When We Become Lazy…

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“I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.”
Proverbs 24:30-34

I adore the book of Proverbs. It is one of the most practical books in the entire Bible. Even if you don’t believe in God, in which case Proverbs would call you out as a fool, there is much practical, everyday wisdom and instruction to be had in its pages. I believe I have a particular affinity for Proverbs because Solomon chooses to throw out any sugar coating and gets straight to the problem. Take Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” There are no fluffy words. He says it plainly and simply. If you love discipline, then you love knowledge. If you don’t, then you’re stupid.

Proverbs 24:30-34 is another one of these types of passages. Solomon tells a story of how he was walking down the road and stumbled upon an overgrown vineyard that belonged to a lazy man. The vineyard was clearly no longer producing fruit. It was overgrown with weeds and thorns. Even the stone wall that surrounded and protected the vineyard was broken. Solomon took this as a teachable moment. Clearly laziness doesn’t get you far…but it does get you deep into poverty.

Now, I by no means believe that every person who finds him/herself wanting is lazy. In fact, Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” Clearly we are to be generous to the poor, giving all that we are able as unto The Lord himself. Jesus drives home the point in Matthew 25:31-46 when he compares those who were generous in life with their time, talents, and resources with those who were not. He says they will be thanked for feeding, clothing, visiting, and helping him when he was in need. The righteous person will be confused, not remembering when they did these good deeds “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

I believe that this Proverb, though, is speaking directly to the person who is in poverty because of his own laziness. There are many who are in poverty because they don’t feel like working 40 hours or more a week. They don’t want to go through the hard work of developing a stellar portfolio or resume. They go hungry and find themselves wanting. I think the implications of this problem are clear. Hard work => good return. Laziness => poverty. But I think there is more we can glean from this warning of the perils of laziness.

At the risk of over-spiritualizing the passage, I think we can learn much more than the obvious here. Of course Solomon is talking about physical laziness, physical weeds and thorns, and physical poverty. But there are many passages in the Bible that use agricultural laws to illustrate a spiritual reality.

The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 is a story about a farmer who goes to plant seeds on his land. The seed lands in many different places and, therefore, some of the seeds grow better than other seeds. Some of the seeds land among thorns and weeds and are choked out. Now the parable is not really about seeds and soil, but about the telling of the word of God. Some of the seeds have landed among the thorns. Verse 22 clarifies that the thorns and weeds are “the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches.”

It is important to remember that each seed that the farmer tossed out was the same. Each seed had the same potential to grow, but not all of the soil was the same. I believe we can relate this back to our vineyard from Proverbs. Notice that Solomon didn’t say he passed by a vineyard that had horrible soil compared to the neighboring vineyards and farms. Not at all. It was good soil with the same potential as any other vineyard. The man simply chose not to till the ground and pull out the weeds.

Spiritually speaking, we can get lazy and allow weeds and thorns to choke out our fruit from growing. “The cares of the world, and deceitfulness of riches” can cause us to neglect the people and responsibilities that truly matter in this world. We can get lazy and stop reading our Bibles. We can get lazy and stop going to church. We can get lazy and stop praying to God. We can get lazy and stop telling other people about the joy we have found in a relationship with God. We get lazy.

Who knows? Maybe this farmer had worked so hard during the last growing season that he had so much excess and decided to take a vacation. But the season(s) of neglect resulted in an overgrown vineyard that no longer produces fruit and lacks the walls to defend it from robbers and wild animals…not to mention a hungry and needy farmer.

This vineyard had three identifying factors.
1. The thorns and weeds. When we get lazy, thorns and weeds, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, start to overgrow our lives. This starts slowly with a little bit of greed here and a little bit of vanity there until they are the only things you will see. Anyone who has done any farming or gardening will tell you that you don’t need to try to plant weeds. They just show up. Every day you may walk out to your garden and find a new weed or two and they need to be pulled. Humans don’t need to work hard to become “worldly.” We don’t have to try to be selfish or greedy. It comes naturally to us.  It takes hard work and prayer to keep those things from taking over in our lives.
2. The lack of fruit. Once the weeds and thorns have taken over, they begin to choke out the fruit. Maybe there was still some fruit when the weeds first started to come in, but left alone long enough, the weeds overtook the whole vineyard and there were no longer any fruitful plants. Galatians 5 tell us that “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” When we become lazy, the weeds, or cares of this world, choke out all of the wonderful fruit that should be growing in our lives.  It only takes a small amount of observation of a person to determine if there is much good fruit being produced in his/her life.  We all know someone who me we admire who is full of love, joy, peace…etc.  Chances are they are not lazy and are constantly weeding out the thorns from their lives.
3. The lack of protection. Have you ever seen an old, abandoned farm with fences falling over? An active, attentive farmer rebuilds broken fences and works to keep plants from overgrowing and destroying the fences. Our back yard has a thick block wall between us and the trail in town. We have an enormous tree that is not far from the wall. Now, I’m sure when the city first built the wall, it was in great shape and the tree was a little smaller. We currently have a huge crack in the wall where the roots of the tree have started to break the wall in two. The tree, left to its own devices, is beginning to destroy the barrier that protects our yard from invaders. Likewise, the stone wall that had been built to divide and protect this vineyard from robbers or wild animals is destroyed due to neglect. When we become lazy we destroy the barriers between ourselves and the things that would steal our fruit…our love, joy, peace…etc. We allow thieves to come in and take what they want. Whether that thief be an affair, pornography, or some other obvious sin, or something less obvious that takes little by little like too much tv, spending too much money, or gossip, they begin to take anything of value left.  The greatest defense we have against these weeds is the Word of God. Hebrews  4 tells us that the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, exposing our heart, thoughts, and attitude.  The word of God makes the enemies of our hearts clear to us so we can properly defend ourselves and built up walls to keep them out.  I used to spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I discovered that the time I spent on Pinterest gave me a horrible case of, what my step mom likes to call, “I-Want-itis.” I became discontented, greedy, and frustrated. I was discontented to see all of these beautiful projects that will never realistically be within my reach. It would take ten mansions to be able to store all of the wonderful bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, backyards, and other objects of my desire. I still pop on Pinterest every now and then when I’m looking for ideas for specific projects or parties. But I constantly have to remind myself to not get carried away. God’s word calls us to flee from temptation, to not become greedy, and to store our treasures in heaven. If it takes getting rid of my Pinterest app to keep those undesirable thorns out of my life, so be it. I’d rather see good fruit.

Now, if we are honest, we will all say that we have most certainly gone through seasons of clear spiritual laziness. We’ve neglected that which is most important to living this life to the fullest. If we were to inspect our own lives during those seasons we would see a clear correlation between our choice of spending time with God, reading his word, and serving his people, with the health of our spiritual lives.

This vineyard was, no doubt, a sad sight to see. Solomon saw the potential in what could be and thought, “what a pity. What a sad waste of a wonderful vineyard with great potential to grow and provide for a family.” Take this wonderful passage as a warning against laziness both in your physical life as well as your spiritual life. I only pray that my heart will ponder and heed this warning for the rest of my life as I attempt to live a life that is continuously connected to Christ.

My Romance Rant

16 Feb

This past Friday was Valentine’s Day so it seems only fitting that I write my thoughts about romance. I am not a romantic in the traditional sense. I don’t like mushy, cliche, traditional displays of affection. I don’t like romantic movies, books, songs… Ok. That’s not 100% true. There are some really funny chick flicks and some really beautiful love songs (Just the Way You Are, Longer Than just to name a couple…). I don’t mind romance in someone else’s life. If traditional romance is your thing, then good for you. And I mean that seriously. I’m glad for you. If you like red roses, chocolate, and a candlelit dinner on Valentine’s Day, your birthday, and anniversary, then awesome! I’m glad that you have that and/or want that in your life. Someone has to, right? Or we wouldn’t have all of that in the movies. But I don’t want traditional romance in mine. Let me tell you why.

**disclaimer** this post is meant to be lighthearted…so don’t take offense if any of these describe something that sounds like something you’d love… We are all different and that’s a good thing. I just get tired of people assuming that all women love roses, chocolate, sappy movies…you know…like Beauty and the Beast…”flowers, chocolates…promises you don’t intend to keep…”

1. Traditional romance makes me feel indebted. I have always felt this way. One-on-one dates always made me uncomfortable and I always insisted on paying for my own meal, movie ticket, coffee..etc. Is this a fair thought? Probably not. But it is most certainly how I feel. I don’t like feeling like I owe anyone anything. I remember going on a date with a guy whom I worked with in early high school. We went mini-golfing. We made a bet at the beginning of the date that the loser owed the winner $10. It was fun and lighthearted and made the date a little bit less awkward by adding in a bit of competition. I was doing great until the last few holes and, of course, he wouldn’t accept my $10 when I lost. I thought that was the gentlemanly thing to do even though I was completely prepared to fork over the cash. It was a bet, after all, and I lost fair and square. When he dropped me off he walked me to the door and asked for a kiss in exchange for the $10 I owed him. Seriously? Gag me. Dude. I was 16 years old and prepared to give you my money. That was it. I owed you 10 bucks. Not a kiss. Weirdo. Now, you may say that it wasn’t a traditionally romantic date…but it’s all the same to me. You buy me roses…I owe you a kiss. You buy me lobster? Gosh…what might I owe you after that? I never wanted anyone to come asking for what I “owed” them…so I liked to keep it simple. I pay my way. You pay your way. No one feels required to make this work, go on a second date, or give anything in return. Plain and simple. (To answer Josh’s question, no…I’m not friends with this guy on Facebook or otherwise. He was fired and I never heard from him again…only further proving my point.)

2. Traditional romance clouds your judgement. When I watch chick flicks with romantic scenes with two people on a first or second date I can’t help but think, “ugh! You’re so being manipulated right now.” Romantic gestures can get you caught up in the moment. You feel so connected, so appreciated, so loved…and you stop thinking clearly. Suddenly you toss aside logic and let yourself just go with the flow. Giving into romance makes me feel foolish. Again…this may not be true for everyone. I know a lot of women who love romance and have romantic husbands and they love getting into the whole romantic thing together. I’m glad for them. That’s how they connect. But I cannot get myself into it. I cannot get past feeling so stupid. It’s funny because I can totally appreciate when my friends express joy over a romantic date with their husbands and I genuinely think it is sweet that they share that…it just isn’t for me. I wish I had some personal story worth telling to demonstrate my point…but let me just say that I am sure many lives have been changed forever due to one really romantic date with a guy who never calls you back. I haven’t had that happen personally…but I’ve heard plenty of stories on both sides of that and have never wanted to take part… Consider the Twilight movies, for example. The two main characters have lots of really strange encounters. He takes her running through the forest and shows is shiny body to her in the woods. They look into each other’s eyes and he talks about how she is made for him blah blah blah…and she totally just throws away logic and reasoning, gives up her entire life (literally) to be with and become a vampire? Come. On. While I don’t anticipate this exact situation occurring in real life, there are plenty of similarities to actual situations. The guy may be dangerous, but he says loves me and buys me flowers…so I’m ok. No thanks. I’ll keep to my boring, pessimistic, head-on-straight ways of thinking…

3. Traditional romance seems like a formula. I think the movies provide guys at an early age with all the right things to say and do to get in good with a girl. Buy her flowers. Write notes to her. Slow dance and look her in the eyes and say some sappy little phrase and she will kiss you (yuck)…and you’re set. Seriously, any kind of sweet or romantic thing a guy has ever done for me usually results in laughter. I find it so awkward. I want to ask, “now…which movie gave you that idea?” Saying it out loud (or typing it out loud…??) makes it sound way meaner than I intend. I’m not saying a guy doesn’t have to go out on a limb to offer a girl a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day or something. Sure. Some guys do. And some girls love it. But it isn’t really that creative. It isn’t always personal. Again..some girls love it and if you’re one of those girls, then good. But we don’t all fit into that mold. I have to laugh because I have a dad who warned me about teenage boys when I was young. I was warned that they’d say or do anything to get what they want. So when a guy in high school romantically told me he had a dream that he had proposed to me (in many more words) I literally laughed and shook my head. I was pretty adamant about abstinence so when the same guy asked, “so when do you think God thinks you’re married?” I laughed. (And he had many more fun phrases and questions…persistent little fella…and if you went to school with me, before you think you know who it was, you probably don’t…). I didn’t find it cute. I didn’t find it romantic. I saw it just as my dad had warned me about…they’ll say anything to get what they want. Sorry… Sweet look + sincere voice + sappy words = eye roll from this gal… I’m not a performing monkey. I don’t do tricks because you gave me a treat. And every kiss totally does not begin with Kay… (but really, whoever thought of that little jingle was a genius…they’ve gotten great mileage out of that phrase! Now the “he totally went to Jared” commercials…yeah…you need to think of something else… )

In conclusion, I’m so glad I married Josh. Josh is a romantic thru and thru. He would love nothing more than a romantic candlelit dinner, holding hands, kissing…(I’m feeling nauseated just typing that…) He has definitely said and done some things that have made me laugh and shake my head. He has given me a glimpse into the heart of a sincere and romantic man. And he has learned and accepted that romance isn’t a formula. For me, romance is totally different. When we were dating he took a spontaneous trip across the country over Valentine’s Day weekend to visit me. It was not like him to skip class and spend hundreds of dollars on a whim. We spent the weekend watching movies, hanging out with friends, and sledding. Playing games, hanging out with friends, helping with the kids so I can get some rest, take a shower or be with my friends, getting Chick-Fil-A and watching Harry Potter, X-Men, or The Hunger Games, going to a baseball or hockey game, or doing something completely unexpected…And asking for nothing in return makes me feel loved. Unfortunately, my kind of romance comes with a bit of a learning curve. It has probably been 6 years of learning for Josh but I appreciate that he takes the time to figure me out.

So, I have to give a shout out to all the ladies out there who don’t fit into the typical style of romance. If you’re not married, then don’t settle. Be yourself. If the flowers, chocolate…etc isn’t your thing, that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be. If you’re married to a romantic, help him figure you out. Give him some pointers. If you’re as lucky as I am to be married to someone who genuinely wants to make you happy, he will gladly hear you out! There are definitely times when I have to sacrifice my “comfort” and allow Josh to be romantic in his own way…a great compromise has been flowers on any day other than my birthday, anniversary, or Valentines Day…I love flowers! Just not on predictable days…letting me know you were thinking about me so you bought me flowers is sweet. It’s a win-win! Happy non-traditional-Valentine’s Day lovin’ friends!

Being a SAHM

16 Jan

When I was a young college student I had my life all planned out. I was going to get married, work hard for several years to pay off my student loans, buy a house, and a car and then, when I was totally ready because I had money, I’d start a family. It all made perfect sense to me. My plans all blew up, though, the moment I found out that I was pregnant with Emery. Josh and I had been married for just a month and a half and that little smiley face on the pregnancy test really should have looked more worried with maybe a touch of sweat dripping down its face. Because that’s how I felt. I was so scared. I mean, I was happy because I love children and believe that all children are a gift from God. They’re all beautiful and precious (even when they’re not) and should be rejoiced over. I quickly ran to Walmart, while on the phone with my best friend, to get another pregnancy test and make sure that it wasn’t a false positive. I took the test in the Walmart bathroom and got another smiley face (without sweat drops…). I remember laughing. I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, some people cry when they’re overwhelmed. I laugh. That nervous laugh when you’re not actually smiling. I decided I’d be excited. We would figure this out! We could do this! So I ran to the baby department and bought a cute little gender neutral, koala bear baby bathrobe and a pregnancy book, checked out, and put it in a gift bag for Josh. I wasn’t planning to get pregnant (and don’t ask how it happened or I’ll give you all the raunchy details to put shame to that ridiculous question that has plagued unexpected pregnancies from the beginning of time…) so I didn’t have a lot of time to plan a fun and exciting pregnancy announcement to my husband or parents.

When Josh opened the bag and saw the ridiculous grin on my face he said, “are you serious?” And not the oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-happy-and-filled-with-joy-at-the-thought-of-our-impending-parenthood “are you serious?” It was more the I-don’t-have-a-job-and-am-so-scared-I-could-puke-and-have-never-held-a-baby-and-feel-so-unprepared-are-my-eyes-watering-with-fear-filled-tears “are you serious?”. I’m pretty sure my response was, “Hey. I wasn’t planning this either and I don’t need this right now.” And there we stood. Totally terrified.

I still had a year left of school, including my final semester of student teaching. Josh didn’t have a job and was violently shoved into a full-time job of job hunting and applying at employment agencies. I started filling out paperwork for Badger Care (Wisconsin’s version of Medicaid) as Josh’s lack of employment and my full-time student status granted us zero maternity benefits. And, soon, I felt very excited for the arrival of our son. I couldn’t wait to meet his face. I was no longer afraid. I was prepared, so I thought. I knew that we could do this. I knew that we could figure it out. I knew that God would provide somehow. And He did. Josh got a job with benefits. We got a great 3 bedroom apartment for super super cheap. We received a lot of wonderful gifts and hand me downs for Emery. And my school allowed me to work extra hard with my student teaching so I could be done once Emery was born and still graduate. It was all falling into place.

During my entire pregnancy I planned to go back to work when Emery was six weeks old. There was no other option in my mind. I only had one friend, that I know of, who had a stay at home mom growing up. It was totally unfamiliar to me. We also didn’t have the best finances for me to be staying at home. I think Josh was making something like $12 an hour and we were spending around $400 a month for health insurance. It just couldn’t add up. The moment Emery was born, though, math didn’t matter. Logic and reasoning were sucked away. There was no room for that in my heart any longer. I took one look at him and determined that there was not a single person on this planet that could possibly love him as much as I do and, therefore, could not care for him as well as I could. My fears of not paying bills on time were replaced with fears of child abuse, neglect, and accidents. I spent six weeks dreading going back to work until I was set that I wouldn’t do it. I would be a stay at home mom (SAHM).

I had no clue what I was in for. I had no idea what kind of effect those words would have on other people and how many emotions they would bring up. I’ve received so many reactions from others that it is astounding. Some examples of responses I’ve received include: “good for you!”, “Oh, I did all that AND worked 40 hours a week.”, “I wish I could afford to do that!”, “I could never do that. I’d get bored.”, “I could never do that. I don’t have the patience.”, “oh I wish I had done that.”, “we couldn’t afford to have done that.” The list goes on and on. And these responses are what has incited this entire post.

First off, let me just get any ideas that I think “working moms” (as if I do no work as a SAHM) are bad parents out of the way. This is 100% not true! So before I get some nasty hate mail about how I’m insensitive to the parent who needs or wants to have a full time job, let me just tell you to take a 24 hour breather, vent to your spouse or other friend about it, and then don’t email me about it. Because that is definitely not my sentiment and I will not defend myself against something I did not say or mean. I think that “working moms” have challenges and experiences that I don’t understand and moms who stay at home have a whole different set of experience and challenges that “working moms” don’t. We all have something to bring to the table.

So…on with the show…

To you who are a stay at home mom let me say that I am there with you! Every night as I lay in bed awake with one of my kids I am praying for you. I know that you’re working hard and days of rest don’t exist. I know how precious each minute of sleep is when you have little ones. I know how it can feel like it is never going to get easier….and at the same time pains you to watch your children grow older and older and need you less and less. You aren’t alone. I’m totally with you when your child says, “ugh!! Could you just knock it off?!” to his little brother or sister in the most irritated and frustrated tone and you don’t have to wonder where he got that from. You know he got it from you. I’m there with you when you watch your baby take his first steps, and there with you when you’re crying on the first day of school. I’m there with you when you’re curled up on the bedroom floor crying because you lost it and yelled at your kids in a manner that no child should hear and you believe they’ll never forgive you…and you’ll never forgive yourself. I’m there when you’re desperate for a break. You just want to eat one meal that has been cooked in the last hour in peace and quiet. I’m there with you when the kids have taken every single thing out of you today and you are on empty…and they’re somehow still asking for more. I’m there when your little one does something sweet like holding the door open for you or wrapping his arms around your neck in love and affection…making it all worth it! I’m so there. I so get it! I often feel like being a SAHM is like running a marathon. It’s expensive. Often feels like torture. You have to give more when you have nothing left. But you have an incredible amount of joy when you’ve met your goal. Oh…and you get paid in stickers for your car.

To those who have had gracious and supportive conversations with me or another SAHM, let me say, “THANK YOU!” We are infinitely grateful to you for your kindness and support. You probably already know how much we need to hear that. I think the most kind words I’ve ever heard from someone came from an ex-teacher of mine. At the time I had two boys. I went to visit her at my old high school when I happened to be in town. She said, “wow! I stayed at home with my first son. Once my second was born I decided to go back to work. Being a stay at home mom was too hard and I found working full time to be easier.” Now, again, I’m not saying that this would be every working mother’s sentiment. What I appreciated was her recognition that my job is hard. I appreciated her telling me that I am strong! At the time I was really struggling through some parenting challenges and desperately needed someone to validate how difficult my job was rather than brushing it away. I’ve shared this same feeling with moms who homeschool their children. Holy cow! That is such a tough job. I could never be a homeschooling mom because it is so much work! Some of the most intelligent and wise people I know were homeschooled and I often feel they received a much more practical education than I did. It takes a whole gamut of skills that I just simply don’t possess. Your time, dedication, organization…all is way beyond me and I applaud you for it! I wish that I has those same qualities that you have.

Now, I realize there are some women who cannot afford to be a stay at home mom. Technically I can’t either. I have an amazing support system, though, which has allowed us to do this for such a short time in my childrens’ lives. I want to encourage those moms who cannot stay home and wish they could. You are a great mom! You are not doing a disservice to your children. You are working with what you’ve got and I’m sure you’re making every moment of it count!

For the moms who don’t stay at home and don’t want to: kudos to you too! It is better for you to do what you feel led to do than to feel bullied or pressured into staying home. If that isn’t what you want to do, then don’t do it! You’re no less of a mom for it. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids or that your priorities aren’t straight. It is you and what is best for you and your family. This isn’t 1898. You can work if you want to and don’t need to provide a reason or excuse. You want to work. Good! Do that!

Now, that I’m pretty sure I’ve covered my bases and genuinely shown that I support any mother (or father) regardless of their status as a working or “not working” (a phrase I loathe but will use for simplicity’s sake) parent, I can start a little bit of myth busting.

First on my list is the “I did all of that AND worked 40 hours a week” comment. Now, at the risk of being superfluous, I will say again that I completely support moms who have full time jobs. I sincerely do. Just don’t ever ever EVER tell a SAHM that you did her job plus yours. Would you tell that to your daycare provider? “Hey! I did everything you did today and I worked at the office as well!” I doubt it, because she probably wouldn’t ask you back as a customer. Also, please tell me how you managed to be like Hermione Granger and be in two places at once to be more productive because that is, truly, a useful trick! If you didn’t manage to be in two places at once and break all laws of time and space, then don’t ever say that again. You did not change every diaper, administer every bit of medicine, do every nap, referee every fight, pee with someone staring you in the face asking what you were doing while holding a crying baby, have your children throw a temper tantrum in your office because you didn’t do exactly what they wanted you to do at that moment… You did not do everything I do each day AND work a full time job. Maybe you did those things for a few hours in the evening or on the weekends when you were at home. But you didn’t do it all day every day. Promise. You simply didn’t. This isn’t to undermine you and your job and make mine sound better or more difficult than yours. It is to simply tell the truth and call out those who undermine SAHMs as if our job really doesn’t exist. I don’t say, “oh, I worked 40 hours a week outside of the home AND was a stay at home mom,” because it isn’t true.

Another pet peeve of mine is the, “I’d be so bored” comment or anything to that effect (other thoughts may include “not challenging enough for me” or “too mundane” or “not enough excitement and change”). It is usually followed by a “no offense” so as to make any response other than “none taken” null and void and you immediately turn into a dramatic, hyper sensitive overreactor. I get it. Being a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science (or any degree for that matter…). I get that I’m not sitting at a desk solving the world’s problems. I know that my vocabulary has exponentially decreased and it takes me much longer to form a thought than it did when I was in college, but I am far from bored. I am not stupid or uneducated. My job as a stay at home mom may not be the most intellectually challenging job, but I’d be hard-pressed to find many other jobs that are as challenging in character. Every day I am screamed at, hit/bit/or kicked, and trying my hardest to raise loving, responsible, intelligent, and sensitive children all with no pay, little thanks, and little to show for it at the end of each day with the hopes that it will pay off in the long run. (Not to mention that it is my responsibility to do the majority of the cleaning and housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, and budgeting for our home…). And, just to take it a step further, would you say this to your daycare provider (who likely has a degree in early childhood education)? Can you imagine her response when you tell her that her job doesn’t require much as far as brains and energy? Can you imagine how you’d feel if she said, “Wow. I’d be so bored sitting at a desk all day” (not to say that all working moms sit at desks…). How might an accountant feel if I said something like, “oh, I could never be an accountant. Numbers are so boring and, seriously have no long term impact. No offense.”?? (I couldn’t be an accountant, though…but because I’m terrible at math beyond basic algebra…). And, before I get a bunch of emails about this one from angry (or sorry) people who have expressed this sentiment to me or another SAHM in the past…let me kindly ask you to save it. I don’t need to hear an apology or an angry email…and neither do your other SAHM friends. I’d ask the same of you as I mentioned previously. Take a breather for a day. Think about it. Share your feelings with someone else. And I’d ask you to consider changing your thought process on the subject…and next time the words feel like they’re going to slip from your mouth, just say, “I’m not a SAHM because I don’t want to be.” You don’t have to list out the reasons as to why my job doesn’t meet your needs. Your not wanting to is just fine. It is OK to not want to be a SAHM. I don’t want to be a lot of things. That’s why I don’t do them. It isn’t because they’re beneath me or above me. I just don’t want to do them. End of story.

I love being a stay at home mom. Each day, while the same in many ways, presents itself with new challenges. Every day I need to keep my wits about myself. I need to remember that I’m doing this for the long term. I’ve given up a lot to stay home. I know that these years are short. This is what I feel called to do. Not everyone feels this way. And that is OK. I look forward to the day when I can go back to a full time job outside of the home. For now, I will appreciate my status as a stay at home mom. If you meet a SAHM today, give her a hug and tell her how she’s a hard worker and doing a great job! She probably doesn’t hear it often enough.

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Thoughts on Parenting

3 Oct

I have a love-hate relationship with Miriam Webster’s definition of parenting:
Parenting: the process of taking care of children until they are old enough to take care of themselves : the things that parents do to raise a child
“The process…” Parenting is definitely a process…an ever changing process. One day you’re doing a great job and feel like super-mom. The kids are all dressed, clean, fed, well-behaved, and reading books about shapes and colors like the little geniuses they are. You feel like they’re God’s gift to the world. The next day the kids are running rampant. They’re throwing tantrums, kicking random people in the grocery store (ask my dad about that one…), coloring on your walls, pooping on your carpet, and you feel like aliens have invaded and clearly have taken over your home. You find yourself curled up on the shower floor crying and repeating “I just want to go to bed” over and over and over again because you’re totally and completely depleted physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually…there’s just nothing left but a good cry. And your kids are standing there naked in the shower with you because they’d likely kill each other if you took your eyes off of them. Congrats, mom. You just successfully demonstrated a meltdown to your kids. Fail. And you do all of this so that they can hate you when they’re teenagers and tell you how unfair you are and how much you’ve ruined their lives…yah. *eyeroll*

Becoming a parent is a process. You don’t just wake up one day and become a parent. I mean…you could argue that the day your child is born or conceived is the day you become a parent. But “parenting” isn’t just the act of having a baby. It is the act of taking care of that child until they can do it on their own.

Here’s where the “hate” part of this definition comes in: “until….” So you are parenting “until…” I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m 28 years old and my parent still are parenting. It may be different than it was 20 years ago, but they’re still parenting. And “until..” “Until they are old enough to take care of themselves…” But when the heck is that?? Human babies are some of the most helpless creatures on Earth. And I’ve met some adults who are pretty helpless too. And who decides? What qualifies as taking care of oneself? And what if they have kids and choose not to take care of them? Then your grandPARENTING.

Really, it comes down to a lifelong commitment. When you decide you’re going to be a parent, you take the highs, lows, and maybe even the highs and lows of your grand kids. It doesn’t end. You’ve decided that, for the rest of your life, the first person you’re going to consider in the morning is no longer yourself…it is your kid and his/her well being. You’ve committed to countless sleepless nights when they’re young because they need you…and when they’re old because they don’t. You’ve chosen to forgo all that makes you comfortable that someone else might be comfortable instead.

Yesterday I was talking to someone and he said, “Man, I’m so tired. When I get home I’m going to crash. I’m going straight to bed. I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning.” I totally get it. It is so hard to function when you’re tired. I remember when I’d put in an 8 hour day, then work a night shift as a waitress, get home, sleep, and get up at 4am for another day’s work. It was exhausting. I also remember when I could look forward to bedtime…look forward to the weekend or the next major holiday and get a day off. I laughed and said, “oh. I’d love to say that too”, as I gestured toward Miles, “I sleep when he says I can sleep.” He laughed and said, “and THAT is why we do not have kids yet. I still want [me] time.”

He went on to tell how a friend of his said something like, “you know those parents that have a few kids and they just seem to hate their lives…???” This may sound awful, but I get it! I totally get it! 90% of the time you’re watching those parents out in public. They’re walking around WalMart with a cart full of kids who are screaming because they want to walk, grabbing things off the shelves when you’re not looking, hitting each other, hitting you, and there’s not much you can do about it because you’re in public. Yeah. I hate my life in those moments. I HATE when my kids don’t listen to me. I HATE having to discipline them. I hate not getting to sleep, shower, eat, or even pee by myself. I hate those things. I also hate how I am nowhere near where I thought I’d be ten years ago. I was not planning on being a 28 year old of 3 boys who hasn’t had a “real job”…well, ever! (I hardly think part-time and seasonal jobs through high school and college count). I hate how under appreciated parents are. I hate the nasty looks I get when my newborn is crying in the store. I hate how people whine when I get on an airplane…how I’m suddenly avoided like a leper. I hate how I always smell like spit up and dirt. I hate that I can’t just shut it all off for a day. Even if I was to get away, I’d still be thinking about my kids and feeling guilty for even having the desire to take a break. I hate that I don’t get a coffee break, lunch break, potty break…

I LOVE getting kisses, though. I love the hugs. I love kissing away tears. I love hearing “I love you, mommy.” I love morning (afternoon and evening…) cuddles. I love when my kids suddenly do something I’ve been trying to teach them forever! I love hearing stories about how Emery reached out to a little boy at school who didn’t seem to have anyone to play with, “my name is Emery. What’s your name?” I love when Levi says, “I missed you, Emmy!” I love when they ask to hold Miles. I love watching them grow and celebrating their birthdays and all they teach me about life and love. I love being a mommy. It isn’t easy. It isn’t glamorous. The pay sucks. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I have a love-hate relationship with parenting. But I wouldn’t give it up for the world. My kids mean so much more to me than I could ever express and I am so grateful for this gift.

As a parting gift, here are some funny videos about kids and parenting…
Mr. Universe 4 Kids

Tim Hawkins Parenthood

Welcome Baby Miles!

23 Jun

I’m not sure I’m completely ready to write out my birth story just yet.  I’m too close to it to really be able to look back and reflect on the day.  However, I figured I would write the basics about what happened and how it went.

It is more common for first time moms to head to the hospital or birth center only to be sent home with the news that they’re not in labor or that they’re not far enough and need to come back later.  Things are always a little more muddy with mommies who have already done this before.  New mommies aren’t always sure what to expect, so they often go in during false labor or Braxton Hicks contractions.  I had been having contractions on and off for a long time as my body geared up for the real deal.  But when the real deal started I wondered if this could really be it.  I kinda thought it might be false labor.

I woke up with some pretty nasty back pain in the morning and had contractions on and off throughout the day.  We had several plans for the day including taking our van in to the shop for the AC, grocery shopping (thank God we did this when we did), plans for Josh to see a movie with a friend while his wife & I hung out with the boys, and cookout and games afterward.  The guys left for their movie at about 2:15.  Around 4:00 or so my contractions started to get so intense that I decided to download a contraction tracker on my iPad to help me calculate if they were really coming as often and sticking around as long as I thought they were.  I tried not to let Cece on to what was going on.  I didn’t want to startle her if it was nothing.  However, they were getting painful enough that I couldn’t really talk through them.  The guys got back to the house after the movie around 6:00 or so and we fired up the grill.  I told Josh that I had been keeping track of my contractions but wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  They were a little irregular, but very intense.

At about 6:20 I decided to call Cherish and Lori, my midwives, to see what they thought.  To my surprise, there was another mommy who was having a baby at the Birth Center, so they couldn’t leave to come to my birth at home.  So they asked if I would be willing to pack up my stuff and head to the Birth Center and, potentially, forego my plans for a home birth (which would have turned into an unassisted birth).  I was fine with that.  I mean, of course I wanted to be in my own home, but the Birth Center is comfortable and quiet and a really great alternative…and certainly better than an unassisted birth.

We arrived at Ancient Paths in Chino at 7:15pm.  Everything was so quiet.  A mommy had just given birth to her little boy in another room.  My contractions were definitely getting closer and feeling more intense.  Cherish sat down and asked me some questions.  They prepared a room for me to get comfortable (seriously…better than a hotel), and decided to check me out and see if we were dilated.  Sure enough, I was at 4-5cm and Lori said, “you’re not going anywhere.”

I was pretty uncomfortable so I climbed in the big, beautiful, white, claw foot soaker to take some of the pressure off.  My friend, Christian, arrived not long after to assist me as a doula for the birth.  I soaked in the tub and dreaded each contraction, but Christian, my midwives, and Josh were all very encouraging.  There was a CD of instrumental hymns that was playing in the background.  Some of my favorites helped me to concentrate through the contractions.  Softly and Tenderly, The Old Rugged Cross, He Walks With Me…humming them or thinking the words along to the songs and remembering specific people that I associate with each song.  The Old Rugged Cross was a favorite of my grandpa Huisheere, so it made me think about how excited he would be to see the two great grandsons that he didn’t get to meet…and how I am so thankful that I will see him again someday.  He Walks With Me was sung at the funeral of the friend whom I posted about in a previous post.  It is such a beautiful song and every time I hear it I think of Stephanie and what a beautiful life she lived.  It made me remember to truly cherish this birth and my children.  Softly and Tenderly is not a well-known hymn, but I have a favorite A’Capella group that sings it and it reminded me of all the times that it has brought me peace knowing that Jesus is waiting for us and calling for us to come to Him.  Not everyone loves hymns…but I do.  Each one brought me peace in some way…or at least gave me something to focus on.

Probably around 8:15 or so I had a contraction and told Christian that I felt like I needed to push on that one.  She calmly said, “Let’s try not to do that just yet.  Just breathe through it for now,” and told Lori what I had said.  Just a few moments later Lori and Cherish were there.  I realized I was still in the tub and a big part of me wanted to get out.  I had no desire to deliver in a tub before, but standing wasn’t going to be an option at this point either.  So, out went that plan.  But I really didn’t care.  Each contraction grew more and more painful and I thought to myself, “I totally get why people want epidurals.”  As I pushed I could tell that we were getting closer to being done…but as most women can attest, every moment feels like an eternity.  So I was also feeling a little bit of frustration and wanted so badly to cry…but I couldn’t.  Lori reassured me that we were almost there, his head was coming, and asked if I wanted to touch it.  “No,” I responded  quickly.  In my mind I was thinking, “I just want to get him out.  I don’t want to touch…it will hurt to touch.”  I probably pushed through 4 contractions or so and he was out!  8:32 pm…just over an hour after we arrived at the birth center.

It wasn’t over, though.  He had come out still in the sack.  My water had broken, but it never came away from him.  Also, his umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around his neck.  I didn’t see that part because they’re so quick to remove it, but I heard about it later.  All I knew was that he was out, he was cold, blue, and not breathing…but I also saw that he was kicking, which gave me hope.  They quickly placed him on my chest and started rubbing his back.  They grabbed a little oxygen bag and mask to help get him going.  I just kept whispering, “Please breathe.  Please breathe. Please breathe.”  It was probably only seconds, but felt like forever.  His first cry was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.  “Thank God.”  I could breathe now that he was breathing.

Cherish and Lori grabbed some warm blankets and covered him up as he lay there on me still attached to the umbilical cord.  Now, I’ve read articles about the importance of delayed cord clamping, but now I got to experience it firsthand.  I was able to watch as his little blue body quickly turned more pink.  His body filling up with oxygenated blood.  The lack of chaos in the room when he wasn’t breathing…all because he was still receiving oxygen from me.  It bought him some time and it really helped him to gain his color quickly.  He even latched on right away–within minutes of being born.  Lori noticed that he had a little blister on his hand, probably from sucking it so much in the womb.  Sure enough…he was sucking on that little fist later.

My friend, Jen, had been waiting outside the door while labor came to a close.  I was sad that she missed it, but she got to hear what was happening.  :-). It was nice to see her and get some support and encouragement from her.  She wasn’t able to stay long as she had her husband and daughter waiting outside for her.  But I know that she would have been there the whole time if she had the chance.

We decided the water was a little chilly (I generally don’t like baths and I get overheated easily…so the water was not very hot) for Miles so it was time to pull him out, wrap him in warm towels, and get cleaned up.  After that, it was just warming up and cuddling…periodic temp checks and blood pressure checks, the newborn screening…etc.  So peaceful to get to lay in a comfy bed and hold my precious little Miles.

The only thing that was sad was that I had really wanted Emery and Levi to be able to see their baby brother sooner after he was born.  I missed them and wanted to hold them and tell them how much I love them.  So a little after 10pm I was able to talk on the phone with Emery before he went to bed.  I told him that he would meet Miles in the morning and that I couldn’t wait to see him.

At about 12:15pm we left the birth center…a happy, and even more complete family.  We got home a little before 1am and climbed into bed and all got some rest.

So far, I am doing a lot better emotionally than I was after Levi was born.  I fully believe that having the ability to be home with my family in a peaceful environment shortly after delivery is a key for me.  I love my kids and being away from them breaks my heart.  No, not everything went as planned.  But so far that really doesn’t bother me.  Two weeks ago Cherish and I were going over my birth plan.  One of the questions was “What is the worst thing you can think of happening during labor & delivery” or something to that effect.  My answer was “die.”  Beyond that, nothing else really mattered.  My notes said that I wanted it to be a calm, supportive environment without chaos, bright crazy lights and panicking nurses or doctors.  I just wanted it to be as peaceful as possible.  And, all things considered, it was.  I am beyond pleased with my choice to home birth…and ultimately deliver in a birth center.  The tub didn’t kill me…and was pretty comfy for a while.  I got to go home to see my boys and sleep in my own bed.  I felt the kind of love, support, and care from the women who were there for Miles’ birth that I didn’t get at the hospitals with my other two boys.

Now…to talk Josh into getting a vasectomy… :-)

The Fool-Proof Way to Raise Good Kids

2 May

 

The Life I Might Have Had…

15 Apr

There are a few quotes that really struck me in the last couple of weeks. Maybe you have heard them, or others similar, before and maybe they’re new to you. Maybe the knowledge that we are embarking on another adventure as we enter the third trimester with our third son is evoking different emotions in me. I’m not sure.

“The grass is greener where you water it.”
“The miracle aint the life you missed. It’s the life you got.” (The Shunning)

The Past

Sometimes we get so caught up in looking behind us. We start to think about choices we have made that we wish we could do over…do differently. In The Shunning, an Amish girl, Katie, learns that she was born “English,” not Amish. She starts to question “who am I?” She begins to wonder if there was a life that she was meant to live outside of the one she had. It isn’t that she doesn’t love her parents who raised her…but she begins to feel confused…deceived. I believe we all feel that way at some point.

“How might my life have been different if…” Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had my parents not divorced. I wonder if things would have ever improved between them. i wonder if it could have worked. Or would they have been miserable? I wonder if they had stayed together how much less complicated things might have been for my brother and me as we grew up. We could go a step further. I’m not sure my parents ever should have gotten married in the first place. They were young and immature. I don’t think they were ready and I don’t think they would disagree with me. Now, of course, had they never gotten married I wouldn’t exist. But I wonder how their lives might have been different had they not been married. I wonder how much heartache they could have missed.

And what about choices I have made? What if I had just never dated in high school. How might things be different now? What heartache I could have avoided! What drama I could have lived without! Who would I be? What if I had chosen to go to a different college or waited until I had more money to pay for it? What if I had gone into the military instead? What life might I have lived?

Sometimes we can take so many of the decisions we have made and turn them into a “good” vs “bad” decision instead of two comparable options and we had to make a choice. For example, I don’t think it really would have been a “bad” decision had I gone to UW-Eau Claire or UW-Green Bay instead of going to UW-Stevens Point. All of those schools offered my major and so each would have been a good option. But I had to make a choice, live with it, and water it.

The Present

We often sit and think of how much better our lives might be if we had x, y, or z. Maybe if we had a different job life would be better. Maybe I would be happier if I lived in a different city, state, country…(guilty of this one…a lot). I’m sure life would be better if I was married to him/her instead. This kind of thinking is dangerous. “The grass is greener where you water it.” Your job can be a great job if you want it to be. Your marriage can be a great marriage if you work on it. Your home can be a home you love if you invest your heart into it. We can get so caught up believing that the “seaweed is…greener in somebody else’s lake” but in reality, it could be greener in our own if we would just take care of and nurture it. We can lose so much joy in our discontentment with our circumstances.

I am guilty of this so often…especially when it comes to living far from my family. I miss them. I always feel like I’d be happier if I lived back home…closer to my roots in Wisconsin. But my grass can be greener here if I would just water it. So I’ve been watering it. I’ve been doing what I can to invest in relationships, my church, our home…trying to think more long-term instead of “I hope this isn’t permanent.” And it helps. My grass has fewer dry patches. My life feels more full. My joy is more complete because I’ve lessened my time looking over the fence at other yards and allowed room for contentment.

The Future

What about the life I want to have? Who will I be in ten years? Well, hopefully I will be the mother of three amazing boys ages 14, 11, and 9. Hopefully these amazing boys will be doing well in school, staying out of trouble, actively involved in our church and community, and loving God and others. Hopefully Josh and I will have jobs we love and a home we have made our own. Hopefully. It is good to hope. It is good to have goals. It is good to work toward those goals. It can be good to think about the future.

But what about when that turns into worry? What if I spend so much of my time and energy trying to force my future to look a certain way that I ruin my present? What if I spend so much time trying to shape every little detail about my children’s lives that I don’t allow them to find out who they are…that I leave them asking all kinds of questions like “who am I?” or “what if…?” I can’t be content in my present if I am so worked up worrying about my future. Instead of finding the miracle in the life I have, I will be forcing a life I want and losing the miracle all together.

Again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to make plans for the future. But we can get derailed in the details. We can get so stuck in our plans that we don’t know how to respond when we are thrown a curve-ball.

In the End

Let’s face it. I can’t change my past. I can’t go back and make my parents stay together. I can’t go back and choose to focus more of my attention and time on school, work, and friends instead of boys. I can’t go back and see what my life would look like if I had gone to a different school. There is no way of knowing what might have been. But I can say with confidence that, even had I made those choices, I would still have the opportunity to ask, “what if…?” I can also say with certainty that I can learn from my choices. I can learn from my mistakes. What if I had been more positive about this move to CA from the beginning? Or I can pass it off to someone else and ask, “what if I had more support when we moved here instead of being so isolated?” Either way…the way I responded was my choice. Now I get to learn from it.

In the end, I am thankful with the life I have. I know that divorce is far less than ideal. But I am thankful for the amazing family I have gained through the divorces. I would not be who I am today without the influences of all of those people in my life. Good things can come from less than perfect circumstances…especially when you put them in God’s hands. I am thankful for my experiences at UWSP and believe that the people I met there were central to my growing up into an adult. I am thankful that we had Emery even though the timing was less than ideal. I wouldn’t give him up for anything in the world…

And, in the end, that’s what is boils down to. Would I be willing to give up everything I have now to be given an opportunity to change the circumstances in my life as a child, teen, or young adult? Would I be willing to risk everything that I love about my life now? Am I willing to say that my life would absolutely, for certain, without any doubt or reservation be better had x, y, or z been different? NO WAY! I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for my kids. I’m thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my home and know, whether permanent or temporary, that living in CA is going to shape me in ways that I could never know! I am going to continue to water my own grass instead of worrying about how much greener everyone else’s is. Besides…their grass may not even be real. It might be spray painted green so everyone else believes it is alive. I’m going to embrace the miracle of the life that I live instead of wondering about the life I might have had.

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