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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Pictures paint a thousand words.

They can also tell a thousand lies.

A thousand lies of just the sort

you’d like people to believe.

People on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,

all those people you want to impress.

It’s easy when there’s a filter

for what people see of your life. 

And while I’m so glad to be back here in Scotland,

it’s not all tea parties,

trips to castles,

European shops.

Life is life,

with all the dull, the ordinary, the hard to swallow times

mixed in with all the good.

I was reminded this morning–

that moment I started up the stairs for The Professor’s school books,

but then realized Mr. Waddlesworth had a dirty nappy,

and John asked me to get the General’s shoes on just at that moment so they could get to the swimming pool on time.

And all I really wanted was to eat my cereal, which sat there on the table growing soggy, the milk now warm.

A moment of chaos and I wanted to scream.

Yes, even in Scotland there are nappies to change, toilets to clean.

And worse than that, we find that even in the most Paradise-like of places,

we cannot escape ourselves.

And wouldn’t I like to, sometimes?

Hit reset, start again, with a brand new me.

It’s easy to blame others for my impatience, irritation, foul mood,

but when I’m honest I realize that I need to hit the reset button on my own attitude.

Shake it off, let it go,

and embrace joy, grace, and usefulness,

in spite of all the expectations and hopes that didn’t come when and as I’d hoped.

The days have been quiet so far, quieter than I’d hoped,

without any visits to the friends or beloved places I’m so longing to see.

Quiet days, save the usual busyness of home life with the boys.

And even in such a place as this, 

greyness can fall, 

wrap around you like a fog. 

We went for a walk, Mr. Waddlesworth and I, this morning,

to shake the shadows,

start again.

And as I went along the narrow streets,

between the rows of ancient stone,

thinking,

and drinking in

the cries of the seagulls as they soar,

the balmy breeze,

the North Sea’s roar,

I thought of these words . . .

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 And though I’m trying, still,

to feel them,

live them,

make them real,

I know,

that whether we’re cleaning toilets,

or laughing over a latte with our dearest friends

in our most favorite place,

our moments matter. 

And words, our expressions,

they matter, too.

In fact, in the grey times,

when the light is dimmest,

is when our words, expressions, and actions,

mean the very most.

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I dig my heals into the mattress, feel the sheets wrinkle up beneath my feet like an elephant’s skin as I push myself up to sitting. My legs are cold, so I tug at the quilt my grandmother made me–all polyester and purple and pink, though I have it flipped round so I can only see the back–and the white, nobbly chenille bedspread we bought at a market in Portugal.

I’m tempted to lie still, bask in the white light that’s pouring into my bedroom, let myself drift in and out of dreams. After all, silence is a thing that a mother learns not to waste. Silence is not a thing to waste, I remind myself, and so I reach for it–my black leather Bible–breathe in the sweet smell of the leather. Run my thumb across the gold lettering, faded from those years I read it every day. Those days I underlined verses, scribbled margin notes, added stickers–a shiny pink heart and an ice cream cone. Those days when silence and aloneness were not a foreign thing. Not like now.

And then I flip to the index, search for a phrase our pastor said. And I find it.

for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.   – Romans 8:26

And I read it, and I read it again, and I’ve read those words three dozen times before, but somehow this time they strike me. Stay with me through the day.

The day of noise, and being anything but alone–though I can feel alone in a house with no one else over the age of eight. My day of being followed by Mr. Waddlesworth, his arms lifted, his curly head tilted back, big Charlie Brown mouth wide open as he cries crocodile tears because he’d love to be picked up and carried the day long.

My day of struggling through the times tables with the Professor, and the difference between “puppies” and “puppy’s” and reminding him to be a little ray of sunshine and not a little black rain cloud.

My day of helping the General in and out of his daily costumes–felt super hero masks, and pirate belts, and cowboy hats, and asking him if he needs the potty, and then adding his wet clothes to the laundry basket when he’s been too busy saving the world to take a trip to the bathroom.

My day of crumbs and stickiness–on the worktops, on the highchair, on the walls, on the floor. Crumbs and stickiness that never stay away for long.

My day . . . and yet I found, that during those rare seconds of quiet–or at least a quiet thought–that my mind drifted to those words I’d read that morning. Drifted like it never does, and I felt wonder. Peace. Strength.

Because I knew that every time I let myself become aware of the presence of God, that He was there, also thinking of me,

caring for me,

loving me,

as He always does,

though I cannot see Him

and I do not know.

Though I forget He’s there,

and how He cares,

and hardly think of Him in my busy, noisy day,

He is there

on His knees

lifting me.

Though it’s easier at certain times than others to see the miraculous, the eternal, in the everyday, today JUST KNOW that whenever you think of Jesus, He is already right there, thinking of, praying for, loving you.

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I know all about lists.

I know all about lists of things that should have been done yesterday . . .

last week . . .

last year . . .

I know all about adding something to your list

just so you can cross it off

and feel like you’ve done

something.

And I know all about those things that stop you,

get in your way.

The things that need to be done everyday and keep you from getting ahead.

All that time in the kitchen that can leave you wishing

that you didn’t need to eat.

Those mountains of washing (clean or dirty)

that never, ever go away.

And I know what it’s like to trip over a toy, drag it back to where it belongs

for the seventh time that day.

Or what it’s like to feel frustrated by a spilled drink

(oh, do I!).

What it’s like to feel a little less than sympathetic

when someone gets an owie,

bursts into hysteric tears,

yet again.

Oh, and isn’t it easy to grow frustrated, feel hopeless

at the impossibly long list of jobs you want to get done–

those emails, those phone calls, those jumbled closets and drawers.

And it’s easy, far too easy,

to forget

the very reason

that you even do it all.

And forget the very people behind the reason

you’re making those phone calls, cooking those meals, cleaning that house.

You can forget

that for those of us home raising little souls,

our children are not a distraction from our work,

they are the purpose of it.

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And so next time you feel disheartened

by all the things you didn’t do,

remember what will matter

a week, a year, or more from now.

Remember what they will remember

when they go.

And take the time to pull them close,

tell them how they’re loved

by God,

by you.

And pull them close to read

that favourite, dog-eared book.

And kneel down to tell them,

as if there’s nothing else,

what they’ve done right,

or how what they’ve done has hurt another

and how they can make it right.

For raising souls should not be rushed, 

is not a side-line job. 

And while we long to make a beautiful, harmonious haven

for those we love,

it is not the meals we cook, the dust we extinguish, the pictures we hang,

but the love we give, the patience we show,

the fruit of the Spirit within us, 

the Spirit we help them to grow inside

that they will remember most,

that will really matter

in the end.

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I wasn’t ready for it. A restless night of twisted sheets, being forced from bed to soothe a crying baby, and strange dreams of being a gymnast, practicing my skills on the bars, had left my body feeling tired, my mind distracted and dazed. But it came anyway. The start of the day. Breakfast, and packing lunches, and making beds. Changing nappies, and dressing wee ones, and preparing for the school day ahead.

Before my boys came along I worked as a teacher, but this is my first year of official home education. My first year of adding tutor to my already full job description of chef, maid, nurse, chauffeur, activity director, police officer, and kangaroo (for the Admiral, who, at a whopping 24 pounds, still wants to be carried the day long).

And so an hour later I found myself, still dazed and unprepared for a day of living (let alone living well), trying to have a discussion about odds and evens with the Captain, all the while jiggling the Admiral on my knee and trying to ignore the General, who had squeezed onto the dining room chair behind me and in his very high-pitched three-year-old voice was speaking non-stop about wanting some cake (although I’d told him several times over that he had to wait for elevenses).

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I tried giving snacks, introducing different toys, and even (though I try to avoid it in the mornings) putting on the television so I could get on with the lessons.  But still, each soldier in my little army remained intent on being inches from me, if not in direct contact, each asking for something more or different or better from what he already had.

My head seemed to spin faster than I’d spun round those bars in my dream. I longed to crawl back into bed and find the unconsciousness of deep sleep. Or even the still, quiet surroundings of an empty house, where I could potter about, making sense of my jumbled thoughts.

To my right, the living room was strewn with giant colored cardboard bricks and scattered sofa cushions, the abandoned remnants of my attempt to entertain the younger ones. My mind seemed just as disorderly as the house, and as I attempted to turn my focus back to the math lesson, the thought crossed my mind that it would be awfully nice to have a real nanny and maid, so that I could be left to teach the Captain, and do only nice things with the boys (and perhaps sleep in a little on rare occasion). But of course that seemed as likely as my getting around to organizing some kitchen cupboards and planting the bell pepper seeds as I’d hoped to do that day (not to mention the school subjects we had yet to get through). 

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But unrestricted sleeping hours and empty houses are not some of the frequent luxuries of mummies of armies of wee boys, and in the chaos I longed for some little escape, some little treat to bring me comfort, and temporary escape from the swirl of color and noise that surrounded me. 

A square of dark chocolate, perhaps? 

A cup of espresso, topped up with raw sugar and heated milk?

A few minutes to skim the news feed on my Facebook account? 

These are the things I often turn to bring drops of sanity to my busy, noisy day, but yesterday as I contemplated what method of escape I would employ, I thought of a different way. Down the hallway on my bedside table sat my black leather Bible, which I hadn’t yet touched that day. 

And I didn’t have time,  not just then, to pour over it as I would have liked to do. But I did have the time–as long as it would have taken me to slip into the kitchen to devour a square of chocolate–to flip to the Psalms, and the sweet morsels of goodness found there. 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

– Psalm 34:8

And I wondered as closed my Bible,  felt peace wash over me like a cup a chamomile tea, what I’d been missing.

Although there isn’t anything wrong with coffee, and chocolate, and Facebook news, what had I been missing by reaching for them instead of the Living Water found there in the Psalms, so accessible, so available to me? 

For while our SIN can be easy enough to spot (though at times it’s not), there are deeper, sweeter paths of closeness to the Lord which we can go a lifetime and not discover. And what if those paths, those changes I so long to see in myself, can be reached not only through long segments of time spent in the Word, but through little moments of calling out to God for strength, and reaching for little pieces of His word? 

What change could even one pure morsel of eternal truth make to my day?

After taking the time to read from the Psalms, I went on to finish the school day, plant those pepper seeds, and even clean out my kitchen junk drawer! 

What a difference the reminder of Jesus’ love and presence had made. 

In Him is strength, beauty, refuge, truth, and the nourishment I need to help me view my boys, my home, my life in the light of eternity.

The eternity that continues in the next life,

the eternity in which we live today. 

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The movement leaves me dizzy, for fast was never a speed that I’ve done well. Though words can come fast (from my lips or from my fingers), my moving and living, I’ve always done slow.

And it’s caused me problems, a little more than once, all my ponderings and perhapses. For time is sovereign in this world of ours, and doesn’t often leave room for the extras. The smelling of roses,  the sighing over music, the browsing of books. And so while I start out ambling through my day like a Sunday driver, I end up racing half panic -stricken to make up for lost time and reach this or that place when I’m supposed to be there.

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No, life doesn’t give us time enough for wonder. No, not enough time at all. Not like I thought it would be, those days before my real children came, when I poured over Victorian homemaker’s guides, all those black and white photos of ringletted children sprawled out on quilts to watch the clouds pass by, or gathered round the fire while their mother darned their stockings and read from Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

While we have our moments, our moments of creativity and laughter and peace, it seems to me that every day is more like a race. A mad rush to cross off my list, and get through the cycle I completed just the day before (with a few things extra, if I’m lucky).

It’s a mad rush, a frenzy, and the movement leaves me dizzy. For all day, every day, I move things. Move crumbs from tables and high chairs, from countertops and floors. Move clothes from hamper to washing machine, from washing machine to dryer, from dryer to drawer. Move dishes from dishwasher to cupboards, from cupboards to table, and back again. And the toys, oh the toys!

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I move people, too. In and out of cribs and high chairs, pajamas and nappies, car seats and prams. The boys, they move, too. Round me in circles at times, trailing behind them their tears, their bickering, their shouts, till I feel like they’ve bound me and I might just crash.

And I’m running and I’m rushing, taking glances at my list, hardly stopping it seems at times, to eat or drink, let alone to wonder. Ponder. Enjoy.

Through the blinding light of these last few days—the unhindered light of the winter sun glaring off mountains of snow—I’ve tried to stand back and look. To breathe deeply and untangle the movement, the activity, and the noise. To find beauty, find truth, and remind myself why I do what I do. Where we’re headed, and why I dared to bring these little lives into the world.

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For what is the point of making our home look peaceful and beautiful, if peace and beauty are not found in our hearts? And how can I ever find the strength to have patience in those moments of chaos, or have serenity, or joy, or wonder enough to pour out on my children, if I do not first take time to let myself be filled?

I don’t often have hours. For though I’d like it otherwise, busyness is the call of motherhood. But I’ve learned the importance of taking a few minutes—even five or ten—to feel God’s arms around me, listen to his voice, and ask his Spirit to fill me with his strength, his stillness, his truth.

Without him I so often end up on a merry-go-round of movement, my head spinning, and my day feeling as fractured as a mirror broken into a thousand colored shards, and I cannot think straight enough to put back the pieces.

And so that alarm gets set. A few moments to myself. I’m tired, yes, but those twenty minutes of quiet, just me and God, will make all the difference for the rest of my day.

I asked some friends to help me by sharing their favourite morning readings. Some are my favourites, too, and the others, I look forward to reading. A few are also available on CD, for drives in the car or mountains of laundry that need folded or ironed! As I said, I haven’t read them all, and so cannot comment on each one, but I’d SO love to hear your thoughts on ones you’ve read–or suggestions for more! Most can be purchased on christianbook.com

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  1. One Minute With God by Kathy Hardee

  2. The Book Lover’s Devotional from Barbour Publishing

  3. Running Into Water – by Angela Blycker

  4. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

  5. Jesus Today by Sarah Young

  6. Jesus Lives by Sarah Young

  7. One Thousand Gifts Devotional Journal by Ann Voskamp

  8. Near Unto God by Abraham Kuyper

  9. Morning and Evening by Charles H. Spurgeon

  10. Because He Loves Me by Elyse Kirkpatrick

  11. Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Kirkpatrick

  12. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

  13. Surrender: The Heart God Controls by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

  14. Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

  15. Crazy Love – Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

  16. Forgotten God – Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

  17. Reading the Bible with the Damned by Bob Ekland

  18. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels by J.C. Ryle

  19. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper

  20. Pierced by the Word by John Piper

  21. Life as a Vapor by John Piper

  22. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

  23. The Great Work of the Gospel by John Ensor

  24. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman

  25. The Precious Things of God by Octavius Winslow

  26. Spiritual Depression by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

  27. He is There and He is Not Silent by Francis A. Schaeffer

  28. Reflections by Jim Branch

  29. Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson

  30. The Great House of God by Max Lucado

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Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:16-17

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I had nothing to show for the day.

Nothing but a pail of wet nappies and some autumnal paintings drying on the porch.

Oh, and the fridge was emptier, and that basket of clothes that needed folding,

well, it sort of overflowed.

Outside the rain fell warm,

but we hadn’t seen a drop of sun all day,

and even the yellow trees, and the red, and the orange,

they all looked

just grey.

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And it felt a cold place, a lonely place, to be doing battle.

And I’ve told myself a thousand times that it shouldn’t be so hard.

It should be nothing at all to

wash sticky hands and faces,

change nappies,

sweep floors.

Couldn’t anyone do it? Anyone at all?

But there’s a little more to it, always a little more.

Because they howl when you do it. When you wipe their hands and face.

And they howl when you change them, and they try to crawl away.

And the crumbs are never nice, dry crumbs that skid across the floor.

No, no.

They stick. Mashed peas and bread crusts. Cereal welded to the wood.

And you’d have to use a crowbar, or at least your nail, to pry them free.

And it wouldn’t be so bad if it were only once.

Not three times.

Every day.

Or if your baby had actually taken his nap,

or your toddler hadn’t been ill and bit hysterical at every little thing you asked him to do.

And there isn’t a room in the house (not one room) where they don’t come after you

with their quarrels and their tears and their demands for more food.

And so yes, it is a battle. And it’s hard.

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And sometimes, it can leave you wondering what you’re worth.

Because you can’t help but feel that there are grander things you should be accomplishing.

And your husband, yes, he has to hear about it all, and you can’t help but feel that this is all

just a little bit his fault.

And part of the battle is taking it all—all the busyness, and the fights, and the tears

and turning it into something good.

Finding reason for us all to give thanks.

And there’s always a reason.

Or instead of shouting,

kneeling down to look your child in the eye

to find the cause for his tears.

Or forgetting about all the good things your spouse should be doing for you,

and finding something good to do for them.

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Because souls, they live in people.

In your children. In your spouse.

And people are more important than things,

and being kind is more important than being right.

And when it all seems a bit of a mess, that’s what you’ve got to remember.

And as many times as you can remember in a day, you’ve got to tell it to your children

Tell them how very much they’re loved.

By God.

By you.

And when there’s no one there to tell it to you, you need to read it.

Read it till it sinks in deep.

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“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:17b-19

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You might also be inspired by A Walk with C.S. Lewis — https://happylittlesigh.com/2013/10/18/a-walk-with-c-s-lewis/

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I almost didn’t see him.

Nearly passed right by those handsome features, noble mien, and that shock of dark hair falling becomingly over his forehead.

You’d think I’d have been on the lookout. Kept my eyes peeled wide open.

I was in his house, after all.

Pemberley. Or, em, Chatsworth, which is what the place is really called. Chatsworth, not Pemberley, though it’s quite the grandest house in all of Derbyshire, and most certainly the place Jane Austen had in mind for this favourite literary hero, if the experts have it right.

Yes, there I was, at Pemberley, and I nearly missed my chance to meet Mr. Darcy because I had my eyes on the gift shop. The gift shop. Coasters and tea towels, and things like that.

But John called my name, and I swung round

and there he was.

Just waiting.

He even posed for a picture.

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But that’s not the real Mr. Darcy!” you may be muttering, or even shouting at the screen.

Well, I was at the other Mr. Darcy’s house too (Lyme Hall in Cheshire)! BBC fans, you may now breathe a sigh of relief.

Only there, I didn’t see him.

Though I did see this fair prospect . . .

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I laugh a little now.

I almost didn’t see Mr. Darcy!

And oh, doesn’t it seem just a world away.

Not only that we’re in America and can’t just pop down to England to see Elizabeth and Darcy and all our other favourites like we did when we lived in Scotland.

But even having time to think about it all. To dream.

Finding time to put two of my own thoughts together seems like a luxury these days, what with all the loving I’m blessed to pour out on my three precious little men and their daddy.

The making of tea and the making of beds. The raiding of the kitchen and the cleaning it up. The folding and folding and folding of laundry, and the trying to find the time to put it away. The potty accidents to clean up, the littlest one to pick up, and the trying to look above and through it all to find just what gifts there are in today.

But it’s worth it, I’d say.

Worth taking time for stories.

Worth taking time to be still and (with a cup of tea!) examine and consider the finer, the truly beautiful and good.

And it’s worth, most of all, taking time to be with Him.

To be with Jesus.

How many times do I race through my day with my eyes on the gift shop? On running my errands, making my phone calls, and leaving my house at least as clean as it was that morning?

But how would it be if I took more time to look for treasures along the way?

To realize there is someone far nobler, realer, and more beautiful than even Mr. Darcy?

Someone who’s not just waiting, but knocking.

Knocking at my door, knocking on my heart,

and not just to pause for a picture,

but to spend the day with me.

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You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

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