Does a Connected Approach to Parenting Really Make a Difference?

Recently, someone yelled at me for not doing what this person wanted me to do. My fight or flight instinct kicked in and I felt a familiar rage rise up inside of my spirit. I was ready to fight back against the injustice spent on me. Before I opened my mouth, a flash back of a conversation I had with my 14 year old daughter raced through my mind:

Jules was in a musical…and her director, talented, but fiery in spirit, often said unfavorable things to the cast. The negative comments were not directed toward her, but her castmates. However, one day, my daughter and the cast mates she worked with most closely were the recipient of sarcastic, hurtful remarks. When I picked her up that evening, I asked if there had been any blow ups at rehearsal. Jules calmly explained the situation, with no inflammatory remarks toward anyone. I was livid that an adult spoke to my child this way. I asked my daughter’s response which was,

“Mom! It wasn’t about me. I’ve watched the director interact with the cast and it’s just how this particular director chooses to work. It isn’t the best way to address things, but it also isn’t personal. I don’t need to own this and feel upset. I’ll keep doing my best and look for what I need to work on in the midst of words that are unpleasant to hear.”

connected teens

The silence in our van was deep and wide. I had to catch my breath, reflecting on the maturity of my first born. In all honesty, had it been me, I would have probably debriefed it with about three friends and let it bother me for days. I’m guessing my 14 year old would never have mentioned the event had I not asked. Her ability to measure the situation with such maturity took my breath away.

As I reflected on my daughter’s capacity to face unwarranted hostility, I took up courage and strength and made a choice. The person who yelled at me wasn’t my issue to take on. It wasn’t about me! Because of the strength garnered from my daughter’s example, I faced my adversary calmly, respectfully, and even validated this person’s feelings about the situation.

And the words from Romans 12:18-21 immediately rang true:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will replay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’” 
Those verses references are from Proverbs 25 where the Lord concludes, “In doing this, the Lord will reward you.” I was rewarded immediately, with a peace flooding my own soul.

My oldest son was sitting out by our fire pit, looking deep in thought. I went out and asked if I could join him. I told him I would be up for listening to anything that might be on his mind. He slowly opened up to me some troubles he was having with a sibling. I looked at this almost a man, but still my little boy in absolute awe. Five years ago, this boy suffered with an overactive sense of justice. He kept me on my toes and my knees as we dealt with his often big emotions which could disrupt the household. Today, he quietly shared his struggle with kindness toward a misbehaving sibling. He told me he was asking God for wisdom and help to love this family member with an enduring “love you no matter what” kind of tenderness.

connected teens

I felt tears spilling over my eyes. I confessed my own struggle to love unconditionally when this family member acts out. Putting my arm around my son in understanding, I shared how his godly response was exactly the example I needed to move forward in parenting this child. He looked at his own actions and went running to Jesus for help. I shared how proud I was of the character growth, humility and love, he exhibited. We prayed together…asking God for wisdom, growth, and His spirit of kindness and love. We prayed for our sweet family, lifting up the challenges we face together. Humbly we asked for God’s Spirit to reign in the midst of the joy and the heartache.

We walked back into the house and I silently thanked God for intervening in our family so many years ago now.

There were so many times in the beginning of our journey as we began to change our mind set from “adversarial” parenting, to a more connected approach, that I doubted and wondered if this was the right way to go. I have no question anymore. My children are more equipped to face the world and it’s challenges as young teens, than I was in my first few years of marriage. I’m learning from their depth of insight and maturity and challenged to be a better version of myself. What a gift to move from a place of trying to control these little hearts, to a place of freeing them to be who God intended.

Giving our kids a safe home where they know they are loved no matter what; where they understand they are God’s workmanship, created to be a blessing; creating an environment where our children are responsible for their actions and moving toward wisdom is something I will never regret. I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to implement these messages consistently with a couple of my kids. I’m re-energized as I see my older children living them out on their own. And I’m ready to re-commit myself to living out these values in our home.

I hope you choose to join me in my own journey. Together, let’s reach our kid’s hearts for the sake of Jesus and reconciling our children and others to God.

When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

When Children and Big Families Become Idols In Our Lives

Sitting around the picnic table at my in-laws’ cabin, my mother in law laughed and said, “Could we get any more people around this table?” I looked at the nine of us sitting there and said, “Well, we tried.” There was a little bit of uncomfortable laughter, because of course, we lost our last baby. Later, this conversation caused me to reflect on the idea of having lots of kids.

How we got to our number of kids is an entirely different post. However, I remember when we decided that our home was not complete after having the “perfect” one girl and one boy…I began to think about large families. I read the “large family” message boards on Baby Center. There was a lot of complaining on those boards about comments people made about numbers of children or how people would stare and count heads as a mama and her many ducklings walked by.

large family

I remember being slightly nervous when we announced baby number four. How would people react? Would we get the stares and weird comments? It turns out, we did. I was accosted by a grandmother in a grocery store who lectured me on being more responsible to the planet as my 6, 4, 2, year olds and newborns sat blinking wide eyed at her. This was the first of a long line of comments we received. I had joined the offended group of mothers of many.

There is another side of this club however. Once you have a “larger than most” family…you begin to meet large families. Homeschoolers often have large families (again, the reason for this could be another entire post). When you are surrounded by people who don’t judge you for having children…another problem sometimes occurs. You are judged because you don’t have enough of them.

I’ve talked to SO MANY women who feel the number of children they have is inadequate. They feel sorrow for having ended their fertility because their family just didn’t fit the mold. Some women feel they have to explain repeatedly that they longed for another child(ren) but their biology or their spouse or some other reason stood in the way. Other women have felt left out of conversations or belittled because they possibly had one less child than the other women in the room. Believe me when I say, I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

When we lost our last baby, I was sorrowful for the loss. I was also sad because I wanted to have another baby so much. As some time went by and I was processing my feelings, my good friend asked me a question, “Are you idolizing the idea of having another child?” The question shocked me. Was this possible? Children are a blessing! I quickly realized however, that many blessings in life can become an idol. I stopped and took stock.

Had I ever thought I was “better than” someone else because of the number of children I have been given? Ouch, that hurt. I was guilty.
Was I trusting that God had a plan or was I trying to force my plan on Him? Uh-oh, guilty again.
The reality is that, while large families can often be insulted by others…there are also many comments made to us that puff us up. I can’t tell you how often I’m lauded and praised simply because of the number of children I’ve given birth to. I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has let a few of these comments go to her head.
Having brought a certain number of children in the world doesn’t make you an amazing mom. Raising them well, caring for them diligently, and giving them every opportunity to know Jesus Christ…that’s much more impressive.

One day my kids were watching the Bate’s family reality show and one of the adult children was asked the question, “How many kids do you want to have?” This young mom of three had had difficulty conceiving and suffered several miscarriages and answered the question like this, “Well, that’s kind of a silly question isn’t it? It’s not really about the number of children I want, but what God wants.” If you really have a heart submitted to God’s plan, than you can be satisfied with fewer children if that is what God provides as well, right?

I remember standing in the kitchen hearing this woman answer with faith about her number of babies, and I realized that I may have had a subtle picture of children not simply as blessings from God, but as trophies to show off. I felt a familiar feeling of conviction. Pride.

I thanked God for rebuking my heart and I completely surrendered my family size into His hands. You see, surrendering to Him doesn’t always mean having 19 kids. It can also mean, you will have five (or whatever number He has blessed you with). Jesus knew in His wisdom that this time of adding babies into our family had come to a close and I thanked Jesus for the beautiful blessings He has given our family.

I am not “more” than a woman who has zero, one, two, three, or four children. I am not “less” than a woman who has six or more children. My “quiver” size has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else’s. The amount of “blessing” that children are, aren’t in the number of them we receive. They are in living out God’s beautiful plan for each of our families. You are not defined by the size of your family. If you are in Christ, you are defined by who God says you are, and that alone.

Dear moms of many…I encourage you to untangle yourself from any subtle lies that you may be believing. Your children are a sweet blessing, but they don’t define you. Be free from numbers, competition and letting your family size go to your head. Enjoy each blessing He gives you but do so with humility as you interact with other moms around you.

Dear mama friends…especially homeschool mama friends who feel the burden of being left out of the “moms of many club,” please be free. Delight in the gifts He’s given you…not the number, but the individuals in your home. Let go of the pressures around you that say you aren’t good enough because of your family size. Embrace the unique, beautiful plan God has laid before you.

What to Do When the Kids Keep Tattling and It’s Driving You Crazy

What to Do When the Kids Keep Tattling and It’s Driving You Crazy

If you have a couple kids around the house, there is going to be tattling. What do you do? Here are some common responses:

*Become the referee and find out which kid is more deserving of punishment and punish or talk the offender myself and ask them to stop their behavior.
*Inform the tattler they should not be a “tattle tale.”
*Tell the tattler to “get over it.”
*Yell at both kids to get it together.

With five kids in my house, I’ve had my share of falling into all of the previously mentioned answers to tattling.

Tattling

*When I referee, I’m communicating the following: taking sides and telling my kids they aren’t responsible for or capable of resolving their own relationship issues.
*When I tell my kids not to tattle, all this does is bring them shame and makes them less open to me in the future.
*Asking them to just “get over it” does the same thing.
*When I yell I have created a non-safe atmosphere suggesting the children are an inconvenience to me.

Here is my connected response to tattling.
Kid: “Mom!!! I was reading that book, you asked me to get up and do my chore and when I came back, she took it and now SHE is reading it!!!”
Me: “That sounds super frustrating. I’m sorry that happened.”

Often times, that is ALL my kid needs from me.

Sometimes, I might add: “How are going to tackle this?” Or “Need some help brainstorming some ways to talk to your sister?”

This approach makes known that I care about the situation. There is a clear message that I believe in my child to solve his own problems. Not only do I believe he is capable, but I’m communicating that HE is responsible for his relationships. I’m available to help if he gets stuck. He leaves our interaction feeling cared for and equipped to own his relationships and interactions. It’s rather simple.

Try it and let me know how it goes for you. Happy parenting!

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Beauty from Pain and God’s Perfect Plan

Through an unfortunate turn of events, I was brought back to a painful time from my young adulthood. Thrust into a room full of people with whom I shared a mixed past, I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of emotion it carried. We were gathered together to say goodbye to a young life, tragically taken too soon. I wept for the dear friend who was experiencing the loss of his son. As time went on, I found myself weeping for other reasons as well.

Sixteen years ago, I left a job I enjoyed, to take a position at a new church. The beautiful time I spent working with people I loved in this new position, has been overshadowed by the devastating blow I experienced when that job came to a close. In one fell swoop, I lost my ministry, my title, my income, my community, my identity, and over the months and years that followed, some of my closest friends. The words used to expel me from my position stung to my very core…and as time spun out, I realized I had lost even more; my drive, ambition, passion, and self-image were challenged at a frightening level. It took me years to cultivate a new picture of who I was when my world fell apart.

Walking into the funeral, seeing faces from one of the most challenging times in my life, I felt nearly frozen inside. All the work I had done to forgive, seek repentance, find closure, release bitterness…it was like, it vanished. Insecurities rose up into my chest like a hormone charged hot flash. To top it off, I found myself sinking into a shame spiral for letting thoughts of self, mix into the grief I felt for my friend and his family.

However, as the day wore on…I began to see beauty once again, rising from ashes. Slowly, God began to work out a mantle of praise, to replace my spirit of fainting. Levity found a path to healing, when a friend who saw my suffering leaned over to tell an off color joke. The warmth of companionship and encouragement met me through a phone call from a sojourner who understood some of my suffering. That phone call brought the grace, and healing words I needed when my friend reminded me, “God’s grace is bigger than what you thought you needed from the past.” When I thanked this friend for not judging me in my selfishness on this day, he assured me that God was nudging me toward healing in deeper places than I had yet explored from these past events.

Isaiah 61

I felt myself rising up, like an “oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

The suffering that took place in my past was a deep wound. Tonight, I thanked God for those wounds inflicted on me. For some reason, He found it so good to take that pain and “rebuild the ancient ruins, raising up the former devastations.” In the midst of the turmoil, he spoke rivers of grace and has been “repairing the ruined cities” in my life. “Instead of shame, I have been given a double portion, instead of humiliation I am shouting joy over my portion. Everlasting joy is mine.”

I may have been removed out of ministry, and been robbed of relationships by the enemy of my soul. However, since that time, the Lord God has given me five children to minister over every day. He has given me the calling to homeschool. Jesus has given me a deep richness of friendships and community with some of the most amazing people He’s ever created. God has knit together my heart to my husband’s and given us a new ministry; encouraging parents to lead the way toward a gentle, biblical foundation of parenting children, in order to equip parents to disciple children in their homes.

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.”

Thank you Jesus for restoring to me the years that the locust has eaten and given me more than I had before. You are good. Even in the pain, I praise you.

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Homeschool room 2018-2019

Instead of tulips popping up this April, we had a massive snow storm. Shut in due to weather, I decided to re-organize our school room and prepare it for the next year. I thought I would share our space with a picture tour. Enjoy!

school room

These are the big four’s desks.

school room

Looking from the other side of the homeschool room.

school room My desk. The white storage cart at the end is where they turn in finished work. I correct it, slap some Michael’s stickers on it (stickers are in the white bin hanging off the homework hand in cart) and hand it back.

school room

The top shelf of the Expedit shelf holds school supplies and things I might need at my desk but don’t want sitting out in the open.

 

school room

The 3-ring binder row. The box on the left holds our discipleship folders we use in a class we call, “What’s Up?” The next box over holds our “Picture Smart” Bible pages. The third box has my kid’s color coded binders. I put all of the finished work I want to keep in those binders. It’s really nice to have them accessible. I put in their papers, paintings and drawings, and anything cute the smaller kids create during their days.

school room

These are my leveled reader shelves. Most of the kids are finished or nearly finished with these shelves, but the concept worked really well, so I’m going to keep them there for Cupcake when Catty finishes up. I altered the organization just a wee bit from my original post.

school room  This is Mommy’s shelf. I placed my favorite parenting/homeschool books here, just to feel like I have some adult friends with me, holding me accountable during the day.

school room

Sticky notes, head phones for computer use, and smelly markers. A bit eclectic, but we needed a spot for these much used items.

school room

The clear bins hold puzzles, special “school time” learning toys and activities for Cupcake. The canvas bins on the bottom shelves hold our Heart of Dakota curriculum years which are not in use at the moment.

https://www.heartofdakota.com/

The book shelf on the left of this photo holds our Shutterfly year books and most beloved book sets. Cupcake’s desk is full of notebooks and coloring books and sticker projects and whatever she wants to keep there.

https://www.shutterfly.com/

Moving on to the cupboards! The top to shelves hold glue/gluesticks, extra crayons and markers, mod podge, gel pens, duct tape, trays and smocks for painting, etc. The bottom shelf holds all of my pre school materials: Before Five in a Row, Pre-AAR, and several beginning readers.

https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/all-about-reading/

I didn’t do anything to this messy cupboard. It holds batteries, a laminator, more gel pens, old crayons, notecards, and a label maker. It’s a small out of the way cupboard and I fill it with things we need only occasionally.

school room

Here we have Bible and devotional books, art books, poetry and sensory supplies. If I need an activity for a bored kid, this is my go-to spot.

school room

This shelf holds Ancient History, a little bit of Geography, Early American History (currently in use), and several science texts and books. The bottom shelf has a smattering of modern history and an open spot for my big plans to continue adding Sassafras Science to our work load.

school room

This cupboard holds our Math and early reading and spelling curriculum. We use CLE math for grades K and 1, and switch to Teaching Textbooks as soon as we pass into level 3. I’m not using All About Reading or Spelling at the moment, but hanging onto it, just in case I need to use it for Cupcake. My guess is we will use the readers, but I don’t know if I will be needing that rigorous of a program for her. The bottom shelf holds my oldest son’s work he needs to finish for grade 6.

school room

The last hanging cabinet is reserved for English and Spanish. It holds a few more spelling pieces, Rod and Staff grammar, Analytical Grammar for future use (of which I am a BIG fan…but that’s another post), Logic of English (which I probably won’t use anymore, does anyone want it?), and Spanish text books and plans. The bottom shelf holds most of the 9th grade work my oldest will be starting soon, along with a couple of books she will be finishing up in the next week or so.

school room

Just thought I’d share my daughter’s master piece “cheat sheet” for sentence diagramming. Seriously, I BARELY understand this stuff. She’s a whiz.

school room

We don’t have much in this room that isn’t directly related to schooling choices. But we do have a cupboard full of some favorite games.

school room school room

These last two pictures are “bonus pics” :). The top one is a shelf in my kitchen I use for our “morning time” together. It also houses the group work I do with the middle kids. It’s just too noisy to do much group work in the actual schooling area. We reserve the “school room” for a quiet study space and one on one instruction with mom. Group work is done at the kitchen table, in the play room, or on a couch somewhere. The bottom picture is our music area. That Hobby Lobby locker stores their music books, and I think it is just the cutest.

I hope you enjoyed my picture tour! It was fun sharing it with you. It really helps to have a “home” for all of the supplies we use in our homeschool. Of course, you don’t NEED this kind of space, but I find it a huge blessing. One of my favorite things is to look at pictures and videos of other homeschoolers schooling spaces. If you have a space you’d like to share, link it up in the comments. I’d love to join your tour!

 

 

Becoming a New Year Bride…for Christ

brideEighteen years ago today it was Y2K New Year’s Eve. I remember my friend’s mom storing up water and food under her stairs. We all kind of wondered if the hype would live up to it’s name. However, I forgot about all of it that evening.

My boyfriend made me dinner and gave me 12 gifts. One of those gifts was a slip of paper with Ephesians 5:25 referenced on it: “Husbands, loves your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He got down on one knee, and promised to give up his life for me, if I would agree to be his wife. We celebrated our engagement at midnight and the world around us kept spinning.

The next morning, we sat down and began to plan. The race was on against all the other new engaged couples to pick our venue for the reception, book the church, find our photographer, videographer, scripture readers, florist, caterer, baker, and secure our friends and family as bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, and musicians. We went to our church’s marriage counseling, and attended a Family Life weekend for engaged couples. We read books, and had parties and showers. I shopped for bridesmaid dresses, tuxedos, candles, bows, and a bridal dress. We hired a deejay for the party and bought a candy “toss” bouquet and garter and planned the wedding-worship service, making bulletins, photo montages, purchased gifts for our wedding party, and settled in our new possessions in what was soon to be our home. We planned our honeymoon and dreamed about life as a married couple.

Our lives were literally wrapped around preparations for our wedding day. One day, almost six months after our engagement and close to the wedding, I was talking to my boss who wanted me to develop and wrap up a new product for a series we had been working on developing for churches around the country. We were talking about graphics and marketing, and she looked at me and asked if I could get it done by the deadline. I remember looking quite hollowly back in her face and saying, “No. I can’t do it. At all. I can’t make the deadline, and I can’t even work on this project anymore.” I walked to my desk and packed up and took PTO until my wedding. I was totally taken up in my role as bride and the wedding and feast to come. There was no more band-width for a single other detail.

How about you? Do you remember your wedding prep? Do you remember going to the salon to practice your hair? Registering for gifts? Working on your relationship with the one you loved and with whom you were preparing to spend your life? I’m sure yours was similar to ours.

I love the picture of the church as the Bride of Christ. He is our bridegroom, preparing a place for us. The verses my now husband, chose to use to promise his life to me, are a symbol for the marriage we have to our Lord and Savior Jesus. He lovingly and sacrificially has chosen the church…as broken as she is…to be His bride. His faithfulness to us is clear. Our job is to wait faithfully and prepare ourselves for the wedding feast that will take place when we see Him face-to-face. Ephesians 5:24 talks to us, the church, about our submission to Christ as we wait for His return.

Revelation 19:1-9 states, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, ‘write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”

I love the idea of a fresh start to a New Year. 2018 is ahead of us and it’s a time to think through goals, start healthy habits, organize our lives. I want to issue a challenge to you as you walk into this new year.

  1. Have you become Christ’s bride? Is your name written in His book of life? Will you be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb? If you aren’t sure, receive your invitation today.
A. Accept that you have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Accept that you need cleaning and salvation and understand that your lack of perfection has a wage or payment to be paid and the payment is death. (Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8)
B. Believe your sin has stained you so deeply that your own death, and your own works will not be sufficient payment for your brokenness. Believe that Jesus lived a sinless, perfect live and became your substitute for sin when He died on the cross. (II Corinthians 5:21, Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:23-25, Mark 10:45, Romans 5:6, I Timothy 2:6, I Peter 2:24, I Peter 3:18)
C. Call on the name of the Lord and be saved. Confess Him as Lord and Savior. (Romans 10:13, Romans 10:9)

If you have done this, let someone know right away, and begin your journey of faith. If you have already made this commitment in your life…rejoice! And accept my challenge to you:

2. Live as a newly engaged bride to Jesus. Become so consumed in loving Him, serving Him and preparing for the day you will be united to Him as His bride that everything else in your life fades in importance. Give Him your energy in time and worship. Give Him your first fruits in your finances. Seek Him in everything. Read and study His precious word and talk to Him in prayer. Talk to everyone in your path about your Bridegroom who is preparing your wedding feast. Be found in Him, not having a righteousness of your own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ…the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9).

I beg you not to wait, to be found in Christ, or to run your race for His name’s sake. Following Christ means sacrifice for many of us. But the reward when we face Him, and make no mistake, we WILL face Him…sooner than later…will be great when we enter into His rest. Join me in the challenge to live for Him, make Him known, and prepare the Bride for His return. Happy New Year! Have a blessed 2018. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

When Our Pre-schoolers Won’t Stay In Bed at Christmas Time

bed

The usual bedtime routine with my four year old looks something like this: Daddy helps her work through her evening list of tooth-brushing and pajama wearing. She then hides under the covers and giggles waiting for me to find her. I pretend I don’t know where she is and call through the house. When we throw back the covers for the big reveal, we laugh and snuggle. I sing to her, read her a book, say prayers with her, and we chat a bit. She asks me to stay with her awhile, and I do…until she is asleep.

Tonight, I left before she fell asleep. Earlier in the evening, I heard one of the big kids say they hoped to play Apples to Apples as a family. When I got downstairs the game had begun, and I joined in. Minutes later, little Cupcake walked down, saw us playing and with a pathetically sad voice said, “You KNOW how I feel about you being with me at bed time…PLEASE, come back.”

I DO know how she feels. I also know she is the little caboose in our five car train. The four “train-cars” sitting in front of me were proof that this little girl bed-time sabotage doesn’t last forever. I could have chosen tonight as a night to help her grow a little in this area. That wouldn’t have been a horrible idea. However, my heart flooded with a love and understanding for a little mommy-loving girl, who really loves to be by my side. 

I called her to me, asked her to climb up on my lap. I wrapped my shawl around her like a blanket and sweetly suggested she close her eyes. As she snuggled in, she looked up and said, “I know this isn’t really the time for talking, but could you just pretend that I’m a baby and you’re the mommy and you’re rocking me to sleep?”

Right now I can picture sighs from wise Grandmas who know I got a gift tonight. I am aware there may be some people reading this who think I’m a fool, letting my baby have power over me.

I’m all too aware that these sweet babies in my home are meant to grow up…and my job is to help shape them into adults. I also have the gift of perspective…being an older mom, who realizes four year olds don’t stay four.

My first four babies came approximately every two years. I didn’t have the option of making the choices I make with our little Cupcake. It wasn’t realistic to sit with each one until they drifted off to sleep. Honestly, if I remember correctly, I probably would have sat with my girlfriends, discussing how hard it was to get the older ones to bed, thinking this stage would never end.

The stage did, however, end. Not because I struggled with them to stay in their beds or did anything to teach them to self regulate. It ended because developmentally, kids don’t stay four. They grow up. I wish I would have known this back then. Isn’t that life? Experience is our best teacher…and rose-colored glasses are a good friend.

I’m thankful tonight for the sweet gift of being an older mommy. What a sweetness God has granted in the five souls He designed to grow up in our home. If  you’ve been given sweet babies to raise up into men and women, please remember them as a gift. Hold them tight. Sing them “Silent Night,” by the tree while you rub their backs and re-tell the greatest story ever told—of the God-man who became flesh.

Holding my little one while playing Apples to Apples with my big kids and David isn’t something that will go in our photo album. It was such a forgetful, ordinary night. An ordinary night transformed into a tender, Christmas gift, I intend to cherish awhile.

Merry Christmas from Swannie House friends!

~Let every heart, prepare Him room~

Responding to the Loneliness of a Disconnected Culture

Responding to the Loneliness of a Disconnected Culture

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 14 years. Before that, I office’d out of my home where I had minimal contact with humans during the day. As an external processing extrovert, this hasn’t always been easy.

With the advent of social media, smart phones, and a disengaged culture, this has become more of a struggle. My kids are older and we don’t “play” with other moms and kids like we used to do. I know I’m not alone in feeling lonely, disconnected and forgotten at times. We don’t talk on phones anymore. We send texts or comment on social media, or perhaps on e-mail. My kids barely even know how to answer the phone. We haven’t had a landline for years. I get that it’s our culture. There’s little I can do to change the world around me. But it bothers me.

I’ve tried to do my part. Instead of texting my neighbor to see if she has an egg or powdered sugar, I try to call. I’ve made it a goal to send a hand written note to people in my life once a week. I don’t always do it, but I continue to make an effort.

disconnected culture

My family was alone this past Thanksgiving. We had a lovely day together as a family, but it was sad for me too. It was another feeling of disconnect from others. So when I received a phone call from a childhood friend, I was seriously shocked and surprised. Mike called just to wish my family and me a Happy Thanksgiving and to bless and encourage us. When I answered his call, he told me he prefers the “personal touch” to a texted message. I can’t even tell you how much this encouraged my heart. It made me feel human. I felt remembered, encouraged, and loved. It was a simple, short phone call, but it literally made my whole day.

disconnected culture

There has always been power in reaching out to others with a personal touch. It seems today, the power has increased exponentially. We are a lonely culture. No one ever thinks I’m lonely. I have an abundance of beautiful friends and contacts. It’s true. However, I’m not immune to feeling the sense of “alone” in our disconnected world. None of us are.

I’m so challenged by my friend’s simple, but kind gesture. It’s not the first time he has surprised me with encouragement, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I want to learn from Mike, and reach out and tell the people around me that I love them, the specific things about them for which I am thankful. I hope you join me in this challenge. Just a simple, small step to reach out and touch someone’s heart with a personal call or letter or invite to coffee or lunch can have an impact on the people in our lives.

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

How to Become a Wise and Peaceful Parent

When I speak with moms about making connections to our kid’s hearts, I often hear things such as: “How can you stay so calm? I’m way too fiery.” Or, “How do you know what to say? I could never think to say those kinds of things to my kids in the moment.”

I want to share with you a little secret. When my parenting paradigm began to shift to a more connected approach, I was fiery and didn’t know what to say either. To be totally truthful, I’m STILL fiery. My personality and temperament are a gift from God and they haven’t changed.

A change has taken place, not in my personality, but in my submission to God’s beautiful ways…which are not my own. As I understand more of who God truly is and what it really means to walk in unity with Him, I am able to trust and submit more of who I am, to let Him mold me.

I mess up. A lot. When I was beginning to learn the messages of connection from Connected Families…the mess ups were sometimes, literally, All. Day. Long. I wanted to communicate safety, love no matter what, that my kids were capable and responsible for their actions. However, that didn’t always happen.

My kids were just laughing about a day that I THOUGHT I was living out the messages. At the sweet age of 8, I told my son that because he argued with all of my instruction that he could live a day WITHOUT instruction and parent himself. I thought this was so creative. I was going to teach him to listen to me! What I ACTUALLY communicated was rejection, throughout the day. I remember talking to my friend Jim on the phone later in the afternoon telling him what I had done. I felt depressed, realizing I had pushed my boy away and did nothing to grow anything lasting in him. Jim helped me come up with ways to communicate better with my boy, and thankfully we ended the day with a strong message of acceptance and love.

Often times, though I WANTED to communicate grace-filled responses, my old responses of anger, control, conditional love, and “you aren’t capable,” would creep into my interactions with my kids. It isn’t in the natural part of my spirit to give life-giving, always loving messages.If I make a mistake and then tell myself, “I’ll never change, I just can’t do this. I’m too fiery. I don’t know what to say,” then I’m also saying, “My kids aren’t worth me sacrificing myself for better parenting.” I love my kids passionately…but I’m not able to walk in perfection. Letting go of perfection has helped. 

wisdom

So, let’s get practical. When I find myself responding with anger or sarcasm, saying or doing something that isn’t my new heart for parenting, I do the following: I stop. I remove myself from the situation and take time to calm myself before I say any more. I ask God for wisdom. Then I go back and practice what we call a “do-over.” I look at my child and simply say, “I’m sorry. When I was sarcastic just now, that isn’t that kind of parent I want to be, nor the message I want to give to you. Will you forgive me? May I have a do over?” Then, I try the interaction again, sharing the messages I want to share, in a manner that shows love and safety to my child. 

In the beginning, my do-overs were numerous times a day. As I continued to practice this act of evaluating, repenting, apologizing, trying again, I started to notice something. Sometimes, I would stop myself right in the middle of an immature interaction and try again. Then, one day, I realized my do-overs were getting less and my wisdom-filled responses started becoming more of who I was.

An added bonus, I was communicating several strong messages to my kids:
  1. It’s OK to be authentic and bring mistakes to the light.
  2. Modeling repentance and asking for forgiveness has given them the tools to do this in their own relationships.
  3. Grace and truth are high values in our home.
  4. God changes our hearts, and sanctification takes time. We can be patient with each other as we grow.

After years of practicing do-overs, calming myself, and communicating unconditional love, safety, humility, and wisdom to my children, it has become more of who I am. It is more natural now. God has been using my continual trusting Him in the midst of my own misbehavior to change my heart, over time. So much so, that I don’t even recognize myself in the comments from the moms with whom I’m blessed to interact. 

You can do this too. You don’t need to stay enslaved to a temperament that needs refining. Growing in wisdom takes time. I don’t have all the answers and say everything perfectly to my kids. However, I’m doing better. You can do better too. Let go of the perfectionistic thoughts that tell you, you have to do it right all the time to do it at all. Those are lies from an enemy who wants to steal our kid’s hearts. Fight it. The victory is already yours, waiting for you to pick it up and take it. You CAN connect with your kid’s hearts.

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

How We Need to Respond to All the Tragedies

There is so much bad news. Hurricanes, earthquakes, mass murders, terror attacks, droughts, disease. Our newsfeeds are full of inexplicable horror stories and tragedies on a daily basis.

In the aftermath of the Vegas attack, I began to hear personal stories. People I knew that were at the concert. Friends who knew people who had senselessly lost their lives in this unexplainable horror. I fought inside with how to properly share of yet another shooting with my children. How do we raise our kids in such a scary world?

Politicians and keyboard warriors began their verbal sparring which is the typical response to tragedy today. We are angry with each other because of our beliefs about climate change, gun control, and who really is or isn’t pro life. Instead of coming together in our heart ache, we rip one another apart and cause even more sorrow around us.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream: My family was sitting together around the kitchen table, when I suddenly felt my body floating up into the air. David was next to me, and I turned around, reaching my hand to one of my children, joyfully saying, “Come! The Lord Jesus is calling us home!” I realized there were two shadowy faces, still sitting at my table, while David, three of the children and myself were all rising up into the clouds. My face turned toward Jesus, and I wasn’t able to think anymore about who had been left behind, I was only filled with joy and marvel at being taken up to the one who has loved me and called me His own.

I woke up from the dream. When awake, I was able to remember there were people I loved who weren’t taken up to the Lord. It was a miserable beginning to my day. But, it brought me straight to my knees in prayer.

I really don’t believe my dream had a direct correlation to the rapture of the church or the eternal destination of my children. I do believe that God spoke to me in that dream.

tragedy

Picture source

My friend Tammie and I were texting about the Vegas tragedy, the worries of nuclear war, and the plight of some specific orphans with whom we had become aware. (You know, just your normal, run-of-the-mill texting conversation.) One thing I shared with Tammie that day, I’d like to share with you: “there is not much time left, no matter how we slice it. It’s time to live for better things.” I often hear people say, “Oh, there have always been signs of the end times.” Why do we do that? Do we want to convince ourselves this isn’t the end?

The truth is this: whether Jesus returns in our lifetime or not, our days are limited in number. Time is running short for all of us. Our life is but a vapor. When we see earthquakes, and famines, wars and rumors of wars, mass murders and horrible disease…let’s stop deflecting these signs in fear. Let’s face them as signs of His return as He said and realize that we have MORE to live for.

What gets us out of bed in the morning? For what do we strive after each day? Are our hearts set on our jobs, school, our possessions, finding ways to fulfill ourselves? When tragedy happens, do we hit our keyboards to rail into the opposition’s belief system? Let’s begin to respond differently! With an eternal perspective that remembers that there are only two things that last: people and God’s word.

I want to set my heart on things above and store up treasures in heaven. It’s the only way I can respond to all the heartache and loss set before me. Living for Jesus is the only thing that can make sense out of this messy world. Living my life in submission, obedience, prayer, and service to the God who is and will make all things new, is the only answer.

How is He calling you to live for Him?

For me, it is a simple, but clear calling. I need to pray. I’m praying for salvation for the lost. Praying for my kids, my church, my friends, missionaries, and for God’s will and voice to be clear in my life. Worship and thanksgiving needs to be central in my day. I need to shout out that Jesus is the only answer to the problem of sin in the world. Homeschool curriculum needs to take a back seat to God’s agenda for our days and being intentional to live out God’s word needs to get me out of bed:

“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the LORD will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you.”

Friends, God is giving us a wake up call. Are you listening? Have you heard His voice? If you are able to read this, then you still have the ability to respond to Him calling you today. Turn your heart to Him. If you have not experienced salvation in Christ, stop waiting and let today be the day! If you know Him but are living for yourself, repent! Live for Him! There is still time to turn away from our sin, our self-centered lives, and turn to Jesus to give us the abundant life He promises.

We were recently talking with some friends, and I confessed that I am tired. I have a lot of kids and we are together nearly all of the time. I’m not getting any younger, and their needs are increasing. But, this really isn’t my time to sit back and say, “I’m just too exhausted.” Yes, I need to take care of myself. However, I need to keep asking God for strength to fulfill the purposes He has for me. It’s not my time to enter into His rest yet. That day will come, when He has ordained it. For now, He still has important, eternal work for me to do.

The heart ache around the globe isn’t going to end. But the response of God’s people can change. Join me? Let’s live for Jesus together, while today is still called today.