REACTION CYCLE

00100lPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20190914134454112_COVER.JPG

For me, back to school means one thing: New Year’s resolutions in September. Summer is over, and its my time to begin reflecting on a Summer’s worth of parenting, the memories we’ve made over our holiday from school, and the goals and direction for our family. Now that school has begun, there is quiet in the house all morning, and I already start to forget our laid back Summer mornings of sleeping in and making plans for the day. I’ve always loved this time of year, but this year my heart felt so heavy with the back to school hustle of the last couple of weeks. Someone once pointed out “we only get eleven more Summers with our kids once they begin kindergarten,” and it has always stuck with me. I begin asking the same questions at the end of each Summer. Did we make the most of it? Did we check off all the items on our Summer bucket list? Did we make lasting memories? Will they remember our adventures together? Did I teach them anything new? Did I point them to a deeper relationship with Jesus? Do they still remember how to do Math? This is our first year with two kids now in Elementary school, and I feel like we are entering into a new season. The realization of having less than eleven more Summers together has definitely sunk in.

IMG_20190914_135440.JPG

Although my heart craves these long, Summer days with our kids, they are not always free from sibling arguments and boredom. This Summer also came with some new parenting territory. I have talked lately about how I feel like our oldest is growing up so fast and especially in the last 6 months he has seemed more independent than ever. I felt this more deeply this Summer as he headed out to play with the neighbor kids everyday and desired this kind of autonomy more and more. I also felt this pull as he expanded his interests from Legos and monster trucks, to wanting to discover things like Pokemon and Spiderman into the Spiderverse. We want our kids to grow in both independence and autonomy, which makes all of these things so healthy and good, but as parents can also make you step back and re-evaluate what your family is about and what things you do and don’t want apart of your family. There also can be some discord when decisions are made that your kids don’t agree with, in regards to this type of freedom. These moments can be hard but are also so crucial and often a pivotal part of parenting.

When Derek and I were first married we were gifted the book, “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs. I am so thankful we had this foundation to begin navigating communication as 23 and 24 year old newly-weds. If you haven’t yet read that book, I would highly recommend it. The basic principle in the book is that communication and relationships work in a cyclical rotation. In many marriages this rotation can be fueled by the wife needing love and the husband needing respect. When either one of these needs are ignored or forgotten, one or both people in the marriage can begin feeling frustrated which then starts the unhealthy wheel of resentment and negative communication. Eggerichs talks about this and labels it the “crazy cycle”. The “crazy cycle” spins on and on as the wife reacts to the lack of love poured out and in return is disrespectful to her husband, and it continues on as the husband withholds love for his wife as he reacts to her disrespect. You’re probably asking yourself what this has to do with a Summer bucket list and parenting. I had an ah-ha moment with our son this Summer when we were discussing what our family’s values were in regards to TV shows and things that he wanted to watch. As I sat back and took in our interaction, I realized that the little boy sitting in front of me needed the same kind of respect that I give to my husband. A quick, short response on my part that lacked thoughtfulness could lead us into a type of cycle that was not so different than the type that Emerson describes in his book. Our son, possibly feeling a lack of understanding and respect, would then respond without a loving tone towards me. Talking with my girlfriends about their relationships with their sons (and daughters) I know that we are not alone in regards to this type of negative cyclical rotation and how easy a trap it is to fall into.

00000IMG_00000_BURST20190914141454186_COVER.JPG

When I stepped back and viewed it in this light, instead of just labeling it as disobedience and becoming frustrated, I realized one very important thing. As the mom, I played a very significant role in this cycle. I had the power to begin this crazy cycle of disrespect and short interactions or I had the power to disperse it before it even began. It comes down to being prepared with a response instead of a reaction. By nature my whole being hates conflict. I always have, and I always will. To my core this is how God made me. When I was little, I would do anything in my power to disrupt and solve conflict between my siblings. This is harder to come to grips with as a parent because we all know God has placed us in our kids lives to teach, train and love our kids and this does not usually happen free of conflict. In these moments, when a boundary needs to be established, it is so much more honoring to everyone involved if I respond out of love rather than reacting to it. We have expectations that our kids will respond to one another with grace and understanding but if we are not modeling this in our interactions with them, it seems very unfair to expect this of them. It also helps them to learn how to have good boundaries in their own lives, if they feel freedom to say no and have hard conversations but also know how to do it in a loving manner. I know that there are times I will excel at this and I know that there are times I will forget or something will catch me off guard, and I will look back and realize that I could have done better. This is where we get to lean into grace and really live out the gospel for our kids. Apologizing and explaining that we will never get it all right on this side of eternity but that we can purpose to live out our daily lives and respond with this type of love and grace.

IMG_20190914_132558.JPG

I realized early on the impact that my attitude and mood has on my husband, but now, years into parenting I have realized that I GET to have a great impact on our kids as well. It sometimes feels like a lot of responsibly but it is such an honor to get to set the mood for our house and most days it feels like a gift. My husband and I have been talking a lot about how important it is to learn who it is that God has made you, your gifting and passions and to discover who our identity’s are in Christ (thanks Jamie Winship for lots of great podcasts). As we go through life, we are many times labeled lots of different things. Some of these labels come from ourselves and some come from other people. Good or bad these labels stick with us and can often define who we are and what impact we make in this world. As parents, we are the first voice, speaking into our kid’s lives, often shaping and forming these identities. What a huge responsibility we have to either speak words that bring life or words that break down and bring death. It’s so daily, it can feel unimportant and overwhelming but I feel encouraged to stop and remember this more often before I respond to our kids and possibly impact their idea of their identity in Christ.

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t expect for us to get it all right every time but that we get to choose to grow alongside our kids. It’s often humbling and almost always thankless but I’m so grateful for this opportunity. I hope you know that you are never alone as you walk this parenting journey and that more than anything you know it is never too late to change old ways of communicating and for new life to grow in our relationships with our kids.

I’m so honored to be on this journey together!

xoxo,

Heidi

ENOUGH-NESS

I’ve been kicking around the idea of writing this blog post for awhile. Really, since I started this whole blogging gig, this one thought has been at the forefront of my mind and heart. What if we aren’t enough… what if I will never be enough… what if people find this out.

IMG_0792.JPG

Vulnerability in all its glory, really comes down to this concept of sharing the cracks in our lives. The places where we visibly feel and see that we are not whole. That us, our kids, our parents and the ones before them had and currently have brokenness because, ahhhhh the reality of it all, we are products of a broken world.

Looking back, I think it has taken me this long to write this post because although most of the thoughts have been in my head, the mental and heart capacity to write them down hasn’t been there. Today, while talking to one of my best friends about being late to drop off the kids at school every morning since my husband left on his work trip, I told her, I’m going to write a book called, “Your enough is not enough, the antonym to all self help books.” We laughed about it but later in the day I realized it was time to get these thoughts on paper.

I really, truly believe that even the most self-assured, confident person in the world feels this lack at the end of the day, even if on the outside, to the rest of the world this doesn’t seem to be the case. I spent the first half of my life pursuing competitive soccer and in this way, I learned that if I worked hard enough both at sports and academically I could prove my ability and worth. I have a do-er personality so this served me well and I made it far with this work ethic and mantra. The problem laid at the end of the field when I stopped playing soccer and academics were no longer a metric for my worth and value. I came to the realization that no matter how hard I worked and no matter what level of soccer or school I achieved, it would never be able to define me or fill me with that ever elusive feeling of wholeness.

I find irony in the intersections in life where you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere personally, where you’ve conquered that insecurity, overcome that obstacle or sin only to realize it is popping back up and it’s larger and harder to overcome than ever. When soccer and academics no longer defined me, two new alluring things in my life began too, marriage and motherhood. The problem is, that both of these realms have a beautiful way of slamming these realities right in your face, like a mirror to your life you never saw coming. Once again, I found myself faced with the same ache, what if I am not enough, what if I don’t have the answers for parenting a strong-willed child, what if my personality is lacking, what if I am not beautiful enough, what if my faith lacks motivation, the list could go on. Some days the ache in my heart of not being enough is masked better that others by connectedness in friendship or rocking it on the mom front or killing it as a wife but the reality is, those feeling of not being enough are always there, whether masked or not. The truth is, we are never going to be enough. No matter how many books we read, workouts we do, healthy meals we cook, accolades at work we acheive, degrees we accumulate, no matter how many friendships we cultivate, we are always going to have this feeling deep in our gut.

I am by no means saying that I’ve come to this place of fully accepting this reality. If anything, I still feel its shadow on most days in the things I do but I am learning and trying to lean into the fact that this is ok and even in a way God-honoring. What if in the vulnerable lack is where God shows up? What if this chasm between who we long to be and who we are, is where the root of humility begins. The place where only God can be glorified for the good that comes from our lives. The place where we depend on Him for our self-worth because we know the honest, reality of our heart. The only place where reconciliation can take place and pride is let down.

The relationships in my life that are life-giving and encouraging to my soul are the ones where we can openly talk about and celebrate this lack. Over the years I have realized that I love to joke about my shortcomings on a daily basis, which in motherhood can be pretty embarrassing and funny. I think the reason I love this humor the best is that there is freedom in recognizing and naming the areas where I fall short because I know that it is ok. I know that I am trying my best with what God has given me and that His grace is truly the only thing to celebrate. The opposite is also true, the relationships I have been apart of where I felt pressure to have it all together and have all the answers, have brought death in my soul and heartache in my life. I can name a few times in my life when people have told me I seem to have it all together. These words, while probably meant with good intention, are the worse I could ever hear. If I am not living my life so that the cracks of brokenness are evident then I truly feel that I am not doing a good job of portraying who Christ is in my life.

I often wonder what the world would look like if we stopped trying to prove ourselves and our worth at every opportunity but instead boldly shared in our brokenness. My goal and intention for sharing my heart and journey with this is to break through any isolation that someone may have in feeling like they are alone in this.

My prayer for our kids is that they would know that their worth and love is unchanged by performance and ability. That they would understand brokenness and not be alarmed or frustrated when they feel the lack of wholeness, this side of eternity. I’m so excited for the day when perfection can be attained in Christ and the sobering realities of the brokenness in our world are finally no longer present.

There are so many more thoughts that I could share on this topic but I am running on two hours of sleep because of a rough night for our 1 year old last night so I will end here. I’d love to know how you make space in your life for vulnerability and how God has grown you in this area?

Thanks again for sharing in this journey with me. I’m so grateful to walk it with each of you.

xoxo,

Heidi

WHAT I'M READING

I’ll be honest, reading while keeping up with all the demands of life with kids has not always been my strong suit. The desire to learn and keep growing is there but it seems like the time of day that I finally get to sit down to read is at night and I’m so tired that I only can make it a few pages before falling asleep.

IMG_9929.JPG

I’ve been trying to make this more of a priority in my life lately. Choosing to read instead of watching a show after the kids are down for the night takes determination some days. As a couple we purposed to do this together and that has really helped to have accountability. I also have been in a Bible study/book club this school year and we have gone through a few of these books which has also helped with the timeline of getting through them and not pushing it off. I will say that I am so good at reading half a book and then starting another one. This stack of books have been so encouraging in all aspects of my life the last 9 months and I would recommend all of them!

LOVE-OLOGY by John Mark Comer- The title speaks to this book. An amazing book about the original purpose and intent of marriage by God. I knew John Mark, the author, when I was in high school and he has grown and blessed so many people since then. I love his heart for marriage and getting back to the roots of why we are in this journey and why God created it. One of my favorite quotes from the book speaks to my heart and is such a good reminder of seeing our spouse in a different light. “Don’t get married because you think he or she is “the one.” Trust me, they’re not. There’s no such thing! But do get married when you see who God is making somebody to be, and it lights you up. When you want to be a part of that story of transformation. That journey to the future. When you are well aware it will be a long and bumpy ride, but you don’t want to miss one mile. Because you believe in God’s calling on them, and you want in.” I love this re-adjustment of focus, that happiness is not the end all result, but spurring each other on to fully live out who God has created us to be is the intent. Happiness is a by-product not the end-all-be-all. There are so many bits of wisdom in this book and I would definitely recommend it to newly-weds or someone that is celebrating their 20th anniversary alike!

GIRL WASH YOUR FACE by Rachel Hollis- I’m sure many of you have heard of this book as she has taken social media by storm and her books are best sellers. My friend got me this book for Christmas and it came at the perfect time when I began to feel God pulling me to step out and use my gifts for him in a broader way. I love her inspirational way of kicking you in the pants to get going, while also encouraging your heart. It hits on every aspect of my life as a mom and it inspires Godly change. One thing specifically, I have been trying to grow in this season is being more intentional with my time and commitments. God’s calling on my life is at stake as I prioritize my time each day. When I look at it with this lens it becomes easier to focus on the things he is specifically calling me to. I love her quote in the book, “I know that blowing off a workout, a date, an afternoon to organize your closet, or some previous commitment to yourself doesn’t seem like a big deal- but it is. It’s a really big deal. Our words have power, but our actions shape our lives. You won’t just talk about a goal; you’ll plan for how you can meet it. You’ll set a goal and surprise yourself when you achieve it. You’ll teach yourself a new way to behave and set a standard for the type of person you truly are- not the one you’ve dreamed about becoming, but who you practice being every single day.”

GIVE THEM GRACE by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson- The theme of this has overrun my heart the last couple years of parenting. This book along with some other parenting books and the Holy Spirit began to transform my heart toward our kids and what impact my own goals and intentions have on the eternal directions of our kids souls. It is such a good reminder of what end we are parenting to. To have well behaved kids that are respectful or to have kids whose hearts are in love with Jesus and radically changed by his love and motivated by his grace in their lives daily. Not only did this book inspire my parenting but my own faith and daily walk with God as well. I love this section from the book, “Grace, or the free favor that has been lavished on us through Christ, ought to make our parenting radically different from what unbelievers do. That’s because the good news of God’s grace is meant to permeate and transform every relationship we have, including our relationship with our children. All the typical ways we construct to get things done and get others to do our bidding are simply obliterated by a gospel message that tells us that we are all (parents and children) both radically sinful and radically loved. At the deepest level of what we do as parents, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace-giving Father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters. If this is not the message that your children hear from you, if the message that you send them on a daily basis is about being good so that you won’t be disappointed, then the gospel needs to transform your parenting, too.” There are so many things I want to re-read in this book and go back and underline. I love the journey that parenthood is and how it is constantly evolving as our kids grow. I am also thankful that our goal and motivation for parenting is not fluid and that God’s grace and love in our lives in constant!

NOTHING TO PROVE by Jennie Allen- This book spoke to my soul like not many books have. Growing up in a family who deeply cherished pushing your hardest and striving for your goals I’ve always had an intrinsic set of standards within me telling me when I’ve done my best and when I haven’t been enough. I am competitive by nature, although you may not guess that by my demeanor in this stage of life, it has always been there pushing me forward. I played competitive club soccer for 16 years which turned into a scholarship to play in college. These years were easy to quantify into attainable goals which I then attached to my identity. The thing about attaching this type of success to your identity is that it can be gone in an instant. That instant came for me when a male co-ed soccer player completely took me out during a scrimmage, thus ultimately ending my soccer career with a badly torn ankle. This book breaks down this idol of trying to prove ourselves. Every chapter I found myself frantically underling and not wanting to forget the truths within the pages. There is so much to gain from this book but the main take- away is Jesus has overcome it all so we can stop striving to prove ourselves. Jennie says it best in the fourth chapter, “Because Jesus is enough, we can experience true fulfillment. Because Jesus is enough, we can live connected with Him and others. Because Jesus is enough, we can rest. Because Jesus is enough, we can risk for His glory. Because Jesus is enough, we can trade fear for hope. Because Jesus is enough, we can embrace grace. Because Jesus is enough, we can live out our true calling.” I just recently finished this book and I am already excited to start it again!

DARING TO HOPE by Katie Davis Majors- My whole life I thought I would end up doing missions in Africa. Reading this book has brought so many emotions and processes in my heart about God’s calling on our lives and how it can look different in different seasons of life. I loved reading Katie’s story as she beautifully tells of her adventures in Uganda. In college I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and fell in love with the people and culture of that region. It made it even more special as I read through the pages of this book. God does not have our family in Africa currently but I believe there is a reason I felt so called to this area and I’m excited to see if that is one day part of my story again. Reading about God’s faithfulness to Katie is truly miraculous and will inspire you immensely.

DRAWING NEAR TO THE HEART OF GOD by Cynthia Heald- This has been my go to devotional for the last couple of years. I have re-read this book multiple times. I love her wisdom in how to navigate our walk as Christians and tips for the journey. She spells out what it looks like to live as a godly woman and how to get back on the right path, “If we don’t fear God, our lives will lead us toward compromise, emptiness and presumption. Our journey here will be without the knowledge of how God intends for us to live. He has given us our very existence. We are His idea, His chosen, His children. To revere and honor Him above all else places us in a position to receive His guidance in order to fulfill the purpose He has for us.” Cynthia not only has years of experience in running this race, she has a unique way of breaking our walk down into tangible ways we can be motivated and encouraged by.

FERVENT by Priscilla Shirer- I would recommend this book to everyone! I love being reminded through the pages of this book that we have a real enemy who not only has power but is also incredibly creative at personally attacking different areas of our lives. He is incredibly effective at lulling us into bordom, frustration, apathy (the list could go on) and distracting us from what God has called us to. At the end of each chapter she has you write your own battle plan of prayer. I love how personal it made it and also how these theme stuck in my soul. There are so many passages from it that I could share but one that has been relevant to me lately is, “Passion is the fuel in the engine of your purpose. It’s your “want-to.” It’s what keeps you going when mundane tasks bore you or difficult one dissuade you. Passion is what keeps you moving in the direction your best intentions want you to go. That’s why, if I were your enemy, I’d make stealing your passion one of my primary goals. Because I know if I could dim your passion, I could significantly lower your resistance to temptation and discouragement.” This is another book I plan on re-reading over and over as I grow my prayer life and continue to learn about God’s heart for constant communication with us.

HEAVEN by Randy Alcorn- This is the second book that I have read by Randy Alcorn. The first was Money, Possessions and Eternity and it completely changed my husband and I’s perspective on money and how tied our heart is to it. I also highly recommend that book! I have not finished reading Heaven yet but it has been such a beautiful read about our ultimate destination. I find when I focus on Heaven and it is in my thoughts daily it completely changes my perspective for the day and what I dwell on or worry about. Randy discusses how the church and history, at times, has made Heaven out to be a boring, mundane place that we would never long to be in. This is so opposite of the God we see in the Bible and also the God who created this beautiful world that we currently live in. If we truly believe that all we see here was created by Him, it would be foolish and naive to believe that our everlasting home in Heaven is anything less that miraculous. This book has broadened my perspective of Heaven and our savior and I can’t wait to finish reading it!

THE LUCKY FEW by Heather Avis- I’m just a little ways into this book but it is already amazing and captivating. I love the heart for kids this couple has. We have prayed about doing adoption or foster care in our future and so I can’t wait to hear more about this couples story. I’m so encouraged by their tangible love for Jesus and how that has played out in their lives.

I’d love to hear what your favorite books are right now! I always love adding to my never-ending list!

xoxo,

Heidi