Thursday, August 21, 2008

Surviving or Thriving?

This thought has been on my mind quite a bit lately - as a Mom of little ones, I often feel like I am simply in survival mode. The days can be long and hard and our little blessings aren't adept at affirmation and appreciation yet!

I'm reminded of what my former pastor used to say about facing situations in life. "You can go through it or you can grow through it." I think God would want me to choose to grow through my experiences and thrive in the calling He has given me.

I do not believe He wants me to just survive day to day. Not that it would be easy either way - but to just get by or just get through something defeats the purpose doesn't it?

Not only that, but I have found that survival mode can be very self-serving. It is so easy to think about how this season of life is tiring and hard on me. I'm always in demand, someone always needs something or needs to stay out of something. Why am I allowing myself to be so focused on how hard this season is for me instead of what a treasure this season is?

It seems I can start the day absolutely determined to not get frustrated, not lose my cool. I pray. I determine not to allow things to get me down easily. Yet, consistently by the time lunch is rolling around - I am very quiet. This is a sign that I could easily lose it with my children - which I think is why I often just pull inside - as a safety mechanism for losing my patience with my children.

Why is it that it feels like the more I give and the more willingly I give it - the less satisfied they are? They are always wanting more.

As a mom of young children, I need to die to myself and be faithful to the calling God has placed on my life. His will for me is to be home with my children - He blessed our family with them - now, that is my calling.

I know that part of my struggle is having very high expectations and that to thrive, I am going to have to lower my expectations. Not too low - but lower than very high! Any ideas on how to do this? It is easy to say that I need to lower my expectations, but an entirely different matter to actually do it.

I know that if I need help - I need to ask for it and then if it is offered, I need to accept it. I don't know about you - but this is very hard for me. It is very hard to ask for help and very hard to accept help. Part of me feels so guilty in asking or needing help because I feel like God blessed us with these children and I should be able to care for them.

One thing that often helps me when I am experiencing a negative attitude or am starting to feel discontent is to keep a thankful journal. When I am actively looking for several things to write down each day - it gets easier as the days go on to come up with more things to be thankful for and I start seeing little things that God is doing during our days.

I need to keep my mothering in perspective. I know this is just a season - it doesn't always feel like it, but everyone says these days will pass more quickly than I can imagine and I will wish them back. I want to redeem this time and to enjoy this time. To realize it is only for a season and to take the opportunities this season holds.

I want to be a willing servant to my family.
Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."
Pray! Ask for a changed perspective and for God's help in thriving and growing rather than enduring and surviving. And, for cultivation of the Fruit of the Spirit in my life.

Choose an attitude of gratefulness for the calling God has placed on my life, for this season He has me in and for how He wants to shape me through all of this.

Train my thinking to focus on that which is, "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable - excellent or praiseworthy."

Do not be overwhelmed by everything the future holds, trust the future to Him and live today.

Your turn - do you feel like you are surviving or thriving in the calling God has placed on your life? Share your thoughts on how we can choose to thrive instead of giving in to selfishly just surviving!

After I finished typing this post, I uploaded the photo at the top. And, it got me thinking even more about this topic. When you see a plant you can tell if it is just surviving or thriving. What you see on the outside is indicative of what is going on inside the plant, with its roots, etc. Wow - there's a lot to think about in that when you relate it to mothering!


Katy said...

Great post Monica! I, too, used to just survive through the day rather than enjoy the day. This is a subject I have been dealing with ALOT especially the past year. Each day...I try more to enjoy the day rather than get through the day. And you are sooooo is so selfish of me to just want to make it through the day! I am looking forward to starting our homeschool year...I think it will be a great time of thriving for ALL of us! Learning and studying together and such!

Thank you for this post! What a wonderful reminder it was for me! I definitely have my days of just trying to survive the day and get through it...but i LOVE my life that God has blessed me with (including my hubby and kids...I have a GREAT life!) and I should be taking joy in each moment rather than just getting through! I really appreciate this post Monica! Thank you!!! :) Have a great Thursday! :)

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who always told his wife(my dear friend, who passed away10mnths ago) that he would much rather go to work, cause stayin home was HARD WORK!! :-) And it is hard work. A high and noble calling and duty is sure to be hard work. Parenting is the highest noble calling i know of. Discipling our children, loving and nurturing one or more that one, takes SO much out of us. But you are so right Monica with those last 4 points no matter what stage of life we are in. Pray, choose our attitude(focusing on gratatude),Train thinking, and Trust Him. Keep on, keepin on ,fight the good fight (for our thoughts) and be encouraged. Thank you for encouraging others.
These days and years do pass so very fast. Our family is preparing for our oldest to go away to college. I find this so very hard to believe, has that much time really gone by. Have we done a good job preparing him and his heart????? Redeem the time, sieze the moment, life is so very short, even when it is hard, it is good, very good. tammyp

More than Survival said...

Surviving or Thriving??? Good food for thought that I am sure ALL of us can relate to! Some days I survive, some days I thrive. Lately I have been doing a lot of surviving... and I hate that! God is working in my life to move me out of survival and into thriving....! I am doing a Beth Moore Bible study called "breaking free"....EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!!! I am learning that my pride and my own ambitions draw me away from God and lead me to my own downfall... survival! I am learning that in order to be "successful in all I do" I must be seeking GOD'S plan... not my own. Learning each day (and each hour) to ask God what I am supposed to be doing has been helping me. I have had to change some of the things I was doing and start doing some other things.... Hard in the flesh, but so worth it!!! My prayers with you!
As a side note.. I know SLEEP has a BIG factor in my well being! It also has a BIG factor in my children... SLEEP is a GOOD thing!!!

Wendi said...

I feel like I could have written this post. I have many days when I feel like I am surviving. When I have sweep the kitchen 3 times before lunch, been short with kids way too often and nothing is going the way I have planned. I find myself praying ALOT during the day. Asking for calm, not for the activity in my home, but for my head and heart.

I dislike the feeling of just surviving until nap time or until my daycare kids get picked up or until Daddy gets home. That is not how I want my days to be. I used to work with a lady that always said don't wish your life away, live what was given to you today.

I am so blessed to be where I am at and really want to enjoy every minute!

Danielle said...

Oh yes, I am there some days too! I have five boys and home school the oldest three!

One thing that has helped me is my chore list. I only mop the floor once a week, is it dirty more often...yes! But I can't do it all. The same goes for bathrooms, dusting etc. I do it once a week unless a great catasrophie has happened:-) It is very freeing to be "done" with my chores.

Also, read Crystals post from Tuesday!

Christi said...

"Why is it that it feels like the more I give and the more willingly I give it - the less satisfied they are? They are always wanting more."

Oh my, how often I have felt that way. I think so many of us struggle with this, especially as mothers with little ones.

I try to do just the things you noted in your post - pray, determine my attitude, pray some more. One thing that I have to constantly remind myself of (which sounds silly to say 'out loud') is that my boys are not ADULTS. They are children (and I don't mean that as an excuse for ugly behavior) and they will not respond/think/act as adults do. That is MY job - to teach them.

Thank you for your thoughtful words today!

Anonymous said...

Oh Girl you know how I am. Most days are surviving. Butthe I have really awesome days of thriving and I think wow this is great. and then the next day roles around. I have never been so moody until I had kids. Sometimes I hear myself and just want to run away and I am sure that is what my kids want to do. It seems like I am always correcting bad behavior and the good behavior gets overshadowed. *sigh* This was a great post.
Love you!!! Miss You!!

Chrissy said...

Monica -

A great and thought provoking post, as usual.

In one parenting book I read, the author, herself a mother of ten sons, wrote "What is the point of a spotless house if your children are falling apart?". What a lightbulb moment for me! They are little for just a little while. I learned to set realistic expectations, both for myself and the children, and I stopped trying to do *everything* perfectly. It was like night and day. I too learned to spend some time each day being grateful for small things, even if it was only that the juice spilled on the linoleum instead of the carpet!

You're doing a great job. Keep on keeping on. God is faithful. He'll meet you where you are, right now.

Have a wonderful day!


Anonymous said...

Wow, I really needed to read this today! Between a recent move, my husband traveling for work, and discipline issues with one of my children, I have been in survival mode. I think that DH's traveling is actually good training for me... I'm forced to look beyond 6:30 pm, when he's normally home, because he's not coming home that day, or the next, or whatever.

Thriving is what I want to be doing, and what I want for my children. I don't know where to begin, aside from prayer. Good thing that God knows exactly what I'm to do... all I need to do is trust and obey!

The "little" years do pass by very quickly. My own kids are 7 and 5, so not too big, but I can hardly believe I'm not in the infant/toddler stage anymore! It was a lot of work to be sure, but as kids grow, so do the challenges, in some ways. I'm not as physically exhausted with older children, though, and that's a great blessing in itself!

Thank you for your post! :)

Anonymous said...

I once read a book called "No More Lone Ranger Mums"; yes, this is our calling and we don't have to do it alone!! I prayed for years for a "kindred spirit/soul mate" with whom to share these years and God has blessed me with a forever-friend. We help each other with prayer, phone calls, email, washing, cooking, time-outs - whatever it takes to see us "be the best mums we can be!" Also, trying M.O.P.S. or a similar support network and outreach has been fantastic! Another advantage to this has been our children imitating us in their friendships with each other:) Our God really is a great big God and He holds us in His Hands:) For me, a twenty-minute time-out during a quiet or rest time is also a sanity saver, as is putting on a favourite worship CD as the day begins, or as I can feel it unravelling!!
Also, in the last week or so, I've realised that my nearly 4 and seven and a half year olds sometimes need me to SIT; they can't clamber onto my lap if I stand up all day "doing jobs"... It's such a balancing act, isn't it?!:) Remember, God "looks after those who have young":)

Anonymous said...

Darling Monica, these feelings can be true of any season of life -- there are some (many!) days when I feel that I am merely surviving a day at the office! One of the things I've been trying lately is viewing my workplace as my "mission field" and my coworkers as those that I've been called to minister to. That may not be a new concept to some people, but I haven't really seen it that way before -- at least not for more than an hour or two!

It sounds to me like your "well" is running a bit dry -- if all you do is give, then of course you will run out of resources. It is NOT selfish to do things that "fill you up" -- devotions and a thankfulness journal are important and I know you are doing these things. But so are creative things (crafts, this blog), fun times spent with friends (or your mom!), reading an uplifting book, or other things you enjoy. These refresh and renew you to be able to give to your family.

There are hard things in every season of life -- there are also treasures in every season of life. And like so many things, we will not always find the right balance. But pursuing that balance is a worthy goal.

I wish I had remembered the story of Jesus and the children more often when you were little -- "let the children come to me for such is the kingdom of God." His patience with children was a great example. I lost my patience so often with you and Carrie -- that is one of the biggest regrets of my life. And yet, look how you both turned out! I'm beyond thankful! :)

You are doing a great job! I'm proud of you and your sweet family -- and I love you all very much. Mom

Eleanor Joyce said...

Interesting Monica - I just posted a very similar thought a couple of days ago. You can check it out here
My kids are older now, and physically it's much easier, but that need for a servant's heart never goes away!
You are SO on the right track, and I wish I'd had your wisdom and insight when my kidlings were toddlers. As a side note, don't forget how much our physical condition ties into our spiritual/emotional state - realize when you're physically exhausted, and as Jesus said "Come apart and rest a while". Scheduled rest is a big theme throughout scripture - starting with the days of creation.
God bless you today!

wyndesnow said...

I feel relieved just reading your post. As I read it my mind said, is she writing this about you? I am most definitely in survival mode but wish I was in thrived mode. My oldest starts kindergarten today. I have been so excited all summer for him (and greedily for me just for the peace). But as we walked into his classroom yesterday for him to meet his teacher, I became upset. Can this really be happening? Is my oldest really headed off to school and does my middle son really start back to preschool in a few short weeks? Which ultimately means that next year, I will have 2 in elementary school and the third in preschol. As much as I think I am looking forward to this, I am not as it means that a new chapter in my life is going to be opened and the days of my boys being small and loving on mom are about to end. And so that means that all the days that I have spent in frustation with the boys, I could have spent letting them snuggle and just be with me instead of me being upset because they have made yet another mess to be cleaned.

Thank you for sharing your points on what in you are doing to not just survive but to thrive. I need to remind myself of ways to move through a moment instead of staying in the moment.

What a great mom you are and how lucky your children are!! And how lucky are your readers that you share your experiences with us!!!

Nancy said...

A really amazing post today-and I absolutely needed to read it.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What an awesome post. I think this is a struggle that many moms face. My children are older and not so needy in physical ways but in other ways I am still very much in demand. There does come a time in the day that I just want to go somewhere to be quiet and alone. A place where noone needs me.
I too try to focus on the things the Lord wants me to focus on. To keep my heart set on Him and let Him work through me. It is so difficult sometimes.
Thank you for sharing this post.

Melissa Joy said...

I have frequently read your blog, and only now am commenting. This post brought me to tears. THANK YOU.
May God bless me with His perspective each day. And may He continue to give me abundant grace. I am thankful.

Jenny said...

Not that you need another thing to do, but you should really think of writing a devotional book for moms! :)

You have so much wisdom here, and you're so humble, too.

Come November, the ages of my children will be 3, 3, 4, and 5. This can be very overwhelming most of the time, but one thing I try to remember is that if it wasn't my kids who were troubling me, it would be something else. That's how our enemy works!

Linda Dillow wrote an excellent book on contentment called Calm My Anxious Heart. I highly recommend it. She says that the single girl wants a husband, the young married girl wants children, the mother wants her children in school, the older married woman wants another husband, the widow her own husband.

Satan knows where to strike and discourage us. In Scripture, Eve had the perfect environment--no weeds in her garden--but somehow, Satan got her to believe otherwise.

For some reason, you were on my mind all day yesterday. I had been praying for you, Monica.

Elise said...

I have found the fewer outings we go on the better our day is. Its really bad when your five year old wishes for a home day! I find things are much better when I am not dragging them around Wal-Mart or Kroger, etc. I like the idea of a thankful journal. As I was reading it, I was immediately brought to mind that my children are healthy and of sound minds. I don't know how someone whose child has autism or some other disability does it. I know that God only gives us what we can handle. Though somedays I feel I've reached that limit before He does.
Thanks for the post!

Monica Wilkinson said...

Hi Ladies - I appreciate all of the kind words and wisdom shared in these comments. We are encouraging one another in a way that pleases God!

Elise - I cannot tell you how the topic of staying home has been on my heart lately. More to come on that thought - but, you are so right.

Vintage Mommy - Thank you so much, yesterday was a hard day - even though I wrote this post a week ago! I am loving your new blog! I love your taste and creative ideas!

Again, thanks to each of you for your thoughtful responses!


Mary Ann said...

The Lord has been speaking to me on this very subject lately. When I have the mindset of "just get me to the weekend!" already on Monday, and "just get me to nap time" every morning,I miss the joys of each day and moment.

I have been really tired (more spiritual and emotional than physical)lately and I've been able to start having a day or two off each week, which is really helping! Time to reflect and have a break between tantrums is a good thing!:-)

I'm praying for you, Monica!

Debbie J said...

I have been just surviving for the last 2 months with new responsibilites with aging parents as well as working full time and keeping the home fires burning! I am doing better now. This is the prayer I learned just this morning from "Disciplines of the Heart" by Anne Ortlund. "Lord, I give this area of my life to you. Do what you want with it. Subtract it or strengthen it. Clense and purify it." This prayer is for all areas of our life. What ever situation or season we find ourselves in.

I have to keep reminding myself of this!


Anonymous said...

I have so much I want to say, but I will only say this.
As the mom of an adult child, and another one turning 18 in a few months,plus all my littles, your mom is dead on Monica. I wish I had held my tongue more; not lost my patience as often...or never. Does God scold me? No.
Your mom's post made me cry...I know it must have really touched your heart. :)
Dawn M.

Dana a/k/a Sunshine said...

Oh Monica how I needed your post today. Thank you.

Carrie said...

Great post Monica! I'm going through one of the toughest times of my life. My parents are divorcing after 38 years of marriage. You would think it wouldn't be so hard on me considering I'm an adult, but that is not so! I've just been trying to survive, but you have inspired me to "thrive" and grow through these unfortunate circumstances! Thank you! Love your blog!

Michelle said...


Although my boys are only 8 and 6, I still feel like they are growing up too fast. I look back and realize those preschool years were just a blink of an eye. Sometimes I miss those days. I try to treasure each new stage we are in because before long, they will be adults with children of their own.

Unknown said...

Great Post! I have definitely had more survival mode days than I'm proud of. God's been working in me about my selfishness. I think a lot of my survival mode stems out of my selfishness.

Thanks for your thoughts and the verses-great reminders!

mama k said...

hmmm. deep thoughts.

I have to say that I believe sometimes we DO need to kick into survival mode just get by when dealing with abnormally hard circumstances. I feel like God sustains us in that way. Almost like a self-perservation mechanism He's given us.

BUT I realize that is not what you are talking about here. In the day to day we should be more thankful and prayerful and joyful.

If I'm honest, I'm just sliding by many days. I think my biggest problems are with my priorities. And yes, I have overly high standards for myself too. If I was truely seeking first His kingdom, what tasks would be a the top of my priority list?

I am going to think about this more tonight.. thanks!

Becky said...

I'm so glad you posted this today. I was actually thinking about you today as I looked around my kitchen and wondered how you ever manage to craft and keep your house clean. I have an infant and a toddler and often feel that if I can just make it through the day, I'll be happy. I really don't have any advice. My day consists of a good bit of frantic prayer and liberal application of chocolate. Of late, I've started trying to think of ways to nurture myself. My first step will be to get tank tops that go with my sleep shorts- a small step but one that really matters to me.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for sharing that even women such as yourself sometimes feel overwhelmed.

letterstoelijah said...

So many of us could have written that post. Maybe not as beautiful as you did, though.

I find it very hard to accept help - I feel like I've failed if I can't "do it all". The funny thing is I know that I can't do it all. What my children need is love. Sure they need a clean house too - but they need love first.

This was a great post to end the day.. thanks!

Steph at Problem Solvin' Mom said...

I have been keeping a gratitude journal for several months now, and I can definitely attest that it helps me recognize that I'm thriving - especially when I'm deep in the moment of a day that feels much like survival!

I can relate to your difficulty with asking for help, but when help is offered I am pretty good at accepting it ;)

I too find the less I try and schedule the better things go, and I've made a concerted effort to eliminate many of the unnecessary that were taking up valuable time in my life and leaving me feeling stressed and frazzled.


Heather said...

Thanks for sharing, Monica! A book I've just started that has been REALLY good already is Worn-Out Woman by Stephens and Gray. (I'm reading it at Crystal's recommendation on Biblical Womanhood.) And it's set up in short, practical chapters you can read one at a time. It's been a blessing to me so far.

Christi said...

Monica's Mom - what a wonderful encouragement your post is. Monica is truly blessed to have you as a mother!

mama k said...

PS I linked back to you here:

I wrote out some more of my thoughts.

*carrie* said...


I really connect with this post--thanks for writing it. Wish I had time to read all the comments--I'll have to stop back.

Susan said...

This was a post I really related to, looks like many other did too. Thanks for challenging me to think about how I am living my days.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Monica:

Your situation is called "Being Human".. ALL of us have struggled with the things you have written about, but you are handling them SO much BETTER than most of us have. I have so many regrets about not only surviving, but "caving in" during my life, and now that I am nearing the end of life, Oh, how I wish I could "do it over".
Then I realize how very MUCH I have to be thankful for, with 3 wonderful daughters, 2 GREAT granddaughters and 4 AWESOME Great-grandchildren. Could I possibly have done something right? At least God was able to take my feeble efforts & multiply them for HIS glory? He does not expect us to be perfect. He knows our frame & knows that we are but dust. He also knows our hearts & looks at the intention of our hearts.
You are doing a FABULOUS job of parenting, Honey. Please try not to be so hard on yourself.
Your Mom is so right. It is not wrong to take time for yourself or the things you enjoy. It makes you a better mother.
Just know that we are all praying for you & that this season of your life will soon be gone forever.
I think you are doing an unusual job of enjoying it with your precious family.

Also, please try not to feel that you shouldn't accept help from others. That's why God puts other people in our lives. He wants us to help each other. (And you know how we enjoy helping someone else, so try to think of accepting help from others as giving them pleasure. I know that is hard for us, but I've tried to learn to do it.)
I'm glad to be back on "the blogging trail" SO good to spend time with you & your "littles" this summer.

I love you dearly, Grandma