Monday, November 23, 2015

This parenting thing.

so you'll probably think this is ridiculous, maybe not, but here's the deal. our kids had the opportunity to do a workshop with some pretty fantastic people who we already know, but they hadn't been around all four kids for a chunk of time.

so fast forward to later that day when they came to me and commented how great the kids are and of them asked how we do it. *deer in headlights*

uuuuuhh. to my disappointment, i mumbled something about homeschool and character training and who knows what else. i probably sounded completely arrogant and full of myself. :P

honestly, what i should have said was... i. don't. know.

here's the tricky part. there's this fine line between deciding to do something a certain way, seeing the fruit of it and maintaining a spirit of humility about it all. because honestly in the end sometimes it's just feels like pure luck, but also we're so quick to take the credit for the good stuff.

i mean i know it's not just "luck", we do work hard to invest in the kids character training and exposing them to real world things and not saying yes to everything and practicing self control with money and possessions and restricting sugar and oh a billion other things and trying to wrestle with what freedoms to allow and when and how much and at the same time we make 3 gazillion mistakes along they way and we try to be vulnerable with our children. *breathe* and at the end of the day, sometimes we're just glad we've survived. and sometimes we don't work hard. sometimes we're just plain lazy with our faces glued to our screens and we've got to pick up the pieces after they've piled up and that's no fun.

so all that to say... maybe what i SHOULD have said was... "we do our best, like every other parent out there." but sometimes people do genuinely want to know "what" or "how" you do it, and it feels like saying "we just do the best we can" is a cop-out and sounds like "its the luck of the draw, sucker!" more than anything else. am i crazy in thinking that?

i mean, if someone makes really good chicken dumplings and you want to know how to make it, then you hope they show you the recipe that was passed down from their great grandmother right? So in an effort to just be open, I thought I'd just go ahead and share a few things and if it's at all pretentious, forgive me.

7 things I've learned about parenting.

1. Parenting is Hard Work.
Its hard because there is no formula to humans. just like every other relationship out there you have to get to know each child for who they are. One form of discipline, affection, communication, and so on will not work the same with different kids. That's when you have to get creative, or ask for help cause it never gets easier, it just constantly changes. I'd say be consistent, but it's a flexible/changing consistency lol (clear. as. mud.)

2. Parenting is Hard Work. (uh huh, i listed it twice)
Its hard work because it never stops. You really can't decide to take a day off of parenting. You can take a day off of work, school, chores, and so on, but parenting never stops and sometimes it's just beyond what you're capable of. Also, I think sometimes we just forget that kids don't automatically learn things, we actually have to train them and not act surprised when they don't know something. How many times have you heard any adult say to a child "You should know better!". well yeah, and they wont unless you teach them and then give them time to develop into what they "should" know. and that takes a lot of work.

3. You can't do it alone.
I'm not talking about books. I'm not talking about classes. I'm not even talking about other people or parents or even a spouse. I'm talking about asking for help, direction and guidance from the ultimate dude. yup. God, the Father. and even more importantly, it's actually surrendering to the Father. Surrender (give up, let it go, say buh-bye!) to your ways and surrender your children to Him. If you aren't first convinced that He is a Good Father, or that he created your children and reigns sovereign over their lives as well as yours, then you'll probably waste most of your time arguing with Him about whether or not His ways will actually work. seriously? we actually think we know better than the One who created both us and them? learn and glean from his character of grace and compassion and justice and patience and love and gentleness and so much more. [So, really, I wish I had said, "we are learning to follow the Lord's ways. He blesses our family when we trust Him and follow His ways, and He's oh so patient and gracious when we don't"]

4. You can't do it alone. (yep, twice)
Find a parent who displays the qualities you want to emulate and learn from them. Learn from their mistakes AND learn from their successes. Get over yourself and ask for their input. Asking for help doesn't point out that you're not great at parenting... no, it makes you a wise one! The absolute best advice i ever received about parenting was from a more seasoned mother. She prioritized her children's character training over academics and other activities. I didn't do it exactly like she did, but it gave me a new perspective on how to approach my everyday routine. It gave me a new response to daily hiccups in my plans. It showed me that my pursuits and plans for my kids weren't on the right track. I could have dismissed it, and then where would i be?

5. Parents set the example.
There is NO way around this one. Plain and simple, you are lying to yourself if you think it isn't true. If you do something your kids will too. if you eat junk your kids will too. if you have a potty mouth your kids will too. if you drop what your doing to listen to others, your kids will too. if you make sacrifices in order to help someone else, your kids will too. if you keep a budget, your kids will too. if you treat people with respect and kindness (that includes them, because they are people), then they will too. if you whine and complain, they will too. do you get the picture? this is the not so fun part... the part where you realize what you are lacking in your character and you see it staring you in the face in your kids actions and words. if you want to train them, you must train WITH them. admit when you're wrong. admit when you're selfish. admit when you've hurt them. repent from sinful behavior together. love them without condition. set the example of who you want them to become.

6. The Word does the work.
After having just had a very long discussion with a kiddo about how we treat siblings and who our real "enemy" is, it was such a relief to have the Word of God to base everything on. Seriously. The pressure isn't on you to invent the standard and issue the commands or squeeze out the grace. that's been done and its been done to the FULL. Your job is to teach your children to turn TO the word for anything and everything. Let the word inform you and transform you and the way you parent. Be diligent not to use it to support/back up your own ideas and expectations (there's entirely way too much of that in the church today). That means you have to spend time in the Word and sometimes that means more hard work.

7. Parent for something greater than yourself.
In the moment that I received a compliment about my children, I was proud... of them and of myself. I was pleased that someone else recognized the awesome kids i have the pleasure of spending time with each day. but pridefully, I was pleased that MY work had been recognized. shame. on. me. I didn't even point to the Father, i thought it, but didn't say it. how lame is that! If it was the chicken and dumplings recipe, i would've just said, "Thanks, it's my grandmother's recipe!". Unfortunately, I am a selfish human being and I too often parent in a way that is about me and what I want, and that never leads to anything good. but when I go back to that surrender part, then parenting becomes more about the kingdom and the Father's work than my own. If I keep that perspective in front, then it should be easier acknowledge my role with the Father's wisdom and say, "thanks, it's my Father's recipe!" ;)

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Chapter Needs a Hero.

Call me naive. Call me crazy. Call me a fool. 

I guess I'm confused... and stunned.

Can someone explain why allowing families who are running away from attacks, persecution and their homes being destroyed so adamantly being spoken against?

Are we really that selfish of a nation? ok, yes we are. that's not so surprising. 

Ok, then how about the church? are we really that selfish of a church?

This is a genuine question; I would really love a well thought out answer to this response that I am currently unable to perceive as anything but selfish and more focused on self preservation than an opportunity to love and care for a hurting and displaced family.

If your neighbor's house was set on fire by some cruel person, and your neighbors were not Christians, you don't tell them to stay inside their own fence and deal with it because they might come and take over your house. You HELP them. You sacrifice your own everything and you help them, because this is what you'd want someone to do for you and your children. and because this is what we are commanded to do as followers of Christ, to love EVEN our enemy. That means there is absolutely NO one we can ever give an excuse for not loving. no one.

no one.

I honestly am quite flabbergasted at the response of Christian individuals. and the government. stop and think. 

If our entire nation was under attack and we had no where to go. and we traveled at great expense and hoped to simply find a land who would show us an ounce of compassion and a simple kindness and they slammed the door in our face and said "You can't stay here!" and then turned around to excuse their actions by accusing you of being a potential threat to their own safety. How would you feel? what would you do? see in that moment, it wouldnt be about an entire nation of people, it wouldnt' be about a huge enemy possibly knocking at their doors at some future time, it would simply be about the needs of one family in that moment.

We think that by making it a policy it suddenly means we're not turning away innocent people. The policy deceives us with the idea that they are guilty and we are then free from responsibility... no, the policy points directly to OUR guilt. We become guilty of cold-hearted behavior. The exact behavior we can't stand to see displayed in characters of a book or movie. We say to ourselves, "how can they be so selfish and so oblivious to the need around them?!". If we respond this way, then we can be certain we will be treated with the same exact LACK of human kindness and understanding if, heaven forbid, we ever face the same situation.

Here's a crazy, foolish, naive thought... what if we choose to be the heroes of this chapter in history? Let's be like the people who risked their families and livelihood and all they had just to hide the Jews in their attics and closets; like those who ate less, so someone else could survive one more day. Yes, many of them lost their own lives and families and homes. We call them heroes because that's what it requires... it requires laying your own life down for another.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Let's get back to real life.

Seriously. Enough is Enough.

The time we waste on meaningless things that cause meaningless anger that cause meaningless self-righteousness that cause a meaningless onslaught of distraction.

it doesn't matter what it actually is. cup. dress. sport. politician. proposition. medicine. relative. "first world problems". (more like spoiled brat problems).

Here's a lovely little excerpt from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis...
"You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods."
I think if Lewis were around today, he would have included such things as the Inter-webs and Facebook among Wormwood's tools of distraction.

so in an effort to NOT be an extended distraction for you, I'll keep this short.

deep breath.

listen to this.

now go do something productive. whether its snuggle and pray for/with your child. call/visit a friend to encourage them. walk outside and worship the creator. wash the dishes. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.

Friday, November 6, 2015

My "Crazy" Christmas Idea.

It's been an adventurous year and a half in our new home. We've had quite a few financial surprises in the area of dental work and car purchasing & fixing. The latest installment is that our renters had to move out and our family vehicle needs a couple big things done. $3000 big. oof.

I'm not worried about any of it, but I bring it up because it helps reinforce a crazy idea I have for how to handle Christmas this year.

REALITY #1. Small house = NO room for more stuff.
REALITY #2. Tightened budget = NO money for stuff that we don't have room for anyways.

So with that... I will not be buying the kids any THING this holiday. I promise i'm not just being a Grinch and zapping all the fun out of life. here's why...

FACT: They have everything they need. Shelter, healthy life giving food, clothes, education, love and security.

FACT: They don't have everything they want. and that's actually a good thing. they learn to save up with their allowances. They learn to prioritize and make wise purchases. And quite frankly, Christmastime is NOT the only time to fulfill all of life's hopes and dreams for more stuff.

FACT: When it comes all at once though, it sure is a lot harder to get rid of stuff in order to make room for the new stuff and we end up convincing ourselves that we ought to keep ALL the stuffs. BUT when things come in slowly throughout the year, it's a little bit easier to think through our possessions which makes it slightly easier to let go of one or more things to let one new thing come in. We can train ourselves and our kids to let go of the burdensome clutter and only let things that bring joy into our daily environment.

and besides all that, they remember their experiences more than they remember the stuff collecting dust in the corner of the closet abyss. yes, some experiences involve tangible stuff, but those are few and far between.

the current quandary... we still like to give good things to our kids!! duh.

FAAAAACT: The kids keep mentioning a coupon book I gave each of them years ago for valentine's day. So it makes perfect sense to do the same for Christmas! I'm hoping to figure out an experience for each month of the year to gift them. Now mind you these aren't big. They're simple but meaningful (and hopefully not too expensive). like a picnic lunch. or a fro-yo date with mom or dad, etc... things that are doable throughout the year, but we don't always take the time to do.

"So witty and creative wins the day!" so says the wicked witch of the west. (shameless plug for our local children's theater production of Oz in which i play the Witch!).

so that's my plan for this year... yeah i know it sounds crazy and you're probably thinking the kids are gonna pitch a fit. i dunno. I s'ppose they could. change isn't always fun for adults either, but it's usually beneficial. I'm sure i'll want to change my mind about 3.7 million times every time I see the latest cool toy that i know one of the kids would just LOVE. And it's probably going to feel really weird and awkward cause there wont be the wonderful sound of gobs of gift wrapping paper and the excited gasps of something new and shiny in hand.

There wont be this great climax of getting things... BUT I can tell you what there will be... time spent with family. full tummies. stories told. memories made... throughout the year.

and less trash and clutter for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

8 things in 8 years

Just read a blog where a mom shared 10 things she's learned after 10 years of homeschooling and thought I'd jump on the bandwagon... of course I've only been homeschooling for eight (though sometimes it feels like longer) so you only get eight this time. but stick around for a couple years and I'll have ten by then. ;)

in no particular order...

1. Don't forsake the day that can't be graded on paper.
Learning happens ALL the time; Academics are only part time. Our schooling revolves around our life, not the other way around. and that's ok. academics are important, but they aren't everything. its good to take time to serve others, to meet needs, to rest, let me repeat that one... it's good to rest. to have fun, to snuggle, to laugh, to have a movie day, to read out loud in British accents, to watch documentaries and to ask the tough questions, to learn to forgive. to go on a picnic. to paint all day. to build legos all day. to sit around the table and tell jokes over and over again. If we're facing a challenge, whether it's a bad attitude, disobedience, sibling conflict, etc... it's always worth stopping to work on the heart issue and the relationships involved. always. the book lesson can be picked back up again, but the heart lesson is time sensitive and needs the attention in THAT moment, not when the schedule says so.

2. You don't always need a schoolroom.
We had one and honestly it was more work to keep it set up like a schoolroom than to just live life and utilize what worked practically (like the couch or a bed or the floor or in the car, ha!). Though there is some benefit to having everyone in one spot if you have a few young ones, but all the schoolroom decor and such... man, just save the cash for a trip to the zoo and extra pencils.

3. You don't need expensive or brand new curriculum.
pretty much you need paper, pencils (lots of pencils) and library books. the rest is just fluff. fluff is nice, dont get me wrong, but it isn't necessary. you have years of experience and knowledge to pass down to your children. If you can read and can teach your children to read, you're already ahead of the curve. Besides, education is about discovering and understanding the world around you, and you don't need a perfectly written and packaged lesson plan for that, you just need time to explore and ...well, more time to explore. we've had our share of "tight" school budget years and my kids didn't care if they had a 40 year old math book or a 2 year old math book. they didn't' care if their science for the day came from a free online seminar or from just being outside digging in the dirt.

4. You can never have too many pencils. 
yeah pretty much because they disappear at a rate of 3.7 pencils per second. where do they go?!?!? i dont know.

5. You can also never have too many pairs of scissors.
and tape. always have tape. an endless supply. and string. and cardboard. and markers. and a secret stash of chocolate just for you.

6. Math is DEFINITELY easier the second time around. 
I wasn't' a terrible math student. i mean, i passed highschool calculus, but i didn't always understand why something worked. but I actually understand it now as i tutor/help my kids along. so if you're feeling a little inadequate cause you weren't a great student growing up or you never felt confident in a certain subject, give it another try! and if you still aren't good at something, it's ok to say "i don't know". you don't always need to know the answers, its not our job to know everything; it's simply our job to help our kids learn how to discover the answers for themselves.

7. Every homeschool family looks different.
Don't waste time comparing. Yeah, be open to glean wisdom and support from one another, but don't measure your homeschool success with someone else's seemingly perfect daily routine.

8. Be the example.
Your kids are watching you. always. your words simply reinforce or contradict what they've already seen, which do you think they'll remember and emulate themselves? yeah, I'm thinkin' it's the things that actually line up in word AND deed.

so i guess that's a taste of what i've learned so far. 8 years down, 9 to go!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

One year later.

sorry, no profound title. no major inspiration. just taking note of a simple moment in time; the time we moved to a smaller house.

as i look back at the past year of living in "the hood" here's what we've learned...

  • we still have too much stuff. we still have nowhere to put it. and therefore we still need to get rid of it.
  • Sunday afternoons, post lunch, are really the only time we all vie for the bathroom simultaneously. but the simple announcement of "does anyone need to go short before i go long?" seems to alleviate most occurrences of the potty dance.
  • the three girls often argue over who's mess is who's in the room that they share and that often leaves the floor in a constant state of disarray. but i can simply google "messy bedroom" and quickly realize that i can still see more floor than toys and clothes, and it's ok.
  • no matter how many times i rearrange the living room, it will not get any bigger or magically change it's shape to accommodate more people. but we can still fit quite a few people in this house.

  • the girls stay up later talking to each other, which i don't mind too much cause i know all too soon they wont be here anymore and it's better than if they were fighting.
  • i get frustrated at how quickly a mess can form, but am always pleasantly surprised at how quickly it can be cleaned up!
  • compared to a significantly large portion of the world's population, we STILL have way more space than necessary.

Friday, May 8, 2015


I really don’t know why it surprises me but it does.

This process.

This process of returning home and navigating through everything. I’m not a longterm missionary. 5 weeks isn’t earth shattering. It shouldn’t be this hard. It’s shouldn’t take this long. But of course I don’t really know what it SHOULD or SHOULDN’T be actually. I know this, but this is how I feel and it’s draped over everything.

You might think I would say it’s like a roller coaster ride, but that would imply that there’s some aspect of fun to it and that all I have to do it sit and let it take me where it can. But it’s not like that, it’s more like piloting a space ship and suddenly entering a storm of asteroids while trying to pull away from a black hole with my navigation and warp drive equipment all failing at once.

The black hole: the desire for all of this to be about me. I’d love to just escape for a few weeks, to get away from all responsibilities and commitments. To not have to sum up five weeks of India into a 45 second conversation piece anytime someone asks. The selfishness that invades me right now is sickening.

The storm of asteroids: all of the THINGS I HAVE to DO. I HAVE to do them. I HAVE to feed my family. I HAVE to take care of this house. I HAVE to lead worship. I HAVE to organize a million things. I HAVE to be a good friend. I HAVE to give up my time for others. I HAVE to force myself out of bed. I HAVE to stop crying. I HAVE to stop feeling lonely. I HAVE to get to the other side, to another perspective. I miss the “I GET to” perspective. WHERE did it go? How did it completely disappear?? When will this end?

And why does every trip have to be so different?
1st trip = new experiences. Returning brought a distaste for “normal” and motivation to grow more, change more and to bring others back.
2nd trip = connecting friends at home to friends in India. Returning brought motivation to keep going, keep sharing, etc.
3rd trip = harsh conditions and heartache. Returning brought grief and anger and frustration.
4th trip = celebration and joy. Returning brought renewed sense of purpose and encouragement.
5th trip = sharing my heart {my children} with my heart {children in India}. Returning has brought about loneliness, restlessness, apathy, temptation, distraction … which is frustrating because when I was still there I was ready to conquer the world. Why did a small change in location and sleeping patterns affect so much? Seriously.

I feel like the rotten king in Narnia needing to yell “RESPITE! RESPITE!”

I’m thinking of putting it on a t-shirt.

The equipment: I know what I need. I need direction. I need wisdom. I need action. I need rest. But I can’t pray. I can’t read. I can’t move. All I can do is cry or shove it down and do my best to survive for a few minutes. This makes me angry. I don’t have time for this. People around me are struggling and going through tragedies and surgeries and life altering moments and I need to be in a better spot to be there for them and all I’m left feeling is lonely and helpless.

This isn’t pretty or pleasant and I’m sorry you had to read it. I’m sorry it isn’t uplifting and encouraging. I’m sorry if it’s too honest.

I know it’ll pass even though I don’t know when. 

This is just where I am.