Family

Father’s Day Reflections 2017

Father’s Day has always been an incredibly bitter sweet day for me. For many years the bitter was all I tasted as I was filled with a lot of anger, pain and resentment. My dad has never lived up to my expectations; yet I imagine he hasn’t lived up to his own expectations either. This feeling is a lot like I feel about my fifteen year old Volkswagen; the idea of how great it could be is far better than what I get to drive around everyday.

I gave up being bitter a long time ago. For many years, the root of my bitterness came more from feeling like I lost something I was owed more than any real anger I had towards him as a man. I felt like he took something from me, innocence, money, security, freedom. Mostly, he just took time.

When I look in the mirror I see glimpses of him. I see him in my eyes and my hair. I can smell him in my aftershave, hear him in my own laugh and quick wit, and feel him in my own pride, arrogance and anger. In my most honest moments I will tell you my greatest fears all revolve around being like him, and the danger of throwing life’s most important things away in selfishness and addiction.

If I mourn the loss of anything, I mourn the loss of his life in my life. When I was a senior in High School I remember sitting on the pock marked linoleum in the kitchen of our rental house crying uncontrollably because I didn’t know how to put line on my fishing pole. I felt deficient. I felt lost. I felt alone. I mourn the loss of all his knowledge, skill and insight. There have been many times I’ve wondered how deficient my own fatherhood is because of this. What skills, knowledge, history will not make it to the next generation because it failed to be passed on to this one?

If I mourn the loss of anything, I mourn his loss of my life in his life. God has been and is so so good. My wife is a treasure, like the first cup of coffee in the morning. She is so unbelievably consistent, yet everyday with her is still like Christmas. My children, my four children, are like the most glorious kaleidoscope, with colors whirling, and dancing, and spinning, always moving and never ever boring. Yet, like a man without sight, he is unable to see. He is unable to see all this good, all this glory, all this joy.

As I sit and think about my story, my mind often returns to the goodness of God and the words of King David in both 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, “Who am I oh Lord, and what is my family that you have brought me this far? And you didn’t stop there, oh God! You have also spoken about the future of your servants family.” David, in awe of what God would do with someone like him and his family offers praise at what has happened and joyful expectation of what is coming. May I be and do the same.

 

Homeschool Recap 2017

I guess yesterday was our last school day of the year.  It was supposed to be Wednesday but due to family sickness we bumped it back!

The kids have been anxious to have a last day and with a big vacation coming up this seems logical. I see the value in marking an end to something you have been working on for months and months. We used My Fathers World to guide our study though Early American History as well as Kindergarten. This was my third year officially homeschooling and my first year teaching two at the same time. This is the first year where I don’t feel we fully completed everything. Even though part of me wants to keep pushing. I’m beginning to realize this is the beauty of learning, and a big reason I love to homeschool.

If I weave learning into our daily life then learning never ends.

While there is value in taking a break from school, for me just as much as the kids, learning never goes on vacation. So, my plan as we move into the next year is to pick right up where we left off.  It’s not a race and we aren’t on any set schedule.

I also know that as valuable as history, science, and language are, there are many other things that we need to give time to. Summer gives us that opportunity. I want to cook with my kids more without feeling like I’m making us fall behind. I want to explore and say yes to more board games. I also want to give them more space to grow in areas of personal interest. Plus we want to swim! I’m welcoming this change of season and looking forward to feeling refreshed moving into a new year.

A couple of years ago the fact that I didn’t complete every single kindergarten unit with Levi would have drove me crazy. This year I’m going to look at it a little differently. Did Levi learn this year? Yes! Was progress made? Yes! And I am thankful! While we will continue to work, I realize the bigger picture. The books I purchase to guide my teaching are merely that, a guide. While for many who choose homeschooling this is an early revelation, for me it has taken some time to shake off the need to check all the boxes.

I learned this year to be more free with my kids in their learning. When math was becoming a very frustrating time every single day, I set the reset button. I took a several month break from our typical curriculum and switched to a story form math. Is my child “behind”? Possibly. I don’t really know. Yet, last week that same child has picked up her previous Math book and has been thriving, it is being understood and there are even smiles!

I also learned this year about the concept of a morning time, which my kids like to call “cozy time”. It looked a little different every day, but it was a general time to come together either at the dining room table, the living room or outside to read the Bible, memorize verses together, read poems, sing hymns, draw, read a chapter in a book, learn about a piece of art. This concept is becoming popular and I thoroughly enjoyed implementing into our day.

Overall I would say I saw a big shift in my teaching style this year. I see the value in having good books all around us. I see that my relationship with my children is more valuable than butting heads day in and day out over a math assignment. I know now that taking a “break” from something is necessary. I can tell when we need a day without any books because there is too much to learn outside. This year was not perfect or easy but I am thankful for grace and how God fills in the gaps where we feel we fall short.

Being the people we are raising our kids to be-Trying New Things

I love my daughter. I love all 3 of my daughters. I love my son too, just in case he’s reading this, (he’s not…he’s five). Our oldest daughter is 7 and she is smart, determined, and loves to read. She takes leadership of many things, siblings included, and she is a perfectionist, which is a tough combination to contend with when you are doing something new.

Whether it is math, piano, or baseball, if she can’t preform the task perfectly the first time, she wants to give up. Tears run, voices are raised, bedroom doors are slammed shut in frustration. Over and over, the words of her mother and I come, “Babe, you can’t expect to do something perfectly the first time. If you want to get better at something you have to practice.” Often, our words go unheeded.

I was recently asked to write a couple things for a good friend and mentor who is developing a training curriculum for new church planters. I said yes because I love and respect my friend, and I believe in the project he is working on. Yet, as I began to write I was so frustrated! Nothing was coming out right, I hated what I had written and wanted to give up over and over again. My internal dialogue was filled with biting questions, “Why can’t this be easier, sound better, or come out right? Why is this so difficult?”

Why is it, when we can challenge our kids to try new things, to practice, and keep going, even when something is new and difficult, we as the adults become so discouraged and want to give up when we do the same? The reasons are legion. For me, the questions sound like this, “What if I suck at this? What if people hate what I write? What if I hate what I write? What if someone actually reads this and has an opinion for good or ill?” While I like to talk a big and inspired game to my kids about doing new things, working to get better at what I struggle with, and not giving up; often my fear of failure, the opinion of others, and my pride combine to short circuit my good intentions.

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that before we do something well, we have to do it poorly, and before we do it poorly, we have to suck at it. The quicker we get about the business of being terrible, the quicker we can perform adequately, then reasonably, then exceptionally. Anne Lamont says, “it takes a thousand paragraphs to find one good one.” Yet, you don’t get the good one without the thousand bad ones. It was that initial ask by my friend to write for him that made me realize my deficiency and then commit to writing more, albeit terribly to begin with. Hence, the great amount of activity on this site as of late.

With anything we put our energy towards we will run into those that throw stones, cast dispersions or generally don’t like us. Yet, that only matters if we are doing it for them and their approval. If not, just keep going, grinding and realize the reward is ultimately internal, in the process of getting better. If we are raising our kids to be the best possible versions of themselves, we owe it to them and us, to be the people we are raising them to be.

Marriage 12 plus years in

It’s funny how after 12 plus years of marriage I can still feel “new” at this whole wife thing. I mean, how long do you have to live in a role to have it figured out? One would think twelve years is long enough to work out all the kinks.

Why is grace so hard to give to my husband? When I have a decent day with my kids, why do the struggles I have come out in resentment towards him when he comes home and I refuse to be loved? Why is welcoming the praises difficult, when choosing negativity isn’t?

I have an idea, and it’s not new or original. Our family is under attack by an enemy who wants to destroy us. I wake up in the morning and try to squeeze in as much Truth from the Word as I can before little ones awake. I read of grace and truth and the Love of the Father, and I can FEEL IT and I KNOW IT! I feel embraced by truth and grace. I count my gifts and I pray to be a blessing. Then little ones awake, the day really gets going. I strive and I strive and I fill needs. I push down frustration and I clean messes. I make meals and I sing of Jesus love with my kids while we unload the dishwasher. I teach and discipline and then my dear one comes home and it is like I just can’t do it any longer. Without even trying, a wall is built between he and I because I’m tired and I’m broken and it’s just hard.

Twelve plus years in and we are still learning how to communicate. We probably will always be adjusting. I am begging the Lord for His grace. I pray that I hear the words of my husband and that I stop to let him hug me. I am praying that I look for opportunities to put my hands on his tired shoulders. I want these walls torn down. Resentment is not what I want filling my heart. The kids and I talk almost daily about the fruits of the Spirit. We talk and pray that our hearts would overflow with peace, love, joy, kindness, goodness and self control. We have some amazing days and then we have some very real days. I couldn’t ask for a better man to go through hard things with. I pray that I wouldn’t only think that is true, but I would believe it and say it.

Family Mission

*This post is coauthored by Matt and Jessica

I (Jessica) admit I like to be organized and have a plan. I plan and write down everything… And this always proves to be helpful.

We (as a society) make lists for the grocery store, house projects, ideal vacation spots… So it always amazes me a little when people mention they are mostly “winging” this family thing.

I think it comes somewhat out of nowhere.  You have a little baby and the days revolve around feedings and nap and then all of a sudden you realize that these kids are not so little.  They are becoming real people with their own unique thoughts and ideas. They have eyes and ears that are picking up on much of our day to day rituals.  I know that time moves so quickly and that the years are already going fast and so being intentional with each day as family seems necessary.

A couple years ago Jessica and I (Matt) decided we needed to develop a family mission statement.  While we are not a business or a church, we are seeking for our life and family to emulate and reflect certain values and goals. We decided getting those things on paper was very important. So, here’s what we came up with…

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We are family for the good of the city

In the coming weeks we will unpack the specifics of each part of the above statement, but to give a bit of a preview, this is some of what we mean.

 

 

We are a family

We are a family who in love and humility spurs one another on to Christ likeness. Proverbs 27:17 and Hebrews 10:19-25

We are a family who chooses to operate with grace, forgiveness and accountability. Ephesians 4 and Matthew 18

We are a family who views children as a blessing and not a burden.-Psalm 127

We are a family who expects our children to honor and trust.-Ephesians 6:1-3

We are a family for the good 

We are a family who loves God and loves others – Matthew 22:34-40

We are a family who celebrates the power of the ordinary and the every day. Romans 12:1-2

We are a family who expects to work hard and to do our best – Colossians 3:23.

We are family who will seek the Lord and will remain teachable – Matthew 6:33-34 and James 4:6-10.

We are a family for the good of the city. IMG_20160520_140711

We are a family who strives to model and practice servant hood – Philippians 2:5-11

We are a family who loves and cares for the neighborhood, people and city in which we live – Jeremiah 29:4-7

We are a family that believes our health and well-being is linked to the health and well-being of our neighbor-James 2 and Matthew 25

We are a family who will be involved in the mission of God in the places we live, work and play. Matthew 28:18-20, John 20, and Romans 12:1-2

 

Now, we could choose to not worry about any of this, but this is our ONE life.  We want to honor the Lord and grow our family to follow after Him, and having this mission codified helps to keep our family headed in the same direction.

Multiple times we have come to a point where we could go two (or three or four) different directions; and if we hadn’t spent anymore time thinking through who we we were as a family than what we wanted for dinner, we would have had a much more difficult time making decisions.

Life is so unpredictable and while spontaneity and “winging it” has its moments, the direction of our family is not something we can afford to leave to chance.

Reflection

shadowMy oldest daughter raced down the hallway of our hotel in a rage.  She felt “shorted” and was refusing to come into our room with us.  It was 4 pm and our day had been filled with many emotional breakdowns from each of the kids.  I was tired and hungry and ready to relax, but now once again I had to “parent”.  I wanted to yell! I started back down the hall and somehow gained enough composure to direct her back towards our room in a way she responded to.

I wish I had all the answers.  I’m amazed how right when I seem to have one stage “figured out”, moments later I am slapped in the face with something new and seemingly more difficult.  Matt said that sometimes parenting four kids can feel like a twisted version of “Press your Luck” with the accompanying whammies coming in the form of a very fussy 2 month old,  an unreasonable toddler who shrieks a lot, a preschooler who is grumpy and hard to please and finally, the grade schooler with extreme attitude flare ups. It’s all hard.  I hate not knowing if I’m saying the right thing or handling the situation in the way that will reap the best results.

During our family devotion today we were read these words in James 1:23-24 “if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was”.

This got me thinking..  In the difficult moments (Which seem to be so often) am I forgetting what kind of person I am? Am I a hearer and not a doer?
I might not always have the right answer.  I might not always know what I should say to move past where we are, but in my moments of uncertainty as a parent, am I still a reflection of Christ? In my discipline, is there love? In my truth, is there kindness? In my redirection, is there self control?

This morning we shared with the kids basic skills to help us remember our reflection of Jesus; reading God’s word and prayer. Yet, if these skills are so “basic” how do we as parents so often forget? I  have been convicted about how often I am in prayer for my children.

It can become so easy to excuse each emotional moment our kids have as a “stage” and just assume it will pass. Yet, when we do this we fool ourselves into believing we have no control over the situation and worst of all miss out on opportunity to bless our children and grow ourselves. Friends, we are not powerless, we need to pray.

When your toddler is struggling with tantrums, pray that God will help her to learn to obedience.  When your 6 year old is emotional, pray that she will have peace.  When your preschooler is moody, pray that God will fill his heart with joy that can only come from Him.

Pray when you get ready in the morning.
Pray when you brush your daughters hair..
Pray during a diaper change,  while folding laundry or cooking dinner…
Pray while you lay next to your child or when you give them a bath..

Friends, let’s be a reflection of Jesus, not just in our hearing, but also in our doing.

Quick Date

mandj1Last night Matt and I went out for a quick date to a local coffee shop.  It was only for 2 hours but for 2 hours we had a chance to breathe. I spend most of my hours mothering so it can be hard to remember at times another very important role… Being Matt’s wife. In Genesis 2, God tells us a man ‘leaves his wife and mother and cleaves to his wife, making them one flesh [paraphrase]. My leaving and cleaving come before my mothering.

Our current season is very full caring for our little ones but that is not an excuse for ignoring the relationship that started it all… 11 1/2 years ago! Early on Matt and I went on dates all the time,  prayed and studied the Bible together, we sent lots of emails and texts, physical touch was a large part of our relationship.  Then kids came and these things that we loved to do together became much more difficult.

It’s so easy to give our spouse our leftovers.

One of my biggest struggles is being grumpy at Matt if the kids are giving me a hard time.  He calls during the day to check on me and it’s easy to snap and be short. Often, the last thing I want is to be touched after I’m touched all day, so when Matt touches my shoulder I pull away. These are realities I’m trying to overcome.

Matt and I need to be connected to make this family run.  We have to be on the same side. So when he calls and it’s crazy at home I need to remind myself that this isn’t his fault.  He’s on my side. When he comes behind and touches me I need to remind myself… He needs touch too.  He’s been working all day.  He misses me.  We need to be close to stay connected.

When I think of him I need to let him know. When he leaves I need to give him a kiss.

We still need to pray together. We still need to laugh together. We still need to send encouraging texts and notes. We still need to be close.

And believe me… Just because I say “we need” does not mean I currently am. Our date last night was wonderful and we will have many, many more. About a year ago we committed a line item in our budget for that express purpose.  We knew that spending our money on regular times for us to be alone together was as vital as putting gas in our car and food in the fridge. It is impossible for our family to grow in strength, if the very foundation is crumbling.

So, remember what started it all but know it will be different now … and that’s ok.  The growing part isn’t always easy but things that are worth it seldom are.

Schematic of loss

We met at the pavilion; an obtusely tall, angular building resembling something more at home in the mountainous panorama of my native Wyoming then here in brown Kansas. It’s December, though not happy December, plangent with snow or Christmas cheer. It was appointment day. As we met, there was talk of me taking the kids and returning home, leaving her to navigate Camry colored silver when the end had come. “I’ll wait”

Looking back at two faces buckled in…I pause and think, they always look like tiny astronauts ready for lift off, buckled tight surrounded by foam and resin. The girl, cheery eyed and lucid, the boy sleeping, all be it in fits and starts. “I’ll wait” She climbs from Mazda midnight blue and I take her place, the door shuts and the cabin is quiet. She returns a glance over the shoulder as she crosses the lot, and I press my lips together and give her a hopeful and concerning half grin and wave.

Sliding the gear shift into reverse, then drive, we go. First round the parking lot and medical complex, “Gracie that’s where you and brother were born, right inside that building….” Girl still awake replies, “Where’s mommy?”

“She’s inside” I reply, “We’ll see her again real soon.” We drive, first through adjacent business lots, then across bridges and to other access roads, circling, always returning to that pavilion, that ugly pavilion. I hate that pavilion.

We find a park, built around a man made lake, there are geese, dirty frozen puddles and a few beaten down vehicles parked, conducting business I need not know nor want to know about. “Do you see the geese?!” I exclaim. “Yes Daddy! They’re silly!”

We drive, around and around, we drive. Finally my travel companion follows her fair haired brother into slumber, succumbing to the warmth of her jumpseat and the rhythm of the road…I return.

The pavilion, that disgusting pavilion gleams mockingly out of place…she returns, biting lip, pink faced, fears realized.

“The baby is gone, it’s just gone, dead! No heartbeat, only measuring 6 weeks again….please take me home!” We embrace, as best you can in the front seat of a Mazda, her tears hot on my cheek, her pain, palpable, her body carrying the hope of life and the grim reality of death.

Regular Hospitality

My good friend and mentor Brad Brisco, along with his wife Mischelle and their two boys have spent the last year providing foster care in our community. During that time they have housed over 40 different kids and in this post he shares a little bit about what he and his family have experienced and learned. Just a taste…

I can’t fully articulate how we have been blessed over the past year. That is the funny thing about biblical hospitality, just when you think it is about welcoming the stranger, for their benefit, you realize that it is you who is being blessed by the presence of the “stranger.”

My first reaction when reading Brad’s account is how absolutely radical this is! Yet upon further review, Hospitality of this kind should be the most normal action of the follower of Jesus. Instead of this hospitality being radical for us, it should be regular.

As Jessica and I consider adoption in the future as part of God’s plan for our family, I encourage you to join me in prayerfully considering how God is calling you to look after the orphans and widows in your community.

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