Archive of ‘The Good Family’ category

Breaking Up With Guilt

My professional writing career is on a roll!!!!

I kid, but only slightly, as I was honored to write another article for the Central Virginia Family Guide’s 2015 issue. (On stands this week!)

You may remember my 2014 article “Un-spoiling Your Child.” By far, it has been my most popular, most shared post to date! Clearly hitting home for parents. Yay for un-spoiling the next generation!

This article deals with taking back your family, creating margin, and living a life of freedom and not guilt. Now doesn’t that sound nice?

Enjoy…. I added some pictures of Bennett and his 7th Bday Father/Son Campout party last Friday. It is the best example to accompany this article. I didn’t plan one activity but let kids just be kids for three unstructured hours and they were AWESOME AT IT! Imagine that! Kids instinctively know how to untether their spirits, imaginations and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s a beautiful thing. I also gave myself permission not to decorate. Besides balloons, a ninja turtle table cloth and napkins….I didn’t do a darn thing. Instead of junky “goodie bags” (who thought of this money sucking idea?) I bought a bunch of glow sticks so they could run in the woods in the dark and we could track them. Not the least bit Pinterest worth. It has felt so good to let go of the birthday party pressure!

I’m a duck baby…perfect mom pressure rolling off my back!

You know...just hanging out in the woods with my board.

You know…just hanging out in the woods with my board.

Too cool for school. Seven years old looking good on Bennett

Too cool for school. Seven years old looking good on Bennett

BREAKING UP WITH GUILT:

The definition of squander is “to waste something (especially money or TIME) in a reckless and foolish manner.”

I would call myself a type-A, list-making, list-checking type of gal. However, I can also be the queen of squandering time.

On the rare occasion I am given a morning off from my children, I turn into one of two people. The first Kelly lazily kills an hour on social media, wanders around her house like a lost puppy and eventually plops on the couch and does nothing. The other Kelly is frantically trying to squeeze 24-hours of tasks into four hours of time. I can’t seem to discipline myself enough to prioritize. I flit around—partially completing one task all while simultaneously starting four more. Somehow in my brain it makes sense but I have very little to show for it at the end of my alone time. Cue sad violin. It’s no laughing matter to be a time-waster.

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They never stopped setting up scenarios and battles for hours. Hilarious

They never stopped setting up scenarios and battles for hours. Hilarious

Time is a precious gift. You hear it often in cliché quotes on Pinterest.

“You can’t save it for later.” You can’t “bank” it or work “overtime,” so that all of a sudden you get a 50-hour day. It just doesn’t work that way. You can only spend the moment or waste it. We don’t stop to ponder that fact often enough.

I have never read of anyone saying at the end of their life “I wish I had watched more TV” or “I wish I had spent more time on social media, worked more hours, accumulated more or shoved my kids into more activities, so I barely saw them.” It would be absurd. So why is it that we spend our days doing the very things we will live to regret?

I read an article written by a palliative care nurse, Bonnie Ware, on the top five regrets people make on their death bed. Here they are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. (She said EVERY male patient expressed this one because they missed their children’s youth and the companionship of their spouse)
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express
my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

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In essence they wish they had spent their time differently. Sobering.

And so we face this challenge as parents and spouses of how to spend our time wisely. We simply can’t get so lost in the shuffle and monotony of our duties that we miss the opportunities to invest in what is eternal. We live in a society that demands we “do” endless activities and “spend” well beyond our means. We are tired, grumpy, overworked, short-tempered, dissatisfied, distant from one another and burdened by our finances. There is a cost to every decision we make and usually the first to get cut from the list is our children and spouse. Someone has to step off this destructive merry-go-round.
Last time I checked, society wasn’t putting my kids to bed, paying my bills or married to my spouse. So a few years ago our family decided to divorce ourselves from society’s rules and invent our own.

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We were the typical, ubiquitous American family that had every white square filled, spilling into the margins of our calendar. With three kids under age five, we knew we could never keep up the pace and think our marriage and children would survive let alone thrive under those conditions. We were not designed to live in a frantically feverish state of being. We blew the whistle on ourselves, and my husband and I had a big heart-to-heart. We needed to write a list of our core values and then evaluate if our lives and schedules allowed for those core values to take root, or if they were just ideals we tossed around in public conversation while our personal lives mocked those same words. Values are anchors and lighthouses in our lives—the immovable foundation and guide to get back to steady ground.

For us it took moving 25 minutes outside of Lynchburg from our little cottage in the city to our rustic home on a few acres in the country. It wasn’t a glamorous move that movies are made from. Part of our core values was living well in our means. We found a pretty unsavory foreclosure that we fell head-over-heels for and worked hard to make it a beautiful home. It was a refining and —at times—fun process. Moving out to the country brought a “soul peace” we could have only dreamed of in our past life.

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Being 25 minutes from town also meant we had to say “no” more often than “yes” to activities and invitations. We couldn’t afford to fill our gas tanks every 2-3 days, and so we decided on our second core value. The majority of our life and socialization would happen out of our home.

For most people who pull up our long driveway, surrounded by pine trees, the sentence we commonly hear is “It feels so peaceful here.” I can’t think of a bigger compliment. There is something about a hot meal around a table with another family that slows down a night, deepens the conversation and helps you appreciate your family. Sure, there are sometimes screaming kids, boycotted food and lots of messes, but the joys far outweigh the hassle and drama a gaggle of young kids can make.

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We traded “rush” for “peace.”We “under-whelmed” our schedule in order to have margin in our lives. The days are long but the years are fast with kids. Did you know there are approximately 936 weekends from the day of a child’s birth to the day they leave home? Are you squandering those weekends away or maximizing this season of life?

But guilt is a fickle beast. You would think it would motivate us to make better choices but instead it tends to make us more frantic. Moms who struggle with feeling guilty about grabbing a 30-minute nap, flipping through a magazine or revisiting a hobby when their children are resting buy into the lie that it is an indecent luxury to allow one’s body and soul to rejuvenate. Building margin into a balanced life does not mean that you avoid time to yourself or time to rest. Water flows down from the top. If mom and dad are stressed, distracted, unavailable and one-dimensional….what is trickling down to your children? Just because a new hat is in my arsenal—“mom hat”—that doesn’t mean I traded it for my former self. I added it to my wardrobe where it’s in heavy rotation with my writing hat, my photography hat, my decorating hat, my girlfriend hat, my wife hat, etc.

So, I broke up with guilt, and it felt good! I refused to let my husband go by the wayside or my friends get kicked to the curb. My children know that mommy has “girl’s night.” My daughter likes to help me pick out my jewelry for it and can’t wait until she is old enough to come with me! I love that she understands that my friends are a priority, and they help mommy find joy and balance in her life. Our kids don’t bat an eye when my husband and I declare a date night. We want them to know very clearly that we love and are committed to one another and that we need a break from being “mommy and daddy” sometimes so we can just be “Kelly and Ryan.”

Probably the best picture of Rhett ever taken. Our Mensa child clearly!

Probably the best picture of Rhett ever taken. Our Mensa child clearly!

I can’t offer a comprehensive list of “how to’s” on finding a balance in your life because there are many subjective circumstances that prevent families from fitting into neat, little boxes, but I do implore you to sit down with your partner and hash out what your core values are. When you look back on these years, what do you wish you had accomplished? Are you willing to live courageously, willing to set boundaries and stick with them, willing to live frugally and “do” less, willing to let your kids have a childhood instead of an activity schedule?

It’s not easy, but it is so worth it! With each decision you make to incorporate balance, peace and margin, it’s like attaching a little tugboat onto the steamship of your family unit. It might not pull you strongly off your current course but with each tugboat you add, eventually you will see your family headed into calmer, safer and healthier waters.

Would a time-squanderer do that?

UN-spoiling Your Child

Last year I was honored to be asked by the Central Virginia Family Guide to write an article on “Avoiding the Overload (a.k.a. quit spoiling your children) I’ve been saving this to post strategically the week before Black Friday because in essence….it’s the anti Black Friday theory. I’m not against saving money…good golly I’m not against that. I’m ONE HUNDRED MILLION TRILLION QUADRILLION PERCENT against excess and spoiling. An epidemic amongst our culture. I too am also guilty of it and continue to have honest conversations with myself sometimes daily. Please join me in this worthy pursuit to raise grateful children.

“Mine” and “More”

Two cringe inducing words that children need no help learning or demanding when it comes to “stuff”. As parents we work hard trying to instill a sense of gratitude and appreciation in our children as soon as they can utter the words “thank you”, and yet we find ourselves blushing at Christmas or birthday parties when we see our children fall into a “present trance” ripping open box after box with little to no reaction; let alone gratitude leaving their mouths and faces.

We live in a society of “stuff”. So much stuff our closets, basements, attics and playrooms are positively bursting at the seams. Inside we wrestle with a sense of guilt because we know our children really only play with 5-10% of what they posses. Cough cough…sounds a little like adult garages, attics and closets. Is it possible to trade in the tidal wave of presents in exchange for the calmer waters of satisfaction, gratitude, and perhaps even “giving away” instead of receiving? I think we can.

We have three children ages seven, six, and three. We are familiar with the insatiable present hunger that can manifest itself at Christmas or on their birthdays. I wanted to crawl in a hole one Christmas when my daughter flatly stated after opening her mound of gifts, “Is that it? I didn’t get that much stuff.” Somewhere in the universe a record scratched.

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OR THE FACE YOU MAKE WHEN YOUR CHILDREN ARE UNGRATEFUL BRATS!

Although my gut instinct was to throw everything in my trunk and return it, I realized the problem wasn’t her, it was me. We created her blood thirst for things and we can “un-create” it with some “stuff detoxing”.

We in no way have arrived to the sweet land of gratitude but I have seen, by making some serious changes a few years ago, that their attitudes have significantly shifted and we are definitely going in the right direction. Cue clapping hands emoticons.

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Let’s tackle Christmas first.

For us, our faith plays a pivotal role in how we approach this holiday. We practice Advent for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. The purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts for the gift of Jesus. It is something we discuss EVERY day leading up to Christmas. How can we think of and “gift” others during this season?

Be aware of your dialogue with your kids. Saying things like, “Can’t you wait until Christmas Day for presents?” or “Be good or you won’t get any presents!” is an extremely confusing message. Getting children to think bigger than just Christmas DAY is very important. Continue to emphasize the joy of the SEASON and the focus of thinking of and giving to others as most important. Kids will get on board and think of some awesome ideas on how to bless others when challenged to do so. (cards, treats to neighbors, food for families in need, making gifts for friends, caroling, visiting nursing homes etc…) There are great ideas online for families during Christmas that are very budget friendly.

A few other suggestions:

– Have your kids purge their own toys and clothing on December 1st. I have been blown away by what my kids willingly put in a bag to give away to children in need or to donate. Teach them less is more and how to be good decision makers about what is most important. Take them with you when you donate, it’s important they see the process all the way through.

– Ring the Salvation Army bell as a family or a group of families. Take a shift at the Soup Kitchen downtown together.

– GIVE! We have a very limited budget for Christmas gifts on purpose. We match penny to penny on gifts as we do to giving by partnering with World Vision. Our kids sit with us and look through their catalog with monopoly money so they can tangibly understand spending. They pick out what they want to “buy” as far as farm animals, medicine, school equipment, etc… They LOVE this! World Vision has kid friendly videos on their site to explain to children how their giving works. This has been a major eye opener to them as they learn what REAL need is and why we don’t give them but a few things each Christmas because there are greater needs in the world. Great family lesson!

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– Get grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends on board! I hear my friends talk about how their parents “spoil” their kids rotten on Christmas. Although I know it is well intended, it does more harm than good. You need to have honest conversations with the “spoilers” in your life. Tell them at this point, when your children are young, you are really trying to shape their character and need to work together as a team at Christmas time. It’s okay to set boundaries on giving.

-Think outside of the box. I heard of a family that gives no presents at Christmas time but instead gives a large envelope to their children with 12 individual envelopes inside filled with one adventure a month for the whole year, one of which is a major family vacation. What an awesome investment not only on your wallet to spread out the cost over 12 months but this is exactly what our children want above else, OUR TIME.

Now let’s address birthdays.

– Taking our cue from Christmas and continue to address the “spoilers” in your children’s lives. Encourage them to take your child on a special date rather than giving them more stuff. My parents once took my older two children to a local hotel that had an indoor pool for one night. Every time we drive by the hotel….EVERY TIME…they STILL talk about how that was “The BEST time ever.” Time and face to face events will ALWAYS trump a gift.

– When I send out invitations I always give gift suggestions. This might not meet etiquette standards but it has saved me a lot of headache after the party. There is nothing worse than your child receiving ” A Lego guy, A hot wheels pack of cars, A Playmobil boat, A Polly Pocket, A Barbie, A this…..A that…..” Next thing you know you have started brand new veins of toys. Instead I let people know, “Hey, this is what they are really in to now and we would love to keep adding to that collection or series instead of starting them on new toy line.”

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– For each toy my children get, I have them purge a toy in it’s place. Our house didn’t magically get bigger since their last birthday so they need to choose what needs to be purged to make room. Chances are they have outgrown many toys so this will be painless. Start your Christmas donation boxes early!

– Delayed gratification is not a dirty word. Our daughter told us last year that she wanted an American Girl doll for her birthday. I naively did not realize that I would have to sell my last born in order to pay for this doll. I had to have a conversation with her that went something like this.” Chloe, you don’t really play with dolls that often and an American Girl doll is very expensive. You will have to show daddy and I over the next year that you really do like dolls and will play with them for us to consider buying you one.” So she did. For a year she took a small baby doll she owned and carried it around, took care of it, made sure we saw her paying attention to it. FOR A WHOLE YEAR. When it came time to plan her birthday we revisited the American Girl doll again. I reminded her that this was an extremely expensive toy and if she really wanted it then she needed to know that it would be her ONLY gift and that we were going to have a small party at our house with no bells and whistles. She decided on her own it was worth it. So that is what we did. One doll and a bare bones 7th bday party. They had a blast and she loves her doll. It was a good lesson for her on many levels.

We let her open it up the night before her party. Priceless……
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Pulling the plug on the volume of gifts given in your home and shifting the emphasis to simplicity, giving, and thinking of others will require YOU, the parent, to be disciplined in spending and standing firm on your new normals. You are sure to receive resistance but consistency always wins. The JOY of giving will eventually sink in to their little noggins and you and others will reap the benefits. This isn’t easy but I can assure you that you are investing in your children’s character and teaching them early on what is important in life. A thankful and thoughtful child makes a thankful and thoughtful adult. Now that won’t make you blush!

Grape by Grape

Catch the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vine, for our vines have tender grapes.- Solomon 2:15

I was switching the wash a couple Mondays ago when out tumbled two pawns from a chess set into the bottom of my washer.

Clink, clink….my heart sank. You have to be kidding me, not again! This time from the church.

It seems Bennett has bestowed upon himself the power of the five finger discount in the past few months. Don’t mind if he do….

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The most frustrating irony is he isn’t stealing anything of great value. I mean if you are gonna steal…let’s get something of value here! (is joke) It’s just junky trinkets that line the edge of pockets and sticky little palms.

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To make matters worse he is continually shoving little doo-dads from our house into his book bag or pockets and bringing them to school. He’s gotten in trouble for it a few times this year and yet and yet….his little mitts the next day swipe another Lego guy, a rock, or rubber band and in it goes into the pouch of his back pack.

Sigh….

To make matters the MOST worst. He lies about it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. WITHOUT. BATTING. AN. EYE.

That, my friends, about does me in. These are heart issues and although “mad” usually happens first with me, “sad” is quick to follow. I mean today it’s plastic beads, what’s next? Gum at the grocery store and in no time grand theft auto?? The plastic bear is his gateway drug into a life of criminal activity I just know it!!!

In all seriousness my mind goes there and I have to metaphorically slap myself across the face and get it together. Bennett is a GREAT kid whose making incredibly dumb, selfish and carnal decisions. He’s always been impulsive. Do first, think later. Somewhere under the blood of Jesus He will use that for something glorious. Right now it is his achilles heel. Total shocker…my kids aren’t perfect.

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I mean it’s CRAP! Dumb plastic nothingness but it holds incredible significance. Trust has been broken in a big way. We have hit the red button alert to crack down on him at every turn. It stinks… I literally pat him down every morning and open up his book bag and inspect it. He has to write page after page of lines in a legal pad with verses about stealing. He had to write to our church an admittance letter for stealing the chess pieces and hand it to an elder and apologize in person. Nope…not enough to deter the behavior.

We walked into the school yesterday with the first two beads I found and he had to apologize to the teacher. He cried, I cried, it was awkward, I was sad, he wouldn’t ask for forgiveness and complete the circle……so we had to move on to writing a letter last night and searching the house for the rest of his loot.

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This was my morning today. He’s been lying since about the beginning of the school year about getting to pick out of the teachers “treasure box” for good behavior (choke that ironic lie down why don’t ya) and so he has been bringing home these pop beads and teddy bears consistently the last month. ALL STOLEN, snuck home and lied about. “Treasure box” indeed.

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My heart is so sad. I held him in my arms today and we talked about the word integrity and character and what it means to be a man of your word and be trustworthy. We prayed together. It felt like one of those moments you really penetrate into their skulls and awaken them to kingdom truths.

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We walked to the car to drive to school (after his pat down of course). He hops in the back row and stupidly draws attention to himself by saying “I want to see what you packed me for lunch today.”

I’m grunting getting Rhett wrangled into his seat and buckled in. “Why do you want to know? Please don’t pull everything out of your back pack I can tell you what I made you.”

Blink, blink his doe eyes went and then I saw it. His bawled up fist trying to scoot the zipper open.

“Bennet please don’t tell me that you are trying to sneak a toy in your bag you found in the car.” FOR THE LOVE….please tell me your hand is empty!!!!

drum roll please….

“No I’m NOT!!!” (he is a rotten liar praise God!)

I reach back and pry his hand open freeing up the Lego guy that was about to be smuggled to school. My indignant expression rivaling his guilty one.

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RIGHT AFTER OUR FREAKING PRAYER TIME. I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. What is going through his six year old mind is beyond me. I was dumbfounded. I had to pull the ole “I’m going to talk to daddy about what we are going to do about this.” I knew my flesh would totally rule over sound parenting in that moment.

It was an awkward seven minute ride to school as he hid behind his backpack every time I looked in the rear view mirror.

Remorse? I hope so. Mad he was caught? Probably.
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And so we are here. This is life with us. Our imperfect kingdoms crashing into one another. The bending of wills and the shaping of character. I don’t think Lyle the Kindly Viking is having the impact I was hoping for in his toddler years. We’ve left the Veggie Tales world of raising children and now we are getting into the weeds of character building and I need to get on my discipleship A game with this kid.

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I’ve spend a lot of time reading commentaries about the verse I put at the top.There are SO many takes on what Solomon is referring to in this passage. Are the grapes chastity, hope, peace, little sins, literal grapes because she lived near a vineyard?

I’m going to give my take on it. I’m noticing so much of my discontentment in my days are found in me rolling the red carpet out and welcoming my little fox to come and take my joy, my truth, my peace a little bit at a time. I think satan is no fool and he starts very young sending in the foxes to steal from our children as well. We have a job to do to teach our children to protect their “tender shoots” and chase the foxes away.

I learned a few things in my reading about foxes in general. They are silent and mainly solitary. they have an incredible sense of sight, smell, and hearing. They exhibit tremendous cleverness in going after their prey. They are very cunning, devious, and capable of misleading its pursuers with utmost skill. The very poster child of slyness. Ironically, foxes are incredibly cute and we see these small, sleek creatures and underestimate their calculated ways.

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Grape by grape. Isn’t that more satan’s speed? He’s such a bastard like that. I have no other word or title I can give satan but that. Lest you think I’m just a brass woman with loose lips bastard also means “an unpleasant or despicable being”. So really I am being nice with that word.

Do we just fall into affairs? Gamble our life savings away? Murder out of jealous rage or covetous hearts? Walk away from our faith or churches? Spend ourselves into insurmountable debt?

Nay nay….that’s like burning your vineyard down with a blow torch. It starts with that fox burrow near our heart and mind. Are you standing there with a gun and a shovel or are you dismissing that cute little harmless fox? What’s wrong with a nibble here or there in your vineyard? The rest of our lives is pretty God honoring. Kind of.

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A flick of the finger scrolling on Instagram or Facebook, viewing others lives, sends a jealous thought racing through your brain and scatters a seed of discontentment. Water it or stomp it out?

A harmless bout of flirting at work or church over a personal story. Harmless? It’s just words right? No action taken. The tender root of your marriage having razor sharp teeth bit into it. That’s actually a strategy of a fox to bite the shoot which causes the entire branch to wither and droop down. Easy pickins.

I’m SO TIRED I can’t go to church or make small group or fellowship with other believers. I gotta get on top of my rest and besides I had too much going on this weekend, I need some time to myself. Logical? Biblical? Ramming one week of your life into the next week without a moment of fellowship and Sabbath before the Lord. No fuel in the spiritual tank. Nibble, nibble…a grape here and a grape there.

I’m not gonna beat a dead horse here. I could toss out endless examples of subtle choices and thoughts we have that steal. STEAL our joy, hope, truth, and holy ambitions. Satan does not always come in like a lion. He sends those foxes in to starve our souls and confuse and compromise our minds so that he has a weak and lame sheep to devour and devour he will.

You, me, our precious children.

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My Bennett is listening to something in his mind about these objects even though he can’t articulate it to me.

“Pssssst….” the fox slyly whispers as he rubs his bushy tale along Bennett’s tender vine. “It’s just a small bead, it’s not a big deal.” “The other kids got a prize this week but you didn’t, just take it.” “I wonder what it feels like to take something?” I honestly don’t know what grape the fox is taking. A bitterly uneven exchange of Bennett’s contentment and satisfaction for the sin of lust, greed, or covetousness. So little for so much grief. Please don’t be foolish parents and say “That’s just kids stuff..things kids do” or “They will grow out of it.” Your naivety or blind-eye is to your child’s detriment. This is serious stuff when it flows from the heart.

I know my child’s every need is met in ridiculous abundance even. There is no grave need that propels his hands to take. It is in his mind and heart. A battle in the heavenlies over my sons integrity and kingdom character and I refuse to not stand at his vineyard with my pitchfork in hand.

I also refuse to turn a blind eye at my own vineyard. Take up your weapon people. The battle is real. It isn’t usually the big and obvious sins that sweep in and destroy, it’s the tiny little ones that crack the foundation, rattle our cages, and redirect our path off the straight and narrow.

Fight…please keep fighting.

(images of Bennett courtesy of the awesome and dear Sara Ernst )

Mean Girls

When I was six years old I did a bad thing. I mean who didn’t have moments of being naughty at six? But this bad thing has haunted me more than 30 years later.

There was an “older” girl down the street from me named Becky. Looking back I bet she was only about two years older but I was a tiny little squirt and she was on the bigger side so she seemed much older. Next door to me was a girl one year younger named Trish. She was really, really sweet and I played with her when I saw her outside but she was a little “different”.

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I was what I call a “floater” through childhood. I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t unpopular. I had a tiny circle of friends and was pretty shy but I could stay on the perimeter of the “cool group” and I wasn’t asked to leave.

One summertime afternoon Becky and I were playing outside in her front yard when Trish walked down the street near Becky’s house. She asked what we were doing and Becky sort of waved her over and said we were playing a game. I was a little confused but stood there quietly to see what this “game” was. She told Trish to put on a blind fold and to start spinning around and she would lead her around the yard by her voice and tell her where to go. Seemed pretty harmless so Trish obliged and put on the blindfold and started spinning in a circle.

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Becky started shouting out commands to an eager Trish. “Spin over to your right, farther, farther, farther.” I remember Trish smiling, her dirty blond locks a little matted like summer-time hair gets flying out around her shoulders as she picked up speed edging to her right.

Becky tried to to stifle a laugh as she beckoned Trish just a little farther. I knew something wasn’t right. Then I saw it.

A sticky, brown pile of dog poo on her lawn and an innocent, blind-folded, happily spinning Trish going right towards it…IN HER BARE FEET.

I knew that was my moment. You know that knot you get in your throat, the instant neck sweat that happens and your blood pressure starts pulsing through your temples? I needed to say something and fast. It was wrong and humiliating and I felt sick inside. It was pure meanness on Becky’s part taking advantage of Trish’s innocence and desire to belong.

But I choked..not literally…but figuratively. I stood there in complete silence and let her spin merrily through the dog poo. For an extra twist of the knife Becky told her to stand still and spin in place. RIGHT ON TOP of the pile of poo. I was dying inside…for Trish, for my puny backbone, for being alive that moment in time. Trish had no idea until she took the blindfold off and started smelling the poop but it was too late.

Of course Becky played dumb, “I didn’t see it, sorry” she says with a nonchalant shoulder shrug.

There was Trish left to hobble down the street in humiliation trying to wipe her feet and poo smashed toes on the lawns as she walked those two doors back down to her house.

I just stood there. I said nothing. I was an accessory to the crime. I didn’t even help when it was over. I have to own that.

At six years old I was tested, to a high degree, on my moral and ethical code and I came out the loser. Seriously, I watch that show “What Would You Do? on ABC and I am so physically uncomfortable watching the different ethical scenarios they test people with and I wonder….thirty plus years later…what would I do? Would I break through my introverted wall and stand up for what I know is right. I’d like to think I would at this point.

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Mean girls are not a new phenomenon. Nothing much has changed in thousands of years of humanity. We can look in chapter 16 of Genesis and see a prime example of “mean girl” ways. I mean Hagar becomes pregnant with Abrahams child and starts to taunt a barren Sarah. Pride and arrogance her fuel. In a twist of “mean girlness” Abraham allows Sarah to do as she wishes with Hagar and because she drank the cup of jealousy she casts her out into the desert. Peace out…good luck in the desert with you and your baby. I think we could call that a sinful touche.

Is it any surprise that my daughter is already encountering her first “mean girls” at school? It started last year in 1st grade. FIRST GRADE!!!! There was one ring leader in her class and she had two cronies. They decided who made the cut and who didn’t and they made darn sure on the playground and at lunchtime that the pecking order stayed in tight formation. Chloe didn’t make the cut last year but Chloe had two VERY SWEET friends in her class so she didn’t care. Sadly one of her BFF’s moved half way around the world. The girl who understood Chloe the very most in her life. Ours hearts grieve the loss of Lilly.

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If you’ve seen the movie series “Anne of Green Gables” (LITERALLY my most favoritist movies of all time) then you would have a pretty good picture of Chloe’s personality. She’s a very intelligent kid, a little socially awkward, very sweet and innocent, quirky, sure of her opinions and beliefs and loyal to her dearest friends. She doesn’t seek out or require many friends and so I always pray that she finds her “Diana” in life. The one friend who will get her and think her quirks are interesting and endearing as we find them to be. Lilly was her Diana but Diana has moved so Anne is a little lost at school now.

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Once my kids started public school last year it became quite obvious to me that they have an innocence about them that never stood out because of the community that we share life with. We have been careful about what and who we expose our children to. We aren’t raising “Children of the Corn” but during there very formidable years I have made sure that they do not come to knowledge on many things before the proper time. I mean our house is a revolving door of guests and ministry so they are learning about kingdom living inside our home and loving MANY different types of people.

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My kids still love stuffed animals and playing dress up. They play Pet Shops for hours together using all sorts of different voices. They run through the woods with wooden swords and use their imaginations. I feel a deep conviction to let them be kids as long as possible because once it’s gone…man it’s gone. Which leads me to this side bar and favorite Jack Handy quote.

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But I digress. So all that to say, Chloe sticks out a bit. She is the “weird” one in class not because she is weird but because she has that naive innocence about her. She would rather talk about Polly Pockets on the playground then talk about the boys in class. It’s caused her to be an outsider amongst her peers.
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Last Monday on the first week of school it started. She tried to play with one of her sweet friends from last year but was told by one of “the cronies” that she was not allowed to play with them and “Stop following us around!” Period…end of discussion.

2nd grade Kelly would have been devastated by said rejection but the Lord has implanted such a resilient and positive spirit in Chloe that I marvel. She recalls these events on the playground with a dry, “matter of fact” tone. She states that she is lonely but “It’s okay, the rest of the day was GREAT, I love school!”

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My mama bear heart wants to show up at the playground with my clubs and chains and whoop some sense into “the ring” but I know at the heart of meanness is a wounded child. The issue is greater than me ripping them a new one for being mean and ostracizing my child. I’ve also come to realize that I could shelter my children from pain and rejection but the Lord can use these seasons of being marginalized to be extremely teachable and instill a strong sense of compassion and empathy in my children that a perfect education bubble could never teach.

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Don’t get me wrong, I have no delight in seeing my children rejected but I also know it’s much easier to deal with this now than when they are a young adult and finally on their own. Life’s rejections only get bigger.

This is the reality of the fallen world. People are mean, REALLY mean. Our freedom of speech and accessibility to everyones intimate details of their life makes us prime targets for vicious words of attack and harsh judgement. We’ve had some really great discussions this week already about how to handle being left out. When you hear your child pray, “Lord help me to have eyes to see other kids alone on the playground so I can ask them to play.” Well my heart swells a little with pride. That’s exactly how the Lord wants us to take these situations and turn them into acts of strength and love. We have prayed for “her enemies” that they would learn to love and accept everyone.

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I’m not over here blowing a hot puff of air and shining my parenting trophy as well as hanging up a medal in Chloe’s room for most spiritually mature 2nd grader. We are walking this out together. My heart has BROKEN for her this week. I’ve cried and felt confused about what is best for my children. I’ve come full circle that this is a very good thing for Chloe to go through to build strength of character and to understand the Lord has gifted her with all the power of the spirit. She is PERFECTLY made and her sense of wonder and imagination is a true blessing from the Lord. She need not change or stoop low to belong. Dollars to donuts there is another little girl on that playground each day that feels the same way and they just haven’t found each other yet. We are praying her into Chloe’s life.

Do you have some “mean girl” in your past? Maybe you were like Hagar that was arrogant and proud and you kept those you deemed “less than” under your thumb. Perhaps you were more like Sarah that brimmed with jealousy so much so that she would do whatever it took to get her enemy out of her life. Maybe, like me, you were Abraham who sat silently by, watching it all unfold, and not stepping in and stepping up for what was right. Even worse…maybe you are like Ishmael. An innocent victim of the sin around him. Born into the bitterness, jealousy, pride and envy and paid a high price because of the lack of morals and ethics of those around him.

Each morning I sing a song of blessing to the kids before they get out of the car. It’s not gonna win me a Grammy but I can hold my own. The words are so apropos for children. They don’t begin to understand the depth and power of these words but I do. To hear the full song go here.

I BLESS YOU by Dennis Jernigan

I bless you with joy and peace and love that won’t let go.
I bless you with grace and faith and fire in your soul.
I bless you with dreams and visions most men don’t know.
I bless you with deeper knowledge of the Father’s love.

(Refrain)
I bless you with joy and laughter.
I bless you with a steadfast faith.
I bless you with the hopes and the dreams that your heart goes after.
I bless you with amazing grace.

I bless you with the heart of a warrior, grace to stand and fight.
I bless you with brothers (sisters) who will stand right by your side.
And I bless you with courage till the battles have been won.
I bless you with the faith to hear your Father say “Well done! Well done!”

Photos of Chloe taken a few years ago by my dear friend Sara Ernst.

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