Coming Out of the Dark

front door

Today I stood over a large stew pot while I simmered a chicken for broth.  And I realized it was the first time since we moved from the country 3 years ago that I’ve made it.  It’s not a big deal really.  Simmering broth isn’t that major of thing.  But what it represents is so much larger.  It means I have the energy and desire to provide home cooked meals for my family again.  It means that I will devote hours to something that will be the foundation of feeding my children.  It means that I won’t just throw together something from cans once again to make a so-so meal.  It means I have given my time, effort, and joy into making healthy food that I take pride in.

If you follow me on Facebook you’re well aware that after we moved from the country to the city we spent a couple of years in a small rental house in the ‘hood.  And then we moved here.  To a fairytale.  The house, the neighborhood… It’s right out of my dreams.  I don’t think there’s a day yet that I haven’t consciously thought about how thankful I am to be here.

den

Within the first two days of waking up in this house last fall, I realized something.  I realized that I felt like me again.  That I was back.  From somewhere gone.  From a long winter.  A long dream.  I felt like I was waking up to a me again that I hadn’t known in several years.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I basked in the sunshine on my face.  And began to see that I was found.  When I didn’t even know just how lost I was.

I felt capable of trying my hand at a small garden again.  I felt capable of allowing the children to own small pets.  I felt capable of simmering broth for my family.

How?  Why?  Was it the dark dingy tiny house we lived in before?  Was it facing down constant sickness and penetrating cold that first winter there?  Was it being pregnant and having a new baby in that old house?  Was it the difficult circumstances of friends and family I found myself going through?

snow

Yes.  Each.  All.  How I didn’t see how dark it was at the time is amazing.  I was so thankful for the city.  I loved the opportunities for my kids.  I loved the city lights.  So I think I tried to focus on the good. After all, I had been through hard times before.  But I think the combination of it all just colored everything.  And I never even knew how much the cold and dark seeped into my very being until I was here.  In the light.

Just as it wasn’t only the structure we dwelt in there that made life gray, it’s not just the beauty of this home here that brought the light.  But moving somehow marked a new chapter.  Full of hope.  Full of new beginnings.  Full of once forgotten things that are now renewed.

dining room

And so today, as the sun shines and melts the last of the ice away, I tend to children, hermit crabs, sprouting herbs, and simmering broth.  And I smile.

How We Discipline

I wrote this several years ago, but as we are in the midst of another 3 year old situation I thought it would be good to bring it back to the forefront.

Today I’m being featured over at Heart of the Matter Online.

I’m writing about how we discipline (and we do, really, I promise).

Come visit me over there?

And you can read the complete post as follows.

How We Discipline

 

And yes, we discipline. I promise, we do. Regardless of what you think after seeing us in Wal-Mart.

I’ve had a couple of questions in the last couple of weeks about how we discipline.

I read the books once upon a time. Most of the books were either useless or made me feel guilty. I believe you should read the books if you feel so inclined and then glean what’s good from them and trash the rest. I’m always concerned when parents “live by” a certain book. People are fallible. They fail, they learn along the way, they don’t tell you everything, they only have so much insight into your own children. And though children are children are children, they are all different. And usually different from day to day. I don’t even want you to ascribe to what I do. So my suggestion is to apply scripture to your everyday life. After all, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~2Timothy3:16-17 (emphasis by me, of course)

Read God’s Word and apply it to the way that you interact with your children. I’m not just talking about the over- and mis-used “spare the rod, spoil the child” verse. I’m talking about all of scripture. Do not lie. Do not be deceitful. Do not use trickery. Be slow to anger. Be slow to speak. Be quick to listen. Let the little children come to you. Kind words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Fear not. Trust in Him. Love God. Love others. Now don’t get me wrong – I fail at these daily. I told you not to do what I do. But these are mygoals. To persevere, to be long suffering, to be gentle, to be meek, to not covet. These are the things that I try to keep in mind whenever we correct whatever it is that needs correcting.

I see 4 main reasons my kiddos cut up. Really basically just four.

1. They are tired. 2. They are hungry. 3. They are frustrated. 4. They are not being sensitive to the needs of others. That’s about it. Isn’t it?

How This Looks In Real Life

I try to find natural consequences to solve the problems.

So, when one of my kids is having a meltdown I try to single out what it is that’s at the root of it. In the grocery line and I have a 3 year old throwing a fit? I scan the list.. usually it’s one of the first 2. If that’s the case the fault is on me and I try to ride out the fit until I can either get him into the van so he can rest or I can feed him. If it’s not one of those, is he frustrated? And if yes, why? He wants out of the buggy? Sorry, he’s gonna have to scream. (Though I usually don’t put my 3 year old in the buggy unless he’s been cutting up way too much already – I need the buggy as leverage for a natural consequence). I ride out the fit and try to find another natural solution. Whispered in his ear “If you want that treat that we’re already buying you’ll stop screaming.” (And I almost always purchase some cheap treats right off the bat – they know it’s a standing incentive – yes, I bribe.) If he stops screaming I praise him and let him know the treat is waiting on him as soon as he gets buckled into the van. If he keeps screaming he doesn’t get the treat. If he stops screaming and then starts again in a few minutes I remind him again that there is a treat for him if he stops. He’s 3, I remind him more than I would my 7 year old.

Frustrated because someone’s hitting him? Address the child that’s hitting him. If you’re in the line, separate them, and handle all the “who did whats” in the van.

Frustrated because he wants one of those treats in the checkout line? I remind him I have a different treat for him in the van if he stops the fit.

The younger they are it’s usually one of the first 3 scenarios. You can still have those same problems with an older child as well as the loving others part. “It’s not fair” “I want what they have” “she’s touching me” “he’s picking on me” – they all fall under the “be patient, long-suffering, loving, and by the way, don’t covet.”

The Tactics We Don’t Use

I’ve heard about people using a drop of mustard on the tongue, the old school soap in the mouth, or meaningless work to discipline. We don’t do that. For a myriad of reasons, the least of which is the logic that although there are artificial consequences in life (drive fast = get a ticket) there are far more natural consequences in life (drive fast = increase your chances of a wreck, lie = your friends won’t believe you anymore, say mean things = people won’t want to be around you). We also don’t have a list of consequences that go with a list of grievances – that’s too much work for me and too much for me to try to remember. We use natural consequences and big picture parenting. If they’re fighting over a toy – I take the toy. If they’re fighting over video games I turn off the games. Fighting over who gets the suntan lotion first (and therefore gets in the pool first) then you go to the back of the line (along with having to hear me say the verse “the last shall be first and the first shall be last”) and when my 7 year old then began fighting for the “last” position I just reminded him his heart was still fighting for first place.

I remind them not to grumble and complain. The other day I talked to them about contentment. I read the Bible to them and get them to see the big picture in the Bible and then apply it (at a neutral non-fighting time) to real life situations. Then when I remind them of the stories and verses later they know what I’m talking about. It’s a discussion tool at a relaxed time.

If my 5 year old daughter is whining and complaining and I’ve fed her recently I let her know she obviously needs a nap (or an earlier bedtime) if she can’t control her emotions. I’m not angry – I let her know I have a really hard time controlling my emotions most of the time. And boy, does a little rest do wonders for me. She keeps whining? She goes to her bed. Whether she sleeps or not. If she gets calm and it’s been a few minutes (depending on how horrendous her behavior was earlier) then she can come back out. If it continues I’ll send her to her bed, tuck her in and there she will stay (screaming or not) for naptime. I will try to go back and console her if she’s upset. But if I’ve sent her in there the second time, then she usually does really need the rest. I’ll sit with her, brush her hair back and try to read with her. Help her settle. Because the big picture is that she needs rest and a Mama that understands.

When we’re in a full-blown defiant on all levels for days on end tantrum – which surfaces in cycles no matter how consistent you are – think about yourself – how consistent are you in your obedience to your Father? It goes in cycles, doesn’t it? Consequences for our sin, shame, forgiveness seeking, deciding to do better, falling away, sin, and the cycle continues. What happens for you in relation to your Father, happens to your children in relation to you. Anyway, when that happens we do what’s called boot camp. We use the methods I talked about in myLessons From The Group Home post.

The Big Stuff

Lying is something we don’t tolerate. Ever. Even our tiny kiddos get told the difference of truth and lies. And encouraged to tell the truth. I’ve noticed the 3 year old lately starting to say “Nothing” in response to “Hey, buddy, why are you quiet? What are you doing?” That is not acceptable to me. It’s not true. I take him to the side, look him in the eye and tell him quietly and clearly that that’s a lie. That he needs to answer Mama with exactly what he’s doing, not the word “nothing”. We have dealt with some pretty frequent willful lying in the past with our older children. In the midst of it, I really thought it wasn’t going to end and I really worried. Much prayer for them (quietly, to myself). If it was about a fight that 2 of them had and someone’s telling me they didn’t do it – everything stops until it’s dealt with. It’s not overlooked. You go to your bed until you tell the truth. Two children give me 2 different answers? Then one of you is lying. The lying is always disciplined way more seriously than the actual incident. Someone broke something? Two children are saying something different? I won’t even deal with the broken object at all. A non-issue. But if you lie, you will sit in your bed until you come forth with the truth (within reason, people). If we knew which child was lying we laid the pressure on that child. Much talking about being trustworthy. For days we talked about the importance of being trustworthy. We looked for opportunities to discuss lying and truth and trustworthiness and consequences – books we were reading, shows we were watching. We prayed for wisdom of how to address it. We did a lot of talking and a lot of praying. It passed. And now when that child tells me something – I believe them. Above and beyond any child outside my family. Because I know they understand the importance of it. And just as we taught, they are now trustworthy.

So what looks like an unruly child in the check out line and a frazzled mama is actually a frazzled mama attempting to ride out a fit, in order to teach the 3 year old that throwing the fit doesn’t get him instant gratification at the appeasement of other store patrons. It’s the bigger picture that not everyone can see at the moment.

It’s all a work in progress – me, them, my parenting, our relationships with each other, with our Creator and Redeemer. It’s all about the relationship. And sometimes there are fits along the way. And disobedience. And acceptance. But if the relationship is there, the trust will follow, and with trust comes obedience.

Y’all, I don’t have it all figured out. Puhlease. My oldest is only eight. I have much fear for what the upcoming years hold. I pray all the time. I mess up and yell and get frustrated and cranky way too often. And we talk about that too. How we all sin. And need forgiveness. Including Mama.

But in the end I try to remember why exactly I’m doing all that I’m doing. And go from there. And it helps to know that they are kids. And that there’s a balance. Between law and grace. Obedience and mercy. And that I’d rather err on the side of too much love. Because really, extravagant love is what we have for a role model.

It’s not just behavior modification. It’s understanding and applying Truth to life.

 

His Beloved

I’ve been struggling with my mothering.  Again.  I’ve been frustrated by my frustrations with the kiddos.  I’ve vowed to not yell anymore.  And then I failed.  Over and over.  I heard the old lies of not being good enough.  Not good enough to mother my children.  Not good enough as a wife.  Not good enough to housebreak a puppy.  Over and over defeat.  Dark gray, hard to admit my real thoughts kind of defeat.  Thoughts of they’d be better off with a different mother level of defeat.

I prayed.  Constantly.  I reached out to other more experienced moms who pointed me back to Jesus.  I talked to Matt.  I cried.  A lot.  I read the Bible.  I kept on keeping on.

And then I began begging God again to show me His love for me.  This is what it comes down to.  Always.  I have this recurrent theme in my life.  I’ve always said I could live under the law of the Old Testament and sacrifices.  It would at least be me looking at a concrete list, failing, and then offering sacrifices.  I would be the one doing.  Working.  Earning.

But this grace thing.  This mercy.  What do I do with that?  I’m a do-er.  A worker.  An earner.  A striver.

And I knew good and well I wasn’t earning God’s love.  Because I was awful.  I would yell at my kids and then melt into a pit of guilt.  Knowing I wasn’t good enough.  Not even for God.

Looking back it was like I’d never even heard the gospel before.  It’s like this every time.  I forget that His yoke is light.  I know the words, I remember the verses, but they are even heavy for me.  Why don’t I have the fruit of the Spirit?  Then more lies.  If I’m not showing the fruit, if my burdens are not light am I really saved from my sins?  Am I even really a believer?  More despair.

But when we ask of God He will hear us.  He longs to tell us and show us over and over how much He loves us.  And of course, He came through in a million little ways that have shined a light on the lies.

 

They began adding up.  These whisperings of love.  These reminders.

We had finished reading the Bible to the kiddos a while ago.  So I had begun again in Genesis.

A sweet online friend told me repeatedly that I needed to read Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall.  She reassured me that it was not another oppressive list of how-tos that would highlight my failures.  She reached out in a big way.  I ordered the book.

One Sunday while browsing our church’s bookstore during church when BabyGirl wanted to be loud and chatty we just happened to pick up The Jesus Storybook Bible.

I began reading all of these books incidentally at the same time.  And God went from whispering his love to my deaf ears to shouting it.

I’m not sure I can even pull quotes from Christ in the Chaos because it is chocked full of truth.  Every page, every word pointing back to the gospel.  To love and to freedom.  The gray was washing away with my tears.

Then I began reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to the kids.  And it began with “Does God really love you?” the serpent whispered.  ”If he does, why won’t he let you eat the nice, juicy, delicious fruit?  Poor you, perhaps God doesn’t want you to be happy.”  The snake’s words hissed into her ears and sunk down deep into her heart, like poison.  Does God love me? Eve wondered.  Suddenly she didn’t know anymore.”

As we read through Genesis we got to the story of Abram and Sarai.  He had promised them a child.  A nation.  And they waited.  Sarai didn’t have belief in the first place and then time passed.  A lot of time passed.  And she sent her husband to take care of it.  To have a child with another woman.  To do something already.  Sarai is a do-er.  A striver.  A struggler with belief.  She’s not a heroine.  She’s a lot like me.  Screwing everything up.

But what did God do with that?  A few verses later.  Just after all of that?  In chapter 17, verse 15 of Genesis He tells Abram, whom He has just renamed Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her.  Then I will bless her and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”  And what does this new name, this Sarah name in Hebrew mean?  Princess.  Here God was telling them in spite of you, I will bless you.  Nothing you have done has earned you this honor of being called princess.  You have done it all wrong.  And yet.  You are mine.  My beautiful daughter of royalty.

via Instagram http://instagram.com/p/auNO6TQDU-/

Nothing we have done can win His love.  Nothing.  And in turn nothing we have done can keep us from being His princess.  Nothing.

The freedom is so … light.

And last year when I was struggling with betrayal and loss and grief, God used another friend of mine to send me this verse from Isaiah 62:4 “It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married.”

In Him we have a new name.

It is Beloved.

I just needed to be reminded of who I am. {Click those highlighted words there to be sung to, to be reminded.}

“Remind Me Who I Am”
-Jason Gray

 

When I lose my way,
And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see,
Is who I don’t wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places,
When I can’t remember what grace is.Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.When my heart is like a stone,
And I’m running far from home,
Remind me who I am.
When I can’t receive Your love,
Afraid I’ll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.
If I’m Your beloved,
Can You help me believe it.Tell me once again who I am to You,
Who I am to You, whoa.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You.
That I belong to You.
To You.I’m the one you love,
I’m the one you love,
That will be enough,
I’m the one you love.Tell me once again who I am to You.
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You, oh.

Tell me once again who I am to You.
Who I am to You.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to You,
That I belong to You.
To You.

 

She’s Nine Months Old

This is her wakey wakey face seconds after a nap.  She wakes so happy.
I know I’ve said it a hundred times over – the time slips by like water through my fingers.  I’m not taking it for granted. I’m not wishing away the minutes, the days.  I’m trying to hold them close.
And yet I still find myself saying,”How did this happen so soon?” when I see their growing size, their new accomplishments, their milemarkers.
She turned 9 months this week.  That’s always a big age for me.  3 months, 6 months, 9 months, a year.  They’re big marks on that little timeline and I’m just aghast that we’re there already.  In my mind she’s still 4 months old.  But all the signs point to the calendar being right.  She’s pulling up on everything, she’s been crawling for a good while, she eats finger foods (we mostly skip by any pureed foods), she’s babababa-ing and dadadada-ing. She has 4 teeth fully in and 2 more trying to peek through.  Oh my, my heart.
But what drives it home are not the big things.  It’s the tiniest of moments.
Y’all know that I’m all about attachment parenting.  I not only co-sleep, but I also bed share.  And mainly I nurse on demand until I wean.  So I don’t have a clue if she would be sleeping through the night right now or not.  I tuck her into the crook of my arm like I have since she was first born and we snuggle to sleep.  I do this same routine at the main naptime each day as I curl in next to my other two sweet nappers.  As for her two other little naps in the day (that mid morning and mid afternoon she’s hanging onto) I’m always close for those as well.  The afternoon one is either in the stroller as we take our walk each day or in my arms.  And that sweet 9am one is nearly always in my arms.  I sit, nurse, and cuddle like this while the other kids whirlwind around me for a bit.

But the other day I had chosen to clean the house quickly and get ready to go shopping while she fussed in her saucer and swing.  Then we ran out the door, she grabbed a quick nap in the van, enjoyed shopping this time in the stroller instead of the Moby wrap, napped a bit on the way home, cried as we put away groceries, ate lunch, and prepared the others for their naps.  Then, after all that busyness, I curled up in the bed with my 3 youngest to read a book and settle everyone.  As she slipped sweetly into sleep folded against my body I realized I had not cuddled her all morning.  The thought was clearly,”It’s happening.” I had not taken the time to breathe her in all day.  She had crawled, nursed, played, eaten, been picked up, shuffled here, strolled there, but not nursed peacefully to sleep with me all day.
It’s a shift.  It’s a tiny moment where I see, very focused, the changing of the tide.  All of those inconvenient moments of carrying her everywhere, of wiping bottoms while lugging a baby along, of bringing her along for taking the puppy out, for getting back to the busy flow of life instead the world stopping peacefully to cuddle for hours a day, of life being a kind interruption of her sleep and wake, it’s shifting.  It’s moving back to busy.  It’s moving back to emptier arms.
It’s so sweet to watch all of the new accomplishments, to see them become who they are.  And yet…  It’s happening.

Broken

We’re all broken.
We’re all a mess.
We have so much wrong in our lives.
I think about how much I have wrong.  How much I have been wronged in this life.  And I think about how much those who’ve wronged me have been wronged.  I ask God to see people as He sees them in attempt to not be angry.  In a moment of thinking that’s what He wants me to ask.  And then I do.  I do see them, maybe just a glimpse… the way He does. And I realize they are just… broken…
I think about all the people I know who have truly, truly been wronged.  I think about all of my online and real life friends who have experienced loss like I cannot imagine.  They have lost children.  I walk through the pain with them, even if they don’t know it, praying for and with them.  I pray for their other children, I pray for their quiet moments, I pray for their marriages, I pray for things I do not understand.  I pray for their faith.
And mine wavers.
I doubt.  I ask how and why.  Again.  I’ve been here before.  Doubting and asking and thinking “just rescue us, Lord.”  And those doubts lead to … “If you were good… if you were just…”  And those thoughts lead to… “are You real?  Is any of this really worth it?”
I swim in the brokenness.  I see the sinking ship everyone (e.ver.y.one) is on.  I see them sinking.  Flailing.  I feel my own limp.  And mine isn’t even inflicted as deeply as I see others.  But it’s still a limp.  I’m still not right.  I’m still… broken.  Legitimately broken.
There’s something about it being legitimate.  There’s something about the validity of my pain.  My pain being hurtful even when it doesn’t look as awful as someone else’s pain.  There’s something about looking deep at my hurt.  Looking at it head on and saying, “That hurts.  It’s real.  And I hurt.”
I look at my hurt and realize out of my hurt I do and will continue to hurt others.  I hear so many mamas say,”I hope I don’t scar my kids.”  I used to hear myself say that to my husband. And hear him say it to me.  After all these years of parenting we realize now we are going to scar them.  We are broken people.  Raising kids.  I said the other day under the crushing weight of having snapped at my kids again for being… kids… “I just wish I wouldn’t be this way with them.”  And my husband said,” What way? Yourself?”  And we laughed through my tears, but then quietly I said,”Yes, exactly.  I wish I wouldn’t be myself….” And he agreed, he said he tries all the time to be something different.  Something… better.  Not so… broken.
And we sit in silence wishing for … something … more … different.
Knowing that our brokenness will lead to the brokenness of our children.  It’s inevitable really.  Even if they don’t hold it against us, they will be as broken as we are.  Limping in their own ways.  It’s hard to watch and know that they will not dance as beautifully as we once hoped.
I had a best friend in junior high who always said she would not have children.  None.  Ever.  Because she didn’t want to bring them into such an awful world.  And she hasn’t any.  And I wonder if she’s any less broken for it.  I doubt it.
Because we’re all broken.  We’re all limping.
When I look at how many friends I have online that have experienced the pain I mentioned before of losing a child I ache.  And I think why do I know so many people that have suffered that special kind of pain.  And I realize it’s because the internet has made my world smaller.  I know more people than the few that I can see from my front porch.  As my  view and vision expand, as I see the people I’ve asked God to open my eyes to, I see also their pain.  And I groan.  I cry for them, these friends I’ve never met.
The amount of pain that I know of personally is a sea.  There is an ocean of pain in just my view.  And I consider that.  I ponder why it is.  And I realize I see more pain because I see more people.  And as I fight against being consumed by the others’ pain, my dad always said when I was kid,”You can’t carry the whole world on your shoulders, girl.”, I realize that God’s view is much much larger than mine.  He sees it all.  All of that pain.  And His words from Romans 8:26 come to mind:
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
And I doubt.
And I question.
Again.
It’s a chasing of the wind.  It’s nothing new.  There’s a reason that I love Ecclesiastes so.  Because it’s all futile.  Chasing after more wisdom, asking more questions only brings more knowledge of more pain.
But at the end of it what remains in my doubt and my striving is the decision to just trust Him.  I have to choose with all the strength of a grown man to become as small as a child. To trust and obey.  To choose a childlike faith.  To come to Him.  Choice takes great strength.
And so, at the end of it all, I have to accept that we’re all broken.  We’re all hurting.  I have to accept that the hurt is not of Him.  I have to choose the knowledge of simple faith.  I have to choose Him again.
And the biggest choice, the hardest step to take back into faith (and I’ve been taking these same back and forth steps of faith for almost 20 years now) is to trust that He loves me.  In all my brokenness.  He loves me.
He loves us.
He loves you.
With a love you don’t understand.  A love you can’t comprehend.  That you didn’t and couldn’t earn.  When I sit crushed in my own sin I have to choose again that it isn’t my goodness that draws His eyes to me.  He looks at me with love.
I am enough.
It is enough.  All that I do and don’t do.  It’s enough.
Because I choose Him.  He made me enough.
And so… we are all broken.  You and me.  We are always going to be broken.
But I choose Him.
I choose love.
Again.
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