06.19.2016

Father’s Day Reflections: Grace Matters

Today was Father’s Day. It was a day full of celebration and laughter and big hands holding little hands and, for me, lots and lots of reflection. Because I’m super sentimental. And because I’m an INFJ through and through.

It got me thinking about parenthood. About how I had no clue the sacrifices and worry and remarkable love wrapped up in being a parent until I was one myself.

It got me thinking about my husband whose young, adventurous soul reminds me to lighten up when I’m taking life too seriously. Who embraces fatherhood with lightheartedness and humor and adventure. Who is the balance I need when I get too caught up in my own thoughts or feelings or when life feels heavy.

But most of all, it got me thinking about my own father who, despite the worry and angst I’ve caused him over the years, still loves me and my sister fiercely.

Only as I’ve gotten older have I been able to peel back the lens with which I’ve viewed my parents for 30+ years and see them for the real, honest, broken-but-holy people they are…and not the flawless, infallible, dove-white human beings I expected them to be as I was growing up.

With Hindsight Comes Clarity

I look back on my own expectations of my parents as I was coming into adulthood and I’m grateful that they still talk to me. Let alone love me. God bless me when I have two teenage girls of my own under my roof someday.

When I look at my parents today, I see a mirror, a reflection of myself coming more into focus, for better or worse. I’m able to see years of hard work in their hands and joy and laughter in their eyes. And even glimpses of sorrow and weariness once in awhile. Perhaps it’s because I’m a parent myself and have infinitely more grace for those who have walked the parenting journey before me. Or maybe it’s because I’ve matured and I understand that the world revolves less and less around me than I thought it did when I was a teenager. Or perhaps it’s because after having children of my own, I’m capable of loving infinitely more.

Whatever the reason, I see their brokenness, just as it is in me. And I see their holiness, just as it too, is in me.

Today was Father's Day. When I look at my parents today, I see a mirror, a reflection of myself coming more into focus, for better or worse. I'm able to see years of hard work in their hands and joy and laughter in their eyes.

We are all broken AND holy. We are all prideful and humble. We are all greedy and generous. We are all discontent and content. We are all lonely and yet, seek relationship. We are all human. Even our parents.

As I get older, I understand more and more that grace matters.

It matters to those we love and it matters to the stranger asking for money at the stoplight. It matters that we see the person behind the problem. The dignity behind the shame. The kindness behind the hostility.

Today, I’m grateful for my Dad, and I also have grace for my Dad. I see all of the “ands” in my Dad that make him the unique, gifted individual that he is and I’m simply grateful. Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all dads, everywhere.

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06.03.2016

How to Teach Kids Values That Stick: Parenting Beyond the Classes & Books

“Stop kicking your sister! Do we need to leave right this minute?” As we attempt a family dinner out with a 2 and 4 year old.

“It’s not ok to spray people with the sprinkler!” As the unassuming passer-by gets sprayed by the sprinkler as he walks past our house.

“No, you can’t grab our neighbor’s garden tools to play with. Careful, those are sharp!” As my daughter gingerly grabs the garden clippers and swings them through the air.

These are all true stories.

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It’s times like these when I start to feel the parenting overwhelm. I wonder if I’m doing this parenting gig right. Are my kids going to grow up without a basic understanding of manners? Am I raising entitled kids? Why don’t they listen?

But then I remember that they’re 2 and 4.

And that in between the grabbing and kicking and teasing, we talk about why who we are matters more than what we are.

About why it’s important to turn off the water while we’re brushing our teeth. About how we can be a good neighbor and serve in our community. About why it matters that we are kind to one another.

I often think about how to teach values to my girls – I mean, beyond the parenting classes and countless parenting books. How do I strike a balance of holding them tightly, but giving them wings to fly? At 2 and 4, they’re only capable of understanding so much about what’s right and what’s wrong. When the center of your universe is goldfish crackers and glitter pens, understanding values isn’t exactly a priority.

Teaching values happens at the edges of simple moments. It happens on the periphery of goldfish crackers and glitter pens. What I do has a far greater impact on my children than what I say. So instead of worrying about whether I’m doing a good enough job teaching my girls how to be good people, I’m focusing on being a good person myself.

Here are 6 ways to teach kids your values through your actions and not just your words:

1. Serve in your community. This could mean volunteering at a local non-profit, organizing a neighborhood block party, or putting together wound care kits for those in need. 

2. Compost your food and explain to your kids why you don’t throw food scraps in the garbage.

3. Pray at the dinner table.

4. Take the city bus as a family instead of driving to your next outing.

5. Take good care of yourself (without your kids) – do yoga, go for a walk, or take a bath and lock the bathroom door. 🙂

6. Go on dates with your spouse! Hug and kiss in front of your kids! Show that you might actually like each other.

When I think back on how I learned my own values, you know what? I don’t remember a single conversation with my parents about being a kind person, taking care of the environment, growing my faith, or being a good steward in our community. But I do remember going with my parents once a month to a local women’s shelter and serving food. I remember going to church (nearly) every Sunday, and I remember a whole lot of community involvement. I think that’s a pretty good place to start.

Tell me, how do you teach kids values that stick? 

How to Teach Kids Values That Stick

Related: It’s the Simple Stuff They’ll Remember

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04.19.2016

5 Ways I’m Finding my Spirit in the Messiness of Toddlerhood

Raising toddlers is no joke. If I’m honest with myself, having “me” time is one of the things I miss most about my younger, pre-kid years. I love my girls fiercely, I really do, but finding time to cultivate my spirit between diaper changing, crumb-sweeping, tantrum calming, and teeth brushing is hard work. It’s difficult to hear the still small voice within us above the “Mommmmyyyy’s!” and “Nooooo’s!” and “Miiiine’s!” I recently listened to a podcast with my all-time favorite blogger/writer/podcaster/traveler, Tsh Oxenreider, and she interviewed pastor and writer, Katherine Willis Pershey about everyday spiritual practices. Katherine said something that really resonated with me. She said that one of her spiritual practices is, wait for it…reading.

I love reading. Settling into a cozy chair with a blanket, a hot cup of tea and a good book is like waking up on Christmas morning to snow on the ground. Practically. 🙂 Part of my excitement over settling in to a good book is because it doesn’t happen often, at least not the way I described it. It usually goes more like this: I step into bed after the dinner, bath, reading, brushing teeth, and tucking-in routine, pick up the book on my nightstand (the one that’s been on hold at the library for 6 weeks and is due in 1…), and anxiously open it and begin reading. 4 minutes later, I’m asleep. So when the vision of the blanket, the tea, the book I simply can’t put down actually happens – it’s a big deal.

5 ways I'm finding my spirit in the messiness of toddlerhood

During this season of life with small kiddos, practicing spirituality happens in small ways. It happens in the fringe hours, between responsibilities and commitments and errands.

Here are a few ways I’m finding my spirit and tuning out the noise:

Dinner Time

Growing up, family dinner with my parents and sister was standard. I give major props to my mom and dad for making that happen as regularly as they did, because the reality for my family during this season of life is that “family dinner” happens less rather than more often. The consumerist, over-scheduled, workaholic culture we live in often pulls us away from each other more than it calls us together. Therefore, I hold family dinners hallowed. They’re an opportunity for 20-30 minutes of the day to pause the demands of our calendars, phones, and laptops and simply enjoy being together. When I sit down at the dinner table with my family and hear the clanking of silverware and the giggling of two sweet voices, I’m happy. Plain and simple.

Driving

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m an introvert and I love quiet time every once in awhile. Because quiet time is harder and harder to come by these days, my solo 20-minute commute to work has become sacred. I sometimes often find myself smiling as I get into my car after dropping my girls off at preschool – not because I don’t love them dearly, but because it usually means taking my first sip of (lukewarm) coffee and a 5-minute stop at one of my favorite viewpoints in Seattle. Driving is often my prayer time, my time to acknowledge 1 or 2 or 3 things which I’m thankful for. It’s an opportunity to go through my mental rolodex of people and things I’m grateful for and also an opportunity to keep myself in check. What am I struggling with? What am I focusing on? In what ways do I need to shift or change?

Do I do this every morning on my way to work or every time I’m in my car alone? No, but whether it’s once a week or once a month, it’s time well-spent.

Reading

I love reading. I’ve always said that if I could have any super-power, it would be the power to touch a book and instantly know it’s content. Reading is two-part: there’s the content, which can be exciting or inspiring or astonishing or interesting or a million other emotions, and there’s the actual act of reading. Both what I read and how I read matters. Books impact us – some in such a way that we put down a book and never again want to pick it up, and others so poignantly that we are changed individuals. Reading is good for the spirit.

At the Grocery Store

One thing I’ve tried to be especially intentional about in the past six months is seeing the person behind the counter. It’s easy to develop a sense of entitlement toward those in the service industry, to reduce our relationships to transactional rather than personal. We try so hard to be kind to our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers, but how often do we go out of our way to be kind to the person bagging our groceries or cashing our check? When I slow down and really see the individual in front of me,  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words become more than a catchy Pinterest quote and rather, a way of living.

We may all have come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

So, how does this play out? It could be a comment about how much I love my cashier’s name, asking how their day is going and genuinely wanting to know the answer, or asking them about the symbol they have tattooed on their forearm. The point is, we belong to each other and we’re here to take care of each other. If not us, then who?

Slowing Down

I’ve always been a fast walker, but a few years ago, I attended a yoga retreat and one of the activities we were encouraged to do was to walk a labyrinth. The point was to feel every step, to make each step really count. It was difficult for me, I’m not going to lie – I was amazed at how hard it was to literally slow my body and even harder to slow my mind, which is often one twelve steps ahead of my body. But walking the labyrinth was such a good exercise in patience, intentionality and mindfulness. Since then, when I catch myself walking fast, I literally slow.my.roll. And when I do, I see so many more things and faces and beauty. I smile more at the people around me. I see buds on the trees and stories behind the faces.

Slowing down has become an act of gratitude. I encourage you to give it a try. Your soul will thank you.

In what ways do you find your spirit?

During this season of life with small kiddos, practicing spirituality happens in small ways. It happens in the fringe hours, between responsibilities and commitments and errands. Here are a few ways I'm connecting with my spirit and finding ways to tune out the noise.

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04.12.2016

It’s the simple stuff they’ll remember.

When I was growing up, my teacher mom had summers off – one of the few trade-offs of being under-appreciated and underpaid the rest of the year. As far as I’m concerned, teachers are at the same level as brain surgeons or saints. I remember *loving* summers because it meant camping, and blueberry picking, and bike-riding, and late night slumber parties with popcorn and milkshakes galore.

There are a few memories that stand out to me every time I think about my childhood. These don’t just stand out to me when I think about “summer when I was a kid,” but when I think about my entire childhood. Here’s what they involve:

My parents did stuff when I was a kid. They didn’t wait until they had exactly the right camping gear, or for exactly the right weather, or until they had a comfortable amount of savings in the bank.

Campfires.

Blueberry picking.

Lake Goodwin.

Bubble Gum Ice Cream.

Slip & Slides.

I could go into detail about each of these memories, but that’s not what this is about.

It’s about this: my parents did stuff when I was a kid. They didn’t wait until they had exactly the right camping gear, or for exactly the right weather, or until they had a comfortable amount of savings in the bank. Did we fly to Disneyland or Hawaii every year? No. But we explored Washington State and the Oregon Coast like nobody’s business.

I can’t tell you the number of times my parents said we were going to go on a “drive” growing up. What this usually involved was an escape from our middle-class neighborhood somewhere significantly north, south, east or west of us. We’d end up in a small-ish town, explore the highlights, read any historical markers that we might see along the way, and grab a bite to eat. It was simple.

So many of my best memories are memories of pretty simple days.

Now that I am a parent, I often find myself feeling a subtle pressure to “create memories” for my kids. I see amazing birthday decor on Pinterest, Facebook pictures of the annual-trip-to-such-and-such for the holidays, and talk to other parents about which activities they are enrolling their kids in and I think to myself, “I need to get on the ball. I’m so behind!” And this is saying something, because those who know me know that for the most part, I am a planner.

My thirties has brought on a deep sense of nostalgia. Reflecting on my own treasure chest of childhood memories takes a certain pressure off my own shoulders, because I’m reminded that it’s the simple stuff that my kids are going to remember. It’s saying yes to ice cream after school. It’s turning the sprinkler on, even though you dread the tiny, wet, grassy footprints dredged through the house afterwards. It’s going on that drive, destination unknown, knowing that the house is a mess.

We can’t force memories onto our kids. But what we can do instead is embrace the small opportunities – not all-of-the-time, but some-of-the-time – to do stuff. One of those things, at least, will be stored away in their treasure chest of memories forever.

What’s in yours?