The Bizarre thing I’m giving up for lent that will make me a better mom

Growing up, only Catholics celebrated Lent, but I've grown to embrace the season. This year I'm giving up something bizarre to be a better mom and closer to God

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Growing up, Lent was something only the Catholics I knew celebrated. I didn’t know any Protestants celebrating it until recently. I thought it strange, until I understood Lent’s purpose for believers.

Lent is a season of repentance, fasting or sacrifice, and reflection that precedes Easter. Lent honors Jesus’s season of preparation, fasting, and temptation in the wilderness before he began his public ministry which would eventually lead to His crucifixion.

The closer I’ve drawn to God, the more I realize Christ has called all His children to live sacrificially, no matter our denomination. It’s not about church tradition. Lent is about preparing our hearts to accept Christ’s sacrifice at Easter.

Mark 8:34 ESV  “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
A lot of Christians focus on the taking up of a cross (bearing a difficult burden) but skim right over denying ourselves. And I really want to understand what it means for me to deny myself this year in a way that honors whom God has called me to be.

In recent years, I’ve given something up quietly, not wanting my sacrifice to be for the eyes of men, but between God and I alone. We sometimes need accountability partners to support us in a season of growth, but I sometimes worry about putting my deeds before men in order to be praised by them.

Growing up, only Catholics celebrated Lent, but I've grown to embrace the Lenten season. This year I'm giving up something bizarre to draw nearer to Christ.

It’s hard to find a healthy balance of keeping things private so that my honor and glory is God’s, not my own, but also being transparent so that I might be a witness. I’m choosing to share what I’m giving up this year because it’s kind of ugly, and I know my brokenness keeps me real and transparent and lets God’s power shine.

This year, when I couldn’t think of something to give up, as I’m already sitting on the couch 24/7 in my health crisis, I asked God what he wanted me to give up, feeling that I as I write and share I need to hold myself to a higher standard daily.

1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I prayed, “Lord, what can I give up that will be most pleasing to you, what will draw me closest to you and make this a season of deep reflection?”

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Yelling – immediately sprang to mind. And I sadly reflected on how much I’ve fallen back on yelling recently, how angry and hurt the voices in our home sound when we yell.

So this year, I’m giving up yelling for Lent.

This may seem like a bizarre fast. I mean, shouldn’t we strive to give up yelling anyway? Of course, we should, but stay with me . . .

This might seem like a bizarre way to fast for Lent, but what better way to sacrifice. Click To Tweet

Yelling at my daughter is something I’ve worked really hard to eliminate, but being in pain since December, I’ve allowed myself to have a shorter fuse, using my physical discomfort and emotional stress to justify my reactions.

In His Lenten season, Christ learned that suffering and persecution would be his cup to drink, that He would ultimately allow terrible accusations to be hurled at Him while he sat silently . . . silently.

How is giving up YELLING for Lent a sacrifice?

First, I am giving up my selfish right to be upset. I am giving up the earthly perspective that I get to behave angrily because my child has disobeyed or refused to listen. If Christ could be accused, slapped, spat on, whipped, tortured, crucified for me, I can learn gentleness.

Yelling is quick. I get her attention immediately, and I get the instant gratification of indulging my selfish frustrations. Choosing not to yell asks me to give undeserved grace at the moment it’s most difficult.

And it’s going to be hard!

This morning, I had barely started homeschool when my daughter started getting off task. Adorable only goes so far. I was explaining the directions again, and she was deliberately not listening, talking about her dream and her pencil and her new magic trick and . . .

. . .stop talking so I can explain. She didn’t even pause. Honey, I’m trying to get your attention. She rattles on, and I yelled, “STOP!” She froze, her eyes turned to saucers and her mouth stopped moving (momentarily).

Quickly, I clamped my hand over my mouth. I barely made it two hours.

Thankfully, forgiveness and grace redeem our failed attempts at sanctification. I quickly apologized and softened my tone.

But I realized that getting her attention, helping her focus, and disciplining misbehavior are all going to take a lot more effort.

Yelling is easy, but destructive.

Refusing to yell will mean intentionally using close physical proximity and a firm voice. Additionally, I’ll have to follow through on real consequences when she disobeys.

Punishing my daughter often gives me such a heart for God. Imagine how His heart must break when we need discipline. When I have to follow through with consequences, her tears disappointment break my heart every time. Disciplining His sinful children must grieve our Lord so deeply, but I know He disciplines those he loves.

The purpose of Lent is to help us understand Christ’s sacrifice, take some small part in His struggle.

While giving up yelling is something I strive to do anyway, making my house a zero yelling zone for the next 40+ days will be a tremendous way for me to understand Christ’s gentleness and grace.

Because I will be striving to be a daily demonstration of undeserved favor, the quiet spirit God has been growing in me.

I could give up coffee and chocolate or pizza, but while those might be beneficial for my waist line, learning to deny my sinful nature will be more meaningful this year. It will build relationships, improve the atmosphere in our home, and be a witness to my family.

Follow me on Facebook to hear how it’s going.

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Going Gluten Free

Going gluten free isn't a journey I ever wanted to undertake. I LOVE chewy, warm, rich bread. But being a parent takes me to places that I never would have imagined.

Going gluten free isn’t a journey I ever wanted to undertake. I LOVE chewy, warm, rich bread.

But being a parent takes me to places that I never would have imagined.

Our daughter started complaining about stomach pain early into 2016. In her squeaky, small voice, she would say, “My stomach hurts, Mommy.”

And I would answer, maybe you’re hungry or maybe the milk was bad, maybe you have a stomach bug (that led to an interesting conversation!), but at some point, the complaints got more numerous, then nearly continuous.

I never planned to go gluten free, but parenting takes me to places that I never imagined. Click To Tweet

She was uncomfortable and hurting everyday. She seemed able to function and play, but if she sat still, the pain was too distracting. It was rarely so bad that she was crying in pain, but she hurt everyday.

We had an ultrasound and liver enzyme blood tests done, yet there was no clear reason for her discomfort. But after months of charting her pain, I finally couldn’t stand to watch her suffer anymore.

I took lactose out of her diet, but it didn’t seem to help.

A trip to our clinic for a physical led us to decide to try removing gluten from her diet. Days before a cross-country trek wasn’t great timing, but we went for it, desperate for answers.

Going gluten free isn't a journey I ever wanted to undertake. I LOVE chewy, warm, rich bread. But being a parent takes me to places that I never would have imagined.

After a few weeks, she stopped complaining her stomach hurt. After a few months, I threw away her pain chart.

And of course, we’re willing to go gluten free for her, but I am still mentally adjusting to this change. It changes so many things I didn’t anticipate.

She can’t often have the snacks at church. I have to do extra planning and preparation for playdates and babysitters. I’ve had to teach my six year old how to graciously decline snacks when I’m not around. I always have to carry safe food.

On National Talk like a Pirate Day, Krispy Kreme gives free doughnuts for customers who talk like pirates. As we drove past, she asked if we were could get our free doughnuts this year. No, honey, doughnuts have gluten.

We’ve found some swaps for bread items and just changed our diets to a larger extent, but the holiday season is making this adjustment really hard. Some things just aren’t the same.

While gluten free recipes and flours improve every year, some dishes are just different and others have been kind of gross. We all have had to adjust.

I’ve had to learn more scratch baking, no more prepackaged pie crusts for us. I’ve never had xantham gum in my kitchen before. I’m still a little unclear about what it is, but Google and Alton Brown are my friends.

I got distracted at a party a few weeks ago when my daughter asked if she could have one of what I was eating. I handed her a bagel chip without thinking. Face palm.

As much as there is a learning curve for going gluten free, I hate to complain. Her health and happiness are paramount. It isn’t a life threatening allergy (if it’s an allergy at all-see below), and I give HUGE PROPS for those with serious allergies.

Knowing she may never have flour again is one thing, but knowing she may never be able to casually order from a restaurant menu again is a little emotional.

We went to one of our favorite restaurants last week only to realize she can’t eat anything there. They had one gluten free option, plain grilled chicken with green beans. The kitchen staff wasn’t even clear on what gluten is. I was literally reading the ingredients labels for them.

We went to a church potluck, and it was so hard to watch her dejected face at the dessert table when she couldn’t have a single one. Luckily, someone brought a bowl of candy which was all gluten free.

I hate watching her be disappointed. It breaks my heart more than it breaks hers.

Thinking about how this will affect her life forever gets a little overwhelming, so I try not to, just taking one day at a time.

And today, I don’t know if going gluten free will be permanent for her or not. The doctor wouldn’t order the blood test for gluten allergies without any clear diagnostic reason, but in order to get a diagnostic reason, we had to take all the gluten out of her diet for months to see if that made any difference.

Thinking about forever can be overwhelming. Take health changes one day at a time. Click To Tweet

Once we believed it made a difference, the doctor was willing to test her, but she has to be eating gluten for two months before the antibodies can be tested for an allergy.

SIGH

So, we’re gradually adding gluten back into her diet. A few bites of bread here, a slice of pizza there. I figured if we have to do it for the testing, we might as well do it over the holidays so she can enjoy our favorite treats, and I can practice with some gluten free recipes for next year.

We’ll see what the next two months bring. Perhaps she is just sensitive to it, not allergic. Maybe it was the pesticides, and the wheat needs to be organic or non-GMO??? Maybe it was something else entirely.

We really don’t know what will happen.

I do know that I have a better understanding and greater compassion for parents with children who have food allergies. If nothing else comes from the past two months, I am grateful for that.

Many of our homeschool friends have serious allergies like Celiac’s, nut allergies, dye allergies, etc. And for the first time, I’m more than aware of it, I get the seriousness of it and have serious respect for those moms!

Every ingredient has to be investigated.

A homemade recipe by a dear friend could be dangerous because they might not know how to examine labels the way you do. Gluten hides in crazy places: soy sauce, taco seasoning, Twizzlers! She can’t have Twizzlers on a gluten free diet.

Cross-contamination is a real risk.

So, a product that might be edible alone is rendered unsafe because it was made in a factory that also processes wheat or nuts or eggs or soy or milk. This often includes our own kitchens, especially for celiac’s and nut allergies!

Reading labels has helped me understand just how many products are off-limits for people with serious allergies, especially nut allergies.

It is so true that things just don’t hit home until it’s your child.

I am grateful I’ve had this chance to learn how to be mindful of allergies for food preparation and hospitality.

Seriousness of food allergies (Cross-contamination and reading ingredients) doesn't hit home until it's your child. Click To Tweet

I found myself turning down invites to parties or lunch because it’s hard to find many places that offer safe food. I know more seasoned allergy moms have some great strategies for handling these things, but for now, I’m still learning.

No matter how her tests turn out in February, I have learned so much. I’ll always have something safe for guests and label food items for potlucks, making sure to be the one to think of those with allergies.

Going gluten free is a journey. And we’re in a weird stretch right now, but we’ll keep taking one step at a time as a family.

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We Gather Together – Thanksgiving and Fellowship

After years of tremendous division, we need Thanksgiving more than ever & the simple words of the hymn We Gather Together remind us why it's important.

After another year of tremendous division and fear in our country, we need Thanksgiving more than ever. As I thought about giving thanks today, I couldn’t stop singing the classic hymn We Gather Together.

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The lyrics seem extra poignant. Maybe, I’ve never really paid attention to them before, but they drew me in today.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing;
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Not only is gathering important as friends and family, but especially as Christians for fellowship. Living separate from the world but in it, can be lonely. We gather together to encourage and be encouraged, reminded that we need not fear because we belong to the Lord.

Hebrews 10:25 (NASB) 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
We gather together for fellowship and encouragement, remembering to Whom we belong. #Thankful Click To Tweet

I love how the hymn discusses a body of believers gathering to seek His blessing, His chastening.

Chastening is God’s correction of the sin in our lives. And it is a blessing, He corrects our steps, sets us right. I’m not always grateful for the correction in the moment, but I’m learning to see it correctly.

God promises us He reproves whom He loves.

Discipline isn’t punishment, it’s guidance. When I punish my daughter, it’s never vindictive. I want her to learn, grow, mature so that she’ll be prepared for obstacles to come.

God chastens & reproves those He loves. It is part of His blessings for us. Click To Tweet
Revelation 3:19 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

In the hard times, I’ve learned to seek His face. When I hit a wall in a friendship, my marriage, or parenting, I’ve learned to search out God’s will, even if it means I must change.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

After a year of tremendous division, we need Thanksgiving more than ever & the simple words of the hymn We Gather Together create such a beautiful picture.

I think about all the small ways God ordained my every step this year. The devotionals I read that challenged and convicted me at just the right moment, the lessons I learned at exactly the time I needed them.

I’ve faced some heartbreaking moments this year. But God orchestrated my paths to and through them. He stood by my side through it all. His picture is an eternal one.
I am especially grateful for the way His word is always relevant for me, everyday.
Today’s daily passage was Revelation 3 which reflects the hymn I had already been singing and writing about.
Revelation 3:10 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be;
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

We lift up His name in praises today, seeing His leadership and dominion, asking for Him to defend us against the tribulations of the world.

What tremendous safety we have in Him.

And much like the company that shared our feast today, God promises His great desire for communion with us.

Revelation 3:20 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

I imagined the Lord sharing my table today, seeing Him through the blessings of friends who joined our celebration because of providential happenings, and know God is present in our thanksgiving as we gather together.

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Life isn’t Fair, Broken Balloons, and a Good Father

"Life isn't fair!" she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. "I wanted to show my daddy!" And in that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

“Life isn’t fair!” she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. “I wanted to show my daddy!”

And in that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

We were sitting in the van following PWOC, a wonderful military-related fellowship and bible study program.

They have fantastic childcare with bible lessons for our children. I’m not sure what part the balloons played in their lesson, but my sweet girl had been SO excited to show me her ‘hugantic’ balloon.

She blew it up all by herself and had the biggest balloon in her class!

What she couldn’t understand was how inflating her balloon to that size had weakened its structure. Sure enough, moments after getting seated, a tiny hole appeared and then another, and the balloon began to deflate before her eyes.

“Why did MY balloon break? The other kids’ balloons didn’t break!” She wailed.

In a way that only a young child’s heart can, it broke with disappointment. Tears poured down her cheeks and she shook with sobs. She held the tiny balloon corpse in her palm as if begging me to resuscitate it.

Despite being unable to perform balloon CPR, I had such compassion for her broken heart. I immediately remembered a post from Minivan Ministries about teaching our children to bring their needs to God in prayer.

So I told her to just start praying. Talk to God like He is right here with us. Tell Him how you feel and ask Him to help you. With her tiny little voice still breaking between shallow breaths and sobs, she prayed.

"Life isn't fair!" she sobbed, holding her broken balloon. "I wanted to show daddy!" In that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

“Dear God, I am really disappointed. I wanted to show my daddy my balloon and it broke. And it isn’t fair. Please help me get my feelings under control. I am so sad.”

A few moments later, “Mom, it didn’t work!” She said, still clearly upset.

Honey, you can’t pray like it’s magic. You have to let God work in your heart. Sometimes, he doesn’t change the situation, but changes us in it.

Prayer doesn't work like magic. Sometimes God doesn't change the situation, but changes us. Click To Tweet
“But life isn’t fair,” she said again.

and I said, “You’re right. It isn’t. And aren’t we so grateful for that?”

What?

All the kids were given balloons. Some balloons were perfectly inflated. A few balloons had already popped explosively. Some kids had sad, little, barely inflated balloons. One tiny girl adorably was still walking around sputtering with all her might into a stubbornly flat balloon. No two were the same.

And I immediately saw myself.

Life isn’t fair! Why don’t I have the perfect house, family, body, life?

We all get balloons, but they aren’t the same because we all make different choices and because God has different plans for each of us.

My imperfect body has taught me humility. I’ve learned find my comfort and identity in Christ alone. My imperfect house has reminded me that my eternal home is the one I need to focus on. My imperfect family has reminded me how much I have still to learn about grace and how to love.

I was reminded how wonderful it is that life isn’t fair.

How wonderful it is that life isn't fair, that God extends His grace and love when we don't deserve them. Click To Tweet

I began the drive home and explained,

Oh, my sweet love, we celebrate that life isn’t fair because Jesus paid our price. God’s grace and forgiveness are things we don’t deserve because of our sin, and yet He gives them freely because of His great love for us.

As we talked, I could hear the tone in her voice change. Her disappointment faded, and she realized that it wasn’t truly the end of the world.

But that wasn’t the end of the story either.

I texted my husband about how disappointed she had been about showing him her HUGE balloon. He was going to be home after she went to bed, and I wanted to share this bittersweet moment with him.

When he did get home, he barely said hello, rushing past me towards her room. A few minutes later, he came out smiling.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I bought her a jumbo balloon. She just finished blowing it up.”

And it’s ORANGE! she shouted from her room. Orange is her favorite color.

What a good father!

Minutes before closing, after a very long day, he raced into our local store to buy her a balloon.

I cannot tell you how that moment ministered to my heart. I saw God working in her life, giving her back a moment she lost (and a new balloon), answering her minivan prayers through her dad.

Watching my husband love her like that was a gift from my Father for me because I pray over their sweet relationship.

If this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us! Click To Tweet

I also heard God reminding me if this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us.

Matthew 7:11 ESV / If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And I’m so grateful that life isn’t fair.

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Do your Kids need Help Focusing – Meet KazuTime

Giving my daughter help focusing has been a priority since we started homeschool because it's heartbreaking to watch her struggle with an attention disorder. Thankfully we discovered KazuTime

Giving my daughter help focusing has been a priority since we started homeschool because it’s heartbreaking to watch her struggle with an attention disorder.

She is highly emotional, easily distracted, impulsive, and tremendously sensitive. She gets caught up in the moment and doesn’t always have the internal ability to rein herself back in without external support and discipline.

Watching her struggle with an attention disorder is hard, helping her focus doesn't have to be. Click To Tweet

While most children need help focusing at some point, teaching her how to monitor herself is a daily struggle in our home as her parents, but as her teacher, I’ve seen how being distracted has become a wrecking ball for her education.

Difficulty with focus affects every aspect of her education.

Learning to focus on a task, pay attention, manage distractions is tough stuff in early brain development. Yet, most children are able to build these skills as they mature.

But kids with attention disorders need external support to gain these skills internally.

We use this great program called IXL. It even uses a visual timer for each section, but she will still waste time because she can’t pay attention to it. I’ve watched her get distracted between answering a question and pressing enter.

While new advances in ADHD medication might help focusing, I would rather start with behavioral strategies.

Counting has often worked to help her maintain focus on a task. I have her race to beat my count to finish a chore, which worked really well with her little competitive spirit. However, counting isn’t as effective now that we’re working on longer assignments and tasks.

I bought some kitchen timers, but I still found myself having to remind her often to pay attention to the timer.

Even with a kitchen timer, my distractable babe gets off task. We needed something better… Click To Tweet

She was still getting off-task and finding herself getting distracted.

I had to reassess my strategy for both of us.

That is when I discovered KazuTime.Giving my daughter help focusing has been a priority since we started homeschool because it's heartbreaking to watch her struggle with an attention disorder. Thankfully, we discovered KazuTime

Barbara Wichmann and Karine Pepin created KazuTime to help young children manage time better. Realizing that children often struggle to grasp the concept of time, much less manage it, they strove to develop an interactive app that would be fun to use and empower children.

The KazuTime app features puppies playing along a path for set amount of time that I choose. Kids can choose from three friendly puppies for each task and a different background color for each timer. Parents can also purchase a couple alternative backgrounds.

Tasks are repeatable, which is nice for daily chores. I can set the time for an activity, and she can watch the puppies progress or listen for the barks. What is neat is that the barks come at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 of the set time to further build the internal sense of time. It is a gentle timer compared to loud noises and alarms.

For my six year old, KazuTime helped conceptualize amounts of time.

Even after just a month of using the app, I can see she has a better grasp of time, but still needs the app for help focusing.

I received a free download of KazuTime which is $2.99 in the app store for my review, but the opinions are mine.

My six year old LOVES it. She gets really excited about racing the puppies to the igloo and pressing DONE before they get there.

From my perspective, the dogs don’t do much and has very limited in customization, BUT this is probably intentional. The app is supposed to help kids accomplish other tasks on time, not distract them with activities.

And it works!

My daughter already is finishing tasks much faster with much less distractibility. I am glad KazuTime reached out to Heaven Not Harvard with their helpful app.

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