Don’t Let Comparison Kill You!

The Braids

An excerpt from ‘Moments On Mothering’ – Reflective inspiration from one mother to another

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I often must sacrifice my own needs and desires for the purpose of giving my children what they need and modelling for them the depths of Christ’s love – Sally Clarkson

I was recently scanning Instagram – I like to read the ‘bio’s’ which tend to reveal what you’d like the world to know about you, to draw you in and win you to their world. Leave it blank, quote Mother Teresa or form a mini Curriculum Vitae – it all speaks. I came across one mother somewhere across the globe who was adamant that she wasn’t going to post ‘pretty pictures of folded laundry’ and luscious lavender trailing across her deck; neither was she going to quote ‘dead people’ but she was going to reveal her #reallife. The thing about that is that I can just look up and see my piles of dishes, unmade beds and unbrushed heads. I can smell the reality of my occasional unkempt life every time someone opens the fridge (it’s no.2 on my ‘to do’ list: clean out fridge) but I use Instagram because I am.

I am who I am – I’m a beauty seeker and treasure keeper; whether that’s in the form of a photo, a quote, a pine cone or a pre-loved coffee cup; I need these layers of simplicity to form in the quiet of my soul. Laundry will always be with us but that sunset that swept you away, that look of elation on your 4 year old’s face when the first snow fell and the page of that book that rocked your world, yes – I’m all about that. I’m all about celebrating the small, the seemingly insignificant; a well-crafted web of words, written or read that forms like a wax seal upon the envelope of another ‘normal’ day.

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We talk about ‘real’ and being authentic; we shout about our messy lives as if we have to prove to each other that these things exist – but mama I know. My day is filled with cleaning up spills, managing their (my) emotions, cleaning up dog mess from the yard, fighting off the temptation to scroll the day away on my phone, playing catch up and recovering from the repercussions of not finishing my ‘to do’ list last week! Yep, I’m there – I know it and I live it.

I am who I am – I’m a beauty seeker and treasure keeper; whether that’s in the form of a photo, a quote, a pine cone or a pre-loved coffee cup; I need these layers of simplicity to form in the quiet of my soul

The fact that I bare my soul through a book and a tea cup is a moment’s glimpse of treasure amongst a measure, of normal and beautiful…I’m not running away from being dutiful.

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My daughters and I have long hair; my eldest daughter likes to show me fancy braids on YouTube and we bumble along attempting to recreate them to some success. I was admiring (following, stalking – call it what you will) a displayer of braids from across the social media airwaves over a period of time and was quite abruptly stopped in my tracks and was shocked by what I discovered; her beautiful, long, blonde, thick, luscious, always looking fabulous locks were FAKE!! I trawled and discovered a video of her attaching her magnificent mane to a pretty average mop and naively sat there with my mouth open yelping “Nyah her hair is fake”, to which she obviously replied “yes Mum, how could you not know?”, to which I replied (mostly to Nyah but somewhat to said YouTuber) “but mine is real”. It’s sometimes messy and thrown up into a top knot, it’s sometimes blow dried and carefully curled, it generally gets in the way. But it’s real.

Mess is real and so is beauty. Unkempt and cluttered is real and yet so is neat and complete.

My favourite social scientist, awesome TED talker and shame researcher Brene Brown says “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it” and we run so much don’t we? We hear our songs in other musicians lyrics, we read our stories in other writers pages, we gaze upon art that came from our heart but we stay in the shadows, hiding under labels of ‘it’s all been done, said, painted or created before’ – but you, you have never been seen. It’s time to get our authentic selves out from under the duvet and step forward as it’s your time too.

We all have a story worthy of being told.

It’s time to stop being afraid of what might be and what could be and who you think you should be. Between the gaps of school runs, chopping onions and polishing taps there’s a dreamer. You’re pushing buggies and forming melodies and imagining words on a page or colours on a canvas or feet gently choreographed in movement to move people and lives and hearts. And if there’s time for this, there’s time for that.

That idea you can’t shake, that recipe you’re pining to bake is real and true. It’s you.

There’s so much of ‘us’ that we set aside for a time, especially in early motherhood, which is good and right because it’s all about sleep reserving and flying mushed food swerving. But stop looking longingly at that woman who’s creating and helping and doing and walking and see yourself as alive and able to do and be, at the right time; authentically and fully. Be you.

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So next time you’re scrolling and aching over a picture of perfectly folded floral napkins or a well kempt 3 year old wearing a floating dress and cute laced boots;  when you click onto Instagram tomorrow and she’s all over it again with her beach views and pastel hues – celebrate with her. That mama has carved some time out of her life just like yours to take a picture, savour a moment and share it with you.

Doesn’t that change our perspective? She’s not trying to portray perfection – she’s choosing a selection of important moments or creations that will mark her life and make her smile.

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Want to read more? Go over to Amazon and download your copy today; don’t miss the great $2.99 (£2.12) sale on now!

 

The Marvel Of Motherhood

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Pregnancy and motherhood are the most beautiful and significantly life-altering events that I have ever experienced – Elisabeth Hasselbeck

So, here’s a peek into my collection of essays on motherhood that I published this time last year if you haven’t read it yet – thought I’d post the introduction to give you a little taste of what the book is all about, and then you can hop over to Amazon whilst the $2.99 (£2.07) sale is on and download it for yourself! Enjoy, Leah x

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This collection of creative pieces comes to you after 12 years of mothering but also after many more years of dreaming and carving out the time to write. This merging of passions has enabled me to begin to process so many of the incredible elements of the motherhood journey and I’m so excited to bring you along with me.

I was introduced to motherhood just over 12 years ago in a pretty basic delivery room in Leicestershire; I knelt up on the metal framed bed with my assiduously labouring and sweating body wrapped around a bean bag masking my groans and cries. Sometime after 10pm the midwife passed a bloody, wet and wriggling being under my legs and into my arms. I looked down through this surreal experience with tear filled eyes and quietly whispered to my new-born daughter “I knew it was you”.

And this prolonged, agonizing but incredible experience was all worth it, it felt right and raw; with my new found birthing expertise and her intoxicating suckling smell we could take on the world! And thus began my parenting journey. I went on from the Leicestershire labour ward to birth three more children; two of which were in the comfort of my own home.

The mothering experience continues to encompass so much of the birthing journey, as Ann Voskamp so eloquently puts it: “And the realization — that a mother’s labour and delivery never ends and you never stop having to remember to breathe.” And these moments of breathing and reflecting and remembering are what I’ve hoped to capture in this compilation of writings.

This collection of creative pieces comes to you after 12 years of mothering but also after many more years of dreaming and carving out the time to write. This merging of passions has enabled me to begin to process so many of the incredible elements of the motherhood journey and I’m so excited to bring you along with me.

When I think back over my primary years of being a mother I could easily laugh or cry in equal proportions around the decisions I’ve made, the conversations I’ve had, the theories I’ve believed and the paths I’ve chosen to walk but thankfully with each lesson, victory, challenge and failure it has shaped the mother and woman I am today.

These musings are in no way parenting advice or a motherhood heist; I’ve promised myself that I won’t write a ‘parenting book’ till my kids are at least in their 30’s! Each essay or poem is a reflection of my journey and personal observations as I’m living out this mayhem of maternity whilst doing my best to love my children, honour God and enjoy the ride.

Each piece should take you no more than 10 minutes to read, so even in the midst of sweeping and peace keeping, pour yourself a cup of tea, pull up a chair and let me tell you a story.

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They’re Watching You!

 

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Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you – Robert Fulgham

 

The following post is an excerpt from ‘Moments on mothering

Who we are and what we say, what we do and how we play out our lives is really important to our children. Every day we influence and greatly impact the little lives in our homes and hearts – but often without even realising the longevity of our loving leadership.

A big part of my life is spent facilitating my children’s learning. We’ve been home educating for almost 9 years and my greatest thrill is seeing my children thrive in their learning, especially when we’re ‘off the clock’. I’m a huge lover of nature study; I frequently point out beauty with authentic awe and wonder on any journey; from picking up milk from the corner shop to a family hike in the Warwickshire countryside.  One of my greatest learning influences is an 18th century educator called Charlotte Mason, she put great emphasis (as many have done since her) on children spending lots of time outside; observing God’s incredible creation and making their own connection with what they see.

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I can often teach and share life with my children but with very little immediate feedback, and then just like that your 18 month old wanders out into the garden and by using baby sign language tells you there’s a ‘bird’ whilst she watches the sparrows tap for worms on the lawn. And just last night I was out in the car with Nyah; she stopped me mid conversation and said “mum, look at the moon; it’s majestic”. It’s not merely that we suggest to our children what’s important to observe and commentate on, but we do it ourselves; we live it, we breathe it, we experience it and they see all.

And what if we saw all of life this way, what if we saw mothering as a plethora of perception, a nullah of noticing and a flowing river of recognition; how we live our life is how they will live theirs. Their lives may take on a different shape, but an oval is just a circle slightly squashed right? We can’t get away from the fact that our children will end up a lot like us.

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The hard thing is seeing the reality of our frailties and imperfection when we were hoping for momentary deflection. But hiding isn’t an option and neither is sitting on that pedestal. Our children need truth telling and wholehearted dwelling. They need to see conflict and wrong actions forgiven. They need blatant veracity and loving tenacity knowing that real is the raw deal but it’s within our capacity to feel and to heal.

I tell my children that I’m hopelessly flawed, very much human and I ask for forgiveness, regularly. The scandal of grace is in my face, every day and I drink it in. There’s no shame in taking the blame for what they do and say, but we have to be quick to forgive ourselves and remember tomorrow is another day.

Robert Fulghum said “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you”; and as much as I endeavour to daily win my children’s hearts through what I say and what I do, they certainly don’t miss a thing.

Your life and choices are important to your children’s day dreams and life schemes, so you’d better watch your back mama, they’re watching you!

 

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Moments On Mothering – Reflective inspiration from one mother to another by Leah Boden

To The Mentees And The Mothers – An Open Letter

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If I could have, I would have hand written this note to all of  you with a fine writer and had it posted to your house. Here’s the next best thing.

Dear ones,

Thank you for believing that my journey is worth something, thank you for believing that by taking pieces of my story, it will help yours. Some of the pieces that glisten now were once broken and dull; Jesus has taken them into his wondrous workshop and spent time on them. You’re welcome to those too.

I want to remind you that you’re doing an incredible job, your children play, laugh, come to you for comfort and delight in the joy they bring you. I saw how you smiled at your son and your heart brimmed with love afresh; I know that look, I’ve felt it too. I love how you hold your 6 month old close, wrapped into your body – but I know you cry because some things aren’t perfect.

I’ve loved watching your journey, listened to you talk about the books you’ve read, the people who inspire you, the patterns you want to follow. I cried when I’ve heard of your pain, the loss of  a promise into the ‘old-familiar’ of a hospital where they see it everyday, but to you (and I) it was your baby and you have to wait for heavens hallelujah to embrace that child again. I remember seeing your face, being brave, but swirling inside. I know that feeling. I’ve felt it.

I know you feel you haven’t made the best choices, the right turns or danced to the same beat as your peers. But God. His redemption is now. His mercies are new today. Your strength is renewed in this moment. He is the God of fresh starts, I thank Him for that everyday.

And I hold your baby, giggle with your toddler, tease your teen because they are an extension of you and that is a sign and a wonder. I see the power of your prayers and the torment of the tears you have sown into this week and I praise God for the fruit of your toil, your labour and your longing. The years don’t go so fast when you live them fully. When we’re present in our children’s lives we live every moment.

That can be exhausting. That can be exhilarating.

I know you feel lonely at times. Sometimes even I miss that look amongst the crowd of masked faces. I like it when you take yours off and tell me. And we cry messy tears and make plans to make it better.

There are many inspired moments and methods and ways to do this and that, but I have to show you Jesus, He is the WAY.

There are many stories and successes and picture of grace and beauty; but I have to teach you through His Word. He is the TRUTH.

There are many elaborate celebrations, well-timed snapshots of light, life and creative callings, but life is the stuff we live between the clicking of the camera. Life is what I want to show you. He is the LIFE.

If my journey ever shows you the way, leads you into truth or draws life from your bones, it’s all because of Jesus.

There’s no such thing as super mum.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Letter

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“Love her but leave her wild.”  Atticus

 

To my daughters,

I never imagined doing life so close and intensely with two other girls; two girls who came from my womb, whose hearts grew and beat inside me, who fed from my very body and face life, daily, right in front of my eyes.

I never imagined loving two emerging women so fiercely and at times so fearfully. Your beauty and grace exude you; your spirits are strong, as is your will. That can be hard at times.

And I have so much to say, so much I want to tell you, so much I want to pass on – from my frailties and imperfections. Not that I expect you to be perfect but I long for you to live, to be authentic you, to be free; even though you look a little bit like me.

You are incredibly unique; there really is no one like you – not just in a snowflake, fingerprint way, but in a womb dwelling, heart swelling display. There’s a place for you in the caverns of my soul that was created before the beginning of time. I was made for you and you for me. The web of your design so intrinsically connects with the threads of my twine. You so delicate, I so strong – inseparable, in harmony like a perfectly crafted song.

I see a woman in your eyes; your voluminous childhood voice gives me a choice to tame, shame and extinguish, or I can love and guide and blow upon the embers of passion, life and liberty in your song. I refuse to quash – I choose to wash over you with words of encouragement, inspiration and light.

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And here you are living in the midst of a social explosion; a connection erosion through scrolling screens and vicious teens and my inmost being wants to drag back in, like a near dead body on a front line battle, the clear and the combined and coherent process of living again. Guard your hearts dear daughters from the pressure of Pinterest perfection which leaves authentic being as just mere inflection; which leaves girls like you (and me) in a sea of correction and rejection. Lift up your eyes and see your King; the One who knitted your inquisitive soul and made you whole.

He is the mirror we hang on our wall and stare into timelessly until we no longer feel small.

See the detail in the day; His splendour on display – let your senses come alive, breath deeply daughter – thrive!

You see I could come at you with wisdom and lived advice but in the end that’s like rolling a dice; you can choose to walk my way and follow patterns of my life – I can guide you into motherhood and inspire you as a wife. But I’m compelled to show you Jesus through every season of your days so when success or favour crowns you it’s to Him we give our praise. Or when darker days are heavy like grey clouds on the horizon – I’ll teach you to kneel, and look up; there’s always a glimmer of light about to break through; a peace that helps us wisen.

My daughters you need to know it’s by grace I daily mother your souls and I get it wrong so often; I pray with every fallen word your forgiving hearts will soften.

My dependence upon Him ties me to you and to what your future holds and I guess what we’ll watch unfold. But in these days ahead I’ll love you lavishly and liberally, unhindered in peeling back the surface of your pleasing, precious, present and imperfect life.

I love you.

This is an excerpt from my Kindle book ‘Moments On Mothering’; you can purchase the whole book here – enjoy!

Cautious Bravery – A Reflection On Introversion

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With glistening skin and sandy toes we’re slowly emerging out of our camp cocoon into the reality of laundry and the glaring need to valet the car!

Watching my children by the water was revealing for me and forming for them; from extreme caution to fearless bravery they all approached the same ‘task’ in such different ways.

Hoping that their appetites might be the homing call for dinner I lovingly prepared spelt bread (made at home), slow cooked lemon and herb chicken (yes, even on a camp site) and salad; but instead I had to send out a search party for my eldest two children which unsurprisingly led me to the water where they were so immersed in fun and community that they barely heard their stomachs rumbling. I watched them run and jump repeatedly off the jetty, high into the sky and come down with a jubilant splash!

As I walked my youngest two to the waterfront, one with little hand tucked into mine, the other child running ahead; even their clothes spoke of their glaring differences. One in full swimming attire, fully intending to dive right in – the other still in shorts and t-shirt with swim shorts in hand ‘just in case’! They were both cautious of the cold water, dipping toes and running back to base. One face lit up and let out squeals of delight, the other pondered, straight faced, considering the cost.

After a delicate process of entry one wannabe water baby lay fully in the shallow water, head safely above chin level and shouted ‘I’m swimming mama’; and with every subsequent ‘dip’ said child took less and less time to get brave on the descent.

And my cautious child went waist deep after much cajoling and he finally smiled; we cheered and whooped and high fived him on his exit. He grinned all the way home.

 …and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.

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I was starkly aware of my own personality peering at me with mocking eyes; not the diving and repeating but the caution and the toe dipping.

I was the shy, compliant child; desperate to please, then I was the quietly adventurous traveller walking this lonely planet; scaling the streets of New York city with new found plane friends but loving the alone.  Then I was the mum at the theme park holding the coats and the baby five year old. And then there are the times when I don’t want to answer the phone or go to that party; I can talk to hundreds but struggle with the one. I like books and stillness; they bring fullness to my struggling fuel tank. Apparently I ‘push the red‘ and my seeming extrovert self is dead.

You see introversion can walk the path of shyness and ‘the quiet one’ but passion and creativity push through that wanten personality and we become who we are with that familiar recharge of still and silent and quiet.

“It’s not our experiences that form us but the ways in which we respond to them;” ― Pico Iyer, The Virtue of Stillness

I have this friend; she’s the run around the park with the kids, dragging shore line introverts into the water, stay late around the campfire, join in the water fight, include everyone party mum and I love her. I love her for many reasons but one big reason, between you and I, is that I want to be more like her. We so often admire qualities in people because we see them in ourselves. In my case I see the possibility of those traits in myself. I have to make those possibilities a reality, it’s my choice.

So where I used to dip my toes reluctantly into the braver aspects of life, I’ve been around long enough to know that you eventually acclimatise to the cold water and it becomes fun, and easier – and then you can go a bit deeper.

And it’s in the depths that I want to live; learning to swim freely through the open waters of God’s love, freedom and opportunity.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7

So next time you see me trying something new and I’m not smiling (yet); give this introvert a minute or two, keep cheering me on; I’ll get there eventually and make sure you high-five me on the way out.

(And then leave me alone for a while…)

Smile.

The Swallows (A poem)

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Felix Bracquemond, The Swallows, c. 1881

And with the swoop of the swallows
I know the season has changed
The return of the familiar
The comfort and the soul smile

And they race and chase
Dipping low in a circular motion
Embracing the air
Like a lasso above my head

And when children are sleeping
I sit in the quiet of the day
As the evening sun dips into the lows
I await their fading, moving sound in the skies

And I lean in
Like an old friend on the telephone
“I recognise that voice”
This turning of a new season gives me no choice

By Leah Boden