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It has been far too long since I’ve posted, a result of our life “derailing” from normal after selling our house two months ago. Since then our family of five has moved three times, lived in a friend’s basement and then a home we rented, and finally in to our new home three weeks ago.
All this was planned, thought out, and expected (although much of the process had unexpected twists), so it surprised me how challenging it was for me personally to “get through” these past few months with a positive attitude.
During this interim time our family of five lived out of seven blue tubs we had packed with clothes and personal items. We existed on dinners of Chipotle and Kraft Mac and Cheese because of limited kitchen space and and stretched thin mom who wouldn’t love cooking even in ideal conditions. Our family felt disjointed not having our “normal” routines and space, and the rainy cold spring added to the unrest. Our dogs found their own form of crazy (one of them peeing indoors and barking neurotically, challenging at one’s own house but really fun when it’s at your best friend’s house).
For a while I thought I was struggling to stay positive because there was no end in sight–we were having an extremely difficult time finding a new house after we sold ours. But then, we found a great house, and had a closing date and everything, but my restlessness grew as our familiar “more comfortable” life seemed just a reach away.
Why was it so important for me to find normal again?
I asked myself many times, “Why is this so difficult? God has blessed us with wonderful friends to house us temporarily, we know we will find a home eventually, our kids are healthy and handling this transition better that expected. So why the discomfort?
The answer came to me once again, as it has over and over in all the unknowns over the last year with our moving story.
Our strengthening comes in the discomfort.
This time has felt like “how to keep a positive attitude boot camp,” and I know that like the true military boot camp, with the purpose of strengthening physical muscles and endurance, this time for me has been an emotional and spiritual strengthening.
I have been forced to release my grip on managing everything the way I want it to go. I have had to let go of normal, which involves me having a lot of control over my life.
And that is good.
God is stretching and teaching me to let go, to again, trust him. To again, remember that the little daily comforts and order I am used to need not to be taken for granted. To believe that he has a purpose for every difficult time we go through–to decrease our self-sufficiency and increase our God-sufficiency.
One of the largest parts of “me” that I have had to release in the past couple of months is writing this blog. I think about it every day, but feel like I have been in survival mode for so long that it takes sitting in a hotel room with my family sleeping to find head and heart space to finally write.
We did move into our new house three weeks ago and it is so very good. I am so grateful for the little things like a desk to work at and some of the homey decorations we had packed away. And the big things, like our family re-connecting and bonding over settling into our new space.
But normal is still to come. In a few hours our family is about to get on a plane to Haiti to serve with a Healing Haiti team in the poorest part of the world. Here is an excerpt from a woman who returned a few months ago from this trip as she relays vignettes of people she met:
Hello. My name is Mardy. I am 23 years old. I’ve been living in front of the hospital for a while. A few months ago I got raped and now I am pregnant. I’ve had a stroke and I am in the hospital now. I can’t move my left arm but that’s not the worse part. I am all alone; with no one to help me. I don’t know how I will take care of my baby once it’s born and where I’ll go and how we will survive.
This experience we are about to have, the conditions and desperation we are about to encounter will feel as far from normal as we have probably ever known.
But we can’t wait. If there is anything I have learned recently is that God shows up when I feel helpless and out of control. It is during these times I have eyes that more clearly see Him at work. I have a heart open to what he needs to speak into it.
So I ask you, where is your normal being challenged?
Where can you find God’s hand in your story right now?
What is he teaching you?
Whether your lack of “normal” was a choice (like ours) or unexpectedly happened to you, I hope that you can find some peace as you wrestle through this time. Whether it is temporary or permanent, I pray that you will see God’s handiwork in the plan of changing your heart to rely more on Him and less on you. These are certainly the lessons He has taught me.
God bless you,
As school ends and summer gently drops its bags inside our front door for a good long stay, I picture myself sitting on our back patio sipping a cool drink, writing in my planner, reading a great book or paging through the my most recent Good Housekeeping magazine. This relaxing would happen while my children are happily entertaining themselves with something educational or productive after making their beds and cleaning up after breakfast. We would rest, play, and I would still accomplish the daily list that I had when they were in school all day.
Why do I picture that which never occurs?
In reality, the transition from school to summer feels more like being dunked into a basin of shockingly cold water. One week our three teen-aged children are gone for 8 eight hours a day, busy with tests and school and end of year activities, and the next week they are sleeping until ten…ish, and then needing forty-two rides around town, and eating all the food in the house. It’s normal, and I am happy to stock up on extra food and increase my gas budget, it just happens so suddenly and every year it throws me for a loop.
Now that I have walked through 13 summer transitions (starting when our oldest was in Kindergarten), I have learned some things. Things that I would like to share for those of you who are starting to feel a little panicky right about this time. These “things” are not magic, you will still feel like you are dunked, but the water won’t be so shockingly cold:
RELAX for the first two weeks. On everything. On schedules, on eating, on how everyone should be getting along, on expectations. Throw them all out the window. I used to, in my panicky state, structure much of our kids’ lives from the first day of break–bible studies, chore charts, even asking them to set their alarm so they didn’t sleep the day away (I know, not fun mom). I was just terrified of NO STRUCTURE. If I kept my kids busy, they wouldn’t be bored or argue or completely shrink their brains with screens–all things I feared. But I noticed after a couple years of this that it made everything worse. They fought more, they were stressed with my expectations and I was just plain frustrated.
So one year I decided to not to have any structure for the first two weeks. Let them sleep, be totally unproductive, and watch TV longer than I preferred. And they were okay! In fact, they worked out their sibling issues with in a week or so, they got bored watching TV and started getting outside and being creative, and they slept–and that is so good for their growth and development. So give it two weeks and see what happens.
LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES I listened to an audio recently of Gary Smalley and his wife being interviewed about how they managed their family summer. They shared how each family member should find both REST and LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES in their summer structure. Sometime in those first two weeks, sit down as a family and ask each person what their ideal summer would entail. What would make each person excited? More sleeping? A great vacation? Time with friends? Reading a novel or two? Try to honor everyone’s wishes within reason, and then remember when your teenage son is still sleeping at 11:00AM, that this is life giving to him.
BE INTENTIONAL Now be intentional about making your family’s hopes happen. Put them on the calendar. Make them a priority. If your husband really wants to take the family camping, honor that and find the time. If your daughter would like to learn how to do pottery, sign her up for a class. And figure out what YOU would like, and honor yourself enough to make it a reality. If in the family meeting you and your spouse valued doing something together as a family each week, then you will need to say no to certain things, and move others around to make that a priority.
SET ASIDE YOUR AGENDA–or slow it down. For me, this is the hardest part of summer. I have a design business, love to write for my blog, errands, housekeeping and exercise when I can. I am full steam ahead with these activities while the kids are in school and I find that when I forget to make the shift to kids being home I just feel frustrated that I am not getting things done.
MOMS, WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE DO LIFE IN THE SUMMER. If we want to be engaged and present with our kids, we need to rework what our days normally look like the rest of the year. For me it’s rising early to get a couple of hours of work in before the kids wake up. Then I try to be available to them and enjoy the chauffeuring and sitting at activities. I slow my workload WAY down, and if you are not able to do that, consider hiring someone to take care of your kids while you work so you can be present with them the rest of the time. I also shift my expectations of how clean my house will be–I will be vacuuming and picking up more, and that’s okay because it means there are lots of little people around enjoying their summer.
ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO BE BORED. For some reason as a mom of young children, boredom scared me to death. It meant whining and fussing and I was often tempted to never allow boredom to happen by over-scheduling our days. Yet boredom forces our kids to be creative. It causes them to engage a part of their brains that is not used when we are constantly entertaining them. Put up with the whining for however long it takes–an hour, a day? And then watch what your children begin come up with to creatively fill their time.
As a mom of a child heading off to college this fall, I know the blessing and gift of summer for our family. It is where we treasure some of our best memories, and it is also a time that has caused me stress over the years. I was truly that mom that had bible studies ordered and chore charts made and alarm clocks set. And our sweet kids tried to accomplish all the “goals” I asked of them. While some structure and contribution is so good for our kids, my hindsight perspective is that I wish I would have relaxed more, let there be more unstructured time, and investigated each family member’s desires for their summer and made sure they happened–including mine which would land me back on the patio with a Diet Pepsi and a magazine!
Summer MOM Challenge: Spend some time thinking and praying about what your summer stressors are. What is frustrating to you? What are your fears? Ask God to give you clarity and then come up with some ideas about how to change things up this summer to relieve those issues.
Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall. I will be creating a new version for each season of the year. If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these. They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse. $15, including shipping. Just click here to purchase now!
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, kids, managing summer, motherhood, parenting in summer, stress, summer
POSTED IN: Christian Blog, kids, managing summer, motherhood, parenting in summer, stress, summer
Any battle is won by planning, predicting, studying the enemy, and above all strategy. What if we applied strategy to the battles in our lives? My friend, we can. And one way is through setting up a place in our homes to fight those battles. Through prayer.
Hopefully you’ve had time to read the first post in this series Three Marriage Lessons From War Room. Have you seen the movie yet? It is quite amazing. It will give you great context for what I am sharing today which is how to practically set up your own “war room” or prayer closet.
True “War Rooms” are the real deal. They are secure, private, important places where strategy is implemented, direction is decided, and great minds are called upon to help in defeating the enemy. It is all serious business. And that is the mindset we can also have when setting up our very own war room. We are not messing around people.
War rooms or prayer closets are places in our home specially set aside for prayer. They are where we take the bitter and sweet of our life before God.
There is incredible power in prayer, yet most of us (including myself!) tend to pray inconsistently, often half-heartedly, and often only when we are in crisis as a last resort. I have always struggled to pray as if my life depended upon it. I push through pain or problems or stress on my own strength, throwing out an S.O.S when I run out of my own steam. And when things are running smoothly in my life, well the necessity of sitting before God just doesn’t seem as urgent.
Thanks for joining me here! For those of you who are new to this site, you have stumbled upon the official launch of my new blog. I have been blogging for several years, but last year I felt it was time to begin something new–new design, new content, a new chapter–so here goes. Feel free to visit my old blog anytime, but I will be posting here going forward.
Since this is the month of “love,” I want to write a few posts about being in healthy relationships. After all, I’ve got this all figured out. Totally kidding. Actually, the last few weeks have sifted some relational challenges to the surface and that always makes me a little more aware of my unhealthy parts, darn it.
Here are three things I know, but don’t always put into practice. I think these three relational goals are the key for helping us navigate through sticky and messy situations with the most amount of grace and the least amount of damage.