Wednesday, June 1

Self Reflection on (my) Entitled Kids

I want my kids to be grateful, not entitled.  Happy with what they are given, not whiny and demanding. Willing to work hard for the things they need or want in life. I think most parents would agree with these goals. Really, I do NOT want to raise kids who are lacking character, work ethic, and integrity.

However, recently I've had some experiences that opened my eyes to the facts: I am on the path to doing just that. It was easy for me to make excuses - "our kids don't have [list of latest technology] so we're good" or, "they don't have too many fancy toys, they're not spoiled," but in the little things? Oh, the choices. SO many choices, and I was shrugging it off as no big deal.

So this week? I've been reducing their choices. And you know what? Positive results, LESS complaining. This is happy. Everyone is happier. And hopefully, I'll stick to the course.

The thing is, even though I am the mom, and the authority, and realize that this is healthy, I STILL want my kids to be *happy* and so I tend to over-do the little choices. The desire for happy kids is not a problem, but ten million choices of what we are eating for lunch does not need to be part of their lives. When I do this, or any other host of choices, I make life harder for myself, and ironically, it tends to produce LESS grateful children. Or at least, that's how it works here.

It's good to do parenting checks. It's good to evaluate where we are helping our kids become better people, and where we are enabling ingratitude or laziness. Sometimes fresh ideas come from observing other parents, sometimes from self evaluation, and sometimes tough changes need to happen.

PLEASE NOTE - I know there's no formula for great kids - I know it's all about God's work and God's grace - but sometimes, it's also important to listen to Him and what He tells me to do! And then obey that!!

What do you do to make sure you are consistent at following through with changes?

Tuesday, May 3

The Winner!

Thanks everyone, for your participate in the book giveaway! The winner is Carrie! I'll be emailing you soon!!

Please don't forget to pick up a copy of each of Adam's books (maybe drop a hint for Mother's Day!) or buy it for a friend!!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 25

Book Giveaway!

A long time ago, I attended school in the north woods of Wisconsin, and there met Adam Blumer, whose fiction works are some of my favorite of this genre (Christian suspense). I've done a couple of interviews (here and here) with Adam over the years, and he contacted me last week upon the release of the paperback version of his second novel, The Tenth Plague, to see if I'd be willing to host a giveaway of his e-book! 

OF COURSE!

So, if you are in the US, and interested in receiving a free copy of Adam's e-book, follow these instructions: for one entry, comment on this post to let me know what your favorite fictional genre is.  For additional entries, "Like" Adam's author page on Facebook, and help spread the word by linking this giveaway on social media!  Then leave a comment letting me know which items you have done! The giveaway closes on Monday the 2nd! Also, don't forget to check out his first book, Fatal Illusions!

Tuesday, April 19

Diagnosis

About a month ago, I received a call that brought both relief and dread. I'm sure many other people have gotten such calls, but it was my first and I was not prepared for the odd mix of feelings.

Our middle son, Evan, has always been a little bit spacey (in a totally endearing way), but this school year, when he was required to do a lot more (it is first grade, after all), I started to wonder if his inattention was a little bit more than just typical childhood daydreaming. I started reading up and highly suspected absence epilepsy. We went to see the family doctor, who referred us to a pediatric neurologist. At the appointment, the doctor evaluated Evan, and although he had several "absences" in her office, she didn't seem to notice - he covered very well as he has done the entire time. She ordered an EEG to rule it out completely, but was fairly confident that the result would be no epilepsy.

Well, she called after the EEG to let me know that he did, indeed, have absence epilepsy, she estimated from his test results that he has been having about 6-10 absence seizures per hour lasting up to 7 seconds. The really good news is that most kids who have a later onset (in Evan's age group) grow out of the absences around the time they hit puberty, which is excellent news.  The bad news was that he will need to be on medication to treat the seizures for a minimum of two years or until the EEG results come back clear, then we will be able to try to wean him off the meds.

Now, I will admit, I balked at the idea of medicating him. I researched and read, and the list of possible side effects was dizzying. I talked to a pharmacist friend who recommended putting the list of side effects away and giving the medication a try. I'm so glad I took his advice.

We've seen a drastic improvement in Evan already, and, while I am sure there are challenges ahead, and more tests and evaluations and things I don't even know about, I'm both happy to know how to help him and thankful that we have an answer.

Sunday, April 17

The Call to Rest

"These days with kids at home pass so quickly" I've often heard, in fact so often that when I hear them in the midst of them, I admit to rolling my eyes a bit and feeling a bit like a cartoon student hearing the "blah blah blah blah" of the teacher. I have definitely repeated a mantra of, "long days, short years" as a kind of balm over the worst of days, the ones where all the plans go out the window while you hold a sobbing child, clean up messes that ought to have been avoided, make dinner again because the first one flopped. But it is sinking in, a bit.

This past summer, on the first day of a mild August, the oldest of my children turned nine. NINE. It hit me harder than I expected as I made the requested LEGO Ninjago cake, that we are halfway "done" with the race to adulthood, and in reality, probably more than halfway. With the passing of the years, more things will pass - how many themed birthday cake years will I have left?! How many discussions about his LEGO creations do I have left? It got a little emotional as I carefully layered fruit rollups over the cake man's molded body. The process took longer than expected as I took frequent breaks to tend to my one month old baby, my youngest boy.

I admit I've enjoyed the youngest in these tender months a lot more than I was able to enjoy the others - maybe because PPD interfered with my firstborn's first year, and definitely because I had multiple small busy people to tend to with my second (7yrs) and third (4yrs) born children. This fourth, born last July, my beautiful bonus in my mid thirties, has me appreciating motherhood in new ways. And it's not just that I'm appreciating the baby stage more. I'm savoring each of my children more, feeling with them, more deeply.  I'm listening better. I'm more deeply convinced that building our relationships is the most important part of our homeschool days. Even amidst the burnout, I've been learning this.

Along that line, I've been reading a fantastic book about the concept of schole, or restfulness in our school days. Not restfulness as in relaxing and laziness, but restfulness as in peace, a calm assurance, confident faithfulness to the tasks at hand. Restfulness in the creation of margin, in freedom from over-filled days. I'm really looking forward to exploring more about how this concept will allow us to deepen our understanding of our academia and our other learning experiences here. I already feel that it will definitely strengthen our relationships with each other, which is one of the reasons we've chosen homeschool. I've got some awesome kids, and each day I forward to watching them bloom. I don't want to miss it.

One of my favorite quotes so far from this book is this one: "What if, instead of trying to make the most of our time, we worked harder at savoring it? What if we were more lavish with our time and more detached from our checklists?" (Sarah MacKenzie)

Yes, what if we ceased with the multitasking and used up all of our focus on one thing? How would that transform our days?  How would I be a better mom, a better wife, if I laid aside as many distractions as possible to listen, really listen, be present and engage? I would guess it would only benefit all of us.

So with renewed vigor, we begin. We are working together as a family to simplify our lives, so that we can restfully live, at peace, with purpose, deeply. I'll keep you posted. *grin*

Friday, April 1

Burnout

I'm a woman, a wife, a mom, a teacher. I've been more things and I've had fewer titles. I'm not a stranger to sleeplessness, or frustration, or discouragement, or any number of words that seem cliche to me when I say them out loud.

And now, I'm in a season of wading through the deep waters of discouragement. There doesn't seem to be a "good" reason - my family is healthy, we have what we need, there is no crisis. My marriage is amazing. Despite those not inconsequential blessings, the little things of life have compounded, and the littlest additions or subtractions have me often melting into a puddle of uselessness and tears. I have felt like a failure at just about everything and I'm not always (or ever) sure of what to change or do to make it better.

We've hit the Spring Slump in homeschooling progress. Our parenting skills need a refresher course in consistency and an update for maturing progeny. My house is a wreck and I feel like all I do is rush around in a fog of forgetfulness and unreliability. My best efforts end up failing. I'm losing things and losing it, both very much too often. 

Today, for example, my dishes are piled up like grimy soldiers returning from who-knows-where, my dishwasher has failed to clean the ones I carefully loaded this morning. The blade is out so I can clean the filter, but I can't find the star bit I need to loosen the screen and clean it out. I've lost my gumption for this task, so the parts have been laid aside and my dishes wait for the return of my husband and the magic of his knowledge of where the tools are. It seems like a little thing, and it is, but it derailed me. Now dinner will not be ready until later, children will clamor, and all the Things That Can Possibly Go Wrong probably will. I have turned into Eeyore because one element of my carefully planned day went askew.

Tightly wound, much?

I could say "If ONLY I had more sleep" but I wouldn't trade sleep for the baby snuggles. I could say "If only I had a cleaning lady" or "If only there was a perfect school for my kids so I wouldn't have to home school" but we've made other choices that I'm mostly happy for the trade off.

Really, it's not a problem with the dishwasher, or the lack of sleep - or even the postpartum hormones that make dealing with the normal ups and downs of life seem impossible. It is my primary struggle now (and looking back, always has been) about my perception of control. It's a problem with ME and one that (as God would have it) I'm trying to help my children understand - life is NOT about me and my agenda. I do not have to be in control or even know what's coming next. I can trust my Father. Enjoy the journey, He is in charge. Easy to say, so hard to live.

It's so easy to let the dark waters get you. SO EASY to wallow in weariness. So, SO easy. My brain yells "RETREAT!! HIDE!!! INTROVERT!!!"  But Someone is drawing me out, past the failure and past my ridiculous tears - I have a Savior who calls to me, the weary one. He calls me because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. And he wants to bear my burdens, even the littlest ones. He calls me to come, rest, not just because His sacrifice has paid for my eternal life, but because His love compels me. He is enough.

This is the struggle, to trust Him. To teach my children to trust Him. To seek to see Him at work, to purposely give thanks. To see past my struggles, to realize the temporary nature of them and ask for joy, to ask for patience, to beg Him for grace for each moment. To understand that this is how He draws me closer.

Our church has been singing this new hymn lately. I learned it a couple of years ago, but I still can't make it through without tears.


COME, LONELY HEART (Text by Chris Anderson; Tune by Greg Habegger)

Come, lonely heart, to the outsider’s Friend—
To Jesus, Who seeks out the lost.
Your cruel seclusion has come to an end;
Find welcome, find home, at the cross.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace! 
Come, lonely heart, to the outsider’s Friend;
Find welcome, find home, at the cross.

Drink, thirsty heart, of the water of life—
Of bountiful, soul-quenching grace.
The world’s broken cisterns cannot satisfy;
The Savior is what your heart craves.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Drink, thirsty heart, of the water of life;
The Savior is what your heart craves.


Rest, guilty heart, in forgiveness of sin—
In pardon from shame-stirring vice.
Though Satan and sinners and conscience condemn,
Your soul may be spotless as Christ.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace! 
Rest, guilty heart, in forgiveness of sin;
Your soul may be spotless as Christ.

Joy, grateful heart, in the hope you have found—
In God, Who is seeking your praise.
Then go to the outcast, that grace may resound,
For Jesus is mighty to save.
No soul is too small for His mercy;
No sin is too great for His grace!
Joy, grateful heart, in the hope you have found,
For Jesus is mighty to save.

Monday, February 22

El Roi, Jehovah Jireh

El Roi, God sees me. Jehovah Jireh, God is my provider.

These words, one of the names of God, were tossed around (in retrospect, almost casually) at college, every time some need was met - an anonymously paid school bill, a few dollars in the mail for laundry, a care package from home - "wow, man, Jehovah Jireh!" and I never thought of it as irreverent. It was a continual reminder of how God saw, and provided.

Looking back, it became so commonplace at that time of my life, I took for granted that God would provide. I mean, everyone knows college students have no money, and I suppose it could have been a strange type of entitlement, I'm not sure. All I do know is that I was trusting that everything would happen as God wanted it to.  And back then, when life was a little simpler, I expected God to show Himself and provide. I saw it readily, I praised Him often. Even for little things.

But then, we grew up (a little) and started adulting - bills to pay, budgets to balance, children to provide for, and jobs to work to bring in the money for these things. OF COURSE we understood that God is the one who provides the work, the money, the bonus jobs, but at the same time, it's really easy to start relying on yourself, to stop asking God for things.

You see the deep needs of others and pray instead for them, not wishing to "bother" with your "little" need. "I can do it, it's fine, we'll be fine." becomes an easy rut to settle into. And when you stop asking, sometimes you stop being grateful for those little things. Sometimes you become self-reliant. Sometimes you stop looking to see Him working in those same, simple ways. So a couple of months ago, I picked out one thing to pray about. It was a legitimate need, something we had forgotten about the need for replacing, and we simply didn't have the extra in the budget. I wanted to pray specifically so that I could watch God work specifically.

And this weekend, we were humbled by our Jehovah Jireh. This item that I'd prayed about for a couple of months was very unexpectedly taken care of - a friend called and asked point blank if this exact thing was a need. He said he and his wife had been asking God to show them how they could bless others, and that God had laid it on his heart, very specifically, very clearly, just like that.

I didn't know HOW God was going to choose to provide, or if it would be obvious or just through extra hours, through trivet + board sales, or other random earnings. I assumed it would be through work and earnings, not through a gift. I hadn't told anyone I was praying about it except for Michael and my mom. I know she was praying too.

But God chose differently, and now we have freshly tasted, seen, and experienced God's knowledge of our needs. He is reminding us that He is not "generic" Jehovah Jireh, He is OUR Jehovah Jireh.  And it is so humbling - to be reminded that not only does God see, and know, and love, and care, but He can and does provide - however and through whomever He chooses.

I have been so encouraged and challenged through our friends' prayers and obedience that I now seek to pray this way. My prayer? God, show me how I can bless others. Show me who, what, and how. Show me specifically, because I want to see YOU. Being on the receiving end of the blessing just makes us want to give what we can to others. It's a beautiful and multifaceted gift we've been given. All because of God's amazing grace.

So much grace.