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Perfect Family Photo's- and Other Ways to Ruin Christmas

The last year we had photos made for Christmas cards was 2011. We look happy. Casual.Coordinating but not too matchy. You might even think we seem like the kind of family it would be fun to go grab dinner with when our photo shoot ended.......But that day was awful. The younger two children were not in the mood for pictures, neither was the husband. I fussed around all morning at my family and then had hurt feelings and tears by the end of the ordeal. We were cramming family pictures into an already busy weekend in the busiest month of the year. The only reason those photos are were good is the talent of my sweet friend and family photographer, Kelly.

Among the painful lessons I have learned throughout my years of motherhood and wifery, “How to Ruin Christmas” ranks as one of the worst. Probably because it is one of my favorite times of year, I always placed such high expectations on myself to create magical moments while simultaneously feeling joyful, peaceful and delighted. Shockingly, I somehow managed instead to feel disappointed, irritated and stressed. It took me awhile to catch on, but after one too many“family picture fiasco’s” I began to realize my dreams of cozy moments and perfect memories were being thwarted by my pressure to create them.

It turns out you can’t script which moments in life become treasured memories. They do not follow a Pinterest plan. They often elude all the careful planning and coordinating. Rather, they seem to emerge when simply given time and space with minimal expectation. Some of the best times with my kids came when I carved out space for family time, but allowed them to help plan what we filled it with. The very worst times were when I had a rigid picture of not only how an idea would look, but also how everyone would feel in the midst of it. Times when I not only wanted things to look perfect, but everyone to share a specific emotional response, that I had decided ahead of time would fit my mental picture.

The truth is kids are sometimes cranky, whiny, tired and unenthused. People run late, husbands get sick, cocoa spills in the van while light looking, dogs throw up on the Christmas tree skirt, baby Jesus gets dropped out of the manger and breaks an outstretched arm (true story), dinners burn in the oven and children refuse to sing in the kids choir on the night of the performance.

It’s still normal life,even though it’s Christmas.

Do you know what Emmanuel means? God with us. That’s what makes Christmas miraculous.God came down to be with us, in the midst of our normal and often messy lives. You want to know how to really enjoy Christmas? Be with your family. Fully present. Let go of the lists of ideas and projects and just be with them. Celebrate a God who came down to us. Tell them of a Savior who loves them just as they are. And while you’re at it, tell yourself.


ADHD Medication and How it Taught Me To Be Okay with Disagreement

So how do you know the difference between someone disagreeing with you or judging you?

The conversation between a client and I took an interesting turn and I posed that question. There was a time when I wasn’t sure how to do one without the other, nor could I have explained the difference. As my client sat considering the question I began thinking about many life situations God allowed me to experience during the past 15 years or so, and how, as they intersected with scripture, they began to reshape my view of disagreement.

In my younger years disagreement was uncomfortable to me, to put it mildly. Often it felt painful, as I tended to feel a loss of closeness during disagreement if it occurred in relationships I treasured, or if it presented itself in surface relationships I felt defensive as though someone disagreeing with me was a threat to my security. I was nothing if not right and good, and by God, I was willing to fight to prove it. Except, not directly. Directly I was compliant and avoidant, so most of the fighting took place in my mind and attitude of judgement. Looking back, I realize one reason I felt loss of connection is I projected my own sense of judgement onto others when they disagreed with me. I generally divided opinions in three categories:right, wrong or better.The truth is I took most issues and assigned a moral value to them. Made them issues of right and wrong instead of different. I lived in the shoulds.

There are no “shoulds” unless Jesus says it.

Before I ever gave birth to my sweet bookend baby girl, I held many opinions about the evils of over medicated and over diagnosed ADHD in children. These were based mainly on other peoples highly voiced and strongly held opinions. But nevertheless, I truly felt most people had not done right or best if they were giving their kids medication. Then I had my girl. From the time she was three I could see she struggled to focus, and at five could not complete a three step direction. Her room was a constant whirlwind. She could never find anything and was totally overwhelmed by choices, especially if there was a time pressure, like ordering at a drive through.

So, I began to research options and search for help. Through many conversations with family, her teachers, other parents of kids with ADHD and her pediatrician, we finally made a decision based on what we believe is best for her. Through that process I came to see that while there were those whom I disagreed with in their approach, I was not better because of mine. We were just different. There were so many different ways to handle this one issue, and different methods seemed to work better for some kids than others.

In the end, the difference between disagreement and judgement comes down to the presence of humility and the death of pride.

Most issues are not even matters of right and wrong, but apples and oranges. And even when issues are black and white, humility reminds me that if I believe you are wrong based on what God teaches in His word, I am not better than you-simply more clear in that moment of truth. I am just as capable and frequently guilty of believing lies also, and equally in need of gracious and loving friends who can disagree without judging me.


Motherhood Hacks From a Mama Who's Been There

Published Date : March 2, 2014

There are some things that absolutely should come in a manual, handed to you upon leaving the hospital with your newborn. As I was reading a few of my younger mom friend’s questions on facebook tonight, I felt inspired to pass on a few of the ideas, suggestions and divine interventions of wisdom I have been given in my 19 years of mothering.

Jesus + this list= You,making it! (Just kidding- you actually only need Jesus- not this list- but read on for fun!)

1. Never make a happy baby happier. Don’t move their head, offer a toy, pull out the passy. Until they hit verbal skills, crying will be a constant. If you are not hearing wails and whines, for the love of your sanity, leave them be!

2. There is more than one way to cook a chicken. Find your approach as a mom and in your family, and don’t worry about whatever the new parenting fad happens to be. This applies to sleeping patterns, nursing, bottle feeding, immunizations, discipline, TV, diet, education, Santa Clause and all the rest. The main thing is to find a method that works for you and your child!

3. Make peace with daily laundry. Remember when you used to have a laundry day? That ship sailed the day you gave birth. View laundry like doing the dishes and you won’t be so stressed about it.

4. Learn the name of your pediatrician’s nurse. Call her and ask what to try before bringing your child in for an appointment, to avoid contracting every virus in the waiting room. Also, the first morning appointment and first appointment after lunch have the shortest wait times.

5. Bubbles are the best bang for your buck in terms of distractions and diversions. Keep a bottle in the car, for when stuck in traffic or waiting someplace like the car pool line. Keep a bottle in your purse for when the food is taking too long at a restaurant. Keep some at home just for fun.

6. Speaking of diversions, keep a small bag a toys/books/snacks that you only use in a certain, frequently difficult location for your child. That might be restaurants, or church or the grocery store. But the idea is, you have a special little bag that they only get at that time. They look forward to receiving the goodies and it distracts them from being fussy. The Dollar Store is a great place to find those kind of goodies.

7. Once they are big enough to be in the bathtub on their own, let them bathe while you are cooking dinner. Most kids love bath time, especially if they have toys in the tub, and for many it is calming. This can really cut down on the mania while trying to get dinner cooked, plus it makes it easier at bedtime as they are already clean and in jammmies.

8. Rule of thumb for birthday parties: one guest for every year being celebrated.

9. The best family traditions are the ones you grew up with, have significant meaning or created a really special moment. Try lots of new ideas, recipes and projects-but don’t feel pressured to make it a permanent thing unless it really means something to you. Also, remember whatever you establish will double or triple in cost and energy with each new child added to your family.

10. When going through the “power struggle” toddler years, give your child choices, but limit them. Red shirt or green shirt? PBS or Disney Channel? Often the choice of “nothing” is helpful to offer, as in, “You can have the goldfish for snack, or nothing? Which would you like?” This gives your child some control, and I cannot tell you how many times my kids would choose nothing rather than what was offered.

11. Limit your child to one sport per year. This keeps costs lower, schedules more reasonable and allows for everyone in the family to have their time in the spot light.

12. General rule of thumb: if it’s swollen, put ice. If it’s tight, use a heating pad.

13. Do not be “room mom” for your first child in kindergarten. Take at least a year to see what the norm is for a room mom so you don’t kill yourself doing more than you need, or feel like a slacker later.

14.Boundaries with Kids is a wonderful book on parenting. Jesus Storybook Bible is a wonderful children’s bible.

15. Kids should quit bathing with their parent or other sibling by 8, or before if they develop a more modest personality.

16. Professional family photo’s don’t have to be done yearly. Every couple years is plenty.

17. Rule of thumb for clothes shopping: if the child doesn’t like it, we don’t buy it. If the parent doesn’t like it, we don’t buy it. Then everything in the closet has been agreed on by both people. Eliminates a lot of battles later!

18. To avoid the battle on “it’s not fair”, have one child cut the cake in half, the other child chooses their piece first. Also, assign seats at the dinner table and in the car.

19. Make a “no discipline” commitment to driving the kids to school and dinner time. Unless the child is directly disobeying in those moments, deal with discipline issues at other times.

20. Say yes to everything you can, say no to things that are physically, emotionally or spiritually dangerous, or cause chaos in the family.


Motherhood - It's Totally Getting in the Way

There’s been a lot of life lately. A lot of grocery shopping and dirty dishes and cats getting hair on things. Oh and laundry. And floors to be ripped up because refrigerators leak sometimes. And then there’s the teaching of Sunday School and throwing birthday fiesta’s and paperwork-always mounds and mounds of paperwork. There are empty pitchers in the fridge and attitudes and sleeplessness(hello-40!)and let me just tell you-some days you wake up and think:

What exactly is happening here?

Didn’t I have plans for my life that involved beautifully dressed children and sipping wine on my patio and impacting the world through my amazing insights into scripture? Wasn’t I going to be at the homeless shelter monthly and learn to speak Spanish fluently and also finally figure out how to grow things? Why am I not at the gym or traveling the world or up to date on the latest trending meme?

Motherhood.

It definitely gets in the way of our picture. You know the one you had at 20, where you always answered patiently and the house was “lived in” but still magazine worthy and you were.......well, lovely. Motherhood does not actually offer that picture. Maybe we’ve confused it with Hollywood. No dear friends, motherhood offers us something entirely different, if we allow the Lord to use it.

Something Better.

Motherhood tackles us and wrestles every ounce of pride, self glory and ego out. It confronts every fear, inadequacy and wound and offers healing. It changes us; if we let it. I suppose I fought it more, those changes, when I was younger. I didn’t want to let go of my pride-I was going to be the one mother who never really screwed up anything important. It was okay with me if I forgot a PTA meeting or didn’t have the matching outfit ready for the picture day-those were acceptable flaws. But real mistakes, actually sinning against my children-I was going to be the one who managed to rise above, who had no regrets. I hid all my fears. Fear that I couldn’t figure it all out, fear that bad things would happen to my kids, fear of failing-but one by one, they’ve all been exposed. Motherhood is not a very safe place to hide out from fear.

In fact, it exposes it faster than any other role I’ve ever lived. And in return, the Lord, through this messy and beautiful and annoying and fun and treasured gift of Motherhood has changed my heart. I no longer believe most of what I used to about myself. I know how terribly sinful I am, but as I love those children He has given me, I get a glimpse of His love for me-unconditional and radically big. I am no longer quite so afraid-because I’ve watched Him use bad for good, turn pain into joy-both in me and my children. And not every day or week, but sometimes, I get those moments where I think my heart will absolutely burst open with the love or joy He pours into me that I get to turn and pour into my babies. And for those times, I am thankful that Motherhood gets in the way.

Vulnerability- The Painful Catalyst For Healing

There are plenty of masks you can wear to hide. If you wear them long enough you will forget how to take them off. In fact they will feel so fused to your identity it becomes painful to peel them back and allow someone to see the real you.

Masks take different forms for different women. Some wear the mask of Perfection, always polished and smooth. Some wear the mask of Achievement, ever climbing from one rung to the next up the ladder. For others the mask is Humor or Hostility or Entertainer or Flirt. The nuances and variations are endless and one woman may wear several. After all, it takes a lot of coverage to hide deep wounds and fears. They have a tendency to seep out unless tucked away carefully under layers of protection.In the past month, I have conversed with so many women who are hurting and struggling but simply cannot bear to pry the mask back to let anyone see the places they are ashamed of, the broken fragile pieces of their lives. And so they sit with smiles hiding loneliness and laughter masking tears. If I thought ripping the mask off myself would free them of it, I might be tempted to try, but the truth is a mask is simply a choice to guard yourself from others knowing the real you. There is no way for anyone to make another drop their defenses. It began long ago in a garden with some fig leaves, and has been going on ever since.As I was ending a recent conversation with a young woman who was feeling very alone and ashamed, I reminded her the only way she would begin to heal was to be honest and stop avoiding her feelings. To allow me to ask her questions and to really answer them. “It’s hard,”she replied with tears she kept from spilling out by sheer will

.“It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.” said our Lord in the gospel of Matthew. He didn’t mean that any of us were healthy to begin with. Rather that only when we will acknowledge our sickness, and go ask for help-expose what is going on inside us-then we can find the healing we so desperately need.Do you know that Jesus understands this tendency to try to hide also, to avoid being vulnerable and exposed? In His great love for us, He was willing to become completely known by people who would reject, abuse, abandon and eventually murder Him-all to make us secure. He became weak so we could become strong. He was exposed so we could be covered. This is the gospel-God in His love, coming down to trade places with us. This is very good news, because only when we know that God sees us fully and loves us completely can we find the strength to begin to open our hearts to others. They may not perfectly love the real you, but God does.Do you know the safest people to take your mask off with? The ones who have already taken theirs off too. Look for people who are vulnerable and open about sin, feelings, past experiences and weakness. The ones who have already journeyed ahead through vulnerability into healing are the most equipped to gently sit with you as you begin the sentence, “I think I need some help…”