Thursday, August 6, 2015

Choosing to Dance

Today the kids went back to school. Glory! I shouldn't be so excited that school is back in session, but... YAY!

This has been a hard summer. I remember last year at this time I was mourning the end of our summer vacation. And it seems like just a few weeks ago that I was running around the house singing "School's. Out. For. Summer!" at the top of my lungs.

But at the start of this new school year, I'm rejoicing. The little kids are at an age where they are constantly fighting. The screaming and yelling and arguing over toys - I'm over it, people. And look. I've tried everything. Spankings. Time-outs. Hand holding. Scripture. If you can name it, I've probably tried it. Nothing has worked. Nothing. But now, they will be separated for eight glorious hours a day. 

I. Can't. Wait. 

Look, this doesn't mean I don't love my children. I do. With all my heart. I've loved watching Jonah's creative spirit flourish. I've loved being entertained by all of Vivienne's antics. I've loved hanging out with and leading Brienne and her friends in a summer Bible study. It has been a good summer in many ways. But it's time for these precious little people to head back to school. 

I know that many of you probably can't relate to my feelings. You're sad to see another school year start. And I'm not necessarily looking forward to all the carpooling and running around that we'll be doing. But this year, I really feel no sadness. I'm actually excited to see what this year has in store for each of my children. (Now, I am aware that my feelings may change when Vivi starts school next week. I mean, she is the baby so I'm sure a few tears will be shed. But I'm thinking that after the first half hour, I'll be fine.)

I do know, however, that so many of us moms are mourning how quickly our kids are growing and how fast time is flying. It's tempting to mourn our children's growth and wish we could turn back the clock. But here's the thing. I love watching my kids grow. It's exciting to see the young lady that Brienne is becoming. It's encouraging to watch as Jonah learns to read. And it's particularly thrilling that Vivienne is sleeping through the night. 

Instead of mourning the end of summer, we should rejoice with our kids in their accomplishments and we should commit to pray for them. Here are some things I'm praying for my children this school year.

Brie: kindness towards those who need a friend; purity; boldness in her faith; protection over what she sees and hears (Middle School, y'all...)
                                                               7th grade - really??

Jonah: improvement in social skills; developing real friendships; obedience and fewer meltdowns (and patience for his sweet teacher!)
                                                 Sweet boy was so excited for "big school!"

Vivi: obedience; breaking out of her shell; kindness towards others
                                             Technically, today is only "Open House" for Vivi.                                      
                                       And she wasn't thrilled about having her picture taken.
                                       (Honestly, I had to bribe her by telling her I would take 
                                                       her shoe shopping today. This girl...)

I can't keep these precious children little forever and even if I could, I'm not sure I would want to. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I might be a little delusional. I realize that I still have small kids and I may feel differently when they're grown. But, people, having small kids is HARD.

Ecclesiastes chapter three, verses one and four say that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." I am excited for this season of our lives. I'm thrilled that Brienne thrives at school, I'm excited (and admittedly a little anxious) that Jonah is in a regular pre-K class, and I'm happy that Vivienne has the opportunity to attend preschool a few mornings a week so that she can learn about Jesus and realize that it's alright to be away from Mommy for a bit.

This is a good season for us as a family. So today I won't be sad, I won't weep, and I won't mourn.

Today I will choose to laugh, and rejoice.

Today, I'm choosing to dance!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

5 Things We Need to Remember When Raising Tweens

Y'all. Middle School is hard. Just thinking about my middle school years makes me want to run and hide. I remember how difficult it could be, trying to fit in, wondering if a boy liked me, trying to decide which of my "friends" were going to turn their backs on me, trying to resist peer pressure. I do not ever want to relive those days. Not. Ever.

Except now I have a middle schooler. (Well, I've had one for a year now...) And I feel like I'm sometimes reliving my own junior high days. My middle schooler is delightful, most of the time. But there are times when I am on the wrong end of one of her attitude outbursts and it nearly sends me into a tailspin. I know that she is caught between being a child and being an adult and she's trying to figure out how to act, and I have to remember what being a tween (we weren't called "tweens!") is really like.

Kids are being introduced to so many things at such an earlier age than in the past. I shudder to think about the things that Brienne has probably encountered; things I didn't know about until I was in high school or college. It is really scary for me as a parent and I try extremely hard to keep our lines of communication open. I want her to come to me with questions about sexuality and drugs and peer pressure. I may not want to answer those questions, but I definitely want to be the one she runs to. I want to be able to give her a biblical perspective on everything she is exposed to.

And she definitely has a lot of questions. One night she asked me several and I had to really think about them before answering. I know that I have to stay close to God so that Brienne can see Him in my actions and in my reactions.

As I think about raising kids, and especially how Brienne will be an adult one day very soon, I've come up with 5 things to remember when raising tweens:

1) Not everyone is going to like you all the time

This year, Brienne had a teacher that did not like her. I'm not exactly sure why this teacher didn't like her; it could've been because Brienne was extra obnoxious or extremely talkative. Maybe it was because Brienne asked her at the beginning of the year if she went to church anywhere, and this teacher isn't really too keen on God. I don't know why she didn't like Brienne and the reason really doesn't matter. Some people just won't like you, no matter what you do.

It took me a long time to figure this out. I suffered from a people-pleasing disease for most of my life, always wanting everyone to like me. I would change my opinions and actions depending on which group of "friends" I was hanging around at the time. I was in my 30's before I realized exactly what I was doing! I am now a recovering people-pleaser, thanks to my friends and our church in Clarksville, TN. I learned how to be real; how to be okay with who I am. It was not an easy lesson but it was something that everyone should learn. Teach your tween to be comfortable in her own skin, to love who she is, and to know who she is in Christ.

2) What goes in, must come out

I have to be honest. I just don't really know how to tackle this new world of technology. 24 hour access to anything you could ever want. We are very careful with what Brienne is exposed to. She has a phone but can't access the internet with it. She has an iPad but again, she can't access the internet. Her electronics are password protected - she can't even download an app without us! So I feel like we've got that covered. But what are we supposed to do when she is hanging out with her friends? Most of them have unlimited internet access. They can google anything or watch crazy videos on YouTube. Most of it is harmless, I get it. But some of it will get into your mind, and you will never be able to erase it.

Recently, "Pitch Perfect 2" was released in theaters. Lots of Brienne's friends were talking about how funny it was, so Peter and I decided to jump on the Pitch Perfect bandwagon to see what all the hype was about. We watched the first one and were horrified. HORRIFIED. It was so raunchy! I mean, don't get me wrong; parts of it were HYSTERICAL. But no way on earth would I let my 11 year old watch it. And can you believe that most of Brienne's friends have seen it? I just can't understand what their parents are thinking. But what really gets my goat ("gets my goat!" Who am I?!) is that Brienne's friends can pull up all the clips on YouTube. The things that she has been exposed to scare me. And these are just the things she has told me about.

We need to teach our children that what they view, what they listen to, it's all going to come out. It's going to become a part of who they are. We need to model good behavior (and this is difficult because sometimes I want to watch something that Brienne knows isn't appropriate). But we need to be adamant about teaching them to fill up with things that are holy and pleasing to the Lord. And then we need to take our own advice and fill ourselves up with those holy things as well.

3) It's ok to pray the hard things

To be honest, this is a hard one for me. I tend to want to pray for my kids' lives to go smoothly. I want everything to be great - I want them to have wonderful friends and an easy time in school and no exposure to peer pressure. You get the idea. But guess what? Our kids can't grow if they don't experience some difficulty. Think about the times when your relationship with the Lord was at its strongest. I know for me, it was during the hard times of life - infertility, failed adoptions, Jonah's autism diagnosis - that I felt the Lord's presence the most.

We have to be okay with praying hard things for our children. We have to pray that they will experience peer pressure and that they will be able to stand up in the face of it. That when a friend betrays them, they will handle it with grace and mercy. That when disappointment comes (and it will come), they will face it head on and will lean on Christ.

This past year, Brienne injured her arm and was unable to swim for a few months. Although this wasn't a major life-changing thing, it was devastating for her. As she dealt with this disappointment, I prayed that God would heal her arm. But I also prayed that she would learn patience as she rested, that she would learn to trust that Peter and I had her best interests at heart, and that she would trust that this was part of God's plan and that he would heal and restore her arm. Now obviously this "hard thing" was very small in the grand scheme of things, but I don't think it was insignificant. When we can see God being faithful to us in the little things that matter to us, it will encourage us to trust Him even more with the big things. So, mom, go ahead and pray those hard things for your children. And trust that God will redeem them!

4) We can pour an endless amount of energy into "good" things that don't matter

This is another hard thing to learn. There are so many "good" things out there to be involved in. There is nothing inherently wrong with sports or dance or music lessons or any other fun activity. In fact, in many ways those things help build character and teach a lot of life lessons. But we must be very careful not to let those activities interfere with our relationships with our family and friends and most importantly, our relationship with the Lord.

There have been times in the past when I was so overly involved with clubs and church activities (which are "good" things to be involved in) that I was too tired at the end of the day to tuck my child in or spend time with my husband. I was over-committed, and my involvement had become too legalistic. It caused me to lose my heart and lose my way. When I stepped back, particularly when we moved to TN and I took some time off from church activities and only participated in our worship band, I was able to allow the Lord to renew my strength and refresh my spirit.

We can forget which things are most important, which things should take priority in our lives. We need to teach our children that the Lord comes first and then our family comes next. Other activities won't matter in 25 years. It's great to have a hobby or be involved in something we are passionate about. Just remember what is truly important in life.

5) Above all else, we need to teach our children to love

In this crazy world of differing opinions and values, it is very easy to develop an "I'm right and you're wrong" attitude. We can become prideful that we aren't like "those" people and we can forget that "those" people were created in the image of God, just like we were. We need to teach (and model!) that just because we disagree with someone or we disapprove of how someone is acting, we are still called to LOVE. Love is the most important thing! How can nonbelievers ever experience a relationship with Christ if we don't love them? If we live prideful and hypocritical lives, we can't love others with the love of Jesus. Isn't that the whole point of this life anyway? To live for Christ and show others the love of God?

Loving those who are different from us can be hard. But we are called to do the hard things. And our tweens need to understand the importance of loving others. They need to learn how to sacrifice and put others ahead of themselves. We all need to learn that. Wouldn't our world be a better place if we truly loved those around us?

I know there are so many more things we need to remember as we raise our children into adulthood, but I think this is a good start.  I'm praying for each of you who read this. I'm praying that we all make wise decisions as we raise our children to be followers of Christ. I love you, friends!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sweet Mercy

So. Yesterday was horrible. HORRIBLE. A "Calgon-take-me-away" kind of day. You know that saying: "I've thought about running away more as an adult than I ever did as a child?" Yeah. That was me yesterday.

It all started when Peter woke me up at 6:30 because the littles were stirring and he needed to get ready for work. I normally wake up around 5:45 each morning to have a few minutes of coffee and quiet time before the chaos commences, so I should've been thankful for those extra 45 minutes of sleep. Instead, however, I was fuming inside because I felt like Peter should've just made breakfast for the kids. (Now that I am clear-headed, I can see that he needed to get ready and go to work. He is the bread-winner of the house. Duh. But yesterday at 6:30 I was pretty mad.)

Things basically went downhill from there. Because I had slept in (if you can call 6:30 "sleeping in"), I didn't have time for coffee or prayer before the kids' feet hit the floor. And once their feet hit the floor, they are off and running and they don't stop. I felt completely off-balance all day.

Jonah was uncharacteristically whiny and defiant. Every time I asked him to do something, he would either whine about it or he would scream and yell at me. And then, because I'm such a great mom, I would yell back at him. I know. I'm setting a good example.

And Vivienne. Sweet Vivienne. She was her normal sassy self. Which I can usually handle. But yesterday, I just couldn't deal. Could. Not. Deal.

And then the screaming and fighting between the two of them. Y'all. It freakin' sent me over the edge. And to top it off, no one took a nap yesterday. I swear they were conspiring against me to see how far over the edge they could push me. It was bad.

I know that children are a reward from the Lord, but sometimes I wonder what I'm being "rewarded" for...

When Peter got home, I could hardly bear to talk to him because it had been such a frustrating day. And then I did something really spiteful. Just before bedtime, we usually turn on a tv show for the kids to watch so they can wind down. Yesterday, Peter had fallen asleep on the couch during that show so that when it was over, I was the one left to do the whole bedtime routine. (I have a love/hate relationship with bedtime. I normally count down the hours till bedtime but the actual bedtime routine makes me want to claw my eyes out. One more drink, one more trip to the potty, ten gazillion questions during story time, jumping on the bed during prayer time... You get the picture.) Anyway, as I walked past the couch and noticed Peter sleeping, I "accidentally" kicked his leg. Yes, yes, I did. I cannot believe I am admitting it, but it's true. See? I had a lot of issues yesterday...

I find it interesting that several of my friends have been passing around an article today about how satan loves to steal our motherhood. Because that's exactly how I feel about yesterday. Satan was trying to steal the joy that being a mom gives me. And I let him. I was so flustered and angry and mental that I didn't even want to pray about it. I just wanted to stew in it and feel sorry for myself. And all the while, I'm sure satan was laughing his evil head off.

This morning, I woke up early and made the decision that I would have a good attitude today. No matter what. I grabbed my favorite cup, filled it with liquid gold, and sat down with my Bible. I prayed specifically that the Lord would fill me with His Spirit. That he would give me kindness and peace and patience and joy.

(I also told Peter that my goal for the day was to not be a witch. With a capital B. Yikes. And after yesterday, we both agreed that it was a good goal.)

Anyway, do you know what happened today? Jonah was still whiny and defiant. Vivi was still sassy. They still fought with each other. But God was faithful to fill me with the Holy Spirit. My attitude was completely different today than it was yesterday. I didn't lose control one time today. I kept calm in the midst of chaos, which is no easy feat. It's amazing what a change in attitude and some time spent in prayer can accomplish.

You know what I'm most thankful for though? God's mercy. In 2 Samuel 24:15-16, the Lord had had enough of Israel's rebellion. He "sent a pestilence... and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan and Beersheba died." The Israelites had constantly rebelled against God, refusing to obey Him and turning to other gods. The Lord could have wiped out the entire race. I mean, He had given them plenty of chances. But verse 16 says that He showed mercy. He told the destroying angel: "It is enough. Now relax your hand."

God's mercy. If He can bestow mercy on the people of Israel in all their defiance, He can bestow mercy on me. No matter how awful I act, I can humble myself before Him and ask for His forgiveness and His grace. Hallelujah.

Being a mom is a sacrifice. You have to give up a part of yourself in order to serve the little people in your life who can't do for themselves. It is not easy and it's not always fun or full of joy. But like David said in verse 24 of 2 Samuel 24, "I will not offer sacrifices to the Lord my God which cost me nothing." I am choosing to die to self, to give up my selfish desires, for the children that we have been blessed with. Obviously I am not perfect and I make a lot of mistakes. But God is faithful to lift me up and give me what I need each day.

Where would I be without His sweet, merciful love...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Will You Be?

This morning, the little kids and I had an interesting conversation on the way to school. (Actually, it wasn't that interesting but it did make me do some serious thinking.)

We were discussing occupations. Jonah mentioned that when he grows up, he wants to be a farmer. Sounded manageable. Then Vivienne said she wanted to be Sophia when she grows up. (For those of you that don't know who Sophia is, she's a princess. Perfect.) Then Jonah asked this question: "Mom, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Cue the silence.

My response was, "Well, I'm a mom. I've always wanted to be a mom." And while this is true, I have always wanted to be a mom, something about my response gave me pause.

Look, I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way. I love that I get to stay home with my children. We have been very blessed (and we have sacrificed quite a bit) so I'm very grateful for this opportunity. And to be honest, even though I loved working as a speech-language pathologist and helping children learn to communicate, I still always longed to be home with my kids. But sometimes I feel like I've lost my identity as a person.

(Some of you who are working moms may be rolling your eyes at me right now, wishing you could stay home. Or maybe you don't want to stay home. Maybe your career is your calling. This post isn't about the mommy wars and I'm certainly not trying to offend anyone.)

But here's the thing. I can sort of divide up my life into "pre-Jonah and Vivienne" and "post-Jonah and Vivienne." (Doesn't that sound awful??) Anyway, when Brienne was little, I never really felt like I lost who I was. I was still working full-time and hanging out with my girlfriends and singing in choirs and worship bands. I was participating in things that made me feel like a whole person, not just "Brienne's mom" or "Peter's wife."

But the more kids I had, the less I felt like "me." I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've spoken with other young moms as well as other men and women who are struggling to find who they are and what their purpose is.

(And then there are people like my husband. Peter has known from a very young age that he wanted to serve his country by being in the Air Force. While he can't understand how I've never felt a calling to a particular career, I can't understand how he has always known he's been called to a career in the military.)

Before we moved here, I was part of our church's worship band. Y'all. I loved that so much. I felt like I was fulfilling (or attempting to fulfill) my calling by helping lead worship. I looked forward to Wednesday rehearsals and Sunday worship. It gave me purpose.

But I feel like I've been in a diaper-changing stupor for the past four years. I know this is part of who I am right now, a mother to young children. And I love it! Please don't get me wrong. I honestly do feel called to be home with these precious children that God blessed our family with. I know that they are only mine for a few very short years and I desperately want them to feel loved. I 'm thankful I get to raise them and watch them grow.  I love being able to kiss their boo-boos and hang out with them and put them down for naps and tell them stories and play ball and baby dolls.

But sometimes we need to know who we are apart from everyone else.

I think I'm just now starting to come out of that diaper-changing stupor. I got to sing in the worship choir at our church on Easter Sunday. While it was different from what I had done in the past, it was still nice to be singing again. I've also started writing this blog and it makes me feel accomplished and happy.

I wonder how these things will play out in my life. Will there ever be a day when I am able to be part of a worship team again? Or is my part now helping Brienne develop her skills in this area? I've also seriously considered writing a Bible study for tween girls or writing a book based on things I've learned but it all seems a little daunting considering most of my brain power is used up with grocery lists and meal planning and keeping track of everyone's schedules.

I realize that I could get all Christian-ese on you and say that I know God's purpose is for me to bring glory to Him. Yes, I know that's true. And it's something I try to do. But I feel like there must be more to it than changing diapers and shuttling Brienne to swim practice, even though I can definitely glorify him in those mundane, everyday routines. But there must be some way to carve out time to cultivate talents and passions God has placed on my heart. Maybe not yet, not in this busy season of life. But soon.

One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 2:10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God has created each of us for His good works. He has given each of us a set of gifts which we are supposed to use for His glory. And when we utilize those gifts, our lives will feel full of purpose.

I'm still trying to figure out my gifts and how to use them. I'm attempting to find time each week to do things that make me feel fulfilled, whether it's reading a good book, writing this blog, playing the piano, or singing along with Brienne as she plays the piano. (This drives her nuts, by the way.) I love being a mom to my three kids and I am eternally grateful to be given the opportunity to be home with them. But I think it's important that they also see me thriving and participating in things that I love; things that God has created me to do.

My question to you is this: What are your passions and how do you fit them into your busy schedule? Is there anything that you've given up during your busy season of motherhood? I would love to hear your responses!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I'm Exhausted and It's Not Funny, Big Bunny

Today I feel like I got hit by a truck. I would love to be able to blame it on Daylight Savings Time because, well, losing an hour of your life stinks. But I think too much time has passed for that to be the cause of my exhaustion.

And it's not just lack of sleep that is contributing to my overwhelming feelings of exhaustion. It's the constant instruction and discipline that come with raising three kids. It is hard. Nobody ever tells you how hard it actually is.

I really do try to discipline my children correctly. I often use Scripture to train them on a certain trait like selfishness or sharing. My focus is to change and train their little hearts. Sometimes, I'm successful, but more often than not, this is how it goes down:

Vivi: (screaming about something she wants) Or (screaming for no apparent reason)
Me: Vivienne, you need to have some self control. Remember, we talked about controlling our voices? Let's ask Jesus for some self-control.
Then I usually say a quick prayer while Vivienne glares at her lap. And as soon as I say "Amen," her little head snaps up and she yells at the top of her lungs,
"Noooooo! Nobody have 'trol! I don't want 'trol!"

Success...

Jonah usually gets into trouble for hitting Vivienne. (A lot of the time she sort of deserves it because she likes to swipe his toys while he's playing with them. You see, mostly I'm just a referee.) Anyway, I can usually talk to Jonah, possibly put him in time out for a few minutes and then he will hug Vivi and apologize to her. It's not always very sincere but hey, it's a start.

And Brienne. Well, let me just say that the tween years are no joke. Right now she is caught between being a child and being an adult so she's not quite sure how to act. And honestly, most days I'm not quite sure how to treat her.

This parenting thing is hard. I just pray that the good moments outweigh the moments that I screw up.

Sometimes, in the midst of tantrums and chaos, all I can do is laugh. One afternoon, I had all three kids with me in the car and Vivi was fussing about something. Brie and I just sort of laughed about it (because it was either laugh or cry) and Vivi looked right at us in all seriousness and said, "It's not funny, big bunny." Um. What? It's not funny, big bunny? Where does she come up with this stuff?

There are times, though, when I can see that all my hard work and all my prayers are working.

Vivi had a little New Testament Bible that she carried everywhere. She loved that little Bible. One day she took it into Publix while we were shopping and somehow we lost it. It must have fallen through the holes in the grocery cart. Honestly it seemed to just disappear so that when we got finished shopping, it was nowhere to be found. Needless to say, she was very upset when she discovered it was lost. But once she calmed down, we were able to talk about how another little girl who might not have a Bible may have found hers. And now she can read about Jesus. Then Vivi said a fairly sweet prayer for the little girl. Sometimes God can use situations like this to reach the hearts of our kids.

And sometimes he uses Bible stories to convict their little hearts.

One afternoon, I had escaped (I mean, I went shopping) and I had left Peter in charge of the kids. Apparently Vivi had a rough morning while I was gone because she had an accident in her panties. (I'm sorry if this is about to be TMI for some of you.) Anyway, when Peter discovered what happened, he asked her why she had pooped in her panties and not in the potty. Her response? "I not poop in my panties. Jonah pooped and put it in my panties."

Say what? I don't think so, little girl.

That evening as I was putting the children to bed, I read the story of Zaccheus. After I finished reading and singing the song (which the kids thought was hysterical, by the way), we talked about how Jesus loves us no matter what. Even when we do the wrong things, He still loves us. Vivienne looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said, "Mama? Jonah not poop in my panties. I pooped in my panties."

Aaaah. The sweet mercies of conviction. She felt better for confessing about lying and I felt better knowing that her little heart is not beyond reach.

Sweet mamas, I know the days are long and the challenges are difficult. I am right there with you. In the thick of it. Every day. It is hard and discouraging and sometimes it's impossible to see the sun. But guess what? The Son is shining. And He uses every little detail to help you mold and instruct and love your babies. Even during those times when you don't feel qualified and you don't think what you're doing is making any difference, it is. I promise. Keep praying for your children. Keep sharing the love of Christ with them. Keep asking for forgiveness from them. And trust that you are exactly who they need.

I'll leave you with this picture. Our sweet Vivienne, who can be such a strong-willed, hard-headed child, is learning so much just by sitting with her daddy and "reading" her Bible. Let's remember to sit with our Father and rest in Him too.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Curse of the Valentine's Box


I feel like I've said this before but here it is again: Pinterest is killing me. K-I-L-L-I-N-G me. And I know all my fellow non-crafty friends feel the same way.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am thoroughly impressed with all you crafters out there who can paint and create and build and bake amazing things that you see on Pinterest. It's incredible how you can see something and then recreate it perfectly.

Take, for instance, the Valentine's box. This week, Facebook has been full of pictures of robot boxes and monster boxes and Lego boxes and animal boxes and even a gum ball box. Truly amazing. But obviously, most of these were completed without the help from a four-year old's grubby little hands. I mean, honestly, parents. Who are you trying to impress? I get it. If the kid makes the box, that's great. But why do we, as parents, feel the need to create or even "fix" something our children make?

What ever happened to the good ole days when teachers supplied a brown paper bag and students colored it and decorated it during art time? Now kids bring such elaborate "boxes" that they need help just carrying them into school. It has become a competition, and life is competitive enough without this added pressure of who has the coolest Valentine's box.

This isn't really about Valentine's boxes, though. And frankly, I've been known to go a little over the top with cupcake decorating and party planning in the past. But listen: this is about our hearts. How we feel about ourselves. Do we need to have the biggest and best _________ (fill in the blank) in order to feel complete? Or so that others will admire us? So they will think we're perfect?

Life can be tough. And very competitive. And honestly, I thought that competition and cliques and trying to outdo others would end after high school. In some ways, it did. But in other ways, life is even more difficult and competitive as a mom. We put ridiculous pressure on ourselves and (knowingly or unknowingly) on others.

I, for one, already feel inadequate enough without the added pressures of other moms and what they project.

"Oh, your kids like to eat brownies? There is too much sugar in brownies."

"I never give my kids juice. They only drink water."

"Those goldfish crackers are terrible for you!"

"You need this supplement to make your children healthy."

"They watch how much television each day?"

"Homeschooling/public school/private school is the best way to educate your kids."

"Oh, you're still in your yoga pants this afternoon?"

I could go on and on.

As much as I try not to, I can sometimes get caught up in this mess. I can allow myself to feel bad about decisions I make for our family. It's easy to do. Just look at Instagram or Facebook: perfection is everywhere. Perfect kids, perfect husbands, perfect skin, perfect hair. Perfect families. It's easy to forget that no one's life is perfect. Everyone struggles. And if you're a mom, you probably struggle on a daily basis. Isn't raising children in this day and age hard enough without the added pressure we put on ourselves when we view our "perfect" friends on social media?

And listen, I'm guilty too. I want to portray my life as grand and wonderful because it is. But it's also messy, and I fail a lot. I hope you can see by reading my blog that my life is far from perfect. My kids aren't perfect, my husband isn't perfect, and (gasp!) I'm not perfect either.

But hallelujah, we weren't made to be perfect! We were created to love God, worship Him, and try to love others like He loves us. Instead of judging each other and feeling discouraged by other moms, let's strive to lift each other up. Encourage one another.

Let's encourage each other by speaking "only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph 4:29b)

This week, instead of portraying your perfection, try being real to those around you. Show your struggles, your worries, your failures. You might be surprised to find that you're not alone.

And listen, about those Valentine's boxes... Keep making special memories with your kids; just make sure you aren't trying to impress anyone.

And make sure they aren't perfect. ��


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mercy and Peace and Grace

Is it just me or does it seem like life just gets more and more chaotic? I feel like, on most days, Peter and I just see each other in passing. We have so many things going on, and I think lots of other families feel the same way. OT for Jonah on Mondays and Tuesdays, swim team for Brienne on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, piano/guitar lessons for Brie on Wednesdays, and night classes for Peter on Mondays and Wednesdays. Even when everything goes smoothly, it makes for a crazy week. But when things don't go as planned, it can cause a lot of stress.

A couple weeks ago, one of those "unplanned" days happened and it almost sent me over the edge.

Brienne had an eye appointment, and since Peter was at work, I had to take all three kids to the eye doctor's office. This, in itself, can be a stressful thing, since you never know how Jonah (or Vivienne, for that matter) will behave. On this particular day, all the kids were pretty well-behaved. Until they depleted the juice and snack supply that I had brought with us. And once the snacks were gone, everything was fair game.  The little kids thought it would be fun to spin the eyeglass display and try on all the glasses. Fun for them. Not fun for mama. Thankfully, Brie quickly chose the pair of glasses that she wanted and we rushed out of the office.

Next, we had to go all the way across town to the base for flu shots. But before we could head that way, we had to stop at home to replenish our snack supply. (Yes, I stuff my kids with snacks when we have to sit somewhere and wait. When they eat, they are quiet and still. Judge me if you wish, but I promise that you would rather my kids be eating than climbing on the furniture. Or screaming because I won't let them climb on the furniture.) Anyway, we stopped at home for a potty break and snacks, then headed to the immunization clinic. We had to wait a bit, but the kids were fine and they willingly and happily got the flumist.

By this time, it was getting close to lunchtime, so we rushed back home so I could feed the kids. We were home for approximately 43 minutes before we had to head back across town for Jonah's OT session. OT usually lasts about an hour, but on this particular day, it ran over by about 30 minutes because they were working on some new skills. By the time we got out of there and headed home, I knew there would be no time for Jonah and Vivienne to take naps. Nap time is my saving grace, so when we miss it, it is bad.

On the way home from OT, Jonah was happily singing and Vivienne was unhappily screaming. This was our conversation.

Vivi: Jonah, stop singing! Mommy! I can't hear!
Me: I know, baby. It's ok.
Vivi: No! Don't say baby!
Jonah: (still singing)
Vivi: I! Can't! Hear!
Me: Vivienne, stop screaming.
Vivi: No! I can't! I THE BOSS!

Aaah. Can you feel the tension in my neck? Even now, two weeks later, I can feel my blood pressure going up. It's delightful.

So, I listened to that the whole way home.

Once we got home, I had to get supper in the oven and then we rushed out the door again to take Brie to swim team practice. We headed back across town and dropped her off, then headed back home. But guess what? Both little kids fell asleep 3 minutes before we got home. Not cool. So I left them in the car while I went back and forth in and out of the house to finish cooking supper. (Is that illegal? I hope not...) Jonah and Vivienne both woke up about half an hour later so I carried them inside and sat them down at the table for supper. Neither one was in a very good mood, as you can imagine. In fact, sweet Vivi screamed through the entire meal. But I was just relieved that we were now home for the evening and we could relax a bit.

Wrong.

After taking four bites of food, Peter texted me with the joyful news that he had a flat tire and I was going to have to go pick up Brienne from swim practice. This is usually his job. And I had to leave RIGHT NOW or I would be late. So, once again, I loaded up my supremely happy children and headed, you guessed it, BACK ACROSS TOWN.

The whole twenty minute drive consisted of Jonah and Vivienne arguing about who was dirty and who wasn't dirty and who needed a bath and who didn't need a bath. And Jonah was crying because he needed another snack. Sorry, buddy. Snack time is over.

We picked up Brienne, headed home, and then it was time for baths and bed. Thank goodness the day was over!

Now, generally our days aren't that crazy. This particular day was a doozy, but most days just consist of your normal busyness that comes with being a parent. But recently I've realized that I freakin' lose my mind around 6:00 every evening. I can handle the temper tantrums and the eight million trips to the potty and the rushing from here to there up until a point.

And that point is apparently 6:00 p.m.

Because by 6:00, it's bath time for both littles, and then the dreaded bedtime routine follows shortly afterwards. I look forward to bedtime all day. (Don't tell me that you don't feel the same way.) But the actual bedtime routine makes me nutso. The kids bounce off the walls while I try to read a story, then everybody has to go potty, then I have to put diapers on both littles, and then we say prayers, and then I attempt to get the kids in the bed. Easier said than done.

It is not my favorite thing.

At the beginning of the new year, I asked the Lord to show me a Scripture that could be our verse for the year. Sort of like our motto. Last year's verse was a good one and I'll write more about how that verse came to fruition in another post, but I was needing something for this year.

The verse he gave me was Jude 2:
"May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you."

Isn't that a great verse? I felt like it particularly applied to me because I have been in need of some mercy. And peace. And grace, for goodness sakes!

I need mercy. Mercy from the Lord when I sin. Mercy from myself when I mess up. Mercy from Peter when I offend him. Mercy from my kids when I deliberately make them angry. And I need to show mercy too. Mercy to my kids when they make me crazy. Mercy to Peter when he makes me crazy.

I need peace. I need God's perfect peace. Peace that surpasses understanding. Even in the midst of chaos and crisis and freak out moments, I need to feel His peace and to know that He is with me. He knew what he was doing when He made me a mom to my kids, and I need to remember that truth.

I need grace. We all make mistakes. And I am so thankful that Christ doesn't punish me for my mistakes. For my temper. For my exhaustion. But just like I need grace, my kids need grace too. They are still young and sometimes I think they should act like they are older than they are. They love to play and be silly and sometimes they need to have a good old temper tantrum. I need to give them grace when they get out of control. And I need to remember that they are only little once.

This year, 2015, I want our home to be filled with mercy and peace and grace. I want our family to love each other and forgive each other and be an example of Christ to each other. It may be chaotic and loud and crazy, but we can still feel Christ's presence in our home and in our hearts if we allow Him to fill our souls. That's what I want from this year.

Friends, may mercy and peace and grace be multiplied to you, too.