Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October is my Favorite Season

Okay, I know October is not a season. But fall has arrived here in our little corner of the Midwest. The funny thing about fall here is that at the end of September, you can spend a day at the zoo in your shorts and tee shirt (C got to help out at the Cheetah show and show how Cheetah adaptations work)...
 ...and then hit the middle of the week where you catch lizards at the bus stop in long sleeves and shorts (or short sleeves and pants, as One Ordinary Dad exhibits)...
...and then by the first weekend in October you are bundled up in hats and vests and sweatshirts in front of a roaring bonfire. 
 Don't mind B- he was making friends with some chickens at this past weekend's bonfire/hayride/fall gathering.
 The thing is, I lived with the seasons for my entire life. And I'm pretty sure I couldn't live without them. I love the way they force rhythms on our lives. I love the way that summer is busy and crazy and hot. I love how fall calms us down and prepares us to lie dormant for a while. I love winter and the way we seem to just rest more while the snow falls (don't get me wrong though...the winter blues do set in for a bit after the holidays, but that's what skiing and sledding and hot chocolate and the occasional escape to a warmer climate when we can afford it are for). And then spring comes, like it always does. We "wake up" from our hibernation and slowly start gearing up to run headfirst into summer.

The leaves are changing colors. The space heaters are on (we live in a small house, no need to turn on the heat just yet as temperature is still warm enough during the day). We have trips to pumpkin patches still to make. And the little one growing inside me still has just a smidge more baking to do. Sweaters and sweatshirts are replacing tees and tanks. The dark comes earlier. Costumes are being readied. Treats are being purchased. Parent-teacher conferences are taking place. Hot chocolate is replacing ice cream for dessert. Blankets are being pulled out on movie night.

And it's beautiful. Yes, October is my favorite season.

~One Ordinary Mom :-)

PS...Isn't my little cello player (in her fall sweats) adorable? She actually got moved up to the advanced class thanks to her experience playing violin last year and One Ordinary Dad's musical teachings (the man was a music major in college)...although I'm sure there is some natural talent involved too. Also, I'm not one to brag...advanced is just a fancy way of saying that she's going to move at an accelerated pace with some older kids since this is the first year cello has been offered in grades K-3. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

She Shares Truth: Hosea

Today marks the end of an online Bible study I’ve been participating in covering the book of Hosea. So today, a lot of the participants are sharing their truths- what they learned over the last 17 days of study—and I thought I would join in on the fun.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Hosea, it’s this in a nutshell: God asks Hosea to marry Gomer. Gomer is a prostitute. It’s hard. She’s unfaithful. She runs away from Hosea. But God uses this as a metaphor for Himself and Israel. The Israelites have run away from God. They deserve punishment and wrath, just like Gomer deserves consequences, but God shows mercy. He beckons Israel to return, and He loves them all the same. It goes deeper and there’s a whole lot more. It’s worth a read.

Anyway, there were three big ideas that this study brought to the surface for me. This is long. Please hang in there.

I     1. I am Israel. I run away from God a lot. What do I mean by this? I mean that even though I know God shows up and provides and works slow miracles in my life, there are times where I run from Him and seek attention, approval, comfort, etc. in other things. I’m a recovering approval-addict. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be liked. And sometimes I did some things totally out of character for me to win the approval of others. And sometimes it didn’t really matter. God approves of me just as I am. Period. I don’t need to run from Him to get approval. His approval should be enough. The other thing about running is that sometimes when I’ve run away from God, I’ve made some mistakes. For example, early in my career, as I strove to win approval from coworkers and friends, I did some damage on a couple of credit cards. I thought I needed to wear certain things, eat at certain restaurants, belong to a certain gym, go to certain happy hours, see certain movies, etc. in order to be well-liked. But my budget didn’t allow for it. Eventually, when I realized what a mess I was making, God was there for me. He is always there in the return. The thing I never considered until now though? God is with us as we live out the consequences of our actions. Running towards material things and racking up debt in order to win approval had its consequence- I needed to pay off the debt. Returning to God and saying I’m sorry for not letting His approval be enough was a start. And while He is God and could’ve easily put a bonus check or a winning lottery ticket in my hand to pay off the debt instantly, He didn’t But He was with me as I cleaned up the mess. As I canceled memberships, turned down invitations, made and stuck with a strict budget—He was there through all of it, restoring me. So yes, I’ve run from God before. Many times. But I’ve returned. And now I’ve learned that just because I come back, I don’t get a free pass on consequences, but I do get God, who gets in the mess with me while I clean it up.

      2. Hard things. I wrote about this a couple ofweeks ago. God asks us to sometimes do hard, but right things. Lately I’ve been feeling the pull to do the hard thing of loving people that are hard to love. And I said I needed to start with my daughter, because she’s not me and sometimes she is frustrating to love (I’ve never not loved her, just to be clear—I’ve just not loved her as well I could have because I’ve been hard on her and expected her to be exactly like me). Last weekend my husband went out of town to visit his dad and took our son with him. It gave me the chance to love my sweet C exactly how she needed to be loved. It was refreshing and needed for both (though pretending to be My Little Pony unicorns at 7:30am is HARD). God revealed so much about her amazing spirit and personality to me—things I hadn’t really “seen” because of my expectations and frustrations with her. She may have a strong personality, but the girl embodies the whole “dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening” cliché. Here's a snapshot of our weekend:
      3. Idols. There are things in my life I tend to idolize and that’s not okay. Idols are anything that we put before God—things we worship instead of Him. During this study God brought it to my attention that I idolize rest. I’m not saying rest is a bad thing. It’s not (I wrote about how sometimes we need it badly here). My idolizing rest was a bad thing. I would obsess over making sure I was getting enough rest. If I felt I didn’t get enough, I let it color my day (“I only got x hours of sleep last night so today is going to stink.”). On days when I didn’t think my rest had been sufficient, I found myself being more negative, living with a short fuse, losing my patience more easily. I’m learning to trust God with the rest He gives me and not obsess over it the way I have for so much of my adult life. I’m praying He redeems the rest I do get. And you know what? He’s been faithful so far. The night I only got about four hours of sleep? Normally that would send me over the edge and into freak out mode, snapping at people and having “woe is me” break down moments. But instead, I went to work the next day, kicked butt with my lesson plan, was patient with my students and my own children, and ended up being rewarded with some pretty solid sleep the next night (which is nice at 32 weeks pregnant). Again, rest is needed and it’s not a bad thing. It was my obsessing over it the way some might obsess over working out or eating healthy (both good things) that was turning it into an idol.

If you’re still reading, thanks! Go check out Hosea. And remember, it’s never too late to return from your running, to do hard, but right things, and to smash your idols.


One Ordinary Mom :-)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hard Things

I've been engaged in an online women's Bible study for the last several weeks. Right now we're about a third of the way through a study on Hosea. And this post has really left me thinking about a lot. So much so that I decided to blog some of my thoughts just to get them out somewhere.

The general gist of the post is that God sometimes asks us to do hard things, but they're the right things. Just like He asked Hosea to take Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife. I recommend at least reading the post if not digging into Hosea for more about it. Anyway, it was the right thing for Hosea to do, even though it was a hard thing. And as the post puts it, "God never said the right thing would be the easy thing."

So it got me thinking about what hard, but right, thing or things God may be asking of me. I'm fortunate in that I'm not someone struggling with abuse or addiction or hard relationships or bitterness or any number of other hard things that some women out there are struggling with and that God may be asking them to deal with right now. The volunteering I do at church is not hard for me (I play with babies). My job is not hard for me (there are individual days that are hard as a teacher, but I don't wake up dreading work each day). God is not calling me to sell everything and move to a third world country. Or to take an unfaithful spouse. Or to adopt a child. Or any number of hard things He asks of people (knowing the end of the story is worth it). In fact, other than this pregnancy being hard on me physically (um....yeah, let's just say I never knew one could need physical therapy during pregnancy to help ease pain), my life is relatively easy right now. And maybe that's why I've been stewing over this one.

As I've read and re-read it and prayed about it, the theme of the post and of Hosea started to become more apparent and relevant in my situation though: LOVE. The more I've prayed about it, the more God has brought to mind people in my life that are hard to love. And He's put it on my heart that right now, maybe the hard, but right, thing I need to do right now is just keep loving them. Even when I don't necessarily want to make time to listen to them vent or complain (whether or not they willingly do the same for me). Even when I feel like they've insulted me (which brings up some forgiveness issues, but that's for another post). Even when I feel like they are making poor choices (I mean, who am I to judge). Because a little love can go a long way.

And with whom do I need to start? The person on the forefront of my mind is my daughter. And before you think "how could she not love her daughter?" you need to know this: I would take a bullet for her, push her out of the way of traffic, and sacrifice everything for her (and for her brother and her sister). I straight up love that girl like I never thought it was possible to love another human being. But sometimes....she is hard to love. She is strong-willed like me, but unlike me she is not a people-pleasing recovering-approval-addict. Which means that where I tried to be a leader at my school and wanted to be teacher's pet, she could actually care less whom she impresses. Which meant that as a kindergarten student last year, there were some notes home and phone calls about outbursts and impulse control and things that I took personally as a teacher myself. "Why can't she just pull it together like I did?" was the question on my mind on those days. In other words, "why can't she just be more like me?"

Because she's not me. She is exactly how God made her. And sometimes when her personality and my personality collide, she can be hard to love. She can be frustrating to love. But she is oh so worth loving. So I'm trying to throw out the window all of my preconceived notions of how I think she should be based on who I was and just love her for who she is right now. Mothering is a hard thing. Loving your kids can sometimes be a hard thing. But they are right things. God never promised the right things would be easy.

~One Ordinary Mom :-)

P.S. I promise I love my kids something fierce. But I really wanted an honest post. There are a lot of days when my kiddos are easy to love-- we had a lot of them this summer. And this school year has started off much better than last year for my sweet C. But this reminder to keep on loving her even when it's really hard to do it was much needed as we move forward. And as I work on loving her when it's hard, I hope it'll spill over to loving other people in my life when loving them is hard too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

And Breathe

I'm seven days into the new school year. A new school year that brought lots of new changes. Chief among them is the change in time. For the last decade I've taught four, 60 minutes classes, and a half-hour intervention bell. Now, I teach five, 50 minute classes, and a 50 minute research bell. Our school day hours didn't change, so I basically have 50 minutes less each week to impart all there is to know about 8th grade Language Arts to my students...and I have 28 more students to teach. And that pesky research period to supervise and monitor. And 50 minutes less planning time each week than I previously had (you know, that time when I'm supposed to grade and plan and make copies so I don't have to stay after school to do it or come in on weekends).

I'm not complaining though. The schedule is exhausting. Being 29 weeks pregnant doesn't help. But seven days in (and with about 75% of their names learned...yes, it takes me awhile), and I know it will be okay. I just need to breathe.

We were busy at our house last week. Monday we had C's first grade orientation. Tuesday was small group. Wednesday was "take C school supply shopping day" (lucky girl doesn't start until Monday). Thursday I had my Open House and One Ordinary Dad took the kiddos to B's Open House at his preschool/daycare. Last night we had Suzuki orientation for C's school (she played violin last year, but she's going to give cello a try this year-- I'm super pumped; plus, we bought a violin, so she can still play it if she wants, but we're all about exposure to different instruments and trying new things).

My in-laws graciously invited the kiddos over for a sleepover last night. One Ordinary Dad and I got to enjoy some food truck goodness and a free jazz concert after the Suzuki orientation before we came home and collapsed. I slept hard. A good nine hours.
Today, One Ordinary Dad is giving more time to just breathe. He's picking up the kiddos from his parents' house and then taking them to the museum-- a favorite spot. I'm planning to read and rest and knit and enjoy these few hours alone.

Let's face it, sometimes we all need that time to recharge. I used to struggle and feel guilty about it. Days when One Ordinary Dad would take the kids somewhere would leave me feeling guilty that I wasn't out there with them. But the reality is that I'm a better mom when I ask for that time off every once in a while. When I tell my husband that if he could just give me some time alone to regroup, I promise to come back a better person. Sometimes this looks like him going off on adventures with our kids. Sometimes it looks like the three of them playing at home while I wander around Ikea or a bookstore. I've found this happens about every six weeks or so-- this need to recharge. I've stopped feeling guilty about needing that time, because I know it does wonders to restore my soul. I'm thankful that my husband gets this and gives me that time (don't worry, I give it to him when he needs it too).

I want to encourage any other mamas out there to not feel guilty about needing that breathing room. It's okay to ask your husband or in-laws or parents or the teenager across the street (well, you'll have to pay her) to have some fun with your kiddos while you bow out and rest. In fact, if you look in the Bible you'll remember that even God rested. Take a Sabbath. Take a breather. And don't feel guilty. You do a lot.

Thankfully this week is not full, not at all. Other than our normal small group, we will simply be getting back into the routine of school now that C will finally be back. And counting down the days until we are a family of five.

Blessings and REST to you,
One Ordinary Mom

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Light Up the Beginning of a New Decade

Tomorrow I start a new decade of teaching.  It's year 11. Actually, tomorrow the students arrive; I've been at school all week. I can't say it's something I'm excited about or to which I've been looking forward. It's not really job dissatisfaction so much as it is my heart is really with my kids at home. B is already back at school too though and C starts in a little over a week. August always kind of feels this way, but this year is more intense. I kept kind of hoping some miracle would happen and I'd just be able to take a year off.

I'm not going to go into details, but there is a culture of negativity in my district right now. I have hope that it can and will change. God didn't perform a quick miracle over our circumstances so that I could just take the year off-- finish off these last 12 weeks of pregnancy and spend several months at home with our little one. And as I've been praying and reflecting, I've come to learn it's because He wants me at my job. To be a light. To be positive. To be His hands and feet.

And it's that reflection, that which my creator has put before me, that makes going to bed tonight knowing I need to get up before the sun tomorrow to welcome 150 new fresh faces into my room, easier.  Daily, I will try hard to light up the dark places with my coworkers, with my students, with my students' parents.  And my hope and my prayer is that little by little that light will spread, that a slow miracle will take place, and that culture of negativity will disappear. Maybe then, other Augusts won't feel so much like this August. They'll feel better.

Time to light up the start of a new decade.

~One Ordinary Mom

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When Plans Change: Unexpected Surprises

I am a planner. Type A all the way. I needed to know yesterday what the plans are for next weekend. I've been working on spontaneity a lot this summer, mostly in the form of just saying "yes" to whatever my kids ask to do (which usually isn't a huge stretch for me as it either involves the pool, the playground, the museum center, or the zoo).

This is my last full week of summer vacation. Naturally I had it all planned out. A neat little to-do list of experiences to check off. One more zoo trip. One more museum center trip. A trip to the playground where we can feed the ducks our stale leftover waffles from Saturday morning. A matinee of Planes Fire and Rescue. Checking out a new indoor playplace. A meetup with a college roommate and her kids. So much to cram into one more week at home with them.

So on Monday we set off to the zoo. A little over an hour into our trip (I had packed a lunch- I had PLANNED on staying for several hours), my normally rambunctious six-year-old sidled up next to me and told me she didn't feel like herself and wanted to go home. My heart started to race and I think I half expected her to puke on the spot. But she said her belly didn't hurt, she was just tired. Water and some Craisins didn't help. She still wanted to come home. So we did. And she dozed on and off on the couch for the rest of the day. And for much of Tuesday (there went the park with the ducks and the matinee). The final verdict reached early this morning was strep throat. Afternoon plans were cancelled and antibiotics prescribed. She's on the rebound now-- pretty much back to normal and ready to head out on an adventure tomorrow. She doesn't care that two days of my plans for her had to be cancelled or changed around. And there were some unexpected surprises in that.

The unexpected surprise of taking B to the river to throw rocks (a favorite activity of his) and having him all to myself while she slept. The unexpected surprise of having a quiet morning to make muffins and birthday cake for One Ordinary Dad and arrange his presents just so.
The unexpected surprise of a little more time to read while my sweet girl rested and my boy quietly sat by her side on the couch and patted her leg (those two really have an amazing bond). The unexpected surprise of a long midday walk alone while both kids napped (it's kind of nice to have a husband who works from home). The unexpected surprise of a little extra time than I anticipated to go get my classroom ready. The unexpected snuggles. The unexpected quiet. It was actually, unexpectedly, good for my soul.
I learned today that these unexpected flowers that appeared recently in our backyard are called "surprise lilies." In nine years of living in this house I've never seen them before. What a beautiful surprise and the perfect end to what I was wrestling with in my heart.

Sometimes plans change unexpectedly. Things don't go the way we want. And it's easy to have a pity party (I was having one big time on Tuesday morning when it was clear that it wasn't just the weekend catching up with C). I didn't want to deal with a sick kid on my last week of summer break with just the two of them. I didn't want to deal with cancelling and changing my plans. But it turned out okay. And I know these were just superficial little end of summer fun plans, but if I can trust God for the unexpected surprises and blessings when the little plans change, then certainly I can have faith to hold onto him when big important plans change, when the unexpected surprises may take longer to appear, when it really matters.

~One Ordinary Mom :-)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things Take Time

A couple of weeks ago, our pastor at church spoke about "slow miracles." Yes, the miracles that happen in an instant and immediately are wonderful, but most take time.

In my last post I mentioned that I felt like this summer had been a sort of time of reinvention-- but if we're being honest, it's really been something going on within me over the last few years with the most intensity coming this summer. I don't know that I have the vocabulary to really describe it, but I'll give it a shot and try to keep it short.

Basically, I've kind of stopped caring. Not in an "I've given up" kind of way, but in the "I no longer care what other people think" kind of way. I am a recovering approval-addict. Starting around high school, I cared so much what others thought that I didn't really know who I was. I wanted my teachers and friends to think I was smart and witty and good at a lot of things. I wanted strangers to think my makeup and clothes and semi-athletic build meant I had it all together. I did everything every glossy magazine told me to do. It continued into college and into my early career.

But at some point in the last few years (I can't really pinpoint when things changed), I stopped seeking that approval so desperately. The growth I began experiencing in my faith started spilling over into my work and my friendships. I heard God whispering that His was truly the only approval that mattered.

And of course I've still struggled and still fought it. I've still been a sucker for a trendy outfit. I've still picked up books that everyone has raved about but that I really didn't like. I've still made sure I haven't left the house without makeup.

This summer though, I've done those things less and less. I haven't picked up a glossy magazine and couldn't tell you what the fall trends are-- not that they matter since the majority of my maternity clothes are seven years old and I really don't want to buy more with 15 weeks left to go. I've left the house without makeup more than I've left with makeup. I've pursued my own interests, read the things I want to read, and not put much effort into making sure people think I'm particularly smart or witty or that I have it all together (I really don't). It's been a slow transformation and reinvention of sorts.

Over the weekend, I went to the shores of Lake Erie with my family for a day. I walked along the beach and picked up some sea glass. There wasn't a lot to find given that a break wall stops a lot of "stuff" from coming to shore, but the sea glass gave me pause for a bit. Sea glass goes into the water as trash. It is litter. It is broken and ugly and rough around the edges. But the more time it spends in the water, the smoother it becomes. It turns into something beautiful and worth holding onto.

Slow miracles are like that. It takes time for God to smooth out our broken and ugly and rough edges and turn them into something beautiful. But the process is worth it.

I'm not finished yet. Not by a long shot. But I feel like a lot of those broken and ugly and rough edges have been undergoing a gradual smoothing process as I let go of the need for approval from others, as I grow in my relationship with my creator, and as One Ordinary Dad and I wait patiently for God to move on the vision we have for our family.

Fast miracles bring fast relief and freedom. But relief and freedom exist in the slow miracles too.

One Ordinary Mom :-)

PS...If you'd like to listen to the slow miracles sermon, head here: http://www.crossroads.net/my/media/messages.php#207 
Click on the "Wonders Oakley" message from 7/19.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's Been a Year?!?

Is anybody out there?

It's been almost a year since my last post. And that's okay. We were busy with kindergarten, and One Ordinary Dad's new job (and then another new job, and then another new job-- we think this one will work for a long while and is a good fit for our family), B starting preschool somewhere, keeping house, having fun, and dreaming big.

Which brings us to today. I started blogging at a time when pretty much none of my family members had joined Facebook. Blogging was a way to show off pictures of my kiddos without sending annoying picture-heavy emails each day. They're all on Facebook now, and let's be real, I just lost steam.

But I'm back. We'll see how long I manage to stick around this time. Our 2014 resolution was inspired by Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years-- we're going to live a better story Okay, we kind of started this before 2014, but we're continuing to live it out (more here). It doesn't mean we're spending oodles of money (though we did visit the mouse a few months ago).

It means saying yes to the things we want for our family-- for the story we're living and creating each moment. And it means saying no to things we know don't benefit our family or have a part in our story (yet-- not all things we say no to are bad).

And it's working. 2014 has been really really good to us. Our biggest yes of all?

Well, we decided to say yes to another baby. We've been waffling on this one for about a year. And then back in the winter it became clear to both One Ordinary Dad and I-- our family just wasn't complete. Miss E will complete our family when she arrives this fall.

So for now I'm getting ready to start my eleventh year teaching, Miss C will be in first grade, B is going back to preschool, One Ordinary Dad is working from home, and we're soaking up the summer sun (and dancing in the summer rains) as much as we can as we live our story.

This summer has also been a reinvention of sorts for me. Maybe that's why I logged back on and wrote this post. More on that later, but let's just say I'm finally, at the age of 32, figuring out who I am and who I want to be, and feel incredibly comfortable in my skin.

Blessings to you all, whoever is still reading,
One Ordinary Mom