Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One reason to discipline without guilt


This guy is giving me a run for my money lately.

He has a really big personality. Very imaginative. Even more talkative.

This picture is just what you think it is. He took a brown marker and drew hairs on his chest. Then, he posed like that. Then, he said "Put it on your blog." I'm not sure which part of that sequence of events I should be most worried about. (Perhaps the fact that I'm doing it.)

One thing I do know is that he keeps me laughing, every single day. Well, except the days when the wildness stops being funny and starts being disobedient and disrespectful.

That was our day last Monday. And also last Tuesday. Oh, also, Wednesday. It stunk, which isn't the word I wanted to use right there. I had to continue to discipline him and experience the ugly fallout for three days. My husband can attest: I was not a happy mommy.

But I was aware of one thing during the chaos and the emotion. This is a teachable moment. I knew my son needed to learn that he has a choice. He can live under my discipline, or under my blessing. The results of his choices in my home under my authority should be a reflection of the results of his choices He will one day make as a man under God. And the way I handle his rebellion should reflect the way God handles us when we decide to play by our rules instead of His.  

Last week, I kept thinking of this passage in the Old Testament. It is such an important passage. Here, God is sharing the terms of the covenant He is making, through Moses, to the Israelites. This portion is the summary of the covenant. It's the bottom line. I love it, probably because there are zero shades of grey. It's crystal clear. Deuteronomy 30:11-20 says,

This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

I kept thinking of this concept, living under God's blessing or under consequence. (We all know what both feel like, don't we? We know the reality of these truths all too well.) Now, obviously, I'm not cursing my son for disobeying. But I am disciplining him in love. And he is not a fan. He doesn't quite get the love part as he sits in his room thinking I'm the meanest mother in the world.

The point is that he was living under unpleasant consequence (in his room, no privileges, missing out on fun things) as long as he dug his heels into that disobedient spirit. And that is a good thing. Though it sometimes kills me to see him pained by missing out on some activity, and though I can feel so disappointed when things don't go the way I expected, in my opinion, those tough decisions reflect God's loving discipline of us. 

When talking to him, I used some of the language from this passage. I was offering him a choice. Disobedience was getting him discipline, and no one was liking that. I made sure he knew that I do not enjoy disciplining him, but that it is my God-given job. However, if he obeyed me, he would be able live under my blessings once again. And by that, I mean my pleasure in him. Our relationship could be a blessing again. And I would be more willing to say "yes" to fun activities also. I was communicating all this lovingly to him, hoping he'd soften up and yield. Hoping he'd choose blessings. But as you know, the human heart is stubborn and full of pride. Mine and yours and his. It took until Thursday for him to yield to me consistently.

Thursday night, making sure my husband was in the room, I took the opportunity to PRAISE THE SOCKS OFF my son for being obedient and respectful to me all day. I noted each thing I could recall that he did right. I commended each chore, and each time he offered to help me. I praised him for choosing a happy heart when asked to do something. He was absolutely beaming. He flung himself into bed so full of joy, the clear byproduct of living under blessing.

"Finally," he said. "Finally, you can say good things about me!" He was proud of himself. Oh, how I gushed about how pleased I was to praise him. Oh, how I hugged him and noted how much better it was for both of us when he chooses obedience. Yes, I hugged him on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday too. But it felt different. Our relationship was muddled with sin. I had grace for him, and still loved him, of course. But his sin was causing us both pain. It was not until after he turned from his rebellious ways and chose obedience that our relationship was a blessing once again. Like ten-fold.

This whole process is familiar, isn't it? A parable of our stories, between our Father and us.

A prodigal running home is cause for blessing and celebration indeed.  As I reflect over last week, I think we were all reminded of something very important. We are all stubborn and sinful and selfish sometimes. We dig our heels in.

Except, God loves us too much to let us stay that way. 

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
Proverbs 3:11-12 

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: the Dog Days of Summer

It happens to me every year.

I miss my kids so much during the school year that by Easter, I'm dying to get them all to myself. The last few weeks of the semester seem to drag on so slowly. And when summer does finally arrive, I am so happy.

We always start strong, what with my zillion ideas that have been waiting for them to be released back into my full-time care. But by week two or three, I start to feel burnt out.

This summer is no exception. I realized about three weeks in that I had NOT ONCE given any planning or forethought to providing for myself and my sanity once summer started. I was full-throttle Super Mom. And I can do that job fairly well. For about three weeks. But that window is gone and now I need grace. Super Mom has changed into less attractive Running-On-Empty mom

So that's where I am, friends. Summer-worn. The "dog days" of summer are typically when the heat is so heavy and the summer is nearly spent that one yearns for falling leaves and a cool breeze. But I've decided my dog days are right now, in the thick of it. Summer's end is not in sight yet, nor do I want it to be. But I can tell: the kids and I are starting to get a little tired of being around one another every day, all day long. I'm irritable. They are bored. Which irriates me since they shouldn't be bored. You get the picture.

Because I'm an extrovert, I don't pine away for time alone, and I don't melt down if I don't get much. I'm pretty happy being around my husband and kids 95% of the time. It's the expectations I put on myself for how that time is spent that starts to wear on me. I get focused on being productive, at least in some way, every day, and I have low patience for things that waste my time. I don't mean productive in a work sort of way; I'm not doing housework all the time. I consider even reading to them productive. We just don't sit around with a lot of do-whatever-you-want time. Once in a while, I take the whole being intentional parenting concept a little too far. 
And it's not only that. I am also worn by the sheer noise of three in a house all day long. I'm worn by the meal prep and clean up so many times a day. And I'm worn by how everything seems to stay messy, no matter how often I'm picking up (or asking nagging them to do so).

For these reasons and more, tonight, I'm needing grace. I need an atitude lift and a second wind. I need quiet time with the Lord, and His supernatural refreshment.

In these dog days of summer, I need extra long drinks of living water.

And I'm looking to you friends for some latter half of summer survival tips

I'm not one for signing my kids up for 87 different camps. We participated in our church's VBS, but that's it. I love to be with them daily. I really do. But we all need a break from one another from time to time. Any suggestions for this tired mama on how to incorporate some regular breaks from one another into our days? Like, without having to hire a sitter or actually leave the house? 

Well, it's now officially no longer Thursday. I'm 5 minutes over.

Guess I'll be needing some grace for that too.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On discerning God's will

My husband and I talked last night about how we are in a weird phase, like God is preparing us for change. We don't know what or how or when. Just that something's gotta give, sooner or later. If you've been in a season like this, then you know it raises questions and speculation regarding "God's will." What does He want for us? Which direction should we move in? What kinds of things should we be considering?

From my pre-college days, I've learned it's messy to start asking questions about God's will. When I was applying to schools as a high-schooler seriously agonizing over where "God wanted me to go," a wise friend challenged my thinking when she said, "I'm not sure God has a preference about what college you go to. Probably, you could choose where you want to go, and be the woman He wants you to be at any number of schools." My initial reaction was total disbelief, because in my mind, certainly God had the "right" college for me, and I just had to be clever enough to solve the puzzle of where it was (again, let's talk about how I complicate matters). She was right, of course. I've since learned that God's will for me is so much MORE about who I am and what I believe than what my circumstances are.

This morning, God was gracious to show me something else about His will. I started reading the book of Galatians, and as in many of his letters, Paul starts with an opener (that I almost skimmed over):

To the churches of Galatia:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(v. 3-5)

It's the gospel, in a nutshell, isn't it? But then, in the very next verse, Paul jumps in with some harsh words:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
(v. 6-7)

Ouch. What a way to start a letter. Paul lays out the gospel, and then chastises the people in the churches of Galatia for turning away from it. And what caught my eye is his mention of God's will, the thing we all want to understand better.

Paul seems to be laying it out like this:

God's will put Jesus on the cross to deliver us from sin.
God's will is that we accept this gift and believe that Jesus took our place so that we can live under grace and be at peace with Him.
But you people have turned away and traded all this for something that can't really save you. There ISN'T actually anything else that can save you, but you are being deceived by the counterfeits.

"The gospel," by the way, is a fancy word that simply means "good news." The gospel of Jesus is good news because it explains the one and only way for a person to live in peace with a holy God.

And it's what I lean on. Most of the time.

Like the people in Galatia, I am surrounded by lots of other "gospels," things that promise to save me. Things that offer a deceptive kind of peace, a temporary, circumstantial peace instead of a lasting, personal peace with God. In my conversation with my husband about our future, it would be easy for us to put our trust in the gospel of money. Or the gospel of employment. Or the gospel of our own smarts and resources. Of course, all those are good things that we want. But the truth is that we can be Galatians. We can so quickly desert him who called us in the grace of Christ...and trust in something other than Jesus.

Back then and today, man has distorted the good news of Jesus in every possible way. You can find a book or religion to match any belief you want to hold, it seems. But even within our own churches, many are following other gospels. And no matter what statistics say, I think the biggest threat to the gospel of Jesus is the gospel of ourselves. That's the gospel I am tempted to follow most often.

The gospel of self sounds like, "I just need to figure this all out," and "If it all goes according to my plans..." A woman trusting in the gospel of self secretly hopes God is on board with all her ideas and expectations. I know this gospel all too well.

But in grace, the Lord has gently revealed the times I've deserted him to follow false gospels in my life. He's pruned me back so that I better understand his will for my life: that I trust in the one real gospel, the one true way to find grace and peace, and that is the gospel of Jesus. He is the only one worthy of my trust, no matter the circumstances.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all...
I Tim 2:5-6

What I ended my quiet time wondering is how many of us "deserters" need to return to the one true gospel. It's not easy, because sometimes trusting in Jesus means letting go of that security we feel when we believe we're in control. It sometimes means letting go of trusting in a black and white number on the bottom line. It sometimes means letting go of your expectations you've held onto for years like a security blanket. Expectations in marriage, in childbearing, in finances, in relationships, in health.

My advice, if you're struggling to wholly trust Him, is to throw yourself towards Jesus with abandon. He will catch you. He is not afraid to sort you out. He is the one who can give you the peace you've been looking for.  

If you want to be in the center of God's will, then believe Him. Don't just believe in Him. Believe what He says. And let go of everything else.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Uncomplicating things

What I do is make things more complicated than they need to be.

I analyze, list, ponder, lose sleep over, and plan stuff.

I'm detailed. Really a lot. And I can't not be. My brain was made that way.

But one thing I completely LOVE about God is that He can be infinitely detail-oriented (knowing the number of hairs on my head, hearing my every prayer, and bottling my every tear), and at the same time, also amazingly simple. It's a paradox my small brain just doesn't understand.

He knew we would sometimes need simple.

When I feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities as a mother, a wife, and a Christian woman, I recite Micah 6:8 in my head. It's like three bullet points of uncomplicated.

He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

And perfectly timed, since God knew I was feeling a tad overwhelmed by my thoughts I shared about in my last post, and the problem of hunger in the world, I saw this today. My friend Julie made this printable (and a whole lot of others) based on Micah 6:8.

I love it when He knows what I need.

She has a big heart, so she opened a little shop to help provide meals for the hungry in Sudan.

Purchasing just one of her printables for $5 provides 85 meals in Sudan. An 8, then a 5. Wow. I can't even get out of Chick-Fil-A for $5. This is the cute print I bought.

Now there's an uncomplicated way to help someone in need. And in a world of complicated, today I'm thankful for simple.

Simple truth.
A simple way to show mercy.

And a God who knows when we need it all boiled down.


{for a beautiful post by Ann Voskamp on the subject of poverty,
one that she posted on the same day I wrote about it,
and where she said she felt sick too, 
one that made me cry, click here.}

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kale and how I know nothing about hunger

I was killing time today just before VBS pickup when I decided to go into a very fancy grocery store. After wandering for a while, I chose some kale. Everyone and their mother seems to be making kale chips these days; I thought I'd give it a try (ie. trick my kids into eating a new vegetable by calling them chips). While paying, I wondered if the check-out girl had also made these chips. The odds were in my favor, so I asked if she had any advice. Sure enough, she was a kale chip expert. But almost immediately, I realized her advice was useless. First she said something about using a food dehydrator. Which lost me. I have a hard enough time keeping my kids, myself, my pets and my vegetable garden hydrated. I don't need anything in my life that actually encourages dehydration. So when she mentioned mixing the chips with some substance called miso paste, I was already not listening. Not that I even know to which food group miso paste belongs.

Moving on. The kale chips turned out good. One of my two kids sort of mostly liked them, after salting them to the point of erasing any health benefit the vegetable could have had. But I'm not bothered by that, tonight, nearly as much as I've been bothered - no, haunted - by Kristen's posts this week over at Rage Against the Minivan. 

Kristen has been in Ethiopia with Food for the Hungry Bloggers. She's been sharing stories of children and families who don't have enough food. They don't have enough anything. It's caused me to think about food all week, and more importantly, my feelings about food, my casual indulgence, my sense of entitlement when it comes to food, and my habitual ingratitude.

The thing is that I've tried to assimilate the information about the state of affairs of these Ethiopian families and shape it into a productive act of mercy on my part. Of course, the whole objective is that the reader's heart is moved to the point of helping. Tangibly. Not just spectating, or experiencing a warm swell of compassion, but becoming invested and engaged.

But I'm good at math, and as a family, we don't have any extra to give. I say that with uncertainty. I say that feeling a little sick, knowing I'm surrounded by excess and wealth, relatively, simply because I have a home, a car, and 5,000 other things that those families do not have. And yet, my husband and I narrowly escaped an argument tonight over the question of how exactly his decent income so quickly disappears every month. The math doesn't lie, but I also understand I live in a paradigm and a culture of self-indulgence and material accumulation. I spent my evening trying to perfectly toast a kale chip and wanting to complain on Instagram about how much laundry I have to do. Never once did I feel grateful for that laundry, or consider giving half of it away to someone who really needs clothing.

We are so downright quick to meet our own needs out of our abundance, we forget most of the world doesn't - can't - live that way.

I'm simply having a hard time wrapping my mind around this: I live in utter luxury compared to the families in Ethiopia. And yet compared to many families around me in Orange County, CA, we live in scarcity. I'm bothered by the paradox. I'm bothered by not knowing exactly how to change things. I'm bothered by not having "room" to be generous to the poor. Something's wrong, and God help us if we don't try to make it right. God help us if we, His children, don't work this out on a very personal level.  

Some people see socioeconomic disparities in the world as injustice, and sometimes they even blame God for it. The truth is that we live in an unjust world. It's broken, and sin rules it with an iron fist. It wasn't God's plan A, but it is all part of his permissive will. He's allowing injustice for reasons we don't dare guess (or question). However, one thing of which I'm certain is that God himself is perfectly just. And therefore, we will all be judged for how we treated the poor. We will all be asked how we managed our resources. And God probably isn't going to be calling us into account by county.

I might be in line ahead of a mother from Ethiopia. When it's my turn to answer how I spent my money, I just have a feeling the "we didn't have room" argument isn't going to stand.

{look at the faces of the hungry here,
even see how long each child has been waiting
for a sponsor if you click on his or her photo.}


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: How to ruin a blog

I don't know if you caught it today, but for a few hours, my blog was totally messed up.

I'm not exactly sure how I messed it up. (And I'm honestly not exactly sure how I got it back, which shows you just how much I know about what I'm doing, technically.) But one false "click" and I lost my whole Top of the Page blog design. All the buttons, the header, the photos, the entire sidebar.....it was all gone. I emailed my blog designer and she said she no longer had the graphics since it was a while ago.

I stared at my screen, fumbling for a solution for thirty minutes. My face was hot, my heart rate was up. I muttered to myself, "I ruined it," over and over. 

Eventually, I had to give up my attempts and take the kids somewhere. I drove around, enjoyed a free Icee from 7-11 (since today is 7/11), and tried to follow my husband's encouragement to calm down. I resisted the temptation to pull up my blog on my phone and continue to stare at what I could not fix.

When I came home, I resolved to try some new ideas to recover my design. Within 5 minutes, my computer completely froze, raising my frustration all over again. But just before I let myself react, somehow then I understood. Ever have those moments when the lightbulb goes on and you realize the problem may not be about what you thought it was about?

Finally. God had grace to trade for my anxiety, and I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to get away with Him for a bit. He had something to say (and how many roadblocks would He have to construct before I stopped to listen?) I plopped myself on the couch and put my face into the seat cushion. So full of grace, He said,

Don't misunderstand what you're doing, here. Your influence, your service to me is holy. Did you really think that changing what your blog looks like could ruin it?

I felt led to open my Bible to what comes next in my daily reading: Philippians 3.

"We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

(then Paul lists his credentials for being a "good" Jewish boy.)

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him." (NLT)

Paul is talking about "discarding" any reason to boast or appear successful in the world's eyes for the sake of having a singular definition, a singular source of confidence: Jesus.  
 My credentials for having a "good" blog are as follows.
I have a cute, custom blog design.
I have a decent following.
I have some good ideas, recipes, crafts, photos.
I have sponsors.
I use turquoise and cute fonts.
I use social media to promote it.

It's all garbage, compared to knowing and sharing Jesus.

How silly of me to believe for a second that I could ruin my blog by changing what it looks like. The only way I can ruin my blog is to leave Jesus out of it. He is what I have to really offer. (I realize not all of you have the exact same calling I feel I have in blogging, and not all of you have faith-centered blogs. That's perfectly okay. I'm just speaking for myself and what I feel called to/convicted about.)

In my quiet time with Him, after He messed up my design and froze my computer, God reminded me:

People are literally truth-starved. Is your confidence in what your blog looks like? In what the world says is of value? Or is your confidence in sharing Me? Is your confidence in My work here, since you've offered this to Me?

I'm not saying that from now on, I'll make my blog unattractive and stop sharing recipes. What I'm saying is that I need to remember the point. And (sigh) I need to embrace GRACE when I get caught up in anxiety over less important stuff like I did today.

I'm asking myself...

Is my confidence as a blogger in Him and His work alone?

Do I boast about Jesus more than I boast about more frivolous things here?

Do all my other sources of pride look like garbage compared to how much pride I have in knowing Him?

Am I maintaining that the primary motive of my blog is to share Jesus and His story?

I hope so.
Because if not, I will ruin my blog.
For reals.   


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Raise your hand if you like pie.

Now keep your hand up if you are a little OCD and have anxiety when someone cuts you a slice and all the goodness starts to smoosh out the sides. (Don't even mention the practice of putting a scoop of something coldthatwillimmediatelymelt on top of that warm slice. Too much smooshiness for me.)

I much prefer my pie neatly contained and non-smooshy.

So when my pal Shauna introduced me to individual pies in mason jars, I knew my pie dreams had come true. Especially because then you can give away little pies as gifts! Amazing and genius, right?

One day, she taught me how to make them. I was really focused, so I didn't take pictures. But I made some blackberry jar pies for the 4th of July and I documented it all.

Because I know you love pie. And I love you.

So here we go. It's easy, folks. This recipe will fill 8 jars.

5 C fresh or frozen, unthawed berries
1 C sugar
3 T cornstarch or flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 T lemon juice
a few T cold butter cut into small pieces
1 egg
raw or coarse sugar for sprinkling
1 pkg of pie dough (2 sheets), thawed
8 mason jars (the 8 oz., wide mouthed variety are best)

Don't make the berry mixture till your jars are ready.

STEP 1: Roll your dough between plastic to smooth it and thin it a bit. Using a drinking glass or a cookie cutter about the size/shape of the opening of the mason jar, cut out 8 pie tops. Use the remaining approx. sheet and a half of dough to line the jars, tearing off pieces and pressing into the jars. No need to spray or grease them first. Press the pieces of dough to fill all the spaces on the sides and bottom, and stop just below the threads of the jar (where the lid would screw on). Don't bother to make it perfect. It will all cook together fine.

STEP 2: Preheat your oven to 400 and set racks at the bottom third and top third of oven. Make the filling by mixing together the berries, sugar, cornstarch or flour, salt and lemon juice. If you are using frozen fruit, you will need to add at least another tablespoon of cornstarch or flour. Scoop filling into jars. If using frozen fruit, overfill them because they cook down a LOT. If you are using fresh fruit, fill only 3/4 full.

{this is what the mix looks like with frozen blackberries. it looks much different with fresh fruit because they immediately begin to break down. that's why you shouldn't make the mix too early and let it sit.}

STEP 3: Dot the filling with a few pieces of the cold butter. Place tops on filling. If your tops go all the way to the edge of jar, then you'll need to cut a couple small slits in the dough with a sharp knife to vent the pie. Brush dough lightly with egg and sprinkle with the raw sugar (optional).

Bake directly on the lower rack for 15 minutes to cook the bottom crust until turning golden. Then lower the temp to 350, and move all the jars to the upper rack for another 15 minutes or until the tops are golden and filling is bubbly. After they are completely cooled, you can put the lids on the jars and put them in the fridge, give to your neighbors, mail to me, eat for breakfast the next day, you decide. I reheat them in the microwave for a few seconds and think they're delicious. But reheating in the oven (if I were patient) would make the dough crispier. I'm guessing.

But know this. Pie will never be the same to you. And you're welcome.

Go make some.


Monday, July 09, 2012

Land that I love

Our independence as a nation is a gift, and not necessarily a permanent one. When I hear the words to the song "God Bless America," I find myself praying its prayer. When I looked up the exact lyrics to make sure I had them right, I found that there is an original first portion that is often left out. I've never heard it before:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with the light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies, 
to the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home. 

Here's how we celebrated freedom this 4th of July.

Of course, with food. I made blackberry pies in jars and my daughter made red velvet flag cupcakes from scratch. Then I found that even my lemon was patriotic. And the mini-skewers were from - you guessed it - Pinterest. Strawberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows on toothpicks.

Also from Pinterest, my friend CC made marshmallow shooters for the kids out of plastic cups and halved balloons. Clever and so fun. However, there was a lot of, "Don't eat them off the ground!" Naturally.

The moms and big girls all painted our nails with royal blue and then with big chunky glitter polish. They looked like fireworks themselves. Here are a few more marshmallow shooters, my berry mix for the pies, and a sparkler in motion. 

Real freedom is living in a city where fireworks are legal. Which we do NOT. So we left. Happy times. I love fireworks. And sparklers. And seeing my kids glow with delight.

The song "God Bless America" is sort of corny. But sometimes corny is good. And as the first part of the song suggests, it seems to me that the storm clouds are gathering around our country. Political and economic instability are no longer unthinkable. We are not immune to disaster here. So let's not neglect to pray for this land that we love, and thank God for our freedom.

Because it's pretty great.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Summer on Insta, oh the love!

Isn't summer the best? It's seriously my favorite. I know I told you that already.

Every week (and it's only been 2) I have bunches of sweet memories. Here are the latest....via Instagram.

One item on our summer list is to memorize 5 verses together. This was number 1. The kids learned it faster than I did. Of course. Psalm 12:26 from the NIrV version for early readers, the version I love best for smallish kids.

It's not long before they cream me. And I'm really good. Look, she's about to drop it like it's hot on the Triple Word Score.

The outdoor art station is going strong. We found these wooden paintable snack trays at Hobby Lobby, which are perfect for breakfasty snacks out there. (Yes, 50% of my kids hate hot chocolate and drink tea instead. From his Lego mug.) 

I enlisted some pajamaed staffers on my assembly line for Project Hope. We made 100 of these cards (below) for Laura and the handmade memory boxes she is making to give to hospitals for mommies who have lost their babies. Just like she did.

It was a bit heartbreaking for me. The ziploc is to hold a lock of a child's hair. I prayed for each mother as I held her card, clipped threads, and rounded corners.

And as for some frivolous stuff, here I am at Sonic at 9:00 pm, feeding my kids dinner in the car. Because sometimes that's how it has to go down. And that sometimes is because they are stuck in theater rehearsal for way too long. Mother-of-the-year candidate status gaining ground. And I don't even really care because it's s-u-m-m-e-r. It's like my kids and I are in a secret club, and it's a little thrilling, feeling like we're getting away with something, I think. Having slushies and fries in the backseat two hours past bedtime. (I would have never tried this when my kids were smaller, mind you. But if you have littles, know there is a light at the end of that tunnel...)

I am doing my best Merida impression here because we saw Brave. I really liked it, and so did the kids. Though I don't think it made them want to go lay in bed and cry themselves to sleep over the mother-daughter issues it raises. Just kidding. Or not.

And here's a little sneak peak at a photo shoot (where I pretended I was a model: "Are the rest of you guys smiling or serious? How should I have my face?") for Allora Handmade! I'm sure more pics will be appearing soon on her blog and in her shop.

Top left: me sporting fake eyelashes for the first time. Yessss. I could get used to looking that ladyish.
Top right: Julie and I in orbs of heavenly light because we're sort of angelic.
Bottom left: Jacqui and I also glowing. Probably because our necklaces are radiantly lovely. I also want to make every single thing on her blog.
Bottom right: Julie with a big, beautiful smile because her hair does not have Clear in it.

Well friends, I just downloaded this brand spankin' new album from Hillsong and I'm going to go listen to it! Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A winner, the 4th, and 400

Look at this photo of my cute all-American pals.

We met last weekend to do a little flea marketing. From L to R, can you spy Jami, Shauna, Aly (hiding behind her new babah girl) and Alyss? Did you know we are all real life friends too? Well, ever since Blog Sugar last year. Except Shauna. She and I go way back. I just love this photo, and the flag makes it perfect for today. (Look at those little baby tootsies. Goodness!)

Speaking of Aly, are you wondering who won her giveaway from last week? Did you like how absentminded sneaky I was in neglecting to put an END date on the giveaway?? Well it's over and I picked a winner. Actually, a computer did.

Check it out. Random.org loves to help me with this kind of thing.

Congrats to you, Jess Hover!! You were comment #23!

Please give me your email address so I can pass it on to Aly. You are going to be so blessed to have Aly's pieces in your home.

So what are you up to on this special holiday? I really do love the 4th of July. I have fond memories of sitting on a blanket, leaning against my dad's bent knees watching the fireworks right above my head at a local baseball field growing up. To this day, the closer I can get to the show, the better.

We are excited to be spending the day with friends, and I'll be sharing some of the treats I'm making later.

And by the way. I hit 400 posts yesterday. That is a big number, to me. In honor of that landmark, I wanted to give the glory to God and express my gratitude for all this little space is to me.

I'm so thankful for every moment I've had to sit down and share my thoughts. I'm thankful for health, for myself and my family, which allows me to have those moments.

I'm so thankful for each one of you who has read my thoughts. And especially if you have taken the time to share yours with me.

And most of all, I'm so thankful for the way God has led me into and through blogging over the past couple years, inspiring me, pruning me, and persistently burdening me to share my story (really, HIS story) with you. I've experienced much fruit and been blessed by much fellowship on this journey. As long as He knows that I'm a willing witness, I'm pretty sure He'll give me a story to tell.

My prayer is that my words continue to reflect His love and grace as best they can, and that we continue to grow together. We really can't do this life alone. So hey, if you know of a blog friend in your area, maybe try to get to know her in real life. She's probably pretty cool. And you may even come home with some flea market finds you really needed.

Happy 4th, friends!


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Help Yo'self Summer {encouraging autonomy}

A few weeks ago, as summer was about to start, I remembered something I learned in MOPS. A speaker once advised that as soon as your child was capable of doing a thing, you should require that they continue to do it. For instance, as soon as he is able to complete a simple chore, assign it to him. When they can dress themselves, let them. All of this is in the name of encouraging autonomy.

It’s tricky for some of us. It may be the trickiest job we have as mothers: to slowly wean ourselves off of mothering for eighteen years straight. It is a very slow process of letting go, but the process should ideally never cease. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We are not raising children; we are raising capable adults, aren’t we?

This job is even implied in the word autonomy, which means "to rule oneself". Isn’t that precisely what we want for our kids when they leave our home? They need to be fairly self-sufficient rulers of their own lives and bodies.

I know a mom of a near junior higher who still picks up off the floor the child’s clothes she’s strewn about and puts them in the hamper for her. I am a mom of a seven year old who doesn’t know how to tie his shoes because I keep tying them. And I was a child who never had to get a job, or do her own laundry, or cook a meal before she left home. I turned out okay; I figured out how to work and cook and do laundry. But I still want to be intentional about encouraging autonomy with my children. And that means slowly stopping doing some things I have always done.

This summer, I created a whole space where I am choosing not to be in charge. It’s called our Outdoor Art Station. I know I already told you about this, but here are more details. I bought a table off Craigslist for $25, painted it, covered it with a piece of vinyl, and organized all our art supplies on it. The Art Station is Help Yo’self. Entirely.

Then I took my grandmother’s metal tea cart, covered that, and made it the Help Yo’self snack bar. All I do is bring out a pitcher of some kind of drink and a tray of snacks. My child can take a cup, pour his own drink, take a paper plate, serve himself a sandwich, take a paper bowl, scoop out some popcorn, or chips, or grapes or whatever is there, and feel BIG. He can then decide what to create, on what kind of paper and with what materials, and then he can hang the finished product up with a clothespin on a line. Of course he can also put away what he’s used too.

The first day, there was a big spill. Of course I had to jump in, but then I showed the kids how they are equally able to wipe up spills themselves. They can move their bodies quickly. They can run for a dish towel. They don’t just have to stand there and stare at ME doing it all.

Also, I’ve already heard a lot of, “Mom, can you get me __________?” Every time, it has been something I have provided already. Which shows me that even if I am giving them the tools to help themselves, they are more familiar with asking me to do everything for them. And that, to me, is a red flag. That tells me this little exercise is a good thing. Each time, I’ve replied in a cheery voice, “Go ahead and help yourself!” They‘ve said, “Oh!” with a tone of surprise. I think it’s a combination of not feeling certain they were capable of doing that thing, and not being sure they were allowed to.

Here’s the thing. I can err on the side of micro-managing my kids. It’s gotten them in a habit of asking me for and if they can do anything and everything. Most of the time that’s good – it’s not a free-for-all over here. They need to ask permission to have a popsicle or play on the computer. But I need to wean them off some of that overdependence, now that it is age-appropriate.

I think some people thought I created the art station so I could have more time to myself. So the kids could be occupied for chunks of time this summer. Well, that is nice at times. But that wasn’t my motivation. I wanted to show my kids that I trust them, that I believe in them, and that they are capable of more than they realize, namely taking care of themselves in a few ways.

It’s been fun to watch them experiment and get used to helping themselves (and each other) for short stretches of time. And twice, I’ve had the freedom to sit down and create with them. Giving them a little autonomy is giving me room to enjoy them and appreciate them more, instead of me simply bossing them around, or me feeling disappointed in the things they can’t seem to get right.

{my chevron design :)}

What is one area that you could let go of managing as a mother? Does your toddler want to choose her own outfits? Can your child make himself breakfast? Maybe you can think of one way to shift some power to that little person in your life this week. It may surprise you how good it is for both of you to see that he or she can really do it.