Get On The Floor: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Parenting

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on January 24, 2017. To read this post in its entirety, please follow the link to the KMB website.

My son loves photography. My mom has a fancy DSLR camera she occasionally lets him cart around his neck on a strap (supervised, of course!), and he always comes away with a bunch of blurry shots of random things around the room: the back of a chair, the corner joist of the porch railing, a lamp shade. Whenever he gets a hold of my iPhone, I usually find 50-100 rapid fire shots of whatever TV show he was watching, horribly unflattering shots of me dozing off on the couch, his dirty shoes piled up in the corner by the door. I guess it’s arguable whether he actually enjoys “photography,” per se, or just that he derives sensory pleasure from the little clicking sound the device makes whenever he snaps a photo of whatever the camera happened to be pointing at.

But I like to think there’s more. These seemingly random pictures my son regularly captures don’t just show the mere directionality of the camera he happened to be holding. Whether or not the subject matter is intentional, these pictures tell me something about my son:

His perspective.

To me, the pictures my son takes are weird, random, and poorly executed. The subject matter is uninteresting, the lighting is terrible, and the shot is out of focus. It would be easy for me to call them “bad” pictures, but is that really true? As an adult, it’s easy to look at the world around us as the grand, all-knowing beneficiaries of the wisdom that comes from age. Certainly it is our responsibility to help our children navigate life from our lens of experience, but what have we lost as we have “grown up,” both figuratively and literally?

Sometimes, to help kids understand and grow from their own experience, we need a little change of perspective.

I used to get so frustrated that my baby would cry whenever I vacuumed. He was fine if I was holding him, but set him down for a second and he would be screaming. What difference should it make if he is in my arms or in the chair? The vacuum is still the vacuum. Then one day it hit me that the vacuum is nearly a foot taller than him, and when I’m pushing it away from myself, it appears to be going toward him. It was then I realized that what makes the vacuum less scary isn’t me, it’s the perspective of being taller and pushing it away that help him feel secure. However, I didn’t figure this out until I was laying on the ground when the vacuum was nearby. Sometimes it requires actual physical repositioning in order to gain empathy for our children.

In other words, get on the floor.


…To continue reading this post, please visit Knoxville Moms Blog! Enjoy!

Hearing God in the Noise

Hearing God in the Noise

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NOISE. That is the one word that describes my life right now. It’s summer, and all 3 of my kids are home from school. Last summer wasn’t so bad because they took naps every day, but this year my 5-year-old is really fighting it. So that means from sun up to sun down, I am constantly bombarded with NOISE – voices chattering, feet running and stomping, somebody whining about something-or-other, giggling and laughing, screaming and crying, balls bouncing, cars zooming, even the restless pre-kindergartener tossing back and forth on my bed while I pray he sleeps next to me. It’s nice to think things will settle down once school starts back and we all get into a routine again. However, we will be welcoming another baby the week before school starts, and since my 3-year-old will not be returning to pre-school, he’ll be around to make sure I don’t get to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” that classic new-mom advice that is next to impossible to follow.

A few years ago, when I was mom to a 3-year-old, 1-year-old, and a newborn, I heard someone describe this stage with small kids as “in the trenches” of parenting. Usually I avoid appropriating military verbiage so as not to devalue the original context; however, this one really stuck with me. Being “in the trenches” with little ones can feel like a mental battle zone – especially when you run out of diapers and have to make a Walmart run with all 3 in tow… That’ll get you plenty of stares!

The endless diapers were probably my biggest struggle at that point, but now that we’re all potty trained (for now!), I have to say it’s the constant noiseThere are several times every.single.day and sometimes entire days when I don’t even know what I’m thinking, or if the thoughts I think I’m thinking are really mine or if I’m just repeating some jumbled mess of whatever my kids have been thinking out loud all day long. I do try to find quiet time every day, but usually those moments are quickly interrupted by someone needing something, and I’m back on mom duty. One of my biggest concerns in this is that if I can’t hear myself think, how will I be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?

He’s Still Here

In the secret, in the quiet place

In the stillness, You are there…”

Sonicflood, “I Want to Know You (In the Secret)”

I have always heard it said that we hear God in the quiet moments, when we get alone and in peaceful solitude, there we can truly hear his voice. Believe me, I know this to be true, and I cherish the quiet moments I get with the Lord. Lately, though, I feel discouraged, because there are literally almost no quiet moments. If I wake up early, the kids hear me and get up too. When I try to escape to the bathroom or send the kids outside to play, they are constantly coming back demanding my attention. My chaotic life is filled with noise, and I have been complaining to God that I can’t be with him without the quiet.

But you know something? God is not confined by our chaos or our expectations of when and how he should speak. In fact, just as clearly as he calls to us in the quiet, he can certainly speak out in the noise.

I’m not saying quiet time is unimportant – we all need to schedule regular time to be still and listen. But when you’re in the trenches of parenting littles, it often feels completely impossible to achieve that. Don’t let your circumstances lead you to feel like a failure or that you can’t be intimate with God. He is here with us in the LOUD just as he is in the quiet… And he still has a word for you.

Hearing God in the Noise

The other day was one of “those days” for me. I had stayed up until 3 am the night before trying to meet a writing deadline. Then morning came, and with it were 3 little people needing breakfast made, shoes tied, and had stories to tell. I drug through the morning, mentally counting down every minute until nap time.

Finally that glorious afternoon routine rolled around, and I couldn’t wait to finally enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. But Sweet Prince had other plans. Bless his heart, he really did try to sleep, but he just couldn’t settle his little brain down. He was back and forth from his bed to the bathroom to his bed to my room to the bathroom again and back to his bed and…. Finally I gave up. I sent him to his sister’s room (she had requested to nap on the trundle bed in the boys’ room) with a book and instructions to please just leave me alone for a few minutes. No sooner had I gotten him settled, the other two were up, and Little Man needed help because the blinds were stuck and he couldn’t see to change clothes for the 50th time that day.

I surrendered and gave them my iPad so they could watch a movie in their room while I had quiet time in mine. “But we don’t want a movie!” Squealed the boys. “We want to plaaaayyy!!!” No matter of begging or bribing or threatening could convince them to sit quietly for a few minutes. I turned on the movie, shut the door, and within a few steps down the hall I could hear them giggling and jumping on the trundle mattress.

All evening this went on, and I was so tired, so mentally exhausted from the NOISE, of course I vented to my husband about it. As I was complaining about the incessant and intense volume of my day – all while my boys were making flatulance sounds and “Frozen” was playing in the back of the van for Princess – the Lord suddenly spoke to me so loud and clear I repeated it out loud to my husband. He was surprised at the sudden change in my tone, but it was so distinct, the words came out as though I had thought them myself.

Isn’t that what I always pray, that my thoughts would be his thoughts, and my heart would echo his?

Suddenly I was so thankful for all the noise in my life. The constant noise usually means constant playing, constant laughter, constant memories being made. My children are best friends, and I have the privilege to stay at home with them and watch their relationships develop. My children love me, they love this family, and they love their lives. Their constant motion shows that they are constantly seeking out new experiences and trying to live life to the fullest. Sure, they break things and make messes and annoy myself and each other along the way, but they are looking for life, and life abundantly.

It is my responsibility but also my honor to guide them in this journey and point them to the one who truly gives abundant life. One day they won’t bug me all the time because they will have friends and cell phones and social media or whatever other technology is all the rage then. One day their lives will be filled with influences that are not me, and I will look back on these days of parenting in the trenches and realize that I really was waging war. Only it was not a battle for my sanity, it was a battle for their souls, making the most of every opportunity to pour truth into their lives while I have their undivided attention. What am I doing with my time?

So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.”

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

In the Trenches

In the middle of the frustrating, exhausting, mentally-draining noise of my life, God undeniably spoke to me. He could have said anything, but on that day when I was feeling the most stressed and inadequate, my Father gave me just what I needed – encouragement as a mom.

Right now, you may be in your own trenches. It could be the stress of parenting, or a job, or an illness, relationship, whatever. You may feel like there is no quiet to listen to God, but let me tell you, friend, that doesn’t mean you can’t hear from Him. God loves you in the noise, and he will call out to you with just what you need… and just how you need to hear it.

Wilderness, Depression, & Stars in the Night*

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The purpose exceeds the pain.”

Beth Moore

We are a culture that abhors pain. We are always looking for a quick and easy way out, whether it’s avoiding the gym or popping pills or distracting ourselves with who-knows-what to escape that gnawing feeling of something being wrong.

Even church people are guilty. Christians often get blindsided by difficulties we face in life, and rather than seeking the purpose of our trials, we pray and petition God for a way out. Pain is uncomfortable, and that just doesn’t fit with our Americanized vision for serving the Creator of the Universe.

In fact, our aversion to pain has often caused American church culture to glorify certain workings of the Lord over others, or – worse – superficially write off painful circumstances without searching for the beauty of God’s plan in that moment. It’s great for when you’re on the mountain top, but it will leave you empty when you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

The truth is, God is there in that terrible doctor’s report, that tragedy, that lonely road. He’s there, and he is moving and working and doing his miracle-thang that he does… He’s just not standing front and center like in those great moments of healing and deliverance.

Think of it this way: if miracles are stars, healing might be the sun. It’s like HERE I AM! LOOK AT ME!!! and you have to put on your sunglasses because woah, that feels bright! Maybe, just maybe, the pain and hurt we experience is still a star, but it’s more distant. You might not even notice it unless you’re really looking for it. Heck, you might just need a telescope to know it exists, but there it is, 30 million miles away, and what’s it doing out there? Shining brighter than the sun.

The thing about those distant stars is that even when you’re looking for them, you can only see them under certain conditions. If you’re sitting at a park on a warm spring day, watching everyone around you run and play and bask in the sunlight, you might feel alone and isolated, wondering why everyone else can enjoy the day while you are still drowning in your circumstances, your depression, your pain. That doesn’t diminish the others’ joy on this beautiful afternoon, but it can make you feel pretty crummy. I have heard depression described as drowning, only everyone around you is breathing. You don’t want anyone else to drown either; you just want to come up for air.

Believe me, I’ve been there. (I am there?) We have to remember, though, that our painful miracles can’t be seen in the daylight. It doesn’t mean they’re not present, they’re just not visible because of our perspective. To see, recognize, and appreciate the beauty of a distant star, you have to get into the darkness. There, in the cold, lonely night, you can look up and see not only your star, but billions of others that you never would have noticed without that bitter dark.

Here’s to all of us who are sitting outside at night, telescopes in hand, waiting for the clouds to part…

*Thanks, Jefferson Bethke, for this incredible video that my husband showed me yesterday while we talked about this. Thanks for saying this so much better than I can. And sorry I used your title. I hope it’s not copyrighted…

Old and Free: the Confusing Art of Growing Up

Yesterday my 4-year-old and I had a little conversation about jobs. What is a job? Why do people have jobs? What is daddy’s job?

“What is YOUR job, mommy??”

This is an interesting question, what with posts like this out there. (Go ahead and read it, maybe we’ll talk about it later, but I’m not up for that debate today. ;-))

“My job is to take care of you. I make sure you have everything you need and are safe and healthy.”

Then he asked, “What is my job?”

“Your job is to play and learn! Part of what you’re learning is how to honor Daddy and me. Your job is to grow up.”

“When will I grow up?”

*sigh* “Sooner than you think, buddy.”

Do you remember dreaming about growing up when you were a child? Did you wonder what you would look like, what career you would have, what your family would be like? For some reason, my 6-year-old self really thought I would defy genetics and reality and turn out looking strikingly like Midge, Barbie’s freckled, green-eyed, redheaded friend. I was short and blonde with blue eyes and a great tan but no freckles. Kids, huh?

Pretty much exactly what I expected my life to look like.

Pretty much exactly what I expected my life to look like.

Recently I have spent a lot of time on the phone with our insurance company. (Yay for high-risk pregnancies!) My daughter cried last week because I bought some Girl Scout cookies, which reminded her that I “lost” the flyer she supposedly brought home last fall about joining Girl Scouts. (I remember nothing of the sort.) This morning I took 7 bags of trash and like a zillion empty cartons of milk and juice to the dump today, then felt like a jerk because I didn’t want to walk to the recycling section in the rain so I put the plastics in the “household trash” dumpster.

This is adulthood.

Not what we expected, is it? Growing up is so strange how it happens so gradually but you never see it coming. You get glimpses here and there – you catch yourself more excited about going to Home Depot than the mall, or when you run into an old friend who asks what’s new with you, and the only response you can think of is, “Well, I got a new washing machine this week. It is soooo much nicer than the old one, and it’s front-loading so clothes don’t get caught on the agitator!” Did I even know what an agitator was 5 years ago? When did I learn that term?

But it comes. So swiftly and unexpectedly but exactly like it should and like you knew it would. It just always seems to come sooner than we expect.

Growing up can seem like a depressing shift from “young and free” to “old and responsible and physically can’t sleep past 9 am on a Saturday.” What I’m learning from my 4-year-old is that growing up is a shift in perspective, but it also invites us back to the places we have lost in the process. My job is more than to keep my kids safe and prevent premature wear on their clothing by purchasing an agitator-free washing machine. I get to help them see the world by participating in it with them. My job is to climb trees and run races and color and make Play-Doh creations and cartwheel and ride children’s toys at dangerous speeds down my parents’ driveway. Growing up means understanding the consequences, but it doesn’t mean giving up on the risks.

We’re just old and free. 🙂

Go ahead and eat that raw cookie dough, baby. Yeah, it has eggs in it. Risk taker over here!

Go ahead and eat that raw cookie dough, baby. Yeah, it has eggs in it. Risk taker over here!