Little Kids, Big Questions

The title is ironic. I think my kids are still little but in all reality, Eli is 3 days into being 10 years old and Andi is not far behind. They are mid to upper elementary school age. Even Oakley, at three, is bigger than little. I mean, June, our live in cousin, is “little” at age 1, and so cute and smart too!!! Waking up with June in our house is a gift. but I digress. My kids are big but in the scope of aging humanity, with medical miracles and God’s grace, they should live many more decades.

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So assuming they are all actually still little, I’m reeling from and relishing the conversations we’ve had this summer.

Conversation #1: The Sex Talk

It was early June when Andi found a condom in our bedroom- she plays in small places…I guess her imaginary world was under our bed that day. When she asked me what it was, I said, “It has to do with sex. Do you want to know more about it or just know it’s for sex?” She said she definitely wanted to know more so I told her she had to find Eli and I would find Dad. Oaks came too and we had “the talk”, a bit spontaneous and completely open with Eli and Andi. We were all five in Andi’s room; Oaks played in his own world on the floor.

We talked about the purpose (for connection and creation) and the mechanics (they had anatomical questions). We talked about the ways it can go wrong and how absolutely great but private and intimate it is. They had questions about frequency and were a little surprised to know we have decided for sure on no more babies. Yes, the small package that started the whole conversation, is stopping the sibling expansion.

I said that day, and in the next month to my high school campaigner girls (not planned), that I love to talk about sex. When I talk about sex I love to say:

  • Sex is good, precious and powerful. So good, precious and powerful, it’s worth protecting and saving. 
  • Sex is healthy and good to talk about with the right people. Don’t hide your questions or feel like you can’t ask them.
  • Sex is part of who we are and works with what God wants us to do as people who love, know and follow God.
  • Sex is best with one person who really loves you, and always will.

Conversation #2: What is the meaning of life?

One night with Drew at bedtime and the next day with me at lunch, early July, Eli posed the question, “What is the point of life?” Like I said, little kid, big questions!

I asked it right back and they had ready answers.

Eli said, “I think its to have fun, make friends and do work.”

Andi said, “To love and be loved. To have water, family, food, home, and clothing…so you can really live.”

I feel like I should have an answer for them too. Do I say,  ”It’s to live as a child of God and ambassador for Christ, making God’s kingdom real on earth with reconciliation and love?”.

Or, simply, “It’s to live loved so you can go love“.

Or, “Life is about relationships. To know and be known, love and be loved. Life is about living in relationship with God for full life on earth.”

It’s fun to think about and I hope they keep asking.

Conversation #3 Birthday Attention 

Eli turned 10 on July 17th and we marked the moment. I hosted a Decade of Parenting Party to toast with my friends about our 10 years of lessons and laughter in parenting. We shared what we learned, how we messed, up and what our kids have done to change our worlds. Then we listened to my friends, who have young 20 year old kids, share about how to make it through the next decade. What was shared that night is worth it’s own post!

Then we had an Epic Eli bday party on Saturday the 16th. With a few friends and some of Eli’s adult friends, had lunch, played Nerf Capture the flag, and went to Oceans and Worlds of Fun.

I had 10 people write craft a page and made a book celebrating Eli’s life so far and cheering him on for the days and years ahead.

On Sunday, Eli went to church in the morning and the end of the season swim banquet at the end of the day with a family party in the middle. He was grateful and said so all throughout the celebrations. Here’s the conversation part.

Me: “Eli, did they know it was your birthday at church? Did anyone say anything?”

E: “Nah. No one knew. No one said anything.”

Me: “Did that bother you? Did you want them to?”

E: “No. It’s fine.”

Me: “Really? I love people knowing its my birthday!”

E: “Yea. I just don’t really like the attention of people who don’t know me very well being paid my way. “

Indeed- Eli meant not to disparage the relationships he has at church. He was simply stating reality. His birthday is about relationships, the knowing and being known, the celebrating and having fun, should be with people who are invested in his life. The obligatory “Happy Birthday” from stranger or acquaintance wasn’t necessary to expand or deepen his weekend. He was humble and honest and I think, very mature. That 10-year-oldness fits him.

So, with fear and awe, gratitude and joy, I can only hope these big conversations keep happening with my little people. 

 

 

Gap Year

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For over two years, I’ve been toying with, mulling over, wondering about, dreaming towards, wishing we could, forgetting about for awhile, discussing with close friends, praying privately around, and researching the possibility of what I’m calling, “A Gap Year”. Also known as, “A Sibling Year“, also known as, “Home School Year”.

Sunday, as a family, with varying levels of excitement (from very angrily anti, to eagerness tinged with trepidation), and with faith, trust and hope in each other and the God that holds everything together, we committed formally to the Gap Year reality.

Next school year, August 2016- May 2017, Eli and Andi will not return to Line Creek Elementary but will stay home with Oaks and me for home school through the Classical Conversations (CC) curriculum and our part in a local CC community. We will accomplish all the necessary educational requirements for them to stay on track and re-enter as 5th grader and 4th grader for the 2017-2018 school year.

I was never drawn towards the home school idea because of dissatisfaction with the public school education we receive. In fact we are beyond blessed to live in one of the top school districts in the state and have had great teachers in each class for the past four years.  One of Drew’s biggest questions or hesitations has been, “Why do we need to change something going well?” Drew doesn’t like changes and is slow to process big ones. I’m thankful he’s walking with me in this, listening, and agreeing despite the parts of himself that cry out, “What?! Why? Now?”

We are NOT going Gap Year because anything is broken, or because someone else is doing it, or because anyone else suggested it. Nope, instead, this has been an idea, an urge, a desire, a pull that I have had felt and engaged all on my own as I trust God is speaking to me and moving me on kingdom purposes for the time, place, and people God has me in and around.

I feel it is the right thing for us right now.

In and through the Gap Year, I want to:

  • Develop a depth of relationship between parents, siblings, and learning.
  • Be with my kids.
  • Know my kids deeply and establish a deep trust in each other.
  • Deepen roots of love and identity
  • Bond them as siblings. I want to give Oakley what Eli and Andi experienced their first 5 years of life- daily life with each other.Castaway 2011 018
  • Have family be the most formational force in their life for a year. I want to shape, mold, inspire, get to know and encourage them more intentionally.
  • Dump a ton of facts, knowledge, and data into their malleable brains- taking advantage of the capability now and building a foundation for everything they’ll need later.
  • Secure their identity as children of God and coheirs with Christ
  • Expand their understanding of God and God’s kingdom purposes in the world- I want to make their world bigger, not create a small Christian bubble world, but engage God’s work, experience how Jesus loves people, and serve together in some cool ways. (Play games with nursing home residents? Deliver Valentines to lonely and left out people?)
  • I want them to become more fully who they are and expand their personality and gifts.
  • Have an adventure, a challenge
  • Engage this choice for the benefit of my kids and because of the flexibility of my part time job. I have extra capacity for my capabilities in the current scope of my job. I want to give what extra I have to my kids.
  • To go to Colorado and Chicago to be with our extended family more often for longer periods of time.3 line up

It’s scary and exciting and asks a lot of us because it changes everything we’ve gotten used to. I have a list of things that could go wrong. However, the list of what I hope for and feel we could accomplish together, is a stronger one.

As we walk this out, I’m sure I’ll update and share stories. Or perhaps, blog writing goes off the list of things I can accomplish- a gap in my writing?

When we talked about it with our kids Sunday morning, I told them I wanted to extend an invitation for relationship, education and adventure. I told them they could feel anything they wanted about it (nervous, excited, mad, ready, angry, so-so, pumped etc…). We agreed we all need faith, trust, hope, and teamwork to make it happen.

It’s on. I can’t fully believe it and simultaneously believe it’s about time.

Have you ever known?

I’m privileged to get to write an e-newsletter for the ParentUP campaign here in Kansas City that works to inform and assist families in helping kids avoid underage drinking. The campaign also encourages responsible use of alcohol among adults.

The statistics for how many younger kids drink are sobering. (Punny?) The risks to their current health and future success are high. Here’s a smattering of what I’ve written in the ParentUP newsletters:

  • Every day in the United States, more than 4,750 kids under age 16 have their first full drink of alcohol.
  • Underage drinking accounts for 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States.
  • Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse in their lifetimes than those who begin drinking at age 21 years or later.
  • A teenager’s brain is still developing the important pre-frontal cortex functions of decision making, planning, appropriate social behaviors, and complicated cognitive functions in learning, memory, and organization. The affects of alcohol arrest or stifle the development of these important areas.

  • Kids who drink in their teen years have a higher tendency towards poor scholastic success, depression, and emotional disorders.

 

What I’ve never written about, is responsible use among adults.

While writing the latest edition of the ParentUP letter, I was clicking through websites of foundations with data and research on everything alcohol use and abuse. I realized I’ve never done much research into what qualifies as a healthy amount of alcohol drinking for adults. Of course, there are familial, religious, or health reasons to drink NO alcohol at all. If however, one wants to drink occasionally and responsibly, what do doctors and researchers say about how much and how often?

I didn’t know but was interested in to learn.

Rethinking Drinking and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says:

  • Low risk drinking levels - On any single day: Men, no more than 4 drinks on any day. Women, no more than 3 drinks on any day. Per week: Men, no more than 14 drinks per week. Women no more than 7 drinks per week.

And a drink is defined as: 0.6fl oz or 14 grams of pure alcohol which is usually found in,

5 fl oz of table wine - about 12% alcohol                 12 fl oz of regular beer - about 5% alcohol

12 fl oz of regular beer (5% alcohol)

8-9 fl oz of malt liquor (7% alcohol)

5 fl oz of table wine (12% alcohol)
2-3 fl oz of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif  (24% alcohol)
1.5 fl oz of brandy or cognac (a single jigger or shot) (40% alcohol)

1.5 fl oz shot of  80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
They explain the difference between women and men as a typical difference in weight and the female body’s natural water content.  As alcohol is dispersed pound for pound in body water, women have less water content usually than men.
It helps me to have a scale, barometer, or instruction. To have a mindfulness of what goes in, how often, when, and why.
For one who writes to instruct or share, and is paid to teach and train, it is essential to educate and live out in my behaviors , what I profess with my speech.
I desire health, wholeness, and honorable celebrating. So,
CHEERS!
to mindfulness, life giving limits, gratitude, respect, health and wholeness. 

2 Years Time

When we moved in to this house

Our muscle movers.

Our muscle movers.

two years ago, it meant we had sold our half-duplex, moved out of the (half) house we had our three babies in, out of the house we wanted out of three years earlier, and out of a house we really loved and made our own.

I cried the night we turned in the keys. Sitting in those empty rooms where we had lived so much life, made me ache in a good, goodbying way.

Then we came here. And here is wonderful. It is good to love what we had and appreciate the gift of moving. Two years into transition, we are still in the space of vivid memories and palpable memory making.

When we moved two years ago, two things happened on nights 1 and 3. On night one, April 26th, 2014, we went room to room, and dreamed about what we would do in each room. In the basement, we measured the heights of our kids on the door frame.

Then, on night 3, we had a hole cut in the kitchen ceiling, above the kitchen table, because there was a bathtub leak in the master bath above.

Alas, the leak was fixed in moments but the scar in the drywall was deep and wide and open and a bummer. So we (Drew, bravely) patched it. And we waited and debated for 18 months about fixing the hole and patching the popcorn ceiling, or scraping the ceiling and getting it to flat.

When over a year later, we decided ultimately to go flat ceiling fix,  we found out there was asbestos in the ceiling so we had the popcorn professionally scraped and taken away.

Then, just 10 days ago, we had the whole ceiling drywall patched, repaired, healed and smoothed to flat by a dust vacuuming prince of smooth ceiling charm.

Then, just last week, Drew (mostly) and I (a little bit around the edges) hired ourselves to paint the smooth ceiling.IMG_6464

And before we painted, second coat, night two, we toured the house for the two year anniversary of moving here.

We remembered dances, games, Royals watch parties, Daddy eggs, Andi imagination stations, Oakley road riders, finding hidden things, reading tons of books, cuddles, night lights and getting things done. We remembered people and food and ways we laughed. We remember a lot of things that just happened and wanted to bring back somememories from two years ago because they are favorite things we’ve done in our house.

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Then we measured our kids and they jumped inches again. I love how much they love to gawk at each other’s growth.

Love it. Love it here. Love what will come.

A few other notable home happs:

  • A piece of fence fell down in heavy winds. IMG_6440
  • Andi turned 8 and we rearranged her room and had two parties!IMG_6449
  • Update on the hole- it’s been raining and despite our effort of covering the hole with a fire bowl bowl, it’s half full of rain water! Agh! Uncle Z suggests a siphon which is a grand idea but one I’m not enacting yet.IMG_6466

A Hole: Half Full or Half Empty

To the tune of “There’s a Hole”

There’s a hole in my backyard dear reader, dear reader. 

There’s a hole in my backyard, so deeply, a hole.

Who dug it, you’re asking, you’re asking, you’re asking, 

Who dug it, dear Lindsey, who dug it so deep? 

It’s Eli! and his friends, and buddies, and siblings, 

It’s Eli! and his friends, and with shovels and buckets!

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10 days ago Eli asked if he could dig a hole under our swing set. I was happy to say YES! Not able to fully gauge the scope, or should I say depth, of this request, I knew at least this was a good spot for a hole. Other areas, other times (ie: 1. Beside our deck when Oaks was a toddler and the 12 inch hole filled with water- not a good place! or 2. Right after the neighbors moved in under their deck without asking- not a good time or place!) were not good ideas but here, under the swing set, the grass grows high and waits for a whacking. There isn’t much else to do under there. Yes, Eli, go ahead and dig.IMG_6386

He wasted no time. Eli thinks about the hole at first waking and heads out for some digs before school.  He comes home and drops his backpack by the rakes in the garage and heads back out to the hole. His clothes are filthy, his shoes filled with dirt, and his soul singing.

There were a few days where the hole brought neighborhood havoc- hole leaders Eli, Will, and Drew wanted to charge fees for touching the hole ($.25 per day) or $1.00 for full hole membership. There was the scale conundrum where only those weighing 60 pounds could jump on the shovel in an attempt to dig deeper.

I intervened with what I thought was a great lecture about how greatness created should be greatness shared.

“Think of all those free apps you like playing on your phone.” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Wouldn’t that stink if you had to pay $.25 every time you wanted to play?”

“Yes.”

“Just like great games, created by someone who worked hard and made something cool,  we share the hole so everyone else gets to experience what cool thing we made.”

The scale was put away and no fees have been charged or collected. IMG_6383

The hole is a WIN!

  • Impressively deep and wide and made completely by kids
  • Lots of kids have participated, played, and worked together and hung out for hours around the hole.
  • Eli loves an adventure and project and goes intensely into what he sets his mind to. This is one I encourage and enjoy watching wholeheartedly.
  • And my favorite part, the hole reminds me of my brother Scot who dug a hole when he was nine in our backyard in Colorado. Along the way he dug up three shoeboxes of bunnies we had buried after their stint of being our pet passed. I remember the bunnies and then I remember the bottom or the hole. It was deep and wide and cool in the shade of the giant pine tree it was under. I don’t remember all the hours Scot spent digging, I don’t think I helped much. But I do remember being proud of him. He had made something great, by himself. With muscle, grit, and determination and back then too, help from friends.

Now, I’m proud of my mom as well. She said YES to Scot when he thirsted for adventure that would make a mess. This is not always easy for me.

The hole is a PAIN!

  • Have I mentioned the dirt? Dirt in the shoes, on the carpet, in the entry way, on their clothes, in the kitchen, in pockets, caked on socks…
  • Where do we put the dirt that’s dug out?! I readied a spot along the fence and very quickly, it overflowed- completely covering my baby and barely there lilies. We rescued them…I think.
  • The dirt is all over the grass right around the swing set box. This grass is probably dead. We work so very hard to not have our grass die.
  • Eli wants a snack at a most inconvenient time now…not right after school as regularly scheduled and when Andi and Oaks have theirs, but later. Like 30 minutes into hole digging when he is covered in dirt, surrounded by other kids, and wanting it served hole-side.

But mostly the hole is just another reminder of how lucky we are to live here and call this home. Like the hole, our family in this house is: a bit messy, unstable in parts, crowded and loud, but deep and fun and open for hard work alone or with a crowd. IMG_6384IMG_6389

Come on over…bring a shovel.

And beware, if your kid reads the book Holes 3 times, the digging itch will probably take root.

 

 

On Schedules with Routine and “May I speak to someone else?”

I like a bit of organization and appreciate parameters. I know better where to go when there is a benchmark set before me.

A month ago, Drew started writing down to-dos with abandon and I had an idea for our Monday nights. The result is two-fold. There now hangs on the back of our basement door, a recycled sheet of school paper with my hand written scrawl forming two columns.

I’ve typed it up here for easier viewing. You don’t want to view the chaos that surrounds this taped up list on the back of that door!

Saturday Jobs

Monday Midrash

1st Saturday- Dust, Do allowance (pick up basement) 1st Monday- Money/Budget/Goals
2nd Saturday – Wipe cabinets, Beat Rugs, (wash kids beds) 2nd Monday – Something Spiritual
3rd Saturday – Turn Compost (wash our bed) 3rd Monday- Parenting
4th Saturday- File paperwork (deep clean kid rooms) 4th Monday- Marriage
Every Saturday: bathrooms, sweep, mop, vac, (clean out the van) Every Monday- No TV, follow up sex optional

*Kid work in italics.

We structured our Saturdays and Mondays for manifold reasons but mostly these two:

  1. We wanted to get some things done more regularly.
  2. Nights seem to go by quickly- kids to bed by 8:45 if we’re lucky and then, often we default to a device, more work, or a show instead of spending intentional time talking together.

This has been a good rhythm and helps us have something set to accomplish that keeps us moving.

Of course there’s more that needs to happen and weeks we have to boot the whole thing. The idea is teamwork and a structure that takes it off our minds.

The success of the schedule so far begs the question, “What else should be listed in routine?Kid showers? My work life?! Fingernail clipping? Iphone photo deletes?

The other big win for 2016 so far has been some negotiations. Talking to strangers about money, services or contracts is not high on my list of fun afternoon activities. Put it right behind changing bunk bed sheets, or getting a shot. Not comfortable!

However, our internet service fee increased and I was charged for some insurance on a rental car that I did not need. In both cases, I spoke to an associate on the phone who explained they could not remove the fees or adjust the bill.

In both cases, with trepidation and yet some gumption, I asked if there was someone else with whom I could speak. Both times, I was transferred to a manager and got my issues resolved.

The next person on the line had more power to make a change. I reciprocated the power given with my own power to thank, promise return service, and yes, I’ll give good feedback on our conversation if I’m surveyed.

Seems like perhaps the first answer isn’t always the end answer.

We say this a lot in Young Life as we ask kids to camp. At first, an adult leader asking you to go to a camp far away in the summer can be a NO.

“Is there someone else I could talk to?”, asks the timid or too-cool high school friend.

Yes, yes there is. Please speak to one with more power- your peer who went last summer.”

I want second opinions or another voice in most everything I do. I make quick decisions and then back pedal later in some decisions (external processor probs), so I understand coming back around to revisit something.

In a world that is whirling and threatens to accelerate our emotions, schedules, families and souls beyond our health, I think reminders, set routine and rhythms give life.

Second opinions, “under further review”, processing more, or pushing past the first hesitation, just might get us the action or answer we really want. 

 

 

 

Women and Men in Leadership and Conversation: my YL write up.

IMG_2832This is a post I wrote for the Young Life Midwest Women’s Leadership Network Blog. The journey of crafting words and researching story, asking for input and editing for softer language, ended up like it will read below. I was grateful for the chance to write but most of all, am hoping it will be read and used for necessary growth and change.

 

 Women and Men Around the Young Life Leadership Table:

Ingredients for healthy meetings and a helpful perspective on working with the other gender. 

February 25, 2016

I was fortunate to  attend the Women’s Leadership Network gathering during YL75. After sampling fancy and fabulous cold cracker spreads, we gathered in a semi-circle to hear from mission leaders. All three leaders affirmed the idea that men and women, working together, most fully represent the fullness of God in kingdom work.

Although women have not always been affirmed in leadership in Young Life’s past, we are very thankful for the major steps forward in this journey made by men and women towards health and equality. Because some women still have a steep hill to climb towards equality of opportunity in our mission, we will press on with hope.

On my own, in one blog, I cannot write to encapsulate a comprehensive history, or sum up experiences, beautiful or broken, in our mission or Christian ministry on the whole. So, I’ll slice out a sliver of the pie that’s been in my eye this past year: sometimes strong, capable, creative, and intelligent women staff encounter tension and challenge with their male supervisors.

Here are some ideas on what to avoid, and the essentials to include, in posture, philosophy and personal interactions in the working relationship.

Women staff, in your relationships with male supervisors:   

  • Acknowledge your primary identity is an image-bearing beloved child of God. You are the treasured child of a king with a beloved identity (Ephesians 1:3-6) and a royal authority (Romans 8:16&17), just the same as the guy across the table.
  • Do your own work to embrace your identity and voice. A supervisor who might be frustrating you is most likely not purposefully against you, but unaware. He or she might not know you feel overlooked or undervalued. Be your own best advocate, in a gracious way.

  • Possess your possessions. Use your own abilities and do not enable patriarchy by waiting for a man’s approval or invitation if the position or power is already in your hands.

  • Speak freely- with confidence, honesty and respect.

  • Believe in your ideas, remember the confidence of your calling, and take risks.

  • Keep healthy relationships with girlfriends. Pursue healing of deeper issues in your past that have not been brought to light or redeemed, and do the hard work of healing, forgiving, and growing outside of any staff obligation or meeting.

  • Say NO and mean it. Say YES and mean that too.

  • Appreciate the effort your supervisor is taking to lead you in the way he or she knows how and be honest and upfront when you feel there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Talk directly to your boss before bringing in other staff peers or higher ups.

  • Respond well to female leadership and encourage the respect of all women leaders at any levels of ministry in Young Life. As women, let’s build each other up!

  • Be bold and brave. You’re blessed to be a blessing.

 

Male supervisors, in your working relationships with female staff, I recommend…

  • Acknowledge and stay aware of your inherent male privilege – the reality that you don’t have to think about being male, and that society gives men concessions not often given to women. Realize you come to the meeting with a power you didn’t necessary grasp for, but were given. Realize you’re not coming with a history of peers who were refused seats at the table, and that this inherently impacts the dynamic of the table, even though both you and the woman sitting across from you may wish it were not that way.

  • Become familiar with the reality of your lens for seeing the world through your gender, culture and circumstances. Each of us has one and we serve each other well when we try to understand the other.

  • With awareness of how your previous prejudices or embedded biases (which we all have) come into play in interactions with women, work towards a healthy head and heart.

  • Employ accountability and self-check-ins to ensure you’re walking mindfully into meetings with a woman,  acknowledging her identity as one made in God’s own image, unconditionally loved, and wholly called. Prepare to embrace her as a capable co-worker, an educated and equipped co-minister, and move to employ the full spectrum of her gifts and talents.

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With a mindful perspective of one’s self and the person across the table, a working relationship is set up for success. Here are a few more considerations I’d like to mention.

  •  Listen well. Hear her whole ideas. Ask clarifying or follow up questions, agree, disagree, challenge and listen more.
  • Call out her gifts and strengths. An experienced staff friend of mine said he sees a lot of “women who have great competence

  • but lack confidence.” When he observes a woman excelling, he is sure to call it out so she can hear and build confidence. When a woman will not self-promote, she can benefit from champions raising her up.

  • See women as a way to expand the limits of your ministry. Different gifts that fill the gaps or widen the reach of what a man can accomplish alone, open up the door for women to fully live out their gifts, and more importantly, for the Kingdom to grow.

  • Ask for the woman’s perspective and listen to what she offers. Assure her you want to hear what she thinks, that you affirm her position, that her ideas are valid and you want/need her to verbalize what she knows, thinks, wonders, is angry about, cannot stand, will always stick up for, and wants.

  • Never use her as a babysitter or nanny.

  • Be her boss, not her best friend, counselor, or pastor.

  • Advocate for her with the leaders and committee in the area. Empower her to use her very valid authority and gifts to their fullest.

 

Women, you are capable and strong. You do not need to doubt yourself or the leadership gifts God has given you.

Men, you are capable and strong. You have the privilege of leading well out of your strengths, for the furthering of a kingdom team.

With humility, and some experience, with hope and faith that ensures the culmination of what we cannot yet see, I submit myself and our mission to growing and changing, as well as celebrating, as we work together in unity.

Out of the Mouths of Teens

YL_9251_Logo_PrimaryAlt_03As a Young Life leader at my local high school, I have the great privilege of walking with teenagers through the throes of high school adventures, mishaps, friendships, questions, stresses, and decisions. I love the energy, the ideas, the emotions, and the journey of my girls.

During our YL small group Bible study this season, we’ve been doing a teen girls video series by Jen Hatmaker called, “Brave Girl.” The study is excellent and done dynamically, with humor, scripture, and explanation. Jen and team share what God says about young women and their identity, relationships, and calling. Just last week, the topic was “Parents” and what God says about life in families.

Seven girls sat in a circle and shared stories, exasperations, admonitions, and realities about life as a teenager at home. After asking what they loved about their family, I asked how they would describe the role of a parent. Their responses were not given blithely. They shared from places of appreciation as well as frustration. With the girls in the developmental stage of adolescence, with the task of individuation at hand, and because they feel strong feelings and take great risks, I appreciated our conversation and wanted to share the wisdom.

In their own words, they said a perfect parent would:

  • Protect us
  • Rearrange their schedule to show up in my life at my stuff
  • Make time for their kids
  • Give us our independence
  • Let me learn my own lessons
  • Make me feel wanted, not like I’m a burden.
  • Balance the roles of mom and friend and always keep the mom part most important.
  • Let me be open and honest with you, but don’t push me to be when I don’t want to open up.
  • Be brave enough to ask how I’m really doing and be prepared and willing to hear what I say
  • Not live vicariously through me.
  • Mention a problem once and then let it go. Trust me to handle it if I say I’m going to.

Can you sense the tension for boundaries and freedoms, for love and letting go?

Eurologo

I pushed a bit further and asked how they could show their parents their maturity and play their role as an ideal kid.

 

Once again, they said, “As kids, we will”:

  • Admit when I’ve messed up
  • Listen to you
  • Be responsible for what I’ve been given
  • Tell you how I feel
  • Ask you questions instead of telling you what to do.
  • Change and do what I need to when I say I will  handle things
  • Try to use your “I” statements to open up…”I think”, “I feel”, “I want”, “I need”
  • Use a tool for cooling down to make conversations more productive

I had to bite my mom tongue at times to keep from rationalizing the parental point of view. I also affirmed their ideas as valid because I really did often fully appreciate their perspective.

Eli asked me if he could be considered a “pre-teen” the other day. He’s over 9 1/2 but still I said, “Not yet.” I suppose I wanted him to have some more kid years to enjoy almost as much as I admit I need the time to study this list and get ready for what it will take to parent a pre, full, and post teenage kid.

I’m counting on grace…giving it away and grasping for it myself.

 

2016 Oscar Showcase Summary

Four years and counting.

For the past four Februarys, Drew and I have spent two Saturdays in movie seats. Taking in screens of fantasy, story telling, truth portraying, agenda pushing, artistic awe-ing, talent showcasing, heartbreaking, mind changing, soul searching, question asking, and/or emotion engaging films, is one of our favorite couple traditions. We like good movies and long days together. It all fits.

We had great company this year and ran into acquaintances as usual during breaks. We bonded as lanyard wearing, popcorn toting fans “watching the best back to back.” Seems they took their tagline from the Royals past two years! It’s a great season in KC.

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Of the past four years, this year’s films do not stand out as most excellent of all time. There were a lot of ties for almost every ranking. I liked a lot of them third. I did finally rank them ,with angst and little expertise, in this order:

*This is how much I personally appreciated the movies, not what I thought should win Oscar statues necessarily.

*I give you one simple reason for my placement of each film.

1. Spotlight- I liked it best for its portrayal of the power of hard work, genuine empathy, and well written stories to change lives on scales small and large. 

2. Bridge of Spies - The message here was to do the right thing, even if its for the “wrong” person. I appreciated the layers and tension. I appreciated seeing strength to stand up for reasoning that there is always another side,  and a person on that side who should be considered at least, and respected and honored most times. Good Old-Fashioned Spy

3. Room-  I couldn’t get this movie out of my head. However, a hard movie to watch is most often worth watching.  Here the unsettledness in my soul moved me to appreciate how strong one can be when reality requires unfathomable strength. The film shows how brave moms are and the balance between telling kids enough truth to shape their world, but doing a whole lot of hiding what’s too hard for a little soul. She overcame loneliness and fear in ways I have never imagined one could. 

4. The Big Short- Complicated and detailed in actual content, this movie was entertaining to watch and engaging from its beginning to its raw finish- what a crappy victory for the victors. What I didn’t anticipate was how much of my adult life would be on the screen and how luckily, we came through unscathed, young and naive to boot. 

5. Brooklyn- She is beautiful and quietly determined to feel all of her feelings, letting pain direct her towards figuring out who she could be. We talked afterwards about how malleable love can be, which is a complicated and continuing conversation. 

6. Mad Max: Fury Road- While my first reaction was one of bewilderment of how this movie made the Best Picture list, I grew to appreciate it. To watch it is exhausting sure, but it’s perfect as a movie in most ways: amazing scenes, tons of action, great looking actors and actresses, and an adventure to find connection and identity- struggles we drive ourselves around in sand still today. 

7. The Martian-  Simply put, the book is way better. 

8. The Revenant- Simply put, it was too much, for too long, with amazing scenes great for a Planet Earth episode, Drew says, but not enough story to draw me into the dragged out drama. I could hardly even believe in the father son relationship on which the whole journey rests. However, I did appreciate once again, the illustration of how often we misunderstand and abuse those who are different than us. There is even a sign that points out a truth with irony so potent it took me to Jesus’ “King of the Jews” sign on the cross, and all the other violence wrought on good people who threaten someone else’s agenda. 

The themes through most films seemed to me to be:

  • survival
  • who you are and how you cope when you’re alone in a struggle
  • a journey that changes not only where you exist but who you are

The major question posed sounded to me like:

  • What will you choose to do inside your circumstances? 

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The other great movies, once again ranked, I saw this season rounded out a really fun winter:

  1. Creed
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. The Intern
  4. Straight Outta Compton
  5. Amy

I like to tell my kids to use their power- their power to say yes, or to say no. Power to make a choice or make a different one. Power to try again and power to help and heal. I appreciate each of these movie characters harnessing their power and the whole film industry for putting great stories in beautiful and artistic packaging.

Until next year…

 

 

Throwing Up and Growing Up

“Comparison is the thief of joy”…absolutely. I agree. But what about comparison when there is no joy?

My comparison in question is the sheer number of public place pukes that I have mopped up compared to other moms in their first decade of parenting.  Over the past 10 years, my poor kids have thrown up in public a pretty serious amount of times.

Public DOES NOT equal the our van/child car seats which, as locations unto themselves, have endured more than five “events”.

Public DOES NOT equal the basement of my in-laws house, the closet of the VRBO mountain home we had over Christmas in 2013, or our home…bunk bed, kitchen floor, couch, or crib.

By public I mean,

  • the carpeted elevator lobby of my grandparents posh retirement home
  • the upper deck of Coors Field during a Father’s Day Rockies game
  • the 2nd grade classroom coat rack right next to the trash can,

and just yesterday,

  • the small arcade section of our local Walmart.
  • Plus, I think I’m leaving one out. 

Don’t other families have kids who get to toilets for throwing up more often than mine? But again, why despair and compare?

I’m really writing today to acknowledge that a major shift has occurred in my relationship with Eli. He has grown out of just care-demanding-dependence and into a maturity that allows him to work for his own survival (watch him serve himself cereal on a Wednesday morning!), thriving (so much reading!), and just recently, in major ways, as a co-collaborator with me in trying times.

There was a rough night two weeks ago when Drew was out of town, Andi was at a sleepover, and  my boys and I  had a night to ourselves. Through a random course of events, with details too many to mention, my doubled Chipotle burrito bowl went into the shopping bags of a tight-lipped but kind patron three people behind me in line.

Slipping right off my tray and onto the floor, table, and their stuff (shoe boxes, a backpack, and ugh…two pairs of athletic shorts), my dinner and decorum were lost.

Eli steadied our shaky ship. He and Oakley sat at the table and ate their food, the food that Eli had carried smoothly on a tray to the table. As they sat, I slid the guacamole off the shoe box, wiped salsa off the shorts, and apologetically handed the soggy receipt to the forgiving family. Eli was strong, stable, and unwavered by the raucous. He calmly ate, interacted with Oakley and asked very few questions. He held his head high and helped me make it through.

Then yesterday, I had all three kids at Walmart in the 6:00 PM hour. I don’t do that, like ever, and don’t encourage it either.

We shopped for essentials and lolly-gagged through toys and that clearance aisle. Christmas scented candles for $2?! A small Star Wars saber for $1?! And, “Oh Mom, a kitten cuddles calendar for $.50!!!!”

Oaks had said back in the toys that his tummy hurt. I checked in shortly after to see how serious it was and it didn’t seem dire. Still, I was trying to move us out of there. I had 24 items in the 20 item check out line and was hustling. They all three asked to go look at the arcade 10 feet away and I allowed it. 

After check out, I went to the arcade to round them up. Eli and Andi had three discoveries to explain and Oaks, ignoring my request to get in the cart, climbed into the Mickey Mouse car ride. As I approached to get him out, he threw up all over the seat of the car, and then onto the floor.

I had nothing. Except regret about all that clearance aisle shopping.

I grabbed a produce bag sitting in my purse (randomly) and tried to wipe Oaks off with the thin plastic. Not working.  I told Eli to please go ask a worker for help. I left it as open-ended as that.

Eli came running back in seconds with a giant roll of paper towels. When I asked him later what he asked he said, “I went to aisle 6 and said, ‘My brother threw up in the arcade and we don’t really have anything good to clean it up with.’ and she handed me the towels.”

I was able to seat Oakley in the cart and mop up the mess. Andi and Eli diverted their eyes and kept their freak out emotions completely in check. Their calm helped poor Oakley endure. Almost done with the wiping, I asked Eli and Andi to head to customer service and let them know they needed to come clean/sanitize.

They were back in 30 seconds and had secured that maintenance would come and clean more thoroughly. Once again, Eli had calmly and honestly explained the situation.  I hope the maintenance man was pleasantly surprised when he came to see all the chunks were already cleaned up. I left towels covering the fall out area so no other kids would ride the tainted ride.

Eli returned the towels to aisle six and we left. At the car, I stripped Oaks out of his clothes, covered him in my sweat shirt and headed home to a really late dinner. During which, Oaks with his head on my lap on the bench, threw up again, five minutes into the meal.

All of this to say, I’m appreciating how steady, headstrong, calm, and capable Eli is being these days. He might not appreciate how many opportunities his burrito spilling, Walmart sick-kid toting, Mom is giving him, but since we are living it, I might as well mark it with gratitude, a little bit of awe, and a “I see you Eli and cheer you Buddy.”

If you’ve read all of this and are still hungry or interested in being my friend, you too are a strong person.

 

 

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