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Less is Better | Five Favorite Books

I didn’t begin the year with an urge to start fresh goals. If anything, I only had the desire for less. Less time commitments. Less of my own ego. Less busyness with unimportant things. Less things cluttering my time and kitchen cabinets. But living with less, as most Westerners realize, requires humility, fortitude, and remarkable discipline. This month, I have been slowly inventorying my capacity and desires right alongside my belongings. If less is what is needed, then the answer is certainly not found in doing more but instead prioritizing something I already have or am already doing. Then, put the rest aside. Sometimes the reminder we need isn’t a notification on our phone or a mark on the calendar, it is a line of wisdom sitting on our bookshelf currently collecting dust. Here are the books I have been re-reading at the start of the year, fortifying some rhythms and re-making others.


Essentialism | I have read this book annually the last four years (just finished it again this week), mostly because I am not an essentialist by nature. Although the book is technically about business and economics, the life applications are endless, reminding me with each read of the power of choice, of my need to define and protect what is most valuable, and as I mentioned in the last post, to recognize the trade-offs as Mark and I work toward long-term goals. I walk away from this book with more clarity and vision of our values, with more resolve to say no.

This is Home  | Although there are heaps of coffee table books with beautiful images of homes, I love how this book by the stylist Natalie Walton explores the soul of the home as much as the aesthetic. Broken up in three parts with interviews and images of 16 international homes, This is Home explores how we create, live within, and nurture our sense of home. The featured homes are lovely, no doubt, but much like our own home, they are not primly designed or overly fancy. The homes seem more organically designed, more slowly grown into by the people who inhabit them. This books always helps stir my creativity in our home’s design, to think through what we already own, to see the space we inhabit in a new way.

Simple Matters | I read this book by blogger Erin Boyle cover to cover when it first released, and I reference it often throughout the year. She and her family of four live in only a few hundred square feet in the NYC, and again and again, I find myself challenged by their minimal lifestyle, by their intention and creativity in tiny apartment living. The book is neatly categorized by areas of the home and is quite practical whether you are cleaning out a closet, decluttering your office drawer, or making your own cleaning products.

Teaching From Rest | I did not begin homeschooling because I love grading or creating academic tasks for my children. I do not think I am the best teacher or the most consistent one either. I sometimes find myself slipping into that role, looking at our homeschool as a machine of “did you?” Check. Check. I am perpetually aware of my short-comings and theirs. How do we do it all? We don’t. No one does. This quick read is always encouraging for me. It gives practical helps, of course, but more importantly, it slows me down and reminds me, less is better here, too. This read is faith-based, but I find instead of a didactic how-to, it is a comforting voice of a friend, asking me to consider again why our family chose this path this year. I find myself identifying my core values and goals for our learning again, instead of simply looking at what the curriculum guide says or what another parent is doing. I see my children. I see me. I see our own style and pace and needs. I am finding the important less that makes it more for all of us.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership | I read this book last fall and am re-reading it again now, even referenced it here last week. Clearly, this is not a book either on minimalizing the home or organizing closets, but it recognizes our humanity, that we are not tasks or things to shuffle about, nor are those in our care. We are souls, and as such, we need margin and solitude. As one who can easily believe doing more or strategizing better is always the answer to a problem, this book quite practically reminds me to simply stop and listen, to make room for my thoughts and emotions, to make room for God to speak to me. It is a faith-based book, and although it is directed toward people in spiritual leadership, I found that the principles applied equally to those leading in any capacity––as a parent, mentor, or business owner, too.

 

When Motherhood Breaks Your Heart

Last week, in the small space between the kitchen stove and the wood countertops, one of my children felt unloved. *He told me I had a soft-spot for the other three children and not for him. My heart cracked open. In that moment, I wanted to blurt out it’s not true, to recount love in concrete terms––held, slept, protected, fed––but they seemed so plain and empty. If love is misunderstood, do those things matter? Instead, I listened.

Through tears, she recounted the list from her head aloud, her inward rehearsals that she was somehow loved less. I wrapped my arms around her, remembering how I once held her within me, her sole source of life. Since birth we have both been learning what it means to be human. I’m sorry, I whispered. I do have a very soft spot for you. Her body began to soften, to receive my embrace.

I slowly asked question after gentle question, trying to find the path to his brokenness. Or maybe it was my brokenness? The heart is such a wayward guide. What was clear is the more these words spilled out, the lighter his face and heart became. Heartache released.

I realize, at times, in my want to fix a situation or a hurtful moment in any of my children, I rush in with words and explanation, with ideas to re-direct their pain. Yet healing is always found in the light, negative thoughts spoken aloud, released. This is easier written than practiced. Sometimes their thoughts brought into light will accuse me. Like the ones I heard in this very moment, I will hear that I am not enough, that I have failed. Maybe you have heard this lie, too? Dearest reader, this is what I know: in the work of shepherding hearts, it takes courage to silence our own insecurities and self-criticisms in order that we might hear theirs. It takes courage to listen without offense, without the need to defend our own hearts. It takes courage to create a safe space for their insecurities, their fears, their offenses. But if willing to do so, we also create space for the truth: that they are so very deeply loved, that they were created with purpose, that they are not bound by the voice in their head. This is the hardest work.

To be clear, as parents, we are not doormats. We are not powerless or without voice or defense. We are leaders of their hearts for only a brief time, showing them in such very small, plain ways how to listen, how to see. Sometimes this will happen with words about their identity––love, beautiful, you, God––and sometimes this will happen with words that instruct––honor, kindness, forgive, patience––and still other times, this will happen with only hugs and eyes that listen.

The obvious fact in homeschooling is also the hidden gift. It is that I live with my children. They see me and I see them, at our very best and our very worst. They may not remember the pages of history or literature or numbers that currently fill our days, but maybe those things are all merely fodder used to reveal one simple truth: we are spirit of God clothed in humanity. We are each imperfect and beloved, broken and rising. Perhaps our heart is not glass at all, shattering and piecing back together. Perhaps our heart is wild and alive, merely shedding skin as it rubs against another, and grows.

*For the privacy of my children, I have intentionally interchanged the pronouns here. The goal is not tell their stories for them, but to share the parts of their narrative that expose my own heart. 

6 WAYS TO CALM YOUR HECTIC HOME

cultivating_peace_at_home-2cultivating_peace_at_home Sometimes as a parent I find myself chasing shadows in our home life, trying to repair or address symptoms––consistent sibling squabbles, whininess, regularly unfinished chores, meltdowns, etc.––without taking time to notice something fundamental is broken or hurt in the atmosphere of our home. I’m not talking about a single meltdown or hard day; I’m referring to the days or weeks or months when the abstract connections in the home feel weathered or possibly broken altogether.

The last few weeks have felt a bit like that here. I’ve found myself as the referee between siblings too often or noticing things scattered about carelessly on the floors or counters or tables more often than not. The TV seemed to be on more than usual. The attitudes lower than usual. Meals have felt hustled. And I was exhausted, red flags everywhere shouting pay attention. I talked with Mark about it and we opted to try a small process we used when our children were younger and I felt overwhelmed: set aside a few days for focused, intentional training. Training sounds like such an intense word, but all it is: reestablishing the order and peace of the home. The goal isn’t to lead perfect lives; it’s to heed the red flags as helpful guides letting us know some things need to change. Today always offers a fresh start and new mercy. When life feels chaotic, here is what we do to cultivate peace in our home again.


Clear your schedule for a few days. Set aside 2-3 days for full relational attention and care. No playdates or trips to the grocery. No friends over for dinner or answering emails or checking social media. Create space for full attention and care. If you work full-time out of the home, consider taking a personal day attached to a weekend. If you work from home, plan to keep specific and clear hours for a few days. Sometimes simplifying time restraints can immediately calm the emotions in the home.

Begin with tidy spaces. Clutter promotes stress and works against peace in the home. It just does. This isn’t a mantra or a flag touting a perfect home either, but sometimes when our homes become littered with little things on the surfaces and floors, it effects our home emotionally more than we know. I’m still learning the balance of living with my children (when all the things come out) and keeping things in their place, but I always find it helpful when we begin to feel disconnected emotionally, to begin with tidying our spaces. If this feels like too much, simply walk around the house with a box or bag, collecting things and put it into a closet for now. The goal is a quick clean-up to focus relationally, not to necessarily clean out your house. Mark that for another date. (Makes note.)

Limit or eliminate screen time for these days. Screen time can be a wonderful way to connect as a family, and also a way to buy a mother of young children 30 minutes of quiet. But it can become a slippery slope in our home, so when emotions are high, it’s easiest to eliminate screens from the equation for a bit. So instead of snuggle movie night, we’ll enjoy game night or playing HORSE on the basketball goal together. Instead of video games, we’re enjoying tether ball matches and skateboarding outdoors. This also helps heal broken bonds.

Offer heaps of affection. This seemed particularly important when my children were young and would become consistently whiny or throw regular tantrums. Many times, they simply needed more positive quality time with me, reminders of their safe place with us and at home. But older children need large amounts of affection from their parents, too, something I forget a bit as they grow and exert more independence. Holding time strengthens connection and also reassures children (of all ages) that they’re loved and safe. So during these 2-3 days I snuggle my children even more, and try to make space for alone time with each of them, a time for each to feel heard.

Hold value boundaries more tightly. Things can seem simpler in our minds or plans than they are when carried out. I can know our children need sleep and become distracted during bedtime routines, often prolonging them. I can know our children need more whole foods and yet still cave and offer goldfish or easy processed snacks. When there’s an argument or some harsh word exchanged between siblings, I can delay in addressing it because I’m busy doing something else. This is life. But during these few days, Mark and I focus to reinforce the boundaries we value. Bedtime routine begins a little earlier, allowing for a slower pace. Strife, harsh words or physical outbursts of any sort are addressed immediately. Eating becomes a little cleaner, and so on. This part work because of the heaps of affection being poured out at other times. One part establishes structure for them; the other part establishes the loving context. Since young children are really concrete, it is particularly helpful for them to have immediate consequences and rewards, and heaps of affection and snuggling for context.

Infuse the air with uplifting scents and sounds. It seems small, but turning on uplifting music and diffusing the air with essential oils can quickly help calm emotions and shift the mood of the home. On harder days, rubbing some right on your neck (or theirs) can help, too. Some of my favorite oils to diffuse are:

  • orange, clove, and frankincense
  • lavender and eucalyptus
  • bergamot and lavender
  • ginger, orange, and cedarwood
  • YL Stress Away or Peace and Calming II blends
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for the weekend | favorite books on parenting

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Weekends are always the best time for personal reading. On Saturdays, I tend to stay in my PJs longer and often meander back into my bed with coffee and a book, a small gratitude with having older children. A couple of people have recently asked me about my favorite parenting books, so I thought I might share a few here for those of you interested in the books that have helped shape the strategy and heart in our parenting thus far. Truly, my mother and other dear friends have been my favorite resources, although I know not everyone has parents they can trust for advice, or friendships nearby with whom to share a drink and swap parenting joys and woes. On a brief side-note, if you are in the latter group, please don’t be  discouraged. I have found myself in similar places after moves or in new transitions or simply due to the fullness of our family life, and there is a sweetness, too that comes with seasons alone with your children. You might find a few ideas for meeting friends in what I wrote here last year.

Parenting books are wonderful for hearing ideas and strategies outside of my immediate circles, especially when I have felt in a rut of routine or simply defeated. Let’s agree now: no book is entirely perfect or will match one family or child exactly. But I’ve learned if I’m willing to listen and observe my own children and habits and not assume I have to know everything or get it right all the time, it’s easier for me to hear just the right lessons anywhere. Also, prayer matters. Taking time to bless my children (and husband), to ask God for wisdom in how to lead them, is a bold act of humility; it also shapes my own heart. I digress again. As we grow nearer to the teen years, I’m looking again at these books and turning to a few new ones. Of course, I’d love to hear any of your own favorites (and so would other readers), so feel free to share in the comments.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson | I want to read this again as an older parent. This book covers a broad range of topics and is written in a way that explores and exposes research than gives didactic steps for parents to practice. It’s smart and narrative-drive, and the writers have clearly titled and sub-titled each chapter for quick reference or if you’re simply interested in reading a part. The book is intriguing for exploring some of the common social beliefs/stereotypes about children and teens.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne | I mentioned this book here, so you might have known it would appear on this page, too. It is a “less is more” book on parenting and is clear, gentle, and well-written. I should also note that although it addresses the clutter of toys and routine, it’s truly a deeper philosophy, one that if begun in little ways while children are small will be a gift in upcoming years, too.

Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk | This book is written from a Christian perspective about loving and empowering your children with self-control over punishment-driven tactics. It is narrative-driven, brief, and easy to follow. Although the ideas are his own, Silk often references Parenting with Love and Logic, another reference I’ve heard other parents rave about over the years, although I have never read it.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The Seven Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation  by Becky Bailey | I read this when Olive was a toddler, when I found myself exhausted of strategies to nurture her emotional self while setting boundaries that worked for my other children. This book is clear and highly practical, and always address the parent’s heart/thoughts first before addressing the children. The seven basic skills are clearly outlined with sub-titles (for skimming or reference as you need it). I wish I could put one in the hand of most adults, who it seems could benefit from learning these skills as much as children.

Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey | This book has little to do with parenting and much to do with understanding people. We all know our partners and children are different than us, and yet it’s still difficult to resist making them like us. This book, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), has been so helpful over the year for noticing the nuances of temperament. I don’t limit myself or family member to their boxes, as some might fear, but rather use it as a tool to see, “you’re not doing this to frustrate me, you truly experience the world in a way that doesn’t value or see this.” It leads to all sorts of interesting conversations.

on “doing it all”

doing_it_all-1Last week, I received an email from a sweet reader asking how I manage to do it all and make it look so easy–“I’m not even homeschooling and I can barely hold it all together,” she added. From where I read her words I surveyed the mess around me–my unfolded laundry still sitting in the basket, our books and notebooks scattered across the table and chairs and floor. In that moment, I might have spouted a whole series of unfinished TO DOs, everything from meal-planning and some sort of exercise with the kids to finishing a writing piece, calling a friend, paying a bill, or arranging an overdue date night. When had my floors last been swept and wasn’t there something my husband asked me to do on his way out this door? I might have actually laughed out loud at myself. For anyone who has ever asked me this question, I can only ever respond, “I really don’t.”

For those of us who really long to parent well–the majority of you reading this, I imagine–it is that word well that can often result in our trying to do everything in the first place. We want to raise well-adjusted, well-educated, well-dressed, well-informed, well-liked, well-prepared, well-[whatever other goals you may have] children and yet remain well ourselves. We want to look and feel well. We want to perform well in our work in and outside of the home. We want to eat well, read well, pray well, and of course rest well.  We want to take care of the of earth well, take care of those outside our homes well–and of course, our homes, too!  It sounds ridiculous written out like this, yes? Yet we try. And then we scroll through our media feeds and other online communities, where we all share our beautiful [homes, travels, children, partners, friends, meals, work, etc.] and it appears as though other parents are actually doing it! We have somehow missed some well-known secret or truth to meeting all of our goals–or maybe that’s just me.

The truth is my house is not always clean. Our meals are not always gourmet. I sometimes wear sweatpants all day or let my kids play and draw/paint instead of doing their “school” work (ahem–like right now). I am sometimes grumpy with my family and often forget to brush my own or my girls’ hair. For every beautiful moment or thought I write here or elsewhere, there are other potentially beautiful things I am not doing. It’s the nature of living with limitations of time and our humanity. They force us to choose. Although I have no magical secrets, I do have a few things I’ve learned in my journey of motherhood and home-education that help me choose well for myself and my family. Here’s a few, just in case you’re interested:

let go of perfectionism // You cannot give 100 percent of yourself to everything. Something will always give. If you tend to be a perfectionist (ding, ding, right here), as a parent, it will serve you well to learn and practice the phrase “well enough” and to see each piece of your life in the context of the whole. Perfectionism can be valuable at time, but it can also waste time.

do what you (and your family) love //  Each family will value something a bit different, and it’s good to know what those values are. Many times in parenthood, instead of choosing between good and bad, we’re forced to choose between two good options, two things we want. In those times, my husband and I begin to assess which option more closely aligns with what our family values as a whole. Sometimes this can help us choose spending money on travel or a new home project. Other times it can be making a decision about our extra activities. 

evaluate how you use your time // This seems perhaps the most obvious, but spend a week recording how you use your time–and be honest. (There are several apps to help with this if that’s easier.) How does your time match up with your values? For instance, I really value writing and photographing, which can sometimes compete with time I need to spend with the kids in our school routine. Each morning I wake up at 5 am to write/work until 7 when I force myself to stop and switch gears to our usual routine. If I need to resume working, I’ll do so in the afternoon when possible. Although these are two things I value, I have to choose how to prioritize my time.

say “no” confidently // For some of you, this will sound ridiculous, but I actually have a hard time telling people no. I want to support what others are doing and honestly I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. There’s simply not enough of any of us to say “yes” to everything. Don’t feel guilty for turning opportunities down, even good ones. Also, there are certain seasons in motherhood that require us to say “no” more often. If you’re in one of those seasons, enjoy it. Those seasons can be some of the sweetest times, and they’re sure not to last forever.

 

 

 

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courageous and considerate parenting

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I recently read a Twitter chat between a cluster of homeschooling moms mourning that one had recently been asked which curriculum to use for a three-year-old. Although these moms were well-intentioned in their encouragement of one another allowing young children to learn naturally, their very public chat seemed to simultaneously outcast a different group of homeschooling parents, possibly the ones who lean toward a more traditional approach or who are new to homeschooling in general. Although I tend to agree with many of these women’s philosophies now, I felt compassion for this anonymous woman asking about curriculum. At one point, I would have asked the same. I didn’t have a clue about homeschooling when we began, and although I felt confident as a parent, my traditional public schooling had created a sort of dualism within me regarding education: things I learned at home and things I learned at school. Over the last few years, these artificial walls have been crumbling, and I’m becoming more relaxed and confident with my own style and my own children’s triumphs and struggles. But it hasn’t always been this way. In the beginning, I planned and organized and used more formal curriculums at younger ages. I wanted my kids to be school-educated–an isolated category in my mind at the time. Most importantly, I wanted to alleviate that nagging question, “had we done the right thing?”

Perhaps that word right or best is the most confounding when removed from a specific context. For instance, what is right in relation to how we each learn or manage our family? The beauty of parenting is the unique journey. As parents, we will always have something to teach and something to learn. This is how we come to need other people in our lives–even when we choose different paths. Even within households, parents will vary in degrees, and children can be as different as moon and sun, connected and individual in purpose and disposition. At five, one of my children balked at math lessons while another at the same age requested them. One of my children learned to read fluently at four and another not until age seven. I have friends whose older children still struggle with reading for various reasons. They have learned other ways to inspire their children’s learning in the process.  I know parents who formally structure their days and others who allow their children to choose the day’s agenda. I know amazing parents who homeschool, who particpate in part-time homeschool programs, and plenty who send their kids to school and find ways to enrich their education during breaks and summers. Is there a right way? Certainly not. And I hope that in this process, we are always generous with grace for one another and our children. Educational preferences and learning styles are as personal as any other family routine. There can be overlap with another family’s choices, but in the end, it’s your story; be courageous and considerate when sharing your own.

*I took this image on my phone, so it’s a little grainy.

on limitations and thanksgiving

braidsAs a parent, some days seem impossible. My children whine and bicker with one another and with me, refusing generosity and kind words for that ubiquitous I-my-me. They grumble about their work and wish their day away, convinced they are missing the elusive Better–who always seems to be somewhere else, doing something else. And sometimes secretly in my own heart I do the same. When I am careless, these sort of days will swallow me whole, like a serpent and an egg, removing me from the moment into daydreams of Better. I know we all dream of better, a natural progression in life and maturity, but this is Better, the one who finds me (and maybe you) in my ordinary day and taunts me with the idea that I somehow have less, am receiving less.

I felt this impossible swallowing at some point last week and naturally spent a few days trying to adjust and fix [my routine, words, pictures, plans], working harder, when what I really needed was to stop working. Instead, I really needed to reflect and give thanks. Sometimes we really require inspiration and encouragement to move us forward and other times we need to look around and be grateful for what we have. It’s the simplest of lessons, really–one I can easily disregard with a simple “oh yeah, I know.” But true thanksgiving has a way of healing fissures in our soul caused by want. I do this intuitively as a parent when my kids are grumbling with one another or about something they want. “And what are you grateful for? How has someone been generous to you?” I’ll ask, almost rhetorically. Yet, it’s more difficult to self-govern my own heart in these moments.

Honestly, it’s difficult and awkward for me to say these things out loud, to write them here for the world to see. But I hope in sharing this somehow you’ll see that no one is perfect, not even me. I hope that these words comfort you to remember that behind all the beautiful images and stories clouding our various screens, we’re all living by grace and struggling with the various limits of our humanity. We are all wrestling with the idea of Better. I hope that in reading these words you’ll remember to be patient with yourself and those around you and, for a moment, to take inventory of your life and to give thanks.

 

 

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collecting thanksgiving

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painted leaves | chalkboard | twine | journal

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Have I told you that yet? While of course I love the entire holiday season (Christmas and New Year’s included), I especially love that Thanksgiving causes me–all of us– to stop and reflect. For one day, instead of looking to our wants and needs and TO DOs, we dwell on what we have, on the relationships we’ve been given, and say “thank you.” I’ve had to refocus my own heart in this way regularly the last two years. As life has seemed to size us down (you can read more about that here), it feels easier to focus on the loss, the lack, the want. Finding ways to say “thank you” in those moments seems harder, like trying to lift your arms on a spinning roller coaster with gravity willing against you. No, giving thanks does not always happen naturally. However, when we intentionally seek ways to be thankful regardless of the circumstances, our hearts always grow. That’s the real gift.

The kids and I began collecting thanks a couple of years ago in a journal. Each day we would pass the book around and write something/someone we were thankful for, things like family members and pillow pets and a new bug we discovered and sunlight and fireworks and ideas such as wisdom. I’m writing in past tense because somewhere in the chaos of the last six months, we stopped. We now do it orally each morning with our read-a-loud time, but I miss having the written record. So in light of the season and trying again to be more intentionally grateful, I have been finding easy ways to begin collecting our thanksgiving again. Here’s a few of my favorites. What about you? How do you cultivate thanksgiving during this season? I would love to hear.

 

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when love makes you vulnerable

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To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Millions of poems and songs and stories and books have been written on love. If we’ve existed for any length of time at all, we’ve already gained some experience, some insight into what love is or isn’t. Although I could fill an entire blog with new things to say on the subject, today, I only wanted to talk about one aspect: the vulnerability love requires, specifically as a parent. Before I became a parent, abstractly, I knew we would encounter difficulties. I knew motherhood would challenge me, even change me.  Some of this knowledge I had gathered listening to and watching other parents (including my own), while some know-how seemed like common sense. Childbirth, for example, I knew would cause me pain. I am familiar with my anatomy enough to know that violent things would have to occur in and to my body for a human to grow inside of me and to ultimately exist apart from me. I knew babies didn’t sleep well or arrive with complete sentences articulating their needs or wants. I knew my children would be different from me, which meant sometimes we would disagree. And I theoretically knew life as Mark and I had known in it in our two brief years together would not be the same. Still, we–the same as millions of other people–chose to have and love children. Almost instinctively, we knew (however theoretically) that what we would give and receive in loving was far greater than what it would cost us. Ten years later, I still agree.

But love does require of us. And it does requires vulnerability. It requires us to give from our depths, to allow someone else into our dreams/plans, to say giving is better than receiving. Love requires vulnerability when we don’t have the answer, when we can’t resolve a situation, to say, “I don’t know.” Each time we say the words, “I love you,” some measure of our heart is exposed, available for rejection, for ridicule. Vulnerable connotes weakness in our culture, that somehow our exposure and availability to scrutiny, to hurt, to loss makes us less.  Yet, as Lewis points out, the alternative to this sort of love is self-preservation, the love of self. This isn’t meaning taking care of yourself or having self-respect or even loving who you are is not important. They are extremely important, but it can’t be the end. Love is many things but insular is not one of them. Love requires an exchange, a transfer, the ability to say in all things, in all attitudes, “I am for you” even if I don’t always have the right words or the immediate solution to your needs.

I’ve had to practice these things (with various success) over the last ten years as a parent, but it’s still difficult. It can hurt me when my child is throwing a tantrum or spews hurtful words or refuses my help. It can be difficult when in their immaturity, they choose to intentionally disobey me. It can be hurtful (and exhausting) when I have spent most of the day addressing heart attitudes. On these days, I might find myself raising my voice or folding my arms across my chest or worse being careless with my words–this is what self-preservation looks like on me. It feels easier in the moment to dwell on the hard, on my own hurt, on what I need. Sometime I have the wisdom in the moment to take a break, to step outside (or inside), to hear the Lord say to me, “I am for you. I see you. I know you. And I am for you.” On those days, when I take that time, suddenly my arms relax and my heart is able to see again, to open. I confess this to my kids  and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t handle you well when I _____.”  I wish these occurrences didn’t exist that I could say I always respond to my children from a whole heart and with perspective. But I too am human and  it’s good for my kids to understand and know this, to see I am not always right, I don’t always have the right answers or responses, and that as an adult, I’m still learning how to love and be loved. This too is vulnerability, the place where all of our hearts grow.

Blessings to you all this Monday. May you have the courage and grace to walk humbly and love with vulnerability today.