So it's a big life, and sometimes the highlight reel on my Instagram feed can make it all look glamorous or just plain easy. It's not. It's big, it's messy, it's an adventure, and it's beautiful. Our family lives a calculated and intentional life, yet at the same time we're all full of flexibility for those moments/seasons where just about anything can happen. With every new turn of the corner, we stretch, change, and move things around according to the needs of our kids, marriage, family, church and so on. I decided to write this article after I hung out with my good friend (Chris Jury - love you girl!) in Australia after preaching at SWB with Leigh Ramsey the pastor of Citipointe as well as with Sean and Lynda Stanton down in Canberra. I also got to visit to my brother and his family in Sydney which was so much fun. Chris and I got talking (at the playground with our kids nearly necking themselves several times) about how looking from the outside in, it can sometimes seem like its a super easy, cushy life to live. None of our lives are, but I thought I'd take you behind the scenes of my day to day to show you a bit how we do it as a family. If I didn't cover something you're still curious about, comment and I'll see what I can do to answer your questions.
Whatever I put on here just remember, life is seasonal for all of us so there is absolutely no way we can really "do it all" at the same time and stay sane. Don't buy into that lie, because when you do, you set yourself up for failure. Begin to look at all the wonderful things you are doing now and place value on it! Those gorgeous children, that job that is building character in you, the friends that you keep running alongside that can feel like a drain at times, that marriage that needs some work... Seasons come and go and after a beautifully lived life you'll be able to look back over the years and say, "Hey, I did it all!" because you didn't give up!
How I do it "all" - demystified:
Things we don't Instagram:- As I kick this off, let's be honest - there is so much we don't Instagram or post on social media. As I was talking to one of our Brooklyn Pastors, Kristen Tarsiuk, we laughed about all the things we NEVER post... Like that unibrow, our kids having a tantrum - in public, arguments with our husband, that church service that failed and no one showed up to, that meal we burnt, the ring around our bathtub (that we still bathe our kids in without wiping it down). Usually we post our perfect cake, our children painting a picture just like Picasso, or a bikini shot with our kids in the frame making sure everyone knows that we lost that baby weight. Yeah, you probably lost a few followers that day - did I just write that? Yes, yes I did. I've personally never posted a bikini shot (nobody needs to see that - I personally don't want people picturing me in a bikini as I preach) and my stomach has been stretched to kingdom come - 4 times (like I said, nobody needs to see that) - but each to their own. But I'm sure I've posted other things that have made people want to throw their phone and say "Oh yay! Good for you!" laden with heavy sarcasm, and for those days - I'm sorry.
(Clears throat) So moving on... How I do it all behind the curated Instagram feed:
Values: You've got to live from your value system, or life will choose for you. Make sure you know what they are and that they're in order, or you will sacrifice and pay the price for the wrong things. Usually unintentionally but nonetheless it will leave you frustrated and lacking grace for your season.
Paul and I often say "Our first ministry is to our family" and it comes out of our value system. There have been times when our lives didn't line up with that value (ouch!) and we took the rebuke from heaven and made changes. My husband and I don't want to build our "ministry" while we sacrifice our children in the process. They are our ministry! If their lives fall apart because of our choices, then we have to answer for that. I realize that they have a free will, and we don't control that will, but we will do our best to "raise them up in the way they should go so they don't depart from it" in every season of life. By the way, the word ministry means "to meet a need" - and as their parents, our children's primary needs are to be met by us.
So here's a shout out to all the stay at home moms and dads that don't feel appreciated! THANK YOU for raising kids that will change the world. You are my heros!
Now look, that's just one of our families values out of many that I've used as an illustration, and your values may not be my values, but get before God and put them in order. This will help you count the cost with every season and cause you to pay the right price. None of our lives will look the same, but we have to be true to each of our individual callings and purpose. We answer to our Father at the end of our lives for how we have cultivated what He's given us. Then, when the pressure comes to cave or compromise, we can't because we know we're building for the long haul with our values in mind and a knowing that opportunity will always come knocking.
Not every opportunity is your God opportunity.
My mom and dad: So after all that, lets just start with the fact that my mom and dad live upstairs in the same brownstone as we do, albeit a different apartment - we do life together. My parents truly are wonderful GRANDparents to my children and they feel called to come alongside Paul and I as we build the church together. They are also on staff overseeing our pastoral care, but if Paul and I ever should travel at the same time, it's my mom and dad that are home with my babies. They raise them just as we raise them and my children adore Nonni and Poppy. Whenever we do go away together and they ask, "who is staying with us" (as if they answer ever changes) and we tell them, "It's Nonni and Poppy!" They cheer and scream and get so pumped - every time.
I understand that this is not a reality for everyone, and that we have extremely blessed circumstances, but this wasn't always the case. I lived in Australia for 10 years without my mom and dad and was a stay at home mom for a season with my 3 children under the age of 3. It hasn't always been like this and to be honest I wouldn't travel, work, nor build the church at the capacity that I do without them. So in this season, this is really working, and with the next season that God brings we will re-evaluate once again.
Life Assistant: Our life assistant is another me at home! I have multiplied my capacity by training a wonderful woman to help run our household just like I would if I was home 24/7. It's a sacrifice for us financially and for me as a woman and mom emotionally, but with the right person (which we SO have) it brings peace and efficiency to the household.
After a long day's work I come home to the laundry done, beds fixed, a tidy house, bathed kids and a cooked meal so I can sit around the table and focus on what matters most - my kids and my husband. We talk, laugh and have family dinner which is what I love and crave in life. I am so grateful for our life assistant who has truly transformed (and organized) our lives at home.
Executive Assistant: Paul and I have an awesome woman who organizes our work life and calendar and I don't know how we'd do it without her! She helps lift the burden of admin (and a million other things) so I can focus on people, study, message prep and writing. She is amazing!
Home Days and Work Days: I only work in the office Tuesday-Thursday so I can be home with my kids Monday and Friday. I want to stay in touch with the dirty dishes, laundry, organizing, school drop offs and picks ups, general kid chaos and all things home.
Frequent Flyer points: Please don't get the idea that we have millions in some offshore account so we can do all this traveling - we have a lot frequent flyer points. Travel is one of our values and I realize it may not be on of yours. Because it is a value of ours, we find creative ways to do it and make it work and we save money to travel. We love making memories together and bonding with each other as a family and travel is one way we do that.
Calendar Planning: Not sexy, but 100% necessary. My husband and I often sit down to plan the calendar with our values in mind.
Since our kids are our first priority, we plan the calendar around school season, school breaks, times when we know their emotions may run high or they may need us more for various different reasons, times where they'll need their momma more then their dad, or times when dad is great to hold the fort down while momma is away.
We also plan in time away without the kids. Paul and I want to fall more and more in love as each year passes and we need time together to do that. If the kids feel sad about us leaving, we simply ask them this question, "Do you want mommy and daddy to fall more in love?" Hello! The answer is always yes and then they are excited to see us leave. We want to pass on the desire for a healthy loving marriage to our kids and prioritizing each other does that for them.
We do life with our kids: This isn't always easy, but we like to take them with us on the journey no matter the cost (emotionally, physically, spiritually... you get it.) Sometimes they fall asleep on the floor at the thai food resturant after you've preached your heart out because you don't want them to go back to the hotel without you so you can have one more cuddle. It's worth it - totally not convenient and I love it all.
Endless packing and unpacking: A side effect of travel that I DO NOT love. No one can pack for me or my kids because it's all up in my head. You know that inventory list that no one else can access or do right even if you write it down? Yeah that one. And I admit, it's a little bit control freakish of me, but it's a huge part of travel that is so not glamorous! Gaaaaah!
Battles:Fear is real and so is LOVE. But that battles you face when you say YES to God in any way shape or form are no joke. Be ready and know your stance - you win. We fight from a place of victory, not defeat. So keep your armor on and get your fight on.
Keep your heart pure: Entitlement will kill you. At times, our generation can be a "give it to me because God showed me a vision, I'm gifted to the hilt, and now is my time because I said so" generation. When we act like that, we're lacking the gratitude and humility it takes to SERVE and LOVE every generation alive on earth today which is why we're here. We are here for others - period. The first and foremost "others" I am here for are my husband and my children, and if that's out of whack, then it all falls apart. This goes back to the values piece. If you're goal in life is travel the world and preach, then you've missed it. Serve God, whatever that looks like in your season and do it with joy. That is the prize.
We serve at His pleasure... Not our own.
Wherever you are now, do your journey well. Fight the good fights that are right there in front of you. Moms! Raise those babies and be the greatest momma this earth has seen - even though no one may ever say thank you. We're raising them to be demon torturing, Kingdom releasing, Love overflowing, model citizens of this earth to transform it for Jesus - THEY ARE YOUR CALLING.
Count the cost: Giving everything for God will cost you no matter your sphere of influence, so don't be surprised when there is a price tag to the life you are called to live. The truth is, you still have a free will to count the cost and decide if you will pay it or not.
When you go to a store and buy a new shirt, before you purchase it, usually you would have looked at the cost, the style of the shirt and weighed up whether you're willing to pay for it or not. Once you do pay it, there are generally two responses - joy at having the new shirt, or buyers remorse because you didn't count the cost appropriately according to what you had in the bank to pay.
When it comes to the call of God it's the same. There is a price and a cost to stepping into new levels. There is also a cost to remaining in the same place. But we have to constantly be counting the cost and checking our hearts. Once you have counted it, weighed it, and prayed about it - make your decision and move forward without looking back and don't complain about how much it cost you! In every season of life, continue to ask God for the plan to execute the assignment He's given you - stay close to Him. He will slather your life with grace to live in what He has called you to.
"Don't trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost." Proverbs 20:25 NLT
Keep getting punched in the face:Continual first hand revelation is necessary to overflow in this race we are all called to thrive in. Second hand revelation comes from others revelation (i.e. podcasts, messages, books, etc.) and is powerful, but there is nothing like being in the presence of God and letting Him hit you with the truth in love. It keeps you humble, on your face and in the right place for God to literally take the stage of your life because you're not interested in being on it! I serve at His pleasure therefore I need to know Him and what He wants for and from me.
Have your 3 or 4:I need prayer warriors in my life that have my back, my front, and my sides... And I've got theirs! I have 3 or 4 women in my life that I can call upon to pray in every season and I do the same for them. On occasion, I will call these women together and we get on our faces and pray... We are at war and every single one of our assignments matters - your assignment on earth matters, so take yourself seriously.
At the end of our lives we will stand before God and He will ask us what we've done with what we've been given. I don't have another shot at this life and I'm not wasting any time.
Well, that's all for now... I hope you feel encouraged, empowered and helped in some way shape or form. Now go and run your race and do it with everything you have!