Thursday, May 21, 2015

Begin with love

I wrote this in my journal today:

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 That is my prayer.

A few weeks ago I asked my little cluster of girlfriends to pray for me regarding my son, and my sometimes-difficult relationship with him.  Just two weeks later I was in tears with them over challenges with my daughter. After I'd shared a bit, they so sweetly asked for a follow up on my son, "How is he doing? How are things going with him?" to which I sort of blankly looked at them and then answered, "Fine.  My daughter has moved so far up in the ranks that he seemed positively dreamy this week."  I really don't know if I would have even noticed any negative or challenging behavior from him because my other child was SO OVERWHELMING it would have eclipsed it. 

Isn't that how it works?  If it's not one child that is bringing me to tears, it's another.  Always.  God is particularly faithful about using mothering to refine me.  And when we're all here, around one another every day, all up in each others' business and all of us sinful, ESPECIALLY ME?!?  Sheesh.  It can get ugly.  I can get ugly.

Lately I've recognized (thank you, Holy Spirit) that so often my first response to the Particularly Challenging Child of the Week is one of put-outness.  (I know that's not technically a word but you get it, right?)

This week it's my seven-year old.  I adore that girl, but she is exhausting in her constancy.  It is: "Mommy, mommy, mommeeeee!..." all.day.long.  Just one "Mommy" is enough, really. 

I have learned not to tell her if we have something going on that day until RIGHT BEFORE it happens.  Otherwise she will ask about it every three minutes.  (You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not.) 

When she wants something and I say no, she just tackles it from a different angle.  And she is relentless in her desire to create action and drama-- thus trouble-- with whoever she happens to be around.

She has no boundaries, really- for what comes out of her mouth.  Which is really very humbling for me-who-tries-to-be-sensitive-to-everyone's-feelings-and-comfort-level.  Example: recently we had a couple from Mark's work over for dinner who were living together (not married).  She knew this, all the kids did.  But of course she's the one who loudly asks, as we're filling our plates with food, "So are they MARRIED?"  I shook my head, and gave her The Look, trying to communicate with my eyes and body language that No, we are not talking about this right now, and tried to move past the moment.  After all, the couple had already gotten their food and were now in the living room.  Perhaps they hadn't heard, or weren't paying attention?  And just when I think we've passed the awkward moment, she's at it again, same question, only louder this time, same question.  She knew not to ask, but I think she was probably bored and wanted to create some excitement.

Anyway, all that to just describe to you that she's a bit much for me sometimes.

[On a side note, I can't wait to see what God has in store for this girl.   He has great things ahead for her big personality, and I will love seeing how He shapes her and uses her.  And I will love it when He answers my prayers for patience and wisdom as He does so! ;)]

Anyway, so this week has been rough. And I was saying that my first response to really every interaction with her of late has been purely one of exasperation.  I begin with impatience and irritability and the Lord reminded me last night and again this morning that I should begin with LOVE.   So my prayer is that He would help me to start there; that love would be my first response.  And grace.  And delight.  And kindness.  That He would lead me and counsel me in every interaction with her; that He would fill me with HIS love for her. 

May He do the same for you and your Particularly Challenging Children.  ;)

Love to you and yours,
~Stacy


Monday, May 18, 2015

Open House | Monday, May 18

Hello, dear friends-

Here is what's going on today:

Outside my window | is our garden, just waiting to be planted.  Tomorrow is the day.  (More details on that to follow, I'm sure.)  So excited.  Also outside are my tomato plants, waiting to be potted.  And some white petunias I just potted in some terra cotta pots for my front porch.

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our garden spot after rototilling, with happy chickens pecking around in it

Homeschooling | today it's in the 70's, so we did as much as we could outside.  Nature study, picture study and read-aloud all happened outdoors in the sunshine (me & Ella) or shade (everyone else). ;)

In the kitchen | does making lattes count?  ;)  This morning I made breakfast sandwiches- by making up a double-batch of some quick yogurt biscuits (have I shared that recipe here?), slapped a fried egg on each of them, sprinkled some cheese and a piece of bacon.  They were a hit.  We even delivered some to daddy at work. :)

Reading aloud | I am in the process of reading three books to the kids.  The first one is The Tarantula in My Purse (funny true stories of a family who adopts several interesting pets, including a crow and apparently that other one mentioned in the title that I may have to skip.  Yipes.)  I'm also making my way through Little House in the Big Woods (because earlier this year I decided we needed to read through the whole series again, with the little girls in mind) and Copper-Toed Boots (a recent find at a thrift store- 99 cents!)  Mark is reading The Green Ember in the evenings to the kids.

Looking forward to | my next date night with Mark, our anniversary get-away in June, getting our garden planted, having friends over Thursday morning, heading outside very soon to sit in my cozy orange chair in the sunshine and journal, Friday-night game night planned with my brother and sister-in-law, Mark's day off.... all sorts of things!  :)

Thankful | for a little goal I made back in March.... "20 lbs by 40".  I'm turning 40 in July ( which is utterly crazy ) and I decided in mid-March that my birthday gift to myself would be to lose 20 lbs.  And... I'm nearly there!  (16 lbs down), so I'm super thankful for the dedication God has gifted me during this season.  [I've just been counting calories through My Fitness Pal, and committing to exercise at least 20 minutes 6x/week.] 

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Here is a peek at the back pages of my journal- my own little calendar where I'm keeping track of (by coloring in the little daily box) each day I come in under or at my calorie count).

Thinking | about possibly starting to read books again in July.  That will have been a six-month sabbatical from books.  And I miss reading so very much.  :(  We'll see.

Enjoying | these Bible studies from Stone Soup for Five, which are inductive-based but also very creative-minded.  I love this combination.  I'm journaling my way through Philippians right now using one of her studies, and Ella and I are slooooowly working through a Matthew study together. 

Best posts I've read online lately |
Sally Clarkson's post called If You Want to Win Your Child's Heart, Don't Go By the Rules, and Aimee's post called Bedtimes, Hot Cocoa Packets, and Listening to the Spirit.
Go there, read those.  You will be encouraged in your mothering.  :)

I truly hope you are all doing well and enjoying our lovely Spring!  

Blessings to you and yours,
~Stacy


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Two housekeeping tips!

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castile soap, fractionated coconut oil and essential oil
I recently discovered two new-to-me housekeeping tips that I thought I'd share with you!

Tip #1: Foaming Hand Soap

I may be the last person to know this, but recently I discovered that I can be making my own foaming hand soap.  (!)  And since we go through about a bottle every week or two, I'm super thrilled about this latest little housekeeping development.  Did you all already know this and not tell me?  A friend of mine passed along this recipe to me recently and I've been itching to make it ever since. Last night I finally did!

Here's the recipe:

Fill a foaming soap dispenser with warm water, leaving 1-2 inches of room at the top.
Add:
2 T Castile soap
1 tsp fractionated coconut oil
essential oil drops (I used about 5 drops)

Shake.
How easy is that?  I found the castile soap at Target (there were several varieties but I was thrilled to spot the citrus-orange because that's the very scent of soap I was hoping for!!!) It was a little pricey.  They just had the big bottles so I think it was about $17, but just think of how much soap I'll be able to make from it!  I'd never in my life heard of fractionated coconut oil, but found it at our local co-op.  And the essential oil- I bought sweet orange- I purchased at the co-op, too, for a few dollars. 

It's the little things that make me happy.  It smells so good.  The kids love it.  (After trying it, my girls declared that I should "go into business".  They're so funny:  when I bake something yummy they tell me I should start a bakery, or if I make something especially good for dinner they tell me I should open a restaurant.  I keep telling them that I already have a restaurant, with six very regular customers.  ;))

Tip #2: Hydrogen Peroxide as stain remover

Little story to go with this one: A couple of weeks ago I bought a cute stripey tunic-y tank at the consignment store.  It was so warm the other day that I wore it under a cardigan.  And then promptly stained it when I made smoothies for the kids for breakfast.  Blueberry stains.  :(.   I was super sad.  I tried right away to put cold water on the spots and one sort of faded to look like a blue pen mark, but it was still visible.  But I kept wearing it because after all, I did have a cardi over it. 

That evening I went to visit my sister-in-law and my cutest new nephew, and she said she liked my tank top, so I had to tell her about how it was new and I'd already stained it.  She told me I should try hydrogen peroxide. 

?!

She said she's seen it work to get blood out of clothes, so I ought to try it.  I asked her how -- soak it?  get a q-tip and dab some on?  She said just to pour it over the spot.  I was skeptical, truly.  And I didn't want to have it bleach my tank top or anything.  But my other option was spray-n-wash and soak it overnight, which doesn't always entirely get berry stains out.  So I was curious enough to try it.  I got a q-tip and put some hydrogen peroxide on it and then dabbed at the spots when I got home, and nothing happened.  Those stains were as plain as day.  So I sort of shrugged it off and thought, "Guess that only works to get blood out." And went to tuck the girls into bed...  Ten minutes later I was telling Ella about how it hadn't worked on my spots, and went to find my spots, and there WERE NO SPOTS. (!!!!)  No more stains.  Super excited about this.  I have tossed shirts before because I couldn't get stains out.  Hydrogen peroxide is my new friend.  I am so pleased to know this.  :) 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Women gathered: Thoughts on knowing and being known

We are made for relationship.  That should be no surprise.  We are made in God's image. When I see God throughout Scripture, I see Him relating to His people.  And what did Jesus do?  He came among us.  He spent much of his time *in relationship* with others.

I think this desire for relationship is especially true for women, because we are such communicators.   We need one another.  We need to know one another; to listen; to hear each others' stories and hearts shared.  Not only that, but we each have a desire to be known. 

This is one of the reasons I have such a hard time with Facebook.  I can view a photo or a comment and need not respond at all.  I don't have to invest anything.  If I choose to, I can simply click "like", but that really requires very little from me.  Even if I do leave a comment, it is not the same- at all- as actually entering in to conversation with that person.  So much is missing from that interaction!  There is no opportunity for eye contact, facial expressions, the sound of their voice, for a change in intonation.  You cannot touch their arm or reach out to embrace them, or see that their eyes are filled with tears.  Real interaction is irreplaceable

Too much time on Facebook* makes me feel like a distant observer of people's lives.  And that is so empty.  I want to engage.  I want to know.  I want to invest. 

It honestly concerns me about our culture.  I think one of our main challenges as a church is to truly be present; to be engaged.  To be willing to take time *with* other people, to know them and to hear their stories, to care for them.  Not just to be observers from a distance, but to enter in to peoples' lives and stories.  

Recently I started meeting with a small group of women, every other week.  I had been longing and even praying for something like this, but I'm not the one who initiated it.  Another woman did.  She just gathered a short list of women, asked us all individually if we'd be interested in meeting regularly, and we all heartily said yes.  And just like that, we came up with a date, a time and a place.  We gathered, the six of us.  Of those five other women, I barely even knew two of them. We went around the circle, sharing what our "vision" would be for this group.  And do you know what?  We all had the same desires, sitting there in that first meeting:  We want to be real with one another; we want to be transparent; to share with one another and pray for one another and KNOW one another.  And once we got those logistics out of the way, we did just that: we shared.  Some of us cried.  We prayed.  And I walked away with a greater knowledge of each of them:  I knew how to pray; what to pray for.  I knew their current struggles.  Now when I see them, I know who they are and what they're facing. I care.  I'm invested.

Since then, more of the same.  I've told Mark that I'm actually quite (happily) surprised at how transparent everyone is.  And every single one of us needed this.  In a short span of time with these women, I feel so refreshed, blessed and enriched.  And the smiling one who decided to pull down the facade and tell us that she actually struggles with severe depression?  Well, she now has five people who know, and who are praying for her.  And she discovered that one member of our group has struggled with the same thing and can come along side of her with compassion and understanding.  The soft-spoken woman whose family just relocated here, who was grieving the loss of the friends and family she left behind?  She now knows the five of us.  And we're investing in knowing her.  The parenting struggles, the marriage struggles, the heartaches, the sin in us we are not proud of: we are sharing those things, and amidst the tears and laughter and encouragement, God is growing us in relationship and in love for one another.  It's a beautiful thing.

I hope you have a group of women like this.  And if not, I encourage you to make it happen.  I think it's very likely that the woman sitting across the aisle from you at church is lonely, and would love a friend.  Why not be like my friend who just put herself out there, and asked?  I think we all fear rejection.  I know I do.  So here, let's just get this thought out of the way:  The worst case scenario is that you ask, and they say no or act disinterested.  Fine.  That person was just not ready for it.  Someone else will be.  Try again.  You will be blessed.
 
* * *

*ps: I'm tackling my too-much-time-on-Facebook problem by resolving to check it only 2 days a week.  Tuesdays and Fridays.  (I did this for a season but then got sloppy.... back at it again!)  Recently I went three.whole.days without checking it once.  And I loved it.  :)  Then today I popped in and read a few things and was done. 

Here's another post about Facebook- (about that time I deleted my FB account for 8 months).
Related: On paying attention (although some things have changed in the three years since I wrote that.  Ahem: Pinterest and a "fancy" phone.)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Springtime in our yard

I love this time of year when the flowers come.  All that color and growth (and the warmth of the sunshine!) beckon me outside, when normally I'm perfectly content indoors.  My lilacs are now in full bloom, and the whole yard smells of them.  The birds are happily chirping from about 5 in the morning on into the evening, and I love it all. 

Three years ago we created a little garden area by the side of our home. 

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I sketched out an idea in my journal, and then we just went for it.  We cut a curved path into our grass and took some rocks from other places in the yard (that aren't really made to be walked on, but who says you can't repurpose landscaping rock?! ;))

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My hard-working boys, putting in the rock path (Spring 2013)
I did a bit of research and we decided to plant perennials that were happy in the shade, and planted ferns, hosta (White Margined Hosta & Plantain Lily), Brunnera Macrophylla "Jack Frost", and some Dicentra Spectabile Bleeding Hearts (white and rose-pink).  Three years later and this is my favorite spot in our yard.  We've since added a birdbath, a white hydrangea and some peony plants, some tulips and some other things Mark has tucked into the empty spaces.  The whole area is beautiful and flourishing, and it makes me so happy.  :)

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White Margined Hosta (Hosta tardiana undulata 'Albo-marginata') & Bleeding Hearts
Here was a little visitor to our birdbath this morning:

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I hope you're having a wonderful day today!

~Stacy