A Life Stirred

That Sneaky Part of My Heart

It seems that in every playdate I’ve had lately, the same topic keeps coming up–school.  Apparently, once your child hits 3, it’s time to have an educational plan in place.

She knows 3/26 letters, so we're thinking Harvard next fall.

She knows 3/26 letters, so we’re thinking Harvard next fall.

Really, though, this is a natural progression in mom-conversations.  It’s totally normal to think ahead.  I mean, really, Pre-K is only 16 months away.  [Anyone else have heart palpitations at that thought?]

Anyway, Jo is 3.  And suddenly, there is all this pressure to have a school plan and to be involved in a variety of activities (for the college applications, obviously)!

I think this kind pressure was always there.  It’s just changing as our kids’ skills are changing.  This new pressure fells weightier.

Is Jo going to be in dance?  You can start at three, you know?

Does she do swim lessons?  It’s great to start young.

Did you hear about the preschool at the high school?  You have to enroll early.  There’s a wait list.

Here’s the crazy thing, though.  For the most part, I am completely satisfied with the parenting choices we’ve made.

And yet…

And yet, there’s this sneaky part of my heart that starts to get stressed out and starts to question if I’m doing the right things.

So, of course, I’ve been thinking about where this sneaky pressure comes from.

And surprisingly, it has some very familiar roots.

Comparison.  Identity.  Insecurity.

[Goodness, Lord, really?  Why do I always struggle with the exact. same. issue over and over?  Can’t I have something new?!  Just for variety?]

This sneaky part of my heart reveals quite a bit.  I have a propensity towards insecurity in my parenting choices.  I’ve placed some of my identity in my children’s ability to be successful and excellent and advanced (because it makes me look good).  I measure my kids against other kids so I can prove (to myself and others) that I’m a better mom.

Yeah, that’s not cool.  Thankfully, God can (and will!) change my heart, and He can help me gain freedom.

As a mom and friend, I long to be quietly confident in the choices I make for my family.  I want to share what we do, when others want to hear it.  I want to eliminate competition from my conversations.  I want to support my friends in their choices.  I want to decrease comparison and increase encouragement.

So, do you have a sneaky part of your heart?  (Please tell me I’m not alone.)  When does it sneak up on you?  What have you done to eliminate it?

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Ten on Ten: The Unconventional Edition

Let’s just be honest.  I forgot it was the tenth.  Motherhood does lots of weird things to a person…not the least of which is that I hardly ever write the date anymore.  I mean, I’m vaguely aware that it’s April…and I think it’s Friday (although I’ve been thinking that since Wednesday).

So, please sit back and enjoy “Ten on Ten”…or as I’d like to call it this month, “A Handful of Pictures on an Undetermined Day.”

It’s April…so they say.  April here isn’t really a spring month.  It’s more of a snow-melting, mud-everywhere kind of month.

And sometimes there are ice storms.

And sometimes there are ice storms.

Sidenote:  So, I’ve been thinking about our long winters.  It’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated by winter in March and April.  Especially as pictures of other people enjoying actual-Spring start cropping up on Facebook, Instagram, and blogs.  But isn’t that just a comparison issue?  I don’t live in an area of the country that has grass by Easter.  I shouldn’t really expect it.  And yet, as I start to see everyone else enjoying warm weather and flowers, I get a little jealous.  Comparison really *is* the thief of joy!  I’ve gotta stop doing that…

Anyway, moving on…Once I realized that today was the tenth, I thought I should at least take a few pictures to document the day.  So we did lunchtime selfies!
My sweet Bear-Bear.

My sweet Bear-Bear.

Oh, JoJo, you are a joy!

Oh, JoJo, you are a joy!

We are adorable, and we know it.

We are adorable, and we know it.

Right now, there is a naptime miracle happening upstairs!  Both girls are napping!!  At the same time!!  Clearly, that is worth lots and lots of somewhat blurry pictures, right?

A three-year-old napping.  It's as elusive as Bigfoot.

A three-year-old napping. It’s as elusive as Bigfoot.

Not as elusive, but worth a picture.

Not as elusive, but worth a picture.

I will leave you with that.  Hope you have a great April 10, 2015.  (I know the date now…aren’t you proud?)

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Mothers and Daughters :: A Guest Post

I consider myself an unlikely mom of girls.  I never really saw it coming.  I thought I was more of mom-of-boys kind of girl.  Really, I’m still regularly surprised that I have two (TWO!) girls.

But I do.  And I kind of love it.  A lot.

Today I’m sharing about this over at Mary Evelyn’s blog, What Do You Do, Dear?  If you don’t read her blog, you really, really should (no, really, you should).  It’s one of my all-time favorites!  She’s funny and deep and real and wise and has the best hair I’ve ever seen outside of a Disney movie.  She has a ridiculously handsome son with Spina Bifida and an adorable, brand-new baby girl.

I am so excited to be joining in her series about Mothers and Daughters.  Hopefully, you’ll go check it out!

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Ten on Ten: The Snow-Castle Edition

Confession:  I am not good at taking the girls outside to play in the winter.  So we stay inside a lot.  I’ve been justifying it because it’s been legit cold for months (5 days above freezing since the start of 2015…that’s cray-cray).

But today?  Today was different.  Today we played outside!!  I will be accepting my “Mother of the Year” award any day now.

This bird feeder makes doing dishes fun...or at least, not as painful.

This bird feeder makes my heart happy.  Hello, chickadee-dee-dee!  (Can you name that book?)

Packing for our upcoming big-big trip.

Packing for our upcoming big-big trip.

Oh, snow clothes, you are such a pain.

Oh, snow clothes, you are such a pain.

Bonus picture (because getting all the gear on is definitely photo-worthy):

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

Tell me you aren't a little jealous of this snow castle...

Coolest snow castle ever!

The clothing combos never cease to amaze.

The clothing combos never cease to amaze.

I worked on projects in another room, while the girls destroyed the rest of the house.

I worked on projects in another room, while the girls destroyed the rest of the house.

Without any prompts, she started to clean up.  Two minutes later (without any prompts), she dumped it all on the floor again.  We'll call it even.

Without any prompts, she started to clean up. Two minutes later (without any prompts), she dumped it all on the floor again.

ten on ten button

 

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The Benefits of Honesty

Saturday was one of those days.  You know the kind–where nothing seems to go like you’d planned.

The plan was simple.  The girls would stay home with Ben (and have the time of their life, no doubt.  Daddy is the best).  I was going to church to help with a women’s clothing swap all morning.  I was going to come home at naptime.  It was all planned out.

And then Ben woke up feeling sick.  Hello, Plan B.

So the girls came with me to the clothing swap, and I prayed they’d play independently and quietly for 4 hours while I helped run a clothing swap.  Not likely.

Playing is their specialty.  Playing quietly?  Not as much.

Playing is their specialty. Playing quietly? Not as much.

In the scheme of life, this was really no big deal (or “NBD” as we like to say around here).  The girls would be fine.  The clothing swap would run more or less efficiently.  But I was annoyed and frustrated by plans gone awry.

And then I bumped into a friend, who asked me, “How are you?”.  For a second, I considered going with the socially expected answer (“Good.”), but then I went with honesty instead.  I told her how I was frustrated and how my plans were messed up.

And you know what?  Ten minutes later, she had worked up a plan to take my girls for the morning to her son’s Curious George birthday party (she had me at monkey cake).  She offered and meant it, and I took her up on it.

It was so simple.  But she lifted a weight from my day.

And all because I was honest about how my day was going.  If I had said “Fine”, she would never have known that I needed help.

Sometimes I am resistant to help.  I feel the need to do it all myself.  I want to have it all together (or at least to act like I do).  I don’t want to admit that I might need help.

And yet, when I did, I was blessed.  My girls were blessed.  And to think, this blessing started with an honest answer to a standard question.

It makes me wonder if there would be more blessings if we were more honest.  More blessings to give.  More blessings to receive.  But we miss out because we hold out.

So, maybe this week, consider answering honestly.  You might just be pleasantly surprised by the results.  I know I was!

 

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What do you do well? :: A Follow-Up

So, last week, I asked a question:  What do you do well?

I got one response.  One.

<insert cricket chirping>

Now, the number of comments isn’t generally important to me, but it got me wondering why so few responded.

Maybe no one responded because it was Friday afternoon, and who has the time to comment on a blog?!

Or maybe no one responded because it is unnatural to talk about where we excel.  It feels prideful and gloat-y.

Or maybe no one responded because it’s hard to think of anything we do well.  We can easily list off about 27 things we need to work on, but where we are gifted is harder.

Suppose if I asked a different question.  What do your kids do well?  How has the Lord uniquely gifted and wired them?

Don't even get me started on the awesome-ness of these two!

Don’t even get me started on the awesome-ness of these two!

That’s a lot easier, right?

I bet you could go on and on about your kiddos’ gifts.  Even without much thought.  Even on a Friday.

So, God is our Heavenly Father.  He loves us as His child.  He sees us flaws and all.  He sees the “silly” little things that we’re good at (and that bring us joy), and He sees the ways He’s uniquely equipped us to serve Him.

I guess my question has two parts now.  (Drat.  I wanted to make this easier to answer.  It’s just getting harder.)

1.  What is one “silly” thing that you’re good at?

2.  What is one way you are uniquely wired to serve God?

I’ll start.  That only seems fair.

I am a good organizer.  I love my planner (like really, really love it!).  I can knock out a to-do list like a boss.  It’s a gift.

Sometimes I even take pictures of my to do lists.  For posterity.

Sometimes I even take pictures of my to do lists. That’s not weird, is it?

Obviously, it’s harder to see how God has equipped me to serve Him.  Because generally I feel so unqualified.  But I think God has given me an ability to encourage others.  It brings me such joy to be able to speak encouragement to those around me and to stir their affections for God.

Ok, your turn!  Don’t be shy.

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What do you do well?

I read a lot of blogs these days.  Because 5 minute chunks of time for reading is about all I can handle.

[Sidenote: Sometimes I worry that I’ve broken the part of my brain that could focus on a mental task for more than 10 minutes.  I’m blaming motherhood for that, but I wonder if it’s more a cultural trend.]

So, anyway, I read mostly Christian, mom blogs.  [Maybe I should diversify my blog-reading, but that’s not what this post is about…]

Generally, these blogs strive to encourage and challenge other moms in their walk with the Lord. Which is great.  I need that.  The Bible even tells us to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

BUT lately, it seems like everything I’m reading focuses on areas where we might be falling short.  Presumably because those are probably the areas where we most need encouragement.  Things like being patient as a mom, practicing hospitality, housekeeping things, developing a regular prayer time, loving our children well, loving our husband well, being a good friend, focusing on self-care and on and on.

And before I go any further with this post, let me say clearly, there is nothing wrong with those postsNothing.  I need all the encouragement I can get in most of those areas (ok, ok, all of those areas).  There’s a reason I read the blogs I do—I want to be spurred on towards love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).  And heck, I do the exact same thing on my own blog (or I try to)!

However, with all the focus on areas where we need help and encouragement, I think we forget an important piece.  We don’t often acknowledge the ways where we are doing well, the things that do come easily to us

No matter who you are, there is something that you do well.  There are areas of motherhood and life where you don’t struggle, areas where you actually shine!

Maybe you are really good at keeping your house clean and organized.  Maybe you find joy in mopping.

Maybe you are naturally patient with your kids.

Maybe you find joy in throwing elaborate, Pinterest-worthy birthday parties.

Maybe you are thrifty.

Maybe you love inviting others into your home.

Maybe you are consistently in the Word and in prayer.

Maybe you do super-creative educational projects with your kids.

Maybe you are really good at selfies in the mirror aisle at Hobby Lobby.

No gift is too small.

Not as easy as it looks.

Do you get the idea? You excel in some way.  Yet, too often, we push those gifts aside or long for a different gift or dwell on the 318 ways we could be doing better.

Granted, I know that it wouldn’t be healthy (or fruitful) to spend all our time talking about the ways we do things well.  But I think there is value in sharing our gifts.

So, today, I want to hear from you.  Yes, really, you.

 What do you do well?

And if you share (and I hope you will), don’t make excuses or be apologetic about your gift.  Be proud of the gifts the Lord has given you.  I know it will encourage my heart to hear how you are uniquely gifted!

[P.S. If you can’t think of anything, ask someone who is close to you for some ideas.  I bet your friends could give you a few ideas.  We are often so critical of ourselves (and even of our own gifts) that we are blind to our strengths.]

 

 

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Phrases that Phrustrate

Confession:  I’m a bit of a language snob.  Cutesy misspellings and grammatical errors drive me up the wall!  (Yes, that would include the title of this post too.  I’m bugging myself right now.)

You’d like a few real-life examples?

“Kmart Kares About Kids.”  Apparently, not enough to use spell check.

“Bilt Rite,” a construction company.  I’m sorry, but I’m not going to trust you as a contractor if you can’t even spell all your words right!

And don’t even get me started on grammatical errors!  There, their, they’re.  Come on, people!  Think it through!!

Believe it or not, this post isn’t actually about my desire for accurate grammar and spelling.

I think every mom has a phrase or comment that triggers irrational frustration.  It’s usually something benign, but something we hear over and over and over again and after the one millionth time, it’s just doesn’t feel so benign anymore.  It causes Hulk-like anger and often triggers a snappy and unkind response.

“Whoa!  Are they all yours?”  –No, I just thought I’d borrow a few extra children and then go shopping.

“You certainly have your hands full.”  –Oh, do I?  Thanks for pointing that out.

“You think this season of motherhood is hard?  Just wait…”  –No, you just wait…

And that’s just a few.  There are probably as many examples of frustrating phrases as there are moms.

Recently, I’ve felt challenged to change the way I view these phrases (and the people who say them).  Instead of resorting frustration, I’m trying to be more understanding, more grace-filled.

Generally, the commenter isn’t trying to be malicious or rude or obnoxious.  Generally, it’s just someone who wants to strike up a conversation.  Someone older or lonely or missing the days when their hands were full with little kids.  Or all of the above.

So, I’ve been trying to treat each comment as an opportunity to connect with the people around me (even if it’s the 427th comment that day).  It is waaaaay too easy for me to stay in my own little introverted bubble and never interact with those around me.  So, sometimes that frustrating phrase is just what I need to be pulled out of my bubble.

It’s not always easy.  Sometimes I’m in a hurry, or I’m distracted, or my kids are whiney, but really, taking time for people should always be high on my list.  For my girls, I want to model grace, love, and patience towards others.  I want them to extend those very same things to those who cross their paths.

So that means I have to take a deep breath, assume the best, and respond kindly.

And yes, I know that there are some phrases that we can hear that are actually offensive or hurtful.  And I’m so sorry if that’s been the case for you.  But people are still people (even if they’re being rude or unkind), and I think it’s always valuable to extend grace when we can…even if extending grace means walking away before you hurt someone.

What phrase drives you up the wall?  How do you respond?  How do you want to respond?

 

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The Facebook Weight

A month ago, I officially deleted Facebook.

Scratch that.  Six weeks, I told Facebook I wanted to delete my account.  Two weeks ago, they finally did it.

[Did you know that there’s a “waiting period” before Facebook will really delete your account?  14 days!  That seeemed excessive to me.]

Anyway, all that to say, my Facebook account is official gone.  (Well, I did download all my Facebook information onto my computer…ten years worth of posts and pictures.  Priceless.)

And I really don’t miss it.

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …

Hebrews 12:1-2

I heard a sermon recently that pointed out that there is a difference between weights and sins.  Weights may be morally neutral things that rob our affection for the Lord.  They will distract from the race set before us.

For me, Facebook was a weight.  It isn’t intrinsically bad, and it isn’t a sin to use Facebook.  In fact, a year ago, I would have said that Facebook was a great way to connect with long-distance friends and family, keep up with others, and encourage others in their day-to-day lives.

And it is.

But Facebook can also be a weight that clings so closely.  Its effect on my heart and life was subtle!  Sometimes it can even be hard to identify its grip until you are out from under it.

For example, I struggle with comparison in general.  Even without Facebook, I still struggle.  BUT I never fully realized how much Facebook fed into this struggle.   I continue to be amazed at the levels of freedom I’m experiencing without Facebook.  I have so much more joy when I don’t have to fight the constant tug of comparison.

Now, don’t read this wrong.  I am NOT saying that everyone needs to leave Facebook.  I know that for many, Facebook is a place to spread the Kingdom of God and to encourage one another.  And that’s awesome!  We need more people to use social media as a platform to spread the gospel.

However, I do believe we all need to be careful about our social media use.  It can be time-consuming and distracting and it can cling so closely (as Hebrews 12:1-2 says).

So, I encourage you to examine your heart.  Do you feel a pull to set aside Facebook (even if just for a season)?  Do you feel a desire to use Facebook as a platform for encouragement and glorifying God?  Or do you have another weight in your life (a morally neutral thing that robs your affection for the Lord) that you need to lay aside?

 

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Ten on Ten: Life-on-A-Tuesday Edition

It’s that time of the month again.

No, wait.  Not that time.

It’s Ten on Ten!  It’s time to document the beauty in the ordinary.  I always enjoy this activity.  Because it shows me that there’s always waaaay more beauty to find in my day than I would have expected.

I find it both adorable and sad that my 19 month old can work her own nebulizer.

I find it both adorable and sad that my 19 month old can work her own nebulizer.

Big sis “reading” to little sis. (In the interest of full disclosure, Claire is crying in this picture…for unknown reasons.)

Executing Plan B at the Mall.  The stroller broke on the way in, so I fed the girls a snack while figuring out what to do.

Executing Plan B at the Mall. The stroller broke on the way in, so I fed the girls a snack while figuring out what to do.

Walking with friends in the mall.  So cute!

Walking at the mall.  The cutest!

Lunch on a snowy afternoon.

Lunch on a snowy afternoon.

A little blog writing during naptime...my favorite.

A little blog-writing during naptime…my fave.

Jo's "Coronation Shoes." (A la Anna in "Frozen".)

Jo’s “Coronation Shoes.” (A la Anna in “Frozen”.)

Grace in action.  Jo finished her snack, and Claire shared hers.

Grace in action. Jo finished her snack, and Claire joyfully shared hers.

Walking on the bed in capes.  Because why not?

Walking on the bed in blanket-capes. Because why not?

Table Time.  (Aka my daily desperate attempt to make it from 4:45 to 5:30 with an ounce of sanity.)

Table Time (aka my daily desperate attempt to make it from 4:45 to 5:30 with an ounce of sanity.)

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