Thursday, October 25, 2012


What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-12 NLT)

Sometimes I feel like I have a lot to "deal with". Keeping two kids clean, fed, loved, and in bed on time is exhausting. The dog requires my supervision as well, since he still chews. on. everything. In large part I'm a one-woman show. Todd's schedule is full and unpredictable, and although I'm sure he'd rather spend more time at home, we're not that blessed right now.

I know this is just a season in our lives. And I know that I'll never get these special moments with my kids again. They're growing up so fast. Maddie is talking about try-outs for the school Christmas show and Ava comes home talking about new friends--mostly boys--every day.

I approach most days with a mental list of things that I have to "deal with". Some items on my list are essential but mundane: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, sorting through school papers, packing lunches. Some items I dread, like activities which require me to drive back and forth to town more than usual. Some items I truly enjoy, like my Monday morning Bible study or a chance to have lunch date with my husband.

But here's my problem: I approach all items on my daily to do list with the same efficiency and attention. I want to place a mental check mark next to the completed item as quickly as possible. Oftentimes even activities that should be fun just get "dealt with" instead of enjoyed.

Dog fed? Check.
Lunch packed? Check.
Called or checked in with my husband? Check.
Bible study homework completed? Check.
Children bathed snuggled to sleep? Check.

When I'm just "dealing" I'm missing the beauty and blessings in my life. As the author of the verse above states, we cannot see God's big plan but should instead enjoy each season while we're in it. I am blessed to be enjoying this time as a stay at home mom this year, even though its making me a little bit crazy. But I am assured that this particular time in my life is preparing me for something else in the future. God is shaping me for His big plan.

Learning to see the beauty in my daily to do list? Working on it.
Not measuring my self-worth in imaginary check marks? Going to give it a shot.
Stepping back to admire the big picture? I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just a house

Don’t be afraid to keep moving on,
For what was before, now has gone,
God wants to accomplish so much more,
But we need to move forward in the Lord.
© By M.S. Lowndes, Based on Isaiah 43:18-19

I'm not particularly attached to things, as in items one possesses. It's what makes me a ruthless organizer. It's how I survived two big moves in 14 months.

People and places are another story. I think everyone could rattle off their top 5 favorite places and people on the planet. It might even be hard to keep the list to just 5.

I took the girls up to Michigan this past weekend. My parents are moving out of the house in which I spent my young adult life, so I thought I'd come lend a hand. I'm not sure how much help I was, but it was nice to be home just the same. The memories flooded back as I walked around the house, looking in empty closets and half-packed rooms.

I sat in my room and talked about boys with my best friend (hi, Becky!) in that house. I washed my first car, a red Jeep, in the driveway. I had my heart broken on the back deck. I broke someone else's heart on my front doorstep. I got engaged on Easter Sunday on the couch in the living room. I dressed for my wedding in my bedroom. I went into labor with Maddie there, and paced up and down the halls waiting for Todd to come take me to the hospital. I became an adult and a mom while my parents lived there. I watched my brothers grow up there. Let's not get carried away and call them adults, though...

I expected to have a really hard time leaving to go back to Illinois on Sunday. But I didn't. I think it's because I know that the place they're moving to is so great for them. And I am secure in knowing that God's hand is in it all. He has some big things planned for them, I can just feel it. My prayer for my parents is for them to move forward, together, in the Lord.

Of course, it will be weird to sleep in a new bedroom for Thanksgiving this year. But it will be fun to make memories in this new place, which is only 6 miles away from the old house. Change is good. It renews and refreshes. A house is just a house--it's the people that make it a home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The Bible doesn't have a lot to say on work/home balance. That's probably because the writers of the Bible didn't "work outside the home"as we do today. So what we call balance today was just common sense back then. Families often worked alongside each other in the family farm or business, so work life and family life weren't as separate as they are today. Balance wasn't just good for the family, it was essential for survival.

I'm not very good at balance. In any given week, I might be a patient, kind, compassionate, active mom, but not a patient, kind, compassionate, active wife. And days when my marriage is prospering, my kids are freaking out--probably because I dared to put something ahead of their needs.

Last school year when I was working full-time (and showering regularly, having occasional adult conversations, and teaching 500 kids a week) I really struggled with balance. And it made sense, because I had so many things going on at once: a full-time job, church responsibilities, two active kids, and a husband in seminary. So imagine my surprise this year when as a stay-at-home mom I noticed that I am still struggling with balance, although its not of the "work/home" variety. It's of the "self/spouse/kids" kind.

That's where the book Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman comes in. Its been sitting on my reading wish list for months now. I have always been interested in how people in other parts of the world raise their children. And let's face it, the only way I'll ever get to visit France again is through the pages of a book. Druckerman, a New Yorker, chronicles her life raising three small children in Paris. She notices key differences in parenting tactics between French and Anglophile families and uses her journalism background to research French parenting philosophy.

The French use the word éducation to describe upbringing. They view children, even tiny infants, as rational human beings able to use reason and logic to problem solve and communicate. So they talk to their babies and young children rationally and calmly.  French parents expect small acts of naughtiness, or bêtises, as a way for children to test the boundaries and find their limits. There are still non-negotiable behaviors, but those are clearly defined by parents and reinforced by society. Druckerman noticed that remarkably, most French parents seem to operate under the same framework, or cadre, and that these rules of éducation include firm limits but lots of autonomie within those limits.

Druckerman noticed that French mothers, at least the ones she observed and interviewed, viewed parenting as pleasure, not as hard work or drudgery. It should be noted, though, that these mothers do something we American moms often don't--they view a child's place in the family as below the relationship between husband and wife. The family does not revolve around the children. Moms and dads are not only allowed but are expected to take time alone to tend to their relationship. Once the children are off to bed, it's adult time, and this time is sacred. No one expects moms or dads to devote every waking moment to their kids' interests and activities. This is viewed as pas équilibre, or unbalanced.

Food is a point of national pride in France. Children eat a wide variety of foods with the expectation that they will learn to enjoy every morsel. Fruits and vegetables are the building blocks of their diets. The attitude in France is again about pleasure--meals are opportunities to enjoy and share the richness of taste and texture. French children don't snack except for the goûter, or after-school snack. French mothers don't walk around with baggies of Cheerios. And French restaurants don't have kids' menus--children are expected to try and eat things from the regular menu.

Druckerman learned through her oldest child's experience at the crèche, the free state-run daycare and école maternelle, the free public preschool, that French parents want their children to be interesting and eloquent. They are not concerned with their kids being the brightest, fastest, or best as we tend to be here in America. French parents understand that kids learn at their own pace and that each child has his own gifts and talents. They also recognize that not all kids will be college bound. 

Bringing Up Bébé had me fantasizing about moving my family to France: the food, the architecture, the history, the culture, the cafes...but perhaps one need not be so dramatic to reap the benefits of French parenting. The one thing I take away from this book is that I need to bring pleasure back to my life. So often I do things out of duty and responsibility, not out of love or enjoyment. Perhaps that's the key to équilibre. Or at least it's a good place to start.