Jun 102013

Some words of mama encouragement from the Gypsy Mama ( I LOVE HER) herself….


You don’t know me. Hi, I’m Lisa-Jo. And I don’t think even Glennon knows this. But, if there’s one thing I’d like to let you in on, it’s this:

I was the girl who swore she’d never end up anyone’s cliche — barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Which is interesting since we currently have three kids, a hamster and a back yard where toys go to die.

For the dog days of motherhood


For the dog days of motherhood when you want your money back via lisajobaker

I grew up in South Africa, where the streets turn Jacaranda purple in October and we take our tea hot with milk and sugar, and I hadn’t turned 18 yet when I swore I didn’t plan to be anyone’s mother.

It was after my mom had been in hospital for about nine months and the pastor’s son was over and caught me trying to figure out how to cook dinner for my kid brothers. I was barefoot. And in the kitchen.

I remember how the late afternoon sunshine was coming in at the window and I had my mom’s wooden cutting board out – the one with the pot burns blackened into its surface. We’d been living on takeout, dad was burned out from the hourly evening commutes to the hospital, and that night I was chopping onions to get a real meal started instead.

But William laughed at me and I promised myself I’d grow up to do something big and brave and important.

For a while I did.

After my mom died. After I went to college. After I graduated law school. After I told the boy I was in love with that I needed him to marry me and not my ability to have kids. And he did. There was a while when I felt significant in all the ways that I thought were the opposite of helping someone finish his homework or someone else root through the piles of laundry for clean undies.

I was a legal specialist in Ukraine and we fought human trafficking with gritted teeth and bared hearts and our guts tied up in knots. It was awful and incredible and necessary and there are things I will always wish I could un-see.

That’s the part I need you to know because it’s what makes being a mother to three kids so surprising to me.

I turned 30 in Ukraine. And by the time I turned 31 we would be back living in South Africa after a decade away. And I would give birth to our first born three days later.


Here’s what I learned in between.

Here’s what I want you to hear. Especially you, if you’re wondering how life turned out like this, if you feel lost in your own story and looking for a way out.

If you’re up to your eyeballs in kids and under the weather and desperate for the laundry to cut you some slack.

If you’re gasping for breath and wrestling worries and bills and sweating the end of year report cards.

If you can’t bear to come up with one more way to cook chicken.

If you’re short on sleep and high on impatience.

If you feel small or invisible or like you are slowly fading away.

Can I just slip my shoes off, slide over on the sofa and tell you this: I believe God sees you. I believe God cheers you. I believe your work is holy ground and I am proud to stand here barefoot beside you.

I am convinced that the God who made you, sculpted you, loved you into being considers your story just as important as the work of rescuing women from the slums in Kenya or the traffickers in Ukraine.

Even on the days when no one knows what you did. Maybe most especially on those days. When there are no awards or headlines or standing ovations. I believe that the God who began this work in and through you will carry it, and you if necessary, across the finish line.

And that He understands tired. He gets needing space. He’s lived the burnout of too many demanding hands all tugging at the same time. This Jesus-brother-human-maker who on the day when “so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat,” said to his friends, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Ain’t no shame in those days, friends.

Nope, I think those are the holy days. The scars-worn-bravely days.

So, on those days, dear ones, dish up an extra bowl of ice cream and repeat after me:

I am stretched and tired and fearful.
I am wild and brave and broken.
But this one life is on purpose and it’s not by accident where I woke up this morning.

While my closet has a sense of humor and clothes in every size,
my story is richer and fuller for it.

I’ve worn these hips around the labor and delivery dance and they are not ashamed.

I have lost it, yelled it, fought it, cried it and apologized it all before 9am.

I have fingerpainted, caffeinated, and run out of explanations for a line of why questions that stretches around the living room, out the front door and around the block.

I have tripped on Legos, stepped on scooters, slept on bottom bunks, and strung yards of white, twinkling lights to ward off the dark and their bad dreams.

I have been woken up, shaken up, thrown up, loved up, and shut up. I have never quite, completely, ever given up.

Love sleeps in my bed. Curiosity eats at my table. Delight runs laps around my back yard. Exhaustion is a faithful friend. But so is grace.

If I started tonight and counted backwards all the gifts of this wild and furious season I would still be counting when the grandchildren were standing on tippy toes with noses pressed against these same smudged windows.

So I count dimples instead.

And piles of stray socks and jeans with knees missing and shoes that only fit for a few months and hair cuts and loose teeth and how many times I look at them and say with the disbelief of the proud, “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown!”

I am overwhelmed, infatuated, love struck and completely unhinged. Especially on the nights they bring in wild flowers and all the ever-loving mud in the world.

I am full and fulfilled.
I am older and comfortable in my skin.
I am about the work of raising tiny humans.

I am out of my mind and in my calling and desperate for five minutes alone and a lifetime together.

I want to stop time, tame my fears, bottle their dreams, live a hundred summers of dripping, sticky, chocolate swirl ice cream. And in between I hang onto my faith, my temper, and my sense of humor with my fingernails.

These are the good days, the glory days, the slow-as-molasses days. These are the fast years, the wonder years, the how-do-I-find-words years.

But we do. They usually start with “help” and end with “thank you” and the middle?

The middle is a thick layer of reliable wonder sometimes whispered, often shouted, always answered.

The middle is me. The middle is you. The middle is just this one, sacred, take-off-your-shoes-worthy syllable,



{bottom photo by Mallory MacDonald}

Lisa-Jo and her husband have three kids who color their lives, complicate their frequent travel and are the reason she believes motherhood should come with a super hero cape. A child of South Africa, Lisa-Jo grew up on Karoo dust, purple Jacaranda trees, and the stories of Zululand. While she came to the States for college and a law degree she stayed for the boy from Michigan who became her husband. They make their home under the cherry blossoms just outside Washington, D.C. returning to the southern hemisphere whenever the craving for biltong and family gets too bad.

Lisa-Jo is the Social Media Manager for Dayspring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark, and the Community Manager for their website (in)courage. Lisa-Jo has blogged for Compassion International from Guatemala, is convinced that social media can change the world for good, and shares her every day life lived in between countries and kids at LisaJoBaker.com. And she gives away her eBook – The Cheerleader for Tired Moms – to anyone who subscribes to her blog. Just click here & enter your email in the form on her side bar to receive it.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  190 Responses to “For the dog days of motherhood when you want your money back”

  1. […] This blog post was and is phenomenal. Not only does it capture so much of my heart, it is so raw and honest. And true. My life right now is far more crazy than when I was literally saving lives in Africa. I thought that was crazy. But this? This running your body, heart, and soul ragged and falling into bed at night with aching limbs and broken heart. This tear-out-my insides sort of happiness. This over-the-top joy in simply looking into your little girl’s eyes when another little girl waves at her, and she looks at you. In that moment, you know that any amount of work, sweat, tears, and falling into bed at night with no feeling left in your legs…is worth her happiness. You will have guests over every week. Your daughter needs good friends. (I will never forget that moment when Daisy looked at me. Her eyes were overflowing with joy after a little girl waved hi at her. Never forget it. It smote me to my very soul. I think I’m too tired to have guests over for my children? Nope.) […]

  2. […] got stuck. Writing this out. And someone posted Momastery’s latest blog by a lady named Lisa-Jo, I’ve never heard of her but feel like I should know her, and wish I could grab coffee or […]

  3. […] I had never done any real babysitting, never dreamed about my future kids, never wished for motherhood. […]

  4. […] parents of young kids…you need to read these posts: The Dog Days and Let Me Be The One To Say It Out Loud. Makes you feel more normal, […]

  5. […] Praying. Cracking knees to the mat and praying for her story, her life, her rabid fear of parenting. Sharing the mess ups, the upside downs, the glimpses into your chaos, the dog days of motherhood when you want your money back. […]

  6. […] the mess ups, the upside downs, the glimpses into your chaos, the dog days of motherhood when you want your money back. Not cleaning up before she comes over. Being OK with being seen just as you really […]

  7. […] Lisa-Jo Baker , originally posted on June 10, 2013, http://momastery.com/blog/2013/06/10/for-the-dog-days/ translated with permission by Zuzka […]

  8. […] and I felt free to be a work-at-home-homeschooling-mom again. That night a good friend shared this well-timed article, FOR THE DOG DAYS OF MOTHERHOOD WHEN YOU WANT YOUR MONEY […]

  9. Your writing is breathtakingly beautiful. Your words nailed every single emotion I am currently feeling about my own life right on the head. God has given you a gift and you are using it well. Thank you.

  10. […] wrote this a while back for my friend, Glennon. And after last week’s series of posts sharing some of my back stories, I thought of this […]

  11. thank you. your story is beautiful and so are you.

  12. A friend of mine shared this on Facebook. I’m not much of a blog reader or follower, but I decided to click on the link and check your piece out. I have to say I was so very touched by your words. They gave me goosebumps as you perfectly described the ups and downs of motherhood. And I couldn’t help but tear up at the encouragement that you gave us moms. I always knew I wanted to be a mother and wife. I didn’t ever think I’d be a stay-at-home mom, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Some days you feel like you’ve returned from the battlefield with no physical or mental strength left in you. Other days you feel over-the-moon and are trying to soak up every last moment with your precious family. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece!

  13. […] “For the Dog Days of Motherhood” by Momastery […]

  14. […] For the Dog Days of Motherhood When You Want You Money Back @ Lisa-Jo Baker […]

  15. Beautiful and well articulated… better than I could have said it and spot on! Thanks for sharing! I think you should publish this :)

  16. […] I had never done any real babysitting, never dreamed about my future kids, never wished for motherhood. […]

  17. […] you find that you are already used up, and feel like your life no longer has any purpose, then this is what you need to read: I am convinced that the God who made you, sculpted you, loved you into being considers your […]

  18. The best!! <3

  19. Thank you, thank you! “…desperate for five minutes alone and a lifetime together” is where I choked up. You totally captured my world these days. How I wish I weren’t so tired so that I could cherish these days more…but I am doing my best. God bless you!

  20. […] the mess ups, the upside downs, the glimpses into your chaos, the dog days of motherhood when you want your money back. Not cleaning up before she comes over. Being OK with being seen just as you really […]

  21. […] Lisa Jo via Momastery // For the Dog Days of Motherhood When You Want Your Money Back […]

  22. PS. My apologies “Lisa-Jo”. :)

  23. Dear Jo and all your precious readers,

    How I wish I could hug you all and maybe take over for 30 minutes. :) I was that mom for 26 years (and counting). I started homeschooling with stars in my eyes at 23..and my youngest of five just graduated this year. I promise you it is worth it!

    Believe it or not, I miss my barefoot and pregnant days. Life was sweet, simple, and chaotic. The years of books and juggling.. the years of on the road with five kids’ various pursuits.. all were worth it. I had dreams of Dickens and art..and finishing my degree.. and wrote worship music in the rare moments of peace.

    Now I’m 50 and I have 7 grand-kids.. ( one born two days ago) though the dust has barely settled on the family homeschool van. :) So many tears and triumphs..now finished. But oh the joy I feel when my kids keep telling me I am the “BEST MOM EVER”. These kids are now 27, , 24, 22, 20, and 18. They are my friends! They pick me up when I am down.. they call to chat.. pour out their hearts.. and I pour out mine. We treasure the wonderful thing we now all enjoy.. a family.. where the kids give as much and much more than they take.

    I have lots of years left to ‘pursue my dreams’… yet I find myself treasuring much different things than I did then. Motherhood is an amazing adventure.. and a sacred calling.. and it deepens over time. Band-aids are not enough for the hurts now.. and my heart can hardly hold the joy of the depth of relationship I now experience with those five children who are now young adults.

    The rewards are far greater than you can imagine…Don’t give up girls! I’m rooting for you. :)

    Celebrating the calling after 26 years..Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her… Proverbs 31:28

    PS. This too (diapers, runny noses, and chicken a la ugh) shall pass.. <3

  24. Absolutely beautiful and inspiring!! Thank you!

  25. So this feeling is normal?! :o) Thank you so much for writing this post. I needed it so much. I am the mother of one amazing, but strong willed toddler (I have lost three babies in miscarriage). She is in a very stubborn and frustrating stage. I am completely exhausted by the end of the day. Thank you for the much needed reminder that my work is holy. God bless.

  26. Lisa-Jo, someday when I’m a mom (and at 30 I feel like that better be soon + I also need way more time) I know I’m going to totally get every single word you’re saying. For now, I’m learning to take care of the man I vowed to love forever and find joy in picking up after him. 😉

  27. A friend posted on FB from your blog.. I cannot tell you how awesome this is.. I swear you are writing just for me.. I needed this so much.. Thank you!!

  28. Thank you… I really and truly needed that.

  29. I think this middle is a thick layer of reliable wonder sometimes whispered, often shouted, always answered.this brings much help for my dog ,then he can sleep in the
    Dog Bed,then he will not be cold,this is useful

  30. Incredible- could not have spoken it, written it, or thought of a more fluid or accurate way to describe motherhood. Bravo, bravo!

  31. […] the new folks around these parts, I should probably tell you about […]

  32. thank you. your story is beautiful and so are you. my kids are grown now and they are beautiful adults that I have great relationships with, but what I wouldn’t give for one more day when they were little.

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