Trash or Treasure?

January 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

 

Since we discussed perception in my last post, (It’s been so long, you may have to go back and re-read it!) I thought it fitting to share the following encounter with someone who forever changed the way I view my seven-year-old daughter, Grace.

For those of you who do not know, Grace is an artist.  Hidden or not, if there’s a blank paper plate, paper towel, or piece of paper in our home, she’ll find it.  She loves markers and glue, paints, and glitter –and any other MESSY thing that she can get her busy little hands on.  She creates and creates and creates to her heart’s content, leaving her “mark” on everything she touches.  That new perfectly cute purse she got for her birthday, now unrecognizable, lies deep below icky layers of lace and beads, rhinestones, and glue.  And that adorable new Bible she got for Easter has been forever “upgraded” with a fresh pen outlining. 

Give a “creative” child like this to a perfection-seeking clean freak mother…and you’ve got problems!  I can’t deny that my heart rate elevates every single morning when I walk into her room and see the permanent blue stains on my beautiful mocha carpet.  I cringe every time I walk past the bathroom door and see the streak of red fingernail polish that taunts me, “I’m still here and there’s nothing you can do about it!”  But perhaps the thing that has always gotten to me the most is the…trash.  Yep, I’m afraid you heard me right, the T-R-A-S-H.  My child loves trash!  There, I said it!  She even brings home other kids’ trash in her lunchbox!  Pringles containers, juice box straws, candy wrappers!  She views each individual piece of junk as sacred…a treasure….the perfect addition to her latest work of art.  From ski slopes made of plastic shoe inserts to bug houses made from slim jim cans to toilet paper roll binoculars, this child takes great pride in…well, trash!  Now, you have to understand that my personal motto is, “When in doubt, throw it out!”  If there is not a specific place for something in our house, then to the curb it goes!  So, you can only imagine the conflict this oxymoronic  “trash art” has created between the two of us.

Well, I learned to choose my battles over the years.  I’d let her “do her thing” and then secretly sneak her precious “creations” into the trash when she was in bed.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve actually been caught a time, or two, or three or four!  “MOMM-A!”  She’d wail.   Her tearful eyes full of angry betrayal, she’d dramatically scold me,  “How COULD you throw this away?”  After carefully removing soggy noodles and smoothing leftover spaghetti sauce off of her masterpiece, she’d march back to her room and slam the door.

Though I never meant to really hurt her, I thought her little projects were worthless junk.  While I didn’t even realize what I was doing at the time, SHE knew that Mom did not value her abilities.

As only He can do, God used a completely unrelated set of circumstances to bring someone new into my life.  Through an email to Streams Ministries, I began to develop a relationship with a wonderful, encouraging, godly woman who I knew only as “Kari.”  Soon, when we went to The Art of Hearing God training by John Paul Jackson, BJ and I had the opportunity to meet this “email stranger” that I had already grown to love.  As we spent time together sharing, I felt a connection with her like never before.  Perhaps it’s because the love of God literally oozes right out of her.  Perhaps because there is not a judgmental bone in her body.  Whatever the reason, I was profoundly impressed with her- -her attitude, her character, her heart.  I genuinely valued and respected her as a person.  During a ten minute break from our class I overheard a gentlemen asking her about her art.  My heart quickened!  She’s an artist!  Instantly, I was filled with an overwhelming desire for her to teach my Grace how “real art”  is to be done.  We had been searching for someone willing to teach Grace for quite a while.  I was so excited about the possibility that I had practically sold our house and packed us up to move to the Dallas area in my mind.  After class ended that night, I went to her and asked about her art.  I shared with her about how creative Grace is but also expressed my embarrassment of her “trash art.”  I’ll never forget her words.  She leaned over to her husband and called out in her amazing New York accent, “She cawlls her dawghter a trash awtist!  Who does that remind you of?”  She began to share how she, too, is a trash artist!  We laughed as she shared about collecting old windows and various items from the curb, how it sometimes embarrasses her husband when she’s searching for trash, and how much joy she finds in taking things that others view to be worthless and creating something lovely from them.  As we toured the offices and she pointed out her art, each piece so meticulously and joyfully crafted, I was absolutely overwhelmed.  This amazing person-this amazing artist-with such love and passion for her work and for her Maker- was a grown up version of  my “Grace.”  I cried and cried that night at the realization of how I had not valued anything about my precious daughter’s gifting.  Sure, I loved her with my whole heart.  But I did not see value in who she is and what she loves.  I did not recognize the joy that transforming trash into treasure brings her. 

When we returned home, my sweet friend Kari sent me the following message regarding Grace’s spiritual gift:

” Not only creatively, but in the natural, it is the ability to see those broken and in need ( those that have been left on the side of life’s road) and pour into them and bring healing and show them the true value they are.  This is a gift I believe Grace may possess.”

Again, my heart broke.  I wept as the spiritual truth washed over me.  God made this child this way for a reason.  She’s not like me and that’s a GOOD thing!  She was never meant to be like me!  God has an incredible plan for her.  She will change lives, perhaps even more than those of us who are not willing to look past the dirty, the broken, and the unlovely.  Her creations are beautiful, valuable expressions of who she is inside and of who God made her to be to others.  From now on, I will treasure every single one of them.

Today as we start this new year, I urge you to take a few moments to view those God has put in your life differently.  Your child is not a brat.  Your spouse is not a mistake.  God put specific people into your life to mold and sharpen and perfect you!  It may take some work, but I promise you, it’ll be life changing.  Give up your old mindsets and see others with “God vision.”   And remember, just because someone is not your idea of perfect doesn’t mean they’re worthless.  Take time to find the valuable treasure in the midst of the trash!

Thank you so much Kari for letting God use you so powerfully in my life. 

You are precious and I love you!

 

                                                                       

 

 

 

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The Rise and Fall of SUPERmom

November 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

 

By the time I finished high school and started college, all I really wanted in life was to get married and become a mother.  A perfectionist by nature, I didn’t plan on being just another frazzled mom out there trying to survive another day.  If I was going to do the parenting thing, I was going to do it right!  I was going to be…SUPERmom!  And that’s exactly what I was…at first.

Second to meeting my husband, the birth of my first child, Josiah, was the best thing that ever happened to me.  He was a great baby with a great temperament – laid back and easy-going.  Flexible.  Happy.  And the most precious thing I had ever seen!  I’d gaze at him for hours in awe of a God who could create such perfection!  As he grew, so did our relationship.  We were best buds.  I adored him and he adored me.  My days were 100% his.  If he wanted to play, we played.  If he wanted to read, we read.  And every night, we spent time -just the two of us- cuddling and talking together before bed.  I absolutely LOVED being a mother and gladly sacrificed every moment I could for my child.

Because our son brought so much joy to our lives, we decided to bring another child into the world to love.  Alyssa Joy’s arrival was just as we’d hoped.  Another beautiful blessing from God.  A precious baby girl to join our happy little family.  She, too, was an excellent baby.  The perfect addition to our life. 

Everything was going as planned when the unexpected happened.  Another bundle of joy was on the way…a WHOLE lot sooner than we had planned!  Though we knew without a doubt that this third child was God’s will for our lives (for He had definitely overridden our will to wait awhile to expand the family) I have to admit that I was not pleased with the “new” plan.  I was tired.  My body was tired.  I had a baby already.  And my perfect little boy was proving to be not quite so perfect anymore…

So we brought our precious baby Grace home just twelve days after Alyssa Joy’s first birthday.  And though she was another wonderful baby, our life suddenly became mass chaos.  The battle of the babies began.  Every last moment was spent trying to manage and care for the two baby girls.  “The good life” that Josiah knew no longer existed.  There was no time to read or play or cuddle.  Consequently, Josiah’s behavior took an ugly turn for the worse.  Our once peaceful home was now filled with crying, crying, and more crying.  (And that was just ME!)   Staying home with three kids under the age of four, my worst fear was realized.  I truly had become another frazzled mom just trying to survive another day.  “Only a year until Josiah starts school.  Then a third of my troubles will be over,” I used to encourage myself.  Little did I know!  School was just the beginning of my troubles with Josiah.  But that’s another story altogether…

Determined to conquer motherhood, I pulled out my cape and spent the next few years racing through school plays, doctor appointments, pep rallies, soccer practices, and parent/teacher conferences as SUPERmom, two nap needing toddlers and a mile long to-do list in tow.  Operating in my own strength alone, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and just plain empty.  But I was SUPER!

Just when I thought I had perfected the art of being SUPER…when life had actually become almost manageable…surprise, surprise!  Our sweet Glory made her glorious entrance into our crazy world, gracing this SUPERmom with overtime in the day and demanding that I take on a night shift as well!  BUT… the Lord in His goodness blessed and multiplied my time with our new baby girl.  Delighting in the little things again for the first time in almost six years-the precious moments in time that can never be recaptured- I began to realize just how much of my two older daughters’ lives “the race of life” had robbed me of.  I had not really gotten to enjoy either one of them in their first few years of life.  We did not play.  We did not read.  We did not cuddle.  We didn’t have much of a relationship at all.  We were just doing good to survive!  I realized that in the kids’ eyes, I wasn’t really SUPER at all.  I desperately wanted to start fresh but there just wasn’t enough time in the day to change anything.  I raced the clock all day long and once the kids were in bed, I had to “start” MY day with endless piles of dishes and laundry.  “Busy-ness” had once again taken over every aspect of my life.  Multi-tasking became such an established pattern in my day that I was literally unable to stop it.  I could not slow down for fear of getting behind.  In a desperate attempt for order in the midst of the chaos, I consumed myself with housework.  And when the chores were all done I poured myself into anything else that might give me a sense of accomplishment.  A job well done.  Anything to offset the failure of not spending quality time with my kids. 

I pressed on, tackling every spelling list, field trip, class party, and dirty diaper with full force.  On the outside I was the picture perfect mom but on the inside I was…decaying.  Tired of giving every ounce of myself to “takers” who gave nothing back…ever…and surrounded by a culture that exalts self rather than others, my heart changed.  I began to resent anything and everything that took away from “me.”  After all, it was MY life and I deserved to get to live it.  Right?

Instead of enjoying my kids, pursuing a close relationship with them, teaching them about the Lord, and celebrating who He made them to be, I completely distanced myself, merely tolerating them at best.   Though I went through all of the motions of parenting, I had checked out…and my kids could tell.  I’ll never forget the day my little Josiah looked me in the face and said, “Mom, you know I can tell when you and Dad are just acting like you’re listening to me.”

 I genuinely loved my children, but I honestly had no desire to spend time with them.  In my eyes, any rare moments of extra time were too valuable to waste on playing or talking or being silly.  I had more important things to do.  Like be SUPER!  Or be alone!  Oh how I wanted to just sit in silence –without a single little voice repeating itself a thousand times!  I wanted to be anywhere but home…

Over the years, my attitude and actions continued to slowly spiral downward.  I became harsh and short-tempered with the kids.  With our crazy busy schedule I didn’t have time to be patient, so I began to correct and discipline the children differently.  I demanded obedience and would go to whatever length it took to get it.  And I justified it all in the name of keeping peace in our home.  No longer was I a gentle and loving parent looking for a teachable moment.  Truth be told, I cared more about “appearing” to be in control of the kids than I did about instilling character in them.   I was a drill sergeant forcing results and perfection.  When my children didn’t meet the standard, all hell broke loose!  My emotions were all over the place so the kids never knew what to expect, nice mom, mean mom, really mean mom.  At times, I was overcome with uncontrollable rage when I encountered defiance or disobedience.  My children would literally flinch at the sight of me coming towards them and it broke my heart, but I could not seem to gain control of my emotions.  After correcting them in anger, I was filled with remorse and disgust at myself and my behavior.  What had happened to me over the years?  How had I become so impatient?  So harsh?  So hurtful?  So selfish?  Time after time, I resolved to be a better parent.  A better teacher.  A better example for my kids.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to sit down and do a puzzle.  Or watch a cartoon.  What a waste of time!  Instead of lovingly tending to body boo-boos, heart owies, and bruises of the spirit, I barked orders for them to quit complaining and dry it up!  Instead of encouraging them and building their self-worth, I constantly harped on their shortcomings.  My mouth had become a weapon of mass destruction and I couldn’t control it.

Maybe only those of you who, like me, have experienced the constant power struggles that arise when you’re parenting a son who thinks he’s ten times smarter than you (and really is!) can understand how a mom could reach such a low point.  And maybe only those of us who parent a daughter who exited the womb with fire in her eyes and a sassy attitude the size of Texas can understand “losing it” and lashing out in uncontrollable anger at a precious child.  Believe it or not, understand it or not, I was there at rock bottom.  Lower than low. 

I finally realized that there was absolutely no way to “fix” things in my own strength.  I cried out to the Lord for change and handed over my terribly warped and broken heart for an overhaul.  He met me right where I was, in the midst of my filth, and began wiping away the muck to restore my perspective on parenting.  The first thing that had to go was the selfishness.  He gently reminded me that my life is not my own.  It’s His.  Bought with the blood of Jesus and therefore at His disposal.  HE is the one who calls the shots on how my time is to be spent, not me.  So, He took my precious time, withheld a little for Himself and my husband, and handed the rest (all of it!) to my children.  And I spent the next five months homeschooling, learning to build and grow what I had stifled and crushed.  It was through that homeschooling process, that he removed “the race” entirely.  He broke the housework compulsion because there seriously were not enough hours in the day AND night to get it all done.  (Believe me, I tried!)  He defeated this SUPERmom’s selfish agenda and set me on a path to fulfill HIS perfect plan.  He, the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the Universe, chose to entrust four very specific children to me –that I would raise them to know, love, and serve Him.  Everyone is created to influence someone.  Maybe not the president or anybody famous but a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor.  As for me, I was created to daily influence four little lives.  To live a life before them that models Jesus.  To lovingly train my know-it-all son to submit to authority and gently teach my smart alec daughter to respect others.  Every choice I make and every word I speak alters their future.  And if I fail at my job of raising them, then they fail, too.  So, with the grace and strength of God, this mom is dusting off her cape one last time and embarking on a new mission –to really become SUPER.  Not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of my Creator and in the eyes of my children.

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“Not So Dreamy” DREAMS

October 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

 

So today is October 1st, the release date of the October 2010 In Touch Magazine.  A day that I WAS really looking forward to.  I’ve decided to abandon my blog idea for today and rant and rave a little…if you don’t mind.

Back in December, I thought I’d try my hand at writing magazine articles for Christian publications.  I sent my first attempt out to MANY different editors and was genuinely shocked to receive the same response over and over.  Your message is too “Christian.”  We serve a “cross over” market.  You can’t say anything that might make someone feel bad.  We’re looking for “soft” evangelism.  We’re not looking for anything “preachy.” 

Oh, I’m sorry…I thought I was submitting to the Christian market.  When did we cheapen the truth?  When did we water down the Gospel?    How in the world can anything I write affect anybody if I take out the one thing that has the power to actually affect them?

After I settled down, dropped my defensive attitude, and reasoned that maybe, just maybe, people might be able to learn something from a “not too Christian, cross over piece that doesn’t make anyone feel bad and isn’t too preachy but has some soft evangelism in it,” I drafted a new manuscript-one with a whole lot less of God in it and a whole lot more of  ME in it.  A practical, humorous piece about surviving motherhood.  I sent it to only a handful of publications this time and quickly received interest from three of them.  Shortly afterward, I signed first rights over to In Touch Magazine, a ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley that still promotes Biblical truth.  After a little happy dance, I thanked the Lord for opening a door for me to change lives for Him.

A month passed.  Two.  Three.  Four.  No published article.  Five months.  Six.  So much time passed that I began to believe that they dumped my manuscript and decided not to publish it after all. 

About two weeks ago, I received an envelope in the mail from In Touch containing two copies of their magazine.  Realizing just how special these little books were, I excitedly flipped open the front cover to reveal the table of contents.  And sure enough, there it was on page 26!  “Mothering Without Incident” by J U L I E   H I G G I N S.  And it was even spelled correctly!  I could barely believe my eyes!  Better yet, someone had written a clever little attention grabbing intro for it! 

Getting tantrums under control is of vital importance-especially when it’s the parent who’s having them!

Could it possibly get any better???

I flipped through the pages as fast as I could and came face to face with a screaming woman sporting  green skin.  “They gave me artwork!”  I squealed to my husband, dancing around the kitchen.

And then it happened.  A large yellow text box caught my eye.  I scanned its contents and was instantly overcome with panic.  “I didn’t write that.”

“What?”  My husband walked over to take a look.

“Those words in the box.  I didn’t write them.”  I continued to scan the small print.  “I didn’t write that word either.  Verdant.  What does that even mean?”

I got out my original manuscript and noted all of the things that had been edited out of the copy due to space limitations.  (What can I say…I’m wordy!) 

Perhaps the most upsetting thing of all, the one little bit about God-the most important part of the piece-was cut and spliced with an entirely different section, changing the entire message I was hoping to speak.

“Or better yet, if I would have started the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the word of God, how much differently I might have handled the situation altogether. 

My only complaint as a mother is that there simply is not enough time to get it all done.  I would love to spend time reading devotionals and inspirational stories every day to help me on this motherhood journey.  Those of you who have toddlers know that every minute wasted on yourself is equal to about five minutes of “damage control” later when you find out what your small child was up to during that stolen moment! “

was changed to read, “I USED TO THINK that if I could start the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the Word of God, I would handle these situation more calmly.  I’d love to spend time reading devotionals and inspiring stories to help me on this motherhood journey.  But then I reasoned, every minute wasted on myself equals five minutes of “damage control” later when I find out what my small child was up to during that stolen moment!

While it might not seem like that big of a change, it entirely changes the meaning of my words and leads others to believe that I’ve “tried that and it didn’t work”  instead of “this is what I should have really done.”

“How can they do that!”  My husband was now irritated, also.

“Because I signed a contract that said they could ‘edit’ my work.”  I sighed.  I did not realize that ‘edit’ meant  re-word and add their own thoughts to it.

I’ll admit that it was a pretty hard lesson for me to learn, but it could have been much, much worse.  From this experience, I’ve learned that maybe the dream of being published in the largest circulating Christian magazine isn’t quite so dreamy after all.  If a million people read my words, but they don’t glorify God -and don’t challenge people to become more like Him-  have I really accomplished anything at all? 

I’ve decided that I’m just not really the “soft” evangelism type.  Perhaps I’ve spent too many years under a pastor with a passion for speaking the truth at any cost.  Perhaps it’s just another lesson in becoming more than mediocre.  I’ll still submit my work to Christian magazines, but I refuse to compromise my message just to get published.  It’s just really not worth it.  I’d rather speak the truth  to a single blog reader than to have thousands read a message that does not stir a hunger for God in them.

You can check out my professionally “edited” article posted on the In Touch website at this link  http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content/topic/mothering_without_incident

OR…you can read the original version right here on my blog at  www.hiddenjewels.wordpress.com  Just scroll down until you see the picture of the Incredible Hulk!

 

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Good LOVE-er Gone Bad

September 26, 2010 at 6:17 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

If you read my last post you shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that I’m still stuck on the book of 1 John.  (And I probably will be tomorrow and a week from now and ten years from now until I KNOW that I’ve mastered it!)  If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning, then you know that I’m a rule follower.  Just tell me the right thing to do so I can do it, PLEASE! 

1 John does exactly that for me.  When I read it, I see arrows pointing to a huge sign with blinking lights that says, “So you want to follow Christ?  This is what a Christian looks like.   Do YOU look like this?”  Well, the problem is…I DON’T.  Not yet anyway.  Because 1 John isn’t just about choosing not to sin.  It also focuses on LOVING OTHERS. 

 Today I’ve decided to let you in on a dirty little secret of mine.  I’m a good LOVE-er gone bad.  Yep, you heard me right.  Now, before you start to defend me, I’ll tell you that I’ve already been there and had that argument with the LORD…and I lost!  So don’t bother.  But don’t worry, I’m working on it and hopefully I’ll cross back over soon.

There’s probably a hundred things that I can blame it on…a broken heart, trust issues, an introverted personality, a short temper….the list goes on.  But before a Holy God, no excuse stands.  So, I’ve had no other choice than to go ahead and face the ugly truth. 

 And it is UGGGG-LY!  

  I used not to have a problem loving others because I surrounded myself with only those that were lovable.  Whenever I came into contact with a “sand paper” person that rubbed me the wrong way or grated on my nerves, I’d think,   “I don’t have to put up with that.”  And I didn’t put up with it!  I closed them out of my life and went on my merry way.

About five years and three children into mothering, things weren’t very merry anymore.  To my dismay, two of my three precious children  had become “sand paper” people themselves.  The really, really coarse kind!  Only a mom can understand this next statement, so the rest of you…just ignore it! 

I loved them, but I was really beginning to not like them! 

 Though I truly loved them…deeply…with every ounce of my being- I was finding it extremely difficult to express any love to them at all because I just wasn’t “feeling” it.  They were taking up too much of my time, my energy, my space, my peace, my sleep, even my food!  MY EVERYTHING!  On top of that, they were so, so, SO very difficult to manage!  I found their behavior to be absolutely “un-lovable” and I honestly didn’t want to be around them.   I was frazzled, frustrated, and exhausted day in and day out and I just didn’t want to put up with it.  It was too hard.  So, I began to close them out and focus on ME.  How did I feel?  What was I going to do today?  What did I want in life?  What were they keeping me from?   How could I get more time to myself?  (Hey, I warned you that it was pretty ugly!)

I’m ashamed to say that this went on for a number of years.  My actions continued to spiral downward until I didn’t recognize myself anymore -for I was exactly the opposite of loving.  Who was this selfish, unloving person that I had become?   I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that I hit rock bottom.  I realized that the quality of my parenting could not get any lower.  I knew I had a real problem that needed a very real solution-right away before I did any more damage to my children or anyone else!  I needed to stop the pity party, choose to put others above myself, and learn how to truly LOVE because real love does not close people out.  It does not give up on them.  Genuine love is patient and kind.  It is never  jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, or easily angered.  It does not act unbecomingly.  It does not insist on its own rights or its own way for it is not self-seeking.  It is not resentful and it does not pay attention to wrongs that have been done.  Love is always ready to believe the best of every person and it endures everything without weakening.    Love always trusts.  Always hopes.  Love never fails.

In 1 John 4:7-8 the Bible tells us that we are to love one another  because love is from God and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows Him.  Those who do not love do not know God because GOD IS LOVE. 

That verse alone creates a  problem for those who aren’t actively choosing to love others but want to be in a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I did the only thing I knew to do.   I went straight to the most loving person I know, our pastor’s wife.  She and I went to the Lord together and asked that He place His love in my heart. 

How do I know it’s there?  Because I’m having little tiny “love victories”  one “sand paper” person’s action at a time. 

Do I still fail?  Absolutely.  In fact, my kids told me the other day that they didn’t think the prayer worked!  But when I fail, I get right back up and try again.  Because that’s what love is all about.

How about you?  Is there a “sand paper” person in your life?  Are you a good LOVE-er?

 Let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!

~1 John 3:18

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Mothering “Without Incident”

April 13, 2010 at 5:41 am (Magazine Assignments, More than Mediocre) (, , )

 I must admit, I’m a chick flick girl.  I like my movies steady and predictable.  I can’t follow the complicated plots of the action adventure movies.  A few minutes and 10 questions into the movie, my husband throws up his hands in frustration with me, “I don’t KNOW why he did that!” or “I don’t know who she is!”  We spend the entire movie repeating that whole scenario and I usually still don’t understand when it’s over!

 Not too long ago, my husband convinced me to watch the Blockbuster release, “The Incredible Hulk.”  I never saw the original version and really had better things to do than watch an angry green man run around hurting people.  I had about twelve loads of laundry to do that had been accumulating on the couch all week.  “Your dad says you might like it.” He said.  “It’s kind of a love story.”  I reluctantly agreed and eventually found myself somewhat entertained.  One thing about this horrible green villain particularly interested me.  He was a good man.  A man who cared about others.  A man who truly had no intention of hurting others.  When provoked, his temper would flare, causing him to instantly transform into this huge, angry, uncontrollable creature.  The director of the movie chose to mark time by printing the “number of days without incident” in the bottom corner of the screen.  Throughout the movie, the viewer would know that only 38 days had passed since the Hulk’s rage had last become activated.  The clock was constantly turning back to zero as the Hulk continued to have episodes. 

As I lay in bed that night after we watched the movie, I couldn’t help but notice how my own actions as a frazzled mom of four parallel those of this unpredictable green monster.  I’m no super mom, but I like to think I do a pretty decent job-all things considered!  Anyone that knows me can definitely tell you that I am absolutely crazy about my kids.  They are my greatest treasures.  I wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world.  I am a stay at home mom, frazzled to the core six days a week on average.  Like every other mom, I’m on duty 24/7 like it or not.  I’m a short order cook, a maid, a chauffeur, a homework checker, etc. etc.  I don’t get sick leave. Using the restroom alone is a thing of the past.   Showers are a luxury. 

I can be trudging through the highs and lows of motherhood just fine and then BOOM!  All of a sudden, the stress of it all sends me into one of these horrific “incidents.”  Lack of sleep. Bickering kids.  Increased heart rate.  Endless laundry.  Picky eaters.  Bulging Skin.  Discipline slips from school.  Unflushed toilets!  Ripping clothes!  Cleaning boogies off walls.  Toddler on the loose with an inkpen.  Tear!   Tattling.  Whining!  Fits!  Sassy comments!  Defiant attitudes!   The pressure builds until it happens.  The all out transformation from mother to monster.    Of course I’m exaggerating, but I’m sure you can identify with me.  I wonder what my poor children must think when they see mom’s face all gnarled up!  Am I scary?  Do I really look like a monster to them?  Do they actually listen because my voice is raised?  Do they really even care? 

After it’s all said and done, when the green drains out of my skin and my body shrinks to normal size, I realize how unnecessary the entire scene really was.  So what if the cat is sporting hairspray for a couple of weeks.  He’s alive!  Who cares that my socks are literally stuck to the spot where apple juice spilled from the table two days ago and never got cleaned up.  I have another pair!  I often find that if I just would have stepped back for one second and separated the bad behavior from the person that my child really is, I never would have “lost it” in the first place.   Or better yet, if I would have started the day with fresh inspiration and strength from the word of God, how much differently I might have handled the situation altogether.

My only complaint as a mother is that there simply is not enough time to get it all done.  I would love to spend time reading devotionals and inspirational stories every day to help me on this motherhood journey.  Those of you who have toddlers know that every minute wasted on yourself is equal to about five minutes of “damage control” later when you find out what your small child was up to during that stolen moment!  If you’re like me and you desperately want to live each day “without incident,” take a moment before you even get out of the bed in the morning and ask the Holy Spirit to control your actions.  That’s right, just give it all over to him because you can not-I repeat, you can NOT do it on your own.  Just face it and move on.  If you blow it one day, start over!  Negative experiences impact our children more than positive ones.  While you may create 99 wonderful images in your child’s mind, he’ll remember the one horrible one long after the others have faded.  Celebrate your children; don’t just tolerate them.   Remember that your children are a direct reflection of you.  If you don’t like what you see in them, then change what they see in you.  Enjoy them now before they’re gone!

Julie Higgins (14 days without incident)

08-31-2010  (33 days without incident)

09-12-2010    (2 days without incident)

How about you?  How many days “without incident” are you up to?

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Teaching children not to blurt out rude comments to others

April 13, 2010 at 4:40 am (Magazine Assignments) (, )

Children speak the truth.  There’s no doubt about that.  I still haven’t completely recovered from the day my then five-year-old son expressed his awe over a man’s extraordinary size.  We were eating at a Mexican food restaurant one Sunday with our closest church friends.  My girlfriend and I were excitedly chatting as my son busily colored the sombrero clad cactus on his menu placemat.  Caught up in conversation, I barely noticed the extra, extra large man slowly approaching, taking great care not to bump guests as he was led to his seat.  By the time he was at our table, it was too late.  My precious son was now standing, jaw on the floor, eyes bugging out of his head.  “That man is SOOOOO…” he paused for just the right word. “FAT!”  My heart began to race, my head began to pound, and I literally began to sweat!  As the man passed, I did not speak.  I did not breathe.  I was in complete and utter shock.  I suddenly came to my senses and reprimanded my boy, telling him what an awful, hurtful thing he had done.  His response:  tears!  He had never meant to hurt the man’s feelings.  He was simply verbalizing a true but touchy reality.  I had never taught him how to appropriately express his thoughts regarding others.  Needless to say, I began to make it a priority to teach my children how to be considerate of others, their differences, their downfalls, and their disabilities.  

To help them to learn how to respect others, we used to play a game where I described someone who looked or behaved in an unusual way.  They would then tell me hurtful things someone might say to that person.  Asking them to role play and put themselves in that person’s shoes showed them how harmful those words could be.  It didn’t feel good to hear others say ugly things, even if they weren’t true.  I taught them to hold their tongue and save any questions or comments for discussion at home.   Over the years we’ve had many wonderful opportunities to spend time with physically and mentally handicapped individuals.  These experiences have challenged the children to look beyond the outside of a person and get to know who they truly are inside.   The Bible tells us in Proverbs that the tongue has the power of life and death.  Our standing house rule is “if it’s not positive, doesn’t lift someone up, or doesn’t make them feel better about themselves-then don’t say it!”

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Never Say Never

April 13, 2010 at 4:34 am (Magazine Assignments, More than Mediocre) (, , , )

Before I had children, I said that my kid would never talk back to me.
After four children I say, “I have literally taped a mouth shut – more than once!”
 
Before I had children, I said that my kid would never go out in public barefoot.  After four children I say, “Who has time for shoes – and who even knows where they are anyway?”
 
Before I had children, I said that my kid would listen to me the first time every time and that I would never have to raise my voice.  
After four children, I say, “What?  I can’t hear you!”  For I am practically deaf from years of shouting at disobedient kids.
 
There was a day that I said, “Absolutely NO pets in the house.  It’ll never happen.  Don’t even ask.”  Surprise!  Surprise!  At some time or another, we’ve had a dog, a hamster, a cat, a frog, two rabbits, three mice, four fish, thirty – one chicks, a tadpole, lizards, ladybugs, rolie polies, lightning bugs, crickets, and ants living in the house.   It’s funny how the pleading eyes of a precious child can bring about a sudden change of heart.  Never say never.
 
Life changes daily and so do we.  Long ago when I was a child, I determined that I was going to be a “career woman.”  I did not want to have children that might get in the way of my success.   Hmmmmm … one, two, three, four … It’s funny how God can change your heart and alter the plan you have created for your life.  Never say never.
 
There was a day that I said, “I could never home school my children.  I do not have the patience.  I do not have the time.  I do not have the desire.”  In fact, I was actually counting the days until my youngest child could start school.  I was busy racing through life, desperately trying to keep up with the housework, my part-time job, the kids’ homework, and all of their extra – curricular activities.  Stressed out, exhausted, feeling sorry for myself, and spiritually empty, I hadn’t picked up a Bible in weeks … months.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to.  I simply did not have the time to.  I found myself constantly frustrated with the kids and craving time for myself – just to be alone.  I was beginning to resent everyone and everything that needed even a moment of my time.
 
The Bible instructs us to train up a child in the way he should go.   After school, piano, cheerleading, soccer, homework, dinner, church, cleaning house, doing laundry, and giving baths, I barely had the time and energy to say a bedtime prayer.  Forget the training them up in the ways of the LORD!   
 In the midst of my chaotic life the Lord quietly spoke to my heart, “Your children do not even know the real you.  They only know you as ‘Hurry Up! We’ve got to get here.  We’ve got to go there.  We don’t have time for that!  I’ve got to do this.  I’ve got to do that.  Speed it up.   Pronto!  Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!’   Your children understand those words to mean, ‘I don’t have time for you.’  What kind of life is that?  Where is the love?  Where is the joy?  Where is the peace?  You do not spend time with them.  You do not know them – who they are, or what is going on in their lives and hearts.  I entrusted them to you so that you would train them to be mighty for me.  Somewhere along the way you lost sight of the forest for all of the trees.”
 
It was that day that God re – directed my path in life.  He stifled my selfish heart, softened my stubborn will, and filled me with His peace and a genuine passion to point my children towards Him.  I came to realize that I don’t have to keep up with the rest of the world.  In fact, I’d be wise not to.  There’ll come a day when I will have to stand before Holy God and give an account of how I raised my children.  I don’t want to have to tell Him that we were too tired to read His word. Too busy to obey it.  Too selfish of our time to go out and share it.      
 
In His infinite wisdom, the Lord used a financial situation to alter the course of our lives.  Forced to remove our children from private education, the Lord gently changed my perspective on home schooling.  He gave me the courage to try it, the strength to endure it for a necessary season, and the heart to love it.
 
Just weeks into the adventure of home schooling, I look back and am stunned at the way we actually used to live life.  I’m embarrassed of the compromise we embraced.  I am ashamed for regularly telling my six and seven-year old girls that I did not have time to play dolls with them, my three-year old that I did not have time to read her a story, my ten-year old son that I did not have time to hear about his day at school, and my husband that I had nothing left to give him.
 
A day will come when my children return to “regular” school – though I cannot imagine going back to the misery of “the race.”  Through this learning process, the Lord has been so faithful to restore every bit of stolen time to me.  Not only do I have the time to begin each day reading the word of God; I also get to exercise and shower – a luxury every busy mom deserves!  My children are guaranteed a minimum of four hours a day with mom’s absolute attention.  My husband comes home to a clean and happy wife who’s not ready to walk out the door!
    
Public school, private school, or home school – purpose in your heart to prioritize your life.  Don’t let life dictate what comes first.   And never say never.  God most likely will change your heart and your plan.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:33

How about you?  When has God unexpectedly changed your heart…or your plan?

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