Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Penny's Worth of Precious Memories

I actively seek out quietude. Calmness. Even solitude on occasion.

Let's get real for a moment:  I have three wonderful, rambunctious children.  They often squabble and sometimes outright fight.  They leave donut socks under their beds and Legos underfoot.  They have scribbled on microfiber couches, walls, and each other.  They have worn more holes into jeans than I dare count.  They have used their fingernails as weapons, dropped iPods into steaming coffee cups, used their words to wound and cried many tears over decisions "mean mommy" has made.  They have defied and loved me.  Hugged and kissed me.  And looked to me for help, guidance and sometimes rolled their eyes at me.

So, if I were really honest, I'd have to say that I crave solitude more than just occasionally.  Right about lunchtime, I find myself wanting to zip out of the room for 15 or 20 minutes just to get away from the noise.  They are great kids.  They aren't particularly naughty or precocious, they are just lively, active and well, loud

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

But sometimes I need those 20 minutes to regroup, refocus and reaffirm why I love being a mom.

Recently, I read this blog post and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  A mom was given a jar of 936 pennies.  Each penny represented a week that she had with her child until they were (presumably) going away to college.  At the same time each week, she would remove a penny, effectively reminding her that how she spent her days, her words, her actions and emotions on her children, affected them.  It is so very important to be mindful of how those pennies are spent. 

Some of us will have fewer weeks.  Tragedy occurs, choices are made that we have no control over or life throws us a curve ball.  We suddenly find that our penny supply is significantly diminished.  Whether we have 932 weeks with our child or fewer, the image is powerful.

Am I willing to relinquish a penny for a moment's worth of peace?  Am I spending their pennies on constantly removing myself from the noise?  Do I distance myself emotionally because my children have made choices that  cannot be reconciled with who I dreamed for them to be?  Are my child's pennies being spent on my harsh words and frustration?

::blink,blink::

Here is what I do know:  Tomorrow and each day, I will do my very best to show kindness and give grace.  I will extend mercy while I try to teach my children a gentler way to live.  I will make sweet memories that will reverberate for a very long time.  And I will teach them to love like Jesus loves. 

This is a massive undertaking -- quite a daunting task for one who's nature tends to be unyielding.  It gets easier though when I remember what an utterly unselfish act of love God has shown me.  He gave His Son so that I can learn to love the same way.  So much mercy demands that I return that mercy and love to others. 

Starting with my rambunctious, enthusiastically noisy children.

And that makes me very joyful,

Saturday, November 15, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 5


(If you would like to get caught up on the previous installments in this series, please click here. Blessings!)

Your Lover/Your Enemy/Your Spouse.


Cold, Hard Fact:  Until the ink is dried on the divorce decree, you are still married.  You are not free.  You are not free to create/continue/cherish hope for a new romantic relationship.  You are not free to date.  You are not free to live with a new "friend."  You are not free to indulge in even the slightest physical pleasure with another person.  You are only fooling yourself when you find ways to justify these actions.  You are wrong.  You are sinning.  You will have to answer for it to the Creator of the Universe.  No one else is fooled -- not your kids, not your parents, not your friends, not your pastor, nor your co-workers -- though they may condone your actions to your face and say they think it's okay.  It's not.

No one is fooled and you are a fool if you think otherwise.

You still have a responsibility to yourself, to your spouse, and to God to act honorably.  You should want to be able to tell your children (or anyone for that matter) that you remained faithful throughout, even if it's the hardest part of getting divorced.  They will see your actions and count them as more weighty than the words you say.  You are your children's example, act as you would want them to act if they found themselves in the same situation.  Act honorably.

If you don't intend to act honorably, then don't get upset when you find out that your spouse has had to explain to your bewildered and brokenhearted child why it's not okay for their other parent to kiss (or whatever) their new "friend."  Your children won't say it to your face, but they will resent you for it.

Cold, Hard Fact:  When going through separation, divorce and living in the aftermath of divorce, your lover has now become your enemy.  Even if the divorce is a mutual decision and you both have sworn to make the process as painless as possible, you are on opposing one another in court.  You are enemies, but hopefully not for forever.

Cold, Hard Fact:  The legal process for getting divorced is set up to make you enemies.  Don't confuse that with your lawyer and your spouse's lawyer as being enemies.  They aren't.  There is a difference.  Suddenly, even the nicest of people become selfish and perpetually grumpy.  If you are lucky, they won't allow themselves to become malicious.  Don't hold your breath, we all feel a great need to protect ourselves and are tempted to go to any lengths to achieve it.

Cold, Hard Fact:  You will often feel at the mercy of your lawyers, your spouse, your spouse's lawyers and the legal system in general.  Because you kinda are.  You cannot control the actions of others, you can only control your reaction to them.  There are very few lawyers that want a quick, easy divorce for their client. They don't make any money that way. The longer the process is drawn out, the more money they get from you.  The sooner you realize that, the better.  Your spouse may not realize it -- or care (Perhaps they are wealthy enough to be able to drain you of your resources. Maybe mommy and daddy are footing their bill, so they aren't concerned about making it quick).  Rest assured, the lawyers wait until each deadline comes up before they do the bare minimum to meet that deadline.  If lawyers know they can show up in court on decision day and delay for any reason, chances are, unless you call them on it (or the judge does), they will delay. 

Of course, you may have a perfectly admirable lawyer who does none of this.  I hope you do.

Cold, Hard Fact:  As a Christian you are still called to live in peace with that person as much as it is possible.  In the face of your lover soon becoming your former spouse and becoming your enemy in the process, it is hard to remember.  It is even harder to carry it out. 


If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
               Romans 12:18


::sigh::

It's not easy.  It's not fun.  It is doable (with firm boundaries for all parties involved).  But probably only with God's help.  Ask for it.  As often as you need to.  Just like loving your spouse well is a life-long process, living in peace with your former spouse is a life-long process.  Sometimes the best that can be done is making sure there are no conflicts.  Your former spouse, of course may not be working toward that end.  As time goes on and as they see you less and less as a threat, it is more likely to happen.  You can foster good will by not perpetuating conflict and working toward a more agreeable relationship.  They may never come around.  But at least you have done your part in working toward that end.  And that brings me to the next point:

Keeping Your Side of the Street Clean


This was the best piece of advice I have ever been given on the subject of divorce.  One of the ways you can live in peace is by taking the high road.  Don't give in to the temptation to manipulate, argue, raise your voice and generally be selfish.  You take care of your side of the street regardless of what your former spouse does on his (or her) side of the metaphorical street.  You don't want garbage or laundry hanging out on the front stoop for the entire neighborhood to see. 

That does not mean you do not stand up for what you believe in.  It means, it is by nature a fight, but keep it clean.  No cheap shots.  No underhanded dealings behind the scenes.  No evil, wickedness or naughtiness allowed.  It is a great feeling knowing you can hold your head up high with as few regrets as possible. 

Having said that, forgive yourself if you didn't keep your side of the street clean -- or not as clean as you would have liked once you are able to see it all in hindsight.  I made mistakes that I regret, but I can honestly say that I did not intend harm or hurt to come to my former spouse.  I did not manipulate.  I was often angry, but tried not to act out of anger.  Forgive yourself if you gave into the temptation to do so.  You can also know that God will forgive you when you ask and are in a right relationship with Him.  But you gotta have a relationship with Him in order to do so.  Drop me a note at notesofjubilee@gmail.com to find out more about how to do that. 

As an aside, I would like to mention one more thing.  Yes, you can ask forgiveness at any time.  If you go into a divorce thinking you can behave however you want, live with whomever you want (indulge in whatever sin feels good at the time) and hurt whomever you want because you can always ask for forgiveness later . . . you have the wrong heart and mindset.   You need to examine your heart and get back into a right relationship with God.  You will be forgiven, if you are sincere, but you will still pay the consequences of your actions.  God loves you, but He's all about the consequences in order to draw you to Him  (or back to Him).  He may show you mercy, but you will still have consequences to pay -- you won't be let off the hook completely. 

Unfortunately, you won't be the only person who will pay for the consequences of your actions.  Your former spouse, your children, family members and friends will all experience ripple effects of your actions.  Let's work toward lessening the effects of those ripples on the front end of things instead of waiting until it's all over.

On A Personal Note

One of the ways I have trained myself to not be bitter toward my former spouse is to never call him "My Ex."  Think back to when you have heard others say those words.  There is so much vehemence spewed when you hear them.  And even if you are able to say those two, small words without bitterness, the person you are talking to automatically attaches a negative connotation to it.  I don't want that.  I don't want my kids to hear that from me.  It is a bit cumbersome to always call their dad "my former husband," or "the kids' dad," but it has helped me in not attaching hatred and bitterness to his name.  It helps me keep my side of the street clean even now.

Even though it's tough (and I haven't done it perfectly), keeping my side of the street clean, honors God and makes me very joyful,


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

10 Questions You Should Never Ask a Homeschool Parent

::Snark Alert::


With two years of homeschooling under my belt and a third well underway, I thought I'd heard every question that could possibly be asked of me in regard to homeschooling. 

Until this week  (see #10). 

So, I though I would share the top ten questions you should never ask a homeschool parent.  Unless of course, you are eager to watch their face melt into a puddle of goo all over your shoes. 

It could happen. I'm just sayin'.

And then I will share with you my response if I lacked the same amount of tact each questioner has shown by asking these questions.  Now, I understand that there are well-intentioned people out there who are genuinely concerned -- these answers are not for them.  These answers are for those who are just down-right nosey.  And mean.  And, well, idiots.  And if you are well-meaning and want to ask, don't.  Please.  I don't question what you do with your kids education, you don't need to question me about what and how I decide to educate my kids.

10.  "So, you home school, right?  I bet you wish you had all that money back you spent on getting that Secondary Education degree, right?"  Perhaps this person thought they were being cute.  I hope they weren't implying that anything I gleaned from my four year college experience is wasted on my children.  And, yes, I bet we ALL wish we could have the money back in our pockets.  College is an outrageous amount of money.

9.  "Do you do school in your pjs?"  Why? Are you jealous?  I bet you wish you could get comfy at your job the same way I do and have.  But no, I choose to get dressed each day.  Now, please outline for me your morning routine.  Double spaced, 20# weight paper with no grammatical errors.   Due on my desk tomorrow morning after breakfast but before your morning devotions.

8. "What do you do all day?"  Well, after I get up at 11am, surf the daytime talk shows and make a gourmet luncheon, I slather on a bottle of sunscreen and hit the golf course with my other homeschooling friends.

7.  "Wouldn't you love to have your days all to yourself instead of homeschooling? I'd get tired of being around my kids all day long."  A couple of days to myself would be nice once in awhile, but I'd have that feeling regardless of the job I had.  Changing things up now and again makes you appreciate what you have.  The fact that you don't enjoy your kids is a very sad thing indeed.  Perhaps someone who can't have kids should take them off your hands for you?

6.  "Wouldn't you rather have the time to clean?"  Um, hello Ms. Downright Rude.  Have you been to my house?  Just what are you implying about my cleaning abilities?  Are you offering your services? If I had my kids in school, cleaning would be the last thing on my to-do list most days.

5. "Since you don't have a job and are home all day, you wouldn't mind heading up the cub scout popcorn sale/babysitting/leading the litter clean-up crew/insert any and every job no one else is willing to do here . . . would you?"  Homeschooling is my job.  I am educating my children, but I am also teaching them to be compassionate, thoughtful, responsible citizens who love the Lord.  It takes time, baby.

4. "Are you even qualified to do this?"  Why yes, I am because I am a mature adult.  I do the same thing you do when coming across a challenge.  I seek help or figure it out on my own and do a lot of praying.  How's your prayer life coming along?

3. "Guess you get to count running errands as field trips huh?"  No, this is grocery shopping -- not as much fun and with fewer tactful people who decide that flannel pajama pants are acceptable outdoor wear.

2. "But you're gonna send them to a REAL school for high school right?"  You mean the place where drugs are snuck in, alternative lifestyles are shoved down their throats, the faculty have their hands tied when an intruder invades the school, they are bullied by kids and laughed at by teachers for their beliefs?  The place where they are shuttled like cattle through the hallways into classrooms and where the First Lady decided to hijack my kids lunch?

and the best for last:

1. "What about socialization?"  I really have to work at making sure my kids are weird, unsocialized buffoons.  What's your kids' excuse?  Also:  see #2.

Whew!  Glad I got that off of my chest here so it doesn't accidentally pop out of my mouth in public. 

Have any to add?  Comment below and share your "I wish I could say this every time I get asked . . ." responses.

Counting it all snarky joy,


Thursday, October 2, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 4

{If you have missed previous posts included in this series of On Being Divorced, you can find them by clicking here.  Blessings!}

God's Mercies are New Every Morning.

Lamentations 3:22-23 "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."


There's a promise to hang onto if I ever heard one.

Now, I'm not saying that mornings were easy -- far from it.  Many mornings I awoke with my stomach plummeting to my feet.  In fact, waking up was so painful that I hated to go to bed because I knew what would happen upon waking.  I usually stayed up so late that I only went to bed because I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and I didn't want my children to wonder why mom never slept in her bed anymore.

Unfortunately, staying up late wreaks havoc with all your circadian rhythms, metabolism, the body's ability to heal . . . Of course, usually things look worse at night when you are all alone, with no one to pick you up off the floor (or the ceiling) or up and out of the shower you've been crying under for three hours. 

I'm just sayin'.  And I'm not exaggerating.

A-hem.

Life got easier when I plowed through the initial shock of waking up and began to focus on the blessings in my life.  Did it make the piles of paperwork go away? No.  But I could face the piles with a renewed strength.  Did it keep me from constantly reliving the day he informed me he wanted a divorce?  Yeah, um, not even a little.  Did it make comforting my crying children any easier? Yes, it did actually, because I could help them refocus too.

Knowing that God had faithfully carried me to that point, reaffirmed my belief that He would give me whatever I needed to get through the day.  I didn't always do it prettily or gracefully or without mistakes, but sometimes just surviving is good enough for that day.  May I say that again?

Sometimes, just surviving the day, is okay.

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

It'd be nice.  Makes less work for us.  But it just ain't so.  You may scab over, stop sobbing and be able to talk about your divorce without wanting to punch the nearest wall, but that doesn't mean you are healed.  Anger and bitterness still need to be confronted, analyzed and then put away in order to move through grieving process.  The depression and bargaining steps still need to be waded through before you reach a modicum of acceptance.  Take the opportunity to learn what you can during each step so you can assimilate it and move forward.  That may have sounded trite, but believe me I know it's not -- I earned every bit of that myself. 

There will be days you feel you have been hurled back to square one.  It won't really be square one, but it will feel like it.  You will have dealt with anger and then something pops up and before you know it: up rears the ugly, green head once again.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

 I remember praying for just one day that wouldn't be steeped in frustration.  It was a long time coming, but it did reach me.  Some days I prayed to get through the next hour without thinking of my former husband.  After that happened, I prayed for an afternoon without thinking of him.  And on and on it went.  As soon as I hurtled over one small obstacle, I started praying for the next.  Usually, my prayers consisted of one word:  "Jesus."  And I prayed it a lot.  Multiple times a day, whispering His name and knowing He heard me.  He knew my heart's cry better than I could ever express it anyway.

I would have a great day and the next three would be horrific.  Then I was able to string two good days together and then three.  It is possible.  It's not easy.  It will feel like your life-strength is draining away from you, but you can do it.

So, if time doesn't heal the wounds, what does?  One answer:  Only God can truly heal.  If you've been through a divorce or are going through one now, the healing that occurs is because of Him -- whether you acknowledge it or not.  Take it from someone who's tried it both ways:  Acknowledging it is a much better way to live.

Yes, we were created strong and resilient, but we were never created to have to endure these kinds of hardships.  What God created in those seven days were perfect, complete, without blemish.  But sin wheedled it's way in, causing us to have to go through much more than we were meant to go through.  Divorce is not what He wants for us.  But He is sovereign enough and good enough and loving enough to make good come from our heart break. 

I can't promise that your former spouse will one day do a 180*.  But good can come out of your situation.  You might have to practice looking for it.  And then again, you may be so tuned into God that you recognize His love as it pours down upon you.  Let it rain, baby.

Let It Rain!

His mercies are new every morning and His compassions do not fail.  He is in the mending hearts business.  In fact, it's His main business, if we get right down to it.

And for that, I am truly joyful,


Saturday, September 27, 2014

On Being Divorced -- part 3

(If you missed the earlier installments you can click here to get caught up.  Thanks!)

Living Divorced is Harder Than Getting Divorced

Getting divorced is tough. There are lawyers, emotions and poor choices that you must juggle.  And not all of them belong to you.  It seems unfair that the one going through the divorce must come to grips with and plow through other people's legal decisions, emotions and poor life choices at the same time.  When there are children involved, the whole thing becomes even more complicated.  I found that there were days that I had to put myself in a time out now and again just to feel and process.  And cry.  Every so often, I would allow myself a good, hearty cry and then strengthen back up to face the rest of the day or the week or the month.  There were cries of sadness, frustration, anger and even happiness.  It's important to acknowledge and feel those times.

After the ink has dried and the papers are filed, there are many unexpected nuances of change and adjustment that occur.  Sometimes it will feel like an avalanche of changes.  Sometimes it will feel like small incremental tweaks to your daily routines and expectations.  And if you are anything like me, then the small incremental changes often seem just as heartbreaking as the big ones.

This is why it is so important to purpose to not make any big decisions or sudden moves until the dust has long settled.  It's easy to make life changes to reflect the new you or to combat the emotional reactions to pain.  Yes, this includes everything from drastically changing your appearance (read as tattoos, piercings etc), tossing your wedding ring into a bonfire, destroying possessions left behind by your former spouse, jumping into a new romance, or moving out of your family home.  I am not suggesting that these things are bad in and of themselves -- well, maybe destroying the other person's things isn't so smart. I am saying that decisions like these are easy to make and easier to regret later. 

Of course, the exact timing of when to make drastic changes is different for everyone because everyone is different when it comes to the grieving process.  Contemplating a big change?  Wait a week or two, gain counsel from someone far enough from the situation to be helpful but close enough to be sympathetic. I am fairly certain that waiting causes fewer regrets in the long run.

I wanted to get rid of my wedding ring set immediately.  I could hardly stand to look at it even while I was still obligated to wear it.  In fact, I took it off and put it back on several times throughout my separation and the actual divorce proceedings.  It had gone from a symbol of love and security to one of hope (that we would be reconciled) to an albatross.  I justified getting rid of it by my fear of financial struggles..  I waited anyway.  Since God has provided in many ways and finances have not been as big of a worry as I feared.  I still have my ring set.  I am not sure what I am going to do with it and since it's in a jewelry box tucked away, I don't even have to think about it for the most part.  I don't regret it sitting in my box.  I may have regretted selling it

Do you know that many people change their signature after a tragedy?  I don't mean that women just go back to their maiden name, though that certainly happens.  I am talking about the way they sign their name to documents.  They make their letters differently or spacing between letters change.  They may add a middle initial where before they ignored that initial.  Or perhaps the signature suddenly shows up with more loops or more angles.  It's often a subconscious attempt to distance themselves from the situation they are going through.

I know this is true for me.  I cross my sevens (and for awhile my zeroes) military style where as I would have never thought of it before getting divorced.  I tried out several new styles of signatures -- some with my maiden name and some with my married name. 

The struggle over the decision to keep my married name or go back to my maiden name was a real one.  I no longer wanted to be identified through my former husband.  I was embarrassed with and ashamed of him.  But I did want to be identified with my children.  In the end, I decided that my revulsion over keeping my former husband's name was trumped by keeping that link with my children.  It may not have been a significant decision in my children's eyes and then again perhaps one day it will be.  For me, it was monumental.  They'd had enough separation -- physical and emotional.  I didn't want to take the chance that severing that tie would become an issue later.

This next statement is not designed to hurt any of my former family members and I am only making it so as to be as transparent as possible:  I felt my last name had been so sullied by my former husband's actions, that it needed to be redeemed.  I felt like I could and should be the person that God could do that through -- for myself and for my children's sake.  I am not claiming to have done everything perfectly.  Please understand that I am well aware of my short comings. Former family members have also allowed God to use them in very wonderful and practical ways.  By their actions, they have been used by God to redeem our last name also.  God has been gracious and I no longer am ashamed to carry my married name.  If I had gone with my initial desire to retake my maiden name, I am certain I would regret it now.  Should there be a remarriage in the future, of course, I would change my last name to that of my new husband. 

And that change, along with many others, would mark a change of joy -- a memorial stone of God's grace.

Counting it all joy,

Verse of the Day