Dear __________ mom, this is for you.

Dear ______________ mom,

You can fill in the blank that applies to you – stay at home, working, partial custody, divorced, separated, married, happy, sad, struggling, thriving, frustrated, exhausted, sleep-deprived, black, white, oppressed, privileged, rich, poor, minority, understood, misunderstood, passionate, depressed… fill in that blank with all that you are and all that you feel.

You matter.
You are loved.
You are highly valued.

This morning on the way home from getting our weekly fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market, I asked my husband if it would be okay for me to stay home from church this morning while he went with our 17-month old daughter. I was afraid of sounding selfish, but I knew that a couple of hours at home alone to write, read my Bible, pray and plan for the week was going to benefit me and my family more than being at church. How can I say that, right?! I’m not saying gathering with community to worship and fellowship and hear a preaching isn’t valuable, or even that this morning’s church service couldn’t have given me the fresh breath that I need, but we know ourselves best, and sometimes we need to make decisions that might seem selfish or even disappoint other people, in order to care for ourselves, and in turn care for our families and communities.

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Ryan dropped me off and left for church with Olivia, and the first thing I did was turn on the new Macklemore album (don’t worry, it was the clean version) loudly, and take a really long shower. Afterwards, I took my sweet time drying off without a toddler tugging at me, and I put on my comfy bright green running shorts, a sports bra and the most comfortable (LuLu Lemon) tank top ever created, which was coincidentally given to me by a fellow mom who taught me the very thing I am hoping to encourage you with today.

No matter what fills in your blank above, you are worth being cared for. You were created to be known, and to be loved without condition.

I’m guilty of forgetting that all the time. But the more I spend time with other parents, and even see the lives of other moms over the internet, I realize even more how important it is for us to remind ourselves every single day that even though we are moms and we have responsibilities and natural instincts to take care of our kids and our husbands and probably lots of other things, we must believe that we need to be cared for. We need to believe that we are worth being loved, and being truly known.

It’s so easy to push aside the things that we love and are passionate about, so that we can give all of ourselves to our children and our husband, but as much as that is selfless and honorable, I am urging you not to do this.

You know how every time you fly, the stewardesses tell you that in case of emergency, you may have to use oxygen masks? And they tell you that you need to put your own mask on before helping anyone else, including your kids? I’m sure you, like me, struggle to even imagine not first putting that oxygen mask on your kid if it comes down to it. But there’s a really good reason the airlines advise this. If you aren’t breathing, you can’t possibly save your kid, or anyone else.

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So, fellow _____________ mom, please do whatever it takes to keep breathing. I’m not talking about shallow breaths, either. I’m talking about deep, sweet, life-giving breaths.

I’ve realized that the way I get these deep, refreshing breaths are through consistent, uninterrupted times of exercise, journaling and reading the Bible, spending time doing things I love like photography, discipleship, and spending quality time with my husband and my friends. And of course a consistent rhythm of daily tasks that keeps our home neat and orderly. I’ve had to make some sacrifices and our schedule is planned down to the minute, but when I carve out the time, I see how much more energy I have to play with my daughter, have meaningful conversations with my friends, and just have an overall positive outlook every day. Yes, unexpected things come up, and life is far from perfect – but hey, life wasn’t meant to be perfect! We aren’t made to be perfect. We will never be perfect, because perfect doesn’t exist on this earth. You can take perfect and throw it out the window. I’m not saying go and be careless about your responsibilities as a mom. What I’m saying is don’t give up your dreams. Don’t stop doing the things you love. Don’t neglect yourself.

Instead, give yourself some grace. Eat some chocolate and listen to your favorite podcast. Go on a walk for no reason at all. Read that book over and over again to your baby just because they love it when you do. Spend time preparing healthy, nutrient-rich foods that fuel your body and mind. Go on a hike with your best friend and don’t take the baby. Take a 2 hour nap. Whatever it is that helps you recharge, do a little bit of that every day. Not just because it will make you a more energetic, happy mom, or wife, or friend, but because you were created to feel alive, to feel joy, to feel content – no matter your circumstances.

You are known.
You matter.
You are loved.
You are highly valued.

Even when you don’t feel like it, believe it.

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