Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thanks-living through August {a linky}

We've had some great times this month, truly. Yesterday, I told you a bit about Hawaii, and how I went in the water, changing pace from being the not-so-fun mom. But there were other great moments too.

Both my kids performed in, I think, SEVEN showings of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at a local theater. That spanned our whole summer, actually, and was so much fun! Despite the look on my son's face at this moment, they both loved it.

Also, Kevin and I celebrated our 15th anniversary on the 8th. I'm so thankful for the ways the Lord has carried us through those years. At times, it has not been an easy road for us, and it is God alone who helped us weather those storms. We had a date night in Hawaii, where we went to a nice dinner and came up with 15 stand-out memories from our 15 years. It was great to walk through the years, chronologically, laughing and groaning over some of the times we've shared. Obviously, we remembered different things, and even remembered things in different ways.

But as I sit here and reflect on the month past...what I'm most grateful for...I'm finding it's the promise of change. 

That sounds weird. Most people, including me, don't like change.  But believe me when I say we've needed it. Don't you ever feel like life can become a stuffy attic that is just begging for a fresh breeze to blow through? Well, that's where we've been, circumstantially speaking, for a while now. I see the Lord at work, ready to breathe some fresh air into our lives. Ready to stir things up a bit and require us to trust Him.

In my younger years, I was much more afraid of change. But now, I guess I've learned that I'm not the boss, and if I were, I'd make a mess of our lives. I've learned that life is best when we follow God's lead. So when I see Him start to move, I get a little excited. My brain tries to wedge itself in and have a say in things; I'm tempted to take control and start feeling fearful. But my heart knows whom I want and need to follow. 

So as we wrap up our summer over here (school starts next week, after Labor Day), we're fitting in the last of the beach days and use of the outdoor art station. I've really loved our summer. I will miss my kids when they're in school. I will.

But I'm excited for a new season. Could it be that God is planning to change things up in our season of life just as the natural season rolls into Fall? Just as the breeze picks up and change is visible all around us? It sounds like Him, to give us a parable of His work right as it's taking place. I'm thankful that in nature, and in spirit, the Lord does not let us stagnate. He is good, so I can trust Him. 

What about you?



On not being a fun mom {and the linky button}

{my two kiddos, mid-hike to the top of a volcanic crater)

I think some of you have been tricked into thinking I'm a fun mom. I'd say I'm a creative mom, an intentional mom, and a great teacher to my kids. But fun? Not so much.

I guess when I place myself outside that "fun mom" box, it's because I know other moms who belong in it. They play Hot Wheels and fifty rounds of Go Fish and they go in the water. And while I do those things on occasion, they are just not part of what best defines me as a mom. I've always been a sort of serious person. Even though both my parents are really fun and social people, I was just always more analytical, more a thinker, less a doer. My mom tells a story about my first school experience, where my Kindergarten teacher approached her and asked if I was okay since I never talked. Well, Mrs. Fox (that was her name), guess what? I was just examining all you people and the whole school situation before I jumped right into the finger painting, kay? 

So I've come to have a little bit of a complex about not being very fun. I think it comes down to not being very good at playing. I never have been. I wasn't really that fun as a kid, or a high schooler, or a college student...or a mom. I'm great at doing fun things with my kids for the purpose of teaching them something or experiencing something together. But I'm not so good at sitting and playing. I honestly don't really know what to do. Sadly, I think that's the definition of grown-up, according to Peter Pan.

The thing is, I also don't know what's worse: being the mom who doesn't play very much, or the mom who is labeling herself as "not fun" thereby possibly making this characteristic a way bigger deal than it actually is (I mean, my kids don't really know any different, right?).

Maybe neither are all that bad. After all, I have many other fine qualities ('member that post?).

This summer, I've had a lot more opportunities to be fun. My parents so generously took our whole family to Hawaii. I immediately knew we'd have some chances to do things outside of my usual choices for activities. And I took them as challenges to which I could rise. So I hiked in a volcano crater. I went on stage with my daughter at the luau. I went in the water, a lot. I even went on the water slide at the hotel (once) and swam at the base of a waterfall. Friends, these are not things I'd typically choose, but I chose to choose them, if that makes sense. And I loved it.

On not being "fun," I realized I need to give myself some grace in two ways. Firstly, part of having grace for myself means being okay with saying, "No guys, not today," when they all beg me to come to the pool. I need not feel bad about myself as a mom. I do have many other fine qualities. But the other side of that same grace-coin is that I can choose to step out of the label I've given myself. I can go in the water, not just to "take one for the team", but I can actually enjoy myself.

I'm free to be outside all boxes, and I'm free to grow. That's what freedom in Christ is all about, isn't it? Let's not limit what He offers us to simply our spiritual state. I think Jesus wants me to walk in freedom in all areas of my life.

I can choose to take my husband's hand and kick out way beyond my water comfort zone to snorkel too. And I did. Some of my best memories from our trip were doing just that, just the two of us, seeing things in the sea that I've never seen before. We followed a beautiful sea turtle for about five minutes as it silently, gracefully flew through the water. It was magical, actually.

It was more than that. It was God's gift to me; he knows how much I love animals, and perhaps He was cheering on my freedom. I remember that afternoon and think, "That was fun." I was fun. After I willfully pushed aside my pretty substantial fears of deep water, of the surf, and the mystery of what may be beneath me, the experience was exhilarating. I also felt really blessed to have my husband, expert of all things water-related, and his strong hand to hold. At the end of the day, his encouragement was what made me try.

I know lots of moms who struggle with not feeling "fun." I pray that today, you'd claim your freedom in Christ: freedom to accept yourself as you are, as well as the freedom to choose differently in the future if the opportunity arises.

And on a totally different note, here is the button for my first linky on Friday called Thanks-living. To read more about it, click here. I spent two hours today figuring out how to write this code all by my big girl self. So take advantage of it and put it in your post if you decide to link up! (Let's hope it works.) Love you all.

P.S. Today we went to the beach. I went in the water. {Just saying.}


Monday, August 27, 2012

My first linky is coming {woo hoo}

I've been wanting to do this for a long time:

Start a linky that takes place at the end of every month, where we take time to say THANKS.

God blesses us so much. I've wanted to begin this practice here on my blog of taking one day a month to reflect on His goodness to us. (Does your heart need this like mine does?) My idea was that it would be at the end of the month so as to close out and begin a new one in gratefulness. I desire to be more intentional about looking back, taking a little inventory of the good and the bad, and remembering how He walked me through so that I can start a new month knowing I am in His hands.

I saw this term yesterday and I thought it was perfect.

Thanks-living. It's exactly what I want to practice.

Maybe you've been experiencing God's comfort in a hard season. Maybe your baby started sleeping through the night or God brought a bit of healing to a relationship. Will you think about it with me? In what ways can you say thanks and acknowledge the Lord's work in and through your life?

Friday is the 31st, the last day in August. I'll be hosting a link up right here and posting about the simple ways I've experienced God's blessings and presence in our lives this past month. This month, it will probably be about summer and the memories we've made as a family. Your post could be as simple as a photo, a visual of what you are grateful for. Certainly something from this past month inspires you to give Him glory.
I'll try to have a button for you before Friday as well, so you can add it to your post. I'm excited for this, friends. I can't wait to hear how God has been good to you!


Friday, August 24, 2012

So...yesterday I started writing a book

I was sitting right here at the Barnes and Noble. Using this laptop, a notebook, and drinking an iced tea from Chick-Fil-A.

I sorta feel like if I tell you, then it will make it more real. More believable.

Friends and family have been telling me for a while now that I should write a book. But isn't that a nice thing you just say to someone you love? When we see someone with a crafty talent, we say, "You should sell those." When we have a friend who is a great chef, we say, "You should open a restaurant." And so I've understood that when people have said to me, "You should write a book," they were, in essence, saying, "I see a gift in you that I don't have and that I appreciate."

Right? And so I knew those many voices were indeed encouraging, but not the One voice I needed to follow.

The way the Lord leads me is always, in retrospect, so natural and appropriate. Before He leads me, I tend to feel confused and foggy. I've wondered for a long time if He would ever prompt me to write a book. I've tried to guess at what it might even be about, if He did, seeing how I had no idea of my own. But suddenly, I have a vision. And it's a familiar feeling: when He finally does reveal step one of a new journey, it makes so much sense.

Amazingly, God never seems to ask me to do something that I'm not feeling at least a little equipped for already. I'm not overwhelmed. I'm not freaking out. It doesn't even seem like a big deal. His plans for me so often feel like the next natural step. His yoke is easy, His burden is light.

And so it has been with beginning a book.

Despite the new feelings surfacing, the new questions and insecurities I'm facing, writing this book feels like the next natural step. And that helps a lot when I sit down and laugh to myself that I have no idea what I'm doing, and realize this is harder than I thought. Because I know He's hemming me in, going before me and behind me. I'm safe in His will, no matter how rough the road may get.

So friends, help me remember all this if I forget along the way.

And tuck away the truths for where you are in your own journey. He goes before you, making a way for you to take the next natural step. Do you know what it is, and do you trust Him?

"For I KNOW the plans I have for you," declares the Lord.
"Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you.
Plans to give you a future and a hope."
Jer 29:11


Thursday, August 23, 2012

A "What am I doing wrong?!" sort of day.

My rough mothering days follow a pattern.

Kid acts up.
I discipline, correct, encourage, etc.
Kid acts up again.
Repeat mommy skills. Add incentives.
Kid continues to disobey or disrespect or manipulate the situation.
Skills crumble.
I feel discouraged.
I feel defeated.
I close my eyes and think in my brain, "I must be doing something wrong...WHAT am I doing wrong?"

That's what happened this afternoon. I think it's post-vacation crash and burn, honestly, with a touch of jet-lag mixed in. But I walked out of my son's room after sentencing him to remain there, shaking my head, wondering - again - what I'm doing wrong.

I put a little time and space between us before returning to his room to chat with him. After an afternoon of compromises on his part, he had finally chosen to lie to me, and lying, in our house, holds the greatest sentence: having to stay in one's room for the rest of the night. No family time, except for eating dinner. At least for my kids, the best rewards are quality times together, and so the worst consequences involve separation. (Nothing extreme, people. Just "go sit in your room and lose your privileges" kinds of things.) My kids know that trust is everything in our house. And when trust is violated, it is no small deal.

When I went back to his room, I talked through his mistake with him using gentleness but gravity. I could see he felt really sorry. He knew he had crossed a serious line with me. And then I took a risk. I said, "You know what your mistake was, right? But what's the good news?" It was a little test I was giving him, to see...just to see...(a quiet pause...)

"That I still get to go to heaven?"

I was looking for something like, "I'm forgiven," but close enough. Even though he asked it like a question, I beamed a smile of relief, "YES! And why is that?"

"Because I asked Jesus into my heart and I love him?" A question again, but nonetheless, right on the money. Yes, my love. And I reminded him that despite his bad choices, he is forever forgiven. We talked about what God sees when He looks at him. We talked about how none of us deserves to go to heaven, not him, or me, or daddy....We can't make enough good choices to earn a life with a perfect God. When we accept His gift of forgiveness, He sees Jesus in our place.

My son said, "And when we go to heaven we'll do perfect?" Right again. I love that. We'll do perfect. And my own broken spirit echoed, "Come, Lord, come," on the inside, yearning for the same, eternal, total healing. (Should I be surprised that my 7 year old feels it too? That the human heart is fallen and far from home?)      

It occurred to me that even though I may be doing twenty things wrong as a mother, I'm doing one thing right, sharing the gospel of Jesus with my children in their brokenness.

Tonight, I'm letting that affirmation from the Lord simplify my job. It boils down to the gospel, friends. That's all. Even if you never read a single parenting book, or never feel quite like a "good" mom, you really only need to communicate one thing. ONE.

There is a Savior who loves us, and boy do we need Him.

* * * * * * * *

Hold on. I thought I was done with this post.

I wrote the above, put my computer to sleep, and went to do my final check on the kids. My son was fast asleep, but I felt compelled to pray over him. I knelt by his bedside, something I don't often do, and thought I needed to pray for his issues with shame. He has a hard time getting past his mistakes. He can receive others' forgiveness, but he struggles with that lingering condemnation. It's the enemy, already getting his claws into my little one's heart. I know it all too well.

I was grieving in my own heart from the events of the day, and I thought it was for my son. I saw him wrestling with shame today. I knew I needed to pray against the enemy's lies in his life...

But when I knelt there, God shook His head at me and smiled. "Oh no," He said, "That grief you feel is your own. For your mistakes. For the parenting failures that are haunting you. The enemy has his claws in you too.

A few tears squeezed through my lashes.

It was true. The Lord saw what was really going on inside when I couldn't. In His presence, it all was exposed. I'm the one who needs the freedom, I realized. Romans 8:1, the verse "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," began repeating in my head. No condemnation. No condemnation.

I prayed those two words over my son. I prayed it over myself. It chanted in a whisper through my heart, chipping away at the grief.

Lord, let my son know freedom from condemnation more than in his head. Let him know it deep within, and let him walk in it and set his face like flint against the lies of the enemy. And Lord, forgive me. Free me from the guilt of my sin. (and then two lines from a song I love) 'But there be a victory; would you sing it over me now?...'

The Lord's song, this chant of freedom is still over me as I type. I knew I needed to add this chapter of the night to my post. Every mother I know battles the shame of her failures to the degree that she allows herself to face it. We all have failures as mothers. The enemy is keeping track and seeking to condemn us every day. He speaks shame over us at every turn.

And my sister, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The gospel is for me.

And you.


{the beautiful song to which I refer is here}

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to School Tool #3: A Paddle (for rowing upstream)

With our back to school start date now only two weeks out, I'm being reminded of the many ways our culture pushes against me as a mom. If I am not prepared in my own mind and heart to face the current that is flowing against the ways in which I'm trying to raise my kids, I'm realizing I'll be floating along like a boat without a paddle. If you're not paddling upstream, you're moving right along with it.

Case in point. I went to a consignment store the other day with a heap of my kids' old clothes. When the lady handed back to me a pile of rejects, I asked why the cute denim skirt on top wasn't acceptable. I was surprised, thinking it was one of the better items, and wondered if they found a stain or damage that I had overlooked. Our brief conversation went like this:

lady: "Well...skirts that length just don't sell...."
me: "You mean the modest ones?"
lady: "Exactly."

This is not an ugly, floor length denim skirt from prairie-land we're talking about. It is a just-above-the-knee modern jean skirt. Cute. Classic. And unsellable in a children's store for being too modest. We are not talking about skirts for women. We are talking about skirts for children.

I hate being surprised by the nonsense out there, but a friend did shock me lately when she described what she saw when dropping her freshman daughter off at our local high school. She said that several teen girls are wearing what would usually be considered lingerie as outerwear, including visible garters holding up knee highs. To school.

Another friend told me that her church's junior high youth group is crowded with girls who can neither drive nor hold a job (which means mom or dad is facilitating), and yet are attending church events in booty shorts and bare stomachs.  

My daughter happens to be super tall for her age at the moment, which means finding modest skirts and long-enough dresses is near impossible. If they are at least close to knee-length, she adds leggings and all is well in the world. But we already had a conversation in the ever-popular store, the Gap, where she moaned, "Moooom, there's nothing else!"

My gentle, but unapologetic reply was, "Well, honey, if we can't find a store that has appropriate things for you, you may be wearing a lot of pants this winter." And that is certainly not the worst thing in the world! Back to School fashion is a big deal for girls, but I'm paddling upstream by taking extra time to source cute and modest clothing for my girl. It's not easy, but I will face with courage and conviction the conversations with her about where her worth lies, and the various reasons some girls choose to dress immodestly.

My daughter is going into fifth grade now, and so it's time for me to go deeper with teaching her why modesty is important. But these conversations started in a very simple way when she was a preschooler. I'd encourage you, if you have a little girl, to open up the conversation on appropriate clothing choices early. And if you have a little boy, I'd encourage you to start the dialogue on how it's his job to defend and protect a girl's modesty. These basic concepts will lay a foundation in their hearts for the much bigger issues surrounding God's plans for their sexuality that you'll face as they grow.

My Back to School Tool #3 is a metaphorical paddle, meaning the resolve to go against the flow of our culture and choose to teach (and model) modesty.

Speaking of parental modeling and modesty, I sat by a 17 year old girl on a plane last week. She was smack dab in the middle of Fifty Shades of Grey (in case you are new, I wrote about my thoughts on this popular fiction series here). Of course, you know, I could not pass up an opportunity to chat with this girl about the book. As soon as I brought it up, she gushed over how great the book was. I probed as to why she happened to pick it up in the first place, sort of my own little market research. I thought maybe it was on account of her boyfriend, her peer group, a radio DJ's suggestion...anything but what she actually said: "Well, my mom's reading it. She doesn't like that I am reading it, but I figure if she is...." My stomach turned over and I stopped asking questions.   

Paddling, to me, means trying my best to model modesty. In my dress, in my speech, and in what I allow myself to read and watch.

Paddling, to me, means accepting my body and biting my tongue from criticizing my looks and my AGE around my daughter.

Paddling, to me, means making sure my commentary (even praise) about my daughter's insides far outweigh my commentary about her outsides.

Paddling, to me, means praying for wisdom on how to parent my kids in these areas with such a strong cultural current going the other direction, and grace because I'm not perfect in a single one of these efforts.

I hope you're with me. I still believe some mom would have bought the skirt I tried to consign for her own girl.

She'd be the one holding the paddle.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

11 photos for the 11th

I always miss 10 on 10. And Insta-Friday. Whatevs. I'm making my own game today.

11 on 11. Innovation is what that is called.

Here are some Instagram pics from the past week...

Last weekend, we had a date night. Kevin and I have been married 15 years this month. NBD.

15 years = That's amore, peeps.

We tried a new restaurant and went to see Andrea star in a play. We love any excuse to get out the theater, and her performance was amazing! So glad we were able to go and cheer her on. Love her. Check out her blog. She is the coolest.

Here is where I try a new packing system. Perfect for boys who only wear shirts and shorts and don't care what I pick. For big girls, who do care, and who wear twelve accessories, hair things, and various mix and match outfits, it doesn't work so well. 

I cleaned out my makeup bag for the first time in probably 5 years. Wow. A little overdue. Now it looks great and there are not crumbles of things covering everything else.

I am loving how my Allora Handmade mini rosies necklace looks with this dress. It's so matchy! (Did you know I can now be seen wearing some of these pretty things on the Allora shop site? Like here, wearing the larger version of this guy. And here.)

At lunch the other day, I thought I'd better start getting the kids' brains awake for back to school season. So I quizzed them on the difference between fact and opinion over burgers. Just making the most of my surroundings. (My son said he didn't like to eat there because they are such braggers. I thought it was a good point.)

This year we planted veggies. These sugar snap peas are our first fruits. The kids munched them all before breakfast.

Some evil visitors called the tomato horned worm caused  me to be out in the yard with a headlamp and worm killer at midnight. Because I mean business and those worms are destructive little jerks. (Don't freak out. I used the safe stuff.)

Can I just tell you for the hundredth time how happy No-Heat Curls make me? I revere this trick so much I capitalized the name, did you catch that? For a girl who's lived with straight, lifeless hair her whole life and hates to spend 30 minutes using some kind of iron to make it look like I tried, it is dream come true for a couple days.

And finally, here's my girl being cute. We were looking at shoes and she said, "These are totes me!" It was the first time she's said "totes" in place of "totally." I laughed, and then took a picture of her silly (and big girlish) self.

Have a totes good weekend, pals.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to School Tool #2: A Parenting Refresher

I have to admit that I sort of dread back-to-school season in a couple of respects.

1. The very early getting-ready portion of the weekdays
2. The afternoon homework portion of the weekdays

Now, if you consider that my kids are in school (ie. not with me) for the middle portion, then I'm not loving about MOST of the time we are actually spending together.

The main reason is that I know from experience those two windows of time can go really badly. I can drop my kids off at school and be crying by the time I'm home because I realize I was a bear of a mother that morning. Or I can lose my patience later in the day because sometimes homework sessions are rough.

I cracked this book open recently and knew I needed a parenting refresher. Serious. I need to be ready to take on the added pressure and changed dynamics that the school season brings to my home.

Tool #2: a parenting refresher

I also want to be armed with ideas. Most importantly, I want to confidently say that the schedule and added responsibility won't take over the peace and joy in our home.

This book, if you are not familiar with it, is an adaptation of my favorite parenting book of almost the same name, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. If you have a child who is over the age of 2, in my opinion, you should read it. Cover to cover. Once a year. It's incredibly practical, and I guarantee some of the things you do and say to your child will be in the column of examples of what NOT to do and say. Each mom I know who has read it says that's been true for her.

So a few years ago, I purchased this version, How to Talk so Kids Can Learn, geared more towards school-related scenarios. Honestly, I bought it because I was a downright mess in trying to work with my daughter during homework time, and I knew it was primarily me who was the problem. Also, this version is written with teachers in mind. Well, I don't homeschool, but I definitely consider myself a teacher. I am, in fact, my children's first and most important teacher. That's what a mother is.

Here are some glimpses at what this book contains. It came as a surprise to me that it contained these cartoonish examples. And over time, I've come to love them. They depict very realistic scenes, and this one that I photographed is one example where I am the parent in the "What not to say" column. UGH.

Also, here are some chapters I need to reread. Like yesterday. Aren't they totally piquing your interest??

I'm actually not trying to sell you on these books. I'm just saying that one way I want to prepare for back-to-school is to refresh my parenting skills. ('Cause at least for me, it doesn't all come naturally!)

Maybe when you're out purchasing stuff in preparation for back to school - clothing, binders, and backpacks - stop at the library or bookstore and find something to prepare your own heart for good, solid mothering during the transition back to a more rigid schedule.

After school starts, my daily time with my children grows short. God knows how much I intensely desire to make the most of the hours I do have, showering them with love and grace.

Have a great weekend, friends.


Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Back to School Tool #1: Stationery

God in heaven knows how much I love school supplies. It's possibly the only fun part of going back to school. That, and new fall clothes (wishing I was still a student somehow). So while we are in the midst of buying new backpacks and closed-toed shoes for our kids, I thought I'd share some less traditional Back-to-School Tools with you that I have in my arsenal - ones you may not have considered before.

Tool #1: the cute stationery you never use (because who relies on snail mail anymore)

Let me explain. A few years back, one of my kids had a teacher that I was not loving. I didn't know her prior to that year. But within the first week, I had had an earful of her complaining and whining over everything. She had a very negative attitude, and would even ramble about personal problems to the volunteer mothers during class time and play the victim in some unfolding drama in her mind. As if I needed another person complaining and whining in my life, next I had other parents gossipping about her to me. Even though I knew I didn't want to gossip or jump on the complain-train myself, I grew increasingly nervous about the quality of teaching that was taking place and started to feel mom panic. If you're a mom, you know what that is.

I confided in a friend who has no connection to our area and she gave me some of the best advice I've ever received. Basically, it boiled down to "love your enemies." But with stationery.

My friend is quite the card writer. I'm sure she, personally, is helping to keep the USPS alive and well. She suggested that I do what she does. She has kids older than I do, and so has had more hard-to-love teacher experiences. During the most difficult year, her strategy became writing the teacher notes of encouragement. WEEKLY. She shared how shocked other moms were when, at the end of the year, this icy, old crag of a woman whom her son had as a teacher threw her arms around my friend's neck in a big hug.

UGH. I thought, thinking of my own situation, "What in the world would I write to this woman? I can't think of anything she is doing right to encourage...." So I started simply. It went something like this:

Dear Mrs. __________,
I just wanted to send you a note of thanks for the hard work you are putting in daily to know and nurture each of the children in your class. It must not be easy to start off a year with a whole new bunch! I'm sure I'd have no idea how to manage that many kids, much less teach them well. I look forward to helping in the class, and please let me know how I can best help. __________'s favorite thing to do so far has been the art. It's going to be a great year.

You get the idea. I'm not sure I maintained a weekly note delivery, but I can promise you this: I wrote her notes until my heart changed. Until I began to see her as a fellow flawed human being, not simply for what she could give to my family. I began to observe that the gossipping moms saw the teacher as merely a tool for gaining something. She wasn't a person to them; And I'm ashamed to say that she wasn't to me, at first, either. And after my heart changed, I kept writing those notes, but for different reason: I truly cared about her.

Think of the numbers of complaints teachers much get each year. Now think of the numbers of notes of encouragement they receive when it's not a holiday or teacher appreciation week when everyone does so out of etiquette. Maybe zero. And that person is likely spending more hours with your child than you are! Isn't that fact alone a reason to extravagantly LOVE on them?

So my whole perspective on my treatment of teachers has changed because of that small bit of advice. Now, whether I like them or not, I write teachers notes. Lots of notes, to all my kids' teachers, regularly, throughout the year. Sometimes the notes have baked goods attached. Or Sharpies. Or nothing. Or whatever I have around the house when I feel inspired to bless them.

When my own complaining spirit starts to build, I write a note. When it's a challenging week of testing, or she's being evaluated, or I know she's under extra stress, I write a note. I use empathy, and make an effort to see her as a person with a life outside of school. She's probably a mother. You can even ask about her own kids. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I acknowledge her world does not revolve around my child, nor should it.

It was altering once I decided that my child can survive an imperfect year, and I will be mom enough to help him/her navigate any social or academic turbulence. I say "decided" and not "realized" because it took an act of my will to remove inappropriate expectations from the teacher and put some more on myself as the parent. I want to communicate to teachers that I see us as a team.

Teachers can often be seen as enemies, by parents and children alike. I say this year, love your enemies. Model love for your kids, even if you also let them see your disappointment in a teacher (the demonstrated love will be all the more powerful, won't it?). If your child gets an unfair grade or gets overlooked in some way by that teacher, handle it in truth, but with grace and mercy. Remember that they will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35).   

I'm putting my cute stationery to good use, starting on day 1 of school. Instead of sizing up the person in charge of schooling my kid for the next 9 months, I will give him/her the message that we are in this together and I'm grateful to have the help.

In this weary world, a person just can't have too much encouragement.

linking up with my girl Jami today!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Why I'm not sold on 7 year olds in big church

Last week, the Sunday School wing of our church went under construction. Our leadership decided that meanwhile, we'd all "do church together," kids (over 5) and adults combined for 5 weekends. In theory, it sounded like a great idea. How fun to worship God as a family, all together!

Turns out, it wasn't quite as touching as I'd imagined.

I did, however learn the practical difference between a 10 year old and a 7 year old. One can sit quietly for 75 minutes and one cannot. I also realized what a beautiful thing children's ministry is. If you have ever volunteered to serve in children's ministry, thank you. Serious. Thank you from the depth of this mommy's heart, not only for helping to meet my needs, but for helping to meet those of my children on their level. I want to bake you people little mason jar pies.

My Sunday morning in church usually looks like this. I sing my heart out to the Lord for twenty minutes or so, I chuckle through the announcements, maybe more singing, and then I get to absorb some excellent teaching from God's word. Then I go pick up my kids in Sunday School and we haggle over whether or not it's a donut day.

Today, within one minute of the music starting, I was digging for crayons. Then I was picking up all the papers that fell into the crack between the seats. Then, I got persuaded into holding my son, who is nearly 60 pounds, in my arms while I tried to sing, since the look on his face said that he was sincerely suffering for having to be with the boring grown ups.

When I couldn't hold him anymore, I got to listen to him tirelessly complain of boredom and crawl his entire body up into his chair in thirteen different ways. That was just the first ten of the 75 minute service.

What started out to be a bit stressful for me (ie. 7 year olds in big church) started becoming pretty funny. Next, he started drawing. First it was our wiener dog. Then Star Wars vehicles. There I was, trying to worship, and my son was yelling (so that I could hear him over the loud music, of course), "MOM! Look at my AT-AT and my land speeder!"

But the kicker was still to come. Our church observes communion once a month. When we walked in and I saw the tables set with candles, cups of grape juice and the matzo crackers, I decided this would be a good teachable moment (you know how I like those). My daughter has been in big church with us before and has participated in communion, but my son had not. So I resolved to walk him through the symbolism once the pastor stopped talking. But he hadn't yet finished explaining the first communion at the Last Supper. As our pastor quoted the traditional passage of Scripture where Jesus explains how the cup is a symbol of his blood poured out for us, I saw that clearly, a light had gone on in my son's head. Perhaps he is remembering something deeply spiritual I've taught him, I thought. With a big smile, he turned to me and said loudly, "That's just like in Indiana Jones!"

Okay. He's sitting there thinking of how Indy had to choose which cup was the real holy grail and I'm planning on describing the symbolism of communion. A for effort? In case you're wondering, we don't watch the part of the movie where the bad guy melts for choosing poorly. I'm sure I made parts of that movie a "teachable moment" too, which explains why I was in this Sunday morning debacle in the first place.

The way our church observes communion is that during the quiet music, we are permitted to get up and file past the table, taking a cracker, dipping it in the grape juice, and moving on. My husband and I have a tradition of then stepping aside to pray together and take our crackers in unison. We attempted this with the kids. But mini-Jones refused to eat his. "I don't like grape juice," he protested. I replied very matter of factly, "Well, I actually hate grape juice but I eat it anyways because it's a symbol of something important and it honors the Lord." Still, the cracker was a no-go.

The music then turned into singing time again, as everyone went back to their seats. Several minutes later, I glanced over to see my son, cracker still pinched in his fingers, very cautiously sniffing it. This went on for a few minutes, the sniffing of the cracker wet with juice. Next, I saw the very tip of his tongue extend and graze the cracker like it was a live bomb, which resulted in him twisting up his face into the funniest expression of disgust I've ever seen him make. There I was, trying to worship, and I was left giggling instead. I couldn't stop. It was too funny. I flopped my upturned palm next to him and said, "Give me the cracker." Like a mother, I ate it.

Moral of the story: 7 year olds are really, really great in Sunday School. They sing, crawl around, talk loud, draw wiener dogs, and most importantly learn about Jesus, all on their level.

Moral of the story, Part 2: I thought, for a minute, that my worship was being interrupted. Instead, mothering was a very true form of worship I offered to God this morning. I almost forgot.

My final thoughts are that Jesus has a really good sense of humor. I think he wants us to lighten up in church sometimes. If yours needs some of that, just invite the kids in. These next few weekends are going to be interesting.

And maybe just the refreshment we, as a body of believers, need.

I'll leave you with Legoland's rendition of Indy and the mini-Jones,
who threatens to never eat the cracker.


Friday, August 03, 2012

Food, fads, and the Bible

To be honest, I have not historically thought much about food. It's not a vice of mine, nor is it a passion of mine. It's simply food. We need it, I like it fine, and it helps us thrive. Sometimes I like cooking, sometimes I don't. Sometimes we eat healthy, sometimes we don't.

I've seen the ways in which some people idolize food, whether excess becomes a god, or self-denial. Eating a whole package of Oreos is the same as obsessing over NOT EVER EATING A SINGLE OREO because you think they're of the devil. Both of those perspectives move God off of His throne in a person's life.

So I'm sure you can guess that I've never subscribed to a fad diet, or read any of the bandwagon food books. I'm not saying I'm against either of those things. I'm saying I have simply never cared that much. But a few years ago, one of my wisest friends told me about two books she read on food that were based on what God's Word had to say. Now there was a perspective on food in which I was interested and about which I knew I could learn more.

So I bought them. I first read Holy Cow: Does God Care About What We Eat, written by a Messianic Jewish woman and a Rabbi. Totally fascinating (and convicting: in her testimony, one reason the author says she hesitates to believe in the God of the New Testament is because the Christians she knows seem to dismiss the God of the Old Testament). It made me consider caring more about what we ate; if God cared, then shouldn't I? Then, I read What the Bible Says About Healthy Living which covers overall health, not just food).

Again, since I am not one to buy into a whole new program, I picked and chose from these two books what I felt were simple, healthy adaptations to mine and my kids' current diets based on some very convincing arguments in terms of what the Bible says is best for us. (On a side note, I was shocked at the number of relevant, instructive passages of Scripture that deal with food that I'd never really valued in the past. Is it just poetry that God describes the "promised land" as rich with milk and honey? Or are milk and honey perhaps so beneficial that they were a prized part of His blessings for the Israelites when they got there? In retrospect, I guess I'd never used the Bible as a tool for understanding my physical needs, only my spiritual and emotional ones. Interesting, isn't it?)

Here's an example of a change we made. Technically, we don't eat pork. I don't buy it, and I don't choose to order it. But if my son's breakfast sandwich has a piece of bacon on it, I don't make him throw it away. And if we are guests in a friend's home who makes a delicious pork stew, we all give thanks for it and dig in (love you, Erin :). And if my husband thinks the pork stew is the greatest meal ever, because I love him more than I love a guideline, I cook it for Father's Day. That way, God is still on His throne in my heart because I believe He'd place relationship, love, and friendship above a guideline. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus comes down hard on the religious leaders for focusing so much on rules and regulations that they missed the basic matters of the heart. That chapter contains some of the harshest language we ever see Jesus use in the Bible.

I read these two books about five years ago, and since then, I've maintained our adaptations, but stopped continuing to think about food. 

Well, I'm thinking about it now. A lot. This time, I'm ruminating on my family's over dependence on protein, specifically animal protein. I'm not going to buy into a whole new program (mainly because my interpretation of Scripture includes allowance for meat in our diets, and perhaps because I have an undying love for cheese). But the fact is that my family could eat more veggies. We could try new grains. I'm saying a proactive "yes" just to those two simple statements right now, because I could become more educated and practiced at preparing these foods.

Yesterday I bought a bag of pearled barley. I have zero idea what to do with it, but I like a good creative challenge. Also in my cart was our second carton of almond milk. What a shocker, it's actually really good. So I'm experimenting, and trying really hard to expand my horizons in the area of healthier food, for myself and my family. 

If you have any ideas for me, I'm open, but go easy on me.

That special place in my heart for a Sonic Cherry Limeade is not getting taken over by quinoa anytime soon.