in so that I don’t have to answer to one more “MOOOOMMMMM!!!” 

Anyone else?

At the beginning of March, when I sat down to plan for the year, I had an agenda for the words I was going to write in this space: My March posts were going to revolve around the words “rest” and “quiet”, in April I was going to focus on the word “renew”, which has been my personal word for the year…ironically, I’m not sure what that means right now, though I do have a deep peace that God will continue to speak to me about it.

But since the whole wide world feels inside out and upside down right now, my thoughts on “renewing”, while probably relevant on some level, don’t seem the most useful words to offer right now.

So, in lieu of thoughtful words or suggestions on finding rest (there is some for the finding, but if you have kids at home with you during this time of quarantine, it’s complicated at best), I’ve written 10 “It’s OK If…” statements to help you get through your day. You can think of this as a #metoo list for us moms trying to navigate being housebound with our kids all day everyday! 

If you have one you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them…leave them in the comments here or on my Little Writer Momma FB page under the post link! 

Without further adieu here are 10 "It's OK" Statements to Get You Through Your Day: 
1.     If you feel like one day makes total sense with your kids, and your schedule, and your meals, and the happiness of the whole household feels like something out of the movies, and the next day feels like a total belly flop and no one in your house seems to like each other…It’s OK!

2.      If you haven’t found a new rhythm yet…at least not a consistent one. One day you feel strong and competent and in a groove and four hours later you feel like you’re trying to run a three legged race with your Great Uncle Louie who absolutely despises running…It’s OK! 

3.     If part of you feels like all of this extra time with your kids is a sweet gift one minute, and 12 minutes later you’re ready to pull every hair out of your head because the dishwasher needs to be loaded again, and the hoverboard hum is driving you a little nuts, and your 7-year-old tried to pour herself a cup of lemon-aide and now it’s all over the kitchen table, which was where your 12-year-old was doing her homework and so now there's that to deal with…It’s OK! 

4.     If you feel like it takes every ounce of your adulting energy just to sign into Google classroom for 3 different children, and make sure they’re doing the right things at the right time in the right way with the right passwords. If this sudden home school gig, while cool in some ways, feels super confusing in others...It’s OK!  
     (And hey, no homeschool jokes here from the good-at-it homeschoolers! Traditional home schooling is a very different thing than being suddenly plopped into the middle of your child’s academic year and now trying to navigate their work, but not with your own agenda and lesson plans—you’ve become the facilitator of their teacher’s agenda’s, which are mostly good, but  kind of tricky sometimes, especially with multiple children!)

5.     If you start some days feeling like Mary Poppins and end it feeling as cranky as the Incredible Hulk…It’s OK! 

6.     If you’re going days on end without putting on make-up, or “real” clothes, and you're not sure if that's normal or if you've completely lost yourself forever…It’s OK. 

7.     If your 7-year-old is still wearing her turquoise flamingo night-gown at 4:30 in the afternoon, and you kind of feel like you should tell her that it’s important to put on actual clothing everyday, but then you think, “Hey, she’s a kid, she’s not going to wear her nightgown until 4:30 in the afternoon for the rest of her life.” At least you hope not. And if she does, you think, you’ll love her anyway. It’s OK! 

8.     If you’re feeling a little or a LOT stir-crazy. Like you LOVE your kids, but right about now you’d really LOVE to meet a friend out for a glass of wine or a cup of coffee to talk about the craziness of all of this. It’s OK! 

9.     If some people’s Facebook posts are starting to get on your every last nerve…the souffl├ęs they’ve made, the languages they’ve learned, the dozen books they’ve read, the art masterpieces they’ve painted, the exceptionally creative ways they’ve connected with their children through gorgeously curated craft projects while you’re throwing your kids old play dough you just found in the basement and telling them to use their imaginations to make something out of it. It’s OK! 

10. If you vacillate between wondering if life will ever be the same again, and part of you thinks that might be a good thing, but part of you is mourning all the things you loved about your previous life…It’s OK! 

Oh wait…I have one more…

11. If you get that long awaited board game out for the long awaited family game night and next thing you know child #1 is pouting because they don’t want to play, and child #2 is throwing plastic game pieces across the table and her perpetually moving body just knocked the whole thing out of place, and child #3 can’t stand the chaos of it all and yells at child #2, which makes mom raise her voice and yell at all said children, and then dad throws his baseball cap on the table with a sigh, and your oldest wisely assesses the situation by saying, “Well, so much for family game night!” 

           It’s OK!!! 
(Of course those kinds of things NEVER happen in the Littlewood household. Ever! Wink. Wink.)

Alright friends, I’d love to hear your “It’s ok" statements!
Love you all.
If I figure out how to find consistent and intentional rest and renewal in the middle of all of this, I’ll be sure to let you know.
In the meantime, I will say my prayer and journaling time in the morning, before the kids are all up, has become more important than ever.
So, if I could suggest one thing, it would be to take a few minutes for yourself in the morning. Read your Bible. Work through a Bible study a little bit at a time. Read a few pages in a devotional or a book that encourages your faith, and then journal and pray about it.  I promise it will help to center you. 
Note: I didn’t promise it will make your day easy peasy, but it will help to get you off on a good start, which is always a good thing (; 

Monday, March 23

A Prayer For Weary Souls from Edie Melson

Hi Friends! I hope you are all well. That you're finding a new rhythm with your family in these strange times, as awkward and unfamiliar as it all may feel. 

We're falling into a new homeschooling rhythm, a new dinner rhythm, a new bedtime rhythm. We're watching church online, and went rollerblading yesterday, which we probably wouldn't have done without the 'stay in place' mandates. Yes, its all a little strange, but its been good so far. 

That said these are strange times and depending on your individual circumstances, there certainly are a lot of challenges, concerns and cause for anxiety--many things that I am praying for others for. 

 I have friends and neighbors who own small businesses and are out of work right now-- they've had to start utilizing their savings overnight. I know women who have asthma and other health issues, and are concerned about their health right now for very real reasons. I have friends whose children have learning challenges and disabilities who were getting a lot of support from their schools, and now they're at home working through the challenges in ways that make them feel very alone. I have friends and family members who struggle from depression and anxiety and all of is exacerbating their very real struggles in very real ways. 

I see you. I hear you. I'm praying for you. If I can pray for you in any specific ways, please send me a message, an email, or a text...I'm serious...and I will write your name down on the list inside my Bible and pray for you this week. 

In lieu of all of the unexpected circumstances I wanted to share a word of encouragement and a prayer from my friend Edie Melson  with you today. 
In 2018 Edie Melson published a book titled Soul Care When You’re Weary. This book includes more than two dozen devotions and prayers (followed by a creative connection suggestion) for women who are feeling weary, tired, and overwhelmed.
Edie conceived this book when her father was at the end of his battle with Alzheimer’s. As she spent time supporting her mother, who was the primary caregiver, she spent hours in hospitals, waiting rooms, assisted living spaces and finally hospice. All of that while juggling full-time commitments. She needed the relief that only a deeper connection with God could provide, but found herself with no time for bible study or retreat. So she learned how to carve out moments of connection through creativity. 
Recently when I asked her how she makes time for rest and solitude now, but also how she did it when she was a busy mom to three very active boys she said this, “I learned to retreat in the in-between-moments. I rediscovered the value in five minutes of solitude or a simple walk around the back yard. Before, I’d disdained those short moments as wasted time. Instead, I learned they were as valuable as hidden treasure tucked into the crevice of a rock wall.”
Edie sent me a copy of Soul Care When You’re Weary last summer during a weary season of my own life. I was in the middle of supporting my mother who was struggling with her physical and mental health, and being in my early 40’s was going through some physical and hormonal changes of my own that were instigating mood swings and anxiety. This was all in the middle of the normal day-to-day routines of trying to maintain a house and love my family well, which we all know is just plain overwhelming sometimes. 
Because the book was so encouraging to me, I’m going to send a copy to one of you this week (see directions at the bottom of this post).
With her publisher’s permission I’m sharing with you one of the many very real and authentic prayers that Edie wrote in the book—a prayer that I’ve been praying this month as I continue to ask God for helping to bring order to my sometimes crazy days:

*A Prayer: Asking God to Show Me What it Means to Dwell (By Edie Melson): 
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety”
 (Psalm 18:2 NLT).

 Dear Lord, 
            I feel like I’m living twenty-four-hour-days in the middle of Grand Central Station. There’s no longer any rhythm to my life. It’s nothing but an all out effort, and the constant drain is taking its toll on my life and the lives of those near me. 
            All I want to do is find some pace to hide. I crave the peacefulness of solitude. But more than quiet in my environment, I want to find a way to quiet my mind. 
            Will you show me what it means to dwell with You, and let You dwell with me? Surely the peace found in Your presence can be mine. I know it’s available. I’ve read about it in Your Holy Word. 
            It’s so easy for me to move from Your side and once again end up in the midst of chaos and strife. Show me how to navigate my daily life while sticking close to your side. Bring people into my life who have learned this lesson and let me learn from them. 
            I want to be swept beneath Your wings and curl up close. When I’m with you, my perspective changes. The concerns that drive me from rest melt away. Dwelling with You keeps worry far away. Keep me close by Your side and never let me leave. Amen. 

I pray that you would all find rest for your souls in the week ahead. I pray that in the midst of these crazy, unknown days with news of COVID-19 permeating everything we read, watch and listen to, that you would be able to find your own spaces to pray, to surrender your worries to God, and to allow Him to replace worry with peace.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of Soul Care When You're Weary you can find it here (or wherever you like to buy books online). 

I’m giving away a copy Edie’s book, Soul Care When You’re Weary. To be entered to win either leave a comment below right here on the blog, or go to my Little Writer Momma Facebook Page and leave a comment below the link to the post (by 9 pm EST this Friday)! I will draw a name on Saturday morning and announce it on the Facebook page. 

(Edie Melson is an author, blogger, and speaker who has encouraged and challenged audiences around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply those gifts to life. She is also the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Writers Conference—one of the largest (and most fabulous!) Christian writing conferences in the country. She runs a private Facebook Group called Soulful Ink, where she facilitates a group committed to reconnecting with God through creative pursuits. You can also catch up with her on her website, and through social media.)
*excerpt used with permission from Bold Vision Books, copyright 2018

Tuesday, March 17

Dear Momma Who Isn't Quite Sure Where She's Going Right Now

Dear Sweet Momma, 
The one suddenly home with her kids all day, every day—home schooling, making meals, trying to keep the peace, wondering what in the WORLD is going on.
The one whose whole world suddenly feels inside out and upside down. 

The one who was supposed to go to work this week, and is trying to figure out  what to do, how to do it, and who is going to take care of her kids. 

You may be feeling anxious, very anxious, about it all. Or maybe you're just feeling a little confused. Like one of my sweet friends said earlier this week, "I don't even know what my life is right now." 

I hear you. I don't know either. 
These are confusing and uncertain times on SO many levels.

People's jobs are shifting. Businesses are temporarily closing. Playdates, meetings, prayer services, church gatherings, small groups, coffee dates, lunches, school plays, baseball and dance practice--they've all been cancelled. 
Momma friends, I don’t really have answers, I just want you to know that I see you. I hear you. I understand.

I'm a little bit confused too. 
There has never been a time in our lives when our schedules-- our plans, to-do’s and intentions—have changed so quickly, so abruptly. There has never been a time, that most of us have known, that the state of the world has evolved and changed so quickly. 

It’s hard to know what to make of these times. How to plan. What to do. 

It's hard to know where are we going and how are we going to get there.
We are living in the great unknown.

But even as I say all of that, a still small voice whispers to my uncertain heart and mind. It says this, “I know.”

I know. 

"I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. 

“Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

My human mind wants to say, Well I know you know, but what does that look like? How confusing is it going to get? How long are my kids going to be off of school? How many people are going to get sick? When will the napkins and the paper towels be back in the stores because we legitimately don't have either one right now? 

(You should know I'm not overly concerned about the paper towels and the napkins right now, but it is a slight issue when you have little people in the house). 

But here's the thing that God has been teaching me over, and over, and OVER again for many, many years now-- sometimes we don't get to see the whole picture. We just get to know that He knows. We must learn to surrender control, and surrendering can be a very hard thing to do. 

In Jeremiah 29:11 God says that He knows the plans He has for us. Plans to prosper and not harm us. Plans for a HOPE and a FUTURE. 

In this time of unknown, I am meditating on that verse. Because for all that I can't do right now, there is I lot that I can do. 

I can pray. 

I can trust God. 

I can reach out to my neighbors to ask how they are doing, and if they need anything. 

I can spend time doing the puzzles and playing the games with my kids that have been purchased over the last few years with very good intentions, but have sat collecting dust on shelves because life simply gets busy whether we mean it to or not. 

I can learn how to use my camera to take better photos. It's been on my "to-do" list for years, but I haven't had time. 

I can read more chapter books with my girls. 

I can play a game of hide and seek, like we did yesterday, because there is nowhere else to go. 

We can write those letters to our sponsored child (through Compassion International) that we've been too busy to write. 

We can draw pictures and mail them to my grandmother, who is 91 and struggling with her health. 

We can do so much...right from our homes. We can embrace this time set before us and make the most of it. 

I know this might sound strange, but I've been oddly peaceful over the last few days. Perhaps it's the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). Perhaps it's also that the rhythm of our life had gotten a little too fast for me, and I'm enjoying these quieter days-- for now. 

Yesterday morning, I woke up around 6:15 and made my way downstairs for coffee before the kids woke up. I was carrying a lot of questions with me--wondering how we were going to structure these new, suddenly unstructured days. 

I knew that I was going to need to start helping the girls with their schoolwork and that in order for us all to live peacefully in the house together that we were going to need some kind of "plan", as loose as it might be.

As I walked down the first flight of stairs to the landing, I stopped briefly at the large picture window in front of me to look outside. I often stop there momentarily to assess the weather and gauge the day. Yesterday morning as I did this, the most serene picture greeted me. It was still dark, just before dawn, and the moon hung quietly in the sky with just one star to its left. The words of a worship song came to mind, 

"He who holds the stars. Who calls them each by name, will surely keep your promise to me..." 

I couldn't remember the name of the song, or even the rest of the words, so I looked them up online. 

They're from a song called "Take Courage" by Kristene DiMarco. 

After re-reading the lyrics to the entire song, I realized they feel oddly necessary and relevant right now. For copyright reasons I can't post the words here, but here is a link to the lyrics online, and the YouTube video (please do take the time to listen-- it's a good song). 
Here the You Tube link: Take Courage, by Bethel Music. 
I was reminded, after staring at the moon out my big picture window, that God is above all and in complete control. That while the world feels likes it's teetering and changing moment by moment, that God stays the same. Just as steady as the moon He hung in the sky at the beginning of the world. 

So, friends...I don't have answers, but I have peace. 

I'm going to leave you with one more scripture about stars and God being in control, because when you can't see the path clearly in front of you all you can do is hold on, with faith, to the God who is in control. 

"Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all of these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." Isaiah 40:26. 

So, peace I leave with you. I hope that these words encouraged your heart in some still small way and that in the midst of great uncertainty you are able to hold on to the one who holds the stars. 

Have your kids draw those pictures and send those letters, keep on keeping on and use this time for good. 

If you need to post some reminders around your house about God's peace and goodness and faithfulness, visit one of my favorite websites for scripture printables (I don't get a dime for saying that, it just really is one of my favorite websites!)...

[I had promised to write a post about "Quiet" today, but so much has changed in the last week that it didn't make sense. I plan to return to my posts about the idea of finding quiet next week-- I'm taking notes about where and how I'm finding spaces of quiet in this new landscape of life with all of the girls suddenly home. And how all of these closings and cancellations have suddenly brought a new type of "quiet" into our lives that none of us were expecting.]

Monday, March 9

Finding Quiet in the Middle of Your Noisy Life, Part 2

I’ve been in search of quiet lately, and it isn’t easy to find.
Three busy and creative kids make for a noisy living space…more noise—physically and figuratively—than my poor momma brain can handle sometimes. It’s not that I don’t want them to be creative; as a matter of fact I’ve encouraged it. And I certainly don’t want them to be quiet (well, not all the time anyways)- that would be counterintuitive to allowing them to become the people they are becoming…the people God created them to be.
But all of this becoming gets a little noisy, and a lot messy, and momma starts to feel overwhelmed and tired because God wired me to be a person that is fueled by quiet things—things that my kids call “boring”. I am a woman who likes reading, writing, long stretches of quiet with no music on, boring card games, and intellectual movies and documentaries.  I like quiet walks, acoustic music and nice orderly dinners. I like art museums, and walking tours and listening to interesting presentations on food and nutrition and crunchy, healthy, geeky things. 
I know. I know. I have kids…
But the truth is that the “me” that I’ve always been doesn’t always feel like it jives with the “me” in Mommy, if you know what I mean.
So what’s a woman to do when she realizes she is wired as an introvert and 2 of her 3 children are extroverts, and she doesn’t want to squash their enthusiasm, but she also needs to be true to herself?
There is no easy answer, friends. There is no easy answer.
You squeeze in short naps. You take an extra long time in the bathroom until someone realizes you’re gone (which is never an extra long time, actually). You sneak away to do some laundry and take really deep breaths in the basement while you’re down there…again, until someone calls your name. You take rides in your minivan, picking up a coffee and driving circles through your neighborhood.
Before having kids I would have told you I had the answer to this question. I would have told you, so confidently, that of course you “just find balance”. That you should do the things you like and love and teach your children to enjoy them with you.
Well, that all sounds nice…in theory. And sometimes it works…sometimes. 
I had a lot of answers to parenting before I actually became a parent.
So, I’m at the library as I write this. I found myself visiting the library, different libraries, several times this past month. Not with kids. I do that too. All. By. Myself. 
I’ve been having a hard time thinking clearly at home, and I’ve been working through a lot of life things in my mind and heart. 
When I left the house Ella was practicing her piano and clarinet, Aubrey was singing JoJo Siwa songs along with her Alexa, the dog was barking at the neighbors, Scott was grinding coffee…there were a few fights, there were crashing magna tiles, there was some nagging to get the kids to pick-up their bedrooms and do their homework, and all manner of other shenanigans going on.
When I go home, someone will surely be singing, the dog might still be barking. Scott may very well be playing with some other piece of coffee apparatus, or have his electric guitar plugged in the middle of the living room with the amp cranked up to volume 10.  Another fight might be ensuing between two of the girls somewhere in the house. It will also be time to round the natives up towards bed, which will result in running around in half dressed variations, asking for water and bread and butter and suddenly remembering that there is a Science quiz tomorrow and a permission slip I should have signed. 
Yup. All that noise will be happening.
But, I’ll be ready to re-enter the fray with a slightly fuller tank and maybe even a few of my two-gazillion thoughts processed, which will be good for everyone.
And then we’ll begin the fun and noisy carnival all over again tomorrow.

***I will be devoting each Monday in March to my meandering thoughts about finding quiet, the spiritual practice of being quiet, and what it looks like to live a sometimes quiet life (or at least find quiet moments) in the midst of a noisy world.  I hope you’ll stop by again. 

Saturday, March 7

Making Space for Quiet in Your Noisy Life, Part 1

Wow! I blink and three months go by lately. 
Does anyone else feel that way?
Sorry for my absence here…Hello again. 
I could go into all the reasons for my absence, but honestly it was nothing major. Just life…lots and lots of life. Good life. Busy life. Fun life. #Momlife. 
It was post Christmas clean up and recovery, birthdays, potlucks, my part-time job at the big girls school this year, house projects, taking care of a parent that was struggling with illness (and all that that can entail at times), some skiing, some de-cluttering, and lots of daily life in-between.
But I miss writing when I’m too busy living the daily…when I’m not writing it makes me feel like I’m not living the way I was meant to live. I know makes a lot of sense to those of you who also process the world through words—whether in public or the private pages of journals. Writing is how I process the world, my thoughts and my emotions.  It’s often where I meet with God most intimately—in my journals in the morning--and where He says the most profound things to me. 
All that to say, I've been thinking about how I could consistently re-renter this blogging space and have come up with a plan for the rest of the year: Instead of just writing eclectically and haphazardly about whatever comes to mind (I’m good at that because my brain spits out ideas like popcorn in an air popper!) I’m going to write around the idea of one word or theme each month. This will help ya’ll know what to expect, and it will help keep me on track—both very good things.
For the rest of March I will be writing about the word “Quiet”—about finding quiet, being quiet, the spiritual necessity of quiet: About what it means to seek quiet spaces in a noisy world.
At the end of December I picked a “word of the year” for 2020.  I didn’t share it on Facebook or Instagram or even here on this blog…I just held it in my heart and my mind and started asking God what it meant. I first asked God to put a word on my heart, and then quietly listened for His response. 
Renew, he said. Renew. 
What does that mean God?  I asked. 
I always want to know the meaning of things right away…I want the whole picture so I can plan accordingly. You planners know what I’m talking about, right?
But, God doesn’t usually work that way.
Was He saying saying that it was time to renew some things in my life? Perhaps. I’d  been feeling tired and weary in a number of places and spaces for a long season of time. 
Was it just a word, or was it a promise? A promise of renewal in store for the weary places in my soul.
I liked the sound of that…but wasn’t totally sure.
Either way, here’s the thing, when God says He wants to do something in our lives we have to partner with Him—it requires action on our parteven if it’s quiet action (like committing to our quiet time with Him daily). And so I committed to simply holding the word “renew” in my heart and to begin watching for ways He wanted to unfold its truth into my life. 
While I’m still not fully sure what He’s up to (He’s always up to something in our lives) He’s been inspiring hope in my heart that there are ways for me, for all of us, to be living more fully—to be more fully present and more fully ourselves.
I’m beginning to think that as we learn to live more fully in His presence we will find renewal and abundance in places that have felt tired and barren for years.
In her devotional Life Giving Choices my friend Lucinda Secrest McDowell says this in her entry on rest:
 No matter how long your restful time apart is, it will be an investment in your life and work, with visible benefits. Maybe not immediately. But clearing out the clutter in your mind and heart makes way for fresh work, a fresh filling. Even our Lord Jesus withdrew to a solitary place for refreshment and renewal-emerging with power…Will you rest?"
I love this reminder that our rest is both about stopping and becoming—we must stop (and be quiet for a time), so that we can become what God is calling us to.
I hope you’ll join me on my journey.
Stop back on Monday (the day I will be posting consistently from here on out) to read about a recent experience where my noisy, fun-loving and (sometimes crazy!) family left me running for the library (to find some quiet!), and how that was exactly what I needed to do.

And, just in case you’re interested here is a monthly list of the topics I will be focusing on this year:
March: Quiet/Rest
April: Renew
May: Writing in the Middle of Motherhood
June: Identity
July: Progress (and Grace!)
August: Adventure
September: Rhythms
October: Seasons
November: Gratitude
December: Advent