The 5 Love Languages of Children

Last year was a tough year.

Not that anything overly bad happened – on the surface, in fact, our live looked pretty blessed. We had a healthy baby, we were settling in to our lesser finances a little more comfortably, and our marriage was strong.

But last winter we suddenly found ourselves struggling with one of our children. It was hard and it was often ugly and by the end of most days we were exhausted and depleted and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Through much prayer we were able to get through the worst of it. But as my head cleared in the aftermath, I realized that as parents we had a long way to go in repairing our family dynamic, not just with our one child, but with all of our kids.

I love our kids. I happen to think they are fantastic, smart, funny, kind, and pretty great. They’re my favourite kids by far. And I thought I was doing a good enough job letting them know they were loved, until I started to see patterns of behaviour that indicated otherwise.

It was extremely good timing that I received The 5 Love Languages of Children to review. I had heard of the book before, so I was eager to read it.

It was eye-opening to say the least.

To know that each of my children have their own love languages, their own ways of needing to be shown love has indeed been life-changing. Not because I had to do anything drastically different in how I love my kids, but because it has caused me to pay more attention, to be more intentional in filling up my kids’ love tanks in ways that are meaningful to them.

One responds best to hugs and other affectionate touch. One responds best to encouraging and affirming words. And yet another to being helped and spending quality time.

I had become lazy in my parenting, I will admit, trying a one-sized-fits-all approach to four very different children. Understanding why that wasn’t working and making small changes has made all the difference.

There is less fighting, less stress, and more willingness to cooperate and listen. And not just from the kids, but from me as well.

Not only that, but it has helped me better understand my own love language and that of my husband’s, making me more understanding and patient on the days that I feel like being anything but.

And that is a very good thing.

This book has been provided courtesy of Northfield Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. for my honest review.  Available at your favourite bookseller, including Amazon.ca.

Just call me Mom

I’ve been working my way through Restless – You Were Made For More, by Jennie Allen. First of all, let me just say if you haven’t read this book, you seriously need to. Even if you think you know what you were made to do, this book will get you thinking about what God really has made you to do.

I’ve been operating under the premise this past year that I was supposed to fulfill one of two past callings. Because one isn’t an option at this point, I decided to pursue the second. All without truly consulting God about any of it. I figured that if I had done it before, it made sense that I could just step right back into it. I told Him what I was up to, and then proceeded to struggle and agonize for the next twelve months.

Good times.

What I didn’t do was pay attention when I heard God call me to leave off working and running a daycare to be fully present as a stay-at-home-mom. God knows that I get distracted easily, and I also have a tendency toward avoidance when things get hard. But I assumed that His directions to sacrifice a meager paycheque had more to do with trust (a recurrent issue in my life) and nothing at all to do with purpose. After all, I had that calling to pursue. Staying at home made perfect geographical sense.

Turns out, I missed the point. While reading Restless, I fully expected to get all fired up to be more than just a mom. Turns out, I’ve instead started to become fired up to be just a mom. And I hold this quote responsible:

So whether our role is to mother or start a business or sponsor a child or sweep a floor or run a bank or teach little people to read, we don’t want to miss it. His Spirit will pour us into need, and who are we to judge where and what is the greatest need? This isn’t as much about what or where; this is about getting over ourselves and just doing it. (emphasis mine)

I realized I was so caught up in trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, that I was missing exactly what I was supposed to be doing!

I believe one hundred percent, even on the days that the bank balance scares me and the school fees are mounting and it is still another week until payday, on the days laundry gets old and I just want to go somewhere, that God has asked me to be home, fully present, for this season. To set aside the things that distract me and pour into the need right in front of me.

Here I was looking for some big calling and He has just handed me the biggest one.

When community hurts

Several years ago, I was in love with community. I was deep in the throes of it in my church, where I live, and in online ministry. I loved every thing about it – the feeling of belonging, the feeling of being able contribute and serve others, of knowing that there were people to care for us if we needed it.  I was passionate about it because I believed in it and I knew we were created for it.

But then I was hurt by it.

In some of the darkest days of my life, when I needed community the most, it began to fail. Suddenly, the people I thought I could count on were hard to find. The ones I needed to sit with me and hold my hand and pray with me and tell me we’d get through this because we would do it together. The wonderful thing about God is that though most of the people I counted on let me down, He placed others in my life to pick up the pieces temporarily. Those people were a beautiful gift and kept me holding on to hope.

But like I said, it was temporary.

When the days got brighter, I thought the people who had pulled away out of fear or perhaps simply awkwardness would come back. That things would go back to the way they were before. I missed them, and even though I was hurt, I wanted to move on and get things back to normal.

I sit here today feeling so isolated, so lost, so alone.

I do have a few lovely and wonderful friends and I appreciate them so incredibly much. They are the ones who did not leave, who model what true and real community really is. Because of them, I still believe in it. I am still passionate about it. I still want it for me and for you.

Most days, though, I feel like I am on the fringes, gazing longingly at groups of people laughing, hugging, sharing their joys and upsets, wishing I was part of it, wishing I could laugh and hug and be joyful or sad with them. I feel like the outsider, the one no one knows or no one wants to invite over. I feel like something is wrong with me, that repels people rather than draws them in.

It is so hard, this feeling like you don’t belong anywhere. It makes you want to hide while at the same time you desperately want to fit in. You want to give your heart and help another but shy away because you are afraid of being trampled.

But I am slowly starting to dip my toes in again. Because even though past experience has taught me that the risks are high, the fact is I am shriveling without it. We need each other in order to flourish. We need to meet together, we need to build one another up. We need to encourage each other all the more.

More than that, I need to build others up. I need to encourage. I need to serve. I need to offer help and hope.

It is the water my soul thirsts for.

Thank you for being my community.

A handy dandy laundry tip

Here’s the thing. I do laundry because I have to. So when I go shopping, I try really, really hard to stay away from things that require extra care, like hand-washing. Or ironing. I think I may dislike ironing more than the actual laundry.

But sometimes a girl sees the cutest little top or the most comfy linen pants and all that cuteness trumps the self-imposed laundry rules. Am I right?

The part I find the toughest about hand-washing is the wringing out. Sure, you can use a towel, but that just makes more laundry. Ugh!

Awhile ago, I had an epiphany while using my new salad spinner.

Oh, yes, I’m going there.

Why not use the spinner to wring my shirt out? And you know what? It worked like a charm!

(This probably works best if you have a spinner that sits inside a bowl that will collect the water for you, unlike the cheap one I had in my university days. That one would have had water everywhere.)

I actually do the soaking in the container as well. Once the soaking is done, dump the water, and spin the spinner. It may take a few turns to get all the water wrung out, and I do find that heavier fabrics require me to squeeze a the excess water out by hand afterward. But it still works wonderfully!

So there you go. Easiest laundry tip ever.

Linking up with Inspire Me Monday and Works For Me Wednesday.

This ministry of motherhood

You want to know something funny?

As I was typing the title for this post, my only-have-had-one-cup-of-coffee fingers kept typing “mothergood” instead of motherhood.

And there’s the whole point of this post.

I’m breaking my break for a moment because I feel like I have finally stumbled upon something good. This morning as I was praying and feeling sorry for myself over my lack of purpose (or, rather, my feeling of a lack of purpose), I finally got it. Back in January I shared that once summer holidays hit, I would officially be finished babysitting and that I felt God was calling me to not work for this next season. Back in January, I was really excited about that.

In June, when the repairs around the house started mounting up, I felt a lot less excited about that.

Not only my lack of excitement, but my need for doing something big in my own eyes for God, has led me to this place of discontentment. But this morning, He redirected my focus.

This morning as I was pleading with Him to clarify my calling, He clarified it by reminding me what He has already called me to.

Motherhood.

This world will have us believe, lovelies, that this is not enough. That its not enough to raise our kids to His glory, to be content building a home. That we must also pursue bigger and better things, otherwise we lose who we are.

It is in this pursuit of bigger and better that I have lost who I am.

So I am on a mission. I am driven to get out of this place of reluctantly accepting my calling of motherhood and instead find joy and passion in it. I am driven to find out how I can serve our God and my family authentically, without trying to become someone I think I should be. Because let’s face it. How many times do we resolve to be “better” moms, only to try to live up to someone else’s definition of what that is?

This is for Him. All for Him. Because there is a reason and purpose for Him calling me to this ministry and it is high time I started to view it as just that.

I want to mother good.

Summer Reads

I love books. There’s just something about cracking open a book, settling down with a nice cup of tea and a cozy blanket and meeting someone new. Fiction or non-fiction, I’m always reading something.

Years ago, when I first started blogging, I would join a fall and spring reading challenge at Callapidder Days. I loved seeing what other people were reading and discovered quite a few new authors (and blogging friends) in the process. It was fun!

So right this minute, I decided to make up a short summer reading list. I’d love it if you joined me and shared what you’re planning on reading over the next few months! That’s what I love about summer – we can sit on the deck and read and not even feel guilty for ignoring the growing pile of laundry. The kids will probably wear the same clothes several days in a row until either I or their dad notices anyway. (I did so just admit that!)

Here’s what’s on my bookshelf for the summer (hover over the pictures for links to Amazon.ca):

I usually also pick a good study to do over the lazy days of summer. It helps that this is a summer that The LPM blog is hosting a Siesta Summer Bible Study and it just happens to be Beth Moore’s very newest on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. You should join in!

I’ve just realized I have only one fiction, and in all honesty, I’m about two-thirds of the way through it already. I could use some suggestions.

What’s on your to-read list this summer? Do share!

What I learned on my social media break

Last month I took a bit of a social media break, and I have to tell you, it was wonderful.

For two weeks, I didn’t worry about what was happening on Facebook, or worry about posting witty status updates. For two weeks I wasn’t a slave to my email or stats. Instead, for two weeks I felt free to simply live life and enjoy it.

I learned a few valuable things during my break:

Not everything that happens needs to be shared with the Internet. 

That was a tough one for me, because while in real, face-to-face life I am an introvert through and through and generally avoid trying to get attention, online I like attention. But while on my break, rather than worrying about how I could commemorate a moment in 140 characters or less or with a photo, I just lived the moment. And really, no one seemed to miss my daily toddler updates, anyway.

Photos are much more enjoyable the old fashioned way.

I developed a ton of photos years ago with the intent to scrapbook, but after abandoning that hobby they’ve been sitting in a dusty closet since. I’ve mentioned before my new found love for Project Life. Part of why I love it is because it feels so old school. My kids love looking through the stacks of old photos, and thumbing through the pages of our new albums as I slowly put them together. It’s much better than trying to find the CD’s or flicking through them on the laptop!

My kids definitely follow my example.

Less time for Mom online naturally unfolded into less time with the kids plugged in. And I didn’t even have to nag. Seriously.

Less time online means more space – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Prior to my break, I was finding my forgetfulness increasing, not to mention my grumpiness! I felt a lot less overwhelmed with information, better able to handle stress, and quite honestly, fully open to God’s leading and direction in my life. That’s a better payoff than any of the other ones listed above.

I’m prone to comparison and trying to be like someone else. 

Don’t get me wrong – what you see here is what you pretty much get in real life. I’m a broken, messy woman. But I do struggle with feeling like I don’t measure up, like I need to keep up, and wishing I had half the influence of ______ (fill in the blank). It took taking a break to help me realize that it’s really okay to be Andrea.

I’m officially off my break now, but there are a few things I plan to continue with, like keeping Facebook off my phone, and removing my phone to another room when the temptation is getting too strong. I plan to continue to set time boundaries, particularly as summer schedules relax. And I want to approach my social media use my way – not trying to copy anyone else, but just being myself.

And I want to remember the most important thing: embrace life. Live it well. Because at the end of it all, I don’t want to look back and wonder what all I missed.

Have you taken a social media break lately? What did you learn from it?

 

In case you missed it

I’m a girl who does not like change.

I like the things in my life to remain the same, predictable. I like my coffee in the same mug at the same time every morning. I like the same thing for breakfast every day, and I wear the same ratty old sweater around the house because it’s comfy. And familiar.

These past two years have brought about so much change in my life. Some very, very good, most not. Relationships, careers, new babies (well, just one baby!).  I thought I had been handling it well, until recently. I started to realize I wasn’t happy; I wished life was different. “If only _____ hadn’t of happened,” or “if only I could do both” replayed itself in my mind over and over again.

I was becoming bitter from the hurt my heart had experienced from so much turmoil. And I didn’t like who I was seeing in the mirror.

I had the wonderful privilege of being a guest contributor over at (in)courage this past week. I am excited and humbled and would love it if you popped over there to read the rest of this post!

On hindrances and why I’m signing off for the summer

I’ve been really struggling with unrest and feeling weighed down ever since I ended my social media break. The creativity and zest for life that I experienced during that break is quickly dwindling. And I am tired.

I was having a hard time nailing down exactly what was bothering me until this morning when I worked on my Children of the Day study. We were looking at things that hinder. I couldn’t name anything specific, even though I have this incredible burden on my shoulders, until I read this:

“A hindrance is not always something sinful. Even something wholesome can become less and less consistent with the path God is opening to you. Its season has passed and it’s time to lay it down. These can often be the hardest hindrances to let go of because they’re more subjective and easier to rationalize. They’re not wrong; they’re just wrong right now

Let’s also be sensitive to a churning in our souls or a growing unrest or discomfort toward that particular thing We’ll know. And when we do, let’s ask God for the strength to pitch it. One way we’ll know it was His will is that, even while we miss it, we’ll feel relieved.” Children of the Day, p 67, emphasis mine.

I need to sign off for the summer, to discover if indeed it is this whole social media thing that is hindering me and the growth God has in store. I’ve become a person that I don’t recognize or like all that much, and I want to change that. Or rather, allow Him to change me.

Summer seems like the natural time to do this, because life winds down as school ends and the days beg for afternoons spent on the deck with glass of iced tea and a good book. Of water fights with the kids and sunscreen on our noses. Routines shortened and schedules relaxed. A season of rest and a season of growth.

My soul and my heart feel lighter already.

Five Minute Friday: Messenger

I see the look in his eyes after I have unleashed my mother’s fury on him, this boy who tries my patience like no other child. I am frustrated, I am heartbroken, and I am done.

But his eyes, they tell me so much more than this moment being one of rebellion. There’s remorse, pain, fear, and a plea for love and understanding.

I see the look on his face after he brings the house down with his music. Proud, with eyes searching for mine, wanting to know I am proud, too.

This boy, this child of my heart, my firstborn son has the ability to drive me to my knees more often than I have ever before. I long for him to know God, to know he is loved by Him more than he can even imagine.

But his ten year old heart needs to know I love him, too. And in these days where it seems like we are battling wills more often than not, I can see that need growing.

I long to convey God’s love and acceptance to my son, and it starts with my own words and actions.

I go to my son, this child of my heart, and I tell him I am sorry. That I love him. That I am so very, very proud he is mine.

And I see relief and a belief that God loves, too.

Linking for Five Minute Friday.