Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Let Them Be Kids!

"Don't worry about it buddy!  You're doing a great job on your farts!"
  Yep, this was what came out of my husband's mouth as we drove home from a fun evening celebrating our son's fantastic soccer season having pizza with the team.  Now, if you are still reading this, then you are possibly a parent who has many fun, goofy, even hysterical side-splitting moments with your kids! just have to fulfill your curiosity.  Those who quickly decided they clicked on the wrong blog will just have to miss out this time.  

We were having one of those drives home in which our kids were way too happy.  Ya know what I mean? They were all laughing and goofing off with each other....and they were loud!  Like, really loud!  And honestly, my husband and I just didn't care.  We were talking and reflecting on how fun it was to have the entire Vikings Pizzeria filled with Evergreen Vikings soccer players and their families, from our son's team.  They played air hockey and spent way too much money trying to win stuffed animals and bouncy balls from the claw machine.  Everyone had a blast.  So it continued in the car.  Everyone was in a great mood, including mama and daddy.  So, what naturally transpired was the game of trying to see who could make the others laugh the hardest with the fake farts stinkers.  Luke, our 9 year old, is particularly gifted with goofiness and is generally very successful in this game.  He will keep his older brother up at night sometimes in complete hysterics with this.  And just in case you feel sorry for the two younger sisters:  they are completely agreeable to this game....and even "keeping it REAL" at times too...if you get my drift!  

So, there they were in the car playing the fake farts game and having a great time when Luke realized he wasn't getting the usual laughs.  He started feeling a bit bummed out.  That's when my husband encouraged him:  "Don't worry about it buddy!  You're doing a great job on your farts!"  Of course, that completely cracked me up!  The things you never dreamed you'd say as a parent.

What I realized reflecting on this drive home was that sometimes I fail to just enjoy my children being children.  Not this night...but all too often.  At times, when they are just being children and having mostly innocent fun together, I get uptight.  I know there must be something at the root of that and I haven't completely put my finger on it.  But the first step for me is realizing that it's okay to just let it be sometimes.  They are kids, for goodness sake!  And they will only be kids once.  And how often do I remind them that it's great being a kid? That really, they don't want to grow up so fast.  Life only gets tougher.  They have it so good right now.  Then why can't I just allow them to be kids more often?!  Why must so many situations end with me reminding them to settle down, practice self-control, and remember their manners?  

I think partly it's fear.  There it is again.  That ugly four-letter word that prevents me from being the best parent I can possibly be for my children.  Sometimes when they are just acting like kids, I become fearful that I'm not doing my job well enough.  I'm afraid that maybe they don't remember any of their manners!  That they have no idea what is appropriate behavior and what is not.  Never mind that home should be a completely safe place for them to learn.  And home should be a completely safe place to just!  And in case you're wondering:  yes, we do teach and emphasize manners and appropriate behavior when at school and friends' homes and church.  Often we feel proud of their good behavior at those venues; I received glowing reports at school conferences this year.  But just as often, we are embarrassed about some one's behavior in public.  I think that is where my mind goes.  If I'm not continually reinforcing the expected behavior, then they'll make an obvious faux pas again, right?!

That's the point though.  They are children, who are learning to live their lives on this earth with all the other people learning to do the same.  They are going to mess up aplenty.  They will also figure it out.  Our job is to model what's appropriate and to engage in plenty of opportunities for them.  But our job is not to obsess about their behavior and to be uptight at all times about maturity and manners.  They should be able to have fake fart contests!  They should be able to wrestle and melt into tickle-fights at home.  Why the heck not?  They are kids!  There are many years ahead of them when life's expectations will overwhelm.  I hope that they can learn, in our home, to laugh and play and enjoy life to the fullest.  We take ourselves too seriously as adults!  I'm not sure why we think that if we have too much fun we won't fulfill our expectations. And again, I know that there's a time and a place.  But if that's true, then the place is our home, our backyard, and our car.  From time to time it's also the dinner table.  And while my upbringing prevents me from relaxing too much at the dinner table, I'm fully aware that on the occasions that my husband and I allow it, everyone is in a better mood the remainder of the evening.  Truly, a merry heart does good like a medicine.*

Furthermore, I don't ultimately want to change who my kids are.  They are fun and creative. They are funny and playful.  I don't want to rob them of these years at all.  I read something this morning that was on a different topic but the point was made that if we are constantly trying to stifle or change who our children are (or their natural behavior and inclinations), then we will probably constantly wrestle with negative emotions toward them.  I can see how that can happen.  That has happened in my mothering from time to time.  I don't want that at all!  I want to love them for the precious, playful, beautiful children God made them to be tempered with moving them toward maturity and greater responsibility.  

My family is getting ready to embark on our first-ever family vacation.  We are all very excited.  We've had road trips a few hours away to Grandma and Grandpa's, but this is a for-real vacation....with a long drive.  I think God was reminding me last night, while listening to our kids crack up with fake farts, that it is good to laugh with our children.  It's so healthy for us all to let down our hair and have fun.  I envision many fake fart contests and other moments of hysterical laughter and fun with our family on this adventure.  I can't wait!

*Proverbs 17:22
I'm having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colorful Reminders

Many of us know the story in the Bible of Noah.  Noah was a man who built an ark obediently, to shelter his family from a great storm.  When finally the rain ended and the earth dried, God put a rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah that He would never again flood the whole earth.  A reminder...that God brought them through...and that He always would.  

Sometimes I need a reminder.  Sometimes I need a big fat rainbow of a reminder that God is good and that He is working out good things in my life.  God is pretty patient with me.  But often I am anything but patient with Him.  I know that I am losing patience when I stop thanking Him for all that He has already done...and all that He has already brought me through!  Thankfulness is key in preventing my attitude from becoming sour and foul.  And oh how easy it can turn foul!

I don't know about you, but when my attitude turns foul, no one in the house is safe from it!  I bark too loud at bedtime; I frustrate too easily at homework time; I am weary at dinnertime.  And a frustrated, weary, and barking angry mama is not a blessing to her family.  I have lived each one of these realities lately.  I hate admitting it!  Wish I could oh so humbly(ha ha) brag about how gentle, patient, and kind I have been recently.  Sure, there have been some of those moments.  But I've had too many moments recently (I'm sorry to admit) that have been the opposite of gentle, patient, and kind.  And what is at the root of it?  Worry.  And what is worry exactly?  It is fear!  Fear that God isn't really listening.  Fear that He has no intention of answering any of my prayers.  Fear that He doesn't even care how things work out in my life.  That's it folks!  It is fear, plain and simple.  And one cannot live in fear if one is too busy giving thanks.  But I haven't been.

I have set aside my thankfulness journal and I have spent more time, as of late, detailing my worries and concerns to God--about several areas of life--rather than thanking Him for what He has done.  Thanksgiving is a conscious action.  If we are not practicing thanksgiving, then we are not living in thanks.  If we are not living in thanks...well, let me just speak for myself....I am instead living in worry fear.  

God knew that Noah was likely to forget how his family was spared, at one time or another, so He gave him the rainbow as a reminder.  The rainbow is a visible, colorful reflection of God's light and goodness.  The thing is, we have such visible and colorful reminders of His light and His goodness too.  All around us.  Honestly, if I just breathe deep and open my eyes, I notice His goodness all around.  And I need to take those moments to give Him my thanks.  Psalm 77:11-12 says "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds."  Just thinking about what God has already done on my behalf and on behalf of my family is enough to pull me out of the funk!  Giving thanks is what I need to do to remind my heart and my mind that He is truly in control and that He has never stopped listening to me.  He is answering our prayers even as we give thanks!

Several nights ago, after a few hours of rain, the sun peeked out a little as it continued sprinkling.  My son came running up the stairs shrieking, "You have got to see this!"  And as my husband and I made our way downstairs, we saw a breathtaking reminder of God's goodness.  And it wasn't even just half a rainbow (as I often see).  Nope, it was the entire beautiful, perfect arc.  (Of course, I couldn't fit that into my camera, so I took two pictures.)  I was telling my husband that I think it was the first time in my life that I could remember seeing the entire arc.  My son then said, "That's not all Mom, it's a double rainbow!"  Sure enough!

Wow!  He loves me!  He has gentle and colorful reminders all around me of how faithful He is.  I just need to open my eyes to see...and give thanks.  I need to actively remember and remind myself of all that the Lord has done.  And that giving of thanks will be enough to chase away the fear.  He truly does hear us.  He has an end to every storm.  And His goodness and light is all around us as a reminder that He loves us and He is faithful to perform His promises.  

Linking up with

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bearing Our Burdens Daily

Not gonna sugar-coat it:  today has been a rough one.  It has been emotional for me.  In the midst of playing catch-up with laundry, balancing the checkbook, cleaning downstairs, and fighting a scratchy throat with raw apple cider vinegar, I decided to log on to my children's school website and check out their grades.  I have conferences at school tomorrow evening for our school-age children so I wanted to be prepared.  No big surprises with my 2nd grader.  No huge surprises until I saw my 5th grader's Reading grade....ugh!  And my 3rd grader's Reading homework scores...ugh, again!  Let me just say that my first thought was:  these are the same two boys I home schooled....I failed them.  True, that was two school-years ago.  And true, my younger son was on the honor roll last year.  Also true, they may have had reading struggles with or without being home schooled.  Regardless, it was all of five seconds before guilt set in.  And blame.  And ultimately...discouragement.

It is no walk-in-the-park being a mama.  I thought about the tough conversation I'd have to have with both of them later today.  I thought about the very fun teacher conferences tomorrow night (insert a sarcastic tone)!  Then I went to a very bad place of frustration and ultimately comparison.  I didn't stop with reading struggles and grades.  Oh no!  I recounted the number of times my daughter has come home or gone to bed with tears in her eyes because she felt slighted on the playground by a girl she thought was her friend.  I thought about the few times my son had said he sat by himself at lunch.  I thought about the fact that my oldest son has only been invited to two birthday parties since we moved out here over two years ago.  Why can't anything about school be easy for any of my kids?  

And you know what else?  I started in with my woes.  Why does it feel so impossible to get any alone(and quality) time with my husband?  Why can't we get ahead financially when we save and give and pay our bills and shop as wisely(and thrifty) as we can?  And that takes me to the comparison questions:  Why is it that the same people who always have a free babysitter on hand also have an aunt or grandma or neighbor who buys brand new clothes for their straight-A kids?  I'm happy to find good deals on second-hand clothes.  Not only does money often feel like a struggle, but if we don't have something wrong with our house, it's wrong at our rental.  And why if all is right with the houses, does it go wrong with the car and truck?  And why...?  You get the idea!

And you know what else?  All this is okay.  It's all a part of this thing called life.  Griping, complaining, and comparing are not okay.  Life's circumstances are okay; the good will ebb and flow as well as the bad.  Most times I can be very balanced, remembering to give thanks for all the good.  But sometimes I go to that dark place and the woe-is-me and comparison trap begins.  It never ends in a good place.  It's ugly.  And I never feel better on the other side of it.  Why do I allow it?  

I was reminded today of Psalm 68:19.  A portion of that scripture says that God daily bears our burdens.  That gave me something to chew on for quite a while.  I realized that when I feel the hurts, anxieties, struggles, and worries that my children experience, I am bearing their burdens.  I carry and accept these burdens as part of my own.  Now I know that I cannot handle these problems for my children.  Ultimately my children are responsible for their grades as well as managing disappointments and maneuvering friendships.  My job is to train them, teach them, and help them.  However, when they hurt, I hurt.  When they struggle, I feel it too.  It's a natural response that I don't always consciously realize.  I am bearing their burdens.  They don't know this.  They may never know this.  But it's something a mama does.  And thank the Lord that I usually end up in a place of humility and prayer before God, knowing that I can't take away their burdens or solve any of these problems for them.  

I'm so thankful that God reminded me today that He bears my burdens.  He bears their burdens.  Daily.  Daily,  He accepts the responsibility for our burdens...and carries the weight of them.  We are absolutely not alone, no matter how it feels right now!  As I remind myself of this truth, I am reminded to teach my children this truth.  And I can pray with all of my heart that one day they will know this truth in the depths of their being.  They are not alone.  Just as He bore our shortcomings and sin on that rugged cross, Christ is daily bearing our burdens.  

Life is certainly messy and oftentimes plenty frustrating.  And if I allow myself into the comparison trap, I will always find someone who I've imagined has it easier...whose kids come home daily with great attitudes and smiles, birthday party invitations, high fashion boots, and straight A's.  But I'm also trapped in that imagination.  That's not where I want to live.  So, I'll take the occasional poor grades and dirty no-name tennis shoes.  And I'll take the fifteen minutes here and there throughout the week that my husband and I can find to have an uninterrupted conversation.  I'll take it because that is my life.  That is what has been given to me....along with a whole lot of good!  A whole lot to smile about.  And when it's not so good, I'll remind myself that just as I am daily bearing my children's burdens--whether they know it or not--God is daily bearing mine.

**linking up with

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Delightful Day...Despite

This past Saturday, my kids and I had a delightful day...despite.  A perfect Saturday to me, would be one in which our whole family would be together, whether we had chores and to-do lists or not.  This was not my perfect Saturday.  My husband had to work from early morning until early evening.  The girls had an overnight which didn't end until lunchtime Saturday.  We then had approximately a half hour to scarf down lunch and head out the door for a birthday party to which my daughter had accepted an invitation.  So often our weekdays feel rushed and busy.  I'd rather Saturday not feel that way.  But alas, this was our day.

The party was at a roller-skating rink in another town.  Our school district is so widespread that this is often the case.  I really didn't want to be in another town for two and a half hours so I fully intended to go home and drive back when it was over.  Unfortunately we knew no one nearby who was attending, so a carpool was out of the question.  When we were almost there I realized that it took a full thirty plus minutes to get there; I decided I didn't want to spend the entire afternoon in the car.  Staying at the rink with baby-in-tow and a younger daughter who would need me on the rink was out of the question.  I remembered driving past a very small neighborhood park.  

It was quite chilly, but after a quick check I realized everyone had a jacket or at least long sleeves.  The park was new to us.  It was cute and small.  It was a really fun few minutes.  A very few minutes.  We may have been there a whole fifteen minutes...before the wind kicked up and the rain started.  But this fun little adventure rejuvenated my kids so much; they must have thanked me and reminded each other to thank least fifteen times!

Following the park we made a very fun stop at Dairy Queen.  It takes a mama no imagination at all to make this a successful outing. We laughed, ate, told stories, and enjoyed each other's company!  My 8 year old even attempted to eat the largest ice cream sundae on the menu!  What a nice laid-back time.  We capped off the afternoon with a little grocery shopping and then the kids finished watching a movie in the car.  When we arrived to pick up my daughter at the party, there was so much extra cake and balloons that my other kids were offered some, to which they happily accepted.  We got a kick out of watching Ella meander slowly around the rink in her tiny pink roller skates--the cutest things I have ever seen--for one last song.  This was a delightful day...despite.  Despite not having Daddy around on a Saturday.  Despite the rush out the door.  Despite spending the entire afternoon killing time in an unfamiliar town.  Despite the chilly rainy weather.  We had a delightful day despite any of my preconceived ideas for this Saturday!

That was repeated, surprisingly, on Sunday afternoon.  My son had an out of town soccer game mid-afternoon.  I had earlier that day griped mentioned to my husband that due to our hectic weekend schedules (which include him working every remaining Saturday in October), we weren't going to be able to pick apples at the apple orchard--a tradition we have looked forward to yearly since our oldest was a baby.  I was bummed!  On a country drive to my son's soccer game my husband declared "Hey, an apple orchard!".  After the game, we both decided "What the heck? It's Sunday--and probably the last weekend we have a chance to do this-- so let's go!"  We broke tradition a bit by going to a different orchard, and truthfully, I had to make peace with that...for a minute.  But, we had a delightful day...despite!  Despite missing church that morning (which we don't like to do).  Despite the tractor not starting (which likely means a battery purchase in our near future), and the back part of our property not getting mowed.  Despite the car drive to the soccer game, in which my husband and I were quietly mulling over discouragements.  Despite feeling like we couldn't possibly fit in every precious family tradition.  Despite life's upsets and challenges, we had a delightful day!  

Hopefully I'm learning a lesson here.  Life is very full of opportunities to make the most out of situations that don't look fun.  Time is precious.  And family time is a treasure.  I believe God always wants to redeem the time and the moments.  I'm trying to keep my eyes and heart open for opportunities to make a delightful day...despite.