Thursday, March 26, 2015

That's What My Mom Would Do

Today a blog post popped up in my Facebook feed. I clicked because of the title What Would My Mom Do? and I stayed because, although it was a Today Show article, it was wirtten by well known author Jen Hatmaker.
I've loved Jen for years, I fell in love with her the first year I attended MOPS. I've led her books in book studies, her book 7 has rocked my world, but most of all I love that she is Texas. My northern friends don't always get her. But she is every ounce of Texas. Her heart, her life, and her ministry always make me nod and say Amen.
Her article today made me chuckle and read portions out to Adam. I was really on Facebook when I supposed to be blogging. I was wandering for inspiration, and eureka! I'd found it.
Jen's calling for us Mamas to lay off the highly scheduled summer, the hours of screen time and perfectly portioned reading agendas. She's harkening us back to our childhoods' where we were told to go ride a bike, lay outside under the tree, make a new friend.
Yes! Make me feel less guilty for being the mom who failed at her Summer Schedule last year. I had everything perfectly portioned. An hour or two of school time to practice handwriting or math skills or reading. A new park every week with a grand, new adventure every other. I'll be honest, I'm not sure we even made it on one grand adventure. Soon I'd thrown out the schedule and barely made sure we had enough sun screen on as we headed to the pool day in and day out.
I realized something about me, us, as a family during that time. We all just wanted to decompress. The kids were tired of me being up in their business all the time, and to be honest I was pulling my hair out coming up with new math problems for the almost first grader to do. So we found our new routine, the kids played outside in the mornings while I read, or cleaned, or did laundry, or got things together for an easy supper later in the day.
The kids knew to not come in unless they needed to use the bathroom. They knew they were allowed to look both ways to cross our (very quiet) alley to go to the neighbors house if their kids were out. They knew how far they could ride their bike and not get in trouble. They knew and respected the safety boundaries and knew that if they followed them, I would not bother them. I didn't care if they got dirty, or a minor scrape, or if they wore shoes (except on the bike). I didn't care how high up in the tree they climbed (as long as they could get down without assistance of an adult). They were kids. Then we would pack everyone up, head to the gym, eat lunch, and go to the pool until dinner time. Those days were not every day, but they were the best days. They were the days when we all fell asleep easily.
Sometimes when friends find out about our loose rules for outside play, they raise an eye brow, or defensively tell me why that wouldn't work for them. I mostly smile and nod, or sometimes push back a little. Why isn't it ok? Didn't most of us grow up that way? I distinctly remember drinking a whole summer out of a hose or if it was an awesome day, getting to drink that fruit punch out of the plastic barrel shaped jugs.We turned out ok, if not more than ok. We all managed to make lives and dinners and produce our own children. Most of us have held steady jobs at one point or another. We are alright, likeable people.
I want my kids to play with the neighbors and figure out how to say no to peer pressure or work together as a team to reach a goal. I want them to make up their own rules to games and cheat a little. I want them to have bruises and skinned knees and tan lines.

I want to be on Jen Hatmaker's team. She'd have the coolest matching tshirts anyway, but can I drink Diet Coke instead?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hearts Away

Every year I find myself looking forward to the Hearts at Home conference in our neighboring city. I remember the first year, not knowing what to expect, taking along a group of friends, all of us giddy with excitement just to be out of the house and away from our children and every day lives. We were off to Mom School! And schooled me it did.
It filled and still fills a space that I can't get filled anywhere else. It feeds my soul and my heart and my mind for a year. MOPS and women's Bible studies come close and offer a great pick me up, but Hearts at Home. It's a day of fun and release, of growing and relief.
This year was a little different. A different schedule and a change of plans. Instead of a van crowded with mamas from different parts of my life, I escaped with my best friend. We went out to dinner like adults, there were none of our kids to throw food or reprimand for manners and we ate sushi, and learned that we never knew the other liked sushi (we normally are bonding over pizza). Then we slept in a hotel, alone in our own beds, and finished conversations and talked about silly things.
The next day I knew what to expect. I knew to expect the unexpected. I never know where God is going to take my heart. Some years I am totally excited by the prospect of one speaker or topic and am blown out of  the water by profound things in a sleeper topic I wasn't even sure I'd chosen. But God chose it. He knows what my heart needs to hear. He guides my paths and I tend to trust my instinct or if I feel led to a certain topic, just because I've learned my lesson.
You know it's going to be a good Hearts at Home day when you can't get through the opening main session without pulling out the pack of tissues. This year was no exception with Dr. Gary Chapman (of The Five Love Languages fame) speaking to us briefly about those five languages and giving us an overview. He has such a kind heart and spirit.
I'm not going to review everything in a typical way. That would require too much time, too much back story, and frankly what God is teaching me isn't done yet. I'm still processing and mulling, and figuring out where my heart lands. I bought a few books that I haven't read yet, I need to know more. But I'm pointed in a direction. I have my take aways that I'd like to put into action. Instead, I'd like to bring you my Top 5 quips, Bible passages, and book recommendations from my 2015 Hearts at Home.

1. Today this went up on my chalkboard wall in my living room. Each of us in the family walks by it a million times a day. I've already heard Max reading it to himself.
Lysa Teurkerst (from Proverbs 31 Ministries, its a dream of mine to attend a She Speaks conference) said it in her closing session on Friday afternoon. It struck me. I wrote it down right away, and I've been thinking over it, turning it around inside my brain, picking it apart and putting it back together. It's the main one I'm not sure what to do with yet. But I love it. God comes to us and waits for us. All we have to do it show up and be willing to do what He calls us to. Dang. That's good.

2.Rachael Carman spoke on having "that child" (if you don't know what I mean, then you probably don't have one). There were a number of things from her that changed my perspective, but oh man, this spoke directly to my soul: God made them strong willed because He needs them strong for a reason. The little change opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me, and softened my heart just a little bit more.

3. Dr. Kathy Koch always speaks words of wisdom with a sense of humor and love that not many can. Her reading Proverbs 14:23, All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty, while speaking about a child's motivation knocked my socks off. Trying to teach that to a child is hard. Luckily she's got a new books coming out this spring on it!

4. Courtney Joseph was super inspirational to me. She's someone I've followed on the internet for a while. She was so warm and encouraging in person, it's just always nice to see someone walk their talk! She's the founder of Women Living Well and Good Morning Girls. If you've ever wanted to read the Bible but thought that it was overwhelming or didn't know where to start, Courtney's webpages can help with that!

5. The ladies at Spiritual Circle Journal and Artful Story had a booth set up in the exhibit area. These ladies keep coming up on my radar time and time again, so it was great to see them in person and see their things in real life. In fact, as this is posting a dear friend will be walking us through a tiny bit of art journaling during our MOPS group. She is a fan of these ladies and has done a retreat with them.

So there you have it. A nice lengthy (maybe too long) but not in depth enough detail recount of my 2015 Hearts at Home conference. As I tell all the mamas I get the chance to, if you haven't gone, and you can, you should. Just once. And their big announcement that next year it will be in Peoria, makes it even a little easier for some of us. I have an extra bed at my place. Come along. It will be worth it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

What Youth Camp Did for Me

Our family tends to shock people. Our lack of control of our children, some of Adam's choices of outfits, my occasional sailor mouth. But most often one of two things shocks people. They find out Adam is also the "youth" pastor for our high school youth group, or they find out he's actually the "real" pastor at our church as well. It's a hard and very different battle we are in. Every Sunday morning he's in his dry cleaned shirt preaching the Word, and on every Sunday night he's in a tshirt and jeans preaching the Word.

We've often had to pass or not offer certain opportunities to our high schoolers over the years because of the realities of our other commitments and also kids. This year there was a plea to go to Camp Timber-lee for one of their Winter Xtreme weekend camps. The kids (and my kids too even though they couldn't go) raked yards and volunteered their time to raise money to go and in the end four adults had enough crazy in them to take 24 students (13 high school and 11 jr high) to camp.

Dudes, I had 11 high school girls I was "responsible" for during the 48 hour trip. I'm the one and only girl high school youth leader. Me. To a winter camp. With snow. And cold. And something called broomball. And 11 girls. This was not my idea of a picnic. I kind of whined about it (a lot) to my husband and (a little) to my other friends. Send me to a conference, or a concert, or a tropical locale. That's my idea of a youth trip.

Our dear friends and Jr High youth leaders Josh and Jenny lovingly planned most of the details (they have gone multiple times) and Jenny gently prodded me into the van and ignored my eye rolls and fed me Twizzlers promising a great weekend. She's an excellent friend.

I had no idea that God was about to give me some things I'd been longing for. A chance to loosen up, connect with these sweet girls on a deeper level, and a renewal of my own spirit and the Spirit within me.

I loved the worship band and the speaker was very great for the students (I liked him, he was great at connecting with the youth). Most of our students do not attend our church so it was especially wonderful to sing alongside them and worship with them.  Arbor.Vitae Collective was so refreshing. I love worshiping in multiple ways, sometimes you need old hymns, sometimes you just need a drum cage.

I went tobogganing, snow tubing, and a whole slew of other outdoorsy things. I watched karaoke, and visited the nature center, threw some snow balls, did the chicken dance on the broomball lake, and learned hand motions to every single worship song. All sorts of ridiculous camp things.

But what I really needed was the chance to slow down, concentrate on my relationship with Jesus and share that relationship with others. I got to get up early and read my Bible during sunrise (I'm more of an on-the-fly reader during the day). I got to ask each girl separately how I can pray for them and help them grow in their walk with Jesus, making them feel awkward, but also hopefully loved. Because they are. Loved. I got to see my husband for a few minutes here and there without any children under 12 interrupting (there were children 12 and up interrupting, but that's the point!). A calming of the Spirit overtook me as the weekend went on. The stress of home and all it's lists were put aside. That's the point of camp (either summer or winter or whatever) isn't it? Be closer to nature and away from the usual stuff in life and therefore hopefully closer to God?

So I brought home some closer relationships, a few girls who wanted to start coming to church on Sunday mornings with us, and a few new songs to sing with the kids.

So thanks God. Thanks for calmly dealing with the grumblings of my mind, for pushing me gently to something you know is good for me even though I thought it was for someone else. You are the author of perfection and know every perfect thing I need, even and especially when I don't even know I need it myself.

Friday, March 6, 2015

New Habits

This was written for a group I am a part of and have been asked to write for. The group of women are striving to better their bodies, souls, and minds. We've not all known each other for a long time, but they seem like lovely women.

Taking on new habits is hard. We think that if we can just make a schedule and stick to it that we will force a new and better habit on ourselves. Is that always the case? No. Should that be the case? No. 

Sometimes the best habit is letting go. It’s releasing us from a bondage or restraint we’ve put on ourselves.
For some, it’s something tangible, physical. We strictly adhere to our gym schedule because it helps us keep our physical bodies in the shape that we like, the right number on the scale, the right measurements with a tape measure. We like how we look, how we feel, how others respond to those things.  

This is a double edged sword because sure, obviously working out, running, yoga, physical activity, those are good right? Right? When we get our priorities out of order in order to fit a trip to the gym into our already teeming schedule, we’ve lost the good habit in the situation. We’ve twisted the good into something vain.

For others, it’s the idea, or the principle behind something. Same example but with the mental aspect. When we take something seemingly healthy, like going to the gym and put it above all else, we’ve changed the idea of a healthy, strong body into an idol. We’ve taken our bodies, the very temples of the Holy Spirit, living breathing statues made in the very image of the Creator himself, and twisted that idea into something we can shape and mold and change every little aspect of on a whim of our vanity. We beat ourselves up over missing one session or one class, we get mad and frustrated at ourselves when we are injured or can’t perform at the level we feel we deserve. We lose respect for ourselves and others when there’s some slacking going on.

There are so many things this restraint can be. I’ve just used the gym as an example because it’s one I struggle with over and over. I make a commitment. I struggle through with the commitment until it’s wavering on the unhealthy side of things, then I back up, releasing myself from the strict constraint, and start again. For me, I need to make sure that the gym is not interfering with the absolute most important things to me, growing with God and in my faith walk and my family. That’s certainly not easy and I’m not great at it. I’m learning and changing it as I go. I’m trying to be intentional about the time I carve out for these things.

So be careful, mindful, of the habits you are forming. Know what they are; know the limits you’d like to have on these habits. Make them good habits; make them habits worthy of you and your larger ultimate goals.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spring Resolutions

I'm not great at New Year's Resolutions. I think I've written about that before on other blogs, and in other places like newsletters. I know I've mentioned it in numerous talks to my MOPS group over the years. I've developed a habit of having a word for the year.
It's a thing, it's pretty popular in the "too cool for resolutions" groups I follow in Blogland and on Instagram. But a word, a word can give me guidance without too many restraints. With only a word I can twist meaning or application so many ways. A word can be a guidepost, an inspiration, made into a cute bracelet, a word is good.
But the truth is, I'm a list lover. I make resolutions all the time in the lists I make, daily, weekly, monthly. I make resolutions. I just don't like to share them. Because most the time I fail at them. They are lofty goals, without subpoints, steps to get me from A to B. Mostly they fail.
The other day, I made a list of lists. This sounds crazy, but bear with me. I made a list of all the lists I have floating around in my brain. The list of nonfiction books I want to read, list of events to write down in my calendar, list of things to talk to my husband about, the list of things we were out of that we need at the grocery, the list of prayers that are heavy on my soul.
Once I wrote these down, I realized I had my Spring Resolutions before me. I'm concentrating on the lists. I will add in those subpoints to make things achievable.
1.Read one Nonfiction Book a Month
2.Keep to the calendar. The calendar is your friend.
3.Bring back No TV Thursdays in order to maintain open communication with Hubby.
4.Continue to spend concentrated prayer time, reading time, rest time with God.

There you have it folks. Without subpoints. Spring Resolutions.
PS. One of my already failed New Year's Resolutions was to make out a blogging schedule. Whomp Whomp.