Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Newlyweds and Holiday Expectations

When I first got married, I expected the holidays to be just like they were when I was at home, with some minor modifications, of course.  Growing up, one of my mom’s greatest strengths is that she made wonderful holiday memories through consistent family traditions.  I loved each one.

Fast forward a few years to married life.  Each year I ended up feeling frustrated and a little sad because so many of these traditions just didn’t happen.  It’s not that we didn’t try.  They just didn’t fit well with my new life, our new schedule, and the personalities of different family members as they came along.

And of course, in my plans I had failed to remember that I was marrying someone from a totally different background with some ideas of his own about some traditions.  Hanging stockings, for instance.  I knew that OF COURSE you hang them on Christmas Eve.  And for the children, you take a picture of them hanging their stocking in the same pose every year.  OF COURSE.  What?  You don’t know that?  Well, my new husband didn’t either.  He knew that OF COURSE you hang them when you put up the tree so that you can enjoy them all month.  It’s silly to have conflict about things like this, but I bet I am not the only one with a similar newlywed story.

My problem is that I naively had expectations about the holidays that were completely unrealistic.  If I could give a bit of advice to newlyweds at Christmas, it would be this.  Let go of all your expectations.  Decorating, activities, food, gifts, all of it.  Consider your new family a clean slate, a new, autonomous entity.  Prepare for the holidays to be not just a little different than you are used to, but radically transformed.  And above all, communicate with your husband.  What family traditions and expectations does he have?  Would he like to incorporate any of these into your new family?  Are there any that he would like to let go?  How much does he want to be involved in shopping, wrapping, cooking?   Tell him the same things about you.  Decide together how you will celebrate, just you and him.

Treasure memories and traditions.  Make a photo album, write about them, enjoy the memories. Keep the traditions that work for you and your new little family, but don’t be a slave to them.  Don’t let your happiness depend on them.  Realize that you are a new and separate family, and the holidays at your house might look a lot like they did when you were at home, or they might look completely and totally different.  If they change, embrace different.  Understand that you are establishing your own home and your own traditions.  Sometimes traditions are made intentionally, and sometimes they evolve.  It’s OK if the family traditions of the past don’t work for you.  Let those expectations go and you will be free to celebrate in the way that fits you and your husband the best.  Enjoy Jesus.  Enjoy each other.  And however you decide to celebrate, enjoy the season!


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Social Media, Behave! Day 3: Counting the Cost and Budgeting Computer Time

The other day I read a blog where the author admitted that at one time she spent 20 hours a week on her blog.  I was dumbfounded.  Not in a critical way.  She can spend her time however she chooses, and for her this must have been a good use of time.  But I realized just how much blogging can take over your life if you let it.  And how much time it can take to write a “successful” blog.

I don’t have 20 hours a week. I don’t have 10.  I have a few minutes a day, and some days, no minutes.

I love to write.  I have ever since I started journaling at age 10.  I could write all day.  But I don’t have all day.  And I’m sure I don’t have enough profound things to say to justify that, either!

So it comes to a matter of not “over-spending” the time I spend at the computer.

I need to write what God tells me to write, and to blog with as much excellence as possible, while staying within healthy parameters.

Laura challenges us today, we are engaging in social media, but at what cost?  How much time can we really afford?  What is our computer time costing us?  And she gives us tools to budget that time.  Go check out what she has to say.

 

 


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Social Media, Behave! and Make an Easy Advent Calendar

On day 1 of her “Social Media, Behave!” series, Laura talks about pitfalls of social media (trying to achieve fame or other wrong motives), and what each of us might expect from social media.   On day 2, she explores our “online presence,” our avatar, or how we portray ourselves online.  Additionally, she encourages us to write a one-sentence purpose statement.  Here’s what I came up with for me:

I exist online to share the love and grace of Christ with others; to learn from other, especially older, women; and to share what I learn in order to encourage others in their journeys of faith, womanhood, and mothering.

**********

Bonus!  Here is something little that I learned online–not from an older woman, and not something profound!  The kids wanted to do some kind of advent calendar or Christmas countdown but I struggled to find ideas that didn’t take too much time.  Either they were too arty and hard to make, or they involved activities that we may or may not have time to do during the month of December.  (Watching a Christmas movie, for example, is great, but how do I know if it will be convenient to do that on December 9?  Seriously!)

Finally I ran across a super fast idea–fast to make, and easy to do.  I don’t remember where I saw it, but I modified it to fit my needs.

I cut 25 rectangular pieces of paper.  Folded them in half like a card.  The kids stamped a snowflake on the front of each one and I numbered them from 1 to 25.

We are all about fostering communication and conversation at our house, so instead of an activity,  I wrote a question inside each one.  “What is your favorite Christmas memory?”  “What do you think it would have been like to be a shepherd on the first Christmas?”  “What is something we could do for someone else this Christmas?”  “Do you know of any Christmas traditions from other countries?”  “Ask mom/dad to tell you a Christmas story from when they were little.”

And then I hung them up with clothespins like the picture above.

How easy is that?  You even have time to do it before December 1!


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Verbage, Religion, Authenticity


I tacked an apology onto the end of a recent post.  I apologized for my use of “Christianese,” the language of the “Christian ghetto,” the words people within this community use so often that they become cliché, meaningful to those within the faith and meaningless, confusing, or offensive to those outside it.

I had a taste of this recently when I read comments on a blog by adherents of another religion.  Apparently the verbage used made perfect sense to those familiar with that religious tradition, but it was like reading a riddle to me.  This, I thought, must be how I sometimes come across to a non-Christian, or floundering Christian, reader.

Another recent read left me feeling slapped in the face with its judgy, sanctimonious tone.  I realize that the author probably didn’t intend it to come across that way, but it’s paramount, I believe, to see our writing as it appears to others—or try to.

Years ago I lived in a little Christian cloister (figuratively and literally) where I honestly had no idea that the larger culture did not understand Christianity and particularly its clichés and special language.  Once I awoke to the fact that not only some, but most of the “outside world” views Christian-speak as a curiosity, I began a conscious attempt to retrain myself in other ways of communication.  In addition, when I began to grow away from a harsh, critical Christianity, my language, as well as my heart, needed an overhaul.

I wish to transfer meaningful thoughts about my faith without falling into the lazy habit of regurgitating stale religious phrases that cloud my intent to readers who may or may not be Christians, and without using words and phrases that leave people feeling as if I view them from some kind of lofty spiritual pedestal.

Further, I understand that some of my readers have been wounded by religion, and tired Christian verbage can trigger their emotions in ways that bring them pain.  They are in special need of a healthy dose of graciousness alongside any truth I may attempt to communicate.

It’s helped me to read books by Christians like CS Lewis, Dallas Willard, The Message paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, and—don’t laugh—The Jesus Storybook Bible.  These writers manage to convey their wholehearted enthusiasm about Jesus and their very real friendships with him, without falling into worn-out Christianese.

I do better now, but old habits die very hard.  This is the language I was raised with and speaking differently is as strange to me as learning a foreign tongue.  My heart is to serve those I read something that is a gift to them, not something that brings confusion or anxiety.  So I ask for your patience with me, friends.  I know that at times my meaning will be lost in accidental religiosity, and perhaps I will fail to speak with grace.  I hope that with practice, that will change.  My goal is to be authentic (perhaps another over-used word?) and all I write, to write with love.


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Social Media, Behave!

image: pinterest

what it has to do with the post?  nothing.  it’s just pretty.

Laura Booz is guest posting at A Warm Cup of Coffee all week about the topic “Social Media, Behave!”  Have you ever struggled with the place of social media in your life?  Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay and it’s one of the primary ways people communicate in our culture.  Social media can be a powerful tool, but it can also consume your life if used unwisely.  I LOVED what Laura said:

“God is calling us to use our online presence for His glory. He’s got big ideas for your every tweet, status, pin, and blog post… ideas that will bring real and meaningful light to this limitless online space.  Take a look around and you’ll see His ideas at work. He’s shaping our hearts to want what He wants. We are feeling compelled to write well, tell useful stories, speak out for the oppressed, promote ethical companies, steward our God-given abilities, and make the most of our time online and offline. This is a huge undertaking, and it’s not easy territory. We’re smart enough to know that by dipping our toe into the vortex of social media, we risk being pulled into its dizzying demands. But, don’t worry, He won’t leave us to fend for ourselves. He’s the one planting the desires in our hearts, He’ll equip us with the know-how. This week, I want to share a handful of ways in which I’ve come to enjoy making social media behave, so that I can hear God’s voice and happily obey Him.”

My main social media use comes from Facebook, which has been an amazing tool for keeping up with far away family and friends, as well as connecting with those who live near me, enhancing our real-life interaction.  I have also come to love Pinterest, and of course, blogging.  I so look forward to reading Laura’s thoughts this week.  Hop over and join her!


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Kisses from Katie, Inspiration for Unmarried Women and All of Us.

Here’s some encouragement from all of us who follow Christ, but particularly those of you who are still unmarried.  This is exactly what I was talking about in the previous post!  Katie is young, to be sure.  I’m confident that she will grow, mature, and change.  But the point is this:  She is obedient and surrendered to God, and she is not missing the adventure.  She is not wasting this time in her life.

Here’s her blog.


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To My Younger Sisters: About Singleness and Guys

photo: pinterest


I’m not an experienced enough or old enough mom to be the kind of Titus 2 women who can hand out advice about how to raise great kids.  Yet.  That’s why I primarily talk about things I am learning along the way or things I have learned from older women.  But I do have a few years behind me and I’d like to share a bit with you younger ladies every now and then if that is OK.  Here are a few thoughts on men, finding a guy, and waiting for marriage.

I married young, so I’m not going to give you platitudes about how great it is to be unmarried long into adulthood.  I’ll leave that speech for someone who has been there.  I do know that even if you don’t marry young, life can be rich and fulfilling, though, because have friends who lead such lives.  They inspire me.  I wish that I had spent the few single years I had doing more living and less wishing, more action and less passivity.

Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 7.  Here are verses 32-35 paraphrased in The Message:

I want you to live as free of complications as possible. When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master. Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention. The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God. I’m trying to be helpful and make it as easy as possible for you, not make things harder. All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.

He knew what he was talking about.  When I was single, I had so much time for prayer and Bible study.  I miss that.  Don’t underestimate the preciousness of this time in building your relationship with God.  Enjoy life, have fun, but don’t waste it on meaningless activities when you can use these years to focus on growth and God.  Go on mission trips, minister to the needy, pour your life into others, because once you marry it won’t be so easy, and you’ll have a husband to consider.  Is that bad?  Nope.  Just different.  And that’s what Paul is pointing out.  Living for God can be an amazing adventure if you let it be.  Don’t miss the adventure!

I’ve heard it said, “Become the kind of person you want to marry.”  If you want to marry a kind guy, become a kind girl.  If you want to marry a spiritually mature guy, become a spiritually mature girl.  If you want to marry a family man, be a family woman.  If you want a man who loves kids, spend time with kids and learn about being a mom.  If you want someone with a heart for ministry, be involved in ministry. (This does not mean you have to have an official position, it just means that you take every opportunity to express the heart of Jesus to others with words and actions.  Obey God when He tells you what to be involved in, at home or far away.)  Like attracts like.  A godly young man will notice those genuine things in you and he will be drawn to it.  Your friends will also notice and may introduce you to someone with similar values.  That’s not the goal, but it’s often the outcome.  Follow hard after God, stay in fellowship with his people, and the right guy will come in the right time.

What kind of guy should you look for?  Obviously if you are a Christian, you should be interested in guys who are growing in Christ too.  I don’t mean they have to be perfect, just growing.  A guy who has wandered from God will break your heart.  A guy who doesn’t know Christ will break your heart.

In my opinion, the greatest quality you can look for in a Christian guy is surrender.  Surrender simply means that you have given yourself wholly to God, and you are willing to do anything and go anywhere in obedience to Him.  A surrendered person is quick to repent and fall in line with God when He senses God’s conviction and direction.  A surrendered person does not let the opinions of friends or family override what God is saying. The Holy Spirit is a much better “changer” than a wife.  If you and the guy you end up with are wholly surrendered to God, I believe you will be on the same page 99% of the time.  I believe this is more important than physical attraction, similar backgrounds and lifestyles, where you live, interests, and even “compatibility.”  There is no greater compatibility than being surrendered to God together!

I love you, sisters.  Wait for God’s best.  It’s so worth it!

{I feel like this particular post is filled with “Christianese” verbage, which I try to avoid in my writing.  Forgive me.  I’m writing primarily to a Christian audience here, and I’m afraid my default setting is taking over.  It’s late and I don’t have time to rephrase.  I hope as I write more, I will break the Christian ghetto talk habit and learn to phrase things in a fresher way.  In the meantime, I hope this helps those of you who are younger and still unmarried. }


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Wisdom From Debbie Wilson (Marriage Matters Now) on Parenting

Let’s see if these videos will post, I have been having trouble with part 1.  My friend Debbie Wilson (who, with her husband Steve, has the ministry Marriage Matters Now) shares wonderful, challenging, and encouraging words on parenting through the story of her son Josh.  Take a few moments to watch.

 

 

 


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Christmas Before Thanksgiving?

I’ve seen a lot of buzz where people are bemoaning the fact that stores are already decorated for Christmas.  Seems Thanksgiving is almost becoming a non-holiday that gets lost between Halloween and Ho ho ho.  Hobby Lobby had Christmas stuff up in August, for crying out loud.  And I think it’s important to make a lot of Thanksgiving, this wonderful season of gratitude.

That said, the Christmas spirit struck me really early this year.  Like giddy, little-kid excited.  Since that feeling has actually passed me by for a lot of recent years (thanks to rush and stress), I’m going with it.  I have realized something.  I’m so tired and foggy-brained these days, I actually have to allot about twice as much time as I think I need for any given activity.  If I think it takes me one hour to get everyone ready for church, I better give myself two.  So it stands to reason that I really need more than a month to get ready for Christmas.

It’s simple at our house.  We don’t do a huge amount of cooking and baking and we don’t go overboard on gifts.  I put up a tree and a wreath and if I get to anything else, it’s lagniappe.  But still.  All this seems to take a lot of energy when my typical mode of operations is half speed.

So…We focus on giving thanks.  We’re doing Thanksgiving crafts and leafy activities.  I’m loving fall, my favorite season.  But I’m getting ready for Christmas too.  Our tree is up.  Gifts are on order, and I’m making sure I have what I need to wrap them.  Mulling over which cookies I’ll make and what the menu will be.  Noting ideas on Pinterest.  Preparing early is going to make it easier to relax and enjoy December.

This month, I’m thankful for early Christmas preparations.  I’m even thankful that the stores have Christmas stuff out already.  And I’m thankful that it’s still autumn and the turkey is yet to be consumed.

How about you?  How do you balance the holidays and not lose Thanksgiving in the Christmas hullaballoo?


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Homeschool Mother’s Journal 11-12-11

Image via Pinterest

Linking up with The Homeschool Chick

In my life this week…

We returned from a trip and all got a stomach virus.  It’s a miracle we got anything done.

In our homeschool this week…

We eased back into the swing of things.  I did some school work with those who felt well enough, and worked on catching up on some grading on which I’d fallen behind.  It was a relaxed few days.  I enjoyed working on Thankful Tree art with the kids.  It is so fun to see their creativity and how each one approaches the same project so differently.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

If you are a Christian, let God lead you.  There is no way, really, to explain what this is like.  All I can say that as a Christian I know God leads me and speaks to me.  He is my friend and my leader, but sometimes I do not listen.  I am learning to throw everyone else’s opinions out the window about how I should do things, and follow what God tells me to do, not just in school but all of mothering.  How should I discipline this child?  How should I feed my family?  Why is this child struggling in this subject?  How should I configure my day?  Block out the strident voices and listen to the one important Voice.

I am inspired by…

Pinterest.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Well, this was last week spilling into this week, but we took a fall break of sorts and visited my wonderful sister and her four sweeties while our husbands attended a conference together.  I got to see most of my family and the kids got more cousin time than they have ever had.  Then we visited my husband’s family too.  We were too sick for our normal activities this week, but we saw a lot of people over the last few days all the same.

We did have eye doctor appointments today.  We have three new pairs of glasses on order.  I can’t wait to see again.  Neither the receptionist nor the doctor (a man of about 70) had ever met a homeschooling family before.  They were full of questions such as “Do they make friends?”  Ummm…Seriously?  When I explained that they had many friends through their homeschool group and church, among other places, it seemed like a new concept that children could make friends anywhere besides school.  I think I could have made a better case for homeschooling in the conversation, but I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback.  Once my friendly children started talking, asking questions, and being their normal engaging selves, the doctor seemed more convinced that we are not some kind of sideshow freaks. I did appreciate that he did not grill my children like some adults do, as if to perform some kind of inquisition.  He was full of questions for me, though, mainly about the legality of homeschooling.  It is amazing to me that some people have actually never met homeschoolers.  Their social circles must be very narrow!

My favorite thing this week was…

Feeling better.  My kids feeling better.  My husband feeling better.

What’s working/not working for us…

Something that is working really well is combining art and writing.  I have come face to face with the fact that I am an artist and a writer at heart and that is the way I teach best.  When I try to force myself into a rigid, cold, academic mold because I think someone expects it of me, our school days lose all their life.  God made me to be creative and when I operate in the strengths he has given me, that energy flows to the kids.  So that is really working beautifully.

I need to work out a better time for grading their work consistently (instead of letting it pile up over a few days).  This is one of my weakest points.  I tend to fall behind but it is something I am determined to work through.

Questions/thoughts I have…

This has nothing and everything to do with school.  How can I make our bedtime routines better so that our mornings flow smoothly when we get up?  I know that making sure everyone tidies their rooms and lays out clothes for the following day is key.  We are really good about early bedtimes, but it’s the leading up part that needs help.  I read a great post by Sally Clarkson this week on this very thing.  It inspired me and made me determined to work more on this.  Speaking of Sally, I know I mention her a lot but she is a person God is using in my life right now to help me become a better mother.  I have lamented the lack of older ladies who are willing to share their wisdom with us young moms, and I’m grateful for those like Sally who are stepping up to the plate.  I’m not idolizing her, God has just put her writing in my path for this season when I need it very much.

Things I’m working on…

This week I really want to get the house clean enough and the laundry caught up enough that I can sit down for awhile with a cup of tea and my knitting.  It’s fall, and I’m craving some cozy knitting time.

I’m reading…

The Message paraphrase of the Bible.  I only pull it out every now and then, but it’s a refreshing change.  Also Rod Dreher’s blog.  It’s different from other blogs I read and I don’t always agree, but Rod’s writing always makes me think.

I’m cooking…

Homemade bread tomorrow.

I’m grateful for…

Getting to see my sister last week.  We so rarely get time together.  If you have a sister you get to see often, treasure that gift!

I’m praying for…

Someone I love who is having health difficulties.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

This is an awesome idea for a birthday, especially for an adult.  Imagine getting so many notes from people who love you!

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