Finding Beauty in the Mess: Week 3

This week I felt surrounded by ugliness. Mainly in the form of media, I just felt overwhelmed by the death, anger, hate and stupidity plastered all over the screen. I have realized that i’m usually pretty good at finding the beauty in my own personal little mess but I often have difficulty finding it in the mess of our society. It took some perspective but I found beauty in two places, one very unexpected and the other so expected I forget to count it at times.

The expected, but overlooked, beauty hit me as I sat in the middle of a pile of boxes, bags and products at church Wednesday night. I was surrounded by food & hygiene items my church family had generously donated to help me create crisis kits to be handed out to local woman in need. In a society full of “what can you do for me” I had asked a bunch of people to donate hundreds of dollars worth of supplies to bless a dozen local women we will never know and that is an amazing and beautiful thing. I sometimes forget how beautiful my fellow servants of Christ are because they are so humble but they are part of society and with them come the love and service modeled by Christ.

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The unexpected place I found beauty was in a strong disagreement with my younger cousin. A disagreement seems like a weird place to find beauty but it was a good reminder that you can have completely different thoughts on anything, or everything, and still respect and care about a person. You can each think the other is wrong and still recognize that you are both intelligent, thoughtful people who just happen to have completely different starting perspectives because you are different people. In a world where the first hint of disagreement is typically met with name calling and vitrol it’s beautiful to have a discussion of an issue rather than just stone throwing.

It’s true when you begin really looking for beauty in life you will find it hidden in less than obvious places.

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Perfect Mom

I thought i’d make blog for you of all the things I do perfectly:

You’re Welcome.

Just a loving reminder to all my fellow moms that shooting for perfection is fool’s folly!

Our perfection is found in our imperfection!!!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Perfection is a lie. Embrace your imperfections and allow God to use them! If we are not honest with the world about who we are they will not be able to see past our lies to Christ living in us.

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Why I’m Never Busy

I used to be busy. Always busy. I was a full time nanny 55 hours a week getting my degree at night and trying to see my husband occasionally still 😉 Then I was a mom and kindergarten teacher with a home and husband. For years when someone asked me how it was going chances are I would respond with some variation of “busy but good”. It was, it was always hectic somehow. Then before I got pregnant with my 2nd God convicted me to slow down. I was reading scripture and realizing that busy is often the enemy of the Christian. Sure, it is glorified in society, if you are not busy you risk being labeled as lazy, spoiled, selfish… But busy can keep you from what’s really important: relationships, gratitude, joy, love. In 2012 I set a goal for myself to live what I called a “God-paced” life knowing it would be a difficult journey with no actual destination. I would never arrive no matter how far I came. That comforted me instead of discouraging me, because in a destination-less journey as long as you are moving forward you are on track, there is no timetable to race against, there is only one way to fail: not trying.

I began to say no to things I used to agree to out of guilt, time suckers that were harmless enough alone but piled onto the balance of my life they could tip the scale and drag me down. I put quality time with my child ahead of housework or other obligations and time with God ahead of time with facebook or the tv knowing they would still get done at some point. I was feeling myself grow spiritually as I stopped feeling rushed and frazzled. I made a conscious effort not to say busy, hectic or any other synonym when asked about my life, instead trying real answers.

Then I got pregnant. How could I balance prepping for maternity leave, working, family and pregnancy… how would I stay unbusy with two kids?!? Was that even possible?

I found it was.

I had to work at it and I slipped up still occasionally allowing “busy” to take center stage again. But mostly I found I could do it, I could drink in the opportunities with my students, my kids, my husband and say no to the extra stuff… I could feel… not busy.

When I first started staying home in the summer of 2014 I felt busy creep back in. I NEEDED to make sure the kids had enough playdates and social interaction and of course dinner and the house must be perfect since it’s my whole job now and what about volunteering and teaching sunday school and helping in Awana and maybe I should sell something to help appease my guilt supplement our income…

Wait!!!! I had to all but yell at myself.

God. Paced. Life.

Going at a pace that allows me to praise the Lord, to see the opportunities he puts in my path, to enjoy all God has given me.

I can’t do that at break neck speed. I can’t do that racing through life just to check it off my list. Life can not be a to-do list.

It took a few months but I righted the ship and found myself again reveling in the life God has given me, the people he has placed in my life and the opportunities to minister to others that I had never noticed were SO ABUNDANT around me.

I run a preschool co-op, we go on playdates, we go to church and Awana, I’m in a mom group, I volunteer, I make dinners and clean my house and grocery shop I even go on dates occasionally and have nights out with friends but… i’m not rushing, i’m not rushed. I remind myself that the timelines we set are just that timelines WE set and I don’t need to do everything all the time instead I just want to be PRESENT where I AM.

Our summer has had as many days of playing for hours in the yard as it has had adventures, i’ve spent countless hours watching my kids skip rocks in the creek, hiking through trees, hunting ants in the grass…all very important stuff, not stuff to push off because I need to get to the grocery store. I have seen chances to offer kindness to strangers, expecting nothing in return, to be thoughtful toward my friends, to pray more, to read more, to love more; these are the things I am working on. I’m never busy. If you ask me to help you, to meet you, to talk to you I can almost always find a way because i’m not busy and i’m proud of it.

  “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  FOR WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?  It is even a VAPOR that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”          James 4:14-15

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“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;  also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

Spirit Airlines: A Mom’s Review

If you are traveling with small kids and an equally small budget you’ve probably considered the budget airlines (Frontier, Spirit, etc.) and possibly you have been scared off by the overwhelming number of negative reviews.

I almost was.

But then I looked at my bank account and said oh well, it’s Spirit or nothing.

To prepare myself I started reading the negative reviews on various sites, so I would know what I was in for. As I was reading I noticed a common theme… 90% of the negative reviews were the CUSTOMER’s fault. See I had already read Spirit’s website pretty thoroughly and knew their rules (and that’s just to consider booking with them) and so when I saw people complain about the “hidden” or “surprise” charges I thought…umm no I just saw that in big letters on their site. They don’t lie to you, they are really up front that you are basically paying for the gas to fly the plane and a seat to sit on, anything else you need is on you…or them for a fee.

I felt a little better as I found very few complaints that weren’t preventable on the customer’s part except for delays and let’s be honest delays happen on all airlines. I booked earlier in the day to try and minimize the chance of them but other than that it was out of my control.

My honest review was that Spirit was pretty good and I will definitely fly them again!

I measured my personal item, paid for one checked bag WHEN I bought my ticket, weighed it before the airport and confirmed my carseats and strollers were free. I booked so far in advance, in person at the airport that I was assigned seats together for free. I pre printed our boarding passes and checked in online to avoid fees and of course packed water bottles (empty through security and filled at a fountain) and snacks so I didn’t need to buy them.

I had zero dollars in hidden fees, both flights were EARLY not late, the staff were all very polite and I was pleasantly surprised that unlike many bigger airlines they had changing tables in the onboard bathrooms :).

My gate checked stroller was treated very gently (I could see them unloading from my window!) and my belongs all returned in the same condition I checked them.

I don’t know what more I could ask from an airline, especially one i’m paying so much less than the others for.

If you fly Spirit you MUST do your homework, read and follow their rules but if you do there is no reason you can’t have a nice flight!

[For tips on traveling with children read here.}

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Seasonal Friends

The title might sound like a negative thing but hear me out, I want to talk about friends who are meant to be there in various seasons of our lives, they may still be there in a less prominent way through some or all of our life but their role changes with the seasons…..and that’s a good thing.

I’ve noticed that women all around me lament not having “friends”, enough of them, close enough ones or the elusive “best” friend. And I’ve prayed, cried, worried and tried for years to find my “Friends” style friends. They would come over to my house every week, we’d go shopping and on vacation together, we’d take a pilates class and catch the latest movies. These women would surely be there with me through graduations...err engagement?…wedding?…newlywed troubles?….birth?… retirement?  maybe but so far i’ve struck out pretty big.

See, we all know that the media portrays a very unrealistic idea of relationships, we realize how silly it is to expect our husbands to act like they are in a romantic comedy and for some of us that’s actually a relief (i’d be exhausted with all those cutesy lil twists and turns!)

But did you ever realize how unrealistic the female relationships tend to be? Pop culture would have you belief that every woman finds 1-3 best friends who will be there with her from adolescence through old age and they will move from Sex & the City right on into Golden Girls handling everything in between like the women from YaYa sisterhood.

I haven’t seen it. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen because I know it does but I believe those to be the exception. The only women I know who have the same support network they’ve had since high school are sisters biologically. It’s not so common out here in the real world!

I think about my day to day existence and at times I get caught in the trap of why don’t I have a best friend? Someone who prefers my company to all others… you know besides my husband. Wait… I have my husband, we tend to forget them but he is truly my best friend in the world and somehow because he’s a male I can’t count him? I do want female friendships but I think it’s asking a little much to want that kind of commitment from anyone but him, even if tv tells me it’s so.

In youth and young adulthood this myth is easy to continue to buy in to because we are in school/college and therefore maintain close proximity to other females that creates a type of intimate familarity. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s unlikely to last. You will probably remain friends but for most of you in five years you won’t be talking daily…or weekly even and if you do monthly then good work!

I’m here to say that this is ok though. This is normal and…dare I say, healthy? I think they only thing unhealthy about growing closer to women in the same stage of life and geographic location as us is our attitude that if we don’t stay that close forever we have somehow failed or were never really friends.

I know I had a best friend in high school (and because she married my brother she is indeed my sister and friend for life!) but even being related now we’ll never have the SAME kind of relationship we did then when I could tell you everything she was thinking and probably what she ate for her last meal or exactly which shirt was her current favorite. She will always be my friend though because I always know we will have each others backs even if we haven’t talked in forever except on facebook…and that’s ok!

I had close friends in college, different ones in different years, for a while I basically lived in my friend Shannon’s room then my friend Cristie’s and then when I transferred schools I hung out with the same group of education majors almost every class. These ladies are still my friends but we don’t have the kind of relationship we did then…and that’s ok!

I had friends at work too, my fellow teachers were there to support me and pray for me and help me through some tough stuff! Leaving my baby at daycare the first time, pregnancy again, maternity leave, they even let me cry on their shoulders when I had to leave my 2 yr old overnight for the first time ever for a training. (Yes i cried even though he was just home with dad, sue me :)) In the year I have been home I have obviously talked with them alot less but I still count them as friends, our relationship just changed….and that’s ok!

Now I am in the phase of my life where I spend most of my time with fellow stay at home moms or moms from my son’s classes at church. We see each other weekly, talk about the struggles and joys of parenting small people. We are friends and the fact that we haven’t been that way since childhood or that we may not still talk every week five years from now does not diminish our friendship.

I’ve spent to much time worrying about the relationships I don’t have and feeling inadequate because I lacked them. I have lamented to my husband on numerous occasions that maybe I lack some female trait (He is still friends with guys from middle school on up because guys relationships are a totally different creature) . There must be something wrong with me that I can’t cultivate and maintain the mythical best friend relationship. Then I decided to stop. Stop worrying about what category of friend I was and think about what kind of friend I wanted to be.

I started reaching out to women more often, planning social things, joining groups & not taking rejections personally and I realized…I have friends, they are good friends and i’m thankful God has put them in my life, even if it’s only for a season!

 

Fun Fact: my hair is basically the same as it was in high school…and college… and most of my childhood. 😉

 

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You have a Christmas Complex

Some people have a Christmas inferiority complex, some have a superiority complex and alot manage to have both but it seems Moms across the nation have a complex when it comes to Christmas. If you doubt me go look at ANY article dealing with a Christmas tradition like Santa or that Elf and you will find moms attacking one another and anger abounding.

Some think you are evil if you “steal magic” from your kids by not doing the Elf or Santa, others think you are promoting dishonesty by doing Santa or the Elf. Others say there is a “right” number and type of presents (tired of hearing: want, need, wear, read anyone?). Some think the more the merrier and some think we should just say “no” to gifts altogether.

None of this is right or wrong because it’s all just different ways to do the same thing: celebrate.

As a Christian I am alot more worried about WHAT we are celebrating than how.

We are celebrating the birth of a Savior, the moment that changed the course of history for all of eternity, the most selfless act mankind can ever know. 

So do you really care if your friend brings in a magical man in a red suit or a historically accurate portrayal of the man Saint Nicholas or a kinda creepy lil elf doll? Does it matter if I do “Truth in Tinsel”, “What God Wants for Christmas” AND “Adornaments” with my children instead, does that make us more holy somehow? I admit I have a complex too, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of a holiday meant to celebrate the most simple beginning in history. He came as a babe. No OBGYN, no midwife, no golden throne, no sterile hospital, no 5 piece layette, no royal artists to capture the moment. He was born in the least remarkable way and the truth he came to bring was simple. Simple but lifechanging. Christ is the only way to God, to truth, to heaven, to life; real, abundant, everlasting life. 

Can we focus on that?

I am not a “good secular mom”, I don’t do the elf, I don’t do Santa, I don’t do shoes left out or pickles in trees…heck I only give my kids one gift (and not even that as babies). [And yes I realize Christian moms do these too but I don’t see them being heralded as a benchmark for being a good Christian mom.]

I am not a “good Christian mom” either, I bought “What God Wants for Christmas” and tried to do it but my 3 year old just wanted to play with the people and so for the last year baby Jesus, the angel, Mary…the whole set have been lovingly toted around and played with alongside Elmo and Jake the Neverland Pirate. Maybe i’ll try one of those other sets someday…maybe I won’t.

Because I don’t think it matters what I do or don’t do to celebrate Christmas because I know that I am telling my kids the REASON we celebrate. I am showing it with the love and care I put into choosing gifts that I want to demonstrate Christ’s love. I am teaching him joyful service as I donate my time and talents to help where I can and when I can. I may not have a fancy way to do it but all year, especially at Christmas, I am teaching him the Word of God and the importance of Christ in our lives. If he grows up knowing the beginning of the greatest love story ever told then I will consider my Christmases a success no matter what else we did or didn’t do.

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*I am talking about the Christian holiday of Christmas, if you do not celebrate this then this blog isn’t directed at you but if you would like to know more about Christ and why Christmas is so important then contact me, I’d love to share the truth with you.*

My Children Train Themselves

They do, my son is 3.5 and he basically trained himself to sleep through the night and use the potty.

He must have because I didn’t.

My children both walked at 9 months old, my son is a teacher’s dream, well-behaved, polite and eager. My 10 month old daughter will happily ride on my hip quietly for hours.

You can imagine I get alot of compliments on my children, like everywhere. I’m not joking I don’t think a week has gone by in 3.5 years where I have not gotten a compliment from strangers about my children and that’s great because they really are wonderful. Here is a little secret though, I’m not some super mom.

I’m not saying that in the way overachiever mom’s sometimes do with the pleased blush like, “Oh, I just threw together those 87 bakery perfect, healthy organic cupcakes, it was nothing, I’m not super woman!”

I’m saying it like, I am really not an especially great mom. I mean I think I’m a good mom, and I LOVE my children but i’m not breaking ground here. I don’t read to them as much as I could, I’ll throw on a tv show when my son gets a little whiny while i’m trying to cook dinner, they aren’t in classes to teach them stuff.

I usually look well rested and happy, and so do my kids because I just do what comes naturally, I let my kids decide when they are ready for things.

When you have early walkers people are always asking what you did you get them that way….umm genetics I guess?

When your family seems well rested and happy despite newborns or babies at home people ask. You know what we do, we sleep with our baby until they are old enough they can sleep on their own.

Jidge slept with us until 3, now he sleeps in his bed but his bed is still in our room. Lexi sleeps in our bed, when she’s ready they will move into a room together and sleep in beds.

That’s it, no tricks.

When my son potty trained himself he was ready. I say he trained himself because all I did was force the issue a little. I could tell he was ready and he wanted to (he kept talking about it and trying) BUT he was scared of the toilet so we stayed home naked for 3 days. I literally wasn’t even aware he finally started going until he called me to help him wipe. There was no transition period either, no accident phase. I mean it, he had one accident in the car the first week because he told us but we couldn’t get home fast enough. That’s it. I kept taking undies and changes of clothes and pull ups places expecting the constant accidents I see other parents dealing with but it never happened, he even gets up in the middle of the night to go pee.

No tricks.

Parents sometimes wonder why parenting seems so hard.

Maybe we make it that way.

Maybe we are the ones who think we should train our kids to do things that they will naturally progress to if left to their own devices.

Parenting is exhausting (because tiny people energy > big people energy) but it doesn’t have to hard or frustrating.

It can be a joy. My husband and I have laughed more at our son than any comedian I’ve ever watched and our daughter’s smile relieves more stress than the best massage. It will probably always be tiring but at least while they are little we can enjoy them more if we stop trying to train them to be something they aren’t yet: independent. Let it happen on its own because…it will, you can’t stop it and once they are you’ll miss this time.

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*Disclaimer, of course there comes a time and age when training kids to do things becomes necessary but i’m still in the littles stage so i’m talking about the littles stage 🙂