Selfishly Slogging Along

I am a selfish person, and my understanding of the depth of my selfishness increases with my age.  I would really love to die to this nasty habit once and for all and just get it over with!  It would be like Abra cadabra:  New creature made perfect!!  One…two…three…DIE, Selfishness, DIE!

I don’t think that worked.  I guess I will have to wait for Heaven.

So, I continue to slog along with my selfish, sinful self, trusting that You can use me as I am–incomplete, imperfect, somewhat short-sighted and disgustingly self-absorbed–but willing to be better for You.  I thank You, Lord, for Your loads of mercy and Your patient grace…and Your willingness to see me through the perfection of Your Son.

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Gimme A Break

I think I’d been living under the delusion that I should not need a break.  I mean, really:  How can a strong, capable woman need a break from her amazing life?

Well, she can get tired.

I’m tired.

I truly have almost everything I have ever wanted in this life.  I have Jesus in my heart.  I have a husband who is 100% committed to me.  I have three healthy, gifted children.  We have a nice home, a supportive extended family, solid friendships, fulfilling ministries and on and on and on.  I really do have it all.

But, man!  I’m tired!

When I had three children under the age of five, I was physically wiped out by 4:00 almost every afternoon.  My kids were fun little preschoolers!  They were energetic and creative and well-mannered and energetic and smart and, well, energetic.  I didn’t sleep well in those years.  My senses were on high alert through every night.  Did the baby need fed? Was someone getting sick?  Did I hear crying?  I mostly catnapped my way through those years, always ready for the solid sleep of the dead that my husband managed to enjoy almost every single stinkin’ night.  (What was up with that?!)

Now, I have three teenagers.  They are amazing.  Remarkable.  So very gifted.  They can be so much fun, and they can make me laugh hard enough to shoot my drink through my nose.  I love, love, love my time with them!  While there have been uncertain moments, never in my life has a day gone by when I have regretted any financial and career “sacrifices” we have made for me to stay home with them.  I love them to the very core of my being, and there is no other way I’d rather spend my days than as their momma.

But I’m still tired.

While my parenting game used to be primarily physical, it is now more mental, emotional and spiritual.  Childhood misbehavior was so black-and-white.  Toys were not picked up.  Siblings were pinched.  Lies were told.  Rules were clearly broken.  Consequences were quickly dealt.  The expectations were clear on both ends.

Snuggles, cuddles, made-up songs and silly games were acceptable forms of communication, and public displays of affection were perfectly acceptable.

Things are just different.  Not better.  Not worse.  Just different.  I’ve found that while they are adjusting to all of the internal and external changes they’ve got going on, I am adjusting as well.  I’m learning new likes, new dislikes, figuring out more effective ways to communicate, adapting to their more adult-ish personalities while still allowing for them to be kids.

People used to warn me about the teenage years with a “You just wait…!” mentality.  I resented that.  I refused to anticipate that my kids were going to be trouble just because they were teens.  I didn’t think it was fair to the kids.  I still don’t.  The uncertainty that affects most teens is normal.  They are often just insecure with so much.  Perfectly capable young people doubt the value of their own existence during this season of their lives.  I think the danger during this season of parenting is to take it personally.  It’s easy to do, because it seems so personal.  I mean, we are the ones who see the good, the bad and the ugly, right?  We are the safe place for them to let those insecurities fly in whatever form seems right at the time.  Is their behavior normal?  Yes.  Always acceptable?  Um, no.

The truth is, neither is mine.  When my kids were little, and I was so irrationally exhausted that I could (and would) cry (and quite possibly scream) over spilled milk, my kids gave me an awful lot of grace.  Their sweet faces still smiled, their soft lips still offered kisses, and their chubby arms still wrapped my neck in hugs.  Although I strove to teach them grace back then, they naturally modeled the concept much more clearly and easily than I did.  The purity of a child’s love is a miraculous thing.

This is why it’s so important now for me to take a break.  I need time every day to bask in the love of my Heavenly Father so that I can call on His unconditional love.  I need wisdom.  I need clarity.  I need Truth.  I need strength.  He makes all of these things–and so much more–available to me as I seek them.

And, sometimes I need a change in scenery–a walk outside, coffee with a friend, lunch with my siblings or an overnight with my mom.  The fact is that this parenting journey is an exhausting one.  I believe that it is a spiritual battle, one in which the stakes are high.  I need to do whatever I need to do to stay the course.  I am not called to be a friend to my kids.  I am called to be their momma.  And parenting takes a special kind of commitment.

Lord, thank You for equipping us to do the job You’ve called us to do.  Even more, thank You for giving us the privilege of helping to raise these extraordinary children.

 

 

 

Homeschool Headlines

As a homeschool mom, I am deeply disturbed by any news of abuse within the homeschool community.  Fortunately, over the course of the 13 years our family has opted to home educate, incidents of proven abuse have been exceedingly rare.  Of course, that does not discount the terrible experiences of those children who have endured horrible neglect and misuse under the banner of home education.  They have suffered at the hands of those who have been ordained to be their greatest advocates.

I am fairly well-immersed in the homeschool community, and, to a person, the parents I know who have opted to home educate have made that decision out of love for their children.  They sacrifice financially, invest wholeheartedly and live resourcefully to see their kids thrive.  Just like all loving parents, regardless of education-based decisions, they do what they truly believe is best.  Unfortunately, there are parents on both ends of this spectrum who don’t deserve the children with whom they’ve been entrusted.

In today’s society, one of the common refrains that results from any great tragedy is for increased legislation and regulation.  This concerns me.  We are more heavily regulated and more expensively legislated than we have ever been as a country…and yet the value of human life and the standard of common decency seem to be at an all-time low.  We call our society progressive…but to what are we progressing?  Families are disengaged.  Prisons are full.  Elementary-aged children are suffering from anxiety attacks.  Junior high children are eating laundry detergent.  Lifetime prescriptions of medication are commonplace. Credit cards are maxed out.  We have regulation.  We have legislation.

We have a broken society.

The horrible truth is that abuse and neglect can often be hidden in plain sight. No matter how the government tries to regulate abuse, people will still abuse. The sex trade is a perfect example of this. There are truckloads of children being shipped across America–right alongside our own minivans–and I can guarantee that there are people on both sides of the law taking advantage of them.

The government offers foster homes for at-risk children, and there are documented occasions of those poor kids going from the frying pan into the fire–and few things are more highly-regulated than foster homes. When people are sick in their spirits, they hurt other people. When evil people can profit from someone else’s pain, they will. No regulation can stop that.

The most effective ways to combat this hell is for each of us to choose to do what is right and to watch out for the well-being of people around us. Invest in people’s hearts. We’ve all heard stories of abused children whose lives were changed because someone went out of their way to love them. We, as a community, MUST be diligent in this. We cannot be so distracted by our own busyness/personal comfort that we overlook our greatest potential for impacting others.

It’s not about home education or public school.  It’s not about regulation and legislation.  It’s not even always about knowing the difference between right and wrong.  It’s about doing what is right–choosing to put others before ourselves, opting to leave a legacy of love and peace and life to the people around us.

One of my most often-repeated prayers for my children is that God gives them the courage and the self-control to do what is right instead of what is easy.  I ask the same thing for my community.  The choice is ours.

The Problem with Pride

Our pastor is in the middle of a sermon series that addresses the “mayhem” in our lives.  Some of this mayhem just happens–death, disease, accidents, having to watch other people experience heartache, and so on.  Much of the mayhem, though, is something we choose–often while acting like it is our only option.

Yesterday’s sermon specifically focused on what happens when our lives get out of balance due to our own pride.  This message really hit home for me, and I wanted to share an acrostic that was used–PRIDE–which illustrates how we often make the busyness in our life all about us.

People Pleasers–We are busy, busy, busy to win the approval of others.  We can’t say “no” because of what so-and-so will think.  We do the right things for the wrong reasons.  We will look over our shoulders while serving in order to see who is watching.  We love those pats on our backs, and we are highly motivated by the praise of the people around us.

Run after Respect–We are continually trying to prove something to someone else.  Our ambition is fueled by hopes of personal glory and approval from others.  This was something that I struggled with in my younger years–until I finally decided to own that God, my Heavenly Father, loved me no matter what.  I didn’t have to earn His love; I had it forever just because.  I recall a friend, a self-proclaimed People Pleaser, sharing that she remembered the precise moment when she realized that God could not possibly love her any more than He did at that moment.  She has been trying to walk in that freedom ever since.

Indispensable Syndrome–We all want to feel needed, and we sometimes allow this desire to morph into something that sucks the life out of us, out of the people around us, and oftentimes out of the well-being of the organizations/systems/ministries which we so adamantly say we want to support.  In essence, we overestimate our own importance.  There always comes a time when we need to make changes in order to become more effective.  And, frequently, there is often a time to just move on.  This is incredibly difficult for many of us to realize, and many of us fight it tooth and nail because we have become possessive of something that is not really ours.  I saw this principle in action firsthand last year when I watched my mom and stepdad downsize from a 3,000 square foot home and 20 acres to a 1,600 square foot home on a city lot.  It was difficult decision for them to make, but they had the courage to make it when the time came, saving their children and grandchildren the heartache of having to make it for them some day.  Their old house/property/stuff was not indispensable to who my mom and stepdad are to their families.  If they had continued to hold on to the way it had always been, there would have eventually been a cost that could not have been paid by them.  Life goes on…still full of good things…still with purpose.  Different?  Yes.  Lesser?  Not necessarily.  Sometimes, changes brings greater things.

Desires go Haywire–We fall into the trap that more stuff equals a better life.  We trust in our belongings/status/accomplishments to make us happy instead of trusting in Jesus to make us whole.  I have only owned one brand-new car in my life, and I remember driving it home from the dealership thinking, “I bet I have the newest car on this road right now”.  For some strange reason, I took great satisfaction in that thought at the time.  Ironically, I now drive, by far, two of the oldest, most-used vehicles in America.  I confess to being slightly embarrassed when a friend opens her door to get in and a part actually falls off, but I love not finding my identity in what I drive.  And, I love that my hard-working husband is willing to drive crummy vehicles to allow me to stay home with our children.  It has been one of the ways he has honored me and proven his commitment to our family.

Enjoy Pity–I live with a Marriage and Family Therapist (talk about needing pity!!), so I mostly broke the habit of throwing pity parties a long time ago.  I get zero pity from my husband.  Ever.  (But, sometimes I miss them enough to just go to my room, close the door and throw one for myself.)  Social media, though, gives us the opportunity to witness all kinds of folks seeking pity.  There are an awful lot of memes out there that start with something like, “I bet I won’t get even one person to like this status…”  Pity party.  Most of us love company when we are in misery.  Why is that?  Why don’t we just shut up when we’re miserable?  Instead, we spew our yuck onto anyone who will listen.  And we wonder why we feel alone.  If some of us worked half as hard at encouraging the people around us as we do at sucking people into our negative, draining, self-absorbed, habitual pity parties, we could certainly make the world a safer, more beautiful place.

Obviously, there are some of these that I struggle with more than others.  The fact, though, is that I’ve given into them all at one point or another.  Pride is a sneaky, vindictive quality.  It seeks to remain subtle while going for the throat.  It snatches peace from our hearts, steals joy from our relationships and muddles the truth of our purpose in life–all while whispering to us that we are not the problem.

“If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed.”  –C.S. Lewis

Thank you, Paul Gearhardt, for sharing what was on your heart (and for hopefully being okay with me passing it along with my own two cents thrown in from time to time).

 

Ice and Snow

I know it’s not a popular stance to take, but I think winter and snow and cold are wonderful!  Part of the reason for my position is that with all of the planting, growing, weeding, watering and putting up we do during warmer months, winter is a season of rest for me.  The other part of the reason for my position is that I find winter refreshing.  I like the change in scenery and the change of pace.

Indiana is under a winter storm warning for most of today.  We’ve already gotten a covering of ice, and more is falling.  Several inches of snow are forecasted once the ice moves out.  Temperatures have already fallen 30 degrees since this time yesterday, and I think the prediction is for them to drop another 15-20 degrees.  It’s gonna get cold.

For part of the kids’ schooling today, they’re studying Winter in Indiana 101.  Fill jugs with water.  Open and close vehicle, barn and garage doors every 30 minutes to prevent freezing.  Salt the breezeway.  Take showers.  Run a load of laundry.  Charge phones and laptops.  We even made ahead hamburger patties and scrubbed potatoes for supper so that they can be thrown on the grill if we lose electricity.  Our preparation will probably prevent any power outage for our area.  (Yes, neighbors, you’re welcome.)

I am so thankful for our warm home, a closetful of blankets and running water.  Our freezers, refrigerator and pantry are well-stocked and we have plenty of split logs ready for the woodstove.  We are so blessed to be able to hunker down with good books, a variety of games and pleasant company to wait out whatever comes our way.  We even have puppies for snuggling and entertainment!

For those who are not so fortunate, Lord, please offer them Your protection.  Warm them, feed them and shelter them through the hands and feet of Your people.  Let none of us neglect to do our part.

Boss Mug

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This mug was a Christmas gift from my favorite brother.  I have drunk my coffee from it for the past two mornings, and I’m considering whether or not to use it for my water and kombucha throughout the day.

I love this mug.

My kids, not so much.  One of them tried to use it yesterday, and I revoked the privilege.  There were semi-joking outcries of, “Hey!  You just want to use that mug to lord it over us!”  I just smiled and reminded them that the mug is mine–not to revel in or to rub in their faces.  Just to remind me of my calling.

You see, this mug is a not-so-subtle reminder to me that I have been God-ordained to lead this home throughout the day.  It is my job to provide instruction, perspective, accountability, encouragement and discipline.  I lead by example in what I say and how I act.  I am the boss.

A good boss is a fair, honest and compassionate boss.  She is able to lead with wisdom and integrity, not getting caught up in emotion or giving in to the temptation to manipulate and micro-manage.  A good boss gives praise where praise is due and is willing to go to the mat for her team.  I am the boss.

A good boss gives wings when it’s time to fly.  She sees strengths and is realistic about weaknesses.  A good boss acknowledges her own of both.  She seeks help when necessary and acts in humble confidence when called.  I am the boss.

A good boss will also never refuse to engage in a situation when necessary.  She will not avoid conflict, but will diligently work toward a healthy resolution.  She will not pass the buck, expecting others to do her share of the work.  She will keep on keeping on, fighting the good fight when it is imperative to do so, and she will avoid unnecessary skirmishes that do nothing but lower morale.

I may just hang this mug on a golden chain around my neck.

Incidentally, my brother would never have given me this mug during our childhood years.  He frequently (and somewhat accurately) assessed his oldest sister as “boss-y” but never, in my recollection, acknowledged her as “boss”.  Sibling relationships are interesting that way.  Besides, we all know there’s a sharp contrast in someone who is good at being “bossy” and someone who is good at being “the boss”.  The character trait that was once considered a shortcoming–bossy-ness–can certainly be considered an asset by doing what it takes to be a good boss.  My life’s circumstances have altered.  God did not call me to boss my younger siblings (darnit!); however, He did call me to be a good boss to my children.

So, I guess I’ll keep plugging away within my divine calling.  I’ll try my durnedest to refrain from bossing my siblings, my friends and (especially) my husband.  I’ll focus on leading well and within my priorities.  I am equipped with the Spirit of God, and He is the most excellent Boss.

Family Soup

One of the things I love about parenting three teenagers is watching their individual strengths develop.  The down side of this is that there often comes a false sense of pride in personal preferences during this season.  I am reminded again during this phase of life that it’s important for me to stress the importance of family and teamwork.

One of our recent activities was to make a Family Soup.  I confess that this was an executive decision on my part, and not necessarily met with any great level of excitement on the parts of my three children.  My goal was to tangibly remind the kids that we each have something to offer, and that we can all benefit when we work together as a team.  It’s kind of like the Body of Christ.  Think of the drawbacks of going though life without an ear or a thumb or a kneecap.  We all lend something specific to Christ’s Church, and we are each called to share what we’ve been given to do our part.  Family is the same way.  For our household to run smoothly, effectively and peacefully, we each have a role to fill.  This is something our household has struggled with as of late, and something I hoped our Family Soup activity would illustrate.

The kids were given instructions to add whatever they wanted to our soup with the full knowledge that all of us would be enjoying it (or not) for supper that night.  I encouraged them each to participate with their best effort.  I did not hound, nag or plead.  I just explained my hope, made my contributions and let them have at it.

Without going into too many incriminating details, let’s just say that not everyone gave their best.  The soup was fine–edible, certainly.  It was good enough to get by, but there wasn’t much to it.  Frankly, it lacked substance.  Since not everyone participated, the ingredients were minimal.  Those who did participate felt the pressure of making up for those who did not.  Those who did not participate felt strangely justified that the others could do it on their own, affording them the luxury of not sharing in the responsibility.

Honestly, I had hoped for a different outcome.

As I look around at our society, and even in the Church, I wonder why so many folks feel entitled to being carried along by the investment of other people’s resources.  Why are so many of us comfortable with being the beneficiaries of other people’s time, talents and money while we hoard our own precious gifts for personal use?  We are a selfish, ungrateful lot.

I’ve had some time to mull over the results of last week’s Family Soup activity.  I’ve given praise to some and I’ve shared my disappointment with others.  Another opportunity is on the menu for this weekend.  I’ve noticed the eye rolls and the scowls from some and the slumped shoulder from others.  Am I doing the right thing?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m beating a dead horse; maybe I’m offering the chance for redemption.  Either way, we’re going to give it another go.  For this round, I’m adding a healthy dose of prayer for humility and grace.