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 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!