Survival of the Not so Fittest

The blog has collected a little dust in recent days, well, mostly because of this:

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Jud and the beans was an intentional act on my part to produce something as earth shattering as dinner.  He wants to help.  And by help I mean stick a fork in the toaster, empty out the utensil drawer, and unroll a box of parchment paper.  So I made him a little set up- the good ole bean transfer trick- out of one bowl and into another with gun in hand.  Notice the random slice of bacon on the counter.  That is a snack he must be saving for later.  On the menu for this particular evening was breakfast for dinner, because it is easy and everyone is pleased.  And my #2 goal at dinnertime is to minimize the whining to a whisper.  My #1 goal is to get everyone fed and the kids to bed by 8:00.  5:00-8:00 is a sprint around the Fleming household, but we eventually get there.

 
Look at these wackadoos.  The Gallatin Public Library just doesn’t know what to do with us…

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Some days it does feel like we are just surviving- getting through one obstacle, challenge, or stressor only to meet another.  And this is not restricted to motherhood- this is a fact of life!  It is easy to feel burdened down and weary.  I am thankful that God does not call the perfect to Himself, but that He calls the broken.  Psalm 46:1 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” 

GOD– We start here with the one who made the earth, moon, stars, and galaxies beyond comprehension.

GOD IS– He is not GOD “was” or GOD “maybe” but GOD IS.  Holy Week reminds us of this powerful truth…the grave is still empty.

GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH– The maker of the universe reaches down to us as our holy shelter and source for power, which was made possible through Christ.

GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH, A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE– Not only is God here, but He cares for our every need.  He is intimately acquainted with all our ways.

The Psalm continues in riveting poetic imagery of earthquakes and tsunamis with a confident assurance that we will not fear.  Why?  Because “the Lord of Hosts is with us.”

“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns” (Verse 5).

Moms, do you sense God in your midst?  Are there days when it feels like the earth is about to give way?  Do you wake up some mornings with a sigh uneager to face the day?  God will help you.  Not only that He wants to, but only he CAN.  We think that method, system, plan, or gadget will do it for us, but the true help we need is only found in Him.  Because when God is in you, you are immovable.  You are powerful, because the God of Jacob is your fortress.  The enemy’s lies will come, just know they will and discern them from the truth.  Want to know what is true?  Seek God in His Word and believe His Word.  And face the stress, challenges, and obstacles knowing God is in your midst.  You can do this.  You were called to this- cultivating life in your homes.  God is not a formula, and He doesn’t make one particular type of mom or parenting style.  Just trust Him as He leads you to do what is best- His best- for your families and ultimately, for His glory.  We are not merely surviving (though it often feels like it).  We are just planting seeds.  God, in His timing, will make them grow.

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The Garden of Home

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Spring brings renewal- a renaissance of nature, life, and dreams.  Death was frozen in winter, but some things must die in order to be reborn.  So often I rush into spring, recklessly charging through January and February letting my vision lay dormant like a fallow garden.

Then I wake up.

And I remember the vision- this task to be faithful now.  Not tomorrow, anxiously clamoring for a fresh vision, but now.  Today.  Not looking over my shoulder to yesterday’s regret, but digging my hands deep right here in the earth beneath me.  Some days I want different soil- quiet spaces, well-behaved kids, a housekeeper, the ocean, productivity…but I have the soil I am given, the soil for which I prayed for.  Everyone wants a garden, but few can tend it well.  

Tending the Garden of Motherhood

I honestly have said on more than one occasion to myself, and to the Lord, “I just don’t want to be a mom today.”

When I was a student I could skip class if I didn’t feel up to it.  As a classroom teacher I had the summers off.  And there were always sick days.  But as a mom there are no days off.  We know this, and we chuckle.  Motherhood is a garden.  It requires constant attention, pruning, watering with the Word, and time to flourish.

Moms and the Three Stages of Fatigue

Moms with littles are physically exhausted.  As the kids grow older and discipline becomes more complex, moms are mentally exhausted.  When the kids enter adolescence and adulthood, moms are emotionally exhausted.  And in some cases, moms are exhausted in all three ways.  I am entering the mentally exhausted stage with one of my kids while remaining physically exhausted with the other two, particularly with my two-year old boy.   I wish I had all the answers and quick fixes.  All the books will tell you to just do A-B and C, and for some kids A-B- or C work, but more often than not each child will require his or her own patient love, care, attentiveness, and correction where needed.  I pray different prayers for each of my children, already seeing their uniqueness with certain strengths and challenges.

A Vision for Our Homes

In Colossians 4:2, Paul writes, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”  He does not say that we need a fresh vision, a new idea, or a different direction, but that we need to continue in what we know- to be steadfast and watchful in prayer with thanksgiving.  It is so easy to look to some other thing when we as moms are in the trenches laboring through difficult seasons at home.  We just want to get through.  I’ve talked with grandmothers who remind me that they are still moms- not moms of littles anymore, but moms of grown children who may not wake them up at all hours of the night and yet their moms pray for them at all hours of the night.  I saw my own grandmother up late at night in her study, under lamplight, bent over her Bible with her hands to her face.  Moms are always moms no matter their age.

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If we are to have a vision for our homes it begins and continues in prayer, watching and waiting day by day for our homes to flourish.  We give thanks to God in every season- through the celebrations and through the storms.  We don’t need a new idea, method, gadget, app, or plan.  We need the foundation of God’s Word, the power of His Spirit, and the commitment to the gardens of our homes.  I wish we could see what is sown at planting, but gardeners can only trust that what is sown will produce a harvest.  Moms, let’s sow in every season waiting on God to make our gardens grow in due time.

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“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9

Giving Up or Giving In: Motherhood and Daily Surrender


There are so many moms that I admire, my mother in particular, that I can’t help but cheer them on and praise God for these precious women.  They are all so varied in personalities, gifts, backgrounds, cultures, and parenting styles.  I learn from them and desire to be a better mom by watching them love and lead their children.  There is a common thread running through these varied moms and myself as well.  It is what makes us most similar besides our relationship with Jesus.  Our common thread is that we try REALLY hard at many things, but mostly at being mommy to our kids.  We want to do this parenting thing right and be the best mothers we can be for our little ones.  There are many days when we feel discouraged or weary, though, and we wonder if we are trying enough- all of this effort and concern we pour into motherhood.

 

Chore charts, lists, time out chairs, reward stickers, allowances, tips, tricks, bells and whistles (literally and metaphorically)- we will do what it takes to get our kids on track and stay on track.  If we are overachievers, then we want our kids to be 20 yards ahead on the track.

Sure we pray for our kids, for ourselves, and for our homes.  We know prayer is where the power is, but sometimes I think we forget to go there continually for that power.

How do we pray without ceasing as moms?

I just shared with Kara last night regarding obedience when it is hard that you don’t need to tell God in what ways you need Him to help you- He already knows.  Simply pray, “Lord, help me!”  After I said this, God gently but clearly spoke through His Spirit “This needs to be your prayer to Me.”  So often in my prayer life, I in my “wisdom” diagnose problems, give ways God could fix them, and then ask Him to show me how he will fix them when all along God is calling me to surrender not just my problems or concerns, but myself to Him completely.  Daily.  Praying, “Lord, help me!”

If I can be flat out honest here, this year has been hard for me.  Without going through a laundry list of trials, it has been one thing after another much like how as a child I would wade out into the ocean on the beaches of South Florida with my body board in hand, nose down, but still getting pushed under by each passing wave.  Now when the waves come I am not holding a body board but three precious children, and I have to stay up because if I sink under the sea so will they.  That is a lot of pressure and it leaves me utterly exhausted.  I pray for them.  For us.  I pray that God will intervene constantly with his grace upon grace.  That He will be my strength when I am weak, which is so often these days.  I have scripture verses that I pray over my children with specific prayers for each child.  I’ve come to conclusion that I have one of two choices to make.  I can either give up, or I can give in.

Giving up says…

I failed
It’s too hard
She is a better mom than me
My kids don’t really need me

The other option, and the right one I believe is to give in to God’s power and will.  Surrender, not in the theoretical, cerebral sense, but in a real way with guts and a practicing faith.  Truth is, I think us moms try TOO hard and fail to pray hard enough- not with many words, but with few, holy reverent words of praise for a mighty God, infinite in wisdom leading us to cry out, “Lord, help me!”

Because praying like this, trusting like this is giving in to God “who alone works wonders” (Psalm 72:18).

Giving in says…

God is good (Psalm 136:1)
God does good (Psalm 119:68)
God lives in me (1 Corinthians 3:16)
God is for me (Romans 8:31)
God will fulfill His purpose for me (Psalm 138:8)

When we give in to God’s power and will He enables us to have wisdom and strength to lead our children every day.  The progress we cannot see now, and the journey may be hard, but God is transforming us more and more into the image of Christ not by our doing, but by His grace and through His Spirit.

So moms, when the going gets tough (and discipling our kids is tough), God is there to get us going, not by our might or power, but by His Spirit.  The waves will come, and we may fear we will sink underneath the current, but they will not destroy us (2 Corinthians 4:8).  Christ is alive in us, so He is in our homes.  That is enough.  He is enough.  Try we may, but pray we must!

 

3 Ways to Inspire Creativity in the Home

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Yesterday was World Read Aloud Day.  It is a day that gives global attention to the importance of sharing stories and reading together.  Some of the best conversations, ideas, and work come out of reading and discussing great books with others, especially with our children.  It does not require much except an ability to read and the time to read (if we make it) to, in the words of Jim Trelease, “light a fire.”  That spark.  That inspiration that motivates action in our children to discover the world, consider the wonder and beauty of creation, and what role they play in God’s grand story is a marvelous thing to behold.

There are many ways to inspire our children to be as they are, which is creative, for we are all creative beings made in the image of our Creator.  Sometimes, though, we parents get in the way of our children by placing obstacles and distractions that disrupt the flow of creativity.  Things like screens, extra-curricular, managed activities, overly scheduled calendars, etc. can impede learning and opportunities for creativity.  So, how do we in an overly distracting, noisy, Age of Information and busyness craft space and time for our children to be as they are- creative?  There are several ways I am sure, but I will list three simple ways we as parents can inspire creativity in our homes.

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3 Ways to Inspire Creativity in the Home

  1.  Read Aloud.  As mentioned, reading together incites the mind to marvel at story, language, and character.  Rich interactions between parent and child and with a book itself not only strengthens literacy, but builds the parent-child relationship as well.
  2. Get Outside.   Exploring nature and the wonders of God’s creation draws our children’s attention to the life, science, and beauty of the outdoors.  Grab a sketchbook, some colored pencils, pens, or some water colors and watch nature’s performance.  John James Audobon did this and because of his observations and sketches we have a wealth of information on birds today.
  3. Play Music.  Exposing our children to a variety of musical styles- of the best of the genres- builds their appreciation and understanding of music’s form and structure. Playing some classical or jazz while eating dinner, hymns during the morning routine, or some bluegrass while completing chores are some ways we can incorporate music into the normal flow of life at home.

These are just three simple ways we can all encourage creativity in our children.  It is not so much that we need to include “another thing” into our daily schedules, but that we may need to eliminate or re-locate something else so that we are giving our children ample space and time to be still, pay attention, and absorb what is of worth.  We may not see the product or benefit of reading aloud, nature, or music in the immediate, but over time we will see our children build upon the feast that we faithfully spread before them as they engage with true, good, and beautiful things.

My Five Favorites 2.6

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Well, hello February.  I knew you were coming.  My calendar prepped me for your arrival.  I can’t really complain, though, because January was sublime.  Sunny days and seventy degrees never bothers me!  This mid-Tennessee weather fools me on some days to believe I am back in a South Florida winter.  But today, it is a February day.  Cloudy, a bit rainy, and cool, though not cold.  It is an indoor day, begging for lit candles, soft music, and a roast in a slow cooker on low all day.

There is apparently a trendy danish word, “hygge” pronounced hue-gah that “is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.”  I never heard this word, and did not know it was a thing until  I listened to Tsh Oxenreider’s latest podcast , which is all about hygee.  I think I get it.  Today, for instance, instead of reading aloud to my girls at our dining room table we all curled up in a soft, knitted blanket on our daybed as I read to them.  There was even classical music playing in the background.  Total hygee.  The cloudy sky outside our playroom window served as a pleasant backdrop to our story.

So for my five favorites I’m including some hygge-like things as well as a few simple favorites.

My Five Favorites for February

  1. IF Gathering 2017.  What an incredible weekend with women in my Gallatin community!  We livestreamed the conference set in Austin, TX led by Jennie Allen.  Jill Briscoe was my favorite speaker by far, though there were a few others who challenged me as well.  I enjoyed meeting other women, and building community with women from my church.  And getting away from the regular grind was not a bad thing either.  You can learn more about IF here- IF Gathering.

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2. Ellie Holcomb’s new album, Red Sea Road.  I love her songs.  The writing, the folksy, melodic tunes, all of it.  This may be my favorite of hers thus far.  It may be just that I need these songs right now in this season.  I love Ellie’s heart for the Lord and how she shepherds others with her songs.

3. My $5 Walmart Fern.  This is in the “hygee” catergory.  I got a $2 tin pail in the craft section to use as a planter.  Live plants in February is a must.  Now let’s see if I can keep my little fern alive until spring.

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4.  Organix Renewing, Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner  You can find this stuff anywhere.  I just grabbed it one day because what I normally use was out of stock.  My hair stylist recommended Moroccan Argan oil for a while back, but I am just now getting around to trying it out.  I notice a difference in my hair’s texture, smoothness and overall health.  Great stuff!

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5.  My kids playing together.  I love it when I walk in on my kids playing well together, because there are the times when I walk in to break up fights, settle disputes, and put everyone in separate rooms because mommy needs a time out.  But then there are moments when they share and take turns and heaven meets earth for a few brief moments, and I breathe it all in.

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When life is complicated, busy, and fast, sometimes it is the little things that reminds us of grace in the midst of it all.  Sometimes I make mental lists of all that is going wrong, of all that is undone, but then I forget to give thanks for all that God has done or is doing.  Even in the valley there can be praise because God meets us there.  And when God meets us, He graces us, not with the things He gives us, but with His presence.  That is my favorite thing of all, in February, and all year long.

The Finished Work in Motherhood

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The weight that bears heavy most on moms of all sorts is this feeling like so much is left undone.  Sure there are the endless tasks to be completed, but then there are also relationships to nurture, personal goals to reach, and the like.  For those of us who feel like we have to hold it all together, and something fails or is unfinished in some way then the guilt sets in.  If only we had_____(fill in the blank).  It is our fault this or that did not get done, or this or that person is not pleased, or our marriage is struggling.  We could have done better.  We could have prevented this.

I don’t know.  Maybe we allow the pressure, or expect it in some way.  But if everything really depends on us- on us showing up, showing out, and getting “it” done- it all done, then someone will need to redefine what “it” is, because it all just ain’t gonna get done!  The guilt weighs heavy, and it is completely unnecessary and unmerited.  We own too much and try to be Jesus for everything and everybody, when Jesus is the only and best Jesus.

Even Jesus Himself did not heal everybody (and He could have), or visit everybody, or have lengthy conversations with everybody.  From what we know His most intimate talks were with twelve unlikely men who went on to share and record those conversations in what we now have as the New Testament.  He had one mission and everything he did in His earthly life centered around that one mission- to lead sinners to the cross where He would suffer and die in their place.  And when He did that- when He endured the cross and scorned its shame- He said, “It is finished.”  What was true then, is true now, and will ever be is contained in those three words.

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So, when it feels like so much is undone, and the mom-guilt sets in, instead of saying, “It is my fault,” we can say, “It is finished.”  When we fail with projects and with people, and the enemy tries to condemn us, we say, “It is finished.”  When we feel pressure to perform- to appear like we have it all together when we are tired and worn, we say, “It is finished.”  Because the power of the cross is not only for the past and the future, but it is for today.  And it is for us every. single. day.  

When we exalt Jesus for who He is in our lives and in our homes, then the important work will get done- like loving others.  The other stuff may or may not get done on time, if at all, but in the grand scheme of God’s economy it probably doesn’t matter a hill of beans anyway.  We have to trust that it is all really going to be okay.  We’re going to be okay.  It may be hard, painful even, but when we rest in Christ’s finished work, we can rest in ours.

Creating in a #trending Culture

 

trendingI finally saw La La Land over the weekend, and loved it!  It was fantastical, imaginative, and complex.  Creativity at its finest.  In fact, the overall tone, theme, and message involved creativity- daring to follow your
dreams as an original patiently braving failure and the unknown.  I am not going to give away the ending…not even a hint.  But I will say that there is this idea that some will be brave and original, and some will follow mass marketing trends.  Some will want to make a true difference, and some will just want to be liked.

Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling at one point in the film says regarding Hollywood and the LA scene, “They worship everything and they value nothing.”  I think this could be a description of the pervading culture at large.  Media, technology, fashion, art…the definitions and ideals of the various systems in our culture are obscure.  It is as if it is new and it spreads then it must be good.  And everyone runs to the altar of #trending.

I listened to an excellent interview today of writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin.  He said, “Don’t try to be the next J.K. Rowling.  We already have one of those.”  In other words, be original.  Be you!  But if you are bowing at the altar of #trending then you won’t look up long enough to see beyond the present idols.

I think a lot about this stuff.  I am a mom, creative type, who not only wants to value the true, good, and beautiful, but wants to help my kids navigate the murky waters of a #trending culture.  I am not anti-fashion, anti-contemporary, or anti-trends necessarily.  I listen to new music and older music, I read newly published books and classics, I try and learn from history while creating history in my small plot of land for such a time as this.  I just have to be brave enough to do the next thing.  As a Christian, I seek to follow God’s will for my life, and what some may call risk, I like to call faith.  The cost of discipleship is not a call to play it safe, but as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”  I am convinced that faithful living is risky.  I see art as a ministry.  At least it can be.  It should be.  But if Christian creatives (finger pointing at self) keep looking at the #trending culture to decide what to do next then we are already out of touch before we begin, and we lose our voice.

With the book I am writing I feel this tension between letting the book get written and waiting for permission from #trending to write it.  (By the way, #trending exists even in the Christian subculture.  Not a shocker, I know.)  If art is to speak then it should be clear and distinct.  But if it sounds or looks like everything else, or a inferior version of everything else, then will it be heard?

“…if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?  For you will be speaking into the air.” 1 Corinthians 14:9

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I’ve come to understand three things regarding art as a ministry ⇒

#1 Be original.  Make great art.

#2 Be clear. Let the art communicate truth in a way that is understood.

#3 Be brave. Seek God’s will as you create and take steps of faith to share your work as a ministry to others.

The call of the Christian is not to follow #trending, but to follow Christ.  We seek not to build our platform, but to build the Kingdom of God.  As we create, produce, nurture, prune, develop, lead, and teach, we look to the original Creator not only as our example, but as the One we both value and worship.