Friday, May 19, 2017

Life Abundant: Lick the Bowl

A kitchen towel hangs on my stove that says, “You only live once-lick the bowl.” It is a reminder to me in motherhood, in life, in marriage…to enjoy, to relish, to live fully.

It doesn’t mean walk in selfishness, follow your own dreams and make an island of yourself. It does mean that this God-given life we have was meant to be lived. John 10:10 says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Isn’t that what licking the bowl is?

When was the last time you licked a physical bowl or plate? Mine was three weeks ago when my husband made eggs benedict and the hollandaise sauce was just lemony and buttery enough and the toast was gone! I licked the plate clean sitting at my kitchen table with my three kids watching in shock. It was delicious, I wanted to stay in the moment, to remember it, to savour it.

I haven’t experienced a lot of freedom in motherhood. It is most often a battle of comparison between my expectations and reality. It is fighting my emotions of frustration. It is not doing things the way my family did, my friends do or culture says and wishing I did.

I try to find the balance between my need for quiet and their intense desire for loud, wall shaking noise. I struggle between what I want and they need. I lay down dreams I once had for needs they now have. My freedom was laid down the moment they were conceived and I haven’t learned how to pick it back up again or find it in a new way.

All this need and sacrifice whisper lies that I am nobody anymore. That my worth, my interests, my dislikes are to be thrown overboard. That life becomes about these little people alone.

The truth is they do need a lot. I do need to sacrifice a lot to meet their needs and desires. But that is such a tiny sliver of the truth. If we eat that sliver alone it chokes us. We drown in our inability to give everything they need and their inability to contribute to what we need.

The bigger truth is that life is now about creating a family. A team. A bigger unit. Life is now about us serving each other, learning from each other. Experiencing life, God, love, sorrow, joy, adventure TOGETHER.

When we see that picture, it is life-giving. It bears excitement. It is not as lonely a view as the lie that says it is up to us to make everyone happy, safe, healthy and content.

That lie that it is all my responsibility makes me forget that they have to experience me just as much as I have to experience them. I have to learn who they are, what they need, what energizes them and where they are sensitive about. BUT, it is just as important for them to know that I LOOOOVE dance parties, that Whitney Houston makes me sing at the top of my lungs and that riding bikes to the beach in the warm sun makes me feel alive and hiking through the woods quiets my mind. It is important that they watch me mop a floor, weed a garden or plant flower pots because I love productivity and making order and beauty. They need to know that I want to cuddle up and read books with them just as often as they want to.

But, they will never know if life becomes all about them. If we say “yes” every time they ask to watch a show, take a walk, push them on the swing, cut an apple, or build LEGO. They won’t know that you want to skip the zoo for an art museum. They won’t know how delicious pineapple is, they won’t ever watch a play or see a concert or roll down a hill.

Our desires as women, mothers, friends, homemakers, workers create the environment they live in. Our experiences give them theirs. They don’t have a bowl to lick if we don’t give it to them.

So often, we see our job, family, kids, house, marriage as things that overwhelm us, frustrate us or leave us discontent. They leave us bitter and in that state of mind we refuse to enjoy anything else. We are like a toddler whose mom made them the peanut butter and jelly sandwich they asked for but when she cut it into triangles instead of rectangles we shove it back across the table.

When we push things away we are building walls and growing numb. We are disengaging from our emotions, circumstances and the people that surround us.

We must choose instead to engage, to lick the bowl clean, to experience. To allow people into our hearts and minds. To bring our kids along through our life instead of making it about theirs alone.

We have to experience our sorrow at the loss of our baby. We have to include our spouse in our hurt feelings. We have to embrace our kids in their disobedience and work with them to change their actions. We have to walk outside in the sunshine and ignore the dishes. We have to then come back in and wash all the dishes being thankful we have any at all.

Our perspective has to be to live well the life God has given us. To feel deeply the emotions we are having but not to be ruled by them. To work hard at the tasks set before us trusting that the ones tomorrow we will have strength for then. To lick the bowl clean instead of have none because we can’t bear to wash the dish after the ice cream is gone.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why I Give My Kids Cookies In The Grocery Store


We weren’t the worst kids terrorizing the store clerks but we were the loudest. My kids could be heard screaming across the store because I put them in time out buckled into the cart. I could be heard three aisles away saying “don’t touch that, put your hand on the cart, and stop running” all in one breath. There were minutes where the plastic front car got us through the produce section and the cookie got us through the unbearable wait at the deli counter. But no amount of Starbucks double shot lattes could get me through those aisles and out the door with a smile.

We have all been there. The drive to the grocery store was full of complaining over the music and which way you chose. They have already started fighting about who gets a little cart and who is riding in the car part of the grocery cart. Getting everyone out of the car without their stuffed animals, purses, wallets and other accessories was an argument. It is too close to lunch time to be starting this endeavor and the parking lot is so full you are parked in the back of the lot which is too far to haul three kids in rain!

We get into the store and want a break from the questions, the opinions and the constant teaching correct behavior so we hand them a cookie, our phone to play games on, or a lollipop buried in our diaper bag. Moms, some days is survival. But this is also bribing!

So often, in my circle of friends there is a joke about this. A mom begging to not be judged and to find compassion over her nightmare grocery trip and the other moms who also quickly bestow anything requested just to get in and get out of that store where all screams echo and running leads to broken jars.

For years this was my tactic too. I didn’t call it bribery because I thought I was a better mom than that. BUT I WASN’T! The free kid’s cookies were expected by my little ones and were eaten faster than we could get down the bread aisle. They did not enable calm or quiet. They produced an expectation. They created more arguing over who got the last chocolate chip one and threats that “if there aren’t any with icing and sprinkles than I’m not eating one”. To which I always responded with an eye roll because no kid turns down a cookie.

Bribing is giving treats to make bad behavior stop. The dirty secret is the bad behavior does not in fact stop. It continues and grows. We, the parents have to invoke the change. They aren’t going to grow out of it. We need to reverse the cookie hand-outs. The opposite of bribing is motivating so that good behavior continues. It takes work. We can’t tune out, pop them in the cart and sail down the aisles and out of the store in twenty minutes. But, despite being in the store for an hour with three kids and a not-so-short-list we all left with smiles. We didn’t come home and require forty-five minutes of Netflix because I gave them a few small rules:
#1 hands on the cart
#2 no touching

They were simple and easy to repeat. I used a few other tactics also. Each kid got a list with four items on it that they were allowed to take off the shelf and put into the cart and we grocery shopped backwards so the cookies were at the end. We didn’t all walk out with cookies, only one of my children earned the privilege. But, the reward was very obvious to them all and the method to get the reward was able to be achieved. The next time we went to the store they all got the cookie at the end!

The behavior that I had been screaming for over the past years was within my reach if only I had been motivating them instead of bribing. If I had chosen to teach them instead of wait for them to grow into it (which is another dirty secret: they won’t). Sometimes we need to change instead of expecting them to. They needed to earn it on their own and feel pride. They needed to see me smile and I needed to be excited to give them a cookie and not wish I could shove a box of cookies at them to make them be quiet!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Community Not Competition

I compete with my used-to-be self as much as my assumptions of what other moms can do. Nursing a newborn in Costco while shopping and chasing my two-year-old…I can’t do that anymore. Panic floods my head when I think about taking three kids to buy the new shoes my oldest needs AND return clothes I mistakenly bought. But, I think I should be able to handle what I once couldn’t. I think I should be able to do everything I once could. When our third child was born I barely stopped. Maternity leave doesn’t exist when you are a stay at home mom with older kids around. It wasn’t a healthy choice, it wasn’t even the right choice. I believed the lie that I was supposed to do everything and that when a new baby was brought home I was supposed to keep that same pace. This lie of business, of consistency and perfection is one Satan so silently whispers. “Keep up, don’t stop, don’t fall behind…” We want to be out in front, noticed, appreciated, valued, looked up to. When we strive for this we create competition at the risk of real community.

This competition isn’t always a conscious choice, it is rarely admitted and it is often not even realized. This is how Satan wraps his chains around us. If he did it in obvious ways we would see him coming and have time to put up protection, build walls, say “no”. But Satan doesn’t come loudly and obviously he comes quietly sneaking. Ephesians 6:13 tells us, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” We are supposed to put on our armor before the attack!

So often I am surprised and unprepared. I am tired and my eyes are blurry. I am overscheduled and don’t have time to listen or think. It is a reactionary way of life. But, I think God calls us to be proactive, prepared, and aware! This is how to leave the competition and live in community. When we live in competition it is a reaction to the way others look, behave, or live their life. We respond to the actions (assumed or actual) of someone else. It is contest that destroys friendships, faith, ourselves, families, marriages, children. It is an opposition that is difficult to overcome. We want to feel good about ourselves, lose that mom belly as fast as our sister, have date night as often as our friend. We think we should be as happy as we once were, have the patience we used to have. We believe there is a problem that we can fix and we want control over how people view us.

In this tournament of talents we put on a mask. Sometimes the mask is make-up, sometimes it is a clean house, sometimes it is smiling while holding hands with your husband who you just screamed at on the car ride over. I want to argue that presenting to the world this beautiful picture is what makes us feel lonely. We are unaware of the game going on, the war Satan is waging in the spiritual realms. The battles look different for each of us. The masks we adorn, the way we medicate the pain, or the problems we ignore are not the same. We were created to be a body, to live in fellowship…community with one another. There is freedom for differences. We need communities, churches, families, schools full of people with a variety of abilities.
            My children need something different than your child so I shouldn’t do everything you do. My husband has different expectations so it is a good thing if I know those and respond to his needs and not the ones I know from my friend that her husband wants. My life looks different than a working moms so shouldn’t my wardrobe? She has more heels in her closet and wears make-up 55 times in 60 days when I wear it zero…that is okay. But, we turn these into competitions and definitions. Putting roles and jobs and tasks into tightly defined boxes. We struggle to admit that being a mom is hard because we don’t hear anyone else confess that. We tell our-self to stop crying over the miscarriage we had three years ago because we think we should be over it by now. We wear heels to church because we see the other women doing it and even though we have to carry our 6 month old and wrangle our 2 and 4 year-old we believe we should be able to do it in heels! Maybe you can, if so, do it! But, do it because you like them, wear make-up because you feel less frumpy, cry about how hard motherhood is because it is! Be vulnerable, be honest, be you. We don’t need a band of friends who all look like us, make the same choices and have the same stress level. We need a community of people not striving to be better but striving to better each other. We need people around us to be encouraged by, to challenge us, to spark creativity, to learn from, to be honest with, to fight this spiritual war with.
            As I wake-up to all the fantasies I have believed about who I should be I am aware that I am much stronger than that made up woman who said “yes” to everyone. I have beauty to create even though I create it differently than women on my social media accounts. I can teach my children well although opposite from many of my friends. I have energy to work-out when I stop worrying about my pant size. I have more friends when I admit my failings and ask for help.

This battle between flesh and blood (Ephesians 6) is one of competition that leads us away from community with God and with others. I want to celebrate how well friends manage their families instead of feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do what they do. I want to rejoice in the success of my friend who is a working mom instead of being jealous she gets time outside her home. I want to ask my husband for a day off instead of pretending I am super-mom. I want to admit what I can’t do so I can do a few things well. I want to cry to my friend so when she needs to melt down she doesn’t feel so alone. I want to allow myself to change and do things differently. I want to be a homemaker out of love instead of with tight fisted, jaw clenching determination. I want to show you who I really I am because I want to see you in all your mess for all of God’s glory.

            In community there is strength, togetherness, and loyalty. In Christ there is acceptance and love. Protected in His armor we can fight the battle in the spiritual realm that convinces us we have to pretend and strive.

Life Abundant: Lick the Bowl

A kitchen towel hangs on my stove that says, “You only live once-lick the bowl.” It is a reminder to me in motherhood, in life,...