Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bonding Moments

I wish I could do deep meaningful stuff with my kids all the time. I do. I wish that.

But I can’t.

I wish when we spent special time together it was to knit and garden, sew pants out of upcycled wool, build things out of repurposed tires, visit abstract art museums. Paint, dance, frolic.

But I can’t.

I mean I CAN. Physically, I can.

But I can’t. Mentally. Ya feel me here?

Sometimes, I just need to pay money and do something easy with the kid – a guaranteed win. An outing that’s an “in the bag” kid pleaser with very little work on my part.

You know, like going to the movie theater to watch Wreck It, Ralph with your 5-year-old son, after purchasing on his behalf a large, buttered popcorn, one Sprite, one package of regular Skittles and one package of Sour Patch Kids.

So it’s a PG movie.

So it cost $40.00 we really didn’t have.

So he ate enough preservatives, sugar, additives and chemicals of unknown origin to destroy a few million brain cells.

So we didn’t really talk. Or learn anything of any use AT ALL (except, perhaps that little girls are super mean and say terrible things to each other in the name of competition, which leads me to a WHOLE OTHER blog post topic about bullying and how I'm trying desperately to shelter my kids from this. In turn, I take them to a movie that uses the topic as entertainment. . .ugh).

So it wasn’t deep or profound or particularly meaningful.

And I felt a little guilty that our special date together – our just he & I time – was a few hours sitting in a theater, watching kids made of candy race around a track and try to beat the crap out of each other in the name of winning a measley medal.

But there was no preparation. No thought. No arguments. No cajoling. No disappointment when the child in question gets distracted after 10 minutes – more interested in gluing his finger to the table than furthering the objective of the well-thought-out, real-life craft project.

So it was perfect.

And halfway through the movie he crawled on my lap. And he sat on my lap the whole time. And I smelled his head and kissed his cheek and rubbed his bony little arms. And I watched him laugh when they laughed and get nervous during the fight scenes because you never know – this could be the first time the good guy loses…

And in the car we talked about who’s better: Ralph or King Candy, and he reenacted the fight scenes and I realized I finally know the names of all his favorite superheroes like his daddy does, and he finally got an hour of uninterrupted mom-lap time.

And I gotta say, the whole thing blew wool-felting right outta the water. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Born Imitators

There's no denying it. Our kids mirror the behaviors that have been displayed to them. Sometimes, to our dismay and humiliation. I remember the very first time that my two-year-old proclaimed "What the crap, Mom!" in a grocery store check-out line. I wanted to duck and hide, after I pretended I have NO IDEA where he got that phrase! We certainly don't talk that way at home!  On our way out the store, however, I found myself thinking What the crap am I doing to this kid?! His imitation of me was dead on.

Kids are natural-born imitators. I remember walking around the house as a young girl with my grandma's "spectacles" on. I couldn't see worth anything, but I thought that having them on made me appear wiser and more mature, like she was. As I grew into a young lady, I remember my little sister following me around everywhere I went. At the time, it was BEYOND annoying that she wanted to say everything I said and do everything that I did. Stop trying to be like me! I would tell her and gripe to my mother. The truth is, she saw something in me worth imitating. 

Today, I'll catch my sons watching my husband intently as he plays on the XBox or draws in his sketchbook.  My oldest has decided that he's going to be an "artist like daddy". It's adorable to watch him crawl up to the dining room table and begin scribbling on a piece of construction paper with such vigor. It's precious to see my youngest creep up beside me at the bathroom sink, grab his toothbrush and attempt to brush his teeth as he watches me in the mirror. 

It's not so cute, however, when the things that they are imitating seem to be the most un-attractive parts of ourselves. I hear my oldest yelling and screaming at my youngest, threatening to "spank his booty" if he doesn't give him a certain toy back. And it's quite eye-opening when my youngest little dude pulls his chair up to his train table, sits his pretend laptop down in front of him and then glares at me as I walk by, "NO TALKING TO ME WHILE I WORK, MOMMY. This is 'portant stuff and I need it QUIET." I hang my head in shame because I know the way that must have felt to hear a similar version of that sentence coming out of my mouth. Not to mention the occasional What the crap, Mommy!, I don't care!, or Leave me alone for a second! that escapes from their lips and I realize in that moment that whether or not I am "worthy" of imitation, they will strive to be just like me. What a huge responsibility that I have to give them something worth imitating. 

1 Corinthians 11:1 says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ."

The truth is, I want them to see less of me and more of God in me. That's not going to happen until I re-learn how to be an imitator myself. Until I shut my mouth and start speaking words of LOVE and not as many words of negativity. Until I develop behaviors that are worthy of replicating.  I want them to see me pray, see me study God's word, and most of all, see me have faith. This is a heritage worth passing on.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What The Heck Is God's Will?!

If you're anything like me, you've struggled with this question in life and in parenting. When you've had a helluva day carpooling monsters from one event to another (late, as always), tried desperately to maintain a somewhat clean (meaning one that doesn't look like an entire tornado went through it), and have barely had time to brush your teeth, let alone have any sort of "quiet time" (what IS this thing called "quiet" again?!), only to skid home to dinner times, bath times, story times, bedtimes (the never-ending Whack-A-Mole game) and find yourself collapsing in a giant heap on the couch in front of another episode of House Hunters and thinking to yourself, "Is THIS God's will for my life?!"  Well you see, friend, that entirely depends on your perspective. 

I've spent the greatest part of my parenting career trying to find the balance between living a life of sacrifice for my family and living out my inner calling as a woman of God. I've consistently wrestled with that fact that I couldn't be both. I either throw my hair into a ponytail, deny myself in the areas of beautification and hygiene (sorry honey for the seasons of unshaved legs), and become Betty-Crocker-meets-Martha-Stewart-meets-full-time-NFL-referee. Then there's the other extreme of throwing my kids in the nearest mother's day program in every church I can find and spend my days at the gym and at the coffee shop writing and pouring into other women in some ministry-fashion or another.  I feel like many of us parents live this same struggle. How do we passionately pursue God's will for our lives in ministry/career and still have enough worth to pour into our families?  How do we prioritize ourselves AND our family at the same time?  Is that even possible?!  Sometimes you have to wonder, after the exhaustion settles in and you feel as if you'll never figure out how to move out of this foggy haze of parenting funk, WHAT THE HECK IS GOD'S WILL for my life?!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. For THIS is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Well, now, don't we all feel a little silly.  I know I did when I read this verse this morning.  I heard him LOUD and CLEAR, and I really hope that you will let this scripture really get ahold of you in the area of God's will for you as a parent. Here's how it spoke to me:

As a parent, it is God's will that you BE JOYFUL.

Sometimes I have to stop and ask God, do you really want me to be joyful about poopy diapers, a dog that just tracked a gallon of mud through my carpets, and a bathroom dirty enough to rival a local truckstop? Really God, sometimes, the things we deal with as parents is enough to make me want to hurl my morning expresso, nevermind get overjoyed over! How in the world am I to dismiss the messes of life and sometimes the harsh realities of painful experiences and be joyful? Well, friends, I'm learning that we can't. There is no way that we can muster up this kind of joyfulness in our own strength. Without God's constant nudging and reminders about what is important, we cannot see the forest for the trees. The only way to experience and fulfill the call to BE JOYFUL is by acting upon the second will that he has for us. Pray it into existence. It's not coincidence that these go hand-in-hand.

As a parent, it is God's will that you PRAY CONTINUOUSLY.

If you are not in the habit already, pray, friend, PRAY. Learn how to see God as your best friend that you can call up and vent about the days happenings to. He would MUCH rather you tell him how you are feeling than to tell all your friends on Facebook. He longs to be that listening ear, the one you confide in, and the one you plead to for advice and help in all things "parenting". He has a little experience at this parenting gig, remember? Ask him for what you need; patience, JOY, wisdom, endurance, patience, love, a nap, a potty break in private, patience. . .did I mention patience? Maybe that one's just me. Let every second of every day be a phone conversation with God that never get's disconnected.

As a parent, it is God's will that you GIVE THANKS IN ALL THINGS.

Yes, give thanks when you're in carpool. Give thanks for the McDonald's dinner that you rushed through to get to the next soccer practice. Give thanks when you're child is throwing a gremlin-sized tantrum in Toys R Us. . .eh, that may be stretching it. Or is it possible that someone wishes that their child was still throwing a gremlin-sized tantrum in Toys R Us, but is instead laying in a hospital bed awaiting the next round of chemo. . .GIVE THANKS IN ALL THINGS because it could always be worse. If we removed all the frustrations of parenting and only got the good moments, would we take it all for granted? Sometimes it's the woes of parenthood that give us the perspective to see the joys. And now we're back at square one. . .being joyful always. God is so crafty. 

Let's not wrestle any longer with the age-old question of What Is God's Will For Me, when he has so clearly spelled it out for us. Thank you, Lord for answering our most basic prayers. 

Have you struggled with this question in your life?  Which portion of His will is the most difficult for you?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Your Kids Are Never Too Young To Start Dating

Yes, you read that correctly. I don't think any child is too young to start dating. They need the connection, the intimacy, the companionship and significance that a dating relationship brings. You may think that your 12-year-old daughter or 9-year-old son is too young to be entrusted with that kind of "special relationship", but you would be wrong. Take it from this mom! I have a PhD in parenting and while I'll stand and hold your hand as they venture out into this frightening world of "dating", you must know that they are, in fact, never too young to date.

Because, you see, I believe that that YOU should start dating your kids WAY BEFORE anyone else does.

Before any of their peers try to meet that need they have for connection and intimacy. Before anyone else tries to steal their companionship away from you or fulfill their craving for significance; YOUR child needs to feel all those emotions from the ones who brought them into this world. They need to feel special and understand their worth when their Mom or Dad takes the time to invest, one-on-one with them in a situation much like they will face when they do finally reach "dating age" (which, in case you were wondering, for my boys, is 35-years-old!).

As one who didn't have a father who invested in my life as a child and a teenager, I struggled with "dating relationships" throughout life. I built up walls, or at times, gave in a little more than I should in order to find the sense of worth and significance that I lacked at home. So many of our kids struggle as I did. They didn't have parents who PURSUED them. My husband and I have made it our mission to PURSUE our kids, with the same passion and determination as a young stud pursues the prom queen (but with A LOT better motives!).

This Valentine's Day, you should have the same mentality. If YOU are not the ones pursuing your children, they will find someone else to find that connection with. Let them learn how to "date" because they've been shown what true intimacy is, ultimate fulfillment is, by watching the way you pour out the love of Jesus into their lives through your endless pursuit after their hearts for years. Here are ways that you can do this:

Read the rest of this post over at EpicParent today! Click on over and leave me your comments. . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who Says Fairy Tales Don't Exist?!

With Valentine's Day just days away, I'm going to tell you a love story. Not just any love story, but it happens to be my own.  I don't normally like to get all "lovey-dovey" and sappy on the blog. No one likes that really. But as I have yet to put on my mascara for the day and everyone else is turning in to big piles of mushy goodness already, excuse me for temporarily dropping my sarcastic card and telling you a quick fairy tale. I promise you won't regret listening. 

Twelve years ago this month, I got to know a skinny little geek. We'll call him BC. There I stood in the sanctuary at church on a Wednesday night in the youth group with stars in my eyes for this adorable keyboard player onstage. There was just something about him. Besides that he could play the piano, which had always been a secret wish of mine. There has always been something about the amazingly strong and beautiful melodies that come from striking those keys that I can listen to for hours. And as I sat and worshiped God that night, I also silently worshiped and adored the music that came from the heart of the one playing the tunes. He was confident. And passionate. And prayerful. And quirky. Yes, I even loved that he had the most spot-on Kermit the Frog impression that I'd ever heard. Granted, his shirts we're 7 sizes too big and he wore converse tennis shoes every single day, but those things were fixable. I was infatuated. And as I listened to him lead our church into the presence of God week after week, I fell more in love with the man behind that keyboard. For all the right reasons. 

He wasn't from my small town. He was from a small town of his own an hour or so away. Him and his friends felt God leading them to our church to lead praise and worship and so they sacrificed and drove every week. They had been a band for years. Finding each other through circles of friends and learning how to play their instruments as they went. They were self-taught and defintely talented. BC was intrigued by music from an early age. His parents went to a small church where the pastors wife taught piano lessons. She had an extra piano, and after she had offered it to members of her own family without acceptance, she offered it to BC's family. That big gift became the instrument that brought him to a place of experiencing God in a new way. One that he fell in love with. Worship. It would become his life.

An hour away, in another small town, I found myself in a world of chaos. Growing up in a home full of constant discord, the shouting never stopped. After years of putting my hands over my ears and praying for relief, I found a solution. My Grandma bought me my first Walkman after I got saved and I immediately started filling my drawers with cassette after cassette of worship music. On those nights when things would get dark and intense at home, I would retreat to my room, put on my headphones and tune everything out. Turn "up" instead. Losing myself in God's presence became my escape. I loved the melodies and message....that everything was going to be okay. That someday the fighting would cease and there would be silence. And the only thing that would be heard was the sweet sound of a piano playing softly as I went to sleep. My aunt and uncle pastored a small church some towns away. She was a piano teacher and if it hadn't have been for the distance, I would have been taking lessons. When they bought a brand new piano one year, they offered their old one to me, with the promise to teach me to play. I was ecstatic at the idea. But it was forbid. For reasons foreign to me, we could not accept the gift from my aunt and uncle. My dad was a proud man and had all sorts of resentment towards the spiritual influence that my aunt and uncle had offered our family. The gift of music...the gift of escape for me was forfeited. Offered to another. But they couldn't take the music away from me. For years and years after, I continued to put on my headphones and escape into worship. God became my escape from the horror that was my homelife for so many years. And then I walked in the doors of this sanctuary and worship became even more real to me.

Our attraction to each other was something magnetic. We were as different as night and day except for a few common loves....God and music. And boy, was that enough. We fell in love immediately. As we both had never fell before. It was a pure and innocent and godly love. We wanted good things for each other. And we were each other's greatest gift. He helped me learn about worship and art and I taught him about compassion and patience. He knew how to draw, I knew how to write. He knew how to play this beautiful instrument, and I knew how to worship. We grew closer together because we grew closer to the Lord. And we praised God for the gift of music in our lives. 

A few years later, as I hold his hand and we walk together through my relatives at a Christmas gathering for the first time, a couple of people stood to greet BC as if they knew him already. My aunt and uncle, the ones who extended the gift of the piano to me, are the former pastors of BC's childhood church. After my father's rejection, the piano that should have been sitting in my living room, was the one that was currently sitting in BC's. The reason that he developed his passion for music and grew closer to God was because of that piano. We were more connected than I'd ever thought possible. I realize now that if I had been allowed to accept that gift, I would have never met BC. The gift to him had become an act of providence that orchestrated a beautiful melody bringing two people together at just the perfect moment in time. 

Eleven years later, we still accept that God's timing is perfect. We smile at the mysterious ways that he brings about His will and perfect plan for our lives. He sings over us. Our entire lives, He's been singing over us. Leading us to each other. I have to say, we've had one of the hardest years of our marriage this last year. But we can't deny that we are together for a purpose. We marvel at the song that God is writing of our lives. We don't know all the words yet, and sometimes all we hear is the faintest tinkling of piano keys, but we trust in His melody. We will worship the God "together" who gives us a new reason, a thousand new things to sing about, every single day. 

Thank you God for our real life fairy tale.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What A Weekend

1. Sneaky Mutt: It seems as if Miss Pepper Potts is getting more and more confident that she owns the place. I caught her sneaking a nap on Mr. Grouchy Pant's bed on Saturday. This is forbidden, but when she looks so cozy, and she's taking a break from being constantly underfoot, I'll welcome the disobedience just this once. . .or whenever she feels like it.

2. Wise Guy: Potty-training this little monster has been one of the hardest parental feats to date. This Stinker decided to do us a HUGE disservice on Saturday in his pants, as opposed to the potty chair. Upon interrogation as to "why you don't go #2 in the Big Boy potty chair" he responds with, "Cause, Mommy. . .they'd be expecting that!" Say wha?!?!

3. School-bound!: We found out that all the children at Bethel Mission in Rivas, Nicaragua recieved enough funding to start public schooling on Monday! All with tuition paid and uniforms bought! We are counting down the days until we can live with these precious ones everyday and pour into their lives full-time. Until May, we are there in spirit, loving and rejoicing from afar.

4. Draw the Circle: The hubs and I have been doing a 40-day Prayer Challenge along with this book by Mark Batterson. This weekend's devotionals especially spoke to me. God honors persistence and faith that nothing is impossible. In fact, He'd prefers we dream and pray for God to intervene in situations that are beyond human control. These are the times His glory is revealed.

5. Photographing & Planning: We have some major projects coming up, including a HUGE benefit dinner to raise money for our mission to Nicaragua. Lots of time this weekend was spent planning and preparing and photographing for our benefit invitations. We are exhausted just thinking about all the details.

6. Mr. Grouchy Pants tackles Laser-Tagging: This was the face of a little boy who did not want to leave Laser Quest on Friday evening. We had a family birthday party that included an initiation to laser-tagging and our oldest fell in love. I'm pretty sure his exact words after our first game were, "Mommy, I love it. Can we LIVE here??" I'd say he had a good time. And apparently by the photo, you can see that he was none too ecstatic about leaving his new-found hobby. We'll have to come back soon.

There's a snapshot of our weekend. I hope yours was equally fulfilling! Hop on over to
 and join her Weekend Link-up Party and share a few moments of your own!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

3 Revelations for Raising "Difficult" Children

Do you have a "difficult child"?  I do.  I say that as I lower my  voice, for I would never want my child to hear that and feel inferior. Because truthfully, we ALL have "difficult children".  We all have children that have given us a run for our money. They kind who came out screaming and never shut up. The kind who look at us as if we're idiots every time we try to give them a command.  The kind who our discipline tactics simply DO NOT work on. The kind that exhaust and confuse us and leave us feeling like failures as parents. Haven't we all been there?? You settle in at the end of the day, kiss their foreheads as they sleep and wonder where exactly you went wrong?! Why don't they listen? Why don't they display a "pleasing" nature? Why do they ignore each and every opportunity to obey? Why aren't they normal? Why are they so "difficult"?!?!

I have one of these little nuggets.  And my assumption is that if you have more than one child, you have one as well. I truly believe that God gave us children, with all of their quirks and vices; with all their streaks of stubbornness and rebellion, to teach us a bit about ourselves.  I have recently begun to ask God to help me see myself more clearly through my parenting. I've also been asking that He give me some fresh revelations as to how to properly parent my "difficult child". I've fasted and I've truly cried out to God to give me some insight into the way HE would parent my son. These are the things that I feel like He has spoken directly to me in the ways of parenting a "difficult child". I hope you will gain some wisdom from His answers. I know I have.

1.  Rescue and Redeem--There are times when my son, who is overly dramatic and sensitive, plays up the "I'm hurt" card. Falling on the floor, gaining a new boo boo every time we turn around. So much of the time, his cries for attention, I choose to ignore because they literally happen all day long. God has told me, in moments like this, when I want to walk away rolling my eyes, instead I am to pick him up and hold him.  "Whenever he cries, rescue him, as I rescue you in your moments of desperation." He needs to know and understand a God who rescues and cares and comforts during any and every little fall in life.

2.  Gain Permission for Affection--My son has become quite the touch-me-not in the last few years. I feel like this has put a lot of distance between us, as sometimes, I don't even bother to reach out to him when I should because of the expectation of rejection. God said to me, "Ask to hold his hand. Don't just take it. Don't assume that he doesn't get a choice."  God gives each and every one of us the choice.  He wants us to choose His love, but He never forces it.  Ask him for a hug, a kiss, time to snuggle on the couch.  Don't get mad if he says no.  The important thing for our children to know is that love is available to them.

3.  Be Interruption Worthy--So many times, we value manners over validation. Jesus always told his disciples to bring the little children to Him. He let them sit on His lap and talked with them and told those surrounding that the kingdom of heaven was for people such as these. I can honestly say that being interrupted by my five-year-old is my biggest pet peeve. I don't believe I've had a full, uniterrupted conversation since 2007. God is telling me, "Let him be interruption-worthy for a bit. What's on his mind is priority".  As Jesus told the parable about the shepherd who had 100 sheep, but one went lost, He left the 99 and went to look for the 1. God gives special attention to the ones who need it. So should I. God is telling me that validating my child's worth is priority against teaching manners, at least for awhile.

As God is leading me through this season of teaching me how better to love my "difficult child", what He is showing me also is just how "difficult" I am. Children are such mirrors of who we really are. They shine a light on our areas of struggle and sin and places of weakness. I may be wrestling with my child in a battle of the stubborn wills, but what God is teaching me is that I need to parent more like HE does. With way more grace, way less frustration, and with an overabundance of patience. The key principle in raising a "difficult child" is realizing that YOU are one. Yet God is LOVE and He continues to pursue us as we should continue to pursue our children, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. I hope these little bits of godly revelation to me will help you in your parenting journey. When all else fails, fall on your face at the end of the day and simply say, Teach me how to love them, Lord.", and He will answer. I promise.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Temperament Currently Under Construction

You can call me MRS. GROUCHY PANTS today. No. That's an understatement. My throat was tight. My head was foggy. I felt like wearing a name tag this morning that read, "Crabby. Do Not Touch." Maybe the other Mother's Day Out moms would leave me alone and not engage me in the regular "How are ya?!" in their normal sing-songy-I-really-care-about-your-personal-life voices. Ugh.I sat in bed for a moment and tried to figure out why I was feeling so irritable. But that's kind of pointless, isn't it?

Regardless of whether it's hormones, sleep deprivation, or just a plain-and-simple bad mood, I still have to make it through the day. Mama's don't get a day off.

Meanwhile, my toddlers are scratching at one another and my husband wants to know if he has any clean socks. Or peroxide. Huh?

That's when I realize I need help, fast. And whenever that happens, I realize I need to go back to the basics. I need to return to the fundamentals of who (and what) I know myself to be. That's when I need to forget this buzzing body and sink into my spirit.

Because I've done it again. I've gotten myself trapped into an ugly pit where all I'm thinking about is what's happening two inches in front of my face. And I'm mistaking that for the real world.

What I need to remember, at times like these, is that my spiritual side--which teems and churns with joy, which represents heaven on earth--is always one choice away.

As a child of God, joy is my default emotion. The other feelings, whether anger, jealousy, boredom, sadness, or irritability, are merely ingredients I add by being focused on the ugly pit--that separate little place I sometimes convince myself is all there is.

I can burn off those unpleasant emotions by returning to a focus on love and love alone. Because I refocusing on God and the gifts that He's blessed me with even at this very moment is what is important in life. . .nothing else that causes temporary frustrations. They are nothing in the grand scheme of things.

When we realign, that's when we see that our pains and annoyances are nothing more than reminders that we've chosen to focus on the pit and not the level of consciousness that could have us boogieing with joy every moment of our lives.

So I take the step that will reconnect me with the abounding blessings of God. Simply put: I find something lovely or loving to do with myself.

For me, today, that means I get up. I find some socks. I pour some juice for the kids. I think about how grateful I am.. I decide to pray away my "grouchy pants".  Isn't that what I do for my son?  We pray the "dark clouds" away.  It's harder to do when you look outside to the sky and it's the same color as your mood.

But I have so much to be thankful for.  Funny that some days are harder than others to drudge up the "grateful spirit". Sometimes you can only muster up the "I'm thankful that I'm breathing. That's all I got, God."  And then other days, you are stunned by the gifts God gives us every moment of every day.  I'm going to start counting up my blessings, get my grocery list out, make my "Temperament Currently Under Construction" name tag and choose to be grateful for my little bit of heaven on earth.  Yes, even if that's just a venti mocha latte extra whip. With sprinkles. And caramel. Don't forget the caramel. . . . .Smile.

What do you do to curb your crankiness? Do you struggle in choosing joy over your frustrations?