Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Handle with Care

It's difficult to be gentle with myself.

As in, actually being kind, thoughtful, sensitive, empathetic, and understanding...of myself.

That sounds super odd to admit, but I'm thinking I'm probably not alone in this.

The thing is, there is NO one that will be more gentle with myself than ME. (Outside of God, obviously.) So if I'm not treating myself gently, then good grief...I feel bad for myself. Because of myself. I am my own worst problem sometimes.

It's incredible, the short leash I extend to my own self. I wouldn't say I expect perfection, but I don't take the big picture into consideration when I view myself. I tend to zoom in, all freakishly close, to peer at the spot that's lacking...the place I'm messing up. Then I beat myself up, lay on a thick helping of guilt, and do some good old fashioned griping, at.myself. Super helpful, I am, to me.

It's pretty insane. When I stop to think how ridiculous it actually is.

They say that admitting your problem is the first step to getting better. So there it is, I'm rather rough with myself, and I hope to be much more gentle.

More kind, thoughtful, sensitive, empathetic and understanding...of myself. The person I know inside and out, pretty darn well. It's time to start loving her a little sweeter.

Planting & Budding

(Found in my drafts from almost two years ago...but still true of our hearts today)

The only way to really be able to handle this fostering thing is to accept these children as my own.

Confession? I enjoy other people's kids, but there is always a stopping point.

Yes please, let me cuddle your newborn. I'll sit for hours, inhaling that richly sweet aroma and rubbing my chin on its downy fluff of hair. But change it's exploding poop diaper? Get drenched in chunky, putrid spit up? Uh…pass.

Yes, I'll watch your toddler while you have a date night. I'll read stories, have tickle fests, and snuggle watching Elmo all evening. But change that one's man poop pull up? Get yelled at when I give the wrong snack, get snotted/drooled on during our cuddle sesh? Uh…pass for sure.

Why is it that there's always, undoubtedly an end to where my affections lie? It must be some tragic personality flaw…but I'm owning it.

So with this fostering thing, kids, not born to me, are dropped off at our house…and we are supposed to care for them. Day in, day out. All the cuddles, all the tantrums, all the poop diapers, all the spit up and snot. All of it.

Some people advised us to not get too attached. To keep a distance emotionally, in order to "protect our hearts".

No offense, if it was you who suggested that, but it's some of the worst advice ever. I mean that with all love.

To hold back our hearts, to stifle our affections would damage us all. It would deepen the wounds these little ones already have, their hearts so fragile from being in unsettling home environments, then torn from all they've ever known. It would build walls around our hearts, and make the responsibility of caring for these children such a burden, Without love growing and flowing between us, there would be the constant reminder…to them and to us, that they are not our children. They don't belong, they are outsiders, they are more of a frustration than anything else. There would be a ticking clock, a count down on their stay in our home.

We have chosen the harder yet easier route. To fully love these children. To accept them, instantly, as part of the family. To take their fragile past and uncertain future and hold it all so gently in our hands. This is the harder thing because there is absolutely no guarantee of the outcome. However, this love planting and budding makes each day so much sweeter…resentment and love cannot grow in the same pot. Yes please, we will take the responsibility of caring for these children, and we live it out with great joy.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A New Way

Half of my tribe is away on an adventure with Daddy, exploring downtown Atlanta. When an airline offers $1 tickets, you hop on that action no matter where or when they want you to go. At least we do.

So the other half of us are here at home. The 10 month old baby boy, two three year olds (my husband calls them the "Twin Terrors"…I 'm thinking we might need to come up with a softer nickname.) and myself.

How is it, that these three littles kept me on my toes all-freaking-day yesterday, even more so than when my six are are home together?

One of my kidlets, who shall remain nameless (but whose names sounds strikingly similar to Nursie), was a pill 90% of the day. I actually refer to that as being "a turd", lovingly, of course. She fought me on every little thing, she stirred up trouble with the other three year old constantly.

I told a friend last night, "It was one of those days where a child seeks out attention, even if it's the negative variety." Sigh. Those days are just exhausting, and they usually come when you expect things to be peaceful and easy.

I had three less children yesterday after all. It was supposed to be a cake walk.

Well, maybe not a cake walk exactly...but easier for sure.

Instead, it was a draining day.

Big family insider scoop: the more children in the family, the more *some* problems are diffused.

How does on earth is this possible, you ask?

My older children, (ages 9, 7 & 5) help distract, redirect and lighten up my little ones frequently. They see a younger one who needs help and their gut reaction is to lend a hand. They can sense that a storm is brewing and they creatively encourage calmness (or at the very least happy wildness). They do all this pretty much as second nature.

Yes, sometimes I ask, or beg, or yell from the other end of the house for them to "Please help a Mom out!"…but so many times, it's self started, self directed…it's just who they are.

Now don't hear me say my three oldest children are up for sainthood, cause that's not reality. They too create their fair share of strife…sibling squabbles are the tool God is using to refine me (and by "tool" I mean fire). The bickering, name calling, hitting, teasing…it's an area we work on daily. All day every day.

Somehow, someway, however, the truths about peace Dustin and I are speaking into their ears are soaking down into their souls. My children's hearts are being shaped, ever slowly, into people who help make peace.

I can see that right now more easily, because in their absence, we are missing their peace making skills.

It is usually in someone, or somethings absence that we are able to clearly understand what that person or thing brought to our life.

Sometimes, losing something or someone benefits our health…we are better off.

Other times, we realize what a gaping hole that something or someone has left behind…we are better because of it/them, but now our life is lacking that unique aspect they brought.

Even though this is a quick trip my children and husband are on, and Lord willing, they will be home late  tonight, tucked into their beds…they are gone right now, and we are missing them.

I am grateful for that longing, because I can more accurately see a gift they bring our family that I was taking for granted. They are far from perfect children (and those don't exist anyway), but good grief, they are stinkin' amazing at being the big siblings this crazy crew needs. Our older three are digesting the truths we are imperfectly, but consistently putting before them…that peace making is the way of Jesus, and the world surely needs a whole bunch more of us pursuing that way.

We are Matthew 5:9 people.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

I kinda dig The Message wording…

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

To my kiddos on Mother's Day,

Nothing could've ever prepared me for the complexities of motherhood. No class, no heart-to-heart, no blog, no workshop, no book. As much as the words of others who had walked the path before me might have encouraged me (maybe, really, more like frightened me...)  they could not fully prepare my soul for the beautiful, challenging, messy time that awaited.

You think that Mama knows it all...that I am so very old...so much older than you. Can I tell you a secret, kids?

Truth is, Mama is really just a kid herself. I am relatively new to this whole motherhood gig. 9 years ago my first babe was still tucked away inside my womb, cozy and safe from the world. My tummy was her whole world. But that was only 9 years ago...I haven't been a Mama very long.

I know you kids think I have all the answers...I guess in some respects I do. I am the one, after all, who answers every. single. question. All day, every day.

But really, I'm learning as I go.

Newsflash: I have never been a Mom before. I didn't get a four year degree in motherhood and fulfill an apprenticeship before the first of you was placed into my waiting arms. There was no practice, no rehearsal, no training to prepare for what I now spend my every day doing. That's hard for you to even imagine though, at 8, 5, 3 & 1. I am all you know of motherhood.

I adore being your Mama. It is by far the absolute hardest task I have ever been entrusted with, by goodness...it is worth it. There is no greater joy than the exhausting work of loving your little lives up in The Lord. The daily feeding of your bellies and your souls is so daunting...but so incredibly beautiful.

I am learning moment by moment that a life laid down most closely resembles My Savior. So I lay mine down again and again...and fight for joy in the midst of the selflessness He asks of me.

When the four of you are grown, and sit around talking about your childhood..sharing stories, laughing and perhaps shedding a tear for the hurts...I pray that you give me grace. I hope you can see the woman who was trying to raise y'all to love The Lord, to love others...I hope you know I tried my very best. You will know better than any other people on this earth (besides your Dad) that I am a far cry from a perfect person. I get angry, I get ugly, I loose my patience, I get frustrated, I say rude things, I am a flawed woman...fighting minute by minute to choose joy in the chaos and selflessness in my self-centered desires.

 I pray that you can see me for the woman that is beneath the title of Mama...that you might love and respect even, the way I have loved you.

While I'm not perfect, hopefully you can see Jesus in me. He is my strength, He is my hope. He continually draws me back to Him...softens my easily hardened heart...helps me grow into the Mama y'all need me to be. I hope you will see, through my mistakes, through my missteps, that if Jesus loves your Mama with an unrelenting love, He surely loves you just the same.

I am trying, at the nudging and reminding of The Spirit to be an intentional Mama. To peer into the future and consider the lovely, strong, intelligent, compassionate, selfless adults y'all are going to become. As I picture these grown ups I have yet to meet, yet already know, I think about how my daily interactions are forming or destroying who you each are called to be.

I tell your Dad frequently, "Isn't it so cool that we are raising our future best friends?! I mean, it's kinda crazy, right?"

It is crazy. It is cool. I pray that it becomes reality.

By God's goodness I won't botch the whole thing.

I trust that He will fill in the gaps your Dad and I will undoubtedly leave.

I love you four more than any words could do justice. You are my greatest work, my greatest gifts. I am incredibly grateful to be your Mama, and I thank you for loving me.

Please be patient with me, I will be patient with you (it's your first time to do the kid-growing-up-thing too, after all)...as we continue to grow up together, day by day. Thankful to be journeying with you.


Friday, April 18, 2014

every day good

When my brothers and I were growing up we fought often, as siblings do. Sometimes it was a wrestling match, resulting in carpet burns on elbows and knees. (Pretty sure I brought that upon myself a time or two by pressing the power button on the Nintendo, being threatened to keep holding it in until they finished their game...then letting go and running for my life.) Other times it was a water fight when our parents had left us home alone. (Picture 3 kids, squirt guns, spray bottles and cups of water...chasing each other all over the house, slamming and locking doors, slipping and sliding.) And of course, frequently, our fights were a battle of words.

As we would argue, things usually progressed to the place where we were just shouting the same things over and over again. The only thing that changed was the volume, as it increased layer by layer. The tone of our arguing was usually much uglier than the actual words we were spitting out. By the point that we had exhausted all our venom, one brother, who will remain nameless, would yell vehemently, "CONVERSATION OVER. I WIN THE CONVERSATION. I WIN!" 

And with that remark, he would storm off. 

It was maddening to be on the "losing side". With that one statement, everything I had been trying to express had just been wiped away...I had been dismissed. Even though our "conversation" had been less than polite, it was declared over without my consent...and to add a dash of insult, I had "lost", which meant none of my words had carried any weight at all.

Why is it we so desperately want to be RIGHT...all the time? It must be ingrained deep within us, this desire to win. 

As I've watched the social media world unfurl in the past year, I've noted a lot of "winning". The area I have particularly seen it rear its ugly head, is tragically, within our Christian communities. Boy, do we like to win. We like to gather our evidence, line up our points then bash/correct/condemn/talk down to anyone who happens to listen. 

We have become Jesus Lawyers. 

We gather facts, build our cases then present our information. It morphs from information sharing (or "sharing the truth" as we like to call it) to beating others up with our words. We become the prosecutor and defendant all at once. It is US against THEM...and we will most definitely WIN this conversation.

Is this what Christ called us to be? His legal defense team? 

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Matthew 7:1-2

The Word of God is radical enough, it is alive and like a double edged sword. The Word of God is the sword...it alone can pierce and then make new the hearts of man. The Word of God does not need a Jesus Lawyer to defend it or to prosecute those who don't believe. 

What if...instead of being Jesus Lawyers, we were simply Jesus Lovers? 

What if...we become so enamored with our Savior that the only thing that pours out of us is love?

What if...we cared more about loving Jesus, and living like him?

As I reflect on the magnificent gift that was given us, as Christ laid down His very life for us...poor, wretched sinners...I can't help but think that what He wants from us in return is to be Jesus Lovers.

He loved us enough to sacrifice himself on our behalf...He takes our sins, our burdens and carries them.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Today is Good Friday. When we live as Jesus Lovers, every day is a good day indeed.

"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."
Philippians 1:21

There's where we win...we lose ourselves, our need to defend, to be proven right...and we gain the peace and love of Christ. Yes please, Lord.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


As 2013 drew to a close, and a new year started, I read a book that messed me up. In that good way.

"Uncover the art you were born to make. 
There's a reason I chose the word uncover. It's because our image-bearing identity is already true. But we often cover it up with discouragement. doubt, practicality, or excuses.
Instead of setting off on a journey to find your art, consider staying right where you are to uncover your art. Like the tree with roots crawling deep into the ground, God has already done the work of putting his art within you. I believe he's asking us to do the work of uncovering what is already true and trusting him to release it for his glory and the benefit of others."

-Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

"You want to know the meaning of life? This is your highest calling: You are called into the dynamic co-creation of the cosmos. This breath is your canvas and your brush. These are the raw materials for your art, for the life you are making. Nothing is off limits. Your backyard, your piano, your paintbrush, your conversation, Rwanda, New Orleans, Iraq, your marriage, your soul. You're making a living with every step you take."

-Jon Foreman (taken from A Million Little Ways)

I wrestled with those words...and I realized that I have been ignoring mine.

My life is pretty well wrapped up in the ongoings of our family. Sure, I take care to go on dates with my husband, to get together with friends and have "me" time every once in a while...but am I fully living out who I was created to be? Or am I just really good at wearing all the hats, balancing all the roles that I am super blessed to be in...without ever thinking twice about what God might want me to uncover.

Freeman suggests looking back into our childhood as a way to reconnect with the art we were created to make. So I did. I thought back through the years that held my most physically awkward times (oh my...that's putting it so very lightly), but also years that I was growing into me. I was exploring who I would become by fully embracing the way God had created me.

Little me was really cute. 

Words were so very important to me. I read every book I could get my hands on...Babysitters Club to my school library's Encyclopedia Brittanica (Nerd alert: I coveted those books. Every mail-order commercial made me swoon.). The genre did not matter, but having the words in front of me to journey through did. Even as an early reader, I savored each and every moment spent with a book.

Yes, I rocked bangs, glasses, braces AND the biggest jean "shorts" you've ever seen. (circa 1994)

Another key part to my look back into the younger me was remembering my journals. I am thankful to still have a few of those gems...and boy, do they reveal the heart and mind of little Carly. (slightly terrifying and hugely hilarious).  Daily happenings, special celebrations, the ups and downs of being a kid (and the torture of having two older brothers)...all captured on paper in my loopy, semi-cursive handwriting. For as much as I cherish thinking back on my childhood memories, reading through my old journals brings fresh perspective to those times. It's as if my memories are black and white, but reading my words brings them into color.

As the years went on, somewhere along the way I got distracted and stopped tuning in to my connection with words. In my growing up, I got busy...in my busyness I let go of the things that really make me, me. The me that God created me to be uses words to express myself. The me that God created me to be takes the time necessary to put my thoughts out before me, either typed or hand written. The me that God created me to be feels more like myself when I don't have a million ideas and thoughts jumbled up in my noggin'...because I've spent the time to purge them so I can have a clear head.

In the mix of wife life and motherhood I have been so caught up in everyone else that I squeezed out bits and pieces of myself that just couldn't fit in anymore. Little details that just had to go, because there was no where else for them to be...but gone. The habit of creativity was lost. Layer on a couple of decades, then four children and top it off with homeschooling (read as: never, ever having a moment to myself) ...and the me that needs to write got buried somewhere deep beneath.

I am incredibly thankful for my children, supportive and loving husband and the opportunity to home school. It is a choice I gladly make each day. I know that a life laid down most closely resembles Jesus, therefore I do not begrudge putting my family's needs before my own. However, after reading and wrestling with Freeman's book, I have begun to realize that I shouldn't wait till the kids are grown up and gone to unleash my creativity...that I need to find time to pursue it on a regular basis. Through tapping into my creative spirit, I am being fully who God created me to be...and that me, she is sure to be a better wife and mother.

So this is me, bravely stepping out into who God made me to be. It took a few months to accept the fact that this is indeed how I am created...and I am ready to fully embrace it. 

What is your creative calling? What creative art might be uncovered in your life, if you dared to look?

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Great Juggling Act Part Two: {don't drop the baby}

The question I am most commonly asked is "How do you manage the littler kids while you teach the older ones?" 

From some people,  I get the "I have no idea in the world how you do it."...which to me is really a statement wrestling with the above question.

Granted, it seems like total silliness to teach bigger kids with smaller kiddos underfoot. I mean, there are no babies and toddlers running around in public schools...throwing toys, begging for snacks, wanting to be held, stinking up the place with dirty diapers. It would be too distracting. So when you think of homeschooling, with children of a variety of ages, its hard to picture how it all works.

As with most things in life, another more seasoned woman has helped shape my understanding of this very matter. Drawing on the experience and insights from someone further down the road is priceless. Especially when the person has a relationship with Christ that they are filtering their lives through. 

When I began this homeschooling journey with Shiloh in kindergarten, my other kids were 3 yrs and 1 yrs old...and I was pregnant with our fourth baby, due that May. I read this article and it resonated with me profoundly. 

While academics are important, very, very important...they are not everything. 

They are not the main lesson.

Understanding this, digesting this, living out this truth 
has made all the difference for me. 

It has given me peace during the moments I would have otherwise given up. 

I cannot do it all. I cannot keep all four children (now ages 7, 5, 3 & 1) happy, contented, on task, engaged in learning, playing peacefully at all times. There is no magic way to entertain my two little ones while I teach the older two. There is no perfect trick, no brilliant toy, no clever system to make it happen. I realize this might be incredibly discouraging to those of you hoping that I have discovered the golden ticket on Pinterest somewhere. 

The truth is, "the baby IS the lesson". 
(If you didn't click on the link above and read the article I mentioned, go do it!)

How I respond to my little ones, in the midst of our learning time each day, is the true lesson I want my bigger kids to learn. I want them to grasp how very precious little ones are, that the helpless need our help...no matter what our agenda is. I want my older kids to learn selflessness, and it starts with me. Yikes. 

When I treat my two precious little ones as if they are a burden...that is the truth I am teaching. When I sigh, and fret and stress out that my little ones need my help or my attention again...that is the truth I am teaching. When I show my frustration that toddlers and babies are annoying me by acting like toddlers and babies...that is the truth I am teaching.

Above math, science, English & history I desire for my children to be in love with their Creator, and to live lives that selflessly serve those around them. I believe that starts at home, with each of them and Dustin and I. We have the high calling to teach God's truths to them. Some of that teaching happens through words...but most of it happens through our hands. What we show our children by what we do is the most powerful lesson they will ever learn. 

In our home, I remind myself that the baby is the lesson pretty much everyday. Sometimes, I am able to give the big two a little instruction of what to do while I step away for a moment. Other times, I have to jump and run to the needs of a little one and the big two know to pause and wait. There are moments all I need to do is pick up one of the littler ones and snuggle them while I continue teaching. While I try to keep toys out of the school room while the big ones are working, the exception is the stray toys the little ones drag in and out. I want our little ones to know that they are always welcome, never a bother. 

There are times, however, when my little ones need to learn that they must be quiet, or take their playing to another room if they wish to keep being loud. That's a part of the teaching and learning that is going on too...the little ones learning that they must respect the work the big ones are doing. 

While there is no one magic solution to keeping the little ones busy in a good way, there are basic ideas I use. Most of these I pull out only when they seem to be having a hard time playing on their own. There are those days & those moments when nothing else seems to keep little hands busy...so pull from these:

- A few toys/puzzles/educational games that they can use independently...that are only for use during school time. The key to this is making sure they don't need much extra help to enjoy them. That may mean showing them during a non-school time how to use or play with them. We have found these Alphabet Popsicles to be a great "toy" for times such as this. 

- Create a sticker chart to reward good behavior. This works for my 3 year old, who is old enough to get the concept. 

-Save TV time to use only as a last resort. If the TV is playing all day long, the kids learn to tune it out, and all it adds is extra noise. Use it sparingly, and when you do turn it on let them know the only way it stays on is if they sit down and watch the show quietly. We prefer for shows that teach things we approve of...there is A LOT of mindless, fluff directed at children, which we avoid. (That's probably a whole other post for another time.) Some of our favorites include "Super Why", "Word World", "Sesame Street", "Little Einstein's",  "Veggie Tales", "God Rocks" & "Friends & Heroes".

So, for those of you with little ones underfoot as you are teaching at home...know this...He will give you what you need each day. He will prepare your heart to handle interruptions with grace. He will give you the patience you need to be the mom they deserve. Start your morning with time with God, and you will see Him drawing you ever close throughout your day.

This verse has been my anthem, it speaks to me in every area of my life. As my heart is drawn closer to God and His all-surpassing-never-failing-love I am filled with Christ's perseverance. I must rely on His strength to get me through the challenging moments...the imperfect-chaotic-stressed-out-times when, if up to me, and my strength I could stink up our whole day. I am selfish, but through Christ I am constantly being refined to become more and more selfless. And that is a lesson worth teaching every day.