Love Your Neighbor, Serve Your City

 

The title comes from a line in the book,   Interrupted:When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker. And the Hatmakers have wrecked my life.

In a good way.

I first discovered Jen Hatmaker through her book 7:An Experimental Mutiny against excess.  Her goal was to reduce consumerism in an extreme way, by limiting choices in 7 areas of her life over 7 months. I loved her conversational style and I quickly devoured the book and then I found Interrupted  on Amazon kindle, and that book turned my world inside out.

I have been a church goer all my life. I grew up consuming Christian culture and wondering why I still felt a void in my life. After all I believed, I followed Scripture the best I could, I joined committees at church, went to every bible study I could, attended retreats, prayed, listened to Christian music. But it never felt right.

The next book didn’t fill the hole. The perfect song didn’t end my doubt, an uplifting worship experience deflated as soon as I walked out the doors of the church and into my van. Jen Hatmaker described my church experience perfectly, with all its disappointments, unrest and uncertainty:

“Until we are all compelled and contributing, we’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.”

Church has become a place we expect people to want to be and then are surprised when they don’t show up. And why?

Because we repel the world.

Hatmaker goes through the process of how she discovered an empty life in church and how she and her family made the radical decision to leave the safety and comfort of their known world and set off on their own. Her husband left as pastor of a large church and began one of his own. The difference being, the focus on mission. Exactly what Jesus told his followers to do. Love your neighbor.

What the Hatmakers do differently is loving all people where they are. They spend little time and money on the church building itself. Their focus is on the neighborhood and city they live in. Helping people who need help, whether homeless, at end of life, single mothers, or drug addicts. Whoever they meet gets the same love and devotion as the person who walks through their doors on Sunday morning.

In fact, any month that has 5 Sundays, they lock up the church and take the church to the world. On those Sundays, people serve. Just as they were called to do. They are not only the hands and feet of the church, but the eyes, ears and heart as well.

Her husband Brandon Hatmaker tells the story in his book the Barefoot Churchabout a woman who invited in her home a man who was being placed in hospice. He was a difficult man to deal with, and she didn’t know him at all. But through the community serving this man, she felt a call on her heart to open up her home to him. Because, as she said, “No one should die alone.”

Who does that? Who in our current Christian culture, loves like that? That kind of loving sacrifice blew me away. To love like that means having space in life to be open to whoever crosses your path. Not being so busy with church, that you forget to be the church.

The reason I said the Hatmakers wrecked my life, is because I am no longer satisfied consuming church. Sitting every Sunday in service wishing it were over, taking another bible study and never growing, and lacking in actual life changing service to the community I live in, I finally understood why my life felt empty. Why, no matter how much I love God, I will still feel something is missing.

Because something was. I wasn’t serving my neighbor. I wasn’t serving my city. I wasn’t being the true church in the world.

The Hatmakers are doing revolutionary acts, in the most quiet of ways.

They aren’t concerned with butts in seats like the rest of the church world. They don’t believe the world needs them, they go out and love people. That’s all. Without expectations, without return. Just like Jesus. Some people may come to church and some might not, but none of that is the point.

The true point is loving God, loving your city, and loving people. Not just the people who come to church. Not just the people who say and do the right things. All people are loved completely and are pursued relentlessly, just like we are.

She is honest and says they have their problems and that their church isn’t perfect. They make mistakes and do things wrong. Which is one of the most important things we should admit to as the church.

We get it wrong a lot. We apologize. We keep loving.

After I finished her book, I read some of the books that influenced her. Like Shane Claiborne. And after I read about half of his book I had to stop.

Because I couldn’t take organized church anymore.

Slowly I am coming out of my funk and seeing the possibilities of reinvigorating the community I am in. I am not going to wait for the consumer culture to change, I hope to be the change.

So don’t be surprised if you get an email from me asking to come to my house and make cookies for prisoners.

Don’t be surprised to get a dinner invitation from me.

Don’t be surprised if I don’t come to your bible study, but instead ask you to give up your Saturday to come serve at a shelter for women with children.

I am being called into the world to love people. I have read the books and now, I have to act. I can’t pretend that being a good Christian means I show up on Sunday, attend Bible Study and serve coffee at church.

Jen Hatmaker opened my eyes to how my life can be a living sacrifice. A sacrifice of love in a world that is so cynical it doesn’t believe that people can do extraordinary acts of kindness for no reason.

This book wrecked my life and saved it at the same time.

Church isn’t the point anymore.

Now my eyes are open to all my neighbors. And who are are my neighbors you ask?

Everyone. Every single person I meet is my neighbor. And I realized how small my neighborhood had been when I kept inside the walls of the church. Interrupted helped me see that the walls of the church need to be torn down and ever expand to include everyone.

Not just the people who show up on Sunday.

Our calling is not to tell more people about Jesus, it is to show them who he is. And we can’t show them if we never leave the church.

I have been given a copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker for an honest review. I will be giving away this copy to a random commenter in the section below to be chosen on Wednesday, August 20. If you are ready for your own life to be wrecked, comment below about how you would like to serve your city.

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Simplify Kids Clothing

Isaac is the proud recipient of hand me downs. His dresser drawer overflows with superhero t-shirts, button downs, and much more. He has enough shorts he could wear a pair everyday for most of a month with no repeats. Pants spill onto the floor.

We haven’t bought any of it. Most of it comes to us in almost new condition and there’s so much of it we go through the piles and keep what he likes and donate the rest.

But even then, his drawers are stuffed. Laundry day becomes overwhelming as he tries to fold and fit more clothes into his drawers. I’ve tried paring down with him, but he likes every shirt he has, so our keep pile topples over, while the give pile remains lonely.

I found a good post on how many clothes kids need. I discovered at this age, the kids will wear whatever is on top of the pile. There is no thought put behind clothing choice. The closest item to their hand is what they wear.

Well, except Margo. She’s got the clothes of a 4 yo and the critical eye of a 40 yo woman.

This morning I started the process of simplifying the kids clothes. Rebecca will be easy because she just outgrows everything. So I can pack away what doesn’t fit and fill in any wardrobe gaps if needed. Margo will be tough, because the girl likes what she likes. Enough said. But I have a good idea of what she wears, and I can donate what she doesn’t. Isaac also was super easy, because he only cares that something covers his body.

As I went through the clothes, I realized how easy it was to go through things when I don’t think about it. I made two piles and when the keep pile hit 7, I stopped. Now I have a pile to donate (except boy pants. Isaac rips through knees faster than anyone. I learned to keep a spare pile)

If it works for clothes, I wonder how it works for toys.

A few times a year, the kid and I sit down and go through their toys. They are good about donating things, but the keep pile is still large and ends up overwhelming them on clean up day.

I can name what each of the kids play with regularly, yet their closets bust at the seems of toys they might someday play with. For some reason it feels harder to get rid of toys. We have a gazillion babydolls that sit in the closet gathering dust. Games that are never played, except in the wrong way. (Read, the get overturned on the floor and stepped on) Puzzles that sit unused, figures that remain in the tubs. But we keep all of it, because someday. They might play with it.

All this stuff, and all it serves is to overwhelm everyone in the house when it comes to cleaning day.

In Simplicity Parenting: using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids,  the author talks about how simple environments have proven to reduce stress in kids. It makes them less hyper, less anxious and happier in general.

If this is true, why do we keep all this stuff?

If all it takes to calm our kids down is less toys, clothes, and choices, why don’t we do it?

It reminds me of Montessori. The classrooms are kept orderly. Everything has a place and everything is used. There are no extra things in sight. The kids can only do work that they have had lessons on, therefore reducing the overwhelming choice of the entire classroom. The kids are better able to direct themselves because they don’t have access to everything, only a limited amount.

When I think about toys, the way I do clothes, I know what the kids play with. 1) paint 2) paper, 3) legos, 4) Barbies 5) kitchen toys. Everything else is extraneous things they pick up for a minute and then discard on the floor. Maybe, if I simplify the house, the way I have with clothes, the kids won’t be as overwhelmed when it comes to cleaning. Because everything will have a specific place. Nothing will spill out onto the floor and clean up will take minutes instead of an hour.

Don’t even get me started on books. We are a reading family and have books shoved in about every space we can find. What books do the kids read?

The ones we borrow from the library.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our attachment to things and create a more simple life. It sounds like it will be better for everyone in the long run.

 

What suggestions do you have to simplify your kid’s toys?

 

 

 

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Birthdays for Kids

Sometimes we parents make too much of a good thing. We love our kids a lot, and want to make everyday special. Those are just your normal days. And like everything else, when it comes to kid birthdays, parents outdo themselves in order to make their kid’s birthday the best they ever had. I mean the best day their kids ever had.

What I discovered as a parent, is because kids don’t have a lot of data to compare to, every birthday is the best they ever had.

All this leads me to shout the battle cry, Parents, keep it simple!

The best birthday party I ever went to was in kindergarten. We had lunch, played, and ate orange cream push pops. Thirty-two years later, I still remember that birthday party being the best I ever attended.

And it was because of the push pops.

No parents snapped pictures. In fact, I think the Amish babysitter handled the whole affair and not a parent was in sight. There were no games, no clowns, no party favors. We didn’t bring presents to give.

We ate, we played, and we had push pops.

I don’t see many parties like that since I became a parent. Every party has to top the last one. Parents rent out spaces, hire entertainment, and give gifts to the people attending. And while parents mean well, I also think they give their kids too much of a good thing.

My views are against culture. And I don’t judge parents for choosing otherwise, but I don’t think there is a voice out there saying, simplify. A reminder that kids will have an incredible birthday regardless of what a parent does, or doesn’t do.

Because it’s their birthday, they will be happy no matter what. Well, that is unless you raise their expectations so high the only way you can go, is back down.

My youngest turned 4 today. For her birthday we woke up with pancakes, met friends at a local kiddie park, and will have cake after dinner. She’s at an age where I think parties are more overwhelming than fun, and I understand enough about child development to realize she won’t remember a single thing from this birthday.

I am not having a party she will remember in the future, but I am having a party she will enjoy right now. Because that is what really matters. Her enjoying this day. Right now.

We don’t have huge parties in our house. The kids occasionally ask for a party like their peers, but when it comes down to it, the month before their birthdays they ask for a few friends over. The eat their favorite food, have a cake, play and watch a movie for the girls or play video games for the boys. And every kid who has left said it was the best party they had been to.

There was no horse and pony show, there were no clowns. Yet they still had an incredible time.

Parents, keep it simple.

No pinterest needed. My 10 yo planned and decorated her sister’s cake. And they all love it.

I’m reading a book that talks about how to simplify our children’s lives. The author says we rush kids into adulthood, like a runaway stress train. Everything is over-the-top. Soccer becomes travel leagues, video games become hand held devices they carry everywhere, TV becomes the soundtrack to their days. There are never moments for quiet. Days to soak in and be thankful for the present moment.

Parents, keep it simple.

I go through my days looking for ways to simplify and create space around my family. Which means we say no to a lot of good things. Like lessons, playdates, and busy unnecessary filler to life.

I don’t want to stuff everyday so full of plenty, that the kids can’t breathe in the moment. I want them to take each day that comes and be thankful, present and joyful.

Parents, if we keep it simple, we will have joyful, calmer, satisfied kids. All it takes is saying no to the crazy beating down your door.

Will you join me?

 

To read more about simplifying your parenting, check out the book: Simplicity Parenting: Using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier and more secure kids. By Kim John Payne


 

 

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Days go by

Summer days can be long. Summer weeks can be even longer. And summer months can be the longest of all.

But not this year.

Don’t get me wrong. There were days that felt like they would never end. The kids bickered, while I hunkered down with a book all the while gritting my teeth saying, ‘I love summer.’

Which is true. I absolutely love summer. I love the long sunny days, swinging in the hammock, throwing frisbee with the kids, riding bikes to the library, spending a hot afternoon at the pool. I love sleeping in and not getting dressed until noon. I love the way a day unfolds, instead of waking every morning into a never ending march until bedtime.

Even though we have chosen to not be a busy household, the school year and its everyday demands feels relentless. It doesn’t help that most school months are spent in cold dreariness.

There are two weeks until most of the kids go back to school. Margo has to hang out with me for another two weeks until it’s her turn. This year is fraught with anxiety because both older kids are entering new classrooms after spending the past 3 years in the comfort of the same teacher. Even Margo has a new teacher after hers retired. Although, she still hasn’t grasped her favorite teacher won’t be back.

Now it’s time to get back into a routine. Guiding Rebecca into a normal sleep schedule, holding TV viewing until later in the day, fitting in the last of our pool days between late summer storms.

The end of summer is hoped for, worried about, and mourned all at the same time.

We have had fun this summer. The kids went to the ocean for the first time. We spent time at my parents and the kids learned to befriend the woods like I did as a child. We went to the county fair of my youth, an event that even now, ushers in another end to summer.

Summer-Eats Ocean
CapeCod Lemonade
Fair Woods

I am going to miss summer. At the same time I am happy to get a schedule and routine back in my writing life. Summer is great for relaxation, but murder on a word count. I learned as much about myself as a writer this summer in the waiting. And I hope my kids were able to learn more about themselves in the quiet days.

I will savor these last two weeks. The morning coffee in bed over a book. The slow way we move through the day. The cannonballs into the pool. The sun beating down on my skin as I swing in the hammock listening to the cicadas, kids laughing, and the rustle of squirrels preparing for winter.

This is the end of summer and as the years go by they get faster and faster. There’s no reason to push them even harder with a schedule. Today we will linger and thank God for the stillness of this summer day.

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Work from Rest

Do you rest from work, or work from rest?

That is a phrase I heard last night and I can’t shake it from my head. It is counter cultural. It means that when we rest, we are able to work with intention and presence, and we can’t do that if we run frantically from activity to activity.

A phrase I hear more than I can handle is how busy everyone is. How kid A needs to go to place A. Kid B needs to get over to place B on the opposite side of town, all the while we ourselves are juggling 5 different projects. When this is our life, nothing new can come from it because we are too busy trying to keep the existing wheel turning.

God forbid if that wheel ever stops.

What, if we rested and took an actual Sabbath. Not a day where we eat cheetos while watching a Breaking Bad marathon. (How I love those kind of days) But a real Sabbath. Where we sit in quiet, reflect, and grow.

Our daily reminder hanging on the dining room wall.

My husband recently told me about a study where people would rather electrically shock themselves than sit and think. Seriously. People would rather feel pain than spend time in reflection. Which is why so many people fill their days with to do lists that can never be finished, activities that never end, and media to anesthetize themselves from thinking in the few quiet moments that fall in between.

For the longest time, I was all about that. When I was alone with my thoughts they often went to the top ten list of stupid things I’ve said or done. A hellish version of throwback Thursday where I could relive every bad hairstyle I’ve had. Or the growing list of things I was too afraid to try. Sitting and thinking usually ended with me in the cone of shame.

And I didn’t want to be there.

When I didn’t allow time for myself to think, I never allowed time for growth. What I have learned over the past several years, is growth doesn’t happen through self improvement books, classes, or groups. Growth happens in the quiet space I surround myself with. In that space I learn something about who I am, what I want, and how I’m going to get there.

After a few years, I can finally sit in a quiet room without freaking out about something I said twenty years ago. Now, I can write through the crazy and come out with an actionable plan on the other side. Sure I had help from an amazing therapist. But more important that one hour with her gave me permission and a safe place to explore the unexplored.

I can finally hear the direction God is calling me towards, instead of hiding my head under a blanket and saying I’m fine with another Netflix binge. Or going to the store to buy my way out of unhappiness. Or keeping myself so busy with stuff, I don’t ever think about what I am avoiding.

In that quiet space, I have found a richer and fuller life. In order to find that I had to give up all my distractions and focus on the things my mind didn’t want to dwell on.

Which led me to a place, where I can work from rest and not rest from work. And like most things I discover about myself, I want to show that to my kids so they don’t get lost on their way to adulthood like I did.

It is freeing to be in a place where silence doesn’t send me off screaming.

Readers, I challenge you today to look at your own life and see where the source of your rest comes from. Is it from avoidance, or is a place you feel safe to grow from. That will be your first step towards actual rest.

How do you find time to rest?

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What I learned this summer

I am a week away from finding out what STRANGERS think about my book. I submitted my first novel to a women’s fiction writing contest in May, and I have waited all summer to see what people think. It’s been a weird summer of waiting, but it has taught me a couple things.

1) I am a writer. Not having published a book, doesn’t make me any less of a writer. I wrote a book. Therefore I am a writer. What the judges say doesn’t change that.

2) What I write needs to be read. I hid my writing for a long time. When people asked me what I did while the kids were at school I would mumble, “Stuff.” Over the summer I have been a little more forthcoming. I no longer apologize for writing a relationship book and not something more deep like Gravity’s Rainbow. I want to write what I like to read and it’s okay to talk about it.

3) Writing with kids at home is impossible. Summer break, is a break for all. I have done some writing here and there, but for the most part I have taken a break. I can’t wait to get started on my regular schedule in the fall. But for now, I work when I can and enjoy the summer the rest of the time.

4) I understand the process of writing better. Now when I read, I can see why some books work and some don’t. I look at my own writing with a more discerning eye. Writers need to be readers.

5) I realize life unintentionally ends up in my writing. Now I know why authors always add the addendum, this is a work of fiction, any resemblance is completely coincidental. So if you ever see something that sounds a little like your life in my book, it was completely coincidence. Seriously, it wasn’t you.

6) Writers are trying to figure something out. Most of my work centers on a theme and it wasn’t until my husband pointed it out that I saw what he meant. When I write, I am most likely trying to process something. It is more time consuming than therapy, but cheaper.

7) Writers have to listen. Yes I need to stay true to my vision, but when someone says, “Eh, this scene doesn’t sound right.” I need to listen, delve back into the text, and see how I can keep my vision, while clarifying the text for others. Constructive criticism is always welcomed.

8) Believe in your writing. I don’t know how many hours I spend in the cone of shame. It starts out as rethinking a paragraph and somehow morphs into an existential crisis. My husband really deserves a prize for how many times he’s said, “Jessie, come back to me. You just forgot a comma, your writing isn’t dog poo, and I’m pretty sure no one is laughing at you.

Besides me.”

9) Learn to summarize. When people ask what the book is about, they aren’t looking for a philosophical discussion. They really are asking what is the book about.

10) Winner or not, I wrote a book. And I should be damn proud of that.

Who knows what will happen next week. What I do know is, I will have constructive feedback on how to improve my writing. And soon, either through this contest, self publishing, or the traditional route, you will be able to read my book.

 

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At the feet of Giants

My husband joked, I should add a poop joke to the post. Cause this shit is about to get real. He’s probably right, and it’s too much for a Wednesday afternoon in July from a parenting blog.

But I gotta write, what I gotta write. So here it goes.

There are people you meet in life that cause you to drop to your knees and soak in their knowledge. Authors who can see beyond the veil of normalcy into the world that’s within our reach, but we ignore. People who have experienced life and don’t keep what they learned to themselves. And if you listen, really listen, they open up a pathway to a life you didn’t think possible.

Who are the people you sit with?

I have just discovered Frederick Buechner. If it wasn’t for Rob Bell’s blog, I would have filed him away with old white guys the minister mentions.

I heard what he said, but never heard what he said. Has that happened to you?

And then I read this quote.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

- Frederick Buechner

All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. Is there anything more beautiful than that?

Sometimes I think we teach our kids that life, in order to matter, needs to be good. That we need the best schools, the best team, the best teachers. We need to win, in order for our lives to have purpose. And in a world that tells us bigger is better, here is a man who says, No. In your pain, in your sadness, in the mundaness of life, that is a key moment. And if every moment makes our life precious, how does that change how we live?

I want to wrap my kids with this belief. Because if they internalize this, maybe they won’t ever think they are less than. Maybe they won’t struggle with self image, or self doubt, or sheer terror when faced with the behemoth of life.

If they can be okay with the moment they are in, they will be okay no matter what they face. And that is what I want for them more than money or success. I want them to look at their life and be present. Lift up the edges of what they see to what matters underneath (Thanks for that image Rob Bell!) I want them to understand how precious and hard life is, because that is what makes it so damn beautiful.

I don’t want them to discard this moment for something better, because what they have right now, is something pretty awesome.

If they take the time to look for it.

 

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Theology and Kids

On Saturday, the family was walking into our favorite restaurant  and Rebecca said, “There’s something that’s been bothering me all day.”

Figuring it was about her impending week at camp, I settled into my comforting mom role. I had all the answers in my pocket. It’s natural to be worried, scared, sad, etc. The words almost flew out of my mouth, but then she blew my mind.

“The bible and science can’t both be right. How did the world start?”

Can I have a drink before I tackle that one?

We have been intentional reading the bible with our kids, taking them to Sunday School and Church, VBS, church camps. We want them to know the Bible.

They also understand evolution. Rebecca understands it better than me through her study of the Timeline of Life in school. And the past summer we have been watching Cosmos together. Which led to our conversation and a topic I didn’t want to deal with until I was an adult.

Here is my almost 10 year old daughter examining Biblical Truth vs Science.

I grew up believing the Bible to be literal. That is how they taught it. Adam and Eve, Jonah and the Whale, Noah. At some point I realized a whale didn’t really swallow Jonah.

And if the whale didn’t swallow Jonah. . .

And the world wasn’t created in 7 days. . .

And the world wasn’t covered in a flood. . .

Did Jesus resurrect?

When I hit that wall, I stumbled through my teenage and young adult years wondering about the questions I had and not finding answers from my church or school. Because both told me they had the answers and theirs was the only right one.

For the past several months, I have been reading Rob Bell’s blog What is the Bible. And for anyone who struggles with what the Bible says, or doesn’t say, this is a good place to start.

It helped me answer my own questions, and I hope it gave me solid ground when I answered Rebecca’s question.

Who’s right? The Bible or science.

And to me? They both are.

Rob Bell quotes Frederick Buechner who said, “All theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography.” Rob Bell’s series isn’t out to prove that the stories in the bible are true. In fact, he always tells the readers the bible is written by people who have experienced the divine. He cautions readers not to start with the assumption God wrote the bible, because that leaves you with a lot of questions that don’t have answers.

If God wrote the Bible, why did he allow people to be slaughtered?

Why would he ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?

Why would he allow an entire nation to be enslaved?

Why does he allow a mom to die of cancer, leaving behind her kids?

Why does he allow war to continue in Gaza with no end?

Rob Bell challenges his reader to read the bible and start with human experience. How does a nation respond to enslavement? How does a king handle disharmony in his family caused by his own infidelity (lookin’ at you David)

When I answered Rebecca, I had no clear answer. I do not believe one source over the other. I believe both. No, I don’t believe the world was created in 7 days. The world is older than 6000 years. We know that. Science proves that.

But, when you think about the sheer impossibility of our existence in this universe, to me, that is all God.

How many times life rebounded from the edge.

How intricate and wonderful the entire universe is.

It’s infinite. Ever growing and ever changing.

To me that is proof of God.

When I think about what my own life was 10 years ago, and what it is now, I believe Isaiah when he says beauty comes from ashes. Hope exists, even when the world tells me it doesn’t.

I don’t think the bible and science are mutually exclusive. And I won’t teach my kids because we are Christians, science doesn’t matter. And I won’t teach my kids because science matters, the bible doesn’t.

Each teaches us something about what it means to be human. Science is the mechanics, but religion brings humanity. What is our experience with the human condition in 2014? Is it any different than a small tribe making their way through the ancient world, persevering in a world that is hard and devastatingly beautiful at the same time.

Read those stories in the bible again. See if our lives are much different.

Teaching your kids the bible is literal has them wrapping the Bible around the world and at some point the binding will break. It keeps their world small, yet unmanageable. Teach your kids to question and then explore. Always. Because they deserve a real dialog when it comes to faith and the world.  It does mean difficult questions and exploring places you may not have been yourself.

 

 

 

 

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Caught, not Taught

A common phrase you hear in parenting is things are caught, not taught. I’m not usually one for cliche phrases, but this one feels very true. In today’s culture, however, I think parent’s ignore this very important advice and try to teach their kids.

How do you put this saying into practice? I thought about what I want my kids to catch yesterday on my run, and with that, a lot of what I don’t want them to catch. The danger in living our lives is our kids are going to see everything we do.

Everything.

And some things will be good, and some things will be not so good. Our job is to keep growing and never act like we have our shit together.

What I Want My Kids to Catch

1) Reading. If they see me read, they will read. It’s permission to goof off and do something enjoyable. My favorite afternoons is when all 5 of us are hunkered down in front of a fire reading. I hear a lot of parents saying they have no time to read with small kids. Just think about what that shows them?

2) Loving my husband. The kid years are intense and a lot of parents give up on their relationship in order to survive. But I want my kids to see that my marriage comes first and there’s nothing wrong with that. I can love my kids and my husband without ignoring anyone.

3) Trust. Letting the kids do new things shows them trust. It means a mess at dinner, or water all over the floor doing dishes. But knowing their mom trusts them with grown-up tasks is something you can’t teach.

4) Our bodies matter. When I take care of myself, I show my kids to respect their own bodies. I fail at this a lot. Because I struggle to show my body love. What I do know is I want them to respect their bodies more than I respect mine. So instead of pretending the problem doesn’t exist, I face it head on and talk about it with them.

5) Forgiveness. We can’t just tell the kids to say sorry and believe they understand forgiveness. Example matters. When my husband and I argue, we try to ask for forgiveness in front of them. If I lose my cool with them, I apologize and tell them why I am asking for forgiveness.

6) Anger. I do not agree that we should never yell at our kids. Because if we never yell at them, we never have the chance to show them how we work through our feelings. If I yell, (what do I mean if I yell. I will yell) When I yell, I ask for forgiveness, tell them why I was upset, and what I will do in the future. It shows them I love them. Even parent’s are wrong. And that I plan to change.

7) Listen. If they come to me with a problem, I let them solve it. I am a sounding board, I ask questions, but I try with all my self will to not solve their problems. My husband and I also try to speak this way in front of them as well. Our jobs as friends and family is to listen and not judge. If we do this, we allow solutions to grow in the space between.

8) Love God. I don’t want to hide my faith from the kids, and I want them to see me wrestling with God like Jacob or Job. Faith isn’t cute sayings, faith isn’t reciting the bible. Faith doesn’t happen on Sunday mornings. Faith requires us meeting God wherever we are and whatever state we are in.

9) It’s okay to be alone. Sometimes we need a break from each other. When I ask for a time out, I’m not saying I don’t love them. I’m saying I need time to regroup. Everyone needs space. And if I ask for space, they ask for space when they need it.

10) I’m not just a mom. Especially for my girls, I want them to see their mom happy outside of family life. Volunteering, writing, and spending time with friends shows them that love doesn’t stop when we don’t see each other. I love my family, but I am not defined by them, nor should I be.

 

What do you hope your kids catch from you?

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Getting through Summer

I just finished a book I couldn’t put down. (If you’re looking for a super intense read, check it out. It’s called the Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair)It’s summer, so I am able to read a lot more. With the kids home it can be challenging, but it’s important for them to see me reading, right? If I want to raise readers, I have to show them how much I love reading.

But I was so into my book, I kinda didn’t want to read to them. Sometimes when this happens, Rebecca will pick up the slack and read. But she’s been attending a writing class and was hunkered down in her room with a map of a world she created and character sheets.

Margo piled books up next to me, while Isaac rolled on the floor and moaned, “But mommy, what about my practice reading time. You want me to read don’t you.”

With only a few chapters to go, I tried to distract them with outside time, blocks, or anything else they do when I am not reading and enjoying myself. They are having none of it. Then a idea overtakes me. “Hey Isaac, why don’t you practice your reading with Margo.”

Isaac loves the suggestion, in fact, he loves any suggestion that allows him to tell Margo what to do. So he grabs a pile of his books and says, “Okay Margo, we have to read my books, not yours. Mommy said so.”

Margo screams no, and then realizes if she wants to hear a written word, her big bro is all she has at the moment. They snuggle together in a big chair, and he pushes his way through the stack of books.

I pick up my book and continue on, proud that I killed two birds with one stone. Isaac gets the minutes for reading, and Margo gets minutes for being read to. And now I get to enjoy my own book in relative peace.

I love summer.

One of my favorite blogs is We Are That Family. Yesterdays Kristin Welch, the author of the blog, asked moms for their summer hacks on Facebook. In other words, how do you make your laziness work in your favor. Today she posted 25 Summer Hacks for Moms, it is bursting with ideas for all Moms who are just trying to make it through the day. Read through the list and add your own in her comments section. Look close and see if you can spot my own hack that was chosen for the post.

Who needs day camps, when I have a list like this.

Now, I am off to read a book. I’m calling it research for writing, which means I can shut the office door and read in peace.

Shhhhh

How do you make it through your summer days?

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