Saying “Yes” to Children {Teaching them to Trust}

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Sticks hold a fascination for my 4 year-old.  As do rocks.  He organizes gravel into neat piles, and he carries bugs on the tip of his finger into the house to show me.  He is what they call all-boy {who are “they?”}, embracing the outdoors with enthusiasm.

And so it was no surprise when he approached me last week, inviting me on a walk in the woods behind our house.

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Not today, I answered.  I was busy with dinner, and I was tired.

Not today, I answered the following day.  I was busy with cleaning, and I was preoccupied.

Not today, I was tempted to say when he next asked.  But this day, something stopped me.  Maybe it was the hopeful eyes or the sun shining.  But either way, I grabbed him and said:  Let’s go walking in the woods today!

 

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He scrambled for his shoes, excited and noisy.  And as we headed down to the ravine, I was washed over with delight.

For this moment with my son, and for an instant recognition of the bigger picture.

 

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Saying No

Why do I say no to my children?

Well, mostly because there is always a valid reason.  I am tired.  I am busy.  I am in the middle of something.  I need to be here or there.  And yet, perpetual busyness can convince me that I am  unable to engage in simpler things.

Saying no is natural.  It is easy.  And it allows me to avoid the inconvenience of getting down on my hands and knees to see life through the lens of a person smaller than myself.

But, is this the right approach?  Am I really helping any of us by saying no for no good reason?

 

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Saying Yes

Sally Clarkson, author of The Ministry of Motherhood, speaks to the temptation to decline our children.  And she offers this valuable insight into why we should instead build a heritage of yes’s.:

“Make a list of some things your children like you to do with them but aren’t necessarily fun for you—playing a board game on the floor with a young child, going outside to throw a ball, sitting down with a child to read his or her creative story or to look at an artistic creation, and so on.

Commit to saying yes to their requests instead of no, knowing that if you invest in what is important to them, they will be open to believing in what is important to you.”

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Every yes I speak is not only a validation of my love for my children, but it is also- more importantly- one more stone laid in the foundation of our relationship.

My intentional yes’s teach them that what matters to you, matters to me.  And the older they become, the more powerfully that voice resonates.  I know this, because I was a child-become-teenager once myself.

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The Blessing of Yes

 My afternoon spent in response to a simple yes, was powerful for both my son, and for me. The tactility of walking, smelling, feeling and photographing, delighted him.  And his shouts of enthusiasm with every bug and tadpole, were sufficient reward for a few moments of my time.

I said yes again yesterday.  This time, dutifully preparing a tea party for a little girl who requested it.

And I hope that today I will demonstrate the same nod of approval when they ask.

I want my kids’ hearts.  And if the equation of love = time stands true,  I will invest as many nature walks and tea parties as it takes to win them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Monday Has Come – A Few Easter Photos

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I am taking a step back from regular Monday posting today.  We had a wonderful weekend full of company and activity, and I am a few days behind with writing.  And I would not have it any other way. I have not cracked open my laptop since Friday, and the break from regular focus has been refreshing and enjoyable.

Don’t we all need social-media fasts and Internet breaks sometimes? I do.

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Emma found me a beautiful bird’s nest in the yard.  A beautiful reminder of Spring and new beginnings.

 

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The boys found time to be brothers- and Pat was able to document their sweet relationship.

Will thrives on affirmation from Josh.

 

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And Josh rises to the occasion of being both friend, and example.

 

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Our fearless adventurer managed to stay unbroken for the day – and she wore a dress happily, because “it feels like a sweatshirt”.

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Their energy can be so taxing at times, but yesterday was a reminder to me of what I have – and sometimes I am too aware of what is taken from me, in the wake of their needs.

 

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I have them.  They have one another.

But mostly, because of Easter, we have Him.

And He holds us all together.

I hope you all enjoyed your weekends.  See you back here tomorrow!

 


The Day Kirsten Dunst Spoke Out

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The headlines are bold: “Kirsten Dunst Sparks Debate Over Support For Traditional Roles”.

Uh oh.  She didn’t dare.

“I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued… We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mum created,” Dunst told this month’s edition of Harper’s Bazaar in the U.K.

“And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armor. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work…”

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If the silence is deafening anywhere, it certainly is not in the media response to Dunst’s unexpected opinions. Feminist magazine, Jezebel, struck back at Dunst.  “Kirsten Dunst is not paid to write gender theory so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s kind of dumb about it.”

But is Kirsten Dunst Dumb?

Or is she simply stating what many of us already think?

For years now, feminists have been trying desperately to blur the lines between men and women, so that all are in essence the same.  Differences, to feminists, are dangerous.  Particularly those which highlight strengths unique to men.

The Christian world has debated long over gender-role semantics.  The Bible clearly advocates for unique roles for men and women, and portrays that these differences, are meaningful.  In an effort to qualify what is meant by the respectful pursuit of  equally valued marital roles, the term complementarian was borne.

What is complementarianism?

In an article for Desiring God blog, Andrea Froelich explains: “Being complementarian doesn’t mean believing that the man’s job is to fix the car and the woman’s is to wash the floor. It goes much deeper than a breakdown of jobs”.

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Rather, complementarianism takes into respectful account, the strongest strengths of both husband and wife.  And by necessity, this definition relates back to the analogy of Christ and His Bride.  Just as a bride and groom approach the wedding day with one goal- to be married- both are specific in how they dress, the emotions they feel, and the subsequent expressions of that emotion.

The beauty of a complementarian theology is the unashamed recognition of differences.  It is, in the words of Kirsten Dunst, letting a man be a man and a woman be a woman.

Why are these differences so threatening to the feminist argument?

Well, because feminism is not really interested in equality.  It is interested in superiority.  Feminist theory is at heart, opportunistic.  It craves power.  And it wants always, to raise women one rung higher on the ladder.

In so doing, men are diminished to a place where they are not needed, and hence, not wanted.  I am afraid that this generation will see an increase in marriages which have fallen victim to the fierce cry of: I am woman, hear me roar.   

As Christians, we delight in the fact that God created man and woman separately.  And we draw confidence from the fact that when God looked upon His human creation, He declared it good.  Male and female, created intentionally for differing purposes.

Kirsten Dunst was on to something when she spoke up the other day.  In the Christian realm, we call it complementarianism.

In God’s realm, it is simply deemed GOOD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Thank-You Note {To Moms of Little Children}

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My sweet Mom-friend, with little ones wrapped around her legs,

I talk with you often.  You are the ones who seem to cross my path mostly, the ones God draws my heart to.  In fact, you are the ones I had in mind when I began to write one day three years ago, and somehow the words never seemed to stop.  I guess I have a lot to say to you.  See, you are me a few years back, and it is you I made a vow to when I stepped out of my house a couple of years ago, facing the sunshine on the other side of babies.

I will not forget, I promised.

I know a great deal about you.  I know your isolation.  And your loneliness.  I know the repeat cycle you feel stuck on.  I know the discouraged temperature of your homes many days.  I know the feelings you have about yourself.  I know the guilt you carry.  I know that this guilt makes you cranky.  I know that you are overwhelmed and you cry over small things in the day, because the big picture is just too big and too far away.    I know that you are tired beyond words.  That your tiredness makes you forget things.  And that your tiredness makes you depressed.  I know that you compare yourself to other Moms, and that these sideways glances make you miserable.  I know that you struggle day in and day out, for always.

And I know that you are not thanked enough.  For all that you do, you are rarely honored and praised.

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So allow me, my tired and care-worn Mom- friend:

Thank you for waking in the morning and through groggy eyes, kissing your children and loving them, despite wanting to sleep a little more.  Have you ever read stories of children deprived of love and unable eventually to integrate into society?  Your constant love turns a child who could shrivel, into one who blooms.

Thank you for beginning the day by preparing breakfast.  Have you read the statistics on poverty and hunger in our very own schools?  Your feeding makes for eager and alert minds.  Ask any teacher.

Thank you for taking care of your husband.  Did you know that married men live longer, because they thrive with regular care-taking?  Your commitment is literally keeping him healthier and happier.  Ask any doctor.

Thank you for pursuing a Christ-centered marriage.  Have you read the statistics on divorce, as it relates to children?  Your staying together through better, worse and everything in-between, is a success greater than yourself.  Ask any counselor.

Thank you for keeping a close eye on the members of your household.  Have you read statistics on s-x-trafficking and online soliciting?  Your close watch over your family is protecting them from dangers they are not aware of.  Ask any police officer.

Thank you for maintaining a home, and performing the daily tasks without fail. Have you read stories of children trying to grow up without homes and families?  Your maintaining a stable environment is doing more for the long-term emotional wellness of your family, than you can possibly see now.  Ask any pastor.

Thank you for persevering, because if I could choose a word to describe what you are called to, it would be: PERSEVERANCE.  You cannot stop, now or ever.  You are in it, for life.

Thank you for teaching your children in all of your daily acts of service, that the Gospel is real and to be lived.  That the Gospel is true and to be applied.  That Christ came to serve, and not to be served.  That He gave everything, so that we could gain.  Only gain.  His Gospel is for you.  And as you embrace and live it,  you are doing so much more than you can see.  As you point those in your home in His direction, you are discipling those who will lead, tomorrow.  Words alone could never convey what your serving is accomplishing.

So, thank you.  Again and again, thank you.  You are worth far more than rubies, and deserving of great honor.

I close with a blessing my Mom sent to my sisters and I this morning:

“May God be with you all today, giving you an understanding of the dignity of the work you are doing – taking care of his little ones, on his behalf, so the church can continue through the generations!”

Praying for you as you give your life for theirs,

Maryanne

 

 


What a Girl Wants

Last weekend I attended a women’s retreat, and though for the sake of feeling “away” I planned to keep in touch with my family only on the book-ends of the day, I quickly I realized that my mothering role would accompany me on the trip.

My phone (set to silent) buzzed as I drove up into the mountains Friday, it buzzed a little Saturday, and it buzzed the whole way home on Sunday.  Always a small voice on the other end: “Mom?  What are you doing?  How are you? When will you be home?”  My heart melted at the sound on the other end.  You see, I have an adolescent daughter, and the weekend away allowed me to see with fresh eyes that this precious girl- so independent and head-strong at times- is still so needful when it comes to Mom.

Seated with Moms of boys at lunch recently, I was asked: What do you think the biggest difference is between raising girls and raising boys?  Although I think my immediate answer was something about destruction – my boys break everything!- in reality there is one stark contrast I notice.

Girls need to talk.

On any given day, my oldest son will walk through the door and I will ask him how his day was.  He will reply with either “fine” or “not good”.  He will then get to homework, regardless of the nature of the day.

My oldest daughter on the other hand, will walk in the door from school speaking, even as the door is opening.   I will immediately hear all sorts of things:  Her opinion of the lunch I sent.  The color of elastic bands her friend chose for her braces.  I will hear about who has a new phone, and about which girls are not getting along.  I will hear about which of her friends has a crush and on whom.  I will hear that her teacher is still enjoying the Starbucks mug we bought him.  And on it goes with energy and consistency, until I remind her that homework will not complete itself.

She is classically female and already, wired for relationship.  She wants to talk and she needs somebody to talk to.

Recent studies conducted by British scientists, shed light on this pattern:  It has been claimed previously that women speak about 20,000 words a day – some 13,000 more than the average man.  The basis for this need, is found in a simple protein.  Scientists have discovered that Foxp2 protein actually appears in higher levels in the female brain.  Not surprisingly, Foxp2 is the protein responsible for language.  Women are shown to produce 30% more of it than men, leading them to “produce” more chatter.

There are moments my ears are not attuned to listen, and how my daughters know it.  They will immediately stop and state: Mom, I can tell you are not listening to me.  Older mothers have advised me to listen on and on, to make myself available to each conversation and question.  What a full-time job!  Elizabeth George, one of my favorite mom-authors, states:

Daughters naturally adore their Moms and crave time with them, unless they are being pushed away or ignored.  Then it won’t take long for the wall to go up.  The smart Mom knows that love is spelled T-I-M-E.  And the more, the better!

I am in the mid-stages of learning to stop, engage, listen.  To take serious note of all the seemingly inconsequential details, because that attention spells concern and love.  Ironically, I find that many times when I am most ready to drop to sleep or feel particularly depleted, my girls are eager to talk and they have “one more question” or one more concern.  I am convinced that those Foxp2 proteins surge in highest levels after 8pm!

One idea I am striving toward is to think about raising a daughter as raising a future friend.  The end goal of my time living with my girls is a deep and abiding friendship – one in which they need never question my love, loyalty or investment.  One from which they will draw strength on into adulthood.  And just as any good friendship centers around free conversation and mutual listening, the same applies to raising girls.  They are just small women, craving the same words and expression as adults do.

Those 20,000 words rattling around in your daughter’s brain are waiting to find expression, even now.  I hope and pray that as you and I raise the next generation of women, we are able to put on our listening ears today.

Particularly if it’s after 8pm!

 

 

 


An Imperfect Mom is Still a Good Mom

I can still remember sitting with my last baby in the hospital, comfortably secure in the space between the energized adrenalin of post-birth and the life awaiting at home.  By this time, I knew what to expect in terms of the family adjustment to come.

There would be the sad and displaced former-youngest, needing plenty of one-on-one time.  The older kids to reign in in terms of discipline.   There would be the normal marital adjustments.  There would be a need for greater flexibility in terms of routine and schedule. There would be many little changes necessary to every aspect of our lives, and it was all these things I looked ahead to as I sat cradling Will, enjoying this last experience of becoming a Mom – again.

But what evaded my foreward glance was a shocking but painful reality awaiting: I would not be the Mother of my dreams.

For no sooner had I cut the hospital bracelets off my wrists upon returning home, than I was awakened to the imperfection and limitations of this new life I had created. The baby was gassy and fussy.  The toddler remained high-spirited as ever, her high energy no match for my low supply.  The older kids lived in a cycle of school and after-school activities, none of which seemed to mesh with my new sleep schedule: 3 hours here, 1 hour there. I became discouraged quickly, and realized that I was going to have to employ a new parenting strategy to survive.

Perfect Mother was out of the question.  My blotted record had shown me that already.  But maybe “Good Mother” could be enough for my little ones.

 

The months following Will’s arrival were marked by pain as God began to strip away my perfectionism slowly, day by challenging day.  But they were also months marked by great grace, as He began to free me from the exhaustion of unrealistic expectations. Throughout,  there were countless truths that became clearer with each unrealized goal, each interrupted plan.

Get the Source of Perfection Right: There is only one ultimate root of perfection, and it is found in the person of Christ.   Hebrews directs us to fix our eyes on Christ, who is the author and perfecter of our faith.  Christ alone lived a perfect life, ultimately dying in our place so that we could stand before God faultless.  Faultless!  No longer guilty of the imperfection and sin that stains our everyday.  He has accomplished perfection on our behalf, emptying our lives of the need to strive for what cannot be humanly had.  This is unparalleled news for Mothers.  Your limitation is covered at the Cross!

Focus on Perfect Promises:  God is a God of promises.  He makes them, and He promises not to break them once He has committed. Scripture teaches us that God is with us when our yoke is heavy {Matthew 11:29}.  It promises that God generously gives us wisdom when we ask it {James 1:5}.  To be unfamiliar with God’s promises is to face the day without armor, emptied of strength.   Know His perfect promises and you will surely see them manifest in your life, day after challenging day.

Focus on Your Strengths: Know your passions, as they are likely your strengths.  There are the crafty Moms and the serving Moms.  The academic Moms and the organized room-Moms.  There are the ministry Moms and the soccer Moms.

We will all be one of the types but none of us will be all of the types. 

The surest means of burn-out is to try and be all Moms in one.  Each of us are uniquely gifted by God to be who He has made us to be, and within the framework of motherhood this allows for great freedom of expression and individuality.  Be you, and enjoy it!

Lower Your Expectations:  This is the white flag of surrender to perfectionist-Moms.  But, it is necessary to lay down false expectations for our reality daily, or we will become oh-so-weary so very quickly.  It has been my experience that roughly 1/2 or less or less of all my mothering goals are realized, and after 12 years in this seems to be a rule, not an exception.  Though this flawed record can discourage me at times, I try to accept that my desires will always supersede the realities of Mom-life.

 

In his book, No Little People, Francis Schaeffer warns against the fight toward perfection when he states, if we insist on perfection or nothing, we get nothing every time.  There is a piece of me that would love to claim the title of Perfect Mom, and I am sure that you would too.  It would be such an honor, such a crown.  But since Perfect is well beyond grasp, why not strive for Good Mom? I am.

And truthfully, life has been much more enjoyable on the other side of perfect.