Posted in Faith

Making Room for God

6:38 am on Monday. The Dude, my almost seven-year-old early riser, is out of bed, dressed, and clunking distractedly through his morning routine. The Superhero Princess, four-and-a-half, is still sleeping in her room and I will not dare wake her until about one minute before we have to leave to take her brother to school. Not a morning person myself (The Dude gets that from his father), I groggily set a piece of toast and a banana on the kitchen island in front of The Dude and shuffle on slipper-clad feet back into the living room.

On the way, I try not to trip over the shoes, coats, and backpacks randomly strewn throughout the entryway, in desperate need of some organization. I heave a deep sigh as I plod past our dining room table, piled high with the remnants of yesterday’s car clean-out, begging to be sorted. On the adjacent sectional sofa sit three piles of laundry my husband had “done” the previous day and left for me to sort and fold. The demands are calling. The expectations are pressing in. The hustle that this day, and every day, requires is beginning anew.

But before I tackle any of it, I make my way over to the aforementioned easy chair with a cup of tea and pull a blanket onto my lap. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, let it out, and then…I just sit. I breathe in, I breathe out, I whisper a word or two of prayer or scripture to help my wandering mind focus, and I just sit. I don’t pick up my devotional, I don’t open my Bible, I don’t even put words to my prayers yet, except maybe to tell God, “Good morning.” I use these very first moments I have to myself this day to cultivate stillness and make room for God.

Read more of this post on the Kindred Mom Blog

https://www.kindredmom.com/2019/04/18/making-room-in-my-soul/

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

God Has No Prerequisites

I went to college back in the days before online registration.   This was the era when email, the Backstreet Boys, Zima, and body glitter, were the hottest new things on the scene.  And in those days, you had to call in from an actual landline phone in your dorm room to register for classes.

Note: I’d like to give a special nod to anyone reading this who remembers the days before you could even call in to register.  You are warriors.

A week or so before the registration period we would pick up thick course catalogues and spend the next few days highlighting which classes we needed to take, which “sections” (aka dates and times) we preferred, and what our backups would be if our first choices were full.  Then, at a time divinely appointed to each of us (aka assigned alphabetically by the Office of the Registrar), we would call into an automated system and follow the prompts to choose our courses.  I remember waiting with baited breath on the other end of that phone line to hear the blessed words, “ED 211 is available.” And heaven forbid you punched in your numbers wrong, then you had to start all over.

In the days leading up to and following registration, I would pore through the catalogues much more thoroughly than was probably necessary.  I’ve always been curious about what life is like for people who have taken different paths than I have, and the Oregon State University course catalogue gave me a small window into other students’ lives.  A vocal music and elementary education major myself,  I would often flip through the sections for other areas of study, particularly science and math-heavy areas like physics, biology, or engineering.  Since it was all sooooo far out of my comfort zone and what I perceived to be my capabilities, I found it utterly fascinating.  In fact, a decade later I married a guy who had actually been a chemical engineering major at the same college at the same time. I wonder if I ever browsed descriptions of the courses he had to take. How romantic..

What fascinated me the most about these course descriptions were the prerequisites , or “prereqs” (pronounced pre-wrecks) listed below the course descriptions.  These were the  classes that one had to have completed before one would even be allowed to enroll in the course being described.  In order to take some of the 300 and 400-level science classes, you had to have taken a lot of other science classes, and don’t even get me started on the math.  Some of them even had grades associated with it. Not only did you have to have completed differential calculus, you had to have gotten at least an 80% in the course.  Lord, have mercy.

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Do you see that right there? That’s what I’m taking about!!!! Fun fact:  my husband actually took this course as an undergraduate.

I admired the folks who were “smart enough” to hack it in these fields, to have taken all of the advanced calculus and organic chemistry and whatnot, perhaps that’s why I eventually married one of them. But I never got as far as trying it for myself.  I would inevitably drop the dogeared tome in the recycle bin (in Oregon we were already recycling in the 90’s), and blissfully turn my attention to whatever child development or music history courses my “right-brained” self would be partaking in the next term.

It seems like many of us take a similar approach to our faith journeys.  We are curious about God, interested in deepening our faith, perhaps even admiring of others’ relationships with Jesus. We feel a tug on our hearts to get closer to Him- and why wouldn’t we?  Connection with God is what we were created for.  As Martin Laird puts it, “God is our homeland. And the homing beacon of the human being is homed on God.”  Continue reading “God Has No Prerequisites”

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

How to Make it Snow (Psalm 37:4)

Take delight in the lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
-Psalm 37:4

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
-Matthew 6:21

 

Here in Portland, OR, snow is a novelty.  We are a snow-loving family and so when we see even a 10% chance of the white stuff in the forecast, we get excited.  We engage in all sorts of ridiculous shenanigans trying to magically get snow to materialize. Like many other families, we flush ice cubes down the toilet and wear our jammies inside out. My husband swears that not remembering to get the snow tires put on the car is a surefire way to ensure it snows (but of course, he does it anyway because he’s The Daddy and that’s now he rolls). My daughter insists that she can channel Queen Elsa and make snow and ice appear with just a stomp of her foot. My would-be Jedi Padawan believes he can use The Force to choke the snow right out of the clouds.  Personally, I have learned that it’s more likely to snow if I’m not expecting it, so I try not to expect (which is a bit of an oxymoron, but whatever). In any case, we will try everything in our power to make the snow we so hope for materialize.

It’s tempting to take this same approach to Psalm 37, verse 4, which says, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  At first glance, that scripture can make it seem as if taking delight in the Lord is the spiritual equivalent of flushing ice cubes down the toilet. If we delight ourselves in God, then we can get what we want, as if Godly delight-taking somehow magically moves the heart of God to see things our way.

Now, there is probably a kernel of truth in that approach.  Scripture teaches us that prayer and praise can move the heart of God.  For example, the Old Testament tells about several times when Moses changed God’s mind and kept Him from wiping out tribes upon tribes of Israelites in His Holy fury at their disobedience. God is, after all, a loving father and friend and as in any relationship, our conversations, interactions, and feelings matter to one another and can hold sway on the way things unfold.

However, if we stop there, believing the only thing at play here is the need to say a few flattering words to or about God in order to get on His Most High Holy Good Side, boy we are missing out.  Not only we will end up staring out the window with our jammies on inside out wondering why it’s not snowing, but we will miss out on massive amounts of grace and blessings that are waiting for us. Continue reading “How to Make it Snow (Psalm 37:4)”

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

Shutting Down the “Shouldstorm”

_Shouldstorm_

This post is part of my Foundation 2019 series.  Read why I chose “Foundation” as my word for the year here.

I live much of my life right smack dab in the middle of what I call a “Shouldstorm.”

I sit here as I type this staring at a pile of unfolded laundry, not even showered yet, with a to-do list a mile long and only about 45 minutes before I have to pick up my daughter from preschool and the winds are starting to kick up. “You should be folding that laundry- matter fact, you should have folded it right away, it shouldn’t even be sitting there.  And while you’re at it, you should walk right past those laundry machines and organize the storage area. And you haven’t worked out in awhile, you should be doing a better job of working that into your life because you should be back your pre-babies weight by now…”

It always feels like there are a million things I should be doing at any given moment.  The ones I’m neglecting needle and nag me, I barely have the time and bandwidth for the ones I am doing, and let’s not even discuss the things I probably should be doing that I don’t even know about. It’s a veritable maelstrom of “shoulds,” so I call it a “shouldstorm.” Note: if you  happen to hear in the term “should-storm” a striking auditory similarity to another “stormy” term that features a more colorful sh-word (aka “sh*tstorm”), I assure you that it’s not even a little bit coincidental. 

I’d like to be able to to say that it began when I became a mom, and motherhood has definitely ramped the storm it up to a category 5 hurricane.  But if I’m honest with myself, it’s always been like this for me.  Ever since my teen years, I’ve struggled with the feeling that there’s something else or something more I should be doing, some other way I should be- It’s like FOMO (fear of missing out) and FONBE (fear of not being enough) all rolled into one. Continue reading “Shutting Down the “Shouldstorm””

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

Noah-Level Communication

This post is part of my Foundation 2019 series.  Read why I chose “Foundation” as my word for the year here.

 

In 2019, I’m doing the Bible in One Year reading plan in the YouVersion app.  I think it’s absolutely the greatest thing ever for two reasons:

  1. They’ve got it all planned out for you and locked and loaded with an AUDIO OPTION. All I have to do is plug-in my headphones and press “play” and the daily devotion teaching and the assigned passages of scripture play back to back to back right into my ears and I don’t have to do a thing.
  2. The devotions are done by Nicky Gumbel and his wife, Pippa, and they are absolutely delightful. I first encountered him when I did the Alpha Course years ago at the Episcopal church I was attending in Lakewood, WA and he is quite possibly the Britishest dude ever.  He used to work as a “barrister” before becoming a “vicar” and I just love listening to every gracious word he says.  I’m getting so, so much out of his and Pippa’s insights, possibly more than I’ve ever gotten out of any other plan or study.

One dark, frosty morning in very early January, my husband and I headed out before the sun was even up to drop our car off at the dealership to see if they could finally figure out what is making that infernal squeaking noise in the heating system.  On the drive there, I listened to the daily readings, which included the story of Noah in Genesis.

God seems to dole out Scriptural insights to me incrementally, giving me a little more and a little more each time I listen to or read a passage.  This time, the thing that stuck out to me was the end of Noah’s time on the Ark, when he was trying to figure out when the time was right to get off of the boat.

I don’t know about you, but if I had been trapped on a boat with my entire extended family and a bunch of animals for weeks upon weeks, I would be getting off that boat at the very first sign of land and never looking back.

Not Noah.

First, he sent a raven.  Then he waited. Then he sent a dove. Then he waited. Then, he sent the dove again. Then he waited some more.

And not until the time was very perfectly exactly right, when the water had not only receded but the earth had sufficiently dried out, only then did he finally disembARK (see what I did there?).

What struck me about this was not so much Noah’s patience, although that is some remarkably significant patience being demonstrated right there, but the level of communication Noah has to have had with God- not only during the process of figuring out when to get off the boat, but through the whole entire saga. Continue reading “Noah-Level Communication”

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

Getting Over My Scripture Inferiority Complex (Foundation 2019)

This post is part of my Foundation 2019 series.  Read why I chose “Foundation” as my word for the year here.

For the longest time, I had a serious inferiority complex when it came to my knowledge of Scripture and I felt like I didn’t know how to study it “the right way.”

Even though I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old, I didn’t grow up going to youth groups and church camps. I went to a public university and didn’t participate in any campus ministry (unless beer-fueled theology debates with non-believing fraternity guys count, in which case I retract my statement because I totally did that).

I operated with this image that other Christians my age had been through all this indoctrination that I hadn’t (and did not care to, by the way, but that’s a whole ‘nother story),  in the process steeping and marinating in scripture and theology, giving them a knowledge that I wasn’t anywhere near having. I pictured them atop this pedestal of piety high above little old me- and I’m quite certain a few of them had the same image, I might add.

Honestly, I wasn’t entirely wrong. Many other Christians my age were indeed attending Bible colleges, involved in campus ministry, running those same youth groups I had never even attended, and they undoubtedly knew way more about Scripture than I did.  I mean…it wouldn’t even have been hard to know more about Scripture than I did at that point.

What I was very much drop-dead, stone-cold wrong about was the inferiority complex it gave me and how I let it keep me from even beginning to study Scripture.  For years, those insecurities and feelings of “not-enough-ness” stood between me and getting into God’s word.

When I tried to go to a Bible study and saw the woman next to me open a Bible filled with highlighted passages and margin notes, I looked at my own unmarked Bible and saw failure.

When I dove into difficult passages and struggled to connect with and understand what I was reading, my insecurity told me I must be doing it wrong.  Wasn’t I supposed to be finding God-breathed epiphanies on EVERY SINGLE PAGE?  I’m sure *insert person who I thought was better at the Bible than I was here* does every single time. Sigh…

And so, I would quit.  Nobody wants to keep showing up for something that just reminds them how sucky they are every time.  It’s why I avoid spin class.

But, here’s the thing: insecurity and feelings of not being enough come from where, class?  That’s right, the answer is “Satan.”  Say it with me, “The feeling of not being enough always comes from Satan.”  

What an absolutely perfect plan for keeping folks from getting into the Word of God: let’s convince them that it’s too hard, they aren’t smart enough, it’s too late, other people know more than they do, etc., etc.  It’s a double whammy of separating them from GOD and making them feel horrible about themselves. Well played, Devil.  Well played.

And yes, indeed. I let the enemy of my soul successfully stand between me and the Word of God FOR!  YEARS!

BUT, NO MORE! NO MORE, I SAY!!!!

A knowledge and pursuit of Scripture is an inextricable part of the Foundation on which my life needs to be built. It’s a key ingredient in the mixture of concrete that my proverbial house is built on- without it, my life could crumble at the slightest bit of resistance.

So this year, pulling on my proverbial Big Girl Britches, getting over myself, and telling the Enemy that he can absolutely suck it, the truth I will find in the Word of God will shout down his lies once I get into it anyway so I might as well just ignore them.

The truth is that any study and/or reading of Scripture is good. There are tons of different ways to do it and we shouldn’t let this idea of “good enough” vs. “not good enough” stop us.  Yes, there are ways that have proven to be effective for generations. There is new and “cutting edge” stuff that is just now available to us, like listening via apps on our phones and watching YouTube videos unpacking the text. As we get into the process, we will find that some methods work better than others for us based on the way God has each of us wired and what phase of life we find ourselves in.

But any effort we give it, any choice we make to devote our time and attention to the study of God’s Word is the right thing to do.  It’s holy, sacred, and will bear fruit.

Life-changing epiphanies are not necessarily waiting on every page for us, at least not every day, and if we don’t feel moved by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis it doesn’t mean we are failing.  Some days, it’s just the DISCIPLINE of doing the work that matters, it honors God when we power through on the tough days.

We also cannot underestimate the importance of just building our familiarity with Scripture. Every time we read a passage, a chapter, a story, it gets logged our memory bank and helps build a working knowledge of Scripture that God can use.  A friend or pastor may say, “It’s like Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, when he ended up in jail and God redeemed it” and you’re like, “YES!  I READ THAT STORY!” and you can totally get what they’re saying in a way you couldn’t have otherwise.

My word count is quickly mounting, so I think I’ll take my leave here. There is much more to say, much more to share, and there will be time for that in future posts.

But for now, I want to send a huge hug to anyone who has ever felt like I have, like the study of Scripture is intimidating and a little defeating, and encourage you to take a deep breath and take those first brave steps to sending that lie packing.  It is true that Scripture is big and imposing and layered and complex and at times shrouded in all sorts of mystery. But it’s a lie that you can’t study it. It’s a lie that it’s too late to start. It’s a lie that God doesn’t have revelations and truths waiting to reveal to you, just for you, exactly the way He made you.

Amen.

Posted in Faith, Foundation 2019

FOUNDATION: My Word for 2019

Have you ever done the whole “Word for the Year” thing?  The practice is a variation on the traditional “New Year’s Resolution,’ except rather than choosing a habit or behavior to change, you choose a single word to be your guiding focus for the year.  If you’re really interested in digging into the concept, there’s a woman named Ali Edwards who has turned it into an entire program with courses and resources and whatnot, you can find all that here:

https://aliedwards.com/projects/one-little-word

My people on social media, both the influencers I follow and the folks I know personally, are super into the whole thing.  December and January find my feed thick with posts declaring how folks have made the previous year’s word manifest in their lives and sharing what word they’ve got locked and loaded to change the landscape of their lives in year to come.  Some have even gone so far as to get their word tattooed on their actual bodies.

I’ve regarded the practice with a mixture of admiration and skepticism. I’ve even tried my hand at choosing a word the past couple of year, my efforts yielding decidedly tepid results.

This year, it’s different.  This year, I’ve got a word, I’m all about my word, I’m proud of my word, I’m posting on social media about my word, and while I probably won’t get my word tattooed anywhere on my person (you’re welcome, Mom) by the end of this year, I will probably have at least considered it. It felt like that word chose me this year.  It came bubbling up out of the depths of several different things that our loving and patient God has been working me through over the past months and years.

My word is “Foundation.”

Foundation.jpg

And by “Foundation,”  I mean what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:24-25:

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

The Son of God did not stutter or waste words, he picked the words he spoke to us with intent.  In His three decades of walking among us humans here in this fallen world, Jesus had both witnessed and experienced what it’s like to be human. Elsewhere in scripture, he promises us that in this life we will have trouble because he had seen it and lived it.  He knew firsthand exactly how much real life can feel like trying to keep the walls up and the roof on our proverbial houses through an onslaught of rain, floods, and wind.

The slow, soaking rains of illness, financial trouble, anxiety and depression…the shifting, influencing winds of the opinions of others and the value system of the fallen world that does not reflect God’s vision for us…the flash floods where a word or a phone call brings us to our knees…

But with those words, with that metaphor, Jesus promises us that if our foundations are secure, the rain and wind and floods cannot take us down.  He promises that through it all, we will remain secure if we will only build our houses upon the Rock, make Father, Son, and Holy Spirit our Foundation.

He also goes on to say that if your Foundations are not secure in him, you can count on the storms of life being a problem.  Whatever this world throws at us is going to batter us about and could level the house altogether.

Our. Foundation. Is. Everything.

So what else could I possibly focus on in 2019 but my Foundation? Everything else, EVERYTHING else, proceeds from and through that.  A year is a long time, I’m sure God has other plans for me, other things He wants to teach me, other ways He wants me to grow. But in order to do those things, I’m going to need to have a solid Foundation, built on the Rock.

As I prayed and pondered this directive from God to GET MY FOUNDATION SECURE, the work has kind of naturally fallen into three categories for me:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of Scripture.
  2. Prayer and communication practices
  3. God-ordered priorities

That is the three-legged stool, so to speak, I’ll be perching myself on to do the work this year.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be digging into those three concepts here on my blog, sharing a baseline for how I’m beginning to work on each of those things this year.I would love for you to join me on this journey.   I’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestions about what has worked for you when it comes to anchoring your foundation in the Lord.  Also, I’m an extrovert, a people person, I do my best work when I’m traveling with others, so if you feel inclined to make 2019 your Foundation year, I’d love to have you along on this path with me.

I leave you to day with the opening verse to one of the hymns I remember singing growing up:

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?”

Posted in Uncategorized

How (and Why) I Learned to Crochet

I have never been the least bit crafty.  I do not sew. I do not scrapbook. I am a very utilitarian baker. I buy my kids’ birthday party supplies.

You could say that I am the Queen of the Pinterest Project Fail, but really I’m more like the Queen of the Pinterest Project Did-Not-Even-Attempt.

And yet, here I sit, a few weeks before Christmas, staring at a pile of hand-crocheted Christmas gifts. If you’d told me last year at this time that I would be putting gifts under the tree that I had made myself,  I would have scoffed. Back when my son was a baby, someone even attempted to teach me to crochet at a MOPS meeting and let’s just say it did not end well.

But necessity is a surprisingly effective motivator and it was almost exactly a year ago that I felt a press on my heart, a need in my mom-life, that changed the game for me and turned me into a crocheting fiend with a burgeoning yarn stash and a Pinterest board overflowing with stitch patterns and project ideas.

Read more about my crochet journey on the Kindred Mom Blog:

https://www.kindredmom.com/2018/12/06/how-i-learned-to-crochet/

 

Posted in Faith, Family

Beating the “October Blues”

In my head, I absolutely love October.  The chaos of school starting has settled into a comfortable routine, football is in full swing (#watchallthesports), fall decor is out, pumpkin spice candles are burning, there are no stress-inducing dates that involve buying presents or calculating taxes, it’s sweats and sweater weather- what’s not to love?

But it seems like every year, the struggle bus picks me up around the start of October and refuses to drop me off until Halloweenish.  Maybe it’s the shortening of the days, maybe the let down from the fervor of September leaves me hollow, maybe it’s the fact that 17 years ago, October was the month my Neeno (grandmother) was sick and getting ready to go home to Jesus.  For whatever reason, the October Blues seem to be a thing for me every year.

I get anxious, lethargic, tired, stressed out, I find it hard to sleep, little things seem larger than life, and I happiness and contentment are nowhere to be found.   And it seems to happen every October.

This year, however. I’m saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH- or at least, I’m hoping I can.  This year, I tell you,  I’m going to try my darndest to head it off at the pass, tackle it head on, and see if I can’t use some intentional self-care skills to keep my head above water as October attempts to roll over me on its way through to November.

What follows is my pep talk and to-do list for myself.  The things on this list may seem obvious, but I’m surprised at how quickly they fall by the wayside and how often I need to be reminded.  I’m sharing them here for accountability and also because, just maybe, someone else needs to be reminded of them as well.

Dear Me and Also You,

  1.  LOOK IT IN THE FACE.  Don’t let it creep up on you. Know it’s coming and recognize it when it shows up.  Don’t let yourself get a week into feeling like someone you love died or like the walls are closing in before you realize something is up. If you have a time of year that gets to you, know when it’s coming and get ready to meet it head on like the BOSS that you are.
  2. TAKE YOUR MEDS.  I don’t care what they are: anti-depressants, seizure meds, diabetes meds, pain meds, supplements or naturopathic remedies- if someone has told you take something to make your body work better and you’ve agreed to do this, then you TAKE!  YOUR! FREAKING! MEDS! We need our bodies working at their full strength and capacity, this is not the time to mess around. I will toast you with my morning thyroid med and at night with the vitamins I too often neglect.
  3. SLEEP AND EAT.  Fatigue and low blood sugar amplify negative feels like a Yamaha subwoofer to a hip-hop beat.  Then, a vicious cycle kicks up in which depression and anxiety keep us up at night and squash our appetite, then everything seems  worse because we haven’t slept or eaten.  Plan your meals, plan your snacks, guard your bedtimes, and take a Unisom if you need it and if your doctor has prescribed you something for sleep, see item 2 above.
  4. MOVE YOUR BODY, even if you don’t feel like it.  When Mister Bummerman comes to visit, it zaps our energy and motivation and often the last thing we feel like doing is getting up and moving our bodies.  But it is ACTUAL SCIENCE that exercise releases endorphins that help us feel better, and there’s also the added feeling of accomplishment one gets from having exercised, ESPECIALLY if we didn’t want to. If you can’t hit the gym, take the stairs or go for a walk or do some jumping jacks or a crazy funny 80’s aerobics video on YouTube.  But whatever it looks like you,  get up, get up, get busy, do it like you’re Technotronic.
  5. CLING TO YOUR SPIRITUAL PRACTICES.  If I’m not anchored, I’m adrift.  I need Jesus at the center even to get through the good days.  And yet, when I’m struggling, I do not feel like waking up early and lifting my eyes to the hills where my help comes from.  I also do not feel like lifting my heart and voice in praise or even talking to God during the day, I’m usually rather sullen and cranky and would rather sulk in the shadows.  Can you relate?  Don’t let whatever spiritual practices have served you well fall by the wayside. If you don’t have a battery of spiritual practices to draw from, this is a great time to start.  Head over to my friend Julianne’s website and sign up for her newsletter and she will send you three of her favorites. Doing the things that lift us up, even when it’s hard, makes the rest that much easier.
  6. KNOW WHEN TO HOLLER FOR HELP.  Self-care is all well and good, we should all practice it. But there comes a time when our needs go beyond what some good cardio and a good night’s sleep are going to fix. Maybe you feel so overwhelmed by the bad things that tackling any item on this list seems insurmountable. Maybe you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, thinking everyone would be better off without you. Maybe you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Telling someone- ANYONE- and letting them push you in the right direction is a WARRIOR MOVE. For some of us, we may just need a partner, friend, or family member to step in and alleviate some of our workload to give us space to breathe. For others of us, a professional thoughts-and-feelings-sorter like a counselor or therapist can help start moving toward solutions. Still others may find our bodies need the provision of medication to regain their balance.  In any event, if you have a hunch this is bigger than just the seasonal blues, say something to someone and pat yourself on the back for doing it.

 

So, are you with me or what?  Will you hold me accountable? Will you check in with me to see if I’m doing the things I told myself to do with this list?  Will you do those things as well?  Whether October is your “season,” or another season is your “October,” promise me you will do all of these things, take care of yourself, holler at me if you need an accountability buddy- and real loud if you need help.  We rise by lifting others, we are in this together.

Hugs,

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Posted in Uncategorized

“I’m Proud of You, Kid.” Praising the Little Big Things

One hazy, hot August evening, six-year-old Mister Cameron and I were walking hand in hand to the car after swim lessons. He had been cranky and out of sorts all day, as he tends to get when he’s tired (see pretty much ALL OTHER POSTS about Mister Cameron to know this is true).

During his swim lesson, he had overestimated his lung capacity and ended up with a snortful of water.  I had been on the edge of my chair, watching, expecting a meltdown of epic proportions…but it never came.  He just took a deep breath of actual air, shook the whole thing off, and moved on.  It had been a stunning and unexpected display of maturity and resilience and my heart had exploded.

“Dude,” I said tentatively as we walked, knowing that pretty much everything I had said to him that day seemed to rub him the wrong way, “I know I say this a lot and you’re probably tired of hearing it, but I’m super proud of you.”

He heaved a deep, pleasant sigh, squeezed my hand and said, “Mom, I could never ever get tired of hearing you say that. Like, never ever.  It makes my heart feel soft.  And cozy.”

Again, my heart exploded.  It makes his heart feel SOFT and COZY?  My goodness, sweet boy…

Even when he had been given an opportunity to grumble and gripe, I OPENED THE DOOR WIDE OPEN WITH MY WHOLE, “You probably get tired of hearing this, Dude,” bit, his heart felt soft and cozy and it even melted the cranky enough for him to say so.

All because I told him I was proud of him.

Maybe it wasn’t only the fact that I was proud of him that melted and filled up his heart, though. Maybe it also had something to do with why I was proud of him.

I’ve noticed that the times when my motherly pride (and Daddy’s fatherly pride) seems to delight and reward my kids the most are not necessarily the BIG MOMENTS, the successes and accomplishments.  Dance recitals, home runs,  great reports from a teacher-  OF COURSE we are proud when they succeed, when they accomplish, when they execute an obvious job-well-done.

But it really seems to fill their cups and touch their hearts in a special way when we notice the the “little things,” the ones that might seem small in the moment, but feel very big to them. The things that take courage, resilience, and strength. The things that don’t always result in immediate success, but the things that true success is really made of.

We are proud when they try hard.

Even if it doesn’t work, even if they don’t quite get there, when we see them PUTTING THE EFFORT IN, we should tell them it makes us proud.  Trying hard, even when it’s hard and things aren’t falling into place, is what success is made of.

We are proud when they improve.

They may not be the best on the team, they may be struggling to remember those sight words, but when they improve, when they do better than last time, that is something to be proud of.  We aren’t going to be good at everything in life, but improving and moving forward as much as we can- that is what success is made of.

We are proud when they show resilience.

When they fall down and get back up again.  When a toy breaks and they take a deep breath and ask for help rather than melting down in tears.  When they stop themselves from an impulsive decision. When they notice and name their feelings, fatigue, hunger, and seek solutions.  We are going to have trouble in life, we are going to struggle and we are going to fall- but taking care of ourselves and getting back in the game- that is what success is made of.

We are proud when they show strength of character.

When they are kind, especially when it’s hard.  When they are honest, especially when the truth isn’t pretty.  When they are thoughtful of others. When they see someone who needs a friend and reach out.  When they are polite. When they are thoughtful.   Integrity and respect for themselves and others is the stuff that success- and a better world- is made of. 

In addition to the instincts of a mama’s heart that tell me that this particular brand of praise is important for our kids, it is also straight up behavioral science that positive reinforcement is one of if not THE SINGLE most powerful tool in shaping behavior.  The behaviors that get the most positive feedback are the behaviors that are most likely to be repeated. And do we want our kids showing effort, pursuing improvement, demonstrating resilience, and valuing strength of character in themselves and other? You betcha we do.

So watch your kids today- and every day.  Watch for the “little things” that are really BIG things. Big to them, big toward building successful humans, big toward making the world better.

And call those things out. Name them. Praise them. Tell your kids how PROUD you are of them.

It will make a difference- in the moment, in the future, to them, and to the world.