Thursday, February 23, 2017

A walk in my shoes.

I made my 12 year old daughter sweep the kitchen floor yesterday.  She hates to sweep.  Honestly there are not many chores that she likes to do.  Welcome to my world kid.  She swept up a nasty pile of crumbs, dirt, dead grass and who knows what else and asked, "How does this happen everyday?"  That was just from lunch...  It has to be done every meal or you won't be able to take a step without squishing cold, soggy oat meal between your toes.   Before children I may have swept my kitchen once every three months... I had no idea how good I had it.

This afternoon after school was over and it was time to do chores, with dishes piled in the sink, toys all over the floor and laundry to wash, dry and put away that same 12 year old girl surprised me by saying, "Ugh, the floor's a mess again... you want me to sweep?"  Not instead of other chores, but along with what she was already going to do.  After she was done she said, "Man, this floor could use a mop."  She didn't offer to do that, butttttt she noticed. 

I know you know the feeling of never being done with housework and wondering IF anyone notices what you have done OR what still needs to be done, because one thing is for certain it is NEVER done.  She noticed.  She offered help.  WHY?  Because yesterday after sweeping the floor and thinking about what a great job she had done, she experienced the frustration of seeing that very same job needing to be done AGAIN.  She felt empathy for mom...  She took a walk in my shoes, she experienced what I have to go through and it moved her to want to help. 

There have been many times in my life that I have been asked to do something I didn't want to do.  I have pouted and whined... to no avail.  My Heavenly Father is always teaching me new lessons in this life.  Some for training.  Some lessons to teach me empathy.  None that I actually willingly agree to...  just being honest.

For instance, my recent past history with anxiety and depression.  I didn't want to go through that.  I have always been a happy person, who wakes up everyday with fresh perspective, but I couldn't seem to make myself be that person.  In the past I couldn't care less what people thought about me, but suddenly I didn't want to leave my house, because I was consumed with anxiety about people.  I hated that.  Thankfully, God's faithful hand is leading me through that murky place and on the other side I have much more empathy and compassion for people who are in that place...  sometimes you can't just snap out of it.  I didn't know that until I had been there.

Right now I'm in another place I really didn't want to be.  My 6 year old has to go on a gluten-free diet.  Yep, I've joined that fad.  I'm not sure what I will learn yet, but I already feel compassion for people who can't eat everything that they want, all the time without adverse reactions in their body...  I never even thought about how that would be for my friends who were struggling with family members that have food allergies, but here we are.  I'd rather not.

Or a struggling marriage, finances, wayward children...  When we go through these things we learn, we grow, we become more compassionate.  For every hard thing we experience we add one more layer of walking in another's shoes.  We grow.  We look around and say, "how can I help you?" 

I'm watching this happen in my older children.   The things they don't want to do, the chores that I require of them are developing in them empathy and compassion, the sense that this life is not all about them.  There are other people and those other people have a lot on their plate and these kids have a desire to help where they can.

Last week when my husband was away on a business trip the two oldest children took it upon themselves to clean the backyard and the patio.  They cleaned out the flower beds and filled 3 huge, black trash bags with old, dead bushes.  They moved patio furniture and swept, cleaned tables and put it all back together nicely.  I didn't ask them to do any of this.  They are learning to look around and offer a hand.  That's a lesson a person can only learn from experience.

So, right now I don't know what you are going through...  IF you are like me there are things that you wish you didn't have to do.  You may wish everything could be different right now, but God knows what we need.  He knows that we would never willingly grow or change or even care what the people around us are going through, therefore He provides opportunities to learn and tough situations to teach us how best to love the people around us.

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort that we ourselves are comforted of God."  2 Cor. 1:3-4

From now on that girl can no longer be oblivious to smashed scrambles eggs on the floor.  She may not always choose to lend a hand, but she will know a little bit more about what is means to walk in my shoes... 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Happy Sappy Birthday.

So, it's my man's bday.  You know that has me thinking about him.  How great he is and how much I love him.  He's pretty darn terrific...  I like him, I think he likes me.  I made it official by posting about him on FB.  He is my #1, my best bud and I am so thankful that he is my baby daddy...  but that's just part of the story... How can I still be happy with this guy after 14 years? 

Is it because he's perfect?  Nah.  Is it because I'm perfect?  Well, maybe.   HAHA.  Is it because we just have flawless chemistry that keeps us madly in love?  Does he do things that make me crazy?  Yes.  Do I do things that drive him nutty?  Of course.  Is he prince charming?  Am I Cinderella?  Has this been "happy ever after"?  No.

It's been good, it's been bad.  It's been easy, it's been hard.  It's been close, it's been lonely...  and that was all this week.  There are times we have strayed apart, there have been times when I've been bitter.  There has been hurt, but there has been healing.  There has been disillusionment and then there was light. 

We have been students, not teachers.  We don't have it all together.  I don't profess to be a marriage scholar, but I would like to share a few truths I've picked up along the way...  Lasting love is not about feelings.  Lasting love is about making a choice to put the other person first.

Focus on the positive.  Keep at the forefront of your mind why you married this person.  The world will remind you every day that your spouse doesn't measure up.  The world is offering a mirage of perfection that can never be attained.  There is no perfect person, no perfect relationship.  There are two imperfectly flawed humans merging into ONE. 

"But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this cause shall a man leave his Father and Mother, and cleave to his wife; And then they are no more two, but ONE flesh." Jesus, Mark 10:6-8

My husband and I are opposites in most everything, but crazily after 14 years we are starting to understand each other more and more.  In the beginning I could only see my way...  My way was always best.  If only I could make him see how much better my way was.  I didn't take into consideration that his thoughts and insights could help me see a situation more fully and completely.  Take discipline for example...  I am a control freak.  I want things done the way I want them done, when I want them done... or there is hell to pay.  My man on the other hand is more merciful.  He wants to get to the heart of the situation and is willing to give second chances.  I'm learning from him that I can chill out and give my kids a break and everything is going to be ok.  There are times that we must discipline, but now we can do it together and both feel like we are making the right decision. 

I've come to appreciate our differences and consider them more valuable than the things we have in common.  He has offered me a new way of seeing the world, and I'm a better person for that.   Two=One.

What about the times when we don't see eye to eye and I cannot bend?  I pray.  God listens.  He speaks to the heart without motive or condemnation.  When my heart is burdened by something that needs to be said or done, I am...

"Anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication WITH thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God.  And the peace that passes understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:6-7

You see sometimes the way we see things is blurred by things we can't see.  It's so much easier to see what another person is doing wrong and sometimes we are blinded by our own sinful heart.  I am learning to never confront my husband in the moment.  I know I need to take my heart and hurt to God, allow him to search my heart and make it right before I bring my heart to my man. 

We have to communicate in our relationships, but I try to apply this verse before I do...

"A soft answer turns away wrath: BUT harsh words stir up anger." Prov. 15:1

I know in this day and time what I'm about to say is backwards and outdated, but it's my favorite verse in the Bible pertaining to the marriage relationship and I claim this promise in my life and I have seen miracles in times that I thought were hopeless. 

"Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if they obey not the word, they may without a word (from us) be won by the conduct of their wives;..... But let the hidden (woman of your heart),... the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."  I Peter 3:1-4

Look I know what you're thinking...  I just took us back 100 years.  Listen to me before you fire that shot.  I'm just as much a modern woman as you.   I'm NOT saying get in the kitchen and be barefoot and pregnant and let the king rule the castle.  I'm just like you...  I'm a woman with a lot of opinions.  I'm NOT quiet.  In fact I'm the loudest person in this house.  What I'm talking about here is that God made men with a certain quality that can not be ignored...  They need R.E.S.P.E.C.T... 

Having a meek and quiet spirit means that I trust God so completely that nothing my husband can do or not do can make me afraid.  I can trust that God has this.   When I know that God is in control I can let go of control.  I can talk and walk and treat my husband with respect.  I don't have to belittle or condemn or judge.  I don't have to worry or be anxious about the decisions he makes, because I have a relationship with the One who can change his mind, if that's what needs to be changed.  Because sometimes it's not him that needs a change and if I leave room for God to work in our marriage then I don't have to clean up the messes that I might otherwise make. 

Is any of this easy?  You know the answer to that.  I believe that lasting love is best accomplished when you first fall in love with the One who never changes, never fails, never leaves or forsakes.  When we are loved by and in love with a perfect, grace-filled, mercy-full God, then we can love like he loves and we can trust Him with the rest. 

So, Happy Sappy bday to my best friend, my road dog, my baby daddy...  The FB pics tell a story of lasting love and friendship, but the back drop is the real focus...  A good, good Father put two very different people together and made them One...  What God has put together, let no man put asunder. 

Let our marriages reflect this verse:

"This is a great mystery: but I am speaking concerning Christ and the church."  Eph.5:32

Husband and Wife is supposed to paint a glorious picture of Christ and his bride... What lessons have you picked up along the way that help the world see our Savior through your marriage?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Control Freak

Hi, my name is Angela and I like control.  I want everything my way.  I think my way is best and I will stop at nothing to have things my way.  I am in DA...  Dictator's Anonymous.   I had to seek out help because I was ruining my kids. 

My one goal in life was to raise some really great kids.  My strategy was to control every aspect of their lives.  When they slipped out of my control the consequence was punishment, guilt trips and condemnation. 

A few years ago I started to notice how this was beginning to take a real toll on my daughter.  She had no confidence and felt like she could do nothing right.  She began to lie about little things that meant nothing.  She was plucking her eye lashes and eye brows.  My beautiful flower was wilting under the hot sun of my scrutiny.  She didn't measure up. 

I was devastated to see what I had done to my child.  I started to see how she wasn't the only who was showing signs of living with too much stress, but in all honesty I didn't know how to change the situation.  I thought I was right.  I thought being hard on them would bring about my desired results.  I started reading every parenting book I could find and there were so many conflicting theories out there.  I was really confused.  One week I would try this method and another day I would try that method.  My children were confused as well.  There was no consistency and with my moody nature it was impossible for them to predict what I would do in any given situation.

Finally, I started praying for some wisdom, because God has always answered my prayers before and in James it says, "ask for wisdom and He will give it to us liberally." 

I'm not going to say I have figured anything out or that I have become the perfect parent, but God did begin to show me a few things from His Word.  It was like he had shone a little light on all the places his Father heart was revealed to us in scripture.   I could see from His Word how different He is from me.  I could see the contrast between how He treats his children and how I treat mine. 

"The Lord is gracious, and FULL of compassion (he feels what we feel); SLOW TO ANGER, and of great mercy.  The Lord is good to all and his TENDER MERCIES are over all his works." Psalms 145:8-9

As a dictator I was none of these things.  I was often angry and cruel.  My anger was like a light switch...  but in this verse I could see that God was slow to anger and had great mercy.  Well, I knew that He had been that way with me (his child), why couldn't I be that way with my children?  There is a real answer to that question.  Fear.  Fear controlled me and I used it to control my children.   I feared that if I didn't control everything, then they would do something that would make me look bad as a parent.   Oh and tender, yeah right.  I didn't know how to be tender.  

I LOVE this definition of tender- easily moved to sympathy or compassion...  God understands that we are weak and therefore he is tender with us. 

Mercy- compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an OFFENDER, an enemy, or other person in one's power. 

IF God is tender and merciful toward us...  WHY should we be any different with our children and notice that these words are used WHEN we do something wrong or we are enemies.

Look at John 3:17 "For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved."

What does condemn mean- to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; INDICATE STRONG DISAPPROVAL of.

Don't get me wrong.  The Bible says that God disciplines those he loves and He will correct our behavior, but HE NEVER CONDEMNS. 

Another definition for condemn- to declare incurable.

I believe that I was declaring my children incurable.  I was speaking death into their lives.  Let me give you an example between discipline and condemnation.

This morning one of my sons whirled around in the kitchen, arms swinging wide, and knocked over a glass of orange juice.

I wanted to scream and cry and say "NOT AGAIN, WHY DO YOU ALWAYS DO THAT." and then maybe tell him his punishment was to NEVER COME IN THE KITCHEN AGAIN.  Kidding/not kidding.   That is condemnation.   That makes kids discouraged.  Discouragement is losing courage.  Losing life.  This is how a dictator would respond.

Instead, I turned away and cried inside, opened a drawer and handed him a towel to clean up his mess.  His discipline was to clean up after himself.  He felt badly enough that he had spilled the orange juice.  I didn't need to beat him down about it. 

Discipline is a word that we associate with punishment, but discipline is really training. 

Discipline - activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.

Training our children is a must.  God trains us.  He teaches us his ways.  Sometimes the consequences for our actions or for theirs is painful and pain is a good instructor, but our treatment should always be in love and never in condemnation. 

"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and LONG-SUFFERING; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" Rom. 2:4

It is in fact the goodness of God that makes me want to do the right thing.  My nature LOVES to do the wrong thing.  I'm not going to lie.  I am not pure in heart.  I can identify strongly with the lyrics of the One Republic song "Counting Stars":

I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I couldn't lie, couldn't lie, couldn't lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.

I have a couple children who are just like me.  They love to do the wrong thing.   I have to remember that God's goodness and forbearance and patience with me  keep me coming back to him.  It's His mercy that makes me love him and want to follow him.  How I would benefit from dealing with my own children the way He deals with me.

Listen to what Paul says,

"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but DO NOT HAVE LOVE, I AM NOTING." I Cor 13:1-1-2

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not rude
It does not insist on it's own way
It is not irritable or resentful;

Being a parent like my heavenly Father does not come naturally to me.   I have to die to myself, to my nature.  To truly love my children I have to let go of my need to control everything.  This is not easy.  That's why it's called death...  It hurts.

I'm not an authority on anything, especially parenting, but I do have an inside track on learning about Amazing Grace...  I've done it all wrong and I've have had to learn more from mistakes than anything else, but God has always been good to me.  He's always drawn me back in his arms with tender mercy and understanding and acceptance!  That's the kind of parent I want to be.

Hello, my name is Angela and I'm letting go of the control. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

If God had Facebook.

This post is meant to be tongue in cheek... Hope it's not blasphemous, but I think it needs to be said.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I love it because it's a fun way to connect with people.  To keep in touch with people you don't get to see much, see how their kids have grown and what is going on in everybody's life.  I like to post my own pics and sadly yes I want to see how many likes I get.  I like to rant on the homeschool page about how crazy school is.  I like to share these little posts on FB, hoping that they will encourage someone out there.   I like to laugh at memes and roll my eyes as political post that I disagree with and pump my fist with those I do agree with.   I like to share funny poop stories or crazy things my kids say.  I like to post date night pics with my boo, laughing hysterically with him cuz we tried 75 times to get the perfect selfie and people are now staring at us.  I really do love FB.

I also HATE Facebook.  I hate the way it makes me envy other people who look more glamorous than I do.  I hate seeing someone else's success and feeling like my life is less than.  Seeing a friend post pics with other friends leaves me jealous and confused.  Reading about others children's success when my kid has been struggling with learning to read and another struggles with math.  I hate seeing happy family pics, but knowing the back story and feeling sad that it's really not so happy.  I hate how those political posts from both sides just seem to divide us so much that we forget that we have more in common than not.  I feel envious when I see my friends on vacation again and I haven't had a real vacation in 13 years...  I really do hate FB sometimes. 

We put our best "face" on FB.  We take a 100 pics to get the best one.  We tell our accomplishments and achievements and relish in the applause.  I say "WE", because I very much include myself in this.  We take those date night selfies, but we don't post about that fight we had last night.  We show our kids with a trophy, but we don't tell the world that they are failing math.  We take those happy family photos, but we never share how hard we are trying to keep it all together.  It feels like we are all telling half truths, just part of the story and it's hard to remember that the happy, glamour, and achievements are only half of the story. 

I have to tell you FB does not leave me feeling very happy or full of hope, but you know what does?  The Bible.  I started thinking...  If God had a FB what would he post??? 

From the beginning God has told us the whole ugly story of his family.   His pictures don't just show the big happy family.  Chapter 3 starts out with a man, a women, and a serpent making some really bad choices.  God lets us know from the beginning that his family is far from perfect.  He's not like us who hide the fact that our kid is in jail again.  He tells the whole story and you know what, it makes me feel better about myself.  If God's children are dysfunctional and he still loves them, then I guess he really can love me too.  That gives me hope.

A few posts later on God's FB he posts a pic of a flood a rebellious, violent generation of people who were bent on nothing but wickedness.  He even says "every imagination of their heart is wickedness"...  I wouldn't be too proud of that.  I definitely wouldn't share it with the world.

Not too long into God's story line we see He's chosen this man and wants to use him to bless the world through the future generations of his family...  I'm totally thinking this guy has to be one special person, but when I read about him I'm not so impressed.  He's just an average guy and God tells mostly about his mistakes and how He (God) keeps coming to his rescue and working things out for him.  You wouldn't find that on your newsfeed today.

Abraham has some of the most dysfunctional offspring I have read about...  Brothers trying to kill brothers, sons killing a whole town of people to get revenge, brothers selling a brother into slavery and lying to their father for 20 years saying that he was killed by wild animals.  Then Judah (whom God has chosen to send the messiah through) has 2 sons that are so wicked that they are killed before they can pass on their seed...  Judah's promised seed comes through his daughter inlaw, who plays the harlot, to trick Judah into sleeping with her.  These are not the stories we would put on our FB.

I could go on and on.  There's David, the man after God's own heart, the one who committed adultery, got her pregnant, and had her husband killed.   There is Aaron the priest, who erects a golden cow for the Israelites to worship.   There is Samson the hero of Israel, who allows his lust for beautiful women to destroy him.    When I read the Bible and see the whole ugly truth my hope is restored, my joy renewed.   I'm so thankful that God is not like me...  If he were he would have left out all the bad stuff and then I would ever be striving for perfection in my own life. 

If God had a FB I think he would share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I think he would leave me SMH at the antics of his children.  I think I would like his posts because they were real and they wouldn't make me feel bad about my life.  I would follow God's page because I would see how amazing his grace is and know that he totally gets all my problems... He's seen them before.  I would know that I don't have it all together and that my life is a mess, but so is everyone else's!!!

God doesn't have a FB, but he does have a love letter that we should get into, like and share with others.  God's word brings hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, courage to the fearful.  God's word is the light in the darkness.  The Bible is God's FB...  like, follow, share!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

It will get better!

Every day at 2 o'clock I look around and think "not again".   The house is a mess.  Dishes piled high and every square inch of counter space is covered.  We have been doing school all day and keeping up with house work just doesn't fit in.  The floors need a good sweep and there's at least 3 loads of laundry waiting for me.  The washer and dryer are both full and there are clothes piled up on the dining room table that have to be hung, folded and put away.  There are toys in every room of the house and the kitchen table is covered in books, papers, pencils and other school paraphernalia.  A mom could get crushed under the weight of the to-do's that await. 

It's 2:30... the kitchen counters are cleaned, the dishwasher emptied and dishes reloaded, the breakfast table cleared of all the school supplies and the floors swept and now only sticky and needing a mop (another day).   The washing machine is running with another load, the dryer has been emptied and two loads of clothes have been hung, folded and put away, the dining room table is bare.  The school supplies put away, the trash taken out, the recycle box emptied, the living room straightened.  The upstairs bedrooms have been cleaned and beds made, bathrooms spot checked and  toys picked up and put away.  Mom is sitting down at the computer and drinking some hot tea. 

How much of that did I do?  I helped here and there.  I checked to make sure everything was done and that's it.  As I watched them get all of those things done I thought about how much easier my life is now with 5 children than it was with 2.  I thought about how teaching them to do chores has transformed my life.  I thought about my friends who are in the trenches right now and I wanted to offer some encouragement.  It will get better! It will get better!  I promise it will get better!

Every Sunday morning my 12 year old daughter gets 2 little brothers ready for church because she enjoys dressing them up.  I stay in my bathroom and peacefully shower, do my hair, put on make-up and dress and come out to a house full of children dressed and ready to go. 

Every night after dinner I stand at the kitchen sink and wash dishes as all 5 children clean off the table, wipe down the counters, dry the dishes and put them away.  The job gets done faster and I can relax along with the rest of the family... when we all pitch in. 

Teaching my children to do chores has been a blessing for me but it's also been a blessing for them.  Teaching them to do chores has been an effective way to teach them empathy.  I will never forget the time that my 11 year son was folding a load of towels and he said, "How is there so much laundry, I just did this yesterday."  or the times that my daughter has taken it upon herself to clean the kitchen when I have been sick and she says, "Mom, please get better quick, we can't do this without you." 

The bible says that work is "good".  We should teach our children at a young age to have a good attitude about working around the house.  We should teach them that life is not about them and we are not their servants.  It's not an easy job, but you will be glad you did.  You will feel more appreciated and you will be happier in your home and as a mother if you teach you children to work around the home. 

This post is in NO WAY trying to brag about my children or myself...  It's a plea to my mommy friends to begin now to teach your children to do chores for your sake and theirs.  It is a tremendous blessing when you look around and see all the work that they have done around the house.

So where do you start?  How young and what jobs can each age group perform? 

I will give a list of my children's daily chores according to age and the occasional chores I expect them to do when extra things need to be done, but you know what needs to be done in your home and what your children are capable of doing.  I will say that my children are much more willing to do the work with a good attitude when mommy is consistent and it's a daily thing that is just a part of the routine.

My 3 yr old- helps unload the dishwasher and put silverware and other low things that he can reach away, he puts his clothes in the hamper and takes his folded clothes upstairs to his drawers, he helps pick up his toys and put them away (he needs encouragement to get the job done).  He helps big brother clean up the bed room.  He is also helpful at putting away groceries and taking out the recycle.

My 6 yr old- unloads one of the racks of the dishwasher, helps clean off the table, dries dishes and puts them away, he puts his folded and hang up clothes away, brings his laundry basket down to wash, picks up the upstairs and puts his toys away.  His occasional chores are cleaning baseboards, the stair case.

My 8 yr old- unloads one of the rack of the dishwasher, helps clean up after dinner, puts dishes away, cleans his room, makes his bed, brings down his laundry basket/hangers, cleans the upstairs, putting away blankets and straightening pillows.  Takes out trash and recycle, unload groceries, puts away his laundry.  His occasional chores are anything mom or dad need him to do.

My 11 yr old- straightens up the downstairs, sweeps or vacuums the downstairs once or twice a week.  He is responsible for washing, drying, and putting away one load of laundry a day as well as putting away his little brothers clothes.  He helps do anything that needs to be done... trash, recycle, vacuum, dishes, laundry.  His occasional chores are to help mom or dad with whatever is asked of him.

My 12 yr old- Anything that mom needs done.  She is a little mom herself and anticipates things that need to be done.  Her job is to help me not go crazy and she is really good at that.  She helps clean the kitchen, do the laundry, get little boys dressed and ready to go places.  She makes sure that everyone else gets their chores done... because she knows that I will ask her to do it if they don't. 

The Bible says that children are a blessing from the Lord and for many years I would have argued with that.  For a long time life was hard, a struggle and I felt like I was on a sinking ship.  I did start teaching my children young to do chores, but even that was more work for me.  I never dreamed that I would reap the blessings that the Bible talked about... but it's happening.

Today as I watched them transform this house in less than 30 minutes, I knew I had to encourage my mom friends who feel like they are drowning under the weight of raising small children.  Children are a blessing from the Lord and my life is easier now with 5 children than when I had only 2.  The key is teaching them work is a part of life.  Teach them from little bitty to do small jobs and expect them to clean up after themselves.  Be consistent and make chores a daily routine.  You will not regret putting in the effort and in the end you will reap exponential rewards!!!