Sunday, December 22, 2013

Unsolicited Advice for New Parents

Congratulations on your new baby.  You've just been given an amazing gift that is like no other in this life.  If you're like me, your world just changed in about a hundred million ways.  I bet you're feeling a little sleep deprived, huh?  Yep.  That will get better once the new love of your life learns to sleep through the night.  But your sleep will never be the same, as you'll always have one ear and one eye half open, listening and looking to protect your little one from all harm, even when they're almost as big as you are because they're growing faster than the national debt.

Can I give you a few words of wisdom?  Please?  Because I really wish I would have listened to some of this advice when my oldest kids were just little bitty babes.

You might be asking yourself, "Who is this woman to give me unsolicited advice?"  Good question.  I'm probably nobody special to you, but I like to think of myself as a special Momma to four truly amazing people.  They think I'm the bees' knees. As of today, my kids are 10, 8, 6 and 3.  Over the course of the past ten and a half years, I've picked up a few things here and there about kids and parenting.  Have I gotten it all perfect?  If you know me, you're probably laughing out loud right now or screaming something like "Are you kidding?" at your screen.  If we haven't yet met, let me assure you.  I am nowhere close to having this parenting thing down pat, but there are a few things I'm pretty sure I think I know.  Maybe tomorrow all of that will change, but for today, here's what I think you should keep in mind.

1. Think long term.  Elf on the Shelf?  50 Christmas gifts from Santa under the tree?  Gift bags for all 38 kids at your child's birthday party?  Think about it l-o-n-g term.  You set the bar when your kids are young and it's way harder to lower it than it is to raise it.

If you start Elf on the Shelf when your kid is born, you may well be coming up with creative ideas for that creepy little mischief maker for 10 plus years.  If you have more than one kid, you may be doing that every December for decades.  Decades, my friend.  That's a lot of creativity.  It's not like you can just up and say, "Buddy has been recalled to the North Pole and won't be back" without traumatizing your children.  If you're good with doing that for so long, have at it.  Just think long term before you commit yourself to it.

The same thing goes with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.  I'm not one of those people who think these games are lying to your kids.  (Please don't go there on this post, it's not the point.) We love these pretend creatures at our house and the magical quality they help bring to holidays and special occasions.  BUT I do believe you need to have a clear exit strategy from the beginning.  Your kids are eventually going to figure this out.  You need to know what you're going to say BEFORE THIS HAPPENS and you need to be on the same page as your spouse.  In our house, that means we answer questions with questions.  "Mom, is Santa real?" is followed by a quick "What do you think, Kiddo?"  They all know I bring the Easter baskets and my oldest figured out the Tooth Fairy with a  triumphant, "I KNEW IT!" when I told him it was me.  But he's reluctant to let go of Santa.  When he asked last year, I answered with, "There are some things that once you know, you can never unknow.  Are you sure you want me to answer that question?"  Instead of plunging ahead as he had about the Tooth Fairy, he simply looked at me and said, "Never mind.  I don't want to know," and walked out of the room.

***Here's a little bonus bit of unsolicited advice for you.  I don't think it's get-its-own-number worthy, so I'll just slip it in here with a couple of these little fellas. ***  With Santa, we tell our kids that the red-suited men they see at the mall and in movies are Santa's helpers.  That there is no way for him to be everywhere at once but that these guys help him out.  This is, I believe, paving the way for us to reveal that, yes, we parents are the ones who leave the gifts under the tree in the spirit of Saint Nicholas.  St. Nick was a real person, by the way, and my kids know his story.  We tie him to the Santa tradition and talk about how he gave out of a love for Christ. Just last week, my daughter and I had a conversation about this and I asked her how she thought Santa got into our house since we don't have a chimney.  Her answer, "I think he gives the parents the presents and they put them under the tree."  These little conversations are my way of easing them into the truth about the Big Guy in Red. ***End of bonus content. ***

And then there are the birthday parties.  Oh. My. Goodness.  In my early parenting years, I was known to go a little overboard.  It can be fun, but don't kid yourself when you throw a huge party for your one-year-old.  It's not about your kid, it's about you.  They won't remember any of it, probably won't have that great of a time and you shouldn't go into debt just to buy them a toy for every month they have been alive.  Chances are, they don't need it.  (See #2.)

Don't get me wrong, my kids have GREAT birthday parties.  We usually have a lot of guests and I make them some rocking' birthday cakes.  But we don't do crazy expensive things.  They get one gift.  They make great memories.  My June born boy usually has friends over to play with water guns and on the giant water slide we make out of construction grade plastic sheeting.  The winter babes like to go the local indoor swimming pool and my April baby gets to party at the park on good weather years and at the Rec Center on colder ones.  Super fun doesn't have to be super expensive.

We don't give out treat bags to the guests.  Seriously, who was the mom who decided that the birthday kid has to give things to all the guests?  Why are goodie bags now the expected norm?  Can't kids just come, eat our cake and give presents to the birthday boy?  We have never once, since we have stopped doing this, had a single complaint.  No kids have refused to come to the next party because they didn't get a bag of dollar store goodies on their way out.

2. Less is more.  Take it from the mom who recently spent $75 and four embarrassing hours at the laundromat, using every single machine, just to get caught up on her family of six's dirty clothes. There is no good reason that any family should have that many clothes. The times when I'm able to pare down our closets and only keep the things we really need and actually wear are so much easier to keep up with than the times we don't.  This is, of course, like so many other things, easier said than done.

This is the single hardest thing on this list for me.  Every time I purge anything from our house we manage to fill it up again in what seems like minutes.  Luckily for me, our house is tiny and that alone helps me in this area.

I tend to be sentimental with the kids' stuff.  I've gotten better about giving away their outgrown clothes because I've found that I get great joy out of seeing other kids in their stuff.  It always takes me back to when my kids were that size and I love those memories.

Toys are harder.  When purging I tend to get caught up in who gave them, how much they cost, and how fun they could be.  The reality is, none of that matters if they kids have so much that they can't find anything to play with through the mess.  Over the years we've whittled it down some, in that we mainly have just a few classes of toys left: Legos and building toys, action figures and vehicles, costumes and toy weapons (Don't judge me.  I have three boys.), American Girl dolls and Barbies, musical instruments, and stuffed animals.  We have a few other random things here and there, but these are our main bins.  Having them sorted helps with clean up and allows them to be easily found.

3. Ask for and be willing to receive help.  It's hard.  It's humbling.  Do it anyway.  When your mother-in-law, neighbor, best friend or Sunday school class wants to clean your house, make you a meal or watch your kids for an hour, LET THEM.  You need breaks.  You can't do it all.  None of us can.  Don't think it makes you less of a great parent, wife and person.  Having a little help can actually make you more of a great parent, wife and person.  When you're not bogged down with the mundane and have actually gotten more than two hours of sleep in a row, you're better.  Let the people who love you bless you, especially in your less than stellar moments, like when you're sick, pregnant (or both!), or just running ragged.

4. Let your kids take risks.  Quit hovering.  Let your two-year-old climb up the steps at the playground without you holding her hand.  It may feel like you're being a lazy parent if you step back and just watch but you're not.  You're giving your child the chance to set her own boundaries, to take some early risks and to gain her first bit of independence.  There will be some other parents who may give you the stink eye or feel the need to report your child's activity to you but hold your ground.  It's better for your kid and less exhausting for you.  No, I'm not saying that you should let your just-barely-walking 14-month-old climb alone to the top of the ten foot slide or leave your three-year-old unattended at the fish pond.  That's not letting them take risks, that's just being stupid.  Know the difference.

5. Don't do everything for your kids.  Give them chores.  Make them clean up their own messes, physical and otherwise.  This doesn't mean you abandon them.  Just like leaving a little one alone at the fish pond is just stupid, so can be leaving them alone in this.  You must train them and give them age appropriate things to do.  Don't wait until they're teenagers and then expect them to suddenly be super glad that you're delegating them laundry duty.  I'm pretty sure that won't go well for you.  If they've been a part of doing laundry since they were big enough to help pull the clean clothes out of the dryer they'll take it better.  Don't get me wrong, they're probably still not going to be thrilled, because who really likes folding laundry?   But at least when they leave your home they'll know how to do laundry.

I want my kids to be self-sufficient adults.  When they move out, I want them be successful.  As hard as it may be for me as a momma to do, I know that this means they will need to do things without my help or even my advice.  I want my future-daughters and son-in-law to appreciate that I took the time to teach my kids to do things, not to curse me for coddling them and teaching them nothing.  That's why we're taking the time now to teach them things like how to cook, clean and change a toilet seat.

6. Realize that you don't know it all and don't judge the parenting choices of others too harshly.  Just because you read Dr. So-and-So's Big Book of Parenting or found something worked with your oldest kid doesn't mean you're a parenting guru.  It also doesn't mean that the mom who is raising her kids in just the opposite way you are raising yours is wrong.  Some children need hard and fast rules and boundaries.  Others thrive in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle.  Just because you do well in one doesn't mean the other doesn't work for someone else.

7. Don't take yourself too seriously.  Take time to be silly.  You know what I do with my kids that is totally crazy?  I spray them with the hose from the kitchen sink.  In the kitchen.  When they are fully dressed.  At random.  Why?  Because they think it's hilarious.  Some day, when they talk to their shrink about me, I hope they mention not only times I totally lost it in a yelling fit but also the times I totally lost it in silliness.

8. Build traditions.  They don't have to be big or expensive or set in stone.  Just make them.  In our house, we have several things we do on an annual basis.  Daddy takes Baby Girl to the Daddy-Daughter dance in April.  The boys and I have a night out at the bowling alley in May.  Baby Girl and I have now attended four Girl Scout Mother-Daughter Campouts.  Our entire family spends the Fourth of July in a nearby little town that puts on quite the extravaganza.  We also do a lot of other little things on a more regular basis.  We go to church together every single weekend.  We pray, sing and read at bedtime.  We say silly things like "I love you.  I love you most!  I love you more than most!" to each other almost every day.

9. Be involved.  Coach their sports, even if you don't know first base from the 50 yard line.  Learn it.  Volunteer at Scouts and in their classrooms.  Even if you can't be the leader, help out or cheer them on.  Show up for games, recitals and class parties.  Know their friends.  Make yours THE house to be at, even if it's small and totally not HGTV worthy.  If you can stock it with popsicles and cheese balls and make kids feel welcome, they won't care what size it is or that you don't have matching throw pillows on your couch.  They'll just know that they're welcome, loved and safe.  Isn't that what we all want to know anyway?

10. Take pictures of yourself with your kids.  Life is short.  You don't know what tomorrow will bring.  Memories fade, especially when you're young. If, God forbid, something happened to me tomorrow, I would want to leave tangible evidence for my kids of the good things we did together.  Things they could look back on and say, "My mom did that with me.  I don't really remember it, but look how happy we were.  She must have really loved me."

Some of this you will think is awesome advice.  Some of it you may think is total bunk.  I'm alright with that.  What works for my family may not work for yours.  I get that.  If you're an extravagant gift-giver, give extravagant gifts, even to kids who attend your family birthday parties.  If you love shoes, have 50 pairs in your closet.  I'm not judging you on that.  Do what makes you and your spouse and your kids happy.  In the end, that's where the good stuff is.  Go get the good stuff.  And some sleep, because, Newbie, you're gonna need it.


What would you add to this list?  What is the best advice you received as a new parent?  Did you follow it or just wish you had later?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Raising "Tigger"

Last Sunday I sat in church with my family, quietly debating whether or not to send my son to the nursery.  Our church has special programs for kids on most weekends, but the last one of the month, they call a "Family Sunday" and the kids stay in the main service.  Pastor Steve has often told the congregation that these weeks may be a little noisy, but that we like hearing the noise kids make in church because that means there are kids in our church.  And he really means it.  I know him and I know he means it.  But I also know how loud my little one can be and how hard it is for ME to concentrate with him on my lap.

My oldest two sat at the end of the row, engaged in worship and the sermon.  The youngest, not quite four, was content in his daddy's arms for the entire service.  He sat quietly and wasn't even the littlest bit distracting.  My six and a half year old first grader, though, bounced on my lap the ENTIRE time.  That day his daddy called him "Tigger."  As in "T-I-double grrr-E-R, Tiggers love to bounce!" He kept looking at me with that million dollar smile and asking me to go play in the nursery.

I know the nursery rules.  Heck, I'm the one who made the nursery rules.  It's for kids under three.  On Family Sundays, kids that haven't finished kindergarten yet can go.  Kids older than that are a no-no.  I remember years ago, when I had only my two oldest, who have pretty much always been able to sit quietly when they needed to, when there was a lady who didn't follow the rule.  She had four or five little boys, came to church without her husband, and needed a break.  She dropped them all off in the nursery and I was appalled.  How dare she so blatantly disregard the guidelines I had worked so hard to create?  Now, many years and a bouncy child of my own later, I get it.  And I am so sorry for not reaching out to her with open arms and taking those kids, no matter how old they were, into the nursery with welcome and love.  I remember that I actually sent the oldest back out to sit with her.  It's embarrassing to admit that, shameful, really.  I realize now that she really just needed a little time without the bouncing so that she could focus and worship and praise.  I wish now that I could go to her and apologize.

Nursery workers, children's ministers, school teachers, people behind us in the movie theater and beside us at restaurants and all the rest of you, please give a little grace to mommas who are raising Tiggers.  

It's a hard job.  Stinkin' hard.  It makes you tired in ways you didn't know were possible before.  It makes you wonder about medications and learning styles and if your kid is normal. Tiggers are needier than other kids, at least mine is.  He's the one who really needs me to tuck him into bed each night, after I've given "hugs, kisses, sing us a song and read us a Bible story."  Every single night.  No matter how tired I am.  He's the one who needs me to kiss his ouchies and reassure him.  He's more emotional then his siblings and is quick to laugh or cry.  Total strangers comment on his amazing smile and he makes my world so interesting.  My Tigger keeps me on my toes and brings more to my life than I could have ever imagined.

Last week I didn't send my little Tigger to the nursery.  He sat - no, that's not accurate - he wiggled and bounced and got up and down from my lap about a hundred times during the hour and a half we had service.  He whispered in my ear and he played with my jewelry. He refused to let go of my neck while we were standing up singing, so after the first song, I sat with him on my lap, because standing while holding a slippery, wiggly 60 pound sack of potatoes is nearly impossible.  I have no idea what songs were sung that day (Sorry worship team, I'm sure they were great.) and I only have a vague outline of the sermon but I can still count it as a great day.  Last Sunday, by keeping him with me, I told my little Tigger that he is important enough to be held for the entire service.  That, bouncy as he is, he is still welcome in his momma's arms.  And he will be welcome there for a hundred years and more.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Let's Talk About Porn, Shall We?

Oh my goodness.  Today I read this.  Again, oh my word!  (If you don't want to go to the link and read it, let me sum it up for you.  Kids are seeing porn.  All kinds of it.  A lot.  At young ages, think PRE-teen.  And it's messing them up. A lot.)

This is craziness. This is evil.  This is something to rage against.  Children have no business knowing these things.  Adults don't need to know half of it.

I do not want my children exposed to pornography of any kind. As their mother, I promise that I will do my best to prevent this from happening.  I promise that I will:

1. Not allow my children unlimited and unsupervised access to the internet.  They don't need it.  Yep, this means they only get to see youtube when I'm there.  They only get to use the computer when I'm home.  No, they don't get the password to turn it on. And yes, it's a password they can't crack.

Monday, September 23, 2013

For Real, What Would Jesus Do?

I know, I know.  The whole WWJD thing is so 1998.  But seriously, this is what I'm wrestling with.

What would Jesus do if He were here, in America, today?  What would He think about homosexual priests?  Gay marriage?  Boy Scouts allowing gay members?  Fred Phelps and the WBC?

I am not about to claim that I know the answers to those quesitons.  But I'm weighing what I know and what I believe and what American culture says and what the Bible says and what I just don't know what to do with.  It's all mixed up in my brain and my heart and my soul.

The things I know are few but solid.  The things I believe are many but evolving.  American culture is constantly changing but the Bible never does.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Five Point Calvinism (and Why I Think It's Nuts)

Preface:  This is going to be a lot of doctrine. A lot.  Deep theological stuff that may or may not matter to many of you.  If that's the case, please feel free skip this entirely.  It will likely bore you to death.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Thief of Joy

I've noticed something about myself that I'm not proud of.  (Okay, that's not entirely accurate.  I've noticed LOTS of things about myself that fall into this category.  But for the sake of today's post, let's just focus on one, shall we?)  Here it is:

It is really hard for me listen to someone speak well of their 
choices without feeling like I have to defend mine.

When my foodie friends talk about eating well, instead of being happy for them, I feel the need to defend my apathy on the issue.  Instead of hearing them say how they feel better when they eat better and how cutting out wheat/dairy/food dyes/whatever has helped their child's ability to focus, I make excuses and can even start to feel like they are attacking me because I feed my kids processed chicken nuggets.  I hear them telling me that I'm a bad mother.  A fat, bad mother.  Let me be clear here, they are saying no such thing.  They aren't talking about me at all.  I'm just narcissistic enough to make it all about me when it's not.

It's bad enough that I feel this way with the foodies but the other day I felt this way when someone was telling me the things she likes about her church.  Instead of hearing how God was working in her life I heard "We do this better than you do.  We are better than you.  You suck and so does your church."  Again, she said no such thing, but I had to bite my lip and force a smile to avoid getting defensive.  I was getting defensive because her church did something well that mine struggles with a little bit.  Um...that hit me like a ton of bricks.  Even as she was talking, a war was waging in my head about how stupid my internal dialogue was.   My church does lots of things well.  What kind of person thinks like that?  Turns out, it's me.  I'm the kind of person who thinks like that.  Boo!  I don't want to be that person.

My response is a direct reflection of my own insecurities.  When I hear "You're a fat, bad mom.  You suck," that voice isn't someone else's, it's my own.  It's me knowing that making better food choices would make for a healthier family.  It's acknowledging that there are issues in my church that are less than perfect; that there are areas in my life that I really do suck at.  But mostly, it's fear.  It's fear that I am a failure.  Fear that someone else is doing it better.  Fear that I am not doing enough.  Fear that I am not enough.

Am I alone in this?  I doubt it.  When people find out that we homeschool, so many of them jump straight to the "I wish I could do that but I'm not smart/patient/you-name-it enough" line.  We don't homeschool because we want others to feel bad about sending their kids to public school.  We homeschool because it's right for our family.  Would I love it if more of our friends shared our vision and journeyed with us on this road called home education?  Of course!  I would welcome them with open arms and support them in all ways I could.  Do I look down on my friends and family that have made a different choice?  Absolutely not, but I'm afraid that sometimes, unintentionally, I have made people feel that way because I have spoken passionately about a choice our family is happy with that has nothing to do with them.

When my friend decided to eat healthier, she did it for her family, not for mine.  When my friend decided to go to a church that values things differently than mine does, she did it for her family, not for mine.  That I somehow make these things about me is ridiculous.  

I read a great quote somewhere. (Probably on Pinterest, because you know, that time-sucker has drawn me in.  I have a great board full of hilariousness.  You can follow me if you've already entered the vortex.  If not, run away, run fast, before Pinterest gets you, too.) 

Here's the thing. Somewhere on the planet, someone is doing it better than I am.  Someone is also doing it worse.  It doesn't matter what "it" is.  I will never, ever, get it all together.  I am not enough.  Alone in my thoughts, I will always be an insecure, fat, bad mom.  Only when I take captive every thought will I be able to live a life that is free from such comparisons. Only then will I be able to live the life I was meant to live.  I have yet to arrive, but it's a journey I've at least started.

Comparison is the thief of joy.  Don't let it steal yours.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to School

It's the end of August, otherwise known as Back to School Season.

All over the place, mommas are talking about sending their kiddos off to school.  TV commercials, facebook posts, magazine covers and even real life conversations seem to all be shouting "Back to School!  The kids are going back to school!"

Some moms, mostly the young ones with brand-spanking-new kindergarteners, get a little teary when they talk about it.  They're going to miss their kids.  Their babies are growing up too fast...sniff.  Sigh. Hug.

There are those who can't wait to get the kids out of their hair/house.  "Woo-hoo!  Only nine more days until school starts!  Can't wait!  Mommy needs a break!"

As a homeschooler, I don't really have experience as either of these mommas.  I have never dropped my kid off at kindergarten and when school starts, my kids are still with me 24/7.  August isn't usually even that big of a deal because we usually try to do some kind of school year round and then sort of ease into a full day.

First Day of School Fail

Well, today was Year 5, Day 1 if homeschooling. It went well...for about 2 1/2 minutes. I am not even kidding. 

Overslept and got started an hour late. No biggie, as I'm not a slave to schedules. It does mean that I skipped the shower. I should have known it would all be downhill from there.

We didn't even get through the devotional before my 10 year old was up, leaving the room, looking for his glasses. (Still unfound, btw.) Got that taken care of, read about how God loves us when we're tired and how we can lean on him. Seemed appropriate. If I had only known how much so!

My printer/copier wouldn't work, so those cute little cut out pages I had planned for my 3 year old to do --- that didn't happen. So instead of practicing his fine motor skills, he was bored, i.e. running with scissors and threatening to cut up anything within reach. 

My six year old was NOT happy that first grade is going to be a time to actually work, so he didn't. After writing his name on his new HWT book, he needed a break. I asked him to collect the laundry and that turned into AN HOUR of crying, hitting his little brother (luckily, he'd put down the scissors by then!), and just being generally annoying.

Meanwhile, I had assigned one page (I am not even exaggerating, there were SEVEN words!) of HWT to my 10 year old. Thirty minutes later, he wasn't even close to done. Seriously? Seven freaking words!

An hour after starting out with all my grand plans, I was reduced to a screaming, stinky because I didn't shower, crying mom with a migraine. Public school starts here on Thursday and I informed all of my children that they would be going. The little boys wailed, grabbing on to me like a life preserver, the littlest saying, "Me too little to go to public school!" My 8 year old daughter, bless her, had done nothing but what I had asked of her, and now she was bawling as well. The 10 year old just glared at me.

I tried to retreat to my room, to regroup, pray and avoid social services needing to intervene. Not gonna happen. My 10 year old decided I needed to be parented. I remember my mom saying that I did this often as a kid. I totally got paid back for that today. 

As I'm lying on my bed, desperate to calm down and needing to get a grip, Eli is parenting me from my doorway, "Mom, have you gotten yourself under control yet?"

"I can't do this everyday, son."

"I can't do this everyday, either, Mom. You have broken the hearts of every kid in this house today. Including mine."

Wow. Take that, Super Mom. You are a failure. You suck at this. You have broken.their.hearts. 

Enter the rest of the minions, all sobbing, but all laying on me, leaning on me, hugging me...loving me in my failure. We cried. We talked. We decided to keep trying. 

That was this morning. This afternoon we cleaned up a little, ate lunch and the kids are playing - not fighting - with each other just now. 

Today was a miserable failure. I'm not going to even pretend that everything is better now, because it's not. We didn't get anything done and our soft-launch turned into "Houston, we have a problem." My best hope is that, like Scarlett said, "Tomorrow is another day."

So take heart, homeschool mommas (and daddies), your first day will almost certainly be better than mine. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

But All the Cool Kids are Doing It

Some time ago, I found a blog written by "a Christian Missionary in Costa Rica."  She writes with honesty and passion.  Her thoughts are often deep and challenging. She writes about the need for social justice, her hate for poverty tourism and the need for us to be salt and light to our neighbors.  She talks openly about sex in ways that more Christians need to hear.  She appears to love her husband, her children and her Savior.  More than once I have been moved to tears.  

She also curses like a sailor.  

More than once I've wanted to offer her some Orbitz.  (You know, to clean up a dirty mouth.)  In my lifetime I've been known to drop a bomb or two, especially in tough or painful situations.  I am not claiming to be perfect here.  Neither am I claiming that using multiple cuss words in each of her blog posts makes her less than what she claims.  But for me, it does take away from her message.

It feels a little like she's trying so hard to "reach the world" that she's succumbing to it.  Like she believes that she can't effectively minister to anyone if she's too old school Church Lady.  That all the "cool kids" are doing it, so she better do it, too.  

Is this just me? Am I a total prude?  Is this a cultural thing that I'm unnecessarily turning into a spiritual thing?  What about James 3:10?  "And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!"  Is this what "cursing" means?  It's not like she's using Jesus or God's names in vain.  That's a no-brainer.  (Ten Commandments lay that out in black and white.)  But what about all those other four letter words?  

Why is "poop" okay to say in front of the kids but I have to cross out some of the letters when I write the word $h!t so that no one is offended?  It's okay to say ass when talking about a donkey but not your booty or the idiot who just spilled his beer on you at a ballgame. What's up with that?  

Are we as Christians too rigid in our "rules" on these things?  Or are we too lenient and neglecting the message of Ephesians 4:29.  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

My gut tells me that Phillipians 4:8 holds the answer.  "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

What do you think?  

Friday, April 12, 2013

27 Million Souls

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ --Matthew 25:40

Today, in my warm house, in my safe little Midwestern town, my children were fed, bathed and held in the loving arms of their parents.  They can or are learning to read.  Yesterday we spent a couple of hours swimming in a heated, indoor pool.  They will be educated and the possibility held in their little lives is limitless.  Tonight they will snuggle deep under their covers, bellies full and hearts free, safe in their own beds, in their own house, surrounded by the love of their family.

Today, in India, Cambodia, here in the United States of America, and around the world, in not-so-safe neighborhoods, 2,880 children were sold into slavery, many by their own parents.  Many of the parents do this thinking it is the best way of survival for their child.  They are promised better lives, food to eat and a place to sleep.  Never would they imagine that what they are really doing was selling their little one into a life of prostitution or of forced labor.  But they do.  Their lives are so poor and so desperate that they sell them into what they hope is "a better life."  Obviously, not every story begins with such innocence, but enough do that it's worth telling.

Today, this day, I write this, there are over 27 million enslaved people in the world.  Read that again.  27 million.  That is more than during the Roman Empire.  It is more than during the American Civil War.  Slavery here didn't die in 1863.  Today, in 2013, there are over 200,000 people in bondage to slavery right here in the US.  Around 17,000 more will be trafficked into my homeland this year.

Here in the US one in three teenage runaways is lured into prostitution within the first 48 hours they leave home.  The Super Bowl attracts millions of fans to watch the Big Game and thousands more to those enslaved by the sex trade.

Is your heart broken yet?  Because mine is.  As I read through the statistics on this, I can't keep the tears from falling.  I look at my five year old, innocently playing catch or sitting on my lap learning to read, and can't imagine him being beaten for not working hard enough in a sweatshop, or worse, in a brothel.  I watch my beautiful eight year old daughter to whom modesty is so important and I am literally sick to my stomach thinking of the things little slave girls around the world are forced to do.

All of that sucks.  Your heart is breaking, but really, what can you do to stop any of it?  Here's the truth.  You can do a lot.  

You can pray.

You can tell someone.  Share this blog or even better, share the links at the end of it.  Awareness is the first step in any action.  People cannot, will not help if they don't know about this crisis.  End It Movement

You can sponsor a child, literally saving a life.  Provide food, water, education and maybe the family won't feel the need to sell them into "a better life."  World Vision

You can give.  There are a lot of organizations out there that are fighting this.  The links below will lead you to many of them.  Find out which one you can get behind and give.  Not Today Resources

You can fund a school.  Education is a way out for many.  Make it happen for a child who may otherwise not make it at all.

You can be politically active.  Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, non-affiliated.  It doesn't matter.  This should be an issue we all agree on.  In today's America, prostitutes are considered criminals, not victims.  However, the statistics beg to differ. Many are lured into prostitution after running away from abusive situations.  Twelve is the average age for this to begin.  Twelve years old.  Seventh grade.   Veronica's Voice

 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ 
-- Matthew 25:45

Want more info?  Don't take my word for it.  Check it out yourself.  Follow the links and educate yourself.
Veronica's Voice a Kansas City resource for those leaving life as prostitutes
Not Today Resources a new movie, out today in select cities, that addresses the plight of the Dalit people, the "Untouchables" of India
End It Movement a coalition dedicated to ending global slavery
World Vision a Christian organization dedicated to helping the poor around the world, including those who have been rescued from sexual exploitation

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sing it again, Momma

Last night, around 10:00, my household was a little less than peaceful.  The children were supposed to be sleeping. Baby Girl was all about that, crashed on her bottom bunk and oblivious to the chaos about to erupt around her.  My dear husband has been working the night shift for the past three months, so I was parenting solo.

We've had a hard time getting to bed at a decent time since the night shift started.  Not that we've ever been an 8:30 or even a 9:00 to bed kind of family. I'm raising a brood of night owls.  But it's been especially bad now that Daddy only has one night off a week.  We've been letting the kids stay up as late as they can on his night off.  It's that or don't see him for more than 10 minutes a day for several months.  They all need the time together, so we're doing it.  The reality of that though, is that bedtime can be midnight, 1:00, or even 2:00 AM.

When the kids are up so late, getting up the next day can be a challenge.  This week Daddy had a change in schedule and had both weekend nights off.  Two late nights in a row!  Big E didn't get out of bed until almost noon on both Monday and Tuesday of this week.  The other boys weren't much earlier.  Baby Girl has been getting herself up early to meet her daddy when he comes home.  They play catch when the weather allows and cards when it doesn't.  So she's almost always the first one to fall asleep at night.

Anyway, last night, even though this momma was exhausted and ready to drop by 8:15, all three boys were still awake and wired at 10:00.  I sent them to bed, prayed with them, kissed and hugged them and turned the lights out.  Then the chaos started.

"Mom!  Can I sleep with you?  Please, please, please, please!"  (Only there were about three million more "pleases" in there.  I'm always amazed at how many times they can repeat themselves before I even have a chance to respond.)

"NO.  Go back to bed."  (Again, multiply by about a gillion.)

"But, Mom, I see bad things whenever I close my eyes."

We pray.  We sing the song from The Sound of Music.  We giggle.  He refuses to go back to bed alone.

Ten minutes into this, I pull my five year old onto my lap, determined to defeat this problem with hugging rather than yelling.  That's when I notice the funky smell coming from him.  Ten PM or not, it was off to the tub for him.  Lucky for me, he can shower, soap and shampoo himself (at least in theory).

Five minutes later, while EZ is still in the tub, my oldest shouts out from the bedroom, "MOM!  AJ is in the closet and he's putting poop on everything!"  Yep.  My three year old, who despite my daily desperate pleas to go in the potty, is still in a diaper.  Apparently, after digging the doo out of his diaper, he hid in the closet.  He then proceeded to smear it on the walls, the clothes, the hanging rack and of course, himself.

As EZ is getting out of the tub, I shout, "Don't let the water out, your brother is coming in!"  Then I wrangle him into the tub, get out the Clorox wipes and detox the closet.  Big E helps me by taking the now dirty clothes to the laundry, because the dog has decided they now smell appealing.  While getting AJ soaped up, EZ comes in to hang up his towel.  I smell him.  Still has a serious funk!  "Did you use soap?"  Grin.  "Get back in there!"  I soap him up, too, then yank them both from the tub.

Both beg to sleep in my bed and weary, I give in.  I sit down at the computer to decompress a little and vent at little to my dear friend, Rachael.  She encourages me and assures me that if she lived closer (she's about 40 minutes away) that I could send my kids over.  I love her for it.  I thank God for good friends and for the things He has recently done in my life.  He's renewed my hope and brought me to an amazing group of women with whom I am sharing this journey called motherhood. I take a deep breath and think to myself, "I can do this!"

Then I hear screams from my youngest.  EZ comes marching in with my Kindle, saying, "I took this away from AJ because he's not supposed to have it."  Apparently, my three year old was trying to get in some Bad Piggies before bed.  Distraught, he follows his brother to me.  "EZ lied to me!"  he wails.  This is not accurate, but in his mind, it means that his brother said something that hurt his feelings.

Again, wanting to win with love and comfort, rather than ranting and raving, I quietly send EZ back to (my) bed and pull AJ up onto my lap.  I can see that he's exhausted.  It's written so heavily in his eyes.  So I hold him like the baby he is and sing "Hush Little Baby."  For 10 rounds, every time I get to "Momma's gonna love you anyway" he opens his eyes and says, "Sing it again, Momma."  So I do.  And then, because I can't take that same song anymore, I change to "How Great is our God."  Suddenly, this little poop monster in my arms is transformed into the glorious gift that he has always been.  The simple words of the song remind me that God has given me these children for a reason.  That I am their first glimpse of the love God has for them.  That the Great God, Creator of the Universe, knit this baby together in my womb and gave him to me.  And tears began to flow.  And I hold my baby and sing the chorus of that song for a long, long time.

So long in fact, that EZ keeps interrupting, from my room, with, "Mom, when are you coming in here?"  Finally confident that AJ is good and asleep, I carefully lay him in his bed, then go to join EZ.  And then I lay there in the dark, his little five year old head snuggled on my chest and sing 2 Timothy 1:7 to him.  "God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of sound mind."  He joins me and together we must have sung it 15 times.  In minutes, he has peacefully fallen off to sleep, the nightmares chased from his dreams.

I know my oldest is still awake and having a hard time going to sleep.  I'd like to tell you that I hauled my sleepy butt out of bed and went to sing to him, but that would be a lie.  I want to, I really do, but I just can't make my legs work.  So I go to sleep, content in the knowledge that I had kissed all of my babies that night, and shepherded two of them off to dreamland in my arms.

This morning when I woke up, I was still exhausted.  My bed was full.  Both little boys were there, their Daddy had made it home from work and was snuggled in between them.  At some point, their oldest brother had joined us as well.  So there we were, five across in a king size bed.  No wonder I'm still tired.

My baby just tracked mud from the back door all the way to his bedroom.  My kitchen table is piled high with picture frames I took off the walls when I painted the living room two days ago.  We ate out last night and probably will again tonight because I'm just too tired to cook.  We'll eat it off the floor because the table is such a mess.  Don't judge me.

But I know this:  It's going to be okay.  This is my life and it is good.  I know that I am doing what God has called me to do.  It is not always easy and it often feels like I'm swimming upstream.  But it is worth it.  Those moments when my baby looks up at me, completely trusting, completely secure in my arms, and says to me, "Sing it again, Momma," those moments, they are worth it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm a Desperate Mom

This week I started reading Desperate: Hope for Moms Who Need to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.  Four chapters in and I'm not sure exactly how Sarah Mae got inside my head, but she and I are so on the same page!

I posted a link to this book on my facebook profile and the response was overwhelming.  With just the title and a few words from me, all the moms I know and some I don't were wanting to read the book.  That alone made me realize I am not alone in this.  There is a great need for mothers to band together and do this thing called parenting together!

Here's what I've gleaned so far.
  • Mommas need each other.  We're not meant to do this alone.
  • My husband is not my girlfriend.  I shouldn't expect him to be.  It's not a role he was meant to fill.
  • I need to be mentored and I need to be mentoring.  
  • Motherhood is hard.  
  • The God who called me to do this will equip me to do so.  Without Him I could do nothing.
  • My most important jobs are loving my husband and loving my kids.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

Read it?  Reading it now?  I'd love to know your thoughts!  Join together with like-minded moms on facebook.

100% Truth and 100% Grace: Is it Even Possible?

Lately a spiritual war has been raging within my head, heart and soul.  I'm struggling with many, many things, but one of the biggest is this:  How can I live a life that reflects Absolute Truth but still show Grace?

How do I live out my faith in the knowledge that the Bible is 100% true but also live in a way that shows 100% Grace to those who fall short of perfection (aka: All of us, myself included.)?

My natural tendency is to fall on the side of Truth and leave Grace for someone else to give.  I have a strong sense of justice and feel the need to see it carried out.  This is in direct conflict with my need for both giving and receiving Grace.

But I've seen so many, heard so many stories about people who were rejected by the church when they revealed their sins.  So many who feel abandoned by Christianity because of their pasts.  So many who feel hated instead of loved.  I don't want to add to that number.  I want to love as I have been loved.  To reflect the love of Jesus in my every breathing moment.

So how do you do this?