Saturday, June 3, 2017

Desperate

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I loved this book. I ordered it a few months ago when I was really struggling with my depression. But then I came out of the depression and didn't feel like I needed the book as much. Well, as is my pattern, the depression came back to play a few days ago, so I pulled this book out.

It's a collaboration between two authors: Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. Clarkson is the author of The Ministry of Motherhood which has been a foundational influence on my parenting. I'd never heard of Sarah Mae before, but after reading this book, I'm pretty sure she's my soul sister. Each chapter starts with a letter from Sarah to Sally asking for advice about a particular issue. Then the chapter expounds on that issue. The questions Sarah asked were eerily similar to the issues I've been struggling with lately. Some of the reviews I read said Sarah was whiny, but I'm whiny too, so I identified easily with her. Haha.

So I'm just going to go through the book and share some of the sections that I underlined.

The title of the introduction by Sarah is "I Can't Be a Mother Today." I was hooked immediately. A few paragraphs in, she says this:
Experiencing hope in Jesus felt like chasing gold at the end of the rainbow . . . getting to it was always out of reach. Motherhood was something I planned for, something I wanted, so why was living it out so drastically different from my expectations? (xvi)
 In the letter before chapter 3 Sarah writes:
I really wish there was a formula that had all the right answers on how to raise my kids well. Just yesterday I was so frustrated by my daughter's disobedience. I knew I needed to discipline her, but I wasn't sure how. I've tried different things, but she's so unpredictable. I'm not sure how to function without formulas. I need real, tangible answers (26).
This is something I identify with so much. I've read so many parenting books and articles that prescribe a certain way to do something, and I love the idea of it, but I can't figure out how to actually implement it with my kids. Which leads to the disillusionment Sarah faced with her daughter Caroline:
I was told that if I would just do X, Y, and Z, she would obey. If she wasn't obeying, it was my fault; I was doing it wrong. Of course I felt like a terrible mother (28).
The beginning of chapter 5 starts with this letter from Sarah:
Lately it's been easier to put on the TV than put on being a good mother. I feel tired and lack motivation. I don't want to be depressed, and I don't want to lose these days with my children. I don't want the dark to win. How do I overcome these dark days (54)?
Sally had a lot of helpful advice, but I really liked this:
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness (63).
It's a good reminder to spend less time bemoaning what's going wrong and do something.

The letter at the beginning of chapter 6 is something I've said a lot this year:
I am so undisciplined! Trying to train my children and myself is very difficult, and so often I botch it up. I know I need routines in our life, and I know my children should have consistent responsibilities, but I can't even get myself to be consistent. Do you have any suggestions on how I can become a more self-disciplined person in the midst of teaching my children to be self-disciplined (66)?
Again, Sally had lots of practical wisdom, including this:
I need to decide to accept the work as a normal part of life and not struggle against it (73).
And then this letter before chapter 7 was probably my favorite:
I am so selfish! Every day I see it in myself more and more. I don't want to be selfish, and sometimes I'm just tired. I'm sure you must have struggled with selfishness. How did you push past it? How did you choose every morning that you would put away your own selfish desires and choose your children (78)?
Later in the chapter, Sarah writes:
I long for the thrill of something new. I ache for the joy I once had when I had my first baby. I ache for the hearts of my children who have been put in front of a TV screen, so that I don't have to entertain them (80).
On the next page she talks about why she avoids playing with her kids:
What is so hard about playing ponies? Or sitting and doing a craft? I think it's two-fold. One is that it's boring to play with little children sometimes. Sitting on the floor playing ponies and trying to drum up conversation between Star Song and Rainbow Dash gets old really fast. Two, we know that if we sit down to do that craft, our two-year-old is going to jump in, make a mess, fuss, upset the older ones, and everything is going to go south fast. We've done this before, so we know (81).
I've really been struggling with finding the balance between spending intentional time with my kids and teaching them that they are not the center of the world. Haha. Sally Clarkson leans toward spending lots of time with your kids, so there was lots of conviction for me.
Ask Jesus to help you, to mature you, to teach you how to begin laying down whatever it is that has your attention and choose to offer yourself to the souls in your care. You will be glad you are able to one day look back and say, "I was intentional; I was faithful; I chose my children (82).
The letter before chapter 8 was especially convicting:
When my life feels overwhelming, I escape to the Internet. I tuck myself in between social media channels and try to find life there when mine feels drained. I know that is not good, and I'm ashamed to admit it. I know life can only be found in the Life-giver, but sometimes I choose the Internet instead. It's an easy escape from the mundane days (92).
Um, is this chick in my head? I spend way, way too much time ignoring my kids in exchange for spending time on the Internet. (Case in point. Levi is screaming as I type this.)

Chapter 9 is about the never-ending monster that is housework. Sally shared a story of a group of little girls who said they never wanted to be moms because all their moms did was complain about how hard and awful it was. Another wake up call for me.
A good attitude about work makes her children feel that she is glad that she is a mom and that she is thankful for her children (109).
There was a lot about how motherhood is a sacrifice of praise, a form of worship, a way to emulate Christ. When you think of it that way, it makes the mundane a little more palatable.
The ability to last in motherhood requires giving up expectations for our own lives, deciding that sacrificing our desires and wants for the sake of our family is our gift of worship to our heavenly Father (122).
And then in a "duh" moment for me, Sally points out something so helpful that should be so obvious: using Jesus as a model for motherhood.
Jesus was the servant King. He gave up His rights to live with His men. He taught them patiently, fed them, healed their family members, modeled to them how to live, and ultimately gave up His life for them. 
He said of Himself that He was humble, gentle, and meek. He never sought to be prominent or important, or to please or impress people. Instead, He washed feet, touched those who had contagious diseases, and embraced and validated children when the disciples wanted to send them away. He lived a simple life, set firmly in the authority of His Father's voice (138).
Later she talks about motherhood as sanctifying, and I loved this line:
It was as though God gave me these children, so that I could grow up and become all that He had designed me to be (164).
And this line in the conclusion kind of wraps up the essence of the book to me:
When you see motherhood as your service of worship to Him and that how you treat your children is your obedience to Him, it gives more importance to treating our children as He would (194).
This book has given me so much to think about, along with so much practical wisdom. I highly recommend it!

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