YOUR VOICE AND CHARACTER HAVE VALUE!

Something has been breaking my heart for months now. I knew that whatever was grieving me stemmed from the unnerving political climate of today, but I kept grasping to discover the root of my broken heartedness.

Not surprisingly, delving into scripture and asking for clarity made the answer to my question come off the page like those 3D images that were huge in the 90’s.
I first identified who I was hurting for. I hurt for those who feel afraid to express their opinions. Those who are afraid of being looked down on as insensitive, ignorant, or much worse. I hurt for everyone who was being gossiped about, and slandered – politician and non, capitalist and socialist, left and right, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, PhD and high school diploma, CNN and FOX watchers. Attack, retribution, shaming, fall out. Over and over again. And it’s still happening.

I don’t see Jesus in any of it. Not that I ever did, but this fact was brought to the forefront of my heart and mind.

What is something that is at the essence of every person? Their character, right? Character is “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual”. God gave each of us the ability to have one, as he has one too (only his is perfect). He has the in on everything that makes our character what it is.

We live in a society where our characters – what is at the heart of what we do, say, and think – are constantly being attacked. People are constantly being criticized and judged by those who think they know better.

Attacks on character are prevalent and commonly used (tactfully and heedlessly) as a weapon by some these days. You don’t have look far to see this. It’s all up in our faces. If you have no idea what I am talking about, tell me your secret. Impart your wisdom on your humble servant.

I want to remind you that if you are or have been at the receiving end of character attacks, while they seem impossible to refute because they slam the door on any logical discussion, YOU get to determine the power of this weapon. Is it a splinter? Is it a dagger? Is it a pebble stuck in the grooves of the bottom of your shoe? You decide whether the attack comes from somewhere pertinent or not. People can hurl character attacks at you for thinking, looking, talking, acting differently. You determine whether the attack causes damage or not.

The real power is not in the rhetoric. The REAL power is in the relationship you have with your Creator. If that relationship is strong and vital to you, then what would otherwise be a paralyzing dagger in your spine, might just be a pebble in your shoe that you just have to shake out.

Ask for discernment, and He’ll freely give it! Even if something someone tells you has some relevance but comes from somewhere insensitive, you take the relevance without the insensitivity and do something good with it. If someone tells you something that is irrelevent but it comes from somewhere sensitive, you appreciate that sensitivity as something we need a lot of.

See God, He looks at the heart. That reality makes us all cringe. No one likes the idea of the ugly parts being out in the open for Him to see. But remember that “God has always loved us then saved us. Not the other way around.” Wise words of a good friend of mine.

So what I’m hoping for all of us is an extra dose of wisdom. Wisdom when we speak, and when we are at the receiving end of things that are said about us or to us. My hope is that we give power where power is due.

Character attacks that are outright misplaced or don’t mirror Jesus’ manner or intentions, are not due any power. None at all.

Be encouraged! Your voice and character have value!

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Pre-Thanksgiving Reflections

The first thing Gideon wanted to do this morning is climb onto the cedar chest by my bedroom window and look outside. “Mama? Snow?”, he kept asking me. He has been obsessed with snow ever since our first big snowfall of the season last week. He ran a fever the few days the white fluff stuck around. So Gideon did not get to actually play in the snow until this past weekend when most of it had melted.

Snow Stomp

Gideon’s second fall and winter season will be one of the most exciting for him. He was still to young to understand the potential for fun in seemingly miserable weather, and his little mind wasn’t able to process the hugeness of our white-covered back yard as something he could access, touch, taste, and smell. Gideon is getting better and better at appreciating the details, the little things, that make mundane daily tasks worth learning about and emulating. Not long ago Gideon thought nothing of getting put into his high chair. His attention was not on the little steps it takes to get him there and secure. A week later he is really observing, and spends a few minutes after meals trying to work the waist buckle. His tiny hands grasp the pieces, and work so hard to accomplish that “click” he hears when we snap him in. Gideon thought nothing of where his grapes come from, and now one of his favorite things is pulling his own grapes off of the vine. If I put myself in Gideon’s shoes, as someone who knows so little but wants to learn everything, it actually makes the idea of daily life a little more exciting. He takes so much pride in accomplishing his little goals, and it motivates me to keep things in perspective when I start to feel overwhelmed.

This week Gideon is learning that snow melts and disappears. He misses it! I can’t wait for the next snow, just so I can see the excitement in his face. Like he’s seeing an old friend.

This Thanksgiving I have so much to be grateful for. After God’s grace and love, I think I am most grateful for being a wife and mother. I want to soak up every day of my life with these two men – one big, one little – and never forget just how blessed I am. I hope this season you can focus on just how thankful you are for your spouse, your significant other, your children, the people in your life that you are blessed to know.

My Boys

I leave you with an excerpt from a blog that I follow. It moved me, and rings true with this mother of a little boy. I hope it strikes a chord with you too.

Bless you!

He Needs Me

Mama? Snow?

One day that little boy will be a big man. There will no longer be any sweet words whispered to me in the wee hours. Just the whir of the sound machine and the snoring husband. I will sleep peacefully through the night, never a worry of a sick child or a crying baby. It will be but a memory. These years of being needed are exhausting, yet fleeting. I have to stop dreaming of “one day” when things will be easier. Because, the truth is, it may get easier, but it will never be better than today. Today, when I am covered in toddler snot and spit up. Today, when I savor those chubby little arms around my neck. Today is perfect. “One day” I will get pedicures and showers alone. “One day” I will get myself back. But, today I give myself away, and I am tired, and dirty and loved SO much, and I gotta go. Somebody needs me.

– Megan Minneman Morton from Your Best Nest

An Apologetic Mother

Today was such a good day. It was gloomy and cool outside, but we were all in great moods and had a lot of fun together. Gideon slept in until 8:30, which got us both off to good starts. With plenty of rest under our belts, we hit the morning running and I got my morning routine done by 10. Gideon seems to behave better, and is better able to play on his own when distractions are at a minimum. So we enjoyed some peaceful silence without music or TV, and had an especially fun time playing and talking.

My happy boy at the grocery store this morning.

My happy boy at the grocery store this morning.

We're going to have to get some kind of play kitchen for this boy. He is obsessed with kitchenware.

We’re going to have to get some kind of play kitchen for this boy. He is obsessed with kitchenware.

To top off a good morning, he took a two hour nap after lunch! Gideon’s naps have been a little shorter than usual, and I really missed having that extra time to catch up on chores or have “me” time. We’ve been really targeting the landscaping and privacy of our home this season, so Daniel and Gideon spent some time in the backyard planting a new juniper tree we bought yesterday. There are few things I love more than watching the boys outside working together. Gideon had his little shovel, and stayed close to give Daniel a hand.

The day was going great, until I had a parenting moment I’m not so proud of. During Gideon’s bath tonight, he decided to impulsively throw a pitcher full of water out of the tub and onto the bathroom floor. Water, went, everywhere. I yelled “Gideon!” so loud and angry that he burst into tears and  was so upset that he peed in the tub. I immediately knew that I’d messed up. I knew two things: 1. Gideon knows better than to throw things out of the tub and should be reprimanded, 2. I had over-reacted, and set a bad example for Gideon as we try to teach him to regulate and express his emotions appropriately. The question was, what to address first?

Daniel and I are passionate and try our darndest to parent Gideon respectfully and positively. Although we fail at times, we try to always let him know what we expect of him  rather than what we don’t want him to do. Explaining things to him this way seems to make more sense to him, and so is a more effective way to parent him. We try to avoid saying things like “you don’t need to cry” or “that’s nothing to cry about” or “you’re fine”, simply because we hate hearing that said to us if we are upset. The degree of severity of a situation in our minds vs. his is irrelevant. Who are we kidding? We all make big deals out of little things. What is a big deal to him should be a big deal to us, and we try to empathize with his little feelings as much as we can.

My momentary loss of self-control and burst of anger during bath time tonight might have slid right of someone else’s shoulder, but for my little tot, it scared and hurt him. It was a BIG deal to him. My son had just thrown a pitcher of water out of the tub. He had not touched an outlet, ran into the street, grabbed a steak knife, or let go of my hand in the parking lot. His life and safety were not at risk here, and yet I reacted like I would have in a life-threatening situation. If the pitcher had been empty, I would have reacted better. But now I had a huge mess to clean up. Therein lay the root of my anger.

I chose to apologize to Gideon first. I had wronged him, and that needed to be addressed before any further educating on “keep your toys in the tub or I will take them away”.

As if my heart was not already broken enough looking at Gideon’s distraught, tearful little face as I apologized for screaming and scaring him, he let go of our hug and signed “I’m sorry”. This broke my heart rather than melt it, because I don’t think Gideon understands that he can be apologized to. He thought I was saying “Mommy’s sorry” and signing it to him as a way of cueing him to apologize to me. I took a step back and made sure he watched my facial expression as I signed and said “mommy is sorry to Gideon for yelling”. I have to believe he at least understood that I was contrite and not mad at him. Once we’d done our share of hugging and wiping tears, I picked up the pitcher from the floor and told him “keep your toys in the tub”, and then reminded him to sign “yes mommy”. And that was that.

Right before we snuggled down in the rocking chair for our bedtime prayer and cuddle time, I apologized one more time. He didn’t even let me finish, and shared his pacifier with me. “I don’t even remember that mom. Let’s move on. Take my tete. ”

I’m so grateful for such a forgiving little boy!!

How do you deal with those moments when you get to be an apologetic parent?

Soap Box Follow-Up: Going Against The Grain

Go ahead! Prop your feet up!

Go ahead! Put your feet up!

I got such an amazing response to my soap box about going against the grain. Daniel encouraged me to write a little follow-up, and I thought it was a great idea. All sorts of people responded to what I had to say. I was fascinated by the words of advice, and differences in perspective. I love it!

To keep it short and sweet, I’m going to get to the point.

I noticed one commonality when I reviewed all the comments, personal messages, etc. No matter what lifestyle, no matter what choices each individual family unit had made, they could all identify to some degree with the negative impact of scrutiny and judgement. Even people I know and love who have a more traditional lifestyle had been put under the magnifying glass for their choices.

My conclusion in all of this was in no way earth shattering or revolutionary. It only reaffirmed how much we as a people put so much emphasis on comparison and pride, and forget God-like features like humility, kindness, and empathy.

There are so many things that are worth putting emphasis into when we are around other people. I don’t think pointing out whether they eat Horizon versus Market Pantry is one of them. Rather, take a step back and be grateful that they are sharing their food with you. Forget your urge to educate them on the risks of letting a child cry it out, and emphasize how much you wish them all restful nights.

Put aside what you know, your need to let everyone know what you know, and remember what all of our goals should be with the people around us. To encourage, to listen, and to offer loving advice when it’s requested. And remember that you don’t offer advice expecting it to be taken. Taking things personal is no fun. No, you offer advice because someone wants to know what you think, and you hope your opinions help them get through life. That’s the extent of what advice is for.

I’m not even kidding when I confess this following thing. Any time I’m in a situation where there is tension or awkwardness, I seriously hum this song internally. So have a listen, and do a little jig if you feel like it.

Here’s to loving, encouraging, and appreciating differences because they make life interesting!

Soap Box : Going Against The Grain

Look at those cheeksTo look at us, we look like your average family. But when people spend time around us or observe us in daily life they begin to see that we go against the grain in a lot of ways. Over 7 and a half years of marriage we have lived and learned. Our current lifestyle looks completely different than it did when we were newlyweds. Daniel and I are passionate about learning and seeking out information on new and better ways of doing things. We are constantly challenging the norm, and a lot of our conversations revolve around things we have read or seen, and whether or not we want to introduce them into our lifestyle.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the conventional way things are done. That being said, it surprises me how little people look into why they do what they do, and/or whether there are gaps in their knowledge. This only really bothers me though when, after doing research and making decisions we feel comfortable with, people still look at us like we are crazy.

I can’t count the comments we’ve gotten about natural birth, baby wearing, eating organic, eliminating most grains from our diet, cloth diapering, wood burning, vaccinations, chiropractic, alternative medicine, and especially baby led weaning. No one has better intentions for our little boy than Daniel and I. We would never do anything to jeopardize his safety or well being. We want the best of the best for him, that’s the whole point. It’s not fun to get “the look”, to be told “you are doing what?”, or to be treated like we believe everyone who takes the conventional route is beneath us. That is not how we feel at all!

Daniel has told me that he would be perfectly happy if no one ever knew these “against the grain” things that we do, and I share the sentiment. Some of our goals in life are to keep our family healthy, and be conscientious about consumption of resources and food. That does not mean we feel the need to convert everyone to our ways. On the contrary, we are a little family who prefers to stay below the radar. Like Daniel has told me before (he is so much better with words than I am), “We don’t like to rock the boat. Unfortunately things we choose to do tend to rock the boat.”

Daniel and I have discussed so many times how exhausting it is to feel like we constantly have to justify ourselves, because we really shouldn’t have to. We try to be patient and put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Maybe the people around us get defensive, or maybe they are concerned because they don’t know something we do. Who knows. Nothing in this area is worth making people feel inadequate or hurting feelings, so we try to pick our battles. What matters is that at the end of the day, our little family of three is happy and thriving greatly because of the lifestyle decisions we have made.

The question I have been asking myself is whether we should live our lives openly, or keep everything quiet? While I love conversation, I hate put downs. And I’ve wished I’d kept my mouth shut one too many times. Explaining why Daniel and I do certain things requires time and open ears – which are not always offered. In these kinds of situations I’m not very good at explaining things on the spot. I get the nervous jitters and wish I could just direct them to the source instead.

I don’t know that there is a global answer to my self-reflective question of whether I should be open, or keep things to myself. I’m sure there are going to be more good and bad experiences with all of this. But if life so far is a testament to what God is doing in my little family, hopefully I will become more discerning to decide when and where I should explain myself in ways that are helpful and constructive to others. I’m a work in progress!

If you are in the same boat as Daniel and I please share. You are not alone!

To those of you who inspire and encourage us (you know who you are), a blanket thank you!

Here’s to learning and living and taking care of ourselves and our families!

Sleepy Baby

 

Today was a really busy day. I only remember sitting twice, and that was to eat lunch and dinner. But all in all, it was a great day. Gideon was in a great mood. When Gideon is in a great mood, so is the rest of the household.

Bedtime has always been one of my favorite times of the day. I love winding down, talking to Gideon about our day and singing to him. Over the last few weeks Gideon has really begun expressing love and sweetness by hugging and giving kisses. He’ll put his face up close and go “mmmah!”. At night when I’m reading him a book, he’ll take his pacifier out of his mouth, turn his head up and go “mmmah!”. I don’t mind the slobber at all.

Tonight he calmly and quietly drifted off while I sang to him. So I put my long before-bedtime to-do list on pause, and just sat there rocking him and looking at him. No matter how stressful life gets, nothing puts things into perspective for me like watching my baby sleep.

Everything will be ok, mom.

Everything will be A-ok, mom.

Tiny Gideon

A week old.

Tiny Gideon an Me

Nothing took the away the pain and trauma of Gideon’s birth more than feeling his little body snuggled against me.

Sweet memories I never want to forget.

A Productive Day

It’s so great to see most everything checked off my to-do list at the end of the day.

Yay for me!

It doesn’t always happen, but when it does it’s very rewarding. Daniel let me sleep in this morning while he took Gideon to get firewood and stacked it in the backyard. It was wonderful, and definitely put a little pep in my step. I love that the boys got to spend some “guy time” since I’ve been Daniel’s helper lately. I could make a very extensive list of tips and things that help me be productive, but here are some of the main ideas I can think of that help me stay focused on a daily basis. Remember, I’m preaching to the choir.

1. First and foremost, get some sleep! You know that “floating head” feeling? We all have those days when we just kind of drag and wander around the house not knowing where to begin. After a good night of sleep, your energy is restored and you’re more likely to hit the ground running. Staying up late for any reason at all is just not worth it.

2. Be realistic when you make your to-do list. Ask yourself: How much energy do I have to spend? What is my priority today? How much time do I want to spend on this? You get the idea. Set yourself up for success.

3. Stick to the to-do list that you’ve set for yourself as much as you can.

4. If something pops up in your day that needs to get done but that you weren’t really planning for, re-configure your to-do list. Add it if you think it won’t put a dent in your set plan, or replace it for something that can be done tomorrow.

5. When you see or think of something that needs to be done soon, make a running list for  tomorrow’s to-do’s.

6. Set a timer! I seriously have made this into a game. I pre-determine how much little time it could possibly take me to complete a task, and I set a timer. It’s incredible how much you can get done in even 5 minutes.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that productivity means different things to each of us. The same goes for priorities. We don’t share them and that’s okay. Look at your life, what stage your in, and what matters most to you. Spend your time on these things, and don’t worry about what the next person is doing.

thethiefofjoy

I have my set priorities, and it’s what keeps my little family going. The best part of being productive in my life, is that I do it all for the boys.

My boys

The reason I do what I do.

Being productive and maintaining our home is one of the many ways I express my love to them. I just thought I’d share this priority since I was able to stay on task today. Anything for Daniel and Gideon! ❤

What are some of the things you prioritize in your life?