On the Dreaded Back Seat.

vector-art-screaming-woman-lineart-isolated-eps-76971208I’d like to think that I’ve matured as a woman.  That over the years of marriage, family, joys and trials, that I’ve gained perspective. I’ve “grown up.”

And then some days, I lose my cool.  And when I say “cool,” what I really mean is my “ever lovin’ mind.”  Suddenly, I’m a toddler again throwing a tantrum.  Kind of like my six year old the other day when she didn’t want to ride in the back seat.

You see, when you have as many people in a family as we do, and you must drive an eight-passenger vehicle to accommodate said people, at least two have to sit in the back.  To hear them describe the DREADED back, you’d believe they’ve entered the seventh circle of hell.  Logically, because of less leg room and space, the smallest people get that honor (except for the baby in his car seat because Lord knows I am NOT climbing my 6-ft frame into that space to buckle him in all the time).   And even though this is the arrangement EVERY TIME we go anywhere, somehow the negotiations manage to begin as we are rapidly trying to get out the door for school.  Cue: all the complaining and tears.

Well, this particular morning it was such that I only had 4 of the 5 children going with me which meant only one person needed to be in purgatory for this ride.  Y’all, I was not prepared. I should have KNOWN this scenario was setting up and had a plan in place ahead of time.  Of course, none were willing to take a back seat for another (pun intended), so I had to make the decision.  And I really tried to be fair, as I am speedily buckling in baby, suggesting a compromise of Princess Ariel riding there on the way TO school, and Merida on the way back.  But before I could even finish the sentence, the screaming began…tears, red face, feigning sickness, refusal to comply.  Oh fun!  One of those days!  Did I mention we were in a hurry?

Ariel (the Kindergartner) was obviously tired from being out the night before, and IF she been the only school child, I probably would have called an audible and played hooky for the day.  However, two older sisters, desperately not wanting to miss school so they don’t fall behind, were counting on the ride.  They shouldn’t be punished with a tardy when they were ready to go, nor should Ariel be allowed to punish the family with her tantrum.  My patience was a bit thin already as I was also tired, had not eaten and definitely had not had any coffee happy magic sauce yet.  I tried quickly reasoning with the six year old (DON’T LAUGH), as if my voice could be heard above the wailing.  So my voice got a little louder, just hoping she would quiet enough to hear SOMETHING.  No dice.  The older girls couldn’t get in the car until she did so the seat can be flipped back down.

Then it happened.

“GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW BEFORE I BEAT YOUR BUTT!”

The yelling AND the threatening.  Such a parenting win, right?  *Eyeroll*  This was also followed by door slamming and screaming for seat belts to be put on, along with a few words (read: guilt trip) about someone always making us late.  It was the picture of maturity, I tell ya.

So Princess Ariel reluctantly complied and we made to school on time, hearing her sobs the whole way.  I tried to say a few things as we pulled in the parking lot to reassure her I loved her. “Don’t let this wreck your day!” I chirped.  As if.  Once in the drop-off lane, there was no time to really address the issue appropriately.  Also, I had to go to the grocery store and get home before the baby’s nap.  But the whole time I was shopping, I was thinking about the little six-year old heart that I just bruised.  It did not make her actions excusable, but I was without excuse as well. I don’t want to be that explosive parent who angrily tries to control her kids.  I’ll never forget a metaphor I read in the book Loving  Our Kids On Purpose by Danny Silk that compares relational power struggles to big yellow trucks that crush the little red trucks, basically operating out of fear of loss of control.  The result is broken connection, not love and trust.  And even though I definitely needed to address her behavior with discipline, none of that would happen with our connection broken.

(Watch this short youtube clip for more on Danny’s thoughts of Keeping Your Love On, one of the main premises in the parenting book.)

So, on the way back home from the grocery store, I stopped by the school, hauled the baby inside, and pulled my daughter out of class so that the brokenness would not cloud both of our days.  I told her I was sorry for my sin of being angry and yelling and threatening her.  I told her what she did was not right either and her choices do affect other people.  I asked if she wanted to say anything and she sincerely repented and threw her arms around my neck.  Then we talked about how to prevent the situation from happening again and agreed upon a consequence if it did.   Our connection was restored.  The next day she apologized to the rest of the family as well.

That day, I found myself facing a dreaded back seat.  Except my seat was Humility In Parenting.  I could have fought what God was trying to show me, drowning him out and rationalizing how it was not my fault.  I could have continued to yell and scream.  I could have ignored that voice of the Holy Spirit trying to draw me to realize my sin.  I needed to recognize my own failings and do what needed to be done to make it right.  And in the process, I needed to model and display to my precious six-year old that God the Father is not an angry, threatening person.  He is forgiving. He desires closeness with us and hates when it is broken.  I was reminded, once again in this life, of one of my favorite scriptures on God’s kindness:

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 NLT
Perspective…..maybe I’m growing up after all? 🙂
(Side note: the sorrowful face of Princess Ariel really is sad.  I mean, how can you not be moved by this?  How much more does God as a perfect father hate to see His kids suffer, even if it is at their own hands.)
number-4-crying

On Spinning Heads

“Milk is bad for you!”
“Vaccinate or die!”
“Don’t vaccinate or die!”
“School enrollment starts tomorrow!”
“Fundraiser event Friday!”
“Your dryer sheets are poisoning you!”
“Johnny needs new shoes!”
“Slim down! Bulk up!”
“The sonogram shows something wrong!”
“Fox News said! CNN said!”
“Gotta plan that party!”
“Lucy broke her finger!”
“Work called and moved up the deadline!”
“Dinner fail! It’s ruined!”
“Antibiotics are creating super bugs!”
“Yoga! Pilates! Weights! Do crossfit!”
“Picket for this cause! March for that cause!”
“Technology is the antichrist!”
“The Pope is the antichrist!”
“The president is the antichrist!”

AAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

head-spinningHave you had enough yet? Did that list start to make you anxious? Is your head constantly spinning at the barrage of messages, to-do lists, and “need to fix” issues we are faced with every day?  I have become so grieved at the state of our society and the pressures we put on ourselves and allow others to put on us.  We are driving ourselves mad.  I’m not sure I can count the number of people posting on Facebook that are deeply disturbed, depressed, or having mental or emotional issues over politics, health, racial conflict, job, money, kids, vaccinations, marital strife, the state of their gut–you name it!  It has grown beyond being informed or concerned…it is a GIANT of fear, worry, strife, confusion, anger, division, and more.  I realize that the presence of social media and the technology umbilical cord that puts us in 24/7 connection to all things news and information increases the frenzy.  But even if I turned it off today, I still know that sugar is killing us.  That politics are straight up crazy town. That states have education requirements of what my kids need to graduate. That my friend just suffered a miscarriage. That I’m expected to make decisions about vaccinations. That I need to eat right and exercise.  That my neighbor lost his job.  That abortion has slaughtered millions of babies.  That feeding a family of seven is expensive!

That…BURDENS!

No one is exempt from burdens in this life. Jesus said we would face trials and persecution.  The life of the early believer suffered in many ways, as do people today.  However, how many of us are taking on burdens we shouldn’t? Burdens that God did not ask us to carry? How many are engaging in fruitless arguments that stress our soul to the point of no peace?  When presented with information or knowledge that rightly demands action or response, how many are totally freaked out or go and try to change too much at once? Maybe some of us are not being realistic or sensitive to the season we are in and doing too much? Maybe some are completely shut down emotionally because of how affected they are by someone else’s opinion?  Possibly, many (or most) of us are control freaks who lash out at people or situations we can not control.

I would like to encourage us all to remember a few things:

  • God is in control.  He has a grander plan than we see. His ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts. He does not operate in space and time like we do. When we feel the need to control everything, we are not resting and trusting in Jesus.  When we act out of the need to control everything we are in sin, we make messes of all sorts, and we need to repent.
  • When God reveals something to you that needs to change, He also gives grace to achieve it. We need to follow His lead, step by step, refrain from attempting a huge overhaul that He is not asking us to do (which sets us up for failure), and stop to repent when we fall short.  His kindness leads to repentance and His mercy is new every morning. Information can be wonderful but also overwhelming if we are not discerning.  God will do much in the journey of making changes.  (I give a personal example of this in just a minute below.)
  • On the note of seeing things that need to change…if it is a social or political issue that we are impassioned about, we have to know:
    1. Not everyone is as equally passionate.  That’s ok. Do not grow angry or weary in well doing.  God reveals things to people in His time and can also harden hearts for His purposes. Keep praying.  Keep standing.  If you are activated in a cause, great! But do not cross over into hate, despite, slander, pride, division, gossip, etc. in the process.
    2. God gives some people a platform of influence, as well as the grace to handle the platform, when He desires to use them for broad change.  If He hasn’t given you the platform, don’t beat down doors to try and get it and find yourself in over your head.  Most of us in this life are called to stand in the place of prayer and intercession, doing battle in the spiritual realm for many causes because He has not given us a platform otherwise. That’s ok.
    3. And if you are overwhelmed by the cause, not sleeping at night, in turmoil and consternation all the time, or have lost your joy…you are hanging on to a burden that is not yours.  God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light–meaning we can sense it, but it is not shoving our nose down in the muck and mire.  Some of us need to pull our nose out of the muck!
  • “Keeping up with the Joneses” isn’t always about money/possessions.  All of us need to assess where this applies in other areas and where we are stressing ourselves out, making our lives crazy. Do you have:
    1. Busy calendars full of sports, parties, commitments or activities that don’t allow rest, family time, or sabbath and really are just attempts to make us look good.  This includes overactive church involvement and the need to “prove” our spirituality.
    2. A workaholic mentality, or a drive to climb a ladder to be better than someone else.
    3. Every type of social media account and constant need to “frame” your life or have everyone know what you are doing.
    4. A pinterest obsession and resulting feelings of failure or not doing/being good enough as you compare yourself to unrealistic pictures of motherhood, education, housekeeping, cooking, crafting, decorating, organizing etc etc etc! Really, we need to give ourselves a break.  Some people are just better at those things than us.
    5. A problem with vanity leading to imbalanced amounts of time and energy spent on looking good, body maintenance, shopping, working out, trendsetting, etc.  Women, especially, lose too much sanity over it all.  Stop the insanity!

One note on what I’m NOT saying with all of the above. I’m not advocating for laziness or apathy or being cold-hearted so as not to feel.  This is not about detaching from our world, not feeling anything, not caring, etc.  Obviously, God wants us to care, to love, to obey, to move and act out of faith, and affect those around us.  There is a time and season for everything under heaven.  I personally am in a season of intense family needs with the number and ages of children we have, with the fact that we have been homeschooling, and with being the wife of a pastor and leader in the community.  Does this mean I don’t care about abortion?  No.  Does it mean that I can’t attend Life rallies in St. Louis. Yes. I have to know according to the Lord what my priorities are and trust that He has the people involved who ARE supposed to speak on behalf of the unborn at events and  courthouses.  He has not given me that platform.  I will not beat myself up for not “doing” enough, but I pray for the unborn, as well as their mommies and daddies, regularly and am part of a church community that does as well.

I’d like to share a personal experience of how we walked through changes regarding our health, diet, and wellness.  About 10 years ago King James and I started learning much about nutrition, health, food supply, GMOs, chiropractic care, wholistic/”alternative” medicine, vaccines, environmental toxins, and related things.  We realized that we needed to make some major changes.  It would have been easy to be quite overwhelmed or to try and change everything drastically.  Difficult for anyone, especially a young family, a drastic overhaul would have been stressful, probably short-lived, and expensive!  So we started taking small steps and changing one thing at a time. All of us had to change how we thought about food. Research and trying different products were needed.  I was thinking the other day about all that we have modified and how different we live now.  If we would have tried to manage all of these things at once, we would have failed.

  • Stopped drinking cow’s milk. Tried a variety of substitutes. Now enjoy almond milk or coconut when needed.
  • Obtained natural-minded physicians who only suggest and use medicine when absolutely necessary.
  • Reduced red meat intake.  Jim’s family has a history of issues with gout which is exacerbated by red meats. He wanted to avoid a future of that.  Use venison we harvest and process ourselves in place of most beef dishes.
  • Researched, reduced, delayed and avoided vaccines.
  • Reduced bread and carb load.  Used to have roll or bread with dinner every night and starchy sides, as well as cereal most mornings.  Now we rarely have bread at dinner, and go for eggs, protein, greek yogurt, fruit, oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Don’t keep soda or junk food in the house (except for the rare party or special event).
  • Eat mostly organic and non-GMO to avoid pesticide toxins, preservatives, and hormone disruptors.
  • Changed over all hygiene products to organic, paraben-free, aluminum-free, non-toxic.  This took a LONG time to accomplish.
  • Got rid of plastic tupperware and changed to glass storage, or got BPA-free containers.
  • Began using essential oils as first line of health defense vs. meds/chemicals.
  • Changed over cleaning and laundry supplies to non-toxic, natural, “clear & free.” Use wool dryer balls and essential oils instead of dryer sheets.
  • Stopped using chemical-filled bug sprays, started with natural or essential oil products.
  • WAY reduced sugar intake. Like, a lot.
  • Replaced scented (toxic) candles with diffusers and essential oils.
  • Cook at home the majority of the time and rarely go out (as opposed to the reversed ratios 10 years ago).  Also learned how to make SO many things healthier, including mayo, salsa, relish, pasta sauce, dressings, and expanded our veggie palette.
  • Drink almost exclusively water. Occasionally tea.

That’s not an exhaustive list of changes, but what I thought of off the top of my head.  Little by little, small changes lead to lifestyle difference. It takes time, but is doable without making yourself absolutely nuts.  Information, media, and the internet can make you feel like you will never get it right or achieve results, will keep you running rat races in the comparison game, or will freak you out and cause you to walk in so much fear over EVERYTHING.  We need to be people walking in maturity and not fear these days.  We need to be those, not with heads spinning, but with eyes locked on Jesus and hearts full of peace.

On Flumageddon, Family Fruit, and Fasting.

Pardon my absence, friends.  Just before Thanksgiving our family was hit with a string of illness where each and every member proceeded to contract Influenza B over a couple weeks.  At least one person held down a fever every day for three weeks.  And let me tell ya, it was nasty.  No essential oil could stop the freight train of contagiousness.  I’ll spare you the details, but when Mom has a fever for eight days straight and is in a fog for several weeks, it’s bad.  It’s how “things happen.”  Like when King James and I both were down, the children got themselves ready, breakfast prepared, lunches made and packed and were out the door to carpool for school unbeknownst to us sleeping parents–three mornings in a row!  Or like when I was ordering a cute picture of Prince Charming and meant to get six copies for each of all the grandparents’ Christmas gifts, I accidentally didn’t delete the original 1 from the ordering box and lo and behold, received SIXTY ONE copies of the same picture.  So if anyone who knows little buddy would like a copy, send me your address and I’ll mail you one. Lord knows I have enough. Haha!prince-charming

After Flumageddon was over, we were also hit with a lovely 48 hour stomach bug which wrapped up just in time for us to mad-dash cleaning, shopping, decorating and prepping for Christmas. WHEW! It was just a wee crazy.  However, we did have a love-filled Christmas with family, as well as some good down-time.

One of the things we did just before New Year’s as a family was to set aside a devotion night for worship and seeking God together.  I thought I would share about this experience because it has significant meaning and “fruit” for or family.  At the end of 2015, we did the same thing, taking time to praise God through music and singing and to also ask Him what He might want to tell us about 2016 (both for our family and as individuals).  We wanted to hear from Him any scriptures, words, pictures, etc that would specifically help guide us in our decisions, give us strength throughout the year, and also to allow the kids to experience listening to His voice (and the many ways He speaks).  Oh, how SWEET this time was–the older girls closing their eyes to listen, thumbing through their bibles, and writing down what they were feeling.  The younger girls drew pictures or jotted down a few words.  After about 30 minutes, each person shared what they experienced so we could encourage one another, be a witness or confirmation to what God was doing in the room, and be united in what He spoke.  Beautiful things were shared and prophetic pictures given.  Little did we know how clear God would be.

Ya’ll. Those words and prophetic pictures CAME TO PASS!  Here is a bit of back story just to help you understand.  Towards the end of 2015, for many reasons, Jim and I were assessing our school situation/plan for the kids (I had been homeschooling) as well as a seemingly growing opportunity for my attention/focus to be elsewhere part-time, and we were considering sending a few girls to a nearby school for the fall 2016 year.  We had NOT discussed the idea with the kids at all.  It was still sort of a “what if, maybe, let’s pray about it” type deal.  Well, one of the pictures Princess Rapunzel received was of her sitting in a classroom full of desks and students with a teacher at a chalkboard.  When she shared it with us, she was saying it with a confused tone because, obviously this was not the current reality and also because she didn’t necessarily want to go to a school.  Jim and I glanced at each other with eyebrows raised and said, “Wow, sweetie!  We should pray about what that might mean.  We believe God is speaking to you!”  Later, when some more things became clear about the school decision, we were able to refer back to that night and say, “See, God knew what the right thing for this year would be and he spoke through YOU to help confirm it to us all.”  This was a huge moment for Rapunzel.  She experienced God in a tangible way that led to tangible results.  Another picture she had that night was of three plane tickets to Tulsa being laid on a table.  This did not immediately mean anything to any of us.  Jim’s folks live in Tulsa and we sometimes drive down there, but we would need to keep that picture on the shelf until God decided to tell us more about it.  Well, a couple weeks later, Jim received a phone call from his dad presenting an opportunity to acquire a Smoothie King in Tulsa with part ownership for us.  One thing led to another and we moved forward with the deal.  Fast-forward to the end of 2016 and as we looked back, we realized that the endeavor required Jim to make three trips down there before the launch of the new store, and that the co-owners found two other locations that would be amazing for two more stores.  Again, we were blown away at God giving us direction and confirming that He has ordered our steps.  We had great discussions about hearing from God with the kids through it all.

There were other scriptures and things shared at our devotion night that we clung to last year as well.  So when we talked about doing the devotion night for 2017, the kids were all excited!  What would God do this time?  I decided to record a portion of the music/worship time we had where the girls are also learning to sing the word.  I highly encourage people to try this, even if you aren’t musical or don’t play instruments.  You can find/buy/download instrumental music (like this) and play it, pick a scripture passage and explore singing it.  Not only does it help you to remember it, but God begins to do things in your heart, mind, and soul as you meditate on it.

Now, just in case anyone thinks we do this devotion night every night of the week and they always go perfectly, think again.  We are a busy family of 7 with varying schedules, occasional illnesses, things that come up, and days where we’re just exhausted.  There are times when two kids get in a fight about who is going to sit next to who during the worship time and we begin the meeting frustrated.  But I encourage believers to shoot for at least once a month.  Work your way up to more frequently.  You will see good fruit in your family–even if it’s just that those two kids let go of their anger and are being kind again. LOL!

Speaking of fruit, I thought I would also offer some encouragements on fasting.  I do not boast in fasting or try to make big public displays when doing so, however our church is doing a 3-week season of prayer and fasting in January as a body.  It’s called Meals/Mouth/Media (one week each of food, watch what we say, and media/entertainment).  We participate, with the kids doing varying degrees of it.  Since Jim has been doing fasts since he was a teenager, he can do several weeks of no food.  The kids and I, on the other hand, not so much (especially if you’re like me and have spent many years pregnant or nursing).  You have to work your way up to longer and more intense fasts.  But the value we see in having our kids participate is rooted in a couple of ideas:

  • The Bible instructs us to do so.  And in some cases, we can ONLY see breakthrough by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).  We want our family to know how to seek God and pray, especially in times of crisis, shaking, or uncertainty.
  • We want our spirit to lead, not our flesh.  Practicing saying no to the flesh results in our spirit growing stronger.  We tell our flesh it will not have power over us because our body is a temple of the Lord.  Children fasting sugar or video games for three weeks feel the sting of the flesh, and there will most likely be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But in a culture that says to FEED the flesh, MORE is better, if it FEELS good do it…we could stand to tell our flesh “no” more  often so that our spirit be more in tune with The Creator and the Holy Spirit.
  • Fasting can “reset” things.  Whether it’s our body cleansing, or a person/family remembering priorities, breaking bad habits, and making better choices–fasting is revealing.  It reveals our weaknesses, behaviors, attitudes, etc.  And even children notice this when fasting.  This leads to incredible opportunities for discussions with kids or as a family.

Sometimes it’s helpful to know how others incorporate fasting and prayer in their life so families to get ideas on being successful.  So here are some things we have done or learned:

  • Ask your kids what they think they need to fast.  Get them involved.  They may surprise you! Start with a couple days, then a  week, then try several.
  • Water only food fast:  adults (and older teens) can do this.  I usually do 3-5 days.  Older kids could do one day.  Moms/caregivers that have to prep and be around food while serving it to others will find this very difficult to do long term.  Don’t set too lofty a goal and feel bad when you “fail.”
  • Partial food fast: This is often times more doable for families.  Remove one or more things from your diet that your flesh will feel and that you hate to give up…coffee/soda, sugar/dessert, bread/carbs, meat, etc.
  • Liquid/Juice fast: Give up chewing…no meats, breads, or food of real sustenance. Drink only water, some juices, bone broths.
  • As a family do a media fast:  either give it up completely or set “no media” zones/times.  Turn off the news, social media, TV/Movies, etc.  Only cell phone usage would be for calls, work, important messaging.  Have everyone charge their devices in kitchen (or non-bedrooms).
  • Use the time normally spent on media to worship, pray, read the bible or related books.
  • During our church’s “Mouth” fast, we become accountable to each other about what comes out of our mouths.  Jim and I give the kids permission to (in love) tell us when we are slipping up.  Maybe you need to stop cussing or constantly speaking negatively. Maybe you should give up talking about politics/sports/religion and see how it affects your soul.  Maybe you need to purposefully stop road rage and talking to other drivers.  Maybe the kids should watch their whining, or how they talk to siblings.  Possibly, you may need to actually open your mouth to proactively encourage others because normally you don’t ever share good things.  Whatever it is, make a pact to humbly and in love correct one another in spirit of Jesus.
  • For families with young kids, plan a celebratory night for when the fast is over.  This can help motivate everyone to persevere!  Sometime they like to do a countdown to the day (on the refrigerator or calendar).
  • Also for moms/caregivers…we often can not take the time normally spend eating and go spend it alone with God because we are serving others during that time.  So just be conscious of the Lord throughout your day, make mention of him often, be thankful during the serving, set alarms/calendar alerts to gather the kids together to thank God for something or pray, pull up a scripture passage on your phone/computer and briefly look at it several times a day or repeat/memorize it.  Even in the little acknowledgements of God, we draw closer to Him and He is well-pleased.

Till next time!

-Jess

On Saying Yes.

Can all my mom friends relate to this?

Sometimes I feel like “no” is one of the only words in my vocabulary. Obviously that is an exaggeration, but I do grow weary of it. If you’re like me (and great for you if not!), you probably find yourself saying no all the time.

“No, you can’t have candy at breakfast.”

“No, you can’t spend the night at the friend’s house whose parents I’ve never met.”

“No, to more cheese. You’ve had enough today.”

“No! Stop jumping on the back of the furniture.”

“No, you have homework to do.”

Really, it can seem an endless parade of NOs on any given day.  And I realize part of parenting is setting boundaries, protecting, ensuring health and balance, training, etc.  My husband and I have conversations with the kids about how they don’t realized the sacrifice parents make to facilitate caring for children well, and we try to help them understand everyone has limitations and we don’t always get to do what we want.  However, being the No Monster gets pretty old.  And recently I have stopped to think about how I find myself sometimes just saying no because I’m worn out or don’t want to deal with the question. Often, “no” is easier than responding properly to the situation. Because…exhaustion.  And…I can’t make one more decision today.

So I’m looking actively for more ways to yes to my kids.  When something is truly not harmful, won’t break the budget, isn’t creating a bunch of hairy logistics, then my kids need to know I’m not a grinch and am capable of saying yes.  Sometimes,  I need to look beyond my “tired” or personal preference when there is truly not a good reason to say no, and say yes.  After all, there will always be plenty of reasoning and evidence for why we can’t do stuff throughout life.  And I’m not about “keeping up with the Jones’s.”

So far this school year, my yes spoke louder than my no when…

fullsizerenderMerida and Ariel begged for the second year in a row to do gymnastics, I did some research and found a place close to their school where I could drop them off after school and King James could pick them up on his way home from work. They were going to be doing musical theater with the older sisters anyway this year, so the budget didn’t have to change and those allocated funds just moved over.  And even though Ariel is predicted to be six feet tall one day and gymnastics is not really going to be a foreseeable career in my opinion, that’s ok.  She is getting exercise, meeting new people, learning to care for her body, and she knows I’m in her corner. Yes.

Belle helped our family a ton recently doing extra babysitting and cooking as we walked through a hectic time with the death and funeral of a friend, so when she asked to spend the weekend at a friend’s house, I said yes.  She deserved it. It only required one car trip for a drop off, I didn’t have to plan or organize anything, and even though it would have been nice after that horrible week to just have the whole family together, she needed a break. Yes.

img_0311Rapunzel wanted to join the new volleyball team at her school, and even though I initially cringed inwardly at the thought of adding more transportation, extra nights out, and commitments to the schedule, I stopped to review everything and said yes.  This is her first year in the school and she’s been trying to form new friendships.  She not been one to be all that athletic and it would be good to stretch her.  And unlike many other sports, it was only one practice and one game a week (unless game day landed on practice day making it only once that week).  Yes.

Merida was invited to a birthday party on a night her dad and I have plans, but her friend’s mom offered to drive her there and bring her home to the waiting sitter.  I was reluctant as first to throw a potential wrench into the evening, and it necessitated gift-buying, but Merida has worked very hard in school this year and will enjoy a rare solo activity without all the siblings around. Yes.

I’m also trying to apply this to marriage as well.  The issue here may not be necessarily saying no, but life is often so full and harried and I don’t actively focus on or realize the “say yes” opportunities.  Like…

Even thought it’s 9pm, the house is finally quiet and my bed is missing me, my partner is missing me more right now, so yes to a bath and conversation together.

An opportunity for a ministry trip arises and he asks me to go.  It may disrupt family life, require extra coordinating and help from caregivers, or add to an already busy holiday month full of commitments, but it’s only three days and we’ve had an emotionally and spiritually draining month. It will be good to connect together and disconnect from home for a minute. Yes.

I’m having some cherished quiet time on the porch with a book and coffee, and this time he asks to join. He just wants to be near me. Yes.

In the rush of life, I’m finding the hardest part is slowing down long enough to really see what is happening before me and respond appropriately.  Often these choices lead to building relationship capacity or tearing it down (I’ll have to do another post on that).  If according to the Bible I am to train up a child in the way they should go, then they need to see me willing to consider requests, facts, and information–to have it modeled that parents are reasonable, loving people and not controlling dictators.  I don’t think saying no makes a person the latter, but finding ways to say yes surely goes a long way in teaching about relationships, compromise, respect, honor, and a whole host of Godly attributes that I desire to have and want my kids to have.

Where are some places you can look for more opportunities to say yes? Maybe you have a story or two where you wanted to say no, but chose yes.  How did it turn out?  Leave a comment!

 

 

 

On Chocodiles & Meal Planning.

If you missed my last post, you didn’t read that I have a weakness for chocolate covered twinkie delights formerly known as Chocodiles.  I actually forgot about them for many years. When Hostess went out of business and everyone lost their minds buying up every last HoHo, SuzieQ, and Ding Dong, selling Twinkies on Ebay for ridiculous sums of money, I wasn’t expecting for the company to somehow come back to life with limited products? So when I saw the Chocodile on a gas station shelf again, I was instantly transported back to my childhood and mornings with Dad when he would run my brother and I by the Hostess Shop on our way to school.

Note:  He grew up around the corner from a bakery. We think the sweet tooth is genetic.

So, my childhood was certainly not devoid of sugar by any means, and looking back maybe it was part of the reason I had strep throat more times than I can count since sugar decimates the immune system.  Although my mom was a fantastic cook, we also led busy lives with ministry, school, traveling, and we ate our fair share of meals in restaurants, airports, and the like.  For the most part, we were healthy and I suppose genetics/metabolism offset the bad stuff we consumed.

Fast forward to married life with a couple kids and we entered a time where we made many changes to diet and health. I will post more about that at a later date, but a mix of knowledge, information, prayer, experience, science, and history all contributed to making small, medium, and large changes to lifestyle over a long season. We continue to make adjustments as we go today.  And we occasionally fall off the health wagon and have to get back on it. More details to come.

But I say all that to say, once you have knowledge and information about something, you are responsible for it.  If the Bible instructs us that our bodies are a temple for God and we are to take care of them so that we may glorify Him, then what will we do about that?

One major thing that my family tries to adhere to as a rule is “If it’s not in the house, then we can’t consume it.” So if we don’t buy it, then it’s not in the house.  With occasional exceptions to this rule, it means we don’t buy soda and keep it in the house…or Chocodiles.  By and large, we avoid most of the inner aisles of the grocery store where cookies, sugary items and such beckon to the sweet tooth. The “treats” we allow are mostly a have-to-leave-the-house-to-get-it type thing.

So meal planning has become very important to keep us on track, to make sure we eat at home as much as possible, and also to KEEP THE FOOD CRAZIES to a minimum with my children. Lord, help me, sometimes food is such a battle! Either we “have nothing to eat” despite the full fridge/pantry, or they “don’t like it” even thought they ate it just fine last week, or something is “unfair” because one person got something someone else didn’t, or just because they had expectations that were not met.  I looked into meal planning memberships, or even free plans found online, but so often they are either not healthy or on the opposite end of the spectrum into “all we eat is leaves and berries” land, which does not fly with kids very well.  We would need to change those and it would become more time-consuming to customize/edit or re-figure for a family of 7.

meal-plan-half-sheetEnter in, my Weekly Meal Plan sheet.  I googled that phrase looking for one that someone else might have already put together (because why re-invent the wheel?), but nothing seems to fit the exact specs I was looking for.  So I took part of an image I found and customized my own sheet using photoshop.  We wanted a place for the date, for three meals and one snack for each day, a grocery list area with shopping categories, and a place for special notes.  This sheet is 1/2 page so it’s big enough to stick on the fridge with magnets and for everyone to be able read, but not so big that we waste paper/ink.

Y’all, it has changed our life.  We mostly plan on Friday or Saturday, shop on the weekend so everything is good to go for Monday, and are able to get mostly fresh food that really only last for a week anyway.  Everyone knows exactly what is happening so I don’t have to answer a billion questions about what’s for dinner. Each day, lunch is already planned and the kids make their own lunch accordingly.  Breakfast is a no brainer with no arguments because hey, “It’s on the sheet. The sheet is King.” And snacktime…SO much better! If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it, but there are no negotiations or mom wandering around to figure out what we have.

Now, it’s not completely perfect and has not eliminated ALL the Food Crazies, but it has helped a ton.  We’ve also had opportunity to have many conversations about choices (or lack there of), planning, thankfulness, budgets, etc as we have submitted to the plan.  I thought I would share in case any readers need or could utilize it. If you’d like a copy, you can click the image to download. It is two of them on one full sheet so you can print and then just cut in half.  Happy meal planning!  And may you avoid the Hostess aisle!

meal-plan-template-master-copy

On Beautiful Feet.

Several years ago I had a little, no-name blog that was mostly updates on my family, a place to post scrapbooking pages and recipes, and eventually a place I just shared about my life, what God was doing in and around me, and various encouragements.  That was during a time period when I had two and then three kids and stayed home almost exclusively.  As time marched on, I grew too busy for the blog, worked off and on in communications/creative departments at the church my hubs and I pastor, carted kids around to homeschool or extracurricular functions, and had more face-to-face interactions with people.

Then…life.  We had another kid, started a journey of revolutionizing our health, sold a house, built a house, went from one to three location of our franchise business, moved 35 minutes from church/social arenas, experienced tweenagers and now teenagers, and had yet another baby (among many other happenings).  With so many experiences and life events under my belt, I find myself tethered to home much more again now.

I recently was with a group of women at a DoTerra oil convention and they began asking about who I was and what I do.  As I talked, they seemed fascinated and told me I should blog–that I should share about wearing different hats and walking in various roles all the while juggling the ins and outs and ups and downs of life. My first thought was a bit of…Who am I that anyone would care? There are so many bloggers and writers and the internet/social media is saturated with voices these days.  Flashes of the people that message, text, or call seeking advice about many areas of life began dancing through my mind.  But I also felt a nudge from something inside and a reminder of certain scriptures that led me to dust off the blogging keyboard and begin to share more publicly again.

First, I want beautiful feet.

beautiful feet.jpgIsaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” {ESV}
I want to be a part of publishing good news and peace and salvation. Because there is blessing in it.  Because Jesus is worthy of all glory that comes from walking us through every valley and up every mountain in life.  Because this world needs peace.  Because God, unapologetic, reigns over all of heaven and earth despite what any news outlet or disastrous political campaign might lead us to believe.  Salvation is never far off. His saving arm is never too short.  Funny parenting stories, poignant ponderings, health & wellness ideas, meal recipes, pictures from marriage anniversary trips, chronicles of our past and present…are all vehicles in which ride the good news as we are working out our salvation daily.  This blog also acts, in part, as a publishing of my family’s history–a way to journal the working of God so that the generations after me hear of His goodness and remember a family legacy of faith.

Second, I am one of the “older women.”

I keep waiting for the day when I will actually and mentally “feel” my age. Like, I’m quickly nearing 40 and still sometimes feel like a young person. But when I take in the landscape of my life, I see that I am indeed entering the time of what Titus 2 describes as older women–those who instruct, share with, encourage, and exhort younger women as they marry, parent, work, and do good.  I’m now 17 years married and five kids deep into this circus, so whatever nuggets of truth or practical help that I have, I offer freely, so that those around me might learn both what to do and what not to do as we navigate these 80+ years in this skin on this earth.  And in this modern day, when face-to-face interaction is many times difficult, I am grateful we can all be somewhat connected via the internet.

Finally, I want to stay humble.

If there is anything the train wreck of reality TV has taught us, it is that being under a microscope (even if producers tweak it for ratings) shows all the fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots on the proverbial face of the heart.  Truthfully chronicling life–even the ugly, sad, struggling parts–brings humility and perspective and makes us all realize we are human and in need of a gracious Savior to free us from ourselves.  I will not pretend that I have it all together, or that my family isn’t messy sometimes, or that being a pastor isn’t difficult on good days and gutwrenching on bad ones, or that occasionally I don’t stop at a gas station to eat Chocodiles (sorry, Dr. Nick!).  I will protect the identity of people close to me in the chronicling process, but I want to be honest about my life stories, heartaches, adventures, mundane days, and lessons learned.  If anyone is to “follow me as I follow Christ” like Paul says in 1 Corinthians, it must be with the understanding that I am an imperfect, weak person who is only whole, strong, and able to love through the power of Christ in me.  My goal is that these beautiful feet of mine can ascend the hill of the Lord because I have chosen to know God and allow Him, through whatever refining or vehicle He uses, to give me clean hands and a pure heart.

So, thanks for reading all of this.  If you don’t really know me, you can stay for a minute and check out the other pages on my blog, including descriptions of my kids and the Princess character aliases I gave them.

Blessings,

Jess