Category Archives: General

The Family Table

This is my dining room table. We bought it ten years ago after a painstaking search for just the right one. “We need a table that seats ten,” we would say to the salespeople. Most places either didn’t have a table that big or it was way too formal for our taste. One salesman even went so far as to tell us that our dining room (which he had never seen before) wouldn’t hold a table that big.

Then we found this solid wood beauty at an unfinished furniture store in west Knoxville and knew it was the perfect table for us. You see, Jeremy and I don’t have just a ton of hobbies in common, but one thing that truly floats both our boats is hospitality. Never fancy or flashy, but we love having people in our homes and breaking bread together. It’s become a priority for us over the years to carve out time in our lives for the lost art of hospitality.

My hope when I bought this table would be for it to have stories to tell. This table has heard tales of laughter and tears, has probably heard a few swear words, has kept whispered secrets, and has been a place where we’ve reminisced cherished memories.

It’s held the spread of Thanksgiving dinners and all of my children’s birthday cakes and family game nights and extensive art projects. Last night it welcomed jungle friends; missionaries home on furlough for the first time in two years. We sat around this table and talked for hours about the beauty and tragedies of life, and I was reminded once again of how the purpose of this table is being used to bring life into our home.

Furniture is just a thing; a “treasure on earth,” if you will. But the life that has happened around this table with the people who have graced its side is part of the treasure we are storing in Heaven. I think about that every time I look upon this table that is never too big, and often not big enough. I think about the faces; your faces. And I give thanks and rejoice.

What I Learned on My Facebook Vacation

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a full-blown Facebook addict.  (Hi, my name is Ariaun…)  I’m a people person who loves to write and who spends most of her time with two young children.  It’s the perfect storm for a social media addiction, and FB is my drug of choice.  I enjoy almost everything about it. (Except maybe cat videos.  I could live out the rest of my days without seeing another cat video and still die happy.)

But for quite a while now I’ve felt a nagging pull to take a break.  Like a good addict is prone to do, though, I’ve always managed to talk myself out of it.  “But this is how I connect with people!”  “I’ll miss something important!”  “I don’t really let it take up that much of my time.” This past December the desire to take a hiatus from FB became rather overwhelming.  So on Jan.1 I pulled the plug for a month on my biggest vice.

It’s now the middle of February.  Looking back, I have to say that removing myself from FB was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.  And I learned a few things, to boot.  Would you like to discover my confessions and insights?  Forge ahead, dear reader, and let’s discuss.

  • As a FB addict, I checked my notifications first thing every morning, before I even got out of bed.  
    Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.  It’s a nice, quiet way to stimulate my brain as I try to wake up.  It’s kind of like my pre-coffee pick-me-up.  I don’t remember how I did life before smartphones, do you?  Well, without my FB app, I had to find a different way to wake my brain up every morning.  I started out by reading news headlines, but after a couple of days I just couldn’t stomach it.  So I decided to try waking up the old fashioned way: I got myself out of bed.  I went to my living room, turned on a lamp, picked up a book, and started reading.  Visualize it with me for a moment.

I love reading books, and my favorite time to read is first thing in the morning.  But too often I find that the mindless perusing of social media easily draws me away from quality literature. (Plus, it’s challenging to hold a book in one hand and a coffee mug in the other.  You Third World people wouldn’t understand.)  I wanted to change that habit in January, so every morning, instead of surfing on my phone, I picked up a book (this one happened to be Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson), and I sat down with my coffee to read.  This book, along with a couple of others, has drastically changed my parenting philosophy, (which is a conversation for another time), and I’m not sure when I would have taken the time to read it without my FB break.  I discovered a sense of freedom in not feeling pulled to my newsfeed every morning.  Now when I wake up I (usually) start my day with a book or with scripture reading.  I could be wrong, but I suspect it’ll make me smarter than starting my day taking a quiz to find out what my left index finger says about my personality.

  • Turns out I actually DO have time to do those things I don’t have time to do.
    This one is harsh.  I have a laundry list of 5-10-minute tasks that, up until January, I just could not find the time to do.  Some of them have literally been on my list for years.  They weren’t difficult tasks; they were just…what’s the word…boring.  And so when given the choice between taping the cover back onto my son’s LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia or spending five minutes seeing if anyone left a comment on my status update, the latter usually won.  Okay, fine, the latter always won.  Take away the quick ride on the ego trip, though, and all of a sudden, the small tasks become a manageable “thing” that can easily be dealt with.  And doyouknowwhat?  Knocking things off my to-do list gave me even greater satisfaction than thumbs-ups on my status updates!  Who knew!
  • Playing with my kids and having face-to-face conversations is more fun than debating issues on FB.
    Well, I didn’t really learn this, I already knew it.  But I liked having BIG conversations with people on FB, and this was what I thought I would miss most of all.  The unexpected truth is, I didn’t miss it.  Not even a little bit.  Intentionally disengaging from virtual conversations freed me up to spend more time in real, live conversations, with visible body language and everything.  I enjoyed not feeling compelled to share my opinions.  With this newfound discovery I’m (slowly) learning to be much more cautious about what I choose to talk about on social media.  I’m also finding myself less interested in engaging in other people’s controversial conversations online.  Not because I don’t enjoy the discussions; I do!  But because the amount of time required to clearly express one’s thoughts in writing without the benefit body language is one of the most difficult, time-consuming things about social media.  And I realized that it’s often more stressful than fun.  Ain’t nobody got time.

While my husband and I thoroughly enjoy having open-minded discussions with people about social issues around the dinner table, I plan to now be more careful about engaging in those same conversations virtually.  I was reminded that my time in this season of life is better spent loving on my friends and family.  I still enjoy being an active listener on FB, but I have set a goal now to be less of a talker.  To wag more and bark less, if you will.

  •  I don’t like my kids seeing me on my phone.
    Most of my FB interactions happen on my phone more than any other electronic device I own, and I suspect the same goes for most people.  And I don’t know about you, but when I’m out in public, I can’t help but notice (judge) how often people are on their phones.  In restaurants, at the grocery store, at the park, in traffic…everyone has their heads in their phones.  What I realized about myself was that, though I try to be diligent about putting my phone away when I’m around people, my children still see me on my phone at home quite often.  Whether it’s FB, Pinterest, a news article, or a text message, my face is in my phone more often than I’d like to admit.  Consequently, I’m indirectly teaching my kids that this is an okay thing.

Perhaps I shouldn’t characterize being on one’s phone for a considerable amount of time as being inherently good or bad.  But for me, I can say with absolute certainty that it’s not how I want to be remembered.  I don’t want my children or my husband to remember me as being distracted by my phone all the time.  I  don’t want them to remember that I looked down at my phone more than I looked them in the eyes.  I don’t want them to remember me as having always focused on someone else’s conversation.  I don’t want to grow old and discover that I missed most of what was happening in my life because I couldn’t stop watching what was happening in other people’s lives.  My point is, I only have a few short years to make lasting memories with my children.  I want to be careful and deliberate in the way I craft those memories.  Being on my phone all the livelong day doesn’t fit well into that plan.  My break from FB sealed that truth for me even more.

Yes, smartphones and social media are probably here to stay.  And even with the things I learned from my Facebook “vacation,” I’m still a huge fan and I probably always will be.  I love engaging with my wide variety of friends far too much to kiss it goodbye forever.  But taking a break from FB’s constant beckoning gave me a renewed perspective on how to set boundaries for myself.  It helped me to be mindful of what I most value in my everyday life.  I honestly thought I would hate every minute of my month off, and I’ll be honest, Inauguration Day was HARD, I tell you.  But overall, it was not only an experience I truly delighted in, but it’s one I now plan make at least a yearly habit.

How about you?  Do you set boundaries for yourself for social media?  Do you take intentional breaks regularly?  If so, what perspectives have you learned?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me!

Homeschooling the Loveday Way: A Peek Inside

‘Tis the season for back-to-school.  Media articles, Facebook links, news segments, blog posts, how-tos, printable resources, and generally all things August/Septembery fill our news feeds and capture our attention with ways to make the start of the school year richer and easier.  As a homeschool mom, the desire to see how other people manage a school day that generally has very few standardized rules always leads me to the Information Superhighway.  It’s a joy to be able to take a few sneak peeks into other family’s lives without having to leave the house or put on makeup.  This isn’t a homeschooling blog per se, but since it’s a blog about my life (and since I have a lot of things on my to-do list that I don’t want to do right now), I thought I would take the time to offer a brief glimpse into our homeschool world.  Also, I don’t like to feel left out, and since everyone else is doin’ it…

We are part-time homeschoolers, attending a co-op three days per week and schooling at home the other two (or other four, as some may see it).  My daughter Natalie is in Kindergarten and my son Aiden in 2nd grade, so this is my third year homeschooling and my first year officially homeschooling two.  Tuesday we had a particularly great day at home, so I thought I would use that as my model.  That way you can think I’m really awesome at this homeschooling thing.  If I were to blog about Thursday, I wouldn’t be able to paint as lovely a picture, and the way I see it, I owe you high quality, so we’ll just pretend every day is just like Tuesday, K?

SONY DSCFirst, I’ll give you a tour of our space.  Our most gracious and glorious heavenly IKEA shelves (and a bookshelf from Jo-Ann’s) contain most of our “educational” toys.  Board games, art supplies, science kit materials, puzzles, instruments, playing cards, manipulatives, building toys, a balance, a globe, an abacus, a cash register, and the arc du triomphe: a CD player.  With headphones.  Headphones are key to homeschool mom sanity.  Sometimes I even let the kids use them.  😉

SONY DSCI’m a huge fan of natural lighting, and our homeschool room has TONS of windows.  Nine, to be exact.  We keep our desks next to the windows to take advantage of all the beautiful sunlight (if you look carefully, you can see the morning sun coming up over the trees.  Glorious).  To the right of the desks is an easel I use to write down the kids’ assignments and goals for the day, and to the left is our art gallery.  Nails. Wire. Clothespins.  Nothing fancy, but it works SO WELL.  On top of the tables is a roll of paper, crayons, a pencil sharpener, and a tin of erasers.  Hanging off the sides of the tables are little tin buckets containing pencils, markers, colored pencils, paint brushes, scissors, hole punches and glue sticks.

SONY DSCThis wall has all kinds of visuals on it, which change according to our monthly needs.  In the center is this most fabulous interactive world map!  I bought it for my son for Christmas one year, and we have just loved it!  Above the map is an Eric Carle canvas of the alphabet, which I also think absolutely rocks.  Other things currently include a sight words chart (which is ugly, but it works for now), a glass frame with fancy paper in it that I use to display our monthly Bible verse (I just write on the frame with a dry erase marker), a poster of the Presidents, a poster of our solar system, and a motivational system (read: my bribery system…because I believe in bribery.  Getting kids to put their clothes on and brush their teeth in the morning should be an Olympic event, so the promise of ice cream in exchange for 25 days of being ready to start school on time has been a game-changer in my house.  Judge not lest).  In the bottom right is a Slugs & Bugs poster of Psalm 139.  On the floor is a basket of wooden blocks and a toy piano.  The piano gets a LOT of use.  They’ve learned how to play a few songs on it, so now they’re challenging themselves to see how badly they can play them off key.  It’s great fun.


Here’s the room in its entirety.  Note that we also have a desk with a desktop computer, a United States rug and a couch for use as a trampoline a soft place to relax.


Just outside the homeschool room, we have this world map from IKEA hanging on a large wall.  We use this map all. of. the. time.  It’s probably the focal point of our house, and whenever we have visitors, everyone flocks around it and shares their tales of where they’ve been or where they’re headed.  I adore this map.  Best $150 we’ve ever spent.  Add a Nerf gun and some darts and you have one incredibly cool geography lesson.


Now for our day.  We wake up in the morning and the kids get ready while I (usually) fix a hearty breakfast.  We try our best to eat healthy meals as much as possible, so breakfast at our house usually consists of whole milk yogurt parfaits with nutty granola and blueberries, bacon, sausage, smoothies, homemade biscuits and pancakes, or toast with almond butter and jelly, along with fruit and fresh juice.  Personally, I eat a lot of eggs, buy my husband and kids get sick of them fairly easily, so it’s hit and miss with them.  While I fix breakfast the kids get dressed and make their beds.  Or they make X-wings out of Legos.


I bought these adorable oversized wooden clothespins at a craft store for $1.00 each, and I use them to display the kids’ weekly spelling words.  I keep them on the dining room table so they can look at them whenever they’re eating.  Since they eat 52 gazillion times per day, they get a lot of exposure to their words without me having to nag them about studying.  It’s brilliant, if I do say so myself.SONY DSCDuring breakfast and morning snack, we do a devotional and Bible story reading, respectively.  Sally Lloyd-Jones has the most beautiful devotional for little ones called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  Lemme tell ya, it makes my heart sing for sure.  So much joy and grace and truth in these small, bite-size passages.  An excellent way to start our morning.  The Bible we use is Egermeier’s Bible Story Book.  What I love about this Bible is that it offers so much more than the basics of common children’s Bible stories.  There’s a lot of detail in each passage, but they’re cautious about making sure their words and pictures are sensitive to little eyes and ears (for example, David’s battle with Goliath leaves out the part where David cut off Goliath’s head).  We also have The Jesus Storybook Bible, which is my absolute favorite children’s Bible in the history of ever, but the kids also read that one at their co-op, so we’ve taken a break from it at home for now.

After breakfast and clean-up, we get our minds ready to learn by exercising.  Tuesday was an absolutely gorgeous August day, so we dashed outside to…

SONY DSCclimb on the monkey bars…

jump rope…

and run relays.

We mix up the exercise time weekly.  Sometimes we ride bicycles, sometimes we find workout videos on YouTube if it’s raining, or sometimes we just find silly ways to move our bodies and dance.  An exercise trampoline is on my wish list to have for indoor movement during the day.  The need to move is especially key for my very energetic 7-year-old boy.  I’m a firm believer in the fact that movement stimulates the brain, so we try to always get our blood pumping before (and during) our lessons if we can.


SONY DSCSpeaking of lessons, we head inside to get our book work done after exercising while our minds are fresh and rested.  We spend about 30 minutes doing math, handwriting and phonics, and then we get up and move around again.  We try to do as little sitting as possible, and we break it up into manageable segments.

SONY DSC Or we just lie on the floor.

SONY DSCFood is essential to learning in this household.  Did I mention that my kids eat 52 gazillion times per day?  Rather than fight the battle all day long, I put a simple snack and water bottles on the table for them to munch on while they work; in this case, popcorn and pistachios.  This helps prevent distraction and procrastination by keeping the “But I’m huuuuuungry!”‘s at bay.


Aiden has a book he uses at home called Challenging Word Problems.  They really are quite challenging for his grade level, so we tackle them in small bites and for some reason, writing the problems on the dry erase board makes them seem less intimidating than reading them from the book.  It also helps to change the words around to appeal to his interests.  No one cares how many books Sam read on Saturday and Sunday, but figuring out how many Storm Troopers Luke Skywalker fought on Saturday and Sunday is a challenge worth taking on.


Writing practice is much more fun with paint and Q-tips!

SONY DSCSONY DSCAfter we’ve been doing book work for a while, we stop and play a game.  Natalie’s math book is especially easy for her right now, so rather than give her a more challenging workbook to do, we play math games instead.  On this particular day, we played a math game with playing cards.  Natalie and I played Addition War while Aiden and I had a slightly more complicated challenge.  We had to take four cards, figure out how to combine them to get the two highest double-digit numbers, then add them together.  Whoever got closest to 100 got all eight cards.  They both beat me almost every time.

SONY DSCBy the time we finish this, it’s time for me to fix lunch, so I give the kids a challenging activity to work on with their hands while I’m in the kitchen.  This week they had Lego challenges.  On this day, they had to make a scene out of Legos that told a story.  Natalie had a difficult time with this, so she just made a box.  Aiden, however, reeeeeeally got into it and made a giant Star Wars battle, complete with AT-ATs, X-wings and tie-fighters.  He was enjoying himself so much, I had a hard time getting him to come eat lunch!

IMG_7483STEM Challenge: Who can build the tallest cup tower?

When we’re not doing Lego challenges we’re either doing art activities (I love  She has amazing self-directed art projects that are both stimulating and easy to throw together), STEM challenges, or creative writing work.  They (usually) love these tasks to keep their hands and brains busy while I’m unavailable to help them.  Aiden’s not a big fan of writing, so he doesn’t love the creative writing, but if I give him a Star Wars or Minecraft theme, he’s more willing to go with it.  This is a pretty fun journal for boys, too.

IMG_7528After lunch the kids go outside to play (or inside if the weather is uncooperative) while I clean up lunch and throw laundry in the dryer.  Then we read books and study science.  While I’m reading, the kids are either cuddled up next to me on the couch (as in the above picture), or they’re on the floor playing with manipulatives, such as Tinker Toys, Magna-Tiles, or a sensory box.  When we do science, I either incorporate a science experiment, book, video and/or art activity to go along with whatever we’re learning.  On Tuesday we were studying the Arctic, so we watched a video of the aurora borealis.  I was so excited to show them the video, thinking they would be mesmerized, but turns out they were already familiar with it, thanks to Octonauts.  Who says TV can’t be educational?  Totally rained on my parade, but whatever.  Octonauts didn’t teach them HOW it occurred, so I still had the upper hand in the teaching.  So there.

When science is over, we study a country, work on any classroom projects that are assigned, do individual reading, and/or call it a day and go play.  Our day lasts generally from 9:00-2:30ish, depending on how much extra-curricular work is required for their co-op.  The afternoon also offers us activities that we consider to be learning experiences, such as soccer practice, helping cook dinner, doing chores, and having read-aloud time with chapter books.  As most homeschoolers know, everything is a learning experience.

It’s taken us some time (two full years to be exact) to figure out our daily rhythm on our homeschool days, but this seems to be working well for us.  It’s not without struggles, but I don’t expect perfection.  There are things I’d rather be doing than school work, too, to be honest.  But such is life.  As a rule, however, our days are flowing smoothly and we’re enjoying ourselves.  Hands-on learning that’s playful and fun is important to me.  I’m a big believer in the idea that anything can be fun if you put in a little extra effort, and the more fun it is, the more the learning sticks.  We’re so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to do school this way.

What are some of your favorite techniques for making learning fun and your homeschool days flow smoothly?  I’d love for you to share them with me!  After all, we’re all learning!

The One I’m A Little Afraid To Publish

I’m about to be vulnerable here. Consider yourself warned.

Today, I’ll be honest, has been a regular suck-fest in my family, following on the heels of a week that I couldn’t wait to finally be over. The last nine days have been full of busyness, and I genuinely hate busyness. I had prepared myself as much as I could, I thought. I had school mostly managed, food mostly managed, responsibilities mostly managed. I did not, however, take into account that this very busy week also just so happened to be Holy Week. I didn’t give it a second thought, actually, until my family skipped church on Palm Sunday because we were already too tired going into the week to drag ourselves out of bed that morning. Then I got to Thursday and realized I hadn’t even talked to my children one single time about the Easter story, and then I got to Saturday and was rushing to our THIRD egg hunt of the week when it hit me that I had done absolutely NOTHING (no, not one single thing) to prepare my heart for the most important day of my faith. I was not in control of my week; my week was controlling me, and I was just following along blindly.

So it came as little surprise to me when this morning rolled around and I was tired, my children were fighting with each other and were whiny and cranky, I was fighting with my husband, he and I drove to church in silence, my daughter had to be taken out of the sanctuary for being disruptive, my son was mad that I wouldn’t let him sit with his friends or make paper airplanes out of the bulletin during the service, and the plans we had made to go to the mountains together as a family ended up seeming like the worst possible way for us to spend our day, so we ditched them entirely and just stayed home. This was quickly turning into the worst Easter ever.

It appeared as though I wasn’t the only one who came to church feeling vulnerable this morning. If you had looked around the body of Believers this morning at the little church on the corner of 16th and Highland, you would have seen a mixed kaleidoscope of joy and brokenness. I saw the mother who was weeping as she thought of her grown child who has walked away from the Lord. I saw the family who was on their way to a celebration while a cacophony of tensions were simultaneously mounting upon them from all sides. I saw the man and his family who together were fighting his terrible battle with cancer. I saw the woman with a mysterious illness who just-can’t-get-well-for-crying-out-loud. I saw the estranged husband and wife who were sitting together for the first time in well over a year (maybe two). I saw the young lady who brought her girlfriend with her for the first time. I saw the woman who shuffled her family out of the service early upon receiving news that her mother-in-law had just died. I saw the young man who was saying goodbye to his church family and moving away to pursue a budding relationship. I saw the missionary who stood and cried tears of joy as he testified of his deliverance from his bondage of sin in his earlier years. I even saw the Elder who had had such an intense conversation with the Lord in the wee small hours of the morning that he couldn’t even deliver the sermon that he had been preparing for weeks.

No, I certainly wasn’t alone in my vulnerability. But still, I didn’t want to be at church this morning. It just felt wrong. It felt wrong to worship the risen Lord when my heart was unprepared, my spirit was weak, and my relationships felt distant. When it came time to take communion, I wrestled with whether or not I should. I went forward anyway, questioning myself with each step, and I took the bread and the cup, and I sat back down to pray. I looked at the sacraments in my hands and said, “Lord, I’m not worthy of this today. My attitude is bad, I’m having this issue with my family that I can’t wrap up into a pretty little package and fix quickly, I’m tired, I’ve given you nothing this week, and while I want nothing more than to be with you right now, I’m just not worthy to take this.”

Jesus whispered a gentle response. “Look around this room, Ariaun. Look at the people who are sitting here with you. They are worthy, not because of anything they have done, but because they are mine. They are worthy because I have made them worthy, despite their weakness, their relationship struggles, their abortions, their former drug problems, their failed marriages, their deceptions, their prodigal children, their broken homes or their lack of faith. This bread and this cup are for them. My body was broken for them. My blood was spilled for them. And it’s all for you, too, beloved. You don’t come to the table because you’ve got it all together. You come to the table because you’ve been invited, so that you’ll remember that you’ve been bought with a price; and you’re free to come just as you are and not as you think you should be. Of course you’re not worthy. That’s precisely the point. But I am, and I have made you new. You’re confusing your worthiness with your worth. And dear one, your worth is beyond measure. You are worth my very life.”

I know enough about people to know that probably everyone in that building has felt, at one point or another, like they shouldn’t be there, that they needed to stay home, that they were hypocrites for worshiping God while their world felt like it was falling apart. But our brokenness is exactly the reason we come. It’s exactly the reason Jesus came. It’s exactly the reason we celebrate this day.

This morning I (maybe a little bit melodramatically) told Jeremy that my favorite Sunday of the year was ruined. But looking back, now that the I’m-sorrys and the I-forgive-yous have been said, I realize that this day wasn’t ruined at all. I just needed a different perspective. My expectation was that I would be smiley and cheerful and springy, and we would all just be shiny, happy people praising Jesus this morning without a care in the world. While looking around that room at some of the people I love most in this world, many of them hurting deeply, I held that cracker and cup of juice in my hand and was reminded of our immense value in the eyes of our Savior, despite our complete and utter brokenness and great imperfection. We’re the ones Jesus loves, and He has the crimson-stained grace on His hands to prove it.

The Day I Quit Parenting

I homeschool my two children.  Go ahead.  Question my sanity.  I know I sure do sometimes.   Some days, I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite gig.  It’s exhausting.  It feels futile.  The kids don’t want to listen.  They aren’t motivated.  I’m not motivating.  It can be boring.  Some days are a struggle just to survive.  Other days are exciting and fun!  We get to do cool experiments!  We get to go to neat places!  We get to read exciting books!  And best of all, I get to watch the lightbulb moments and be there when they have the grand experiences, and I get to watch the manifestations of the Lord’s gifts unfold in each of them.

And sometimes we have homeschool days that start with me being unsure if I’m going to survive the day and end with me amazed at the learning that took place that even I was completely unprepared for.

Yesterday started out as a great day.  My husband got up before me (which never happens), and made my coffee for me.  Heavenly!  I enjoyed a quiet, relaxing morning snuggling with my little girl while my big guy slept in.  I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  It was picturesque, really.  A perfectly lovely start to my day.

And then.

They washed hands, put dishes away, and went upstairs to get dressed.  15 minutes later, after much banging and stomping, screaming and squawking, I went upstairs to discover that Natalie was still in her pajamas, and Aiden was wearing his pajama shirt and only his pajama shirt.  I gave them a deadline.  They not only didn’t meet it, but they seemed completely apathetic to the reality of the smoke coming out of my ears.  This has become a common scenario in my house every morning, and I’m nothing short of over it.  I started to yell.  But then I stopped (natural consequences, I heard a familiar voice in my head say).

“Okay, guys, I’m not going to ask you to get dressed anymore.  I’m not going to ask you to get your work done anymore.  You know what needs to be done.  I’m through parenting you this way.  If you want to be disrespectful to me and disobey me, then that’s your choice.  I am taking the day off.  Enjoy yourselves.”

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing!  “What are you saying?!” I thought to myself!  “This can only end badly!”  But it was too late.  I had said it, and I was sticking to it.  I closed the door and walked away, more than just a little bit terrified.

The kids, sensing my anger, thought it would be helpful if they made my bed for me.  It was a nice gesture, but I was looking for a real change of heart.  “Thank you for making my bed, but I’m still taking the day off from parenting you until I see a genuine change in your attitude and behavior.”  The kids then went downstairs.  Aiden did about five math problems, and then he quickly figured out how to work this day to his advantage.  He threw math by the wayside and started to play. He and Natalie made up some game and played together for about half an hour, and then they went outside, having an absolutely grand time.  I reorganized a closet, still terrified.

After a few minutes in the frigid weather, Aiden decided it was too cold and he needed his gloves and scarf, but the scarf wasn’t where it belonged.  “MOOOOM! Where’s my scarf???”  “I don’t know.”  “Can you help me find it?”  “No.”  “Why not?!”  “I’m taking the day off, remember?”  “Oh….yeah.”  He fumbled around for another minute and then went back outside.  After a while, they both came back in.  “MOOOOM! We’re hungry!”  “Okay.” “Can you fix us a snack?”  “No.”  “Why not?!”  “I’m taking the day off today, remember?”  “Oh, yeah. Uggggh.”  So they fixed themselves a snack while I continued working on my closet, and then they went back to playing.

Eventually, lunchtime rolled around.
“MOOOOM! It’s lunchtime!”
“Are you going to fix…oh, yeah…can we fix lunch for ourselves?”
“What can we have?”
“Whatever you can fix yourselves.”
“Can we have a sandwich?”
“Well, I don’t have enough bread for lunch today and for your lunchbox tomorrow.”
“Oh…can we have an orange?”
“Well, you have to have a sharp knife to cut the orange, and you can’t use a sharp knife without my supervision.”
“Oh…can we have leftover pancakes?”
“You can, but then there won’t be any left for breakfast tomorrow.”
“UGGGGHHHH!  Can we have black olives?”
Two minutes later, “Mom! How do you get the can opener to work?”
“I can’t show you today, son. Sorry.”

Eventually the questions stopped and they scrounged around for an appropriate meal combination.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t much, and after thirty minutes, they were hungry again.  It was about 1:30 by this point.  I was in an upstairs bedroom, and Aiden came in with a quiver in his voice, trying to hold back tears.  “Mom, I don’t like you being off today. I can’t find enough food to fix and I’m hungry, and everything is just too hard for me.”  Calmly, I respond.  “I thought you were having a good time being on your own today.”  “I was, but now it’s too hard, and I need your help.”  I told him that I needed to take a shower, and while I was doing that, if they got the kitchen and playroom cleaned up, then we would revisit the situation and sit and talk.  It took a while, but eventually they got everything cleaned up, and Aiden got started on his school work again.  While I was showering, I asked God to show me the spiritual lesson that I could offer my hungry, tired little stinkers.  Since I’ve been reading through the Old Testament with them this school year (Egermeier’s Bible Story Book), the answer came quickly.

I brought them to the couch and sat them down.  I asked them how they thought the day had gone.  “Bad,” they both agreed in unison.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because we couldn’t do anything.”   “Why couldn’t you?”  “Because we needed your help. We thought we could do it on our own, but we couldn’t.”  “Hmmm.  Sounds familiar.  Do you remember all of the stories we’ve been reading about the Israelites?”  “Yes.”  “Do you remember how, when they put their trust in God and loved and obeyed Him, God blessed them and protected them and cared for them?”  “Yes.”  “And do you remember that when they forgot about God and started disobeying Him and doing things their own way instead of God’s way, that there were big, rotten consequences for their lives?”  “Yes.”

“Now, this situation that happened today is on a much smaller scale. First of all, I’m not God, I’m just your Mom. But what happened when you started doing things your own selfish way instead of the way that I had planned for you, a plan which was good and would have led to us doing lots of cool things today?  Was it fun?”  “At first it was, but then it got too hard.”   “Yep. It’s the same way with our relationship with God.  When we choose to disobey Him, at first it can seem like a much better choice, a more fun choice, and we think we’re pretty smart and don’t need God anymore, so we tell Him to get lost.  But after a while we come to realize that life without the One whom we’ve always depended on to be our helper and our protector, our light and our guide, who loves us the most, is just way too hard, and it kinda stinks.”

“Eventually, the Israelites always realized their mistakes and asked God to forgive them and rescue them.  And every time, God welcomed them back with open arms.  Mamas are the same way.  No matter what we do, God never stops loving us, and I’ll never, ever stop loving you.  Both of those things are a promise.”

“Yes, Aiden?”
“Today was the worst day ever. I don’t ever want to be on my own again.”
“Me, neither, buddy.”

Successful homeschool day? I think so.

Don’t Plan to Read Your Bible This Year

I have a confession to make.  Up until about six months ago, I hadn’t read my Bible on a regular basis in years.  Good Christians aren’t really supposed to say that out loud, but here I am.  In my defense, I had a good excuse.  Two of them, to be exact.

IMG_9871Excuse #1

IMG_2918Excuse #2

Pretty good excuses, huh?

There are seasons of life where the regular reading of scripture is easy to carve out time for.  Some people read the Bible daily, accompanied by concordances and commentaries and parallel Bibles and daily devotionals.  There are people who follow plans for how to read through the New Testament in a year or the entire Bible in a year.  There are plans you can print off online, charts you can pin on Pinterest, apps you can follow on your phone, basically endless possibilities to help you in your endeavor to be a better Bible reader.

I think plans and charts and graphs and goals are great.  I really do.  I’m a first-born (sort of), type-A, left-brained person.  I live and die by charts and schedules and routines and lists and checklists.  My brain eats that stuff up like candy.  So it would make sense that every year I set out to follow a Bible-reading plan.  And every year I make it about a month before I lose interest or get too far behind and I give up.  I’ve been in a season the past six years where sleep has been a precious, often-lost commodity, and I’ve had many days where I’ve wondered how I would even fit a shower into my schedule, much less four chapters of Deuteronomy.  So for six-and-a-half years sleep won out, and my Bible collected dust.

But seasons change, and life has a way of renewing itself.  After having my Bible stolen recently, I finally bought a new one late in the summer and became eager to read the story inside again.  There’s something inviting about fresh, clean pages and unbent book binds, yes?  So being a morning person, I decided to discipline myself to get up every morning before anyone else woke up, make myself a cup of coffee, and read my new Bible.  But this time I chose a different method.  I didn’t use a plan.  I didn’t follow a checklist.  I didn’t set a goal.  I opened the Bible and I read for the sake of reading.  And do you know what happened?  I fell in love with the story again.  I found myself not only reading the Word, but getting lost in it.  I didn’t open the Bible to read the next chapter on my checklist; but rather, I opened it to wherever my heart was at that particular time.  I have let the Spirit guide where I choose to read, and it has become the sweetest time in my day.  I discovered that I was a nicer, gentler mama most days too, and have loved having little bitties with tousled hair and sleepy eyes come curl up next to me early in the morning as I read.


I’ve loved feeling the joy in Paul’s words as he reminds me of the Lord’s matchless grace and gentleness.  I’ve fallen in love with Jesus again and again as I read about His incomparable mercy and love.  I’ve been in awe of the mighty power of a God who slays giants and tears down great city walls with the sound of a trumpet blast and who awes the unbelievers by setting soaking-wet sacrifices ablaze.  Sally Lloyd-Jones describes it well:

“The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!”  ~The Jesus Storybook Bible

As this new year begins I do want to encourage you, especially mamas with littles, to find a time to read the scriptures regularly, if you’re not already doing so.  But recognize that it’s okay to do it without an agenda.  Maybe you’re not a morning person like I am.  That’s okay.  Carve out some time in the evening after the kids go to bed.  Put on a video in the middle of the afternoon and go hide in your bedroom.  Find a quiet place during your lunch break at work.  Or there’s always old faithful (the bathroom)!

Pick up your Bible and start reading anywhere you like.  Start with the Gospels.  Start with the Psalms.  Start with the Epistles.  Start at the beginning.  (I would not suggest starting with Leviticus, but that’s just me.)  😉  Read a chapter.  Read half a chapter.  Read for five minutes.  Read until the video is over.  Read until the kids wake up.  Read until you don’t want to read anymore.  And tomorrow, if you need to stay in bed longer or go to bed earlier, it’s okay.  Do it.  Start back again the next day.

I hear a lot of people talk about the discipline of scripture reading and how hard it is, and I’ve been that person who has tried to make the discipline itself my goal.  But I’ve come to learn that it’s okay to not read the Bible in order to become more scholarly.  It’s okay to not read the Bible in a year just to say you’ve done it.  It’s okay to not do a Beth Moore study.  Sometimes it’s okay to read the scriptures simply for the sake of reading the scriptures.  And maybe I’m oversimplifying something that everyone else already knows and has figured out.  But maybe there are some others of you out there who get bogged down in all of the stuff of life that’s supposed to make us a better person, especially at the beginning of a new year, and you create unattainable goals and set yourself up for failure, just like I do.

If that sounds like you, then I just want to offer you encouragement today.  If you want to be better about reading your Bible this year, work at it in your own way until you find a time and place that works for you.  And if it becomes too hard, don’t let the voices of condemnation ring out in your head.  Silence them with the knowledge of God’s grace, and try again another time.  The Lord knows you’re weary, and it’s okay to rest.  Just don’t stay in that place forever.  And when you do find that time and place that becomes a sacred treasure, guard it and protect it and enjoy it.  Get lost in the great Love Story.  But don’t read the scriptures this year to meet a measurable goal.  Read the scriptures simply to meet your Savior.  And be blessed.


Thanksgiving this year was hard for me. It was hard for many of us in my community. My friend Laura passed away just four days earlier and was laid to rest on Wednesday. Laura lived two houses down from me, but she wasn’t just my neighbor. To understand this, you have to understand Meadowood Lane, because most of the neighbors here aren’t just neighbors. We are a community, a family, and over the past few months of working together to help care for Laura’s husband and boys during her illness, I’ve come to see my sweet little neighborhood as a living, breathing testamony of how the Body of Christ is supposed to work. I’ve never been more proud to live anywhere.

Of all the people on Meadowood Lane, over the past five years, my family has come to know Laura and her husband Dan the best. Laura and I have spent many hours in each other’s driveways, and I would often laugh at her during the winter months because she would come outside wearing an oversized sweatshirt and a nylon tennis skirt with no socks or shoes on her feet, just to chat. “Aren’t you freezing?” I would ask. “Uh-huh!” she would laugh through gritted teeth. “Don’t you want to go back inside?” “No, I’m okay!” she would say, and we’d stand outside talking until I was too cold to look at her anymore.

We’ve shared dinner together when both of our husbands were out of town, we ran into each other at Long’s Drug Store one afternoon when both of us were taking our kids out on a date and shared the rest of our meals together. We introduced our kids to Willy Wonka together. Being a teacher, Laura had the summers off, so we spent many long, hot days playing with our kids, getting “accidentally” sprayed with the garden hose, eating picnic lunches in our driveway, and taking the kids blueberry picking. I always knew when it was Laura’s turn to cook dinner at her house because somewhere around 5:00 my phone would ring, and it would be Laura calling to see if I had an essential ingredient that she needed for her meal but had forgotten about when she was at the store. We often laughed about me being her secondary grocery store.

The generosity of Laura’s heart was something that always caught my attention. One year when we were just getting to know each other, Laura caught wind that it was my birthday, and she bought me a present…a pair of Halloween pajamas. At the time I thought this was a rather unusual gift to give someone you didn’t know very well, but came to realize later what a sentiment of her heart this was. Laura loved Halloween and she loved…no, was obsessed with…pajamas. I never saw her dresser drawers, but to hear her tell it, she had more pairs of pajamas than Imelda Marcos had shoes. According to her husband, even before she died, one of her biggest frustrations was that the hospital wouldn’t let her put on her pajamas.

If my kids were having a birthday, Laura brought them gifts. If my kids were sick, Laura brought them gifts. If I was having an especially bad day, Laura brought me gifts. When Jeremy turned 40, we came home from church to discover a poster mounted in front of our mailbox for the whole street to see, with a HUGE picture of Jeremy’s face on it and two massive clip-art thumbs, with a caption that read, “What has two thumbs and turns 40 today?” And again, gifts.

Laura would often share stories with me about her students, and we would laugh together about the children she loved, and we would roll our eyes together when she told about the children who drove her batty. More than once we even cried together over the children whose lives tragically ended far too soon. We shared stories of how we met our husbands, and she giggled and made a point to call me out when she noticed I was blushing as I shared my story. We talked about our faith and our families, and the state of the American public school system. Her words were some of the ones I most heavily-weighed when deciding whether or not to homeschool my kids. With the exception of politics, which was a subject we didn’t want to run the risk of disagreeing on, we talked often and about everything.

You see, Laura wasn’t just my neighbor. She was my friend. She was a confidant. Her smiling face was one I always looked forward to seeing at the end of the day.


I have looked around during this holiday season and, while knowing that I have so very much to be thankful for, the gratitude is weighed down with sorrow. I’ve experienced an awful lot of death in my life, but not every death leaves a void. Laura’s death has left a void, and it hurts. It hurts not only for me, but for her adoring husband and sweet, precious boys. The casualty of death isn’t in the one who is gone, but in the ones who are left behind.

But as I’ve grieved this week, I’ve had some hard conversations with God. Little children should not bury their mothers. They just shouldn’t. And it leaves me asking the questions. I’ve asked the questions before, but each time I find myself in this situation, the conversation feels brand new. “Why?” “Couldn’t You have just…?” “Shouldn’t it have gone this way?” “How do I explain…?” “What if…?” “Where are you?”

As I seek for the answers to the “whys” and “why nots” and “how-could-a-loving-Gods,” my mind recalls the story of Digory. Digory is the main character in The Magician’s Nephew, the 6th book of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Toward the end of the book there is a scene where Digory is standing face-to-face with Aslan the lion, King and Creator of Narnia. Digory’s mother is dying, and he knows that Aslan has the power to heal her. So in both boldness and timidity, with tears in his eyes, staring down at the massive paws of the great beast, he asks Aslan for something that will heal his mother. When he dared to look up, he saw that the lion’s face was bent down low and close to his own, and tears were flowing down his mane.

Aslan was weeping for the grief that he knew was so great in this sweet boy’s young heart. He was weeping, too, because he knew he had to give Digory the answer he didn’t want to hear. Aslan knew the pain of grief. He knew that the consequence of the sin that had been brought to Narnia was great and tragic, and it brought him to tears.

Then I’m reminded of Jesus. When Jesus went to the home of his friend Lazarus, after hearing the news of his death, he looked around and saw Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, hurt and angry. He saw the people grieving. And though Jesus knew he had the power to make all of the pain and sadness go away, he still was overcome by the brokenness of it all, and he buried his face in his hands and wept.

As I cry and ask why, I remember that we have a Chief Priest who sympathized with our weakness. We have a Creator who mourns over the destruction of His creation. We have a Friend who feels our hurt. But more than that, we have a God who promises to one day take all of this pain and sadness and sorrow and death and despair and to bring redemption and to make all things new. If I were God, I often think I wouldn’t have allowed the opportunity to let sin enter our world in the first place. But as Andrew Peterson says, maybe it truly is a better thing to be more than merely innocent, but to be broken and redeemed.

Because of that, I will trust what my eyes cannot see and my mind cannot comprehend. I will put my faith in a God who can handle my questions and will cry with me through my pain. I will walk unwaveringly with this God who promises to one day heal and restore and bring redemption to this broken world. It won’t take away our pain that is so great today, but to know that I can bury my face in Aslan’s mane and feel his tears flow down his face onto my own…well, it’s the warmest comfort I can imagine, and a gift I shall hold onto tightly. And when I forget again and become angry again and ask all the questions again and lose my way again, I know that He will be there again, and He will gently remind me again and He will guide be back to His warm embrace again. Because He’s nothing if not big enough. And for that I am truly thankful.

The Worshipful Act of Breathing

It has been said by scholars that the name of God is spoken with every breath we take; that the individual consonant sounds of Yahweh (YHWH), are representational of our breathing.  Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei.  They’re essentially unspeakable except through intentional aspirations.

This idea is a powerful one to me as a mama.  The sound of my own breathing is generally inaudible, as the noise level in my home on most days drowns it out.  The sounds of children playing, talking, driving remote-control cars across the hardwood floor; the dishwasher running, the oven timer going off, the phone ringing, even the faint hum of the air conditioner creates so much noise in my world that the sound of complete and total silence is overwhelmingly rare.  But when I finally do find myself surrounded by absolute quiet, I hear it: YHWH.  YHWH.  YHWH.  And I’m brought immediately back into fellowship with the Father.

Other times the sound of my breathing is audible to everyone within thirty feet of me.  It’s that deep, heavy sigh that comes with being a generally-impatient person.  The dinner gets burned, my freshly-folded pile of laundry gets knocked onto the floor, the younger child hits the older one and causes a cacophony of tears and screaming.  The resulting reaction from this too-easily-frustrated mama is usually a loud, exaggerated sigh.  YYYYHHHHWWWWHHHH.  Ahhh, but there it is again!  And I’m brought (more slowly this time…but surely), back into fellowship with the Father.

It’s as it should be, right?  Consciously or unconsciously, in our awareness and in our ignorance, through moments of complete calmness and moments of intense anguish, from our first breath to our very last, we were made to worship the very One who gave us breath.

Earlier this month I was on vacation with my family and some other dear friends.  We had a sweet little condo on a small island off the coast of North Carolina which, in the coolness of October, was almost completely deserted.  Our temporary home overlooked a marsh that lead out to the Atlantic Ocean, and there was a dock that we could walk out onto that connected to a boardwalk.  The introvert in me loves to wake up early in the morning before everyone else comes to life, and enjoy a few minutes of solitude.  On the second morning of our vacation, I quietly crawled out of bed, grabbed my jacket and my camera, and headed out to the dock before the sun came up.

As I walked outside in those pre-dawn moments of the morning, I was struck by how quiet it was.  Seeing as how I don’t spend much time around wet marshland, the unusual noises I did hear were starkly clear and overtly dramatic and faintly small all at the same time.  Ripples of water near the shoreline, the call of a crane in the distance, the rustle of leaves under the trees from waking squirrels.  The fact that it was still dark made the sounds of those tiny noises increasingly keen.

I stood at the edge of the dock and looked down at my camera to adjust my settings.  Suddenly, I heard a loud PWOOOOOSHHHHH!!!  I jumped back, quite startled, and looked up just in time to see a sleek, black dorsal fin glide gracefully back into the water.  I ran to the edge of the dock and watched.  A few seconds later he came again with a loud, magnificent  PWOOOOOSHHHHH!!!  Up and down, up and down he went, the sound of his breathing ringing out through the still, quiet air long after my ability to see him had vanished.


There on the dock of a marshy creek bed that morning, in the cold, still, pre-dawn moments, when the sky was as red as flaming embers from the impending morning sunrise, I had the most unique pleasure of watching a dolphin swim past, just feet from where I stood, calling out the name of his Creator…YHWH…YHWH…YHWH….with every breath he took.  And I was immediately, and perhaps more powerfully than ever, brought back into fellowship with the Father.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”  Psalm 150:6

On Gentleness…Or Not

Last week I was struck between the eyes with a sneaky, soft, subtle, simple, profound (I ran out of s-words) slice of scripture.  It’s hidden in between a whole bunch of dynamic and powerful words from the apostle Paul.  I’m sure you’re familiar with it.  You may even have it memorized.

“Rejoice in The Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  Philippians 4: 4-7

This is one of my absolute favorite passages of scripture.  Thanks to Slugs & Bugs, I finally have it memorized.  (Consequently, however, I can’t say it out loud anymore without using a British accent. 😉 )  But late last week, as I was doing my own thing, minding my own business, The Lord caused me to take particular notice of that third sentence.  “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  It did more than merely catch my attention. It cut me to the core.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I’ve been pondering those words deeply for three days now and have been evaluating myself through a completely different lens.  The sad thing is, I don’t like what I see.

I have friends who grew up in homes that one could easily describe as gentle, tender, peaceful, nurturing.  Their homes were places people wanted to be.  And stay.  I didn’t grow up in that sort of home.  While there were moments when all of those virtues were present, it would be a huge stretch to say that this was the sort of environment that defined my family.  I grew up in a home that had more than its fair share of sarcasm, yelling, anger, put-downs, gossip, and authoritarianism.  There was a lot of laughter, but usually at the expense of others.  Don’t misunderstand.  I love my family, and I do have some wonderful memories of my childhood.  But mine certainly wasn’t a home that was teeming with gentleness.

Then I got married.  I was blessed beyond words to marry a man whose family epitomized gentleness and peacefulness.  While they aren’t perfect, and I’m certainly not saying they’re “better” than my family, there is a noticeable difference between the two.  There is a consistency of joy in my husband’s family, and the environment they create is comfortable.  Simple.  Relaxing.  Safe.  I’m sure it wasn’t always so.  Every family has sibling rivalry.  Kids fight.  Mothers and daughters struggle with each other, as do fathers and sons.  Husbands and wives disagree.  Life with littles is busy and exhausting and stressful, and no one can be calm and joyful and keep it together all of the time.  I get that.  What I see now is not exactly what life was like when my husband and his sister were children.

But still, it gives me pause as I evaluate the environment of my own home.  I’ve realized that, thankfully, my children are not growing up in the same environment I grew up in.  But they’re also not growing up in the environment I want for them.  There is much laughter, much silliness, much cuddling, many helping hands, a lot of prayer, and a lot of love.  I’m patient a lot more than I really give myself credit for.  My children are happy more often than not and we generally enjoy being together.  But we also have our fair share of yelling, fighting, anger, tantrum-throwing (even from the kids), vying for first place, demanding our own way, and general…well…you know…sin.  Unfortunately, this side of Heaven, sin is unavoidable, and it shows up in my home on a regular basis.

As I’ve meditated on this passage of scripture these past few days, I’ve come to realize a few things.

1. I’m not condemned to repeat for my children the environment I grew up in.  The life I lived as a kid I thought was normal, and maybe it was.  But it wasn’t a home that was defined by gentleness.  I worry sometimes that the culture I was saturated in has made too great a mark on me for me to be changed.  But fortunately, God is faithful to remind me of the truth.  For two weeks in a row, this song has made its way, either directly or indirectly, into the sermons being preached at my church, and it’s impacted me powerfully:

“I will change your name.
You shall no longer be called
wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be
confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one,
faithfulness, friend of God,
one who seeks my face.”

Wanna know a secret?  Lean in and I’ll tell you.  Ready?

I’m not perfect.

I get tired.  I get hormonal.  I have bad days, and I get angry.  And when I do, sometimes I yell at my children.  Sometimes my words fall too soon to unsay.  It embarrasses me to say that once or twice I may have even thrown something.  I want to tell you that, though, because I want to be real with you.  But you wanna know another secret?  That’s not who I am.  That’s not what defines me.  As one who has been saved by the blood of Jesus, I am no longer defined by my weakness.  I am defined by the grace of my Savior.  And He calls me His treasure, His beloved.  That’s not a free pass to continue in my sinfulness, but it does free me of the guilt of my own messiness, because the Spirit is renewing me daily as I abide in Him.

What that means for my children is that, through my mistakes and bad decisions, they get the opportunity to learn about humility, forgiveness, mercy and grace.  They get the opportunity to learn that this life of following Christ isn’t about being good, but rather, it’s about submitting to the One who is the very essence of Goodness, and as a result, goodness and mercy flow out of me effortlessly.  When I’m having a really bad day (usually my really bad days are hormone-induced), my children will hear me yell.  Then they will see me cry.  Then they will see me praying.  Then they will see me drawing them near to me and asking for their forgiveness.  My children are never going to have a perfect mother who has it all together.  What they can have is a mother who teaches them how to work through those bad days and inappropriate behaviors in a way that pleases the Lord.  Through those times when my gentleness is not evident, my hope is that my humility is.

2. The more I abide in Christ, the more naturally gentleness flows out of me. Ever notice that when you spend a lot of time with someone, their attitude and general nature tends to rub off on you?  Apparently the same thing happens when we spend time with Jesus (who knew?!).  There are reasons that respected pastors and theologians recommend that we practice spiritual disciplines (reading of scripture, prayer, meditation, fasting, worship, etc.).  Jesus got angry,  yes.  He may have even raised his voice and yelled.  But never at children.  Never at the crowd of people who followed him.  Even when he was tired or hungry or needing some alone time, he never let his physical needs cause him to lose his cool with the people he was discipling.  He was calm, gentle, tender, and peaceful.  He himself was a haven of rest for the weary and broken.  He was everything I want to emulate for my children.  And what do you know!  The more time I spend in His presence, the more His goodness rubs off on me.  It’s inevitable.  What a gift!

3. Gentleness isn’t popular.  We live in a culture where arrogance, pride, sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness, guilt trips and put-downs are not only the norm, but they’re encouraged.  Life has almost become a contest of determining who is best at using their words as weapons.  We demand to be first, demand to be right, demand to have our opinions heard.  But at what cost?  The advent of social media has made this reality even worse, because we can jab at and slam people from the safety of our living rooms without ever having to look anyone in the eye.  Our political stances, religious views, moral responsibilities, even our imperative need to correct each other’s grammar has become our hill to die on.

Gentleness?  Why that’s far too dangerous.  One might not know how intelligent and academic I am if I submit to gentleness.  I don’t want to be gentle.  I want to be right!

I am so guilty of feeling the need to be right over being gentle.  And to be sure, there are times when confrontation is necessary and we should stand for justice and truth.  There are times when, despite my children’s desires, I’m still the mom and I still have to assert my authority.  Being gentle is not the same as being a wallflower.  But it’s a discipline in learning when and how to guard my tongue and my temper, knowing what is worthy of anger and what is not.

My prayer is that the Lord will guide my heart and that my gentleness will truly be evident to all.  In so doing, I pray that my home will be one of peace, and my children will see the Hope that is in me and will thirst for it like water.

Conversation with God

“To everything  there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven,” says King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Lately I’ve been going through a season that I’m ready to be out of.  At first, I thought that my children were going through a season that I was just ready for them to be out of.  And while there is that, my frustrating knack for introspection still brings the grown-up responsibility back to myself.

About three weeks before school started back, my children started fighting with each other.  Constantly.  Every single day over every single thing.  I hate fighting and I hate yelling, and so I would swiftly and deliberately nip it in the bud by yelling at them to stop yelling and then banishing them to their rooms.  Strangely enough, this technique proved futile.

Then school started.  That Sunday before the big first day came, and I was thrilled!  “Finally, these kids will get the break from each other that they so desperately need and some peace and harmony will return to our home!” I thought.  But I thought wrong.  Four hours before school started that Monday morning, I greeted the day with a stomach virus.  Three days later, I was still in bed.  Day six, I was still feeling awful.  On day eight I came down with a cold.  On day ten, my daughter caught my stomach bug.  Today makes day 13, and she’s still trying to recover.

While this is clearly only a minor setback in the grand scheme of important life disasters, I’ve been doing my best to elicit as much sympathy from as many people as possible.  I’ve spent more than my fair share of time complaining about what a complainer my 4yo is when she’s sick.

Irony, you say?  Perhaps, but let’s not get bogged down in nitty-gritty details. Moving on.

So after I finished complaining to myself (and anyone else who would listen) today, I sat down to write out my thoughts.  As oftentimes happens when I do this, though, God rudely invited himself into my conversation.  It went something like this.

God: Hey.
Me: Hey.
God: What’s up?
Me: I’m frustrated.
God: I can tell.
Me: It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I’m tired and I can’t take the whining and the drama anymore, and there is clearly a reason why I didn’t go into nursing because this clearly isn’t my gifting, and I HATE sickness and I’m just really ready for a break.
God: MmmHmm.
Me: Why does she have to whine so much?  And why does she have to fight me so much?
God: Yeah, I know the feeling.
Me: Huh?
God: Nothing.  You were saying?
Me: I don’t know.  I just know that this parenting gig is getting me down lately.  I’m ready for things to be different.
God: I’ve got a good idea!  Let’s play a game.  I call it  “The Holy Spirit Self-Assessment Game.”

This did not sound like fun, but I went along because, well, it was God.

God: I’ll ask you a question, and you answer.  Ready?
Me: Sure.  Shoot.
God: Okay.  Here goes.
Q: Are you exhibiting love?
A: To most people I am.
Q: To your children?
A: Uh…I think so?
Q: Are you exhibiting joy?
A: Mmmm.  Not so much.
Q: Are you exhibiting peace?
A: I’m trying to keep my mouth shut as much as possible and not yell at them.  Does that count?
Q: Are you exhibiting patience?
A: Can we skip this one?
Q: Are you exhibiting kindness?
A: Sometimes…
Q: Are you exhibiting goodness?
A: I’m trying, but it never seems to work out so well for me.
Q: Are you exhibiting faithfulness?
A: Yes!  Definitely yes!  There’s one!  Ha!
Q: Are you exhibiting gentleness?
A: Well…
Q: Are you exhibiting self-control?
A: Does locking myself in the bathroom count?  If it doesn’t, I think it should.

God: This wasn’t your best score.
Me: I know.  I think I would score better if my kids were easier.  My kids are HARD, man.
God: Yeah.  I’m not sure you’re grasping the point here.
Me: Huh?
God: Do you remember the story of Paul and Silas when they were in prison?
Me: The one where they were singing hymns and praising you after they had been stripped and beaten?  And then you caused an earthquake and their chains came off?  Yes, I love that story!
God: What do you think you would have done if you were in that jail cell with them?
Me: I totally would have been singing, too.
God: Why do you think that?
Me: Because I love to praise you!  And we’re supposed to praise you in all circumstances, right?
God: That’s the idea.  Now, what do you think you would have done if you were in that jail cell alone?
Me: I would still have been singing praises to you.
God: You think so?
Me: Sure!  Like I said, I want to praise you in all circumstances!
God: So being stripped and beaten and wrongfully put in jail is cause for singing and praising me, but taking care of a sick, whiny 4-year-old for three whole days is cause for a complete meltdown?
Me: Hey….
God: Just sayin’.

Me: Okay, maybe you have a point.  Bringing it back to that test I just took, though…how do I score higher?
God: How do you think you score higher?
Me: ……..I dunno.
God: Yes, you do.
Me: Spend more time with you?
God: There’s an idea.
Me: I know, I know.  I’ve just been so busy lately.
God: Yes, Martha, I know.
Me: Wait, my name’s not Mar…oh.  Ha, ha.  Yes, I know.  But it’s really hard for me to slow down.  I like to be busy.  And I DO have a lot of work to do.  And it’s SO HARD to get up any earlier than I already do.  Or to stay up late without falling asleep.  I just don’t have a lot of time.
God: What do you think your day would look like if you started it out every morning focusing on me?  What if you spent the rest of your day reminding yourself of my goodness?  What if you thought about things that were true, right, pure, noble, just, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?  What if you stopped complaining about how much you had to do and instead asked me to come alongside you every day and help you find peace in the midst of your busyness?  What if you filled your home with beautiful music and loveliness?  What if you made ME your goal for the day instead of your “to-do” list?
Me: Yeah, well, that’s all great, Pollyanna, but it’s still not going to make my life perfect, and it’s not going to change my kids.
God: No, it won’t.  At least, not directly.  But what will it change?
Me: (Sigh.)  Me.  (Deep, heavy sigh.)  Do you always have to be right about everything?
God: Well…yeah…

Me: So, you’re saying I’m in this pit of perpetual frustration because I’ve been neglecting my relationship with you?  That whole, “I am the vine, you are the branches” stuff?
God: It’s at least a theory worth testing, wouldn’t you say?  I heard someone once say, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”
Me: You said that.
God: I did, didn’t I?  😉
Me: So, if I spend more time with you, I might score higher on that test?
God: You’re big on test scores, aren’t you?
Me: Are you kidding me?  I’m an obsessive, Type-A personality with a semi-first-born birth order!
God: HAHAHA!  Yes, you are.  I guess that’s my fault.
Me: Abba?
God: Yes, child?
Me: I love you.
God: Ariaun?
Me: Yeah?
God: I absolutely adore you.
Me:  🙂