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936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When You Are An Introvert Raising An Extrovert With “So Many Words”

January 9, 2017

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“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t let you nap.”

My eyes are closed. I lay in my bed next to my five-year-old; his little brothers sound asleep in their rooms. He goes on. “It’s just that I have so many words. And I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.”

This seems to be the case lately. And can I just say it…that it’s exhausting? It is said that women speak, on average, around 20,000 words a day. Just the thought of that exhausts me. I am not, and have never been that woman. In fact, one reason my husband and I fit so well together is that we have a bit of a role reversal; he has always been the talkative one. During arguments (and yes, they do happen), he likes to talk things over, while I would rather employ the silent treatment, mull things over in my mind, and take a nap. I have never been the talkative type.

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And then I gave birth to the boy who is his father’s son. Just as Zeke put it that day lying next to me in my bed—he just has so many words. And some days, like today, it infuriates me. To get the same point across, I might use five carefully chosen words, while my boy would use twenty-seven to say the very same thing.

It has been a real struggle lately, to remain patient when I feel downright drained in every single way. He rounds the corner with another question, another idea, even another, “I love you Mom and you are the most beautiful Mom I know!” and it is just the sweetest thing. And exhausting.

If you’re the quiet type of mom who treasures her scarce moments of silence hidden amongst the chaos and noise of her day, you might just be nodding your head right now.

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It has been this terribly complex dynamic to wrap my mind around. As we prepare for my book to launch, which includes public speaking, I’m diving into this whole new exhilarating world. And I love it. I love speaking words that move people. And seeing them literally relax under those words and find space to breath again; wisdom to move forward. I love every single bit of it.

I also love quiet.

And how do I balance this type of life, where I can hardly call myself an introvert, because of my love for community and speaking, and yet holding a million conversations a day with my child is downright draining? I’m at a loss, most days. Maybe you feel the same, trying to keep up with just so many words from your little one.

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But on those days when I’m given a bit of extra clarity, I see it. That these “so many words” that my boy holds bottled up within him, they are his byway from young child to adolescent, and eventually adult. They are his only way to make sense of this world around him, where still so much makes very little sense at all.

His endless questions and limitless ideas, they are his only way to express all of those wonderings bottled up in that budding mind of his. With these “so many words”, he is trying to piece together all of the confusion, uncertainty, curiosities, and misunderstandings that surround him. And he is trying to figure out where he fits in it all.

These “so many words”, they need to be spoken, to find a voice and a space and an answer. It pains him to bottle them up. Just as he told me that day on my bed, “I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.” It is just the same with my writing. A thought or an idea enters into my mind, and I feel I must find a home for it somewhere. Whether it be in a notebook or a file on my phone or a text to my husband or straight here to the blog. It has to go somewhere, or else it might just disappear into oblivion, never to mature, develop, or move people. My boy feels the same with his ideas of snowboard designs and race car tracks and inventions. He needs those ideas and thoughts and questions and words to have a home, lest he lose them. And my listening ear provides him that sanctuary for his ideas, where he knows they’ll be safe.

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Every time we stop to listen to our child’s words, to really listen, and to answer, it is an invite. It invites them to be vulnerable and curious and to dream. And it invites us to step into their world, and glimpse those wonderings that dance about in their head all day long.

This open invite into their world, it’s a gracious offering that our children give us, and we can’t know for how long it will last. How long until they begin guarding those words; bottling them up and hesitant to share them with us? Now is the time, while our children are young, that we can provide them with a place of trust for their words to rest upon, so that even when they are grown, they will know exactly where they can go to for a listening ear.

So yes—it is exhausting—these so many words. But really, isn’t most of parenthood? And this piece of it—the opportunity to speak truth and life and love and kindness, to answer their questions in such a way that will satisfy their curiosity and teach them about the most important pieces to life—I’ll take that exhaustion any day. One question at a time. Let’s graciously give those so many words a place to be heard today.

Family Parenting

The One Question Us Parents Are Asking But No One Is Talking About

November 11, 2016

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I paused as I considered my next box to pack. Our move date was fast approaching; within a couple of short weeks we would relocate our young family from Missouri to our new home in Colorado. Most of the house was already stuffed and taped into cardboard boxes. But there was still that pile of clothes and a few garments hanging in the closet, the ones with elastic waist bands and stretched out mid-sections.

I could no longer avoid the decision. Do I pack these, or list them on Craigslist? It was crux of the crossroad we couldn’t move beyond. To do so we would have to answer that question us parents seem to encounter around every conversation with a new friend, or a stranger at the library. You know the one—the, “So, are you done?” question.

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I find it ironic that even with the question hovering around our conversations, we’re not actually talking about it. We offer a short, “Oh we’re not sure yet,” or “I think so, but maybe not”. Yet these short, trite answers speak nothing of our heart’s agony over this decision.

We’re not talking about how emotional and heart-wrenching this decision is. We’re not talking about the finality of it that haunts us, freezing us in our tracks.

I listed those clothes. Laid them out piece by piece on our bed, a flood of memories washing over me with each fold. I could picture my hand rubbing the red knit sweater over my belly swollen with our third boy. The electronic shutter of our camera sounded, wiping the memories from my mind as I pulled out the camera card and slipped it into my laptop.

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In the coming weeks, I’d receive a few emails of interest, but no bites. In the rush of last minute packing, I shoved the clothes into a plastic bin and loaded them into our moving trailer. It would be a month later when I would think about that bin of clothes again, and why they had made their way across the vast expanse of Kansas and into our new homeland of the mountains. With a faint second line and a burst of shock and hope, I found the purpose for holding onto that bin of clothing.

We were going to need them again.

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I wondered if that was the plan all along, why the interested emails never turned into a sale. Some divine intervention sparing us from having to purchase a whole new maternity wear wardrobe.

But then two days passed. That faint line grew fainter, and with it my hope. When the blood appeared, I knew that those clothes were not going to get unpacked with the dishes and photo frames. They would remain in their bin. I began to wonder why, again, they had made this trip with us.

Our miscarriage brought everything back into question. All those conversations where we had circled around and around and around again, with no conclusive answer. “Are we done?” We had been, I thought. We were, I thought. But carrying another baby, if only for a couple of weeks, unraveled any previous reasoning.

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And now I don’t know. Do any of us, really? I hear of parents who know for certain when they are done. No questions asked. But I have to wonder, did doubts or questions or uncertainties cloud their decision, if only but for a moment? Was there ever that uncertainty of, “What if we change our minds?”

If there is one thing about parenthood that has completely shocked me it is this:  the decision of when to “be done” having babies is far, far more difficult than I ever anticipated. It’s a question we circle around and around and around again, unwilling to stop at a certain conclusion. Because, “What if?”

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The one thing I do know is this:  We’re not talking about it enough. Just as I discovered with our miscarriage, this is a difficult area of parenthood that many of us are suffocating under the weight of, without leaning on one another.

I’m not saying let’s bring up all of our family planning woes and intimacies at the next church potluck. I am only suggesting that if you’re struggling under the weight of this question, that it’s likely that one of your close friends are, too. And perhaps they just need a hug and a “Hey, me too.”

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Maybe all they need today is a conversation over coffee, and to hear that they’re not the only one who could just keep on having babies, while not knowing if you can handle more kids. Maybe they need to hear that they’re not crazy, and that it’s ok to be in a place where you just can’t make that choice. Not yet. And really-that’s ok.

I don’t have an answer to this one. There’s no equation for determining when to “be done”. But one thing I am certain of is that in the midst of these most difficult and emotional decisions, we need to know that we are neither desolate nor deserted in our struggle.

So if this is you tonight, hemming and hawing and avoiding and discussing and praying and standing paralyzed in your uncertainty—I’m there too. You’re not alone. Neither am I. And often the greatest comfort is found in the realization that you’re not alone.

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

I Dont Want To Look Back And Wonder How We Got There

September 14, 2016

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I am not sure how I didn’t notice until then. Why I didn’t see it until that very inconvenient moment when we’re rushing to get all three kids fed and dressed and out the door in time for church. But I did see it, and it stopped me dead in my hustle-bustle tracks.

The tick of the clock ceased to remind me that church would be starting soon, and we best be on our way. Instead, I took in the sight of our oldest boy as he bound through the living room. I studied his shoulders in that button-up. When had they turned from such pre-school round to little boy square?

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His legs looked impossibly long in those dark denim jeans. And as he ran and jumped throughout the living room, his muscles flexed beneath his Sunday’s Best to reveal a budding strength. A young man strength. I bent down and rested a knee on the carpet, and pulled him near. “Just stay,” I told him. “I just want to hold you for a minute.” He leaned back just enough to catch my eyes with his, and then broke into a big grin.

That night I would dream that he was taller than me, and I know some day this will become a realty. My prayer is, that when that day comes, I won’t be asking myself how it happened.

I pray that I’ll know exactly how we got to that point, because I was fully present every step that it takes to get from here to there.

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I did some calculating this week. I unscrewed the tops of those jars that sit on a shelf in our living room, the ones that remind us that time will not stop, so we best learn how to slow it down. I held the copper coins in my hands, counted two by twos. And this is what I found.

Our youngest boy, the one who came on his own timetable through a whirlwind of labor weeks before we expected him. The one born so small I could hold him in one hand. The one who slept swaddled up soundly underneath a sunny window until his skin pinked up. The one who would quickly prove that his big voice and even bigger heart could compensate for his little size. We have spent 74 weeks getting to know him.

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And then our middle guy. The one born with a deep, raspy voice and a contagious giggle. The one who asks to sit and drink a cup of tea with me, and requests to wear a button-up shirt on the most ordinary of outings. The one who forces me to stop and slow our day, because he needs to dance in my arms. We’ve had 173 weeks with this one.

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And then the one who made me a Mama. The one who gave me a crash course in what it means to lose all of myself; to give and give and give some more. And then to receive; to take in all the love and whispers and smiles and moments of grand beauty.

The one whose focus is steadfast and determination is unshaken. The one who gathers paper and markers to make a card for friends when he hears that they are sick. The one who asks the deep questions, and doesn’t settle for shallow answers—and teaches me to do the same. We’ve had 269 weeks with this boy.

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This morning I sat in a room of women. Twelve strangers who are all walking this journey of penny spending; this voyage of time investing. We were gathered for a new Bible study, and took turns sharing our names and the ages of our children. Several talked as they nursed newborn babes. “I have three boys,” I began, “Ages 5, 3, and 1.” One woman sitting the next couch over had three children the same ages.

And I just wonder, what would happen if I had said instead, “My three boys are 74 weeks old, 173 weeks old, and 269 weeks old.” Surely there would have been a few odd glances. It seems as though after the first few months, we transition from counting weeks, to counting months, and then years. But what if we kept tracking these weeks? And what if I had said instead, “I have 862 weeks left with my youngest boy. With my second born, I have 763 weeks remaining. And, well, with my firstborn, I have only 667 weeks left.”

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It’s the same reason some parents say that they can’t do it—this time counting. It’s why for a long time, I didn’t think I could do it either. Sometimes we don’t want this stark reminder. But if we’re not keeping track, I fear we’ll lose track.

I fear we’ll stop noticing the details, and that we might just miss the process of it all. I’m afraid that we’ll get to that last week, when we’re sitting on a bedside helping them pack for college, or watching them drive away to their next adventure, and we’ll wonder how we got there.

I don’t want to wonder how we got there. I want to be able to look back and see a continuous string of moments marked by my full presence, my full attention, my full appreciation. I want to harness the time and engrave it with all of me noticing all of them.

And so I keep counting.

Giveaway Parenting

Why I Teach My Kids To Talk To Strangers (And a Book Giveaway!)

May 24, 2016

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His lip began to quiver as he turned his sun-kissed face and buried it into me. The train’s horn signaled its departure from the station. Its cars were packed full of tiny passengers grinning from ear to ear. My boys watched from the sidewalk, their hopes crushed with each toot of the train horn.

I tried to explain to them that it was a pre-season test run; that its passengers were a group of preschoolers on a pre-scheduled ride. But how do you explain such things to a three-year-old with his heart set on a train ride?

Beside us stood an older woman with her daughter and grandson. They, too, tried to explain to the young boy why he couldn’t ride the train. The woman was kind. As we had stood by waiting to see whether we could ride, she’d asked about my boys, about my husband’s work, about our recent move to Colorado.

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A silver-haired woman in purple tie-dye came around the corner. She had been busy boarding the passengers moments before. “I just can’t do this,” she began to explain to me and the women beside me. “I’m a grandmother. And look at those tears….” She pointed to my heartbroken three-year-old. Then she bent down until her face was level with my sons’ faces. “You can ride as soon as they come back.” My boy’s lip steadied, and curled into a smile.

As we boarded the train, we chose a seat next to the kind woman and her grandson. My boys beamed as we rode over the small wooden bridge, then through the train tunnel. The woman asked me whether we had found a church; her husband used to pastor one here, she says; they’ve been here for over 25 years. Her daughter explained that she used to ride this train as a young girl. Now her little boy sat next to her, making the same kind of memories.

We exchanged cards before we parted ways. “Call me if you guys need anything!” she said. Then I went to rejoin my boys in the sand, digging endless holes with tiny construction trucks.

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She was only one of the handful of woman I spoke to at the park that day. My children have gotten used to it—to Mom striking up conversations with strangers. In fact, I often encourage it by packing our bag full of Matchbox cars, sand toys, or bubbles—something to draw some new friends over for my boys to play with, while I talk with their Moms or caregivers.

After all, I would rather that my children learn how to interact safely with strangers by observing me, right now when they’re little and close by my side. I want them to see how I interact very differently when I am talking to a fellow mom, with other people around, then I do in situations like the other day, when we shared a plate of food with a homeless man—and I asked their Daddy to take it over to him, instead of me. I want them to see the caution. The wisdom. The discretion. And I want them to understand how to put these things into action, so that if a situation arises—they’ll know exactly what to do.

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And while we are having conversations about never going anywhere with someone we don’t know, and telling Mom or Dad if an adult makes them feel scared—I want them to also know that sometimes it is ok to talk with strangers.

That sometimes that is how we make friends.

That someday, they might need to talk to a stranger– if (God forbid) they get lost or separated from me.

I need them to know how to identify a safe stranger from a potentially dangerous one. And I want them to know that there is still good in this world. That sometimes a great conversation and even a friendship can be born out of talking with strangers. But only if they know how it must be done—with caution and wisdom. And those are the things that I want to build into them and give them a chance to observe now, while they are near.

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A couple of weeks ago I read this story from a woman about when her two sons were approached by strangers—the dangerous kind. These two young boys were well prepared with sound wisdom in how to identify good strangers from bad strangers—and that knowledge saved their lives.

I had also just read this story from a mom who lost her daughter for 15 minutes. Because of conversations they had prior to the event, this young girl knew exactly what kind of strangers she needed help from in order to locate her mom.

I think we go amiss if we teach our kids to not talk to strangers. Because one day they might need a stranger. And that’s why it is so important that we teach them not only what kind of strangers to stay away from—but what kind of strangers are ok.

That is why I love these two books that I came across while reading those stories. No Trespassing—This Is My Body, and Super Duper Safety School, are incredible resources for you to talk through scenarios with your children in a way that won’t gross them out or terrify them—but will instead empower them.

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These books show them exactly how to identity a “Tricky Person”—one that could be dangerous, and how to stay safely away from them. They also show them how to identify safe adults, if they need help. Further, they show kids how to talk these things through with their parents or another safe adult, if something makes them feel uneasy, frightened, “or just plain yucky”.

Knowledge is powerful–powerful enough to save our children’s lives. As Patti Fitzgerald (author of these books and founder of Safely Ever After, Inc) , puts it: “REMEMBER: The ONE thing that deters a child predator or a molester is the possibility that they could get caught….If they think your child is confident enough to recognize thumbs down behavior, or may speak up, you significantly lower the risk of being their target!”

Let’s equip our children with that knowledge and confidence.

These books open up and guide the conversations that could save our children’s lives. They are most certainly a new part of our regular reading list—and I’d love to make them a part of yours, too!

Enter below to win a free copy of both No Trespassing—This Is My Body, and Super Duper Safety School.

 

Giveaway has now ended. Thanks to all who participated! Check back for our next book giveaway soon!

936Pennies Family Living With Intention Parenting

What Is In Your Child’s Hands Today?

March 14, 2016

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He takes my hand in his and gives it two gentle squeezes, and I forget all else going on in that moment. I look at him quizzically; he seems to hang on to every one of my words these days. Two days before I had squeezed his own hand in mine, and he had asked me why. “It’s a way to tell someone that you love them, without using words. It shows them that you are thinking about them.”

He quickly adopts this as a new form of communication, surprising me with hand squeezes while we’re in the car, out on a walk, and running errands; a constant reminder that he’s thinking about me, his hand memorizing the feeling of my own.

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In the coming weeks I find myself more and more aware of what is occupying my boys’ hands. I read it in Rachel Macy Stafford’s book, Hands Free Life, “I want my daughters to remember holding our cat, Banjo; a wooden spoon to form cookie dough; musical instruments; books; bike handlebars; ladybugs; seashells; and especially my hand in theirs.”

I read her words as I sit out on our back deck, watching my boy, nearing five years old, practicing his grip on an old tennis racquet, maneuvering it just right to hit a plastic ball across the yard.

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Stafford continues in her book, “Because my actions greatly influence their actions, I make it a priority to exercise daily, go outside, and do things with my hands like baking and reading books.”

I’m thankful today that my boy sees my hands occupied with the pages of a book, a pen, and my journal; and in a few minutes, with a tennis ball as I join him in the yard. I know that many times—too many times—they see my hands busying themselves in a cadence across the laptop keyboard, or they watch my thumb dancing across the screen of my smart phone. And yes, the work is important, but I have to ask myself, do they see my hands wrapped around technology more than they see them fingering the pages a book, sprinkling cinnamon sugar over muffins, or wrapped around their Daddy’s hand?

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What our children observe our hands holding day in and day out will greatly determine what they decide to busy their own hands with. What might begin to change if we started taking note of what occupies our hands most?

I want my children to know well the slight cramp of thumb and wrist after gripping a marker or paintbrush, as they splash color across a blank canvas. I want them to know the feeling of both bread dough and garden soil caked underneath their fingernails. When their hands slip into mine, I want to feel their small calluses from swinging on the monkey bars and pulling each other around the yard in the wagon.

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I want them to be well acquainted with the feeling of craft glue dried onto the tips of their fingers. I want their fingertips to know the softness of bird feathers, and the prickles of pine needles. I want them to know how to hold a pea pod between their hands, and slice it open with their thumb nail to get at the peas inside. I want them to memorize the perfect hand placements, and how to grip the branches just right to scale the tree at their favorite park.

Most of all, I want my children to know the assurance found in the slight squeeze of my hand around theirs, a silent reminder that I love them, and am thinking about them right there in that moment; and that I wouldn’t rather my hand be busy with anything else.

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Today may we all pay a little more attention to what we occupy our hands with; choosing to fill them with the very things we hope our children will wrap their own hands around. May we be the ones to model what is truly important in life, by what we choose to grasp within our palms.

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As Stafford says it so well, “Today I want you to remember my open hands—not my multitasking hands, the ones too full, too busy, too pushy to gently tuck your hair behind your ear. I want to love you by opening my two empty hands.”

Empty hands are hands that are ready to receive, whether it be that craft project they are so proud of, a bouquet of wild flowers gathered from the yard, or their own little hand in yours. What will fill your hands today?

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Adventure Motherhood Parenting

When I Decided To Let My Kids Do Dangerous Things

March 9, 2016

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The garage door across the street begins to slowly crawl upwards, revealing two sets of feet. They walk towards each other, and as the door opens fully, I see them embrace. It’s difficult to tell with the helmet around his head, but he looks young. She looks older, and nervous.

He climbs onto the motorcycle, and I continue to push the baby forward in the stroller, but my other two boys stop me. They stand ten feet behind me, transfixed on the scene across the street. My eldest does not divert his gaze as he tells me, “Mom, we need to see how fast he goes.” I stop, and I too become engrossed, but for a different reason. He pushes the bike backwards with his feet, slowly away from the house and onto the street. She steps forward hesitantly, blowing him a kiss and then hugging herself as she backs into the garage, her eyes still on him as he speeds away.

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I am overwhelmed by the emotions that flood over me as I observe her watching her son. I picture my own boy on that motorcycle, his safety completely out of my control. And then I see myself at ten years old, walking into my home after a week with my grandparents to find my mom and dad in casts and stitches, road rash painted across them from the motorcycle accident that almost took them from us. I push the thought out of my mind as I take my boys’ hands and we cross the street.

An hour earlier on the playground I was climbing high on the ropes when my boy told me, “Mom, you can’t do that. It’s dangerous.” I smiled down at him, and told him he could climb too. “It’s ok to do dangerous things sometimes, if you’re very carful.” I tell him. Of course, this is before I witness the woman across the street watching her boy ride off on his motorcycle. She may be braver than I will ever be.

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For months now as we have prepared for our move to the mountains, I have prayed countless prayers for my boys’ safety. We moved here for adventure; to give them all the opportunity we can to chase the beauty of God’s creation, to push themselves to new limits, to discover new strength, to learn how to watch out for each other, and to realize how small they are, and how large this world is. All the while, I knew that my very reasons for wanting to bring them here are also the very reasons I am most afraid of.

All of these things that we long for them to experience require an element of danger. And it has been a very real struggle of mine to trust that God will protect my boys as they venture out into His dangerously beautiful earth. But if I shelter them from all of the danger, I will be simultaneously keeping them from many of the most beautiful places on earth. I will be inhibiting them from experiencing awe and wonder. I will be holding them back from knowing and worshiping God in a very intimate way. And that would be something I would always regret.

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For now while they are four and two and not even one, we will hold hands while we teach them about snakes and lions and unpredictable weather and not going too close to the edge. But I know that the day will come when it will become my turn to stand by and watch. And I will need to trust that what we have taught them will ring true in their hearts as they go about their adventures—the adventures we intentionally made a part of them by bringing them here.

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Today my boy scaled the rope gym at the playground, and as he did so, I stared off at the 14,000 foot mountain peak behind him, knowing that one day that summit will become his playground. The thought makes my heart burst with both fear and pride. Fear for the day when his safety will be completely out of my control, and pride in knowing that climbing those heights will become so much a part of who he is.

Because the years spanning from now until then will be full of encouraging the wild in his heart, not stifling it. They will be marked by intentional teaching about how to be safe amongst the wild beauty of this planet, all while giving him and his brothers every opportunity to experience that beauty in its fullness, and coming to know the One who created it, and who created them with an innate need to explore their world, even when it holds a bit of danger.

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Faith Family Parenting

The Day I Yelled Twice

January 18, 2016

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Backing out on the gravel drive, I breathed one last quick prayer, that all of my crazy effort to deep clean the house over the past two hours would pay off. That we would finally get an offer. As I prayed, my heart ached with regret. The past fifteen minutes had been ugly. The volume and tone of my voice aimed at my sweet boys had gone completely against the words I had copied down in my journal the morning before,

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

(Proverbs 12:18)

I had thrust the sword.

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I slowed the car and pulled over to the curb. Turning off the engine, I glanced at my side mirror before opening the door and winding my way around to the other side of the car. When I opened his door, he was bouncing his cars up and down on his lap—unaware of my shattered spirit.

I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face into his little chest. Then I pulled back and looked straight into his eyes; my own began to water. “I am so sorry, Buddy. I am so sorry that I yelled. I know that I was stressed and trying to get the house ready, but I should not have yelled at you. That was wrong. I was wrong. I’m sorry.” He looked at me with his eyes sparkling, and he hardly gave his answer a thought before replying, “It’s so ok Mom. And you are very pretty.”

I thanked him before softly closing his car door, and then making my way to his brother’s side to make my second apology. And then I climbed back into my seat, started the engine, and we made our way towards the park. They had forgiven, and I willed myself to do the same; to forgive myself for the harshness in my quick, sharp words.

Yet that was only my first yell. The second came minutes later.

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I hoisted the car seat up and out of the middle of the back seat. My infant boy squinted his eyes against the bright sunlight. As I lowered the carseat into the stroller, I did what I had done countless times before, and sent the bigger boys ahead to the playground a few hundred feet away. I shoved my bag into the bottom of the stroller, pulled on my hoodie, and gave the baby his bottle, and then we made our way toward the swings to meet the boys.

As I came around the big red slide, something did not set right. My boys, always right there busy at play, were not. I looked up from the swing set  and caught a glimpse of my eldest boy. His white-blonde hair shimmered in the afternoon sun—almost as bright as the thin layer of ice on the pond that he was standing next to, just a foot away.

My heart stopped in my chest. And this is when I yelled for the second time that day—only this time my voice was high and tight with panic. “Zeke! Zeke come here now!” His little brother stopped, about a hundred feet away from the pond himself, and turned back towards me. My eyes remained fixed on Ezekiel as he turned to me, then back to the thin layer of ice. I prayed he would not trust it.

Come here, my boy. Don’t trust it. Trust me.

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I continued to yell, and then exhaled as he began jogging back towards me, away from the ice.

When he was still thirty feet away from me, I calmed my shaky breath and addressed him sternly, “Do you ever, ever go by the water alone?” I asked it short and sharp. Loud. Intense. He looked down to the grass. “No…” he answered softly. He looked up, noticing my eyes beginning to fill with tears. “Why not, Mama?” he asked. I tried to gauge whether he could handle my next words, and decided that he needed to hear them. “The ice is not strong, Love.” My voice was choppy as I choked out the words. “It will break, and you will fall through. If you fall in the water you could die.”

I then wrapped him as tightly as I could into my arms as he buried his tears into my chest. “You scared me, Zeke.” my own tears mixed with his. “It scared me too!” he wailed. And I knew that we both had much to learn from this.

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There is a place for raised voices. There is a place for yelling; to turn a child away from danger, and guide them back to safety. I yelled twice on that day. One warranted, one not. One yell evoked pain, and one brought life.

As a mother, the temptation to yell can be fierce and persistent and can seem impossible to control. But if I fail to harness to power of my yell—if I use it where it has no place, then it might just lose its power when I need it. When there comes a time when my child is in danger, and my raised voice induces no alarm because I have abused its power—that is where tragedy may strike.

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Let it be my prayer—let it be all of our prayers as parents—that we will not abuse the power of a yell. That we will not speak harshly except where harsh words have their place. That the hard words will be said only when they give life, not take it. 

Let us be careful to raise our voice only once—when it will be a “fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14)

Faith Parenting

Give Your Child The Gift Of Giving This Season

November 16, 2015

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“But Mom, I wanted to help you.” His voice was quiet; on the verge of shaky. I could picture the trembling lip. His words were coated in disappointment.

Every year I try to involve our boys in packing Christmas Shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Millions of these boxes are packed each year with toys, books, hygiene products, and school supplies, and then sent overseas to children in poverty. Children who have never had a new toy. Or a toothbrush. Or a hug. Or hope.

I had planned on taking our four-year-old, Zeke, and two-year-old, Ellis, to the store to pick out items for these kids. I imagined that this year Zeke might begin to understand the idea of poverty, and the importance of loving these kids through these gifts.

But then life happened. And I Amazon Primed our Operation Christmas Child supplies.

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The day we were supposed to go pack our items into boxes with our church group, we were all sick with head colds. And so I simply dropped our bag of items off at church. We were driving home from delivering our items when he spoke it from the backseat. “I wanted to help with the boxes.”

My husband looked over at me. “You should pack a few more with him.”

And so my boy and I made a trip to the store together and gathered items to pack boxes for three more boys.

This morning I had planned on packing those boxes with Zeke and Ellis. But first, I played a few videos on the Operation Christmas Child website for them. They watched as children of all ages, colors, and backgrounds beamed ear to ear as they opened their Christmas boxes.

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As we watched those videos together, we talked about joy. And poverty. And sadness. And Jesus’ love. And hope.

And when Zeke saw the raggedy old tents that the children were living in, he turned to me and said, “Mama, we need to go make them a house.”

This is when I clutched my two boys near, and I broke down.

“We need to get more things for them, Mama. We need to help them.” he told me.

And you can bet that we threw our shoes on and rushed off to target to do just that.

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While I was trying to teach my boys the importance of meeting people in their need and loving them to Jesus, they ended up teaching me something big, too. They showed me that while we still have more to give—then we need to give it. Why stop at convenience?

While there is still a need, and we are able, then we have a job to do. “A mission!” as my boys put it.

“This is a great day!” Zeke told me as we drove to gather more supplies. And then once they were all packed, my boy and I prayed over the boxes together, and the little boys and girls who would receive them. He and I drove to a drop off location, and delivered our boxes. And as he walked out of the church, empty handed, there were no tears. In fact, he was beaming.

He walked away proud, exclaiming one thing: “Wow!”
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Last year I read a book compiled of stories from kids who have received these boxes over the years. And it changed my life. Because it ends up that these boxes are about much, much more than giving toys to kids. When those children are handed that box, they are also handed the Gospel. Each child, after receiving their box, goes through a discipleship program. They learn who Jesus is, and that He loves them, and that He has met their greatest need, for a Savior.

Little boys and girls across the globe are finding hope. And it does not stop there. One shoe box has the potential of impacting whole communities. Families are coming to Christ. Villages are transforming. Communities are finding hope. Eternity is shifting.

And right in the midst of it all—my boys are being deeply impacted as well. Not all of us have the opportunity to go and hand these boxes directly into children’s hands. But we do have the opportunity to witness how the act of giving these boxes can transform our own child.

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God is using this ministry to impact the world and lead millions of people to Christ—and it is not too late to allow your child the opportunity to be a part of it.

Today begins national collection week. Here is how to get involved.

1. Click here to learn how to pack a shoe box

2. Click here to find a drop off location near you

3. Watch  some of these videos with your child, and talk about the importance of loving people and telling them about Jesus.

4. Pray with your children over the boxes and the children who will receive them.

5. Watch what God does in your own child’s heart.

In the midst of a season tainted by consumerism, we have an incredible opportunity to involve our children in God’s great mission. One shoe box at a time. The world can be changed. And your child can be forever changed, too.

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936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

Redeeming The Days Before They Are Ever Spent

September 6, 2015

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There is a constant and relentless tension that hangs over each and every one of us mamas.

It is a deep yearning to spend the time we have with our children well, coupled with an immense fear that we will squander these days. A deep dread that we will look back when they are grown and gone, and we will grieve over time given to worthless pursuits; days lost to busyness, hours traded for empty distractions, and moments left unnoticed to be buried under time’s passing.

This tension grates against our souls every single day. As we wake in the morning we feel it pressing, how will we spend this day worthwhile? What is its fullest potential?

And as we lay our little ones down at night, kissing soft cheeks and whispering prayers, the tension pulls at our shoulders and aches in our hearts. Did we spend this day well? Will it be remembered?

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Ephesians 5:15-16 urges us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days our evil.”

Another version uses even stronger language. “Redeem the time.”

Yet this is the question that has baffled me for years:

How do we redeem something that hasn’t been lost yet?

I have always assumed that “Redeem” meant to bring something back. To rescue and restore. But how do we recapture days that are still future?

As mamas gifted the task of raising these little ones, this is exactly our calling. Moms are meant to redeem the time.

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Time is perhaps our most valuable asset, more so than money. Yet it was money that helped me to understand this concept of redeeming time. Before my husband and I married, we took a budgeting course created by financial expert Dave Ramsey. Ramsey explained that each dollar to our name needs to be given a job before it is spent, or else it will be wasted on frivolous things.

This is how I am beginning to see my days. I must assign to them a job before they pass, lest they slip through the cracks to never be remembered.

This is because time left to its own devices, without an intentional spending plan, is time prone to be wasted.

God knew that without some direction and purpose, we would fritter away our days on things much lesser than what He created us for. Redeem the time, “because the days are evil.”

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This week my family decided to redeem the time by spending ten hours of it in the car together. As we drove west from our home in Missouri towards the foothills of Colorado, hope rose within my soul with every passing mile.

At each rest stop my boys would ask, “Are we at the mountains yet?” My middle guy, two years old, scuttled up a mound of dirt 3 feet tall in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas. “A mountain, Mommy!” He was in for a big surprise when we finally crested a hill of the highway hours later to catch our first glimpse of the front range of the Rocky Mountains.

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I won’t deny that traveling with young children is stressful. With naps not had and schedules gone awry, our boys have at times been emotional catastrophes this week. And with the baby not quite sleeping through the night, my husband and I have had ample opportunity to try out all the local coffee shops out of pure necessity. Traveling with little kids can seem as jagged and harsh as those rocky mountains themselves.

Yet we know all too well that if we fail to make memories now, then in twenty years looking back, we won’t remember. Our time raising these boys will be a blur.

And I absolutely refuse to look back and see nothing but haze.

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Whether on vacation or at home, we are learning how to dog-ear time’s passing with life lived in such a way that the clock’s ticking will never erase it.

We redeem time by restoring its potential for beauty.

We see it when we make the effort to perforate the passing hours with intentional choices. Last night it happened with a simple invitation.

After an exhausting day that began well before the sun began rising and ran hard until 7pm, my husband and I sat in front of a movie with our boys. I scrolled through Facebook on my phone. Outside, the Colorado sunset beckoned.

I set down my phone and invited our two year old to go outside and sit on the porch swing with me. Without a hint of hesitation, he abandoned the television and ran straight to the door in his diaper bottom. Not five minutes later my husband and our four year old followed.

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And there we sat for an hour, my husband and I on that porch swing, watching our boys run races around the front yard as streaks of white clouds transformed into brilliant hues of purple and orange. This is how time is redeemed. With porch swinging and truth speaking and adventure seeking. On wooded trails and green grass spaces and time spent just sitting next to each other. With coffee sipping and ice cream licking and distraction resisting.

And by choosing to pursue all of these things before the clock ticks away all opportunity to do so.

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Time is rescued from waste when we reroute it into intentional territory, when we weigh down a moment with complete enamor and appreciation. When we finally tell time how we are going to spend it, instead of allowing it to spend us. 

This is how we beat time. How we cheat it. How we expand it. How we amplify it. How we learn to respect its passing instead of grieving it. This is how we redeem the days before they are ever spent.

936Pennies Family Motherhood Parenting

He Said He Wouldn’t Trade His Kind Of Crazy For Mine

July 10, 2015

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It all began when he showed up at the door without calling first.

 

He had said he would call.

I saw him approaching the front door, and breathed a prayer of thanks that he hadn’t glanced in the window to see me nursing the baby. I hurriedly interrupted my infant’s lunch and unlocked the front door, asking him to give me a minute as I got my kids situated. I threw on the baby carrier and strapped my youngest in. Sliding open the front window, I instructed the older boys to watch from inside, and then I joined the man in the driveway, bouncing my infant in my arms.

He was there to assess the damage on my SUV from when I was rear-ended a couple of weeks ago. “This must have been where the other car’s license plate hit the bumper?” He asked me. I looked up to see my two-year-old running down the front sidewalk. No shoes. No socks. No pants. He giddily joined us in the driveway, his bare toes stepping gingerly across the gravel. All the while my not-quite-four-year-old was yelling from the open window, “I won’t come outside, Mama! I really, really promise!!”

 

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“We’ll need to start the car so that I can take a photo of the odometer.” He instructed. I had left the key inside, and told him I’d be back in a moment. Ellison began to follow me back inside. That’s when I heard the noise of little hands hitting cement and turned to see him on his knees. I rushed to him and reached out my hand. He was crying now and wanted to be held, but I couldn’t manage to hoist him up while the baby was strapped to me. I held tight to his hand while guiding him back inside.

I returned back outside with the key in hand, and this time both boys followed me out, Ellison asking repeatedly for me to put his shoes on. As the man took his odometer photo for the claim, I bent down to the sidewalk. With one hand I balanced the almost-sleeping infant against me while helping Ellison put on his shoes. That’s when the baby woke and spit up half his lunch across my chest.

 

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The man approached, and I rose to receive the paperwork he was handing me, nonchalantly wiping regurgitated breast milk from my front. My toddler, now attired in a t-shirt, diaper, and tennis shoes, ran around the side of the car, and I heard him begin to cry again. I ran to him only to find his right knee now matching the left–scraped and bloody. I gathered him up onto my hip next to the now-awake and crying infant.

The estimator asked for my e-mail to send the rest of the paperwork to. I recited it to him, repeating it several times over the noise of both crying children attached to me.

I could only hope that the spectacle he was witnessing would evoke in him a bit of pity, leading to a nice settlement for the damage on our car.

 

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After he left and I managed to get all three boys back inside, my sweet boy with his bloodied knees went into hysterics. First because I placed a band-aid on his scrape, which he adamantly began yelling at and trying to remove. And secondly because, as it ends up, he thought we were going somewhere in the car. And now that he realized his presumption was misplaced, he was quite upset at the prospect of staying home.

Taking in his bloodied knees and broken spirit, I made a rash decision. “Let’s go to the train station!” I exclaimed it before I could think twice, or realize that it was already time for naps. He choked back a sob and reached for his shorts.

The word had been spoken and there was no turning back now. Over the next five minutes and with the baby wailing all the while, I got us all dressed (for the most part), packed our bag, and we all headed out the door…just as the rain started. Drops pelted down on me as I loaded the boys into their carseats, and then we were off.

 

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I made a detour toward the coffee shop, where upon pulling up to the drive-thru I realized I had left my wallet at home. The boys already had their hearts set on scones, and I needed that coffee—five minutes ago. So I reversed out of the drive thru and turned back towards home to fetch my wallet. My two-year-old frantically yelling from the backseat, “Blueberry scone, Mama?!?!? Blueberry scone?!”

Ten minutes later as we pulled back into the drive-thru and up to the window, our regular barista smiled at me and asked how my day was going. All I could offer was a crazed look and a sarcastic thumbs up while the baby screamed from the backseat.

 

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That morning as the vehicle estimator had handed me his card, wailing infant at my chest and crying and bloody toddler at my feet, I had half jokingly remarked to him that, “Oh it’s always this crazy”. He laughed a little before replying, “I thought my day was crazy. I wouldn’t trade it for your kind of crazy!”

And that’s where he was sorely mistaken.

Because what he didn’t see was the half hour before he arrived, with my newborn babe nestled in my lap, and two sweet boys huddled at my side as we all read stories together. And he didn’t see that morning when my two-year-old ran to me from his room upon waking up. He climbed into my lap next to his baby brother, and with a sweet voice whispered, “Good morning, Baby Way-Wind”, and then gave him four soft kisses on the top of his head.

 

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And he didn’t see that afternoon, when once we resurfaced from beneath the chaos and we all walked hand-in-hand into the train station. Or as the boys ran and jumped and eagerly showed me their favorite model trains.

He only saw the frazzled lady with unkept hair and a screaming baby strapped to her. He only saw the spit up and blood and tears.

He happened to walk into a moment of chaos and became a witness to my kind of crazy. And the truth is that with three boys ages four and under—we tend to have a lot of those moments of chaos around here. But it is also true that, although the man said he wouldn’t trade his kind of crazy for mine, I wouldn’t ever give him the chance, because I’m clinging tight to my crazy and never letting go.

Because my kind of crazy? It is an essential piece of this great love story of mine.

 

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