A Letter To Me (and all moms)- What We Need To Remember Before We Open The Screen

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[box] Today’s post is in response to the requests of many of you. The ones who wrote to me and said, “It’s not my kids who I need to limit their electronic usage, it’s myself.” Or those of you who wrote me and said, “I’m afraid I am the one who is missing out because I can’t put down my phone.” Or the ones who simply said, “Can you write something for us, parents?” The letter I wrote to my boys about why we limit their electronics is viewed at numbers that leave me speechless. Since June I continue to receive emails that leave me in tears. You have asked me to write to husbands, which I did, to ourselves, which I’m doing, and to wives, which I hope to do.

Here’s the thing, technology is wonderful when placed within proper boundaries. It doesn’t take long before it begins to creep out of its boundaries. It doesn’t mind breaking rules. It’s time we put technology back where it belongs. As a helper, not a master.[/box]

Dear Me,

Do you remember the way he handed you the little baby acorn attached to a bigger acorn? The way he said, “Mommy, look it’s a me and you one?” The softness of his still chubby fingers placed in yours. Remember the way you breathed in his freshly shampooed hair as you kissed his forehead with a thank you? Remember the way his eyes said more than his lips uttered?

It was a moment. One single moment in time, never to be another exactly like it. Yes, other moments will be, Lord willing, some may even resemble it. But that moment passed. Build a collection of those moments. Fill books and books with moments. Moments write the story of life. Real life.

Too much time on the screen and you will miss the acorn moments. You won’t realize you are missing them because you are still there. Physically there. If your head is down, he may decide not to offer you the acorn next time. Or he may not think it resembles the “me and you.” He needs your eyes to fully connect to you. He needs to talk to you while looking into your eyes. Hearts connect through the eyes not the screen.

He is good at knowing the difference in you being partly there or fully there. One day he won’t be there at all. And you will have all the time you want for the screen.

The screen doesn’t play fair. You see it won’t sass talk you. It won’t argue. It won’t spill milk. It won’t cry for no reason at all. It’s very predictable. Its mood stays the same from day to day. It doesn’t need anything from you. Instead it tells you to come to it and it will give you a break from the stress of life. It beckons you to escape.

I know the acorn moments don’t equal the tantrum moments, the moments of defiance and disobedience, the moments of accidents in pants when we are too old for accidents in pants. The moments of sibling fighting and hurtful words. Yes, I know the majority of your day isn’t filled with acorn moments.

You need the acorn moments. It’s the acorn moments that lend sweetness to balance the bitter and sour moments that will follow. You need as many acorn moments as you can bank.

Much of your day feels exhausting, stressful, chaotic, and busy. Yes, this is part of life too. It’s tempting to pick up that phone to get away from it all. It’s right at your fingertips. It promises to make you smile, to make you laugh, to make you smarter, to make you more interesting. It promises. But it lies.

Remember that a beautiful life isn’t filled with only beautiful moments. A deeply satisfying life isn’t one where everything is worthy of a post. A beautiful life isn’t what it looks like on the outside, it’s how you view it from the inside. The screen shades your view.

Some of the most meaningful moments are the ones that can’t be shared online. Life needs you fully engaged to handle each moment that comes your way.

Life is a collection of moments. Fleeting moments. Here today, gone in….a moment. They will not all look worthy of a Pinterest pin. They will not all win you mother of the year. But they all play a role in the story of your life. The screen will shield your view of the full story. It’s like starting and stopping a page turner when all you really want is a solid hour to sit and read 2 chapters. The screen makes you go through the story of your life reading only a few sentences at a time, setting it down, picking it up. At the end of the book, you won’t remember the intricacies of the plot, the parts of your favorite characters that sucked you into their lives. You will have snippets. Because that is how you went through life. One snippet at a time.

Don’t experience life in snippets. Experience life fully. Put down the phone. Walk away from the computer. Screens will snippet your moments.

What you need most is a life filled with soul-filling moments that carry you through the seasons of change and the seasons of struggle. 

The screen moments are like empty calories for your soul. You will be temporarily filled. It creates subtle cravings that bring you back for more. It promises to satisfy longer each time, and you will believe it. Especially on the days you are tired of hearing the name “mom” called ceaselessly. Or the days the whining and crying has short circuited your nerves and left you desperate for anything other than what you are experiencing in that moment. The moments of weakness are the times it will draw you in the most.

I know you are busy. I know you are exhausted. I know you crave intellectual stimulation and conversation. I know you want to feel connected to the world. Many days as a mom you are left bored, disconnected, and feeling unimportant. I know that when you catch up online, you feel smarter, you feel wiser, you shared a few laughs.

Remember a screen won’t hand you an acorn. A screen won’t place its hand in yours. A screen won’t make an impression on your heart that will remain for life. You will read this letter and likely forget it. You won’t forget the acorn moments.

Now, close this letter and go make your moments.

andrew acorn

 

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Dear Boys, Why I Won’t Tell You I’m Proud of Your Home Run

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Photo credit: Justin Anovick

Dear Boys,

I love watching you play baseball. Not because I want to see you hit a home run, not because I want to see you make the play, not because I want to see you win tournaments. But because I get to see your character tested and developed. When you lace up those cleats, remember it’s not just a game, it’s more than a game. You’ve heard us say, “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game.” When we say ‘it’s about how you play the game’, we are talking about the heart you play the game with, the attitude you have. We are not talking about your skills, performance, and results. It’s heart and attitude.

Tournaments and games are tough when you play teams that take little league to a different level. It’s tough to hear opposing coaches screaming and parents on the other side mouthing off comments about missed balls and errors in the field. But don’t let that drag you down. Don’t let that dampen your love for the game. Baseball offers more than just a game. Life lessons are played out on that field, and you have an opportunity to be a champion for Christ. In life you have to learn to tune out the negative and tune in to your purpose.

We live in a see all world. Performance and results seem to be king. We don’t have to post pictures on social media of our tournament trophies to be champions. The sweetest successes are the ones not easily recognized. While the social media likes may not accumulate, your Father in Heaven is cheering you on to the quieter triumphs.  This world will tempt you to gain recognition. Fight the temptation to look to the world to validate you.

Don’t strive for the glory of a trophy. Strive for the glory God receives when you play the game for Him. With attitude and heart. Sometimes a trophy will follow, but when you play for Him, often the joy won’t come from something that sits on a shelf. It will come from something that takes root in your heart.

Hitting a home run is fun, but striking out is golden. If you never strike out, how can you understand the sweetness of hitting that ball to the fence? And how can you offer words of encouragement to your teammate that walks into the dugout after his 3rd strike out of the game? Striking out with grace positions you to appreciate the gift of the home run. And when you experience that, you have something to offer your teammate.

You will rarely hear me tell you I’m proud of the hits you got, the plays you made, or the runs you scored. Here is what makes me proud.

When the kid joins the team that’s new to the game and you pat his back and welcome him. That makes me proud. When you embrace him and cheer him on. When you take the time to notice the catch he made and you high-five him with a genuine sincerity. That makes me proud. Looking to build others up, not only strengthen your own game. That makes me proud.

When your team is losing, and you hear parents hollering from the sides with tones lacking encouragement, and you cheer on your team anyway. When you don’t hang your head in defeat, but raise your head to the challenge and the lessons. When you shout out to your team to remind them that you are all together and you can do this. Encouragement. That makes me proud.

When you lose a game and you come home reflecting, can you look back and see where you can improve and own up to your own mistakes without pointing out the errors all your teammates made? Ownership of our own faults and mistakes. That makes me proud.

When the opposing team makes an amazing catch, can you place yourself in that child’s shoes? Can you feel the disappointment of what that catch meant for your team while at the same time telling him, “Great catch!”? That makes me proud.

When you’ve not been satisfied with your game, and you practice hard. When you realize anything worth achieving takes a lot of hard work. And then you work. That makes me proud. When you hit a home run, when you make the big play, when you score a run because you’ve been working hard. It’s the effort you gave to improving that makes me proud.

As you get older, you will find that our world leans towards a view of a one-man game. Baseball is not a one-man game. Neither is life. As you get older, remember the game of baseball. Remember that life is a team game too. Life takes a pitcher, a catcher, infielders, and outfielders. Life takes the gifts and talents of many. And life takes more encouragement than we have to offer. So offer it as often as you can.

You will hear a lot of talk about stats. You will hear a lot of talk about records. You will hear and see a lot of getting ready for the next level. But I want you to hear this. Baseball and life are more than stats, more than trophies, more than steals and wins. It’s about how you play the game that matters most. Play with integrity. Play with honesty. Play with passion. Play with love. Play with excitement. Play with courage.

You can be a champion without a trophy or medal to prove it. Your main audience is not in the stands by the dugout. He is up in Heaven, gifting you, preparing you, and cheering for you. When you play the game, play with all the heart He created in you. Play as if you are playing for the Lord. When you do that, you will be a champion.

With all my love,

Mom

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When Sibling Bickering Escalates

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Dear Boys,

The button pushing has reached new heights. It was sly the way it snuck in on us. A few times that I let slide opened the door further. A few more times multiplied like gremlins doused with water. Suddenly we found ourselves in a situation of running from alarm to alarm, to the sounds of crying, yelling, and name calling. Bruised hearts remained long after the “I’m sorry’s” were uttered.

Don’t believe the lie that sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. It’s a complete lie. Words are like a dagger, a sword, a baseball bat right to the tender spots. Those parts that you open to the ones you trust, and when the words come from the ones you’ve allowed in, the bruise is darker and takes longer to heal. When you think it’s healed, the scar remains. Every so often the scar begins to ache with memory pains.

So, words. They are worse than sticks and stones. Use your words wisely. I’ll be writing more to you on words later. But today let’s talk about button pushing.

Do you know what I mean when I say, “Stop pushing your brother’s buttons!”? It simply means stop provoking him to anger. When you look at him in a way you know he despises, you are pushing a button. Now I know he has his own sin issues in allowing himself to be so easily frustrated and irritated, but we can’t control or change someone else’s sin. What we can control is ourselves! When you push your brother’s button, you are provoking him. In your sin, you make him sin. And we all end up in some ugly looking sins.

Sometimes we don’t see our errors. Today, I want to help you see your errors through God’s Word.

Psalm 19:12 Who can discern his errors. Forgive my hidden faults.

Put this letter down and pray Psalm 19:12. Ask God to forgive your hidden faults and ask Him to help you discern your errors.

Do you know what the Bible calls what I call a button pusher? A mocker.

Proverbs 21:24 The proud and arrogant man – “Mocker” is his name; he behaves with overweening pride.

So the behavior of a mocker is one of extreme pride. My Bible notes say this about mocker “Those who are proud and arrogant, who are full of insults, hatred and strife, who resist correction even though they deserve flogging.”

We won’t be flogging you, but do you see how serious this is? That description is not who you are. This is not a description of your heart at the core of who you are. When you push buttons, you are acting not true to yourself, to your true nature and character. You are not reflecting the love of God and glorifying Him.

Proverbs 22:10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended

Do you know why I send you out of the room when you begin to push buttons? Because when I drive out the mocker, the fighting stops, the insults stop, the name calling is over. I don’t want to drive you away. And I know you don’t want to be driven away.

But you know what else? When you are a button pusher, you push others away from you. And I know that isn’t what you really want either.

Here’s the bottom line. We are sinners. All of us. It’s ugly. It makes us react and behave in ways we dislike. This is where grace enters the picture again. Grace we will never stop talking about. It’s central to our entire lives. I will end this letter here because as you know, I could go on and on. Especially when we get to talking about grace.

When you go to bed tonight, ask God to forgive your hidden faults and help you discern your errors the next day. And when you are tempted to push that button on your brother, push pause first. Pause and pray. Remember who you belong to and who you represent. You don’t represent a mocker. You are a child of God.

With all my love,

Mom

Mocker

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What Our Kids Really Want Is A Mom Who Can Be More and Do Less

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If I stayed inside the house one more minute, I might seriously explode. Every time I turned around, a new mess called out to me. Every room I entered reminded me of something left undone. The soles of my feet were coated in crumbs from a floor in desperate need of attention.

Room to room I bit my tongue from lashing out. It was safer to keep my mouth closed because the anxiety in my heart threatened to spew on the ones I loved. No one tried to approach me. In fact, it seemed everyone in my home wanted to avoid me. The look on my face told them I was not happy with the state of the house, the noise level, the chaos. And when mama’s not happy, well….. it just gets ugly.

Running through my head were all the things I needed to do, all the people needing something from me, all the things I was supposed to have done last week, all the thoughts of what people must think, all the ways I’m failing, all the ways I can try to keep up. A serious boxing match was going on inside my head. I had to step out of the ring. I needed fresh air.

Grabbing a book and a blanket, I headed to the backyard. I collapsed on my back and stared at the sky for a few minutes. The clouds moved in a hypnotizing motion as I breathed deep of the breeze. Everything that seemed so pressing only moments before seemed to fade away. Moving away with the clouds.

My heart rate slowed, my breathing slowed. All the anxiety that held my shoulders so tightly began to dissipate. I prayed. I thanked. I asked.

I tried not to stress about what the kids were doing inside the house. I tried not to think of what I would walk into when I reentered the walls of our home.

The screen door slammed, the grass crunched under his feet as he made his way to my blanket. His 10-year-old body cast a shadow over my face as he stood over me, allowing me to open my eyes to see him.

“Hi, mom, can I read with you?”

“I’d love that.”

We sat and read. We only had about 15 minutes, but it was glorious. It was all I needed to regain my composure and be the mom I wanted to be.

My stillness drew my boy back to me. My stillness draws me closer to my Father.

My anxiety, the pressure I put on myself, pushed my kids away from me. When I stopped, when I walked away, when I slowed down, they drew back to me.

My kids don’t want a spotless house. They want an available mom. My kids don’t want a completed task list. They want to complete a board game. My kids don’t want a perfectly scheduled week. They want a spontaneous tickling match.

When my kids are grown, I don’t want them to remember me being grumpy because I was trying to achieve the unachievable. Or impress the unimpressible.

The reality is the life of a mom is hard. What is harder is the pressure we moms put on ourselves. The expectations we place on us are unachievable. The guilt of what we aren’t, the guilt of what we can’t do, the guilt of what we should’ve done only increases the fight to do more, try harder. It’s an endless, vicious cycle.

The only way to break the cycle is to pull out completely. Escape to fresh air to clear the head. To see the beauty right here.

You remember I said I have a little rebel that lives inside of me? The rebel is rearing its head again.

I need more stillness. I need more slow. My family needs me to be still more than they need me to be supermom. My family needs me to slow down more than they need me to set records for accomplishing more in a day than humanly possible.

Yesterday was mine and Steve’s 14 year anniversary. As he thought what I would like most for our anniversary, he decided it was time with him and time with God. At 5 am he woke with me, and we headed to the coffee maker. Coffee and Bibles we sat together and prayed for our marriage. Steve had done his homework and came prepared with a list of verses on marriage. We read them to each other.

That started my day slow. And still. The rest of the day I focused on doing what was necessary but allowing room for spontaneous. And when I tucked the boys into bed, I sat on the couch. This is unheard of in my house because I don’t watch tv. Ever. But the rebel in me decided I needed a break.

I did something radical. I watched a movie. (Mom’s Night Out…..highly recommend). This after a chain reaction of simple decisions through the day that turned out to be exactly what I needed. And it turned out to be one of the best days I can remember in the longest time. A lot of letting go. A lot of lowering the bar of my own expectations.

For the most part, I live in a constant state of doing. If I have free time, I will do something productive. Every minute of every day is filled with something. In the course of a day, I rarely, rarely, rarely do something just for fun. I rarely do something that has no purpose. Everything I do has a purpose and accomplishes something. And I’m tired. So I’m ushering in more stillness.

Life as a mom can look crazy ugly and crazy beautiful at the exact same moment. Being a mom is a high calling. High callings come at a high price.

When I stop doing, I start seeing. The doing will always be available. The seeing changes. I don’t want to miss seeing what is here to see right this very moment.

I want to be the wife of my husband’s dreams. I want to be the mom of my boys’ dreams. And what they want more than a beautiful home, gourmet meals, perfectly planned outings, and accomplished looking days is simply me. Doing less and being more.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

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My Favorite Family Books for Summer

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When I think of summer, I think of books and sweat.  Mostly because I remember sitting outside on summer days, swinging on the porch swing, reading the day away.  Even in my adult years, summer is the time I read more than any other time of the year.  And for my kids, when I hear, “I’m bored,”  the answer is usually, “Go read.”

When Andrew was a toddler and still napped in the afternoon, the older boys and I would sit on the screen porch and read together.  This was a time I would read out loud to them books that wouldn’t hold Andrew’s attention.  Andrew is now old enough to join us, and this time has become a little tradition.  I sip coffee, they sip lemonade, we rock in chairs, and we listen and linger over words.

I’m a big believer in reading anything.  Read, read, read.  However, reading offers a perfect opportunity for some intentional spiritual nurturing.  I thought today would be a good time to share our favorite summer books.

These books are PERFECT for the ages of my boys 5, 8, and 10.  But honestly, we’ve been reading them for 2 years now and they enjoyed them then.  There are many years ahead to enjoy them as well.

Case for Christ, Case for Faith, Case for Creator.  All the Case for…. books by Lee Strobel are amazing for kids.  The information is so easy to understand, and it really challenges them to think beyond, “I believe because you tell me to.”  He has a whole series just for kids.  They are fun, and my kids love listening to me read these books.

I’m a huge Josh McDowell fan.  He writes apologetics I can understand.  The same holds true for the books he writes for kids.  Our favorite is The Awesome Book of Bible Answers for Kids.  I have always read this aloud.  Now they enjoy reading it on their own.  The chapters are short, so it’s a great book to leave on the table, and they can pick it up and read a few minutes here and there without feeling they have to have the time to become involved in a storyline.  Zachary loves to tell me the cool facts he is learning.  The questions are the types even we as adults struggle with.

Other favorites include Jesus is Alive by McDowell and The Amazing Bible Adventure for Kids.

I’ve tried buying my boys individual devotions and they never stick with it.  These books are different.  They don’t feel it’s something added to their to-do list.

If you are looking for a way to weave in spiritual training this summer, I highly recommend these books.  It’s effortless and entertaining, yet the truths sink deep.

Summer kicks off officially in my house in exactly one week.  Our books are out and ready to read!

What are some of your favorite summer books?  Both children and adult?

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast

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For 30 days our home is electronic/screen free.

We are just a little over a week into this.  And we feel free.

It was a spur of the moment idea Steve had one weekend. “We are shutting down for 30 days.  For one month we will have no tv, no Wii, no electronics (with the exception of the computer for me to pay bills and blog and him for work).  Steve even went so far as to cancel Dish Network.

I don’t watch tv or play video games, so this isn’t as painful for me as it is the rest of the members of my household.  Honestly, I felt this would be a breeze for us anyway.  Our kids rarely watch tv during the week.  There simply is no time.  Wii is only allowed on the weekends.  A couple of 30 minute time blocks.

We started noticing some attitudes in our boys.  More bickering than we cared for.  And a constant asking to watch something or play some game.  A break was needed.

 

Top 5 positive changes from week 1:

  1. We don’t rush away from the moments.  We stay.  We linger.  We soak.  We relish.  There is nothing to rush away to.  No tv show to catch.  No video game to conquer.  Nothing but time and each other.  Dinner is slower, more relaxed.  There is no need to rush to eat so we can fit a show in before bedtime on a Saturday night.  We took a family bike ride Sunday afternoon to a favorite tree swing.  After a long time swinging, we asked if they were ready to head home.  Zachary’s immediate response, “No!!!”  One week ago he would have been begging to go home so that he could play the Wii one last time before the new week began.  
  2. We are having moments we’ve never had.  I’ve come to realize the distractions of our devices cause great anxiety and a sense of urgency.  When they are taken away, we are left with the simplicity of life.  We are left with the beauty of the ones we love waiting to be enjoyed.  When our affection and attention is taken away from our devices, it must go somewhere.  So we turn it to the ones we love.  Andrew wanted to take a bath Saturday night.  While he was playing in the tub, I heard Jacob in there talking to him.  He was just sitting on the side of the tub chatting away with his 4-year-old brother he rarely has time to simply enjoy.  Jacob began making up stories and songs.  He had Andrew captivated.  After that Andrew began to want to be with Jacob again.
  3. We are finding new activities to enjoy. I’ve found the boys putting together puzzles, setting up imaginary play scenes, making up new games, using tools to create projects.  I’ve even found them simply resting.  Yes, just lounging on the screen porch, enjoying nature, enjoying life.
  4. We are thinking.  Want to increase creativity and productivity?  Take away your devices. Your mind will slow down and focus.  We have noticed this in ourselves as well as the boys.  We all feel much more able to think clearly.
  5. We are reconnecting.  I found I had gotten in a pattern of putting a movie on while I cooked dinner.  Now, everyone is taking part in the dinner prep.  We are all together in the kitchen.  We all help clean up.  We are simply together more.  Jacob and I have had extensive conversations, which have really been lacking lately.  One of our long talks occurred while he was helping me prepare dinner and Steve was outside with the other boys.  I said, “See Jacob if you had been watching a movie, we would have missed this opportunity to have this time together.”  He just smiled and said, “I’m actually kind of liking this electronics fast now.”

When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.