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Connection Trees Part II

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As humans we are created by and for connection. While connection and relationship occur across a broad range of human relationships, I explore the ramifications for marriage.

The tree in the picture for my marriage counseling meeting two is a connection tree. “CONNECTION” is written down the trunk. The roots of connection are two fold: TRUST and INTIMACY.

The TRUST sub-soil or trailing roots involve:

  1. commitment (a deliberate intention to another person)IMG_8201
  2. proximity (alignment of your life with another’s)
  3. engagement (an ongoing, care-taking of the togetherness)

The INTIMACY sub-soil or trailing roots involve:

  1. identity (understanding that you are loved so you can give love away to another)
  2. love (the paradigm, perspective, and plausibility through which we view the other)
  3. conflict (a dance that involves taking turns, lots of energy, and risk. Conflict happens because of the depth of intimacy and for it. To avoid conflict is to avoid intimacy. Disengagement deadens relationships over time.)

With strong roots and rich soil, with the unseen and intangible foundation of trust and intimacy,                                     a couple’s connection tree bears fruit.

Fruit is visible and tangible. Fruit are the habits and behaviors that show on the outside of a couple’s life together.

  • What do they do? (make a home, have sex, make conversation, grow their personalities as individuals and a couple, work jobs etc….)
  • How do they appear to others? (how do others describe their communication style? what does their house feel like to others?)
  • How does being married feel? (what emotions do they experience? what feelings occur most often? what does their silence together say?)

(Here, on the handout, you can draw leaves on the upper branches and write: communication, friendship, parenting, sex, time together, having fun, shared interests, emotions, listening,  etc…)

Fruit comes the way fruit does

  • With seasons and stages (parenting and child rearing fruit)
  • With flavor and appearance (bright and shiny mostly but with bruises and rotten ones in every bushel)
  • With show (an image on the outside that reflects, or can betray for a moment, the actual health)

Fruit grows up and out of the roots of trust and intimacy. If there is a problem with the fruit, it’s probably a manifestation of a root issue. Under the surface, the roots feed what shows on the outside. Fruit problems that are simply fruit problems, like a wife’s dislike of a beard he’s growing, will resolve on their own. Fruit problems that reveal root issues, like a partner no longer asking questions about the other’s day, isn’t just a listening issue- it’s an abandonment trust problem.

The invitation is care about the roots and not so much about the fruit. It can be easier to talk about “His personality this…” or “Her feelings that…” or “We can’t communicate right now…” or “What will people think if we…” without tracing the lifeblood of the argument down to its root cause.

When trust is broken because there is a lack of commitment, a disengagement, or a misalignment…hearts hurt. People trail away.

If intimacy is shattered because one person refuses to accept the love and value of their own identity, breaks their love paradigm for seeing the other, or refuses to give love away anymore…marriages hemorrhage.

Broken people enter into bonds of marriage that are not supposed to be broken. It seems impossible and inhumane. However, to enter into a sacred and deliberate, sacrificial and mutually beneficial relationship with another, is actually the most human and Godly thing we can do.

If God designed it, God will sustain it.

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Our Jamaican honeymoon in July 2004

When I sat in the bridal room on July 10th, 2004, I shook. I had just realized I didn’t love Drew enough right then to last a whole life together. The love I felt I had to offer that day felt tiny, immature, and naive. Then I remembered and had someone read to me, 1 John 4:16-17  which says, We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.”

God is the creator and sustainer of relationships and love. If Drew and I could rely on and live in God, God would grow our love for each other to be more perfect. We, 12 years in, do indeed see the progress and God’s faithfulness.

The Bible begins and ends with trees. The last trees are alongside a river flowing down from God’s throne seen in a vision, On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything.” Revelation 22:2-4 

The promise and the ever present pull of God is toward these life trees. Trees that bear fruit to provide abundance and medicine for healing. Curses lifted, life restored.

Blessings on the planting of your connection tree Haley and Walker.

For married friends, lets take care, pay attention, tend and nurture, dig up and burn away dead pieces, and bear fruit for the good of the world.

Connection Trees

I’m in a pre-marital counseling season this Spring. I never take for granted the privilege to hear from a couple at the precipice of their forever which is really, a continuation of their connection and a jaunt on a long journey.

My second IMG_8202meeting is titled, “Connection at the Core”. We talk about trees.

We start by talking about Genesis 1 and 2. I briefly explain God’s creation story is one of invitation, relationship and participation. As the story unfolds in chapter one, God looks and says, “” six times. Finally, in Genesis 1:26-27, God (three in one) says, “WE will create people in OUR image”.  The seventh “It is good.” is actually a “It is VERY good” and refers to this Image-bearing human set in the garden.

During the creation account in Genesis 2, God looks over everything created and proclaims once,”It is not good.” God looks at the one human and says, “It is not good for people to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) So out of triune relationship, out of self-giving, mutually beneficial, loving relationship within God’s self, God gifts humans with relationship.

The essence of God is perfect relationship. As people, made in God’s image, we are at most basic, and yet fully realized, made for relationship.

Genesis 2:24-25 affirms the original human relationship was one with beautiful freedom and vulnerability. People were naked and unashamed. With God and each other, they were invited into provision, trust, freedom and abundance.

God’s first command was “Eat! Eat freely! Enjoy!” (Genesis 2:16)  with one caution. “Eat everywhere EXCEPT from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:17)

God is offering all they need and the boundary in which to enjoy it best. In one metaphor, God is like parents who gives their kid a hammock and say, “Lay! Enjoy! Play all over our grassy lawn and strong trees. Please, just don’t hang your hammock in the middle of the street.” There are guidelines and recommended uses for all the things we use to live.

In marriage, God’s caution is not for the restriction of enjoyment, but for the fullest of healthy relationship.

God says, “Let me keep the knowledge of what is good and not good. Let me decide ultimately what is best. You, humans, eat from the tree of life. Be together, enjoy the world. Do life. Depend on me for the decisions of what is good and evil. Come to me to find knowledge. Don’t take it for yourself.

Knowledge, full life, real health, was supposed to be found in dependence, and interdependence. Through relationship with God and right relationships with each other, people could KNOW and were deeply and fully okay with being known.

When the created people break the rule, they supersede God’s caution, and they purport, “We can know for ourselves.” They seek knowledge outside of relationship. They put their hammocks in the street.

The fallout is devastating. Instead of vulnerability and intimacy, there is hiding and shame. Instead of peace and harmony, there is defensiveness and blaming. Instead of freedom and health, there is hard work and heartache. Forgoing provision, the people shrink along in scarcity.

Next post- how we tie this all back to marriage in the 21st century.

tree pic

 

 

 

Recently Overheard Around Here

Beep. Beep. Beep. 

It was 6:35 and I was up on a Friday morning. I was sorting laundry in our bedroom before I started the two-story journey I would walk over eight times that day from bedrooms to basement laundry.

I moved two pieces of clothing and was stopped by a sudden need/desire: COFFEE.

I contemplated stopping mid-task to go downstairs and make the coffee, then coming back up to finish. As soon as I had courageously resolved to continue folding, forgoing coffee for another 10 minutes (15 if you count the extra five minutes I’d spend waiting while it brewed), I heard that sweet beep.

Three beeps. Three generous beeps. The coffee was made, ready, and waiting for me.

Downstairs, Drew had made the coffee for me, not even aware I was now awake. He loves me. He really loves me. Without enjoying a drop of coffee himself, ever, Drew has taken to making it for me. Not every day but increasingly more often. And often, just in the nick of time.

Thank you Drew.

Am I wrong Mom? 

Oaks came streaming through the garage, trailed by two little friends- aged five and four. They were all yelling.

Oaks: “I’m not wrong!”

Alex: “You are wrong. He is dead.”

Ben: “No he’s not. He’s a baby. You’re wrong, he’s a baby.”

Oaks: “He’s alive. Jesus is alive right Mom? Am I wrong?”

I look at the three boys. Where did this conversation start? What was the first comment? How were they all invested but all in disagreement?

I tried to enter in immediately, but thoughtfully.

” Guys, let’s not point out when our friends are wrong. Lets celebrate each other’s ideas. Oaks you’re not wrong. Jesus is alive. He’s not dead. Alex, Jesus did die, you’re not wrong, he was dead. Ben, you’re not wrong. Jesus was  a baby.”

Ben: “And now he’s a ghost. A whispy big one.”

Oaks: “God is the biggest. He is in-con-struct-ible.”

There were more. Lots more comments in a short amount of sweet time. Little boys and big questions, thoughts, and ideas. As they grow up, I can only hope they keep wondering, keep discussing, and do less finger pointing and more other-appreciating, despite differences.

Let’s do this again next year. 

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A roller blade and scooter ride down the Line Creek Trail with friend Michelle today

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Skiing Copper Mountain with Grandpa

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Traditions! Valentine’s Day dinner and cake with Mom.

Currently, the Gap Year is a sweet, shiny, success. We are loving being home, being together, leaving town, skiing on weekdays, laying low on sick days, creating something from scratch, and learning together. What we battled in the beginning is refined and days are smoother, trust deeper, and enjoyment higher. Eli was most adamant a few weeks ago that we should do it again next year. Just one more year? The last year before Oaks goes to school.

We are thinking, weighing, and praying. April is decision time.

 

How much can a heart hold?

Last week was a bright and shiny home school week. I reconnected

Let hope bloom and colors call us to Jesus.

Let hope bloom and colors call us to Jesus.

with well-intentioned ideals from the Gap Year dream stage and took Eli and Andi to the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum on Wednesday morning. We looked at paintings of artists they are studying and knew what “Baroque” meant when we wandered. Thanks to their study of the timeline, we had appreciation for what 450B.C.E. Egypt looked like and how impressive that stone carving was for the ancient people. We walked and played in the chilly glass maze and met Drew for lunch at Winsteads. They bubbled over with how much they saw and the fun they had and we all ate too much milkshake.

 

At home, last week hosted symbiotic sibling playtime where they all listened to each other, engaged with problems solving and cooperation, as well as encouraged each other in worlds of imagination and simple play. Dreams coming true with magnets and a wide open carpet floor.

For the last 10 days however, I’ve been wrecked by news of hard things in the lives of good friends, family, and my city. I hurt and ache, pray and question. My heart is heavy and hope feels almost too big a burden after this many prayers, this many days.

Friends in chaos and pain. Family with uncertain news. A nation in transition and upheaval. And most recently, a tragedy of youth and potential lost in the death of Yordano Ventura of the Royals. Seriously, the heart, it hurts.

In the middle of all the darkness, confusion, sadness and noise, I’ve been hearing from God in good ways.

From Richard Rohr’s daily meditations:

On using our faith to follow Jesus’ example of elevating others, not an empire, he writes:

But when Scripture is read through the eyes of vulnerability—what we call the “preferential option for the poor” or the bias from the bottom—it will always be liberating and transformative….The bottom, or what Jesus calls “the poor in Spirit” (Matthew 5:3) in his opening address, is where we have no privilege to prove or protect but much to seek and become.    from 1/17/17

From a daily devotional book given to me as a Christmas present which reminds me of God’s action before my own awakening each morning, Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Psalm 118:24

Living God, your knowledge of me is infinite while mine of you is tiny. The mysteries of your being and your ways are always beyond me. So in humility and reverence, help me to rest content as a follower of Jesus. Give m the loving trust to learn what you show me in your Word without going beyond those limits. Amen. 

When the pains of this world, shock, surprise, fear or uncertainty, bad news, wrongs allowed and rights thwarted, aches, pains, endings and deaths weigh on a human heart, it makes sense to depend deeply on Jesus and cling closely to good friends.

I’m thankful I have both and hold onto to hope.

My Marriage Musings (with expert advice included)

family1 Mops Speaking: Marriage as Connection and Contract      January 9th, 2017

This is the content with expanded details for my presentation at the Pleasant Valley MOPS group. It’s written as an oral presentation with complete sentences and shortened stories that got restated and lengthened respectively at the “live event”. Keep in mind, this was a 30 minute talk…there are 8 pages of content here. You’ve been warned.

 

I’m Lindsey and I’m 36. My marriage is 12 1/2 years old tomorrow.

When I was in seminary in 2006, my marriage was 1 1/2 years old and we introduced ourselves around the class. The two guys my age introduced themselves and said they were Nick/Matt and had been married for almost two wonderful years. I said, “I’m Lindsey and I’ve been married for almost two kind of hard years.” I was honest, but was I normal? 

I love being married and at times is a really hard thing.

Drew and I are  two oldest children who love to be in control. We have strong opinions and lots of leadership.

We were just getting marriage figured out when we learned we were pregnant. Then we were just settling into that, and got pregnant again. Finally, with some thought, waiting, and preparation, we had baby number three four years later. 

So we sit in the middle of beautiful blessings and we live together with grace, guts, grief, and good times. 

 

Marriage is holy and really hard. Marriage is sacred and screwed up. People who marry with good intentions and God’s name can’t always make it last.

Marriage is beautiful and brutal. When you’re intimate with someone, you give them all your trust, your whole self. Sometimes, the person on the other end of your held out heart, isn’t careful.

Marriage exposes, heals, encourages, harms, helps, and expands two individuals.

Marriage is one powerful way we experience God’s love for us and have the chance to give love to another.

I wonder as you’re sitting here today, do you have more hope or hurt in your marriage? More fun or frustration? Please know I come with no answers but some ideas encouragement.

But first, lets play a game. You have small sheets of paper around your table. Take a piece of paper….play IF, THEN

 

I have a few I’ve finished as tenants of what I return to in marriage:

  • If you are connected, then your marriage will last.
  • If marriage is covenant, then married life is a contract

These are more universal. For Drew and me specifically, we might say,

  • If Linds is controlling,THEN Drew gets defensive
  • If we never go on a date, THEN we will start to disconnect.
  • If we finish a conversation while our kids are around, THEN we get a gold medal.
  • If we are really connected, and I have recently showered, THEN the sex is extra great.
  • If we plan in advance, THEN we can get free childcare for a whole day date!

 

But back to the more universal ideas.

If connected, then marriage lasting and fun. If covenanted, then contracts are key.

As human beings and children of God, we are created in God’s image. And God is a communal image. Three people in one. Holy and perfect relationship. In the Trinity, God is in perfect relationship with God’s self- there is sacrificial, mutually beneficial love shared between the God head. Out of love within God’s own self, God shared love with us.

In the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, God said six times it was good, one time it was excellent, and once that it was not good. 

  • Light- 1:4
  • Space to separate the waters and land 1:10
  • Plants and trees 1:12
  • Lights, stars, sun, and moon- 1:18
  • Sea creatures 1:21
  • Live stock and wild animals 1:25
  • People- excellent 1:31

And then after  seven Goods and VERY goods, God said, it is not good in Genesis 2:18. It is NOT GOOD for people to be alone. 

So woman was made, connection was forged, partnership created and nakedness celebrated. Genesis 2:25– “Now Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame.”

Perhaps the pain and the power of marriage comes in the ability to stay naked, and unashamed.

For Adam and Eve, for marriage in the garden, relationship is part of the image bearing. Connectedness is part of creation. Oneness is wholeness, unbroken connection where unity doesn’t destroy identity. It’s interdependence of two, not hierarchy of one above the other. Covenant fidelity, honor, sharing, and peace.

Because connected relationship is part of who we are, it makes sense that marriage is one of the most powerful places we experience a God-like connection.

Marriage is a decision to lay down your individuality, independence and agenda every day. Not completely but enough to be uncomfortable and frustrated. But ultimately, enough to be blessed because you’re giving yourself away to someone who holds you dear and is worthy of your service and care.

As I’ve officiated marriages over the past six years and met with couples for pre-marital counseling, we use the Bible and this small white book as texts. We use scripture and some science.

In, John Gottman’s book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work,  he approaches marriage with observation, evaluations, and  research. He studies couples in what he calls a love lab. He watches them interact, measures their stress levels, observes their eye contact and neck bulges. After listening, watching, and measuring- Gottman concludes: people who are happily married, like each other.

He says the one thing that makes marriage last is not good communication, clear gender roles, or the security of lots of money…instead, scientifically, it’s that couples actually really like each other. They enjoy each other’s company and advocate for each other’s dreams. They support each other and filter through the flack of stress over the years.

 “Happy marriages are based on deep friendships. By this I mean a mutual respect for an enjoyment of the other’s company. These couples tend to know each other intimately- they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in a big way but in little ways day in and day out. Friendship fuels the flames of romance because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse. Their positivity causes them to feel optimistic about each other and their marriage, to assume positive things about their lives together and to give each other the benefit of the doubt.” (Gottman 19-21)

Goal is emotional intelligence: to understand, honor, and respect each other

Connection is about caring. Friends care for and about each other. Marriage is the super friendship and care must be the dominate agenda.linds-and-drew

 

TABLE DISCUSSION ON FRIENDSHIP/CONNECTION

If your husband was that great in the beginning, it shouldn’t be that hard to nurture your original love and keep liking and enjoying him right? And yet, Gottman would say that over time, the blissful state of the beginning on a relationship starts to fade. Without work, care, and paying attention, negative sentiments take over the positive ones.

For Drew and me, because we are connected, we have some conveniences. Drew will unlock the door for me if I’m coming back from an early morning workout and it’s cold. If I’m headed upstairs first, I’ll set out his contact solution. For his birthday, I’ll make biscuits and gravy.  He makes my coffee sometimes even though he never drinks it. The other night we were listening to spotify while doing the dishes, TOGETHER, and after one song with way too much hard rock instrumental ended, I said, “Eh, that’s not my favorite song”- slightly exasperated. Drew exclaimed, “I KNEW you’d say that!”He wasn’t mad that I didn’t like his playlist. He laughed with love. I felt good being so known.

Its small, all these things are. But added together and in the moment, it means we know each other and express care in little ways.

The Bible also encourages believing the best about our spouses. I recently read a devotional by Richard Rohr. He was talking about love as open heartedness. He interpreted 1 Corinthians this way- 

“Love is patient, love is kind, Love is not jealous, Love is never boastful or conceited, Love is not rude, nor does it take offense. It takes no pleasure in other people’s’ faults. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure. Love does not come to an end.”

Rohr continues,

“It doesn’t help that our brains have evolved to hold onto negative thoughts (like Velcro) and let the positive thoughts slip off (like Teflon). To retain a positive experience, you have to intentionally hold onto it for at least fifteen seconds to allow it to imprint on your brain. You have to deliberately, consciously choose to love and not hate.”

Rohr says Spirituality is whatever it takes to keep your heart space open. That is daily, constant work because your ego and the events of life want to close it down.

Practice NOW: In your seat, by yourself, close your eyes. Think of one thing you love/appreciate about your spouse and hold that thought for 15 seconds on my go. Ready, NOW.

This is about noticing, holding onto, and appreciating the good in your husband. It’s about thinking before we speak, and asking “Is this comment helpful or hurtful?” If you tell someone else what you enjoy or appreciate about your husband, tell him too. If I really am FOR my husband, does he know it? Feel it?

SO, if we can believe happy and long lasting marriages are ones where the people in those marriages connect as friends. This requires constant care, attention and what I call contract negotiation.

When I had been married 5 years, my parents 34 year old marriage ended. They were loving Christian people and their undoing shocked me and many others. It’s been really rough. Luckily I was in seminary at the time and did a seminary project on mid-life marriage crisis. I found that gradual changes can dismantle a marriage if attention and effort is not given towards addressing them.

My seminary research taught me that marriage is built on two levels: the covenant level and the contractual level.

The covenant says: We will be together. We are bound together with God.

Covenants are unbreakable, made for mutual benefit and characterized by making the other person just as important as oneself. Covenants are established and built to last. A covenant bond is not entered into lightly and is created by some intense ritual that makes a permanent imprint on both parties.

A covenant is a one time thing.

Contracts are renegotiable.

If the marriage covenant says, We ARE TOGETHER, Marriage as contract says: “This is how we will be together”

  • A set of plans and roles, behaviors and goals that create the shape of your life together.
  • Must be renegotiated and reviewed, reworked, and changed over time. Each contract holding member can make requests for review or rewrites.
  • Contract renegotiation happens with communication, commitment, compromise and compliments!

Reworking your marriage contract is necessary after major life events in the marriage or either peson involved.

  • One spouse  experiencing hardship, depression or pain?  RENEGOTIATE
  • One person starts to work, the other stops, anyone get a new job? Pay attention. RENEGOTIATE
  • You have a baby, another baby. One more?! RENEGOTIATE
  • Your kids are not babies but middle schoolers? RENEGOTIATE

You get married at one point and become a family. Husband and wife in COVENANT is a family. Kids join and change lots but cannot take complete control of your marriage. The best thing you can give your kids to take care of your connection and renegotiate your contract. Your kids leave, and you are left with your husband.

As Drew helped me prepare for this, he said, “A lot changed a few years ago when you got through to me and asked me to be nice to you.” I remember telling Drew in the middle of that hard fight, “I’m going to mess up, You’re going  to mess up. I’m going to be really emotional and throw some fits and say stuff in frustration I don’t mean, but give me a chance and know I’ll get out of it. Please just be nice to me. Love me. I want to love you.”

It was scary to ask so vulnerably but I’m glad I did.    

For Drew and I contractually, we agree that if we aren’t talking about it, something is or could be wrong.  If you can’t talk about it, it’s probably not good.

We review our contract on Monday nights during a time we call Monday Mid-rash. It’s about setting apart a night for finishing conversations, checking in and offering care. No TV. NO checking out. We assign a topic to each week. We talk about money, parenting, marriage and spirituality. We want to shine light, open the conversation, and pursue connection and care in every area.

10 years ago we renegotiated our Valentine’s day contract. We had three Valentine’s Days with varying levels of romance and disappointment. We decided we’d write each other a love letter and buy each other one pair of underwear.

We are getting better about asking each other for what we need and want. The less mystery the better. I don’t need to wonder what I’m getting for Valentine’s day or what Drew needs in the middle of this argument. We talk, expose, pay attention and move through

My encouragement to you is to be brave and  vulnerable. Don’t be mysterious. Tell him whats going on and change the contract.

One of my favorite song lines if from the Fray song….and it says, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”

The Fray, “All at Once”

Maybe you want it maybe you need it,

Maybe it’s all you’re running from,

Perfection will not come. Sometimes

We’d never know what’s wrong without the pain

And all at once the crowd begins to sing,

Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same

Being married it hard but I believe, only a hard thing is really worth doing.

1 John 4:17 says, “God is love, And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.”

We don’t get married without enough love to last, but as we root our marriage in the love of God so much greater than ourselves, we can endure to love each other.

May the God who brought you together, sustain you on the journey with grace and love unfathomable.

 

 

Gap Year Journal Entry #2 We made it to the half-way mark!

Journal entry #2?! Two? Just two?!

I’ve been lapse and absent indeed. Thank you Blog, for waiting for me, allowing me to under perform without penalty.

The journey of homeschooling has taken over mind, schedule, free time, mental space, sanity, laziness, and routines. We are not who we used to be. I cannot write, sit, focus, commit or dink around as much. We are close, connected, together and ON! The gap gapes on some commitments I’d rather honor but gathers on other blessings I’d never trade.

Osborne Elementary or “The Gap Year” has given us the privilege of sitting around a table together three times a day. In an age where people say family dinners are rare, we are lucky to have family breakfasts, lunches, and dinners daily. The break from packing lunches to take to school is a nice one and the lunch we get to eat together at home, warm leftovers, consistent macaroni and cheese days, and lunch creations we craft together, are simply the method to the ministry- our talking and listening, retelling, planning, or questioning conversations. I cannot fully explain how much I love the lunch times.

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I also love/appreciate/exploit the help homeschooling affords me in my mom/home-owning life. I LOVE help. Help is what I wanted for Christmas. Help is how I feel loved. Help is how I’ve been able to parent.

img_7957Eli, Andi, and even Oaks are well conditioned to our Chore Chart and contribute on a daily, as needed, and weekly basis with their chores. Together, we’ve raked, organized, raked, cleaned out the van, raked, vacuumed the steps, raked, picked up toys, raked, and made meals.

One of my motivations for the Gap Year was to not be alone in the house as much, to connect and adventure together, and to increase their level of responsibility and team work. HELPing achieves all of these Gap Year Goals.

On the upside, we’ve settled into some routines and Eli and Andi have become a bit more self sufficient in their school work. Finding friends at our Classical Conversations community days that also attend our church was a huge bonus. I connected with a mom I can respect and admire and my kids were given friends they could appreciate, help, advocate for, and take down to the frozen pond one Friday morning.img_7860

We’ve treasured the travel time. We got to take a long Thanksgiving in Colorado and stayed two extra days- the perfect amount of time to see three great grandparents leisurely and one Young Life student staffer I met at Castaway!

Highlight of all highlights, we have gotten to spend Laura and Henley’s maternity leave in close contact. If we wonder what Henley is doing or if June can play, we have been afforded immediate gratification for our wishes. Together, we hiked the trails, created Christmas cut out cookie masterpieces, and went to workouts. When Laura goes back to work January 3rd, our Gap Year world as we know it, will shake, tremble, and readjust. img_6899fullsizerender-3

There are high, highs in homeschooling, no doubt. Halfway through however, I have had some doubts, frustrations, freak outs and fits.

For 90 percent of the days, I was met with opposition and antagonism when I suggested or mandated school work. Often, even if it started well, there would be an Andi meltdown, an Eli marker flipping distraction, or a sibling rue that threw us off course at minimum, or me or them into a fit at maximum. I have felt overwhelmed, like I wasn’t doing anything well, and exhausted. I have been defeated and guilty when I yelled and flabbergasted when they just wouldn’t listen, respect, or obey. When the sign on the wall reads, “we will apologize and forgive”, it has good reason.

Besides my own shortcomings as teacher/mom or their bad behavior, I wonder at half way, if the Gap Year is hurting them in someways, instead of helping.img_7764

I haven’t been as disciplined or consistent as I thought we’d be. Consistency is good for kids and we’ve not had much. Perhaps the lack of structure adds to some of their opposition of the school work assignments.

The lack of social opportunities for Eli is hard sometimes. He wishes he had more friends and more opportunities to make them. As a maturing ten year old, he is kind, energetic, and creative. There are other social skills he needs to shore up and this year hasn’t allowed him very many chances to do so.

Andi only has Eli if she’s looking for a class rank. While she excels at cursive and drawing and is on or above grade level in reading, writing and math, she has an eye turned towards the other side of the table and cannot keep up with Eli’s mental math or constant chapter book consumption. In a room full of 23 other kids, she enjoyed reading groups, table time, and working with some fair competition. Here, if I’m spending too much time with Eli, she’s often stuck or sad. It’s hard enough to be the middle kid between brothers, now she has to sit in a one room school house with them too!

I’ve had to take them on all my errands. For the shopping season that is Thanksgiving and Christmas, we were bulky and whiny and ask-y and clumsy. I handled it better than I thought I would and I bought less- fewer and faster were the trips! However, with their allowance money in small purses, pockets and sandwich bags, they bought their own stuff often. Most of what they bought was gum, food, chocolate milk and candy. Other times they bought junky toys they don’t want now. Preciously however, they bought candy for Oaks too, and at their best, they generously and beautifully bought presents for each other and us parents at Christmas.

The Gap Year goal of sibling bonding is working, they play, read, invent, invite and work together. BUT, I miss my time with Oaks only and feel like he’s getting the shaft of attention in this year where many days are mostly Eli and Andi school focused.

Personally, less blogging, NO YOGA 🙁 and  probably too much TV at 9:30pm when all I have left is to want to be awake, but alone, and not doing anything.

It’s not perfect but it’s what I wanted, where we are, and we want to finish.

We are off school this week and done April 10th. I think we can make it. Plus, we have four more books in the Little House on the Prairie series and we are all in on those.

 

 

Moving Beds

I cannot sleep because my kids are sleeping in new beds. All three.

We went from bunks plus toddler bed, snug and stuck together in Eli’s room, to no toddler bed, one full size bed for the 10-year-boy now all alone in his own room, and the bunked set in Oakley’s space. We moved Oakley into his room here in a tiny crib as a 7 month old, and tonight he just went to sleep on a bottom bunk with no rail and no extra loving needed?! 

And Sister Soo, sweet Andi. The little lady likes a permanent slumber party.  Her first stop out of a crib was the bottom bunk, under Eli. Andi was four when we snuggled Oakley in his crib in our old house next to them. She slept happy between brothers. When we moved, she got an awesome room and a big, old bed for her small self. In 2013, our first year here, Andi slept in her bed for a few nights. We walked between three rooms saying blessings and giving one last drink. After a month of sleeping alone in her own room, she went back to what she’s always and only known: being bunked with a brother. 

After two years of dressing and playing in her room and sleeping in Eli’s, we invited another family to live with us for three months. Eli welcomed Oaks and the toddler bed into his room when June moved in to sleep in Oakley’s room.

James, Laura and June moved in this summer while they looked for, found, and renovated a house they now sleep, shower, and eat in just three, literally three, doors down from my bunked beds here. Life was crowded with loud early mornings and restless dinners, mosquito bites, grilled salmon, shared kid care, late night shows or games, help, fun, and bliss more than burden.

When it was time for the Bruce’s to pack up and walk to their new house, we walked around the topic of where Andi would sleep. Eli was vocal about wanting his own room to be his own room. I loved hearing what he wanted and why and had a lot of fun getting it ready for him today. He is 10 and free of climbing into a lofted bed. May you never worry about your head and that circulating fan blade again, buddy. IMG_6610IMG_6611

Andi had options. She was welcome to bunk up brother-wise once again, it would just be with Oakley and she’d need to move up; the top bunk was open now. Or, she could sleep all cozy and all alone in that room she really does like so much in a bed we fixed up fancy with a clip-on light today.

She chose brother bunk bed and I’m fine with it, happy really. I had quite a day thinking of moving them and then going through all the work of setting up beds, cleaning up rooms, and finding more pillows. Emotion, plus work across three flights of stairs, is a big day.

There is something about having them together that makes me swoon. The mess of the first night this summer where no one would go to sleep and everyone cried or yelled or got up and out of their beds in that triple sibling room, makes me think they can adjust to anything and get good at it. Eli, Andi, and Oakley are my favorites and having them all in one place led to special nights all summer.

If we’re lucky, we’ll have Castaway as a chance to smoosh them all back together next summer.

For now, I’ll just go look at them one more time, in two different places, and try to get to sleep myself.

 

 

Gap Year

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For over two years, I’ve been toying with, mulling over, wondering about, dreaming towards, wishing we could, forgetting about for awhile, discussing with close friends, praying privately around, and researching the possibility of what I’m calling, “A Gap Year”. Also known as, “A Sibling Year“, also known as, “Home School Year”.

Sunday, as a family, with varying levels of excitement (from very angrily anti, to eagerness tinged with trepidation), and with faith, trust and hope in each other and the God that holds everything together, we committed formally to the Gap Year reality.

Next school year, August 2016- May 2017, Eli and Andi will not return to Line Creek Elementary but will stay home with Oaks and me for home school through the Classical Conversations (CC) curriculum and our part in a local CC community. We will accomplish all the necessary educational requirements for them to stay on track and re-enter as 5th grader and 4th grader for the 2017-2018 school year.

I was never drawn towards the home school idea because of dissatisfaction with the public school education we receive. In fact we are beyond blessed to live in one of the top school districts in the state and have had great teachers in each class for the past four years.  One of Drew’s biggest questions or hesitations has been, “Why do we need to change something going well?” Drew doesn’t like changes and is slow to process big ones. I’m thankful he’s walking with me in this, listening, and agreeing despite the parts of himself that cry out, “What?! Why? Now?”

We are NOT going Gap Year because anything is broken, or because someone else is doing it, or because anyone else suggested it. Nope, instead, this has been an idea, an urge, a desire, a pull that I have had felt and engaged all on my own as I trust God is speaking to me and moving me on kingdom purposes for the time, place, and people God has me in and around.

I feel it is the right thing for us right now.

In and through the Gap Year, I want to:

  • Develop a depth of relationship between parents, siblings, and learning.
  • Be with my kids.
  • Know my kids deeply and establish a deep trust in each other.
  • Deepen roots of love and identity
  • Bond them as siblings. I want to give Oakley what Eli and Andi experienced their first 5 years of life- daily life with each other.Castaway 2011 018
  • Have family be the most formational force in their life for a year. I want to shape, mold, inspire, get to know and encourage them more intentionally.
  • Dump a ton of facts, knowledge, and data into their malleable brains- taking advantage of the capability now and building a foundation for everything they’ll need later.
  • Secure their identity as children of God and coheirs with Christ
  • Expand their understanding of God and God’s kingdom purposes in the world- I want to make their world bigger, not create a small Christian bubble world, but engage God’s work, experience how Jesus loves people, and serve together in some cool ways. (Play games with nursing home residents? Deliver Valentines to lonely and left out people?)
  • I want them to become more fully who they are and expand their personality and gifts.
  • Have an adventure, a challenge
  • Engage this choice for the benefit of my kids and because of the flexibility of my part time job. I have extra capacity for my capabilities in the current scope of my job. I want to give what extra I have to my kids.
  • To go to Colorado and Chicago to be with our extended family more often for longer periods of time.3 line up

It’s scary and exciting and asks a lot of us because it changes everything we’ve gotten used to. I have a list of things that could go wrong. However, the list of what I hope for and feel we could accomplish together, is a stronger one.

As we walk this out, I’m sure I’ll update and share stories. Or perhaps, blog writing goes off the list of things I can accomplish- a gap in my writing?

When we talked about it with our kids Sunday morning, I told them I wanted to extend an invitation for relationship, education and adventure. I told them they could feel anything they wanted about it (nervous, excited, mad, ready, angry, so-so, pumped etc…). We agreed we all need faith, trust, hope, and teamwork to make it happen.

It’s on. I can’t fully believe it and simultaneously believe it’s about time.

Women and Men in Leadership and Conversation: my YL write up.

IMG_2832This is a post I wrote for the Young Life Midwest Women’s Leadership Network Blog. The journey of crafting words and researching story, asking for input and editing for softer language, ended up like it will read below. I was grateful for the chance to write but most of all, am hoping it will be read and used for necessary growth and change.

 

 Women and Men Around the Young Life Leadership Table:

Ingredients for healthy meetings and a helpful perspective on working with the other gender. 

February 25, 2016

I was fortunate to  attend the Women’s Leadership Network gathering during YL75. After sampling fancy and fabulous cold cracker spreads, we gathered in a semi-circle to hear from mission leaders. All three leaders affirmed the idea that men and women, working together, most fully represent the fullness of God in kingdom work.

Although women have not always been affirmed in leadership in Young Life’s past, we are very thankful for the major steps forward in this journey made by men and women towards health and equality. Because some women still have a steep hill to climb towards equality of opportunity in our mission, we will press on with hope.

On my own, in one blog, I cannot write to encapsulate a comprehensive history, or sum up experiences, beautiful or broken, in our mission or Christian ministry on the whole. So, I’ll slice out a sliver of the pie that’s been in my eye this past year: sometimes strong, capable, creative, and intelligent women staff encounter tension and challenge with their male supervisors.

Here are some ideas on what to avoid, and the essentials to include, in posture, philosophy and personal interactions in the working relationship.

Women staff, in your relationships with male supervisors:   

  • Acknowledge your primary identity is an image-bearing beloved child of God. You are the treasured child of a king with a beloved identity (Ephesians 1:3-6) and a royal authority (Romans 8:16&17), just the same as the guy across the table.
  • Do your own work to embrace your identity and voice. A supervisor who might be frustrating you is most likely not purposefully against you, but unaware. He or she might not know you feel overlooked or undervalued. Be your own best advocate, in a gracious way.

  • Possess your possessions. Use your own abilities and do not enable patriarchy by waiting for a man’s approval or invitation if the position or power is already in your hands.

  • Speak freely- with confidence, honesty and respect.

  • Believe in your ideas, remember the confidence of your calling, and take risks.

  • Keep healthy relationships with girlfriends. Pursue healing of deeper issues in your past that have not been brought to light or redeemed, and do the hard work of healing, forgiving, and growing outside of any staff obligation or meeting.

  • Say NO and mean it. Say YES and mean that too.

  • Appreciate the effort your supervisor is taking to lead you in the way he or she knows how and be honest and upfront when you feel there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

  • Talk directly to your boss before bringing in other staff peers or higher ups.

  • Respond well to female leadership and encourage the respect of all women leaders at any levels of ministry in Young Life. As women, let’s build each other up!

  • Be bold and brave. You’re blessed to be a blessing.

 

Male supervisors, in your working relationships with female staff, I recommend…

  • Acknowledge and stay aware of your inherent male privilege – the reality that you don’t have to think about being male, and that society gives men concessions not often given to women. Realize you come to the meeting with a power you didn’t necessary grasp for, but were given. Realize you’re not coming with a history of peers who were refused seats at the table, and that this inherently impacts the dynamic of the table, even though both you and the woman sitting across from you may wish it were not that way.

  • Become familiar with the reality of your lens for seeing the world through your gender, culture and circumstances. Each of us has one and we serve each other well when we try to understand the other.

  • With awareness of how your previous prejudices or embedded biases (which we all have) come into play in interactions with women, work towards a healthy head and heart.

  • Employ accountability and self-check-ins to ensure you’re walking mindfully into meetings with a woman,  acknowledging her identity as one made in God’s own image, unconditionally loved, and wholly called. Prepare to embrace her as a capable co-worker, an educated and equipped co-minister, and move to employ the full spectrum of her gifts and talents.

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With a mindful perspective of one’s self and the person across the table, a working relationship is set up for success. Here are a few more considerations I’d like to mention.

  •  Listen well. Hear her whole ideas. Ask clarifying or follow up questions, agree, disagree, challenge and listen more.
  • Call out her gifts and strengths. An experienced staff friend of mine said he sees a lot of “women who have great competence

  • but lack confidence.” When he observes a woman excelling, he is sure to call it out so she can hear and build confidence. When a woman will not self-promote, she can benefit from champions raising her up.

  • See women as a way to expand the limits of your ministry. Different gifts that fill the gaps or widen the reach of what a man can accomplish alone, open up the door for women to fully live out their gifts, and more importantly, for the Kingdom to grow.

  • Ask for the woman’s perspective and listen to what she offers. Assure her you want to hear what she thinks, that you affirm her position, that her ideas are valid and you want/need her to verbalize what she knows, thinks, wonders, is angry about, cannot stand, will always stick up for, and wants.

  • Never use her as a babysitter or nanny.

  • Be her boss, not her best friend, counselor, or pastor.

  • Advocate for her with the leaders and committee in the area. Empower her to use her very valid authority and gifts to their fullest.

 

Women, you are capable and strong. You do not need to doubt yourself or the leadership gifts God has given you.

Men, you are capable and strong. You have the privilege of leading well out of your strengths, for the furthering of a kingdom team.

With humility, and some experience, with hope and faith that ensures the culmination of what we cannot yet see, I submit myself and our mission to growing and changing, as well as celebrating, as we work together in unity.

Out of the Mouths of Teens

YL_9251_Logo_PrimaryAlt_03As a Young Life leader at my local high school, I have the great privilege of walking with teenagers through the throes of high school adventures, mishaps, friendships, questions, stresses, and decisions. I love the energy, the ideas, the emotions, and the journey of my girls.

During our YL small group Bible study this season, we’ve been doing a teen girls video series by Jen Hatmaker called, “Brave Girl.” The study is excellent and done dynamically, with humor, scripture, and explanation. Jen and team share what God says about young women and their identity, relationships, and calling. Just last week, the topic was “Parents” and what God says about life in families.

Seven girls sat in a circle and shared stories, exasperations, admonitions, and realities about life as a teenager at home. After asking what they loved about their family, I asked how they would describe the role of a parent. Their responses were not given blithely. They shared from places of appreciation as well as frustration. With the girls in the developmental stage of adolescence, with the task of individuation at hand, and because they feel strong feelings and take great risks, I appreciated our conversation and wanted to share the wisdom.

In their own words, they said a perfect parent would:

  • Protect us
  • Rearrange their schedule to show up in my life at my stuff
  • Make time for their kids
  • Give us our independence
  • Let me learn my own lessons
  • Make me feel wanted, not like I’m a burden.
  • Balance the roles of mom and friend and always keep the mom part most important.
  • Let me be open and honest with you, but don’t push me to be when I don’t want to open up.
  • Be brave enough to ask how I’m really doing and be prepared and willing to hear what I say
  • Not live vicariously through me.
  • Mention a problem once and then let it go. Trust me to handle it if I say I’m going to.

Can you sense the tension for boundaries and freedoms, for love and letting go?

Eurologo

I pushed a bit further and asked how they could show their parents their maturity and play their role as an ideal kid.

 

Once again, they said, “As kids, we will”:

  • Admit when I’ve messed up
  • Listen to you
  • Be responsible for what I’ve been given
  • Tell you how I feel
  • Ask you questions instead of telling you what to do.
  • Change and do what I need to when I say I will  handle things
  • Try to use your “I” statements to open up…”I think”, “I feel”, “I want”, “I need”
  • Use a tool for cooling down to make conversations more productive

I had to bite my mom tongue at times to keep from rationalizing the parental point of view. I also affirmed their ideas as valid because I really did often fully appreciate their perspective.

Eli asked me if he could be considered a “pre-teen” the other day. He’s over 9 1/2 but still I said, “Not yet.” I suppose I wanted him to have some more kid years to enjoy almost as much as I admit I need the time to study this list and get ready for what it will take to parent a pre, full, and post teenage kid.

I’m counting on grace…giving it away and grasping for it myself.