Things I’m Reminding Myself This Summer

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Babies. All with rolled up jeans. *tear*

Well, here we are.  It’s been one weekend and two days since the kids have been out of school and though I look forward to this time of year more than any other time, there are things I forget about it.  Things that, since last year, I’ve pushed back into the repressed category of my mind and all I remember is tousled hair and golden skin and flip flops.

Just a few days into these summer months they snapped back, though.  The things that are hard for me about summer and the things that I need to remember and work through and learn and relearn each year.

I’ve learned that some self-talk is what I need in these instances.  Self-talk and many reminders and to focus on the tousled hair and golden skin and flip flops.

This is what I’m reminding myself of this summer.

1)  The house will be messier

It just will.  There are 3 more humans in the house ALL THE TIME and those humans  just happen to be of teenage age which basically means they have no comprehension of the crumbs they leave everywhere or how many times I trip over the pile of shoes at the front door.  I need to get over it.  I need to allow them to just chill and not be constantly pestering them about every water glass not in the dishwasher.  I’m happy they’re home for 2 months.  I need to make sure they know that instead of making them feel like they’re annoying me with their messes.

2)  Say yes to treats

All year long I say no to treats.  When they ask for a snack it’s fruit or veggies or something really crazy like chia/hemp/applesauce cookies.  When they want to mock me they put on my voice and start taking about healthy choices and what sugar does to our bodies.  They wag their finger and ask if i’ve taken my dose of kefir for the day or if I’ve had my daily dose of omega 3’s.  And they’re right.  I care what they put in their bodies and I may be a bit extreme about it.  Don’t make me go into details about the wagon wheel intervention of 2015, okay?  So this summer I’m going to work at saying yes to treats.  Ice cream?  Yes!  Popsicles made with unnatural ingredients.  Sure.  (I started to twitch just writing that)  A can of coke every now and again.  Lord, have mercy….

3)  It’s their summer too!

I need to remember that this is their summer and it’s their time to unwind and relax and do that in a way that feels awesome to them!  My summer goals are lake, beach, hike, tennis, berry picking, beach, hike, lake.  Their summer goals are video games, sprinkler on the trampoline, video games, junk food, video games and falling asleep at a ridiculous hour to a movie they can quote every single sentence of.   I need to remember this is their down time too and keeping them overly busy with activities makes them feel like they’re back in school.  I’m telling myself it’s okay to let them chill in their weirdly lethargic way every now and then.

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4)  Swimming in a pool with chlorine counts as a shower.

It just does.

5)  These days pass quick

It’s true.  Two months fly by and before we know it we’re back at it.  I need to remember that and make the most out of each day.  Whether that’s curling up on the couch and reading a book aloud (which they still love, by the way) or roasting marshmallows (again), the time is ticking by and these summer days will lead into winter nights before we know it.  I don’t know how my firstborn baby is nearly 16 but what I do know is that time slips through our fingertips like the sand at the beach.  It’s here and then gone and we wrinkle our brows to try and figure out where it went.  This summer I want to hold those grains of sand just a little bit longer and pay attention to the moments that are here right now and then slipping away tomorrow.

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How was this not yesterday?

6)  Hot dogs for dinner is a thing.

Let them.  Without veggies on the side.  And don’t say a word about what’s in them.

I can do this!

Rock on, summer lovers!  Let’s do this thing!

Talking to boys about talking to girls about body image!

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It’s the end of the year and I’m handing out twenty dollar bills like it’s my job.  Mom, I need lunch money for this field trip or I’m going here and can I get a treat or it’s orange day and do you think we have one single orange article of clothing in this house?  Nope.  Here’s a twenty.  Go find something!

It happens every year.  I think we’re almost done and then there’s this burst of spending that happens.  I should know by now but it always catches me off guard.

Today it’s the waterslides.

The money got overshadowed though as my son asked if he could buy his lunch there (oh sure, of course!  17 dollars for a single fry?  No problem, son!) because he was frantically texting his friends amidst it all.

When I asked what was going on he said the girls were all worried about the day because they have to wear bathing suits and they all look like beached whales and they don’t want to be seen with no make up.

Of course, the boys do what they do best, they mocked them.  They started talking about how they had to go because they needed to put on their waterproof mascara and how they hoped their breakfast wasn’t making them look fat.

It’s so crazy to me how different the male and female minds are.

Boys can throw on whatever clothes they find closest to them and don’t smell overly bad and head out the door with a swagger.  Girls can look gorgeous but find themselves stewing about every single thing wrong with their pretty well perfect body.

I don’t have girls so I don’t know the pressures on them just now but I remember being one.  I remember comparing  how I looked and the clothes I had with every other girl out there.  I remember feeling the same way about waterslide field trips or formal events.  I remember doubting myself and wishing my skin was clearer, my teeth were straighter and my jeans looked a few years newer.

I gave my son a few quick tips.  These were just the ones that popped to mind in the moment so they could be awful but I’m looking to you, mamas of girls, to help give me the words they SHOULD be saying to the girls around them.

1.  Model for them the things they should say

Each girl had texted a photo of themselves puffing out their cheeks and trying to look the worst they could.  Of course, they’re 13 and beautiful and even puffy faces couldn’t make them look bad so the first thing I said was, “Tell those girls your mom says they’re gorgeous and she’s so happy that you’re all friends!”

2.  A bit of mockery is okay

I agreed with my son that a little mockery wasn’t so bad.  He texted that he had to go and do a few crunches before leaving home to work off the water he just drank.  I didn’t want him to overdo it though in case these girls are having serious body image issues and not just the normal, “i’m fat” sort of feelings.  So I said to make a few jokes and then move on.

3.  Compliment them on things unrelated to body image

I reminded him to compliment them on things that are not  related to what they’re complaining about because chances are they won’t hear or believe his words anyways.  So, in the string of texts he had assured the girls that they were being silly and they weren’t at all fat but I steered him toward changing the subject from body image to something else they’re great at.  Like, “Hey remember that time we were all in math class and you made that hilarious joke that sent the whole class into hysterics!?”  Uplift them about other traits you love about them.  Their humour, their generosity, or a million other things to show that you value their character more than you value their body.

4.  Validate but don’t let them keep fishing for compliments.  Move on!

As girls we sometimes fish for compliments and it’s okay to give them, but know that you don’t have to go overboard when someone continues fishing.  It’s okay to offer a quick compliment but then move on.  Don’t even allow the girls to dwell there, in that state of mind, so that you feel like you have to keep telling them how pretty they are.  Instead, look them in the eye, tell them the truth and then move on to – let’s go have fun!  Make sure they know that you aren’t judging them or constantly staring at their bodies (you better not be!!) and critiquing it in their mind.  Just have fun together in the sun and water and make it about enjoying each others company and not about what any of you look like.

Of course, these are just the things that came to mind in the 3 minute window I had before shoo’ing them out the door.  If you have any other insights I should share with my boys, please let me know!!

My Dad. My Father.

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You could always pick him out of a crowd. Due to his height, the salt and peppery hair on his head always stood a good 6 inches above everyone else. He had a broad and sturdy frame, his hands bigger than anyone I’ve met. We joked that his wedding ring could be a bracelet for my scrawny wrist.

His demeanor was quiet yet sure. Intimidating to most, yet a softie to those who knew him well and to say his little girl had him wrapped around her finger? Well, I most certainly did.

To me, my dad was the picture of stability. He had strength of character, he was the sole provider for our family, he knew what he knew and he knew it well. Rarely did he argue because his opponents knew better. He was either right or not backing down. Did I mention there’s a stubborn streak that runs in the family?  KEEP READING HERE

I’m over at Family Life Canada today talking about how losing my earthly Dad made me go face to face with my heavenly Father and all of the things that taught me.  Read more here.

A Three Part Plan for a Balanced Life

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I’m not a really great slower-downer.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can curl up on the couch, book in hand, with the best of ’em but it’s likely after a day of working and cooking and laundry and vacuuming the floors (again) and driving and emotionally supporting and sending encouraging texts and planning who we’re hosting for our next Saturday brunch.  It’s probably after I’ve risen early to accomplish what I need for the day.  After I’ve gone for a run or climbed a mountain.  After, after, after.  That’s when I slow down.

When it seems there isn’t anything left within my range of vision that I ‘should’ be doing, I stop.

Often this is as I’m crawling into bed at night because we all know that Mama’s hardly have time to stop!  It’s funny that I think of our family as not being overly busy or over scheduled and yet this is still how my days go!  I can’t imagine if my kids were in all the programs.

Of course many of the things that keep me busy are things I love.  Reading out loud to my munchkins, preparing our meals from scratch with fresh, whole ingredients, and heading out for an evening walk are all things that fuel my soul, but keep me constantly going at the same time.

I nearly laughed out loud when someone asked me the other day what I do with my days off?  Meaning, the days I don’t work.  We all know that days off don’t exist in the parenting realm, right?

Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not complaining here!  I love my life.  It’s full and rich and brimming with awesome days and amazing gifts.  I mean, I don’t need to work out or develop new relationships or plan to have a young mom over to teach her some of my recipes.  These are things I love.  Things that add to the beauty of my life.  Things I can’t imagine being without.

But it means a day in bed watching tv just doesn’t exist in my world.  It means extended hours of reading on the couch doesn’t really happen.  It means an extra long time of studying the word and contemplating it is rare.

I often think about the times when Jesus escaped from his followers and went up into the mountains to pray and I find myself jealous.  I love the example of  life that he sets out for us in Luke 6.

Luke 6: 1 says, “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields…” in this verse he was with his disciples and he ended up in a debate with the Pharisees about Sabbath.  It was a day spent hanging with his people.  A day very much like many of my own.

In verse 6 it goes on, “On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching…”  This time he had a good plan for his Sabbath and he ended up healing a man with a shrivelled hand.  This was a planned event.  To go and to teach.  Much like my planned days to write for various outlets, to mentor young women, to teach my children the word of God, I love these planned times and see how beneficial they are.

Verse 12 carries on with, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”  He left where he was and who he was with to be alone for the sole purpose of communion with his Father.  He set aside time away from teaching, from doing, from relationships to just pray.  Amazing, right?

These passages are such a clear example of what our life should look like, don’t you think?  We see a sort of balance here in Jesus Sabbaths that I would find extremely tricky to emulate but which I want to follow more than I do.  He spends one day with his people, relationship building, talking and being together.  He spends another with intentional teaching and then another with seclusion and prayer.

I love these three examples he gives us and I think we would do well to follow them, figuring out which we already do well and which we need to work on.

My strengths lie in relationship building and teaching.  My weakness is seclusion and prayer.

Over the summer months, months that are generally slower and quieter for us with long days and less scheduled events, I want to have this in the forefront of my mind.  To make extended periods of quiet contemplation and prayer a more prominent part of my life and to bring it into the fold of what I already have going on.

What about you?  Which are your strong areas and which do you think need work?

How to Have Fresh Flowers On Your Table all Summer Long!

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There isn’t much better to brighten up your kitchen table or bathroom counter than fresh cut flowers!  Of course I don’t live in a world where I’ve got a standing order in with my local flower shop to ship fresh bouquets on Tuesdays and Saturdays, but how great would that be?

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I don’t know if it’s the colour pop or just the concept of bringing the outdoors in that vibes the most with me but there are fewer things I love more than a bunch of yellow tulips greeting me in the morning.

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We moved into our current home two years ago now and while I was pretty pleased with all of the things that the previous owners had planted, I wanted a few things that I especially love.  Lavender.  Daisies.  Echinacea. Boxwoods.

Unfortunately tulips don’t work ’round these parts because the local deer like to feast on the flower leaving nothing more than a stem protruding from the ground.  Live and learn.

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But what I’ve learned in my choosing and planting is to buy things that I love to cut and bring inside.  This means that all spring and summer I get that jar of flowers on my table!  Amazing, right?

It doesn’t have to cost much either.  I’ve added only 2 or 3 plants each year which comes in at a grand total of twenty bucks.

If you have space, you can even get super crazy and plant a tree!  One that flowers and has cool branches so that you can have the flowers in the summer and use the branches in the fall.  It’s genius, don’tcha think?

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I have something fresh almost all year and it doesn’t cost me a thing.  I just head out to the yard and cut.

I think you should too!  Don’t have a yard?  Buy a pot and plant in that!  It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

On Why You Might Be Annoyed By Christians (it’s just a guess)

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(This picture has nothing to do with anything except that it’s gorgeous.  I also can’t take credit for that because all I did was plunk it in dirt and water it.  It grew this way all on it’s own.  Do you think it knows it’s beauty?)

If there’s one thing that bothers me about being a Christian it’s the delusion that people seem to have when they hear it.  I’ve heard it repeatedly.  I’ve had it spoken to my face and I’ve read it in articles and I’ve heard it spoken of other people when I was in a group that didn’t necessarily know I was one.  I’m sure you’ve all heard it too.  It’s almost a tagline for christians.

They think they’re so much holier than everyone else.

I would just like to set the personal record straight on this one.  First of all, I get it.  These words get spoken for a reason.  Surely you’ve met someone who is arrogant.  Likely you’ve had a conversation with a person and came away from it thinking that person felt very superior for what they believe.  Chances are you know someone right now who just straight up bugs you and its easy to pin it on their christian-ness.

To this I say,  fair enough.

However, you’ve probably also met the person who likes to talk about what they learned at bible study this week.  Or perhaps the one who is always praying with their children before bedtime and face booking about what a special time it is for them.  Maybe you’ve encountered the ones who have a bible on every coffee table in their house  and chalk boards with verses in their bathroom.  (guilty as charged!)

But here’s the thing, those people aren’t showing off.  They aren’t being braggy.  They’re being excited!  You know how if you’re a shopper and you score a great deal on the perfect something or other you tell the whole world?  Or if you’re a cat person and you get the cutest new little kitten and instagram the heck out of every single thing it does?  Or if you’re super into music and you hear this new band and you want everyone to get in on the action before their too famous and they only play stadiums?

Yeah.  We call that excitement, right?  Passion.  A love for something and a desire to share that love with the people around you.

When’s the last time you saw an amazing movie and didn’t tell anyone about it?  Y’know?

So for some of us, bible studies just happen to be invigorating and praying with our children just the best thing in the world and we really really love Jesus and all of the ways he healed the sick and cared for the poor.  We love learning more about him and we love talking about him  and we love writing blogs about the way we’re learning each day to see him in the world around us, in the faces and stories of the people he’s made, in the very order of the universe.

And you know what?  We’re pretty pumped about it.

We certainly don’t mean to be annoying and we most definitely don’t think of ourselves as holier.  Nuh uh.  I would have to say, those are your words, not ours.

Here’s why.  This morning as I was reading my bible (don’t hate, you have the wall street journal or huff post, I have this) I read these words that were spoken from the mouth of Jesus,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Doesn’t that clear up so much?  I mean, if I’m a follower of Christ then certainly by this very word, I’m sick.  Because I assure you I’m in need of him, the great physician.  And if he called me then it says right there as plain as day that I’m not righteous, but a sinner.

Doesn’t sound like I have room to think I’m holier.  Because I’m not.

I am a sinner in every facet of the word.  I break commandments daily.  I get impatient and angry all the time.  I get jealous and I covet what others have.  I prioritize things that mean little and forget about things that mean a lot.  I probably like money too much because it can buy me new boots and expensive skin cream.  I forget to rest, I certainly didn’t always honour my parents when I lived under their rules, and while I haven’t killed anyone, the new testament says that if I’m angry with a brother or sister it’s pretty much the same deal.  And yes, I’ve done that.

So, I can’t actually say what’s given us this ‘holier than thou’ reputation because it’s certainly nothing I can preach.  What I know is that I’m pretty much a mess every single day and because of that I need forgiveness every single day.  I know that I need a physician because I’m sick.

Being a christian isn’t me stating I’m better, in fact it’s admitting I’m worse.

When My Timing Means Nothing

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Timing is everything.

Comedians practice it perfectly to have the greatest effect.  Politicians strategize with it to prove a point.  Bakers have it down, feel it in their fingers, just how long they need to knead the dough for the perfect rise.  Story tellers use it for intrigue and delight.  Boyfriends work with it to grab that first smooch and kids use it against us to get exactly what they want.

But me, I use it for everything.  I run my life by time.  Filling out my daytimer on January 1 with birthdays and anniversaries to remember is one of my greatest joys.  Checking it each morning tells me exactly what my day will look like. There are numbers and plans and appointments jotted down on each row.

I’m a creature that thrives on organization.  Planned rhythms.  Order.

Chaos makes me feel a bit panicky and helter skelter has never been my style.

Of course it makes perfect sense then that God would never ever ever ever EVER use my time line for anything, doesn’t it?

It’s not strange at all that He doesn’t listen to my perfect plans and well executed operations and maneuver within them.  Because he loves me. And love pretty much looks like not getting what I want when exactly I want it.

We’ve told our kids this a thousand times, have we not?

So, I shouldn’t be surprised and yet continually I am.  I’m surprised when I head down a road that I think he wants me to and it doesn’t work out just as I think it ought.  I’m shocked when we do all of the things we think he’s asking and it doesn’t all line up as I’ve mentally ordered it in the palm pilot of my mind.  I get angry when what I think should be turns out to be a shouldn’t be and I even start to darken my heart to things because they didn’t go my way.

Basically, I’m 4.

Of course, I have the restraint not to throw myself down in the middle of a sidewalk and kick my feet while I cry and scream but I won’t say the idea hasn’t crossed my mind.

What I do know is that God doesn’t give in to my tantrums anyways and so they’re hardly worth the effort and just because it might feel good in that exact moment, to pound the pavement with my fists, I know I’ll be the one to come away with the cuts and bruises.

Instead we ache with the weight of wondering what exactly He has for us and eventually we give it up.  Eventually the words that we know in our heads ring true to our weary hearts.  His timing, not ours.  His plans, not ours.  His ways, not ours.  His goodness, not our perceived notion of it.  His love, not our flimsy human version of it.  His sovereignty ruling and reigning in us, outshining any plan I could ever possibly concoct.

If you’re waiting for something be encouraged.  He doesn’t forget.  He never forgets.

If you have a plan, a timeline, a schedule – well, sometimes it’s better to just chuck it right out of the window.  Or even better, toss it up to him.  Let him know the longings of your heart and then release it into his very capable hands.

He gets it.  He knows.

He knows our hearts and he knows our very human propensities and he knows we don’t give up control easily and he knows we like grand and he knows we just want to follow him.  Yet so often we want to take the lead.  To hold the reigns.  To be the conductor setting the exact time and pace for everything in front of us.

Hand it to him.  He’s better and smarter and he has that all-knowing thing going for him that we just never will.