My Life as a Farmer

My Life as a Farmer

My roots dig deeply into Indiana soil.

South Bend isn’t exactly rural, but my calling to bear fruit resonates deeply.

“I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:16

And so I plant seeds.

Parenting is planting.

Planting tiny dried up bits of seeds. They seem so insignificant.

Countless ordinary moments.

I teach math and manners.

Self-control and serving.

I encourage quietness and forgiveness.

Prayer and perseverance.

And in the hidden soil of their hearts mystery lurks. I have no idea what’s happening in there.

Is the Master Gardener nurturing a soft, quiet servant heart? Is He watering and weeding a bold leader? Will the branches stretch overseas to a people that thirst for good news? Will the leaves grow thick and shelter hurt ones close to home?

We plant, and we water.

But God gives the growth.

Master Gardener, we pray for the mysterious miracle of growth.

Only the warm breath of God can coax life out of a tiny bit of hardness.

Only His life can shoot growth into wisps of roots that grow deeper and stronger.

Only His love can lure tender, green stems to reach up for warmth. And slowly, slowly absorb the nutrients of His word to grow a faithful trunk and strong branches.

Until one day they bear the miracle of fruit themselves.

And the legacy continues.

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Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

Okay. Deep breath.

Confession time.

I am a helicopter parent.

Always have been.

You know. The mom who hovers around her kids, trying to insure that everything goes well. Running interference to guarantee my kids’ safety and happiness.

I’m getting better, I think. (Or am I? Is that a thing helicopter parents say?)

And in my journey toward healthy momming (I know. No pressure. My kids are almost grown.), I’ve found some great tools to help me along.

Julie Lythcott-Haims’ new book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success is a boon. Fabulous tool for all parents- not just us helicopters. Her unique perspective as a long-time dean of students at Stanford University has helped her to track how ill-equipped high school graduates have become in tackling life, let alone college.

I love that she isn’t judgy or preachy. She actually gives historical context for how my generation of parents got this way.

And, of course, the crux of the matter- how do we change?

She breaks down our over parenting into four main categories:

  • Safety
  • Providing opportunities
  • Smoothing all the rough spots, and
  • Getting them into the best college

One of the mindsets that rings true throughout the book is encouraging a growth mindset. The idea that failure is a stepping stone. That struggle is normal. That life is hard. BUT, we can do hard.

I haven’t overhauled my parenting techniques as a result of this book. But, my perspective has been shifted a bit. It has helped me change my tone. I have changed some little decisions.

I am remembering to slow down my knee-jerk, protective mom reactions. I’m learning to be thankful for the hard things my kids experience.

I do my best to listen and support and pray through those inevitable hard things.  But, I know shielding them doesn’t necessarily help them.

Ms. Lythcott-Haims highlights the following list that was composed by the authors of GIST: The Essence of Raising Life-Ready Kids, Michael Anderson and Tim Johansen. It’s a tough list for kids and adults, but I’m shifting my attitude to welcome these types of situations as rites of passage and tools of growth for my kids.

  • Not being invited to a birthday party
  • Experiencing the death of a pet
  • Breaking a valuable vase
  • Working hard on a paper and still getting a poor grade
  • Having a car break down away from home
  • Seeing the tree he planted die
  • Being told that a class or camp is full
  • Getting detention
  • Missing a show because she was helping Grandma
  • Having a fender bender
  • Being blamed for something he didn’t do
  • Having an event canceled because someone else misbehaved
  • Being fired from a job
  • Not making the varsity team
  • Coming in last at something
  • Being hit by another kid
  • Rejecting something he has been taught
  • Deeply regretting saying something she can’t take back
  • Not being invited when friends are going out
  • Being picked last for neighborhood kickball

Yeah, that stuff is hard to stomach. But, it honestly helps me to remember that hard stuff is good for them. May they thrive on hard stuff! May it give them something to push against and build their emotional and spiritual muscle.

This week my daughter was frustrated about something, but I remembered the author’s exhortation to allow my kids to figure out their own way of coping with disappointment so when they get to college and experience hard things they won’t need mom to help them through it. So, I intentionally let her struggle. It was hard, but I kept thinking, “This is for college!”

Parenting is hard. But we can do hard! And I’m thankful for tools like How to Raise an Adult to navigate it with purpose and hope.

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How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

How To Be a No-Guilt Mom

I have Mother’s Day all planned out. First I’m running a Mother’s Day 5K. (They give you a rose!) Then I’m going to my favorite coffee shop (alone!) to write my annual I Love You So Much letter to each of the kids. Then after church on Sunday, hubby and kids will take a hike with me. Even if some of the offspring aren’t exactly into hiking. It’s my day, doggone it.

Hubby points out that a lot of my Mother’s Day choices seem to involve me being alone.

Whatever. I seriously don’t feel guilty about that.

I revel in the joy of being a mom! No guilt at all as I celebrate Mother’s Day by replenishing my soul to love for the long haul.

The other 364 days of the year however, I carry pervasive, low-grade mom guilt.

Heavy, heavy weight.

At the core: “Am I doing enough? Am I providing enough: opportunity for growth and responsibility and discernment of their callings?”

My true breath of freedom and hope comes when I take time away. To fill myself up on a regular basis. The irony is that sometimes the best way to serve my family is to step away.

So I sit quietly with Him. Just on the edge of my bed, a blanket wrapped around me because I’m usually cold in Colorado.

I look out the window and marvel at the towering, graceful tree across the street. I drink in the serene blue of the sky. The distant, snowy point of Pike’s Peak.

I open His Book, and His true Words pour into my heart.

“I love you. I love you differently than I love other people. Not because I change. But because you are unique. I love you out of the overflow of Who I Am. I Am Love.”

So He fills me up. He quenches the thirsty, wistful parts.

And in little ways I can parent without guilt. I am loved deeply. His overflow helps me to love them deeply. Each one uniquely.

Who knows how my beautiful children will turn out? I don’t.

He gives me patience to keep sowing. To keep loving. To keep disciplining. To keep doing laundry and making meals. To keep having kid dates at McDonalds. To keep reading stories and listening and laughing.

There really doesn’t seem to be much to show for all this little humble work.

But it seems like when Jesus died and rose again and returned to heaven, there wasn’t a lot of showy produce among His followers.

And yet His sacrifice had watered and fertilized the scattered seed of His children. And they grew- slowly, steadily, awkwardly- into the global Body of Christ.

I will trust Him again (for today, anyway) to produce beautiful fruit in the lives of these beautiful, human children.

Walking by faith.

No guilt.

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A Christmas Letter to My Daughter

A Christmas Letter to My Daughter

My sweet little protégé,

I love Christmas, and so do you!

So I scurry and hurry, trying to make the best use of those 25 days in December.

So much I long to impart! The beauty, the joy, the solemnity, the fun, the surprise, the sacredness.

So we daily tick off our five Advent activities and brainstorm fun presents for people and make cookies and watch Christmas movies and drink eggnog and decorate the tree and drive to see Christmas lights with hot chocolate.

And it’s all so fun!!

But sometimes I get a little too zealous, and then I burn out a bit.

And the meals are often on the run, and if I thought I could keep up with the laundry before I know it’s totally hopeless now.

And in the middle of it all, I sometimes notice that I’m not enjoying it much. And that I may be giving you kids a weak version of real Christmas.

So, my daughter, I want you to have a little piece of peace as you grow up and “orchestrate” Christmas for your own family someday.

It’s okay to drop the ball.

It’s okay to not get it just right.

It’s okay to over-commit and realize that rather than adding to the joy of Christmas you’ve kinda taken it away.

It’s okay to start an Advent book and then not finish it.

It’s okay to only have cookies and eggnog and Advent candy for breakfast every morning in December.

It’s okay to forget the main present for one of your kids and write a coupon from Santa on Christmas morning to go to the store and get what you meant for him to have.

It’s okay to work really hard to make things special for your family!

It’s okay to take a mental health break on December 19th when you should be getting Christmas groceries and the remaining presents, but instead you go grab an eggnog latte at Starbucks with a good book.

And maybe in the end, on some cold and crazy morning when you are reading an Advent story with your family, hoping they settle down enough to actually hear some of it, maybe He will whisper. And you and your husband and your kids will hear Him.

And you will experience Christmas.

Overpowered for just a second that God became human.

Because He loves you.

Really, really overwhelmingly loves you.

And the chocolate and the tree and the lights and the presents recede.

And He is alive and real.

And you realize that it’s worth it!

December is crazy. But it’s worth it.

May you continue to love Christmas.

And when you mess up and disappoint. When you fail at the whole Christmas thing.

That is your opportunity to really embrace the point of Christmas.

I need Him. And He knew it. So He came. God-in-skin. Dripping with grace. And He covers me.

My beautiful daughter, may you pass down this convoluted, exhausting, halting Christmas tradition of remembering and celebrating that God came for us. Every December.

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Am I Efficient or Effective?

Am I Efficient or Effective?

There was a day when all the laundry was done. I mean DONE. Everything was washed, dried, folded, and put away, and the baskets were empty.

That had been kind of a pipe dream of mine. The day when all the laundry was done. I got to live the dream! I got to experience the exhilaration and heady joy!

But it didn’t feel like I imagined. There wasn’t complete satisfaction. In fact, there was more than a little echo of emptiness. I was honestly surprised that achieving momentary success in this one overwhelming area didn’t come with more fulfillment.

Stephen Covey once said that efficiency isn’t the goal. Effectiveness is.

I’ve never been a particularly streamlined person. So I regularly get determined bouts of “efficiency.” Just this morning I’ve adopted a new checklist for each of my kids, so they can have a tangible, daily way to mark their school progress. Oh, I do love that. I love tools that make things run more smoothly.

But, in the end, I have to remember that my goal for my kids isn’t a streamlined schedule.

In the end I long for each of my kids to live out their purpose. To know God and to make Him known in their beautifully unique way.

And a checklist on a big index card could be one happy tool to that end. But it’s only a happy tool to the degree that it helps accomplish the main purpose.

So there is value in keeping the house clean, the meals on time and nutritious, and all the homeschool boxes checked daily. But it’s not the main goal.

There are days when the cursive paper isn’t completed, but instead I’ve spent an hour snuggled up with my daughter reading “Little Women.” Part of my hope for this tender girl is that as she grows she will learn to be kind to all sorts of people, even to those who may hurt her. So, as we get lost in the world of our friends the March sisters, we talk about Amy’s amazing feat when she chose to forgive and serve her enemy at the art fair. We marvel at how the four sisters cheerfully gave their Christmas breakfast to a poor family. And this hour deepens Bekah’s resolve to be different from most people and to stand up for kindness.

So, it’s not efficient. We weren’t able to check off the cursive box that day. But it was effective in helping to mold her heart a tiny bit more into the purposes He has for her.

It’s not an easy call, of course. The tools of efficiency are a great boon in helping me to be effective.

But when I’m tossed in the turbulence of self-reproach as my systems come unglued, or maybe worse, when I’m self-satisfied with a smoothly operating machine, I just want to check in with the One who clearly defines what is actually effective in my little world.

May I not squander these precious, formative years of raising my amazing people by simply checking boxes and keeping the laundry basket empty.

May I revel in the many messes and pray that some of them affect progress in important life goals.

May my kids appreciate order and efficiency to the degree that it helps them be God’s.