Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Enjoy your Children -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Twelve)

This is Part Twelve of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

12. Enjoy your children -- It's afternoon. The first day after a nice three day weekend. The weather is cloudy and the children are... off. The youngest three are boycotting their naps, the oldest four are just plain loud. And somehow completely incapable of hearing me. And as I was meeting with my school-aged children's supervising teacher today, my mostly potty trained child left... uh, well, yeah. And now he seems to be having difficulty keeping any clothes on (not that this will shock anyone who knows the child). I'm tense, irritable, and ready to escape.

And I have one final blog post to write in my series on parenting. "Enjoy your children." Yeup. Cue the "God has a sense of humor" lines. Maybe I should just quit while I'm ahead!

As I've been writing this series, I've noticed a trend. Really, it's been a series about how to get through the difficult times in parenting littles. We have to face it. There are difficult times. And nobody really wants to know how to get through the easy times. Nobody really asks about how to handle the times when life is simply blissful.

You might even be looking around you right now and thinking, "there is absolutely nothing whatsoever that is blissful about this."

And you might be right. I'm not in your shoes right now. But it is entirely possible, too, that you just need to look harder. There are difficult times in parenting, but they're not ALL difficult.

Really, life is full of amazing. When we're looking for it, when we're practicing being thankful and rejoicing always, it's easier to see God's mercies and blessings sprinkled throughout our lives. Really look at those kids that are driving you crazy right now.  How much do you love that child? Yeup -- the one making white hairs grow as you think about him. How could you even begin to quantify that feeling deep in your heart as he climbs into your lap and lets you squeeze him?

"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

This article by Desiring God was both encouraging and exhorting to me: Be the Smile of God to Your Children.

Kids are fun! And I'm not talking about the endless opportunities for re-watching "Cars," either. Stop and look at the world for a second through their eyes... Listen to the ways they try to express what's going on in their heads. Marvel at the amount of love they hold in their hearts and their eyes for you, in all your imperfect glory. Dream about the person they are and who they are growing to be. They are gifts. We can get caught up in our grown-up world of to-do lists and precautions, or we can make a choice to see what blessings our kids really are -- today. And we can enjoy them.


Ta-da!! All done! =) Thanks for hangin' in there!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Love Other People's Kids -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Eleven)

This is Part Eleven of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

11. Love other people's kids -- I've always loved kids. When I was five, I wanted to have one hundred children when I grew up. I'd imagine all the beds I would need. I enjoyed babysitting growing up. After a long stint of wanting to be a veterinarian, I changed my plans when I was fifteen and decided that I wanted to work with children with special needs and challenges instead. And for as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a wife and a mom.

The concept of childhood amazes me. These foundational years of personhood, as these little people are developing and exploring and experiencing life, have so much impact on the rest of their lives. For good or for bad. All children should have a safe place to grow and be loved and nurtured.

And then God blessed me with a husband and children of my own. And I am so, so thankful for this role in life. But I noticed soon after having Eliana that my focus had quite quickly gone from loving children in general to loving my child and the idea of my children more specifically. As I prayed for her and thought about her future, I prayed that she would grow up living in a community of people who loved her, and that she would be safe and secure in that community. I never wanted her to feel any lack of love and go searching for it in dangerous places. I prayed that she would know how much her family and church family loved her, and that she would see the fullness of God's love for her reflected in such love.

And I realized that I wanted to be a part of that community -- that community that loves children and gives them a safe place to see and know the love of God. But as I mentioned before, my heart and affections for children had already started to focus more specifically on my own children, and I noticed that my affection for other people's children was waning.

So I prayed that God would grow my heart's love and affection for other people's kids. That the children around me would know how much they were loved and wouldn't go searching for love where it is falsified and abused for self-satisfying destruction.

I've struggled with how to write this post, and whether or not I should confess to my own waning affections, because I don't want people to think that I have an agenda when I am kind to their children -- that I just want their children to have the illusion of being cared for, and that my actions are in any way disingenuous. There is such a joy in knowing that others truly love and care about the well-being of your children. I am so thankful for all the people who love my kids and express that love in so many ways. This is a great gift to my soul. And I want my friends to know that I do truly love and care about their children. They are in my heart and in my prayers and I am amazed by how precious and how beautiful and how amazing they each are. They are blessings not only to their biological families, but also to me.

But I share this post with you because I want you to know that I do truly love and care for other people's children because God was so kind, so generous to change my heart and answer my prayers. He's given me a heart to not only care for the future of my children, but for the future of other children. He's given me a desire to want to get to know these little people in my community and to pray for their future and to, well, just love them. I enjoy watching them grow into their personalities and seeing how precious each of them are. And I love praying for them and seeing how God works in their families.

And I share this to encourage you -- whoever this might be relevant to -- to pray that God will not only be building a community around you that genuinely loves and cares for your children, but that He would help you to be a part of such a community that blesses other parents by genuinely loving and caring for their children. I still can be pretty "my family" focused at times, but I am thankful to see God's work in my heart in this area, and I am confident that it is His desire to do this work in many hearts. So please, if any of this resonates with you, pray for God to build communities like this. That we would love others the way He has loved us.


This series has one more post before it's conclusion, so come back tomorrow for the grand finale!! ;)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Embrace the Simple Things, Despite Their Imperfections - Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Ten)

This is Part Ten of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

10. Embrace the simple things, despite their imperfections
-- I have one room in my house -- the living room -- that is very simply adorned (the rest of the rooms are adorned in a modern, busy family fashion called "cluttered"). The only things that belong in the living room are three couches, an area rug, a coffee table and two end tables. There is a basket that is used to house any stray toys and a magazine holder to house any stray books that might find their way into the room. There are a few things on the fireplace mantle and one lamp on one of the end tables, but the other tables are bare. A couple of throw pillows belong on each of the couches.

The result? This room is really easy to straighten. It takes less than 30 seconds to make it look presentable and on a cleaning day, I can get the dusting done in under two minutes in that room. I love that room.

In this season of life, simplifying, as much as possible, is key. Now there are reasons that things are complicated, and often simplifying carries it's disadvantages, so knowing those disadvantages is important. But often the benefits of simplicity outweigh the costs.

As I share some of the ways we've simplified life for this season, I recognize that each family is different and what works for some won't work for others. If you have any other ideas or things that have worked for you and your family, please feel free to share in the comments!

  • I love a good book. Problem is, I tend to get engrossed in what I'm reading and during this season, there are many distractions and interruptions that make prolonged concentration difficult. Now there are many good reasons for deep study, but I've found that my "go to" for reading edification these days are good blogs and articles rather than books. They are typically written in a more concise fashion, so I can get the main idea in bite-sized chunks.
  • As referenced above, finding solid reading time is hard. For this reason, I love having a Bible app on my phone. It's so easy to pull my phone out and do a little reading when the quiet moment happens instead of trying to predict when that quiet moment will occur. Of course, making plans to spend time in God's Word is also necessary, but during this season, our plans are held more loosely and are often interrupted. Giving yourself more options helps.
  • While I'm on the topic of quiet times, I have to share my sleeping secret. Mamas often have trouble quieting their brain in order to get much needed rest. We get so used to taking care of babies and our sleep getting interrupted that we can preempt the interruption by not falling asleep in the first place. For me, praying helps. When I'm trying to sleep but find my brain all a-whir with plans and anxieties and such, I take the opportunity to turn these matters over to God. And then I start praying for the people who are on my heart. The result? I get some precious time in with the Lord AND I typically fall asleep doing so. I sometimes hesitate to share this tip because there are times that I actually pray for the specific reason that I know that it will probably put me to sleep and this, to me, sounds like a bad motivation. But I trust that the Lord knows my heart, the time is well spent, and that the rest He gives me in the process is a gift from Him. And He's quite capable of keeping me awake longer if I need to pray more, too.
  • Social media has its hangups. I get that. I don't recommend using the computer as a substitute for all human interaction. But it also can be very helpful in keeping you involved in other people's lives during this more home-bound season of life. Facebook is great for giving you a sneak look into what's going on in other people's hearts and minds -- it gives you freebie conversation starters for those times when you have a moment to talk, and it can be a great way to let you know how you can care for others. Emails and texts are a WONDERFUL substitute for real life phone calls when you have a screaming toddler in the background. Know the weaknesses of these mediums, but embrace the ways they can help.
  • Choose your battles with your children. Try to focus on one or two things you are working on with them and know there is time later to work on other issues. They don't have to be perfect overnight. We certainly aren't.
  • I stopped shopping with all my children during the day when I had our third. I've never liked shopping much, anyway. And I know that I have an amazing husband who is willing to do shopping for me. We also are happy to use some of our date times to shop. We make it work. This obviously sacrifices some family time, but the trade-off, for this season, of not having to shop with all my wee children is well worth it to us.
  • is a wonderful, wonderful thing. We do diapers, wipes, kiddie protein bars, and a zillion other things through Amazon Mom paired with the "Subscribe and Save" options. It saves us money and is delivered right to our door. It's almost too simple.
  • Running the dishwasher and the washing machine on a daily basis helps to keep me from being buried in dishes and laundry... though I can't say that these burials don't still occur.
  • If a baby is leaking through diapers during the night, a size-up at bedtime can often solve that problem and reduce middle of the night flounderings!
  • I'm slowly growing in the "kiddie chores" options as some of my kiddies get older. It takes longer to teach a kid to do a chore than to do it yourself, and often the result is lower quality if the kiddie does the chore, but on the flip side, it's really, really nice to be able to tell your kids to "clean up for Roomba" and know that all the toys will be put in their proper receptacle while you are busy doing something else. Just takes some training. And you're helping them develop good life skills and attitudes in the process. Bonus!
  • If while you were reading the last point you asked, "Who is Roomba?" you really should find out. Roomba = sanity. And what price tag can you place on sanity? (I do recommend, if you go the Roomba route, to buy it at Costco -- just in case you get a flakey one. Costco has an excellent return policy if you find that, say, six months after a purchase, the item is not working like it should be working considering the $$ spent.)
  • Costco. Also amazing. Really, if you can't buy it at Costco or, do you really need it?
  • Really, finding about three stores that cover all your needs helps in the simplifying aspect of this season. For us, it's Raley's, Costco, and Walmart (with the semi-annual Kohl's or trip thrown in for good measure). I know that shopping around can save big money, but it also takes a lot more time. It's one of those things you have to weigh out for yourself.
  • Costco commonly has coupons for paper plates. What says "simple" like paper plates?
  • We have gone paperless as far as shopping lists go by using Google Tasks. David and I can each update lists from multiple locations which helps keep lists current and available to whoever happens to get to the store first. We also use Google Calendar (Eliana even has access so she can see daily chore updates!) and Google Drive to help us coordinate and schedule on-the-go. Google isn't quite as awesome as Amazon, but it's close.
  • David and I have enjoyed having one-on-one "dates" with each of our children. We schedule these as we can and it's nice to be able to spend some time with the kids individually and to do something that would be time or cost-prohibitive (or sanity diminishing) if we tried to do the same activity with all of the kids.
  • We have a couple of storage cubes that the kids have learned to put their shoes in when they get home and are taking off their shoes. We still have the random "missing shoe" mad search at times, but it is much more seldom that it was pre-storage cubes.
  • Reducing parental irritations is a worthy investment. In our house, we have installed door closers, motion sensing lights, and LED bulbs. These "investments" have reduced repetitive lectures that can make the lecture-giver's blood boil after having to say, "turn off the lights!" or "close the door!!" one too many times. (We also installed a smart controller on our sprinkler system -- with a rebate! -- which reduced "Less water!", "More green!" squabbles between David and me.)
  • And I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. Ask for and accept help where you can. You don't have to do it all.
Now it's your turn, friends! What have you done to simplify life?


My outline says there are two more posts to go. Hang in there. =)

Continue to Part Eleven

Friday, November 8, 2013

It's a Season -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Nine)

This is Part Nine of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the Introduction, Part One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

9. It's a Season -- As mentioned in Part Eight of this series, the phrase "it's a season" has special meaning to me thanks to the gracious counsel of a couple of precious older women in my life.

We each have individual talents, desires, hopes, and preferences, and often we have to give those up during this active part of parenting young 'uns -- for a season.

I've often found myself saying to one of these wise older ladies something along the lines of, "I feel so out of the loop..." or "I wish I could find the time to play my violin more..." or "My house is a mess" or "I can't keep track of all the new people anymore" or "I feel like I'm always distracted by trying to make sure my little family is taken care of." And these women graciously smile at me and respond gently, "It's a season."

And this is good to remember. I love, love, love the precious years of having little ones in my house. I try hard not to imagine a time when there will be no babies in the house to cuddle or little ones whose expressions and antics keep me constantly entertained. I'm amazed at how these little trouble makers actually are little people who are building their own memories and beliefs and experiences and goals that will all contribute to the type of people they are when they grow up.

But in the middle of this all-time and energy consuming season, it's easy to start thinking that this will last forever. And we can look around and see areas that we're failing in or things that we've given up for a while, and think that these deficiencies will also last forever. And wanting to fill the lack, we can become overwhelmed with our expectations.

So it's good to remember that expectations, and sanity, can often be over-rated. This is a season of life. It's a precious season that is unique and holds many of it's own challenges and joys. And it's good to embrace the joys fully -- as many people regularly remind us that these days will go by in a flash -- but it's also good to hold our expectations loosely. There will be time for the clean house and the weeded garden and the organized file cabinet... someday. And if there isn't time for it all, it all was probably over-rated anyway. Be thankful for today.

It's a season of life. A beautiful one at that.


Okay. Maybe Part Ten will have those practical tips I keep promising. ;)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Titus 2 -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Eight)

This is Part Eight of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the Introduction, Part One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

8. Titus 2
-- I've been doing a Bible study with a small group of ladies recently and in the process, I've been struck by the reality that this Christian life doesn't often come naturally to Christians. If it did come naturally, the Bible wouldn't need to give us so much instruction on how we should walk out this life. But it doesn't come naturally. We need God's help. And we need the help of others.

Titus 2:3-5 (ESV) says,
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Older women are to be conscientious about their own behavior and are to use what they have learned in this life to teach younger women how to navigate the path in front of them.

Now it is true that some older women are more encouraging than others. There are some very well-meaning women who, out of love for the younger generation, often give bad advice. It is important to remember that some sources are better than others in this whole mentoring realm. As I was contemplating this post today, I was reading through the blogs I typically follow and just happened to run into an article on the Girl Talk blog, How Can I Find an Older Woman to Mentor Me? This offers many helpful ideas so if you are looking for someone to fill this role in your life, I'd recommend that article.

Practically, there are several older women (who are not necessarily old, but older!) who I love to glean from in my life, and I'd love to share some of their wisdom here.

My mom often reminds me that parenting is more of a marathon than a sprint. It's easy to get caught up in a current "battle" -- getting a baby to sleep better or potty-training a toddler or teaching a young one to read -- and to lose perspective. The mission becomes all-important and all-encompassing. But really, these things are small parts of a much longer journey, and though each child approaches these hurdles differently, they typically, in time, master them and excel. Determining the best potty-training method isn't nearly as important as keeping our hearts and attitudes in check along the way. This is yet another opportunity for us to worship an amazing God amidst mundane duties in life.

I can think of several older women who often check up on me and pour out love and support and encouragement. Being around them is like a breath of fresh air. It is obvious that their joy is in the Lord.

And there are two older women who regularly remind me, when I start to feel overwhelmed by all that I am doing and all that I am not doing, that "this is a season." Being a parent of young children is a very different life-stage. I've heard these women encourage me in this way so many times that the phrase alone can re-orient me and bring calm and peace into my mental storms. But in Part Nine, I'm going to explain this phrase more and give some ideas that have helped me simplify this "season." So y'all come back for that!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Surround Yourself Well -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Seven)

This is Part Seven of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

7. Surround yourself well --  Sometimes we think we are all alone in our role and endeavors and hopes and dreams and fears and failings.

I'm super thankful to know that I'm not alone. I have an amazing God and the best husband. I have family that is always there to encourage me. My in-laws live nearby and are cheerfully helpful and pray for us often. I have a church family that is phenomenal. I have friends who freely give of their time (and have freely given of their children's time as well -- but I now count those "children" as dear friends, too) and love to help me and love my children. I have sisters in Christ who are in similar life stages that I can be open and transparent with and who point me to Christ often, both through their actions and their truth-based words. I have friends who have walked through difficult seasons with me. They are the types of friends who are always there to listen and process with me when I am confronted with difficult realities. I have people I can trust who have already raised (or mostly raised) their children who often have good counsel for me.

Honestly, I'm very blessed by the people who are in my life, and I do know that not everyone has the same level and quality of encouragement and support. And I hesitate to even call this section "surround yourself well" because I know that these people who are around me are undeserved gifts from a very kind God, and I can take very little to no credit for their presence in my life.

So the first and foremost way that I can encourage you to surround yourself well is by committing to pray for you, that God would surround you with quality people in your life who will care for you, encourage you, help you, and love you and your family. And I encourage you to pray and ask God for people like this in your life.

Secondly, if you don't already have a church family that is busy growing in love for God and love for others, find one! There are many, many reasons to find a good church. (Though I have to add here one of my favorite quotes that I can find no source, "If you ever find a perfect church, leave quickly before you mess it up.") No church on this side of heaven is perfect, but finding a church that is growing in love for God and love for others helps us grow in love for God and love for others. And a bonus is that God uses people who are growing in godliness to help sanctify us, and these are the kind of people who will love you and encourage you and support you in this path God has given you.

Thirdly, be a good friend. One of the best ways you can build open, transparent friendships is to be open and transparent yourself. Now this does require some discernment -- people are all at different levels of maturity and trustworthiness. But look for people who are growing in the direction that you want to be growing and work to build real relationships with these people.

Sometimes these relationships fall in your lap. David told me before I moved to Sacramento that he had found my "future best friends" and introduced me to a couple of gals that were also getting married that year. These, and other, gals are now definitely among my closest of friends -- and I thank David for the introduction -- but the depths of these relationships have grown through time, effort, honesty, love, grace, patience, forgiveness, and above all, the kindness of God's hand in it all.

Keep your eyes open for such "kindred spirits." Pray for such relationships, and when you find them, thank God often for such sweet gifts. They will be the people you first go to when it's time to "rejoice with those who rejoice" and "weep with those who weep."  They are precious, precious encouragements as we press on in this life.


Part Eight is somewhat of a continuation of this concept and starts branching into some more practical applications, so come back soon for that!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

People have Issues -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Six)

This is Part Six of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

6. People have issues -- You are skipping from one child to three overnight. And if where you are at is anything like where I am at, that means you are also skipping from hearing, "Your baby is so cute/sweet/precious/etc.!!!" to "My, my, don't you have your hands full!" and "Don't you know what causes that?!?" overnight.

I don't remember how many absolute strangers said to me after we had Mikey (our second), "You're done now. Right??" I got so used to it that I started responding, "Why? Are my children ugly or something?"

One of my friends recently had her third baby and she actually had a stranger tell her that she should be ashamed of herself for having three kids. Seriously.

I had a woman in Costco strongly suggest I abort my third and any subsequent children due to the high cost of college. She had aborted three for that reason.

Similar to the ways that children have a way of exposing the ugliness within us, they also have a way of exposing the ugliness in others. If you haven't heard it from others already, I have no doubt that you will soon, apart from miraculous intervention.  Most of my best "crazy things said" stories come from when I had two to three children. (Hmmm... this might be because I don't go out much with all my kids these days. But that's another post. ;))

But I don't say all of this to scare you.  When I first noticed people coming out of the woodwork -- they'd really stalk me down to say wacky stuff -- I would get defensive and irritated. But it didn't take me long to start feeling sorry for these people. And for their children. Like the children of the woman in the produce section of my favorite grocery store who told me -- a young mom of two at the time -- that she actually regretted having "so many children." Wouldn't you love having her as a mom?

It just all goes to remind me that people have issues. And really, compassion goes a long way when chosen over defensiveness or anger. I've found that much of the time, the snarkyness or negativity coming from others is just a cover for their own pain, traumas, guilt, and heartache.

I have one friend who cheerfully responds to people, "Children are a blessing!" I've watched her as a parent for many years and I know beyond a doubt that indeed, she is blessed by her children. She knows the blessing of children and people believe her when she says it. It's a great testimony.

Now, when someone comments on my children, I take a breath. I spend a half second trying to imagine my life without any certain child. And then I can genuinely look at the person, smile, and say, "I'm thankful for them." They are undeserved gifts.

Children truly are a gift from the Lord. They are amazing. I can look at any of my children and see God's fingerprints on that child -- their timing, their personalities, their strengths. Each of them are a blessing to me, to their dad, their siblings... Each of them are part of God's plan to grow us into the people that God created us to be.

And despite the negativity you can hear in this world, I do believe that people often intrinsically understand that, to varying degrees. And if you can take the time to listen to them instead of merely responding negatively, you often hear a lot more out of their hearts than you bargained for. Sometimes I just get the privilege of praying for people more specifically after our encounter... and sometimes I get the privilege, despite my many imperfections and failings, of pointing them to our awesome God.


I think I'm past the halfway point in this series now. Hooray!! If I still have your attention, come back soon for Part Seven.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Repent Early and Often - Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Five)

This is Part Five of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

5. Repent early and often -- There is no getting around it. God uses children to help us see our own sinfulness. They are a sanctifying tool in our lives. One dear friend regularly confesses of her children, "They are just copying what they see me doing."

Certainly I could say that my kids each have their own brand of sinfulness, but honestly, where the rubber meets the road, I can't say that any of my kids has ever shown a form of rebellion that I can't find somewhere in my own heart and deeds.

This realization helps me have more grace and patience with my kids, as I am often reminded that God has responded to -- and continues to respond to -- my sin with much grace and patience.

I really don't like seeing my sinfulness boiling up in my life or being replicated in my children.  But do you know what? Seeing my sin is much, much, much, much, much, much better than not seeing it.

We. Have. An. Awesome. God.

God exposes our sin to us out of His love for us. Hebrews 12:5-10 says:
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
If we accept that we are sinful and that God exposes our sinfulness out of His love for us "that we may share in his holiness" (I LOVE this!), then we can altogether rejoice in the means that He has given us -- repentance through faith in Jesus Christ -- to obtain His righteousness. 1 John 1:9 says:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We really have two choices when, out of God's love for us, we see our sinfulness exposed. We can hide our heads in the sand and ignore it until our sin grows and the discipline is more painful, or we can repent. Early and often. And we can rejoice in the joy of being forgiven by a God who paid the price for all of our sins and is still at work to grow us into His likeness.

An added bonus? Our children, especially as they grow older, are going to see our sinfulness, too. If we are modeling humility for them by confessing to them when we have sinned against them and asking for their forgiveness, and freely forgiving them when they acknowledge their sin, they will know that we are a safe place to share their struggles and burdens.


Come back soon for Part Six!

Friday, November 1, 2013

These are First World Problems -- Parenting Through the Little Years (Part Four)

This is Part Four of "Three in Diapers: Parenting Through the Little Years." If you are just tuning in now, please check out the IntroductionPart One, etc. for context and disclaimers.

4. These are first world problems -- I like a nice, orderly, clean house. David likes a nice, orderly, clean house. I really like clean floors. I like to be able to walk around barefoot without dirt and legos sticking to the bottom of my feet. We also hate running out of toilet paper. We like good food and we have good friends that we like to be around. I like sleep. I love quiet.

The problem is that I often elevate my desire for a clean house or good food or to hang out with people that I like over my desire to have a good and right heart and attitude toward the Lord. 

And really, a bit of perspective can go a long way. Many people in the world have both dirt floors and bare feet as a standard way of living. Many people in the world don't have flush potties and toilet paper is a complete luxury. Any food is good food when you rarely know where your next meal is coming from.  Really, most of us are well taken care of in that we have regular and complete access to sufficient shelter and provision. We're not even being challenged, commonly, as to where we will lay our head tonight or where we will be able to find enough to feed our children today. 

Now I do know that some of our problems and stressors in this life are not merely first-world problems. There are times that we are over-whelmed with the trials and griefs that come from living in a fallen world. I'm not addressing those times in this post, but in the same breath, I don't want to trivialize them. There is a time for grieving and a time for longing for heaven.

But what is it that stresses you out? We each have our different triggers. Commonly, when we boil it down, many of those triggers could probably be thrown into the "first world problems" pot. 

You might rightfully argue, "But, uh, Christina, don't you realize that we live in a first world?" True. We do. And our problems are real and significant in our world. But sometimes realizing that much of what we are complaining about and getting worked up about aren't really as big of a deal as we think it to be helps. We can laugh at the absurdity of getting overwhelmed by three kids crying at the same time over different non-emergencies. We can find amusement in the irony of us yelling "STOP YELLING" for the umpteenth time. We don't have to take ourselves and our preferences so seriously.

Our houses may not often be magazine-worthy (or in some of our cases, may never be magazine-worthy!), but we can choose to be thankful for God's provision and blessing in giving us a home for our shelter and children to make a mess. 

And we can take the time to check our attitudes, triggers, and stresses at the door before we dump them on the ones we love. I know my husband enjoys a clean house, but even more, he enjoys a happy wife who isn't a stress-basket case over the fact that the floors are dirty and the kids are noisy. 

I have a friend who requested practical tips on caring for one's home. I'm not necessarily the right person to ask as I'm typing this from an unmade bed and there are currently dirty dishes in my sink, but there are a few tips I have picked up over the years.

  • Just do something. It's easy for me to get overwhelmed by all the jobs I see around me. I try to think of a time that I'm going to be able to get everything done right and seeing no such time possible, I can just throw up my hands in frustration. But really, it's amazing at how much you can get done in five-minutes-here, ten-minutes-there time slots. Don't get paralyzed by the mountain of work -- just pick something to work on and do what you can.
  • I don't tend to stick with any specific organizational system for too long unless it is something that I've made myself for our family, but I have gotten some helpful hints and ideas from It could be a useful tool for some.
  • Ask for help and be willing to accept it. There are probably people around you that have already offered their help. You may have a whole list of reasons in your head for refusing them. This very well might be pride manifesting itself in your life. Or maybe this is just my issue. I'll let you think and pray about that one.
  • Learn to be okay with unfinished jobs. This is a season of life. (I'll get to that more in another post.) There are going to be many aspects of life that aren't going to meet your previous level of approval. That's okay. And at the end of the day when you're lying in bed thinking of all the things you weren't able to accomplish and all the things you really must accomplish the next day, learn to stop, turn these things over to God, and be at peace. Ask God to help you to prioritize your time and realize that if you just aren't able to get it all done, it probably wasn't that important anyway.
  • Remember your attitude. This is a lot more important than the cleanliness of your bathroom. I find it very helpful to remind myself that my job -- and whatever it entails at the time -- is an act of worship before a holy, awesome, loving God. This life He has given me is much better than I deserve. I pray my attitude reflects that, more and more, in all that I do.
I'm guessing others might have some helpful hints in this category. Feel free to chime in by commenting! And tune in tomorrow for Part Five!