Thursday, December 19, 2013

Submission: Pitching Fits Like a Rockstar

Submission - noun - the act or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

There is a lot that I don't know, mess up and get confused about.  And this is one of the subjects that just takes the cake some days.

When I was first married - and probably before - I had this arrogant notion that I could do submission better than anyone I'd ever encountered and be this rockstar of humility!  I thought I could bring Mr. Butler a few drinks and let him pick where we ate and before I knew it, everyone - including him - would be singing my praises as the most meek and submissive wife anyone had ever met.  Like I said, I can get confused sometimes. ;)

There are a few big decisions in my married past that my husband would have done differently had I not pitched a fit.   And yes, I do mean pitched a fit in the most grammatically correct way, complete with huffing and puffing, ugliness, mind games and flat out explosion of tears and emotions.  I'm talking life-changing things like where to live and who to be friends with.  And I'm still not good at submission, but on all of those decisions, he was right.  I should have respected his opinion, needs and desires more - at least to hear him out.  On most things, I struggled to even let him get words out.  I was consumed - absolutely CONSUMED - with how it was going to affect me, how I was going to (or not) be able to control the situation, and how it just didn't feel good.  Submission was all well and good until it made me sad/mad/scared/uncomfortable.

I love the idea of doing something right.  Or the best way.  Or at least better than most people do.  But loving an idea and actually living it when things get uncomfortable and hard, well that's so different.  And I didn't realize how different it was until I started really trying to live it.  For all that I thought I knew, I just didn't realize that this attitude of submission took sacrifice - doing things you just didn't want to do to achieve an end that was more beautiful than you could imagine.

The other night Mr. Butler said something to me that I felt was too harsh, unnecessary and just wrong.  I found a way (I'm pretty sure the Holy Spirit was working overtime) to keep my mouth shut and neutralize the fit that was brewing.  And my fits are no little matter so neutralizing it is sometimes an even bigger event.  Anyway, I moved on.  Within an hour or two, he brought the comments back up and the kind-hearted gentleman made it right.  That's what happens when I handle things God's way.  When I handle it my way (telling him he's wrong, ordering him to treat me better, and freezing him out until he does), well...not so much.

This next year it is my desire to improve my submission skills.  I want a better marriage and I want my kids learn how to respect.  I know that all starts with me.  Needless to say, I'm no expert on the subject of submission and respect, but here are a couple of things I'm learning and constantly need to be reminded of:

-Submission is easy when my husband agrees with me.

-Submission is easy when my husband does what I think he/we should.  

-If submission is easy, that's a good sign it's not really submission.

-If I find myself being critical, impatient, defiant or snarky, I'm not being submissive.

-Submission is an attitude of being soft, receptive, responsive and leadable towards my husband.

For some (good) expert advice, check out a few of these:

And for a great discussion about what submission is and certainly what it is not, check this out:
7 Misconceptions about Submission: Girls Gone Wise

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being Thankful for the Pain

With Thanksgiving being a little later than normal, I've been a little more aware of the holiday than it seems like I normally am.  Of course, food and family are at the forefront and cooking and traveling are what we usually focus on.  Our thankful thoughts hover around freedom, safety and abundance, which is right according to the custom.  This year though, I'm reminded of a few of my weaknesses surrounding this topic of thankfulness.

I'm thankful when I get what I want.

Being thankful for what I have is easy as long as it is what I want.  But, all the submission, obedience and grace goes out the window for me when things don't go my way.  It's kind of like the passage in the Bible where we're told its nothing to love those who love you back.  Of course, you should do that.  It's, generally, automatic.  To really love is when you love those who hate you, who can do nothing for you, who can and will hurt you back.  I think gratitude, real gratitude, might imitate love in this way.

Some friends of ours were expecting a baby and have begun a blessed journey with all of the events surrounding this child's life.  I would like to encourage you to read from the beginning the father's blog about the coming and arrival of their child.  I'm not joking when I say starting from the beginning is sooo worth it - talk about a plot twist!  Shaun does an awesome job at writing and encouraging others through the words and videos.  I'd also appreciate it if you would pray for this family.  God has been doing so much in a short time for them and it's exciting to see what will continue with God's help.  The reason I bring this family up now is because of the gratitude Shaun expresses in everything.  Take a read and you'll see what I mean.

Over and over in my life, my loved ones lives and even through out the Bible, God knows what He's doing.  Things we think we want and don't get are usually for our own good.  For learning, for better things to come, for protection, etc.  And that almost always involves pain at some point.  I hate that part.  You can do so many things 'right' and if you're always avoiding pain, you miss so much.  My labor with Jude was like that.  I did a lot of things well to prepare - we were both very healthy - but when the pain hit, I shut down and wanted out.  In childbirth and life too, pain means something is happening - usually an opportunity for growth and something better and until you embrace it somehow, you'll just be stuck.

So, thanksgiving.  I have much to be thankful for and many to pray for.  There's a lot of pain, loss, and struggles.  Pray for the evil who are hurting so much - in need of mercy and grace.  Pray for the hurting - loss of family, old and young.  Pray for the misguided - those with zeal but without truth and understanding.  But mostly, be thankful for all of these people and circumstances.  I'm trying to see the pain and discomfort, wherever it grows, as blessings this year - gifts to be fully appreciated farther along.  I hope our gratitude can be just a touch more true when including pain in the category of thankfulness.

Friday, November 22, 2013

No Nonsense November: The Only Way Out

I was perusing the news and found myself drawn into an update on a murder trial.  The details aren't important except that they were awful, unmentionable and committed by a minor.  Yet, it happens so much these days.  Whether it's more than it 'used to be', I don't know.  But it's convicting nonetheless.

I'm a first born perfectionist daughter who loves a clear set of rules that will allow me to do something the right way and loves improving towards that illusive perfection.  So, even if I really stink at follow-through or accomplishments, in my head, I take things very seriously!  Like marriage, like parenting, like Christianity, like healthy living, like frugality, etc.  And for people not like me, I know that high achieving and always improving can be downright annoying.  A broken-record or a snob, you say.  And some days, you're right.  That's why I need balance so badly.  But that's not my point today.

That random news article took a hold of me somehow and convicted me of why I (should) take some things so seriously.  Our society is crying out in pain and suffering through these children that find themselves choosing paths of hate, pain and violence.  Everything from divorce to substance abuse to pornography is seeping (if not gushing) into our kids lives and then for some families it's just a time-bomb, waiting for the right trigger.

Even when we mean well and get lost along the way, consequences still cut deep.  I seem to have very little figured out, but I see bold truth in a few things.   Healthy marriages, strong role models and active parenting aren't the solution, they are the groundwork - the bare minimum - to raising healthy, reasonable, productive kids.  Some days it feels like we're lucky to even smile at each other, much less feel like we're doing a good job in our marriages or roles as parents.  So it might sound like I'm saying we're all worthless unless we're perfect.  I'm not.  Not at all.  Because I'm not worthless and I fail miserably all the time.

I'm saying when you think you're being paranoid about how much sexualized tv your kids are watching or when you make light of a drug problem or how hateful families are to each other, just stop.  Pornography is killing marriages everywhere.  Sexual abuse is rampant.  Substance abuse is washing lives down the drain and feeding violence everywhere.  It's happening.  Don't act like its not.  Instead, join me in an effort to love your spouse. Ensure your kids are safe, loved and have plenty of honest men and women in their lives.  Love your neighbors.  In a society with so much hate and ugliness, our best weapon is to fill every space we can with security, honesty, beauty, respect, hard work and wise love.

I think of the moms of these children who get dissected in the news because of their crimes.  How much pain they must bear.  We can throw blame around and where will it get us?  Instead, let's be proactive, preventative and most of all convicted that Jesus came to save us from all of this hate.  Submitting everything to him - our marriages, our children, our habits, our hearts - is the way out.  The only way out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Nonsense November: You Can Do Better

If there is one thing I've learned about myself over the past few years, its that I can always learn to do better.  Challenges are always hanging around, but if I work at something long enough, hard enough, with extra information and help, eventually I'll get the hang of things.

And if there is one thing I've seen about the world we live in, its that we believe so little about ourselves and God's ability to work and grow.  The complaint is usually the first thing to enter our mind and exit from our mouth - I wish {enter problem here} would change.  I, for example, have a list of things that has bothered and depressed me for years going back to adolescence.  Things like my complexion, my weight, my relationships, my financial status, my to-do list, my stress...etc.  We all WANT to be better or different, but whether by ignorance or laziness, we just think its not possible.  "I've been this way my whole life!" "You think I'm bad, you should've seen my parents.  I'm doing great compared to them!" Or that the only way its possible is to be completely miserable (discipline) and who can live like that?  Am I right?

Well, it's a lie that I'm sure the devil started.  You can do better!  It doesn't matter what you've come from, what you've spent the last decade learning to be right (while it was sooo wrong), or how messed up things are right now.  You can change your perspective, your habits, your responses.  We can be an active participant in our life instead of a victim.  God is waiting for that desperate but determined plea for help when we finally admit we're not going to do it alone.  But we put him off with delusions that it's too hard anyway.

It's common to get a little teary eyed at the person who was born with a condition or had a terrible accident or was found in an abusive situation and then applaud their courage and persistence in rising above their circumstances.  They are an inspiration, we say.  Yes, yes they are.  They have defied the odds.  Combatted hardship and rejection.  And they succeeded!  It is wonderful.  So, then what is my excuse?  No, really.  What is your excuse?  Is it harder than any possible scenario I've described?  I daresay there might be a few who have comparable situations, but for the rest of us, what's our problem?  I have all of my limbs, no degenerative disease and was not abused as a child - or any other tragic thing I can think of.  As a young teenager I was heavily rejected by some girls who I thought I was friends with and now I constantly have to remind myself to relax and that any friend isn't hating every second with me.  So I guess if you want to classify that as some tragic situation, ok, but still I'm sure we all have those kinds of stories.  So, what?

You can do better.  I can work smarter.  We can change those problems.  Or at least we can grow.  It's hard to change, for sure.  But why wouldn't you want to be healthier and happier? Really? You'd rather just complain about it? Well, I get that.  Sometimes its easier to complain than to work.  But I'm over it, myself.  I'm ready for results and steady growth.  Extremism is for the birds, but balanced growth and change.  Yeah, I'm feeling it these days.  Hope you will too!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No Nonsense November: Birthday Party Panic

One of my most favorite things as a kid were birthday parties - especially mine or my brothers.  My mom did a great job every year making the whole thing special and fun.  So, of course, doing the same is important to me.  Doesn't mean I'm great at it, but it's important to me.

Well, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I'm so not prepared this year for J's birthday (which is Sunday, party Saturday).  I'm so unprepared that yesterday we just changed themes from Blue's Clues to Thomas the Train.  Sometimes I hate taking the easy way out, but in this case the easier way was the only way to survive! To get Blue's Clues related decorations you either have to order it from Etsy type places or make it yourself! And when I glanced around Party Galaxy yesterday, there was loads of Thomas stuff.  It didn't hurt either that I was getting super overwhelmed, Jude was running around like a crazy and when I asked him what he would rather have Baseball, Blues Clues or Thomas, he practically yelled Thomas!

It's not like it really matters in the grand scheme of things.  It probably doesn't even matter in the tiny scheme of things.  But letting go and just rolling with it was a big deal for me.  I want so badly to be thorough, detailed and IN CONTROL that I dismiss ideas and options too quickly sometimes just because they aren't ideal or perfect.  But I'm being forced to accept my reality in a lot of ways, whether I like it or not.  And one of those big realities is that in this season of life (two small children, part-time work, husband in school and under job stress), I certainly can't do it all and not exactly the way I'd want to in a perfect world.

Ugh.  Just saying it makes me scoff a little at the thought.  I just hate it, but I'm learning to accept it.  And don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Thomas! ha! It'll probably be more fun and festive than Blue's Clues anyway.

Monday, November 4, 2013

No Nonsense November: Mondays

On Sunday nights, the thought of facing a Monday morning feels like this:

After I've actually gotten up on time and finished my workout, I feel like this:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Nonsense November: Praise God!

Sunday mornings are busy in our house with making breakfast, taking showers and usually scrambling to get to church on time.  It always seems that the day gets caught up in the to-dos like naps and remembering extra diapers.  A day of rest and reverence to God is always my hope and expectation, but  I so easily forget.

To help shape the day a little better (at least in my head), here are some reasons I am praising God today:

-I'm able to learn and grow.  I may have fouled everything up yesterday, but I can start over, learn from it and do better.

-The season outside is changing again.  Whatever season of life I'm in today I am reminded to soak it all in and be patient - for it will all be different sooner than I realize.

-Potty training is going so well that J only uses a diaper at naptime and bedtime.  And he can usually go by himself.  Procrastination for the win!

-Prayer alone provides endless possibilities for God to work and to bless.

I hope your day is filled with rest and reverence!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

No Nonsense November: Life is Hard

Our culture is saturated with instant, easy and shallow.  And at this point in time, we mostly know it but usually don't care because everyone else is doing it.  We get fat, overspend, fail in our relationships and settle well below mediocrity usually because it's easy and everyone else is doing it.

I have high expectations for myself or I feel them thrust upon me.  That being said, meeting those high expectations is hard.  Really hard.  And, frankly, I don't like hard.  I like slow-pace ease, thank you very much.

My nest is very fully and busy right now two great kids, part-time work and an overworked husband in graduate school.  All of it/them are such blessings, but I slip into resentment really fast when its been a long day and I'm not getting a break.  Why does everything have to be this hard? Aren't I working hard enough as it is?

But there are beautiful things to be had in facing the hard stuff.  Beautiful things like a healthy body, a balanced budget, healthy marriages and families and going to bed with a satisfied soul.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

No Nonsense November

We let things that don't matter dictate how we live our life.  Wait, not we, I.  I do that.  I work overtime to make it look like I don't, but it still happens.  I'm also bad with friendships, not being in control and stress.  I am not the person you want on the operating table or in the middle of a secret mission.  I crack under pressure.  And like I mentioned last time, I'm ready to be more open and straight-forward about things instead of hiding behind fear and irrelevant concerns.  So, I'm calling this my No Nonsense November.  There's just no sense in being anything but real, authentic and genuine.

So, in closing and in the spirit of no nonsense, I'd just like to say that I hate when people have monthly themes, but then don't finish or hardly last half the month.  And I'm honestly afraid of doing that again this time around, because I'm caaarraaaaazzzy busy.  But when I write, I'm such a better person to be around and it satisfies something in my soul that few other things do.

“November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.”
― Clyde Watson

Friday, October 25, 2013

Consider the Reset Button Pushed

I'm going to be 34 on my next birthday.  I just watched an episode of Parenthood where Kristina tells someone she's 34.  That can't be right because she's married, has 3 kids and, like, my mom's age.  Except it is right and for some reason I always see my mom about the age that I started recognizing her as a separate person - so somewhere around 34 probably.  Aside from the, "Wow, I'm old" feeling, it got me thinking about how easy it is to get stuck in time somehow, not progressing, but just assuming that everything is being tended to.  All the while, if you're not careful you quickly grow into the thing (s) you hate and denounce.

One of the things most important to me in my life is authenticity.  I hate small-talk and fake personas.  I'll even scoff at flowers that are fake purely on principle.  Come on, people, be real!  And yet.  And yet I have a confession to make.  I want so badly to keep you from thinking badly of me some days that I work my tail off to not be real.  My mind is constantly overrun by thoughts of judgements you may or may not be making about the real me.  How can I avoid them and what could I do/say to combat them or justify myself?  It's exhausting.  And a little disgusting.  I hate it when people won't just be honest with me when I ask them how they are doing.  If I didn't want to know, I wouldn't ask.  But then I get all twisted up in knots trying to say just the right thing so I won't sound pathetic or weird to you.  Why do I herald authenticity to the masses, but hesitate to tell you how much I hate cleaning my house and that I only do it because I figure you'll say I'm a bad person if I don't?

So, here's the deal.  Kid #1 liberated me in some really important ways.  Kid #2 is waking me up to the reality of how short life is.  With those things under my belt, I'd really like a reset button.

Consider the reset button pushed.

Let's start with life right now.  Summarizing something in a few sentences makes it seem easier than it really is.  My husband is getting his MBA while working full time and I have two kids, two dogs and teach piano part-time.  One sentence there, but that one little sentence is so much.  And so hard.  Having two kids is hard.  Doing anything else is even harder.  And I really want to do EVERYTHING else too.  I'm optimistic that it gets easier, mostly because everyone says so.  Until then, writing is the best way to keep me from stagnating and poisoning everything around me. (I can get pretty cranky)

What's your favorite motivator when life is harder than it feels like it should be?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Childbirth Recovery: Takes Longer Than You Think

There are plenty of books, pamphlets and internet articles that will confirm that childbirth is a big deal and it can take your body a long time to get back to normal.  So, I'm not going to hash that out.  Instead, I just want to say this:

No matter the details of a birth, transitioning from before to after (no kids to new parents, 1 to 2 kids, etc.) is a big deal.  The body and emotional mind are amazing things - able to adapt and respond in beautiful ways.  But still, it's all a big deal.

Maybe you already know that, but sometimes we don't talk about things the way we should.  My daughter is 2 months old as of yesterday.  It's been 2 whole months since I labored and met her for the first time.  60 days seems like plenty of time to do anything you'd like, right?  Well, I still feel a little shaky.  Physically, aside from the excess weight, I'm just fine.  Tired, but fine.  Mentally, though, I get flashes of normalcy mixed with bizarre time-warp feelings.  Being sad and depressed (PPD) is real and a big deal, but thankfully that's not what I'm talking about.  Life is different and getting used to it isn't awful, but it is hard.

To all the mothers who work full-time and have to return around 6 weeks, I am humbled at your strength.  And I'm not talking about having to leave that precious baby either (that's a whole other mountain I don't know how you guys climb).  Returning to work and being expected to function as you did before isn't unreasonable at all, but you're just not the same.  And sometimes that shows up in the most inconvenient places.  I seem to have trouble talking.  No, really.  I've never been eloquent or warm per say, but now I'm downright awkward and jumbled.  I can't remember words or even concepts sometimes.  My point is that awesome thing that we did (childbirth) creates ripples everywhere and it just takes longer than we think to recover.

Have patience with yourself.  If you aren't a new mother, but work or live with one, have patience with them.  They will amaze you at the things they can do (think up all night with a baby and then takes care of a sick toddler like a pro before a full days work), but don't let that fool you.  What they are doing is a very. big. deal.  And there are hiccups and meltdowns and wrenches thrown.  Be gentle and kind to that hardworking spirit.  In time it will produce fruit ten-fold, just make sure to give it enough time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Childbirth: Know All Your Options

Recently (as in over the last nine months), I watched the television show Frasier from beginning to end.  In addition to getting attached to characters, it was so interesting to see social and cultural changes over time in a sort of fast forward.  Cell phones grew smaller, talk of the internet grew more common and something near the end of the show - as Niles and Daphne are preparing for the delivery of their child - struck me funny.  They considered (out of elitist pressure, I think) hiring a doula to attend their birth, but in the end decided not to because Daphne didn't want a natural birth.  What was funny was how they attempted to portray a doula as something so outlandish that the audience is expected to think it ridiculous.  Less than a decade later, things such as doulas, midwives, and home births are common place and are showing up on everyone's childbirth 'menu' nowadays.

That's one of the things I'm so thankful for in the day we live in.  We have options. So many options.  In case you haven't looked into childbirth lately, there are a lot of options available which means a lot of decisions to make.  While that can be overwhelming at first, you and your family are much better off fully understanding what you're saying yes and no to.  Everyone has a different circumstance and it is vital to know what's available to you.  In short, do your research - you won't regret it.

For those in the OKC area, here are some people I would recommend, if you're considering using their line of work.

Bel Amour Birth Services - Emily Hullet
Grace Full Doula Services - Kathryn Martin
Spirited Birth Services

Community Midwifery Service, LLC
Hands of Grace Birth Services
Heaven Sent Births 
OU Midwives

Oklahoma Birth Network
Glasco Chiropractic
The Changing Table
Green Bambino

One of the things you say as and hear from new mothers is "If I had known...then I would have done things differently."  If you have questions, ask.  If you are unsure, find out.  If you don't know what you don't know, then spend time chatting with other moms.  If there's one thing moms like to do, it's share their experiences.  So, do yourself and the precious children you may one day bear and know all of your options!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

4 Pregnancy Must Haves

Like I said last time, doing something for the second time is quite a game changer.  Just having been pregnant before, made my second one so much easier.  There's less, "what does that pain mean?" and more "Okay, what did I do for that last time?"  So, whether it's your first time on the pregnancy-go-round or you're in the market for some new ideas, here are a few things I never want to do without during pregnancy.

1) Red Raspberry & Ginger capsules are awesome aids for the entire pregnancy.  Red Raspberry is widely known for its medicinal value and especially helpful for nausea and labor/delivery health.  Ginger is also great for nausea, but I especially noticed it's positive effects in digestion.  Heartburn is almost always an issue with pregnancy and when I took Ginger, I hardly had any issues!

2) A great exercise routine makes the pregnancy roller coaster so much easier!  Being in shape BEFORE you get pregnant is what really made things easier for me (with my 2nd), but that's not always possible.  But finding a great habit of exercise that covers all your bases is so important to keeping everything about your pregnancy healthy and easier.  To lose weight after J was born, I used the Firm Express because it was only 20 minutes a workout, you never did the same workout for a month and it covered everything (cardio, weight training, etc.).  When I got pregnant again I continued it with some obvious modifications up until about 7 or 8 months and supplemented with the book How to Exercise When You're Expecting by Lindsay Brin which has great routines and general pregnancy related advice!

3) A nutrient-packed breakfast saved my life this last pregnancy.  Anytime I missed my breakfast smoothie, I felt it.  A large handful of spinach, fruit, juice, milk, maybe some flax seeds and a serving of protein powder.  It seems like a minor thing, but I think the spinach combined with adequate protein does something amazing for my body!

4) A way to cope with stress made a world of difference between pregnancy one and two.   Mr. Butler and I did the birth classes with J so we weren't needing more information, but I was in need of a better approach to this labor.  Blissborn and Ronda at Dynamic TranceFormations Consulting gave me exactly what I needed!  I attribute the self-hypnosis training from Blissborn with staying calm and relaxed during labor.  It is an awesome tool to have for labor and life in general.

Those of you who have been pregnant before, what could you not do without?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Night and Day: 2 Birth Stories

Warning: Birth stories aren't everyone's cup of tea so if you're not into details just skim or skip altogether!
Next week we're going to talk all about babies from pregnancy to birth order since it's all fresh on my mind.  To kick things off, here's my childbirth experiences with my two kids.

If only we could all start with the second time around!  Once you've done something, at least once, it makes more sense.  The advice others give you actually computes and you feel a bit more capable.  This was the case with me.

When I gave birth to my first born J, it was like trying to give a cat a bath.  Before the real contractions set it, I was convinced that it wouldn't be that bad.  Truthfully, I needed to believe that otherwise I would have been in full panic mode.  Thankfully, that came later. :) Everything about this labor took longer.  My water broke one day and I didn't give birth until the next.  Labor started in the wee hours of the morning and he was born at dinner time.  Pushing was almost 2 hours.  Short compared to some I'm sure, but to this girl who had expected a baby by lunch, way too long.  But of course, I made it longer than it had to be because I was so frightened and tense that I mentally (and thus physically) ran in the opposite direction.  There's only one way out and I was trying to avoid it like the plague.

So, the entire experience around J was long, hard and stressful, but there was this one, most beautiful thing about it all.  Once the real contractions began, I didn't think I could do it.  Any of it.  If it wasn't coming right then, well, I couldn't do anything different.  So, therefore, it wasn't happening.  I gave up and looked for a miraculous short-cut somewhere.  The most beautiful thing? I did do it.  In my living room, with Mr. Butler's supportive arms around me and no drugs, I worked harder than I'd ever in my life and gave birth to a beautiful (big - 9 lb 4 oz) boy!

When Miss Z was born, things were practically perfect!  But then why shouldn't they have been? I had many factors working for me this time around - I was in better shape, I knew I could do it again,  I had prepared with hypnosis (Blissborn worked beautifully for me!) and I was just prepared this time.  My due date had come and gone so by when the day finally came we were skeptical of everything.  False starts seemed to be the only thing I ever talked about anymore!  I woke up early to real contractions every 15 minutes for an hour and a half.  We alerted some folks and then they promptly quit.  As in nothing.

Still, Mr. Butler stayed home from work and my mom came over.  I walked, ate, and rested.  We agreed that if things weren't happening by lunch time then he would go back to work.  As if like clockwork, lunch time comes and the contractions start in.  So, what do we do? Snack and play trivia pursuit!  Everything was 12-17 minutes for a while.  Around three (times and lengths are a bit sketchy so forgive me) the contractions are more intense and 7-10 minutes apart.  My mom, who over-prepares, gets a bit nervous, thinking the midwives should be called.  Mr. Butler, who under-reacts to everything, delays calling, thinking we have a while.  And why shouldn't he think that?  It took hours to get from where I was right then to actual pushing.  A few minutes labor the contractions dropped to every 4 minutes or so.  Needless to say, he called.  And then couldn't get a hold of anyone.  So, there was mild panic for a little bit.

After that, things get a bit fuzzy mostly because everything went so fast! About the time the midwife (and attendant) got there, we sent Jude with my sister-in-law down the street.  Before I know what's going on, they are trying to get me to lay down - which I didn't really want to do only because I didn't want to mess with what was working.  But, I had been standing for about 3 hours.  They had a good point.  As I lay down and rest a bit, they checked me and I was dilated to a 5.  Not too shabby, but only halfway there. The contractions grew harder.

You're told that when you get the urge to push, go with it.  Well, I never felt anything like that with J.  I was a basket-case and the only thing I felt with him was "Make it STOP!"  So, as I'm laying down my body starts having a mind of its own and I'm certain its NOT time to push because it was too quick.  And yet, it just wouldn't quit.  So, approximately 30 minutes after they checked the last time I had since dilated all the way.  I was ready to go and this baby was coming.  Mr. Butler and I both were in shock! Less than 30 more minutes (of pushing) and Miss Z surprised us even further.  She arrived at 5:34pm and she was a girl!

Night and day I tell you.  What's so neat is how much (so far) their personalities mirror their births.  J is loud and big.  Miss Z is clear and calm.  And they complement each other and us so beautifully.  God is so wise and good.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Motherhood is Beautiful

This afternoon I had swaddled miss Z up and was bouncing her around (a pre-nap ritual anymore) while perusing facebook.  All in the same scan, I see two separate friends who recently had lost their mothers, some friends who are afraid they are about to lose their mother, and plenty of new baby pictures.  As I look at my daughter, desperately aware of the earth-moving events happening simultaneously, I see a very different picture of being someone's mother.

As a kid, and even a little now, a compliment from my mom is usually a paradox of sorts.  If she fails to compliment or notice something I've done well, then utter disappointment builds up.  And yet, as soon as the compliment rolls off her tongue, my brain smirks and says, "Yeah, but you have to say that.  You're my mother."  And to a point, it's kind of true.  The two kids sleeping down the hallway can throw crazy fits, highlight all of my inadequacies and make every mess imaginable and I'll still giggle at how 'cute' they are at any given moment.  All the milestones are significant mostly because they are being reached by MY child.

And yet, every hour of sleep I lose to feed or rock a baby is a choice.  Every diaper I change or every vegetable I make sure is eaten is a choice.  Mothering, while arguably highly instinctual for some, is most certainly a daily (hourly) choice.   It's a heart-breaking reality that some mothers do not make positive choices for their children - rejecting them, abusing them.  Those that do strive for their children's growth and well-being are much more valuable because we see that they have chosen to mother, when they could have chosen not to.  

Motherhood is beautiful.  Discovering a new human being and teaching them the world all in one breath is amazing.  And mom's do it every day.  But that's not even the best part.  Growth in every way possible creeps into your life, sometimes without even realizing it.  I know parenthood isn't for everyone, but if you're on the fence about whether or not to have kids, this is what tips it in favor.  Those precious little souls (that make me wonder what I did with all of that time I used to have) are changing me for the better.

Miss Z was sleeping and had another hour before needing to eat again.  J had confirmed my fears that he had contracted Hand, Foot & Mouth disease and went to bed loaded up with herbs and a fever.  Most things in the house had been straightened and I was wiping down the counters in the kitchen.  Suddenly, I had flashes of my grandma's kitchen all cleaned up and glowing in the dark from some lighting underneath the top cabinets.  All the kids and grandkids tucked away in a corner or couch somewhere before or after some big holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas.  And the weirdest thing happened.  I didn't resent the cosmos for having to wipe down the counters or clean up dishes.  Having my own kids in their beds and finishing up my household tasks for the night was absolutely fulfilling.  It felt right and comforting and good.

Never before had I really understood why someone (moms usually) would work so hard to provide things like warm meals, clean beds and comforts of home from a place of joy.  It seemed to me they probably did it because no one else would and it was expected of them.  And of course sometimes those are the only reasons anything gets done, at least in this house for sure.  But in that moment I felt the incomparable joy of motherhood.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hello September

And we meet again.  With the passing of Labor Day, Summer is officially out of style.  Fall fever is in everyone's blood, including myself! One of the intoxicating things about fall is the warmth and nostalgia it brings with just a thought, a sense of community and belonging without a word spoken.  I can still daydream about life in the fall and be swept away to this perfect world - all because you mentioned fall or I saw some orange leaves.

I have a lot to say on the subject of fall and how we seem to have lost the value of 'harvest time', but let's leave it at this:

This time of year aches for friendship and a cozy place to be.  One of my weak areas is being friendly and open, especially with those I don't know very well.  I'm praying this season will boost my energy in this department.  Won't you join me?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The New Normal

Has your month/summer/year been a bit chaotic?  Have you seen a lot of emergencies? Maybe experienced a lot of loss?  Perhaps it is regional or something, but all around me has been event after event.  Not all of them negative, but certainly all powerful and overwhelming.  Lots of sickness and tragedies, as well as my own beautiful blessings that find every possible way to make every day feel like its been served up from a blender!  'Normal' life seems like a nostalgic joke or something.

On paper I realize that moving from one kid to two is always going to have this disorienting effect.  It's just like we know that as we get older, things are going to change.  More earthly adventures come to an end.  But despite knowing that, when it happens, we just have a hard time.  If we needed balance before, it's desperately so when our life makes a drastic shift.  So, what should we do - when our world changes and 'normal' may never happen again quite like before?

I'm sure it's different for every person and situation, but I guess we start here.

When parents of your friends pass away much too soon, this is a hard task.  When lives are uprooted in a matter of moments, this is a hard task.  Even in the early morning hours when laundry needs to be switched and a baby to feed, this isn't a casual assignment.  But that is just when we need this reminder to go along with it!

Lots of parents are sending their babies off to school for the first time.  Many people are starting new jobs right now.  And lots (and lots) of us are looking for a new normal because the old one has been taken away.  Whatever your old normal was, I pray we can all find some (no matter how slight) joy in the new normal you're experiencing this season.  And normal or not, hug those that you love.  Smile big.  And let it go, even if it's just for a moment or two.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Miss Z - Why I LOVE Having a Daughter

Before Miss Z was born, I shared my reasons for never wanting a daughter and for the first time began to consider what it might be like to have a girl.  Well, surprise! It's a girl!  And before anyone starts to think I would like to send her back, I thought I'd share some wonderful things about having a daughter!

She's mine. J's mine too of course, but Z is mine even more somehow.  J adores his father and we talk all the time about how he's strong/helping/fun like daddy.  I can't say how Z will feel about me, but she'll be more like me than anyone else in the house.  It's just nice to not feel outnumbered anymore!

There's no box.  It's 2013, and while our world has plenty of problems, my daughter doesn't have a box she has to fit into.  Following the heart of God doesn't require a box, just a willing spirit.  I never felt like that was acceptable as a girl growing up.  I love that I can teach Z to see things differently than I did.

She's laid back! From pregnancy to birth, from birth to date Miss Z is one chilled out lady!  She is a constant reminder for me to relax.  Partially because I need to relax anyway, but also because I don't want to 'teach her' how to be uptight or panicky all the time.  Whatever I want her to be like in the future, I need to model now.  So, she's helping me be better already.

She's beautiful! I have always struggled with a low opinion of how I look.  I feel like I've come full circle since I was a teenager- appreciating my strengths more than I used to.  But still, it's a bizarre feeling to look at her and think just how beautiful she is, only to have everyone comment on how much she looks like me.  I don't consider myself a beautiful person, but to have her beautiful face remind someone of me is such a sweet thing.

I can't say what the future holds and what I'll think about having a girl once she can walk and talk.  But I think its a whole new ballgame for me.  And that's mostly a good thing I think! ;)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Accepting the Assignments

Monday began Mr. Butler's second year of graduate school and the second year of this thorn in my flesh.  He's not even had one class yet, but Monday evening was filled with readings, emails and school work.  It's the nature of the beast and on his time off from class his family has been his top priority.  So, all of the things I tried to accuse him of early on last school year (like neglecting us or preferring work/school over us) are certainly nowhere near the truth.  Truth be told, I just didn't want to accept this assignment where he works hard at work and goes to school (to better his career and put us in a better financial situation) and I have to be in charge of almost everything else until he has a break.  I knew all the whys and hows, but I just didn't like it.

Tuesday morning (after my first night with his school encroaching on my life) I was still.  Not leaping out of bed, but not despairing. I wanted to be mad and blame someone for something.  But I knew that I couldn't.  In order to get things done and receive the outcomes we've deemed best for our family and future, this was the season right now.  And it's a short season.  One more year and it will be done.  So it is the assignment of the hour and refusing it isn't an option.  And yet, I don't want it.  I loved having Mr. Butler home with only our life to occupy him.  Miss Z is acclimating to her new digs, but she certainly slows down my schedule.  Having a partner in Mr. Butler to tag team, well, it was wonderful. And now, it's Tuesday morning and, ready or not, I've jumped in the fast lane again.

While nursing Miss Z, I stumbled across a quote from Lysa TerKeurst that was the slap in the face that you hate but desperately need.

"God, I love You and choose to accept the assignments You place before me today with an attitude that reflects the truth that You live in me."

At that moment, I knew without a doubt that I was just resisting what had to be done and even more, was refusing to let God be glorified in any of it.  Our world is saturated with choices and when choice isn't part of the picture, we sometimes don't know what to do with ourselves.  Fits are thrown, time is wasted and God's will and beauty is overshadowed.  I hope you will join me in the work of accepting life's assignments and allowing God to work in our lives as a result!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tips for a Balanced School Year

'Tis the season for new beginnings at school and it can be hard to find balance in the midst of sometimes chaotic and stressful happenings.  These are important and special times that won't flourish without care and focus.  Here are some tips to help you and yours stay on track.

-Start your day with a prayer.  My days spin out of balance so quickly, especially when things don't go the way I want. And since we can't deny that happens every day, the best defense is beginning the day asking God to be a part of it.  Instead of staying out of balance, God will use any event to show us more of Him.  That somehow balances out beautifully!

-Require hard work and then plan for fun!  Follow through is a big issue for me so requiring the hard work is a MUST.  Non-negotiable, no questions asked, necessity! But also, to keep that motivation up, fun and reward has to be strategically placed as well.  Commit to balancing your work and play this year!

-Quit comparing! Stop comparing yourself, your friends, your family, your anything.  Take stock of where you're at and where you want to be.  Figure out ways to get there and then don't worry about anyone else.  This is often so hard when it comes to our kids.  Help them stay focused on what they are capable of and remind them how important they are - not everyone else - to you.

-Grow a plant. Yeah, I said a plant.  Staying balanced requires a lot of maintenance.  Deciding to grow a plant - and actually sticking with it - is a beautiful symbol of growing in our life.  If you neglect it, it will die.  You can't give it all the water it will need forever the first day.  And you can't put off caring for it until a day before its dying and expect great results.  With daily attention, shifting and accommodating new needs, life brings joy and peace.  If your family needs a focal point, a coming together for the new year and new goals, caring for a plant together could be a fun and meaningful project!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Local Flavor: Pickerman's

Mr. Butler and I find ourselves on opposing viewpoints more times than feels reasonable some days, but, as usual, our differences can bring about beautiful things never realized on our own.  One of those big differences is trying new things.  I'm a bit of a homebody and scared-y cat, especially when it involves trying a new restaurant.  What if I hate it? Then it's a waste of money and eating out (a guilty pleasure of mine)!  Mr. Butler is the opposite and is always game for a new experience and hopes to discover secret gems off the beaten path.  Lucky for me, he has a pretty good track record!  One of our favorite finds is only a few minutes from our house!

For those here in the Oklahoma City metro, if you're in the mood for a good sandwich shop, complete with hand-dipped ice cream, stop by Pickerman's Soup & Sandwiches on the corner of SW 89th and Penn.  There's few things better than discovering a family-owned business that is close by and good at what they do!  Everything is made fresh, with all sorts of options like an awesome potato salad, salads with (delicious!) homemade croutons and all kinds of sandwiches and soups.  They cater, make ice cream cakes and pies, and make absolutely delicious (thick and rich) ice cream!  If you're in the neighborhood, give them a try! And to really get a good feel, try them a couple of weeks in a row but ordering something completely different.

We think you'll enjoy it!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beginning Again

In two days, my daughter will be 2 weeks old and what feels like the longest month this year will be coming to an end.  All month long, our household has felt in slow motion and fast forward simultaneously, so much happening while doing absolutely nothing! We've been surprised, overwhelmed and so blessed this past month - and now it's time to begin again.

My handsome and oh-so-active Jude is ready to dive into 'school' again, since we've been lacking quite a bit lately.  My precious Zoey is beginning everything! Mr. Butler will go back to school in a few weeks, beginning his final year of graduate school.  If I can get the hang of being a mother of two, I should begin teaching piano lessons not too long after that.  Lots of beginnings.

Beginning something for the first time can be scary.  There's just a lot you don't know until you start doing.  Beginning again is a little different.  There might be more pressure because you have been here before and often the standards or goals are placed a little higher.  At least that's a little bit what I'm feeling as I gear up for all of this.  What I'm finding, already, is that no matter what I'm trying to accomplish, I still have to do the work.  There's no room for impatience or giving up too soon.

As we all begin some things again in the next few weeks, let us be reminded of the beauty of beginnings and throw ourselves into really living the days - even if it feels like a rerun.  Every day will be flawed somehow, but at the same time those flaws bring us to new places that ultimately bring growth we couldn't touch otherwise.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why I Never Wanted To Have a Daughter

When I was pregnant the first time, I really, really didn't want a girl.  I get boys.  Girls? Not so much.  Girls are complicated and I could barely handle my own complicated girl-ness, so how could I raise one just like me?  I expected God would tell me to get over it and give me a girl anyway, but He didn't.  And, for sure, I love my boy - jumping, noisy, dirt and all!  But as I sit on the verge of having another baby (that might be a girl), I'm game for anything this time around.  I am starting to understand a little bit better why having a daughter was so unappealing at first.

I've always heard a story about me and my great aunt Sally sitting with me as I color and asking me what my favorite color was.  My response? "Black."  And no joke, for the first half of my life, black was the dominant color.  The typical pink or purple response was revolting to me.  I also hated things like tights and lace - mostly because they bothered my skin, but it quickly became difficult to distinguish between the items and the frilliness they represented!  I'm not certain that this ever happened, but in my mind I asked my parents for cars (with ramps and all) and they refused.  Perhaps I never actually asked for them, but I felt gipped just the same.  I just didn't like the typical girl things.  Dolls seemed dumb.  I didn't get the princess 'persona'.  And, frankly, most girls seemed so dramatic and not like me.  (Yes, I understand some who know me might object to the idea that I was in no way dramatic, but just go with it!)

I'm sure there a lot of reasons for the differences I felt, but a general reason is that society didn't readily offer other acceptable options for girls.  Clothes, toys, colors - if you picked the wrong ones, it said something about you that seemed threatening and irreversible.  In my heart, I knew that it just didn't matter, but the fact that so many people couldn't see that, made me mad.  That resulted in subtle rebellion, like never wearing the color pink or not ever playing with barbies by choice.

As my husband reminded me this morning, in most ways I'm living the life I always wanted: married, homemaker, mother, freedom to create as I wish.  Sounds pretty typical for a girl.  So, don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-girl.  Not at all.  But the girl box that I always heard and saw from other people just didn't feel like it fit me the same as it did everyone else.  Anyway, my point, and the lesson I've taken too many years to really learn, is that having/being a girl doesn't have to mean one toy or color or one (career) path - it can be all of them or none of them.

Have you heard of Goldie Blox? I had been told about them, but had never seriously looked them up until recently.  This is a video of the creator and her thoughts behind the toys.

Web edit - v10b-YouTubeUP-25k from Goldie Blox on Vimeo.

I don't know that I would have been a good engineer, per say, but I can see how this type of encouragement could have shaped the way I saw myself much differently than I did.  And perhaps this toy isn't the solution to all the 'girl' problems of the world.  It IS, however, a beautiful example of how there's not one kind of girl.  Don't expect it (whatever girl version you have in your head) from your child, but encourage discovery and exploration in all areas.

I'm sure princess play shows, just like boys will discover fighting and saving the girl, whether you encourage it or not.  The point isn't to polarize our vision for what being a girl is, but to understand that those aren't the only games to play!  At this writing, I am a few days shy of my due date and no clue if I'm having a girl or a boy.  It's exciting to say the least, but should I have a girl - I'm so excited to not feel boxed in the way I have in the past.  For all of you parents of daughters, what types of toys or games have you found that encourages your daughter to be more than just a princess, as their slogan says?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Your Problem Isn't Really Your Problem

Happy July to you! Here in Oklahoma, we've been given a marvelous gift of highs in the 80's all week.  After the extreme weather we've been battling, it's definitely a show of God's mercy and goodness.

I am currently 39+ weeks pregnant and playing the waiting game with the arrival of baby #2.  With this pregnancy going a lot smoother with very little 'misery' and everything appearing to ready and healthy,  there is much to rejoice about.

Since Mr. Butler has finished his first year (of 2) of MBA school and I've taken some time off from teaching, we're enjoying much needed time together as a family and catching up on the back log of to-do's around the house.  After the very full year we've had, this break is such a blessing!

And yet.

And yet, I still find myself focusing on what I feel like I'm lacking.  Since this baby could come any time now, I can't travel and I need to rest a lot.  Kind of lame when it's the season for activity and fun! Do you ever think like that?  My life is full of things that you might envy, but all I can think about is what I can't do and don't have.  Any new day, regardless of the actual events, can be a struggle - a battle between positive and negative.

Why Your Problem Isn't Your Real Problem

What that tells me today is that it just doesn't matter what your circumstance is or how much money you have.  The problems we focus on usually just aren't the real problem. You can be grateful and joyful about what you do have or you can always complain about what's missing.  It won't matter if today's problem was fixed, we could just find something else to fixate on and be miserable about.  The real problem is our response - a tone of voice, the amount of faith or hope, effort and attitude.

When I'm miserable, being told to CHOOSE to be content despite the circumstance is not that helpful.  Why?  Because I want my emotions to change on the subject before my response does.  Did you get that? We are usually waiting on our emotions to change before we change our response.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well that way.

Instead, I need to be focusing on the best response with the expectations that my feelings will change.  So, what's a good response? Gratitude.  What are you grateful for?  What prayer has been answered that was such a burden before?  What are you learning right now? Behave - respond - as though it is a blessing!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Change is Hard. Change Takes Time. Be Patient.

No matter the category of life, there's always more you could do, differing schools of thought and degrees of commitment.  Students get it from all sides.  If you make straight-A's then you likely have no life experience.  If you work all the time, you're just greedy and have no ambition.  As adults in the information age, we can't go a day without hearing about a new study, method or concept that will REVOLUTIONIZE your life (and other people may or may not judge you for whether or not you embrace it!).  It's overwhelming at best.

It's often easier to change when you don't feel overwhelmed and see change as something gradual.

I will easily admit that I'm surely a greater part of the problem than the solution.  I believe in things like natural childbirth, debt-free living, a relationship with Jesus Christ, alternative health, and the list goes on.  All of which have cultish followings and droves are looked down on for not embracing all aspects upon first exposure.  I have my opinions right along with the next guy.  Yet, here's what I think so much of our society is missing right now.

No matter how right or revolutionary something is, change very, very rarely happens (and sticks) over night.

There are exceptions but most of us are so busy and constrained with trying to staying functioning as households that changes (no matter how good) are hard to implement, certainly implement quickly.  As an opinionated person full of motivation for your convictions (that I applaud greatly), take some time to empathize with (feel for) everyone you find yourself judging for not jumping on your bandwagon right away.  I mean there are bandwagons I could preach to you for hours on how important they are for your family and future, but I have a hard enough time maintaining the few I've committed to myself!  Is it because I lack conviction or understanding?  Not really.  It's called life that comes with restrictions like time, budget, and opportunity.

I'm so thankful for a time in society where healthy living and alternative options are welcome topics of conversation in a lot of circles!  It's not always been so.   Instead of spreading an overwhelming sense of doom (unless everyone commits to your cause), start loving those around you as much as you love your new choices.  We all want to be better, but it's hard and it takes time.  Let's try to remember that the next time we roll our eyes at someone's "not what WE would do" choice.

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." - Rom. 14:19

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home: A Moveable Reality

Last week a massive, destructive tornado blew through a suburb just south of my home, killing 26 people, destroying over 3,000 structures.  It's path touched numerous people and places that I knew, creating in me a foggy experience of being a victim while not being a victim.  There are several amazing and heartbreaking stories that have come from this event, but the most striking thing to me is everyone's concept of home.  And how very, very different it can be.

A home is considered the place you sleep and store your stuff.  
Home is a family of people.  Or a significant other.  Wherever they are, you are home.
Home is felt in belongings: mementos of a life, of loved ones, of precious times; possessions that signify hard work and worthy accomplishments: things that set you apart, that fill out your identity.
The comfort and reassurance of home is found in a routine.  Laundry day or a favorite coffee shop. 

This past week so many people have been stripped of one or more of these.  Houses, lives, belongings,  and certainly routines are different at best.  What this brings to my mind is the struggle we all face in realigning where our home really is.  The apostle Paul said he had grown able to be content with little or with much.  To me, that says he could be at home in any circumstance.  Why? I think it's because he was at home, truly home, in his relationship with God.  And that relationship never left him as long has called God his home.

In the past 30 years of my life (give or take, ha!), I have been guilty of making all of these things my home.  And I'd probably add food to that list as well.  Home, in whatever form, is where we go to for comfort, security, and a protection from all that isn't going right.  If my day doesn't start the way I want it to, if a person doesn't relate to me or stay near me the way I'd like, or I'm deprived of things I want, any of these things easily begin to take priority over my relationship with God.  

It all can be taken away and "my only hope is You, Jesus" as the song goes.  It's a beautiful thing to take pleasure in the good gifts we are given.  It's certain that God designed us to enjoy our families, our homes, a great meal.  However, if I'm continually fixed on all that isn't my relationship with God, then I have no hope.  What seemed so important last week or the week before, suddenly is irrelevant in so many lives.  And in a lot of ways, that is a beautiful thing.

Pray actively and do what you can for the heartbroken parents and families.  As someone put it, God knows what it is like to see a child die and buried.  He is the only one who can provide the comfort needed to survive such grief.  And as for the rest of us, join me in recognizing how limited our 'homes' are and instead turning to God for comfort and security.

Phil. 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When Nobody Cares

No matter your job, station or personality, there will be days when all of your hard work, devotion and love will be overlooked, ignored and left to fall into the oblivion.  And while we can all sit here and discuss the whys and the explanations, to the person feeling unimportant the whys don't matter.  At least not right then. What usually matters is the list of other people who are acknowledged or showered with attention.  The main thing the insignificant person can see is how little their effort seems to matter, unless of course they didn't follow through next time.  Then maybe there'd be a big stink, but mostly it would just be a reprimand of "do better next time" that seems to communicate nobody has time for excuses.

The days we are that person, in the throws of self-pity (justified or not) and desperate for importance and appreciation, what do you do? For some it's not hard to complain and ask for extra attention.  But that's typically not who I'm talking about.  For others, just bringing it up makes them feel like a heel, tainting any further attention that might come.  In that case (when you know it's at  bare minimum rude to say "Hey, can someone give me a round of applause please because I'm working really hard?"), what do you do?

Honestly, I'm not sure what works the best, but here are a few things that we can try:

1) Pray.  Pray for your pride and your emotional needs.  Pray for those that are not appreciating you.  Pray for a distraction, something to look forward to, or for the appreciation to just not matter today.

2) Revisit old or determine new goals for yourself.  What's the purpose of your work/effort/devotion?  Sometimes we get focused on the acknowledgement and lose sight of the purpose.  Appreciation is healthy and necessary for flourishing relationships, but shouldn't be the purpose.  If it has evolved into that, then maybe it's time to focus on something else.

3)Write down why you matter.  Make a list. Journal about it.  Tell the dog.  Notice how everything on the list is possible through the grace of God.  Then, find someone else and tell them why THEY matter too.

How much violence and permanent damage (to groups, relationships, etc.) is the exasperated result of someone getting their feelings hurt in some way?  Far too much.  I struggle with allowing my feelings fester into destructive reactions - to life, to people, to things I know are not the cause.  And if I don't find something productive (like writing about it or talking to someone) about the issue, I grow more and more reactive and destructive.  It's never justified, but it does give a context for how overreactive people can get.  Let's help each other by honoring each other's emotions and giving safe arenas to work through pain and human hurt.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Another Strong-Willed Secret: Sensitivity

We've talked at length about my strong-willed nature and shared a few insights as I have taken a ride on the parenting coaster.  Boundaries, consistency and love are mandatory for success, wouldn't we all agree?  There's another secret that isn't widely acknowledged when dealing with a strong-willed child.  Most children that everyone would consider strong-willed (not just the parents in a moment of exhaustion) have the potential for deep anger and acting out, but what we often don't see is how deeply sensitive they are.

Being "sensitive" has all kinds of connotations with it, so let's define what I mean real quick:

1) Quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.

2) Having acute mental or emotional sensibility; aware of and responsive to the feelings of others.

This sensitivity can manifest itself in many different ways (physical, emotional, relational, etc.), but very often it is a real factor in whatever issue is being brought up at the time.  If you're ever hit with the "why is my child blowing his top out of nowhere?" consider that it might be some change in routine, health, relationship, you-name-it.  Don't for a second convince yourselves that this child isn't seeing everything!  The look on your face that says "I hate dealing with this" or the comments under your breath about how you don't have time for that - it all goes in and can mean something drastically different than just a parents exhaustion talking.

As parents or guardians, especially if we cannot relate, a child (who is acting oh-so ugly) being sensitive is usually rejected, ignored or at least overlooked.  Some may think there is no sensitivity at all, which absolutely feeds the fire of conflict.  Others might acknowledge it if they understood, but neither party have a way of communicating about it.

Intense emotions usually come from deep feelings.  Regardless of how right or wrong the feelings may be, that strong-willed child is feeling it to their core.  Dismissing those deep feelings (intentionally or not) will cause them to increase, not fade.  So, what? Are we supposed to cater and tip-toe because somebody feels something?

Not really.  But here's where the lesser experienced parent might step on your toes.

-Discipline does not require a parent's hurt feelings, looks of utter disappointment and words of anger.  Sometimes, especially when someone's safety is at risk, it can be appropriate.  But run of the mill tantrum or problem? It's just an excuse for an overworked, underpaid parent to vent.  And at that point, the lesson is more about how we feel about each other rather than the rule that was broken.

Before I'm misunderstood, consequences should be swift and solid.  The strong-will sensitivity will pick up on even the slightest loophole. So, I'm not advocating that we just be nice to our kids and all will be solved.  But the relationship between you and your child should be just as constant as their consequences.  Teach them to cope with their mistakes and accept their consequences, demonstrating that we can still 'be okay' even when things go really wrong.

As I consider my own reactions and behaviors as a strong-willed child AND looking at my son's strong-willed tendencies, I am regularly convicted by the advice my mother received upon questioning if there was something wrong with me.  Her chiropractor at the time said this,

"She's not sick, she's strong-willed.  She needs the level of discipline (& consistency) as she would receive in a monastery, but an EQUAL amount of love."

That love means patience, it means gentleness, it means the security of a relationship alongside the boundaries of a fortress!  And it is so hard. As parents we get tired, frustrated and isolated in our feelings of responsibility and pressure to make it all work.  With strong-willed personalities, it's only magnified.  It helps to remember that all the fights and ugliness can easily originate in a sensitive little heart that hasn't learned what to do with it yet.  Let's all strive to teach how to cope instead of demonstrating how to react.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A cappella Singing: Praise & Harmony

Where our family worships, we all sing a cappella and are very blessed with a rich heritage of beautiful singing!  But if you've ever seen the show The Sing-Off, you know that it's not always the easiest or simple task to cut out reliance on instruments.  Several years ago, a series of CDs began production to help congregations learn new songs and part-singing skills.  Well, a few years ago and then again a couple of weeks ago, Randy and I got to be a part of the recording as singers!

It was certainly hard work and a sacrifice to leave home (and my baby) during this really busy time, but the recordings are such a blessing and the experience was great!  The two upcoming releases from Keith Lancaster and Acappella Ministries will be Mighty God - 25 contemporary songs - and Jehovah God - 25 hymns.  If you're interested in the past albums, check out Praise & Harmony.  And if you've never heard of the group Acappella, do yourself a favor and check them out too!  Here's a great medley of some of their songs.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Someone Else's Middle

As a parent, we are constantly asked to compare our kids to a standard, to the national average, even to each other!  There's not a week that goes by, I'm sure, that we don't wonder if our child is "where they're supposed to be" and up to par with other kids their age.  So, the concern is healthy and normal because if there is something wrong we want to and need to know about it.

The problem is when there really isn't a problem and yet we're pushing and worrying because we noticed someone else's kid performing a task our child hasn't even thought of yet.  I try not to be that parent.  Really I do, but that doesn't mean I don't notice things.  We got a hand-me-down train table a few months ago for Jude to go along with a new train set.  He was super excited about it at first, but as things went, he just didn't seem to know what to do with it.  I tried not to worry and hoped he'd get the hang of it.  Last week, before he had even eaten breakfast (which if you know him, you know he must be super excited), he was telling stories about the engines, putting tracks together and occupied for sooo long!

Yes, I guess, be excited that he's developing, but my point really is that so much happens on its own as long as the right elements are available.  Food, sleep, nutrients, attention, touch, love, time are all key elements that can inhibit development when they are lacking.  So, yes, in that way there is work that HAS to go into every child for sure.  But in the realm of 'first world problems', some of us get way too hung up on all the milestones and "how to prepare your child for X".  Give them plenty of opportunities to play with other kids, read to them like crazy, and play, PLAY, PLAY.

I'm continually surprised at children's development when you allow them to work at their own pace.  And, yes, though our society doesn't really practice it, that goes for adults too.  Instead of comparing yourself or someone else to where they should  be, highlight where they are beginning!  Encourage.  Demonstrate.  Give it some time. And then let people explore.  Who knows where we'd be if we just listened to everyone's natural pace.