When You Have to Get to Know Your Kids Again

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As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in New York City while my family is still asleep. I just noticed the last time I published a post on Repurposed was March 20 — almost three months ago. When I grow up, I’d like to blog for a living. But I do believe living a purposeful life sometimes involves pressing “pause” on dreams, rolling up your sleeves, and living the life in front of you.

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(J.K. Rowling)

We’ve been going hard for the past three months, and while I’d like to attribute my silence to our busy work/play/sports schedules, in reality my quiet season is due to something deeper than a crazy calendar. You see, we came up for breath the week of Spring Break, and I realized I hardly knew my kids anymore.

“The days are long, but the years are short,” my friend Jennifer cautions. Indeed. Where has the time gone? I felt like I was keeping up, soaking in every new stage of their childhood. I actually enjoy entering new stages, and I don’t grieve the passing of time. But somehow, this school year swept my son and daughter away and brought back a teen and almost-teen that hardly resemble the kids I’ve been raising the past several years.

It’s rather humbling. If you like control, this experience can really rock you. And if being the most amazing parent has been one of your goals, you have to wrestle with some deeply buried idols. You wake up in the midst of your kids’ middle school years and discover parenting is not about you at all.

Gone are the days when choosing your kids’ outfits tells the world what your sense of style is. Gone is the season when you plan a fun day of activity and everyone goes along with enthusiasm. (And the affirmation you give yourself vanishes, too.) Gone are the moments when you can predict what your child’s response will be. (This might be the hardest one to let go of, for when they surprise you with unforeseen preferences, you feel like you don’t know your kids as well as you used to. And that’s kind of scary. And sad.)

Back to the blogging silence… When you’re humbled and realize how little you know, you sort of don’t have much to say. We’ve all heard how listening is usually better than talking, and these new identities have given me reason to be quiet. I have way more listening to do because I’m getting to know my children again.

I recently attended my school’s Arts Extravaganza, and the choir sang the sweetest poem:
A wise old owl lived in an oak;
The more he saw the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard:
Why can’t we all be like that bird?
– Henry Hersey Richards

Um, yes. The more he saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke the more he heard. Their little voices sang this phrase over and over and this middle-aged mommy was quite convicted.

When you bring your kids through the elementary years, you talk a lot. At least I did. When I carry on this tradition with my middle schoolers, they don’t sit there like sponges anymore, waiting for my next insight. Instead, my words are met with stiffened backs and faces that silently say, “You’re not hearing me. You’re not even trying to listen.”

And they’re right.

“Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 esv

I used to read this verse through a me-centered lens, almost as a guarantee to cling to when the going gets rough. I wanted it to say: Train up your child in the way that will help her make respectable choices (spiritually and morally), and when she’s old, she’ll still be living that dream of yours for her life, making you look good.

But slowly, and sometimes reluctantly, I’m choosing to read it through another lens: Parent your child, accepting the way God designed him and helping him discover the story God has written for his life. And when he’s older, he’ll still be living a life of purpose, in sync with God’s plan from the beginning of time.

This refreshed interpretation, well, it’s a lot harder because I don’t get to work hard when I’m frustrated or irritated or down right angry. (Have you noticed we don’t sit idle when we’re angry?) It’s a difficult interpretation to swallow, for it calls me to trust and not do.

What would it look like if we listened more… not just to be polite or to avoid looking overbearing? What would it look like if we listened with the intention of learning and discovering and understanding?

Are you with me? As I parent a middle schooler and rising high schooler, I need to learn God’s story for my children’s lives. I must discover what they would have told me the past several months if I would’ve just stopped talking. And I absolutely have to understand what passions are there beyond those teenage faces staring back at me.

What about you? Who do you need to listen to more? What topics do you need to hold your tongue on for a while, with the intent of learning and discovering and understanding more? You might not be parenting teenagers, but I know you’re wrestling, too. It’s the world we live in — whether you’re trying to be intricately engaged with your local community, or you’re yearning to be a global citizen, or you’re somewhere in the middle.

Your active listening might need to take place in your workplace, or your yoga class, or as you research and write a book. For me, I’m simply going to start at home as I get reacquainted with my kids.

Trust.

IMG_2848There’s heaps of awesomeness about raising teenagers, too, like snapping this selfie at the top of the Empire State Building at 10:44pm.  :)

Weekly Bundle (vol. 9)

 

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Hey, there! We’ve been on Spring Break this past week and have stayed put. I love this break, for it comes at just the right time in the school year for me. We haven’t traveled over Spring Break the past few years, and the dramatically slower-than-normal rhythms are a balm to my spirit. This break has been less productive than normal, but maybe that’s exactly what I needed. I did have some new revelations in parenting, but I can’t quite put them all into words yet. More on that this week or next…

I had a few “to do” items on my list that involved getting out and exploring rather than completing tasks. I’m finding myself a bit restless which has resulted in me moving more rather than sitting and pondering. (I’m sure my new FitBit has nothing to do it.)  :)

Have you noticed our Weekly Bundles start out with a photo of coffee or tea? As if we’re pausing to have a weekend chat? Hmmm… what does this photo say to you? Too busy? Anticipation? It sort of mirrors restlessness for me but in a beautiful sort of way.


I started the week in search of the polar bear at our zoo, and he did not disappoint. We have a new-ish exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo which makes our friend up close and personal. I could have watched him play for hours. (This photo isn’t zoomed in. Our friend was literally on the other side of the glass.) I love him.

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Remember my craving for beauty? Well, Pi’lo is a Canadian site I’ve admired for years. An artisan/mother/lover-of-simplicity creates beauty in the most unique ways. Her imagery belongs to the menagerie of galleries that make you pause and force you to soak in the quiet. Try it. If I was an artisan, I’d want my work to look like Heather’s. (You can follow her on Instagram or check out her blog, too.)

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Do you ever get bored of your healthy breakfast options? Yeah, me too. It’s interesting how everything in the world — from feeding and napping a baby… to education choices… to healthy eating is controversial. I’m not a nutritionist or a fitness expert, but I do know I get a little ho-hum and need to change things up once in a while. This brief article from Health magazine proclaims the importance of burning fat before noon, and it caught my eye. I’ve never had barley and sunflower seeds for breakfast, but I have done bananas and blueberry pancakes (which are also included in the short recipe bundle).

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Have you struggled to know just how to start the conversation about race and privilege with your kids? We included a trip to the movies in our Spring Break fun, and Zootopia did not disappoint. I’m so glad I read this article before going. Think of Zootopia as your springboard for questions and conversations on social class, stereotypes, and prejudice. Read the article first, and I promise, you won’t be going to see just another animated film. Have you already seen it? It’s not too late to reference back and get your child thinking.

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We’re heading into one of my favorite weeks — the week leading up to Easter. When we moved to St. Louis several years ago, we started attending Good Friday services which prove to be just as meaningful to me as Easter Sunday. Sometimes it’s tough to head back into routine after a week of Spring Break. This year, I’m not just heading back to work and kids’ sports schedules and cooking weeknight dinners. I’m heading into the week that defines my faith. Join me?

 

photo sources | alisa anton, pilo.ca, health.com, youtube.com

 

Weekly Bundle (vol. 8)

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It’s Friday! I love the anticipation of the weekend. Whether it’s going to be full of rest or full of activity, I’m grateful for the rhythm of change each Friday afternoon brings. Our home has been filled this week with a new lacrosse season, an end-of-season wrestling dinner, science fair prep, #30daypilatesbody, and me trying to eat more produce. The highlight of all of these things was the wrestling dinner (believe it or not), for four high school boys shared their stories with the middle school team. I was reminded once again: it takes a village. You see, one of the seniors on the varsity team has cerebral palsy. And as I listened, hoping my 14 year-old was letting that all-important message of perseverance sink in, I myself was convicted that I play the role of victim too much. Perspective.


With my cravings for spring, I’m finding myself craving beauty in the fiercest way. I’m searching everywhere for it — in my clothes closet, my jewelry piles, in my flower bed, and online (and online some more! yikes!). I recently discovered Kim Klassen on Instagram. Oh my. She captures still life photos with ordinary things, and I catch my breath every time. She even hosts courses online like the Art of Digital Texture and Leap into Lightroom. I think what I love most about Klassen’s work is that after viewing it, I don’t feel like she has a perfect life or that my life is ugly or boring. She inspires me to see the beauty of my own ordinary.

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In last Friday’s Weekly Bundle, I mentioned I had my eye on some Forai earrings. Well, what a surprise it was to come to work and discover my friend Kathy (yes, that Kathy) had ordered them for me! They were made by a woman named Merelhavi from Nepal. I love that. (Um, yes, I like the color blue…)

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One of my favorite women to read is Kim Cash Tate. She’s so real, and she loves Jesus so, so much. This week she authored a post called “In An Age of Self-Branding…“. (Mmmm, Hmmm… Have I stirred up your curiosity yet?!) Whether you’re a writer/blogger/artist/decorator/social media user or not, this article is a tremendous reminder to keep it real. Kim has authored numerous novels, and she contributes regularly to Desiring God. You’ll love her heart, and I’m confident she will reach yours.

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Interesting. I didn’t sit down to write a post on authenticity, but my goodness, that theme seems to be woven throughout my words today. Maybe God’s trying to get my attention. What’s He saying to you?

Until next weekend…

 

photo sources | mikesh kaos | kim klassen | forai crafts 

What I Learned from Our Series on Suffering

fontcandy (1) copy 3Although our Series on Suffering officially concluded last week, I’m compelled to share how I was personally changed over the past few weeks. My hope was to help others — either those in agony or those watching another suffer. By posting updates from four years after the initial story, I hoped to point toward perseverance. There’s something about seeing another’s redemption that helps you reach out your hand when you’re drowning. But once again, I found transformation in the mirror.  I entered the series as the facilitator, but I left the student.

I learned…

… Everyone has a story. Everyone. Why do I forget this? Life would be so much richer and more meaningful if I stopped to listen. If I pursued. If I slowed down enough to be a safe place for others. I must remember the faces in my life have identities. Everyone has so much to say.

… People grieve differently.  There’s no consistent, proper way to get real and deal with pain. Yes, there are common rhythms of grief. But I can’t put people in boxes and expect them to convey their distress a certain way. Some friends are more emotional while others are more rational. There’s beauty in this kind of diversity. Why bring judgment into someone’s healing process?

… It’s cowardly to remain silent amidst another’s pain. The fear of offending someone absolutely can not supersede our practice of living in community. Loving others requires us to feel awkward sometimes. I absolutely must get over myself.

… I whine too much. You see, all those thoughts harbored deep within, whether they pour forth from my lips or not, reflect where I’m at. Proverbs 23:7 makes it clear: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. (NLV)  I’m too self-centered… period… in my peer relationships, my marriage, my parenting. Especially my parenting. There’s nothing like hearing another’s story to put your own in perspective.

… I must fight to prevent my body image issues from impacting my children. I know the standards of 21st century American beauty —  for women and men. I see it everyday at the check-out lane, in Athleta catalogs that invade my mailbox, on television commercials, in the lies I uncover in my own thoughts. I must commit to not complain about the way God made me in front of my son and daughter. I want my children to grow up knowing they’re beautifully created and knowing their identity is in what Christ did for them on the cross. As our world has become smaller through technology, unfortunately our infatuation with one type of beauty has grown bigger. I must fight our culture no matter how daunting the task seems.

… Redemption often looks different than I would have imagined. I believed this already, but I’m convinced even more after presenting these four stories. We pray and claim and beg — and even tell God what to do — and His answer is often different than our original hopes. But He’s purposeful. And He often uses radical, painful situations to convey His counter-cultural message. Regardless, I’ve seen him bring beauty and life to a dying heart. As Jeremy Bedenbaugh, a local St. Louis pastor, says, “Only where the graves are is there resurrection.”

I know God will continue to uncover more lessons for me. And hopefully for you, too. I don’t know what struggle will stare me in the face tomorrow. But for now, I have much to ponder — suffering, healing, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Come, Lord Jesus. Come to the darkest parts of our stories.

Weekly Bundle (vol. 7)

multiplecupsHey, there. Grab a mug.

I’ve been in my busy season at work, and every year it seems to effect all other areas of my life for a few weeks, too. One thing I intentionally let fall through the cracks was last week’s Weekly Bundle. There’s freedom in choosing to let some things fall… it’s certainly better than when you forget to do something and face the panic when the realization stares you in the face. Grace. When I introduced the Weekly Bundle here on Repurposed, I intentionally called it Weekly Bundle instead of Friday Bundle or something like that. I knew… I just knew I’d need to have some wiggle room. Giving yourself margins anticipates future mistakes and gives you permission to mess up. And then it’s a whole lot easier to extend forgiveness to yourself.


Next week I’ll wrap up our Series on Suffering with a reflection on what I personally learned from my friends’ stories. We’re always learning, yes? We never have all the answers. I’d love to have you back as we process what we can learn through others’ lives and as we bravely begin to piece together our own stories. What themes are woven throughout your life? How can you impact others because of what you’ve faced?

Speaking of stories, just yesterday a friend told me one of my favorite authors is coming to town! Dan Allender, author of To Be Told, is hosting “To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future” right here in St. Louis! This is exciting news because he lives in Seattle. I noticed, though, that he’s hosting conferences all over the country — from Houston to North Carolina to Chicago. This man speaks openly about suffering in such a raw, honest way. He gets it. He gets redemption and is full of hope, and he longs to help others find purpose in all the mess.

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A few weeks ago I introduced you to Route, a company that offers ethically-made fashions. This week, I want to tell you about Forai Crafts. I’ve been familiar with this St. Louis-based organization for years, but just this week I noticed they have an online shop now, too. They offer a line of jewelry and accessories crafted by refugee artisans, enabling them to support their families. I have my eye on these earrings.🙂 I get a lot of teasing for having a mostly black and grey wardrobe, and I’m looking for ways to lighten up my clothes for spring.

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Did you know February is Black History Month? Last Saturday we watched Selma at a gathering hosted by parents at the school where I work. I wasn’t the strongest historian in high school and college. I’m not sure exactly why I dazed off in these classes, as history has become much more compelling to me the older I get. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom now, and I feel the weight of responsibility to impart truth in my kids’ hearts. If you haven’t seen Selma, I encourage you to… and I encourage you to watch it with someone who doesn’t look like you. Plan for time afterward for conversation. The film chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s journey in leading a movement toward securing voting rights for African Americans. This is an opportunity to reflect on history and consider its implications on our shared pasts, present, and futures.

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I help out with my son’s school’s Black History Celebration Night of the Arts each year. One of the best parts of my week was discovering my sixth grade daughter was quite familiar with the characters highlighted at our Living Museum, including the Caucasian abolitionists. She knew all about them and told me stories. I guess she’s not sleeping in history class like her mama did. I also think history class might look a little different than it did for my generation…


While I work at an elementary school, I’m not enough of a saint to be a teacher. That would require heaps of patience, and patience happens to be something I’m regularly asking God for more of. I do recruitment and admissions and enrollment management and communications. And lunch duty. Yes, you read that right — lunch duty. It’s shocking to me how many emotions I can feel in just one lunch duty shift. And I’ll leave it at there.🙂 This past week, I had a particularly delightful encounter with two first grade girls. As I neared their table, one pulled the salt shaker into her chest to sort of hide it… like she was guilty for “playing with food”. (I’m convinced all good cooks started by “playing with food”. I’ve said before that cooking is my therapy, but you know what? The kitchen is also my playground.) I smiled before asking any questions, for in the nine years I’ve worked at my school, I’ve never, ever seen a child use the salt or pepper shaker. Ever. My smile invited a bubbling-over response in which I learned the girls were making salted caramel. Chloe’s mom had put a few caramel squares in her lunch box, and she was sprinkling on salt before each bite. Our common love for salted caramel evolved into dreams of the three of us opening up a bake shop one day. Chloe thought I’d be too old to work for her (she even wondered if I’d “pass” before she was old enough to open up her shop!), but I assured I have many years left in me to bake. So, at the lead of a child in my life this week, I leave with you my favorite salted caramel recipe — Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bars from Two Peas & Their Pod. These bars have become one of my go-to recipes when I’m asked to make a dessert. They make great teacher gifts, too!

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Enjoy your weekend. Get out in the sun if you can in your corner of the earth.

 

photo sources | André Freitas Two Peas & Their Pod