Family Care

Your ministry matters. Do not kid yourself– what you do makes a difference.

In this age of mega stars and internet sensations, it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd.

It’s easy to believe your little old life doesn’t reach a million people on YouTube each day, so probably you don’t matter. When you’re typing away in a tiny office or teaching a small class or wiping wee noses, your impact on the world seems limited at best. Microscopic, possibly.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

Let’s be honest– there are billions of people on the planet right now, so we’re all a little bit insignificant in that global, historical, long-range view of the world. This is totally true and should keep our perspectives a little humble.

Humility is good for our souls, but blindly disregarding our gifts and impact is another. I’m quite guilty of this. I’m slowly, slowly learning about how important the small things really are in the scope of my family, small group, and community.

It’s not the big, important people who really pour blessing into your life, is it? Does your favorite actor/blogger/YouTuber/politician show up at your breakfast table each morning and help you set your day right?

I’m willing to bet they don’t. The people who bless you the most are the ones who show up day after day after day and trudge through life right next to you.

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

It’s the spouse who’s up in the middle of the night with you while you both scrub vomit out of the carpet.

It’s the friend who will take your children at a moment’s notice so you can get to an appointment.

It’s the coworker who hands you a mug of coffee so you don’t murder your 10am appointment with the sharp letter opener you keep on the desk as a weapon in case a crazy person breaks into the building.

(Wow, that got a little dark. I’m sorry. But I have this really scary letter opener on my desk and that’s where I got the idea…)

If their love and blessing in your life makes a huge difference to you, what makes you think your efforts don’t matter to anyone?

Your ministry matters. You matter. What you do each day makes all the difference to someone.

Maybe that someone is only a few months old and recognizes you only as comfort, warm milk, and a clean butt. Those days are so hard, but you’re building a foundation of trust and love that will never be undone. Your child will go out into the world ready to love and care for others, and that is no small feat. Doubt me? Ask anyone who was raised by a neglectful, abusive parent and see how much damage selfishness does.

You’re fighting a tidal wave of pain and loss, every time you drag yourself out of bed for a 3am feeding.

Maybe your loved one has been next to you for more than fifty years, but now has trouble recognizing your face. Your care matters. Your love resounds through the walls of your home, into your church, and is a living witness of Christ’s love to a younger generation who is watching you carefully. You’re showing us how to love, even when that love is forgotten five seconds later. You show us over and over again.

You’re fighting a tidal wave of cultural selfishness with every act of service. We are so thankful.

Photo by Nathália Bariani on Unsplash

Ministry comes in so many different forms.

All these deep thoughts have been stewing in my brain for the last few months as I ponder what it means to be a writer in this current environment. It’s easy for efforts to be evaluated by a number of views to my website or “likes” to my posts. But what I can’t see is the Holy Spirit’s work after I’ve finished typing. What do those words mean in your life?

I don’t know. It’s not really my place to know, honestly. It’s my responsibility to use my gifts to care for the Body of Christ. I’m called to encourage and minister, and whether that’s to 100 people or 10,000 is not for me to decide.

Besides, if only one person’s heart is nudged closer to God today, it doesn’t mean that one individual can’t go out and minister to thousands. The ripple effect is alive and well, and the stone never gets to see that last wave.

Two questions to ask yourself:

I was listening to a brilliant podcast recently (The Road Back to You, which is also a fantastic book on the enneagram personality profile system), and Suzanne Stebile asked a guest these two questions:

  • What does it mean to take yourself seriously?
  • What does it mean to take your contribution to the world seriously?


Do you have an answer for those questions? I didn’t. But I’m going to keep thinking about it until I work it out.

This is our challenge today– to take our gifts to the world seriously. Small doesn’t mean insignificant. Small might mean concentrated and powerful in our case. Or, small might just be the first ripple in the pond, extending far beyond what we’ll ever see.

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:11

 

 

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Parenting Teens: Summer Edition

My husband is at work right now, and I’m sitting in my pajamas feeling all shades of guilt. In theory, I’m home “parenting” the “children.”

But what I’m really doing is “whatever the heck I feel like,” because our kids are now 11 and 14 and they barely know I’m in the house. While Eric slaves away with airplane doodads and gewgaws, I’m drinking coffee in his reading chair.

Look: here’s photographic proof of parenting a 14 year old girl the first week of summer:

parenting teens during summer
That lump under the blanket is a woman-child who could literally survive in this house for days and days without me, provided the wi-fi keeps running and the cupboards have food she recognizes.

Her 11-year old brother just thumped in and out of the house about four times. Where is he going? I have no idea. What’s he doing? No clue. He keeps returning alive, though, so I’m not worried.

This is a remarkable contrast to ten years ago, when every summer day lasted precisely 120 hours. Audrey would wake me up at sunrise every morning, demanding a list of the day’s activities. “Mama, do now? Do now, Mama?” And then Caleb would poop his pants at exactly that moment, all before 6am.

By 10am we’d played every game, splashed in the kiddie pool, and crossed the street to the park. And we still had ten more hours to fill until bedtime. By noon I was praying for the rapture. By dinner time I’d lost the will to live.

Somehow we all muddled through, and ten years later the whole situation is completely unrecognizable. Now Audrey and I have long and loud discussions about whether her ten besties will be allowed to come on our family summer vacation (no they will NOT) and I threaten to throw Caleb’s devices under the back wheels of the van.

The ease of this whole situation has me unnerved. I feel like I should be doing something far more productive with them, but mostly I feel like it’s been a long school year and we all need some time to do nothing. (Except for Eric, who really needs to keep working so we can eat and stuff.) We’ve done algebra until our brains exploded, we’ve made lunches and done chores and completed vocab packets. We played tennis and practiced instruments and drove back and forth to the school a million times. We went to two youth groups and studied the book of Acts until we know the apostles like family.

The kids need a break. Eric and I need time to stare at the ceiling and contemplate our life choices.

And also, the future looms before me. This might be our last summer like this, bored out of our minds together. It won’t be long before both kids are working, driving, and living their own lives. I’ll probably need to get some sort of full-time job to pay for college tuition.

It’s all going to change soon. I don’t fear the changes; it’s time for the kids to experience all life has to offer. They’ll need our support in completely new ways, ways that don’t demand 6am diaper changes or transportation to a friend’s house.

I think we’re all ready for what’s coming, but for now, we have this summer. Negotiating over screen time and whether ten extra teenagers can join us in California in August (no they CANNOT), for three solid months.

I love this time of life. I cherish it. And I hope you cherish your summer, too.

(Unless you’re the mother of littles, then just hope for survival.)

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All the lies they tell young mothers

Young moms: you have been lied to. Just a little bit.

The lies are uttered with the best intentions from liars who aren’t malicious– just forgetful.

“Cherish every minute,” random people tell you. “These moments are precious and fleeting and you will miss them when they’re gone,” they claim.

I roll my eyes at these fools and their rose-colored glasses of yesteryear. For your sanity, let me set a few things straight:

Your children are indeed precious. They are beautiful, created in the image of the Creator, and when they sleep they look exactly like angels. Whether you gave birth to them or adopted them matters not– they are humans of infinite value and worth. Please do cherish your children. You’ll never regret the work they take or the sleep you lose, and your heart will continue to swell with love for them forever, it seems.

However, some of the parts of young motherhood are exhausting and horrible and you will, in fact, not miss them. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for loathing certain parts of the job because you’re basically doing the world’s hardest work around the clock.

The list of things you will not actually miss:

You will not miss screaming toddlers in the car, running three different directions after three tiny children, watching five episodes of Calliou in a row, Goldfish Crackers smashed into the carpet of your vehicle, potty training accidents, explosive poopy diapers in expensive stores, holding them down for immunizations, temper tantrums in front of Grandma, keeping them out of the pond at the park, chasing them around the jungle gym, screaming fits at church, nursing a baby seven times in three hours, marital intimacy interrupted by a hoard of short people pounding on your bedroom door, small fingers reaching under the bathroom door as you try to tinkle in private, STICKINESS EVERYWHERE IN YOUR HOUSE (good lord, how do they get everything so sticky??), or digging in their mouths for whatever foreign object they just popped in there.

Trust me.

One day you’ll be sitting quietly with a book or wandering thoughtfully through a store, clothed and in your right mind, and your children will be right there with you– walking quietly or even having an intelligent conversation.

Sure, they’ll be older and sassier and might smell a little funny. Their teeth might be coming in all cattywampus and they might be wearing socks that haven’t been laundered since October.  You will miss the pudgy baby buns and the wispy, feathery hair. You’ll miss how they lisped words wrong for a while, and you’ll remember how sweet they smelled after a bath.

And yes, you will certainly miss the days when they couldn’t talk at all and therefore couldn’t sass back or point out your every error.

But please ignore the fools who will try to get you to believe every single moment is precious and adorable and glorious. They’re simply too old to remember the work that tiny children require. Do not beat yourself up if you’re finding your life less than enjoyable and sometimes think about running away to a beach in a tropical country with no cell service.

You are a good mom, even when you don’t feel like it. You’re doing a great job, even when your children are insufferable and you’re sure you’re screwing it all up. You will make it, even though you feel like your last nerve was shredded two days after their birth.

Motherhood is hard. Anything worth doing is often hard, and rarely requires that every moment has to be bronzed and polished and remembered with joy.

You’re doing it, Mother of Little People. And your kids will one day grow into great humans because of your work. Don’t lose hope.

And know that some of the older moms around you keenly remember every tantrum and endless day– we’re rooting for you, not silently judging you in the canned vegetable aisle. We’re on your side, I promise.

Together we can outwit the liars with the bad memories who make you feel terrible on accident. Just remember these days accurately, so you can one day throw a lifeline to a mom younger than yourself.

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When a loved one faces a crisis, simply show up. (And maybe shush up a teeny little bit.)

Last Tuesday found me driving through miles of cornfields, sweating through my good silk polyester blouse. The air conditioning in the van was out, the mid-May temperatures had skyrocketed to the high eighties, and I had no choice but to get in that hot box with wheels and drive to the middle of nowhere.

I mean, technically I drove to the middle of Michigan but that’s pretty much the middle of nowhere.

A family member had passed away and I was headed to the funeral. I wasn’t sure what I was about to experience in what was bound to be a very difficult service. I was absolutely certain I had nothing to say, no way to help, and zero ability to relate to their pain.

It was hard, folks. Sometimes life is just so hard, and even though we walk next to the pain, not directly through it ourselves, being on the fringes can be hard too. Sometimes we pull away because we realize we have no way to make it better, and fear any words we offer will only make things worse.

But I’ve learned this– pulling away is the worst possible thing we can do.

What we do is this– we show up.

That’s it. Our very presence is often the best gift we can offer. It doesn’t have to be just at a funeral, either. Sometimes we show up in hospital rooms, on front porches, church sanctuaries, or backyard fire pits. Anyplace your loved one finds herself, join her there.

This is why I drove through cornfields and gladly sweated through that blouse. I did it because I learned an important lesson more than twenty years ago when my grandmother passed away. Although Grandma had lived for more than seven decades in her Polish Catholic community in Detroit, she’d moved across the state a few years before she’d died. My mother was an only child and it seemed fitting that Grandma lived close to us as she aged.

When Josie died and we planned the funeral, my twenty-year old self knew, just absolutely knew, that no one would come. Grandma had only lived in our town for a few short years, and really hadn’t developed strong friendships or ties. Who was going to drive to our little podunk town just for a short funeral?

I’ll tell you who. The Polacks, that’s who. They showed up in droves. It felt like hundreds of wrinkly old Polish people drove in from Detroit, Chicago, and Toledo.

Many of them didn’t even talk to me, and they didn’t need to. Their presence in that little funeral service was more than enough. Their effort to be there spoke love to us.

There was one little guy who did speak to me, and he told me about how wonderful my grandmother had always been. Then he told me how nice her figure was (my grandma was hot?!) while his wife was standing next to him, and I’m pretty sure I’ll take the memory of that awkward conversation to my grave. So honestly it would have been better if he hadn’t spoken at all.

Which brings us to our point about shushing up…

It’s often our anxiety that runs our mouth in uncomfortable situations. We don’t know what to say, so we say all the things.

No. Please, just no jabbering to calm our own nerves.

This is the space to listen.

This is the space to choose to be calm and very, very attentive.

This is the space for hugs. Possibly gifts of chocolate or a cake.

And if there are words to be spoken, they need to be very encouraging, kind, and gracious. Completely focused on the other person, not our own story to tell.

Also, those words need to be really brief.

That’s it. We just need to show up and shush up.

The last two years have brought some really difficult situations into our family. Never have I had the answers or the solutions or anything close to the right words.

But three times I’ve looked into a cousin’s eyes and seen the difference that showing up makes.

And yes, on the way home I stopped for a milkshake with 800 calories that barely took the edge off my emotions, but while I was there I pulled it together for their sake.

Friends, let’s show up for one another. May our presence speak love when there just aren’t words.

 

 

Letting go of what no longer works for you

Picture this. Family dinner after church, in celebration of Mother’s Day. While around the table someone made an innocent comment that was, quite frankly, hilarious and also completely and totally inappropriate if you took it the wrong way. (Which we did.) Those close enough to hear it froze, completely aware of how funny the comment was, but also aware of the kids at the table.

One of us broke down and snickered a little, then repeated the comment. Our daughter, an eighth grader, laughed and laughed because NOTHING GETS BY EIGHTH GRADERS, especially if it’s inappropriate. Soon Grandpa was yelling, “What?!” from the other end of the table and we refused to tell him because there are just some things you can’t shout cross the room at Sunday dinner.

Well, not at Eric’s family’s house anyway. My own family would have yelled it and then the entirety of us would have howled with delight, but Eric’s family is a little more proper about these things.

But let’s forget what was actually said and focus on the fact that we laughed over this silly thing with our child. We all realized it was funny.

Things change. Parenting changes.

Ten years ago we could talk about anything in front of the child and most of it went right over her head. She was sweet and innocent and really excited about JoJo’s Circus and Dora the Explorer. But we can’t parent her like she’s four years old anymore, because she’d get eaten alive in middle school.

We’ve had to let go of parenting styles that worked for a certain period of time, and we’ve embraced this new age. New responsibilities, new freedoms, new challenges.

And now let’s talk about the couches at church.

I don’t know about your house of worship, but our church building is where old couches go to die. It’s a slow death, plopped in the youth room where teenagers flop on them, toddlers leap from cushion to cushion, and old women (me) nap on them when they get too tired.

Some of the most hideous couches ever created had come home to die in our youth room. Not to mention the closet was full of junk no one recognized. Not to mention the walls had been painted in 2003 and had suffered fourteen years of abuse from hyperactive teenagers.

Yes, we knew it was ugly. We knew things had to change but no one had the guts to drag the couches to the dumpster. (Or set fire to them in the parking lot, which would have been more fun.) ((But the fire department disapproves, apparently.))

Our new worship leader arrived a few weeks ago, and he has no qualms about getting rid of old, crappy couches. He had us pile them up so they could be disposed of ASAP. He ordered a crew to clean out the closet, not really caring who donated the old costumes that were used in a sermon skit in 1985. (For the record, it was the church’s Clean Up Week, and we’d all shown up to work. It’s not that Mike is a Bossy Pants.)

The couches are gone, the closet is clean, and new paint is on the way. We’re letting go of what no longer serves us.

I don’t know why we get so paralyzed and cling to stuff that used to work but now just weighs us down.

It can be really hard to realize your child is growing up. It can be terrifying to throw out a couch, wondering who donated it and if they’ll be mad because you tossed their hideousness to the curb.

All the change is upsetting, sure. But isn’t it more upsetting if nothing ever changes? Are babies supposed to stay babies? If your kid was 18 but still in a crib and trying to nurse, you’d be freaking out a little.

If your spouse never changed, you’d still be married to a twenty-two-year old who likes thrash metal and trucks from the 1970s.

If your church never changed, you’d be missing opportunities to engage the culture that lives right outside the door.

It’s okay to take a good, hard look at your life. All of it. And it’s even more okay to accept that something isn’t working and needs to be changed.

Comfortable? Never.

But life-bringing? Absolutely.

How a near-death experience in a Roman taxi can bring new life to your marriage

Have I told you the story about how I thought I was going to die in a Roman taxi?

If yes, I apologize but I’m going to tell it again anyway. It’s a good story that bears repeating. And it even has a point, in a manner of speaking.

It begins a few years ago, when Eric and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary by going to Italy without the children. I love to travel, but I wasn’t prepared for how un-America Italy was going to be. While the trip was beautiful and delicious and wonderful, we also spent the week driving around lost, looking for an appropriate bathroom, and trying to find a parking place that wouldn’t get us fined or towed.

So it was wonderful, but a wee bit stressful in the transportation department. When the week was almost over and it was time to turn in the rental car, I was a wreck. It wasn’t quite time to go home, though. We still had one night in Rome, but to get from the car rental office to the city we had to take a taxi.

This was not the taxi. But isn’t it cute?

Listen. I grew up in the sticks. There are no taxis where I’m from. There are barely buses. And my husband grew up in a small farming community that literally considered a tractor a viable transportation method when one needed to get to school.

So we were unprepared for Ricardo and his taxi.

Or, as we shall now refer to him– Reeecaaaaaaahhrrrdoooo. That’s how he said his own name all fifty times he answered his cell phones as he hurtled through traffic.

Did you catch that? Cell phoneS? As in the man had more than one phone?

Yes, yes he did. He had three of them, and two of them he answered over and over again while making notes on a clip board.

Eric took this shot. Isn’t it great?

I was quite sure I was going straight to the bosom of Jesus from a Roman taxi, as this fool of an Italian man barely kept his hands on the wheel as he attended to his office duties from the front seat of a hunk of metal that must have been traveling about seventy miles an hour.

I wasn’t sure how my orphaned children were going to keep a straight face explaining my death in a flaming taxi/office with Reeecaaaaaaahhrrrdoooo at the helm. That was going to be awkward for them.

We didn’t die. You’ve probably assumed as much, but we made it just fine. Not even a little accident. The gentleman drove us to exactly the right spot and politely took our money and left us wobbly-legged on the sidewalk across from the location where Christians used to get eaten by lions.

This place seriously creeped me out. Our people were snacks and entertainment here!

All this added one more layer of glue to our marriage. Years later, all I have to say is “Reeecaaaaaaahhrrrdoooo” and Eric grins at me. The whole week was like that. We saw beautiful things, ate delicious meals, and walked on ancient streets. And somehow, our marriage was strengthened by the experience.

I don’t understand it, but apparently this is nothing new. It’s part of the concept of Steve Arterburn’s new book, The Mediterranean Love Plan (affiliate link). I joined the launch team for this book, and I’ve been stopping Eric for days to read bits and pieces out loud. The book’s basic premise is this– if you want a passionate, joyful marriage, you need to be two passionate, joyful people. No sitting silently on the sofa in beige sweatsuits while the blue boob tube flickers in your living room.

“If both of you are not proactive about passion, I can guarantee that one day you’ll be pulling up your Depends and wondering, ‘Where did we go wrong?'” ~The Mediterranean Love Plan

Encouraging the reader (hopefully that will be you!) to tune into their mate and then tune into the joy and beauty of the world, Arterburn has a better plan than growing old and boring in a beige, sexless marriage.

Eric and I are in! Are you? The book releases April 4, but you can preorder it and have it in your hot little hands as soon as it’s ready. I’ll be doing a few more blog posts on it, just because I have other dumb stories to tell and I think marriage is important enough for us to focus on for a while.

Until next week– Ciao, baby!

 

“Good bye. I love you. Don’t do drugs or kiss boys.”

modesty

“Talk to the children,” the experts always tell parents. “Talk to them about sex. Talk to them about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.” “Open lines of communication are healthy,” they claim.

So I talk to my kids like the experts want me to. Most mornings when I drop my kids (and Abby, our wonderful friend who rides in with us each day) off at the back of the school, I yell, “Good bye. I love you. Don’t do drugs or kiss boys.”

I figure it covers it all, right? I’ve bid them a warm adieu, confirmed my love for them, warned them of the dangers of drugs, and affirmed my desire to not become a grandmother at age forty.

Done, done, and done.

The kids roll their eyes. Well, Abby politely rolls her eyes without actually rolling her eyes, because her parents have raised her to respect other adults. My kids slam the van door and run away, wishing their father could drop them off instead.

Some days I’ll roll down the window and yell it across the parking lot, just to be extra convincing.

They really, really love this.

There’s nothing funner in the whole world than messing with your middle schoolers, I tell you. Pure delight.

These girls are strangers (thanks, unsplash.com) but the looks are exactly the same as the ones my kids give me. Ha!

Now that the children are eleven and thirteen, they can outwit me. “What about Caleb? Can he kiss boys?” Audrey demanded.

“Fine. No kissing girls or boys,” I amended.

“Are we assuming gender? We can’t just be assuming anyone’s gender,” she shot at me recently.

And while I personally will continue to assume gender for every human I encounter until the day I die, I don’t have time for this fight in the middle school parking lot, so I yell, “Fine. NO KISSING OTHER HUMANS.”

And they giggle and run away, off to the relative sanity of the school building.

I’ll be the first to admit that these open lines of communication are about to kill me. We really, really do want our kids to talk to us about anything, especially since we’re a Christian family in a very secular school. We can’t assume that any teacher or administrator shares our beliefs, ever. And while quite a few key adults at the school do indeed share our beliefs and the rest of them have been very respectful, it’s still up to us to make sure we verbalize what the kids need to know.

They are loved. Drugs are dangerous. Kissing is only slightly less dangerous than drugs.

But talking about it can be so uncomfortable. Like, shoulders-up-to-my-ears, full grimace, wanting to die while I explain that every single song by Maroon 5 is about sex and the song “Sugar” is not, in fact, about sugar.

[…brief pause while your blogger takes a moment to watch the video to “Sugar”, which she quite enjoys…]

But at least we hope that one day our kids will be enjoying sex at a proper age, with a nice marriage license and ceremony before God and everyone to sanctify it.

Sex, sure. Eventually. But drugs are another story. We don’t evereverevereverever want them to mess around with that menace. Our mental health is a precious gift. It’s the one thing we have to survey the world properly and then respond in a healthy way. Why would you trade a clear mind for one addled with addiction and despair?

One day, when my kids are at the inevitable party and someone offers them a joint or heroin or the recipe for meth, I want my voice in their ears yelling “Don’t do drugs!”  Trust me, they’ve heard it enough times now that my face will pop into their view even if I’m 800 miles away.



And this is precisely my goal. Listen, I get it. I can’t watch my kids’ every move until I die. One day they will go out into the world and make their own decisions, and they’re already doing that every day. I’m sure I’d be horrified if I knew everything.

But they know they’re loved. They know that drugs and kissing have immense consequences. And they know we’re always willing to talk about it.

But, please. Your father will be explaining the lyrics to “Animals.” I just can’t.

I blush.

 

 

Let me explain how this marriage works.

A casual observer into my marriage would assume, because I’m the noisy one, that I run the show. They’d see me flapping my lips and my arms and hopping from room to room, coming up with all manner of ideas for our family and also shouting my opinion rather ceaselessly.

They’d see Eric calmly watching the circus that is his wife, and might incorrectly assume that he’s passively letting me do whatever I want.

No.

Not even a little bit.

The man is a ROCK. He is IMMOVABLE. I could pick up my van with my bare hands and heft it to the next city before I could get Eric to do something he doesn’t want to do.

That’s how this marriage works, dear reader. It’s my job to come up with a terrible, ridiculous idea (or two) literally every single day.

It’s his job to deflect that terrible idea every single day. On a weekend when we’re both together and I have more free time, he might literally have to tell me no or stare me down from sunrise to sunset, which is when he finally hands me a glass of wine to quiet me down.

For example, I tried to move our family of four into a tiny house. This assault lasted over a year.

Seriously. Now I want one all over again! (Photo courtesy of hgtv.com)

For example, I tried to talk him into moving to Dubai last month.

Come on, honey! We could get a camel! (Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com)

For also example, I also tried to talk him into buying a $400,000 lake house when he refused the Dubai idea.

I present my ideas and flutter my eyelashes and wait for him to acknowledge that I’m a genius. He waits a moment, phrasing his answer just so, and then gently points out the logic that renders my plan unworkable. “Your logic is ruining my day!” I shout in his direction. He smirks.

I’m sure the man must be exhausted. But I also think he’s amused and finds this circus endlessly entertaining, so he lets it roll onward.


And here’s the thing– I don’t actually feel bad about this dynamic in our marriage. If I didn’t come up with a hundred terrible ideas, I probably wouldn’t get around to the sparkling, amazing, stupendous ideas, either. One of us needs to be dragging us forward, and the other one needs to be the brakes so we don’t run straight off the cliff into a tiny lake house in Dubai.

I know that from outward appearances, my attempts at being a wife probably fail every litmus test for submission, quietness, gentleness, or self control. But deep on the inside, I know my husband. I know when I’ve crossed the line from fun-wife to poopy-head-wife. Out of respect for him, I try to stay on the fun side of that line.

And out of love for me, he does occasionally concede that an idea might be a good one, and we move forward. Cautiously. Oh, so cautiously.

I firmly believe there’s no one perfect kind of marriage. Just like with good parenting, there are lots of ways to have a great relationship. And really, outward appearances count for little. What goes on during the quiet afternoons, the early mornings, and the long car rides– when it’s just the two of you working it all out together– counts more than failing to live up to standards that have nothing to do with you two as people.

“You be you,” as our thirteen year-old says. Your marriage is what you make of it, good and bad, just like we individual humans are what we make of ourselves. Even if what we make of ourselves is kind of crazy, with really terrible ideas.

This is how a marriage works. May our relationships flourish and grow as we care for one another in our deeply individual ways.

 

 

 

Dear Parents: It’s okay if you’re making it up as you go along

Eric and I are parenting two kids in middle school, so basically we’re making stuff up as we go along. Minute by minute, we literally have no idea of what we’re doing.

This is no different than any other stage of parenting we’ve experienced thus far, but what IS different is that the kids now know this. They no longer trust everything we say or blindly believe we’re geniuses who happen to share a house with them.

 

To be fair, I can no longer help with their math, band homework, or technology. Their lack of faith in me is sort of justified and it’s not like I’ll ever understand negative integers, so I’m going to have to live with it.

Technology and algebra aside, recently Eric and I have bumped into a few situations where our guesses and hopes aren’t enough to cut it. We’ve had to share our concerns with friends (who all have kids the same ages as ours) and ask what they’d do in our situation.

Now, we picked our advisors wisely. These friends have all known us for two decades and are parenting with the firm desire to raise children who love God, know the Bible, and one day go out into the world to make a difference for the Kingdom. Their insight was very, very helpful.

Turns out there is no easy answer

But this is what I’m learning– their insights are gleaned from their own situation. Every family has a particular dynamic that comes from a bunch of individual personalities jammed into one living situation. Every family has different goals, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes for their kids. We’ve chosen different educational options and houses of worship.

This means every family gave us a different answer. This isn’t what I wanted– I wanted one clear, correct answer. A foggy, stressful situation became even foggier.

Until this morning, when I realized there isn’t any such thing as one clear, correct answer in parenting and the fog suddenly dissipated. I’m responsible for these two kids I have. I have to choose their schools, church, and neighborhood because that’s what parents do. What our friends do is great and helpful and often helps me keep my sanity, but in the end, Eric and I get to choose.

We all get to choose

And so do you. You know your kids. You know your family’s needs and hopes and strengths. So you get to choose what’s best for your kids at the end of the day. Pray over it, make the best decision you can, and rest in the fact there will always be a lot of ways to raise a great kid.

Your friends will do some things better than you. Your friends will do some things worse than you. Their kids might turn out great or really terrible. In the end, all our kids will make decisions we have no control over anyway, which means that we can parent them until the end of time and still get totally wonky results. We’re dealing with humans here, not robots.


We’re all making it up as we go (even our kids!), so let’s just do the best we can, support one another, and enjoy long talks over the table where we confess that we have no idea of what to do next.

All my teenager needs is a pound of butter

I thought parenting teenagers was going to be full of angst and fights and possibly weeping.

Turns out it’s mostly full of butter, with sudden outbursts where I yell about practicing instruments or taking out cat poop. Hardly what I expected at all, frankly.

“Mom, I think we used too much butter!” Audrey called down the stairs to me on Saturday morning.

I was in the middle of a project in the basement, taking out our unused craft desk and sorting through scraps of paper I’ve saved for (I’m not kidding) seventeen years, while Audrey and her friend Lydia were using up all the baking supplies in the whole house, lightly coating everything in powdered sugar and gluten free flour.

By the time we had this conversation it was too late– the cupcakes were already in the oven and there was no repairing the butter issue. “It’s fine, they’ll just be extra delicious!” I yelled up the stairs as I hefted a box full of old glitter glue and rubber stamps from 1999. I hoped I was right, but there was no guarantee.

The cupcakes, I’m glad to announce, are indeed delicious. The girls soon moved from the cake to the frosting, working together to make sure the color of the frosting was just the right shade of yellow. There was lots of giggling and joking. I think I have frosting on my kitchen ceiling. Whatever.

I poked my head upstairs and started a sink of dishwater for them, gently ordering them to clean up their glorious mess, then headed back downstairs with the vacuum to suck up ancient glass beads that had escaped their container. The laughing and giggling continued in the kitchen, with some occasional swishing of hot, soapy water.

After I’d taken four loads of junk to the dumpster and another four loads of donations to the van, the craft area was finally empty and ready for our new addition– a snack bar for the kids and their friends. Eric has this grand idea to make our basement welcoming to the kids, so we can be the place they want to hang out in in the years to come.

Our friends, Tall Caleb (not to be confused with our son, Short Caleb) and Megan, pointed out that the teen years were, oh, right now, which is a solid point. Aud and her friends will be in high school next year.

HIGH SCHOOL.

And with high school comes heroin and pregnancy, I’ve been led to believe. We’d like to avoid both of those at all costs, so if this means we need to make some changes in the basement and buy a metric ton of butter, then so be it.

cupcakeButter and powdered sugar are much cheaper than heroin and rehab, I believe.

We already have the old comfy couches and carpet that won’t mind teenagers. We have plans for a larger TV, a way to play music, and the aforementioned snack bar. What else to do we need? If you have suggestions for us, we’d love to hear them.

More butter, less heroin. Amen.

 

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