Monday, August 4, 2014

Camping With The Kids: Big Lessons In Little Adventures

I considered making up my own word and titling this post Camping and Creeking With The Kids (as in, playing in creeks), but then I discovered that according to Urban Dictionary, creeking is also a term derived from the 90's teen drama Dawson's Creek that means overthinking a situation or feeling until it becomes more complicated than it really is, and I thought that would be just a little too ironic because, let's face it, I do that.

I overthink because I want to overteach. Lately at home I haven't felt I've been doing the best job of giving my kids what I feel they need – a mom who is not stressed, who is patient, who is living by example. We all have a little mom guilt now and then, right? Lately I've allowed some of the pressures of life and the crushed expectations and the self-loathing thoughts to stand in the way of me doing my most important job, and I've been struggling to figure out how to get back to the basics.

I've been hurting, and I've needed to heal. For me, yes, but also for them.

Spiritual Healing Found In Nature
Life Lessons Found In The Wild
During the past couple of weekends we spent some time 'getting away'. It should be clear to all of us by now that in our world, it's hard to escape all the wrong things that get thrown at us everyday.

More is Better. Beauty is Success. Life is about ME. Don't think – just fill up your mind with everything that can distract you from how miserable existence is.

So the thing we need to do is take the time to escape it.

This is what I learned (and re-learned) by 'getting away from it all' with my family:

What I Learned Beauty Is Found In Simple Pleasures

When we go on camping trips, my husband brings way too much food. He says camping is for eating lots of delicious camp snacks, and and he also claims that while camping, calories don't count. (If only that were true...) But food really does seem to taste better in the outdoors, after working up an appetite in the water or on a trail, and feeling the warm sun on your face and the lake wind blow through your hair really is better than any movie you'll ever see.

Less Is Better, By Far

I read a few articles about camping with kids before we went on our trip, and though many of them had some great ideas, I decided that taking a giant tub full of toys to make sure they stayed entertained was not the way to go for us. I spend so much of my time at home cleaning up toys or supervising the cleaning up of toys that I was determined to get away from it for a while. And guess what? They made their own fun, and there was nothing to fight over. My determination to simplify has been renewed, and I once again remember the significance of packing light, in all types of baggage we may carry in life.

The Importance Of Sacrificing Comfort

Too much comfort results in too much expectation. When you go without life's little luxuries, you remember to be thankful, and you are better equipped to teach that thankfulness to your children.

And one morning around 4 am, when you need to pee and leave your tent with your flashlight and walk off into the darkness, you will remember what it's like to be brave. You might choose your spot, shut off the flashlight, and just as you squat, hear a growl behind you. You may think, that was probably a snore, not a growl, and glance toward the direction of the tent, but then you will hear it again – the low, guttural sound of a nocturnal animal – and realize it's definitely behind you.

As you try to mentally will yourself to pee faster, you might also talk yourself into believing you are not terrified, but your heart's thudding in your chest and the speed at which you approach the tent while yanking up your shorts mid-stride will say otherwise.

And then you will be really, REALLY thankful that you have a shelter to go home to and don't usually have to worry about being mauled to death in the middle of the night by a wild beast.

(Or maybe you will get lucky, and that won't happen to you at all, since it already happened to me, but the key is that these kinds of adventures teach you to handle whatever comes your way.)

Having Gratitude When It's HardTo See It All Through Their Eyes 

Every adventure, no matter how small, is grand in the eyes of your children. If you fall off the inner tube, you can still remember how fun it was to ride. You can look forward to the s'more at the end of the day. You may trip on the rocks, but your toes still never felt so good than when the creek was rushing over them.

You can be thankful for the experience, all good and bad of it. When it's all fresh and new, the gratitude comes easy.
Connection Is Healing
The experience is only what it is because you're together – the bonds you create with your family and with your Creator are more meaningful than anything else you could ever do.

When the trip is over, you may have to come back home to 'reality', but maybe reality wasn't what you thought it was. And maybe it's good to do a little 'creeking' now and then...because maybe you'll realize that it's all just one small part of one great big adventure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reasons Your iPad May Be Running Out Of Storage Space

Children Are So Random

Kids Are Sneaky

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seasons Of Grace: Revealing The Blessings That Are Already There

Finding Grace
What I love most about the summer is how everything feels so comfortable. We are not sick week after week, as seems to be the case during winter. We can choose to stay home and relax in the comfort of the air conditioning or go somewhere fun to refresh ourselves with water play. We enjoy veggies from grandma's garden and lower prices on fruit from the market. There is an abundance of activities, from picnics to parties, from swinging to swimming.

When it gets cold, I feel like I go into hibernation for part of the year, waiting for the world to thaw. But the winter months bring about a different kind of peace – there are warm fires, Christmas lights, hot tea, and cozy sweatpants. Each season has its highs and lows. And even if I start to miss the warmth of summer, what sustains me throughout that freeze is the memory of the time I spent in the sun – and the knowledge that it will one day come again.

I try to remember through all the season changes that attitude and perspective are what make life, and after all the sorrow and heartache I've witnessed or been apart of or read about, it seems impossible to NOT have a good attitude, when I realize what could be.

I'm one of those people who plans road trips by mapping out the restaurants and hotels at the exits along the way. Road trips can be fun, but they can be so much more fun if approached with meticulous forethought, right? You could eat at the perfect diner, pump gas at the cheapest station, and never have an emergency pee stop as long as you know where all the rest areas are!

Except this is life, and it doesn't always go according to our best laid plans. I've mentioned one of these road trips before...the one where Hannah and I got really sick just as it began...and the urgent care we stopped at along the way was closed because the doctor had gone up to Alaska to birth babies (Yes, seriously – that's what the sign said)...and we got snowed in on the way to our destination AND on the way back...and our car battery died and had to be replaced.
When Life Is Hard Attitude Counts

Despite all of that, it's still one of the best trips we've ever taken. We encountered so much grace on that journey. My baby was sick, but I learned to lean on my parental instincts a little more. We got stuck in Moab, Utah, which is a simply beautiful, quaint, majestic place to get snowed in. And the car battery died literally steps away from a mechanic shop.

We also got to spend Christmas in Colorado with family. It was all worth it.

And yet I wouldn't know that if I couldn't see it. That grace spills over into my life day after day – it is always there, whether or not I choose to look at it. And I suppose that's why I try to remember to look for it, and why I tend to write about the better parts of motherhood on this blog, or at least I have a habit of putting a happier spin on the tough parts, and why I almost always try to offer encouragement or a 'happy ending' in everything I write about.

I never, ever want to reach a place where I'm ignoring grace. We need to grab hold of our blessings. Sometimes I wonder if people think I'm too positive, too happy, too annoyingly 'look on the bright side'. I will admit that I believe I grew up facing situations that led me to develop that attitude as a defense mechanism – but I'm grateful for it.

Christ Brings Me Joy
I'm grateful to be living this life – to have precious moments to capture, to have opportunities to fight for what I believe in, to have comforts and joys and sorrows to share, and to have relationships to build along the way.

I'm grateful for it because I don't always feel that way. No one does, not all the time.
How Do I Find Joy Again In My LifeIn fact what I tend to feel most of the time is a sense of trying to find some quiet in the midst of a busy life. If I have a day when there have been extra messes or extra stresses (which seems to happen a lot when you have young children), I start to feel as though I'm losing myself, and I feel rushed to get to the end of the day, when I can find the quiet stillness again.

But one night a week or so ago, I cuddled with Hannah and Abram while I read them a couple of stories, and when we finished, I didn't feel so rushed. I suddenly had the urge to sing, something I haven't done much of since they were babies. I went through several verses of Amazing Grace while both kids snuggled up against me. I stopped at one point and Abram drowsily said, “Mama...sing. Sing, mama.”

So much sweetness. Abram ended up falling asleep in my arms, something he hasn't done in months. It was a rare, still moment. And in it, I found grace.

I hope I can remember to appreciate all the seasons – all the storms, all the sunshine, and all the cold. There is good to be found in it all. There is grace to be found in it all. And the seasons are always changing.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Freedom of Religion - I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

One day long ago in my high school cafeteria, I was approached by several of my peers who asked if I would like to pray with them before lunch. To be completely honest, I didn't want to. I knew it would draw attention to me, and at that time in my life, that was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. But in support of my friends and because of my belief that prayer is always a good thing, I put my reservations aside and agreed to participate.

We held hands in a circle while one of my friends led the short prayer, and then we began to return to our seats. A group of students a couple of tables over was eyeing us as though we'd just slaughtered a calf in the middle of the lunchroom. “Separation of church and state!” one of them called out.

I had it on the tip of my tongue to retort “FREE EXERCISE THEREOF”, but as I was accustomed to doing, I remained silent.

I'm not quite as content to remain silent as I used to be.

That was my first memorable experience with anti-Christian zealots, but there have been numerous encounters since. In college we argued over whether or not a student organization should be allowed to put up a Christmas tree in the student center. Of course it should, I said. That isn't infringing on anyone's rights. A girl responded, Oh, yeah? How about I go on down there and light a Menorah?

Go ahead, I said.
See, I'm all for other religions having rights too. That's the great thing about freedom – it allows you to live by the principles that you choose to follow rather than allowing someone else to make those choices for you. This includes running a company that you own according to your personal values – like giving employees Sundays off, paying them significantly more than the minimum wage, or not providing them with benefits that you believe to be immoral.
Ah yes, Hobby Lobby. Corporations are not humans, you say. They don't have rights. I'm sure the thousands of business owners who have shed blood, sweat, and tears over their life's work would disagree with you. The court made the right call on this one. Women have not been denied birth control, and real-life, soul-carrying human beings, who also happen to own companies, have not been denied moral autonomy.

But this is the problem that arises when you start creating more and more laws, more and more restrictions, more and more mandates. You have to start figuring out where to draw the lines. And you end up with lines drawn all over the sand until the tide inevitably comes in and washes them all away.

Religious freedom is so important that it is the first amendment to our Constitution. It is a right that our founding fathers saw fit to put first, but too many people misunderstand it when they cry 'separation of church and state!' That separation not only ensures that you can not be forced to practice a religion, but also guarantees the rights of those who do.

Even so, there are plenty of people who don't think I should have that right and work tirelessly to ensure that I am denied it, little by little, with each passing year. Every June I hear the same story – another graduate who 'shocked' people by deviating from his pre-approved commencement speech. What was so scandalous about his drafts that didn't make the cut? Why, because Christian ideology is taboo, of course. Quote Gandhi all you want, but Jesus Christ? No way. Sure, you can reference Buddha, but those red letters in the New Testament? Sorry pal, that's offensive.

Keep it in your churches, they say. I have the right to not have to see/hear it, they say. Idiots who believe in a thousands-year-old book of fairy tales, they imply, and sometimes go ahead and say.

There is no respect for beliefs in those comments, no understanding of basic rights. But they have the right to think them and say them. They have as much of a right to shout their words from the rooftops as I do to say 'Christ is Lord'.

(And if you think that getting rid of proselytizing sounds like a good idea, try living in a country where it's outlawed.)
I am a Christian, and I have no power to force you to become one too. And I wouldn't want to because I value freedom in your life as well. But if you seek to pass laws that will impede my ability to live according to what I believe is right, then you must ask yourself – which side of freedom are you really on?

Not all Christians agree with Hobby Lobby's stance on contraceptives. Not everyone agrees with the words of a Christian high school student's speech. But as Thomas Jefferson pointed out, we can agree that 'religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship'.
If we are denied the right to run our businesses according to our consciences or prohibited from freely speaking about our faith, then to whom are we actually being held accountable?
I stay silent no more, because I worry about what someone will say to my kids in their high school cafeteria. Or worse yet, I worry that they will never have the opportunity for someone to say something to them at all.