Reveling in the glory and beauty of everyday life... all the mess and chaos of raising five little girls!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Gift of Submission

My husband is wonderful. Have I ever mentioned that? :) He is a godly, honorable man with strength and integrity, self-discipline, courage, and just plain smarts. He is compassionate and caring, and I am so thankful to be married to him. Submission to such a man usually comes easily. Our goals and visions tend to be aligned, and it is easy for us to agree on both the big-picture decisions and the nitty-gritty day to day ones.  In ten years of marriage, we have found our preferences bending to one another - which makes the daily decision making even simpler. 

But, what happens when we don't agree? When our thoughts and hearts are totally in discord, when the way we process a particular decision is completely opposing? What then? 

Recently, this happened. I am going to be careful not to share the details of our decision-making, because I know I could easily find myself trying to garner support for my preference while degrading Erik's arguments.  And I want to honor him in every way as I share a process that I am learning and growing through. Right now.  So... suffice it to say, the decision that halted us in our typically unified steps was a biggie. One about our kiddos, and our long-term vision for our family.  We talked, and I cried.  And we talked some more, and I cried some more. And weeks went by, and it was crunch time. I felt so clearly that the Lord was leading us in one direction. And Erik disagreed. Unflinchingly.

Finally, on the night when we had to make this decision, I said, "Honey, we are not going to reach consensus on this. We are so far apart. It is time for me to step back and just let you decide. You are the head of our household and I have to trust your leadership. I have to submit." 

So, I curled up in a ball and wept while Erik forged my signature on a document he didn't want to make me sign (yup, I just admitted that). 

A couple of weeks passed, and we didn't discuss the decision again - until a second document was due. He hadn't changed his mind, and, even though my will was submitted to his, my heart was also unchanged.  I had (and still have) no peace about the decision. I was in turmoil and heartache as he continued to move forward. 

So - what do you do? The question I have found myself asking and praying about in the last weeks is, "Lord, how do I submit to a decision I disagree with in a way that strengthens our marriage rather than tears it down?" 

I am still praying that. Daily. The Lord may turn my heart and I may see that my husband's leadership was spot on - that he was bravely following what he knew to be right, and I was wrong. Or, it may be that, eventually, Erik will decide that I was right, and he'll take measures to back up and alter the course.  I don't know what the future holds. But, from a clear, biblical command, I have a job to do. And that is to lovingly submit to my husband as unto the Lord.

I was thinking this through the act of submission, and talking with a sweet friend, and she said, "Isn't it a gift of God's grace that He commands us to submit? I mean, what if he hadn't? We aren't going to always agree with our husbands. And, in those times that we don't, someone has to back down.  It's so gracious of God that He made it clear whose role that is! He saved us so much heartache and fuss by just delineating that for us in His Word." 

She's so right. It is a gift that the Lord outlined our roles. It is a gift that He made a clear pathway for us through conflict.  It isn't easy - but, truthfully, the greater weight is on our husbands, isn't it? They pull a heavy load of responsibility by getting to be the ultimate decision-makers. We are called to follow, and we are covered by the protection of our husbands and the Lord.

I remember reading once that "the good feelings don't always come in the same package as the right answer." I am experiencing that. I know the right answer and I am living it - but I am still heartbroken and in turmoil. The peace hasn't come, yet. But, it will. If the Lord's desire for wives is submission - then He will honor our marriages when we do. 

One thing I found I needed to do was to share honestly with Erik. I needed him to know that I was still struggling. I felt like this decision was a wedge between us because he had set himself so firmly against the desires of my heart, and against what I felt was God's best for our family. I told him that I didn't want to maintain that wedge - but I also didn't know how to break through it. When I gently shared that with him, I think the wedge cracked in two.

So, how do I submit in a way that builds up our marriage? Honesty. Prayer (and not just prayer that he will change his mind!). Reaching out through acts of service (a favorite meal, a back-rub, a pretty nightie pulled out from the dusty recesses of a dresser drawer :) ). I can submit with a hard heart - or I can submit with a soft one.

I can see the Lord's command as a burden, or I can embrace it as a gift.  When you face one of these inevitable times - I pray that reminder will help you, too.  Our story doesn't have an ending yet. I can't tell you the ways God blessed our family because I submitted to hard decision.  But I know that He would not be able to bless us if I chose to disobey His Word. 

So here's to glad submission! Even when it's hard.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Prayer, Part Two

As I pray through the scripted prayer for my kiddos that I shared a week or so ago, I also pray through a second script for myself. I can't mother my children well without the equipping of the Holy Spirit, so the second part of my "mama's prayers" is for the Lord to mold and shape me to be a mama after His pattern. 

Dear Abba Father, Papa who created the world and knows my heart, 
Thank you for the gifts you have given me in my beautiful children. They belong to you - you who knit them together and loves them so much more than I ever could. Thank you for entrusting their precious lives and hearts to this frail mama. 

Lord, I ache to be the best mom my little ones could have. I long to be a gentle-spirited, loving mama whose teaching and training comes from your heart. 

Today, Lord, help me to lean on your strength, to give you my heart, lay down my brokenness, and receive your grace. Help me, please, to be the mom you want me to be - through your Spirit. 

Help me to delight in my little ones. To take JOY in them. To laugh with them, to love them utterly, just as they are. To nurture them with tenderness and whole-hearted thankfulness. Help me to love deeper when they are most unlovable.  Help me to serve my children, to lay down my self-serving tendencies and give them all of me. 

Help me to reach their hearts - to know them. Help me to guide them to your throne of grace. 

Grant me wisdom to disciple them from your word and to know how and when correction, instruction, and discipline are needed. Help me to dazzle them with your great love - and to take every opportunity to remind them of your gospel. Help me to be soft of speech, gentle in spirit, affirming in my words, affectionate in my touch, and firm in my resolve. 

Lord, this job is bigger than me, and I need you every moment of the day. Help me to remember that, too, and seek you often throughout the day. Help me to look for evidences of your goodness and mercy sprinkled throughout the mess, the chaos and the noise. 

I love you, Jesus. 

Amen. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mama's Prayers

A couple of years ago, when Hope was a baby, I remember asking my husband if it would be okay if I stayed home from church on Mother's Day. I just wanted two hours, while Hope napped, where I could sit at the table, candle lit, and spread Bible, books, and notepad out before me.  I was in a season where uninterrupted time to journal, read, and pray were hard to come by, and I craved those moments. 

I have always struggled to pray unless I have a pen in my hand - at least to pray for any length of focused, intentional time. I shoot up quick arrows of heartfelt prayer often, but I can't pray for an hour unless I have a notebook in front of me. But - that isn't always possible. Even now, although I have older kiddos and am able to get up a bit earlier to meet with the Lord, there are days when that time is rushed. So, over the years I have come up with substitutes for concentrated prayer-journaling. And, as I anticipate the busyness of another newborn in late July, I know I will fall back on them again!

One is a key-ring of index cards with detailed prayer requests for people, situations, and global needs. I can flip through those prayer cards throughout the day, read over the bullet points or scrawled sentences, and sort of cover the bases of who and what I want to be praying for. I add to them often; my girls' are two-sided now because new items crop up constantly.  If a prayer is answered (a friend gave birth to a healthy baby or a decision was made, or a missionary's need for funding was answered, or a potty-trainer succeeds in night dryness) then I etch the answer in beside the request and it reminds me to praise.  

The idea for those prayer cards came from Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life, which I highly recommend. And, I have some fun, colorful templates that came from the blog Homeschool Creations.  

I also love using scripted prayer.  If I can't journal morning prayers, having a script to read through helps me immensely.  When Hope was small and life was sleepless, I wrote out a few daily prayers and stuck them in my Bible. They are now stained, wrinkled, and scribbled on - but I still use them. 

I thought I would share one of those scripts with you today - just in case you are in a season where a written prayer might benefit your heart. 

Here is my "standby" prayer for my daughters.

Father in Heaven, 
Thank you for the little hearts you have entrusted to our care. You have so blessed us!
God, I pray for the hearts of my little girls. I pray that you would draw them to you - reveal yourself to each of them. I pray that you would help them to understand their sinfulness, come to a heart of repentance, and receive your salvation. God, I ask that you would save my children!
I pray that they would spend their entire lives walking with you and their lives would be given in service to you - abandoned to you. I pray they would love your word, love your people, and follow hard after you all the days of their lives. 
I pray that the gifts and talents you've given would be used for your glory, and that their weaknesses would be places for you to reveal your strength. 
Lord, I pray for soft hearts, fertile soil to receive your word, and our instruction. I pray they would grow in obedience, to use and to you. I pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be seen in their lives - kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, love, patience, joy. I pray they would love one another and walk through each day as best friends. I pray for right choices and holy living that brings honor to your name. I pray for integrity, honesty, and a trustworthy reputation. 
God, these hearts, so fresh from you, need so much molding, so much love, so much prayer. God, I pray their lives would bring you glory. Help me to be faithful in prayer for each one of them! They are yours!
Amen

 




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Default to Choas

We just finished a glorious, two and a half week Spring Break. I know, if you live in another state, that seems crazy. But, as a friend said yesterday, in Jackson, during mud-season, after the long winter (actually, we didn't have much winter at all this year) a long break is needed. It was so wonderful to have my girls home. To have no homework. To pack picnics instead of school lunches. To stay in jammies until ten. To let them play. We were gone for six days in Utah, and then spent the remainder at home.  The weather was pretty cruddy, but we managed a few bike rides, a hike, and some special girl outings: popcorn and the new Cinderella movie, a fancy lunch at a downtown restaurant, and a trip to the library.

I found myself thinking a lot about the daily routine of vacation, and how to provide balance in those lazy, carefree days. School (whether at home or away) provides so much structure. On a typical day, my little munchkins are at school from 8:15 - 3:20. When they get home, they have 1.5 - 2 hours of homework, so, between dinner, baths (okay, those only happen once a week!) bedtime stories, and a few chores, there is very little free playtime.  When they were on break, I found myself just wanting to let them be. To let them keep the sleepy snaggles in their bedraggled hair, and not make them get dressed until they decided it was time to put on dress-up clothes for whatever game they were engaged in.  I didn't want to impose a schedule. But you know what happens? At least in my house? 

Free play gradually unravels into utter chaos. And then Mommy has to firmly reestablish some boundaries.  We have to get dressed. We have to brush our teeth. And I have to organize and direct some sort of productive activity in order to regain order and control in our wild house.

Does that happen in your homes? Oh, freedom is good. Our little ones need to learn to play. On their own. Imaginatively. Together. But, too much freedom is not good. Because the game of "Little House on the Prairie" becomes dresses strewn across bedrooms and breadcrumbs in empty bureau drawers. And fighting children who just want to drink cocoa in their bedrooms, not pretend to be children from another time period. I find my silverware under the bed, and a box of just-organized 3T clothes scattered hither and yon.  I realize someone put an old diaper on the littlest one - because they were playing she was the baby. 

So, how do you find balance? How do you allow for free play and spontaneity and joy - while still implementing a gentle and life-giving structure in your home?  I was processing all of this, and thinking ahead to summer.  I am so happy I will have time with my girls and we will play outside and adventure together.  But, I know that, for all of us to stay sane, we have to have a bit of a routine.

Maybe it starts with getting dressed. Making beds. Combing hair. Maybe it's a few morning tasks to check off on a list before they can play. Maybe it's lining up time slots for particular activities - and limiting the free for all to certain times of the day. Maybe it's the afternoon reading time that anchors the day.

Motherhood always seems to throw new challenges at us, doesn't it? In the next weeks, I am going to spend time pondering how to best provide a gentle rhythm for our summer - tethered by chores and jobs and planned adventures and books.  I know my girls need clear expectations and a bit of flexible structure, or we will just default to chaos.  And I don't like chaos. :) 

How do you structure "off" days for your kiddos? What are the secrets to managing your home life well during seasons of greater freedom? Any thoughts?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Utah

 Just a couple photos from our Spring Break camping trip to Utah...  warm sun, red rock, dust, and strong-legged, brave-hearted daughters.
 From my vantage point, the arch they were standing on looked about six inches wide. Erik said it was actually wide enough to pitch a tent on.  Not much comfort to my quaking heart at that moment - watching my precious girls totter hundreds of feet over solid ground...  but I trust my man!
 Five silly ladies and one twenty-four week bulge whose gender and name remain unknown!


 Slot canyons!