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11.01.2016

The Maia Homeschool Adventure

Over the years, I have done many educational activities with my girls. At first it was with just Amelia. As much fun as we had, I swore I would never homeschool. I was totally fine doing the preschool work with her. But never homeschool beyond that.

Well, never say never, right? 

About two years ago, I realized that homeschooling was something that we actually needed to conisder. It kept seeming like the best option for Amelia and our family as a whole. So in January 2015, we went for it. Most of our school time was highly inspired by the Montessori method. We held to that method as best as we could. But as the educational needs in our children increased, so did the amount of Montessori materials and space for materials. This was not working for our budget! It wasn't working for our 1000 sq ft house. I needed school materials to take up less space. Therefore, I found it necessary to shift gears a bit.

With the generous help of my dear friend, Anna, we have found curriculums that promote the multi-sensory experience that my girls loved with Montessori. The curriculums we're using are much easier to track with and plan for which is so important now that I've got three kiddos involved in the process.

While we aren't following any Montessori currently, there are still some ways that we incorporate Montessori into our daily lessons. This is seen mainly with Elsie and Isla. At the end of this series, I will share how we do school time with the little ones which will include these Montessori practices.

With all that, I would love to give a glimpse into what our homeschool experience is like currently in Fall 2016. However, as I write this out, I'm realizing this post could get lengthy with all that information. What I'll do is create a series with multiple posts that highlight different aspects of our homeschool day. So let's dive in!


In the series, we will cover:
1. The Maia Homeschool Adventure (you're reading that now)
2. Math
3. Reading
4. Science
5. Bible
6. What About Little Ones?!

Our School Year

The structure I have taken on this school year was majorly inspired by some ideas I had read on Sarah McKenzie's blog as well as the book she wrote, "Teaching From Rest" (if you haven't read this, I highly recommend you DO). Currently, we are doing four weeks of school work (aka a "term") for every 1 week of break time. We've done one round and it was golden! Four weeks was just the right amount of time to enjoy new lessons but not get too burned out on the constant go-go of school days. By time it came, I really appreciated the week break to gather new materials and prepare for the next 4 weeks, which we are in now!

A fun way we have decided to celebrate completing these terms is use a countdown sticker chart. Once it's full, we have a family outing. Last week, we did donuts before our school day started. The girls had a blast! And they really look forward to their daily sticker.

our fun outing for completing 4 weeks of school!
happy tot!!
Another perk with having our calender set up this way is that we have breaks during the major holidays. This helps me feel really organized and keeps our schedule predictable. But it still gives the freedom for us to learn at our own pace within the weeks we do have school. Plus, since we don't have a lot of homeschooling friends quite yet, it's nice that our schedule is somewhat matching up with the kids who attend school around us. This means Amelia will still get to enjoy time with friends during breaks without me getting stressed about missing our school time.

Our Weekly Routine

I try to do school in the morning, Monday-Friday. Some days we get through all of our subjects. Other days we only do math. It really depends on what is going on that day. If there is a play date or outing of some sort, we do what we can. Because of the planned out curriculums I'm using, it's not a big deal if we "miss a day" because we are so easily able to pick up where we left off. So far, I have not noticed any major hiccups with this. The lessons still feel cohesive and Amelia is progressing wonderfully!

Rarely will I ever do structured school during the afternoon. This just means I'm not doing a lesson from the books at the table. Quite frankly, everyone is usually super tired by the afternoon. The girls typically fill their afternoons with imaginative play or drawing/coloring. I might read to them or we might have outdoor play. It's definitely still considered "school time" as we firmly believe they're learning the whole day long!

One new thing I have been trying this fall is to limit screen time to only our weekends. On the weekends, we tend to enjoy slow movie times together. And some weekends, I've even noticed that the screen isn't really desired. So we just end up playing and relaxing, with no school agenda to tend to! This has been a *really* hard habit to form but it has helped tremendously with clear focus during the week, including for myself. Of course, we're not perfect so every now and then, they'll have some screen time on school days.

Keeping Track of Lesson Progression

If you know me just a little bit, I love checklists and productivity. As much my girls thrived with Montessori, I found it so difficult to keep track of lesson completion. This was so discouraging for me! I knew my girls were learning. I could see it in their daily interactions and such. But even still, I needed a tangible thing to help me see that yes, we were accomplishing things! I feel like we have found a really great compromise in the way we are doing school now.

Another tip I learned from Sarah Mckenzie... writing down the day's lessons in a notebook each day! At some point during the day, I go to my teacher's manuals and/or lesson guides for the subjects I'm teaching. Then I just write down the next thing! When the lesson is completed, I check it off/cross it out. If we don't complete it, I put an arrow through the line which signals me to move it to the next day we do school. Eventually Amelia and her sisters will be able to self manage their lessons a bit more. My goal is to have a notebook like this for each kiddo so they can open up it each day and see what they have to do. This will help encourage self pacing and allow the ability to choose what they do and when during our day.

I never imagined that we would be where are now with homeschooling. But I'm so thankful for the opportunity! We have grown so much as a family because of it. No matter where you find yourself in your own journey, I hope you can find something helpful from me sharing ours! 

8.31.2016

How Is This My Life?

A few days ago, Danny ordered me the Stand Firm scripture print from Grace Laced. It came in the mail on Monday. You better believe I opened that up as quickly and delicately as possible. The girls loved the print so much. We talked about what standing firm means and I told them what verse was painted. It was a fun, spontaneous moment as I spoke Truth to them and they soaked it in. We went on with our day and no more mention was made about the print.

While I decide where to hang the print, it's going to live on the counter that I like to use as my work station. It's not a particularly beautiful spot in our house. School stuff gets piled here. My books, my lettering, and the girl's church papers get left here. Don't get me started on the cords. As visually unappealing as this space can be, it truly is a hub for our home. If I'm standing around with the kids, it's most likely at this counter. So, for now, having the print in this location is practical.

my work station

Yesterday, I woke up to Amelia who had brought her ABC Bible verse booklet to me. She said, "Mama! I think is the same verse from yesterday. See?! 1 Corinthians 15:58! Here, I'll be right back. I'm going to get your Bible so you can have some quiet time."

A minute later, with my eyes barely open for the day, she plopped my Bible down on the bed. She climbed up and asked me to find the verse for her. We are beginning to teach her how to read a Bible and find verses. So I turned to 1 Corinthians and she helped me find the chapter and verse.

Before I knew it, all three girls were snuggled in my bed for quiet time as Amelia read the verse for us. And I was thinking, "HOW IS THIS MY LIFE!?"

my littlest disciples
Most days, I'm yelling that out of frustration because well, you might know how those days can go with kids. Those moments where you're like, wait? did I really just have to say/do/witness that? But this morning, it was from a place of pure thankfulness over *this* getting to be my life.

And I think back to this verse...

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 
1 Corinthians 15:58

Back in high school, I heard from a youth camp speaker that when you're reading scripture and you come across a "therefore", you should stop and ask yourself, "What is the 'therefore' there for?" With that, in some translations, 1 Corinthians 15:58 begins with a "therefore". If you go back to the beginning of chapter fifteen and read all the way back down, you'll find Paul talking about the resurrection of Christ and what that means for future believers and our eventual resurrection. Towards the end, he describes what our bodies will be like after being resurrected some day.

It all sounds super amazing, right? Transformation, glory, living forever with the Lord. At first read, I found myself feeling frustrated like, what about until then?

The life of a mom is not exactly always glorious. It doesn't scream enthusiasm as often as we would like. And oh yeah, there are transformation of all kinds, like our bodies after birthing multiple children in a few years and nursing, right? And in all seriousness, with or without kids, this life can leave us disoriented. It can be so difficult to see a day past the circumstances of our present, let alone a future glorious version of ourselves living with the Lord for eternity!! But there is a hope and a help beyond our imagination.

Something I've learned recently is that the Kingdom of God is not only a far off, coming reality. Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 17:20-21 that the Kingdom was in their midst. They didn't understand, though. They didn't recognize Jesus for who He was, what He had brought into the world nor what He was going to bring as the Resurrected Christ.

Aren't we so much like the Pharisees? It's easy to lose focus and not recognize that the Kingdom of God is now. But friends, the very fact that we have the Holy Spirit within us, working to transform our hearts and minds to bring glory to God and invite people into lasting relationship with the Savior, is proof of the Kingdom now.

So, what do we do until that coming resurrection so beautifully described in chapter fifteen? What do we do on those days where our question of, "How is this my life?!" is way too exasperated and ungrateful?

We stand firm and immovable.

Each moment that I explain scripture to my girls rather than rushing to the next thing...
Each moment that I choose to stand in the strength of Jesus rather than crumble under the weight of anxiety...
Each moment that deeper wounds heal because of a daily choice to seek Christ...

Each moment that you love your husband when it feels easier to be angry with him...
Each moment that you give a little more to that family than what is comfortable...
Each moment that you speak the truth in love...

Each moment of our life where we choose to do work for the Lord rather than ourselves and our current comfort, trusting that He works everything together for our good and His glory...

We are declaring with our lives, "Death, where is your victory? Where is your sting?" The same power that conquered death at the Cross conquers for us today. The same power that will bring our physical transformation in Heaven gives us the ability to live spiritually transformed for Heaven's sake today.

As we go about our lives, standing firm and immovable because of the power of the Resurrected Christ within us, we see that none of what we experience is wasted. We see that the Lord is working in and around us moment by moment.

We get to ask enthusiastically, "How is this my life?!"

6.21.2016

When Community Comes Around

Back in early May, as Danny and I discussed some house decisions coming up, I expressed to him that I had only one hurdle in mind: I wasn't sure how, in our current financial state, we could afford some of the options set before us. Not exactly a small hurdle. We discussed options for saving enough money. The conversation was left a bit unresolved as we just weren't sure how to move forward.

The next morning, Danny got a phone call from one of his managers. She was wanting to let him know that there was a company wide call that afternoon with information about a job opportunity. It would be a short term commitment with a large monetary payout. We figured it wouldn't hurt to get more information so we sat in on the call. The job was filling in for Union workers on the East Coast who were striking at the time. The time commitment was going to be two months and the income would be 2-3x the amount Danny would make in a normal month. And not so coincidentally, the income would be enough to cover the house expenses we had discussed the night prior.

As Danny listened in, his eyes got wider and his face sort of lit up with anticipation. He didn't have to say it but I knew for sure he wanted to go. My heart raced as I began to think over what it would look like to have my husband gone for two months straight.

After the call, we prayed a quick prayer together, asking God to guide us and give us wisdom. Later that night, we went to our small group. We gathered with our friends, gave them the low down, and asked for their input and prayers. Without hesitation, friends were excited and encouraging. They told us, "This will be crazy but it will be so good for you guys." In the same conversation, many of our friends committed to helping me while Danny was away IF we chose to pursue this job opportunity.

The next day, Danny applied for the job! A couple days went by before we heard that he was selected to go. That was on a Friday morning. Early the following Wednesday, Danny flew out to Virginia for a week of training. After he completed training, he worked in New York for two weeks. The strike ended sooner than everyone thought it would so he came home after three weeks. And yeah, I was SUPER grateful for that. He didn't make as much money as we anticipated he would. But it was still an amazing amount that is going to be so helpful for future expenses we have to make.


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While I was supportive of Danny going and excited for him to make a decent income in a short time, thus helping us move forward in the house projects, I also felt so anxious about how in the world I would survive without him around. I'm a pretty independent woman. I tend to lean towards doing all the things myself. But I knew this adventure could absolutely break me if I went about it with that kind of mindset. Even in that, I still didn't want to admit how anxious I felt to anyone!! I trusted God to provide for our needs but I failed to walk that out by trusting the people around me to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

The Tuesday before Danny left, our dear friend, Kyle, asked me, "Shelia, what can we do for you while Danny's gone?"

And you know what? I replied, "I don't know, guys.... there's so much. But I just don't know..." I totally knew. I just didn't want to be a burden of any kind.

Thankfully, I have a bold, caring husband because he spoke up and said, "I need you guys to show up for Shelia before she asks because the reality is that she won't ask for help as often as she's going to need it." I wasn't exactly pleased to be called out like that. But it was so necessary! I love that man. As that first week went on, I had friends contact me telling me where they would help. I started writing people's names down along with what they committed for help. That list grew and grew to over twenty friends and family members who wanted to share the load with our family.


Every day that Danny was gone, someone was at our house and/or contacting me to check up on us. Friends committed to watching our girls each week so I could still attend counseling, do grocery shopping, and get a few moments to myself. A few people brought meals and coffee just because! Other friends did my dishes and folded laundry. Some guys from our small group cleaned the gutters and the moss off our roof one day. Our neighbor mowed our lawn a few times! And of course, there were even more people than that who I knew were praying for us during that time.


The whole experience isn't anything I'll sign up for again soon. It was harder than hard, as one might expect!! But it was incredibly humbling to see so many people come around and serve us without question. At the end of the three weeks, I cried to my counselor, overwhelmed by the sacrifice so many people made for me and my family. This is all new in my relationships... the willingness to let people in to the more vulnerable places of my life, to let people care for me when I can't do it all, and to let it all happen without feeling as if I have to make it up to them.

We're a few weeks out from that experience and my heart is still stirring. The relationships I have with those who stepped in continue to deepen. People continue to show up in the day to day. And what I see as a result from that vulnerable place of accepting help from others is a community of people that I trust so much more than I did a couple months ago. In that trust, I've felt safe enough to have hard conversations and express hurts. I have felt safe to ask for help in the small things of normal life. I have felt compelled to love others like I've been loved. This is raw relationship, being formed right before me. After just going through a sermon series called A Gospel Centered Community, this kind of experience reminds me of how God is working and shifting hearts. I'm so grateful for it.

6.14.2016

I Confess My Indifference

Sometimes when my heart is hurting and I'm struggling to make sense of my thoughts, I talk to my five year old daughter. It might seem counterproductive. But it never is. Amelia brings a simple logic to situations that I over complicate in my adultness.

We had one of those conversations last night and it went like this:

Me: "Hey bug, I had a question for you. If you saw someone that was different than you, maybe they looked different or acted differently than you... what would you do?"

Amelia: "Hmmm... I would probably say they look great or something like that."

Me: "What if someone was sick or hurting or...?"

Amelia: "Or without a home!? Well, I would call a doctor if they were sick. Or I would let them live with us if they didn't have a home. We could just build some more rooms or something!"

Me: "Wow! Those are great ideas! But what if they were far away from us?"

Amelia: "Oh, well... I don't know, Mama."

Me: "What if we prayed for them?"

Amelia: "Oh yeah!!! We could pray for God to help them!!"

Me: "Well, there's something we can pray about tonight if you want. There's a place in our country called Orlando, Florida. There was an angry man who hurt a group of people that were different than him. So now their friends and family feel really sad. And there's even more people all over the world that are sad as well."

Amelia: "Mama! Can I please pray for those people?"

Me: "Go for it, kiddo."

She bowed her head, clasped her hands together, shut her eyes, and prayed the sweetest prayer.

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I confess my past indifference to tragedy in the world. It's not that I don't care. In my deepest heart of hearts, there's aching. But in a world where my one voice feels so small, I have never felt compelled to say much about the events that surround us, now or in the past. But the reality is that in my quietness, I have been as ineffective as the loudest voices among us.

After this week though, I just can't keep quiet. This isn't only my world. This is my kid's world, too. And while I get to filter so much of what they know now, I won't be able to forever. These are the years where I get to do the majority of the molding and shaping of their lives. I aim to do this by pointing them to the truth that Jesus is their shelter and Jesus is their example. He will sustain them and He will guide them.

The last thing I want is for my girls to be indifferent adults. I would never want them to shy away from hard circumstance or hide from pain because of their own insecurities. I want them to be confident women, compelled to love well at all times and to speak out against injustice in our world because of the freedom they have found in following Jesus.

"There is tension in tolerance, but the amazing news is that our Father thrives in human tension. That is where He does His most unexpected work. He brings lightness to heavy burdens, and the Holy Spirit brings wisdom whenever we ask for it. At the foot of the cross, we are wild and free women. We can be passionate and tolerant; we can be truth tellers while being loving and patient like Jesus is. We can walk with Jesus and watch how He loves." 

So I pray boldly for them and I realize the need for me to show them what this kind of life looks like lived out, even now when they are so little.

To the world I have felt little concern for in the past, I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.

My five year old daughter has a heart for you that I aspire to have. She's the wildest, most free soul I know. I definitely plan to chat with her some more. I have a few things to learn from her.

4.12.2016

Anxiety Reframe

Hi. My name is Shelia and I have lived a life full of worry and fretting for far too long. I know I'm not alone in this struggle. All the what ifs, should Is, and should haves. It's an unbearable weight to carry. 

I've known this about myself for as long as I can remember. I have memories of being physically ill with worry as a child in the midst of stressful situations at home. I can also think back to the last year of high school when I wore a heart monitor because of heart palpitations. Later on, the doctor said it was most likely due to stress. But I didn't name it for myself until shortly after Elsie was born. There was one day where I felt like I couldn't breathe. I begged Danny to stay home with me. I remember googling some symptoms (classic move of the anxious). The word anxiety popped up in nearly every search result.

Anxiety. 

I'll admit that I felt shame in realizing that I was dealing with very real postpartum anxiety. I didn't talk a lot about it in the months after. I did write about it again. I knew not many people would read my blog so it felt safer. 

And then, we found out I was pregnant with Isla. I wrote about being excited and overwhelmed at the thought of three girls so close in age. But that didn't scratch the surface of my feelings one bit. For a long time after our surprise third pregnancy, I would often pray agonized prayers to the Lord, trying to make sense of why he would trust me with raising three girls. Why would he choose me, such a broken, mess of a mom? There's no way I would do this well...

For two and a half more years, I struggled with that crushing feeling. I finally decided that I needed help at the beginning of this year. Why the quietness for so long, you might wonder? The weight of anxiety made me feel like something was wrong with me. The way my emotions would bubble up so passionately felt absolutely foreign and forbidden. Surely nobody would understand. Someone would most definitely tell me to get it together and get over it. And I was positive that I would be too much work if I actually said that I was struggling. 

That wasn't the case obviously. Those were lies straight from Satan. I have never felt more loved, cared for, and held in my life. My family and community have rallied around me and cheered me on over these last few months.

"It’s heartbreakingly easy to think that if your people could, they’d trade you in or upgrade you for a more appealing model or a sleeker, faster, sexier update.

That’s where the edges of your heart can get stuck — thinking everyone is just sort of stuck with you.

It can feel like everyone just accidentally ended up with you by default—- instead of feeling like you are not loved by accident, but chosen on purpose in spite of your faults."

There's a lot about myself that I have had to learn to love and accept, even after so many others have loved me as I am. For so many years, I have failed to realize that God made me who I am for a purpose. As he formed me 28 years ago, he knew the challenges I would face. He knew how these challenges would cause me to be overly cautious and worry about all the things. He knew that having three girls would bring me to a place of surrender. And he knew that was the place where he could do his best work. I trust him to work it all out because of Romans 8.

The issue with anxiety isn't that I to need to fix it and get rid of it. For some people, like myself, it's just part of who we are. The challenge is learning to harness the feeling and letting it drive me, us... forwards toward good. I fully believe God made all emotions and called them good. This journey I've been on is helping me discover the good that my emotions are for! So last week, as my counselor asked me to reframe my thoughts about anxiety from being a hindrance to it actually being a strength, I was intrigued. We talked and reflected on the good that has come from our work so far.

Through accepting my anxiety, I have grown in self-awareness. That deep, physical feeling I experience is a great warning system in stressful situations. When I pay close attention to it, I understand my emotional triggers much better. This awareness allows me to manage my reactions in a way that I've never been able to before.


There was also some recognition that my most anxious moments at home are during big, emotional days with the girls. Not only does that anxious weight help me to know that I am not caring for myself properly, it's also a great way to realize something isn't right with my kids. More often than not, the deep feeling I'm experiencing in those moments is an empathetic response to emotional discomfort in their little selves. As I grow in self-control, I am able to mirror their emotions to them, instead of react angrily at them. This develops an amazing sense of connection with them and heals my heart bit by bit.

"In order to thrive, a child (and perhaps each of us at any age) needs contingent communication with significant others. A child especially needs a 'good enough' parent: no parent can provide contingent communication all of the time, but frequent experiences of feeling connected are vital in building relationships. It is often a challenge to make sense of our children's signals and some children may be especially difficult to understand and to soothe. When the inevitable disconnections and misunderstandings occur, we can repair those ruptures so our children learn that a healing reconnection is possible. The accumulation of our children's positive, connecting experiences with us, though contingent communication and essential moments of interactive repair, enable them to build a coherent sense of self as they develop." 
Making note of this quote from Lysa Terkeurst's book Unglued for reading later

I shared with my counselor that I want to change my baseline of anxiety to one that is more controlled and aware. One ultimate goal in all this work is to give my girls a different framework of emotions than what I grew up with. I want them to accept and love who they were made to be at a much earlier age than what I have been able to do. I won't do it perfectly every time. But just like all of me was made for a purpose, so all of my mistakes and victories will be used through the hands of my Father in the lives of my girls. I have no doubts that this work here is doing exactly that.

3.15.2016

Less Blame, More Grace


After a series of conversations with close friends and a couple sessions with my counselor, I'm understanding how much I have truly suffered by blaming my parents for the choices I have made as a parent. The moments where my self-control was lacking and I yelled too loud, said the hurtful words, or used physical discipline when angry. Way too many times, after apologizing to my family, I'd say to myself or even Danny, "I would be so different if they had just done better."

In that season of intense struggle and refusal to accept responsibility for my choices, I wasn't inviting God to change my heart. By placing blame, I was allowing myself to stay stuck in my struggle. Honestly, during that season, remaining in my sin was the easiest thing to do. Facing past wounds and taking responsibility for the way I was treating my family was too much work on my part. Deep down I knew I couldn't do it in my own strength. I wasn't ready to release control to the Lord because I knew He would do the hard work I was afraid of.

I'm ready now.
The change has taken place in lots of ways. I've practiced apologizing to my family more and blaming my parents less. I have done two months of counseling and plan to continue for a while. I have started sharing about my struggles in a more honest way instead of bottling them up. My hands are slowly opening and letting go.

I am finally starting to grasp the reality that my upbringing did not make me who I am because I am not an angry, anxious person. I am a child of God who makes mistakes or believes lies from the Enemy like every other human being on this planet, traumatic upbringing or not. The issue isn't who I was raised by. It is absolutely the bigger issue of brokenness in our world. Without the saving grace of Jesus, my parents knew no other options. Without a legacy of love before them, they just did what they knew best. Without a morally sound community surrounding them, they continued to live in a lifestyle that brought much destruction to our young family.

Hurt people hurt people.

I began to learn a better way when I met Jesus at 13 years old. Ever since since then, he has been revealing the depth of his grace. The Lord has surrounded me with family and friends that point me to abundant life daily. Danny and I are starting a new generation in our family, one that understands the value in a legacy of Jesus love. Nearly fifteen years later, I am finally beginning to shed the bitterness and anger that I have had towards my parents. I refuse to blame them for the poor choices I have made as a follower of Christ. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells me that I am a new creation in Christ! I claim that over my life as I pursue him deeper. And now more than ever, I pray boldly that God would interrupt the lives of my extended family and draw them closer to himself.

There's another aspect I love about about quitting the blame game. Doing so releases me to be more in control of myself through the workings of the Holy Spirit. If I'm not stuck in the past then I'm allowing God to move me forward, growing me in ways that I was never able when controlled by bitterness and anger. I gave control to my Good, Good Father when I began to understand more of who I am in his eyes. In all of this, he has been faithful to teach me gently about the fruits of his Spirit and I feel a shift.

 "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." 
Galatians 5:13-26

Healing people hurt people less. 

Healed people love people well.

2.25.2016

Growing in Understanding

For the last few months I've been reading a Proverb a day for the main part of my devotional time. When I first started this routine, I thought I would get bored quickly. It turns out that no matter how many times I've read a particular chapter before, I always seem to take away something new. I write a bunch of notes in the margins of my Bible. And since I revisit the Proverbs based on the date of the month, it's always encouraging to see the different lessons I have learned as time has passed. With that, I'd like to share my most recent and biggest take away from Proverbs.

Over and over again, I have read the word understanding. It stuck out to me in the verse Proverbs 17:10 where it says, "A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool." As I have looked through the chapters of Proverbs, I find that I've actually underlined and remarked about many verses with this word understanding.

I've shared recently about the journey that the Lord has taken me on over the course of the last two years or so. I have gone from feeling like we should spank Amelia to we shouldn't spank because of my lack of self control. But even in that, I struggled with having reactions that didn't line up with the new path of parenting we had embarked on. And now arriving to the present, more often than not our discipline and responses towards our children's behavior are more thought out and intentional rather than being a big, emotional reaction. As I have thought this over the last week, I'm finding how crucial understanding has been in our parenting shift.

I think of my relationship with Danny and the amount of understanding that he has had towards me over the course of our relationship (married and not married years accumulated are over 11 years). He takes time to hear my thoughts even when we both know they are irrational. He listens carefully. Danny asks questions so that he can understand more fully where I'm coming from. This investment in our relationship makes me feel loved and cared for and heard. As he models understanding towards me, I do the same for him. Back and forth it goes. As those moments add up to fill one another's hearts, life happens and we hit bumpy patches. I say or do things that require him to call me out. Having a relationship foundation strong in understanding one another sure makes those moments of reproof easier to work through. I can take his criticism to heart because I know that he cares for me. He has shown it over and over again. If Danny didn't take the time to listen and care for me and ask questions meant to know my heart deeper, I would be very reluctant to hear his criticism. If he over-reacted emotionally towards my poor decisions, I would be more likely to blow him off and act even more foolish.

Of course, on the off day that we don't do the extra work of understanding each other, the opposite is not that we beat each other and "put lashes on the back of a fool". Likewise, the majority of our population of parents don't do that with their children. But imagine what it would be like as a child to have a parent verbally lash out over less-than-desirable behavior. Think about what it would be like for that child to be yelled and screamed at, to be told that they need to stop crying and just get over it. Think about what it would be like to always feel as if you were unheard and misunderstood. It's easy for me to think about because I was that kid. What I had to say as a child did not matter because I was just the child. In moments that I tried to verbally process how I was feeling, I was rarely empathized with. More often than not, I was silenced.

un·der·stand·ing /ˌəndərˈstandiNG/: (adj) sympathetically aware of other people's feelings; tolerant and forgiving. (noun) a mutual agreement, especially of a private, unannounced, or tacit kind.

Another reason it is easy for me to imagine a misunderstood child is because I've looked into the face of one. I know what it's like to angrily yell at Amelia in a moment of emotional reaction. I know what it's like to see her face when she feels completely abandoned and unheard. I see her face go from "Please help me, Mama!" to "We are not on the same team. Let's battle."

She's just like me... her emotions have a tendency to flip in a quick second. The instant that I am angry and lashing out at her she dishes it right back. I can lash out at her a thousand times with my tongue by speaking unkindly and angrily at her, demanding that she do what I say or else. I can grab things from her when she's not listening and just do stuff for her in an attempt to hurry routines along. I can do and say all those things but Amelia is not going to respond to me in a cooperative, understanding way. She isn't going to want to do anything for me or with me because she is now angry and feeling like we're in a battle.

But the moments that I choose to stop, get on Amelia's level, and just hear her, she melts into a puddle. When I ask her gentle questions -- Can you tell me what you're frustrated about? -- or empathize with her -- I know you don't want to do that right now. That must be really hard. -- she's just right there with me. She cries. She might even yell a lot. But she's rarely yelling at me if I have established my calm and strong control. She's going quickly with the emotion because she's 5. She is learning that it's ok to feel frustrated!! In this house, we are working hard to establish that it's acceptable to have feelings. It's great to express feelings. The key in this process is learning how to do it in a healthy way. In all honesty, this is something our whole family is learning!

"People with understanding control their anger;
    a hot temper shows great foolishness." Proverbs 14:29

After feelings are adequately expressed, we work together to find a solution for whatever the problem is. The problem can be anything from frustration over not getting to play with a particular toy to the fact that I'm setting a firm line about my decision over something. Whatever the case is, if I just take a moment to understand where Amelia is coming from, she is quick to realize that I am for her, that I am on her team, and I have everything under control. She realizes there's no battle to fight. Just like Danny's calm, loving responses over time have built up our marriage, so do my responses build up the relationship I have with each of my girls. As I've practiced this more consistently, I have noticed Amelia's heart growing in tenderness towards my correction. There have been so many times in the past where she would do the normal kid thing of asking over and over again or insisting on her way. But recently, as we all grow and change, she has started responding with, "Yes, Mama." or if she doesn't agree, she will calmly state her perspective and offer a compromise. It's a beautiful thing each time.

Now when I read Proverbs 17:10, I remember the value in taking time to understand my children. Each and every time I help them know that they are heard and cared for, we are forming a mutual respect for one another. Then, when criticism, discipline, or correction comes, it's from a place of deep understanding.

From there, we can do some great work together.

2.04.2016

Coming Full Circle

Two years ago, Amelia was about to turn 3. This was the season of toddlerhood where I really started to recognize how much I could influence my kids. To put that plainly, I saw myself in Amelia more often than not. And I wasn't always pleased with what I saw. A lot of the raw emotion at that time was due to her age and all the developmental changes she was experiencing. But a good deal of it was also because I lacked self control. I yelled way too much. I slammed things. I got angry and everyone knew about it. Naturally, Amelia started copying me. Each time she acted like a mini-me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I didn't want her to become a tantrum-throwing adult. So why was I giving her this example? Even still, I kept on. 

No surprise when her behavior didn't change. We were scrambling trying to figure out how to discipline our toddler. Each day for a long while I would just cry and fret over these gigantic emotional outbursts and all the disobedience. So much yelling and screaming. I began looking into different methods and tactics of discipline... anything to give me structure on how to control our child. 

In the middle of my search, I was invited to a small gathering of women where an older woman shared her experiences as a young mom. She talked about how she disciplined her five children 25+ years ago. I had been looking forward to it because I was grasping at anything. Surely she would have some wisdom that could help me. During our time, she talked very sternly about disciplining God's way, using the rod, breaking our child's will, and making them obey. She quoted many Bible verses and I wrote notes frantically. She explained how when each of her babies were about 9 months old, she would hold them down in their crib until they went to sleep. At one point during the talk, she also demonstrated with a baby doll how to properly spank a child with a rod (she used a wooden spoon). She explained the importance of hitting them just hard enough that it stings but not so hard that you leave marks. And of course, not being angry while you do it. If they fought the discipline, they got more spankings. And as soon as you were done, you gather them in your arms and shower them with love and pray over them. She was matter of fact and that was that. This woman gave boundaries for when and where you spank, along with so much other information. 

It was presented so well. I really appreciated her honesty and I really did want to understand what she was sharing. Honestly though, we had been really wishy-washy about spankings during this time with Amelia. We just weren't sure about it all, especially with my tendency to over react emotionally and physically. 

How could I possibly not spank in anger when my self control was so weak?! I thought it over and over during her talk. As the other moms attentively listened and shook their heads and absorbed all this in, I figured I better at least try this structured discipline. This woman made it seem like I would be doing my children a huge disservice if I didn't spank! 

I left that day feeling confused but also determined. I didn't really feel great about spanking but nothing else worked before it so why not give it a try?

The next few months were awful. My angry reactions did not get any better. I spanked in anger more often than not. And I didn't always use a rod... sometimes it was my hands. I was getting more and more pregnant with Isla which meant I was very sore and weak. Amelia was growing and getting harder to hold and control during her spankings. Not only that, but she would often cry to me during and/or after spankings, "Mama! You say hitting isn't nice. Don't do that!" Months went by... Isla was born and I entered into this fog. Three kids, ages 3 and under, was a lot. I wrestled with my emotions in a deep, challenging way. Amelia turned 4 and got very verbal about how she was feeling. Again, no surprise there! But I just couldn't do it anymore. I could no longer spank Amelia. 

Danny didn't quite agree that we should give up on spankings. The only thing he could go off of was being raised in a home where spankings happened here and there. But he never experienced anger from his parents like I did. He knew full well that I had self-control issues. He saw the way this battle was hurting me and Amelia and our relationship. I told him I wanted to explore what it would look like to discipline our children from a more positive standpoint. I read lots of articles, blogs, Scripture, a few books... I brought text after text to him and we discussed the content. He began to understand more of my heart and supported me in finding a different way.

The more I read about gentle parenting and asked God to show me His way, the more I realized it was never about being in control of my child. Let's be real, I could sort of control her behavior with punishment. But I was and never will be in control of her heart. Guiding Amelia during this time was always supposed to be about being in control of myself and even more so, being Spirit controlled so that I could be a stable place for Amelia to explore these big emotions, test boundaries, and all the other toddler shenaningans! But this was the harsh reality: I couldn't even explore my own emotions in a healthy way! As I began seeking the Lord through prayer and Scripture, I discovered that so many of my emotional outbursts were trigger points from past trauma in my own life. These outbursts were putting on display my own emotional immaturity. I complained to the Lord and my close friends and anyone who would listen, WHY would God give ME, this hot mess of a mom, THREE GIRLS to raise? There is NO WAY I can do this! WHY WHY WHY?

For my good and His glory. 

Somewhere along the line, I realized there were more layers to dig up than what I could work on solo. I didn't have the right tools to accomplish this ideal parenting. I really did want to grow in self control. I wanted to be able to respond to my children in love rather than reacting in anger. I wanted to show them kindness and grace as they discovered this world. That's when counseling came to mind. Even while I knew I should begin, I didn't for a few more months. I kept reading information about gentle discipline and respectful parenting. Some of it soaked in and we implemented more and more of it all. Honestly though, the best thing I did during that time was getting into a routine with my personal Bible study time. And not even a set time each day... just being in the Word, every day throughout each day. I began creating habits that helped me connect to God in a deeper way. So as I hit those first layers, he tenderly walked with me and grew me in ways I didn't expect.

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives." 
Galatians 5:24-25

And now, we come full circle. Two years later, we are entering into that same developmental stage with Elsie. Those big emotions are flaring up in her and we have some really hard days. So much yelling and screaming. But a lot less of it is from me. More of my angry/anxious moments are controlled and stay within myself to process later in a healthy way rather than at the kids. Don't get me wrong... I screw up from time to time. I still yell. I still slam stuff. I'm human! But part of this change is knowing I am not defined by my mistakes. I can admit when I'm wrong and ask for forgiveness. Grace upon grace upon grace. I told a friend a few days ago that it's like I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I see my growth. I also see how Amelia has changed. We have our hard days with her still. They are so few and far between though. This slow, steady progress acts as a reminder that we are moving forward and this hard work is worth it! And truly, I look forward to Isla being a three year old and seeing the work that God has done over the years.


I've been asked a lot about this journey I'm on. It seems that a lot of you are asking similar questions and wanting to grow in similar areas. In hopes of being helpful, I wanted to create a list of some of the readings and such that have been influential to me. I'll have them divided up by author. Their resource links will follow after that. I've even included a small excerpt from some of them so you can get a feel for what they're about before clicking over.

Bible Verses
"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." Galatians 6:9

"Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
    and make you wise." Proverbs 1:23

"Without oxen a stable stays clean,
    but you need a strong ox for a large harvest." Proverbs 14:4

"A house is built by wisdom
    and becomes strong through good sense." Proverbs 24:3

"Fools vent their anger,
    but the wise quietly hold it back." Proverbs 29:11

L. R. Knost
Spare the Rod: The Heart of the Matter - "We accept that Jesus brought a new and better way, a way of the heart, “Not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3b), but don’t seem to want to acknowledge that better way with our children. We accept God’s grace and forgiveness for ourselves, but often don’t share those gifts with, and model them for, our children. But we are our children’s first taste of God. Is it any wonder people have such a hard time understanding grace and mercy and unconditional love when they may not have been taught those things by their earthly parents and don’t exercise them with their own children?"

Jesus the Gentle Parent - "In this examination of mainstream Christian parenting practices and the doctrinal beliefs behind them, best-selling author, L.R.Knost, debunks common cultural and theological beliefs about spanking, original sin, sin nature, submission, authority, obedience, breaking a child’s will, and more, along with providing grace-filled, gentle solutions to behavior issues."

The Gift of a Strong Willed Child - "While there’s no doubt that it’s a challenge having a child who seems to challenge everything, there are ways to work with them rather than against them to preserve and nurture their unique gifts. Maintaining a healthy parent/child relationship is vital as you work to find a balance between setting limits with your richly spirited child while not limiting their freedom to stretch and grow and develop into the person they were created to be."

The Problem with Punishment - "Punishment may be able to control a child’s behavior temporarily while they’re small or when they are in their parents’ presence, but it cannot control the person.  As with all humans, outward behavior is merely a reflection of our inner selves: our needs, our hurts, our emotional states."

Backtalk is Communication - "When a child backtalks, sometimes also referred to as mouthing-off or sassing, they are in the throes of a huge, internal maelstrom of emotion. Whatever they are reacting to in the moment, whether it’s being told ‘no’ about something or being asked to do or not do something, it is rarely those issues that are at the root of the problem. The moment at hand is just the tipping point causing a fissure in the child’s heart that lets out a bit of the steam inside. The real concern should be that there is, metaphorically, steam in the child’s heart to begin with."

Janet Lansbury
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame - "[This book] provides a practical, indispensable tool for parents who are anticipating or experiencing those critical years when toddlers are developmentally obliged to test the limits of our patience and love. Armed with knowledge and a clearer sense of the world through our children’s eyes, this period of uncertainty can afford a myriad of opportunities to forge unbreakable bonds of trust and respect."

Unruffled {podcast} - these are easy to listen to while driving or grocery shopping! Her voice is super sweet. Plus hearing different challenging behavior scenarios role played by her is really helpful!

Dr. Sears
Spanking - Three articles {10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child, 8 Admonitions to Parents Who Chose To, and Signs You Need Professional Help}
Discipline & Behavior

Other random links! :)
Aha! Parenting
Practice Positive Discipline
Gentle Parenting

Thanks for reading! I love to dialogue about this topic so please comment and ask questions. Also, I'm a pretty open book if there are any more details of my story that you want to ask about. Please be respectful and kind in your responses as I know this topic can be hard for a lot of people.

We're in this together! 

1.29.2016

New Beginnings

I've known for months that I needed to start counseling. But the task seemed so big. I made small strides here and there. Over the course of a few weeks, I reached out to a couple therapists in the area. I got lots of great feedback and guidance. But when my insurance sent me a list of hundreds of counselors covered by our plan, I stopped the search. Looking at the list and trying to decide where to go made me want to cry. I asked for our small group to pray for me as I felt unable to move forward with the process. More weeks passed and I told myself I WOULD have a counseling appointment made by the end of January. Well, I did it! On Tuesday, with a lot of people praying for me and cheering me on, I stepped foot into a counselor's office.

For an hour, we talked over my intake form. That means we talked about all the reasons I feel like I need counseling. My counselor asked questions about my current life situations. I shared about my upbringing and the experiences that have impacted my life. The good, the bad, the ugly. It was an intense hour. At the conclusion of our time together, she put a name to the battle I've been facing: Adjustment Anxiety. 

Basically, I have had a lot of big life change in a short amount of time. This reality has caused a lot of stress that comes out in anxiety. Along the same lines, this anxiety has triggered past trauma to resurface and effect the way that I handle current stress. 

I'm not into diagnoses. I don't feel like I needed a label on what was "wrong with me". But it felt good to have someone professional say that there IS some stuff going on. And I couldn't agree more. Life has certainly changed a lot in nearly two years. Last time I wrote in this space, I was announcing that our third baby was a girl! At the time, we were living in our friend's basement, waiting anxiously to hear when we could close on our first house. 

Amelia {4} - Elsie {2} - Isla {1} 
Since those posts in March 2014, we have:
- bought a house
- moved our family to a new church
- had a baby
- changed job locations
- started homeschooling
- stepped into leading our small group at church

... ON TOP OF all the fun that comes with just normal life. At times, I feel super bummed that I haven't enjoyed some of this change as much as I should have. But my counselor said something that spoke to that and I loved it: "Shoulds are dangerous because they set us up for expectations we can't meet. Shoulds are in the past. It is what is. And that's ok."

During a conversation with a young woman that I mentor, I explained how my goal with using social media is to have my online space match my real life as much as possible. No surprises. All I want is to share my story and in doing so, point people to the work God is responsible for in my life {which is a bunch}. I've always been open on Instagram. I believe in authenticity in real life and on the internet. But I like to write a lot sometimes. So this space feels good for the longer ramblings I might/will do. ;) With that, I am planning to share the continuation of my counseling journey here, among other life things as they come up. I also plan to write more in depth about exactly what lead me to the place of seeking a counselor. I know several people who have messaged me and/or spoken to me in person, feeling like they're on the same journey, just a few steps behind. Hopefully this can encourage some of you!

And because I like for social media to be just that - SOCIAL - I'm going to be more intentional with my posts. I plan to have questions here and there at the end of my posts in hopes that some of you will engage in conversation. I will also add random things like a song I love that day or what I'm reading.

Here's to new beginnings, friends! Here's to a deeper 2016 than I ever imagined.

----------------------------------------------------

~ If you have done counseling before, how did you benefit from it? What was the process like for you before starting?
~ If you haven't done counseling, what do you think when you hear people say that everyone could use counseling? Do you agree or disagree?

As I thought through what I wanted to write today, this song came on and gripped my heart: "My Story" by Big Daddy Weave