Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Today I die.

I drive down the street. Thanks to the location of our new house and weekly rehearsals at the local children's theater I drive down this particular road quite frequently now. 

It's a road steeped with history. It's name reflects the piles of product that used to line the street 100 years ago. It houses the public library that sits right next to the police station just a block or two from the first Baptist church. Saturday mornings it hosts the downtown farmers market. And just a few blocks the other way is a local mission/shelter and the mission's thrift store and a salvation army thrift store and a liquor store, and on and on it goes.

We live in a small town, but I grew up in a big city... actually I take that back... I was a kid in a big city and I'm "growing up" in a small town.

As I drive down the road on my way to where I'm going... I hope I see her... and I hope I dont. Our city recently installed new benches along the downtown main streets, and on one of them sits a woman.
Sometimes she's wearing a brightly orange colored jacket, slumped over one of her two bags, resting. Sometimes she eating out of a container of some kind. Sometimes she has a plastic bag on her head because it's sprinkling. Sometimes she has on an auburn colored wig and sometimes I can see her dark hair streaked with gray. Sometimes she's just sitting there, not sleeping, not eating, not huddled up, just sitting. She usually sits facing away from the main street. Sometimes she's there at 10 am and still at 11:30 am. Sometimes she's there at 6pm and 8:30pm and 9:30pm.

Sometimes she's not there and I wonder where she is. I think maybe I've seen her on the north side of town before, walking from one place to another. Maybe that's where she is. Maybe she's at a shelter. Maybe she's hurt. Maybe she's dead.
But when she is there, I wonder what I should do. I read an article that stated "you can't begin to assess someone's needs and help them unless you have that relationship." So how do I form a relationship? How do I talk to her... I don't walk down that street and have a reason to just casually start a conversation. (and besides,.. introvert over here! I don't know how to start conversations remember! I wait for the other person, then I determine whether or not I can trust them, and THEN my bubbly, sassy personality comes out).

When I drive down the street I often have to stop at that red light, and she's only 40 or 50 feet away and I ask myself a million and four questions...
How can I help her? What if she doesn't want help? What if she's mentally ill or just afraid and I walk up to her and she pulls out a knife and stabs me? Should I offer her a place to sleep? Should I pull over and ask if she's hungry? What would Dave think if i brought her home and cooked her a meal and offered her our bed because we dont have an extra? What if she kills us all in our sleep... who will send my beautiful asha kids monthly support if we're dead? What if she steals something? What if she hurts the kids?
...and then the light turns green and I go.

but I don't go into all the world, because I can't even go to the bench lady on the corner of my small town America. I go back to my bubble. my stuff. my comfort. my husband and children. my life.

but I said I would lay down my life... because that's what Christ did for me. He saw me in my hunger and despair and orphaned state; separated from the Father because of sin, and He brought me in and he gave up His position and His stuff and He died for me.  He died!

and when I said I would follow Him and be like Him and live like Him... it meant I would die like him too. I would die for someone else. I would give up my stuff for someone else. I would give up my position and rights and privileges. I didn't get a ticket to heaven. I got a ticket to death. and in so choosing death, I will live.

and because whatever I do for her, I do unto Him. So it's not a scary, possibly-crazy, homeless lady. It's Christ. Waiting for me... to step out in obedience... to step out in surrender... to do something. It's Christ waiting for me to die so He can give me life.

and when all my questions start to convince me to be afraid, I remind myself that it's not just me... I'm only one small part of the body of Christ. I'm not alone in this. I have a network of support. I have a network of resources. Right now I'm the eyes. I see her. and I'll have to be the tongue and talk to her. and maybe I'll be the hands and feet too for a while, or maybe someone will join me and they'll be the hands for a time.

so today... amidst our busy schedule, dirty dishes, feverish child, burnt toast, theater rehearsals, worship set that isn't ready, longings for India, moldy tortillas, unfinished projects, school work, chores, memory verses, organizing clothes, disciplining kids, barking dogs, colorful crafts, and all that is my life... today I die.

and tomorrow I plan to die again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Family Contributions!

um, i think i promised to share about our "family contributions" in my last post...

and i was reminded today that it might, mabye, i dunno, be helpful for someone else when my oldest daughter saw me writing out some family contribution cards and as clear as day said "mom, i like that we do family contributions"


yeah, you heard right.

that pretty much sealed it for me. so i'll share about our little box and cards and maybe it'll work for you, and maybe it wont. that's ok. or maybe it'll spark your own system that'll work great for your family. or maybe you already have one, in that case you don't have to keep reading. i won't be offended. ;)

ok. so let's start at the very beginning...

well then that means i have to share about all the FAILED CHORE CHARTS that have come and died in our family.

yeah. pinterest, you're not any help... with your cute little magnets and popsicle sticks and mason jars and posters and so on... nope, we have just NEVER been able to get a good system down. especially ones that require i re-assign tasks each day or week (ya know, the ones with a "need to do" and a "finished" side... nope those dont survive in this house past two days.)

now i have to preface with TWO things that i think have made a BIG difference with why this system is actually working that just may not be a variable for you.

one. my youngest is SEVEN. excuse me while i shed a few tears. my baby girl. seven. do you realize what that means? it means i'm not picking up after a toddler or even a kindergardener... nope, shes a big kid. and my oldest will be a teenager in just a couple months. oh my goodness, i just realized how close that is. sheesh. in other words, having older kids is definitely making it easier.

two. we have moved into a smaller house... and while it has caused some storage issues "where in the world do i put this?" problems, ultimately, less house means less stuff means less mess means less cleaning.

those two things are HUGE! so if this thing i'm about to describe seems crazy to you, it just might not be for your family and where you are, but hopefully some of the principles will be a little more universal and applicable.

ok. so what is this great and wonderful system that has my 11 year old daughter singing it's praises?!?!

index cards. 
in an index card box. 
with some writing on it.
and some makeshift tabbies. 
and that's about it.

oh yeah, i did get a piece of label tape and wrote "family Contributions" on it along with a part of a verse that reads, "through love serve one another." but other than that... it's not very flashy. but it's practical and easily alterable (i should know, I've already tweaked the cards twice).

ok so down to the nitty gritty. here's what i did.

First, i stopped calling these tasks we do each day "chores". who wants to do chores? not me!! nope. that word REEKS of pain and misery. nope, nope. i wanted the kids to see that these tasks serve a purpose... the smooth(er) functioning of our household. i wanted them to know that they contribute to this family and they each play a valuable role in each others lives.

Second, we set a time that was easy for us to remember and commit to. for us that's right after lunch. we're kind of a weird mix of flexible and scheduled and not every day is the same BUT more often than not, we are home for lunch and immediately after lunch. so at 1:00, I (or one of the kids) will call out "time to do family contributions!" we get the box. we read our cards and within about 15-20 minutes they are done and we can sit down for the next part of our school day.

Third, i sat down and scribbled out the things/tasks that i would like the kids to get done each week (i just sorta mentally, or physically, walked through each room and looked around and asked what was important to our family to get done). then next to each item I'd put down what days i thought they should be done. (ya know, is it something that needs to be done the day before we have lifegroup people over? is it something that needs to be done the day before the trash and recycling trucks come by? and so on)

Third and a half... i simultaneously thought of tasks that were more for ME to do... things like dusting the ceiling fans a couple times a month, or washing the bed sheets more often than normal (which was usually never. it's true.) ya know the things that are more bi-monthly or monthly and things i'd just like to do myself.... cough... cause i'm a control freak... cough.

Fourth i scribbled out a big "master chart"... see that scribbly paper in the top left corner? i put the days of the week across the top and then i wrote in the tasks under the days i had put on the original list. so for example, i want the living room swept on tuesday and saturday. so i put that under the tuesday and the saturday columns. and so on. simple. and if i noticed that some days were too loaded, then i'd move stuff around and got it to where pretty much each day had about the number of tasks.

Fifth i got smart after making the cards two other times (the first time, the kids were always waiting for the other person to finish sweeping before they could sweep themselves and then theyd get distracted and forget and i wasnt' about to buy four brooms so that they could all sweep at the same time. Aaand the second time, i think i was half asleep when i tried to fix the unavailable broom problem and ended up giving annabelle her least favorite task 3 times a week accidentally, and while on paper the tasks were distributed evenly, the reality was that some took way longer than others). so yes, i got smart and beside each task i also wrote an estimate of time for that task (5 minutes or 10 minutes or even 2 minutes, etc...but i wasn't super specific).

so after everything was listed and put under the right days and had little timey-whimey numbers beside them, i grabbed colorful pens and circled the tasks for each kid for that day. (detailed example: mondays tasks are sweep girls bedroom. sweep sams bedroom. sweep mom and dads room. empty bedroom trash cans. put away clean dishes. clear table. wipe coffee tables. wipe the trash can lid. empty bathroom hamper. empty sams hamper. empty mom/dads hamper. vaccum rugs. feed bandit. so for monday zosie got 4 tasks, sam got 3, micah got 4 and annabelle got 2. but they'll all take about the same amount of time (15-20 minutes) and assigned with age appropriateness in mind (like zosie can't reach to put high dishes away or use a blower out in the front yard, so she never ends up doing that during the week). oh and that reminds me, i chose to alternate tasks among the kids... one to avoid boredom and ultimately hating a single task. and two so that they can all learn to do all the things around the house. so there's that.

Sixth, i made little tabs. i chose to do days of the week. and behind each day i put one card for Sam, one for Micah and so on. and the card simply has the tasks written out (explained with added detail if needed).

then I pretty much ended up taking the back half of the tabs... i just gave myself a "mom" tab to put my daily cards under (coulda done that with the kids too, but i didn't), and then i made tabs for certain days of the month (i just picked days that my brain tends to notice in any given month. i'm a weirdo. it's ok.) and distributed those bi-monthly and monthly tasks i had listed. i did not put ALL of my daily/weekly stuff on the daily cards.... just the ones i tend to avoid more often than not. :P

So, that's it. and i guess i could give you  our lists, but then you might think it's missing half of what you need, or you might think it's expecting too much... so i'm not giving you a list. it really just makes more sense to just figure out what is practical and doable for your family, and then do that!

This little box has saved me many frustrations of my own and reduced whining from the kids (except for the whole annabelle and the dishes thing, which we ended up laughing about her reaction to seeing it on her card "AGAIN!"). i dont have to ask "did you do this? did you finish that?" i only ask them once they say they are done, "what did you get to do [or contribute] today?" and they proudly list off the things they did. sometimes i'll ask them "did you make sure to..." and i'll insert a cleaning detail that apparently only moms think to do. and sometimes they hafta go back and redo or improve on something.

so what have you found works well for YOUR family? (or didn't work well at all, lol)?