Back To School: What We Really Need This Year

 

Lord Of Peace

I had a moment during back to school shopping when I caught the eye of my oldest who is headed into kindergarten and through the lump in my throat I choked out, “When did you grow up?”

She looked back at me through messy bangs and meowed like a cat.

Clearly, she was deeply touched by my emotional display.

I’ve been having a lot of these little moments where the relief that I am no longer mothering babies collides full speed with the agony of the realization that I am no longer mothering babies.

Like when  I dumped out the bags of backpacks and lunch pails and crayons onto the kitchen table and started writing names.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I practiced writing out these names to see what they looked like on paper when you were just a bump in my belly?

The permanent marker moved up and down and I was overwhelmed with the thought that there are not enough supplies in the entire world that could prepare me for this transition into the school years.

When my girls were two and one and I was so completely desperate for a rest I viewed these school years with such longing. I imagined I would drop them off at school with such peace and grace and then bask in the delight of nothing to do: no fits to calm, no toys playing the same mind-melting tune over and over again, no bottoms to wipe, no tiny fingers to entertain while I race to go to the bathroom, no oatmeal to scrape off the table and nobody else’s needs to meet…at least for a few hours.

Those days I planned I would head home and take a long glorious nap.

But I’m finding a giant ball of panic in my stomach and the anxieties play the same worries over and over again in my mind and, surprise, there are still buns to wipe and oatmeal to scrape.

I’m waving 2 Thessalonians 3:16 around like the sword that it is, the promise of peace stabbing at the anxious shadows:

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”  

He is the Lord of peace and is able to give it in every way.

Right now I need practical peace and so my prayer has been for the wisdom to make this transition into the school year.

In the time I’ve spent praying and thinking I have focused in on three ways I can prepare my hearts and home for this school year.

First, I can establish communication by carving out time to tune out distractions and be an available listener.

I can establish communication with God so I can be spiritually equipped for my work!

I can establish communication with with kids.  I can create time in my home to meet my girls on their own turf.  I don’t need to bring questions or answers or plans; I just need to be with them and show that I am available to them.

I can establish communication with my kid’s teacher.  I can keep the teachers in the loop with what is happening in our lives, ask the questions that highlight my rookie-status and listen to the ways they need support so I can be a help instead of a drain.

Second, I can establish a margin for my family.

I am completely aware of my inability to do many things well.  I am so very aware of my tendencies of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged when I feel exhausted and overloaded.  This year I have established a margin in my family’s life that gives us down time and space to rest and relax and recharge.

I can establish a margin to help my girls decompress after coming home from school.
As a teacher, I know school is incredibly rigorous and kids spend most of their school day in highly focused learning environments. Even out-of-class time like recess and lunch are full of socially and emotionally eventful moments.  I am giving my girls time to relax in the comfort of home before diving into home life.  For us, this means some alone time right when we first get home. I’ll change my clothes and get a snack and so will the kids. They can eat the snack where they choose and have about 10-15 minutes to themselves.

I can establish a margin of limited commitments for everyone in the family on weeknights.  For us this means telling myself and my kids no to things, even good ones, that push our family to a frantic pace…which is not easy when it seems like every other family is doing dance and soccer and small groups and art classes and karate.

I can establish a margin of grace for myself when having a margin makes me feel like a lazy slacker.  I can remind myself that I want to have kids who understand the discipline of not doing everything more than I want to have over-achieving kids.

Finally, I can establish a culture.

I can establish a culture of how school and school work is viewed and approached in my home.  This was a conversation I had with my husband and we talked about how we want our family to approach their school day, how we would like homework to be tackled and our expectations for your students as they work in class and at home.

I can establish a culture of how we approach hectic mornings, hurt feelings and homework.

I can establish a culture of how we treat each other after a long day.

I can establish a culture of reasonable expectations and enough grace to cover our missed marks.

All of these are my highest hopes and to be bare-bones honest, I’ll probably be the momma who falls apart from frazzled nerves, exhaustion and discouragement by next friday and I am putting this post here so that when I do meltdown I can re-read it and remind myself where to aim my efforts.

Mostly though, I am putting this here so I can hear from all of you.

You, the women who have gone before me and have survived the school years and lived to tell the tale.

You, the momma who has school age kids.  I know there are some days you have this back-to-school thing down, I see you in the parking lot and the school office looking all pro.  I would really like to know how you got there!  But I am also guessing that there are days where you want to lay your head down on the steering wheel of your minivan in the car line and cry…would you share what you do when that happens too?

You, the momma who has never braved a day of school but have all sorts of ideas about how to make it all work.

We already know that what we really need for a successful school year is Jesus.  

But I’m curious to know what that looks like as it plays out in your life in a practical ways. 

Would you share your experiences with a momma new to the school years like me?

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Tell

Tiny Stories

“Tell me the story of how your hair turned green from swimming in the pool all summer long.”

“Tell me the story of when you dressed up like a present for Halloween and put ribbons in your hair.”

“Tell me the story of when you had a red dog named Ralph.”

“Tell me the story of when you and Daddy got married.”

“Tell me a story about something funny I did when I was a baby.”

I knit their day together with stories about myself and our family and themselves.

The stories distract as I tell about how my momma used to brush out my tangles while I tug a comb through their hair.

The stories teach as tell about the time I was nine and rode my bike barefoot even though my dad had told me not to and how at the end of my street I sliced my heel on the bike chain.

The stories are like deep breaths of fresh air in the moments that feel like motherhood is closing in tight.

They take us all somewhere else for a minute; somewhere out of ourselves.

This morning I hear them in the playroom, story telling about two dolls who are sisters and go to Knott’s Berry Farm and ride the ferris wheel and eat snacks on a bench in the shade and put on sunscreen again and again and again.

and this morning life feels less like a long epic tale and more like a series of teeny, tiny micro-stories that are understood only when re-told.


Today I’m joining with a bunch of my friends for Five Minute Friday.
We are spending five whole, free and unedited minutes writing about the word tell.
If you are interested you can read their wonderful words by clicking here. 

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What I Learned By Not Attending The Declare Conference: Keeping Margins and Smashing Envy

I’m going back to work and my kids are starting school and my life as a stay-at-home-mom is over and the dishwasher clicks in the middle of every rinse cycle and the engine light on my car won’t stop flickering on and off and on again and this morning I counted eleven gray hairs and in five days I’ll be thirty-two and about a hundred other thoughts clamor around in my head and fill me up full.

It’s in all of this that I know why I was impressed with the absolute need to make guarding the margins of my life a main focus.

Starting in high school and ending only recently (very recently) I filled myself right on up to the edges, not leaving any space for quiet or rest or just plain nothing.

Those years of living completely full were destructive; so incredibly destructive that I have actual fear about becoming overly committed and landing back in that too-busy place.

It a soft spot, sore from lots of years of thinking that I had to DO in order to have worth.  So I protect it by building a barrier around the part of me that wants to over commit.

This year I decided I would keep empty space in my life- space where I could be still and quiet and without obligation and this space has given me such rest.

Even though the space has been transformative, it has not been easy to keep.

I really struggled when I was considering attending the Declare conference and saw that the two weeks before the conference and the two weeks after the conference were heavy with commitments, a family vacation and start of the school year.

I knew that if I wanted to keep my margin I had to choose staying home.

I decided not to go but felt such a deep sense of missing out.

The conference came this past weekend and in my free minutes I followed the #declareconf feed on Twitter and Instagram and made myself sick with longing to be there instead of here.  It was sticky, gross, awful envy that I could not shake off.

I wanted to be there.  I wanted to hear the messages.  I wanted to learn.  I wanted to make new friends.

On the day the conference ended I was scrolling through the pictures and reading about the women who posted them.

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It was in that reading that I was reminded about things I’ve known all along but was too busy feeling left out to remember:

The divine moments and expectant anticipation of the Spirit moving at the conference are wholly available to me here in the darkness of early morning at my crumb-covered kitchen table and in my home church and in my errand-running and little-girl-hair-braiding and yes, God does show up at conferences but He is also always waiting for all of us to find Him in every cranny of our everyday lives.

There is no special access to God.

We have to stop feeling left out of invisible circles.

We have to stop peeking thought the windows of the lives we think we want to have.

We have to die to the parts of ourselves that compare and compete.

We have to silence the lie that whispers we are left out if we were not in attendance.

We have to stop believing that God is something that can run out.

We have to stomp out the idea that if He is being raised up through the life of someone else then there is less of Him to work within our lives.  He is able to fill up everyone everywhere and keeps filling even after we spill over.

We have to remember that we are all  headed in the same direction on the same road with the same mission and so when one grows, learns and works for the cause we are all moving toward the prize: Jesus.

I didn’t attend Declare and staying home was the perfect reminder of the gigantic powerful wise God we serve and it kept my empty margin perfectly filled.

 

A Social Media Manifesto

Mindy Rogers Social Media Manifesto

 

Believing that nothing is outside the hand of God,

let us agree that we have been placed in this generation intentionally.

Let us agree that our Creator has equipped us for His work in this world.

Let us agree that He is in sovereign control of our real lives and also our online spaces.

Believing that we are the first generation to navigate the online world,

let us agree that it is our God-given responsibility to consider Christ as we establish ourselves online.

Let us agree to boldly establish a difference between the way the world uses technology and they way believers use technology.

The virtual world in and of itself is powerless.

The power of the internet lies in the people participating within it.

Let us be forces of transparent authenticity.   

May we show the truthful account of our lives through our words and pictures.

May we refuse the temptation to make our lives appear easier than they actually are to gain admiration or more difficult than they actually are to gain sympathy.

May we openly share triumphs as well as struggles.

May we present our moments and emotions with accurate honestly.

May we value authenticity because it is the living proof of our God who is at work within us.

Let us be forces of wholehearted inclusivity.

May we fling open wide the doors of our online homes.

May we treat our platforms as  gathering places rather than personal spaces.

May we welcome people who are similar to us as well as people who view the world differently.

May we always treat those in our online communities as the uniquely created individuals that they are instead of as a collective number that is never large enough.

May we value inclusivity because it is the foundation on which God builds relationships and restores people to Himself.

Let us be forces of compassionate sensitivity.

May we share our thoughts respectfully.

May we engage in conversation kindly.

May we become listeners before we become commenters.

May we discern when to speak and when to remain silent.

May we remember to fill gray areas with grace instead of pride.

May we value compassion and sensitivity because they are qualities of our Savior.

Let us be forces of Christ-like simplicity.

May we encourage love in all situations.

May we help out those who are have a need.

May we worship together with like mindedness.

May we pray for one another fervently.

May we spur one another on as we journey through the peaks and valleys of our lives.

May we value simplicity because our mission is simple:

Let us offer the stories of our lives as they are being written as living testimonies of our good, powerful and gracious God.


When I was writing this manifesto, I thought about how I can use this writing space in a God-honoring way that reached beyond writing about God.  I think being a God-honoring writer online looks a lot like interaction…I think it looks a lot like listening to your words instead of writing my words at you.  

Would you be brave and join the conversation here?  

I’m asking knowing that our hearts are the same: full of imperfect thoughts and ideas and I’m promising to listen to yours with the same grace you have listened to mine.

Would you think about your own journey through this online world?

What have you determined to do (or not do) as you participate in social media?

What have you done well?  Where have you learned hard lessons?

Would you consider these questions and then add a line to this manifesto?

I cannot wait to hear what you have to say!

 

Five Minute Friday: Begin

Dear Lisa-Jo,

I don’t know where to begin this post.

Last week I read about how today is your last time hosting Five Minute Friday.

My five minutes is dissolving and all I can do is stare out my kitchen window at the neighbor watering the dead patch in the grass and think about how your Five Minute Friday community made this introverted skeptic believe that authentic friendship and real encouragement can be found in online places.

I am going to miss being invited into put my feet up on the coffee table in your virtual living room and to write boldly and to share bravely and to read the bold, brave words of other women.

If it was all real life I’d bring you a bunch of big blooming flowers and hug you and thank you for showing me what it looks like to listen online and for cheering me on to take big risks as a woman, a momma and a writer.

My microwave is beeping and my five minutes are up and my kids are running circles around the kitchen and this post isn’t even beginning to say  the things I want to say the way I want to say them and I don’t know how to wrap it up nicely.  No fancy conclusions here today.  Just a hug over the wires and a big thank you.  


Today I’m joining with Lisa-Jo and a bunch of my friends for Five Minute Friday.
We are spending five whole, free and unedited minutes writing about the word begin.
If you are interested you can read their wonderful words by clicking here.

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Soul Amnesia and The Parable of the Sower

I used to think that once I wrote something here it was a lesson learned.

After two years of writing I’ve come to realize that anything I create exists to remind me of things I’ll be forever learning.

Today I’m returning to my first post of 2014:

It’s early in the afternoon and I’ve buckled my girls into their car seats to go on a drive.
After closing the rear door and before opening my own, I pause for a moment.
I rub my eyes until little sparkles dance behind my eyelids.

Do you ever feel tangled and trapped in your own life too?

I slide into my seat and before I’ve clicked my seatbelt there is a request from a tiny voice:
“Can we have windows down and music up loud?”
I look in the rearview mirror and see them swinging their skinny legs and I nod.

It’s God’s grace that the girls think these mid-afternoon drives are for them
and I’ll never tell that they are really for me.
for when I get all upset and start sighing over nothing
for when I start muttering and stomping up and down the hall
for when I’ve completely lost sight of who I am and what I am doing
We drive down the 210 east and exit at the base of the foothills.
I make a left and we take the side streets home.
The windows are down and as we stop at a red light in front of the colleges, I smell them.
Climbing over the crumbling wall, the white roses tangle and spill their fragrant all over the sidewalk and into the street.

It’s a mess of beauty.

The girls smell them too and ask to pull over and pick one.
And because I want to say yes as often as I can, I turn the car around and park at the curb.
Hannah scoops the fallen petals from the sidewalk.
Adella scouts out the perfect rose to pick.
I stand watching aphids crawl over the tiny green thorns covering the stems.
Adella chooses her rose as well as a rose for Hannah, who is sitting on the sidewalk with her petal pile.
Using my keys and my fingers, I awkwardly saw off the chosen blooms and scrape away the thorns.
As I peel them off I poke myself repeatedly and The Parable of the Sower comes to mind…

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all artwork credit: GodInspires.me

In Bible Study Fellowship we have been studying Matthew 13 over the Christmas break and
Jesus’ explanation of the parable has been bouncing around in my brain for the past two weeks:

“Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart.
This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.

The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

The seed cast in the thorns is the person who hears the kingdom news, but thorns of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard,
and nothing comes of it.

The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News,
and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”

Matthew 13:18-23

I’m confident that my heart is the “good earth”.
It has heard the Good News, taken it in and longs to be a place where God can create a harvest beyond my wildest dreams.
But I can’t deny that I feel thorns and while they are not big enough to choke me out, they hurt.
…and I know I’m not the only one getting pricked, scraped and slowed down…

Adam and Eve toiled in thorns as they worked the land after being removed for the Garden.
The Israelites suffered with “thorny” people they should have removed from their lives.

Paul struggled with the metaphorical thorn in his flesh that be begged God to remove.

…and I stomp and sigh and ask for the thorns of worry and wanting to be removed from me…

Then it occurs to me as I merge back into traffic:
God already has dealt with all of the thorns.
He removed them when He removed our debt at the cross.
He used the hands of fallen man to place them on the head of Jesus.

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and I can’t get the thought out of my head that it was not accidental that the thorns woven throughout the Bible
were woven into a crown for our Savior as he destroyed sin.

and I can’t get the feeling out of my heart that this will be my theme in the new year:
when I find myself toiling in the thorny patches of my heart I will pluck them out,
weave them into a crown and place it at the feet of the One who wore them for me

It will be my song in 2014
…the melody of freedom in Christ…
…the harmony of plucking, weaving and letting go…


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Belong

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dear man at the park,

I am so sorry my daughter asked you if you were “dame-gerous”.

please understand that it had nothing to do with you.

I have been talking to her a lot lately about the feeling inside that tells us something isn’t right.

I have been telling her to trust that feeling because it belongs in us.

I think she was working all of that out inside her little heart and saw you, felt something and wondered if you were safe.

Even though we shared an awkward moment I know teaching her to own that feeling of warning is worth anything uncomfortable for you and me.

you see, there were times that I thought the feelings of warning didn’t belong in me and I made them be quiet.

But I learned (the hard way) that they do and so I’m teaching my precious girls to let those feeling belong in them.

so thank you for the kind smile.

thank you for being so understanding.


Today I’m joining with Lisa-Jo and a bunch of my friends for Five Minute Friday.
We are spending five whole, free and unedited minutes writing about the word belong.
If you are interested you can read their wonderful words by clicking here.

Subscribe to Ink and Paper Heart and have posts sent straight to your inbox!

It’s as easy as entering your email address in the sidebar.

When The Popsicles Melt

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it is over a hundred degrees outside and her popsicle is distengrating

the tiny ice crystals snap and break and travel down, rolling between her fingers and under her elbow, they leap to her knee and trickle slowly down her leg and into her shoe as she pushes the creaky pedal around and around riding happily home paying no mind to the stickiness

we stop in the shade for a rest and I sit on the sidewalk and watch her slurp and play with the tassels on her tricycle and I’m filled with a prayer that pounds out of my heart: I will rejoice over the sweet things in life even when they melt and drip and slip through my fingers.

soon it will be school and homework and uniforms and work and dinners on time so baths and bed can be on time so waking for tomorrow can be on time and I’ll think back to these sweet days and I’ll wish this one back – when it was one hundred degrees and her popsicle was disintegrating.

 


Hi friends!  I am slowing down my posting for the month of July while I spend time in quiet and in the Word, plan for this next year, start some new writing projects and spend time focusing on my not-virtual world.  I’ll still be here but just a little less active.  Thank you for your support and your grace.

Empowering Women in Worship with Ashely Beckford

It is with great joy that I introduce to you my friend and most favorite worship leader Ashley Beckford.

Ashley is a full-time worship leader at my home church, Christ’s Church of the Valley in Southern California.

Her heart is to point people to God and His word through music and I love worshipping with her every single week.

About a month ago Ashley launched a project titled Empowering Women in Worship with the goal being to equip the next generation of female worship leaders to lead from what Ashley calls their sweet spot.

 I watched a video about her project that detailed why women worship leaders need unique support and what Ashley desires to provide through Empowering Women in Worship.

I was so moved by the video and Ashley’s heart that I have to share it with you:

I’m convinced that God is already using Ashley  and that He will continue to use her because she remains willing to venture out in His name.  My prayer is for Ashley to secure the funding she needs to create an album that will be a blessing to other female worship leaders and the congregations they serve.  If you are interested in supporting Ashley you can get more information and donate by clicking on this link.  You can also connect with Ashley on Facebook, InstagramTwitter and at her website www.AshleyBeckfordMusic.com.

 


 

 

 

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Ashley has been leading worship since 2006 and has been on staff at Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) in San Dimas, CA, since 2009. Finding inspiration in the truth and power of the Word of God, Ashley attempts to craft original worship songs accessible to both individuals and congregations alike. Her goal is to point people to God and His Word through passionate and refreshing music. In February 2013, she released her first solo worship album, Heart After You, and recently released a new single titled, “Light of the World”. Ashley has also been a part of several original worship recording projects with her church’s songwriting community, Valley Worship.

 

 

In The Tile

photo-5I’ve taken my girls into this bathroom since my oldest slept in her car seat on the floor.

I’ve changed diapers in this bathroom.

I’ve fed babies in this bathroom.

I’ve wiped spit up out of my hair in this bathroom.

I have hovered little bottoms over the toilet in this bathroom.

I have laid out the seat covers and unrolled toilet tissue, splashed water on soapy hands and distributed hundreds of paper towels in this bathroom.

I don’t know why but tonight as I helped my little people navigate this bathroom the reality of them growing from babies to toddlers to preschoolers to these two little amazing people just clobbered me.

I thought of all those people who stopped me when my girls were tiny and told me that the days of babies wouldn’t last forever.  I thought about how much I hated hearing those those words because those days felt like one long, exhausting blur and I didn’t believe that I would ever adjust to being a momma.

But, tonight I stand looking at the tile in this bathroom as my girls put out their own seat covers and wipe their own bottoms and lather up their own little hands and I wish the smallest wish for another moment with my girls as babies.