Because of my job as editor of Ruby for Women, I am frequently out and about in cyber space, cruising around the mommy blogs, looking for intriguing writing, ideas, and personalities. And I frequently find them! There are SO many amazing women out here who write from the heart, who share honestly and even boldly, telling their stories and sharing their wisdom. One thing that remains constant, however, is an ongoing version of the "Mommy Wars." Now, if you are younger that 35, or maybe even 40, you probably don't remember the early days of the "Mommy Wars."
Perhaps these little spats have been going on throughout all of history . . . although I wouldn't be surprised if women of long ago really didn't have the time or energy to worry about whether she measured up to the neighbor lady. For many centuries of world history, women have been so consumed with survival, for themselves and their families, that they frequently had to figure out how to get through a day without dying. And they didn't always succeed at that. But in more modern history, we have the time, energy, education, and permission to consider things such as: "Am I a good enough mom if I can't provide my children with the latest designer clothing?" or what about the mamas who worry about having to choose between working away from home (and consequently having their children in day care) or having enough money to keep a roof over the heads of family members?
And of course a HUGE issue among mommies is the topic of education. Of course, we all want the very best for our children. That's the way God made mamas - and so we struggle to figure it all out. And sometimes we get it right and sometimes we discover that we THOUGHT we were doing the right thing, only to find out years later that, unfortunately, we made a mistake about something. It's definitely a good thing that there is God's grace, or we would all be in a pretty bad situation.
But the question that really haunts me, and has for many years, is why we seem to bring all of this guilt into our lives and into the lives of others. I'm sure we don't really mean to drag all this load of guilt around with us . . . . and I would have a hard time believing that anyone would intentionally drop that heavy load right on top of another mommy's (probably already) broken heart. But it does happen. And now that I am a "vintage mama," I have the advantage of being able to look behind me with a little different perspective than when I was right in the middle of being a young mom, trying to "get it right."
Now, as an older mom with young children again, I've discovered a couple of things that I wish I had know back when I was struggling with trying to "measure up" to all the other "perfect" mamas I encountered all around me. If you are interested in this conversation, Sarah Mae has started a discussion here where you can share your thoughts on this subject. But for whatever it is worth, here are some things that I have learned from being a mama, from watching my children grow up, and now being a mama again:
1. You aren't perfect, so don't pretend. I'm not perfect, and pretending for all those years almost destroyed me.
2. Mamas make mistakes. The sooner you accept that truth, and teach it to your children, the healthier you all will be.
3. God forgives. The sooner you accept that truth, and teach it to your children, the healthier you all will be.
4. Guilt will break you. It will break your heart, it will break your spirit, and it will eventually destroy your health.
5. If we could be perfect, God would not have needed to send His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins. He could have just told us to figure it out for ourselves, and then He could have done something else for all of eternity.
6. We ARE perfect, however, through the grace and forgiveness of God. The difference is that we are perfect positionally, not existentially. All that means is that in the physical, material world where we live right now, our human experience will defy all efforts to "get it right" all of the time . . . but that does not negate the reality of our position in Christ as being perfected because of His sacrifice.
7. If children are allowed to grow up believing that they are "special" (which of course they ARE!) without learning the correlating truth that everyone else is special, TOO, they will be deceived into thinking that everything in their life SHOULD be perfect . . . . . and if someone else (usually mommy) does not MAKE it perfect, then we can blame mommy for all of the bad things that happen in life.
8. As mamas, we are given the privilege and opportunity to train our children, protect them, and give them the "tools" that they need to be safe and successful in life. It is NOT our job to make them "like" us - if my four year old is "mad" at me because I tell him he cannot climb onto the roof and run around naked . . . . he'll get over it. But he might not get over a two-story fall into the rose bushes.
9. Your gifts are different from someone else's gifts. If you are a home schooling mom who runs a home business while writing the next best-selling Christian novel, sings and plays piano every Sunday and writes music that moves the congregation to tears, has a perfectly tidy home and garden, and sews a gorgeous wardrobe for all of your 12 children . . . . . that is a good thing. But most of us are just regular moms, struggling to keep clean clothes on those little bodies and nutritious food in their mouths. All the rest is just . . . . well, the rest.
10. Finally, get over it. My mistakes and failures are NOT the main event. My failures not that important in the big scheme of history. I mess up every day . . . . I forgot to mail a birthday card to my son-in-law, I haven't bought a Mother's Day gift for Grandma yet, my kids ate Cheerios for supper last night, the flower gardens need to be weeded, and I STILL need to get the garden planted. If I get to it at all, this year. Fortunately I remembered to buy toilet paper before it ran out, and I did manage to mow the lawn. I'm normal, and so are you. Normal does not equal perfect. Write THAT on the back of your hand!
The bad news is that you aren't perfect, and neither am I. But the very Good News is that we don't have to be. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, our every day mistakes, our failures and shortcomings. Own it, admit it, confess it, and get over it. God has. And if there are other people in your life who aren't ready to "get over it," well, I'm sad for them and I pray for them and I love them . . . but I'm done hauling around this great big load of guilt. So, I promise, I won't ever dump it on you. But, on the other hand, if you try to hand me a load of guilt, I'll just turn around and walk away. Because I believe that when God forgives, I'm not exactly the right person to question His gift.
Mommy wars . . . . why do we do this to each other and to ourselves? If you are striving to honor God in your daily life, and honest and sincere in seeking His wisdom and guidance, you will be doing EXACTLY what you should be doing today. And tomorrow. Don't let false guilt suck the soul right out of you.
Do you ever feel like you are completely "lost in the crowd" while you are out here in the ever-growing world of cyber space? This "village" is so huge that you wonder if you will ever be "noticed" for all of the great work you are doing? Well, it is just like that wherever you go! We can't connect with everyone in the entire universe, and we don't need to. We will all find our little "niche" in the world of online business and community, and I've learned that it is not just having a million and one "friends" (although obviously quantity is important if you want to build a business) - but if you don't take the time to nurture the connections and new friends that you make while you are out and about, you have really missed an important part of this endeavor.
Of course, if we want to gain a following for whatever little business we are trying to build, we need to get the word out to as many people as possible. That's where running a successful advertising / information campaign on Facebook and Twitter is great. But along the way, it is so important to connect in a meaningful way with some of the wonderful people you meet in your online travels. I have had the privilege of "meeting" so many amazing people, and of course we don't have time in our lives to build life-long relationships with everyone who comes along - even if we really, really like them a lot. But take the time today to recognize the accomplishments of someone you have "met" in your travels. You never know, it just might be that they need a kind word, a bit of acknowledgment, a touch of encouragement, or just a friendly reminder that they are important in this great big world marketplace.
One of the people who has come into my life recently is Sue of Indiesmiles. She has been such a wealth of information and advice, enthusiasm for the work of independent business women and other artists, and kindness in unexpected ways. And then, as is always the case, when you take a minute really to listen to what another person is saying, I discover that she has had her own moments of struggle and discouragement. And I feel completely welcomed into the world of real people, with real lives, real hopes and dreams . . . . those "hidden" things that do not always come through in an email or a blog post. It is easy to hide behind our online persona and give the impression that we've got it all together and that everything is "perfect" in our life. But in the REAL world that is just not the way it is.
That is one of the reasons that I am working on my Journal of Gratitude. And that is the motivation behind my determination to include a column in the upcoming issues of Ruby for Women that will focus on the struggles and triumphs that various women have experienced through the grace and mercy of our loving Heavenly Father. Someone has to start saying it. Someone has to begin to speak the truth about the realities of life. Someone has to have the courage to be first. We're working on it here at Ruby for Women. But in the meantime, please visit Sue at Indiesmiles where you will find an incredible group of indie artisans who have created a community of celebration for those of us who work out here, sometimes in the silence of our homes, but always with the opportunity for connection through the Indiesmiles neighborhood.
If you want to read my blog post for which I was honored with the "Top Columnist for the Month of April, 2010," you can go here. But mostly I want to encourage you to join a community where you will be welcomed, embraced, nurtured, and encouraged along the way on you journey to reach your dreams and goals for 2010. When you stop by Indiesmiles, be sure to tell Sue that I sent you!
This happens to me all the time . . . . . I get an idea, then have all the plans in my head, even talk about it and / or blog about it . . . . then weeks go by before I actually get a chance to work on it. That is sometimes very annoying. But, of course, I do have a few other projects I am working on these days, including finishing up the May / June issue of Ruby for Women. Well, that, along with taking care of my home and family.
Today we had sore throats all around, but no fever, so we didn't get much accomplished - but I did hear that this 24-hour bug has been going around the neighborhood. The girls seem to be feeling better now, because they have been playing outside for about an hour - it's almost time for them to come in and get a bath, have story time, and get tucked in, so I thought I'd take a minute and get this project started. I can work on it after they go to bed, but sometimes I'm so exhausted that I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to tuck myself in!
This is a project that I actually worked on a couple of years ago, while we were still in Colorado and I was really struggling with health issues. Fortunately we discovered that all of my headaches and general "yucky" feeling for many months could easily be taken care of by coming down out of the mountains. We miss our kids and grandbabies who still live there, but I definitely have been healthier back down here in the Heartland of America.
As I have been writing articles for Ruby for Women, as well as a couple of other websites, one of the things that seems to be impressed on my heart is the need for encouragement when we are walking through the dark places in life. We all go there occasionally, sometimes by our own choices, but often as a result of nothing that we have done. Completely taken by surprise, shocked, grieving, sometimes completely alone, frequently for extended periods of time . . . . . we wonder "Why?" and "When will this be over?" and "How could this happen to ME?"
Now, partly because I watched my Mama allow anger, grief, and bitterness to break her heart and debilitate her emotionally right up to the very last day of her life, I have had many years to ponder the results of our attitude toward the struggles that we all encounter on our journey through life. And, partly as a result of meeting my dear friend Fern, who was wearing her dancing shoes and playing honky-tonk piano nearly up to her last breath, I have concluded that our attitude towards pain and brokenness make a HUGE difference in how our life plays out.
So, one of my lifetime projects is to work on my Gratitude Journal. And I want to chronicle my journey through journaling the hard stuff, the sad stuff, the broken places, and the shattered dreams . . . . and prove to myself that if I choose to be grateful for even the stuff that one would NEVER ask for in life, God can take it all (the junk and the tragedy, and everything in between) and create something amazing with it. Now that is not to suggest that we would ever be jumping for joy when disaster or tragedy strike our family or anyone else's. But the reality is that we WILL encounter those places that bring us to our knees and on our faces before God. So I'm thinking that if I can lift my eyes beyond the broken pieces of my life that lay scattered on the ground, to the gift of God's grace . . . . . and trust that somehow He is able to bring greater joy IN SPITE of the tragedy, and not necessarily BECAUSE of it.
God is not the author of chaos and disaster, but it is a reality of our life because of sin in the world. Even if we have chosen to walk with Him and sought His face every day of our lives (which of course we all fail at occasionally!), in the real world there is much pain. So when we find ourselves in one of those scary places, we need to try to remember that He will take this scar, our wounded heart, and make something beautiful in it's place. Hard to believe, I know, but it is true. So here is the beginning of my journey as I chroncle some of the "junk" that has come my way, and my musings on how God has, and continues to, use it all to make something bigger and more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined.
STEP ONE - I started with a simple sketch book / inexpensive scrap book that I found at Walmart. The covers were black with a black spiral binding. I didn't want to start with black ;o) so I painted the entire cover, front and back, with an ivory acrylic craft paint. I gave it a bit of a texture by bouncing my brush all over it, and then going over it a second or third time. I wanted to make sure that none of the black showed through, and I kind of like the textured appearance.
STEP TWO - Then I did the same thing to the inside of the front cover and the front of the first page. That way I will have a great beginning place to post images or some of my writing, poetry, photos, or whatever I decide to put in my Journal of Gratitude.
That's as far as I've gotten so far, but it is a good beginning. I hope that tomorrow I can work on a couple of pages. I'll post pictures as soon as I can! If you are working on a Journal of Gratitude, I would love to hear about it and see pictures of your work. Next time I'll share with you ideas for finding images and making collage pages for your art journal. This is actually kind of a combination art journal and a writing journal. Words and art together is a powerful expression of who you are, so get out any old book you might have around your house and start painting those pages so we can get busy working on our Journal of Gratitude!
This was a custom order but I wanted to share it with you in case you are thinking of making something special for a Mother's Day gift. These crazy patch journals are fun, easy, and can be as elaborately embellished or as elegantly simple as you want to make them. I've already sent out lots of the eBooks for making these crazy patch journal covers, but if you want a copy of it just leave me a comment. I'll be working on several more in the next few weeks, so when they are finished I'll post pictures of them right here for you to see. They will also be available in my Etsy shop if you would like to purchase one, but really they are great fun to make. No two are exactly alike, so this is a unique gift that will be treasured by the recipient. You might even want to make one for yourself!
Don't forget that there is a FREE quilt project tutorial on the Ruby blog. It is an appliqued bookmarker and all the instructions and templates are right there for you to print off and make your very own Berry Berry Bookmarker, designed by Rochelle Martin of Cottage Quilt Designs.
And then, you will want to get the next issue of Ruby for Women because Rochelle will be starting the first block in the "Gardener's Delight" quilt project. It will consist of eight different blocks, with all instructions available in the next eight issues of Ruby for Women. When you finish this project, it will make a gorgeous throw or wall hanging for your home. Oh, and one more thing . . . we now have a Facebook Fan Page for Ruby for Women. Stop by and join our fan club and we'll keep you up-to-date on all of the exciting events going on at Ruby for Women!
I am always amazed at the wonderful people that I "meet" as I go about my daily business in the cyberspace community. I know, I know, there are probably lots of not-so-nice people out here,too, but I choose to ignore them and really find it a special gift when I discover another wonderful, giving, generous, and loving cyber-friend. Sue at Indiesmiles is one of those people! I accidentally discovered her website, Indiesmiles, a few weeks ago simply by clicking on a link that was posted somewhere else . . . . and the rest is history! I responded to a request posted on the Indiesmiles website seeking writers to submit articles about the indie artisan lifestyle: marketing and business ideas, projects and tutorials, wisdom and inspiration, and even the philosophy or motivation that drives those of us who are creative indie spirits! That sounded like something that I might be able to write about, so I emailed her and we began to chat. And chat. And chat some more ;o)
As it turns out, she is now writing a business and marketing column for our online magazine, Ruby for Women. It is entitled, "Ask Sue of Indiesmiles," and she will be answering questions from our readers about the ins and outs of running a home-based, independent business. She's great! But it's not just that she is a delightful new friend, but the website is FULL of great ideas and opportunities for those of you who are already running your own online business, as well as for anyone who has been contemplating starting up an independent business. You can learn all kinds of stuff from the current columnists, and you might even want to join the Indiesmiles team by submitting your own article about you and your business, or ways that you can support and encourage others.
Think about it! And then visit the Indiesmiles website where you will discover challenges and contests, give-aways, and advertising opportunities for those of us on a budget ;o) Indiesmiles is a great place to meet new friends who share your passion for living a creative, intentional life and who are sincere in their efforts to support one another. It is always a blessing to be among those other free spirits who are like-minded not only in the goals and dreams that shape everyday choices, but who are all so willing to guide a newly-emerging indie artist. Come along, you won't be disappointed, I promise!
I am continually amazed at how things just "accidentally" happen to work out. Just like the way I wasn't looking when "accidentally" I was asked to take over the editorial responsibilities for Ruby for Women. Then, a week or so ago, I "accidentally" was introduced to another mom who loves to do web and graphic design. Which is exactly what we needed! And she just "accidentally" happens to LOVE to help others and she just happens to "accidentally" share our vision for the ministry of Ruby for Women. So . . . she has been teaching me all kinds of techy stuff (that's a technological term, I believe!) and has helped me with "fixing" the latest issue of Ruby for Women so that the pages load faster. And then she suggested that we should have our very own website, so she set that up, too.
I'm working on a "Sneak Peek" page so that you can get an idea of what's inside this issue of Ruby for Women before you buy it. And we'll be offering all kinds of fun stuff on the website! You will find more tutorials, recipes, devotionals, poetry, Thrifty Thursday ideas, and lots of other fun stuff for women of all ages and all stages of life.
Here are just a few of the new and exciting developments at Ruby for Women:
In the May / June issue you will discover even MORE crafts, tutorials, and patterns, including crochet and quilting patterns, as well as great craft ideas you can do with the kids this summer!
* More business advice from Katie of Katidids and Sue of IndieSmiles!
* Another opportunity for YOU to post your FREE WAHM ads!
* Gardening advice from Aunt Dots to help keep your vegetable and flower gardens in ship-shape for the summer!
* Poetry, stories, humor, family fun, puzzles, paper dolls, coloring pages, and more uplifting and inspiring devotionals!
* Planning a summer yard sale? You'll discover "How to Clean Up a Really Big Mess" to get you started on that project, and then advice on just how to go about setting up your summer sale!
* Summer recipes for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!
* Another opportunity to sign up to be on Team Ruby for "Operation Pillowcase"!
* "Letters to the Editor" column so you can share you ideas, thoughts, and opinions with the Ruby family!
* "Spring / Summer Family Photo Gallery," so send me your favorite spring and summer photos of your kids, your garden, your backyard, your current crafty adventure, flowers and sunsets, kids in the wagon or on their bikes . . . . . pictures of whatever you and your family are doing to celebrate God's amazing world!
* You will also be invited to try your hand at journaling. Whether you are a writer or an artist, or just want to express yourself in your own, personal way, a "Gratitude Journal" is a great way to get started!
* "10 Ways to Simplify Your Life" will encourage you to sort out all the excess everything in your life so that you can focus on those things are the most important to you.
We have so many new ideas, articles, and projects in the next issue of Ruby for Women, you definitely won't want to miss out! Come along, join the Ruby family, and let's make a difference in the lives of women of all ages and all stages of life. I look forward to chatting with you soon! ~~ Nina