Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting : Four more days!


Today is Wednesday.

Count along here for a moment...Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. April 1st. Release day for Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year.

!!!!

A few people have asked me how I'm feeling just days away from such a huge life event. So here's a glimpse into my mental swirly-ness today:

1. How is this happening??

2. Oh, right. It's all God's grace. And also, Jonathan Brink and Civitas Press.

3. I really hope we caught most of the typos.

4. I really, really hope people like this book. (I know the right thing would be to not care so much because we've done our best to be obedient and that's what matters. I get that. But I will confess that I still care a lot.)

5. On a related note: I will not let negative reviews affect me. I will not let negative reviews affect me. I will not...Oh, who am I kidding.

6. More than anything, I hope parents find encouragement in the pages of this book, and that Megan and I did the message justice in some small way.

7. I'm totally going to take a picture of my computer screen displaying the Amazon page on release day. Is that weird?

8. The support for this project - here, at SortaCrunchy, on Facebook and Twitter and in face-to-face conversation - has been overwhelming, and reading through the gorgeous endorsements we've received from people we respect so much is both staggering and humbling.

9. The thought of self-promotion makes me want to go breathe into a paper bag.

10. I'm just thankful beyond words.



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Image: Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, March 26, 2012

Attention: Car Thieves




Friday night was a rough one at our house. Mark was sucked into an IT crisis that translated into no sleep at all for him, and Maya was up for hours with an earache. Noah slept twelve hours and had epic amounts of energy on Saturday, but the rest of us were dragging.

With Mark still working on Saturday morning, I stumbled through breakfast before loading up the kids for the doctor's office, where Maya's ear infection was confirmed. By the time we had stopped by the library and arrived at Target to fill her prescription, I had coffee in hand, but it hadn't yet reached my system. Please keep that in mind during the next few paragraphs.

Exiting the van, I reached for the kids' hands and we started our trek through the parking lot. I was surprised to notice that the car parked beside us was left running, but with no one inside or in the vicinity. "Oh, that's smart", I thought to myself in sleepy judgment.

Once inside the welcoming red doors, we waited in line at the pharmacy and then went about our usual Target routine: browsing the clearance sections, picking up a random household item here and there, and letting the kids wander through a few toy aisles.

After checking out and arriving back at our vehicle, I realized that the keys weren't in my hand. Digging through my purse in vain, I remembered that the van hadn't been locked, so I let the kids get in and buckled while I continued to search. Finally, I found the keys.

They were in the ignition (of course).

But much worse?

The van was running.

Yes. my eye-rolling about the car beside us was off by one parking space, as the sound of the motor I'd heard was actually coming from my own vehicle. I had definitely just spent forty-five minutes inside Target while my van sat unlocked and running in the parking lot. It was as if I was advertising, "Hey! Free Toyota Sienna! Look, I've even started it for you!"

Sheesh.

Please send help.

And also perhaps a gas card.




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Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Considering the homeschool thing. Are we crazy?



Last summer, we spent the weeks before Maya started first grade debating about whether or not to send her to school. After much indecision, we finally felt led to have her go back for the year and reevaluate in the springtime.

Guess what! It’s springtime. Ack!

I/we are considering homeschooling beginning next year. Even saying that feels huge. I’m hoping to get some input here, because it all feels big and confusing and more than a little scary.

I want to begin with a few disclaimers:

- A decision to homeschool would not in any way be due to an issue with public school teachers. I love teachers. We have many close friends who teach or are otherwise employed in public schools. My parents are both long-time public school teachers. Maya’s first-grade teacher this year is awesome, and has made our decision to send her this year much more peaceful. I’m sure there are not-so-great examples out there (as there are in any profession), but we’ve not experienced that with our children. In my opinion, public school teachers are doing a heroic job with the regulations and restrictions they are given to work within.

- A decision to homeschool would also not simply be based upon a desire to remove our children from all outside influence, or exposure to people, materials, or situations that would not reflect our value system. We want our kids to grow up knowing how to relate to everyone – loving people who are different from them, and able to peacefully and confidently hold their faith and convictions close while in the midst of other mindsets. Not of the world, but most definitely in it.

- A decision to homeschool would not be one we would assume to be permanent or even applicable to both kids, necessarily. We would want to evaluate the situation often, taking into account our children’s needs and best interests at every juncture and – most importantly – praying over the decision regularly, open to God’s will at any given time.

- I totally, completely know that homeschooling isn't for everyone. Goodness, no. (We aren't even sure yet that it's for us!) Mark and I both had a really good experience in public school and know countless families whose kids are thriving within the school system.

- I will never own a denim jumper. I just feel like that needs to be said.


With that out of the way, here are my reasons for considering homeschooling for next year:

- By far, the most pressing matter in my mind is Maya’s education. Again, this has nothing to do with teachers or local schools, but has everything to do with the changes made by the government to the public school system over the past ten years or so. I voted for Governor Daniels and back him on several issues. I applaud his commitment to improving public education. It’s the methods the state is using to make these improvements with which I just wholeheartedly disagree. Nearly every teacher I speak with is more stressed and frustrated now than at any point in their career, and many feel devalued and unheard. Changes in approaches to reading and an increase in standardized testing just further concern me. The whole system frustrates me for everyone involved, and I fear it’s having a big impact on education in general.

When teachers themselves are some of the voices most strongly urging me to look into homeschooling...that seems significant.

- Maya has some very big interests in subjects that just aren’t able to be explored in school, due mostly to the issues I previously mentioned. (Teachers just aren't given the time to teach what they’d like to teach.) This girl loves, loves, LOVES science. She wants to learn about space travel, world history, musicians and composers. She wants to do hands-on experiments and see how money is made and understand the process that makes bread rise. I know I could do all of those things with her – and I do the best I can. But the truth is that by the end of a school day, she’s worn out. And then there are piano lessons and family gatherings and homework and baths and the day is over before we can blink. I worry that these budding passions will slowly be extinguished if they aren’t pursued and explored. And it hurts my heart.

- While I don’t want to her shield her from the world, I would very much value the ability to weave our faith into a learning curriculum. She’s at an age where she’s asking lots of big questions and beginning to really digest spiritual concepts, and I want to encourage that to flourish in every way. I’d love to explore science concepts through the lens of the Creator God who authored it all. To study scripture more deeply and link it to the academic concepts she’s taking in. I don’t see that as limiting her view, but rather expanding it to recognize the big picture.

I know that Christian parents can do an excellent job at instilling faith in their kids alongside a public school education. They do it all the time! This is just something that appeals to me when considering doing school at home.

- I genuinely love it when Maya is home. I look so forward to her days off, dread the end of summer vacation and don’t mind sick days or snow days in the least. I mean, believe me, I get frustrated and short-tempered and sometimes get to the end of the day just squeaking out, “How…soon…is...bedtime???” It’s not all ponies and butterflies around here. But the idea of having her home every day is exciting for me rather than draining.

- I think it could be fun. Exhausting? Yes. Often taxing? I’m quite certain. But I do get a flutter of anticipation at the idea of finding fun activities and unique ways of learning that suit Maya’s interests. Spending the morning looking up a new subject area of books at the library; learning about sea life and then taking the train into Chicago for an aquarium visit; reading a piece of classic literature and doing a unit study on the culture and time period. It's fascinating to me.

- I have the time. I’ll be honest that I’m not fantastic with time-management. I know that I would need to be more deliberate about planning my days if I took on homeschooling. I know there would be many days that would leave me feeling frazzled. But I can’t truthfully say that I don’t have the time. I do.

- I would have support. There are at least four families within our church congregation that will be homeschooling next year. Additionally, I continue to make connections online with moms who I happen to find out along the way are also homeschoolers. It’s a growing community, and resources abound for parents who decide to start down this road.

The drawbacks? Well, I’d list them out, but they’re the obvious ones. Discomfort over leaving what we know, fears over my ability to teach, anxiety that asks, “What if we start it and we hate it…or she hates it?” Will my kids become "weird"? Will they still be able to pursue extra-curricular activities (music, sports, etc.) in a significant way if they want to? How will I ever choose a curriculum, and will it be the right one?

So this is where we sit. Intrigued and excited, but wrestling through the questions and concerns.

I know God will lead us to the right decision. I also know He often speaks through other people. Help me think?

Do you homeschool? Or do you plan to? Why or why not?

What are some of the greatest joys you’ve found in home education? (Or what most draws you to the idea?)

What are the greatest difficulties you’ve encountered? (Or what makes you most anxious about pursuing this?)

Would I really be capable of this? (i.e. How on earth will I handle math? Yikes…)

Is second grade an odd time to start?

Should I give the denim jumper a chance? (Just kidding. That one's not going to happen.)


Thanks so much for any input or advice you’re willing to give!




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Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting : Now Available for Pre-Order!

Can you even believe this?




Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year is now available for pre-order through Civitas Press.

I could not be more thrilled and fluttery. This is happening!

(And yes...Sally Clarkson wrote a Preface for us. (!!!) Amazing.)

The cookie that's calling your name...can you hear it?



It's Friday, the weather is gorgeous, and it's put me in the mood to share something wonderful.

Besides wandering into wrong hotel rooms and getting creeped out by things that others find joyous, one of my favorite ways to spend time is to obsessively collect and try out recipes. I bake to relieve stress, celebrate random events (i.e. "I just met a book deadline!" "New Girl is on tonight!" "It's Tuesday!"), and make people happy. I speak words of affirmation and encouragement to my KitchenAid mixer and should not be allowed to approach the doors of a Williams-Sonoma.

(Yes, I do have a problem. Thank you for asking.)

There is one cookie that stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. It's a family recipe, the one for which I receive the most requests, and the one I sometimes daydream about. (Is that weird?)

Monster Cookies. There are many variations. But these...they bake up thick and soft and just loaded with chocolate and peanut-butter madness. Life-changing, I tell you.

Here we go...

(Sidenote: This recipe makes lots of cookies. LOTS. Feel free to cut it in half. Or not.)

- First, remove your jewelry and crank up some U2. (This is a purely optional step, but I certainly do enjoy it.)



- Next, begin beating these ingredients together in the order listed:

6 eggs
2 cups white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 T. light corn syrup
4 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
3 cups peanut butter
9 cups oats

At this point, your mixer will begin to show signs of anxiety. This is where those words of encouragement could be appropriate. "Just keep spinning...stay strong...I believe in you." (Or you could also switch to hand-mixing with a wooden spoon for this step.)




- Finally, add in the last two all-important ingredients:

2 cups chocolate chips
1 lb. M&MS (I use peanut butter M&Ms. In the red bag. I suggest you do the same, because the result is wondrous.)

- Preheat the oven to 350.

- Now, this step is important: You must make LARGE cookies. No "dropping by rounded tablespoon" here. The texture just won't be the same, and that's tragic. I've found the best way to accomplish the perfect cookie is to take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and just pack the dough in. Level it off, then give the measuring cup a shake to plop the formed cookie right onto the pan (or parchment or silicone mat). You'll get about eight large cookies per sheet.

- Bake for 10-12 minutes. And please don't overbake. Some cookies are meant to have nice crispy edges, but these are not. They should appear set up, but not too brown when you remove them. Let them sit on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a rack to cool.




Ahhhhhhhh. Yes.

Please bake these now. (And then come back and tell me what you thought of them!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stuck on a Moment



“How old were you when you got saved?”

“I don’t know.”


*crickets*

Awkward.

It’s a great little evangelical party trick. But it’s also the honest truth. I don’t know when I was saved. There is no “Oh! It was 1984 and I was seven and my mom prayed with me on the couch in the living room” in my history. I actually wish I had a moment, because it would just be a little easier to fit in.

I grew up attending church, but didn’t actually hear anything of the “salvation language” until well into my teens. A few years later, by the time I understood and embraced it all, there was a moment – but it was less “I now believe and accept these things” and more “these things I have believed and accepted”. I prayed a prayer on my own that day that was confirmation rather than commencement. A journey already begun.

So I wonder when it happened. When I first heard the Jesus stories and absorbed them into my simple child-heart? When I was baptized – even though I didn’t really get it then? When I began truly seeking and shedding and studying and it all began to feel like home? When my heart leaped the first time I heard what I so vividly knew deep down – that I so desperately needed a Savior and had found for certain who He was? When – after all this – I prayed that little prayer? When following first became difficult and meant sacrifice?

What I have is a series of moments – a process that only He can interpret. It’s not neat and tidy and easy to unpack in a go-around-the-circle icebreaker.

And that’s okay. I think. Right?

I’ve wrestled with this tension as a mother. Nearly two years ago I looked at Maya and just knew - she gets it. From the beginning she was an intense observer and as a toddler was our Big Question-asker. At five-and-a-half, I heard her prayers and the stories that came out in play. We fielded the questions and watched her respond and it was just so clear. She knew Him. He was so sweetly visible in her.

It thrilled me, and yet, I panicked a little. There’s something we’re supposed to do here. She needs a moment. She needs to ask Jesus into her heart. (Even though we had discussed and acknowledged that that’s not even a Biblical phrase.) I just wanted an easier story for her.

Can I be embarrassingly honest? I said a prayer with her that evening as an insurance policy. Just in case. I’d been conditioned that this is how it goes and these are the magic words.

It wasn't wrong. For many people, a moment like this is foundational and life-changing. It was what I always wished I’d had myself. But Maya? I don’t even think she’ll remember it. Her story of life with Him had already begun – in spite of our fumbling.

I know now that as parents, our goal is not simply to lead our kids to a moment that we can identify as the one. It is to steadily point them to Jesus. That they would continually recognize their – and our – need for a Savior and grow in the grace and knowledge of Him. And that they would know that His call is not just to come into their hearts once, but to lead their lives. Saving us daily from sin and self.

On Sunday, a grandpa-figure in our church family handed Maya a penny he’d found on the stage of the theater where we gather. She beamed, eyes shining at the gift. I love it that she’s still at the age where a cool-looking penny is a treasure.

We loaded our coats and coffee cups and Sunday School papers into our arms to leave, and she made certain that her precious penny was secure in her fist. As I paused to exchange goodbyes and smiles with friends in the lobby, I felt a tug on my arm and leaned down to hear her shy whisper.

“I’m going to put my penny in the offering box.”

Later, at home, I asked her about the decision.

“Well, I just thought that penny could go to people who need it.”

She’s not an angel child. Oh no. A few hours later we were having pointed talks about listening and oh my goodness no more whining. But in that instant, I was so very blessed. And I know full well that I didn’t do that in her. He did that. I just need to keep encouraging her in that way. Toward all of those moments of transformation. We’re all on the journey.

He just relentlessly keeps on saving us.



Did you have a clear salvation moment? Or a process, like mine? I love how He works His perfect plan so uniquely in each of us, and - as always - I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughts Set to Sitcoms

Is there a spa dedicated to mothers who play 64,783 games of Uno every day with their four-year-old? Just wondering.





I often ponder that I'd like Cam to stop by my house with a ukelele and solve problems via song.




Last week's process of going through fine-tune proofing edits on our manuscript (I made a mistake and lost hours of work; also, formatting dries me batty) had me teetering on the brink of Frank Costanza mode for about four days.




I've decided that I'll start sprinkling in Leslie Knope-isms when talking to my friends. (i.e. "You beautiful tropical fish.")




Mark and I often choose to speak like Brick Heck when making a point in conversation with each other. It's oddly effective. (Effeeeeeeeeeeective.)

Brick's whisper


We also still quote this Andy Bernard moment a LOT.




And finally, This tweet from Zach Braff a few weeks ago made me miss Scrubs so much.




It's very possible that we watch too much television in this house.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On bedtime questions and life after death


"Mommy, it seems like Jesus is never coming back."

She's a master at the bedtime stalling techniques, this girl. Big questions and conversation-starters blurted out desperately as the lights go off. I've learned to gently direct most of them toward the next day.

This time, though, there were tears brimming behind the words. I walked back to her bed and sat down once more.

"It just seems like it's taking forever, and I really want him to just come back now because I'd rather go to heaven with him so I don't have to...die someday. I'm afraid it will hurt to die."

We talk, and she holds on to me. I call Daddy in, and together we try our best to speak the right words, glancing at each other over her head and knowing that as our eyes meet, we're both in silent prayer for truth to come quickly to our lips.

She calms, hearing that we all have those questions, those thoughts, those fears over the unknown. That generation upon generation, humanity has waited in longing, and the last lines of the Word itself even echo the cry of her little heart. Her shoulders relax as we speak of the unspeakable gift of an eternity that will far surpass our grandest hopes.

I pray, stroking her hair and asking for peace and rest and trust. She timidly interrupts to ask, won't I please just pray that He comes back in her lifetime?

I smile, exhale deeply as I close my eyes again. She is my daughter, through and through.

In our book, I tell the story of praying so hard as a new mother for what I just knew was best. Craving the safety and firm lines of schedule and plan, I begged for it all to work. Why won't this work? Through my beating fists and frightened pleas, He whispered love over me by answering - instead - with what I needed.

He gives us what grows us.
And sometimes, in the moment, I don't want it. Left to my own devices, I'd choose the path of want and right now and I like this way better, God. My humanity kicks and whines and decides that I'd better just tell Him what His answer should be.

For centuries, His children - the seven-year-old girls at bedtime and the believers fully-grown yet still being grown - have pleaded. In your timing, Lord. (But...could it, maybe, be soon?) My prayers for His will are regularly sprinkled with pieces of my own. And He sits with me and strokes my hair and teaches me to trust. To lose my life in order to find it.

Our house, we've walked peacefully away from name-it-and-claim it, and found - surprisingly - a deeper reverence for the power of prayer. He hears. Always. He responds. Faithfully. And often unexpectedly. We've had to learn and relearn this lesson daily.

I want her to grasp this more firmly than I do. To grow up praying in faith and confidence, knowing that His answers may delight, may surprise, may only be seen in the looking back. But they're always good. Always praise-worthy.

One day, He will come. In the meantime, we lose our lives and find them fresh.

Sometimes...yes...the dying hurts. But what comes next is sweet, indeed.



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Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting Countdown: Help us choose a cover!




Overwhelming excitement...

Extreme anticipation...

Complete freak-out...

Just a few of the emotions Megan and I are dealing with as we realize that we are less than one month away from the target release date of our book!

(Please pass the confetti! And perhaps a Xanax.)

I think our excitement climbed to previously unknown heights last weekend at Blissdom, where we were able to spend a few days connecting with amazing old and new friends, all of whom were so encouraging and thrilled for us that it moved us nearly to tears. Incredible.

The countdown picks up steam now as we're moving through the final steps. And we would LOVE your input on this (very exciting) one! Our fantastic editor, Jonathan, sent us a few cover designs, and we have narrowed them to two. Would you take a moment to look these over, consider our book's message, and share your thoughts?

(Full disclosure: Megan and I have a leaning. But we really want to hear which one resonates more with you!)


Option 1:




Option 2:



Thank you, thank you, and thank you again!



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Exclamation image by:

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net