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

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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.

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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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.

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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The Epic Tantrum that Changed my Perspective

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.



Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

My daughter and I had been in a small car accident. We were rear-ended, and I needed to replace her car seat.

Rather than sit in the small service waiting area, the dealership offered me a loaner until it was finished.

Thinking I was being smart, I decided to buy her new car seat while waiting for my van, that way we could make the 45 minute drive home without further stops.

My daughter was three. The van was supposed to be done by lunchtime.

Lunchtime came and went.

Realizing she would get hungry, I had brought snacks, but she was still hungry after my purse stash was gone.

Being a cautious mommy, I was putting her in each display seat, checking out the straps, headrests, safety features, seeing which were easy to buckle, but not easy enough for her to unbuckle, checking cup holders, etc.

I had finally made my decision . . . around an hour past lunch and well into nap-time, but my van was still not ready.

My best worst parenting day, I learned real compassion for an EPIC tantrum. Click To Tweet

I should have known better.

Kids do not deal well with being tired or hungry. Three and hangry ain’t pretty.

In order to purchase a car seat at Babies R Us, we had to walk through about 50% of Toys R Us to use their open register.

What do you get with a tired preschooler and shelves of beautiful Christmas and Halloween displays?

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

A gigantic “Mommy, I want this!” meltdown.

She was inconsolable when I explained that we didn’t have the money for any toys today, but would happily put things on her list for Santa.

You know what else a three-year-old doesn’t understand?

Delayed gratification.

It got ugly at the checkout.

She started screaming and crying, throwing herself around. And I realized then, I might have been able to make some different choices before we got into this situation, but for the most part, we were both coping as well as we could.

And she couldn’t cope. Epic tantrum!

I didn’t ignore her tantrum, just spoke in low deep tones to her. I picked her up and held her, through the judgmental stares of the cashier, but rather than feel vilified, for the first time, I realized HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent.

HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent. Life is messy. Click To Tweet

In that situation, stuck far from home, it just was what it was.

I got her out the door, managing to stay calm, then the car seat box didn’t fit in the loaner car’s trunk. I had to reinstall her emergency seat to fit the box in the back seat.

While I was bent over, sweating, and burning my fingers on the metal buckles, she realized she had to use the restroom. The tantrum escalated as she feared having an accident in her pretty skirt.

I can only imagine the picture we made as I raced this excruciatingly hysterical child all the way back through the entire store, back past the judgmental cashier, to make it to the restroom just in time.

But we could not yet claim victory, I had to walk her past all the toy displays, again.

Hysteria engulfed her as we got closer and closer to the door without a new toy.

But I was not going to give in because she threw a fit.

I knew this wasn’t fair for her. She didn’t ask to be stuck running errands waiting for our van or way past nap-time with nowhere to sleep.

But I had no choice that day, and I learned that her reaction was understandable. In her little mind, the world had fallen from its axis. Nothing made sense outside of her little routine.

While I chose not to buy her a toy, I did choose compassion.

Sweet, sweet loves, I know this is hard. I’m so sorry this day has not gone our way, but I will do my best to get you some lunch and a nap as soon as possible. You will be okay. Mommy loves you. We’ll get through this awful day. 

And we did.

A fistful of chicken nuggets and a milk and a repaired van put our day back on track.

Honestly, I’ve never personally seen a worse tantrum than the one she threw that day. Though her behavior was unacceptable, it was all she knew how to do. I could feel embarrassed and angry or see she needed my calm.

Again, I chose compassion.

As a parent, I learned to always carry back-up back-up purse snacks, and to seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Empathizing got better results than demanding she correct her attitude.

Seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Compassion got better results. Click To Tweet

As a woman, I learned that reality is sometimes messy. Own it.

But as a Christian, I see myself in that tantrum.

All the times I thought I had prayed enough but God didn’t give me the answer I wanted. All the times life broke my heart, and I thought God didn’t care or wasn’t listening. I realized I’d been wrong.

I couldn’t hear Him over my tantrum.

I’ve learned to seek Him, knowing His perfect gifts trump whatever I thought I wanted.

He chose compassion for me each and every time, inviting me into His stillness, offering His peace for my panic.

When I throw an epic tantrum of my own, God reminds me, that I don’t have to cope on my own. I just have to . . .

Psalm 46:10   ESV  “Be still, and know that I am God.

and calls me His – His sweet love, His daughter.

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My Aspiring Police Officer: Little Boy Blue

Police Officers have always been respected in our family, but all I see when I look at the tragic news today about the Dallas tragedy is my aspiring police officer: our little boy blue.

We have friends who serve in law enforcement, and I see their sacrifice and service as kindred to my husband’s respected military service.

They work terrible hours to serve people who usually aren’t glad to see them. They risk their lives never knowing for sure whom they have pulled over or how “Stop!” is going to be received. They keep our country from dissolving into chaos by ensuring most of us follow the law of the land.

But the past few days have deeply changed my perspective on the police.

Earlier this week, our middle child (my younger stepson) told me his plan to pursue a career in law enforcement.

And I became that mother.

The one who sees her child in uniform while the world calls him a man.

Probably the same mental image my mother-in-law still has when she sends her baby off to war, a five-year old in camouflage.

Police Officers have always had my respect, but all I see when I heard the news about the Dallas tragedy is my aspiring police officer: our little boy blue.

He has so many gifts and strengths and interests, I encouraged him to keep his options open as he heads off to college in a year. Goals change; majors change; be willing to see where life takes you.

Of course, he knows everything and isn’t willing to concede that he could encounter a life experience that could change his mind.

But I don’t want to discourage his decision so much as make sure he is following the path he is meant to be on. I could very much see him chasing a pod of whales off the coast of California as a marine biologist or charting stars as an astronomer, but law enforcement is a noble profession and suits his personality.

Then Dallas happened.

Police officers were pointlessly shot and killed, presumably by somebody hateful who only saw their white skin and blue uniforms instead of their humanity, instantly turning wives into widows and children into orphans.

I haven’t been able to do more than skim an occasional news article about the coverage. My heart is breaking too much for their families.

Via Facebook, I watch my friend worrying about her Texas police officer husband, assuring us he is safe. I see my sister in Christ who married a state trooper in Indiana grieving with those families in Texas. My friend in New York is sending her husband off for his next shift today as their baby turns one.

A former student is an Illinois state trooper, who just spent his vacation in Haiti building a school. He stored up the precious memories of these children, who have a different skin color and language, but all he saw was their need for love and a safe education.

He made friends with a precious little girl through their shared burn scars. He was burned in a terrible accident while on duty a few years ago. He couldn’t know her story, but she held his hand and smiled, no longer alone with her scars.

These aren’t police uniforms. They are people, and the ones I know are all good, Godly men who take protect and serve beyond the blue because their service starts at the cross.

I see all these men, and they are all their mothers’ little boys in blue.

I don’t know if my stepson will maintain this as his career choice as life takes him on his unique journey (he is just 17), but I know part of me will always see the little boy I’ve helped raise as my little boy blue no matter how long he wears that uniform.

These aren't uniforms, they are people. We need to see beyond white, black, or blue. Click To Tweet

The contradiction in my heart is overpowering. I am so proud of the sacrifice and service he is willfully choosing, but my stomach drops when I see the growing disrespect for police officers.

I see the way various leaders seek to divide us by white, black, blue.

I see the way we’ve turned so far away from God.

But I can’t be afraid, I have to bring my fears and hopes for my stepson, our police, this nation, and for humanity to God.

And pray God gives us the supernatural ability to see each other as He does, souls needing grace and Jesus, people deserving kindness and respect.

#PrayingforDallas and for God to open our hearts and eyes to the humanity within us all. Click To Tweet

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