Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Daydreaming, Clearance Racks, & Spiral Notebooks Taught Me about Myself & God {a book giveaway}

{This post is my story. Not all or even most of it but, a survey of sorts. Can I be honest? It feels completely awkward and wrong to write this much about myself. Be warned.}


Growing up, my mind was often elsewhere. 

Distracted and pensive, I pondered big questions and entertained a thousand thoughts.

I gave pretend speeches in my head to no one in particular.

On trips, I stared out the car window at landscapes and homes and old barns, unfolding stories of people and places and imagining myself in these stories. I dreamed of faraway places. Beautiful places.

I noticed things. Always, the noticing. The earrings she wore with that dress. The mint-green pumps she sported with the diamond cut-outs on the toes. The way shades of purple are breathtaking with green. His furrowed-brow, their fake smiles, her thinly-veiled pain. 

At times my crazy insides had a way of becoming too big for my body to hold. When that happened, I turned to spiral notebooks and loose-leaf pages, spilling my words and my tears and just getting it out. I wasn't consistent but I realized that spilling my soul onto paper was therapeutic. 

My family will tell you I'm the most resourceful one of the bunch. Growing up, I'd stride out the door for school in clearance-rack jeans, an oversized V-neck sweater of my dad's, and a paisley scarf-turned-belt borrowed from my mom's church coat. My friends let me pick out their clothes, fix their hair, and do their make-up. 

I felt more shy than I appeared. I usually had plenty of friends. Finding common ground with most anyone came naturally for me. I wasn't a clown but I made my friends laugh. When we played Truth or Dare, I always picked the dare. 

People came to me with their problems. Sometimes they even scribbled down what I said. Meaningful stuff like exactly what phrases they should use when breaking up with their boyfriends.  

Since the 5th grade I'd planned to go to law school and eventually become a judge. My role model was Sandra Day O'Connor. I had a deep admiration for strong, ground-breaking women of influence. 

With this in mind, I majored in Political Science, Economics, and History. I was student body president of my small-ish university. I accomplished far less than I thought I would in this role. As it turned out, affecting change was harder than it looked. Also, giving speeches was mildly terrifying even though I tried not to show it.

I took the LSAT during my senior year. And then I panicked. I wasn't sure I wanted to go to law school or practice law or decide anyone's cases. By that point I had enough sense to know that being a wife and mom would not be so compatible with the ambitious career goals I'd chosen. I wasn't sure that these goals were really even "me." I wasn't sure who I was but I was willing to wait and find out.

In the waiting, I married a charming young man. Content to be his wife and inspired by all the new wedding cookbooks and saucepans, I made yummy meals in our shoebox apartment while he went to graduate school.

This was partial consolation for my long days at the worst job I ever had, working at a bank. Apparently I am bad at counting money. Like, terrible.  

Restless but inspired, I went back to school a couple of years into marriage. I fell in love with American history and the brilliant scholars who taught me and the most eclectic array of friends I've ever had. Teaching felt as easy as breathing. I loved the world of ideas. I loved making meaning of people, places, and events of the past.  

Though I was okay with research, what I really enjoyed was writing. One of my favorite professors agreed to direct me. He said I had a natural gift with words. 

I didn't believe him. 

His books won some of the most prestigious awards in the field but that didn't matter. I thought of a hundred ways I had inadvertently fooled him. I convinced myself that his opinion of me was a fluke. 

I feared my own desire to be good at this and ran the other way.

Academic life and the liberal arts were a good fit for me, but I often wished for more time to be creative in "artsy" ways. I decorated my house and took study breaks around the Target clearance racks while procrastinating serious research. 

Fast forward through three babies, a teaching career, juggling life as a working-mom, some crazy struggles, becoming a stay-at-home mom and my early days homeschooling my kids.

Though I knew I had much for which to be thankful, somewhere in my mid-thirties I had an "identity crisis." I know, it sounds so clichĂ©. But as I looked back on my life and the seemingly circuitous routes I'd taken, I didn't know who I was. I felt like I was a little bit of everything. 

I longed for a "label" {strange as that sounds} but life wouldn't hand me one. I wanted to know what I could offer the world. 

I wondered how a creative soul like me got mixed up with Political Science and Economics majors. 

Though I finally landed on "History Professor" as a career choice, it still seemed a bit odd to be doing something traditionally reserved for aging white men with bad clothes and questionable social skills. 

I'm still not sure why it took me so long to embrace myself as a writer or to believe someone when they told me I was good at something. Even now, I usually can't bring myself to say, "I'm a writer." Instead I'll say something like, "I enjoy writing." 

I discounted certain gifts like having a knack for putting outfits together out of scraps or seeing beauty in a heap of junk or being able to bargain shop like nobody's business or arranging art on a wall in five minutes.

I didn't think much of the fact that I've always had a diverse group of friends and never found anyone exactly like myself and am sort of a misfit who has a way of bringing people together despite their differences.

But I'm beginning to see a larger picture. 

I'm beginning to have eyes that don't discount anything but that survey the patterns of my past and find clues to who I am, hints at how I was made, and arrows that point toward possibilities for the future. 

The person I've been all along has come out in a million little ways over the past 40 years. 

The girl who daydreamed and pondered big thoughts? She still does. She makes meaning of everything from motherhood to mascara and she writes it down. She's been doing this for years. Her own words teach her things. They point her to perspective. As it turns out, words are part of her worship.

The pretend speeches in her head? They spilled out of her mouth throughout ten years of teaching college students about the beauty and tragedies of our history. They spill out of her mouth even today as she mothers her children and teaches them about everything from God to cooking to getting along with others. {They are an even worse audience than her college students, what with the eye-rolling and tossing a football in the air while she's trying to give a speech.} They spill out over cafĂ© tables and in meetings and through series she writes about issues that are important to her.

She'll never be the Supreme Court Justice she dreamed of but she still has a way of seeing multiple sides of complex issues and persuading others to open their hearts to grace and their minds to new ideas. 

The knack for throwing together clothes and accessories? Well, she's often invited into the closets of friends and asked to tell them what to keep, what to toss, and how to combine pieces they already own. 

She still procrastinates important but "mundane" things like laundry and paying bills because she's too busy hanging pretty things on her walls and rearranging furniture and spray-painting junk from thrift stores and scribbling down errant thoughts. 

Women continue to come to her for things. She offers the words she has with friends, strangers, and strangers-turned-friends via e-mail and blog comments and coffee dates.

She still struggles with toning down her own ambitions for the good of her family. Being a truly-devoted wife and mom hasn't been the most natural thing for her. But she loves the man who calls her wife and the kids who call her mom. Loves them like crazy. She knows this husband and these kids need her and she also knows that she needs them in ways she's only beginning to appreciate. 

Sometimes real life saves us from the things we think we want. And though she doesn't feel wonderfully equipped, she wants the everyday art she lives with her family to be the truest offering of her hands and heart.

As for the noticing, she does this as much as she ever has. The noticing shows up in a million little ways and often finds its way into this space. The art of writing is one of her bravest pursuits. She doubts her words, motives, and abilities. She overthinks everything. She's still shy on the inside and gets sweaty every time she publishes anything. But she does it anyway. She makes her art because she can't not make it. 

Thanks for joining me here, for responding with your own stories and thanks and "me toos." Your kindred words and spirits are gifts to me. 


And now for the book giveaway part.

That's some of my story, the many ways that my past intersects with my present and teaches me about my God-given design and hints at how my Creator intends use me in this world.

Let's talk about you, about all of us. 

  • What would happen if we looked back at the patterns and looked within for the gifts and looked forward toward possibility and looked up to the Creator who says, Yes. I made you for this. Go and come alive and let me show you all the ways I can shine through you?
  • What would happen if saw our scars not as baggage but as offering?
  • What would happen if we saw our professions as teachers, bankers, and mothers not as jobs or roles but as "art?"

I'll tell you what would happen. We'd be living as artists in the most beautifully authentic ways and we'd be coming alive in the process. 

Set aside your traditional ideas of artists as painters and poets. Embrace a new definition, one that includes you.

I'd like to give away a book that just might give you the permission you didn't know you were waiting for to make art with your life.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman 

It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are. Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it's about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify--in a million little ways.

Friends, you know that I'm a reader. I get excited about books. I've recommended many awesome reads over the years. 

But this book? It's a game-changer.

Just writing about it right now, I'm grabbing for the Kleenex. It is the most beautiful, freeing, grace-filled message. I finished the book on a Saturday night, nestled my head deep into the pillow, wiped tears that came from I don't know where, and peacefully drifted off to sleep. 

This book is like a wake-up call and a lullaby. 

I know that sounds crazy but that's what this book is to me. Emily's voice is both sure and gentle, as it always is. She's one of my favorite writers and favorite people.

Most of all, this book is Truth. You may think that a book like this makes the message all about you and your big self, that it's spiritually-cloaked narcissism.

Not at all. 

This book is about God. It's about his glory, not ours.

Every moment is packed with artistic possibility because, as an image bearer with a job to do, there is potential to reveal the glory of God in every circumstance, no matter how I feel, who I'm with, what my hands hold, or what's gone wrong. God with us lives within us. And he will come out through us in a million little ways.

This book is about the body of Christ. 

Everyone has their own unique passions as well as their distinct burdens. We are responsible to pay attention to what moves us and respond in faith. The body of Christ grows when each member gives what they have to give--that applies not only to our gifting but also to our burdens.

This book is about setting us free from fear and pride so that we may glorify God with the uniqueness of our lives, with everything from the soup we stir to the speeches we make. 

Personally, it's come at a time in my life when I feel like I'm beginning to break through some walls of doubt and insecurity. Courage and acceptance inspire me to embrace design and desire instead of denying or running away from these things.

I want to give everyone a copy of this book. I can't exactly do that, but I can give away one. 

And guess what? Emily signed it for you.  

Just leave a comment and be sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Example: scooperalamode{at}gmail{dot}com. 

If you're a real-life friend and you read this on Facebook or if you receive the posts via e-mail, you'll have to click over to the actual blog and leave a comment there.

You can tell me anything: why you'd love to win the book, the "art" in your own life, or your dreams of doing something that is courageously you. Anything. 

I'll announce a winner next Monday. 


This post linked up at Emily's Freeman's "We Will Make Art" Post. {She's doing a big giveaway over there so check it out.}

we will make art

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Time for Everything {Part 6}: The Art of Underachieving

Our 2012 Christmas letter provided friends and family with an obligatory update, one paragraph for each member of our family. Allow me to share my portion of the letter:

Scooper: Has not been promoted. You might say I’ve actually given up. {George Costanza sweatpants episode anyone?} After four years of graduate school, five-and-a-half years of teaching college students, and five years of schooling my own kids at home, I now do none of the above, a status of which I’m quite proud. I used to refer to myself as a “recovering academic.” Now I refer to myself as a “recovering homeschool mom.” 
The reality is: I’m simply recovering from doing more than I could reasonably handle and still maintain sanity. The kids have been in public school for a year now and it has been a blessing, exactly what all of us needed. Slowly I am finding rest and renewal and I don’t plan on adding new endeavors anytime soon. Though my roles as wife, mom, and fledgling manager of our home are plenty, I do enjoy a bit more time to pursue my love of writing, books, solitude, and compulsive furniture rearranging.

In short, I've professionalized underachievement and I'd like to share the wealth. There is method to this life of margin, rejecting prodigy-status for your kids, and wiffle ball in the backyard.

Keep in mind, this isn't a how-to blog. Not really. I don't like to be preachy or offer formulas. But I do want to challenge how we think and feel about certain issues. Actions and patterns don't stand alone; they're fueled by what's going on internally.

So I'd like to end this series by offering up simple questions. These are the very questions I ask myself or that my husband asks me when we're trying to decide where to stake down our yeses and our nos. 

Here we go.

Am I saying yes out of guilt?

Could my time and energy be better spent elsewhere?

Am I being passively peer-pressured by my overcommitted culture?

Am I saying yes because I'm afraid of what people will think if I say no?

If I say yes to this, what will I say no to?

Example: If I say yes to soccer as an activity for Kid A, there's a good chance I'm saying no to preparing dinner on the nights of games or practices, eating around the table together, and Kid A having open-ended play on those days. Play that might take the form of a fort in your dining room.

I'm not anti-sports and activities. Our kids play sports. We just don't want their stuff overtaking the life of our family and the freedom of their childhood.

If I say no to this, what will I say yes to?

Example: If I say no to working part-time or full-time once the kids are in school, I am probably saying yes to cleaning my own house, scrutinizing the grocery-store flyers, and making the budget stretch in every possible way.

If I say yes, how will this affect my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health?

Too much stress makes us sick. Too little margin squeezes out relationship. Too much doing crowds out space for just being. What are the implications here? Perhaps they're more significant than you think.

How am I wired? Am I taking my God-given uniqueness into consideration?

Example: If I'm an introvert and I say yes to an opportunity that involves a lot of engagement with people, whether it's ministry, homeschooling, being involved in kids' school, etc., I need to know that I'm going to be drained. I'll have less to offer those who matter most.

Have I prayed about it and taken the time to listen in stillness?

The first time I did this, it was awkward. And I naturally love quiet. Our culture is not one to slow and still and appreciate the sacredness of open-ended space. Quiet listening doesn't always yield a definitive answer but perhaps it cultivates a spirit that can more easily hear and discern. 

Have I listened to wise counsel?

Your spouse? A trusted friend, counselor, or pastor? Those who know you and will be honest with you.


These are some questions to ask concerning our kids:

Can they handle what's already on their plate?

Do they really want to do this or do I want them to do this?

Have they demonstrated the responsibility to say yes to this?

My husband recently challenged me with some good thoughts here. When considering a great opportunity for our 7th grader, he reminded me, She is only 12 years old. This is unnecessary. Opportunities like this are a privilege, not something she's entitled to. 

Basically, we earn the right to be busy with the things we want to be busy with. 

Generally speaking, 12-year-olds haven't been on the earth long enough to earn the responsibility to be as busy as we're often allowing them to be.  

I'd never thought of it this way. Most of us don't. What if we thought of opportunities as privileges for our children instead of must-haves? 

Are they getting enough sleep?

Here's what The National Sleep Foundation reports: 
Teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function best (for some, 8 1/2 hours is enough). Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.

Want to know the first sentence under the NSF's category, "Teens and Sleep?"

Sleep is food for the brain. 

That's some simple truth right there.

Babies and teenagers need more sleep than any other segment of the population. {But do not ever tell a sleep-deprived, brand new mother this statistic. She will punch you in the face.}

How many of us are robbing our kids of sleep and health because we're allowing them to be too busy?

Am I comparing my child's commitments {or lack thereof} to other kids' commitments?

Comparison is such a liar because it usually means we're comparing our worst or mediocre to someone else's best or better. 

God picked you for your child. Don't compare. Don't cave because you see all of his friends equally overcommitted. Busy-ness is not a badge of honor but it is sometimes a badge of crazy. Stick to your guns. Know his or her limitations. Know your limitations. 

My oldest is only in the 7th grade but I told her a couple of weeks ago that if I hear "but everyone else" one more time, my head would explode and it would be her fault. {I have no business writing anything about decent parenting.}

What's my point? God gives you wisdom for your child. Go with it. 

Am I saying yes just to make him / her happy?

I was talking with my mom about all of this stuff and she told me her own angst as a mother on this very issue, how it was easy to feel like a failure when a parental decision resulted in her child's misery. How she knew that she could make everything right with the world by reversing a decision or giving in.

In the short-term, that would have brought surface-level harmony, but not exactly abiding peace. Instead, we all weathered the storm. Perseverance usually gives way to perspective. 

Her teenage self may rail against you today. Love her anyway. Try not to take it personally. Know that it's not your job to make her happy each and every day of her life under your roof. {And now please copy this paragraph down and e-mail it to me because I need reminding more than anyone.}

What do you want the memories to be?

I kind of hate this question. Probably because I've already messed up plenty. I cringe at some of the things they'll remember. Perhaps there are moments, days, months, maybe even years that you wish you could erase and do over. 

But don't let this question make you feel guilty. Here's the amazing thing about God and his grace. He uses it all, even the stuff we'd rather forget.

Grace redeems what's gone before and gives us freedom to live more purposefully in our tomorrows. We'll botch things again, to be sure. But every day, new mercy

Think about how you want your own kids to remember their childhood. I'm talking about simple things. 

  • Every Friday after school, we get ice-cream.
  • Most Friday nights are family-fun night. We pile on the furniture and watch a movie and eat caramel marshmallowy popcorn. 
  • They play outside with friends pretty much everyday. 
  • Birthday parties are flag football and cupcakes.

  • We worship together on Sundays and eat turkey sandwiches and potato chips for lunch. Every Sunday, this is how we roll. I know, fancy.
  • We read Harry Potter.
  • We try to eat dinner together most nights. Usually a simple, one-dish meal. We talk about our day and fuss at the kids for getting up too much or rocking back and forth on their chairs or chewing with their mouths open. The Cleavers we're not. 
  • I don't really play with them much. But I let them play for as many hours of the day as possible. My driveway is littered with cardboard and bungee cords and junk from our garage. Right now these things are a restaurant. 

Do you see what I'm getting at? There's no perfect. I'm not super-mom. I am usually survival-mom. But there are things we value--margin, play, simple rhythms--and we try to structure life according to these values. 

They will not remember perfect parents or perfect days. But I hope they'll remember their time with us as loving and unhurried and free. 


I hope this series has inspired a bit more freedom in the way you think about busyness and opportunity, especially as it relates to our families. 

I hope you feel more permission to say no to the things that aren't really necessary. 

I hope that your values and desires for your family will shine more brightly than the overcommitment of our culture.

Be brave. Stand firm. Know that it's okay if your kids hates you for a day. Or thirty. Risk being misunderstood by others and don't feel like you have to qualify every no.

A time for everything, but not everything all the time. 

And if all of your overachieving friends leave you in their wake of busyness and bursting calendars, be content to hang back with us in the slacker section. We'll do lunch at the cardboard restaurant in my driveway.


This post is part of a series. You can find previous posts below.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Time for Everything {Part 5}: Make Time for Rock Sales

Sometimes my writing is retrospective. I'm able to write with a certain level of acceptance and perspective about a lesson learned or a truth gleaned. I'm on the other side and I share the journey. It's still very real but it's a bit less raw.

And sometimes, like right now, I write from the trenches. All of you lovely readers get to enter into my overthinking angst in real time. You're welcome.

I've been thinking and writing about this complicated issue of time and opportunities and raising kids in an overcommitted culture over the last two weeks. I'm writing about it because we're in the thick of it as I type this. 

We're crushing kids' extracurricular ambitions right and left around here. It's fun and not at all stressful and yielding all sorts of familial harmony.

Weighing opportunities for our kids, for our family, for myself--it's bringing out the worst in me. And by "the worst," I mean that it's showing me what's true about myself and revealing some things I'd rather pretend aren't there: ambition, performance, approval, people-pleasing, idolizing my kids' happiness and success.

What in the world?

You'd think we're dealing with existential catastrophes when really, it's just a simple yes or no or not during this season or I'm sorry we're going to have to back out.

Except that it doesn't feel simple. It feels like failure.

I finished the book Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung over the weekend and honestly, I don't know that I've ever read a more timely book for myself and for my culture.

Here's how he begins the chapter on parenting our kids in today's "crazy busy" culture:

We live in a strange new world. Kids are safer than ever before, but parental anxiety is skyrocketing. Children have more distractions and more opportunities, but parents have more worry and hassle. We have put unheard-of amounts of energy, time, and focus into our children. And yet, we assume their failures will almost certainly be our fault for not doing enough. We live in an age where the future happiness and success of our children trumps all other concerns. No labor is too demanding, no expense is too high, and no sacrifice is too great for our children. A little life hangs in the balance, and everything depends on us.

Can you relate? My husband and I feel the burden of responsibility every day. Each new decision feels heavier than it should and our kids aren't even in high school yet.

Deep down I know that there is beauty in margin and open-ended play for our kids. I'm actually kind of passionate about it. Time and freedom and flexibility were some of the reasons we chose to homeschool way back when and they're values we still cherish even though our kids are now in public school. 

But suddenly it seems like good opportunities are rolling down the lane like bowling balls, threatening to knock down our deeply-held values like wobbly pins.

Opportunities morph into obligations because I allow them to boss me around that way. I'm not sure why.

Some of it is comparison. Just look around. There are a lot of families committed to seemingly worthwhile endeavors. Sometimes I worry that we're missing out. And then I ask, What exactly are we missing out on?

More commitments.

Less family time.

More stress.

Less calm.

More to keep track of.

Less joy because of all the crazy. 

More "opportunity."

Less availability. For family. Friends. Community. God. 

Sure, I could say that we're missing out on teamwork, camaraderie, future athletic opportunities, and untapped potential. And while these are good things, they are not ultimate things. 

Every yes comes with a cost.

I had coffee with a friend last week, a mom whose kids are all grown. I was talking to her about these dilemmas and one particular opportunity about which we were undecided for our middle child. She heard me. She considered my stress over the whole deal. And then she said, He's in 4th grade.

Sometimes it's that simple. We're not writing college applications here. We're in fourth grade.

I needed someone to state the obvious.

Do you know what even the best and brightest fourth graders could be doing if they had more margin?

Playing wiffle ball in the backyard with neighbor friends. 

Teaching their younger brothers how to make illicit noises with their armpits. 

Finishing homework so they can play.

Reading books. Or having someone else read them books. 

Making their moms laugh with their delightful fourth-grader-ness. 

Getting a rash from playing football in the front yard and rolling around in grass clippings for hours.

Keeping up with their favorite teams' stats.

Playing basketball in the driveway and board games on the front porch. 

The last week and a half has provided a break from a lot of our scheduled activity and I've observed the beauty of all the unscheduled activity bustling around me. I don't know what's prompted a wiffle ball revival but my backyard has become the neighborhood field and I can't tell you how much I love it. 

I've also observed something about myself. When life is less hurried, I'm more patient with everyone. I enjoy my children more and seem to have more emotional and conversational energy to go around. 

DeYoung cites a study that confirms this "nicer-mom phenomenon" I've experienced. The study interviewed more than a thousand children in grades three to twelve. One of the questions researchers asked kids was what one thing they would change about the way their parents' work was affecting them. The kids' response? Not more time or money or availability. They wished that their parents were less tired and less stressed

Furthermore, the kids were asked to grade their parents on everything from activity attendance to making kids feel important. Most parents scored well here. But guess where parents completely bombed? Anger management. Parents scored really badly on controlling their temper. The study argues that our kids are suffering from "secondhand stress." {Crazy Busy, pg. 70}

Secondhand stress. That's a powerful concept. And kind of disturbing.

DeYoung goes on to say this:
By trying to do so much for them, we are actually making our kids less happy. It would be better for us and for our kids if we planned fewer outings, got involved in fewer activities, took more breaks from the kids, did whatever we could to get more help around the house, and made parental sanity a higher priority.

Amen. And Amen. 

Life will be full and stressful soon enough. There will be mandatory obligation aplenty in a few short years. GPAs will "matter." Sort of. There will be legit pressure and even more running around. The budget will increase right along with their shoe sizes and appetites.

But now is not that time.

At least not for us.

Is it terribly crazy that I want my kids to have time to sell rocks and teach Barbie how to zip-line?

I know that some people thrive on busy and thrive on opportunity. They're energized by the coming and going and doing and cheering. Basketball games can be family entertainment and bonding. I get that. We love going to our kids' games and they love it too. We're simple, rec-league, sports-in-moderation kinds of people.

Perhaps "moderation" is the operative concept.  

But what about the prodigy? you may ask. What about college scholarship possibilities?

Those are fair questions. It's true that some kids are prodigies: Olympic athletes or Scripps Spelling Bee winners or high school graduates by the age of 11. And it's true that some kids earn generous college scholarships.

But what about the other ninety-something percent of us? What about regular families with regular budgets and wonderfully average kids with beautiful gifts and abilities but not exactly of the prodigy or full-ride variety?

Let's resolve to take deep breaths and calm down a bit. 

To quote Crazy Busy's Chapter 6 sub-title, "We Need to Stop Freaking Out about Our Kids."

Do we ever.

Kids can still make it in the world and make it well without us over-scheduling them in the hope that Division 1 or Harvard will come calling. Also? Division 1 and Harvard don't guarantee anything.

Times change. Cultures shift. We can't pretend that we can parent our kids exactly how our parents parented or how their parents parented. Though there is nothing new under the sun, there are particular challenges we face that they didn't.

It's easy to say, Well, we didn't do all of these things and we turned out okay.

Though that is true, we also need to understand that there haven't always been "all of these things." We have more decisions to make about 10,000 things before our kids are even teenagers. We have kids asking for cell phones and Instagram accounts. Thanks to social media, bullying happens in real life and also in virtual worlds that collide with real life. We have athletic teams and also academic teams. Gone are the democratic days of rec-league everything. We have club teams and travel teams, all starting in grade school. You can be in the school band and also play in the school band's specialty bands. They practice more. And cost more. And play more. You can be a cheerleader and also be a competition cheerleader who smiles and stunts on the weekends.

It all just seems a bit...unnecessary.

DeYoung says that "because we can do so much, we do do so much. Our lives have no limits." 

I worry that our kids will be burned out on life by age 18 or they'll be so accustomed to busy that they won't know any other gear than fifth. I'm concerned that they'll be so programmed to saying yes to every good thing and then not be available for the most important things God may have for them. I fret that they'll confuse efficiency with effectiveness and fruitfulness with productivity. 

Most of all, I'm afraid that they'll worship their own success because they saw us bow down to it first.

Activity and talent and opportunity are not the mandatory tools for building loved and loving children. And that's what we hope for: Kids who know they're wildly loved by God and by their family. Kids who will one day live in such a way that all of this love spills over into the world around them. 

I can only speak for myself but I have a feeling that I speak for some of you too. If you have a kid in school, you already know that these years are fleeting. And while we're supposed to get them ready for the "real world" and provide them with fruitful opportunities within our means to discover who they are, I want to have time together. Besides, time together helps us as parents "notice the becoming." And isn't that one of the best gifts we can give them toward discovery? Noticing.

Running around from one thing to the next is not really that fun or fruitful for us; it doesn't usually promote love and togetherness either. 

We long for our kids to enjoy time to just be kids. And I think most parents long to have time to enjoy their kids just being kids too. How can we do that when our calendars are bursting at the seams?  

My last post talked about finding wisdom for the many decisions we make regarding opportunities and commitments for ourselves and for our kids. I still believe we should seek guidance and that God meets us in the seeking. I'm not negating those places and processes of wisdom. Sometimes it's a journey. And sometimes it's merely asking ourselves a simple question when we're at a yes or no crossroads:

Is this really necessary?

{Why yes, I am a rocket scientist.} 

Perhaps we make things harder than they need to be. Perhaps we bow down at the altar of our kids' success and happiness and well-roundedness more than we care to admit. 

We need balance. We need perspective. We need older and wiser parents with perspective to say, He's only in fourth grade. We need to understand that there is a time for everything and every season under heaven but there is not room for everything all at one time. Nor should there be. We weren't created for that. And our kids definitely weren't created for that.

If you're afraid that you're not doing "enough" for your kids, examine what's driving that fear. Comparison? Approval? Idolizing your kids' happiness and success? 

If you're afraid that you're doing too much for your kids, it's not too late to get off the merry-go-round. But no one can do it for you. It's hard to say no. You may disappoint people and it may feel like loss. But think of what you might gain in the process.

If you love your kids unconditionally and they know it, I bet you're doing enough. And if all that's on your plate feels like too much, I'm willing to bet that it is. 

If you're weighing a decision this week and your spirit is anxious as you deliberate, ask yourself if this opportunity, no matter how wonderfully enriching, is really necessary. Consider what will actually be gained and lost by saying yes. And what will actually be gained and lost by saying no

These are the questions I'm asking myself this week. 

So with all of this in mind, let's resolve right now that we'll "stop freaking out about our kids." Let's remind ourselves and one another that wild love and protective boundaries and lavish grace and occasional popsicles are enough. 

And after you've given yourself and a friend this pep talk, go get yourselves a wiffle ball set and watch your kids play from the kitchen window. If your yard isn't big enough for that, no worries. Chances are you can make room for a rock sale on the front porch.


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