The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Tag Archives: motherhood

When a Mama Just Has to Get Out of the Way: Guest Post by Lynn Cowell

My youngest daughter was getting ready for school one morning when I saw her squeeze her eyes shut tight. She stood frozen in front of the bathroom mirror, her purple tooth brush in hand, and she shook her head side to side as if she were chasing a bothersome thought out of her mind.

I placed my hands gently on her long silky locks and asked, “Honey, what’s wrong?”

My eight-year-old opened her eyes and met my gaze. Then she shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing’s wrong, Mom.” she replied with a quiet sigh. “Sometimes I just can’t look at myself in the mirror too long, or I notice things I don’t like.”

My heart sunk.

I swallowed a lump of sadness rising in my throat and looked at my little girl–big blue eyes, rosy pink cheeks and a wide contagious smile.
What could she possibly see that she doesn’t like? I wondered as I wrapped my arms around the budding beauty at my side.

Raising daughters is no small task. And calling out the brave beauty in our girls is, inarguably, a giant job.

That’s why I’m so grateful for this new book, Brave Beauty, written by my Proverbs 31 Ministries sister and friend, Lynn Martin Cowell. Lynn has a passion for equipping young girls with the confidence of Christ. And Lynn has a heart for us, too— for all of us who are raising daughters or nurturing granddaughters or walking along side the next generation of young women. And she wants to put resources in our hands that will help us to teach the girls we love above brave beauty.

Lately, I’ve been curling up with my little girl and reading her Lynn’s words from the pages of Brave Beauty. ‘Cuz it’s my prayer that my girl and yours will one day look in the mirror and see what Jesus sees–brave and beautiful daughters of the King.

May Lynn’s words be the gift to you that they’ve been to me…


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How to Pray When You’re Hanging By a Thread

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I’m glad you’re here. This is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled. I hope you’ll pull up a chair and stay awhile.

I’m over at Proverbs 31 today telling about a time I found myself dangling above a swirling sea and talking about how prayer is a bit like rock climbing. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you how I’m learning to pray even when I don’t know what to say…

I should never have done the math.

I’m a word gal, after all, not a numbers guru.

And, really, what good does it do a desperate mama to calculate the number of days she’s foregone a full night’s sleep?

Blame it on a mind numbed by years of inconsolable infants or on the sheer monotony of wiping faces and bottoms and floors, but on that gray winter’s day long ago, I tried to tally my exhaustion.

2,920 days. That’s how long it had been since I’d slept through the night.

Four kids and forever  buried in diapers and wails, midnight feedings and midday meltdowns, I hadn’t clocked a full night’s sleep since we’d brought home our first wrinkled bundle of wrinkles and wiggles.

Never mind that the experts claimed babies should be sleeping through the night by six months old; mine preferred to embrace the moonlight hours with eyes open wide.

Never mind that my friends told tales of quiet nights and contented cuddles; my wee ones came wrapped in colic and wired with wails.

Never mind that everyone knows that sunrise signifies a fresh start, my toddlers woke in the dark of night and begged to start their day beneath the starlight.

We’d read parenting books and consulted experts. We’d monitored eating habits and routines, schedules and stimulus. We’d established consistent nighttime norms and expectant bedtime prayers, yet nothing seemed to change the fact that our children resisted sleep like a cat runs from the swimming hole.

“They’ll sleep when they’re teenagers,” a well-meaning mom once told me with a wink.

But in the fog of exhaustion and exasperation, I’d stopped wondering if my offspring would ever sleep through the night, and I’d begun to wonder if I’d be alive to celebrate the momentous day.

“Can a woman die of sleep deprivation?” I asked my dear husband after I’d catalogued my fatigue with a senseless sum.

My husband was a doctor beyond the walls of our home, but once he walked through the door, he was just”daddy” beneath our roof. But for a rare moment, I needed my man to don his physician hat and assure me I wasn’t losing my mind. Or my life.

So, I cornered him in the coat room and voiced what any woman who had just calculated eight years of sleep deprivation might be compelled to ask.

He  scanned my face to see if I was joking.


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The Best Way to Refresh a Weary Soul this Summer

I’ll admit it. I love summer.

And I don’t.

I love ditching all the homework helping and “hurry-up” yelping. I love white space on the calendar and green space in the yard.

I love hours framed with popsicles and pool time, bonfires and bike rides; kids with sand between their toes and dirt behind their ears.

I love my home bulging with people, my kitchen ringing loud with chaos and clatter, laughter and chatter.

I love how the days stretch long and the sun refuses to set until “bedtime” is long past; how my teens begin to share their hearts as the clock pushes midnight and the moon rises bright.

I love summer.

And I don’t.

Maybe you understand.

Because if you’re a mom, you know that sometimes these long summer days just feel long, not luscious. And some days, more than an ice cold popsicle we’d really just like a long sip of silence.

Sometimes those people filling our homes just empty the cupboards and multiply the dishes, and all their chatter and clatter leaves us with spinning heads and sapped souls.

And sometimes when the hours wane long and our patience falls short, we find ourselves wishing that the summer sun would just set, and the kids would just climb in bed and the sand between those toes would stop spilling across every inch of our never-clean floors.


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Why Motherhood is Like a Never-Ending Game of Limbo

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. If you like what you find, I hope you’ll sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you face to face. I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for 2017/2018. Let me know if you’d like me to speak at a ministry event near you.

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m talking about that time years ago when my son gave me dead daises for Mother’s Day. And I’m explaining why those brown blooms were the perfect centerpiece for my table on that special day.  If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to swing over here and check it out. But before you go, let me tell you why I’m shrinking. And why the moms that you know might be shrinking too.

“Mom, I think you’re shrinking,” my firstborn said a few years ago in the middle of our morning rush.

He stood beside me with that infectious grin, the tip of his blonde head occupying the space above mine, and he puffed out his sixteen-year-old chest and held his shoulders tall to prove the truth of his declaration.

I stretched myself up on tiptoe so I could look my son in the eye.

Then, I returned his goading with a playful punch and reminded him that “sometimes the best things come in small packages…”

But what I really wanted to tell that boy of mine is that it’s his fault. ‘Cause I’ve been shrinking ever since the day that tiny pink cross on a pregnancy stick declared his existence.

Before I’d willed him from my womb with pushes and prayers, before I’d held all slippery seven-pounds of him in my arms, before I’d known his name or the sound of his flurrying feet racing across the floor, I began to shrink.

Pregnancy may grow a stomach large, but it’s just the beginning of growing a mama small.

I remember reading and re-reading every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting before I even heard my baby’s heartbeat.  I underlined diet plans and plotted out exercise regimens; practiced kegels and bid farewell to my firm abs, my bladder of steel, and life without heartburn.

I learned how big my stomach should be measuring each week and how much sleep I should be getting every night. I scanned lists of what to pack in my hospital bag and what to purchase for the nursery. But there was no mention on those highlighted pages of how the me that had always been me would begin to shrink. 

No one told me that pieces of the woman I’d been would quietly disappear, as if that bump growing just beneath my heart was elbowing her out, making space for another life that would forever change mine.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning the timeless dance of motherhood.

And, in time, I’d discover that this dance isn’t an ephemeral boogie or an occasional bop. It’s more like a perpetual game of limbo, an arduous blend of bending low and stooping steady. A selfless sway that moves with the heartbeat of Heaven.

So, I grew and I shrunk all at the same time, my stomach stretching thin and taut while the woman I once was waned and changed.

I dreamed new dreams.

And learned to pray.

I worried and wished and wondered.

My waistline disappeared and so did my stride. And as I waddled into that ninth month of pregnancy, even the very air I breathed seemed to be shrinking as an unseen tangle of legs and life pressed hard against my ribcage.

My water burst for the first time right there on our ugly plaid couch in the little apartment we called home, and the contractions swept me away on waves of hot pain and cold sweat. I gasped for breath and prayed for strength and wondered how one small life could consume every ounce of me.

I didn’t understand as I panted and pushed that I was giving birth to far more than my first baby. I was  giving birth to his mother as well. 

And  when the doctor placed that warm bundle of wet wrinkles and soft cries in my arms, I assumed that I’d already survived the toughest part of motherhood. After all, I’d lived through labor. But after bearing five children and clocking five thousand sleepless nights, after wiping bottoms and blotting tears, kissing skinned knees and praying over bruised hearts; after surviving potty-training and driver’s training and all the commonplace moments in between; I realize I was wrong.

The past eighteen years of motherhood have taught me what countless generations of mothers have always known–a mother’s labor never ends.

Oh, we can leave the delivery ward and those babies can grow six-feet tall, but they won’t be the only ones growing.

We’ll keep growing large in love and small in pride; tall in truth and short on self-importance.

Because motherhood is a daily invitation to contract in smallness so Jesus can grow bigger within us.

It’s painful. And messy–this life of dying to self and being emptied of entitlement, this life of loving without limits and serving without recognition.

It’s a dance that demands grace and second-chances, patience and prayer.

Motherhood is not the only way God refines us, but it is one of the surest ways…if we are willing to learn this dwindling dance.

Just moments after my firstborn declared that I was shrinking, he cast me a sheepish grin and asked if I could please pack a lunch for him. ‘Cause he was running late, and he still needed to cram for that physics test and find his track shoes and brush his teeth before he left for school. 

I really just wanted to sit down for a moment and take a sip of that coffee I’d brewed at 5 A.M., but I remembered the words I’d read in my Bible at dawn, the ones that had reminded me that my Savior understands what it means to shrink.

“When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”  (Philippians 2:7).

So I reached for the bread and began to pack a lunch, and that’s when I realized it with fresh awe–Growing up into smallness is a giant challenge, but we’re not left to shrink alone. We have a Savior who understands every step of this diminishing dance, a Savior who has lived the ultimate limbo. 


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The Mom Initiative: For the Mom Whose Life Feels Small

Laundry frames the end of my day, stacks of clean underwear and yet-to-be-folded t-shirts, drifts of unmatched socks and mountains of wrinkled jeans.

Upturned baskets are scattered across the living room like tiny tables awaiting a tea party.

But I’m not in the mood for a midnight soiree, I’m drinking from my own deep reservoirs of self-pity.


I’m exhausted and the voices of discouragement in my head are clanking above what my heart knows to be true.

What did you do all day?

Why don’t you ever get anything done?

You’re never going to have time to do something that really matters.

Dishes and dirt, tantrums and time-outs—a mother’s life can feel so small.

I rub the palm of my hand over those crumpled jeans, trying to press out the unwanted creases that sprouted in the dark of the unattended dryer. If only I could smooth the ragged edges of my soul in a similar fashion.

“Sometimes I just want to do something bigger than all of this…” I tell my husband as he joins me on the floor and begins stacking the folded laundry into piles.

I imagine you’ve felt the same at one time or another.

You don’t need to be a mother to feel discouraged by the daily grind. Whether you’re running errands or running a business, planning a meal or planning a merger, the everyday mundane can seem trifling and insignificant.

My man sits beside me in silence, weighing his words. Finally, he murmurs, “Just because what you’re doing feels small, doesn’t mean that it is.”

Maybe I’m the only one who’s ever felt this way, but some days the hardest part of this BIG job of motherhood is just remembering that the small things matter to my Maker. 

I’m over at The Mom Initiative preaching to my own heart today. And I don’t mind a bit if you listen in.

Maybe my tale of  a broken scooter, an ornery little brother, and an unexpected word of truth will encourage you, too.

Hope you’ll join me there…