The Discipline of Surrender: Five Minute Friday

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I grow weary of being the linchpin, the load bearing wall and the rudder. Some of this is just part of being a parent. It is also something that comes with being married to someone who struggles with depression, and being involved in ministry. But it can be exhausting in the most soul crushing ways.

 

 

To wake up in the morning and know that until you get going, nothing will happen. To answer the same question multiple times by email and in person (sometimes to different people but often the same ones repeatedly). Delegating desperately while still knowing that in the end it will all fall on me.

 

 

On my good days, I can hand it to Jesus and just do the next thing. But on the bad ones . . . it’s not that easy. I have to resist the urge to hide in my screen or my work. To give the kids a screen day and lose myself in a good book, or knitting and a Netflix binge.

 

 

I know in my head that it doesn’t all depend on me, but in daily practice it feels like the opposite.  I’m entering a season where the primary discipline I’ll be working on is one of surrender. Handing over responsibilities whenever possible and learning not to feel guilty about it. Releasing things that I simply haven’t the strength for and trusting that things will be OK. Prioritizing moments of peace even as the work seems to pile up, so I can reconnect with the source of my strength and be renewed.   As they all depend on me, I must depend on him.

 

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“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

-Helen Howarth Lemmel  (1863-1961)

 

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Don’t Get Caught in What You’re Not

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It can be so hard not to define ourselves by our weaknesses rather than our strengths. I have found this to be especially true as a mother. I struggle to acknowledge the areas where I actually do well. It feels arrogant somehow to say “Hey, I’m pretty good a frugal parenting. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars cloth diapering, switching to cloth napkins and lowering my paper towel use by substituting old rags.” It’s not a contest. I’m not saying that by doing that I’m better than anyone else. But it isn’t always an easy thing to do, and it was a goal of mine back when I first became a stay at home mom and our income was cut by a third. In that way, I have succeeded and I should be able to admit that victory.

 

 

But instead, I’m quick to bring up where I think I’m failing. That my home schooled third grader is behind on at least two essential subjects and my kids do almost no chores around the house. I rarely buy organic. we’ve never purchased farm fresh, free range meat, and the only reason my kids don’t eat more packaged snacks is that they are so ridiculously expensive that my budget doesn’t allow for them. I yell at my kids sometimes and I do not, in fact, enjoy every second of being with them. My kids usually get at least two hours of screen time in the late afternoon, sometimes even the two year old, which breaks just about every pediatrician recommendation and regularly causes me to question my fitness as a mother.

 

 

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is it so difficult to acknowledge our strengths rather than harp our weaknesses? I want to help to foster a culture of honor, in my church, in my MOPS group, on my blog and even in my home; where we can celebrate our successes without it allowing us to diminish those of others.

 

 

There is plenty of hardship in life to go around, we don’t have to keep emphasizing it. Failure is difficult enough we don’t need to elevate it. The theme set by MOPS International this year is Free Indeed. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we were free to fail and to revel in our successes because we know we are unconditionally loved?

 

 

What are you good at? Where do you feel you’ve succeeded? Sometimes the standards are your own and it isn’t a competition. Let us celebrate with you.

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Leaning In: The Discipline of Spending Regular Time With My Kids

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We had a tough week with our kids. There was the usual arguing and fighting plus and extra dose of sass from my eight year old. I’ve honestly hit my wits end with what to do about her behavior in particular. So I finally decided to take the advice that I’ve read so often and rarely manage to do. I leaned in.

When weekend comes, hubby and I are usually quite burned out. But I felt like we need to begin the discipline of regularly scheduled time with our kids, specifically one on one time. Usually when the toddler naps on weekends is ideal time for me to recharge because the kids will hang out with Daddy. But with all these recent conflicts between me and my kids I realized they needed time with just me, where my focus is not split between them and the house, or the school work or even each other.

To say this was difficult was an understatement. Just saying that makes me sound like a pretty awful mother. But what I really am is a selfish, human being who doesn’t like giving up her comforts. In these case, that comfort is my leisure time. I already spend nearly twenty four hours a day, seven days a week with my kiddos. While I love them dearly, there are definitely days when I want to run screaming as soon as Rob comes through the door. But beneath the rants and insults that lately come out of my daughter’s mouth, I heard a continuing theme.

“Mommy, why don’t you spend more time with me?”

She rarely used those words precisely, but it was strongly implied. I also hear that when my five year old is trying to stand on my lap while I pay bills or write a blog post. He says it in his own language of physical touch, but I still get the message. I knew they both needed me, and their father to give them our undivided attention.

So we did. On Saturday and Sunday, each kid got a parent for about two hours. I had my son first. We assembled puzzles and built with Legos. We talked a little bit. (They were geography puzzles and as a good home school mom I wasn’t going to let an educational opportunity go to waste). But mostly we just sat near each other and played side by side. Sunday afternoon I had planned to knit and do yoga with my daughter. The knitting got a slow start because I had to track down the proper size needles and yarn to teach her. While she was excited at first, she quickly became frustrated and we ended up cutting our time short and skipping the yoga routine because she said she wanted to do go build Legos with her dad and brother.

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I wish I could tell you that this was some kind of miracle cure and I saw a measurable change in their behavior. Maybe it yet will be. I didn’t expect to see results after just one time. (Which is good because the kids were just as snarky as usual despite the quality time). What I’m hoping to build is consistency. We have always spent time with our kids, but it’s usually hit or miss, especially one on one. We have family movie nights and my husband is introducing them to his love of video games. But I wanted to specifically focus on activities that would leave room for discussion. My kids are ALWAYS talking but I don’t usually fully tune in to what they are saying. This was a chance to do that.

I learned a few things about my kids would this weekend. They enjoy being challenged, but not too much. It’s difficult to walk the line between boredom and frustration. If something is too difficult, they both are quick to give up and decide they aren’t capable. I was glad I noticed this trend, and now I need to figure out how to help them learn to work hard, even if something doesn’t come naturally or easily.

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Photo Credit: Anne Worner Flickr via Compfight cc

I also realized quite a bit about myself. I need to spend this kind of time with my kids. Because when it’s too rare, too much rides on it. But the more time we invest in our relationship, the less pressure there is on each individual activity. Every time won’t be successful and that’s Ok, as long as I keep trying. I was also reminded, yet again, that parenting is very much about changing me. I am still a very selfish person. I need to learn how to serve my family with joy, rather than out of simple obligation. The discipline of spending regular one on one time with my children is part of that.

Lead & Guide: Five Minute Friday

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I like to follow directions. I don’t know if it’s the way I was raised or just a part of my personality, but I don’t like winging it. (Ok, that’s not entirely true, but if there is a right way to do something and a proper procedure, as long as it makes sense, I prefer to use it).  But many of the best things in life come without a user manual, marriage and family come to mind.

Not that I haven’t tried. My husband and I read all kinds of books while we were dating and engaged as well as in the early days of our marriage.  In fact, I still regularly have a few marriage books on my to-read list. Those books have definitely been helpful but they are only tools. I still have to figure out how to apply them. Because no one has as yet written a book called “How to Be the Best Wife to Rob” or “How Rob and Bethany Can Fall More in Love Each Year.”

Then there is parenting. My shelves are loaded with books of how to be a better mom. Most of my reading is devoted on how to keep a better house, be a better teacher and how to improve my parenting skills. After eight years as a parent, I’m lost count of the number of books I’ve read on the subject. Some of these books have been useful, others discouraging but in the end they aren’t a how-to guide. They can’t be, because no one has written “How to Be the Best Mother to the Vitaro Kids” or “Raising My DNA Without Losing My Mind.”

The truth is, I wish it was that easy. Instead I am forced, one argument and tantrum at a time to figure out what they need most from me. With a tongue held and words bit back, I silently pray that I’ll  some how get it right. Yet, I have to remember that am not in this alone. Help is available, if I only ask. I’m not going to get the whole map, but I may get the next step.

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Psalm 31:1-3

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
 for the sake of your name lead and guide me.”

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It’s Not Easy to Be a Great Parent But There is Help

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I have almost never felt confident as a parent. Ok maybe that’s not true. There have been moments when something new I was trying appeared to be working and suddenly I was able to see a potential future where every day wasn’t a struggle. But those moments have been rarer than the usual utter chaos and internal turmoil that characterize my days.

It’s easy to feel like you are drowning in a sea of potential help, but so much of it is conflicting. How do you know what is the right approach to parenting for your family or even for your specific child? (Doesn’t it seem unfair that each kid has different requirements? I’ve often thought how much easier it would be if what worked for one worked for all of them. After all, my kids all pretty much look alike, it would be nice if parenting strategies could be more consistent as well?).

The Parent Super Bundle from Ultimate Bundles is one of those potential sources of help. But today is the last day to purchase before this bundle goes away.

“What?” you say, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

Two reasons.

1. I know as a parent I tend to hem and haw and ultimately wait until the last minute to make a decision anyway.

2. I don’t want you to over analyze this. This is a HUGE bundle with so many fantastic resources. But don’t get bogged down in that. Make it a simple math problem. Find a handful (seriously focus on five or fewer) of books, courses or bonus offers that you know will be helpful and useful.) Then run the numbers of what those resources usually cost.

Don’t think you will use all of these. I have never used every resource in one of these bundles. But I have always gotten my money’s worth and more.

Here are just a few products that I think make the bundle worth it.

The Stop Yelling Handbook
by Amanda Rueter

The Stop Yelling Handbook is packed full of tips and techniques to help every day moms deal with the frustration and anger that comes with raising kids. 
Value: $7.99

When I was perusing the list of resources in this bundle this book immediately jumped out at me. I have become a yelling mama. This is something I specifically did NOT want to be. I’m finally at a place in my life where I am ready to start dealing with the yelling problem and this looks like a great way to get started.

 

A Realistic Action Plan for the Weary Mom:
15 Days of Hope from the Intentional Mom

by Jennifer Roskamp

An extensive book that examines 15 common issues that moms struggle with. This is exactly the hope that will breathe new life into your days. 
Value: $7.99

Since weary has been my buzzword lately, I was immediately drawn to this title. Most days I feel like I’m making it up as I go along, even though I’m someone that likes routine and structure. This book sounds like a great one to help me get a handle on my days again.

 

Training Your Children in Home Economics
by Angie Kauffman

Training Your Children in Home Economics addresses why learning Home Ec skills are important for children, as well as sections on skills in Money Management, Hospitality, Simple Sewing Skills, Gardening, Meal Planning, Meal Preparation, Kitchen Safety, Food Safety, Microwave Safety, Table Manners & Laundry Skills 
Value: $2.50

My husband and I were just discussing the other night how much we value practical life skills and how important we feel it is to teach our children these things, perhaps even as important as their formal education. It is also something that I was lacking a bit in my upbringing so I had a lot to learn when we first got married. This is a great resource to help get the process started for my own kids.

 

Creative Freewriting Adventure: A Journey Into Freewriting
by Stacy Farrell

Bring joy and excitement into your student’s writing with these simple-to-execute (yet significant) writing exercises. No prep required. Just grab a pen and paper, set a timer, and have fun! 
Value: $18.95

As a parent of a reluctant writer, and a creative writing teacher, I was very excited to see such a great resource included in this bundle. Whether you homeschool or not, many parents feel overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching their children to write. Yet, it is an essential skill often overlooked and underappreciated in the traditional classroom. This has the potential to be an invaluable resource toward fostering your child’s creativity and imagination.

 

Bonus Offer

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10 free audio stories for kids

Around the World Stories offers fun, original audio stories that introduce kids ages 5-12 to how children in other cultures live, play, learn, eat and celebrate. Each 30-minute story focuses on the adventures of a child from another country and comes with discussion topics, recipes and activities.
Value: $30

I have been so eager to try this. As lovers of Adventures in Odyssey and Sparkle Stories, this seemed like a perfect fit for our family. Plus, as homeschoolers, it’s a great way to cover some social studies and geography.

 

That’s it! If you only used those 5 products you would have gotten more than your money’s worth on this bundle. Feel free to visit the main bundle page to see a full list of all the products that are included. But not let it overwhelm you. Focus on the things that you think will really help your specific family
.


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How Do I Inspire Them?

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I’ve always loved to read. To me, reading was like magic. It opened the world to me. When we decided we were going to home school our children, I was ecstatic about sharing my love of reading with them. But it hasn’t always worked out that way.

There is a saying in certain home school circles, “Inspire not require.” As a natural born student and a life long learner, this made perfect sense to me. But no one explained to me how to do it. When my daughter would rather draw or play outside than do math, I feel torn. Because my brain says “She can’t just go through life only doing what she wants.” and my heart dies a little at ever telling a child they can’t create or explore.

I keep hoping that we’ll find the right book and suddenly the light will come on and she will love the written word. So far she loves audio books and graphic novels. So I read articles about which books are the best for reluctant readers. I find every decent graphic novel adaptation of classic books.

How do you inspire someone? The people who have inspired me most were mostly just being themselves and doing what they love most. So I will read to her, talk to her about reading and let her see me reading. Hopefully she’ll get the message.

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It’s Only The First Day

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Today was our first official day of school. As year round homeschoolers there is always learning going on around here. But we took the first part of the summer off from formal school like stuff to help us reset while the kids did VBS, swim lessons and we look a trip to see friends and family. But I knew we needed to get back into a routine and get started.

 

I had all kinds of grand plans about being full prepared and a lovely day spent covering all the subjects. Fortunately I talked myself out of the extravaganza I had originally wanted and decided to phase in our subjects over the next three months. These last two weeks of July will be spent on the basics and then we’ll start phasing in new subjects (like formal spelling, American history and science) and special subjects (like art and music) over the next few months. Our co-op doesn’t start back up until September so I thought this would be a good time to get our bearings.

 

Except my planning day on Saturday turned into a clean out the garage day because we realized there was standing water due to all the recent rain. (Did I mention that our garage is still full of boxes left from our move 6 months ago?) I spent most of Sunday night desperately trying to clean up the living room so that it wouldn’t be a mess tomorrow when we started school and all the while feeling overwhelmed by all there was to do.

 

We started the day with French toast for breakfast, which the kids loved. Then we started with a family devotional I’ve been wanting to try. (The kids were less than fans, unfortunately). We read two new poems from this children’s season poetry treasury that I love. Then we continued on with reading lessons, language lessons, and our book of the week from Five in a Row. I began reading aloud Mary Poppins during snack time and then we moved on to math and copy work.

 

That may all sound really impressive. Except it also involved:

 

A stop for a diaper change of the toddler and trying to keep him from writing all over the house with the pencils.

 

Dealing with whining from my 8 year old who refused to do her reading lesson and proceeded to do a rushed and poor quality job with copy work.

 

I was hoping to do an audiobook during lunch but my children were so disappointed that I didn’t have Mary Poppins as an audiobook (apparently they don’t like the way I read it) that they refused to listen to anything at all.

 

The kids fought, the toddler disrupted

Some how laundry was also done, though I’m not exactly sure how and before I knew it, it was time to start dinner. I still had to cram in a workout before dinner was actually ready and I had to run to a meeting at church.

 

Not an auspicious first day. But I had to keep reminding myself it was just the first day. There are many days ahead. Some will be better, often they will be about the same as this. Yet there is room for growth and improvement. First days tend to built up as some kind of symbol of how the year will be. But really it’s just a day.

 

There are so many other times I let one day define me. The day my workout goes terribly. The day my children won’t behave at the store. (Ok, that’s most days, but still). When my husband and I fight. When unexpected bills arrive and it feels like we’ll never get ahead financially. But it’s not about that one day, it’s the decision to get up each and every day, and continue with the mantra “I need thee every hour.”

 

Tomorrow I will get up, start a load of laundry, and remind the kids to brush their teeth and empty the dishwasher. Make a less impressive breakfast than today and we will begin again, all the while praying for the strength and provision I need for the day and the hour, believing that the strength will arise as I need it.