Monday, August 18, 2014

for the mom who feels like she failed summer

Dear Mom who feels like a failure at the end of summer,

I know how you’re feeling. We all started the summer with so many grand plans. We had great ideas of activities and learning, and so much adventure. Unfortunately, that never happened. August is dragging, and I cannot take it anymore.

I love my kids, really I do. But for the love all things good and holy, I cannot handle one more minute. So I know what it feels like to hide in the pantry, sneaking the last of the s’mores graham crackers, while frantically searching for the corkscrew to open a bottle of wine. I know that acute feeling of defeat when I survey the vast summer landscape and realize that most of my well thought out plans for summer ending up going straight to the toilet. 

I had hopes for each of the kids to learn something new. All the learning that happened was that my youngest learned how to make over easy eggs. This was only because one morning she was hungry. When she asked me to make her breakfast my only thought was that I was not in any way about to fix one more ounce of food for anyone, and just let me eat my breakfast in peace. 

Surely, I’m not the only mother who has responded this way towards the end of summer vacation.

We’ve had a good moments, for sure we have. We camped once. And we visited the coast. We had a few great hikes and some really nice days at the lake. There was one blissful evening at the river, when all was golden and light. 

But unfortunately, those moments were temporary. Husbands have to work and we get left with…well, you know, the kids. 

I began to get that creeping sense of failure when I hauled a roll of painter’s tape with me on a round of errands because the kids wouldn’t stop fighting. In a fit of panic I let them have it with the only mother-like threat I could think of that didn’t involve death. I was ready to tape their mouths shut. 

Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. 

But, dear sisters in the midst of these fiery trials, take heart. For in just a few short weeks we will give up our children to their teachers. We will happily say, “Good luck with that one” and go sit at Starbucks for eight hours of blissful quiet. And then we will cheerfully pick them up at the end of the day, because no matter how much they drove us crazy during the whole dang summer, we will have missed them. 

So dear Mom who feels like she failed summer, allow me to encourage you with this truth. Guilt is only a trick of an enemy who doesn’t like to see us embrace truth. We must choose to run from guilt. I’d also recommend avoiding Pinterest so that you can’t see what other more together moms are doing. How about instead, let’s sip one last glass of cold brew and say, “Screw it all, we’re going to the lake. And for once no one is going to fight and everyone is going to have fun. Or else.” 

Forever yours in the battle of motherhood,


Friday, August 15, 2014

how to have a cheerful heart - ending summer well

August is the Sunday of summer. We want to get our fill of the lazy summer days, but we know we have to start getting ready for back to school and the fall routine. 

The lack of routine puts me in a funk. But after a long blogging break and massive amounts of hammock time, it’s time to start easing back in. We are easing back into everything. And it’s good. 

It’s good because I’ve had three kids all up in my business all summer; and I’ve had my share of frazzled nerves. It’s never quiet. It’s always loud. And I’m getting crabby. 

Welcome to the dog days of August. 

The upcoming school year is already leaving me feeling overwhelmed, and today I realized that I missed the youth sports deadline to enroll my kids for fall sports. I feel like I’m that Mom. I’ve been a tough cookie to live with. 

I’m wondering how to flip the switch. How can I turn off monster mommy and find my inner peace mommy? She’s been missing for a long time. All my efforts to be at peace, to be nice, and to be kind just fall flat. The problem is that I can’t flip that switch, at least not on my own. I need a divine kick in the pants if I’m going to end August well. Maybe you do too?

If we’re going to end summer right and start September properly we need a shift in perspective. Ending summer with a cheerful heart begins with these words from Paul: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God.” (Philippians 2:14)

A grumbling mouth is a sign of a discontent heart. 

The grumble factor has been at an all time high. And just yesterday, as I stopped Zac in the midst of airing his feelings about a frustration, he reminded me that I've been complaining too. It seems as if the end of summer has gotten to us both. I know I have little to complain about. I have a hard working husband, a beautiful home, a produce garden, and three amazing kids. And I get to, get to, be home to take care of it all. It’s a privilege then. When I look at it with that perspective I can’t help but be cheerful. It also helps to remember who I am working for. “whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

A cheerful heart really is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22), and not just for me. My family reaps the benefits of my cheerful heart. 

I love what Charles Spurgeon says. “Cheerful holiness is the most forcible of sermons, but the Lord must give it to you. Seek it this morning before you go into the world. When it is the Lord’s work in which we rejoice, we need not be afraid of being too glad.”

Let’s be too glad today friends.

Let’s end the summer by being too glad, full of cheer, and without grumbling mouths.

Friday, July 18, 2014

5 minute Friday {Bloom}

There's a fight to bloom. In this scorching heat, surrounded by wildfire haze, the sunflowers I never plant push out.

They explode and it's the heat that draws them.

Joseph learned this in a prison, waiting and forgotten. He was forgotten by everyone, everyone except the One who mattered most. God saw him there in his prison, and he reminds us that perhaps the process of growth is the point. The preparation that came only through heat and trials is what made Joseph a man who would save a nation.

It's the heat that pulled out the beauty of the flower. And the fiery trials of my life forge me into who I am. Without them I would just be an empty seed. But the pain and the heat that God allows is what makes his daughters bloom. The sunflower can't see it. Joseph probably couldn't see it either. We forget that the process is the point. The painstaking growth of allowing God to stretch us is what eventually makes our lives bloom.

We shouldn't run from trials. We should chose to run to God's refining fire of God in the middle of them. That is what makes a life bloom.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

what we miss by being afraid

Today started out like any other summer day. It’s lazy and my first foggy thoughts melt into some sort of clarity. Shut off the alarm so it doesn’t wake the kids. Get up. Get going. Steal a bit of quiet before the welcome noise of kids and summer take over the day. But then I realize something.

I have all day. In fact, I have all week. The kids are gone this week, spending it with my parents. We did the exchange yesterday, with it’s full spectrum of roller coaster emotions. There were tears, joy, laughing, and gut wrenching sobs. As the hour of departure came over us, a few of my kids realized that they didn’t want to go. They would be homesick, miss their bed, miss mom and dad, miss the dog, the chickens, whatever else. One child’s tears started a chain reaction of emotion, and it wasn’t too long before all three were sobbing in the middle of the natural grocers where we had lunch. It was almost too much for me to take. 

Sometimes we do this in life. We want something so much, something good and worth wanting, and right when we’re on the brink of getting there, we sabotage it. We talk ourselves out of it. We decide it’s too hard. Too scary. Too much. As a result, we miss out on the joy of something amazing. 

My kids almost missed it. The week of fun adventures with cousins and grandparents, and all the candy that mom and dad rarely allow them to have at home. Thankfully, they chose to be brave in the middle of their fears.

How many of us can’t say the same?

We allow the fears to be our boss, we jump ship when things get hard, and we turn back when we should be moving forward. Just as we are right on the edge of the good part, we decide to stop. We miss the joy of pushing through. We miss the reward of facing our fears and finding out they weren’t so bad in the first place. Sometimes we sabotage things intentionally, but sometimes we do this without even realizing it. The dreams we set out to make reality, the bucket list we wanted to conquer, the relationship that we thought was the one, we miss out on that because we are afraid. 

The first step is always the hardest. Whether it’s mailing out the application, being the first to say I’m sorry, or getting into Grampie’s car, we must put on our bravest face and take one step. Even if we feel afraid, that one step is often the beginning of something amazing. 

How many times have you allowed your fears to keep you from something good?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

why we shouldn't be so controlling with our kids

Summer vacation hadn’t even begun and already I was tested. She held the party invitation in her hand while her eyes pleaded. Please mom, she’s my best friend-I have to go to her party.

I didn’t want to say yes to this one. It was a party on the day school got out, the very first not school night of a summer that already feels way too short. I am learning the hard lesson of letting go as my children are growing up. Honestly, this is not my favorite lesson. I would rather choose bubble wrap and insulation, or perhaps a tall tower, Rapunzel style. But I realize that’s just not realistic, or even practical in the raising of children.

I talked the matter over with my husband Zac. Always the fun one, he is quick to say yes and finds it much easier to let go. We decided that this was a good one to say yes to, despite my reservations. My daughter eagerly made a birthday card and wrapped up some bottles of sparkly blue nail polish. We delivered her to the birthday girl’s house just one minute past the designated start time. We met the mom again, told her friend happy birthday and reluctantly drove away. I prayed over her as we drove home. I asked God to speak to her, cause her to feel like she needed to leave if for any reason that wasn’t the right place for her to be. It wasn’t because we didn’t trust this family, it was simply because we didn’t know this family. It felt very risky for a recovering controller like me to leave my daughter in the care of someone I didn't know.

This is where the gentle spirit of God whispered to me that he’s got this all under control, because he does, I don’t have to. The controlling part of me wants to hold them tighter, keep them home, say no to parties, limit the risk of any negative thing. But the controlling part of me forgets that keeping them safe isn’t my job, it’s God’s. 

Back home, we were eating dinner when the phone rang. Not recognizing the number, I answered. It was my daughter asking if she could get picked up half an hour earlier. Of course, yes you can. After assurances that she was okay, we hung up. Five minutes later, the phone rang again. Feeling nervous now, I made sure she was okay. My mother’s heart was racing at this point, wondering what was up, was she really safe? And then again, she called. At this point Zac decided we should go. We raced over to the party girl’s house. We were met with a daughter who was sensing the nudge of the spirit of God. 

She was never in any danger, there was no funny business, nothing other than grade school girl birthday party stuff. But God used this as an opportunity for my daughter to practice hearing from God. She couldn’t identify why, she just felt uncomfortable and like she wanted to go home. It was exactly what I had prayed for.

So many times, we think we need to control things in order for our children to be safe. And to a small degree, that is true. As parents, we have a responsibility to provide a safe environment, and to keep them from obvious danger. But we also have a tremendous opportunity to allow our kids to learn how to listen to God, and practice hearing that still small voice. There will come a day, in fact many days, when our children are away from us. By controlling them and being helicopter parents now, we deny them the chance to learn how to reason for themselves and listen to God’s promptings.

I want to hold tight.

But God wants to teach our kids the gentle ways of his freedom.

I want to micromanage.

But God wants to instruct them in the ways of his still small voice.

We all learned something that day. I think I got the best lesson, at least the best one for this recovering controller. God wants to take care of my kids, even more than I do. And because he is the best teacher, I need to get out of his way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

lessons from a pink flamingo

It has come to this. I cringed inside when the kids asked. It seemed inevitable though. Every time we hit the garden center, they would run like a beacon pulled them. They always wound up in front of the pink flamingos. I should have seen it coming. It was only a matter of time before my limits and my need to control would be tested.

You see, I did not want a pink flamingo. Not even in the least. I couldn’t imagine having one of those in my backyard. It’s not that I'm against fowl feathered friends, we have six chickens after all. It’s somewhat of a stigma, isn’t it? I am not of the pink flamingo demographic, at least I’m not what I think of when I think of pink flamingo owners. I guess the bottom line is that I was way too concerned with what the neighbors would think. My Facebook feed confirmed it. When I posted a picture of our newest family member, one of my friends commented “oh, so your that neighbor now?” I could hear the italics in her voice. 

Yes, I am that neighbor.

I manage the way people think about me, because I want to control other's perceptions of who I am. 

I am also that controlling mom who really wants the yard to look a certain way. I find that it’s much easier to say no to most things. Even the fun things. All because I want to control. I want to hold on. I want to grip tight. 

Thankfully, I had one of those God moments. It was like he tapped my shoulder. Will you get so worked up over an eight dollar piece of pink plastic? Will you be too worried about the opinions of others as to deny your children some good clean summer fun? 

Maybe you don’t deal with this. Maybe you deal in slip and slides or mismatched flip flops and messy ponytails. Maybe your currency of choice when it comes to control is the type of flowers that line your front walkway.

I don't have to micro manage.

I really want to be the yes mom. The one who graciously flows from one unexpected thing to the next. Who says yes because it’s fun. But inside I am a micro manager. I want to do things my way, not because they’re better, but for no other reason than it’s my way.

So when they asked about the pink flamingo, my first instinct was to say no. That’s silly. Ridiculous. I’m not ready to cross to the dark side of lawn decor. But then I stopped myself.

There's freedom in letting go.

I realize I can’t control the look of my yard any more than I can control the seasons. I can plan what to plant and where to grow things. But I can’t stop Catmint from popping up everywhere and dandelions from populating the lawn. I can’t even make the seeds sprout. 

So I said yes. And Faye (or Florence, depending on which daughter you’re talking to) now lives next to the peonies. She’s a good reminder. She squawks to me to take it easy. To let go. To loosen my grip. That life is so much better when I can let go of my incessant need to control. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

beauty on a Friday

Around here we start the weekend with gratitude. 

We hunt for beauty.

We brave windy afternoons, pollen filled air, and the threat of itchy eyes to catch a glimpse.

We start the weekend right this way. Enjoying the gifts around us, the simple beauty of home and summer and lazier days.

Peonies, such show offs. 

What are you finding beautiful this week?

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