Safety

I soooooo wish this world was a safer place for my kiddos.

From the crap people post on Facebook to the remarkable number of people driving down the road while staring at their phones, I often feel like I want to gather my chicks and live life in our own little bubble.

I understand that “cutting the apron strings” is normal, and believe me!  I want this process to happen.  I also just want my kids to be safe.  I want everyone else to treasure them like I do.  I want people to think before they speak (or post).  I want them to drive with their eyes on the road.  I want them to understand that they are being watched and that their example makes an impact.

We are all teachers.  We all have the choice of whether we want to encourage or to discourage.

Entertaining the world is not our primary responsibility.  Getting attention should never be our top priority.

We are leaving a legacy to the world.  What legacy will we choose to leave?  Anger?  Rudeness?  Chaos?  Crisis?

Lord, help me to leave a legacy that honors You–one of peace.  Joy.  Kindness.  Forgiveness.  Gentleness.

Help me also to remember that the safe places aren’t always where You shine the brightest.  You are a refuge in every situation.

Thank You, Jesus.

roses

 

An Empty Room

My mom and stepdad are moving, and my little family and I recently went up to help.  We did all of the usual moving tasks–sorting, packing, hauling, loading, unloading.  It was all totally routine.  I was on an organizational mission, and we were quickly getting things checked off my list.

Until everyone left me alone.

My mom and stepdad are making this change for good reasons.  They are choosing to downsize–to simplify their lives.  After caring for 20 acres and a big house and huge barn for more than 25 years, they are relocating to less than an acre and a much smaller ranch-style house.  They have decided to move on their own terms instead of possibly being forced into moving some day due to circumstances beyond their control.  There is wisdom and freedom in their decision, and I am proud to see them move out of their comfort zone to realize their goals.  So many people live their lives, paralyzed by the fear of the unknown.  Change, especially in certain seasons of life, can be a scary thing.

Knowing all of this, and being one of their biggest cheerleaders along the way, I was completely caught off-guard by the waves of emotion that came over me last weekend.  As everyone left on various moving errands, I volunteered to stay behind to sort and pack in my old bedroom.  I came across so many memories of times in that house–all of which were good memories.  I remembered friends from high school spending the night,  prayerful preparation for mission trips, coming home on spring break from college to discover that my mom had hidden Easter eggs for me to find, doing my hair for my wedding, putting my sleeping firstborn in the pack ‘n’ play for her first overnight at Grammy’s, reading Popcorn and Basil Brush Gets a Medal to my little ones, just like my mom read to me.  Memory after happy memory overwhelmed me and I wept as I sorted through old photos and Christmas decorations, handmade cards from my kids and dusty softball trophies.  So many good times are associated with that house.

I am thankful for the season we have had in that house.  It has served our family well, and I will always remember it with fondness  However, the real focus of my affection will forever belong to the people who have loved within its walls.  We are in no way perfect.  We have our disagreements, our hurts, our insecurities and a maybe a few skeletons tucked away.  We have made mistakes like everyone else, and we have been sometimes slow to swallow our pride and to make amends.  But, we have loved each other.  Unfailingly.  Imperfectly.  Unconditionally.

The house is not what makes a home.  It is the people who live there.  I am so thankful for my mom and stepdad who have opened the doors of that house to me and to the people I love for decades.  They have made that house a place of rest, of laughter, of celebration and of peace for so many.  I pray that the young family that moves in experiences even more joy and love and security within its walls than we have.

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As I carried out the last box, I took a look around my old room.  There was nothing left for me in it.  Everything I truly loved was moving on.  That room was just a symbol of something much more lasting than a house.  It was a symbol of the love I had experienced within its walls.

 

 

Family Night

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I am married to a Marriage and Family Therapist.  Believe me, this has its drawbacks.  For one thing, he is almost always right.  This can be…unsettling…if I ever wanted him to bow to my unreasonable demands.  Fortunately, I don’t make unreasonable demands.

The other problem comes in that he knows the futility of arguing, and sometimes I just want to indulge in a good argument!  Selfish, really, that he won’t oblige me in this.

Other than that, though, the Counselor’s knowledge and passion for healthy families mostly comes in handy.  For instance, we are currently living with three teenagers.  In spite of the natural trials borne out of this season of life, these young people are relatively well-adjusted, highly capable and mostly pleasant (probably because they’ve grown up with free counseling).  The perspective of a godly man who has worked with people in resolving personal crises–as well as worked through a few crises of his own–is beneficial.

Fairly early in our parenting, Counselor Dave and I determined that we would guard our time together as a family.  We would control our schedules and not allow our schedules to control us.  Over the years, this has required us to make a number of healthy, family-building decisions, some much easier to make than others.   One of the fun, easy decisions we made, following Dave’s lead, was to institute a Family Night.

Initially, we prompted each child, then ages two, four and seven, to suggest a few outdoor and a few indoor things that they really liked to do here at home.  Their suggestions included things like building with Lincoln Logs, watching a family-friendly movie, playing Blind Man’s Bluff and baking cookies.  Dave and I added our own suggestions, and we put all of the ideas into a jar to be drawn out for Sunday Family Nights.

Now that the kids are older, we rotate through the family, each person getting to choose weather-appropriate activities for their turn.  I usually prepare a fun, informal supper, like nachos, burgers or tacos and we quit whatever projects we’re working on by about 5:30 each Sunday evening.  It is a rare exception that we are on the computer or even take a phone call or return a text once Family Night begins.  If a Family Night falls on Mother’s Day or a birthday, then the honored person gets to choose the activity–or sometimes everyone else chooses an extra-special activity for the honored person.

I confess that not everyone is always thrilled with the chosen activity for the night (including myself).  There have been driveway face-plants from bike rides, split lips from Pickle, complaints about Croquet, unending games of Monopoly, cries of “Not fair!” when Daddy vetoes a movie option in favor of an outdoor activity when the weather is nice.  Our Family Nights have not created a perfect family; however, they have created opportunity for intentional time together to build relationships.  Families are the foundation of every society.  If our society is broken, we are reaping the consequences of our families being broken.

Whatever you choose to do this Mother’s Day weekend, I encourage you to make it a family-building activity.  Invest in the people you love.  Guard your time.  Put away your phone.  Plug in to one another.  You may not have family in the area, and you may not have children, but you still have people around you that can be blessed by what you have to offer.  Maybe you know of a broken family that could use a little building.  Maybe now is the time to reach out.

 

Frostbite

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We had a very heavy frost, possibly an actual freeze, a couple of days ago.  We lost both our sweet and sour cherry crops as well as most of our peaches, which is pretty sad for our family.  Fortunately, we had not yet planted much in our garden that would result in total crop failure.

Our potatoes sustained some frostbite, so I spent some time this morning cutting back the dead, damaged leaves so that the healthy parts of the plant can keep on growing.  We had mulched them pretty heavily the day before the forecasted frost, but we hadn’t completely covered everything.  Our broccoli plants and sugar snap pea seedlings still look a little rough, but I think they’ll rebound okay, too.

One of the things I respect about gardening is the reality that I am really not in control.  There are often certain things I can do to protect my various endeavors, but there is always an element that is completely beyond my grasp.  In my opinion, this is a healthy, humbling realization.  No matter what resources I have at my disposal and what energies I invest in all that I hope to accomplish, my ability to control every aspect is an illusion.  In order to have peace of mind, I’ve got to be okay with that.  I have to know when to keep working and when to let go.

Relationships have the same limitations.  We can only do what we can do.  Love.  Forgive.  Pray.  Repent.  Not every relationship is going to work perfectly.  Not every season is going to be an easy one.  At some point, we’ve got to be okay with that if we want to maintain peace of mind.  We can only do what we can do, and then we can ask God’s grace to cover over our mistakes.  That’s where the peace comes in.  We do what God calls us to do.  We work on the dead, damaged places in our own hearts, giving room for God to grow the healthy places into something living and productive.  We also have to allow for others to work on their own lives…or not.  We must relinquish the illusion of control.

I confess that this is a difficult concept for me–one that I struggle to learn time after time.  I can only do what I can do.  Love. Forgive. Pray. Repent.  Fortunately, if I shift my focus to these things, there is always more than enough to keep me well-occupied.

 

 

Time to Plant

Ahhhh…planting season already.

Sometimes, in my brain, it sounds more like, “Awww…planting season…already”.

Other times, it resembles more of an, “Aaaaaaack!  Planting season!!  Already!”

Regardless of my current personal feelings on the situation, it is, indeed, time to plant in the State of Indiana.

Sigh.

We began putting in cool-weather crops a couple of weeks ago.  We followed up with a second planting of many of them today–beets, sugar snaps, radishes, leafy greens.  We also planted candy onions, kale, turnips, parsnips and kohlrabi.  A rainbow of seed potatoes were put in a week ago, and our rhubarb is coming up nicely.  The broccoli plants my husband started will be ready for the dirt in a week or so.  We should be able to sample our first little harvest of this season’s asparagus tonight.

I struggle to comprehend that it is once again time to plant the produce that it seems like I just finished putting up for winter.  I seem to have lost an entire month…or two.

Lately, I am increasingly aware of how quickly each day passes.  Weeks that used to seem to meander along are now gone in what seems like moments.  I am trying to hold on to the routine, the mundane, the essence of what our life here at home has always seemed to be while still embracing the changes that teenage children bring.

I’ll be honest:  I miss my little ones.  I miss their simplicity and wonder and snuggles.  I miss bedtime stories and tickle times and three meals together each and every day.  I don’t resent the changes that have come with having older children, and I do not wish things were different, but I genuinely miss those days of sticky fingers and blowing bubbles and three sweet kids being scrubbed in the tub.

I am so thankful that I was able to spend my days at home with them.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  However, if I could do it all over again, I would choose to be even more present in the moment.  I would choose even more long, lazy walks, even more times together bundled up in the snow, more times looking into their eyes and telling them who God has created them to be.  I’d let go of more of the lesser things and hold more tightly to the greater.  I’d play more.  Cherish more.  Ask more.  Pretend more.

Listen more.

I’d commit to less outside of their world and do more in it.

I have never felt like I sacrificed myself when I chose to stay home with my kids.  Instead, I feel like I have been impacted in such a life-altering, faith-building, comfort-zone-stretching way that I am better for my investment in their lives.  They have softened me and challenged me and clarified for me in a way nothing else ever could.  I am seeing glimpses of the harvest in my children, and I am pleased and humbled.  They each shine in their own beautiful way even as they continue to learn and grow and navigate this garden of life.

I am so thankful that I took the time to sow when the soil was ready.  Lord, help me to tend to their fertile hearts with the fruits of Your Spirit.

 

 

Sick Days

Today is the first day in twenty-three days that no one in my family has run a fever or exhibited some new symptom of illness.

Hallelujah!

We are not normally a sick group, but February has been hard on us.  Lingering colds, influenza, stomach yuck.  It’s been a long month.  Due to influenza, my son ran a 102-103 degree fever for seven days.  As soon as the fevers went away, his viral-related asthma kicked in.  For days, he was not able to talk without an ensuing coughing fit.  This morning, for the first time in over a week, I heard him laugh his true, unfaltering laugh.  The cough eventually followed, but there was enough of a delay that he was able to finish his laugh.  I am so thankful.

Over the past few weeks, those of us who are feeling okay have divided up the chores of those who are not.  This has been a fluid thing–one in which we all rotate doing what must be done and try to overlook what can be ignored.  Every day, after the animals have been fed and the breakfast things have been put away, we disinfect the house.  We wash blankets and hand towels and sheets that have lined the couches.  We sanitize light switches and doorknobs and handles and faucets.  I don’t know that it has helped, but I need to do something.

We have canceled plans, mandated rest, drank water, popped pills, choked down apple cider vinegar, smeared vapor rub, mandated more rest, administered essential oils, guzzled vats of bone broth, taken mega-milligrams of Vitamin C and mandated more rest.

We have watched documentaries on a variety of animals, Nellie Bly and The Dust Bowl.  We have listened to most of the Chronicles of Narnia on CD.  We have watched musicals, westerns, fairy tales, action films and episodes of Little House on the Prairie.  We have watched more television in these four weeks than we have in the past six months.

Oh, wait.  One of my children just came and showed me a developing rash.

So much for no new symptoms.

As much of a hassle as this month has been for me, and as disappointing at it has been for us to miss out on so many highly-anticipated engagements, I am thankful.  I am thankful that this has been one cruddy, inconvenient month and not a series of life-threatening crises.  I’m thankful that these illnesses are light and momentary–that we have the modern conveniences to make them bearable–even moderately pleasant.  I am thankful for hot running water and fresh citrus fruits and indoor laundry facilities and television and easy, inexpensive access to fever-reducing medications.

One time, just before my son turned four, we noticed a squishy spot on his skull.  It was a delayed result from a fall he’d had a couple of days earlier.  After a long day of tests, scans and waiting at a local hospital, we were told to take him to a well-known children’s hospital about an hour away.  We were able to drive him ourselves, and we arrived at about 11:30 that night.  The staff was ready for us, so we followed the nurse through the darkened waiting room to get to the exam room.  As worried as I was about my now-sleeping son, I was overcome with gratitude that night.  As we quietly walked past child after chronically ill child, a lump formed in my throat.  These little ones with their bald heads, wheelchairs, IVs and oxygen tanks were regulars.  I could see it in the lines on their parents’ faces and in the resignation in the children’s eyes.  My son, with his one-time head injury was the doctor’s priority when these little ones were fighting for their lives on a day-by-day basis.  For some strange reason, I felt guilty about that.  To be honest, I sometimes still do.

Life is truly a matter of perspective.  Sometimes, I let the fatigue and frustration creep in and steal my optimism and start to eat away at my joy.  Sometimes, I feel like giving up and just giving in to whatever mood is on the horizon.  Then I remember to give thanks.  Oftentimes, gratitude makes the difference between joy and despair in our lives.

Our feelings will almost always follow our focus. 

Yes Appreciation Day

I’m thinking about having a Yes Appreciation Day.  In all actuality, our particular household might need more than one day—maybe as many as a dozen.  Yes, an even dozen.

I feel like I’m being relatively reasonable, mostly accommodating and even somewhat selfless.  All to no avail.  They just want more.  They always. Want. More.

I know I’m not alone in this plight.  I see the slumping shoulders and the resigned-to-martyrdom looks in your eyes.  I hear the whining, nagging and pitiful woundedness in your voices.  We must not resort to such petty behavior!  We must simply band together in a united effort to increase awareness and to prohibit further entitled behavior.

Which brings me to my point:  Yes Appreciation Day.

This will be a day in which there are no yesses.  They will hear no, no, no all day long.  From morning ‘til night, “no” will resound!

“No, I will not provide breakfast this morning.”

“Out of shampoo?  No, I will not buy you more.”

“No, I will not overlook the eyeroll you just gave me.”

“No, no television today.”

“No, you may not use my wheelbarrow to get the four 50-lb. bags of feed out to the barn.  Bundle up!  It’s cold!”

“No, I will not go over dividing decimals with you for the fifth time this month.”

“Sorry, no computer time.”

“No, I will not drive you to work today.”

“Ummm…no, I will not share my chocolate-hazelnut biscotti with you.”

“No, I will not replace the pants you’ve outgrown.  Besides, we may have flooding.”

“Nope.  You may not borrow any of my books today.  Even the one you were reading yesterday that left off at that really good part.”

“You want to run a load of laundry?  Sorry.  No one but me is using any appliances today.”

“You need tape?  White-out?  Scissors?  A stapler?  The printer?  Toothpicks?  Paper towels?  Lotion?  A fork?  Running water?  Sorry…but…no.”

My theory is that if enough of these Yes Appreciation Days are strung together firmly and without any waffling whatsoever, a return to the routine of thoughtful yesses will be much more highly valued.

Wouldn’t that be fun?!

Who am I kidding?

I know that parenting isn’t about fun.  I also know that it isn’t about being liked or disliked.  It isn’t always about yesses and nos, and it isn’t always about teaching someone a lesson.  Sometimes, the person who most needs to learn the lesson is me.

I feel like there’s a lesson I need to learn in this.  What am I taking for granted?  What example am I setting?  When am I keeping score, and what is my goal?  Are my expectations reasonable?  Is there a deeper need that I’m missing, or is this a character flaw that needs exposed…in them or in me?  I don’t always know.

I wish I knew the answers as soon as I needed them.  I wish I didn’t make so many mistakes.  I wish I didn’t hold so tightly to some things, and I wish I hadn’t let others go.

The fact of the matter is that wishing will get me nowhere.

Lord, please give me the wisdom I need to raise these children according to Your plan.  They are so bright!  So amazing!  So helpful and talented and creative and generous!  They are so capable—so completely captivating to my heart.  And they’re human.  Just like their parents, these precious children are incredibly human.  There are times when I’m tired.  And hurt.  And uncertain and insecure.  There are times when I think I will surely burst a blood vessel if I am asked that same question one more time…or if I hear a ridiculous argument erupt again…or if I have to address the fact that the dog’s water bowl is still empty.  Please help me to respond with wisdom and in love.  Not to lash out.  Not to berate.  Not to give up and just ignore bad behavior.  Help me to choose my battles wisely and with eternity in mind. 

And, Lord, like I’ve prayed hundreds of times over the past 16 ½ years, thank You for letting Your grace cover over my mistakes.