Monday, August 29, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : What Our Book is Not

Megan is sharing again today (Yay!), with an important addition to recent conversations. Her words here reflect some heart-felt clarifications from us both.

* * * *

This whole thing is quite terrifying, actually. Writing a parenting book, I mean. And for two people who share in common some painful experiences stemming from trying to follow the advice of parenting books, the idea of writing a parenting book is almost as nonsensical as it is daunting. And yet, the burden that God has placed on our hearts to share what He has done in our lives is clear - and carries us.

And yet, it is because of those painful experiences that Laura and I shared that we are particularly sensitive to how a parenting book with the title Spirit-Led Parenting could raise some eyebrows as well as some skepticism. Let’s be honest, it raises some questions: “Are you saying that if you follow the direction of the Spirit, then parenting a new baby will mean practicing the methods that have worked best for you?” and “Aren’t you just writing another book that is saying THIS is God’s way of parenting?”

I’m glad these questions are coming up because these are good and important conversations for us to have. Following the discussion on Laura’s story, she and I thought it might be a good idea to lay a little groundwork by clarifying some of the aspects of this book that would prompt these kinds of questions. This is by no means a definitive list, but it’s a start.

Spirit-Led Parenting is not a rebuttal to other parenting books. While there certainly may be moments when we specifically examine what other parenting books advocate, it will be done in a way that portrays the impact these books have had on our lives and on the lives of others. Any criticisms of other parenting books that we offer will be done so in a way that is organic to telling our stories or the stories of other parents.

We have purposed from the beginning that this is not an anti-Babywise book, nor is it the anti-Baby Whisperer book or anti-Ferber or anti- any other of a number of parenting philosophies that are popular in our culture. Rather than create a point-by-point counterargument to the advice of other books, our desire is simply to offer an alternative. From its inception, that idea has been the backbone of our message.

Spirit-Led Parenting is not a criticism of parents who have had success with other methods and practices. Throughout our early discussions on this book as well as in my Babywise series, we’ve done our very best to carefully point out our concerns with practices, not with the people who practice them.

This is an extremely important differentiation for us to make. I’ve written on more than one occasion that the people in my life who encouraged me to follow Babywise or the Baby Whisperer and other philosophies in that vein are people who are not only dear to me personally, but also are dynamic, faith-filled people who have loving, happy families. I never would have trusted advice from people whose parenting I found suspect, and in my circle of friends, I know many who have implemented aspects of books like Babywise with great success.

Spirit-Led Parenting is not our assertion of The Right Way or God’s Way. It’s just not. And I can see how from where you sit, the title could almost imply that we are offering The Way to follow after God in parenting. From where we sit, however, we know we are offering an idea with so much more freedom than “this is how you do it.”

We do not want to be another voice that contributes to the "Mommy Wars" in today's parenting culture. What we have often found in parenting manuals is an implication that not adhering to methods in line with the ones they recommend could cause [insert calamity] to happen to your child, or your marriage, or your family. We will not take this attitude in our book. What we will do is speak encouragement and freedom from fear for those who feel the Spirit leading them a different direction from the way others are being led. We will speak boldly about the blessing and growth we’ve experienced personally and in our families as we have parented this way, understanding that others have found the same things down other roads.

One sentence jumped out at me from Laura’s story: I was going rogue, and had no idea where to turn for direction.

Before Laura and I even knew each other, we were traveling on a parallel path down the same road, feeling lost and alienated and isolated. What worked for others just wasn’t working for us, but we felt sucked into a vacuum of failing at the accepted ways practiced by (it seemed) everyone around us. In that place of flailing and grasping, God met each of us in an extraordinary way. And from that place of epiphany that there is another way, Spirit-Led Parenting was born.

We fully understand that the ideas we will share in Spirit-Led Parenting are not for everyone. Daily, we are working on toughening our skins and preparing ourselves for misunderstandings and criticisms. We offer this to you today to begin the process of answering some important and valuable questions, and this is a conversation that we look forward to engaging in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekend Links - 8/27/11 All-Time Favorites Edition, Volume 1

It's been kind of a crazy week, so I thought it would be sort of cozy and nostalgic to post a few of my all-time favorite things for this round of Weekend Links! And because I have many favorite things that are subject to change at any given moment, I'm sure it will be the first of several such collections over time.

1. My all-time favorite Saturday Night Live sketch. Chris Farley as Matt Foley, motivational speaker. Mark and I can pretty much recite it by heart. (Also on the list - Will Ferrell as the band member who is encouraged to give more cowbell, and pretty much every Celebrity Jeopardy sketch.)

2. My all-time favorite scene from my all-time favorite show - Friends. The men challenge the women to a trivia game to see who knows who better.
(Can't embed this video.)

3. One of my all-time favorite 80's commercials (such a golden age of advertising). Bonkers candy. Gotta love the giant, falling fruit.

4. My all-time favorite song. Love the video too.

5. My all-time favorite worship song. One if the few whose lyrics say all there is to say.

6. I have a couple of all-time favorite blog posts. This one from Ann Voskamp is right at the top of my list. It honestly has changed my life.

Have a great weekend, and STAY SAFE, East Coast friends!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In which I have severe Pinterest-phobia.

Ok, people. I need a little intervention of the social media variety, and perhaps a wee bit of enabling.

Let's start this cry for help with a little window into my lack of technical proficiency. When I open my laptop, I know how to click on the little icon that gets me to the internet. If that icon is not where I last left it, or if clicking does not open the portal to the online world, I stare blankly at the screen for a few minutes before picking up the phone to call my IT husband to inform him that our internet is broken. This information is met with deep sighs and a futile request for more information, which I cannot give because all I know is that I JUST NEED THE ICON TO TAKE ME TO GOOGLE. There's a button on some contraption down in the basement that he sometimes tells me to push, but it doesn't always work and also there are spiders down there, so usually I just have to wait until he gets home and can take the five seconds to diagnose the issue and fix it with the click of one or possibly two keys.

Oh, I also know how to open and use Microsoft Word. (Thank you. Please hold your applause until the end.) However, do not ask me to create anything in PowerPoint or Excel, because I will cry.

It will come as no surprise, then, that hot new online trends tend to both confound and terrify me. Thankfully, no one but Justin Timberlake thinks that MySpace is awesome anymore, and Facebook is so easy to use that my elderly relatives and I can navigate it. I'm trying to use Twitter, but the state of my progress is very sad indeed, and I really just need someone to come sit beside me and very slowly walk me through things like, "And thiiiiiiiis is how you RE-TWEET something..."

A couple of months back, I started hearing this word "Pinterest" being tossed around here and there. And here and there became everywhere, and suddenly I was experiencing great anxiety yet again about the next big everybody's doing it and it will change your WHOLE LIFE thing.

I ignored it all completely for awhile. At first it seemed like maybe a site aimed at crafty people, and I suffer from severe crafting deficiency. But then a few friends started badgering me with things like, "Oh, but you love to cook and there are recipes EVERYWHERE and you could pin your own and make your own dessert boards..." and at that point I would stop listening because I don't know what pinning means or what a board is and why can't technology just stand still for a little while and let me catch up because I am clearly 72 years old since I just recently started texting. (I KNOW.)

I declined all offers of Pinterest invites, but then a few weeks back I was reading something that mentioned Pinterest boards as a great way to get ideas for kids' birthday parties. And that piqued my interest because as the world's least crafty person, I always feel a little sorry for my children who always end up with party decor and favors from whatever collection Target happens to be carrying at the time. So I wondered..could this place actually be of assistance to non-creative types? In a moment of weakness, I signed up to be placed on the waiting list for invites, secretly hoping it would take some time. But - obviously - within a few hours, a cheerful message arrived in my inbox, welcoming me to the Pinterest world!

I have not touched that e-mail since.

So. This is where I need some help. Here are the things that cause me massive terror about clicking on the link that will actually take me to the step of creating my account:

1. I have heard from numerous people that this is the most incredible thing ever and it's so addictive and such a time drain, but OH MY GOSH it's so worth it and you'll just look and look for hours at a time...(you get the idea). Well, see, I'm already addicted to more than a few time-draining things like my overflowing Google Reader and my habit of perusing food blogs and episodes of Project Runway and all sorts of other web-based frivolity, plus there are the other little jobs of parenting and maintaining my household and, oh, I don't know, writing a book. If I allow myself to fall headfirst into Pinterest, will I be sucked into the quicksand that is it's brilliance, never to be heard from again?

2. There's pinning. And boards. And following. And tagging. And I don't know what any of this is or what it means. And although Megan has created this incredible tutorial that would help any normal person achieve complete Pinterest success, I am not any normal person, and I am bound to be confused.

3. Will this be a source of inspiration, or will it overwhelm me completely?

4. Is there a button in my basement I can push if something goes wrong?

So, please give it to me straight. Knowing what you now know about me (and I'm very sorry about that, by the way), do you think I should give Pinterest a try, or just pretend it doesn't exist?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Laura's Story

For this week's installment of our discussion series on this book, I'm sharing part of my story. I'm honored by your visit here, and Megan and I are deeply appreciate of your feedback on these posts!

* * * *

For as long as I can remember, I’ve thrived on clear direction from others. Products that arrive lacking obvious, step-by-step instructions make me crazy. My nightmare assignments in high school were those that were open-ended, and I can distinctly remember standing beside the desk of my biology teacher, asking questions meant to trick him into helping me outline one such project. “Laura, the point of this assignment is for you to come up with your own ideas,” he gently reminded me. “I know,” was my defeated answer, “but I was kind of hoping you’d just tell me what to do.”

My independent spirit was inspiring, was it not? Just call me Erin Brockovich.

It’s not that I was a complete pushover. I had plenty of strong opinions. It’s just that I often assumed that someone else knew better than I did. While I love to cook, I went for years without ever making adjustments to recipes, because I figured that the person who first concocted the dish had perfected the process. When planning my wedding, I often deferred to the ideas of our parents or attendants about what would make an enjoyable experience for the guests, because what do I really know about weddings, anyway?

As I grew into a relationship with God in my teen years, I prayed for direction on matters big and small, and sometimes received a clear message that I could embrace with confidence. But you know those times when God doesn’t give a completely transparent answer right away? I am not a fan of that. It is said that God often speaks in whispers, but I’d prefer that His voice carry at the same decibel level as a cable news program. Lord, could you please scream at me in such a way that I cannot possibly doubt what You think? He doesn’t often oblige that super-mature request, though. And for many years of my life, I didn’t trust myself to discern His voice over the others in those situations…so I usually listened to the one that spoke loudest. Someone who would just give me the answer.

In many ways, the story of my entry into parenthood mirrors Megan’s. From the moment I stood in the bathroom gazing at two pink lines that would forever change my life, I was bound and determined to figure out the right way to be a mother. And thankfully, as anyone who’s ever announced a pregnancy has discovered, there is no shortage of advice to be found on the subject. Mark and I were inundated with information on the best way – even “God’s Way” – to raise an infant. Several people introduced me to the same book that Megan received and I, too, was completely enchanted with the promises contained within its pages. Taking careful mental notes, I breathed great relief, thankful for this voice that was loud and clear within my social circles and was offering me the answers to parental success. I now knew exactly what to do – and just as importantly, what not to do – to achieve a harmonious home, raise an obedient child, and order our lives in a way that pleased God.

And then Maya was born. Eight pounds of sweetness, from her wide, soulful eyes to the thick, dark hair that would take months to relax from spikes and swoops into a smooth, manageable style. Little did I know, as I cradled her in the hospital that first night, that her personality would mirror that hair in many ways. And that my careful plans to follow the advice of the “experts” would come crashing down around me almost immediately.

Right from the start, there were some struggles we hadn't counted on. Breastfeeding was profoundly more difficult than expected and required hours of assistance from lactation consultants and products that would aid in overcoming Maya's latch issues. Once she was eating more easily, she didn't want to stop, and I was feeding her every hour-and-a-half almost round-the-clock. I was exhausted; physically, mentally, emotionally. It was my husband’s support, my ever-expanding love for my daughter, and God’s faithfulness in sustaining my strength that got me through the early weeks.

By the time Maya was three months old, we’d started to adjust. Those brown eyes crinkled up at the corners now as we were greeted with her first toothless grins, and we were infatuated. Breastfeeding, while still a struggle, was something that I no longer faced with trepidation. As much as things had improved, however, I wrestled with a deep-rooted sense of failure. And every comment from well-meaning friends - excellent parents whom I longed to emulate - would drive the shame deeper.

"Oh, she's three months she's probably eating every four hours now. That’s such a relief, isn’t it?"

We weren’t on a feeding schedule. I'd mumble through an evasive response, then return home to resume our all-day-long nursing frenzy.

"Is she sleeping through the night yet?", they'd ask, expectantly. “How’s sleep training going?”

No, she wasn't sleeping through the night. Not nearly. And…oh yes, the book. The one whose every word I’d hung on just months before. The one that offered such clear answers. Laura-the-biology-student would have jumped at the sight of step-by-step solutions. Laura-the-cook would have followed the recipe to the teaspoon. Laura-the-bride-to-be would have caved to the wisdom of those who knew better.

Laura-the-mother couldn’t do it. Couldn’t cut it. I couldn’t stretch out feedings. when I felt in my heart that Maya really did seem to need to nurse that often. I couldn’t leave her to cry, even when nearly every voice around me said that I must. Mark was ever-supportive, assuring me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Still, though, apologies flooded constantly from my lips - to him, to my baby girl, to God- to everyone impacted by my failure. I was going rogue, and had no idea where to turn for direction.

And that’s when a pivotal change occurred in my heart. The moment I stubbornly decided that I was choosing to fail my own expectations and the ones of those around me, the voices started to disappear. I couldn’t hear anything anymore, and it was terrifying.

But then…then and only then, I began to hear God’s whispers.

Offering peace and freedom from fear…

Speaking assurance that I was not a failure…

Nudging me to look at my happy, healthy little girl; my thriving marriage, and my deepening relationship with Him and know that we were on the right course…for us…

Revealing more of His Father heart, and pointing me to the ways of Christ…

Whispering the promise that His Spirit would be there to guide me…

He spoke, and confirmed the instincts He had placed in my heart from the moment He placed my daughter in my arms. He gently leads those who have young (Isaiah 40:11). He leads some mothers one way and some another because He knows and intimately understands His children. My mind spun in glorious circles as I resurfaced from the drowning and breathed deep this life-giving message. Every baby is His unique creation, every mother is His treasured child, every family has a calling, and when my heart led me to care for my daughter the way I was, it wasn’t rebellion or failure or the beginning of ruin, it was Him.

The girl who didn’t want to take a step without clear direction from someone who knew better was finally learning to sort out the One voice that spoke steady guidance toward His plan for our family. Even when it meant a blind leap from the well-worn dust of the beaten path to an off-the-map trail of unknown twists and turns. It was not an easy route to choose, but it felt like home, and I was free. Even in those weary nights, as I fed and rocked my baby through the fatigue and frustration, there was freedom. It was sweet, and it was good, and it was God.

To this day, I wrestle with the need for approval and often long for the security of expert advice. Sometimes the search for answers serves me well, as mentors and friends have spoken volumes of life-changing wisdom into our lives. What God taught me in my first year of motherhood, though, was a powerfully transforming lesson in tuning the frequency of my heart to pick up the whispers of the Spirit.

Our home is harmonious when His melody leads.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekend Links - 8-20-11

Before I get to this week's random link list, I wanted to point out that I've installed Disqus to run the comments here, so that conversation can happen more easily. This is notable for three reasons:
1. Hooray for threaded commenting!
2. OH MY WORD, I accomplished something technical!
3. I'll need you to tell me if Disqus is annoying in any capacity. If it makes things weird, I'll kick it to the curb.

On to the links!

1. Anderson Cooper gets the giggles on-air. The puns sprinkled (sorry) throughout the news story are downright painful, but the way Anderson dissolves into laughter at about 2:30 in makes me giggle right along with him.

2. One of the most stunning songs ever written, pretty much any version/cover will stop me in my tracks for a listen. This one, though, is one of my very favorites. Gorgeous throughout, but from about 4:00 on...serious goosebumps.

3. From things I enjoy to a regrettable grocery store purchase.

I'll admit to being a sucker for fascinating breakfast cereals. Mark pretends to be slightly irritated by this. ("Why don't you just buy the kids some Cheerios?"), but he's often the one consuming large bowls of the colorful varieties for a bedtime snack. Claims he's just trying to get it out of the house, but I know better.

Anyway, I picked up a box of Pebbles Boulders one day, and we are not fans. There's something about caramel apple flavor that doesn't translate well to cereal. My children, who are not exactly picky breakfast connoisseurs, won't even touch the stuff. "Too sweet!", Maya proclaimed. Note to the people at Post: If this particular child has deemed your product 'too sweet', you are going to want to re-think some things, and also watch the skies for flying pigs.

4. And from unpleasant to disturbing, I give you this website for a product we saw advertised on television not long ago.

I pass no judgment on the product itself. It is perhaps of great relief to people with certain skin conditions, and that's lovely. However...Toe Juice? Really? Those two words together put my gag reflex into overdrive.

It's available for purchase at your local Walgreens, however, if this stuff tickles your fancy as much as jokes about urination tickle Anderson's.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm told that he fell with style.

The Toy Story obsession in our household has been going strong for quite awhile now. Noah is Buzz Lightyear about 95% of the time - activating his wings before leaping off of the furniture, checking his laser button for full function, and repeatedly assuring the rest of the family that he comes in peace.

In the months leading up to our Disney vacation last May, he developed a sixth sense for which of his playmates owned Buzz Lightyear action figures and how to track them down with great speed. Five minutes after walking into any such home, Noah would emerge with Buzz in his hands, not releasing his hold on the toy until we left to go home. "Buzz Lightyear is my favorite!", he'd chirp over and over until it became a running joke for our friends to casually ask, "Hey Noah, which toy is your favorite?", so that he'd stop mid-flight to start the ode-to-Buzz monologue all over again.

So, while at the Magic Kingdom, we felt it might be time to let Noah realize the dream of owning his very own Buzz Lightyear. He held the box with great joy, and has played with Buzz every single day for the three months that we've been back home.

You can imagine then, the panic that set in when Noah called me into his room the other day and I found him peering over the side of the bed, holding Buzz in one hand and gazing at one very detached space ranger arm lying on the floor.


Keeping it casual, I asked what happened, and learned that Buzz had taken a tumble at the wrong angle. Noah was quite calm, and while I was pleasantly surprised at first by the mature way in which my three-year-old was processing the damage to his favorite toy ever, I soon realized that star command, we have a problem. See, my son is familiar enough with all things Toy Story to know that Buzz breaks his arm in the movie too. But NOT TO WORRY because the mutant toys in Sid-the-destructive-neighbor-boy's room just sort of pop it back in place in one of those inspirational "don't judge a book by its cover" moments.

The problem is that our home is lacking in mutant, living toys with mechanical skills, as well as in hardware that would enable humans to complete the arm repair. (It's just plain busted.) Noah has not caught on yet, and has been playing with one-armed Buzz while checking regularly on the left arm, which sits on our bookshelf waiting for a miracle in either infinity or beyond.

Or until that crafty band of disfigured toys shows up. Anybody have their number?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Megan's Story

On Mondays at In The Backyard, the posts will be focused on this book project, from the heart behind the words to the process of bringing a dream to print.

Today, Megan shares her story!

* * * *

If I were to give you full access to my home, allowing you to open cupboard doors and sift through piles of books and paperwork and half-finished projects, you would call me a liar when I confessed this to you: I am a closet perfectionist.

On the surface, disorganization reigns in my personal affairs. My attempts at crafting betray sloppy execution, and more often than not, my children leave the house in wrinkled clothes that rarely match. But the truth is, for as long as I can remember, I've battled crippling perfectionism that demands a level of excellence in all that I do that far exceeds what another person would expect from me.

My husband Kyle and I were married for six years before I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, Dacey. That's plenty of time for a perfectionist like myself to both imagine all the ways I could fail horribly at parenting while at the same time researching remedies to the problems common to parenting. I had built an arsenal in my mind of weapons that I would utilize to defend myself and my family from becoming a case study in bad parenting choices.

A few years before Dacey was born, I was given a book that appealed to the part of me that desperately wanted to do things The Right Way for all things baby. Not only did this book offer assurance that it would protect and nurture the marriage through the tumultuous times of new parenting, it offered as a bonus the fact that following the plan laid forth in the book meant that baby will sleep through the night at 6 weeks! If not by 6 weeks than by 8 weeks, for sure! And so I became an evangelist for this book long before Dacey first danced for us on the ultrasound screen.

When our oldest daughter was born via emergency c-section, something in me shifted. Far from being concerned about The Right Way, I was just thankful that we had both it made it through alive. So that first night, I asked everyone to leave to go get sleep, but really, I just ached to have some alone time with my daughter. By the end of the first night, I had pulled Dacey into bed with me, and already I felt guilty for breaking one of the “rules.” Yet I already felt powerfully attached to her. My bonding with her was instant and fierce beyond what I had dreamed possible. In those moments as she slept peacefully beside me in that hospital bed, I knew deep inside that following the prescriptions of the book I had nearly memorized would be difficult.

Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe the internal conflict and turmoil of those first few months of parenting.

Dacey was an incredibly high-needs baby. She needed to be held, she needed to be rocked to sleep, she needed so much from me and I found myself sinking under the unexpected weight of mothering. After some initial struggles, breastfeeding went smoothly for us and I got her right on to the feeding schedule the book suggested.

When it came to the sleep schedule, however, we failed miserably. She would not go to sleep without being rocked. She would not sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time. She would not sleep through the night at six weeks (or at eight weeks or at twelve weeks). She would not self-soothe when left to cry on her own.

And I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave her to scream and cry herself to sleep, knowing all she wanted was me. I rescued her every time, and we rocked many miles in our rocking chair, tears streaming down my face as the words of that book played over and over in my mind, a voice accusing me of setting her up for failure in every area of her life.

These were the dark days, and thinking back, one low point is a memory of waking up one morning with a sense of dread and misery at the start of the day, knowing that all that lay ahead of me was more skirmishes in the great battle that was teaching her to sleep the way she should be sleeping.

Our story is complicated and has many layers, and so today I’m peeling back just the first layer to share with you. In the pages of the book, you’ll read much more about the reality of those days when I tried so desperately to fit my family into this perfect, orderly, predictable mold extoled by the book and the advice of others. You’ll read about the feedback I got from friends and mentors and I’ll share my breaking point and how God rescued me when I was crying myself to sleep.

In the midst of writing this, it was time for me to go wake Dacey up to get ready for school. I watched her stirring in those pre-alert moments, the same full checks and long lashes that I studied so intently when she was a new baby. She’s six now and those exhausting days of infancy are history. She has been sleeping so wonderfully for so long, you might think that I’ve long since forgotten those dark days, but I haven’t. Give the surface a scratch, and it’s all right there, and I feel it all again so acutely.

I want you to know a little of my story today because I need to assure you that, as Laura wrote last week, my starting place was messy and painful and it is soaked with tears and it beats with a broken heart. Through this book, God has called forth redemption, inviting me to share the bumps and bruises and occasional moments of sunlight piercing the clouds so that we might all focus on the only One who is perfect.

* * * *
We would love for this series of weekly posts to provide a climate of conversation and community.< Our desire is to foster safe and open discussion here, so we welcome your response regardless of whether you agree or disagree with our philosophies. Please feel free to offer feedback and to share your own thoughts and stories!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weekend Links - 8/13/11

Just a few frivolous things that made my week fun...

1. Conan O'Brien and Jesse Eisenberg compete (sort of) in a Self-Efface-Off. Adorable.

2. America's Favorite Dancer was crowned on SYTYCD this week - and she was my favorite too! Hooray for Melanie!

3. We LOVE Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie book series at our house, and Can I Play Too? is one of my very favorites. Gerald and Piggie's friend, the snake, wants to play with them. But they're all set to play catch...with their arms. We've read this one many, many times already this week.

4. One of the things Mark walked in the door with on our anniversary was a Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate Chili Bar. I am in love. With the man and the chocolate.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Amish are psyching me out.

I find short hair to be absolutely adorable. On people other than me. There's something about my facial structure or body type that does not lend itself well to a cute, cropped style. So my current plan is to wear it long until I'm too old for long hair. (I think I have some time, but perhaps I should consult with the local lifeguard.)

My major battle as someone of the long-hair variety is the daily question of what in the world do I do with it? If I have the time and occasion, I'll blow it dry, apply the appropriate product, and add some fun, loose curls. With less time, I'll smooth it out straight and work some anti-frizz cream through the ends. Most days, though, I'm throwing it back into the same tired ponytail. BORING.

A few months back, knowing that I was in the need of major style inspiration, I signed up for e-mail updates from the hair and makeup people at (Those of you who know me personally and understand how decidedly non-Glamour-material I am can take a moment and step away from your screens to better accommodate the hysterical laughter.) I've picked up a few helpful tricks along the way in the area of eyeliner application and such, but the hair advice has been disappointing. Mostly due to what is apparently the new, hot trend in long-hair styling. Observe:

Braids! So cute, right? Interesting, innovative, and versatile. But here's the problem...

I live in the Midwest.

Let me be more specific. I live in Amish/Mennonite Country, USA. Where buggies sit outside the local Wal-Mart, and I was once handed my grande vanilla latte by a Starbucks employee wearing a covering. In my neck of the woods, this... how it's done. And not by the fashion-forward. The braided women I'm rubbing shoulders with at the grocery store are not so much channeling Jessica Alba as they are quilting by lamplight. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Because this is my frame of reference, and because I have some Amish/Mennonite heritage myself, I can't seem to wear braids of any kind without feeling (and appearing) as though I'm headed for a barn-raising. It's the same reason I can't go out in below-the-knee denim skirts, as nearby shoppers would undoubtedly remark to each other, "Hmmm...I didn't realize Target had put in a hitching post..." Some of it might just be a psychological hurdle, but I've had a couple of conversations with local friends recently in which my braiding conundrum has been confirmed.

The Amish are a peaceful people, and I don't mean to complain. (The internet is probably a pretty safe tool for avoiding offense in their circles.) I'm just wondering how legitimately my hair's potential is being compromised by the monopoly held on what is apparently a really trendy long-hair option in other places. The Glamour staffers call themselves "mad about braids", and squeal over how they look on Drew Barrymore. I just don't know that I can pull it off.

Thoughts? Should I get over myself and give the braiding trend a chance? Should I concede the style to those who first claimed it? And does anyone have any ideas for long-hair styles that a non-glamorous person such as myself could easily achieve?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting Mondays : It all started as a mess.

Do you want to know the weirdest thing about writing a parenting book? It's hearing yourself say, "I'm writing a parenting book." It just feels a little presumptuous. My tendency, when I peruse books on Christian child-rearing, is to assume that the authors are super-human, perpetually-spiritual people who had everything down from day one, and are now sharing the secrets to their accomplishments.

These people have all of the answers.

These people are completely successful

These people are far better parents than I am.

Well, friends, let me just tell you...

Megan and I are not these people.

We don't have a step-by-step, fool-proof plan to get your baby to sleep through the night. We don't have a convenient methodology that will line your infant's schedule up with yours. Nothing that we are offering is easy.

What we have is a story to tell. And it isn't the story of our seamless victory as mothers. No. This story begins with struggle. Painful, fearful heart-conflict. Complete inability to fit the mold. Fixation on the voices all around warning of undisciplined babies, suffering marriages, and faltering spiritual lives that lie in wait outside of the box that holds "God's way" for infant training. Sobbing in the middle of the night under the oppressive feelings of failure.

Basically, it all starts as a huge mess. And then the mess becomes beautiful. God reaches down and picks up this crumpled wreck of a story, pulls it close, and breathes life.

Redemption. Isn't it always His story?

This is not the tale of our success. It is the outpouring of what He has done in our lives as we've learned to follow His lead. The gathered voices of others who've walked similar journeys. The testimony of what we've learned, and what we're intensely passionate about offering other new mothers (and fathers) as another way to spend that first year of parenthood.

We cannot wait to share it with you.


Every Monday, the posts here at In the Backyard will be devoted to the message behind Spirit-Led Parenting, as well as updates on the process of bringing this dream to print.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Links

Well. I can't even begin to tell you how overwhelming and humbling it's been to soak in the messages of excitement, congratulations, support, and love that Megan and I have received since our big book announcement on Wednesday. We are blessed with incredible friends, and I'm already finding such joy in new connections as well.

I'll be back on the Spirit-Led Parenting subject next week, as well as devoting blog time to other riveting topics such as a psychological issue I'm currently having with my hair.

For the weekend, though, here's a collection of links that caught my attention for various reasons this week. (Some of which will prove exactly how easily my attention can be caught.)

1. Jason Alexander in a PSA for Netflix Relief. I could not love this more. Both for the hilarity, and the painful grain of truth behind the satire. This country is SERIOUSLY FREAKING OUT over the "worst thing ever to white people."

2. On the subject of freaking out, I was also recently introduced to this terrifying little bit of information. Sometimes I am not technology's biggest fan.

3. Disturbing in a different kind of way is that when I saw this headline, and clicked through to the video, I could still sing every word. Help me.

4. When this post from Ann Voskamp popped up in my Google Reader, I immediately bookmarked it to read later, knowing that it would likely be something that would change my life and require tissues. In a slowed-down moment, when I actually did take the time to let the words did all of that and more. Ann's prayer for her daughters is one that I want to keep at the forefront of my heart for my own girl at all times.

a prayer for a daughter

5. And a way to be His hands and feet. One billion people without access to safe drinking water, and $55 buys a lifetime filtration system for a family in need. This info is worth the read (and prayerful consideration).

Compassion's Water of Life program

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Would somebody please pinch me?

I am not a fantastic secret-keeper.

Oh, you can tell me anything and I'll keep it to myself. I won't tell a soul. But inside? I'll be jumping up and down with my hand over my mouth just out of my mind to spill the beans. When my friend discovered she was pregnant not long ago and kept it hush-hush for awhile, it nearly did me in. I finally had to say, "Look, I'm going to need you to start telling people now. I can't take it anymore."

I may have some issues in need of further exploration.

Today, though, I can finally spill some HUGE news!

First, let's journey back a couple of years, to a conversation between moms. My incredibly talented friend, Megan, and I were comparing notes on our experiences in the early months of parenting our first-born children. Mind-twins in almost every sense, we had been delighted and amazed to discover another area of kinship, finding that we'd lived very similar journeys. Both of us had entered motherhood desperately wanting to get this parenting thing right; honoring God, preserving our marriages, and raising well-adjusted babies. And both of us, through struggles, fears, frustrations, and finally surrender, had embraced God's call to walk a parenting road that strayed significantly from the mainstream mindset on infant care.

It was Megan who came up with the inspired idea to put our thoughts down on paper. With our shared love of the written word and our passion for living out the lessons God had imparted to us as new mothers, perhaps this was a way that our own journeys could provide encouragement to other women. We began writing, with the dream that God would take this project and turn it into something, someday.

That day has arrived.

Megan and I have accepted a publishing partnership with Civitas Press! It is both thrilling and surreal to announce that our book, tentatively titled Spirit-Led Parenting, is scheduled to be released in early spring, 2012.

Hence, the request for someone to pinch me. Because HOW AMAZING IS THAT?

We are beyond blessed to be joining the Civitas family! Their focus on stories of redemption is powerfully refreshing and represents a huge piece of what we wanted to impart in our book - the transforming work God has done in each of us as He's led us through motherhood. Jonathan, our partner at Civitas, has been amazing to work with already, truly gets us and our message, and is going to be an incredible source of wisdom and guidance for us in the coming months.

Megan and I will both be sharing more information about the book and process as time goes on. We would really appreciate your support as we embark on this exciting and unfamiliar venture. If you'd be interested in visiting or subscribing here and at SortaCrunchy, we would be honored to have you as readers! If you would be willing to "like" our Spirit-Led Parenting Facebook page, that would be fantastic as well. Spreading the word to family and friends who may benefit from the community we'd like to create out of this project would mean a lot to us. (You should know that self-promotion makes me squeamish, so asking these things pushes me WAY out of my comfort zone...bear with me!) Most of all, please pray for us. Our intense desires in all of this are to honor God and encourage other moms.

Thank you so much!

* * * *

Check out the new "About a Book" link at In the Backyard for more details on what this project is all about!!

View the announcement at Civitas Press!

Read Megan's announcement at SortaCrunchy!

Special thanks to Rachel for helping a technological dummy with this blog design, and to Nichole for taking photos of me that didn't make me hide my eyes and cringe. You're both miracle-workers!


Image: jscreationzs /

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Little lesson in desperation.

Is it just me, or could that title be a song title? It's sort of rhyme-y.

The past couple of days aren't ones that I'd choose to repeat. Without going into detail, let's just say there was a great deal of sudden anxiety involved. And a fair amount of desperation. Which, ironically, is the reason I'm able to say that I'm oddly that I'm on the other side of the fear, of course. (I'm definitely not good at the whole perspective-in-the-moment thing. Ask my husband.)

Early this morning, as I was in the middle of one of those prayers that I'd totally think would be annoying to God if I were Him (good thing I'm not), He gave me a little moment of clarity. In that moment, I was clinging to God with everything, and I found myself asking forgiveness for the fact that I often wait to come with that kind of abandon until I'm at the end of my rope. Forgive me, I thought, for only seeking You this hard when I'm truly desperate.

Here's what hit me, though. It's the times when I'm not feeling the desperation that I'm really the most in need. If the definition of desperate is "having an urgent need", I'm always there. Always. I need Him every minute of every day. I just spend most days not recognizing the desperation. Which really makes me even more needy, because I'm trying to lean on my own strength, wisdom, and direction. And that, my friends, is pretty ugly desperation.

I felt Him whisper to me this morning, "Right now you see it clearly. That's the first step. Can you look for it every day? Remember that you need me?"

And I responded, "Yes, Lord. I'm on it. And I'll also tell the blog world."

I'm assuming He chuckled and said, "Ok, you do that..."