Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Every once in a while, some choice I made in parenting makes me smile a thousand times over because I think I might actually have done it right.  I mean, if I had to estimate, I'd say about 70% of the time, I think I did okay.   25% of the time I know I could have done a lot better.  That leaves about 5% for the times when I feel like I actually knocked it out of the park and hit a home run.

Last fall, when Zeke came home, Conleigh felt very left out.  Kenson was infatuated with the new little boy and Conleigh's best friend forever (Kenson) suddenly had a new, cooler friend.  She does not usually do change well anyway and it was a bit rocky.  She had quite a few nights in a row of early bedtimes because her daytime behavior was just so terrible.  Instead of making those nights feel like punishment, I just took her to bed and did our normal bedtime routine just with her (instead of with all 3 kids).  Then I sat with her a bit before she fell asleep and reminded her many times over that "You are loved.  You are special.  You are made by God."  I was hoping to hit the heart of the issue which was insecurity over Zeke.  At the time, I was just hoping it was the right button to push and really didn't get much confirmation that I had done that.

Fast forward to tonight at bedtime.  Kenson was out with D for a walk so I read with the other two, sang a few songs, and put them in bed.  Zeke has been in this total funk about bedtime and naptime, crying and wanting a grown up to rescue him.  I think it is worse when he has to lay down in bed without Kenson being in the same room which was the case tonight.  So Zeke started his fussing and across the hall, I hear Conleigh's tiny voice saying, "Zeke, it's okay.  You are loved.  You are special.  You are made by God."  

Oh sweet girl, your heart is apparently soaking it all in.  Thankful for the 5%...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Squeezing the Church

If you have not read Jen Hatmaker's post, And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak, do.  It's a really intriguing look at modern Christianity, specifically in terms of reform.

The following words from Jen really resonated with me.

 "I’m hungry for a church less known for sanctimony and more for their shocking intervention for hungry babies and human trafficking and racism and injustice. Christianity is too thrilling to reduce to middle/upper-middle class First World Problems, encapsulated in issues and gauged by a nebulous moral compass that lost its bearing decades ago.

People are starving – spiritually and physically – and this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways."  

They reminds me a lot of her words in her book, Seven, where she urges us as the Church to consider how much of what we do is about feeding our own feast, rather than having a feast that feeds those who need it most.

They remind me of my own constant struggle with judging the choices others make as my heart watches a church goer leave the parking lot on Sunday morning in a $40, 000 vehicle, all while I think about how far that money would go in Haiti or at an area rescue mission.  (And if you are my friend who drives the $40, 000 vehicle, hear my words.  "My struggle"-I fully recognize how those thoughts are not grace filled and not productive.)

It reminds me a lot of Casting Crowns song, In the Middle.

"Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender, without losing all control."

How many of us within the church stand on tippy toes as close to surrender as we can get but not really sure if we are all in or hugging the line lest we fall right over into losing control?

"Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense."

A watered down Church, reigned in by the American dream.  A timid Church afraid to be reckless.  A pessimistic Church, unsure if the power of the risen Lord is really in us.

In some ways, I struggled with Jen's words a bit because I think I am blessed by the church I am currently attending and by the area in which I grew up, where people work hard to meet the needs of those around them, where the hearts often say "people matter."  But I also recognize how I wish people were a little more sold out in terms of taking risks and living a radical faith.

The bottom line of what she is saying is that we as a church can become irrelevant not because of our worship style or our children's programming but because of the way our actions reveal the true nature of our hearts.  For those raised in the church and then choosing to leave, and for those looking at the church from the outside, they fully understand Proverbs 4:23.  "Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it."    There is a line drawn in the sand, one that asks those who say they know Jesus to act like Jesus, not just by voting pro life, avoiding questionable tv programs or by attending Sunday school regularly.  The Church is being squeezed from both the inside and the outside.  People on both ends of the spectrum are hungry for the Church to love deeply and passionately, for the Church to be an authentic representation of Jesus, the friend of sinners, the source of hope to those at rock bottom.  And that is messy and a challenge.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Storytime for Bo

It really just involves listening to Zeke say the same animal name over and over but who doesn't want to hear a tiny voice saying "Deli fish, deli fish, deli fish?"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Let's Bring the Holidays (and the Mommy Wars) Down a Notch

Have you read this yet?  It's Rage Against the Minivan's blog post, Let's Bring the Holidays Down a Notch.  It's a short little read with over 600 comments, apparently because the post touched a nerve and ended up being reposted via Facebook and other online sources.

It's interesting to me on so many levels.  Kristen (the original blogger) shares how frustrated the holidays make her feel because her kids have huge expectations for them.  For example, her children were disappointed because no leprechaun visited their house on St. Patrick's Day.  (And one of them stomped off and threw a fit.  Oh the horrors!  She should come visit this joint...)  And she finds it a tad annoying that other parents go over the top with gifts/school treats.  (Can you say "50 pieces of Chinese made trinkets stuffed into a plastic gift bag for Valentine's Day?")  She brings up newly invented holidays like the 100th day of school and Pi Day.  Lastly, she calls out other parents (to some degree) and encourages them to stop the madness that they might be perpetuating regarding the holidays.

Was I offended by her post?  No.

Do I understand some of her feelings?  Certainly.  (I mean, Zeke's daycare had Valentine's for the 2 year olds.  Why?  I have no idea.  I also personally do not enjoy the constant stream of crap that comes into my child's lives via goodie bags, the bank, the doctor's office, etc.)

But I can't say I think the post actually served her well, especially since she shared a homemade Valentine that her littlest made which appears to be an accidental, pretty funny, but literal "FU" to what she describes as the overachieving parents who are participating in the holiday madness.  (Yes, I get sarcasm and humor; I just think you have to be careful with what you say online.)

Realistically, I think it's time for moms in general to turn it down a notch in terms of behavior and attitudes.  It is not the holidays that are the issue; it's us.  Yes, I didn't like the Valentine party for the 2 year olds and yes, I think a holiday goodie bag is just a pile of junk destined for my trashcan.  But I can deal with it without ranting and raving, without blaming others for my children's behavior, and without judging the motives of others.

In fact, it's not even Kristen's original post that I found most interesting.  It was the 600 plus comments that she received.  That is where you see the real indictment of how we as moms sometimes handle life.  The majority agreed with Kristen, that all of this was over the top and too much.  Many felt like those moms who did over the top things were doing so out of competitiveness or a chance to one up other moms.  Many cited Pinterest as an evil used only  by those who have the dreaded Super Mom syndrome.  Others blamed the schools for encouraging kids to believe in fictional things like the Easter Bunny or leprechauns.  Few were willing to say "This is about me being comfortable with who we are as a family and the choices we make."  Few were willing to not blame others, to allow their kids to walk through a bit of disappointment once they learned that they would not be setting leprechaun traps of their own.  A handful of people shared why they celebrate holidays with big things, from those who did so because it brought them joy as parents, to those who said it let them express their creativity, to those who said it was about creating memories with their kids.  And of course, there were the down right catty responses from essentially telling Kristen to get off her computer, out of the blogosphere and into her kids' lives.  (Terribly rude especially when you have idea about what Kristen does with her children since you do not personally know her.)  Or those who said things like if you don't like your kids hearing about leprechauns at school,just homeschool.  (Because I'm sure all the homeschooling families out there want to be viewed as families who simply could not handle leprechauns.)

I think what spoke to me most about this was I just saw a lot of moms struggling with the same type of confusion that grips many women from the time they are about ten.  It's the idea of questioning if what we are doing is good enough, if we measure up and how we can do more.  At the heart, I think that's what Kristen is trying to say even though I'm not sure that part stands out loud and clear.  Moms have to stop competing.  They have to stop comparing.  They have to stop jumping on one crazy bandwagon to the next all in an attempt to keep our kids happy.

It's the idea of do what blesses not what burdens.  (Love those words, stolen from a recent Beth Moore Bible study.)  And then shut up.  Decide who you are and what you value as a mom and then don't spend the next hour inspecting the lives of other moms, looking for reasons why you made a bad choice.  Or looking for a reason that indicates that other moms have made a bad choice.  Do what blesses not what burdens.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Love of God, Love of Man

As I sit and write this, the vacuum stands against the wall, reminding me that I swore up and down last weekend that I would get the bedrooms vacuumed but that task is still undone.  The dishes are piled high in the sink and the dishwasher just finished washing a load so it's obvious that I was pretty far behind before I even started.  My stove and my sink have the tell tale signs of being wiped down but not really being cleaned.  And the humidifier next to the dog bowls has been unplugged lest the little one turn it on and it starts to spew out a nasty smell, one that I know about because I smelled it a few days ago but have yet to actually sort out why on earth it is smelling.

The last ten days or so have been pretty good in terms of how I feel.  But today was a kick in the pants that pulled me back down.  And so, having worked on Friday, I feel like I'm behind again, a feeling that I have felt all too often that last few months.

Things have to change.  I have had to simplify.  While I would not judge another mom for the choices she has made regarding how their family lives, there are certain things that I hold onto because they make me feel like a good mom.  I rarely use convenience foods.  It takes me just as long to make mac and cheese from scratch as it does to pull out the Kraft blue box.  I like occasionally going a stretch farther and making bread or taco seasoning from scratch.  I prefer not to buy things like snack crackers and sugary cereal.  I have a system and an order to things that makes me life feel orderly.  Things like how the school lunch calendar gets put into my family binder or how the mail gets gone through as soon as it is brought into the house.  I have routines that help keep the family going, that keep the kids' bookbags emptied out, the laundry sorted and washed, and ensures we have clean silverware.

But when you are sick for even a day as a mom, it puts a lot of that on hold.  When you are sick for weeks on end, it brings all of that to a screeching halt.  It has been not much fun to watch my household management skills be crushed by nausea.  I find myself having to think about why I cling so tightly to the "normal" way I do things.  Why on earth does feeding my kids frozen pizza make me feel less skilled than feeding them homemade pizza that sits atop a homemade whole wheat crust?  Why does it seem so earth shattering to make yourself use paper plates rather than regular dishes just so you can sort of keep the counters clear of dirty dishes?  And why does the counter clutter and mountains of paperwork that just don't find their places take me to this place where I feel like the house will never be clean again?

My worth as a mom and wife somehow gets tangled up in all sorts of crazy things, doesn't it?    A few weeks back, my friend, Lisa, who knew how I was feeling, showed up at my house demanding to do my dishes.  As I said she really didn't need to, she grabbed the dish soap and started filling the sink with warm water.  Not much was going to stop her other than being wrestled to the floor so she spent the next 10-15 minutes clearing out my sink.  As I shared this story with another friend, that friend asked if it was hard to let Lisa do my dishes.  I couldn't help but think what a silly question that was.  (Not because my friend who asked it was foolish but because we as women are foolish.)  Why should it be so hard to let a friend come and do my dishes?  Because it seems an affront to who we are?   Because it makes us feel like we are not doing a good job?  Because we are too independent to let a friend dirty themselves with our crusted over stuff?

God did not design us as moms, as women, as people, to live our lives apart from others.  Yet we insist that we do not need someone to start the water and put in the bubbles because we hate the thought of someone scraping the gunk off of our dirty dishes.  As if they didn't mean the words they have said...  As if their actions are not motivated by love and concern...  We push aside the chance for our friends to love us deeply.  And then wish for more meaningful connections in our lives.

And God did not design us to be people who find their purpose in the trivial things of life, things that have no eternal value, things like dirty floors and homemade bread.  How quickly we make life about things that don't really matter.  How quickly we find our worth in the tangible, seemingly unaware that God's crazy grace filled love is pouring over every moment.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
From the hymn "The Love of God" by Frederick Lehman

I wrote this last week.  Thankfully, the vacuum has been put away, I have clean floors and clean counters.  Still having  a few moments of the ickies but I am so thankful to have more productive, feel good days.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Real Life Parenting Conversation #290

Me (about 20 minutes after bathtime):  Kenson, when you take a bath, you need to make sure you use the washcloth underneath your arms because your armpits are still kind of stinky.  Can you smell them because I sure can?

Kenson (sniffing for a moment, then the light bulb moment):  Ohhh, that's what my armpits smell like.  I thought that was my butt smell but it's my armpit smell!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Candor and Control

Once upon a time, I realized I had some serious control issues.  (Probably when I was in high school and my mother kept telling me I was going to have to become more flexible or I would have a heart attack.)  By the time I was in college, I realized how much I enjoyed control.  From controlling my behavior to controlling the behavior of others to having a melt down if I couldn't do those things, I gradually realized that I craved control.  In an interesting way, God worked on my heart a lot to pry my need for control out of my tightly curled hands.  There were of course some pretty big things like adoptions and family deaths.  But really I think God worked the most in the small things.  A trip to Romania where I was the only person my age, where I didn't know the language,where I was stuck in a situation completely outside of my comfort zone.  Steady revelations on how grace affects us all, on how God didn't love me more because I could do a multitude of good things with a snap of my fingers.  A marriage where I realized how my desire to control could become a source of friction.  And last but not least, the lessons of motherhood where poopy diapers always cause major issues moments before you are walking out the door, where children never throw tantrums at convenient times, where your life gets turned topsy turvy as you realize just how much you must put aside your self centered focus while you care for your kids.  (There have been times where I have honestly thought I would never eat a warm breakfast again.)  All of those things I thought had eroded my need for control.  I really thought that I was in a pretty good place as I took comfort in knowing that God was in control of my life.

And then, I found out I was pregnant.  It sounds a bit callous to write that.  (And forgive me if you are a friend who has struggled or is struggling with infertility.  I know how much your heart wants to be pregnant, how you would give up a limb to be here, and I mean no disrespect for the gift God has chosen to bless us with.)  It's just that I wasn't really sure I wanted the gift at this very moment in my life.  In the last 4 years, we have had 3 kids.  In the last 6 months, we have done a major move which we are still not completely settled from, traveled to China, and brought home a 2 year old.  At the beginning of November, I actually said to D something about life slowing down and being able to just enjoy the slower pace for a while.  I was really enjoying my time at home when it was just Zeke and I.  I was finally feeling like I had some routine and normalcy.

And then there is this positive pregnancy test, one that caused both my husband and my mother to ask if I was joking.  (Um, who jokes about that?!)  My head of course started swimming, thinking of all the uncertainty that a pregnancy brings.  From the major things like wondering who will deliver your baby and wondering when is the best time to tell people you are pregnant to the minor-but-feel-very-major-things like realizing you have no baby things and trying to figure out where you are going to find a maternity bra when you already have issues finding a regular bra.  Not only did I think about the practical side of pregnancy, but it also made me think about the practical side of adoption.  I really thought we would adopt at least one more time; God has not yet taken away that desire from my heart.  But this baby fills our vehicles and our bedrooms so I have wondered if perhaps another adoption is just not to be.  It all makes you feel a bit out of control.  Throw in major nausea which literally puts you on the couch for months on end and not only are you mentally and emotionally off kilter, but the entire running of your household is out of whack.

Out of control.  Surprised by how much I felt that way when I really thought all my controlling ways were pretty in check.  Wondering why on earth God thought this seemed like a good idea because I was perfectly content the way things were.  I knew in my head that it would be something that would take some time to adjust to and that it was okay to feel those things but I still was surprised by how much I felt out of control.  Time, of course, changes things and while I don't have all my thoughts sorted out, I do believe there is something in this moment that is about God at work in my heart.  It is not about pregnancy.  It is about God giving me a "gift" of sorts.  And I don't mean in terms of a baby.  I mean, it's about God giving me what I need:  9 months (+) of a crazy, out of control, God's plan is different than my plan life.

Is there a good chance that it's not just as simple as that?  Sure.  But right now, that's where I'm at, stepping out to say that this surprise pregnancy has been not easy on a lot of levels, that my need for control is still there, and that I am trusting that God has a best plan for me, one that is better than any good plan I could have dreamed up on my own, a plan that God knows is just what I need.