How to Fall Together Instead of Apart: Married {with} Kids

Marriage, according to kids:

HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN’T GET MARRIED?

(1) There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?
- Kelvin, age 8

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?

(1) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.
- Ricky, age 10                                                                                                                                                   [source]

 

It’s an early morning breakfast-packing backpacks-lunches and kisses on the cheek-out the door kind of life.

We separate. We work hard. All day long. There is homework and poster board projects, reading logs and flute rehearsal. There’s the tapping of drumsticks and the bounce of the trampoline. There’s coloring at the table. Carrots on the cutting board.

I hear the door click and I take a long deep breath. He’s home.

And though the world and work and life pull us apart. Our family longs to be together–so we can live crazy-beautiful.

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We pile around the kitchen table. We pray and are thankful. Sometimes. We wipe a spill. Always. We laugh at highs and lows and we open a book together. We reread sentences that weren’t listened to the first time. And we try and stay around the table as long as we can. I start to tell him All The Things on my mind and I don’t have the energy to compete with my kid’s stories or interruptions. It can wait.

Dinner ends and we scatter: there’s sibling rivalry over who should unload the dishes, who should feed the dog, a load of clothes is started, last bits of homework are done. I pick up shoes and a doll and the pieces of our lives and start preparing for another day. He reads another chapter to our youngest and puts her to bed.

My husband walks into our bedroom and he looks tired. I can’t wait to curl up and talk. Because some days, I feel like I’m going to fall apart.

But just about then the water spout in the upstairs bath breaks mid-stream and it won’t shut off and water pours, my oldest panics with a towel on, he runs with a toolbox and I don’t have a chance to pour at my heart. Instead our tween son who can’t sleep lays in his father’s spot for a few minutes pouring out his heart.

It’s nearly midnight when we hold each other and there’s nothing to say to the everything we’re too tired to say. We speak in the tangles of sheets and beating hearts. We fall together.

Life on repeat. The next day is filled with tacos for the 25 who show up to community group and spill into every seat in the house. There are basketball tryouts, grocery store visits and unexpected bills.

As our kids get older and stay up later and need us more emotionally, the window of time with my husband gets smaller everyday. We are married with kids and while we wouldn’t change it for a second, it’s entirely too easy for our marriage to get lost in the demands of parenting and jobs and serving and we find the day is over and we haven’t had one conversation. It threatens to pull us apart. Can anyone relate?

With every season of parenting, it affects our marriage…from newborns and unthinkable sleep deprivation to worries about a wayward teen or a hard-hearted tween, it’s tempting to work against each other instead of together. And those are the easy days, that don’t even include the scary moments when serious illness threatens or outside influences tempt our children away. I’ve watched so many marriages simply fall apart after the kids leave, as if they were the glue holding the union together.

Here are 5 things we are doing to stay married long after kids leave:

Regular date nights::My favorite part of this connected time is talking with my best friend. It’s not uncommon for me to start a conversation in the morning and finish is after dinner because of distractions or interruptions. Date night is the perfect time to talk about everything and nothing. We sit on the same sides of the booth and hold hands under the table. We are desperate to connect because we have lived unconnected before. Our dates might be a 30 minute coffee between appointments or a swing on the hammock with the kids inside. It doesn’t matter what they look like, it matters that they happen.

Making space for alone time at home:: Let’s face it, one date a week isn’t always possible. Or likely. I am envious of those who can pull it off. But you can still pull off space together. Terrell has always had this thing–the minute he walks in the door, he doesn’t stop at the kid’s questions or clamoring for attention, he walks straight to me. We usually hug and kiss and then he’ll turn to the kids’ demands. And we aren’t afraid to tell our kids we need alone time together. We lock our door and make it happen.

Spend overnight time away together:: This is a fairly new goal for us. And we decided (after doing it) it’s a pretty important way to refresh and reset our marriage. It won’t always look like this (sob), but even one night away on our anniversary or sending the kids to their grandparents is something we look forward to. Once a year is our goal, but we’ll take more!

Connecting beyond the kids:: Perhaps the most important thing we can do beyond spending one-on-one time together, is relating beyond our children. It’s so easy in our culture to focus all our attention on our kids that we stop doing some of the things that brought us together in the first place. Carving out time to support each other’s hobbies, chase one another’s dreams is important now and in the future.

Let Jesus be the middle ground:: Let’s face it, life and love and loss are mingled with joy and tears. Sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye or don’t know where to go or which way to turn. That’s when we fall to Jesus. Because He holds our lives, our kids, our future and He turns two independent, willful parents into One.

Children are a precious gift from God. They fill our homes with laughter and love and give us a reason to keep buying fun cereal. Children can deepen and enhance our marriages, they teach us so much about God and even more about ourselves, but the parenting bumps in the journey can add stress to our marriages. It’s crucial we take steps to grow together as our kids grow up.

So we can fall together.

Instead of apart.


WFMW: Last Minute Tween/Teen Halloween Costumes

Just when you think your older kids are done with dressing up….

You realize they are still just kids.

My daughter was invited to a friend’s all-girl costume get-together. We opted for practical t-shirt “costumes” for both our big kids so they could wear the cute tees again:

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My son is going to be Captain America:

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They made the cuffs, headband and shield out of craft foam.

It works for us!


How to Really Get Back on Your Feet

I returned from a whirlwind trip to South Carolina this weekend where I attended the Allume Conference. I went to represent Mercy House for the (in)mercy project. We are on Phase #5 now –the big one–because God surprised us by funding phases 3 & 4 in just days. He’s amazing like that.

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But I arrived with a burden, a big question mark in my heart about some stuff relating to my husband’s job and I lugged that heavy baggage with me. It didn’t get in the way when we asked the Allume crowd to help us kick off the last (in)mercy phase by giving $1500, and we got more than $4000 in 10 minutes. I spent the rest of the weekend high-fiving people and trying not to think about the load on my heart.

Because here’s the deal: I hold 1000 miracles, one-thousand, ONE-THOUSAND MIRACLES in one hand. Miracles I have seen and experienced as I’ve watched God unfold this story. He has multiplied the fish and the loaves and done the impossible again and again. He has created something from nothing. God has made the inadequate, enough.

This is what chasing God looks like. He is always a step ahead and He is never late.

But me? I’m not so stable as I run. I’m wobbly and some days, limping.

Because in the other hand, I am still waiting for a miracle–one more–doubting, worrying, asking because I can’t figure out the next step. It’s as if my two hands-one that cannot contain all God has done and the other questioning what He will do–aren’t connected.

The world is like that–it knocks us down and we’re left scrambling to get our feet under us again.

Doubt is a heavy burden. It leaves me feeling precarious, faltering. Once I was back home, I couldn’t stand under the weight of it any longer. I opened my Bible and read these words:

“Get on your knees before the Master, it is the only way you’ll get back on your feet.” James 4:10

There is something sacred and holy in bending low. I dropped to my knees and laid my burden down. I confessed my doubt, my unbelief and I spread open my hands so one could see the other. I cried and I submitted my pride, my will and my doubt to Him, again. It’s in bending low to wipe up the messes, clean away the grime, lend a hand to someone who’s fallen, crouch in the dirt to whisper hope, this is where we find Jesus.

And so, I will keep bending. I will keep chasing God. I will wait and I will believe for what seems impossible.

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I will live mercy.

Because kneeling before Jesus, it’s the only sure way to get back on our feet.

———-

Check out the latest update and new (in)mercy product.


Parenting 101: A Guide from an Older Mom

Something weird happened a couple of years ago: I became the older mom and younger moms started assuming I had answers to their parenting questions. (I know. I can hear my kids laughing at the very thought.)

But instead of wearing a permanent sticky note on my forehead declaring I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING EITHER, I thought I’d put together of little guide of my sage advice in dealing with some parenting issues. I hope it is a source of encouragement and help. (I also hope you appreciate sarcasm.)

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Temper Tantrums

We’ve all experienced them, right?

If your child has never had one, HOLD ON. It’s coming at some point.

Tip: If ignoring and stepping over your thrashing child doesn’t work, I suggest throwing yourself on the floor. Add in a bit of kicking and screaming for good measure. If it doesn’t distract your child, it might scare them into behaving or at least give them some company. Plus, it’s good to get a view of your floors this way and it might make you feel better.

Talking Back

You might be staring at your tiny baby on your lap right now and be thinking “It’s just not possible.” Oh, bless your heart.

Tip: When my kids are disrespectful, it takes a lot of self control on my part to RESPOND correctly, which mostly means not being disrespectful right back. Or yelling. Remaining calm and in control goes a long way.

But if that fails, see Temper Tantrum above or break down and sob uncontrollably about your hurt feelings. Sometimes they just need to remember you’re a person, too.

Chores

Tip: If you’re struggling to get your kids to pitch in around the house, simply stop doing it all yourself. It’s sort of a shock to their system when they have to dig dirty clothes out of the hamper. Unless they are a teen and then they don’t mind at all. In this case, I suggest sliding an invoice under their door for rent. Also known as a WAKE UP CALL.

Cleaning Up

The other day my kids avoided a nasty hairball on the floor, only to point it out to me (from upstairs). In this situation, I’ve found it’s best to quietly pick up the vomit with 17 paper towels and then chase your kids around the house with it for a bit. It doesn’t really teach them much, but it’s really fun.

*Updated: My cat left another gift on the kitchen tile before I published this post. My son walked right in and grabbed paper towels and cleaned it up. Miracles happen, y’all.

Sibling Rivalry

Let me tell you what not to do: Don’t send your kids into the back yard to “work it out.” Because one of your kids might just get punched in the nose, not that I know from experience or anything.

Tip: While I really hate hearing my kids fight, arguing is often the best way to work something out or compromise.

Now, I just go to the backyard.

Paying for College

Um.

Dating

I’m banking on the Second Coming of Jesus before I have to figure this one out (sticks head back in sand)

Sleep: Naps, Sleeping Thru the Night/Sleeping In

I have one kid that has always required half the sleep I do.  Tip: Might I suggest room darkening curtains for them and ear plugs for yourself? And that whole don’t wake a sleeping baby? It’s truth.

Picking Your Battles

I once saw a child wearing the strangest assortment of mismatched clothes with church shoes at the store. I remember thinking my child will never go out in public looking like that. And then a few years later, I realized I was a really great mother–before I had kids.

That’s all I’ve got, people.

Y’all have a happy Monday.


What Our Yes Really Means

I opened the door and two friends looked up from tagging jewelry in the Mercy House building that sits in my backyard.  Both pregnant with eight month swollen bellies touching the table in front of them, both serving on a Thursday night, both due within a couple of days of each other.

I handed them a list and paused when one of my friends asked, “Do you ever get tired of saying yes?”

It’s one of those heavy questions.

It’s hard to answer.

It changes every day.

It doesn’t change at all.

My yes to God isn’t what I thought it would be.

Joy in a Kenyan Slum

Joy in a Kenyan Slum

But is it ever? Our any of the yes’ we say in this life safe and fun and everything we’d hoped they would be? God has a way or shielding us from seeing and knowing too much.

My yes to marriage isn’t what I thought it would be. It has been harder and better than I ever dreamed.

My yes to motherhood has been filled with my most challenging moments and also my proudest. How can we know what that tiny baby will do to us?

When we say yes to marriage, to parenthood, to God, what we are really saying is, I am committed.

Because we don’t know how long the nights will be,

Or how far love will take us or how quickly the feelings will flee,

We aren’t promised our babies will be born healthy or stay that way,

We don’t know unemployment is around the bend, with grouchy teens and sleepless nights.

We can’t imagine our yes will take us back to the slum that broke our hearts again and again.

Yes is our choice to live.

Sometimes there’s a long pause between the question and answer.

It might be heartache.

Doubt and disbelief.

It could be weariness.

Overwhelming work.

Or fear.

“I do. I get tired of my yes,” I answered my friend after a long pause. “But my yes in the good times, the bad times, the ups and downs, the beauty and the ashes, still means yes.”

No matter what.

Because where my yes ends, He begins.