momo safety

    I’ve been realizing how unsafe life is. There are always cons, risks, negative sides to any decision. It became clear to me as we were moving- choosing a new house- that  I’m not comfortable with any risk. I seek stability. I struggle to risk because I do not like any negative factors.

    I have not been comfortable with taking medicine, either,  because of the possibilities of any negative side-effects. But I am learning right now through my daughter’s illness- two plus months of cough and congestion- It’s now time to take the meds. For once, I have peace about this. I remember my mom being in the hospital a couple of years ago. Her intestines had been perforated in routine surgery, leaving her with sepsis and pneumonia attempting to take her life. At that point she needed some intense, unpleasant medications. She eventually healed and got off of all medications. But the point is, that she needed them- they helped save her life. The benefits outweighed the risks. Every doctor or pharmacist will say that, but I tend to hyper-focus on the risks anyway. So God has given me peace to focus on the good and not to worry about about the risks as I give my daughter her medications. Hopefully, the medicine will help her to heal soon. (Please don’t be distracted by the meds/no meds debate here and miss the point). This has been a miracle in my heart.

    My kids have told Siri that my name is “Cautious”. That is what she now calls me and it is fitting. But caution, like worry, can be detrimental when obsessing with it as I have. If I focus on the cons- the bad- I can be paralyzed in a world of worry: I complain- nothing is good enough because nothing is 100% guaranteed safe or perfect. When my children were younger we got our second cat, Eiffel. Our first cat, Momo, is always extremely worried and paranoid about everything: us, his shadow, any movement, etc.- even though we’ve provided a safe environment for him in our home for years. Our new kitten feared for nothing, even taking on her giant, 16 lb., new sibling. Since my then-9-year-old-daughter worries as I do (a lot), I told her to observe how Momo is so worried all of the time, yet see how we care for him and he really has nothing to fear- while Eiffel is fearless. “Why do you think Momo is so worried?” I asked. My then-7-year-old chimed in with wisdom, “He worries for his own protection.”  True.

   I am constantly trying to protect myself from anything that could go wrong. But God is reminding me to surrender my own protection and trust in His. He keeps reminding me- that that is His job.

    Yet God does not always feel safe. He is not without risk. In fact, He is terrifying at times. If you have truly suffered anything horrific in this life, you know what I mean. Even though God is not the author of these things: death, sickness, abuse, etc., He still allows them. Yet He is good I have suffered. My circumstances have not been all happy and risk-free, but when I invite Him into them, cry out in desperation, He comes and carries me through- daily.

    So I have found that God is good. I’m praying that this new peace I have about taking medicine will seep into every area of my life. Putting my protection into God’s hands can be terrifying, but good. And perfect. Because He is. And that, ironically, yields peace. Taking responsibility for my own protection feels safer, but leaves me worried, sleepless, restless and paranoid- like my cat. As I tell my kids, “Don’t be a Momo. Be an Eiffel.” I think I’m going to give up my quest for safety and protection and leave it in the hands of  “The Lord, the lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” -Exodus 34:5,6

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It’s a peculiar thing to get older. I feel young inside. But when I see girls in their twenties- in their bikinis- I am awakened to the fact that I am getting older. It’s hard not to despise them with envy. Yet I remind myself of what that feels like on the receiving end. When I was in my young twenties I worked at an elementary school in the Resource Room -with women in their forties. They would pinch my arms and say “Look how skinny she is!” and “Don’t you hate her!” from their slightly larger, fortyish bodies. I couldn’t help being young. It really made me uncomfortable.

So now I am on the other end, crossing paths with beautiful, younger women. But I realize I have something else. If I were to meet with my 23 year old self today, I would have SO much to tell her! So much about considering others, thinking about the future, what does and doesn’t matter. As we get older we keep gaining inner beauty and wisdom that shines through our fleeting outer beauty. It reminds me of the scripture in 2 Corinthians:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day…As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (verses 16 & 18)

If given the choice, most days, I think I would choose inner beauty instead of outer beauty, though I still strive for both. We aren’t  meant for this world, so God is preparing us for the next. I also see it’s not His perfect intent. He is the Creator of all beauty, outward and inward. One day we will have both.

So for now I will not despise others, but thank God for the work He’s done inside of me and  all of the wisdom of forty-one, that I’m sure will continue to grow as long as I am here and even to eternity. Happy to be my older-Me!

 

img_2167This year we are running out of money for Christmas. Not your typical Christmas. My husband has been out of work for three months now and money goes out but not into our bank account. We have been upfront with our kids that we cannot afford a tree and maybe not any gifts. Their response has surprised me. They do not seem too concerned about what they will not receive this year but were sad that they had nothing to give. This pleases my Mom heart very much to see the fruit of what I tried to plant throughout their lives. You may not be out of money this Christmas and for the past several years we have had plenty as well. So how did we get to this place of contentment in our new situation? I’m sure there are many contributing factors but from the time my kids were young I did try to purposefully do things to keep them from greed and make our focus the true meaning of Christmas.

    I’ve wanted to write for years about what we do for our own Christmas traditions because I like to be unconventional. I am always thinking of what we are doing in our culture, why and what messages are we sending our kids about life through our choices and actions. (Disclaimer: I do not have a perfect life, my way is not THE way and each of us make our own decisions as best as we can for what is right for our own families.) But in case you want any ideas, here’s what has worked for us.

  1. We don’t do Santa. This is hugely controversial and there’s nothing wrong with Santa. I just knew the greed in my little heart when I got what I wanted every Christmas and I wanted my kids to not miss the true meaning of Christmas, which can happen in so many ways.

*Instead we did St. Nick. I taught them the old story of St. Nick- thank you Veggie Tales- How he snuck presents into stockings hung out to dry in order to bless people.

So my kids would save their money- at times we helped contribute, especially when they were young- and would go to the dollar section of Target and buy for all their cousins and immediate family. The gifts were small but they always wrapped them up and snuck them into the stockings before Christmas.

   Because of this I truly saw the joy of giving in them. They love to watch each other open the gifts they thoughtfully picke out  and see the joy that it brings to give. There is so much to learn just by doing this. They learned to save their money in advance; they learned to plan as they would make lists; and they learned how far their money would go (practical math). Over the years I saw this learning naturally happen without effort from me. It’s been great!

      Our other traditions probably look like yours, but many are not material.

  1. We get a tree and decorate it together. My parents give them an ornament every year so it feels very personal to them.
  2. We bake and decorate Christmas cookies together to give away to teachers and to eat!
  3. We go on a hay-ride to look at Christmas lights.
  4. We usually have some kind of advent or Christmas reading.
  5. We watch Elf together! And Christmas movies!
  6. We get together with family.
  7. We go to Christmas Eve service at church to sing Christmas songs and hear about the true meaning of Christmas.
  8. We open presents Christmas morning. Usually one or two gifts from us and whatever they have gotten each other. We also keep a lower budget for these gifts. Kids who get less are less entitled.
  9. Sometimes we go to a Christmas drama or reenactment of the times.
  10. Christmas Music of course!
  11. Ice skating together.

This probably looks a lot like your Christmas. We share a lot of the same traditions and so many vary. It’s always fun to find a new one from one another.  We need to beware of getting bogged down in trying to be the best by copying every amazing thing everybody does, like a Pinterest train-wreck. Guarding our time is part of the stillness of the season that allows us to remember the true meaning of Christmas. God has called us each to do our own lives in individual ways. So what is He calling you to this Christmas? Doing less? Adding a new tradition? What do you do that’s different to celebrate Christmas to make family memories or remember the true meaning of the season? Christmas looks very different for us this year and we have to focus mainly on the non-material this year. But that’s the true meaning of Christmas anyway. May God richly bless your Christmas with all that truly brings lasting joy to you and your family!

 

IMG_1366 (1)IMG_1235IMG_1240My family and I recently vacationed in Yosemite National Park. One night, we went to Glacier Point and saw some of the most incredible and breath-taking views I have ever seen. At sunset, I headed to the restroom in the parking lot and walked by two ladies looking at a map of the lookout point. They looked at the map and said, “Yeah, we’re not doing all that. That’s too much. Let’s go back.” They didn’t know that 100 feet away was the view above- Half Dome, two waterfalls and all of Yosemite Valley. The map showed a 1/4 mile, easy walk, which yields probably a 260 degree view of  Yosemite Falls, as well what you see above, and 3, 214  feet to the Valley below. I thought of how much they would miss. God spoke to me. I am almost there, but I keep wanting to give up. I get discouraged, thinking it’s too hard, not worth it, almost giving up. Yet I am right there- the incredible can be steps away. “Do not grow weary in doing good for in due time you will reap if you do not grow weary.” -Galatians 6:9

danny and Kristen 12:14After 17 years of marriage, struggling to change my husband, change myself, counseling, self-help, books, blogs, articles, podcasts and anything else I could think of, I think I’ve finally found something that works. Of course, those other things offer some help, but not like this. Over the last year I have made a long, customized prayer just for my marriage and prayed it every day. These are not magic words or summoning a magic genie. But I want to share some of them in case you want to try.  Here are some things that I pray every day:

For God’s love and peace to fill our marriage and our home;

That we would see each other as God sees us;

I THANK God for something about him;

Specifically: “Help me to be aware of ways and times I’m being negative in my views of _____’s behavior and motives and resist the devil’s accusations and take my thoughts captive. Remind me what is good, and help me to dwell on that.”

“Help us to show each other respect, speak the truth in love, and not sin in our anger.”

“Make us one as You and the Father are one.”

I confess how I am failing my husband and ask for God’s forgiveness and help.

I ask God to make the changes in my husband that I long to see (and I leave that up to Him).

I ask that we would grow in love and respect and give each other grace to grow.

And “Let the words of our mouths and meditations of our hearts be acceptable, in Your sight, O God, our Strength and our Redeemer. Please redeem what our words have broken. (from Psalms 19:14)

These are only a few of the things that I pray each day for us. There is more, specific to us, and for our children, but these things felt like the most powerful: probably because they come from scripture. God’s word says He has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. Sometimes we just need to ask. I love His promise: that “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.” -1 John 5:14,15   My life has been transformed because I asked the God of the universe for His help. He gives so freely to us. Like I said, these are not magic words, but I am asking an all-powerful God to move mountains and He does.

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I am always fascinated by culture and how it is changing, particularly relating to family. In recent years it has become the norm for women to put off having children to focus on education and career in their 20’s and sometimes into their 30’s- thus, putting off having children until later in life. This choice is highly personal and of course I cannot judge, but it is interesting to consider the implications.
I guess I have opinions because my own mom turned 40 three days after she had me. This has been on my mind lately because this month, I have finally reached the age that my mom was when she conceived me. My mom was 39 and in the 1970s this was not the norm. Apparently, there was a bad batch of birth-control that year and a few moms in their late 30’s and early 40’s conceived. Long before it was popular to put off child-bearing in the U.S.- what age to have children occupied my mind. My parents loved me and my home life was good, but I did recognize a large age-difference separating my parents and myself as well as that between my siblings and myself (17, 15 and 9 years). There were generational differences between us. That and mainly because it was not normal to have older parents at the time, I decided for myself that I would have my kids before age 30. Modern society, however, changed their minds about “normal” when I was in my twenties. But no one asked me- I was already happily having babies.
I have been blessed with parents who are very involved with their grandchildren. They have been there at holidays, babysat, given gifts, celebrated every milestone, from birth until now (my kids are 9, 11 and 14). I have not taken this for granted since they are 79 and 83! Throughout my children’s lives, I have wondered if my parents would be there for all of these things. I have been so blessed that God has given them long lives.
As I ponder my life compared to culture today- an exact reverse of my experience, I was thinking of how fortunate I am to have had my mom and dad with me as I parent, and wondering- what will happen to the next generation of babies birthed to women in their late 30’s and 40’s? If I was to have a baby now, when my parents are in their late 70’s and early 80’s, they would completely miss out on the generation of my children! For the parents now who have children later in life, if your children also follow suit, do you realize that there will be NO GRANDPARENTS?? What a thought! If children are born to parents in their late 30’s and 40’s and their children do the same, the grandparents will be in their 70’s and 80’s, if alive. I can’t imagine my childrens’ lives without grandparents, much less mine without their support in raising my children. I have called my mom many times to ask for advice or just tell her about a hard day. They have been there and helped us through hard times. They have passed on their wisdom and faith to my kids, too. And they have prayed so much for my family. What a valuable thing to have each other throughout the generations.
To consider further just how far we’ve come, my mom had her first baby not long after marrying at age 21. My sister (her firstborn) had children not much later- in her twenties. Her children now have children. My parents are blessed to live with four generations in their family! They are great-grandparents. Babies and family have filled all of their life. How sad to give that up. I hope we choose a future with grandparents in it- however you do your family.
I had never thought of this before. It’s something to consider when thinking about putting off having kids until later in life.

Zipline Kristen

Many of us struggle from time to time with worry. Some of us can be consumed by it. I was drowning in it. I had thought my life was normal. I was newly married, my husband and I were leading the youth group at our small church and I was working. One day I experienced heart palpitations that sent me to the hospital. My world was shaken. I had never prepared myself for death, and I felt very out of control. Soon I became afraid of everything. I even couldn’t sleep at night for weeks. I clung to everyone and everything for help, but nothing consoled me. This episode eventually passed and was followed by a few others. But most of the time I settled into more “normal” worries. Late at night I’d ponder what would happen if I ever got cancer… what if a tornado came… what if something were to happen to my children? I felt overly responsible to control parts of my life that I just couldn’t.

The first thing I learned about worry was that it spreads like a disease. My words were shaping my children’s worldview. If I expressed fear they were likely to feel unsafe and afraid. I began holding my tongue and continued seeking God for more clues in my journey.

A few years later God began speaking to my heart­ (which had grown a bit distant and comfortable)­ to go to Him with my every need. The verse that has been transforming as I have learned to live it is 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” I began turning worries into prayers. As God began answering prayers, prayer became transforming. I saw that He does indeed care for me. I began to believe the scriptures that God will answer when I ask (John 14:14; 1 John 5:14,15). His faithfulness was feeding my faith and where it was weak, I would ask Him for more faith.

When we moved to Austin I joined a women’s bible study. Of course, they were teaching on fear! When I heard, “The opposite of fear is faith,” it resonated with me. We read Psalm 139 and I realized that God knows the number of my days: the first AND the last. He makes no mistakes. He knows how my life will end and it’s in His perfect timing. Trust was beginning to form in my soul. I rely on a God who knows all, is always working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28) and cares for my needs. Philippians 4:6­7­8 says, “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.”  Thanking God every day for whatever I can has also changed my mindset. When I’m thankful, my mind is filled with such better things than worry. There are times, too, when I have to recognize a dangerous thought­ a “what­-if…” or a fear creeping in, and take my thoughts captive. In other words, I put it out of my mind, pray about that concern or just replace the thought with something better.

I now try to fill my children’s minds with faith: reminding them who God is, that He’s in control, He’s good and how much He cares for them. I plant seeds of faith knowing the fruit will be a strong offense against fear.

Not knowing these scriptures and quoting them has helped me, but doing them. It’s easy to become familiar with God’s truths but when we believe, it actually has power to transform us. Faith is believing­- forming trust in our Father who cares.

I tend to be a planner and I do like to be prepared. But now I do what I can and know that God has really got the rest. I still struggle with anxiety at times­ I’m wired that way­ but not the lay­-awake-­worrying­-about-­what­-if’s kind of anxiety.

Last week I got a message that my 83 year­old father was in the hospital. I thought, “This is it.” I was overwhelmed with sadness at the reality that this could be the end of his life. I went to pray and was quickly reminded that God’s got this. He knows the number of our days. He is always good. He’s my Father, and I can trust Him.

“I Sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” -Psalm 34:4

M's journal
Today my fifth grade daughter was writing in her special journal that I bought for her.    The question she was answering said, “What does someone else have that you wish you had?”  Her answer broke my heart: “A phone and a dog and the ability to go to horseback riding classes.” She has wanted a dog and waited patiently for two years! As for a phone, we’re waiting on purpose, but she’ll get that soon. And horse-back riding lessons…well, we’ve needed too much therapy in our family to be able to afford that. It seems that in our culture today we all want everything for our kids. I would gladly give all of these things to my daughter if we could afford it (she probably will get a phone soon on her birthday). Most parents I know feel the same way. In fact many kids in our society today do have everything that they want. But are they missing something else?

When she read this to me I quickly asked her -What does she have that maybe someone else would want? She thought for a minute and answered, “My two cats.” Yes, we have friends with no pets, that’s true. She also answered, “A sister.” Very true, I thought. She has friends with only brothers and she knows that sometimes they envy her. After that, she walked away thankful.

But I began to wonder…What about the kids who do get everything that they want? What about the ones that don’t have an understanding that they have more than someone else? Do they miss out on the character gained by waiting? By lack? Somehow, the kid who gets less is sometimes more thankful and more content. I’ve seen it with my kids as they give out of their own funds at Christmas-time and sometimes get very little. I’ve seen it in a third world country, when I was a guest in a town in Mexico, with dirt streets and sewage running through; from the cardboard huts, the kids ran to me in their dirty clothes, bringing me gifts!

So I pondered as my daughter skipped away, content.  I couldn’t give her what she wants. But did I maybe give her something better?

danny and Kristen 12:14After 17 years of marriage, struggling to change my husband, change myself, counseling, self-help, books, blogs, articles, podcasts and anything else I could think of, I think I’ve finally found something that works. Of course, those other things offer some help, but not like this. Over the last year I have made a long, customized prayer just for my marriage and prayed it every day. These are not magic words or summoning a magic genie. But I want to share some of them in case you want to try.  Here are some things that I pray every day:

For God’s love and peace to fill our marriage and our home;

That we would see each other as God sees us;

I THANK God for something about him;

Specifically: “Help me to be aware of ways and times I’m being negative in my views of _____’s behavior and motives and resist the devil’s accusations and take my thoughts captive. Remind me what is good, and help me to dwell on that.”

“Help us to show each other respect, speak the truth in love, and not sin in our anger.”

“Make us one as You and the Father are one.”

I confess how I am failing my husband and ask for God’s forgiveness and help.

I ask God to make the changes in my husband that I long to see (and I leave that up to Him).

I ask that we would grow in love and respect and give each other grace to grow.

These are only a few of the things that I pray each day for us. There is more, specific to us, and for our children, but these things felt like the most powerful: probably because they come from scripture. God’s word says He has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. Sometimes we just need to ask. I love His promise: that “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us- whatever we ask- we know that we have what we asked of Him.” -1 John 5:14,15   My life has been transformed because I asked the God of the universe for His help. He gives so freely to us. Like I said, these are not magic words, but I am asking an all-powerful God to move mountains and He does.

Ivy KinderFor many of us the freedom, boredom, chaos and fun of summer ended this week. Now there are alarms, new teachers, tears (for some), activities and schedules to follow. I hear from many parents as their 5-year old heads off to Kindergarten, “I’m done now.” And they wonder what to do next. I am at these crossroads. My kids are not here during the day. But is my job done? What will I do with my life? What will I do with the extra two (or more) hours I now have every week? These are the things I wondered as my middle child began school, and definitely when my youngest started. I struggle with left feeling lost. The job (especially for stay-at-home-moms) is changing. Is it over? Am I needed any longer?
The truth is that our children need us now more than ever. My children are well into elementary school now and one is in high school and over time I have realized what I need to be intentional about in these years. These are formative years still. I used to think that the elementary years meant cruise-control: the easy phase- no more diapers and whining, no teenage drama yet, but I have come to realize just how important and formative years these are. We have such a short window and if we pour into them now, I believe it will pay off tremendously in the future. For the few years in elementary school, they are still watching, listening and learning from us. They haven’t yet woken up one day and let us know that they no longer need our input- they now know everything (as with my fourteen-year old). Now is the time to pour into them everything we want them to know to get them through those teen years and young-adulthood; now is the time of training them to become responsible, to work through relationships, to follow after God- or whatever the core values that you you intentionally want to pass on. They are listening. And they need guidance. They need training- just like when they learned to ride a bike. Not many of us sat our kids on a bike, gave them a push, and yelled at them when they fell. That seems absurd. But we do that in life. I have realized I will give consequences or show disappointment, but I haven’t yet held the handle bars and ran alongside them, giving encouragement and instruction. There is still much to do- besides being their chauffeur- to keep up with now that they’re more independent. Who are their friends? Are they keeping up with schoolwork? Am I building a relationship with them? Am I talking about sex and how to relate to the opposite sex? Are they learning responsibility? Are they developing a relationship with God? Am I taking time to listen and know them and their life? We all could go on and on. All of this can seem overwhelming but I’ve realized it’s not a to-do list. It’s a job-description. And the job isn’t over. It’s changed. A new job is just beginning.