Why I’m Not Afraid to Air My Dirty Laundry On Sundays

be still and know that I am GodLast Sunday we returned from a family trip in the wee hours of the morning. After attending church and eating a good meal, we spent the majority of the afternoon relaxing, what we normally do on Sundays. A day of rest. A day set aside for worship. A day different from the rest.

With today’s technology, it’s easy to do laundry without effort. You put clothes in a machine, turn a dial, and press a button. Going to my child’s bedroom requires more work than that.  It’s a simple process.

Last Sunday, I did the unthinkable – I did some laundry and hung it on the clothes line.

Gasp.

I’ve come a long way in being okay with hanging up laundry on Sundays occasionally.  We live on a main highway in a small conservative town. Stores aren’t open here on Sundays. People don’t mow lawns on Sundays. And you don’t air your dirty laundry on Sundays or people will see.

Like other unwritten rules, I’ve learned to assess the root and value of them.

Are they for man or are they for God?

I’ve learned to check my motives for breaking silent codes that bring looks of “I can’t believe she’s doing that.”  Hanging clothes on the clothesline on Sundays is one I’m not bothered by because there’s a principle I value:

I should be the same person in public that I am in private. 

If I’m okay with occasionally doing a few loads of laundry on Sunday, then I should be okay with letting people know about it.  God sees it anyway. I can’t hide things from Him.  He sees my dirty laundry.

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Does He see yours? Or do you try to hide it?

For years I hid my dirty laundry from others. Not the stinky-teen-boy kind, but the unhealthy behaviors I struggled with. Having an eating disorder was a very private thing. No one knew my stuff except me and God and my parents on occasions. I was good at hiding things.

Are you good at hiding things?

For years I responded to conflict with anger. As my children grew older, I couldn’t hide it. It began overtaking my relationships with them and their dad. It was easy to hide, too. I could do a lot of good yelling before going to church and sit really calm in that church pew.

There’s an unwritten rule you aren’t supposed to struggle with things.

You definitely aren’t supposed to be angry in a pacifist faith.

I learned to hide things real well.

So people wouldn’t see.

But God saw.

And as He nudged me to address the anger, the hurt, and rage, I felt more comfortable letting Him wash my dirty stuff. He was gentle with  it and He removed the stains and stink and filth and exchanged it for clean, bright, and beautiful through the forgiveness and power of His grace.

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It’s been a journey with me and God. As He’s changed me inside and out, things have changed in how I relate to unwritten rules.  I’ve learned to answer to God first, then my husband and family above anyone else.

Paul says, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.” I Corinthians 4:4

What guides your choices?

Having a clear conscious in the eyes of others doesn’t make us innocent.

While it’s trivial, I’ve learned in my accountability with God, is okay to do laundry every once in a while on a Sunday. I’ve learned I answer to Him for my actions. I could have an empty clothesline every Sunday but be cheating on my husband Saturday night.

It’s all in how it looks, right?

Where do you need to get honest with God?

What I love most about God is that He sees everything and yet He pursues us because He wants a relationship with us.  He pursued me for years to change and heal from an eating disorder and to change and heal from anger, hurt, and rage that was inside of me. I’ve learned I can air my dirty laundry with Him and it’s okay.  He makes us clean and bright, to be on full display in His clothes of righteousness, not ours.

Will you let Him clothe you today? It’s safe  with Him. He won’t fail you.

Father, will you speak to each one reading these words and take the contents of their heart and make it what you desire? Will you equip those who struggle with unwritten rules and judgment from others to know you love them and are a God of grace, forgiveness, and freedom?  Will you continue to pursue those who are struggling with things inside their heart that only you know about?  

Thank you, Jesus, for washing dirty, smelling rags and making us beautiful in you. Amen.

How can I pray with you or encourage you as you learn to walk in freedom? I’d love to hear.

P.S. There will be a new look to Life Beyond the Picket Fence soon as I launch a new website for the blog.  You’ll be able to subscribe to a newsletter linking you to the other things happening here at the ministry and connect you with the other sites I’m writing for. If you are a current subscriber by email, I’m hoping the transition will be smooth. I’ll keep you posted when the site is launched so there won’t be interruptions in your connection here with us.  Thank you!

Friday Chat

I’m sitting in a hotel room with my family trying to quietly type. I don’t think it’s working.

There are lots of things happening in the ministry of Life Beyond the Picket Fence.

Parenting:  First, I’m excited to join the writing team at Ten to Twenty Parenting.  I’ll be joining them along TentoTwenty_badgewith Parents Space and Not Alone Mom where I write weekly.  I don’t post those articles here weekly, but if you want to join our Facebook page, you can catch all of them. This week I posted tips on helping sibling conflict while kids are at home during the summer – a topic a reader asked about. We chat a lot on the FaceBook page, so I’d love to be able to hear from you over there!

Encouragement: I’ve been sharing some pins from summertime at the Back Forty like on Facebook and Twitter like this one to encourage you.

Catch this on pinterest
Catch this on pinterest

Speaking: I’ve been speaking through central and southern Indiana the past two weeks sharing restorative hope with women as I share Hope Beyond the Picket Fence. As your church or women’s groups are planning fall and winter retreats, I’d love to share with your group, too!

Sharing Growing in Grace with women this spring.
Sharing Growing in Grace with women this spring.

Bible Study: I’m most excited about the Love Affair That’s Not With My Husband bible study that started in my home this week. Many women gathered as I’m sharing bible study tools that I’ve used over the years to study the bible in a way that brings depth and intimacy with Jehovah God.  We’re using these tools while we study the book of Esther like a “book club.”  There are some great women in a safe place, and we are excited about it!

Summer bible study

Writing projects: I have some things in the works while I’m home for summer vacation. Now – if we’d ever be home to work on them! I’m hoping to share some of those with you as they get accomplished.

Connections: Lastly, I’d love for you to check out my friends at iwokeupyesterday. These women have some great things going on at their ministry and I’ll be having Michelle share as a guest post in a few weeks.  They were kind to mention this ministry in a surprise  post!

And now my kids are all awake, so I need to go! Have a great Friday and may you know the fullness of God in who He is to you today!

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Forty-five. Why Mid-life Is Not What I Feared

Today I’m forty-five. Not forty, not fifty, but halfway in between.MP900178613

Half of my life is completed, if I live until ninety, by the grace of God.

For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

Ten years ago, for my thirty-fifth birthday, I borrowed a friend’s convertible and went out on the town with a few friends. It was the year I went from being a stay-at-home-mom to a first year high school teacher. The year I discovered I was a person in addition to being a mom and wife. The year I received as much from my students as I gave to them, if not more. The year I fell in love with the art of teaching, with pouring into the lives of people, and believing the best in the human spirit.

Thirty-five was good.

Mountain in Italy
The view on top of a mountain in Sicily overlooking our village.

In the last ten years, I’ve been from mountain tops to valleys, from joy to pain, from captivity to freedom. As I reflect on forty-five, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be at this moment in time {except, perhaps, on a mountaintop in Italy}.

At forty-five, here are some lessons I’ve learned:

  • Doing the unthinkable is do-able. I never thought I’d go to my father’s village in Sicily within my lifetime. But they said they were going and I said, “I’m going, too.”  It was a trip of a lifetime, the best of the best of times in my life.
  • Making your dreams part of your life is do-able. I never thought I would own a convertible {which I did for a short time}, run a half-marathon, write professionally, or work part-time at a job I love. These things didn’t just “happen,” they took time, commitment, determination, and thinking outside the box {except for the convertible.}  But I dared to think “why not” instead of “that won’t work.”

    The convertible that cost as much as our lawn mower. It was nice while it lasted.
  • Thinking “why not?” instead of “that won’t work” shatters the limits we put on life experiences.  My internal dialog naturally says, “Don’t tell me ‘no’ unless there’s a good reason.”  This probably got me in trouble as a child, but it’s how I think.  I’ve learned there are possibilities to things that don’t look do-able or practical.  This has proven true not only in building a house and raising children, but also in problems in life.  It’s tempting to see only the possibilities right in front of us instead of every available option. I prefer the every option available route, and it’s proven life-altering. So, if there’s a way, I usually try to find it.
  • It’s never too late to try or learn something newI started teaching late in life, after I raised my little ones.  It was still possible to enter a career semi-late.  I went back to school full time  at 40 to choose another career that fit our season of life better.  It’s never too late to learn something entirely new or to say, “I think I can do this.” 
  • Living intentionally makes all the differenceI’ve learned my limits. I can’t do it all, so I intentionally choose what I do.  A statement by Chuck Swindoll impacted me over fifteen years ago when I was driving down a country road:    Only two things are eternal, – God’s word and people. This statement continues to shape my life when I’m tempted to invest time and energy  into something that pulls from what’s most important for my season of life.  It’s my plumb-line.
  • When in doubt, give graceI wasn’t always a grace-filled person. But as I’ve received grace and have seen the change in makes in others when they receive grace, I’ve decided there’s greater good in giving grace.  That’s the power of the God we serve.  Grace is the greatest gift He gives, and we have the opportunity to extend it to ourselves and others.  I’ve seen it change lives. 

My list could go on.  But it’s my birthday and I have things to do today on my day off, like dig in the dirt and sit and do nothing.  So I’m off to do nothing.  I hope each day you can grab a quiet moment with the Lord, receive His grace, and enjoy the gift of life He gives us each day.

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Here’s something from my garden to you, for a pick-me-up for your day today.

In His love,

Brenda

Parenting Series: Be An Encouraging Mom

By Contributing Author, Kristin L. Nelson of Not Alone Mom.Not Alone Mom

“If you can’t say anything nice – don’t say anything at all.”  You’ve heard the saying time and again. We use it to teach our children about the value of holding their tongue and being the bigger person.  When did we as mothers stop listening to our own advice?

Shortly after becoming a mother for the first time and realizing how challenging it can be, I made a vow never to judge another mother, even if they were just quiet questions in my own mind.  I even made mental notes of the mothers I made accidental judgments on pre-baby, and quietly prayed they would forgive me realizing I had no clue what they were actually dealing with.  How could I? I wasn’t a mother at the time.

But something I just can’t wrap my brain around is a mother who makes judgments toward other mothers?  How it is possible for a mother who is dealing with struggles of her own to look down upon a mother she observes who is simply dealing with her own unique challenges?  It’s mind boggling to me.  Are there some out there who truly feel they are “super moms” able to rise above every situation and follow all the parenting books to a tee?

There is no such thing as a“super mom” just like there is no such thing as a “perfect person”. 

We all struggle with “stuff.”  We are all learning and growing as people and as mothers.  God has mercy on us and we should have mercy on each other as we strive to do the best job we know how to do.

What we really need is support, love and compassion.

What we really need is for the motherhood community to rise up, join together and speak blessings into each other’s lives; praying for one another as we all strive to be the best moms we can be.

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So what if my daughter and son both slept on their bellies as babies – they slept better (and in general)!  So what if my daughter was given a bottle before bed until she was 18 months old?  It soothed her and was part of a critical routine I worked so hard to create.  I struggled as a new mom to figure out how to transition her from this “tried and true” sleeping agent without compromising her ability to sleep the whole night through.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize I still seem to struggle with my first child and each of her transitions.   Maybe it’s because I have never experienced it before and the “tips” relayed in articles and books can be difficult to implement in ways that are accepted by each individual child (and each individual mom).

The bottom line – I do the best I can!  And at the end of the day my children are loved, safe and thriving.

Let’s join together as a community of mothers who strive to raise each other up and edify one another in Christ…It’s time we rise above the tendency to look down on a mom who is struggling and join together in love, offering encouragement, and simple reminders that “you can do it”!  Just as with our children, positive reinforcement can go a long way for a mama who is doing the best she can.

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:4-5

Parenting Series: The Curse of The Supermom

circle-photoIt’s a privilege to have blogger Amanda Hostetler from Raspberry Beige as a guest writer for the Wednesday parenting series.  Thank you, Amanda, for sharing this!

No, I am not writing a comic book series. Although I do think my title is pretty clever.

I am surrounded by “Supermoms” in my own life. My mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, aunts, and many friends are what I consider “Supermoms”.

What is a “Supermom”? They seem to handle it all. They juggle careers, kids, husbands, household, church, and any problems no matter how big or small, seamlessly. No complaining. No outward appearance of struggling. Always going. Always smiling. Always working.

These “Supermoms” are what I grew up watching. My mom could handle anything. She grew up in a world that told her she couldn’t do many things because she was a girl, and yet she made her way through college and is a successful nurse practitioner. She lost her father a week after she was married. She (and her husband) raised a daughter while working full time. She always has a clean house. She is an incredible cook, sewer, and pretty much a domestic goddess. When she found out she had breast cancer, she told me she was lucky they caught it early, had nothing negative to say, had surgery, went home the same stinkin’ day, and never looked back.

“Supermom”.

Growing up with such amazing women around me and becoming friends/coworkers with equally amazing women has been a huge blessing to me.

And yet, I allowed it to turn into a curse.

I wasn’t going to be a mom; I was going to be a “Supermom”.

And then reality set in…MP900255302

Pregnancy stunk. Gestational diabetes, nit-picky findings on ultrasounds, and morning sickness were not my vision of those glorious nine months. My pregnancy glow never came.

After surviving pregnancy and labor (no small feat as any woman knows), I was blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

Time to be “Supermom”. Except I didn’t want to do any housework, I did not want to leave the house, I was beyond exhausted, and pretty much felt like crap. That’s the best way I can put it.

I could go into the gory details, but I won’t. The last 2 years of motherhood have been a huge learning curve for me. And once I gave up the notion of a “Supermom”, I found life to be much more peaceful.

I am at peace because:

  • I fail. That probably sounds quite strange, but it’s the truth. I will fail as a mom. You will fail as a mom. It’s going to happen. Guess what? It’s okay. God does not call us to be all-knowing, perfect mothers. Otherwise, how could I ever need His forgiveness?
  • I have let go of the guilt. I am a highly critical person. It unfortunately, is one of my biggest flaws. And I am undoubtedly my own worst critic. I beat myself up for months, because I did not think I felt like I should feel. I did not perform all the “Supermom” duties I should be doing. I am content with my choices as a mom. Are there ways I can do better? You betcha. I trust that God will continue to help me improve in all areas of my life.
  • I leave comparing and contrasting to the English professors. I have the utmost respect for the “Supermoms”. I think they are incredible, strong women who are selfless and excellent mothers. However, my mistake was constantly comparing myself to the “Supermom”. This is one of the worst things you can do. Just like I do not think it is healthy to constantly compare my son to his peers, I also find it maddening to compare yourself to other moms. Each child is different. Each mom is different. Each situation is different.
  • I am training my brain. I am a naturally pessimistic, worrisome person. While I will not be able to change my genetics, I do feel that I can rework the way I think. When I feel those doubts creeping in, I pray, I open my Bible, I talk to my husband, I find something extra relaxing to do. My hope is to create positive habits in my life that will become second nature.
  • I live for the small moments. Making my son happy does not require super-human feats of strength involving complicated trips, all the latest and greatest toys, pushing him to excel, or giving him endless cultural experiences. I find joy in how excited he gets to push the button to put the garage door up and down. Or to hold the cat (poor kitty). Or to play in the bathtub. He is not asking for everything. He is content with what we have to give him.

Do I still have doubts and fears? You bet. But thanks to the grace of God, I am learning to manage.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I am no longer striving to be that “Supermom”. I’m just Mom to my son. Wife to my husband. And Daughter to my God.

Motherhood is much more enjoyable when you rely on God and not on yourself.

My father once told me that the best thing I can do for my son is to love him.

And that is the best advice I can give you. When you focus on this love you will be able to rejoice in their triumphs, forgive them when they fall short, teach them what is right and wrong, and most of all, introduce them to God.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” Proverbs 22:6

Balancing Priorities: Weekly Post

Every Friday I post at Not Alone Mom, a ministry of encouragement for mothers.  This month we are focusing on f75b3c446c6be3e5efbc9e360ec7d6df“Spring Cleaning” – rest and renewal.  Visit my post here about the age old struggle women have in balancing priorities – and the spiritual dilemma of Mary vs. Martha.

Thank you for those who prayed this week as I shared my “angry mom” story of Hope Beyond the Picket Fence with women in mid-Michigan.  I’m amazed at the common experiences women of all ages – young and old – have when it comes to the challenges of mothering.  There are many women with broken hearts and struggle.  It’s a privilege to share encouragement and hope with women.

I’m still resting in silence.  It’s been a full, busy, emotional week and we will be mourning and celebrating life all at the same time this week in the midst of a busy family schedule.

I hope you are able to rest in silence, too, whether in “real time” or in your spirit.

I read this verse in my quiet time today:

“Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.  Therefore, stand in awe of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:7 (NIV)

May you stand in awe of God today in rest and silence of soul.

Sincerely,

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Parenting Series: Allow Yourself to Breathe – God’s Got You!

Confident womanby contributing writer, Kristin L. Nelson at Not Alone Mom.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

We need to remember as mothers we can’t do it on our own… we will inevitably get tired and weary -and that’s OK.  We just need to remember where our “help comes from,” where our strength comes from… it comes from Him; from Him above.  He is waiting for us to release the pressures of the day and the pressure we feel to be the “perfect” mother. 

Release your cares to Him and He will be faithful to lift them from you.

Release your thoughts and fears to Him and He will restore your weary soul.

Be careful not to place unrealistic expectations on yourself as a mother… you can only do what you can do – give the rest to Him.  He wants to free you from the burden of perfection and replenish your soul with His love and mercy.

He says, “Be still and KNOW that I am God…”  Psalm 46:10

I often feel the pressure to do everything just right… and to do it all with a smile.  Rarely do I show mercy on myself when I have a bad moment; a moment where I am impatient with my children…a moment when I raise my voice with them and am too harsh.  I need to show the same mercy on myself that Christ shows to me.  He looks at me with compassion knowing that I will ultimately mess up at times… and that’s OK.  It’s what I do when I mess up that matters most.  Do I dwell on the mistake or do I pick myself up and look to Him for forgiveness, for strength, and for the wisdom I need to improve myself moving forward?

Today I challenge you – show mercy on yourself when you make mistakes as a mama.  You are doing the best you can and that is all anyone, including yourself, can ask of you.

A mother’s heart is such a beautiful thing… our hearts are big… when we love, we love big, when we hurt, we hurt big… Allow your heart to turn to Him “big”… love Christ for He first loved you… this will replenish your strength allowing you just breath – God’s got you.  You are not alone.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

 

God Loves You

This week I wrote about fear, depression, and the intimacy of God’s Word and posted at Not Alone Mom.   Read it if you need encouragement and a personal word of how much God loves you.

Woman Turning Off Alarm

This week as I drove back and forth to work, this song ministered to me over and over again as I processed some hard things. May it minister to you in some way today.

Romans 8:28 – Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

He loves you.

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Friday’s Post: A Mother’s Heart

Friday’s Post: A Mother’s HeartPlayer Attempting to Get Rebound

I’m posting today at Not Alone mom on a Mother’s Heart.  What a privilege to be a contributor to this ministry to mothers who need to know they are not alone!  Come and join Krissy and the rest of the Not Alone Mom family.  This week I’m posting what a mom feels when her son is profusely bleeding on the basketball court and more………….. read the rest here).

Have a great Friday!

The {Ugly} Picket Fence Journey

Three years ago, I started a space called Life Beyond the Picket Fence. I was in my second year of grad school studying Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  I had stepped out of the teaching profession, of which I loved, because I needed a change.  I needed space to breathe, to be more available for my family, and to have options for work that didn’t require me to grade 180 papers for each assignment.  The last year I taught I had 180 students.  Twenty five were special education students needing modified assignments, and five of them had emotional disabilities.  After working with Angry, Frustrated Womanteenagers all day, I came home to a teenager who needed a mom who was mentally and emotionally available.  But I was not that mom.

 

While I only share my full-testimony in speaking engagements or in person, I’m sharing the thumbnail version of it today at Unchained Faith.  If any part of this testimony encourages you, then I’m thankful to share it.  It’s not easy sharing the ugliest parts of  your soul.  If you would like to learn more about hearing my full ugly-mom-story of Hope Beyond the Picket Fence for your church, women’s or mothers event, it would be an honor for me to share it with you.  You can contact me at yoderbl@gmail.com.

But if you need hope that God changes the messy things in our lives if we give up the rights we cling to, then just read Hope Beyond the Picket Fence .  If it encourages you, I’d love to hear from you.  No matter how much I’ve blogged in three years, it never makes sharing your “stuff” easy. But I’ve seen tears in mother’s eyes who have felt so relieved when they know they are not alone in their struggle.  I’ve seen relief on a client’s face when I’ve told them their identity is not based on choices their child makes.  I’ve heard sobbing as I’ve reassured someone they are not the only one who struggles with anger.  And I’ve seen joy and lives transformed when I share our story, because I – we – are transformed by Christ.

That is my message here.  No matter what your struggle, no matter how ugly, dirty, or messed up it is, there is hope. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and He grows good things from dirt and manure.  Life isn’t perfect.  Somewhere in the Christian journey, the unwritten rules say if your image isn’t perfect, then something’s wrong with you.  You’re. Doing. Something. Wrong.

A friend told me recently being vulnerable is a gift to those you share with.  If that is true, then my story at Unchained Faith is my gift to you.

A gift of Hope, and a gift of praise for His Honor and Glory.