Tuesday, February 11, 2014

balance…and grace

Dear Readers,

Over the past few weeks I have received a number of emails asking some of the same hard questions that I've asked other mamas in the past … those questions, for the most part, are centered around one thing : balance.

How do we balance what we need to do (or think we need to do) for our children with special needs, with all of our other responsibilities ? And how do we balance all of those other responsibilities - as a parent, wife, friend, etc. - without feeling overwhelmed by it all ?

This is obviously a larger topic than can be addressed in one blog post. And I know that the answers to those questions are going to vary from family to family - what may work for us could look entirely different for what works for another family.

So this post isn't meant to be the anecdote to how-to-balance-it-all, but rather one little piece of the puzzle. And it's not going to come as a shocker to any long-term readers, because it's something I've blogged about fairly regularly. In fact, the older I get, the more I have incorporated this word into my thinking and writing and personality and …. life.

snot mixed in with yogurt.. yum.

It's called grace.

The longer I am a Christian, the longer I am a mama, the longer I am a wife, a teacher, a friend, a minister's wife, a blogger, a daughter, a sister….you name it…  the more I find myself needing grace. Both for myself - because sometimes we can be very good at extending grace to others, but we are horrible at extending it to ourselves - and for those around me.

Grace, according to one definition is this :

a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior: It was only through the dean's grace that I wasn'texpelled from school.

And it's this :

favor or goodwill. kindness, kindliness, lovebenignity; condescension.

And this :

mercy; clemency; pardon: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--  not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8,9

those open outlets were covered up as soon as I noticed them in this photo. give me grace ;)

Grace isn't doing everything we know we shouldn't do, and then asking for forgiveness. It isn't offending everyone around us, and letting ourselves off the hook…or parenting without any attention to goals or standards or structure… or living life as though there are no consequences to our actions, because after all, "it's all about grace".

Grace is giving life - your kids, your husband perhaps, your friends, your obligations - giving life your very best …and then resting. Resting in the belief that God can work things through, that in our weakness His strength is made perfect. It's putting your heart into all that you do, and striving to please the Lord, BUT ------ in the end, your hope and confidence is in Jesus. It's allowing for mistakes to happen, because they will. It's realizing that even at our very absolute best, we are still not going to measure up. We just can't. We are human, and that means we are inherently flawed. If you don't believe me on this, have a baby. Watch that little person- without ANY help at all - throw a fit, decide to lie, hit his sibling, rip a book, scream in rage- our kids can and will do all of these things and more without ever being exposed to another child who does those things. It's in us. You can thank Adam and Eve - we were born with a propensity to fall short.

(I kid you not- as soon as I typed those words, Hayden ripped a library book behind me. Sigh.)

There, but for the grace of God, go I… we need grace.

So here are two snippets of the replies I sent to some very dear-to-my-heart readers. And again - I'm not claiming to know all the answers, or be any sort of expert on these things….the things that can drive us crazy as moms who just want to do our best,but we are often times just struggling to breathe. This isn't meant to be my pat answer on the subject of balance.

But I do hope that if you're in the middle of this battle to find balance, that these words can minister to you right where you're at.

Snippet #1 of an email I sent….

I think my best advice would be to go with your mama's instinct. Do what your family structure allows for, and do not beat yourself up about what you don't have time for. God gave that little girl to YOU for a reason…He knows what you are capable of, and He doesn't expect you to be supermom now that you have a baby with Down syndrome. If you find something that you really believe in, and have prayed about, or if you feel like God is steering you in a specific direction as far as therapy, go for it.

But really over four years, the conclusion I've come to, is that my job - overall- is to make sure Lily feels loved and happy and safe, and I don't need to be in any competition with other parents as far as how much help I'm getting my daughter. For instance- what if I found a fabulous speech therapist and paid them to come to my home twice a week - and in the process stressed our family out so much because of all the added dynamics that brought - all so that Lily could start talking better by age 4 instead of 5 ? And because of that added pressure and stress I was a less patient mom for my other 10 kids, and I was drained and overwhelmed … it's just not worth the trade off for me. God called me to be an excellent mama to Lily, yes- but He also called me to be the same excellent mama to the rest of my kids, and He's done the same for you… We can only do so much. We have the same amount of hours in the day that we did before we had our babies with special needs, and we cannot walk around feeling overwhelmed or guilty because we didn't get extra hours and strength added to our days now that we've added Down syndrome to the mix …we just have to have grace for ourselves.

I sure hope this didn't sound too wishy-washy or like I don't care how Lily progresses in life… the opposite is true ! I just wanted to encourage you to relax and trust yourself and enjoy your beautiful baby, and not take too much upon your own shoulders. I wish someone had said the same to me when Lily was an infant. Don't compare your baby to everyone else you see on blogs or in real life- God did create our babies to be themselves, and we don't get extra points in Heaven or here, for that matter, if they walk before their other peers with Down syndrome did ;)

 Snippet # two …

This is not probably any revelation to you, but sometimes it helps to be reminded : have grace for yourself. When the laundry is piling and everyone needs our attention , and we're battling exhaustion and emotions and a million "undone" things on our list of things to do, it is okay to lower our expectations. If you're anything like me, I have a tendency to be too much of a perfectionist around the house and in life in general... being a mom of many has forced me to release lots of areas to God and say " I can't handle this. This isn't getting done. I need Your grace."

And on a more practical note - are you getting any time alone for yourself ? For just (insert your name here !) ? 

It's like the thing they tell us on airplanes- put your own oxygen mask on first. If mama's lying gasping on the floor, she can't help anyone :) Whether that's paying a teen in church to come help supervise for a few hours a week (unless you have a teen at home ?) while you retreat to the bathtub for an hour... Or two or three...   Or having a weekly date night to look forward to ..  I hope you are getting time away.

Again , these are probably things you already know and do. But for me sometimes knowing and doing are two different things. I think that because "I know" I should have grace for myself I do it, when really I'm not. Or I think because "I know" I need time alone , that means I'm actually making it... And then I realize the only time I've left the house in the past two weeks was for church and errands. I never left for anything "fun" . (Church is fun, but usually not relaxing when you have a zillion kids to look after ;))

One final thought on this subject - it is very hard to have grace for yourself if you have not experienced the grace and forgiveness of a loving God. You can read my words and try to incorporate this type of thinking into your life, but if you don't have a relationship with God through the forgiveness of Jesus… it's an uphill battle. And there are those who do it on their own - who figure out how to have grace for themselves and everyone around them - without ever entering into a relationship with Christ. But the truth is, we will all die some day - there's no getting around it. We will all stand before God and give an account for our lives, and the way we lived them. We all have things in our lives that we've  failed in… I have an abundance. And I'm so glad I have a merciful and forgiving and yes - gracious - Father who is just waiting for me to come to Him, to humble my pride and say- I can't do this alone. I need Your forgiveness, and Your grace.

 If you don't have that, you can today…

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Romans 10:9,10

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

In grace,



  1. Thank you! I've really been struggling with all my responsibilities! I feel like I'm in a juggling act or like I'm being pulled in 100 different directions. I need everyday grace and this was just what I needed.

  2. I really needed this today. I have been struggling the past few days with being annoyed at everything and just wanting a freaking break! Reading that everyone else goes throught he same spells helps me to see I am not alone, or inadequate. I am going to print out that last verse, from Hebrews, to put on my office wall.

  3. Thank you for writing this, Patti! It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of today.

  4. Thank you for writing this! It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of today.

  5. Thanks Patti! What a great message for any mom, special needs child or not. :)

  6. It's so hard to find time for yourself when you're new to the continent and culture...but we ARE on a quest to find baby-sitters...

  7. I'm so thankful for you- really. I've been so anxious about Morgan lately & everywhere I turn God is sending me precious messages. Thank you for allowing him to speak through your blogpost- for tackling the difficult & sharing Christ all at once. ((Hugs))

  8. Thank you so much for this. Very much needed.

  9. Thankyou so much patti for reminding me that is by Gods grace!!!

  10. Grace, grace, and more grace!!! Perfect post!

    And I am thankful you added in the whole topic about speech therapy. I have battle how much to put Benji in, etc. xoxo

  11. You are so wise. And may I say- I am LOVING the pics of your new house in the background of all your photos. Seriously WOW!!!!


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