Wednesday, December 26, 2018

You don't know what you don't know...

Today I had an epiphany.  Maybe that's a bit strong... but it *felt* like an epiphany! 

I realized an area in which I have been slack in the training of my children... but you know what?  Now that it has come to my attention, I will address it.  I spent several hours thinking as I was working and trying to figure things out and I realized a few things...

Children don't know what you don't teach them.

Maybe that sounds simplistic but here's what has been going through my head today...

We had an issue that needed to be addressed with our property.  I was outside with the boys thinking and working through the issue (water drainage issues) and I found myself growing frustrated with them at all of the undone things all around me... and then at myself... and I realized something... children don't know what you don't teach them.

When the oldest were young a wise mentor told me "You can do it all yourself when you have two or three but at some point you can't do it all yourself any more.  And you shouldn't.  It isn't fair. To them!" And she was right and I knew it so I purposed, through the Lord's help, to teach them to do household chores, laundry, animal chores, etc... We work together and many hands do make light work!

I went through various 'chore charts' through the years, my system morphed as they grew (maybe I'll address that more fully later).  But, right now, my house runs like a well-oiled machine almost all of the time.  I say that not to brag, at all, but to say 'training pays off'.  They know what to do and they do it.  I very, very rarely even have to remind or double-check... it just all gets done.  And if something isn't getting done, then we reassess and modify until the system is running smoothly again.  I think I took it for granted and somehow thought it would naturally affect all areas of their lives in the same way.

All of this to say, when I was outside working and getting frustrated with the undone stuff I realized we have changed houses again and I need to think through some changes we need to make to suit this house and property.  We've never lived anywhere with such 'needy' property.  This yard needs a lot of upkeep and we have more land here so there's more work to do.  It isn't getting done and that falls to me.  I am not an outdoorsey person, I don't go outside much so I didn't even realize how much is undone.  My children don't *see* the things I see that need to be done. Their eyes aren't trained to see those things and that falls to me.
It wasn't fair of me to expect them to just naturally know what to do.  I quickly realized my frustration wasn't really with them, but with me.  So now what do I do?  I address this just like I have addressed the inside chores.  I will walk around the house and property with my handy clipboard and make a list of all that needs to be done outside.  Ever.  Then I will divide those chores into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semiannually and annually and make lists.  I love lists.  I will figure out who is best suited to each job and then I will train them to see like I do.

I say all of this to say, when you see something that needs to be changed, change it.  Don't beat yourself up over it.  Recognize your failing and then let it go.  Don't dwell on it but learn from it.

I think this is a lesson for all areas of our lives.  We are our own worst enemies. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Whose Opinion Matters to You?

Or rather, whose opinion *should* matter to you?

 [Of course, the Lord's opinion of us is all that really matters... but speaking from a human perspective, I continue...]


 The opinion of those whom you respect are the only opinions that you should think twice about, in my opinion. (Ha, accidental play on words there!)

 I say this because I have talked with so many people who are upset because of someone else's opinion... and this "someone else" is most often someone they don't even respect. Why does that opinion matter to you? It shouldn't. Don't let it.

 If you have expertise in some area and someone with less or no expertise tells you that you are doing something wrong... why let that bother you?

 With the exception of Biblical moral standards, there is very little 'right' and 'wrong' in this world. There is 'more than one way to skin a cat'... it's okay for each of us to have our own personal 'right way' but it is Not okay for us to demand others do things our way... or cast judgement on someone for having their own 'right way'. (I'm talking about personal relationships here, not employer/employee ones. Of course, if you are the boss and you want things done your way, that is your right and privilege.)

 Years ago I was an experienced, successful breastfeeding mama and someone expressly shared strong opinions that I was doing it wrong. It made me so mad. I fumed for days. Then I realized how foolish I had been to allow this opinion to affect me so strongly. The opinion giver had never been a breastfeeding mom as he was a man! Ha! Why did I let that bother me so much? It, obviously, stuck with me and I eventually realized whose opinion should really matter to me... those people that I respect, people who have a measure of expertise in their area. The rest, just let go.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Parenting 101

Younger moms, new moms, old moms (lol) often ask me for advice about certain issues they are dealing with so I wanted to compile this list to share with you.  These are thoughts gleaned from watching others, from asking questions, from reading books and mostly from prayer and reading the Word. This is very 'off the cuff' and I'm sure will be victim to much editing but until then I humbly offer... my best advice...

1. Be there.  Be physically present.  Be in the same space as your children.  It's not enough to live life with them, you must live life along side them.  It's not the same thing.  Engage in their lives, engage them in yours.

2.  Look at them when they are speaking to you. Look into their eyes.  Listen to them.  Listen.  Listen to their stories, their dreams, all of their little chatter.  It's important.  You have to train yourself to Look at their faces and Listen to them.  Put down your phone, close the laptop... whatever you are focused on.  If they learn that you will listen to the little stuff, they will talk to you about the big stuff.  And, really, it's all big stuff to them.

3. Don't allow things (behavior, dress, etc...) as a toddler that you know you would never allow as a teen.  A "cute" little sassy two year old will turn into a big sassy 14 year old.  And it won't be cute anymore. That 'itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini' that looks "so adorable" on your toddler... on a teen... 'adorable' may not be an apt description.

4. Be consistent.

5.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. This is one of the ways you build trust with your children.

6.  Words have power.  Power to heal, hurt, create, destroy, build up, encourage.  Don't think your words spoken harshly will have no lasting influence.  They will.  As will words of encouragement, a child is built of words.

7.  Expect their best but don't expect perfection. Expect excellence.  Excellence is one's personal best.  That does not look the same for every child in every situation.  Perfection is a lie.  Excellence is our goal.  But excellence for a four year old making her bed is not the same as excellence for a fourteen year old making her bed, ya know?  Expect what they are capable of accomplishing, just that, nothing more and nothing less.

8..  Teach them how to make decisions.  How?  Give them choices, give them decisions to make.  Talk through the choices, teach them how to discern.

9.  Allow them to fail.  While they are children.  At home,  Under your protection and guidance.  Failing is the first part of succeeding!

10.  Compliment their character not their physical beauty.  "You are so pretty" speaks to something beyond their control.  God make them beautiful.  Compliment their character, "you are kind", "you are good at sharing", "you are such a hard worker".  These are things they control.

11. Be direct with your commands.  Don't say "Johnny, go make your bed. Ok?"  Saying "ok?" implies that it's not a direct command, it's something they can choose to do or not do.  You don't mean it that way, you mean "ok?" to say 'do you understand what I'm saying'.  Children do not get nuances like this.  "Ok?" to them means, 'if you want to'.

12.  Don't thank your child for doing what they are supposed to do in the first place.  Thank them for their courtesies. Don't say 'thank you' when they make their bed.  They didn't do it for you.  They did it because they were supposed to do it.  It's a responsibility. That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't say "Great job making your bed!" because you absolutely should!  When you say "Johnny, can you bring me my water bottle?  I left it in the kitchen." and he does. Then you say "Thank  you".  He was fulfilling a request, not a command.  It was a courtesy you asked of him and he fulfilled it.

13. Don't use scripture as punishment.  2 Timothy 3:16 says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..."
I don't think this means that you should have a child write "Children obey your parents" a hundred times when they disobey.  I think this means when they disobey go to the scriptures, show them where their specific act of disobedience is a sin. But don't leave it there, also show them the consequence of that sin... And, most importantly, show them a loving God who sent His perfect son to pay the price for our sins, all of them.  That is doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness.  Don't use the Bible for a punishment,  you want your children to Love the word of God!

14.  Time.  Quantity vs. Quality?  Both.  It's not either or.  One is not better than the other.  Both are necessary.  If you are in a season of life where you can not spend a huge quantity of time with your child, don't think that because you can't spend a lot that a little doesn't really matter because it does.  Ten minutes of eye-level, eye-seeking, one-on-one, fully-focused time talking to, playing with, interacting with your child... it makes a difference!  Conversely, if you are in an extremely busy season of life, don't think since you don't have 'quality time' that the quantity of time you spend is unimportant.  Living life alongside your child, having them in the room with you when you are working, allowing them to help wash dishes, and tidy up.. that matters!  Being *there* in a physical sense matters.

15. Major on the majors, minor on the minors.  And figure out what's *really* going on. It's sorta like allopathic medicine vs. naturopathic medicine. One treats the symptoms, one treats the source of the symptoms.  As a parent, we have to find the source and not just apply band-aids.  Don't be a Band-aid Parent.  Why did you child behave the way they did?  What's really going on in there?

16. When at all possible, the punishment should fit the crime (so to say). There is one level of discipline that is effective for acts of direct disobedience... but that is not necessarily (or maybe ever) the best approach for all situations.  I think of discipline as meaning to disciple, to teach, to guide... not to punish. Defiance gets punishment and then discipline... other acts of disobedience get discipline (in the teach, guide meaning).

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Letting Go...

"Let go and let God"... such a common phrase... Why is it so hard sometimes though?  There is a particular struggle in my life right now.  It grieves my heart so deeply and I want to 'fix' it so badly.  I should be able to.  I think.  But should I?  Can I?  No to both.

I keep trying.  I keep 'doing all the right things'.  And the struggle is still there.  The hurt and pain... still there.

So, again, I realize the problem is that I keep giving it to Him and then taking it back.  It's not a conscious thing.  I think this is something I should be able to fix.

A few days ago, the struggle reared it's ugly, sinful head again and the Lord deeply convicted my  heart... He told me I need to leave it with Him.  This is not mine to fix.  It is His.  There are complexities to the situation that I do not know... that I do not need to know.  He has this.  He cares way more than I ever could.

And as I wept and truly gave it to Him and purposed in my heart to leave it there He flooded me with His peace... truly a peace that passes all understanding... a peace I can not really explain.  But it's true and deep. That is His... the peace and the ability to heal... His.  Mine is to Leave it there.  To recognize when self tries to fix things again.  Mine is to realize my fallibility... to continually leave it with Him. To keep my heart open and my hands open. He is faithful.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Relationships Are Like Math

A friend posted this on Facebook today:

Relationships are like math problems. Some people add to and multiply each others happiness and success. Others divide or subtract from it.

I hit the 'like' button and replied 'So true.'

Then I wrote "I think also true is this... in all relationships someone is the giver and someone is the taker. In a true relationship that position flips back and forth.  Sometimes we are the givers, sometimes the takers.  It creates a beautiful balance, I think."

I immediately deleted that comment as I didn't want anyone to think it was pointed toward the original poster (as it was just a general thought and not directed toward any specific person). Our relationship is complicated and beautiful and it is one that has taught me much about friendship. But her post did immediately bring other friendships from times past to mind, hence my additional thoughts...

Sometimes we are the givers, sometimes the takers.And when that position flips back and forth, it creates a beautiful balance.  But sometimes God gives us relationships that are not ever going to balance.  Sometimes He calls us to just be the giver and He will give us the balance.  

There are all kinds of 'friendships' out there.  They don't all look the same and I think we miss out on a lot of blessings when we expect them to. 

Don't be afraid to give, expecting nothing in return.  God will meet you there.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Do You Believe It All?

I've been thinking about these verses...

2 Timothy 3:16 - 17 (KJV) 

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
What does 'given by inspiration of God' mean?  Is there some meaning other than the obvious 'inspired by God'?  So I looked in some other popular translations:

(NIV)  All Scripture is God-breathed 

(ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God

(NASB) All Scripture is inspired by God

Imagine you and I have a mutual friend, Cathy.  Neither of us have seen Cathy in a while... You mention that you are going to see Cathy and I say "Tell her I said hi!".  So you get there and you say "Oh, I saw Dana and she said to 'tell you Hi'". Who told Cathy 'hi'?  You did, with your mouth, but they were *MY* words.  Because you voiced them does that make them any less mine? 

So, if you believe this verse and it says all scripture is inspired by God.  All is all. Then that means you believe the whole Bible, everything it says.

We can't pick and choose what verses we believe.  We can't ignore the ones we don't like, the ones that condemn activities in which we participate.  The Bible isn't a 'feel good' book that you can use to justify your choices by cherry picking verses or using bits and pieces of verses.   

Either we believe all of it or none of it.  There's no in between.

And our God, who is mighty enough and awesome enough to create the entire world in six literal days is Surely able to preserve His word for all time!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Grief... A Walk on the Beach

Have you ever been to the ocean?  Walked along the beach... You know the ocean is there, if you turn your head you can see it, you can almost always hear it, but you aren't directly affected by it until a wave washes up on shore.  Sometimes there are gentle waves that just wash across your feet. They affect you but not harshly, it's just the ocean letting you know it's still there...

But sometimes, when you least expect it, a huge wave comes crashing toward you.  Sometimes you are aware of it and can run away from it but you still know it's there and it has still affected your path... sometimes it takes you completely by surprise, maybe your guard was down, maybe you were engrossed in your thoughts, or whatever... but it sneaks up on you and Slam!  Knocks you flat on your back.  Overwhelms you.  Completely throws you off your path.

The ocean is predictable, it's always there. Waves always wash ashore.

The ocean is unpredictable, you never know how the waves will affect you, will alter your path, will cause you to refocus.  You know the waves are coming yet you can not really prepare for them.

You are you.  The beach is your life.  The ocean and it's currents, they are grief.  Living with grief is walking along the beach... knowing grief is out there, sometimes way out... sometimes knocking you down, always there.

Learning to live with grief is learning to live with the ocean.  Surround yourself with people who will watch the ocean currents for you, who will notice 'a big one is coming' and will help you prepare for it.  Or who will come and hold your hand as the waves come.

Be that lifeguard for someone in your life.  Look at them walking along the beach, watch out for the waves washing ashore.  Have a perspective they can not have.  Run to them when they are in danger.  Be there for them.  You don't have to say anything.  You don't have to have all the answers. They don't even have to say anything.  Your presence speaks for you.  Just be there.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

When the Two Become One, Pink is a Lovely Color


I mean, you know it's gonna happen some day.  You Want it to happen.  You want your children to 'find true love' and make grandbabies for you (lol).

But there's so much more to it, so much that I didn't understand, or consider, or know to consider. It's hard.  I didn't think it would be.  It's beautiful and wonderful and hard.  No one told me that part. 

The thing about two becoming one is that they are not ever one again. When you marry, when you give yourself to someone and they give their self to you, it all gets mixed up and divided out into two again but each one is now part of the other one and its like mixing red paint and white paint and getting pink paint.  You can divvy that pink paint up into two parts again but it will still be two cans of pink paint.  It will never be a can of red and a can of white ever again.  That's how it should be.  It's God's plan and His plans are perfect.

But no one told me that part. As a wife I understood it but as a Mama, I didn't even think about it.  The implications it would have on me, my child, my other children, my family dynamics.

It's not a bad thing, I'm not saying that.  I'm just saying I never thought about it from this side of the porch, ya know?

So it takes some reevaluating, it takes some learning to understand this different person, this pink person. It takes seeing how the red helps the white to be the best pink ever!  It takes realizing your red child is now your pink child and there's another new pink child to envelope and love.

And pink is a lovely color after all.

Parenting Adult Children

It's hard y'all.  

And not just hard.  But heavy.  Important.  Essential.

I remember the days of babies, diapers, nursing (all.the.time), homeschooling, short nights, long days,  Sometimes those days were hard, physically bone-wearyingly exhausting. But precious and fulfilling... and I honestly loved every one.  I was consumed with the 'here and now' (as I should have been). I didn't give thought to what it would be like when I had adult children.  I wouldn't even have known what to think?  I would have probably thought it would be so nice, so easy, they would be 'all grown up'.

But it's hard y'all.  I don't know how to explain it.... the questions are hard.  The midnight discussions deep. They, too, are precious times.  I think why it 'feels hard' is because it's weighty.  The decisions they make are big ones, life-changing ones... They go from "Mama knows everything", to "I know everything" before they settle into "Nobody knows everything"!  It's a beautiful, wonderful, difficult, gut-wrenching process. And nobody tells you it's coming.  You get them all raised up and think you are done.  But you are not, gear up Sister, the hard part is coming!  

Don't get me wrong, please understand... watching them mature, and grow and blossom into adults is a true blessing.  But it has more challenges, more pain, more everything than I expected. 

You know what I think?  I have heard so many people say "Oh my adult children are such a blessing, they are my friends (blah blah blah"  They are not your friends.  They are your children.  Given to you by the Lord God Almighty.  Don't quit being their Mama because they are 18.  This is still parenting age, they still need you (but don't expect them to always know that or admit it!)  This is when all of those lessons you taught them while they were growing up come into play, where the proverbial water hits the wheel. This is when it all starts to make sense to them and they see, really see the applications of all you have taught them. They will have questions.  They will have questions you don't want to answer.  They will have questions you can't answer. But you talk and you talk and you pray and you search the scriptures and you find those answers together.  

Be there for them.  Learn to listen with your whole self.  Don't listen to reply.  Listen to understand.  Hear what they are saying even when they are not saying it. 

You will come out the other side.  The time will come when you will look at those adult children and realize they *are* your friends.  That through the whole process, you have found a friend, made a friend. But, please, don't ever stop being their Mama.  Children never stop needing their Mama.  Be there, make sure they know you are there.  Times will come, they will face challenges, they will suffer pain and loss... they need to know you are there.  Mama first. Friend second. Always.

In Search of a Mentor: Find Them, Be One

I'm 50 now.  I've always been excited to turn 50.  Fifty is a grown up.  

Strange.  I don't feel any different.  

I've been thinking a lot lately about life.  My children are so self-sufficient and I have too much free time for my brain.  I'm 50.  I think my brain just loves to toss thoughts up and see where I go with them!

Anyway, today something triggered a flashback to my younger self.  The self that was busy with school-age children, toddlers, babies, pregnancies... homeschooling, working on home businesses, busy days that were sometimes overwhelming but always fulfilling.  Days when 'getting them fed and clothed" were the only goals I accomplished. Days that I look back on with some measure of longing... simple times when I didn't realize 'the days are long but the years are short'.  

I remember crying out to the Lord for a Mentor.  This Wonderful Woman would be everything I wanted to be.  She would have it all together, never miss days of schooling, have a perfectly functioning house, never have a mountain of laundry, and sleep all night long. She would have the same values as me, she would have the same preferences, she would have 'walked the path' before me and she could give me guidance in every area.  Contented sigh.  Oh, Lord, please... where is she?!  And I looked and I prayed... and she was so elusive... I could not find her.  Over time I think I just gave up... and you know what I discovered when I stopped looking?

I found her.  And her.  And her... the Lord had answered my prayers but in ways I had not recognized (isn't that the way it is sometimes?) The Lord met my needs, each of them, through *different* women.  Wow!  What an idea!  Why did I think there was that One Special Woman who would be My Mentor?  He sent me an amazing friend who shared her knowledge of healthy cooking... one who is an amazing, patient, kind mother.... one who loved sewing and taught me to smock ... and on and on and on.  

I want to encourage you, young mamas, if you are looking for, feeling a need for a mentor in your life... look around you.  I bet the Lord has women already there in your life.  Women who will speak the truth in love, women who have the gifts and talents that you desire.  Keep  your eyes open.  Listen.  Watch.  Then ask questions.  Those Mamas who are on the path, they may be way ahead of you or only a step or two ahead, but they want to share what they have learned with you.  They want to share God's truth with you.  They want you to learn from their missteps. They want to be a blessing to you.  

Then, do the same.  Look around you, look for those young Mamas who are a step or three behind you.  Reach out to them.  You will be blessed, I promise you that!