how to be good guests as a large family –or any family–

Perhaps you’ve picked up on the fact that it’s generally unpopular to have more than 2 or 3 children.  Maybe you’ve noticed that one handful is considered a little crazy but once you start working on that second handful (or beyond) you’re most likely thought insane.

I’ve noticed it, too.

I’ve heard all the jokes.  I’ve endured the stares.  I’ve filed away the advice.  I’ve tuned out the lectures.

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But then I started to think.  Do we give people a reason to think twice before inviting us to their home? Probably we have.  But there are some things we do in order to avoid giving them reason to fear us.  Here are a few:

  • Bring something.  If you are invited for a meal, ask what you can bring.  Most of the time, you’ll be given an idea for a small something that will tie nicely in with the meal plan.  It’s fine to bring something extra but do try to bring the suggested item.  Bringing flowers never hurt either.  Or chocolate.
  • Bring enough.  If you are asked to provide the drinks and there will be 12 people present, don’t bring one bottle of juicy-juice.  Select something everyone is likely to enjoy and bring plenty.  If you are joining in a potluck, a good rule of thumb is to bring enough for your family, plus 4.  Another good rule of thumb is to warn your family against piling their plates until they resemble pig troughs.  Just a suggestion.
  • Don’t show up looking like the People of Walmart.  We all have our casual comfies we tend to wear around the house.  But in most cases, those just aren’t going to fit the bill for visiting.  Pull out the good stuff.  If you’re like me and don’t have much of the good stuff, wear your best appropriate for the situation clothing and throw on your very best smile.  It’s called accessorizing and it’s free.
  • Don’t act like you live there.  Be comfortable and at ease but don’t take the place over.  Don’t raid the fridge or dig through the cupboards.  Don’t let your kids wander around, breaking into bedrooms and tearing out toys.  You don’t live there.  Neither do your kids.  Wait to be invited to partake of food or play.  And for the sake of all that’s good, do not go into the bathroom and lock the door for an hour in order to hide from your kids.  Wait until your home to do that.
  • Clean up after yourselves.  If you sleep in a bed, make it.  If you have a glass of water, don’t leave it lying around.  If your kids play with toys, be sure they clean them up.  And not by shoving them under the couch.  Obviously, but seriously.  I won’t tell you why I felt the need to add that part.
  • Help with the meals.  You are extra people creating extra work.  A hostess assumes the responsibility of seeing to the needs of her guests.  A guest should assume the responsibility of making sure that doesn’t become a burden on the hostess.
  • Maintain a measure of quiet.  No hostess wants her guests stressed over every peep little Johnny makes.  But neither does she want her guests to allow little Johnny to shriek, scream and wail with abandon for hours on end.  Use good judgement and step in when necessary.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome.  As much as our families and friends love us, they also love the routine of their days. Plan ahead of time how long your visit will be, ensure it’s suitable for your hosts and then stick to it.  If you ever hope for a follow-up invite, do not pass over this important rule.
  • Be gracious.  Period.

We need to ban together and create a new perception of family, big or small.  And we need to be sure we aren’t feeding the negative vibe being thrown off by those not sold on the idea that it’s okay to have a handful.  Or two.

What am I missing?  Add your thoughts in the comments.

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why do we trample each other?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about motherhood, it’s that mothers don’t fit in a box.  Not by a long shot.  And why would we want to when what makes us special is also what makes us not “fit”?

I’ve known lots of women in my life and not one of them was the same.  They didn’t wife the same or mother the same or friend the same.  They didn’t look the same or act the same because they were as they were created to be…different.

I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling wife and mother.  That makes me similar to exactly two people I know locally.  Two people, guys.  I’m okay with being a little different but just as important is that I am okay with others being different from me.

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Because at the heart of the divide between mothers is the absolute fact that there should be no divide at all.  Only encouragement and support.  We’re all here struggling through many of the same issues and facing many of the same challenges.  We don’t need a boot in the backside (okay, maybe sometimes we need a boot in the backside) we need a hand to ease our burden or a word to boost our courage.

We need a finger to point us to the God who walks beside us.

For truly God doesn’t stuff His daughters in boxes.  In fact, He often calls them to do the unexpected.  He asked Esther to defy the King’s protocol.  He asked Mary to carry a child before she was properly wed.  He asked Ruth to lay at the feet of a man who had shown her kindness.  He asked Abigail to feed the army her husband had sent away.  He asked Hannah to offer her long-prayed for son into service and the care of Eli.

You get the idea.

Every one of those women were placed on a path outside the ordinary.  Because with God, the only ordinary lies within the extraordinary.  Or is it that the only extraordinary lies within the ordinary?  Hmmmm…

So if we’re a whole lot of ordinary mothers who’ve been given an extraordinary path to walk, why are we so crazy determined to make everyone else’s path look like ours?  Our path isn’t holy.  God is holy.

And He takes the un-holiest of people walking down some of the un-lovliest of paths and He uses them.  Right where they are.  But He uses them in such a way that they suddenly have no more desire to be where they are but want nothing more than to be where He is.

That is holy.

And I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve seen Him take some of the very people I thought needed a little fixing and snatch them right up and make them into something beyond beautiful.  I was standing on holy ground and I didn’t even know it.

Such arrogance blinds us to our own error.  It numbs us to our own weakness.  It’s ridiculous and it’s a waste of time.

Because it isn’t about whether we homeschool or don’t homeschool.  It isn’t about whether we find ourselves juggling home and work outside the home.  And it isn’t about what those other moms are doing.

It’s about whether we are following the path He’s given us to follow even when it looks to others that we absolutely are not.

Even then.  Especially then.

 

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DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE! {Slaying the ((Screaming Mom)) Dragon}

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Well now, if you’ve been parenting long enough for the newness to have worn off you’ve likely been there.  I know I have.  People call them all sorts of things in jest:  ankle biters, curtain climbers, monsters, little heathens.  I like to call them children.  And I try to call them softly, though it’s a decision and not a natural tendency.

Because if we’re going to talk straight, most of us would admit it’s easier to just yell.  Skipping right over all that calling for the heart mumbo jumbo just gets the job done a little quicker.  They’ll be time for mending bridges later.  Like when they’re really sleepy.  Or sick.

But seriously, how often do we stop to consider the way we’d respond if a person in authority over us was to resort to bullying or screaming to elicit a particular response from us?

Just imagine Jane in the workplace.  Her boss isn’t terribly patient.  But he’s okay with that because he’s just accepted the fact that patience isn’t a quality the Lord meted out to him in great measure.  Why try to rewrite the script when you can utilize the strengths you do have?  And so when he notices Jane is off her game one morning, he just goes with what comes naturally and lays into her.

“Hurry up, would you?  I told you I needed that portfolio by 10am and it’s five after.  You’re making me late and that really makes me mad.  I want you to have it completed and in my hand in 10 seconds or…DON’T YOU GIVE ME THAT LOOK!  Don’t you know it’s me who writes your paycheck?  You should just be grateful you have a job.  No, no, I don’t want to hear about your mother dying or your little boy who is sick again.  You think I haven’t noticed how you’ve drained your bank of sick time?  There is simply no excuse.  You’re down to five seconds, by the way.  5..4..3……”

Beaten down and battered, Jane might manage to get that portfolio into her taskmasters hand before he finishes his countdown but the whole situation is still a bust.  He’s killed a little part of her that will be very hard to resurrect.  And it’s the part of her that wants to please him for the sake of pleasing him.  The part that puts forth her best effort out of respect and the desire to do what is right and good.  He has, however, kindled a fire under her inner rebel and that fire will rage with each subsequent verbal thrashing.

What we do to our children when we resort to yelling for discipline is very much the same.  They might obey, but not likely and not well.  Or at the very least, not for the right reasons.

But wait, I see you over there rolling your eyes.  Another self-righteous mom telling me I need to stop yelling at my kids.  Blah, blah, blah.  Why won’t somebody tell me how to stop yelling.  I come from a long line of yellers.  If a body were to believe in generational sins, this would surely be one of them!

I get it.  Honest, I do.  I’d have to admit I’m a yeller by nature.  Maybe even by genetics.  Who knows.  But really, who cares?  It matters not so much why but what I’m going to do about it.  And here’s what I do.

I start my day in the Word and in prayer.  No, not everyday.  I’m human and there are days I oversleep or just don’t get up because I can’t seem to force myself.  God doesn’t abandon me on those days but He does ask that I make the effort.  Even a nursing mother can have quiet time with the Lord as she gives suck to her babe.  He doesn’t command a certain posture and He hears the most exhausted and desperate plea.

So I resolutely march into battle (which looks an awful lot like my kitchen) and go face to face with the enemy as he tries to seize my children.  And believe me, there are many, many times in a day where I have to remind myself it really is the enemy I’m fighting and not my precious children.  And because I have zero respect for satan I wouldn’t mind a bit giving him a good tongue lashing.  But I have to remember…always remember…those words will first hit the delicate souls who have been placed in my care.  And so I lower my voice.  Or sometimes I don’t speak at all.

If you can’t be trusted in the moment, take that moment captive in prayer.  Speak not until you’ve been subdued.

Yes, this means my children sometimes don’t get the message immediately.  But usually I will ask them to come sit and I let them wait until it’s safe for me to talk.  If your children haven’t yet been trained to respond to a command like “sit” and they’re slightly out-of-control, don’t despair.  Hope is not lost.  Still, don’t speak–don’t utter a single word–until you can do so in a calm voice that speaks to the heart rather than screaming at the habit.  Behaviors don’t change.  People do.

That first step is the same as the second and every step thereafter.  You train yourself to run to the Lord first and tend to your child after.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

The battle won’t be won in a day.  It might not be won in a year.  But each isolated victory where self (and screaming) is subdued is a stepping stone in the right direction.  And each one of those steps will bring about a true heart change in your child that would never happen otherwise.

Take heart.  You are truly NOT alone.  There are countless screaming moms out there determined to slay the same dragon.  Let’s walk through the Refiner’s Fire together…and let’s bring our children with us.

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A Letter to My Teenage Sons about Girls

Dear precious sons,

Life moves so swiftly and I can hardly grasp that some of you are nearing the age where you will consider what you want in a wife. I’m terrible at letting go but I know, Lord willing, the day will come when I have to share you with another girl (besides your sisters!) and I have been praying for the young lady He is preparing for each of you. And I want to offer a few words of advice.

  • The Lord gave you eyes on your head but the devil has conspired to make them dreadfully deceitful. Look at a girl with the eyes of your heart instead. You will much more easily discern when a pretty face covers an ugly soul. Likewise, you’ll catch a glimpse of the breathtaking beauty so often concealed beneath a plain appearance. Physical attraction is the overflow of a growing love. Anything else is counterfeit and should be treated as the plague.
  • Do not think you can change a girl to suit your purposes. Share Christ everywhere and you’ll find that some will respond to His call. But don’t proceed in a relationship where that response hasn’t been made. You need to be sure she is choosing Christ and not just you.
  • Women are bombarded with societal standards of how they should look and what they should be. It has chipped away at the core of what makes a woman uniquely feminine. Guard your eyes and mind so carefully, not only for your sake but for hers. Nothing spurs the erosion process of a once-strong relationship quite like a wandering eye and an unfaithful mind.
  • The world would have you believe marriage is about what you can get from it. More lies. It is about two people choosing each other. Repeatedly. It’s about journeying toward the Light, hand in hand. Let nothing and nobody loosen that grasp. Fix your eyes on the straight path and walk with singleness of purpose. The trip is so much sweeter when you don’t allow the bitterness of unattainable expectations to tag along.
  • The Lord designed man in His own image. What a glorious creature you are! But society has done a number not only on women, but on the men those women are now competing with. Don’t lose sight of the strength and fortitude He equipped you with at creation. That vision will enable you to lead with authority and compassion. And it will keep you strong enough to put yourself aside and minister to your family.
  • But do not be misled! A man of such integrity is not required to become a spineless doormat. Any woman who attempts to “conquer” you is not after your heart; she seeks her own. Such a woman, no matter how beautiful, will bring you only strife and misery.
  • Marriage is an amazing gift with eternal possibilities. It is full of hard choices and peppered with opportunities to grow in the most uncomfortable ways. It’s a slow death to self and the rebirthing of a purified heart. No other relationship can match it physically, emotionally or spiritually. It’s a powerful tool for good that, if entrusted in the wrong hands, can wield unfathomable works of evil.

 

Choose wisely, my sons. Better yet, let Him do the choosing!

I love you more than you will ever know and will be praying for you now and always.

From a mother’s heart,

Mama♥

Note: This letter was revised slightly and republished.

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When You Feel Like You’re Failing at Being a Christian

failure

We’ve all been there, right?  I know I have.  Just this week even.  Do you know why, though, we slog through this man-eating quicksand filled with lies and despair?  Because we aren’t truly and consistently connecting with the One from whom we get our name.  It’s simple as that.

Toss all the legalese that says you have to do this or that or refrain from one thing or the other.  Forget all the rubbish regarding outward behaviors that identify you as a Christ-follower.  There are only 10 “rules” that matter and they were later summed up in two.  Clearly God never intended for us to get caught up in rule making or for us to pretend to be judge, jury and executioner over ourselves or anyone else.  He can handle it.  In fact, He already has.

{Note: I am not suggesting we disregard the law of God, but that we don’t measure ourselves against the law of man which are either far too anything goes or so rigid that we lose our grasp on Him as we try to attain an unattainable standard in our own strength.}

We’ve each stood before the Judge and been found guilty.  He’s handed down our sentence and it’s one of death.  We stand condemned with no hope of ever being who we were created to be.  But before the gavel pounds in those chambers, His eyes fill with tears and love.  Overwhelming, sentence-smashing love.  And in those tears and in that love we’re granted a pardon.  Full and complete.

Our life is once again ours.  He’s offered it back that we might choose to live it for Him.  Always for Him.  But how do we do it?  How do we avoid the same path that had us on death row?

Again, it is simple though we’ve made it very hard.  We open His book and we read His word.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  For truly, can it get any more elementary than that?

There should be no long list of rules or bucket loads of self-condemnation.  Prayer and the Word of God.  Fellowship with other believers.  Your life WILL change. ————–>>

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Prayer is conversation with God.  It isn’t fancy words or theatrics.  And it isn’t scripted.  It is an outpouring of the heart and inflowing of His Spirit.  It isn’t hard and you aren’t graded on your eloquence.  Conversation is two-sided, ebb and flow.  Speaking and listening.  It is sometimes on your knees and other times on your face.  And there will be plenty of times when it is as you do the next thing without time to assume the posture of prayer at all.  He meets us in the hurried moments and He runs beside us as we tend to the relentless demands of our day.  He isn’t offended by the whispered prayers of a breathless mother…He cherishes them and stands ready to help.

Scripture is both the key and the keyhole that opens the passage to His heart.  We glimpse His character within those pages.  Reading the Bible can be hard at the start.  The language is different and we grow easily bored.  He doesn’t hold that against us, He simply asks that we give it time.  Keep opening your Bible and seeking Him out.  Keep digging even if you start by simply setting 5 minutes aside to read.  You may get nothing from it.  You may feel dry and disconnected.  In fact, this is the more likely scenario.   Many have either been brought up with a stale, lifeless concept of the Scriptures or no concept at all.  It takes time and determination to find meaning in those words.  Even if you’ve been a “Christian” for years, if you haven’t yet experienced the life-changing power of the Word offer yourself the same grace He does, and start back at the beginning.  Ease in slowly without attempting to perpetrate radical change in your own life.  That change will come as He transforms you from within.  The intentional reading of His word (even when you absolutely don’t feel like it) will soften your rough edges and purify your soul.  It has nothing to do with how you feel or don’t feel…He isn’t keeping an emotional score card…but it has everything to do with the choices you make.  It isn’t legalism to keep choosing Him.  It isn’t Pharisaical to follow His lead, so long as it’s truly Him who is leading and not your pride or desire for praise.  Keep seeking Him and the scattered pieces of your eternal puzzle will fall into place.

Fellowship is the coming together of a people.  It is the binding of hearts with the thread of Heaven.  It is the opportunity to brush robes with fellow believers.  It’s the support system of the modern day disciples as we seek to gather courage from each other.  Some of us have a better support team than others.  Some have no support at all.  Seek it out.  Pray for Him to put people in your path or to place you in the path of the right people.  Find a church that teaches the BIBLE but expect that there will be people who aren’t living that teaching.

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At the end of the day we’re tempted to look back in despair, certain we’ll never get it right.  He isn’t focused on the times we fall but rather on the times we grab His hand so He can pull us back up.  That is perfecting the imperfect…learning to lean on His strength and not our own.  Therein is life.  Eternal life.

 

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When push comes to shove…dare to love

1L

Every now and then I experience one of those moments.  The kind that squeezes my heart and steals my breath.  A transient moment, nearly impossible to capture in words.

It happened as I stood heart-in-throat captivated, watching them play.  Beat-up Tonka trucks and a pair of toddler-sized plastic ride-on cars flavored the moment boy.  With “motors” whirring and horns beep-beeping they lost themselves in the pure joy of being two.  In the joy of being together.

I watched as two heads bent close, one blond and one not, working to maneuver a truck onto the patio.  Coordination that hadn’t yet caught up with determination threatened to spoil everything.  Until it didn’t.

One yellow truck and two small boys landed on the patio, stunned.  And then they locked eyes and giggled that giggle that says everything words never could.  Seeing their mission as a complete success they went after yet another truck.  Because where one is the other must be also.

Time passed and I took it all in.  The laughter, the teamwork, the friendship, the bond that won’t be broken.  And then it happened.

Smack.  Squeal.  A torrent of tears.  Four little legs pumping furiously to reach Mama first.

I swallowed hard, opened both arms and grabbed my two sobbing boys.  Drying tears and giving kisses and reminding of how Jesus wants us to love, I encouraged them to hug it out.  And they did.

Giggles restored.  Friendship resumed.  All was right with the world.

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Their play continued but now my mind wandered.  Was I making this thing harder than it needed to be?  Had I just experienced Conflict Resolution 101 only to discover it was all I needed to graduate with high honors?  What was all that other stuff…all those rules and guidelines?  Were they really necessary?

In that moment, for that moment, I saw clearly.  I saw past the muck and mire of distraction.  I saw beyond the throng of well-intentioned but misleading books and articles I had stuffed my brain with.  I tossed the index of mental notations I’d been keeping and dared to think with my heart.  What I saw was simplicity in its most raw and beautiful form.  Simply Jesus.

His finger burned a few basic rules onto the tablets of stone and then He broke them down so we, in all our thick-headed humanity, could grasp them.

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

There you go.  How much simpler can it be?

1Q

We aren’t told to love the neighbor if they’re lovable.  Or if they’re dutiful.  Or if they’re beautiful.  We’re told to love them even if they aren’t.  Because they won’t be any more than we are.  Period.

But we can’t love them in their sinful, spiteful, sometimes hateful, ugly mess if we haven’t first given Him our own heart.  He has to fix it up and fill it up with the miracle that makes it possible.

Because they’ll be times we’ll cruise right along loving each other and giggling as we land on our backsides.  But they’ll also be times when we forget we’re a team and end up in a smack-down of the wills.  And those are the moments when we need to be reminded of how Jesus told us to love…

Hard and with a whole lot of grace!

1Q2

 

PS. Hugs are optional but highly recommended.

 

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