Monday, January 27, 2014

Real Mom Life: When Your No Should Be Yes

You may be familiar with the verse in Matthew 5 that states "Let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'."  At the heart of me, all I really have is my word.  If my deeds don't coincide with my words, then those words fall empty. 

But even deeper, if my "yes" is "yes" and my "no" really is "no" I need to be justified in my response.  I find myself in the trap of overwhelmed and frustrated where everything that isn't necessary becomes No.  It's that place where your immediate gut response to anyone asking for anything is No. 

At work:  "Can you do me a favor?"  Response: a sarcastic "No" with a sprinkling of "I'll probably do it but I really hope that this isn't going to take much of my time because I already had ten projects on my list today."   

At home:  "Can I do/ have/ make/ invite...."  Response:  "No" to all the million questions that are thrown at me.   Sometimes I even throw in "because I said No" to add emphasis.

Lately I've been thinking about why I say No to my kids so much.  It is like an involuntary reaction to a lot of questions.  Without even really thinking about what they've just asked me, I answer with No.  Sometimes, the answer really should be No but then there are the times when Yes wouldn't have been bad either.  There are the times when it was No because I didn't want to stop what I was doing to play with them.  Sometimes No means that I don't want to do extra work.  Yet other times there isn't a really good reason at all, it was just No.

While trying to take back control of this whirlpool that has become my existence, I've committed to give real consideration to my kids' questions and try to avoid the No reaction.  That's not to say that the answer might not be No but at least I'll actually consider their questions.  A life lived in the world of No is miserable and too safe.  There need to be times of fun and risk.  So now before I answer I ask myself why I want to say No.  Is it because the request is against the rules, unsafe, or impossible at the moment?  If not, then I need to consider saying Yes.

Yes to taking a break from work to play farm set and legos once in a while.
Yes to going sledding before school when there's a 2-hour delay.  Soon enough the snow will be gone.
Yes to making hot cocoa.
Yes to that outfit that you love.
Yes to a sleepover because friends make memories.

Yes to enjoying life.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Real Mom Life: The Flu

For your Friday fun, here's a real life recap of the craziness of our life this past week.  Those glamorized tv versions of motherhood can't hold a candle to this.  For anyone who has wondered if these things only happened to them, you're finding company here.

  • Awoken around midnight by a sick little boy with a fever of 103.  Let the medicine game begin.
  • Little boy still sick, fever still high, and working from home for the second day in a row.  Calling customers with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the background.
  • 10:36:  The school nurse calls.  Daughter is in the office with a bad headache for the second time this morning.  Need to pick her up at school.
  • 10:39:  Realize that I am wearing the same pair of sweatpants for the third straight day and I haven't showered since Sunday.  My daughter is already feeling sick, I can't add complete parental embarrassment today.  Quickly wash and mostly dry hair and put on a better shirt with favorite sweatpants before heading in to school.
  • 8:25:  Proudly put all children to bed on time, with supper cleaned up, dishes finished, and floors and counters cleaned.  Only to realize that I forgot to give the little boy his bath.  Oh well.  He hasn't gone anywhere since Sunday morning.  How dirty can he really be?
  • I vow to do better this morning and actually shower and get dressed, only to apply deodorant directly to the front of my black shirt.  There's no getting out of this--change clothes again.  So much for doing better.
  • Actually shower, get dressed well, put on makeup and go to work for a full day.  Both daughters go to school.  Success!
  • 11:00:  Finished watching Parenthood (not really happy about that ending either) and head to bed.  Hear the little boy coughing and go check on him only to find vomit on his sheets.  Poor kid.  He's a trooper.  Everything cleaned up and he's right back to sleep.
  • I'm not kidding anyone today.  I'm back in sweatpants, working at home.
Through it all I have good "sick kids."  The biggest benefit, I get some cuddle time with my little boy because he's too cool for that most of the time now.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When the Church Forgets to Love

When asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus answered,

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 37-39
What keeps us, both as individuals and as the church, from really loving each other?  What does it really look like to love each other? 
More and more I have these thoughts swirling through my head.  I think about friends who are struggling in silence.   They feel like if they share their struggles they will be ostracized by the church, left worse than their current pain.  At least now they are welcome to worship, participate, and continue the impersonation of perfection.  The charade continues--Joyful in public, Broken in private.  Don't let people see the truth because you may lose your reputation and ministry if they see you struggle.  We praise ourselves for helping widows and orphans, but what about marriages that are broken, children who rebel, those with mental illnesses, or people who are just overwhelmed with life?  We certainly don't show their pictures on the screen and most of the time we are too ashamed to even ask for prayer.
Then I think about myself.  What have I done—good and bad?  When have I felt loved and when I have I felt forgotten?  There are plenty of times when I have helped someone in need, listened to their stories, and provided comfort.  Unfortunately there are many times when I turned away because it wasn't someone I was close to, I already felt overwhelmed, or I just chose to be oblivious.  Years ago I felt loved, complete, and accepted.  Things were going well and life seemed perfect.  Then the struggles hit.  As life wore me down, I felt more alone.  I tried to hide my struggles and the more I hid the more I felt removed. 
If the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors, shouldn’t the church be the greatest example of love?  We can’t possibly expect to impact the world around us effectively if we don’t feel whole and supported within the church.  We need to stop pretending!  We’re not perfect and we can’t expect other people to be perfect.  When it becomes acceptable to be a sinful human, we need to be willing to stand in the mess of life with people.  Let’s be real, we have all screwed up, some of us are just better at hiding it.  I’m not condoning living a deliberately sinful life.  I’m asking for people to be strong enough to love each other, no matter the issue.  I'm asking that we love each other enough to actually care about their lives and walk with them through life. 
Love doesn't look the same in each situation.  Love might be showing up to clean someone's house because you know they are overwhelmed.  It might be as simple as a phone call just to check in and listen.  Love might take extra effort--learn a different language, figure out a different way to communicate.  Love takes sacrifice, often we must give our most precious possession--our time.  We need to momentarily set aside ourselves for someone else.  Whatever the form, love is an expression of our oneness as a family of believers. 
Often the most difficult form of love requires discipline.  It's those times when we love someone enough to challenge them, to have difficult conversations about poor choices, and to tell them the hard truth.  Sometimes love is not giving them what they want.  "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiples kisses."  Proverbs 27: 6  As a church we must be willing to tell the truth.  When someone is on the path to destruction we must offer sound advice, coupled with consequences when necessary.  If accountability isn't present, are we the friend or the enemy?
"Love your neighbor as yourself."   We, the people of the church, must commit to loving each other better if we ever want to affect our world to the fullest.  The church must be a place of honesty and trust where support is sought and found.  We must be willing to truly share each other's burdens.  That doesn't mean just hearing them and offering them on the prayer request list during Sunday School.  We must be willing to feel the weight on ourselves.  To have their burdens so heavy on our heart that we can do nothing but pray on their behalf and offer our support.  We need to be just as concerned for others as we are for ourselves.
Through His strength we must act and during our weakness we must be open to receive--Love!

Friday, January 10, 2014

7: Month 5: Waste Not

Month 5 focuses on reducing waste.  I had a hard time deciding what to do this month because I think we are fairly conscious of this area already.  In the book, Jen Hatmaker chose gardening, composting, buying local, buying secondhand, driving only one car, recycling, and conserving energy and water.  I overseeded my garden with grass last summer so that's out.  We already compost--as in we take our table scraps out to the field. 

We chose to:
  • Use cloth napkins.  The girls seem to really like taking them with their lunches.  They feel "fancy."  Although we lost a cloth napkin the very first school day to a helpful lunch aide.
  • Recycle glass.  We already recycle paper, plastic, and metal but glass can't go to the prison enterprises that handle our company recycling.  So, we now have another trashcan to hold all of our glass.  I've even dug through the trash to retrieve a bottle already.
  • Using only cloth grocery bags.  On my first trip to the store I forgot to take my bags in with me.  Fortunately, the overflowing container of plastic bags to be recycled reminded me before I had a heaping cart.  On an awesome note:  On my first trip to the store with cloth bags I had the world's best bagger.  She opened up several bags at a time and bagged my groceries by type.  I felt like I had gone to heaven.
  • Reduce water usage.  We are officially on water restrictions.  We all enter the shower with timers--max 7 minutes for the kids and less than 12 minutes for me, shaving and all.
  • No extra trips for errands.  Since only using 1 car is almost impossible with us traveling to any of 3 locations on a given day, I've decided to limit my errands.  There will be no extra trips.  All my errands must be run on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday nights when I'm already at church.  (Unless the destination isn't open during the evening)
  • Reduce our food waste.  We are doing everything we can to avoid wasting any food.  In honor of not wasting we found out that a little bit of sour cream + heavy cream + mayo = a suitable substitute in my recipe for Beef Stroganoff.
  • Reduce our electricity.  No more lights left on, cell phones overcharging, etc.
It may not seem like much but hopefully we are more aware of all the resources that we use after this month. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fighting Through Frustration

I am sitting on my couch with a Pepsi and a Hershey bar.  That's just where I am tonight!  I feel like chaos was hitting me from every direction.  I'm just trying to figure out how I got here--overwhelmed by all the demands, the attitudes, and the ridiculousness of doing God's will.  There, I said it.  It hasn't been easy but now it is just plain draining.  Disrespectful kids, demanding adults, and disappointment. 

There are times when I just want to scream because after so many years, why don't I see much progress?  Sometimes it feels worse than when we started.  I have this idea that if we try hard enough people will make better decisions.  I tire of hearing a slightly different version of the same story.  It seems so easy to just fix the problems from my point of view.  I am just exhausted after tonight.

The problem is that I'm not the one in charge of changing people.  I'm the worker, not the boss.  I am not equipped to completely, selflessly give myself for someone else.  That's the truth.  I hold back for myself, my family.  When I feel like someone is asking too much, I draw a line.  There is only so much I am willing to give and do for others.  So when transformational life change starts with a limit, it will never fully develop solely with my help.  I'm just not equipped to fill those needs.

Thankfully God steps in when I stumble or bulk.  He is the source of selfless giving and meets all of our needs.  I can't force, coerce, or encourage someone to fundamentally change their lives.  My life isn't exactly the definition of perfection.  I have plenty of my own issues that probably irritate people too.  The most important mission is to continue to make disciples.  I need to listen for his guidance about what my part is in the master plan. 

There is work to be done both in and through my life if I am open to the challenge. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

7: Football is BACK!

Disclaimer:  I was going to start this post about 30 minutes earlier but we had a severe family crisis.  It's been snowing here today and the satellite dish had enough snow in just the right place to completely take out all ESPN channels.  Wielding a headlamp, into the barn I went for the tallest step ladder we own to brush snow away with a broom.  Ridiculous for sure but so worth it to watch the Oklahoma-Alabama game!

It's only January 2nd but we're already perched back on the couch watching football.  This was one sad family during December but there were some lessons to be learned.  We all survived with less whining than anticipated, especially from me.  I didn't die without college football but I've been trying to make up for my loss in the last two days. 

During December:
  • We found phonebooks again.  I'm really glad I didn't send them all in to recycle at school.
  • The kids realized that we still owned play dough. 
  • We found our love of nerf guns!  It is full on nerf war in our house--full contact with goggles needed.
  • Instead of watching tv one evening we had a deliberate discussion about building a complex nested "if" statement in Excel to solve a work problem.  Too little tv and we'll be really nerdy.
  • We went Christmas caroling and delivered cookies to some kids from church as a family. 
And just for your reading pleasure, here are some comments I captured from various family members during Media Month:
  • "Being sick during Media Month sucks!"
  • "I can only read so much."
  • "Do you know how many Christmas movies I could be absorbing today?'
  • "Next month is Waste Month, we need to sandbag."
  • "This is just really inconvenient now."
  • upon opening a dvd for Christmas, "Oh awesome, too bad I can't watch it this month."
  • "Is it Media Month in Guatemala?"  I guess Isaiah was plotting his escape.