Introducing “The Free-Spirit Homemaker Series”

free spirit homemakerIf you’ve ever burned the grilled cheese, and served it anyway (after scraping off the “black” side with a knife)…

If you’ve ever let the clothes “stink” in the washer. And tried to get away with it by tossing extra dryer sheets in to cover up the smell (so that all your clothes end up smelling like perfumed farts)…

If you’ve ever opened up Tupperware from your fridge and almost been knocked over by the smell of “something” from another era, that appears to have changed molecular structure multiple times…

If you’ve ever completely forgotten to make dinner for your family…

If your dinner-bell and smoke detector sound strangely alike…

Or, if you’re grocery shopping trips look like a leisurely walk in the park, because you take time to smell the flowers (or every single one of the Glade plug-ins)…

You might be a free-spirit.

I know this, because I am one.

And free-spirits are strong in many areas. They are instinctly creative, expressive, and relationally intimate with people. They are lovers of beauty, seekers of meaning, and they always follow their hearts.

Often, they are artistic, or at least appreciate art deeply, whether it’s the art of writing, reading, creating, or simply being in the moment. And when they are doing something they are very passionate about, it’s as if time stands still.

(Except, it doesn’t. And that’s why the grilled-cheese burns. Or the laundry never gets switched. Or the grocery shopping trip gets pushed back three days.)

Read my last post to understand why free-spirits are “naturally” terrible homemakers.

I don’t think most free-spirits know they can improve at homemaking. Or if they do, they think it will cost them everything they love and enjoy. I understand this because as I have struggled with homemaking and realize, “I need to get better at this,” it has in time’s past flung me into one of two directions.

All, or nothing.

I’ve either A.) All. Pulled up my boot-straps and gone into “Cleaning Dragon” mode, printing off rigorous “chore charts” from Pinterest, and threatening to bite the head off of anyone who dares leave their socks on the floor. I got dinner on the table in time, but I nearly singed my husband’s eyebrows off with my dragon fire when he walked on my freshly mopped floor with his grassy just-mowed-the-lawn shoes. Typically, my “beast-mode” form of homemaking doesn’t work well for me, or my family.

Or more commonly, B.) Nothing. This is where I happily let my house look like a tornado went through it. I let the laundry pile up all week, and I order pizza for dinner, and I really don’t care what the kitchen looks like, or if my closets could eat you. I just want to do what I love to do (which is often writing) and so what if my daughter eats popsicles for breakfast, and my husband eats cereal for supper? I just want to enjoy life. (Except, no one enjoys it. Because there’s nothing to eat, there’s no clean sippie cups, and no clean clothes to wear.)

The problem with both A and B is the same: I am not walking in love. My desires are at the top of the list (whether it’s perfection, or pursuing my passions). Not my husband’s. Not my daughter’s. I’m not considering their desires as more important than my own.

So, what’s a girl to do? Especially, when she is a free-spirit and has dreams and passions of her own?

Well, I hope to answer that question in the following weeks. I’m starting a new series here at Barren to Beautiful. It’s called, “The Free-Spirit Homemaker: How To Maintain Your Home, Without Losing Your Soul.”

There is going to be practical advice for “how” to manage your home, and also some bigger questions to address the “heart” behind the homemaker.

Because I don’t think it has to be all, or nothing. Homemaking doesn’t have to be a choice between Dragon Wife and Hippie Slob.

I am convinced there is another way.

It can simply be walking by the Spirit. Even in the area of homemaking. Because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

And there is rest. And joy. And love, so much love.

I have some dear friends (Rachel and Polly from Thriving Home, and Jeanne Harrison from Loving My Lot) who will be sharing some practical advice and wisdom when it comes to thinking through a better approach to our houses, and the people in our houses. (And these ladies have helped me, big time. I can’t wait for you to meet them!) Some topics that we’ll be covering are:

• How To Create A Schedule (Or Rhythm) For Your Day or Week
• How To Meal Plan and Make A Grocery List (Not scribbled on a napkin)
• How To Make (Healthy and Easy) Freezer Meals (And Save LOTS of Time)
• How To Manage Your Time For The Glory of God (And Keep Your Goals And Dreams Alive!)
• How To Find Out What Blesses Your Husband Most (It may not be what you think!)

I believe there has to be a way to maintain the homes and nuture the people God has given us, without losing our souls in the process.

God made us for His glory, and when He is on the throne, we can start aligning everything else accordingly. That’s why we won’t just be discussing the “how” of homemaking, but the “heart” behind the homemaker, and where our thoughts, attitudes, and ambitions are in the process. God doesn’t just care about “your house.” He cares about you. ALL of you. Your whole being. Along with each person in your family.

And when we start seeing them, our husbands, our sons, our daughters as precious as they really are–we won’t be able to help but want to love and nurture them well.

There is much more to come. You won’t find any rigid rules here. Just lots of grace, practical wisdom, ideas, and new approaches to making your house “home”, and nurturing the ones who live there. (Including you, because you still need time to let your soul breathe.)

I hope you join along for this series!  You can follow Barren to Beautiful by entering your email address in the top right section of my blog. Or, simply go to my Facebook page and “like” it. This way, you will recieve new posts right in your newsfeed. Also, I will be posting questions on Facebook, that I would love to have you answer so I can hear YOUR thoughts and perspectives.

See you next time, as we’ll be discussing, “What Is the Point Of Homemaking Anyway?”

(What do you think it is? Share in the comment section.)

 

Does Infertility Affect Friendships?

friendship

“So…do you guys think you might, I mean, someday, ever want to have kids?” My friend asks me as we play with her toddler on the floor. I see the curve of her belly, pregnant with their second. She doesn’t know we’ve actually been trying for over a year—with no success of conceiving. She doesn’t know I actually ache to be in her shoes. Swollen feet and all. “Oh, yeah,” I say, “We definitely want kids.” And I roll the ball to her toddler, trying to act as natural as possible.

Inside, I have no idea if I will be able to have kids. And I wonder if she knows, we’re trying. I wonder if she knows I would be a mom by now, if I could. And that as disheveled and chaotic as she feels, and as unattractive as she thinks she looks, with her postpartum curves—she actually looks incredibly beautiful to me. But I don’t know how to say this. Not today. 

My friend is sweet, and doesn’t press further. And I feel relieved when she doesn’t.

***

I was completely blindsided by it: infertility. I remember so naively waiting those two minutes for that first pregnancy test, feeling so sure it would be positive. I envisioned us jumping up and down in celebration. But instead, we just stood there. “Maybe it will just take a little while,” my husband said. “Yeah,” I tried to shrug off the disappointment, “Maybe.”

But month after month of trying to conceive, my period came back. And months turned into years of waiting. And crying. And praying. And wondering…

What was wrong with us?

All of our friends were on babies #2 and #3, but we could not get pregnant with one. As our friends’ families grew with new babies—it was just still just the two of us. As our friends traded in their cars for SUV’s and minivans, and turned offices into nurseries—we would walk by our extra bedrooms and pray God would fill them someday. Somehow.

Sometimes it felt like the world kept rushing past us, while we just stayed still, frozen in time. Waiting for God to move.

Now looking back on those years of waiting, I see God was moving the whole time. In fact, He did some of His best work in us during those years. And He did it, before I ever got pregnant. He opened my eyes to see. And instead of seeing my life as a barren wasteland of disappointment, I saw Him. I saw His beauty–and that though my womb was barren, my soul didn’t have to be. He began to make me alive in Him and began to birth something in me that would change the way I see forever.  (You can read more about my infertility story here.)

But what about in the meantime? How does infertility affect friendships between women? And if you are already a mom, how should you approach a friend who is possibly unable to conceive?

I can’t speak for other women—I only know my own experience with infertility—but here are a few ways women who are already mothers can honor their “childless” friends, whether they are “childless” by choice, singleness, or infertility.

1. Realize the Mommy Club can be slightly exclusive. Being a mom now for two and a half years, I have grown to love the Mommy Club. I love swapping labor stories, poop stories, and tantrum stories with other other moms, just to know I’m not alone in this. Motherhood is an incredible bond between women (even women who are just passing by in the grocery store!) But the “Mommy Club,” as wonderful as it is, can be a little exclusive at times to non-mothers, especially in the Church. And this often happens quite innocently. All the moms are laughing and going on and on, swapping war-stories from the mommy trenches, and raving about the best butt paste, and the non-mother has nothing to contribute except, “I babysat in high school once.” (Cricket, cricket.)

Now, this doesn’t mean you should drop your mom fellowship time. (Not at all!)  It’s just something to be aware of, so that you can love, and include, and value the woman who is not a mother, just as much as the one who is. And in order to do this, we as moms have to, “Look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

2. Include Your Non-Mom Friends. I think many moms assume that “non-moms” would never want to come to a play date, or meet up at the mall when your kids are present.  But I loved when my friends would include me in things like this, without the prerequisite of being a mom. I’m so thankful for friends that invited me into their daily life at home with kids because this helped me see what it was like to be a mom, and made me desire to be a mom.

Although motherhood is a strong bond, it’s not the only bond women can have. For Christians hopefully there is a bond even stronger than motherhood, and that is being a part of God’s kingdom together. Being a daughter of God connects me to every other female in the body of Christ—whether she’s two, or twenty-two, or sixty-two. It’s a sisterhood that began long before I ever conceived my daughter. And it’s one that will need to exist while I raise my daughter, and long after she has a family of her own.

3. Be Sensitive In Approaching The Topic Of Infertility. If you are already a mom and curiously wondering if, or when your childless friend will ever have children, try to be patient. I never minded at all if someone asked, “Do you think you ever want to have kids?” It was what happened beyond that question. The moment you ask, “Well, are you trying?” You are pawing at a box she might not want opened—or hasn’t initiated opening, anyway. For your friend who is battling infertility, it might feel to her like you are going through her underwear drawer. It might feel like you are saying, “So..when are you gonna have kids? Are you having sex, or what? What birth control are you using? How long have you been off of it? Is he still wearing a condom? How’s your man’s sperm count? Is everything working down there with you two? Are you guys having enough sex?” (Whoa.) No, thanks.

Don’t let your curiosity get the best of you. Or your friendship. You may get the information you want, but you’ll damage the friendship. I think that the woman that is comfortable talking about her infertility, will talk about it. So let her bring it up.

And if she does share intimate details with you, honor her in that. Be very careful not to gossip about anything she shares with you. (That means not telling anybody she hasn’t specifically told you to tell.) This comes down to simply loving your infertile friends, being patient with them, and learning how to honor them and uphold their privacy through the process.

4. Be Exceedingly Thankful To Be A Mom.  It’s especially difficult for women who could never conceive, or lost every child in miscarriage to hear women gripe and complain about being a mom. It’s true that motherhood has intense challenges, sleepless nights, and can at times make you feel like you are totally losing it. But, for the Christian, we are called to battle back with joy and gratitude and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Complaining and grumbling not only steals your joy and darkens your perspective, but it can make the hearts of others ache, too. So be joyful in your mothering, knowing that others are watching and listening. You might be afraid that if you “enjoy” your motherhood too much in front of “childless” women, you will cause them pain. However, I think the opposite is true. Your grumbling causes them pain, not your joy. So be exceedingly joyful in your motherhood, and if, or when they get to enter motherhood they will be more likely to be joyful in it, too.

5. Be Available For Your Infertile Friends.  The longer a woman, or couple experiences infertility, the more likely they will be to open up about it. And if they open up to you, give them the encouragement they need. Pray for them, comfort them with Scripture, and remind them that God is lovingly leading their life together. We were very private about our struggle with infertility, but the few people we did open up to provided such a source of comfort and strength to us during the process.

Infertility Doesn’t Have To Break A Friendship
As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to love each other. The seasons of our lives don’t always line up perfectly with each other. And although some friendships may drift while others thrive, let’s let it be because of the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And not because of the anger, bitterness, and jealousy of an infertile couple. Let’s not let friendships be broken by prying questions, or gossip, or because we were too selfish to look past ourselves.

I think something really beautiful happens when people from different seasons of life are both vulnerable and strengthening to each other. Titus 2 talks about how within the body of Christ we all need each other.  So, wherever you are at, whether you are in a house filled with the cries and screams of little children, or you are praying desperately for a miracle in your womb, or you are a grandmother, or you are a single person who is traveling the globe, let’s love each other. Because before any of us were mothers, we were daughters. We were sisters. We were children, born into the Kingdom of God and saved by the blood and mercy of Jesus Christ. The One whom we love, and live for.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).


This post was first published on Loving My Lot as a guest post I wrote for author/blogger Jeanne Harrison. Be sure to check out Jeanne’s other posts, like Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming, and her new blog turned book, “Loving My Lot”, which you can purchase by clicking on the picture link below!

 

Photo Credit: D’Attoma Studios

When the Barren Sing

girl silloutte

I was looking for a parking space in a very crowded lot, when suddenly, near the front, a car pulled out in front of me. I quickly turned on my turn signal, eager to pull in, and whispered a prayer of thanks. But as I began to pull in, I read the sign nailed in front of that space: “Parking For Expectant Mothers ONLY.”

I hit the breaks. And just sat there for a moment, before shifting into reverse.

For Expectant Mothers ONLY.

Who knew a parking lot could be so cruel?

It was like I just got rejected from the Mommy Club. “No barren women allowed.”

The sign could have said: For women whose bodies work right. For women who have had their prayers answered. For women who have something to look forward to.

For women with something to expect.

I still remember it so well. That longing. That wanting to “expect” something. Or someone.

I used to walk through Barnes & Noble and see that giant “Parenting” section near the Children’s Books Department. And the rows and rows of “What To Expect” books.

And I remember the feeling that I had nothing to expect. 

“Because, I expected to be pregnant by now. I expected a lot of things. By now.”

But if you are barren today, I want you to know you have something to expect.

You have Someone to expect.

And He is Almighty God. And He’s coming for you.

My prayer for you today is that you would know His love, and know His nearness, and know His mercy. Because He just wants to pour it out on you like never before.

I know Mother’s Day is just around the corner. And the sting of infertility can become sharper than ever. But God has a message for you this Mother’s Day. He says:

“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:4

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” Isaiah 54:13

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah 54:10

“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

First He tells you to sing. And then, He gives you the reasons to sing.

And they are:

1. Because you will not be ashamed.

2. You will not be disgraced.

3. You will forget the shame of your youth.

4. My kindness will not depart from you.

5. My covenant of peace will not be removed from you.

6. I’m going to comfort you and lay a foundation for you. In precious stones.

He’s saying everything you have grieved, all your sorrow, all your disappointment, all your despair—I’m going to remove it. And I’m going to redeem you. I’m going to redeem your life. I’m going to be a Husband to you. I’m going to pour out my mercy on you, and show you everlasting kindness.

Now that is something to expect.

See, God knows better than anyone, exactly how you feel in this moment. Can you hear His tender love here? “O you afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

He’s saying: I am with you! I am for you! And as long as you put your trust in Me, you will NEVER be disappointed!

So, sing barren one! Break forth into singing and cry aloud!

You were not meant to be silent. You were not called to pine away in despair. You were made to sing, lift up your voice, because of God. And because of His mercy and everlasting kindness He pours out on you.

I hope that there is this sound across the land, the song of the barren women, lifting up their voices. Shouting for joy. And singing louder than anyone in their churches this Mother’s Day. And when they think of Him, when they think of His love, tears fill their eyes. Because He is closer now than ever before.

Because when the barren sing, something powerful happens. When the barren sing, the darkness trembles. When barren sing, Satan shudders. When the barren sing, the silence is broken. Despair and heaviness leave. Emptiness becomes full. Dead places become alive. Hardened hearts turn to flesh. Clenched fists, open wide in surrender with joy, joy, joy.

Laughter is restored. Like the sun warming your skin. And hope. And peace. And rest in the Holy Spirit.
When the barren sing, heaven breaks through.

So sing. 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

And He’s coming to take all your shame, and fear, and sadness, and sighing, and make it flee away. Forever.

[If you need a place to start, listen to this song (it will open in YouTube in a new window): Reason to Sing

For more reading on worship during infertility, or heartache of any kind, here are some other posts that may be helpful: Singing in the Dark, Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?, About My Barrenness.]

Why Barrenness Is So..(Lonely!)

Unless you are okay with your all your relatives picturing you naked, and in the bedroom, you are probably not going to “announce” to the gang at Thanksgiving dinner, “We’re trying to get pregnant!”

Therefore, aside from your husband and OBGYN…there’s a good chance your circle of trust is pretty small. Let’s face it, the inability to conceive is not something you bring up in the break room at work, or post on your Facebook.

Privacy Please!

In many regards, barrenness remains a personal matter because..it is. And there’s a good chance you feel like, and possibly even are, the only one in your circle of friends who can’t seem to get pregnant.

It’s hard not to get offended when people (like your dentist) ask that awful reoccurring question, “So…when are YOU TWO going to have some kids?” I always responded with a forced smile and mumbled, “I dunno!” (Cue: fake laugh). It was my attempt to suppress my anger from flaring up through my throat and choking that person and screaming, “I’m working on it!! Okay?!” Maybe I was slightly hostile. But I always felt as if some stranger just started rummaging through my underwear drawer and I couldn’t shoo them out fast enough! (Meanwhile, in their minds, they’re just talking about the weather. Eventually, I had to come to grips with the fact that these people (for the most part) mean well, and are just slightly out of touch with your daily/monthly/yearly reality. And that’s okay. People say stuff. Most are innocent.)

Boundaries

There are times when someone (often a family member) will press too far, because they feel like they are entitled to information. Know what you are comfortable with and make boundaries. You don’t have to share more than you want to. It’s okay just to say, “I’d rather not talk about it.” Or, “I’m not really comfortable talking about it.” (Maybe that sounds formal..but it’s better than spilling more than you want. You can say it in a way that is gentle and kind. True friends won’t make you feel guilty about not sharing more.)

On the Flip Side…Some women may feel extremely comfortable telling the clerk at Target or the barista at Starbucks all about her baby-making escapades. If this is you, be sure your spouse feels the same way. (And please reconsider, for their sakes!)

Getting Help and Healing 

In my own experience, the longer barrenness went on, the more people knew about it. The “outsiders” just eventually figured it out after constantly asking us if we wanted kids..and then never seeing that belly pop. And the”insiders”..because we actually started telling them. As the journey waned on, it began to wear on us. And as we were worn down, we became desperate for a few close friends we trusted to water our dry, dying ground of hope. And those were the who people prayed for us, revived us, kept us alive.

Friends

Be sure you and your spouse both feel comfortable about who knows what you’re going through, and how much detail you will share. This is out of basic respect to your husband. (He has feelings too, even if he doesn’t express them the way you do.) Search out friends who will pray with you and for you, and point you to the Lord; opposed to those who are likely to gossip.

My own advice (and this goes for any personal issue) is to share only with people who are a part of your healing process. Ask the Lord to guide you to people who will point you to Him. You may not have anyone like this in your life. Going to counseling is okay too (especially if the issues are “just too personal” to be helped by a friend or relative.) I highly recommend a biblical counselor who actually opens up the Word of God with you, and prays with you.

This Blog

This blog is a great place you are invited to for comfort and support on your journey. I am sharing things with you that no one shared with me–because I simply didn’t have anyone in my life that had ever gone through this! Know you are not alone.

God 

As always, the most important. He is the foundation upon which the rest of your house stands. Go to Him. Let me leave you with a few Scriptures to remind you that He is with you..even when it doesn’t feel like it:

“…He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

Dear God,

Help this precious daughter to pour out her heart before You. And come swiftly to her. Surround her today with Your presence. Fill her heart with hope. Thank you that if she has been walking alone, she does not have to walk alone anymore. Remove all loneliness and despair and surround her with the sweet fellowship of your Holy Spirit! Reveal to her how intimately involved you are in her life, desiring her deepest good, even through this difficult time. Strengthen her heart now Lord, for You have promised, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” 

In Jesus Name, Amen.