Solidarity, Moms: Less Is More

Every April I can smell it.

Summer.

It’s coming and we are always ready and waiting.

Honestly, we are pathetic these last months of school. We’ve carefully counted up our missed days and tardies and we are barely gonna make without a truancy officer at our door. We stopped our second grade reading log weeks ago (she sadly discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kids series and although I hang my head in shame, she’s reading like a champ!)

I’m longing for pool baths (you know what I’m talking about, good moms bring shampoo to the pool, moms like me let the chlorine do its magic), sleeping in until after the sun comes up and swapping the Netflix password for reading time from my kids (insert wicked laugh).

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I don’t know about you, but some days I feel the pressure to never let my kids down, to parent “the whole child” with excellence, to always be fair, and provide for their every want and pack up summer with All The Fun. Our culture has been sucked into perfect parenting deception. And every Spring, I sort of panic and evaluate how I’m doing.

I’m pretty sure I already told you guys that when my youngest discovered the secret stash of baby books, it didn’t take long to realize hers was 1/16 of her siblings. I had been tucking pictures and cards into the book for years thinking I’d get to them some day. She’s 8 and “someday” never came. She seemed pretty disappointed, especially that the “first haircut” envelope in her baby book was empty. So one day while she was at school, I did a manic scrapbooking session and glued like a wild woman. I guessed at weights and heights and dates on all the first. I mean, it was correct, but I was there, so there’s that. It was hardly creative memories-worthy, but it would work. I had it all figured out except for the haircut thing. So, while my school-aged kid slept, I snuck in her room and snipped a lock of hair and put it in her book and acted like I found it in my secret hiding space.

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It turns out I’m quite convincing. If that doesn’t make you feel better about your mothering today, I don’t know what will.

At the risk of sounding like a really bad mom, more and more I want to give my kids less in life. Because in a lot of ways, it is giving them more:

1. Less structured play and scheduled time: Last week, my younger two used a hammer, some string, a rubber band and nail to make an instrument in our Mercy House building after they tired of helping me paint. It was a night of imagination and it was awesome. Even later on, when my second grader’s said “instrument”  left a small gash in her head. It was fun after the bleeding stopped. Just ask her. Of course, some fun leads to lessons about swinging sharp objects . I love summer because it lends itself to more unstructured time. My kids thrive on free time and it seems so limited the rest of the year. Let’s choose to resist the pressure to fill All The Hours with things to do. Some of my favorite moments are when I can’t find my kids in the house. They are sprawled on a chair reading or tinkering in the garage. Or you know, finding their imagination.

2. Less focus on themselves and more on others: I want serving others to be so ingrained in my kids lives, they don’t even know they are serving (or mind it). Putting others before ourselves isn’t hard when it’s a way of life. But it is more challenging to complain about all you don’t have when you’re face-to-face with someone with a lot less. I believe every North American needs a regular dose of perspective. The best way to be thankful for what we have–is by serving someone with less.

3. Less of me making everything all right: I packed my second grader’s lunchbox a couple of weeks ago without a lunch in it. Her teacher called me from school. I felt terrible about my absent-minded mistake. It probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal, but I also forgot to wait on the porch when the bus dropped her off a couple of days before (she’s working through some fear issues about us not being there, even though I was just inside). It was a good reminder that mom isn’t perfect and that even though she doesn’t mean to, she occasionally lets people down. We can’t always make everything perfect for our kids. Some days life happens. When we fail our kids (and we all will), it’s a great time to remind them of One who will never let them down.

4. Less of me fixing their problems: There’s this overwhelming temptation to protect my kids from failure. There are things I could “fix” that would reduce their disappointment and defeat in school, sports and well, life. But often we learn the most through natural consequences, losing and falling flat on our face. I remind them of forgotten lunches and notebooks for a season, but sometimes letting our children face the consequences is helping them more in the long run. We can’t always keep our kids from failure, but we can help them overcome it.

And so I say solidarity now, moms.  We are imperfect, messy people with dirty floors and two-day old pony tails. We don’t have it all together, but we love our kids and most days, that’s more than enough. We are doing just fine. And if we can remember to throw in one or two of these things, we might just make it to summer.

An Opportunity To Become Part of a Good Good Friday Story

Today, I want to tell you a story.

It has been lived at great risk.

And it comes to you at a great cost.

It’s about a woman we will call Mary. She was just a young woman when she moved into her aunt and uncle’s home. She went for love and acceptance, but she left pregnant with her uncle’s child. He threatened to kill her if she told. When her aunt discovered her secret, she was beaten until she miscarried.

This woman lives in an oppressive Middle Eastern country with few rights. Ultimately, she was rejected by her family.

If it sounds like a horror story, it is. It’s hard to even imagine what she or thousands of women like her endure every day in a country where Muslims who convert to Christianity face great prejudice and often opposition.

Mary visited Hope House, a hospitality home that offers refuge to women needing help, escaping violent marriages, seeking freedom. As you can imagine, there could be danger in operating a home like this.

At great risk, she left her religion and decided to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus is sort of an Easter Sunday thing in our culture for so many. In other parts of the world, it could be a death sentence.

My story intersected with Mary’s in an unlikely way, in the middle of my small town outside of Houston. I met Linda, a 75 year old grandmother and fireball. She is a part of East West Ministries and she works closely with the ingenious women who run this house of hope.

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Several months ago, I sat at her kitchen table and we talked about Fair Trade Friday and product and we came up with an plan to help women who’ve never created product before, do just that, as a way to sustain this refuge to oppressed women in the Middle East. We talked about earring ideas for our Earring of the Month option and how we might accomplish it.  Communication is tricky and so is partnership.

So, when I received word that silk clutches had been made against all odds, I was amazed.

Mary made these bags. 95 of them.

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They have come at a risk, smuggled in suitcases. Mercy House bought them, so we could sell them to you and support Mary and many women just like her, receiving comfort and the opportunity to meet Jesus at Hope House.

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When all you know is oppression, you risk your life for freedom. What better way to celebrate Easter and the price paid for our freedom than by supporting someone oppressed in a place that lacks freedom? Today, we can become a part of the story with a simple purchase.

These are more than clutches made from satin, it’s the picture of hope. And freedom. And mostly, Easter.

And that makes them priceless.

(Click to purchase and become a part of this story)

Learn more about Hope House and consider a donation to their work here. (names have been altered for protection)

The Beauty of Giving Away What We’ve Been Given

A couple of weeks ago the GPS led us to end of the road.

To a sea of white sand and rolling turquoise ocean.

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We were a few sandy steps away from a beautiful home, ours for the week.

As we explored every corner of the ocean oasis, I was overwhelmed at what we’d been given.

The way the sun hit the pale yellow walls and beckoned us to relax.

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I can’t remember ever needing rest more, craving stillness.

Quiet.

I thought of the generous family who gave two weeks away -one to raise money for Mercy House and one to our family. “It is all for Him.  We are just stewards of His great grace, mercy, and provision-  so thankful,” and with these gracious words, she handed us the keys.

The guest book written with notes of thanks indicated they give away what they’ve been given. Often.

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I think it’s where heaven and earth meet-the crossroads of giving away what we’ve been given. Blessing others with our blessings. When we do this, we glorify God. When we give away what He’s given to us, we bless the Giver.

As I sat in solitude and listened to the waves hit the rocks, I wondered at what I’d been given.

So much. 

And I asked the hard question: Am I giving it away?

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Yeah, money and stuff but more than that- gifts that God gives us. Gifts He wants us to share.

Hospitality because we love having people in our home. Dinner for neighbors because we love cooking. A home for a child because we have more love to give. Encouraging others because we can. Serving someone in need. Giving our time, our money, ourself away…

Look at your hands. What has God placed in them? 

What are you holding today?

We might not all have beach houses to give away.

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But we have something.

And it’s beautiful when we share it with others.

The One Thing You Can Do for Your Kid Who Sabotages Family Time

We sat around the dinner table finishing up our tacos, shredded lettuce and cheese scattered about.

“Okay, everyone, finish up and I’ll pass out the Bibles,” my husband said.

For years now, we’ve made an attempt to Break Bread after we’ve consumed it. Its been the optimal time for our family to connect, read a devotion or Scripture or two for a few minutes. Dinner is one of the only times during the day we are all together, mostly still and quiet.

I’ve said this several times, but it’s my favorite time of the day with my family.

Unless one of our children tries to sabotage it.

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Distracting. Irritating. Complaining. Whining. You name it.

While I don’t think there’s a calculated conspiracy or evil plan to sabotage, once I realized it was happening regularly, I acknowledged one of our kids had gotten really good at disrupting or all-together ending this intentional family time.

One night, I watched it unfold and I was frustrated. Not only because my kids all knew better, but because it was defeating. This cycle of trying and failing.

Maybe you have a kid like this too? Passionate. Strong. Determined. A Leader in the Rough.

It might happen at dinner or in the car, on vacation, while at school….

Big emotions all the time.

As my husband attempted to read, I watched my strong-willed kid make faces at siblings, maybe hoping to be sent upstairs… I thought about how well this child leads, when given a chance. I thought of one of our trips overseas, where complaining and griping threatened to ruin the day.. So, we handed over the maps and guides and said, “Okay, you be in charge. Lead us.” It turned out to be a brilliant parental move.

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We still have those occasionally.

A plan begin to formulate.

The next night at dinner I made my move, “Honey, would you mind if we did something different tonight?” I asked Terrell to hand the Bible to our determined child. “I like the way you read aloud (entirely true). Would you read to us tonight?”

Sure.

With character voices and inflection and without distraction, we had a wonderful devotion and family time.

We repeated it the following night. And the next.

I was amazed at how pleasant and peaceful it was and there may have been a high five or two between my husband and I.

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Honestly, my first reaction is to threaten and dole out consequences when the rules are bent or broken and it works well with a couple of my kids. But we can’t parent all our children exactly the same when they are obviously different. Over time, I’ve learned that the child acting out the most probably needs more love than consequences. More time than separation. More of me. And that strong-willed child needs a strong parent to let go of control.

So, instead of banishing your disrupting or disobedient child or punishing them for annoying behavior, let them lead.

You may just be surprised where it takes you.

Getaway To Austin, Texas: Part One

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

We picked up our kids straight from school at 3pm and hit the road for our local Groupon getaway.

It’s a little less than a 3 hour drive to Austin and our son was shooting the Texas Indoor Archery Championship at University of Texas at 6pm.

That’s how we roll.

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We  sat in the collegiate range for a couple of hours and he shot his personal best! A couple of people down from Olympian Vick Wunderlee. It was awesome.

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While the boys shot day 2 of the tournament, the girls and I explored this beauty in Austin. The Omni Barton Resort we found on the Groupon Getaway site is a sight to behold:

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We explored the vast and spacious property, ate delicious breakfast burritos and drank cappuccinos in the quaint on-property coffee shop. It was the perfect leisure morning.

When the guys returned by noon, we were ready to explore more of Austin. We found a food truck park and everyone split up and tried something new. I had spicy thai noodles, Terrell and Madi ate different versions of tacos, our youngest had a hamburger and the archer ate his fill of wieners. It was a breezy day and perfect outside eating weather.

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We spent the rest of the day exploring local thrift stores. There are dozens in the city and they definitely add to the funky feel of the city. We were hunting for some small fixtures for our new Mercy House warehouse and found a couple of good deals. But the antique chicken coop wouldn’t fit in our car. But we tried.

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We also visited the cool Tom’s store on the main drag and got a lot of great display ideas, including this huge chalkboard wall map. We spent a lot of time on South Congress, one of the main roads in Austin. One of our favorite stores was Ten Thousand Villages, which offers fair trade product from all over the world…right up my alley. We also enjoyed Uncommon Objects. Talk about weird.

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We ended the night eating at a local hotspot and ate fancy. It was a restaurant featured on the Food Network. We always check the app in whatever city we’re in and try to discover delicious unique food.

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We might have even cropped our kids out of the picture and pretended we were on a date. Don’t all moms and dads do that on Groupon Getaways?

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