Tag Archives: life

Adjusting Expectations

When my children were younger and I was younger, I felt disappointed often. You see, I had these crazy, ideal expectations. And, of course, they were rarely met. And by rarely I mean never.

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I would plan a a family day of going to the zoo. Inside my head, I would imagine my six offspring in adorable outfits, looking like Children’s Place child models even though the only Children’s Place clothes we had were hand-me-downs that had been worn already by three children. These children of my imagination would hold hands and smile and stay to the right of the walkways throughout the zoo. They would ooh and aah over the mind-blowing information on those little signs by each animal. When it was time to walk to the next animal, they would all walk together to the next enclosure. In my imagination, no child ever tried to climb onto fences that clearly had large No Climbing signs on them. No child whined, But I don’t wanna waaaalk that waaay. It’s too looonnnnggggg. Birds are stuuuupid anywaaaayyyy. My expectations never included one child calling another monkey poo or one child running half a mile ahead while another lagged half a mile behind. My expectations never included children complaining about the granola bars and water bottles I had packed and throwing themselves on the ground in a sorta-kinda-hunger-strike demand of ice cream from the zoo snack bar. Which is all quite odd since I actually live with my children every day of the year and know how children can be. I guess I just somehow thought that for Family Day, they would all change personalities and develop absolute self-control.

So I would feel grouchy and disappointed. And then I would start acting all grouchy and disappointed and not at all like the idealized version of myself I imagined I would be. Of course, then I would get annoyed with myself because really, what kind of mother whisper-screams through gritted teeth at her kid for acting like a tired and grouchy child when he is actually a tired and grouchy child? 

Every holiday and family day and special anything would result in disappointment and frustration. For me. Later, though, my children would speak of these days and remember only the good parts. Somehow, they’d forget about the brother who sat down and screamed and cried and refused to take another step because there was a pebble in his shoe and the world was sure to end any second. This sort of Children’s Brain Feature is the exact same one that compelled my son to once say, “Momma, I loved the way we used to all have church at home on a Sunday morning. Daddy would play the guitar and we would sing songs and talk about what we were learning about Jesus. I loved that! We used to do that all the time!” And really, we had done that exactly ONE time. ONCE. Ever. This Children’s Brain Feature is surely one of the most beautiful expressions of grace God has given to parents. We get like ten times the credit for doing something once. Grace upon grace.

Anyway, as time has gone by, I have gradually shifted my expectations to be a little more realistic. As I look ahead to special days or family outings, I expect that my children will act exactly like they act every other day of the year. I expect that we will have moments when all eight of us are feeling kind and happy and having fun, but that these moments will happen on a backdrop of the rest of the day, in which one or more of us will be hungry or tired or have a headache or feel irritable. And then I choose to feel incredible gratitude for the sweet moments and file those in my mental scrapbook and try to block out the rest.

This weekend has been an opportunity for me to practice this different-expecatations sort of approach to parenting and life. We don’t want to call it lowered expectations, so we’ll go with different expectations or, perhaps, more realistic expectations.

On Friday, we loaded up the family in the big, red van to drive to Lauren’s away soccer game. From there, we would all go two-and-a-half hours away to North Carolina for Caleb’s first dive meet. We’d check into our budget hotel and get some sleep, then we’d spend the entire day Saturday at the aquatic center for the dive meet. In the past, I would have imagined a fun van ride singing along to songs and reading aloud to the children followed by a cozy night in the hotel and a day of everyone excitedly cheering on Caleb in his first ever diving competition. But I’m older and wiser now. This time, my expectations more closely matched reality.

Caleb woke up Friday morning with strep throat, so he stayed home from school and went to the doctor to get started on an antibiotic. Rachel came home from school with strep symptoms, so I scrounged around in a drawer and found half a bottle of an antibiotic from last fall and started her on that. Yes, I am aware of all that is amazing about my parenting from that last sentence, but I hope you don’t feel too jealous or intimidated. So – for those of you keeping score at home – we started the trip with two sick, feverish children and a boy with a badly-broken arm still in a soft cast, on a Friday evening after a very long week. So it was no surprise that everyone was tired and a little grumpy and eager to plug into headphones and tune out everyone else on the ride down Friday night. It was not a sing-along, read-along, play the license plate game sort of van ride. But there were only a handful of he told me to shut up or she needs to mind her own business or no, I’m not an idiot; you are! kind of moments. So I chose to call the ride down a success, a good memory in my mental scrapbook.

At the hotel, three children slept in the room with Grandpapa and Grandmama and three slept in the room with my husband and me. Shockingly, there was only about one minute of arguing about who would sleep where before we came to a plan everyone could be happy with. Again, we’re going with success and happy memory here.

As we were falling asleep, Silas – the one with the arm in a cast – began this moany cry about how his arm was itching and he couldn’t stand it and it was horrible, just awful, absolutely awful, and really, really itching and he couldn’t scratch it and we didn’t understand how awful it was and aaaaaaaaahhhhhh. And for the first 30 seconds, I felt deep motherly compassion for him. But after my initial, “I know, sweetie. I’m so sorry it’s uncomfortable.” response, he did not stop the moany cry and calm down, like he obviously should have because of my awesomely sweet 30 seconds of mothering. We had already given him Tylenol for pain and melatonin to help him sleep, which was a huge ordeal because, for some inexplicable reason, he didn’t want to swallow those things, so there were kind encouragements, followed by desperate pleas, followed by threats. And so that had already all happened before the moany cry had begun, which meant we could not give him the very last dose of Tylenol with codeine (which we were saving for Saturday anyway). After my 30 seconds of sweet Carol Brady mothering, I quickly transitioned to Rosanne mothering mode. “Yes, we get it. You itch. For the LOVE! Can you please learn to cry in a quiet way? I cry and tears come, but I don’t wail and moan. It’s possible to cry without wailing and moaning. Try it. Stop wailing right now. You are waking your brother, and he needs to sleep because he has to compete tomorrow. Stop it. Moaning and wailing is not making you feel better; it’s just making everyone else feel worse. Stop it. Stopitrightnow.” Finally, I had a blessed epiphany! The bottle of Benadryl was in the suitcase. Benadryl is designed for itching! Also for making children sleep. But, in this case, he was actually itching and so I had a very good, solid reason to give it to him. So we gave him the Benadryl and he slept. And this child-wailing and mother-snapping did not ruin the weekend -or even the night- because I had totally expected something like that to happen. Success!

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Though I was tempted to want all the children to be interested in diving and watch expectantly for each of Caleb’s dives and ooh and aah and cheer, I knew that just having them present in the stands was enough. Good enough is good enough – my parenting mantra you may steal as your own.

I expected Silas to tell me he was bored 50 times, but he only told me about 20 times. Success! I expected Jackson and Griffin to crawl under bleachers and run around and bang on the seats and annoy everyone around us. And they only did that a little of the time instead of all the time. Success! The girls read books, and when we said, “Caleb’s up!” they turned their eyes toward the boards, watched him, clapped a couple times, then returned to their reading. Success! Silas napped for a while on the bleachers. While he was napping, he could not tell me he was bored or itching or hurting or anything. Success! When Lauren told me her throat hurt for the fifteenth time and I had already told her to take a drink of something and that I couldn’t do a thing about it, I just smiled and said, “Yes, got it! Your throat hurts. Now you don’t have to tell me any more. Until further notice, I’ll know your throat hurts. So only tell me if it stops hurting. OK? Ok.” And I didn’t feel irritated or annoyed or disappointed.

And since this was Caleb’s first meet, we had no clue what to expect for him. We were just happy to be there and hoping it would be a learning experience. When he came in seventh out of eight divers in one event, there was no disappointment. Only pride that he hadn’t done any belly flops or back flops or total fails. And when he won first place in another event – mostly because he was the only kid in that division, but whatever, First Place, baby! – we clapped and cheered and congratulated him and told him how proud we were. Success!

In the midst of all of this, there were moments of kindness and happiness and fun. I’m filing those in my mental scrapbook. Remember when we used to always go to North Carolina and stay in that cozy hotel and Caleb won first place in diving and we had that fun picnic in the parking lot and we had so much fun? We loved that! 

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Repurposed Pain ~ My Messy Beautiful

This essay is part of the Messy Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more about this project, click HERE.  To learn more about Glennon Doyle Melton’s bestselling memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click HERE

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No pain is ever wasted. Years ago, one of my mentors told me the story of losing an infant son. She said one of her friends had told her those words as they wept and grieved together. God never wastes a thing. He won’t waste your pain. And He didn’t. Again and again, throughout the years, this woman comforted and encouraged grieving young mommas with an empathy born only of enduring a similar pain.

I never forgot that story. And in my hardest, most trying days and weeks and months, I have remembered those words. That promise – God won’t waste this. God won’t waste this. God never wastes a thing. – has reverberated through my soul, weaving a web that holds me together even if everything around me seems to be falling apart.

The messes of life, the hard, hard times, the things we would never in a million, jillion years choose to endure – those messes can transform into amazing beauty when, later, we receive an opportunity to help or encourage someone going through a similar mess.

Five years ago, my husband nearly died when his heart decided to go a little berserk. What an emotional earthquake that was! For a couple years, the medical battle was intense. The hospital stays and expensive diagnostic tests, the information overload, the medication and surgeries – all of it was frightening and formidable. But the emotional battle was even worse. My young, strong, seemingly healthy husband suddenly confronted his own mortality. This independent, active man abruptly became dependent and unable to do most of the things he had always done. He was angry and depressed — understandably so, but still anger and depression are not much fun to live with. I shouldered the burden of extra work and extra care-taking and quickly grew exhausted and gradually grew resentful. Resentment isn’t exactly fun to live with either. Or so I’ve heard. His emotions, my emotions, the children’s emotions, the fear and stress and constant presence of the potential for death. It was a mess!

A few weeks ago, a friend’s husband had a stroke. And just like that, the emotional earthquake shook their lives. Rocked their world. Through a quickly-typed Facebook message, I shone my little light into the debris. My friend crawled to that light. And our shared pain yoked us together, my friend and I. Kindred spirits. Warrior wives. God never wastes a thing. My pain, my mess, beautifully recycled into hope. No pain is ever wasted. The other day my sweet friend wrote, “Thank you for going through this before me.” Well, it was not my pleasure. That’s for sure! But knowing that my messy dark days have been repurposed into a beautiful comfort for her – well, that is a pleasure, a strange kind of joy deep in my soul. None of it was wasted.

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Today, I’m typing this from a hospital room. Yesterday, my Silas, my 11-year-old boy, tried to go sledding down our basement stairs in a giant cardboard box. Because somehow in Boy World, that seems like a good idea. In the doctor’s words, “He broke the heck out of his arm.” What a mess! He snapped both bones in his forearm. One of the bones was an open fracture. Do not Google up pictures of open fractures. Trust me. You can’t un-see those images and you don’t want to hurl all over your laptop.

At midnight last night, some people in green scrubs and cloth shower caps wheeled my little guy into surgery so he could get some titanium rods inserted into his arm. I might have gotten three hours of sleep last night on the green, industrial, plastic couch in his room. My husband stretched out in the vinyl, floral print reclining chair. Relief from the pain medicine has come up just slightly short of the allowable dosing times. When Silas isn’t sleeping or engrossed in a television show, he is ranging from very uncomfortable to near-writhing in pain.

While Silas was getting a dose of morphine today, his friend Sierra was shopping for gifts for him. Two weeks ago, Sierra fell off a horse and broke her arm. In this same hospital, a doctor inserted rods into her arm and Sierra’s parents stretched out on this same vinyl furniture. Within the past 24 hours, Sierra’s mom has prayed for me and texted me, comforting and encouraging me with an empathy born only of enduring a similar pain. In that first text, she shone her light into our debris. And I crawled to the light. God never wastes a thing. No pain is ever wasted. Their mess has been beautifully transformed into a consoling help.

This is one of the cycles of life – we comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received. My mess metamorphoses into beautiful salve for someone else’s mess and pain, then her mess metamorphoses into beautiful salve for someone else’s mess and pain, and on and on and on. Beauty drawn from the midst of mess. A beautiful mess. A messy beautiful. No pain, no mess, is ever wasted. God never wastes a thing. He won’t waste your pain. Let this refrain reverberate through your soul, falling together and weaving a web that holds you together when your messy beautiful life seems to be falling apart.

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We Are Weak Together

You know, I appreciate the idea that in my weakness I most see God’s strength manifested. I do. I appreciate the notion that I am completely dependent on God, totally reliant on Him to accomplish anything worthwhile. Those are good thoughts. They come straight from the Bible. I know those principles are true. Set against a lovely sunset and worded in sing-song verse, they make the perfect To Encourage You greeting cards.

But honestly, the reality of living those thoughts pretty much stinks. It’s not fun to feel weak. I don’t particularly enjoy feeling utterly dependent on God. Do you?

No, I prefer the times God seems to say, Hey, Jenn, I made you naturally talented in this area, so I’m plugging you in here. Now shine! And there are times God works like that. I LOVE it when He works like that! When I’m doing those things I believe I was born to do, I feel confident and grateful and so alive!

Sometimes, though, God intentionally puts us in a place of dependence on Him. He makes it so obvious that I need Him. And, of course, I know I do need Him. I just prefer not to feel so desperately dependent on Him. I prefer that underlying theoretical I need Him because He’s God and I know any strength I have is because He gave it to me, now watch me keep these plates spinning on my own! 

I was talking with some friends about this the other day. We have all been stretched beyond ourselves this year doing a ministry that seems so much bigger and harder than anything we should be leading. So many times we have raised our eyebrows and looked at each other, laughing, like  Can you believe anyone let us be in charge of this?! Shouldn’t they have picked the real grown-ups?! And other times, we have floundered and cried and felt foolish and frustrated because Really, God? Really? Did we misunderstand You? Was this really Your idea? Because we don’t want to insult you, God, but we would have thought You could plan this all out better and find someone capable of actually doing these jobs well! You know, seeing as how You are God and all. 

And I’m not going to tie this all up with a pretty little Christianese ribbon. I just can’t. I’m not in that place. I just want you to know, friends, if you are feeling weak and bucking against that, you are not alone. If you are struggling to lean into God and give in to that feeling of full reliance on Him, I’m right there with you. I’m here, acknowledging that you are doing a hard thing. It’s hard to own your weakness and trust that God is strong. We are doing this hard thing together, friends. We are holding on to Him, hedging all our bets that He is Who He claims to be and that He won’t let us down.

I’m here, holding on with you, weakly grasping onto His hand and your hand. We are weak together. And somehow, it’s going to be OK.

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Putting Children In Boxes

jackinbox Can we all agree that this is the only kind of box we should put our kids in?

Yesterday, I told you Caleb’s story.  Today, let’s talk about putting children in boxes. I’m talking about this tendency some of us have to expect cookie cutter children, as if schools and homes are an assembly line cranking out children who all learn the same and test the same and perform the same, children who are “well-rounded” and look great on traditional college applications.

The problem with that — well, gosh, there are too many problems with that. That entire notion is a problem! The beauty of it all is that we are each so distinctive! I am constantly amazed at the uniqueness of each of my six children. All raised by the same parents with the same guidelines and influences, yet each so individual and different. If you have more than one child, or if you come from a family with more than one child, you’ve seen it too.

We are fortunate. The teachers my children have had in public school have taught to various learning styles and seem to appreciate each child’s distinctiveness. But I know that kids still feel pressure to get the right scores and make the right grades and fit into the mold. And sometimes parents feel the pressure too, so parents try to push the children to make all A’s or fall on the right side of the bell curve. I know better. At my core, I value individuality and recognize different types of intelligences. I appreciate that our world needs all sorts of people with all sorts of skills and passions and personalities. And still, sometimes I get sucked in to the idea that all my children should be making the Honor Roll and scoring well on the state’s standardized test. I have lapses into Freaked-Out-Land in which I become a crazy momma who frantically obsesses about whether my high school children are in enough clubs and making the right grades and building the right resume to get into college.

For the LOVE! Can we just all stop already? Can we agree that not every kid can score in the top tenth percentile because – HELLOOOO! –  then that wouldn’t be the top tenth percentile any more? Can we agree that the kids who are really smart at taking tests and writing papers might not be so smart at fixing a dishwasher or playing guitar or creating delicious cupcakes? And all of those things are important in this life. And the cupcake part might even be the most important. Amen? Can we agree that not everyone’s child will get into an Ivy League school, and that’s OK? And can we agree that the kids who do get into an Ivy League school don’t have any more value than the kids who go to community college?

And, you know what, adults? That means we’re going to have to stop saying in hallowed, hushed, adoring tones, “Johnny got into Harvard.” And it means we’re going to have to stop with all the extra rationalizing and apologizing when a kid goes to community college, “Well, Bobby is going to Neighborhood Community College for a year or two. He’s really smart; he just didn’t apply himself the first two years of high school. I don’t think he realized that all his grades actually counted. But he made the honor roll his last two years, and he’s going to get into a top college after a year of Neighborhood Community College.” No, stop it. Harvard Johnny is no more worthy of a parent’s pride and adoration than Community College Bobby. 

And then, after all of the grown-ups agree on this, can we all tell our children these truths? And can we keep telling them and keep telling them until they believe it? Until they know in the center of their very being that whatever sort of ways they are smart –and they ARE! – those ways are just as important and valuable and beautiful as the ways other people are smart. 

When report cards come home and students are in the middle of standardized tests and the valedictorian is announced, can we promise each other that we’ll pause and take a deep breath  and remember that these things do not define our children? And they certainly don’t define us as parents. Can we promise not to elevate these sorts of things to a higher place than they deserve? Even if our children make straight A’s and ace the tests and have the highest gpa. We can be proud of their hard work and the character that work has formed in them and grateful for the gifts and talents they’ve been given, but let’s not be deceived into thinking that their grades and scores and accolades make them better than in the ways that are truly important in life. And let’s be realistic, those things don’t really even make them smarter than. Because there are so many ways to be smart.

Please know that I am saying this not only as the mom of children whose intelligences are not best measured by big tests and report card grades, but also as the mom of children for whom schools are made. I am not in one camp or the other, friends. I am not trying to devalue anyone’s children and their gifts. I am just asking us all to keep perspective.

If your child fits in the box that is school, that’s OK. Praise their diligence and work and help them be grateful for their gifts. And if your child does not fit into the box that is school, that’s OK too. Help those children find their talents and gifts, help them figure out what types of intelligence they have. Then praise their diligence and work and help them be grateful for their gifts too. And let’s celebrate all the children’s distinctiveness and help them be thankful that we’re not all the same. Because how boring would that be?

Profound Love or Deep Hurt

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Andy Stanley says there are two categories of people who influence us and form us into the people we become, “those who hurt you deeply and those who loved you profoundly.”

In the past ten years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, speaking and writing about how we can make a positive impact on the world, or at least on our own little corner of the world. I’ve also attempted to use my own strengths for good – to practice what I preach. I’ve thought about our strengths and passions and great delight and the world’s deep needs and how those things intersect. And I wasn’t wrong.

But then I go and hear this thought by Andy Stanley and everything within me says, Of course! Yes! Of course, that’s true! Yes, yes, yes! 

We are influenced and shaped by the people who hurt us to the core and by the people who love us from their core. I have made the most impact on the people I have deeply hurt and the people I have profoundly loved. I’m sure of it.

As I’ve thought about this for the last few days, I’ve lamented, mourned over, the times I have left my mark with deep hurt. I don’t want to influence others by the damage I leave in my wake. I want my legacy to be one of love.

If we want to positively influence this world, if we want to make a real impact, we must do everything with profound love. Radical, unconditional love. Yes, our strengths and passions and deep delights are involved. Yes, we can consider the needs around us and match our giftedness with those needs. But in order to most fully influence, to really leave our mark, love must be the undergirding force.

There are some things in my community I’m trying to change. There are some people I’m hoping to influence. I’m praying love will be my guiding force. If I’m going to shape my world, I aim to shape it with profound love.

Failure, Success, My Over-Critical Brain, and God

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Today I have been thinking about success.

I tend to be a bit critical. Sometimes of others. But I am most critical of myself. At the risk of sounding like a complete loon I will tell you — after I lead a small group or speak to a large group or participate in a Bible study or lead a children’s program or attend a meeting or (for the LOVE!) have a normal, everyday conversation, I replay every detail in my mind and analyze it all. I chastise myself for wording this thought the wrong way or for blurting out something without thinking it through. I beat myself up for talking too much, for saying that sarcastic comment, for making that joke that someone could have taken the wrong way.

I have a pretty finite idea of what success looks like. Success = top performance. Success = perfection. Imperfections, mistakes, putting my foot in my mouth — all of that = failure. And as I drive home from wherever or lie down to sleep at night, my brain whirs with the replay of failures. I don’t want to be a satan-behind-every-rock kinda girl, but I really believe this is part of what he does to debilitate us. The Bible calls him our accuser. He shoots fiery darts of accusations at us. Some of those whispers in my head telling me how I came up short again, how I flubbed this one up — some of those whispers are from my own overanalytical, neurotic self. But some of those whispers certainly come from the enemy who wants to paralyze me with fear of more failure.

And so I must recognize those whisper-thoughts as the lies and hatefulness that they are. The Bible calls this taking thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

In the quiet moments, in the aftermath of my interactions with others, when those whisper-thoughts are attacking me, I have to breathe a deep breath. Then when my brain has enough oxygen to fully function, I have to remember that my definition of success is just plain wrong.

My math is a bit fuzzy. You see, real success does not equal perfection. Real success allows for failure and growth and authenticity and vulnerability. Real success allows for merciful moments of redemption amidst the flaws and failure — because that is when we often see God’s hand at work. Real success is not about my saying all the right things and being in control. Real success isn’t about me at all. Real success is all about allowing for God’s plan to prevail. 

God’s kingdom is a sort of upside-down kingdom. His math isn’t exactly like our math. The definitions in His language aren’t the same as our definitions. God’s kingdom is a kingdom in which the first are last and the last are first. The lowly are exalted and the high and mighty are humbled and made low. Our weaknesses are exactly the best places for His strengths to show up and show off.

You see, when we’re doing life with God, our failures don’t negate success; our failures become opportunities for God to work. His speciality is making good from everything. He promises He will! When we love Him, He works everything out for our good and His glory.

So I don’t have to do the slow-motion replay after every conversation and interaction. When the critical whispers in my head start aiming their fiery dart-words at me, I can capture those thoughts and breathe truth onto them, extinguishing them. True success is about God’s working in every situation to bring good for us and glory for Himself. And any failure of mine isn’t big enough to stop God from doing His thing. That’s the truth!

Always Winter, Never School

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You know how in Narnia it’s always winter and never Christmas? Well, here it is always winter and never school. So yeah, let’s talk about snow days.

I’ve lost track of how many snow days my children have had this year, but I’m pretty sure we’ve had so many that we’re down to about five hot minutes of a summer vacation now. Every day they jump and cheer about another snow day, I mumble, “Happy summer vacation. ‘Cause this is it. Now move while I put on another pair of socks and sip this hot cocoa.” And then I grieve the days we won’t have at the pool, when I can easily justify sitting in a lounge chair, chatting with friends, sipping Diet Dr. Pepper, and soaking in the sunshine by saying I’m doing it “for the children.”

It is exciting when the forecast is for a big snow, and those first flakes start falling. As the snow begins and the ground turns white, it is easy to get caught up in the anticipation and the milk-buying frenzy and the flurry of Facebook posts with rulers stuck in snow.

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But then the children decide to go out and play in it. And they fight over who gets the good snow boots and who put the snowveralls where and why this one has waterproof gloves and that one has cheap knit ones that get wet in less time than it takes an Olympic ice-dancing announcer to use the word “twizzle” after a couple’s routine begins.

Then, they play outside for a fraction of the time it took them to get dressed. (There is an actual mathematical formula — snow play = get dressed • fight over gloves • find more than one pair of socks / 4) And when they come inside, they track in enough snow to build a small snow family and leave a trail of clothing so my house looks like the Goodwill threw up all over the place. Repeat this scenario at least 4 times each day.

When they aren’t playing outside for a half a second or getting dressed or undressed, they are playing Minecraft. And by playing Minecraft I really mean screaming, “He shot me with an arrow for no reason!” or “He stole all my gold!” or “He just killed a sheep! In MY world! He can kill sheep in his own world!” And I hear strange things coming out of my own mouth, like “Stop killing your brother’s sheep!” or “If you don’t stop killing each other, I’m taking all the iPods!” or “Only shoot your brother with an arrow if he WANTS you to!”

I have also noticed a direct correlation between snow falling and my desire to bake or cook comfort foods. So while the children are creating heaps of extra laundry, I bake coffee cake and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cupcakes and fry up some pancakes and sausage and make a big pot of cheesy potato soup and garlic cheddar biscuits and a pot of chili and a side of black bean dip and a small crockpot of queso. (There is also a mathematical equation that looks something like — snow day = 5 lbs )

Snow also directly affects my ability to be productive. If we have more than an inch of snow, I seem incapable of doing anything more than baking, eating and watching Netflix or the Olympics. Sometimes I combine Netflix and the Oympics, which results in something really bizarre like watching a documentary about Tonya Harding at 1:00 in the morning. Don’t judge. I’m telling you, I am not made for long, hard winters.

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Last week, we got 2 feet of snow. I considered tying a rope around a kid before sending them to the mailbox, like Pa did before going to the barn during their long, hard winters on the prairie.

I am not normally a fan of wishing time away. But seriously, enough winter already. I need it to be spring. I need sunshine and green grass and buds on trees. The novelty and fun of wearing boots has worn off, and I need to be wearing my cute shoes and sandals again. I need the static electricity that makes my hair always look a little Bride of Frankensteinish to calm the heck down. After living in Florida for 4 years, I never dreamed I’d be wishing for a little humidity! But here I am, applying lotion for the 58th time today and wishing for a higher dew point.

If another winter weather advisory exclamation mark shows up in my daily forecast, you can find me in the fetal position in the corner of my bedroom under a pile of snowveralls and cheap knit gloves. You can leave me there until the daffodils bloom.

 

 

Raising Good Kids

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There is this quote that keeps popping up on Facebook. I think it originated on the Momastery blog and was first written by Glennon Melton.

Don’t let yourself be so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.

Wow, do I need to remember that! Sometimes I feel such a weight of responsibility of raising these people to be good, kind, caring, responsible, hardworking, grateful citizens. And I forget to notice all that is already pretty fantastic about them. I also forget that I can really only do so much; God is the only One who can truly change hearts and produce righteousness.

So today I vow to notice the good. I will limit correction and pick my battles so as not to exasperate or overwhelm my children. Good grief! If I had someone zeroing in on my faults and correcting them on a daily basis, I would be completely defeated and overwhelmed. Yet I sometimes do that to my children! I obsess about a perceived character flaw or a set of perceived character flaws, and then I feel like I have to point it out and correct it every time it comes up.

I soooo do not have to do that. I mean, yes, I do have a responsibility to correct wrong behavior and -more importantly- to talk about the attitudes or motivations or heart-issues that will make life more difficult or that reveal selfishness and sin. And I have a responsibility to allow my children to experience negative consequences for poor choices. But I do not have to point out every flaw or weakness. I can pray for wisdom about what needs to be addressed. And then I can address it in love, rather than in anger or frustration or annoyance.

Most importantly, I can trust God’s Holy Spirit to do the same thing for my children that He does for me. My momma job description does not include being a little holy spirit for my children. Too often, though, that’s how I act.

Lately, I’ve lost focus of what great kids I already have as I have honed in on their faults. Honestly, that makes for a pretty miserable time for my kiddos. And it is totally counterproductive! Because my true desire is to have authentic, meaningful, grace-filled relationships with my children.

So — deep breath and reboot. Let me tell you about these great kids I have . . . Better yet, I’ll tell them how great they are.

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Chores — 5 Systems That Have Worked For Us

My kids don't remember a time they didn't do chores!

My kids don’t remember a time they didn’t do chores.
This is a chore chart from 2003.

I am a fan of chores! My children have done chores since they could walk. Toddlers carried newly-changed diapers to the trash and helped throw away napkins after dinner. Preschoolers folded washcloths and sorted clean silverware into the right slots in the drawer. As they’ve gotten older, the chores have gotten harder.

My kids, however, aren’t always as in love with chores as I am. So how do I get them to do chores?

Here are 5 chore systems we’ve used over the years –

 

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1. Weekly Zones/Responsibilities – Each child is responsible for one zone or job for an entire week. 

 

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2. Buddy System – Pair an older child with a younger child to do two chores for the week. The younger child learns from the older child. This helps build relationships between the children and encourages the older child to mentor and teach the younger sibling.  It also works if older siblings play sports that take up an entire evening. The buddies can split up the week, so a younger buddy can cover for the older sibling on busy evenings.

 

photo 43. Blitz – We do this when the house has gotten out of control or when company is coming. I make a list of every little chore that needs done, breaking big jobs down to the smallest task. Then the children start doing jobs and signing their names beside each job they do. The child who does the most may win a reward. If the chores vary a great deal in difficulty, we assign point values to each job and reward the child with the most points. It is AMAZING how quickly a house can get clean when every child works quickly to compete to get a prize.

 

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4. One Daily/One Twice A Week — Each child is assigned a simple daily chore and a harder chore to do twice a week.  The children were tired of the old zone system, so we started this chart this month. Daily chores must be finished by 7 p.m., and they have some flexibility about which days they do the twice-a-week chores. They like having some choice about when they do the work.

 

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5. Tag Team – When a job seems completely overwhelming, this is a fun option. We have used this for a giant pile of dirty dishes or a really messy shared bedroom. The children all watch a movie or play a video game, except one child has to wash 5 dishes or pick up 5 toys off the bedroom floor and put them away. Then that child runs in to tag the next kid. That child washes 5 dishes or picks up 5 toys before tagging the next child, and so on. A huge job doesn’t seem so bad if it’s divided into small tasks that can be done quickly. And doing something fun during someone else’s turn makes it even better.

 

Have you found a chore system that works for you? How do you handle chores in your house?

I Am Not Enough

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Having six children in seven-and-a-half years made one thing very clear to me — I cannot do life in my own power and strength. Trying to care for so many little people day in and day out was completely overwhelming. Feeding them, diapering them, keeping them safe, bathing them, getting them to sleep – in those early years, I always felt like it was just too much.

I was not enough.

No place was my not-enough-ness more evident than when I took them all to the grocery store. More specifically – when we tried to get from the big, black Suburban in the parking lot to the inside of the store. When you have more little children than you do hands to hold onto them and you are traversing a parking lot, you feel your inadequacy. I had an Atari when I was a kid, and I played enough Frogger to know that one wrong move was all it took. I was absolutely terrified that one of my little children would dart away from my reach and a careless driver would flatten him, like Frogger on that four-lane highway.

So I carefully planned my strategy — park beside the cart-return with a cart in it, unload the smallest children from the Suburban into the cart, have older children hold onto the sides of the cart and make my way through the parking lot with most of the children safely contained. Sometimes, though, a thorough cart-retrieving man in an orange vest had already cleaned out all the cart-returns. Or we were trying to cross a church or playground parking lot. No shopping carts at those places. And so I prayed my way across the parking lot. I’d wear the baby in a sling and hold tightly onto little hands and slightly bigger hands would hang onto my shirt tail with firm instructions not to let go. Then I would pray – usually silently, though a time or two I may have felt especially desperate and uttered an audible plea for help.

Each time we made it safely across a big, scary parking lot, my heart would overflow with thanksgiving. Whew, we’d done it. And I hadn’t lost anyone! Hallelujah!

I knew that all the variables in the parking lot situation were beyond my control, so I learned to ask God for help and then trust Him. I know I could have learned this life lesson a hundred different ways, but I’m really grateful God taught me these lessons in really tangible ways by giving me more little children than I had hands for at the time.

Now, my kiddos are all big enough to walk across a parking lot without being held in a death grip by their momma. I am not literally praying my way across parking lots any more. But I am often still aware of my not-enough-ness. I don’t have enough money, enough time, enough energy, enough wisdom, enough creativity, enough patience, enough humor. I am not enough. So I think back to those days of praying tiny little inch-step by inch-step across a large parking lot, then I pray my way across whatever seems too much for me in that moment.

This is what it looks like to abide in Jesus. This is what it looks like to live in His power. Stretched beyond my ability to control, I ask for help and trust in the only One Who is always in control. Recognizing my inadequacy, I look to the One Who is always enough.

I am not enough. But Jesus is more than enough. And He invites me to attach myself to Him and live in His enough-ness, one step across the parking lot at a time.