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, the 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 to 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 my 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 and 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, 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 livings 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?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

11 summers left

Summer is officially here people. My kids finished the last day of school yesterday, and already they are sneaking spoons of ice cream out of the freezer-even as I type this.

I am eager and slightly terrified to spend the summer with them. The Nester reminded me today that I only have 18 summers. That’s right, just 18 summers with my kids before they move out and on their own. This backward way of counting summer makes me equal parts sad and equal parts excited. Sad because we only have a certain amount of summer time left; and time, she flies faster than we realize. But I also feel excited at the thought that I still 11 summers left with kids. I have 8 with my oldest, 10 with my middle, and 11 with my baby. 

It makes me feel very certain that I need to measure these days carefully. 

With that in mind I have already learned that I need to be mindful of how I spend my time. And I am also reminded that as my kids grow they might not always want to hang out with me like they used to. Friends and adventures call, and I’m usually left holding the phone wondering how they got out of the house so fast. This makes it important that we are intentional about the time we do get to spend together. 

I won’t be posting as much here, simply for that kid reason. My writing time is limited and much of it will be spent getting a book proposal ready. I am also super excited (and slightly terrified) to be attending She Speaks this year. As I prepare for that I realize that I’ll only have so many brain cells left to give to other writing. As it’s summer, I’m sure you’ll understand. I’m going to assume that you’re off adventuring too and won’t take as much time to read. Maybe I’m wrong? Either way, we’ve got many long days and much sticky watermelon ahead of us.

We have a whole summer stretched before us to play and explore and rest and lounge. And I plan to be fully present in each of those, with the kids and friends and other family. This is summer number 10 with all the kids, eight to go and let’s use the time well.

May you enjoy your summer week friends.

Friday, June 6, 2014

summer survival tips for the easily overwhelmed parent

So you made it through the school year. You’ve made it through the toddler years. This is the time when it’s supposed to get infinitely easier, right? Not so much. Even though my kids are older now (8, 9, 11) I still find myself doing lots of kid managing and directing. It’s different now that they do their own laundry and (mostly) take care of their own personal hygiene. But, it’s still hard. And as summer vacation is just around the corner, I realized I’ve got to get ready for the season ahead. This mom needs a plan. Maybe you do too?

As a stay at home/work from home mom the beginning of summer marks the beginning of my busy season. It’s not busy like it is during the school year. It’s busy like there are always three kids who I love very much around here and they often get all up in my business busy.

It can make a introverted type like myself feel very claustrophobic. 

If you are prone to feeling easily overwhelmed, then you know what I’m talking about. The constant activity and noise of children can put even the most mild mannered person on edge. It’s an adjustment to go from quiet days at home to the rush of summer activity. 

So we must make a plan.

This is how I survive the summer noise as an easily overwhelmed person:

  • Clear clutter. Visual clutter just compounds the clutter of life, at least for me. And it seems like a few messy piles combined with the noise of kids fighting (yes, they do that) is enough to put me over the edge. I need some visual order in my day, especially when the kids are being kids and the noise level is like a jet engine taking off in the backyard.
  • Get dressed. It’s a no brainer but easy to overlook. But when I’m not dressed and washed up and wearing a bit of makeup I feel crummy all day long. I’m in a much better frame of mind if I have taken the twenty minutes to make myself clean and presentable. It’s a little thing that translates into a very big thing by the end of a busy day with kids at home. 
  • Plan for quiet. When the kids were small quiet time was mandatory. We all seemed to need just a bit of a rest in the afternoon. Even though they’re older now we will still build a bit of quiet into our daily routines, if for nothing else than my sanity.
  • Live large. In the summer the world is your oyster. Or whatever metaphor you’d like to choose. We take advantage of the largeness of outdoor space this time of year. If it’s just the backyard that is enough. But there’s a park down the street with a huge grassy field. It’s always mowed and therefore very inviting. We can take a blanket and lunch and get a change of scenery. 
  • Don’t multitask. I seem to be at my worst when I have to do too many things at once. This is a tough one; as a writer I need to write. While the kids are at school I have the luxury of uninterrupted writing time, but when summer rolls around that is harder to come by. I honestly don’t know the days will look and how I’ll get writing in, but I do know that when I’m being a writer I can only be a writer. When my kids need me, I have to put everything else away.
  • Be mindful of projects. This goes back to the multitasking thing. I tend to be a bit impulsive about projects, and then very neurotic about finishing them. This doesn’t blend well with family life. If I know a project will be too time consuming or demanding, I’ll wait to start when the kids are gone for the day or even back to school. An unfinished project can become a trigger for me to feel overwhelmed.
  • Get a hammock. Or find another away place that you can be alone, if even for a few minutes. We splurged on a great hammock a few years ago and that has been a life saver for me come summer. Even though it’s big enough to fit most of our family, we have a strict one person in the hammock rule. And because it’s so big, it makes cocoon around whoever is in it. It’s the perfect place to hide away and still be able to hear the kids if disaster strikes. 
  • Plan for time off. Trade kid watching with a friend for an afternoon. Then go do whatever you want, no housework allowed. For me this is as big of a deal as the hammock.
  • Make a plan. A lack of plan seems to bring on a lot of additional stress for me, and for one of my easily overwhelmed children. We always make a summer list, we might not get to it all but it’s a great jumping off point. And if we have a loose structure to our week, we all breath easier because we know what to expect. It’s simple, but the routine provides a bit of comfort for the easily overwhelmed person.
  • And finally, take proper care of yourself. Getting enough sleep fuels me, a lack of sleep intensifies any overwhelming situations. So does hunger. And along with that, getting up early before the kids are up is a key thing for me. I need that quiet time with a book and a cup of coffee to gear up for the day. I know not everyone needs that slow wake up, but I just can’t seem to get around my crankiness if I’m up at the same as the kids and miss out on alone time. It doesn’t have to be long, twenty minutes can be enough to take a deep breath and be ready to take on another summer day.

I am a mom who loves her kids and also feels easily overwhelmed by her kids. That is not a bad thing, it’s my reality so I’ve got to plan for it. Maybe you’re in the same boat. You feel prone to stress, you’d classify yourself as an introvert, you feel easily overwhelmed by the noise of life and kids. That is okay. It’s not a deficit. It’s something we can learn to live with, and even thrive under. We just need a plan.

These are the tricks that work for me, maybe they will help you out as well.

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