claire

claire

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Illusions

My in-laws visited last weekend. I love them so much. They have the gift of speaking life into me, Matt and our kids. One of the ways that my father-in-law encouraged and affirmed me last weekend was by telling me that i have "beautifully embraced a balance of chaos and structure" in the running of our home and that he was "really impressed and proud of me."
People.
Those words mattered!
They were timely, affirming, and just what I needed to hear. 

It's important to note that the "balance" my father in law noticed is a far cry from where i once was. I once was lost in the illusion that if  I could successfully control the behaviors and routines of those around me then the outcomes would bring me order and peace. I have since found I was working against myself at every turn.

I've found that striving for constant control exhausts us physically and emotionally. Yes. It takes energy to manage a home well. But it adds stress to micromanage the details of everyone in the house. There is a notable difference.

Placing our peace in control leaves us isolated spiritually. How do you learn to lean upon God and recognize His hand when all your energy is spent white-knuckle-fisting the details of your day?

Overvaluing control gives the illusion of peace while actually wreaking havoc on the relationships you hold most dear. Just ask your kids and husband.

 Life is the ultimate teacher, if you allow it. It has taken years of prayer, seeking the holy spirit  daily minute by minute, Matt's honest feedback in our marriage, truthful friends, parents and in-laws, five kids, and homeschooling for me to let go of striving. And only by the grace of God, I now see how control, the exact thing I used to master my days, had actually become the master of me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hot Wings

               If reading this blog ever makes anyone feel like I know what I'm doing, I need to shut this puppy down.

On any given day, if you were to check my text messages or overhear my jargon, you would hear me utter two phrases frequently. So frequently in fact, that they could be part of our family motto (in addition to Luke 10:27 of course). The first one is "we're coming in hot" because when we load up in our 12 passenger van and head out we are the epitome of the urban dictionary definition  ... 



2
To arrive somewhere in an extremely epic fashion with much style * and flair; almost to the point of being out of control.
wow,that guy just hopped the curb, drove in the exit, and parked crooked in the parking spot. He's coming in hot!
* In our case, "much style" means high water pants, uncombed hair and yo-yo holsters on our hips. 


The second mantra that is the hallmark of our sunup to sundown is "on a wing and a prayer." 

How did we get through that math lesson? On a wing and a prayer. How did I save the chickens from the dog while simultaneously wiping a poopy bottom and micromanaging helping Claire make cookies? On a wing and a prayer. The phrase "on a wing and a prayer" comes with this simple and fitting definition: with only the slightest chance of success.

Um .. nailed it! You guys, the odds are NOT in my favor. And if productivity and Instagram standards are the measure of success, we aren't just simultaneously coming in hot and on a wing and a prayer, we are also a day late and a dollar short!

All I can say is thank goodness for grace, a sense of humor, and Jesus. 




















Saturday, May 19, 2018

These Are The Days (Even When They're Not)

It's astonishing what I see in a day. There are so many moments that leave me scratching my head and debating my options. I mean really, what is the only sane person in this room to do?
Yell?
Run?
Hide?
Curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the kitchen floor?
Get in the car and drive far, far away and pray that the offspring are still safe when their father arrives home in T minus 5 to 10 ... hours? Because let's be honest his children (yes, I'm don't claim them in the moment) can be bat-BLEEP-crazy!



And yet, when we are out and about, typically at the grocery store, not one ... not two ... but no less than 5 sweet souls who have clearly crossed over into the "I have forgotten everything about the daily grind of raising a feral gang whose soul mission from sunup to sundown was to undo everything I had done" are so quick to remind me that I'm "really going to miss this."

Well you know what sweet little old lady buying two chicken breasts, a single crown of broccoli and cat food (can you imagine how QUIET it must be at her house)!?
You are ABSOLUTELY right. I am going to miss this.

With every part of my tired, surrendered body, I know I am going to miss this. I am one of those moms who knows - to her core - that this gig is HARD and that it is okay to be honest about just how hard it is. But I am also so keenly aware that it is a blessing beyond description to be entrusted with 5 little souls to nurture and corral. I'll be honest. This is a really contradictory place to be. So what then are we to do, depleted mommas around the world who long to savor the moments but find it immensely challenging in the face of our demanding reality?


*     *     *

Often, in order to start seeing the beauty, we need to stop. Stop what we are doing. Dishes. Laundry. Paying bills. A side business. Your full time job that comes home with you. Grading papers. Pulling weeds. Looking at your phone. Trying to rationalize your toddler through the fit she is throwing. Attempting to engage diplomatic tactics when WWIII ensues between the older kids. Just STOP.

And for 15 minutes try one of these instead ...

Let each kid pull a favorite picture book from a shelf (yup - even the big kids have picture books they remember and love), cuddle on the couch and read to them. It is the most magical potion in our bag of tricks. I promise.


Pull them close and tell each of them about the moment the two of you first met. It's like a balm to their soul and  yours to be reconnected with that moment of love at first sight.


Put them to work. Look around the house, and delegate a job for each and every child. When you're the only one pulling the weight, it's easy to let resentment reign. But when you put them to work, your load lightens. And another bonus? You see that you didn't just create a lot of work for yourself when you had kids, you also created a work force for your benefit!

Put on a big sun hat, a baseball cap or anything in between. Let you kids know that when mommy is wearing that hat, she is off limits. If you have little ones, let the big ones know its their job to keep the tykes under 3 entertained and sustained. Train them that the hat means "don't mess with mum." You'll thank yourself.
And then there are times that in order to see the blessings, we don't need to physically stop as much as we need to mentally stop.


Stop feeling guilty for not always liking your kids. Yup. You will not like your kids 100% of the time. That is an unrealistic expectation. You will always love them. But believe me, if you have a moment (or many moments) where one or more of your children is driving you up the wall with their hurtful or obnoxious or relentless behavior and you do not enjoy them in that moment - that does not mean you don't love them and that does not make you a bad mom. That makes you a normal human with limits. We all have them. 
Stop obsessing over their behavior. Don't think that your 9 year old son who appears to only think about himself 89% of the time will be a grown adult male who only thinks about himself 89% of the time. He might. But odds are he is just a child. Showing very childish behavior. You are a great mom who is doing her best and his childlike behavior (because, um, he's a child) is not a reflection of who he will be when he's 43. Take a deep breath, and trust that time (and maturity) is on your side.


There are a few days every month when you really need to be aware your thoughts. My best advice for "that time" - don't trust your thoughts. Easier said than done I know. But if you are able, dismiss your worries, anxieties and obsessions during that window. Take them captive. Picture yourself physically snatching them up, putting them in a little jar, tightening the lid and placing them on a shelf do deal with in week. If you need to, write them down so you can come back to them when your mind and body are more able.

And finally, keep the big picture at the forefront of your mind. When I'm running around the kitchen while everyone else sits and eats dinner sitting at the dinner table, and chaos reigns around me, I picture my Thanksgiving table in 20 years. The joy that fills me is indescribable. It makes the hard work of the moment worth the reward that is yet to come. And during those many moments when I feel like I brought a wild circus rather than a family to church or the park or co-op or the doctors office - I picture the rejoicing that will happen in heaven one day when my party of 7 spends eternity with Jesus. That image reminds me that my day to day struggles are temporary and a glory I can't imagine is on the other side of them all.












Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Asleep at the Pizza



I miss this space.
The ease of Instagram and those catchy 20 second stories has made it such that I hardly hop on here. But I do miss this space. 
And I think it's time I came back. 

Perhaps it's not so much the space I miss, as what the space represents.
It almost seems like the mom who so affectionately pinned "a bunch of Barron's" all those years ago was a different person. As a 40 year old homeschooling mom of 5, I feel, well, aged. I'd like to say I feel aged like a fine wine, but let's be honest, I've had some fine wines, and where they are smooth, slow and full of body, I am more often than not rough, quick tempered and tired in my body. 

A few weeks ago we went to Napa to celebrate my 40th birthday and enjoy some of those fine wines. It was divine. And I'm quite sure that every picture that made it's way onto social media from that weekend pictured my looking something like this ... 


I can't say this picture is far from how I actually felt that entire weekend. Kid free, care free, warm, fuzzy and happy as a lark. It was everything I wanted for a 40th birthday. However, for the sake of transparency, I have to share this photo from the "blooper real" of that amazing weekend ... 


Now this picture, with me sleeping in my pizza (and Matt blissfully unaware I might add)?
This is real life. The humor of these two shots are not lost on me. In fact, I nearly spit out my pinot laughing when I saw this picture of me ...

Sleeping in my pizza. 

It's just such a metaphor for life so much of the time. Don't get me wrong. I love this crazy ride, and I must the energy and laughter it takes to soak up the moments, but I also sleep in my pizza. Usually while white knuckle fisting a glass of the finest wine Adam can serve me (more on that later). 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Everlasting

When I was young I loved to climb trees. Autumn was my favorite season for a climbing adventure. I remember clearly the smell of the air from my perch  - a bit dusty and a lot smoky and filled with memories of autumns before. I most often found myself in old walnut trees surrounded by yellow and brown leaves, just being held in perfect peace in those husky, worn branches.

Step into present day and I am now watching my kids explore the wooded wonder around them. The twigs they find lying beneath a majestic timber are magically transformed into swords and wands and arrows with just a touch of their eager hands. Given the chance, they rake fallen leaves into strategic plump piles only to disrupt the order by jumping and jumping and jumping again. They climb any bough they can find that is low enough to accept them into its arms. And then they rest. Just being held. As I watch my kids I often wish I could escape and be lost in care free play with them. Instead I am wandering through the rewarding and challenging task of mothering, teaching and nurturing my small adventures.

When our school year started this fall I was incredibly excited and full of idealistic goals. And then life happened. The workload of five kids age 9 and under was realized. Our dream of a house on acreage became a reality  - but it came packaged as an energy consuming fixer upper. Matt's typically family friendly work schedule began to look like the 80 hours a week he labored in residency. Claire spent time in the emergency room with a still mysterious allergy. Matt faced a health scare that shocked us. And then one little thing after another stopped working. The car. The oven. The washing machine. Trivial under normal circumstances, these mishaps carried the weight of the straw that broke the camels back and overwhelmed me. Through it all, when I would sit and lean into God I heard one word. Surrender. Over and over and over again. Surrender, surrender, surrender. And so now I find myself in the midst of learning what surrender looks like.

I'm learning that surrender is not holding on to how I think something should look.
 But instead being held by the One who knows all.
It is letting go of any illusion I have of control.
And instead trusting that God is the perfect author of my story.
 
This path of surrender starts when I choose to give him my day - from sunup to sundown. I sit in the morning and make a list of "my" plans for the day. And then I pray over the list. I pray for the incredible patience and peace it takes to let go of my plan if I must in order to welcome His plan.

Daily - often times hourly - I have to give Him the fears that exist as I navigate parenthood and this home educating journey. I must choose to trust that the unexpected tugging I felt to homeschool when Henry was just a baby was placed in my heart by God.

Surrender and humility complement each other perfectly. In this season I am learning to accept help. Meals come and I receive them with a thankful heart. I meet the generous offer to wash, dry and fold my laundry with gratitude. A team of servants descend upon our new land and spend three days clearing rotting fences and pruning trees and removing debris. And Matt and I accept with all we have to give - gratitude and humility.

I'm discovering that deep trenches of a life of striving don't partner well with sweet surrender. So I sit. Even when life spins. I sit. I open my bible. I close my eyes. I write. I pour out my heart. Here and in a journal and in my prayers. I let the kids watch TV nightly so I can rest. And often just watch them. The clutter piles high on the counters. The car is full of crumbs and coats. Shoes pour out of closets. Paper and schoolwork and bills abound. And yet, in the midst of it all, peace reigns.

The other day I was basking in this peace and I physically felt as if I was perched in an old, worn tree. And I was overcome. Because in that moment the feeling of peace I was experiencing felt exactly like those tree top moments of my childhood. And I knew the One who sees all, the One who is writing my story, the one carrying me along this path of surrender is the One who has been carrying me all along. In his strong, loving, everlasting arms. 




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Just A Moment

 
 
Momma, if you are standing on tired feet please take just a minute to cuddle up on the couch for this. If kids are pulling on your legs, perhaps wait to listen until they're tucked away for the night, breathing sweetly. But when you have time - a precious commodity I know - please take a few of those sacred moments to hear this message.
 
 It's simple. And powerful.
And it's all you need this advent season and each day beyond.


Just close your eyes and listen here.




 
 
 
 





Saturday, November 14, 2015

And Then We Wait


In a world that will rival for their hearts and attention, it is my hope that my children will be able to recognize the still, small voice of God. This is not a gift that comes naturally to me. I am wired such that my drive to do is stronger than the need God planted in me to just be. Be still. Be calm. Be attentive to things unseen. And yet experience has taught me that those moments of being still are the moments that order all the other events of my day.
 
So in at attempt to train my children in the gentle art of being still we have adopted a morning practice ...
 
After a time of reading together, we all sit on the couch and close our eyes. Individually we ask God if He has anything to say to us. And then we wait. It's hard. But it's getting easier. I tell the kids that an image or thought might come to their mind, and if it does they can say, "God, if this is from you please show me what it means." And then we wait some more.
 
Often times they don't have anything to share. Sometimes it silliness. And that's okay. They are learning to be still. In a world of distractions and busyness and screens competing for their attention, they are learning to set aside time to seek God. They are learning to fix their eyes on things unseen.
 
The other morning when we were practicing the art of stillness I saw an image of a large oak tree, a small house and squirrels. Lots of little squirrels scurrying busily and happily around and over and through yellow grass. The image instantly reminded me of the house on a little piece of this earth we are remodeling. And as I sat with the image I was gently reminded that "unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." (Psalm 127:1)
 
On the same morning Adam saw a "beautiful, warm, golden sunset." He said he felt God telling him "we have a wonderful adventure on the horizon."
 
Henry saw a window with sunlight streaming in and "beautiful glitters of dust in the air." He said mostly he just felt peaceful. But it also reminded him of the window in the school room in our new house and it made him feel "that school is just going to get better and better and better for us."
 
And Claire saw a big puffy heart. And "felt love."
 
As parents we have an endless to do list. Things to do around the house. Things to do at work. Things to do for and with the kids. Things to do for ourselves. And our marriages. Things to do for school and church and neighbors and extended family. Lessons to teach. Practices to attend. Bills to pay. Commitments to keep. All of these things are pressing and immediate. But in the midst of the urgent, let us pray for wisdom not to forget the eternal. And let us respond to the tugging God has placed on all our hearts to be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10)
 
 
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18