Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reflections on Year One

It was no secret that I was very excited for some alone time as I anticipated all my babies being in school for the first time. 13 years of being a stay-at-home mom blessed my socks off but this introvert was starting to daydream about quiet days and actually being able to finish something I started.

I even had a running list of all the things I wanted to do when I had some free time. Things like volunteering at school regularly, spending uninterrupted time with Jesus, keeping my house in decent shape, making a weekly meal plan. 

I can honestly say I met my goals and even added some things like exercising regularly again and remembering to get my gray hair colored more often. I checked off my list almost every day – including keeping up with the laundry mountain! I know I have been more patient and felt less fried as a result of some quiet time.

Pretty great, right? Well yes! BUT (there's always a but). I started realizing that a common theme in all of this was one word most women struggle with...control. I had taken note of all the pieces of my life that were scattered around and messy, I made a list and I took care of business this year. And I REALLY liked it. I love staying on top of things, keeping our family's schedule and crossing stuff of my list. 

My prayer time became richer too so I am in no way saying this is all bad. But as I reflect on this year, I asked God to reveal the areas I need to surrender to Him and the places He wants to refine me and the word “control” flashed in my mind. 

Is it possible that having more margins in my life lead to having less margins? 

I have noticed that I guard my time pretty fiercely. Even right now, I feel like I should stop writing and get the laundry folded before school gets out. So in my desire for quiet and rest and ultimately a regained control over my life, I see that I have done a lot less writing...less playing piano...less dancing...less laughing. (My five primary sources of laughter are at school all day after all!). 

I am not sharing this to criticize myself. I know I have an enemy who wants me to believe that all I do is fail. I will not give in to that lie! 

But as I prepare to welcome all the cherubs home again for the summer and then a few months later send them all back to school, I'm pretty sure I will be longing for quiet rest again as I begin Year Two. I want to do it well and to me that means remembering to surrender my day to Jesus. He will give me rest, He will lead me into times of worship and prayer, He will let me know when I need to drop what I'm doing to love on someone, and He will give me the energy to get my daily tasks done. 

No matter how hard we try, we never arrive at perfection in this life. Striving for it can feel really great for awhile until we realize it never fills us up. This verse has been my prayer this year...”I pray that from his glorious unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love.” Ephesians 3:16-17

Here's to deep roots. No matter how tangled and messy they are, they draw nourishment from the only Source that helps us release our tight grip on what we think life should be and leads us into true life and freedom.   

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Summary: "Cleaning House, A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement"

I came across this book after a frustrating weekend with my kids.  The title drew me in immediately so I decided to order it for my summer reading.  This past week Justin and I got away to the beach (thank you to our moms and many others who made that possible) and I read the entire book in a couple of days.  This is NOT typical for me but I'm thankful for the timing because there are a lot of things from the book that I want to implement this summer.  As with any book, I didn't agree with absolutely everything but overall it was definitely worth reading and I recommend it - especially for moms like me with kids in the adolescent age group.

So here's my summary (and favorite quotes from the book) since this topic seemed to peak the interest of many of my friends, I hope you find it helpful!

Kay Wills Wyma is a mom of five who came to the realization that she was not doing her kids any favors by doing for them what they were capable of doing themselves.  A generation of overserved kids is being raised and those kids are growing into adults who think the world revolves around them.  She decided to do a 12 month experiment with hopes that she could "equip, teach, and then let go".  It's not that any of us want to raise overindulged kids, we just find that's it easier to do things for them our way, and avoid the battle.  I could relate to her quote, "I've always tried to be a mom who doesn't hover, but apparently I've done much more than I realized."

"With the greatest of intentions and in the name of love, we have developed a tendency to hover, race to save, protect from failure, arrange for success, manipulate, overprotect, and enable our kids.  Freeing their schedules for sports, school, and increasingly important time with friends, we strive to make our children's lives easier or to make success a sure thing by doing it all for them.  We shower them with accolades, proclaiming how wonderful they are - yet we rarely give them the opportunity to confirm the substance of that praise.  All of our efforts send the clear, though unspoken and unintended message "I'll do it for you because you can't" or "No sense in your trying because I can do it better and faster."

Month 1: Beds and Clutter
Starting off simple and with the goal to fight the urge to do for them what they could do themselves, the children will make their beds and declutter their room/bathroom every day.  Wyma decided to give each child a jar with 30, one dollar bills in the jar.  If the job was not done she would take a dollar out of the jar and at the end of the month the money left was theirs.  (We do not currently do any type of allowance so at first I thought this was way too much money each month but as I read the book I realized that as she added jobs each month she did not increase the amount of money in the jar.  This could be marbles, quarters, anything.  Also, when I do this with my kids I will be making my bed too.  I'm pretty laid back and it's not a priority for me, but I can see the bigger picture is to help everyone become personally responsible for their things.)

"The motivation associated with potentially losing a dollar is much greater than the incentive to gain a dollar."

"Decluttering has been one of the keys to success in our equipping activities.  I've noticed that with the kids the less clutter they have to deal with, the better their ability to maintain a clean space.  Okay, so maybe that's true for me too."

Month 2 : Kitchen Patrol
Each child will take a turn being in charge of the evening meal one time per week.  This includes menu planning, shopping, preparing the meal and doing the dishes.  Wyma's goal is to come alongside the kids and teach them how to find a recipe, shop in a grocery store and cook.  It doesn't all magically appear in the fridge and on the table.  (I want to try this with my older kids.  I don't think the 4 and 5-year-olds are ready for this one yet, although they can be helpers!)

"It's pretty easy to protect and provide for kids.  You keep them physically safe, give them an abundance of fun things to do, and they grow on up easily.  That's the American way.  The better way is to prepare kids for independence, but that is a much harder task.  As they develop, we should slowly reduce the protection and provision, while increasing the preparation."

Month 3: Planting, Weeding, and The Great Outdoors
This included decluttering the yard (toys, shoes, wrappers that end up scattered), pulling weeds, and planting flowers (teaching them to choose according to the amount of shade and space needed, etc. Planting a garden together would be a good idea too!)  She also included odd job postings where the kids could earn money for doing extra jobs like sanding and painting chairs, washing outer windows, etc.  

"What is the antidote to overindulgence?  Give them work...meaningful work."

"In our society, children are generally not required to do meaningful work to help their families.  Going to school, pursuing their extracurricular activities, and staying out of major trouble is considered their function.  In the old days, boys and girls had chores and roles that were vitally important to the survival and functioning of their family unit.  They knew that they were an integral part of the survival of their family and that without their contributions, it would suffer."

Month 4: Gainful Employment
It is important to answer to an authority other than parents.  Adolescents wouldn't get full time jobs but would look for opportunities to babysit, wash cars, lawn care, walk dogs, etc.

"And while I'm not opposed to a bit of summertime relaxation, I don't want the kids to enter adulthood expecting every day to be fun, another message I suspect we've mistakenly planted in this generation by our parental tendency to entertain rather than challenge our children."

"These days, employers see a disturbing trend of exactly that: employees who walk away from the job when the work proves more demanding or less interesting than they expect."

Month 5: Domestic Dirty Jobs
Teach the children how to clean a bathroom.  Wyma also focused a lot on doing the job well the first time.  Learning to persevere and go the extra mile rather than doing just enough to get by.

"It's so hard to let my kids handle their business, especially when 1) I'm fairly certain I can do it better, 2) I know other parents are stepping in for their kids, 3) I equate helping them with loving them, and 4) I'm just not sure my kid will actually get it done.  To the latter I need to genuinely let my brood swim floaty-free much earlier than senior year applications so I know they can do it and so they know they can do it."

Month 6: Dirty Laundry
Each child will do his/her own laundry, start to finish.  As always, she will work alongside them to teach them how and then let them do it alone. (I like this one.  I have a lot of laundry.  Right now my kids age 5 and up put their own laundry away but I see no reason why the older ones can't wash, dry, fold and put away their own stuff.  Maybe they won't be so quick to put things in the dirty basket?)

"Our kids need to know how to persevere.  They need to know that no job is beneath them.  They need to know what it takes to operate a home.  They need to know that sometimes you have to get dirty to get things clean.  They need to know how to serve.  They need to know that a family operates as a unit, everyone pitching in.  They need to know that they belong, that they are a part of the group, that they are needed."

Month 7: Home Repair and Maintenance
Take advantage of teaching opportunities like plunging a toilet, changing a light bulb, unclogging a drain.  They may sound simple but have the children ever had to do it before?

"The fact that God trusts us to help him with the tasks of the kingdom is proof positive that he loves us deeply.  And I want to show that kind of love to my kids."

Month 8: Party Planning and Hospitality
Each child will plan and host a party.  It can be small and simple.

"Hospitality gets your eyes off yourself and onto others."

Month 9: Team Players, The Benefits of Working Together
The kids will work together on a project to reach a common goal.

"There is no screen in team.  Television, computer, and telephone screens weren't missed as the kids put their heads together to plan, strategize and accomplish their goals."

Month 10: Equipping Kids for Life's Little Errands
Even though they can't drive yet, they can come along to run errands and see that the toilet paper doesn't buy itself, the car doesn't fill itself with gas, and the shampoo doesn't automatically refill.

"Each time I do something they could do for themselves, I reinforce their sense that they are owed certain things.  That "I deserve it" mentality irks me more that any other aspect of youth entitlement."

Month 11: It's About Others
This month Wyma challenges her kids to serve others, even in a small way, and to be obedient to act when they feel the nudge.

"If we're racing around and our calendars are full, it's hard to find the time to share God's love.  It's hard to see opportunities to serve when we're blinded by our own needs."

Month 12: Minding Our Manners
Manners can include a lot of things...ladies first, look people in the eye, but Wyma said the main goal was for the kids to get outside themselves and consider others.

"Isn't that at the heart of all our entitlement issues?  The obsession with being first in everything?  Searching for significance through achievement and self-promotion, ending up ahead and on top?"

There you have it!  I think it is worth reading and I really enjoyed all of the author's stories that went along with each month.  It definitely wasn't easy and her kids did plenty of whining and complaining, as mine would, but I think this topic of youth entitlement is important to consider as we raise up our little warriors. My kids already do chores but this way of looking at it makes those jobs more meaningful and also helps me see that there are many more things they are able to and should do for themselves.  As a mom, I tend to get overwhelmed by all the things I should "do" so I hope this doesn't come across as a giant to-do list.  That is why the author took an entire year and looked at it as equipping rather than just being a taskmaster.  I hope this was helpful, I haven't done a book summary since I was in school (very rusty!) but felt the nudge since the topic struck a chord with me and other moms as well.  Happy reading!  Jaymi

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Efficient Worshiper

I was blessed to be a guest blogger again!  I love sharing my story of how God has shaped my heart for worship.  Big thanks to Jonathan DeGroot and Daniel Brunz for their role!


Monday, October 21, 2013

I was recently asked to be a "guest blogger" for my friends at Shift115 so I wanted to include the link!  This is the story of my journey of worship and how God has used my kids to teach me what it means to be free.  Enjoy! 


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gotcha Love Day

It's hard to believe today is Zachary's "Gotcha Day" and that one year ago, on Valentine's Day, we met our sweet boy for the first time.  And yet, it seems strange to me that he hasn't always been with us because it sure feels like it.  I can't possibly express how crazy we are about this kid.  I stand in awe at how God has set this little one in our family and he soooo fits right in =).
 Feb 14, 2012 we saw Zachary for the first time at his orphanage.  He was so scared and upset, his nannies did their best to comfort and reassure him.  We had to keep our distance at first.
 Justin had to walk with him outside the orphanage to try to calm him down while I got all the info I needed inside.  We found out later that while Justin was sweating bullets with our terrified toddler and I was furiously writing down and videotaping everything the translator was telling me, Grace was hanging out with the nannies and holding babies in the nursery.  Happy girl.
 Saying one last good-bye to the ladies who loved him so much.
 Sad and scared...broke our hearts and yet we trusted he would feel safe soon. 

February 14, 2013
We celebrated both Valentine's Day and Gotcha Day first thing this morning at our favorite...The Original Pancake House.  The kids woke up this morning so excited that it was Zac's special day.  He was very confused and kept asking if it was his birthday!  Who ever heard of Gotcha Day anyway? =)

I am crazy in love with all 5 of my babies and their daddy.  It's been an awesome journey to Taiwan and back and I am so thankful for the way God's hand has been on this little boy's life.  We are so blessed to be his family.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Hold You Lap"

Zac is such a cuddlebug.  He is always reaching up for Justin or me and saying "Hold you" or "Lap" or "Hold you lap".  I love that he wants to be close to us.  This morning I sent my big kids back to school after a really nice Christmas break.  No one wanted to get out of bed (me especially) but they made it out the door on time.  Asher has been sick and just wants to lay around (SO not Asher) so I was hoping for a little quiet time with my Bible, coffee, and gently falling snow while the two little boys watched a movie.  I barely cracked it open when Zac came into the kitchen..."Mommy, lap?" I said, "Don't you want to watch the movie with Asher?"  "No thank you (he's seriously that polite).  Lap."  So up he came.  I love holding him even though it makes it a little harder to drink my coffee and hold my Bible so I tried again to see if he wanted to sit next to me and color or do a puzzle.  Nope, "Lap".  So I tried to read while he chatted about how he wanted hot cocoa, his daddy, and looked at a picture of himself that I used as a bookmark in my Bible.  "Zackey...aw, cute!" (He's heard that more than a few times!).  I wasn't comprehending anything I was reading so I finally decided to read out loud.  I was finishing up Revelation, a book that I tend to avoid.  I know I am not supposed to be fearful but I confess that I find myself freaking out a little when I work my way through it so I was excited to read the last chapters when all things are new and Satan is banished forever.  I was surprised when tears started forming in my eyes as I read aloud.  By the time I got to Revelation 21 I was pretty much sobbing through it.

"I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.  And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people!  He will live with them, and they will be his people.  God himself will be with them.  He will remove all of their sorrows and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  For the old world and its evils are gone forever.  And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!"  Revelation 21:1-5

I share this story for a couple of reasons...one is that I was reminded of the power of the Word of God this morning.  Reading it aloud made it even sharper to me.  The other reason is to encourage other moms of little ones.  There are opportunities to sit at His feet when your 3-year-old wants to sit on your lap and you never seem to be alone.  In fact, a part of the reason I found myself in tears was just being struck again at the miracle that I even had this precious, beautiful little boy on my lap and I had the honor and joy to speak Truth over him.  He kept putting his little hand on the page...he has the sweetest little hands. 

There's so much more I could say about my experience reading Revelation this time.  I know God led me back to it again.  Read it...maybe even out loud...and be filled with the hope and assurance that Jesus wins the battle and all things will be made new.

(sidenote...Zachary was on my lap as I wrote most of this post too...=)

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Official!

It's OFFICIAL!!!  We went to the courthouse today and appeared before the (very nice!) judge and promised to be Zachary's family forever.  His name is now officially changed to Zachary Dale Vandewater!  I LOVE how it is stated in the document..it is now the same as if he was our "natural born" son.  It is the same, buddy.  You are our baby, sweet boy.
Joah having a little fun in the "hot seat"
Here we are with the judge and our social worker (Joah was having a "moment").
Kids outside the courthouse
We got them out of school so they could be with us - they were so excited and eagerly told the judge they loved having Zachary as their little brother.
Milkshakes to celebrate!!
He's officially a "Vandewater" and we LOVE it!!!!