cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Monday, January 25, 2016

Let Them (Re)visited: Let Them Give it Away (and a book shout out)

Let Them (Re)visited is an opportunity for me to eat crow or crow all the louder regarding topics I covered during my Let Them series. Let's see what happens, shall we?

As soon as I peeked at the first Let Them title, I knew my stance wouldn't have changed one iota. Kids with much should be encouraged to practice generosity. Liberally. But here's what has changed for our home: Things are more complicated now. Kids ranging from toddler to tween means interests are more diverse. Toys are more distinctly owned by individuals. Group consensus to toss something is not met so easily. Olders are more attached to The Things From Their Childhood (things they rarely actually play with, because they are babyish). More trinkets get tossed in the trash, because they don't survive to meet the inside of the giveaway bag.

The living situation is more complicated too. We're practicing commune living, so there's seven people living in a manufactured home. Because we're kooky like that. Four kids in one room means somethin' has to go, precious snowflakes. As this is a temporary arrangement, some special treasures have stayed boxed up. The life-as-I-know-it-will-cease-without-this-toy items have been relegated to small bins on the bed or under it.

In short, our children have learned to do without. And embrace it. They've played card games, and worked many a puzzle. They've learned new skills in the kitchen, pursued classic literature (because books are one area I basically refuse to limit, and is evidenced by the mountains of reading material surrounding us), and climbed our trees for hours. Perhaps we've all learned to be content with less. Don't get me wrong, we all have displayed selfishness over keeping something, but what I've learned since February 23rd, 2013 is that less truly, really, honestly is more.

I think most parents want their children to become giving, thoughtful, gracious people. I think most of us falter in our steps as we strive to raise grateful kids. It feels uncomfortably against the flow to teach kids gratitude, and sometimes it's easier to float with the current down You Deserve It River. Sometimes we need a solid kick in the pants before we're willing to adjust our thinking. Before I'm willing to say, “OK, God, what I'm doing is a total crapshoot.”

(Here comes my amazingly smooth and undetectable segue.)

Hey! Remember that one time I applied to be part of a launch team for Kristen Welch's new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and didn't know I'd been accepted because my e-mail is rising up in mutiny and eating important e-mails? I've basically been playing catch-up with the rest of the team, which means they've been babysitting me and holding my hand, bless it.


(source)


We need a kick in the pants, and Kristen delivers a swift, but gracious boot to get us moving. We're not all precious, gentle families who practice All The Special Things with our families. Kristen knows that. Kristen is our people. She's transparent. Reading her book is just like sitting across from her on a squishy couch, yukking it up. I know this because we have the same verse inked on us and I sent her an e-mail years ago to tell her...so we're basically BFF's and I'm not a weirdo stalker. Not once do you catch of a whiff of condescension. Grace, firm suggestions, a call-to-action.


“When entitlement's poison begins to infect our hearts, gratitude is the antidote.” 
“Kids will be kids and if we give them too much, too soon, they will likely take it.” 
“We give our kids more because we think it will make us all feel better, but it actually places a higher value on things than on relationships. And often our kids don't need more stuff or more freedom; they just need more of us.”

Good words, Kristen. Go read more of her good words (and possibly win something...Oops! I've said too much.).

So here's the deal: Today is the release date! Go get thee thine own copy and one to giveth away. This isn't so much a parenting book as it is a manual for not raising, nor being yourself a self-absorbed lazy butt. You won't regret it.


Convicted,
Cynthia

*Cover courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lay Down the Guilt, Mamas.

It was one of those days. You know the type. The days where you wake up ready for bedtime, the full moon is wearing on the senses of certain kiddos, you've snapped before pouring a single crackle or pop into a bowl for those cherubs faces. I call those "coffee-to-wine" days. Or maybe you've been too forceful in tone or heavy-handed in a swat on the tail. Maybe you reacted out of anger, and your apology hung in the air. When that long-awaited sandman arrives, it is a blessed thing. You love those small people dearly, but...seriously. 
For. The. Love.

They will find you.

When you fall into bed exhausted from a day filled with refereeing and tongue-biting, you thank Jesus for each one of those precious snowflakes asleep in their bunk beds. They drove you batty all the livelong day, but you could still be moved to tears just thinking about how fast they're growing up. You slap your hand across the light switch to turn it off and then roll over to pray with the hubs. Approximately two seconds after the “Amen” he's asleep (Don't ask me why God gave men this instantaneous shut-off valve. I am seven shades of green with envy over this talent.).

And then the mommy guilt hits.

It's not like a tsunami that engulfs us. It's usually more like a gentle shower of paver bricks. And not like the spray-painted foam kind in the original Star Trek episodes. Ladies, I posit that there is just about no worse feeling than middle-of-the-night mommy guilt. You know what I'm talking about. Our head hits the pillow, and doubts slam our soul. The space between our ears becomes the Devil's own playground.

Sooo...you've got some grandiose plans...for someone who loses their cool, wastes time, throws down judgment and attitude. World changer, huh? You'll be lucky to make a dent within your own family, let alone the world. But, no. You go ahead. I'm sure tomorrow will be peachy keen. World changer.

Thanks, Satan. Sleep can wait.

May I suggest something? May I suggest that we are heaping on a whole mess of stuff that Jesus already knows about? He chooses to love us through and despite our shortcomings. May I suggest that we think too highly of ourselves if we truly believe that our every action will be either our child's doing or undoing? How 'bout we just unclench a teensy bit?

Is parenting important? Um, yeah. Should I be on my knees, in the audience, on the sidelines, shivering under an umbrella supporting my kids? Of course. Is the whole world going to stop on its axis if I miss a game (or even *gasp* a season)? Actually, no. Will salvation expire for my daughter if there's a day that my prayers for her consist of pursed-lip* sputters like, “Jesus, feel free to come back today.” or “Thank you, God, for the poetic justice when she ran into the doorjamb while stomping away with her saucy self. I needed a boost today. And now please also send me the bladder of a twenty-two year old.”? Not likely. Of course, if all of humanity hung on our flimsiest moments and weakest instances of faith, the lot of us would be doomed. The book of Acts would have been over in a hot second, because none of us would have been able to launch something as big as Church Beginnings.

So, here's the deal: You are exactly the gem you are supposed to be, flaws and imperfections included. God's going to keep refining and polishing until you gleam in His presence, but that doesn't mean you're worthless and useless in the meantime. It doesn't mean you fail as a mother. The actual refinement process is exactly what produces such incredible final workmanship. Every single hard moment of mothering is just more of that polishing.

There's this beautiful treasure tucked in 1 John 4. John is reminding his readers not to fall prey to lies and deception, and then in verse 4, he lays down this stunning reminder: "You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them (the lies), because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."

Bam. Drop mic.

God is SO FOR YOU. He is for your parenting, and for your marriage, and for your New Year's resolution to read the bible with your kids every day. He is in your corner, because He is actually IN YOU.

Even when you fail.


Get Some Sleep,

Cynthia



*This is fondly referred to as “The Grandma Face” in our house. She had a way with The Look that could pucker your butt cheeks, bless her.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

These Are My People

They stood before us in complete brokenness. Their souls were anguished and what they shared was crushing. We were a room filled with salty tears and heavy hearts. They had pulled back their shroud of mourning and palpable grief spilled onto people eager to bear the burden with them. Eager to carry even an ounce of their pain. With news such as theirs, judgement could have proven swift and tongues could have been ablaze with harsh speculation.

I reached a hand for her during prayer. We fervently sought the Lord. When words were spent, we both eyed her nail indents in my palm.  I tried to recall a time when I felt so wholly needed during a prayer that the physical proof lasted longer than the prayer itself. 

I've seen people tenaciously cling to Jesus. I've heard the confessions of the saints. I've looked on as the young wash the feet of the wise. I've listened to prayers soothe anxious minds. I've watched them crisscross the room to pray with him. To edify her. At first I was shocked by the gentle admonitions peppered throughout conversation. Now the shock would be to not hear it. 

We've found our tribe. It's messy and transparent. It requires each one doing their work, and isn't that how it should be? For us, it happens to be a more organic tribe. However, I'm a firm believer that any Jesus-lovin' people can fit the bill whether they meet at a park or in the pews, submerge or sprinkle, are liturgical or non-denominational. While those details (and scores of other churchy topics) are of incredible import, all the theology in the world can offer nothing more than a framework for beliefs. Heart work is developed in the grittiness of relationship. Discipleship, true discipleship, challenges your weaknesses, calls upon your strengths, and rubs you raw. And just as raw flesh will blister, sometimes a raw faith will do the same. That broken family? They were blistered. They knew they needed the healing salve of their tribe. They came with wounds exposed. We listened with bandages in hand.

I don't share to self-congratulate. Our tribe is a hot mess. I share because I know these people deeply enough to know we're all a hot mess. We see each others' faults, because we push beyond Sunday greetings and polite prayer requests. All the programs and curriculum in the catalog can't buy that kind of authenticity. 

Can I suggest something? Trade in the brittle facade. Replace it with a robust desire to truly love Jesus and His people. Carve out time. Ask hard questions. Tell hard stories. Break bread. Reach far. Call. Write. Pray. Repent. Fast. Confess. Worship. Repeat.

Learning to Repeat,

Cynthia

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The One With All The Camps

Since The Professor turned my piglets into an oxen (happy anniversary to me), I felt it only right to slap you all with some marital wisdom. 

But, before I wow you with ALL THE SMARTS, let me tell you a story.

Within the first year of our marriage it became apparent to us that most people sideline any hint of relationship insight offered by newlyweds. To be fair, the scope of our experience was limited to courtship, short engagements, newlywed matters, and wedding night jitters. Impressive. We were were given non-refundable tickets to "Starry-Eyed-Newlywed Camp" which just so happens to be right across the road from "Pre-Kid-Parenting-Ideals Camp." I also attended "Twenty-Somethings-Who-Are-Excited-To-Turn-30-So-They-Will-Finally-Be-Taken-Seriously Camp." 

We just wanted some street cred, dangit. 

He was happy, I swear.
And also, forgive me, Tweezers, for I did not
yet know your worth. Bless those eyebrows.

See? A smirky-smile.

This is a shout out to all ladies everywhere
who find themselves with dry lips by the
time you've cut the cake. 

Then we were bused straight to "We're-PREGNANT?!? Camp" which hosted social nights with "Holy-Crap-We're-Actually-Adults Camp."

After that, it's all a blur. All I know is that I woke up to a camp bugle that sounded suspiciously like the flush of a low-flow toilet and self-sufficient children making their own breakfast after starting a load of laundry. Turns out, we're camp counselors. I didn't realize this until I caught myself thinking, "Why do these people keep asking for my advice? Isn't it obvious I'm winging it on about 97.9999% of what I do?" I guess that means we've got street cred. The funny thing about finally having a satchel filled to the gills with advice is that you realize how incredibly lacking your own bag truly is and always will be. You dump out the contents and begin shoveling in gems from weathered backpacks. You sit back and listen to stories from people who have seen decades upon decades of ALL THE CAMPS and you marvel at their wisdom.

So, my gems are mostly inherited from wise counselors, with a few originals in the mix. Here are the top marriage tips I've learned in fourteen years of marriage:

1. Everyone goes into marriage with some degree of rose-colored tinting on the lenses. That's OK. That's kinda how God made us. I'm more concerned about the engaged couple whose excitement level suggests jury duty is on the horizon rather than marriage.

2. Your way isn't always the best route. It just isn't. That person who proposed to you (or said "yes" to your proposal) is obviously smart. I mean, they chose you, right?!? Embrace their ideas. I guarantee you'll learn scads of nifty-ness along the journey. Think of your spouse as your personal life hack buddy.*

3. Know each others' love languages. It's the closest thing we get to a manual. 

4. Short engagements aren't inherently bad. Sure, people will gossip about it.** If you know that you know that you know that this is right, why wait three years? Git-r-done, I say.

5. Skip the drama. This is not a reality TV show. You do not have a contract beyond the one attached to those vows. Ratings do not improve with each tantrum or shallow retort thrown down. Gentlemen, cherishLadies, respect

6. Something must be at the center of your marriage. I strongly suggest Jesus. 

7. Laugh often. Play.*** Learn. 




Love Well,
Cynthia




*"Life hack buddy" needs to be added to wedding vows. Secretary, make a note of that. Thanks.
**It's so precious when people close to you ask if this is a shotgun situation. 
***A year later, we were still finding stale marshmallows from The Marshmallow War of 2001. True story.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Powering On



Well, it's like this: I was clipping along on this blogging gig, right? We were having loads of fun together, and I delivered deep truths which convicted you to the core. (I know. You can thank me later.) We were going places! There was only one problem. The computer I had wasn't reeeeeally suited for someone who loves to write. It was made for people who want a portal to Facebook, which also just happens to have some sort of word program thingy. (...if you like your word program thingy to be a major wisenheimer about playing the crash and burn game. Precious.) Using that squirrely computer for writing was akin to hitching a couple of teacup piglets to a yoke and expecting to plow an acre of land. Cute, but futile. I can crack the whip and “Hyah” until I pass out, but we're not furrowing one inch of soil. I tried. I really did. I girded my loins, prayed in tongues, waited expectantly for God to supernaturally change my piglets into beefy oxen. Turns out, sometimes God goes the husband-has-an-impressive-anniversary-present route instead of the Vegas-style-miracle route. God works in mysterious ways, dear people.* 
Anyway, I'm writing to you on this joyous day that is Big Blue's maiden voyage in word processing. I'll pass you a hankie. Why name my computer Big Blue, you ask? The symbolism is deep with this one, but I'll try to keep it simple. She's big...and...blue.** Besides, it (coincidentally) works well with my whole piglet/oxen analogy. At any rate, she's a beast, and I've got a lot of ground to cover. I've set hand to plow, and we're digging deep. Aren't you lucky?!

Just look at those keys! Bye-bye piglets.


Oh, I see what you did there.

Hang on, because reentry can get a bit dicey.

Hi-ho, Big Blue, away!!
Cynthia



*This has absolutely nothing to do with me gritting my teeth every time I opened that laptop.
**I never bothered to name my last computer, because we didn't imprint on each other, but before the nameless one, there was Little Blue Lollipop (You may respectfully refer to her as Ms. Lolli). Ms. Lolli was also blue and was loyal to a fault. We were travelling companions through All The Words, working side by side until I dropped a drum on her face. Sometimes I still hear her little "Squeeeetch, beep-boop". Actually, it's rather painful to talk about, and I'd appreciate if you didn't bring it up again. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It's Friday...And No One Wants To Talk About Saturday.

"It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!"

This one phrase is filled with such anticipation and hope. If we can just hold out a little longer, the celebration will be here in all its glory. So, attend community egg hunts on Saturday. Get your picture with the Easter bunny before it's too late.* Iron coordinating outfits and whip up egg salad. 

While none of those activities are wrong (alright the bunny thing freaks me out), the sentiment leaves me feeling a tad uneasy. It's much easier to look toward sunrise on Easter than to weep and mourn on Saturday. No disciples smiled broadly when the curtain was torn, proclaiming "Whelp! It's Friday, but Sunday's a-comin'!" No. They beat their breast, keening, and clinging to one another in fear. They were bereft, and seemed to be in a fog of uncertainty and anguish. 

May I suggest something?** May I suggest that it's OK to sit uncomfortably and painfully with today? Let's sit in the separation of Saturday, with its loss and sorrow. With its sackcloth and ashes. With its burial linens steeped in oils and spices. With its brokenness and borrowed tomb. With the stillness of One who was loved and lost. There was not yet a holy breath inhaled into a resurrected frame. There was nothing more than guarded decay and salty tears dried upon cheeks. There were memories of His first steps as a child and those upon the waves-all marred by watching his last steps to Golgotha. There were scores of anxious questions whispered behind closed doors-unanswered. 

Yes. Sunday is coming. The darkness of today won't last, but today is indeed still a day of lament. And that's OK.


Aching,

Cynthia




*When did that become a thing?!?
**Since it's my blog, you don't really get a say anyway. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Surviving the Big Days


We survived another Big Day.

Big Days are the reason I am cautious about filling in subsequent days on the calendar. They are also the reason I have a secret chocolate stash and two coffee carafes. Big Days are a big deal. And we survived. Or rather, perhaps I should say we’re in the midst of surviving and the odds are lookin’ favorable. It’s difficult to explain the complexities of Big Days to people who have the freedom to celebrate with abandon. First of all, if your Big Days are carefree and joyful and backlash-less, then amen and hallelujah! Don’t you dare feel guilty. Revel in it, but also take notes. I’ll pass you the chocolates.

Let’s see...how to describe Big Days...Aha! Imagine lovingly choosing a piñata for your child’s birthday party. It’s bright. It’s colorful. It has just the right touch of sparkle and none of the tissue paper is faded from being displayed in a window. Here’s the kicker: You let your child decide with what to fill this treasure of a piñata. You suggest candies, or toys, or gluten-free cardboard cookies and fruit leathers. You provide him with a crisp ten dollar bill to spend on piñata goodies.* He’s excited to fill it to the brim, but there’s a vague uneasiness, which you chalk up to loosening the reins. After all, it’s only a piñata. Now imagine it’s party day. You’ve been casually chatting about the piñata with your kiddo, and all seems under control. Games are played, presents are opened, and now the moment of truth is upon us. The kids take turns beating the tar out of this beautiful piñata. Hooray! It splits when a big kid lands a solid blow to the side, and to your horror, out tumble the contents of this morning’s trash. Since you spent the last few days cleaning the nooks and crannies, your trash is a real doozy of nastiness. There are dust bunnies drowning in kitchen sink strainer goo. Meat scraps and dirty diapers are bouncing to the ground. Something putrid that officials in a Level A hazmat suit wouldn’t touch has splashed on the guests, who (by the way) are glaring in disgusted silence at you. Covered in slimy coffee grounds, you spot the crumpled, stinky remnant of a shredded ten dollar bill.

Because he just. wasn’t. good. enough.

Oh, he wanted desperately to fill the piñata with Ring Pops and water guns. But if he accepts that money and fills the pinata with good gifts, he’s admitting he deserves those things and is loved. Rather than be let down, he’d prefer to sabotage it from the start, because rejection is safer. Those are Big Feelings that routinely accompany Big Days. Whether Big Days are big due to trauma or special needs (or something altogether different), there are typically Big Feelings (like scared, sad, angry, overwhelmed, etc.) and Big Attitudes (of indifference, hostility, unthankfulness, etc.).

Our Big Day is two days behind us. Presents were minimal and low-key, as was the celebration with friends. Yesterday was a wee bit...um...well...sucky. There were strong bouts of remorse for accepting (and cherishing) the gifts from us, which manifests itself in a great deal of hurtful push-back. She’s out to prove we didn’t give those gifts out of love. But she’s not winning; We’re throwing her curveballs by discrediting her claims. Things will even out. The new string of lights for her bed will get turned on, because, with time, their illumination will no longer signal a threat, but instead be a beacon of love. Big Feelings will subside.

And maybe, for the next Big Day, we will tackle that pinata together.

Mopping Up The Mess,

Cynthia


*Double the budget for gf treats, because HIGHWAY ROBBERY.