31 Oct

No. Just no.

It has been three months.

Three months since I stepped down from teaching Bible study, three months since I stepped down from ministry, three months since I took the “I am committed at home and no where else” stance.

Three months.

The first few weeks I cried and moped…like my dog had run away or I’d lost something valuable. What was I if I wasn’t a Bible study teacher? I wasn’t sure.

While still moping, I was looking through some old emails from my Grandfather (he passed away last year) and buried in an email about all the ways he loved and appreciated our family’s visit I ran across these words, “Just don’t get so involved that it interferes with what other things you want to do or in your family life.  We know you are both involved in the things you do but be sure to put your family first.” The words hardly made a dent on me when I first read them (nearly seven years ago), but this time they hit me.

The truth is the most important things God gave me are at home — my husband and marriage; my children, parenting and homeschool; and keeping our home. But these last few years I have found neither my identity or my “calling” in those things. I wasn’t sure I knew how to “just” be a wife and mother. And I didn’t know how much of a battle that would be….

…a battle not fought against myself but against everything else the world, the church, the organizations/clubs, the ministry, and life try make my first priorities.

Motherson

So for three months I have practiced (and am kinda getting the hang of) the art of saying “no.” Just no.

“Wendy, could you…”….no.

“Wendy, we need…”….no.

“Wendy, you have kids, so…” ….no.

If it is not something do with my marriage or bringing up/homeschooling our children I reserve the right to say no. I have helped out on a few things when my committment can be very short term (were talking a few hours or one night). Beyond that, nope.

Truly this started, because we are gearing  up to be a foster family and I wanted to make sure I was 100% committed here. But, in the wait God is showing me something not only in my life but around me.

(excuse me while I climb up on my soapbox)

I watch as women around me are stressed, overcomitted and buckling under guilt and fatigue. Guilt that their children and husbands aren’t getting what they need/deserve and tired from trying to make it all happen. And I know that I am…I have been that woman.

Well meaning individuals ask, cajole, beg, require, demand and offer things that just need not be my responsibility right now. It just isn’t where I need to focus. And I watch as other women afraid to say no, too “nice” (or maybe too self destructive?) to say no, take it all on. And they crumble….I crumbled, a lot, too.

This is where the church needs to step in, where women in different stages (older kids, no kids, empty nesters, grandmothers, whoever) need to stand up for each other, and we need to support each other in focusing on the most important blessings God has given each family…the church…all of us…FAMILY. If mothers are empowered, supported and not overburdened they are pouring into children who can learn abot God and His love and even serve along side mom when the time comes. If women are encouraged to spend time with their husbands, to invest in their relationships (not leave them on the shelf while they serve apart) imagine the strength that will frame these families…the love, respect, and passion that will be modeled for kids.

Now, before you get all up in arms with me — yes, your ministry, your church, your job, your organization, your whatever-you-are-committed-to is important. And if you choose to run it, volunteer or work there that is your choice and I fully support you. Just two small things: 1) make sure it isn’t more important than what God gave you at home 2) don’t expect that it will be most important to me. It isn’t.

My children participate in many things run by other mothers. And I am thankful for those mothers and respect their drive to serve/work outside the home as well as in the home. And I pray for them, that they can serve well and love well. I pray that God continues to use them mightily and helps them see His priorities for them (whatever they might be).

What would church look like if we supported families to invest at home first…we likely wouldn’t have as many  ministries (what would you feel about that?)? …we likely would have parents more invested in what and how their kids are taught — from homeschool, to public school, to Sunday school (what would you feel about that?)?

There is freedom in the word “no”. One that many women…mothers…dont’ know. Our children are over committed and so are we. Childhood whizzes by at frenetic pace as we drive from here to there, serve on this committee or that one, and fit in family time like it is the icing and not the cake. It is time to allow mothers to have their cake (AND eat it too!!) without guilt or lack of support…it is time to put families first, for real.

Are you challenged in this area? What are your priorities? How do you figure them out? What advice do you have for other mothers struggling to do it all?

 

21 Aug

Why I Hate Homeschool

The door was closed. And locked.

The fan was on.

And still I could hear him.

Standing on the stairs, our sweet little boy was telling me how he was waiting for me so I could see what was in his hands and he was going to hide it behind his back so that I couldn’t see it when the door opened but maybe he would just put it on the top parts of the stairs so then I couldn’t see it when I came out but I still could see it and it wouldn’t break cuz he had worked a very long time on it and had I ever worked a very long time on anything did I like legos cuz he liked legos did they have legos when I was a kid because that was a long time ago and maybe girls didn’t like legos back then but….. (oh, it went on, but I am sure you get the point)

Here I was in the bathroom. I wasn’t hiding. I was, well, using the bathroom for its intended purposes. And, yet, there was no peace.

In that moment I hated homeschool.

(please, don’t lecture me about all the moments I’ll miss when they are older or they grow up so fast or blah, blah, blah…I’ve heard. I know it. But let’s be honest, it’s hard this motherhood thing…no matter how fleeting or sticky sweet the memories seem in the rearview mirror…it is hard. And sometimes a girl just wants to pee in peace.)

I had been up since 5:30. Saw hubby off to work with fresh brewed coffee and a kiss. I had my Bible time, showered, gotten dressed in real clothes (knew I was gonna rock the day when even had on matching bra and undies….okay, I know TMI but you and I both know that makes a huge difference and somehow don’t you feel more like a grown up?) and reviewed teacher’s guides. As I unloaded the dishwasher, I prepared a hot breakfast. The kids helped unload the dishwasher and chatted excitedly about the first day of school. We ate breakfast together (even remembered to pray over it!). We took first day of school pictures. We did our prayer sticks, devotion and Bible study. The kids were excited to investigate their new school supplies (especially the super big eraser that said “Oops!” on it).

crayons

The morning had gone perfectly. Sure there had been a few shed tears over drawing arms on a self-portrait and the fact that there were no breaks for the Wii in the middle of our first lesson of the day. But hey, the end of summer vacation is a shock to their systems and I could shrug it off. I was “Big Mama” (yep, totally still rocking that Superhero thing) able to homeschool, keep a neat home and look after my man…all while looking cute, keeping up with my girlfriends and blogging!

And suddenly I was in the bathroom wondering why there is no peace, even in here.

This hating homeschool feeling welled up in me.

I felt angry.

Then I felt sad.

Then I felt guilty for feeling sad and angry.

Then I just felt numb.

I should pause here and tow the party line that homeschooling is a delightful experience for your family. Learning becomes the heartbeat of your family — discovery and relationship guide your days. The chance to influence our children’s character by teaching them and surrounding them with love in a godly atmosphere is a blessing.

And really all sarcasm aside, it all totally is, but…

Right now. I’m sitting numb in the bathroom. Hating homeschool.

I see those moms at the street corner waving goodby to their smartly dressed scholars as they ride away on the big yellow bus. I see them high-fiving as it turns the corner. I can taste the mimosas they toast as it roars out of sight. Do they go home and jump on the bed? Or nap? Or eat ice cream for breakfast? Or wander every aisle of Target just looking at all the cuteness with no runs to the bathroom and never once uttering “don’t touch”? No, I bet they enjoy a trip to the bathroom in silence and wonder what their children are doing at school.

The curse (and ultimate blessing) of homeschool is that I’m with my children ALL day. We do life together. And we enjoy it!!! Last week, during that mirage called summer vacation, there were video games, movies, outdoor adventures, sleeping in, and lots of other things that occupied their minds and time. I was invisible, except for when the phone rang and summoned them inexplicably to my side to talk incessantly. Oh, yes, there was even peace in the bathroom….sometimes.

But this week, when the school bell rang it shifted the atmosphere in our home. It was time to learn and it is my job…as mom…as teacher…to help keep those little brains turned on. Funny thing about our kids (maybe all kids?!?!?) is that the more you engage, the more they engage. They soak up all we pour out and they seek us out…and follow us to the bathroom.

The numb feeling begins to subside and I begin to realize that the kids aren’t the only ones that have to adjust to school being back in session.

“…and I didn’t use special blocks on this one cuz (oh, he really did talk the WHOLE time I was in there) I didn’t have the right colors you know I had to search through lots of boxes to find the pieces I want we sure do have a lot of legos mom but I can never find those flat ones you know the ones that are flat that have…” (bathroom door opens) “…oh, you are FINALLY out of there!! Do you want to see my creation mom?”

His blue-green eyes are so full of pride, and rocking back and forth on the step he is so squishably cute.

I tussle his hair and climb the stairs with him to investigate his latest creation.

“Mom can kids play legos during reading time at public school?” “No probably not, pal.” “Oh? Well, I love homeschool mom.” (yep, he totally did say that!!) “Me too, buddy, me too!”

 

15 Aug

Raising Kids Who Get It

It might just look like a dented tin box tied with a broken balloon…

IMG_8785

…but it’s not.

This week we bid farewell to one of our Compassion kids. His letters with his perfectly beautiful penmanship and his dreams of university and the future have been a very real part of our family’s life for a few years. Our dear, William, has grown up and graduated from the program. And with his milestone comes the end of our relationship.

And while we talk of strategies to remember him — where to hang his picture and leaving his prayer stick in our jar — it is time to move on.

There are more children.

There is a HUGE need.

And we are a Compassion family.

Huddled around the computer screen we search for our new “family member”.

A girl this time.

Ethiopia.

Perhaps someone with a September birthday (since 3 out of 4 people in this house belong to that club).

And we find her. Simegn.

From her picture onscreen her eyes captivate me. She’s the one.

Her birthday is just a couple weeks after the kids. The same year as our daughter. She’s the one.

As I push all the right buttons on the screen to make her “ours,” the chatter begins around me.

She’ll need a birthday package. (something special with pictures, letters, stickers, a verse to pray over her and more)

More than an hour later he appears.

That dented box in his hands.

“I’ve been putting this together for her.”

That girl.

Our girl.

“I know she is poor.”

The tears that trail down his cheeks as I begin to tell him that we can’t send the box surprise. Paper stuff only I explain.

He tries to negotiate with me…to change the rules. Offers to pay to send it. And sobs until he can barely breath.

We offer other alternatives. We could save it for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes or put it in the foster peanuts bedroom.

He shakes his head.

He won’t let us see what’s in the box that is now hanging limply in his hand.

It takes almost an hour for him to quit moping.

Later after playing outside, his sister whispers to me the details of what is in the box.

And I tear up.

IMG_8786

It is his treasure….what’s important to him offered to another.

All those moments of our children begging for toys at Target and making Christmas lists in February flash through my mind. We’ve planned lessons and looked for teachable moments. I’ve sat with other mothers and lamented about how hard it is to raise kids who think of others….kids who get it.

And then, this little dented box whispers of little boy grace.

He gets it.

14 Aug

Yep, I’m that Mom (the list goes on)

{this all started here yesterday}

As I watched the page hit numbers climb yesterday, it was evident there was something ladies were connecting with.

I realized, perhaps, we are all that mother.

And so, today the list continues….

…am I the mother who forgot to put “tooth money” (we don’t do the tooth fairy” under our son’s pillow not once, not twice, but THREE times (for the same tooth)? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who paid a small child $3 for a tooth (late penalties!!) ? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who doesn’t do the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who sometimes pretends to not hear the kids on weekend mornings so my hunky hubby will get up with them? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who wonders if church is worth it when we’re 15 minutes late cuz shoes were “lost”, hair had tangles and we haven’t spoken since we got in the car? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who wants her children to fall in love with all the same books I did as a kid, so I have someone to discuss them with? Yep, I’m that mom. (btw, our daughter just finished Anne of Green Gables….my plan is working!!!)

…am I the mom who enlists her children in sorting dirty clothes and putting away clean clothes all in the name of life skills (but secretly wonders if it is because I hate laundry and this way I don’t have to deal with it as much)? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who worries my baggage will become their baggage? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who blasts my child for rolling her eyes at me and then catches myself rolling my eyes at someone else? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who is invisible until the phone rings, I’m in the bathroom or making dinner? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who coaches my kids on not growling at video games and tells them if they are frustrated to walk away, only to threaten the life of every Candy Crush programmer on a regular basis? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who has a stack of parenting books by my bed and yet still wonders how you do this mom thing? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who brings her camera everywhere and is constantly snapping pictures of her darlings? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who is constantly snapping the pictures so I don’t have to be in the pictures? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who sneaks into lil peanuts’ bedrooms to see them stilll…oh, I mean to see them sleeping? Yep, I’m that mom.

Yep Im that mom

…am I the mom who directed and edited a movie last week? Yep, I’m that mom. (sorry couldn’t resist…gonna be using that one for a while}

…am I the mom who has served in church out of guilt even when it brings stress and discord in my family? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who remembers the days when I wore makeup, only owned one pair of jeans and cared about any of it? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who began sponsoring Compassion International children to teach my kids about poverty, giving and living for Christ…only to have learned more than I could have ever imagined? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who wonders if there is some place that buys dogs hair by the pound (cuz if so, we are millionaires…just look at the living room carpet)? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who is up late working on ministry projects only to over-sleep and miss time with my kids? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who cleans before company comes and banks on the old shut the bedroom door to conceal the mess technique? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who cringes every time someone asks me to serve in the children’s ministry (“cuz obviously I like kids if I homeschool”)? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who wants to know that I’m not alone…that someone else gets it…that I’m not the only one? (once again, say it with me girls) Yep, we’re that mom!

Praying for you today mom. God made you to be that mom!!

{have more that mom moments to share?? We’d love to hear ’em…comment below. After all moms love company!}

13 Aug

Yep, I’m that Mom

In response to a recent funny comment from a friend (if it was not meant to be funny, then she most assuredly is not my friend)…

The final line in a paragraph chocked full of who do you think you are and you are pretending to be something you are not was, “are you really that mom?”

I’ve been pondering that question.

If you mean…

…am I the mom who managed to pull off an awesome week of summer camp at home for our peanuts last week. Where we made capes, dressed up and played a ton? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who lost my cool over yet another sibling squabble, yelled at our sweet lil peanuts and burst into tears before retreating to the laundry room right before some of that superhero fun? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who gets lazy and leaves my children digging through clean laundry baskets rather than folding it and putting it away some weeks? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who every now and then hides a candy bar on top of the fridge to devour in the post-bedtime silence? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who posts a blog about parenting and within in minutes has both kids in time outs shaking my head over this whole parenting gig? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who sometimes puts the kids to bed a bit early and skips their bedtime stories so I can make out like a teenager on the couch with my hunky hubby? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who pauses in the midst of dinner preparation to play balloon rockets with the peanuts? Yep, I’m that mom.

balloon rockets

…am I the mom who oversleeps, leaps out of bed to find breakfast prepared by the seven-year-old, and feels overjoyed and like a failure at the same time? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom that some days doesn’t shower until nearly bedtime cuz the day gets away from her? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who can feel in the mid-afternoon that I’ve forgotten to pray or read my Bible? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who makes a certain brand of boxed brownies (following the recipe) over and over for friends and Bible studies cuz people will rave? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who cries out to Jesus in the midst of this crazy roller-coaster of mothering because I feel lost and unworthy of the amazing gift He’s entrusted me with? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the homeschooling mom who worries that the kids aren’t “socialized” enough in one breath and growls at the calendar full of their activities in the next? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who wants them to learn to tie their shoes but silently thanks God for Velcro shoes and the freedom it grants us all? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who mourns over the children I placed for adoption sometimes so deeply that I miss the children sitting in my lap? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who has her own box of crayons that she won’t share with her kids? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who wrestles with her past, worries about the future and tries to make the most of today (most of the time)? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who judges other women for speaking harshly to their children in the grocery store (guilty of the same thing herself)? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who giggles when my son says “butt” or my daughter farts while she laughs? Yep, I’m that mom.

…am I the mom who is hard on myself and needs a little grace? (say it with me girls) Yep, I’m that mom.

So, my dear, anonymous commenter (yes, that is a word now), I apologize if somewhere along the way I made it seem like I think I am perfect or that I am, in fact, trying to be something other than who I am. I am just a girl (to quote Gwen Stefani) and I do the best I can (most days) and am blessed by the opportunity to share glimpses of my life with those who choose to read my blog.

I pray for all of us…all us moms….that everyday we are that mom…the mom God made us to be!

 

12 Aug

I’m a Super(hero) Mom

Last year I had big plans.

Summer reading.

Field trips.

Playdates.

A summer full of fun and memory making.

Two surgeries, a family emergency and a death in the family most assuredly took the wind out of all those sails. The kids watched movies all summer.

They were bored. I was bored and summer crawled by at a lame snail’s pace. (upside we ALL looked forward to school starting)

So this year, I was determined to do better. For summer to be better!

With my calendar by my side and all my ideas rushing around in my head I did what any woman who needs direction and inspiration does.

I took to Pinterest.

And inspired I did get. Overwhelmed too. (oh and a little distracted cuz there are some killer desserts and some super cute outfits on there too!!)

So I pinned.

And planned.

And before long there were three weeks of “Summer Camp at Home” on the calendar.

(the first two weeks were themed for animals and water. We played some games, ate some snacks and did some crafts. They were good weeks, but the third week was blog worthy!!)

The third week (drum roll please) was Superhero Week.

The weekend before the camp started I gave the kids homework. Think up a superhero  identity.

Monday morning found us bound for Wal-Mart on a mission to get costume supplies.

superhero supplies

Hours later, covered in glitter, hot glue on my finger tips, we had reinvented ourselves….

superhero mama cape

…my cape…

superhero gear

 

Jester Man (our son) and Water Cheetah Archery Girl (our daughter) – gear is set out for Tuesday’s activity

While the peanuts slept on Monday night, hunky hubby and I decorated the house with lots of inflated villains. Tuesday was Superheroes and Villains day. Armed with nerf guns the kids hunted down and shot bad guys all over the house.

superhero villain balloons

superhero shooting villians

And then…Wednesday was Superhero Olympics. We invited some friends over, set up some games, and played.

superhero beanbag toss

beanbag toss

superhero obstacles

obstacle course

superhero medals

superhero medals

superhero league

elite league of superheroes

It was an incredible week and we ended it by making a movie. Yes, a movie!!

Totally the highlight of the week. I grabbed my camera and the kids and I invented scenes as we went along. When hunky hubby got home he dawned his best bad guy costume (complete with cape that we made) and we shot the “Bad Guy” (that was his name) scenes. After some editing (read hours and hours of me trying to figure out how to add music and make it cool), we sat down to the premiere on Friday night (complete with movie snacks and orange soda). It was a blast.

So, despite some diva moments (mine and theirs) and glitter on every surface of the house (even days later) summer camp at home was a smashing success. At the very least we made some awesome family memories….and a movie. (hey remember that time I produced a movie!)

05 Aug

So, We Wait

I am not a good waiter.

As in not good at waiting. {not as in serving food…although I am really clumsy and wouldn’t be good at that either…but I digress}

I am not a good waiter.

It was two months ago yesterday {yes, I am counting}  that we got the call. “YOU’RE APPROVED!”

And yet despite two possible placements, nothing has panned out.

On the radio I hear ads for Foster Parents  needed.

On Facebook I watch the posts from Virginia Adopts.

So many in need and yet our little foster peanut bedroom remains empty.

I pray.

I wait.

I clean the bedroom.

I wait.

I grumble, groan and complain about so many in need and yet….

I wait.

This weekend I began reading “Instant Mom by Nia Vardarlos {of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame}. The book, a funny and touching look at her journey to adoption from foster care, reminded me. I need to wait.

And wait well.

The moment Nia and her husband, Ian, meet the little girl…their daughter…they know it. They just know it. In the weeks and months after meeting her they face many, MANY challenges and difficult behaviors, but their love and commitment to the sweet little girl never waivers. And it was in those passages that I exhaled and really began to think of this journey we are on.

God has a plan.

God is getting us ready for a child….children. {hunky hubby and I have known from the almost the very beginning there is more than one headed this way}

When it is right…God’s “right”…there is no wait that was too long or price that was too high.

And here is the truth about the wait…it has nothing to do with me….this child…these children…they are going through hell.

There is nothing pretty about foster care, about the journey and trauma that bring a child from there to here. There is loss, pain, difficulty, hurt lil hearts, scared lil bodies and the ugliness of this world. {and writing that sentences reduces me to tears} Our family has opened our hearts…we are ready and willing to love and share life with more kids. But, to get here they have to hurt and live through things that no child deserves….and that is beyond heartbreaking.

So, we wait.

There is much prayer in these long moments. Prayers for protection and love. Prayers for grace and mercy. Prayers that we are ready.

Prayers to make me a better waiter.

I believe God has a plan…and it will be perfect and worth the wait.

{Will you join our family in prayer for the peanut(s) that will come into our home?? Will you pray for their protection and His grace…for their families and the men & women involved with their cases? Will you pray that I wait in a God honoring, Jesus-giving way?}

02 Aug

I’ll Trade You A Rock

{I frequently surf blogs, Pinterest and Facebook for ideas for homeschooling, parenting, life and more!! I am grateful to the women (and men) that choose to share what works, what doesn’t and a laugh at yourself anecdote that helps else all get through life. To that end, I’ve decided to share a few things along the way….}

 

Just a bit past lunch time and we’ve already been deep into magical dungeons, searching for golden tickets and saving the world with an underwear clad superhero.

And while our sweet peanuts hang on every word and stretch their imaginations to keep up with the adventure, it all started with a rock.

Not even really a rock, more of a pebble. Buy ‘em from the dollar store in a bag “river rocks” kinda things.

Last year when we bought our children Nintendo DS’s for their birthday it quickly became apparent that we had to find a balance between games and well everything else in life. After trying a couple of systems, hunky hubby and I hit on something that we thought was genius.

Turns out. It was.

And, it has turned out better than we ever could have planned or imagined. {don’t you love when you stumble across some incredible parenting method?!?!?! Oh, let’s be honest, much of parenting is the stumble method.}

The concept is simple.

15 minutes of reading = one rock

One rock = 15 minutes of gaming time

The more you read, the more you play.

Each kid has their own jar. We put in rocks and take out rocks depending on reading/playing time.

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Here’s where the couldn’t-have-planned-this-part comes in.

Our kids became obsessed with earning rocks. Piling up hours and hours of playing time. {time that resets every weekend} And how do you earn playing time?? By reading.

Our already bookworm daughter used her love of books to bank time in case she felt like playing. Our not such a bookworm, learning how to read son, wasn’t so keen on the system at first. And then, enter “Captain Underpants” in a quest to light his fire for reading (or being read to), I began searching out books that target little boys. Imagine a set of books with wedgie, underwear, booger, poopie pants and more as the center of titles, plot lines and stories. {lots of moms seem to cringe at the mere thought of the books, but if it gets them reading?!?!?} Our little man was hooked. And the more time we spent in the pages of Captain Underpants the more time he wanted to spend reading.

We now spend a couple of hours a day reading together, all of us.

Hunky hubby and I have toyed with the idea of expanding our system. 1 rock = 15 minutes of media time (video games, ipads, computer, tv, you name it). While we are still working out the kinks.

In the meantime, we keep reading. The sound of pebbles clinking into jars is music to my ears. And I don’t think the kids even notice that they spend FAR more time reading then they do playing video games.

I heard Dr. Phil say once, {said with a bit of a texas-hollywood drawl} “you have to find your child’s currency.”

For us, it’s rocks.

30 Jul

We WILL have fun

Sometimes I get it right. Like today.

Sometimes, I don’t. Like yesterday. {plastic pool + ice cold water from the hose = fun afternoon, right?? Add a bee sting on a tiny foot, a little girl attitude and a deflated momma ego and it becomes a fail. Fail.}

Today, I awoke with new resolve. We will have fun today. We will get it right. This summer camp at home thing will produce smiles and fun. It will.

An hour into filling water balloons I was smiling to myself. Oh, they are going to love this! Buckets full of birdie balloons at the ready. Just a few more to fill, some green pigs to draw on the driveway and we’d be ready to play.

A balloon springs a leak. I get wet.

Our son discovers the bucket full of balloons and gets excited about throwing them at his sister. When I try to explain we are going to play a game and if there are some left over they can have a war, he bursts into tears.

A balloon pops off the faucet spraying the kitchen and me. Mostly me. I get soaked.

Small boy continues to cry.

I fill another balloon, dry it off and draw a face on it.

IMG_7154

If we survive to play the game. We will have fun.

I give our son a choice. Calm down and play, and maybe have some fun or stay inside and be angry.

He opts for maybe having fun. Maybe.

Off to the driveway we go. Buckets of balloons loaded and ready.

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I grab the sidewalk chalk. I begin sketching boxes and round things.

I’ve got the lil man’s attention.

“Mom, that looks like a pig.”

“A green pig, mom.”

“Mom, are we playing Angry Birds?”

{if only I could insert the delighted squeals}

Now we’re all drawing pigs and scenes.

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And then it is time to play…

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{in order for a pig to “fall” it has to be completely wet….here the sun was a pig}

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{oh yeah, and some of the “birds” were real balloons filled with water…and sometimes they bounce}

IMG_7241{the final battle required team work and lots of balloons…and yes, the boy did play in his socks}

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{it took more of the actual water balloons then I thought it would so we took a break after level 2 and filled up a more balloons and re-hydrated the players}

Some days I get it right. And I just wanted to share {and well, maybe, brag a little too!}. But we had a great time…Daddy is jealous at work and the kids are ready to play again soon.

Summer camp at home is now 1-1. Never one who likes ties I’ll have to try again tomorrow. More water balloons (after all this week’s theme is water) and more games. I’m hoping for smiles, not perfection, and some fun memories along the way. {oh, and maybe, just maybe, a little family therapy session with balloons!}

{btw, we had lots of balloons left over and the lil man was able to get everyone soaking wet!}

16 Jul

I really, really, REALLY didn’t have a clue

We had our reasons. And they were well rehearsed.

I could spout off an impressive list…a God-centered education, overcrowding in schools, exposure to worldly concepts and issues and so much more.

And today, surrounded by piles of notebooks, planners, and books I realize….

I didn’t have a clue.

Don’t get me wrong…I still aim for a God-centered home (& education)…and while there is validity to all the reasons I thought we started to homeschool I really, really,  REALLY didn’t know the reasons we would keep doing it.

I’m a planner. I love to plan {sometimes I think I might love to plan the how better than I like the what but that’s another blog post for another day}.  But this year as I outlined topics, read through school books, planned field trips and searched the library online catalog I began to get excited. As the weeks began to lay out in front me, I saw all the places where little minds were going to get excited and engaged.

I began to see a small boy marching around the house with his shield and sword….made as we study the crusades and what the true armor of God is. I saw the small girl who gets googly-eyed over Robin Hood {have you watched the BBC version????}, light up with scissors in hand as we put together the lapbook filled with some of England’s greatest literature and myth all wrapped up in one bow wielding philanthropist. There are samplers to be made as we study colonial times and chances to walk in the footsteps of amazing real-life heroes for freedom and our liberty on field trips.

As I spouted off my list of reasons and well rehearsed speeches about socialization and living on one income, I couldn’t see the realities of homeschooling. The days when we’d forget to pray and read the Bible…um, God-centered, what?? The days when my children spent more time trying to scratch each others eyes out then breathing…family bonding, healthy socialization, what??? The days when math ended in tears, reading was more grumbling then sounding out and I forgot to plug in the crockpot to actually cook the roast. Quality time, healthy meals and what????

There are hard days and then there are even harder days. But even, then through the tears and prayer {really, God, I don’t think I can do this!??!?!} the truth of why we homeschool comes sparkling through. It is in the Bible character “go fish” games, it is in the cuddling on the floor reading library books, it is in the backyard safaris and celebrating the lightbulb moment in math. It is in science lessons with daddy and sharing our unit work with family and friends. It is talking about Egypt over dinner or taking a field trip as a family in the middle of the week.

The glory and grunt-work of homeschool all come down to the same thing.

Family.

We play, learn, laugh and live as a family. We dig into the riches of God’s Word, discover the beauty and wonder of creation, and grow…together.

There are other reasons too, of course, that I didn’t know would become so important…like tayloring their education to their learning styles, talents, passions and weaknesses; like building godly character and new skill sets; like allowing natural sleeping cycles dictate when we get started.

I had a list and plan on how to do this homeschool thing, but what I found on this incredible crazy journey filled with markers on the wall and dog hair on handwriting pages, we’ve found that homeschool isn’t something our family does…it is the heartbeat of this loud, book-filled home.

11 Jun

Because. I. Can.

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I scroll by quickly. Because I can.

Sitting on my comfy couch, in my air-conditioned living room with my cold Diet Coke sweating on the table nearby. I scroll by.

Because. I. Can.

I’m neither proud of this fact or ashamed of this. Just being honest.

I did go back and stare at the photo…all the detail…all the heartache…the tiny little ribs…the sweet arms…the menacing vulture. All of it. With tears in my eyes I shut the tab. Image gone. Tears lingering.

(photo by Kevin Carter — to read blog where I first saw it and read it here)

 

But what can I do? That’s almost always my question. What can I, a simple homemaking, homeschooling woman from the middle of Virginia, actually do???

If that child was within my grasp, would I pick it up? You bet your sweet boopie I would. (Yeah, I don’t know what a boopie is either, but it sounded good and kinda southern…I like to sound southern!) Yes, I would pick up that child and do whatever was in my means to help…to care for…to feed…to love on…to raise…whatever.

But.

(I can already see some of your wheels turning — ready to tell me I could go on a mission trip or I could write a check to an organization is on the ground. Both noble ideas and answers. But.)

While I sit among the richest population in the world does writing a check really make me a woman after God’s own heart? Does a scrawled signature, a stamp and trip to the mailbox get me off the hook in the fight for the “least”?? My simple answer…no. God wants more from me….from us.

My husband and I choose to partner with organizations like Compassion International. And yes, we totally write a check…actually less effort than that…got love auto payments, but our role doesn’t end there. We write letters and send pictures to our Compassion kids. We pray for and talk about the children, their families, their communities, their countries. Compassion takes the money and multiples it with others into food, medical care, spiritual care, love and SO much more.

And while we love Compassion and the richness our sponsorship adds to our lives. It is a piece of what we do…and it still doesn’t help me refute the “but” from above.

At the end of the day, or my life, what can I offer to my sweet Savior as my efforts to change the world? To love those He loves. To change the world one heart, one empty tummy, one stolen childhood, one person at a time?

**start at home** Sounds almost like a cop-out doesn’t it. Too simple, too easy, too lazy. But, it isn’t. Everyday the focus of our home is teach our peanuts about God — His creation, His people (through world history and current events), and loving Him. Homeschool lends itself to educating my children about the truths of extreme poverty around the world, but any family with any schooling routine could do this. You just gotta get a little intentional. The old saying about children being the future is TOTALLY true and we need to live like it. Start the conversations — talking about thinking about others, showing Jesus’ love, sacrificing for others. Then as a family make a plan…what’s one thing we can do this month to change our world (remember one step, one person at a time). Then Do it!!! (need some inspiration or some help — check out this awesome ebook from Live58 or connect with great communities like Moms Ending Extreme Poverty on Facebook or read the book Missional Moms by Helen Lee)

**find their passions** Our daughter has a heart for orphans (or “children without parents” as she used to call them). After listening to her sweet little girl games of school and store, I realized that she was playing that she was teaching orphans and selling everything she owned to care for them. We began to look for ways for her to put her hands where her heart already was. We made dresses…simple patterns, cute fabric and a little bit of trial and error. In the past two years we have sent boxes of dresses to organizations here in the states and we have loaded dresses into missionaries suitcases to have them delivered to little princesses at orphanages and poor communities around the world. What talents do you have? Where does your heart daydream or imagine?

**pray** God can do more with a willing heart than we ever can with a checkbook and a plan. Surrender it all to God — ask Him where to go and what to do. You might be writing checks, living abroad, or inspiring your community to get involved before you know it. Follow God — He has a plan for you.

**do something** I scrolled past that picture that hurt my heart (much like I used to change the channel when Sally Struthers used to show me images of flies crawling on starving children), but I chose to go back. To read it. To pray about it. To follow the links…to read the comments…to educate myself. Our family will be working our through the “Giving Table” ebook (linked above) this summer. That is our first action step, and as we pray who knows where God will take us.

It has been said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” (source unknown) Darkness and poverty linger (just like that blasted vulture in the photo) and when we do nothing we leave room for evil to win (the battle, not the war for Jesus already won that).  Choose to love….to fight…to follow Jesus…to change the world….Because. You. Can.

 

07 Jun

Lessons the Ladies Have Taught Me

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It will end as quietly as it began. In a small Bible study in our home.

For most people the day will be unremarkable, but for me, even the square on the calendar is already full of memories, lessons and an unbelievable cast of characters.

Next week, I’ll teach my last women’s Bible study, putting a period at the end of one of the most beautifully life-changing seasons of my life…serving in women’s ministry. 

I got into women’s ministry, because I thought women needed a safe place to exhale and allow Jesus to love them….and I thought God was going to allow me to help Him love on them. And while, I’d like to think, that is what happened along the way, the truth is women’s ministry changed me, taught me, molded me. This Jesus girl needed to learn how to love and be loved and there were some lessons I had to learn along the way.

Lesson #1 – Where there are women, there is food

Be it a Bible study, a movie night, a retreat or anything else Jesus girls can bring some vittles now. Tables, counters, and plates piled high with deliciousness prepared and served with a whole lotta love and good bit of laughter.

 

Lesson #2 – We all need a place to just be women

Wife. Mother. Sister. Daughter. Granddaughter Friend. Ministry Leader. Executive. Teacher. Bookkeeper. Hostess. Maid. Neighbor. Servant. Helper. Driver. And SOOOOOOO many more. Women wear so many hats and take on so many roles everyday that it is often difficult to just set everything down and exhale.

And the truth is, most of us, don’t create space to exhale in our lives. We push and rush. We forgo sleep and beat deadlines. And we are tired and hurting. Unfulfilled and overworked.

This is where women’s ministry comes in — it gives us a space and place to allow women to just sit — to worship, to pray, to breathe, to feel God. A woman grounded in Jesus blooms in ways that people cannot miss. When women are refreshed and healing. When they are filled to overflow with the sweet truth of Jesus they pour out.

As women ministry leaders and teams it our responsibility to give women a safe place to immerse in the Word, find discipleship opportunities, and receive the love of Jesus from their eternal sisters.

 

Lesson #3 – We have got to get real

In the beginning I wanted women’s ministry to be pretty. Cute little parties. Music. Flowers. Decorations. Prizes. Pretty. But I soon found that life isn’t pretty. And ministry isn’t speakers, programs, or budgets. Ministry is life….it is a couple of Jesus girls looking for answers…for Him.

We need to stop entertaining people and start engaging. We need to be bold and brave, and take on topics like domestic violence, food addiction, parenting. We need to dig into the Word and help women make sense of it, apply it…GET it!! We need to turn off the movies, disconnect the sound system, and get women talking to each other…ministering to each other.

We need to put on our Jesus girl t-shirts and lay ourselves bare. Share our struggles, speak up about what we don’t understand, and pray for each other. No more prayer request gossip line sessions where we write it down and promise to pray later. Grasp hands, ugly cry if you need to, intercession for each other.

We need to learn to pray, laugh, learn and talk with unabashed honesty and be real with each other.

 

Lesson #4 – It is like herding cats

Somehow it doesn’t matter if there are 5 women in the room or 150, women are hard to lead. God harnessed incredible power and put it in women — passion, love, excitement, drive — and wrapped up in beauty, hormones and emotions. Then we wrap it all up our latest Kohl’s super-cheap, wicked-cute sale find.

You have to have the finesse of a well-seasoned politician; the moves of a Super Bowl receiver; the sense of humor of Betty White; the thick, tough skin of John Wayne and the wisdom of Solomon all wrapped up in one broken and flawed girl who is just trying to follow God. Cuz, us Jesus girls, we can have opinions (that we don’t mind sharing), and drama (Steel Magnolias ain’t got nothing on us), and comfort zones (and if you change something or move us out of it you WILL hear about it), and we have IMPOSSIBLE standards (how the church used to do it or how the church the down road did or how it looked on Pinterest).

It’s like herding cats — they go where they want, with claws and a sometimes a bit of hissing.

 

Lesson #5 – If it is not about Jesus, we have failed

 

I don’t care what the topic is. I don’t care what the point of the gathering is. I don’t care why the church/ministry/Bible study/group has decided to do it. If it isn’t about the Gospel — living it, teaching it, breathing it, learning it, sharing it….it isn’t important.

We don’t have to make Jesus flashy or fancy. There need be no entertainment or show. People need Jesus. They need us…the church…the leaders…the Jesus’ people…to live like Jesus works and help them find His Truth for their lives (in Word and in deed).

If we aren’t giving women the chance to learn about Jesus, equipping them to share Jesus in their lives, and loving on them like Jesus (through TRUTH and SERVICE) then we have failed.

“…one thing is needed….which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

 

Lesson #6 – God always shows up

No matter what we plan. It isn’t about us or our plans. It is about God and His girls. Year after year — church after church – event after event — woman after woman I have seen it. When we help women carve out time in their schedules to seek God — He shows up!!

He touches a hand lifted in worship.

He whispers to a weary heart surrendered in prayer.

He speaks in the testimony of His daughters.

He breaks through pain, He repairs friendships, He places the “right” person in our paths.

He is the comfort of a meal cooked for a hurting family.

He is in the laughter when His girls gather.

He is in the reflection of stain glass window when your knees are knocking as you speak.

He is in every detail….we need just look.

And that, really is, what I’ve come to know through this journey. That God is in every detail. That it isn’t our time or talent that make anything successful…it is the pure and holy love of our Savior wrapping around us.  He is reflected in every woman I have been blessed to laugh, cry, pray, talk, debate, learn, lead, follow, study, hike, play, serve, worship,  and love with over the years.

 

 

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