Thursday, October 17, 2013

Knock it Off! (Hearts at Home Blog Hop)

HAH-Blog-Hop-graphic (3)

I sat on the park bench fighting my natural tendency to judge. Invited for a play date, we discussed our mothering stories. As the tales of others were weaved in to our conversation, the temptation to fit each one into my own little box was irresistible.

Every child should have a consistent early bedtime.

Families shouldn't fill their schedules to a level of crazy.

There are laws for children riding in vehicles. It's simple really: follow the rules.

I had to tell myself to STOP.

I am a mom to three beautiful little girls. Each one is very different. My opinions on mothering have changed drastically in the eleven years I've been doing this job.

Early on in my life, before I even earned the title of "mommy", it was my belief that I knew well how to raise children. Not just my own (who would come in the future) but those of others as well. When my compliant, laid-back firstborn entered the world, my parenting philosophies were reinforced.

I rocked at motherhood.

I knew what I was doing.

Others apparently did not.

Maybe they just needed a good example.

Then daughter #2 came into our life.

And now we have 3! (With each daughter added to our family, their personalities morphed to reveal a little more of myself.)

Oh, how I wish I could apologize to each and every mother I ever frowned upon!

It is one of my high hopes that others do not judge me. After all, I now know that I am failing miserably as a mom. My heartfelt prayer is that God will work in spite of all my mistakes. No longer do I believe Mother knows best. (Although that is a line from a song from the Disney movie, Tangled. I love to sing it to my girls. The same line. Over and over again.)

Here's my new parenting philosophy: God gave my children their personalities. It is my responsibility to help shape them into the well-adjusted adult He designed them to be. (Or not-so-well-adjusted because I've sent them running to a counselor's office. My husband says we will screw them up. He encourages me that it's all about damage control.). Really, much of it is beyond my control. Ultimately, God gave me these children to sharpen my rough edges. I believe He desires to transform me through my children.

For that reason (along with Jill Savage's book, No More Perfect Moms), I've decided to Knock it Off! I will actually verbally tell myself to "Stop judging others." "My way is not the only way." (And there are many other phrases of the sort.)

Yes, I actually talk to myself. I realize that may cause you to judge me. I'm just hoping you'll agree to Knock it Off as well.
HAH2126 Knock it Off FINAL
I’ve signed the Knock It Off commitment. Will you?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Slowing Down to Rest: Mark 1:35

"Before daybreak the next morning,
Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray."
- Mark 1:35

If Jesus needed to pull away from the world to spend time with our Heavenly Father, why oh why do we think we don't?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Slowing Down to Rest: It Takes Work Sometimes

I have to wonder if I am only creating more chaos for myself. Today, as we celebrate our middle daughter's eighth birthday (early), I can't help but contemplate my choices. When an upcoming birthday party consumes all my time and energy, it has to be reconsidered.

Growing up, birthdays were simple. I remember sitting in the church pew debating between my favorite restaurant choices. This annual milestone meant mom and dad were splurging on a rare treat: going out-to-eat. It was truly a special occasion.

I don't recall ever pining over what I missed as I attended the birthday parties of my school classmates. Somewhere along the way, however, I decided my children were going to have grand celebrations. Another year of life beckoned a party with all of our family and friends.

Now that my oldest is eleven, party planning has honestly become a bit of a chore. She has had celebrations (often two) for every year of her life. Add two more girls to the mix and this momma is losing her creativity. Unfortunately, our medium girl has her birthday the latest month of all our children. Not only is she sandwiched between our oldest and youngest in the birthing order, her due date was stuck right between the crazy start of school and the busy holiday rush.

"She justifiably will have middle-child-syndrome!" was the response I gave to my friend's inquiry on the high stress level this week. I can have a home that says, "welcome" to our guests. That isn't my worry. Everyone invited is coming to help Jaycie know she is loved and celebrated. Food can be purchased and even a cake for that matter. It's the future adult-child casting judgment that was wreaking havoc on my emotions. I'm worried she will see pictures one day and wonder why she always appeared to get the short-end-of-the-stick.

So why bother with a party anyway? Am I creating selfish little monsters who demand their moment of glory? Are we begging for a shower of presents every year when our house is already overloaded? Is it worth the time, energy and money to throw this type of a shindig every year (x3)?

After some soul-searching, I'm jumping in with both feet for today's celebration. Today we remember. Once a year (although it should be constantly in a much simpler way), we take time out of our lives to say thank you to God for our daughter's life. There is so much to be grateful for.

So why the big fiesta? It's not about the presents. I don't care if people come empty-handed or bring a candy bar to show their love. Simply put, we want those who do this life with us to reminisce with us. We want our girls to know they have a community of people to count on. In the Bible, God's people set aside times for feasting. The feast was a reason to gather. The purpose was to remember God's goodness.

This past week felt a bit like I was doing anything but slowing down to rest. Today, with a cake in the fridge, a DVD of this past year put to music set to watch, and a home that can welcome our community even with the threat of rain, we are celebrating. We are thanking God surrounded by many of those we do life with.

Sometimes it takes a lot of work in order to be able to rest. Keeping the purpose in mind helps us to stay focused. Resting today... surrounded by those I love... celebrating all our gifts... it is all worth it.

Maybe REST isn't so much about sleeping, zoning out, or stopping all activity. Could it be that rest is more about redefining our purpose? Does rest help us become more intentional?
"This feast will help you remember, like a mark on your hand or a reminder on your forehead. This feast will remind you to speak the Lord’s teachings, because the Lord used his great power to bring you out of Egypt.  So celebrate this feast every year at the right time." - Exodus 13:9-10


Friday, October 4, 2013

Slowing Down to Rest: Five Minute Friday (Write)

Five Minute FridayToday I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo (from (in)courage) for a Five Minute Friday. The writing prompt for today is the word "write".

I’m working on slowing down. My goal is to achieve some rest for my weary soul. One way I am doing this is by setting aside time to write. At times, it is with pen and paper. At other moments I just allow my fingers to fly across the keyboard pouring out every thought in my mind. There is something freeing about taking this spaghetti dish of thoughts in my mind and sorting them out with written words.

Did you know some schools are choosing to no longer teach cursive writing? My heart drops at the thought. One of the greatest gifts I know of is the speed of writing thanks to that technique. Many of my prayers to God are in cursive. Note upon note of encouragement and gratitude flow in that way.

While I embrace the keyboard and all that computers offer us, we need to quit rushing. Taking time to write and express ourselves is one way to slow down. I’m thankful my children are still learning this art. I’m not looking for us to pull away from the world into seclusion. It’s just that forward progress doesn’t mean we need to get rid of everything in the past that worked.

You will often find me with a journal and pen on hand. Rarely do I go anywhere without it. My girls are following this trend. Sometimes it’s just because they love to draw but by soul does flips when I find their written words… especially when they are expressions from their deepest parts to God’s ears.

The written word is a gift.
How do you take time to slow down and find time to write?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Slowing Down to Rest: Waking up Earlier

In effort to slow my day down, I’m waking up earlier. More often than not, I’m tempted to sleep away the quiet of the morning. Even though I know the early hours are my most productive time. There have been seasons in life which I’ve used this time for exercising. During other periods, I’ve chosen to express myself through writing in the wee hours of the day. Still, many days I’ve chosen to dive into the tasks on hand such as laundry and dishes and all there is to do. Thankfully, I’m slowly learning that the most precious hours of my day are wasted on any of these.

Just this morning I wanted to sleep in mainly because I didn’t want the wheels to start spinning yet. Once they get started, it’s hard to get them to stop. I knew the thoughts I planned to communicate today so I turned off the alarm prematurely, getting out of bed and down the stairs. Grabbing my journal and Bible, I was soon immersed in the very thing I needed more of. And honestly, I can never get enough (although I don’t always live that way).

I need to start every day renewing my friendship with God. “I am worn” were some of the words I spilled out to my Savior this morning. As I poured out my heart to Him through prayer and read Scripture so I could hear Him speak to me, I was filled.

I’ve heard this song many times before on the radio but it struck me a chord in me recently.

"When I’m worn…"
"When the weight of this world is too much…"

I need to realign my thoughts with God's.

"Redemption wins."
"He can mend a heart that's frail and torn."

"I'm worn so Heaven come and flood my eyes." It’s in spending time focusing on my relationship with Jesus each day that I have the strength to continue on. I don’t think it matters if it is first thing in the morning or late at night. It just matters that we give Him the best of our day.
When do you find time to work on your relationship with our God?

"Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." - Proverbs 3:9-10 (ESV)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Slowing Down to Find Rest: A Season to Grieve

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
-          Ecclesiastes 3

I needed a time to grieve. Deep inside, I knew there was pain I had yet to sort through. If only life would cooperate long enough and give me time to stop and reflect, I wouldn’t have had a morning where the floodgates broke open.

It had felt like every day was a battle to keep my emotions at bay. My job was to comfort our girls in the loss of our family pet. But I was failing. Evidence came from the mouth of my preschooler, hands covering her ears. “Don’t talk about Pup. It makes mommy cry!”

I knew my tears had to stop. The last thing I wanted to do was stir up unsettled emotions in my children because I had yet to cope with my own. However, life kept prodding us on and stuffing my feelings was the only I knew to make forward progress.

Every time I see a dog my heart aches. As the girls and I set out for the bus stop each morning, I have a sense of loss. Our dog was Lassie-like and wanted to be with us to see everyone off for the day and welcome them home.

On this particular morning (well over a month since we said goodbye to our furry friend), two wet, shaggy dogs came running across the street straight into our garage. Living near a busy intersection, my mind immediately went into pet rescue at the sight of them. I was torn between needing to get my daughter to the bus stop and knowing what I would want someone to do if it were my Pup.

Not wanting to see those sweet little animals in the middle of a busy street, I corralled them into the safety of our fenced-in backyard. My daughters and I headed to the street corner just in time to turn around and see one of the puppies escaping. I left my two young daughters at the bus stop to attend to the lost dog. Thankfully, I got the animal back to safety and myself out to meet the bus in the nick of time. (Despite the fact that my daughter was reprimanded by the bus driver because her mother instructed her to cross the street before the stop sign arm was out, everyone was safe.)

With only my youngest left to get off to school, I had some time to look for the concerned owners of the little shaggy animals now locked in my garage. A short walk revealed a woman driving slowly in her vehicle. I directed her to my house and delivered the beloved pets. I had hoped to feel a sense of joy to overwhelm me. While our family pet was no longer with us, I was confident of the part I played in preventing this type of pain for others.

My heart dropped when the woman informed me, in broken English, where she lived. Despite the fact that the dogs came from the opposite direction, I had just rescued my neighbor’s dogs. All the details became clear. These were the same yapping animals who keep me up in the middle of the night!

Tears took over. Had I really just tried to rescue a couple of dogs whose owners apparently don’t care much? I tried to comfort myself with the thought that the woman must have missed her pets (she was looking for them after all). How could I leave my girls on the street corner as I ran after an animal? I knew everyone was safe but guilt still won out.

It shouldn’t have surprised me when the damn broke. A short visit to a friend’s house later in the morning revealed the raw emotions inside me. This wasn’t just guilt from a morning filled with bad choices, this was unresolved grief. Greeted by my dear friend’s black-and-white pooch, I couldn’t hide the emotion tugging on my soul. My tears were evidence to me that I had never taken the time to fully grieve the loss of our Pup.

Running my fingers through this dog’s fur left me longing for the one I’d always called mine. I think I could have cuddled with any canine this morning. There was a longing to bury my face in their neck full of soft fur for comfort.

I knew it would never have brought me relief the way Pup could do. She knew when I was sad and would walk over to lick the salty tears from my cheeks in an instant. I miss being able to wrap my arms around the animal I loved. My heart aches for this faithful friend. It doesn’t matter that she was just a dog. She was mine. She was family.

It was over fourteen-years-ago that I begged my husband for a puppy. My brother had offered us pick of the litter and I couldn’t think of a better gift. As a cat-lover, my husband did not see eye-to-eye with me. After two weeks of nagging on vacation, He gave into my request anyway. He chose the whitest dog out of the litter of brown and we named her “Pup”. Despite the fact that she behaved just like Disney’s Lady on her first night home, Rod assured me we weren’t allowed to return her. Thank goodness! For this dog became part of God’s medication for my soul. I had no idea how much I needed her.

The day we had to say goodbye to her, my husband and I sobbed together. I thanked him for choosing our beloved pet who believed she was alpha dog. He assured me “I didn’t choose her, she chose us… she chose us.” As she lay without a fight on that clinic floor, we knew there was no other choice. I had prayed this day would never come but now I had to find the blessings in the hard times.

That my husband could be there…
That the girls would not soon realize the decision that had been made…
That we weren’t in Disney when it happened…
That my husband wasn’t away on a business trip…
That school had not begun yet…
That we had fourteen wonderful years…
I am reminded everywhere that God gave me Pup as a gift… even if it was for a season.

When I see someone walking their dog…
When I return home and am deceived by vacant barking to welcome us home…
When I walk into our front door and look at the empty, silent front window…
When I carefully step at night only to remember it’s without reason…
When I imagine hearing the clinking of collar tags…
When scratching of nails on hardwood floor is only in my imagination…
When plates of food are left on the table untouched…
When there were no dog treats handy for pet rescue…
When a leash was no longer convenient to reach…

I miss her. She was the one friend I could always talk to. There were no strings attached to her love. Always welcoming of my hugs, she would kiss me on the cheek even if I didn’t want my space invaded. She was loyal to a fault. We introduced each one of the girls to her and she loved them fiercely. She brought with her a sense of protection. While a bit psycho, she was ours… separation anxiety and all.

I’m taking a season to grieve. Finally allowing myself to feel the separation, I’m grieving the loss I should have dealt with many weeks ago. It took a crazy start of a day to make me press pause on the busyness of life for a moment. Long enough to process my thoughts and emotions, even if my children have to see me cry.

I need to be intentional to stop and process my thoughts and feelings more often.

I’m grateful there is a season for everything… even a season to grieve.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Slowing Down to Find Rest: The Changing Seasons

1 Busyness

October gives me freedom to embrace a wardrobe of hoodies and jeans allowing comfort in my world once again. The brisk air fills my lungs and my whole being is energized. I can’t help but breathe thanks to God that the draining heat of summer is over. There is a hope of change that comes with the changing seasons.

The crunch of leaves under foot has my oldest declaring the excitement we share. “Do you hear that sound, mom? Fall is here!” My girls beg for the bin of decorations and costumes to come out. They discuss jumping into piles of leaves and other rare memories I’m surprised they can recollect. Colors fall from the trees, decorating the ground and my soul longs to welcome it all in.

Instead of jumping in to the season as if a pile of leaves, I resist flipping the calendar like a child fighting sleep. I need it. Deep down inside, I have to admit that I want it. Yet I cannot embrace it. Just like the young ones kick and scream to continue their play, I fight to finish tasks left undone.

As the changing colors on the trees seem to proclaim a God-ordained need for them to rest, I find myself wanting to join them. I want to be in this moment. As Author Jeff Goins challenges, I need to slow down.

Why can’t life just slow down? It’s my complaint with life every year. Things just keep moving faster and faster. Wisdom from years ahead told me not to blink. I must have done just that. How did my kids grow up so fast? Why can’t I keep up?

Still, it’s not enough to just slow down… I’m fighting to follow through on Goins' Day 2 Challenge to savor today; the right now. I need to be intentional in not just slowing down but also savoring the here and now.

Agendas will never end. From what I hear, summers will continue to drain me. Not just from the heat but because life get busier as my children get older. The beginning of the school year will always feel like a whirlwind. Seasons will continue to change. My challenge is to embrace the hope that is offered.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 NLT
Southfield Church is beginning a new sermon series this October and November entitled “Rest: learning to embrace one of God’s greatest gifts!” It entices me in a new way in particular as retailers push the holiday season earlier and earlier. Come join us!

I’m working through "The Slow Down Challenge" by Jeff Goins. (Check out his book The In-Between.)

As we welcome in the Fall, would you join the trees shedding their leaves to embrace a season of rest? I’d love to hear how you intentionally slow down and savor the moments.