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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.

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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.

 

 

Little Kids, Big Questions

The title is ironic. I think my kids are still little but in all reality, Eli is 3 days into being 10 years old and Andi is not far behind. They are mid to upper elementary school age. Even Oakley, at three, is bigger than little. I mean, June, our live in cousin, is “little” at age 1, and so cute and smart too!!! Waking up with June in our house is a gift. but I digress. My kids are big but in the scope of aging humanity, with medical miracles and God’s grace, they should live many more decades.

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So assuming they are all actually still little, I’m reeling from and relishing the conversations we’ve had this summer.

Conversation #1: The Sex Talk

It was early June when Andi found a condom in our bedroom- she plays in small places…I guess her imaginary world was under our bed that day. When she asked me what it was, I said, “It has to do with sex. Do you want to know more about it or just know it’s for sex?” She said she definitely wanted to know more so I told her she had to find Eli and I would find Dad. Oaks came too and we had “the talk”, a bit spontaneous and completely open with Eli and Andi. We were all five in Andi’s room; Oaks played in his own world on the floor.

We talked about the purpose (for connection and creation) and the mechanics (they had anatomical questions). We talked about the ways it can go wrong and how absolutely great but private and intimate it is. They had questions about frequency and were a little surprised to know we have decided for sure on no more babies. Yes, the small package that started the whole conversation, is stopping the sibling expansion.

I said that day, and in the next month to my high school campaigner girls (not planned), that I love to talk about sex. When I talk about sex I love to say:

  • Sex is good, precious and powerful. So good, precious and powerful, it’s worth protecting and saving. 
  • Sex is healthy and good to talk about with the right people. Don’t hide your questions or feel like you can’t ask them.
  • Sex is part of who we are and works with what God wants us to do as people who love, know and follow God.
  • Sex is best with one person who really loves you, and always will.

Conversation #2: What is the meaning of life?

One night with Drew at bedtime and the next day with me at lunch, early July, Eli posed the question, “What is the point of life?” Like I said, little kid, big questions!

I asked it right back and they had ready answers.

Eli said, “I think its to have fun, make friends and do work.”

Andi said, “To love and be loved. To have water, family, food, home, and clothing…so you can really live.”

I feel like I should have an answer for them too. Do I say,  “It’s to live as a child of God and ambassador for Christ, making God’s kingdom real on earth with reconciliation and love?”.

Or, simply, “It’s to live loved so you can go love“.

Or, “Life is about relationships. To know and be known, love and be loved. Life is about living in relationship with God for full life on earth.”

It’s fun to think about and I hope they keep asking.

Conversation #3 Birthday Attention 

Eli turned 10 on July 17th and we marked the moment. I hosted a Decade of Parenting Party to toast with my friends about our 10 years of lessons and laughter in parenting. We shared what we learned, how we messed, up and what our kids have done to change our worlds. Then we listened to my friends, who have young 20 year old kids, share about how to make it through the next decade. What was shared that night is worth it’s own post!

Then we had an Epic Eli bday party on Saturday the 16th. With a few friends and some of Eli’s adult friends, had lunch, played Nerf Capture the flag, and went to Oceans and Worlds of Fun.

I had 10 people write craft a page and made a book celebrating Eli’s life so far and cheering him on for the days and years ahead.

On Sunday, Eli went to church in the morning and the end of the season swim banquet at the end of the day with a family party in the middle. He was grateful and said so all throughout the celebrations. Here’s the conversation part.

Me: “Eli, did they know it was your birthday at church? Did anyone say anything?”

E: “Nah. No one knew. No one said anything.”

Me: “Did that bother you? Did you want them to?”

E: “No. It’s fine.”

Me: “Really? I love people knowing its my birthday!”

E: “Yea. I just don’t really like the attention of people who don’t know me very well being paid my way. “

Indeed- Eli meant not to disparage the relationships he has at church. He was simply stating reality. His birthday is about relationships, the knowing and being known, the celebrating and having fun, should be with people who are invested in his life. The obligatory “Happy Birthday” from stranger or acquaintance wasn’t necessary to expand or deepen his weekend. He was humble and honest and I think, very mature. That 10-year-oldness fits him.

So, with fear and awe, gratitude and joy, I can only hope these big conversations keep happening with my little people. 

 

 

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.

Have you ever known?

I’m privileged to get to write an e-newsletter for the ParentUP campaign here in Kansas City that works to inform and assist families in helping kids avoid underage drinking. The campaign also encourages responsible use of alcohol among adults.

The statistics for how many younger kids drink are sobering. (Punny?) The risks to their current health and future success are high. Here’s a smattering of what I’ve written in the ParentUP newsletters:

  • Every day in the United States, more than 4,750 kids under age 16 have their first full drink of alcohol.
  • Underage drinking accounts for 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States.
  • Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse in their lifetimes than those who begin drinking at age 21 years or later.
  • A teenager’s brain is still developing the important pre-frontal cortex functions of decision making, planning, appropriate social behaviors, and complicated cognitive functions in learning, memory, and organization. The affects of alcohol arrest or stifle the development of these important areas.

  • Kids who drink in their teen years have a higher tendency towards poor scholastic success, depression, and emotional disorders.

 

What I’ve never written about, is responsible use among adults.

While writing the latest edition of the ParentUP letter, I was clicking through websites of foundations with data and research on everything alcohol use and abuse. I realized I’ve never done much research into what qualifies as a healthy amount of alcohol drinking for adults. Of course, there are familial, religious, or health reasons to drink NO alcohol at all. If however, one wants to drink occasionally and responsibly, what do doctors and researchers say about how much and how often?

I didn’t know but was interested in to learn.

Rethinking Drinking and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says:

  • Low risk drinking levels - On any single day: Men, no more than 4 drinks on any day. Women, no more than 3 drinks on any day. Per week: Men, no more than 14 drinks per week. Women no more than 7 drinks per week.

And a drink is defined as: 0.6fl oz or 14 grams of pure alcohol which is usually found in,

5 fl oz of table wine - about 12% alcohol                 12 fl oz of regular beer - about 5% alcohol

12 fl oz of regular beer (5% alcohol)

8-9 fl oz of malt liquor (7% alcohol)

5 fl oz of table wine (12% alcohol)
2-3 fl oz of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif  (24% alcohol)
1.5 fl oz of brandy or cognac (a single jigger or shot) (40% alcohol)

1.5 fl oz shot of  80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
They explain the difference between women and men as a typical difference in weight and the female body’s natural water content.  As alcohol is dispersed pound for pound in body water, women have less water content usually than men.
It helps me to have a scale, barometer, or instruction. To have a mindfulness of what goes in, how often, when, and why.
For one who writes to instruct or share, and is paid to teach and train, it is essential to educate and live out in my behaviors , what I profess with my speech.
I desire health, wholeness, and honorable celebrating. So,
CHEERS!
to mindfulness, life giving limits, gratitude, respect, health and wholeness. 

2 Years Time

When we moved in to this house

Our muscle movers.

Our muscle movers.

two years ago, it meant we had sold our half-duplex, moved out of the (half) house we had our three babies in, out of the house we wanted out of three years earlier, and out of a house we really loved and made our own.

I cried the night we turned in the keys. Sitting in those empty rooms where we had lived so much life, made me ache in a good, goodbying way.

Then we came here. And here is wonderful. It is good to love what we had and appreciate the gift of moving. Two years into transition, we are still in the space of vivid memories and palpable memory making.

When we moved two years ago, two things happened on nights 1 and 3. On night one, April 26th, 2014, we went room to room, and dreamed about what we would do in each room. In the basement, we measured the heights of our kids on the door frame.

Then, on night 3, we had a hole cut in the kitchen ceiling, above the kitchen table, because there was a bathtub leak in the master bath above.

Alas, the leak was fixed in moments but the scar in the drywall was deep and wide and open and a bummer. So we (Drew, bravely) patched it. And we waited and debated for 18 months about fixing the hole and patching the popcorn ceiling, or scraping the ceiling and getting it to flat.

When over a year later, we decided ultimately to go flat ceiling fix,  we found out there was asbestos in the ceiling so we had the popcorn professionally scraped and taken away.

Then, just 10 days ago, we had the whole ceiling drywall patched, repaired, healed and smoothed to flat by a dust vacuuming prince of smooth ceiling charm.

Then, just last week, Drew (mostly) and I (a little bit around the edges) hired ourselves to paint the smooth ceiling.IMG_6464

And before we painted, second coat, night two, we toured the house for the two year anniversary of moving here.

We remembered dances, games, Royals watch parties, Daddy eggs, Andi imagination stations, Oakley road riders, finding hidden things, reading tons of books, cuddles, night lights and getting things done. We remembered people and food and ways we laughed. We remember a lot of things that just happened and wanted to bring back somememories from two years ago because they are favorite things we’ve done in our house.

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Then we measured our kids and they jumped inches again. I love how much they love to gawk at each other’s growth.

Love it. Love it here. Love what will come.

A few other notable home happs:

  • A piece of fence fell down in heavy winds. IMG_6440
  • Andi turned 8 and we rearranged her room and had two parties!IMG_6449
  • Update on the hole- it’s been raining and despite our effort of covering the hole with a fire bowl bowl, it’s half full of rain water! Agh! Uncle Z suggests a siphon which is a grand idea but one I’m not enacting yet.IMG_6466

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.

 

2016 Oscar Showcase Summary

Four years and counting.

For the past four Februarys, Drew and I have spent two Saturdays in movie seats. Taking in screens of fantasy, story telling, truth portraying, agenda pushing, artistic awe-ing, talent showcasing, heartbreaking, mind changing, soul searching, question asking, and/or emotion engaging films, is one of our favorite couple traditions. We like good movies and long days together. It all fits.

We had great company this year and ran into acquaintances as usual during breaks. We bonded as lanyard wearing, popcorn toting fans “watching the best back to back.” Seems they took their tagline from the Royals past two years! It’s a great season in KC.

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Of the past four years, this year’s films do not stand out as most excellent of all time. There were a lot of ties for almost every ranking. I liked a lot of them third. I did finally rank them ,with angst and little expertise, in this order:

*This is how much I personally appreciated the movies, not what I thought should win Oscar statues necessarily.

*I give you one simple reason for my placement of each film.

1. Spotlight- I liked it best for its portrayal of the power of hard work, genuine empathy, and well written stories to change lives on scales small and large. 

2. Bridge of Spies – The message here was to do the right thing, even if its for the “wrong” person. I appreciated the layers and tension. I appreciated seeing strength to stand up for reasoning that there is always another side,  and a person on that side who should be considered at least, and respected and honored most times. Good Old-Fashioned Spy

3. Room-  I couldn’t get this movie out of my head. However, a hard movie to watch is most often worth watching.  Here the unsettledness in my soul moved me to appreciate how strong one can be when reality requires unfathomable strength. The film shows how brave moms are and the balance between telling kids enough truth to shape their world, but doing a whole lot of hiding what’s too hard for a little soul. She overcame loneliness and fear in ways I have never imagined one could. 

4. The Big Short- Complicated and detailed in actual content, this movie was entertaining to watch and engaging from its beginning to its raw finish- what a crappy victory for the victors. What I didn’t anticipate was how much of my adult life would be on the screen and how luckily, we came through unscathed, young and naive to boot. 

5. Brooklyn- She is beautiful and quietly determined to feel all of her feelings, letting pain direct her towards figuring out who she could be. We talked afterwards about how malleable love can be, which is a complicated and continuing conversation. 

6. Mad Max: Fury Road- While my first reaction was one of bewilderment of how this movie made the Best Picture list, I grew to appreciate it. To watch it is exhausting sure, but it’s perfect as a movie in most ways: amazing scenes, tons of action, great looking actors and actresses, and an adventure to find connection and identity- struggles we drive ourselves around in sand still today. 

7. The Martian-  Simply put, the book is way better. 

8. The Revenant- Simply put, it was too much, for too long, with amazing scenes great for a Planet Earth episode, Drew says, but not enough story to draw me into the dragged out drama. I could hardly even believe in the father son relationship on which the whole journey rests. However, I did appreciate once again, the illustration of how often we misunderstand and abuse those who are different than us. There is even a sign that points out a truth with irony so potent it took me to Jesus’ “King of the Jews” sign on the cross, and all the other violence wrought on good people who threaten someone else’s agenda. 

The themes through most films seemed to me to be:

  • survival
  • who you are and how you cope when you’re alone in a struggle
  • a journey that changes not only where you exist but who you are

The major question posed sounded to me like:

  • What will you choose to do inside your circumstances? 

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The other great movies, once again ranked, I saw this season rounded out a really fun winter:

  1. Creed
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. The Intern
  4. Straight Outta Compton
  5. Amy

I like to tell my kids to use their power- their power to say yes, or to say no. Power to make a choice or make a different one. Power to try again and power to help and heal. I appreciate each of these movie characters harnessing their power and the whole film industry for putting great stories in beautiful and artistic packaging.

Until next year…