Growing up my mom had a consistent rule, we don’t leave for vacation with a messy home. The parameters of the “vacation” were rather flexible, the terms of a clean home however, were not. It didn’t matter if it was a long weekend, a camping trip, a big summer vacation or a quick overnighter – the house had to be clean.
I hated that rule.
I remember being so excited to get out the door, so anxious to get in the car and my mom was directing us around the house to put one more pair of shoes away or straighten the couch cushions or fold that stray blanket while she was buzzing about vacuuming or making sure the kitchen was orderly.
She always said it was worth the effort to return home to a tidy house. I never quite understood that – until I had a home of my own. And, of course, she was right. Returning to a tidy home really is a pretty fabulous greeting.
Last month in preparing for our vacation, I started packing early. I strategized the best method for packing the kids’ clothes. I tried hard to be prepared and organized, leaving only a handful of things to pack the evening/morning before.
Except, the evening before we were to leave, I got sick. Somehow a stomach bug came on in a hurry and I felt absolutely awful. If you read about our vacation, you know this was the beginning of one huge downhill slide, but at that point I only knew I had to be up at 4:30am to herd my family on a plane, I had a few things left to pack and I felt awful.
I decided the wisest thing to do was to try and sleep it off. I reasoned that it would be better to wake up earlier in the morning than to try to get my stuff done while curled up in the fetal position feeling horrible.
So I went to bed. And couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned all night only to get up at 4 am to finish the packing. This vacation was destined for success from the very start.
I’m sure you can guess what 4 am looked like. Organized and prepared packing was gone. I was half awake throwing things in a suitcase, sleepy-eyed, tossing treats in kids’ backpacks, whatever it took to just get it done and get out the door.
And my bedroom, was a mess. A pile of empty treat boxes over here, clothes that didn’t make the cut over there, the last basket of laundry that never got folded sitting on the floor. A mess.
It haunted me the entire trip. In my rational mama mind I told myself not to worry about it, life happens, it could be cleaned up when we got home. Even my mom would give me a pass on this one. But still, I kind of felt like I failed because I didn’t leave my house tidy.
It’s interesting how much power my mother’s training has over me, all of these years later. I left home 17 years ago – I’ve almost lived away from my parents as long as I lived with them – yet my mom’s voice still plays in my head at times. Somewhere deep, almost subconscious, my mom’s words shape my reflexes, effect my thinking, sway my decisions.
Thankfully, I was blessed with a great mom and her influence serves me well. But I’ve talked with a few ladies lately that have had more challenges with that mom voice.
There is the mom who, in her own insecurity, passed body image issues on to her daughter, carefully monitoring her weight and eating habits. Her eyes sized up her daughter constantly, before she even spoke the words. That daughter struggles 25 years later with her mom’s voice in her head thinking she is not quite thin enough.
There is the mom who defined worth by achievement and pushed her children to work relentlessly. That daughter, so many years later, can still hear her mama’s voice saying she is not doing enough, that she needs to push harder.
There is that mama who placed high importance on appearance and fashion and bred that into her daughters as well. That daughter still hears her mama’s voice in the back of her head on bad hair days and struggles more as she ages, wondering if she is enough.
I’m not saying these were bad mamas. Sometimes, as children, we take our parents best intentions and hear something completely different. My mom would have never faulted me for leaving my house untidy last month, but still her words had an effect on me.
So what does this mean for us as we are laying down foundation and becoming the voice in the heads of our little people?
Here are 5 ways to Speak Life into your children:
- Choose Your Words Carefully. Whether it feels like it or not, the words we speak to our children cut deep. What we tell them now is the inner voice they will hear years and years after they leave our homes. It is the inner voice they will hear when they begin to manage their own home and begin their own family. Chose your words carefully, friends.
- Your actions say more than your words do. More is caught than taught. You know that. We are the very first example of what womanhood and motherhood looks like to our children. My mom could have told me 100 times, “never leave your home untidy” but what I remember is that she did it. She didn’t have to tell me, because I saw her prioritize it. And your kids, no matter how old they are, know what you prioritize as well. They see what you are passionate about and what you tend to ignore. If you are brave enough, ask them. Ask them what things are most important to their mama and see what they say. It could be a good conversation to have and an indicator of how they perceive your actions.
- Be intentional. I can’t tell you this enough. Great parenting doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a fabulous mix of intentionality and God’s grace to make up the difference. Left to our own devices it’s easy to become selfish. It’s easy to demand me time or distract ourselves from important work. Don’t misunderstand me, we all need a break, but the number of things vying for our attention these days is endless and often only one click away. Be intentional with how you spend your time, your life. Be intentional about how you train your children, what you teach them.
- Never stop growing. Our kids are growing and changing and the demands of this mama job brings new challenges all the time. Find a good mentor, read great books (or blogs!), listen to awesome podcasts (my new favorite) and challenge yourself to keep growing. Learn new ways to break bad habits. Learn methods to create peace in your home ,to temper bad attitudes, to deal with overwhelm, to help sibling rivalry. Don’t spin your wheels when there are many women who have made it through the very thing you are struggling with – and survived. Use their knowledge, their experience and keep growing.
- Choose to speak life to your children. Of all the things my mama’s voice could be saying in my head, “never leave your home untidy” is a pretty good one. It has served me well. As you are going about your day, choose to speak life over your children. Tell them who they are in your family. Tell them who they are in Christ. encourage their strengths, carefully grow them in their weaknesses, but let your words give life to them. That life, those words, will serve them for years to come.
And finally, cover those kids in prayer. The greatest gift your child will could ever receive is a mama who was faithfully committed to praying for them. Pray that your children will know how much they are loved and how valuable they are. Pray that they would realize their strengths, grow them well and use them to glorify their Creator. Pray for their future, their careers and relationships, their health. Pray that your home would be a fertile soil that gives them life and strengthens them. And pray that as you try every day to do this mama job well, as you strive to speak life to your children, pray that His grace will cover it all. Because that is what makes all the difference.
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