Saturday, October 15, 2016

Planting Seeds

Most days I feel like I am running circles around the same parenting trees again and again.  I utter the same phrases with various levels of patience over and over.

"Use your words."

"How do you ask nicely?"

"Speak kindly."


It is easy to feel like these lessons and many others that are of more or less importance are never going to sink in.

And then, every once in awhile you get a small glimpse of hope that all that you do is really making a difference.

Like when you hear, "AJ that hurts me, will you please stop?"  and AJ says, "Ok." (I swear, this happened!)

Kate brought these marigolds home from preschool early this spring in a small styrofoam cup.  They were three tiny sprouts that barely survived in the windowsill while Kate over-watered them daily.

I eventually managed to get the little sprouts into the ground and watered them somewhat faithfully.  To be honest, I was fairly confident they were never going to amount to anything and I was worrying about having to break the news to Kate.

But then I watched as they slowly started to grow, bigger and bigger and then they burst forth in bloom into the amazing bush you see above.  Every time I catch a glimpse of it I smile a little remembering the little cup and the tiny little sprouts and how it has become the captivating feature of my backyard at the moment.

I may not see all of the seeds that I am planting in my girls' lives blossom and bloom into something beautiful.  But there are many that I will get to see....and I can't wait.

And in those moments where I fear that the seeds I am planting are in some way defective, I will remember the marigolds and keep planting and watering.

Lastly, I will remember that while I get to plant the seeds and nurture them, it is not me that makes them grow.  That miracle belongs to our Father in Heaven alone.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

10 Things I am Teaching My Kids...That I am Learning Too

10.  Be responsible for your own things. Pick up after yourself. Treat your things well.

Sure, I don't have a tendency to step on my toys and throw them in the midst of a temper tantrum, but God has blessed me with a great house, beautiful yard, flowers, a small garden, a tiny flock of chickens, and so much more. It is my responsibility to not be lazy and to take care of these things well without complaint.

9. Face Your Fears.

The dark. Crowds. Monsters under the bed. Putting your face in the water. These are fears my kids face and are encouraged to overcome on their own with a lot of encouragement and help.  I have my own fears.  Some are relatively easy to face - like my fear of heights, but others I can make excuses and shy away - like speaking up even if my opinion is unpopular or speaking truth even if it might cause hurt.  

8. Share and be generous

I may not run around clutching my favorite item of the day to my chest yelling MINE in quite the same way that a pre-schooler does but I do notice that some things I clutch more tightly than others.  I am intentional about being generous, but I want to make sure that I don't put a limit on God and withhold certain things.  That is not to say that my girls aren't allowed a few special toys that they don't have to share (don't mess with AJ's blankie people...BAD things happen!), but I know that God is generous and a great gift giver and if he asks me to share something I hold dear I want to trust Him and obey.

7. Have a healthy approach to food

Oh you know simple things like don't eat your feelings, or eat when you're bored, or tell me your hungry when you really just want to tickle your taste buds.

6. You are not in charge. You don't need to know it all. Hear it all.  Say it all. Understand it all. YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL...

oh yeah, neither am I.

5. Don't assume (the worst)

Kate often will approach  me asking for something with an attitude that suggests I have already said No and thus whining and convincing is necessary in order to get that glass of water.  Or she will react to something as if there was ill intent even if it was just a misunderstanding or an accident.  

In much the same way, I can often jump to conclusions about my kids behavior or what I see in a situation or even judge someone's intentions when I really have no idea.  

4. Solve your problems, don't whine about them

When Kate or AJ are "in a mood" they have a tendency to react big when something little isn't perfect.  If a doll keeps falling out of the toy carseat, or a certain outfit won't go on a doll, then we can get extremely upset.  Sometimes this leads to refusing to continue to play with the doll and pouting in a corner.  The refusal to find a way to solve the problem or ask for help, ends up taking away play time. 

When confronted with a challenge, problem, or something that just isn't how we want it, we can crumble, fold, stomp, yell, and whine (c'mon you know you've done it too) or we can take it to God, ask for wisdom, and come up with creative solutions.  Be a problem solver, don't let them handicap you and your fun.

3. Use Your Words

A couple days ago it took Kate about 10 minutes to choose to say "May I have milk please" without whining, baby talk, or random unnecessary noises, in decibels loud enough for me to hear.  She also has a tendency to resort screaming and grunting at me when she is angry.  

So I have gratefully matured beyond this point but I still struggle to put all of my feelings into words and express what I need in a positive way with those that I care about.  Just because I don't scream and grunt doesn't mean I am always using my words.  Stuffing them is just as harmful.

2. Be Patient

Have you ever been asked 17 times for one cup of juice in a matter of 60 seconds?  Most moms have.  

Have you ever counted how many times you have said "will you please be patient?" with an obvious edge of impatience in your tone?  I admit, I haven't and I don't want to.  Teaching patience starts with demonstrating it.  All I can say is, God, I need your help, please!!!

1. For the love, please just obey!

Don't ask why. Don't make excuses.  Don't argue with me why you don't need to. Don't obey when you feel like it.  DON'T SAY NO!!!

Did you know the Bible says things like, don't judge, don't complain, don't hate, don't let any course or unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, be kind, be joyful, love others as yourself.  I want to not just be a hearer of the Word, but also a doer; to realize that these words were written with an intention to be followed and obeyed to the best of our abilities.  Not when we feel like it or it is convenient.  Not to be argued with because it doesn't make sense anymore.  Not to make excuses why it just isn't easy.  You get the picture.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

She Makes Me Better

I grew up with the incredible blessing of having horses in my back yard and the opportunity to ride from a very young age. The first horse I can really remember riding is Bingo. She was an older horse and we nicknamed her "the babysitter." She taught us all how to ride and she kept us all safe. If you were riding and started to slip off she would stop. She also made you do what you were supposed to do or she wouldn't do what she was supposed to do. In addition to that, her gaits were so rough that if you could learn to sit in the saddle as she was bouncing you around the arena then you were doing well.

I graduated from babysitter Bingo to Dangerous Dandy after several years. Where Bingo was safe, Dandy was wildly unpredictable. Where Bingo was old and wise Dandy was young, smart, and athletic. Where Bingo made you do everything right he made you do it right and work for it. If you were leading him and got out in front and were pulling him he would stop. But if you stood at his shoulder and walked alongside him, he mostly would plod along willingly with you. If you were trotting at an upbeat Huntseat pace he would make you kick, nudge, cluck, urge, and pray with every step to keep him moving. If you were perfectly lined up at a jump he would go over it unless there was a cow at the other end of the arena, or a shadow, or an imagined cow, or he just didn't feel like it.

In very different ways theses horses made me a better rider and taught me a lot of other things as well. And God provided these horses in the perfect order to teach me in the right order, to insure I didn't quit riding or lose my life. ;)

Fast forward several years and I have transitioned from horses to kids. Our first, Kate is much more like Dandy. Prior to her birth I had believed that if I did everything a certain way then my kids would be perfectly behaved, totally obedient, etc.  I was quick to judge other parents on the behavior of their kids.

But from a very young age Kate has totally blown this theory to pieces.  She is much like Dandy, making me work extremely hard for every step.

But my point in writing is not to lament my challenges with Kate.  Rather to give glory to God for the personal growth and Godly dependence that comes out of this.

As Kate gets older, and I continue to have to work hard for every small and big accomplishment in our day - like getting out of bed or getting dressed - to every character trait developed - like patience - I realize that God is teaching me every step of the way through.

She makes me better because she makes me look inside myself to address my own sin. She makes me better because she makes me dependent on God for more grace, more patience, more creativity, and more endurance that what I have on my own.

Here are some of the things that God (and Kate) have taught me:

1) We are all sinners.  I need grace.  Kate needs grace.  We need to give each other grace.  Recently I finished reading a book called Grace Based Parenting that helped me to realize this truth and helped me to realize that how I respond to Kate's challenges has a big impact on her and how she will see herself now and in the future.  I don't want to be surprised, to shame or embarrass her, or to condemn her for her mistakes.  I want to love her, forgive her, and teach her to go to God to help her learn through them.

2) Which leads me to my second - I need to be very very careful about my words.  I have the power with my words to tear down her spirit, make her self-conscious about herself and her behavior, or to lift her up, encourage her, and teach her.  In my own weakness and frustration, it is easy to get focused on the many challenges and share them with others more than I should.  Imagine what this does to her to hear.

3) Keep myself in check.  When I start to get frustrated and impatient, you can hear it in my words and voice.  When Kate hears it, she comes back at me with the same intensity and is less likely to obey, just like Dandy.  She makes me better.  She makes me do it right.  Of course this doesn't mean that she always does obey or behave, but at least I can walk away from the situation knowing that I demonstrated and modeled the type of attitude and behavior I am expecting of her.  And when I blow it, I apologize.

4) Don't give up or get discouraged.  I have noticed from a very young age that Kate has cycles of behavior.  She will have a couple weeks where we have lots of fits, crying, disobeying, etc. Then all of a sudden you wake up one day, take a deep breath and ask her to put on a pair of pants under her dress and she says, "Ok Mom."  After you've recovered from the shock, you realize that the lessons you are teaching during those difficult weeks are sinking in, and when whatever causes those cycles to pass, they are there and the fruit is evident.  It is tempting during those weeks to feel like you are doing nothing more than beating your head against a wall, but I must continue to be dedicated to the practices that I believe in, to teach appropriate behavior, and to discipline inappropriate behavior - no matter how much backlash I receive.

Much like Babysitter Bingo and Dangerous Dandy made me a better horseman, Kate makes me a better person, mom, and follower of Christ.  For that I am grateful.

(Side Note - I am sitting here, unwilling to pus the Publish button because I am so uncomfortable with throwing out what feels to me like a very negative post towards my beloved daughter.  So, lest anyone walk away thinking that the only thing about her worth noting is her strong-will, let me enlighten you with the many things of Kate that are just plain awesome.

She is kind and compassionate, quick to stick by someone who is hurt.  She thinks about others and their needs.  She has an imagination that could take her to the moon and back.  She can play for hours all by herself - and never stop talking during that time once! She is smart, observant, intuitive, and so so curious.

She loves helping and she is a leader.  She is cautious, but also willing to try something new and is so proud of herself when she has overcome a fear. She brings delight to those around her with her grown up antics. She knows how to behave and is polite to others.  She is amazing.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

He Lets Me

Recently Kate has taken an interest in helping with housework.  If I am folding clothes she will come and help me fold washcloths and socks.  If am doing dishes, she will rinse.  She has become my regular mud room cleaner and surprises me with how neurotic she is about lining up the shoes with their pairs in exactly the right spots (wonder where she gets that from?).

Today, she wanted to wash windows.  From the other room I cringed and thought well this will surely not end well,  But despite myself I gave very specific instruction about only spraying 3 times on each window and set her free as I continued to sweep.  They can't look worse than the finger, nose and lip prints that adorn them currently I thought!  Thank you AJ.

As I was sweeping I was pondering how many puddles of window cleaner I was going to have to clean up, how streaky they might be when she was done, and just in general how it would be so much easier to just say no and go do it myself.  But what would she learn if I did that.  Nothing good.

And as God does, he showed me that He as our Father has a plan and things that need to be done in this world, specifically people that need to be shown love and compassion, taught about the Gospel and the Truth of Salvation, practical needs that need to be met, and hearts that need to be healed.

It would be so much easier for God to just do all of his work on His own.  I mean He's God,, so it is not like he can't.  But then, what would we learn?

It is not good for my development and for my growth to only reap the benefits of salvation and not be given the opportunity to take part in the work and sacrifice of sharing it with others.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea - salvation is through Christ alone; only He can save - but God Lets Us be part of His plan and His work here on earth.

He lets me share hugs, laughter, and coffee with someone who is hurting and needs a friend.
He lets me sacrifice a little to provide some needed items for a struggling young mom.
He lets me tell others about Him and show them the way to salvation in eternity in Christ.
He lets me teach my kids about responsibility and hard work by washing windows.

The question is, Am I?

Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:7-8 (The Message) This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise. God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.

I am convicted, challenged, and excited by these words.

Is my life work all about me, or is it about God?
Do I trust God enough to handle all of the details?
I have a purpose, a mission, a reason to live, and the blessing of a living a life Alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5).  That makes me excited.

PS - Fast forward in the story above and Kate is washing windows in the mudroom - a lost cause by the way - and locks herself out of the house.  I go to let her in and find that over half of the bottle of window spray is now gone and her rag is soaked.  Clearly my great training about 3 sprays per window was not effective, but I can see out the windows better now!

God Lets Us, Has given us clear instructions, and teaches us and gives us grace when we screw it up thinking we can do it our own way.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Knows it All; Questions it All

It was Halloween evening...a magical time for children.  What is better than playing dress up and being given candy?

Unfortunately our magical evening was plagued by tired, grumpy kids, one kid down with an eye infection, parental miscommunication, freezing cold weather, and a vehicle making strange noises.

We had left our first "magical" stop for the evening - create your own spooky face pancakes at IHOP and were headed to our second...indoor trick or treating.

We stopped at a gas station to identify and correct said strange car noise referenced above.  As we parked, the questions started.

"Why are we here? Why is daddy getting out? Why is that open? What is he getting out of the trunk? Why is daddy going inside? Why are you moving the car?"  It didn't stop.  Kate questioned on and on.  I did my best to answer the questions (or most of them) with as much patience as I could muster.  After all, this 3 and a half year old was concerned that we had been indefinitely thrown off the trick or treating track for the evening.

Having corrected the strange noise problem, we were back on the road only to be informed within seconds that "this is not the way to trick or treating."  We tried to argue, however Kate insisted that we were going the wrong way.  Eventually we just had to give up and tell her to wait and see.

During this small window I marveled at how someone could at the same time so confidently KNOW EVERYTHING, and also feel the need to ask THOUSANDS OF QUESTIONS every day.

And then it hit me, that feeling that I get when I know God is teaching me something and that it isn't just for me.  When it comes to our relationship with God, we are exactly the same as my little three year old conundrum.

We spend our days asking God why?  Why did you let this happen? Why didn't that happen? Why did he get that and I didn't?  Why me? Why not me? When? What is going to happen next?

And then in our next breath, we dare to tell God that we know better than he does.  "No really, we're going the wrong way.  This surely isn't what you had planned for me."

In those moments when Kate is asking my ear off, or trying to tell me I have it perfectly wrong, I just want to beg her to please trust me.  I want to help her understand that she can trust me, that she doesn't need to know everything, she doesn't need to control everything, and that she doesn't already KNOW everything.

I can hear God saying the same thing to you and to me.  Trust me, he says.  It doesn't make sense to you right now, but I've got this.  You don't have to control it, I do.  You think you know better, but you don't.  I can see the big picture, you cannot.

My friends, let go and simply trust God.  Simple words to write and extremely difficult words to put into practice.  Next time you feel yourself starting to worry, or doubt, question, or act like you know better than God, remember little Kate and how silly she sounds insisting she knows the way.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The other kids will laugh at me

I was driving Kate to her third day of gymnastics class and she says, "I'm not going to do anything today because the other kids will laugh at me."

I was stunned.  Speechless.  Broken hearted.  Why is my 3 year old already so self-conscious and afraid of what other people think?  I don't know if this normal at that age or not, but even if it is, it still breaks my heart.

I have first hand experienced the paralyzing fear of "everyone is watching me and judging me" for far too long.  It is one of the last things that I desire for my kids to spend a lifetime having to out grow.

After I recovered, I launched into a speech that was probably greatly lost on my sweet Kate's 3 year old mind, but it went something like this. "The kids aren't laughing at you.  And even if they are, I want you to go out there and just do your best and not worry about what they think.  I know you are doing your best and all that matters is what God thinks." Etc. Etc. Etc.

I am pretty sure she did participate in gymnastics that day and after her 4th day of gymnastics she proudly told me, "I did everything today!"  I was very excited.  I was certain it had nothing to do with my speech, but nonetheless grateful that my money was being put to better use than Kate sitting on the sidelines at 3 year old gymnastics. :)

It was later that night that I got hit over the head with my own lesson.  I had been in the midst of a task that I was really not excited about doing (even though I knew it needed to be done) MOSTLY BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID WHAT PEOPLE WERE GOING TO THINK ABOUT ME!

As I went to bed that night, I was praying for Kate to be free from being self-conscious and God reminded me of the words I spoke to her.  "Do YOU really care ONLY about what I think?"

I was stunned.  Speechless.  Broken hearted.

I prayed.  God I desire to only care about what you think, to be obedient even when it is unpopular or uncomfortable.  Please help me.  (It went on a little longer than this, but you get the point.)

I cannot give what I do not have.  I don't exactly know how to teach Kate and AJ the self-confidence that they are going to need to not worry about the other kids laughing, but I know that I have to continue to learn it first.  I know that I have to keep praying.  So thankful for grace, the power of the Holy Spirit, and for lessons in the moment!

When it gets hard

*I wrote those post several months ago in the midst of a difficult season.  I never posted it...I think because it was so raw and I felt extremely hypocritical posting something that I had no where near gotten a handle on.  I should have posted it then because I know there are others out there who can relate and need to know they are not alone.  I am posting it now, although we have moved on from some of the difficulties discussed below (hallelujah AJ sleeps all night! and Kate's bedtime battles are exceptionally less bloody ;)) - the lessons are still true and the patience is still growing.

There's been a lesson brewing in my life for some time now and I just haven't quite put my finger on what exactly it is what God wants me to share.  Maybe it is because I can't really seem to make any headway in the issue I am currently facing.

Right now Kate is upstairs crying her head off screaming "I want daddy and mommy" in desperate protest of bedtime.  Our day today was filled with one incident after another of bad behavior, correction, fit, time out, repeat.  A skipped nap on top of an early morning pretty much sealed the deal for all of us.

I can't lay the blame for a bad day all on the shoulders of a very trying 2.5 year old and her 6 month old sister who doesn't sleep all night long.  I find that lately my attitude sucks and in some very ironic ways.

I try to teach Kate to be patient.  The relentless asking for the same thing until I have time to respond wears on me and I tell her to be patient.  But what does the edge in my voice reveal other than my own impatience.

I try to teach Kate not to throw fits when something doesn't go her way, to use her words and control her emotions.  And yet what do I do when I get to the afternoon and I am tired and I have two crying kids and six more hours until my husband gets home...essentially throw a fit.  No, I don't kick and scream and cry (although I confess that in the middle of the night when AJ wakes up I have been known to throw a little fit of kicking and crying), but in my head the negative thought train gets revved up and no matter how hard I try to stop it it gains momentum.  Self-Pity. Anger. Bitterness. Frustration. Take your pick, or sometimes all of the above, they chug along the tracks at downhill speeds and just make my responses to kid behavior escalate said kid behavior.

I apologize for not giving more specifics; I think it would only contribute to the overall negativity to use this as a venting platform.

So what is the lesson?  Of a couple of things I am sure:

1 - I need Jesus.  I am so not perfect.  I am so lost in this world of parenting.  If I want my kids to be able to see me as an example then I need Jesus to mature me first.  Man sometimes that hurts.
2 - Scripture is key.  I have posted little scripture cards of verses related to joy all around my house.  If I can't stop the negative thought train on my own I can try to derail it by repeating words of scripture over and over again.  God's Word does not return void.
3 - When you pray for patience prepare to be given opportunities to be patient.  I know we have all heard that before, but it has rarely been more real to me than right now.  I honestly don't like the person that I turn into by the end of the day and I am in constant prayer asking God to help me and to change me.  You know how that happens, by having more opportunities to make a better choice the next time.

I wish it were easier to be a parent.  I wish it were easier to grow spiritually.  You know the easy button.

But as I tell Kate - it's not. Deal with it.  This isn't a good reason to cry.  Use your words.

Guess it's time to take my own advice, stop feeling sorry for myself, (maybe be okay with some tears every now and then), and trust God because He loves me and He will help me.

Here's to a new day tomorrow.

PS - After about 20 minutes of non stop crying she fell immediately to sleep and the house is now blissfully quiet. About Time!