Friday, April 27, 2012

On Blogging

Perhaps you've noticed that my blogging has been a little bit sporadic lately. Maybe you haven't noticed.

Sure, I've been busy with several (paying!) work projects at the same time. But I don't think that's the only reason I haven't been blogging. I think I have blog fatigue. It's not writing fatigue, it's too-many-blogs-in-the-world fatigue. I don't want to write another post about how hard it is to be a mom or how worth it it all is--there are so many of those already and I'm tired of them. I think I'm emotionally wrung out from all the intensity. And I don't want to try to come up with a controversial topic to blog about in some (destined-to-be-unsuccessful) attempt to go viral. And I don't want to waste your time or mine.

So here's what I've decided: I'm going to write occasionally--maybe once a week--but only if I think I have something to say. I'm not going to force this thing. You're welcome.

In the "someone has already said it better than I could" category, here is a blog post on marriage that I really enjoyed reading. This blogger has a few kids with autism and a few with diabetes (three kids total I think), so some of you may want to bookmark her page and go back.

In the "things that make me happy" category, in the ten minutes between chauffeuring trips yesterday I picked these and set the table and started dinner. It was a good reminder to me that it really doesn't take very long, even on a busy day, to bring a little beauty to your family life. Maybe these will inspire you to do a little something extra for your family today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's the Little Things

Today I am thankful for
#225 a yard for the boy to play in with his cute jester hat

#226 An old toy rediscovered for the youngest child after having been lovingly played with by three older sisters.

#227 homemade granola.

What are you thankful for today? Share it in a comment!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I had one of those days yesterday. My to-do list was just as long at the end of the day as it was at the beginning of it, even though I worked hard all day. People were difficult. I was difficult. Other people were mad at me. I was mad at myself. In the end, I felt totally defeated. Not good enough. Rejected. Like an utter failure. It was kind of like jr. high all over again, and I couldn't even blame it on hormones. Sometimes those bad feelings just keep compounding, and you know you're being irrational but you just can't turn off the negative thoughts.

The funny thing is, outwardly my day was pretty good. I had an encouraging call from an employer who was happy with my work and I got a jewelry order. But it only takes one bad message to tune out a dozen positive ones. And the irony that these defeated feelings came after my thoughts on rulers and servants was not lost on me. God is good at creating and making the most of "teachable moments."And he does tend to send encouragement in our discouraged moments if we have eyes to see it.

We all have our little coping mechanisms on bad days. A good book. A long nap. A bubble bath. Warm milk. Chocolate cake. Going for a run. A glass of wine. A phone call with a friend. Journaling. Retail therapy. All of the above.

Those things can be helpful in a small way. But I find that the only way I can turn off all the negative self-talk is by replacing those false messages with true ones. Who am I? Not failure, not rejected, not defeated. I am Beloved by God, Child of the King, Victorious in Christ. Capable and gifted because that's how God has made each one of us. My standing before God is the sure, true, eternal thing, and all these other things are temporary at best and lies at worst. Some days it takes a long time of repeating to myself (in my head, lest people begin to question my sanity) these messages before I believe them.

Or, better yet, I need to let God say these true messages to me in his Word:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
     a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zeph. 3:17)

My bad day got me thinking: how will my kids learn to deal with these kinds of days? I'm not sure I tell them when I feel defeated or what I'm doing to pull myself out of it, because I don't want them hearing and picking up on negative self-talk. And I'm not sure I notice when they are having these kinds of days because they may not even recognize it and they may not verbalize it even if they do (it may show up as obstinance or inexplicable grumpiness).

So my bad day yesterday was a good reminder to help my kids acknowledge their bad feelings and learn how to deal with them in a healthy way. It's not enough to just give them the true messages of who they are in Christ--although of course that's crucial. I also need to let them see that mom sometimes feels like a failure, but that I know Whom to go to first when I need a pick-me-up. Not friends, not self-help books, not distractions, but God. The one who saves me, rejoices over me, and quiets me with his love. The one who sings for me.

When my kids have bad days that make them feel defeated, I need to be a conduit of Christ's healing love to them. Not offering the world's messages of self-esteem or even my own feeble expressions of love, but offering Christ's love and grace. Telling them that God made them wonderful, that he has a purpose for them, that he is helping them grow. Telling them that I love them and cheer for them. Reminding them of past successes and then maybe offering some of those simpler coping mechanisms that will make them feel better. A bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream perhaps. But it has to start with God's love for them, because that's the only true comfort on a day of defeat. The best part is, you can always count on him to sing a beautiful lullaby over you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rulers or Servants?

When you think of your goals for your children, what usually comes to mind? I think of phrases like living up to their potential and discovering their gifts and doing their best. I encourage perseverance and success and trying new things so they'll get a sense that they can conquer the world. I tell them they can do anything they put their mind to, but that most of all I want them to love Jesus and serve him.

That's not a new goal, of course. In the little town of Strasburg, Virginia, there is a Bible on display, and in that Bible is an inscription dated 1773 that reads:  
On the First of July 1759, I Simon Harr (born the 3rd of July 1734) married Elizabeth Schmitten. Two sons were born to us. The first one Frederic, by name, was born the 4th of April 1760 on good Friday evening at 10 o'clock. The second and last, John by name (Johannes) was born in 1761, on the 19th of Dec. at midnight. Thou, O Triune God, may it please thee to let them grow and develop as well in faith, wisdom and piety and all Christian virtues as in years. Oh vouchsafe to all of us thy Holy Spirit, that it guide us all in truth together and bring us along the strait path and even nearer to our heavenly inheritance and finally bring us hither. For Jesus sake, Amen.

When push comes to shove, my goal for my kids is to raise them to the best of my ability to be a certain kind of person, regardless of what profession they may choose. And I think I've communicated that well enough that they would all say that's what I want for them. But this morning in my mom's group I was struck by a question the speaker asked: Are we raising rulers or servants? Much as I want my kids to have hearts of compassion and serve others, I don't think ultimately that's the goal I usually work for. I think of it as sort of an afterthought: Find a profession with some meaning and purpose behind it, and then use it to serve others. I imagine them serving in positions of influence and leadership--teachers or artists or doctors or mothers or missionaries. I don't think I'm preparing them for careers as janitors or restaurant workers or lawnservice people or grocery store baggers. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with striving to help our kids reach their potential or feel good about the gifts God has given them. In fact, I would say that it's good stewardship to prepare our kids to be whatever God has gifted and called them to do. But am I trying so hard to give my kids great experiences and prepare them to lead that I forget to prepare them to serve? Do I set them up to think they should be the best at something, that they should strive for a profession of influence and leadership? Will they struggle with feelings of failure if they end up in a profession the world sees as pretty lowly? Heaven forbid, will they think I'm disappointed in them if they don't live up to their potential?

For me, these lessons hit home because I often feel like my education was wasted. What have I done with my college degree from a prestigious Christian college? I'm working to raise five kids--usually not very well--and copy edit words that other people have written. It's not much, by the world's estimation. It's not even much by my own estimation!

And yet, this is what I'm called to. Maybe there won't ever be much success in my life. Maybe I'll never rule much of anything. But I'm definitely serving. And Jesus, when he washed the disciples' feet--a lowly job if ever there was one--called that act the full extent of love (John 13:1).

Perhaps my parenting priorities need some tweaking. Forget success and potential and conquering the world: I want to teach my children to love. Not as an afterthought, but as the main purpose of their lives. And that means showing them how to serve. What does that look like? Well, I'm pretty sure it starts at home with serving each other. And it involves expanding their world so they develop compassion for people who are hurting. It includes service projects and missions trips and serving at church. And, perhaps most of all, it means setting an example of loving, humble service that doesn't look down on anyone or any task. It means being cheerful and content with my own profession of laundry and dishes and diaper-changing and nose-wiping.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


No one warned me when I became a parent that with each additional child there would be another birthday, and that each of those birthdays would make my mama heart hurt. I'm thankful that my children are growing and developing, of course, but it still makes me sad to see each year go by, and multiply that by five and you've got a whole lotta bittersweet.

This one just turned two last week.

My last baby, growing so fast. I guess I face a choice: I can wallow in self-pity, or I can choose thankfulness.

Choosing thankfulness means embracing each moment and then letting it go. It means looking toward my next calling. It means letting go of this thing that I know I can do--taking care of babies--and trusting that there will be a next thing that God will also call me to and prepare me for. It means joyfully tackling the hard job of learning how to raise teenagers and coach young adults, jobs that scare me because I haven't done them before and they sound hard. It means praying about and preparing myself to have a vision beyond the things I've done before, a vision I can't see clearly yet, but I trust that it's there. It means enjoying the 2-year-old birthday party and taking my almost-teen out to a movie rather than moping around the house. It means listening for the joy other moms express over the kids-in-college-and-beyond stage. It means embracing with joy and gratitude what is and what will be, not just what was.

Most of all, choosing thankfulness means trusting that my faithful God has gone before me into the next stage. He knows what's around the corner for me, for my children, for my life. Whatever this next stage will be, he's already there. I'll probably secretly shed a few tears with each passing year, but I hope that most of them will be thankful and hopeful tears.

How about you? How do you face transitions with hope and gratitude?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tips for a Happy Marriage--#7: Compromise

Today's guest blogger is my wonderful husband, who wrote this as part of his talk for our Sunday school class. Apologies to those of you who've already heard this.

You know the expression “the honeymoon’s over”? When you first get married, everything is great. The sex is great, the companionship is great, just being together—it’s all great. You have a great honeymoon, just enjoying one another and loving each other. But then the honeymoon ends, and you have to start living your real life. You have to go back to your jobs and your home with all the daily upkeep that living with someone else suddenly requires. Eventually you have kids, and that brings a whole new set of pressures and trials. Before you know it, you’ve been married 20 years, your kids are off to college, and you suddenly realize you have no idea how to relate to this person you’ve been married to for all this time. What happened? How could something that started out so great have fallen into such disrepair? The honeymoon is over for sure. And you may not even know exactly when it ended.

For Nancy and me, you could say the honeymoon ended while we were still on our honeymoon. We went to London, and right away our newlywed glow began to diminish. We got to Heathrow Airport, exhausted in the aftermath of all the wedding activities, plus an eight-hour flight, only to find that the ride we had arranged from the airport to our rented flat wasn’t there. When we finally figured out how to call the right person and find out what was going on, we learned it would be a couple of hours before we could finally be picked up. So we spent the first few hours of our marriage bumming around Heathrow.

Okay, no problem. We were newlyweds, we were in love, we were in England. So what if we had to wait at the airport for a while?

When our driver finally arrived and we found each other, we faced our second problem. We suddenly realized we had a cash shortage. We would be able to pay for the ride but not for the tip. Okay, once again, no problem. This was a good opportunity for me to show my new wife how cool I could be in a crisis. I calmly directed the driver to stop by a bank on the way so I could withdraw some cash. Problem solved.

It wasn’t until the next day that our real troubles began. As soon as we woke up the next morning, it was very quickly clear to us that we had radically different expectations of what this honeymoon was supposed to be like. For me, a vacation is supposed to be relaxing, a time for sitting around, reading, maybe watching a movie or two, maybe—maybe—going for an afternoon walk if you really want to push the envelope. When I was growing up, family vacations involved a lot of down time, and that’s what I was expecting for our honeymoon as well. So what if we were in England? That was all the more reason to just hang out around our flat. No need to broadcast the fact that we were Americans by walking around making fools of ourselves.

But for Nancy, a vacation was an opportunity to go out and see and experience new things. She had grown up spending her summers in England, and she had a long list of things and places she wanted to show me. So our first quarrel as a married couple came on day 2 of our marriage. I wanted to hang out. She wanted to go out. Neither of us was prepared to be satisfied doing what the other person wanted to do, and we were both completely taken by surprise. How could we not have known this would be an issue?

In the end, we compromised, of course. Nancy found a book she was willing to read, and I found some activities to get excited about, and we had a great time. And that compromise is something we still have to make to this day. Thirteen years later, I still prefer to chill out and read or maybe head down to the pool if I really want to get crazy, and Nancy still prefers to find a museum in town or go mini-golfing or go shopping or whatever. Now that we have kids, our ability to compromise on this and many other, more important issues is more crucial than ever.

You never really know whom you’re marrying. No matter how well you think you know your fiancĂ©e, you’re going to be in for some surprises—some of them unpleasant. Remember, marriage changes you, and it changes your spouse. At some point, you’re going to wake up and realize, “I have no idea who this person is.” 

And that's when marriage tip #7 comes in: Compromise. Graciously and cheerfully compromise on how to spend your time, how to spend your money, how to decorate the house, what do-it-yourself jobs to tackle together, what groups to be a part of, how to raise the kids, and yes, even where to go on vacation and what to do once you get there. It's not easy, but it's so worth it! Think of your marriage as an adventure and each change or surprise you see in your spouse as a gift. Hopefully most of those changes and surprises will be good gifts, but even the ones you'd rather return or exchange can be good for you if you choose to let them help you grow.