Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Burden Bearer

Have you heard the term 'Burden Bearer'?

How about 'Empath'?

There is a spiritual gift of intercession. Generally people who have it aren't happy about it. It's challenge. It's painful. It's exhausting.

When people realize what it is, why they think and feel things on behalf of others, and take it to God, then it becomes a joy.

Feeling things for others is burdensome. It causes people to cry themselves to sleep at night, though they don't immediately know why. They often feel isolated, or seek to shut themselves away from people for a time. They sometimes feel rejected by God, even though they know the truth. They cry out to God in sorrow for pains in the world. They can read people, sometimes they can finish someone's question or sentence. Sometimes they seek to escape, because these things are painful.

This isn't an exhaustive list, to be sure. It's just some of it.

People that bear the burdens of others are often accused of being overly emotional, or too sensitive.

In the church it is eschewed. I've heard a few teachers go into detail about how to respond when emotions are overwhelming, but for the most part, I've heard that becoming overly emotional is useless.

The truth is that it's uncomfortable. When someone is crying, few people know how to respond. Even the person that is crying!

Let's teach each other.  If you are feeling some overwhelming emotion that doesn't seem connected to yourself in someway, PRAY!  Ask God what you need to know about this emotion.  The Holy Spirit will tell you what you need to know, and whether you need to speak to someone.

Often, the prompt is so that you will pray for a person in regard to whatever the emotion is.  Usually, you will keep it between yourself and God.  You will let the person know that you are praying for them, but usually you won't have a specific thing to tell them.

Sometimes, rarely, there will be a message for someone. The Holy Spirit will let you know.

If you are a burden bearer, you have been one all of your life.

If you didn't or don't have a relationship with God, you may believe that your gifts of prophecy and/or intercession, and burden bearing are spiritual in other ways. Often people with this gifting become fortune tellers, or seers, or witches. Really, those 'principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness' ' that Jesus people talk about (Ephesians 6:12) look to exploit and sully this gift with lies that sound good. Lies that allow people to convince themselves that they should profit, somehow from this gift, or that something that they do or practice gives them this gift. That they have power or control over it. It can seem like a psychic ability.

When I discovered that I could 'see' things, sometimes, I was spooked. I didn't like it. I asked God to take it from me. I didn't want to see what I could see. I didn't want to know what I was given to know. I didn't want to feel what I was feeling. Knowing I needed to tell someone something that they likely didn't want to hear, or that would be encouraging, but could cause skepticism about my sanity, made (still makes) me feel like vomiting. I've been physically ill over having to give a message. I'm willing, now, but glad it isn't often required.

I used to have deja vu often. Quite often. I could tell you exactly what the would happen or be said next. The location. I could have claimed to know future events. I could have called on gods and spirits to show me these things more often. I could have profited.

I have predicted small earthquakes. Just a few times. When you tell someone that there is about to be an earthquake, and then it happens within seconds, they tend to be pretty freaked out. What should I have done with that? Pray, perhaps for people that might sustain damage or injury. What I could have done is boast about it, and profit from it.

There is a responsibility to interact with the Holy Spirit in regard to our gifting. To do otherwise is irresponsible. To claim anything other than God in these situations is a lie. To pursue this gifting apart from God is a path to trouble for someone, if not yourself.

There is no mortal control over this gift! It comes on a person when the Spirit wills. It is the job of the gifted to commune with the Spirit

There is also this: Jesus is the ultimate burden bearer. People do pick up burdens for one another. But sometimes, even when it's gifted for intercession or prophecy, the burden must be laid back down.

Receiving this gift, and using it well is a deliberate acceptance. You are picking up someone's cross and bearing their burden with or for them. It's an enormous undertaking.

All of those who follow Jesus are spiritually gifted in some way. All of those gifts should bring the gifted closer to understanding the character of God, and to emulating it. It should also always point to Christ. Using any gift for personal gain and/or for profit is trouble.

Look at Ezekiel. He bore some heavy burdens. He bore them, and messages were delivered through them. Many people thought he was insane, but the people who knew God, who believed in his Sovereignty and his truth understood. He was pretty close to God. He heard directly from him! But he still learned. He still pointed people to truth.

I pray that I use these gifts well, too. That I point to Jesus. That I don't mix my opinion with the Spirit's messages. That I recognize the Spirit moving and communicate right away. That I point to Jesus, that I allow my words to be God's, and not riddled with my own strife.

If you have this gifting, it's certainly in conjunction with other gifts. Read the scriptures, talk with God. Learn how about it. Be careful where you study. There's a lot of wonky stuff online. There are so many people and groups that quote the bible to support their own theories, rather than finding their truth because of the scriptures. Be discerning. Ask God. Seek accountability, and ask this person to pray for you, too.

This kind of gift is on that is little understood, because people don't talk about it. It's taboo.

I've stepped on many toes with this post. I've more than ruffles some feathers, I'm certain. But it wasn't my message. There are some of you reading this who needed to know that God is getting your attention, and wants you walk in a deep relationship with Him.

Pray! It's 'just' talking with God. No special vocabulary required.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Changing our Cravings

It's possible. To change our cravings.

We can do it by changing habits. Quitting some, beginning others.

We can do it on our own, for a time, too. It's possible.

Mostly, we need Jesus.

He has promised to transform our minds. This is where the decisions are made. It begins with a thought, then we dismiss it or entertain it. We decide what we'll do and what we won't.

God has changed cravings for many people. He has changed something for me. It's a physical thing. There is still work I must do, however.

I've heard people say "Wow, I had a problem with [substance], but when I trusted Jesus, he took my craving away!   I don't doubt that it is possible. I do wonder how long these people made it before having to choose not to indulge in [substance], and whether they blamed Jesus for allowing them to be challenged and giving in.

It's happened with me. I've struggled with my weight for years. I've talked about it here a few times over the past 8 years.

More recently it's been about health rather than vanity. I can't run. I can't walk far without hurting and becoming breathless. I can't read a book, animatedly, without wheezing. It took two weeks to work up from 3 mins to 15 mins on a low impact DVD workout routine.

I have had cellulitis infections in my legs several times in the recent past. Once I had the infection, the fluid in my lymphatic system remained infected, even after taking heavy antibiotics. A year ago, I had been on these antibiotics four times. I spent about 18 mos constantly trying to heal both from infections, and from the cure. I researched how to heal the lymphatic system. It's not that hard, but it is time consuming, and when movement at all has become difficult, then so is healing.

I was tired all of the time because the antibiotics messed up my digestive system. This compounded my problem.

So, I prayed. If I left my lymphatic system a mess, I was going to be in a health crisis. I wanted to hike and run soccer drills with my kids. I wanted to wake up refreshed in the morning, and go to bed tired from doing hard things in the evening.

I realized one day that I had been having major digestive issues for more than a few days. I wasn't able to eat more than a few bite of food at a time, and I was having major pain in my left side when I did eat. One Sunday afternoon, at a pot luck church meeting, I had pain in my chest. There happened to be an EMT sitting at the table with us that asked me a few questions, and gave me a little advice. On Monday, I set an appointment with my doctor to find out what was happening and how to fix it.

She ordered loads of lab tests, and we had results within a couple of days. Everything was in the normal range. There wasn't a single thing that was too high or too low. There was nothing wrong with me. By the end of that week, my digestive issue seemed to just go away.

But something was changed. My appetite has dwindled, and I am unable to eat too much.  Instead of having a meal, and waiting a bit for my stomach and brain to decide whether I'm full, my stomach just tells me.

I'll be eating, and my stomach will send a message of discomfort, telling me not to take another bite. This is after, perhaps, half to three fourths of a meal.

Over the course of parenting, I have learned to bolt my food down quickly, else I might not have the opportunity to eat all. There have been far too many occasions when I've finished my children's plates, though that job usually falls to Mr. TheZoo. And during a period when I was lonely and unfulfilled, food was a friend.

Learning to be fulfilled by God is a thing. And while it is a subject unto it's self, it has applications here.

God is a chain breaker.  He heals our wounds.  He sees us through our challenges.

It doesn't usually look the way we want it to, though.

We take our chains, and we try to attach them to God. We don't have the the capacity to imagine all of the mysterious of the universe. Our minds are more short term.  We have a limited number of scenarios that we know will bring us happiness or comfort. That will eliminate whatever pain or hardship we are currently enduring. God uses those things, when we are open to it, to build character, or to do some good thing that we might never see. God's good things are not the same as our good things. We limit 'goodness' to something that fulfills our flesh during our short stay on the earth.

God's good things are timeless. That messes with us. We know what's best for us, so we pray for that, then we shake our fists when those requests are unfulfilled. We are impatient for the happiness we think we deserve. I wonder how often we miss a miracle because we are focused on whatever looks fulfilling in the moment.

So, God has changed my cravings. He has transformed my thought about some things already, so I wasn't shocked. I was, however, paying attention. I knew it had to be God, because I was sick. My body was not processing things the way it should have. I was going to have major problems unless this issue was resolved. And then it was. Resolved. And my system began to function differently. Or perhaps the way it used to function before.

I still choose. I choose what to eat and when. I can choose to ignore the slight discomfort and push on. I can choose whatever I want. But I was given a boost. A lift, A hand up. Why would I ignore that? I had already chosen the DVD workout, because that was going to help heal the lymphatic system. Eating less, and making better choices about food are things I need to think about daily, but God has given me a pass on obsessing over it.

My mind is full with kid things, appointments, chores, serving my community. It's full with bill paying, grocery shopping and meal planning. It's full with serving and loving my spouse. It's full with prayer and worship.

Now, I can pay attention to my body, because I'm given a clear signal. I suspect the signal has always been there. I suspect that I have long ignored that signal, and God made a way to get me to notice it again, recognize it, and pay attention to it.

This hasn't been going on very long, a little over two months, I suppose. I haven't lost a lot of weight, only about 20 lbs. I haven't lost many dress sizes yet, only two. But it's a change. It's one that I might have been able to do without God, but it wouldn't have lasted, as the past 20 years can attest. I would quit. I would decide I'd done enough, or that  I deserved something else.

I'm quite the expert on what I deserve. It's rarely what I actually need.

Weight loss, and physical fitness is hard in our USA. We've streamlined and leisure-ized our lives. We've filled our schedules, and left very little time for movement that used to be a natural part of living.

I needed a renewing in how I thought about healing myself, and in how I managed my time to do it.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think, then you will get to know God's will for you which is good, pleasing, and perfect" Romans 12:2

 photo signature-41.png

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sharp Women

I know some sharp women.

They are strong, joyful, serving, humble, kind people. Those aren't their only descriptors, of course. But they are true ones.

These women, they sharpen me. On occasion, when I remember to listen well, speak with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (or not at all!), and be available, I have the joy of sharpening them.

Being sharp is HOW we remember to listen well, and speak with wisdom. It's how we encourage one another to good things. It's how we raise our kids in love. It's how we press on in our personal relationships.

It isn't coddling, or gossipping. It isn't bad mouthing someone perceived to be in the wrong. It isn't propelling someone to make a decision that our own wisdom gives, or rooting someone on in destructive behavior.

When you meet people that say "I'd like to pray for you", and they do so on the spot, those are people you want to be around.

These are the people that want for you what God wants for you.

When you meet people that pray for you on the spot, and remind you of scriptures that reveal God's character, those are people you want to be around.

When you meet people that pray for you on the spot, that remind you of God's character through scripture, and whose council and encouragement points to Jesus, those are the people you want to be around.

When we are around those people, we become more like those people. While being like other people isn't the ultimate goal, if those people are like Jesus, the result is that you become more like Jesus.

When we are surround ourselves regularly with sharp women, we become sharp, too.

That "Iron Sharpens Iron" sentiment is real.

People were created for relationship. Ultimately with God, the Creator of the Universe. But on the earth, we also have one another.

Loneliness is hard. Friendlessness is crushing. Self-reliance is deadening.

Sharp women in our lives is a blessing.

Even sharp women become dull after a time. We work and serve. Life demands things of us, and we give it what it needs. Then we need to be resharpened. And we turn to our posse. The people we trust to speak truth.

Don't have sharp women around you? Become one, first. It's a hard journey. It's demanding. You might even sweat. Okay, you WILL sweat. You'll stretch, and change, and grow. It will be noticeable. You will begin to speak life in others. You will be put a seed on someone else's mind to become sharp.  It's possible.

Do it. Be sharp. Help others cut through the crap so they can help someone else.

 photo signature-41.png

Thursday, June 22, 2017

40 Something, Introverted Mom

Look, Socializing wears me out.

I mean, I like people, I just don't have the energy for 'peopling'. You get me?

Mr. TheZoo, he has a hard time meeting new people, but he draws energy from big social situations. Concerts, carnivals, rallies, car races. The noisier and more chaotic, the better. His smile gets bigger, his voice gets louder, his energy spikes.

Me, not so much.

These situations suck the energy out of me in seconds. If it's something that I truly desire to be involved in, I can prepare myself ahead of time to rally for a longer amount of time. It usually means that I'm not making much conversation, or that I'm holding my arms close to myself. I might cringe at loud close up loudness, or a major change in plan.

I'm depleted pretty quickly. If there's a way to sort of recharge,  and then rejoin, I will do that. If there's a quiet space someplace. Maybe it's not too difficult to go sit in the car for 20 minutes, or maybe the bathroom is nice and not to crowded. Maybe there's a shadowy corner that everyone else is avoiding, I can sit there and scroll through nothing on my phone, just to rebuild the energy that is required to do this crowded, chaotic, loud thing.

Oh, this isn't just rock concerts and Disneyland. This is highschool graduations. This is grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon, This is church on Sunday mornings.

I've been around long enough to recognize what is happening and how to cope. I also know how to rally when I can't leave a situation, for the most part.

I might sit in the back, and appear anti-social. I guess I am, but it's more about having no social energy left.  I will still smile, and speak to anyone that speaks to me, but for the moment, I won't be seeking people out. If I do, I won't have anything to say, because, here's a weird one...small talk hurts my chest.

Meaningless chatter, conversations that last for 20 minutes about nothing but weather. It's painful! I get that we aren't revealing our deepest thoughts to strangers. That would be weird, too. But "Hi! So, how about those *whatever the current local sportsing thing is*?" just isn't my jam.

I don't really understand how to carry on small talk. Sarcasm, puns and humor to displace stress. That I can do. I'll stand there and poke fun at just about anything, rather than review the weather yet again. I'll even make fun of the weather. Or the weather apps, or weather forecasters, or even people that small talk about the weather.

I've been told that I'm fun to be around. I don't always see that. With people I know well, sure. I mean, we have time and familiarity on our side. With new people, though, I'm afraid that most of the time, they walk away shaking their heads, wondering what is wrong with that woman? She's a grown up for heaven's sake, and has kids! How do her children survive?!?!?!

Truth is, they've also learned sarcasm, puns, and humor to displace stress. They are very good at it. You could say it's their first language.

Of course, I've had to 'grow-up'. I hate that phrase in regard to this sort of thing, but it truly is the best way to describe it.

When my children need me to advocate for them, I step up. This means that I need to introduce myself to people, seek people out, ask questions, and have uncomfortable conversations.  I do it.

I take a deep breath, I ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to guide me, because there is no way in Lucifer's Fiery Afterlife that I could do it on my own. And I get to it. I HAVE learned how to do small talk, to some extent. I still don't like it, and it still takes quite a lot out of me.

Have you seen those movies and television shows that depict an empath character? Usually it's some awful tale about fairy tale type characters, or people with super or special powers. The empath feels what everyone around them feels, and often it's overpowering, and the empath character passes out, or lapses into a coma after feeling too much.

That's obviously melodramatic, but it is a decent attempt to depict a real thing.

I have a gift of empathy. That doesn't really mean that I channel the feelings of everyone around me. It means that I can often tell things about people that I am talking to. I can sometimes discern if a person is lying, or hurting, especially.  I can often tell if someone isn't who they are presenting themselves to be. Of course, I do that. I present myself as energetic, perhaps even bubbly. Maybe you've met me as confident.  I am not naturally any of those things. I can be those things temporarily.

It takes a lot of energy to either ignore a discernment, or to hold on to it until later. Depending on the situation, I might not do a thing with a discernment. Probably, I'll never meet that person again. But. What if I do? What then?

The whole discernment about people thing is another topic all together. More on that later, probably.

So, I sit in the back. I find a quiet place. I wait until someone speaks to me.

Or, I find a way to cancel.

Maybe we could just get together for coffee. You know fewer than 10 people that I already know, in a familiar place. That would be nice.

You in?

 photo signature-41.png

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Holy Spirit and the Rock Trolls in Frozen

I know we've been done with 'Frozen' for a few years, but my Facebook memories showed me a video of the youngest zooligan singing 'Let it Go' with her pink plastic Dora guitar. Then I thought about the rock trolls, and the King.

I won't christianize the whole movie, although that is one of my favorite pass times. There's just this one part, and the one part, the one decision actually has a huge effect on the rest of the movie.

When Elsa hits Anna with her frost magic, and no one knows what to do, the King runs to the ancient book, where he knows he can find direction. He brings his family with him to seek wisdom and healing for his daughter. The wise rock troll healed Anna, and gave advice to the King in how to proceed. He told him that fear would be the thing worst thing for Elsa and her magic.

The King nodded his understanding and returned to the castle. He was joyous about Anna's healing, but anxious about Elsa's gift. His advice and training of her grew his own fear and planted fear in Elsa's heart.

He had the best advice, from the most ancient, wisest source he knew of, and he chucked it, trusting in his own wisdom instead. His choice shaped the relationship between the sisters, and between the future queen and the citizens of their realm. Fear overshadowed everything.

We do the same thing, Jesus followers.  We look to our ancient book for direction, we hear the urging of the Holy Spirit. We turn and trust our own control, instead.

Our decision to trust our own thoughts instead of the most ancient, wisest one has us missing out on the magic in life.  Trusting that what we know better what it good for us, then The One who is outside of time, rarely results in eternal success.

In the end, there is a nasty prince trying to steal the kingdom, but that's another analogy.

Today, go to you ancient text, seek out the wise Spirit, and trust that the truth you learn is the one you need.

 photo signature-41.png

Friday, June 9, 2017

Take Me Tonight to the River...

A friend has a birthday coming up, so a few of us are going to take a walk out to the river and bring a picnic.

There are some beautiful places to set up out there, varied in vegetation and view.

Mr. TheZoo suggested we go out together in the late evening light and scope out a couple of spots for our mini-celebration. The conversation went something like this:

Mr. TZ: Do you want to go check out spots at the river?
Me: Nnnnnoooo...
Mr. TZ: What? Why not?
Me: Uh, will we get stuck?
Mr. TZ: Of Course not!
Me: Ummm, well...oooookaaaay.

We head out. We get to the river access gate and drive through, then the water filled ruts and holes come into view.
Mr. TZ: Oh! I forgot that it rained!
Me: Uggggghhhhh.

Now everything is a wet, muddy, soft mess.

We make it out to the river. The sun is still setting, our view is spectacular, and we brought the pup, who was enjoying every moment of this piece of heaven.

You can hear the river rushing by, birds settling in for the evening, and occasionally a train whistle, but little else. It's a serene moment. One I'm loath to give up.

Then, the rain drops.

We scuttle back to the truck, and Mr. TheZoo begins to drive out. Wait. Not out. Just drive, and drive and drive and drive. This path is rather narrow. Oh, I think those ruts are deeper than the wheels are tall on here!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnndddd.....We're stuck!

We had a nice walk out of the river access area, and a short trek home. Two of the bigger boys were still awake at the house, they went to help Mr. TheZoo unstick the truck. The biggest boy got to drive the rescue vehicle for a tiny bit in the access area to maneuver it into a helpful angle for truck pulling.

The boys had a little adventure, too, and felt good that Dad needed their help with something.

I was helpful by chortling about it over text with a friend.

Also, Mr. TheZoo called himself an idiot for getting stuck again. I told him that I love him.

We're all idiots sometimes. Hopefully we're idiots with someone around who'll love us anyway.

 photo signature-41.png

Thursday, June 8, 2017

You Don't Know What You've Got...

...Until it's gone.

People say it all the time. Usually in the aftermath of losing someone.

It's painfully true.

We may recognize on some occasions what it is about this person that made life what it was. Moments of reflection on their positive traits, and how, perhaps, we might have benefited from the way they lived.

But when they're gone.

When they're gone, we do it every day. We remember them with tears, and regret. We wish they were back, we recognize all of the ways we may have made their living difficult. We remember things we wish we hadn't said or done.

The problem is that we don't often enough think that we shouldn't say or do things before we say or do them.

We don't regard people as well when they are living with us. When their faults and shortcomings are in full color, so is our irritation and exasperation.

Wonderful moments come between the hard parts of life. The parts that grow us and develop our  character. The parts where we make mistakes, and we're unsure of what to do next.  The parts where we are insecure, or we recognize that we are jerks, those are the hard parts. Then, while we are focused on our own shortcomings, somehow the shortcomings of the people closest to us are magnified. Rather than doing the hard work to fix ourselves, we begin to gripe about how those loved ones could fix themselves.

We want them to do something better, or more, or less. We want them to focus more on us, or less on us. We want them to be what we want them to be.

But they are who they are. They are either becoming better, or they aren't. Just like the rest of us.

But then. Then, sometimes, they are gone. Just, gone.

Then is when we realize that everything that they were, that they worked toward, that they said, and did...we miss. We miss that they left their shoes in the middle of the floor. We miss that they never put the cap on the milk. We miss that they worked so hard for their family. We missed that they served their community so well. We miss that they encouraged us to stay at home and love our family. We miss that they were always up for an adventure.

The things that we loved about someone, often those very things are what irritate us the most after a time. Then, when they're gone, we remember how much we loved those things about them.

We get in our own way too much.

We focus on our own agenda, or right to be right. Our wants and needs.

When the persons that we love the most aren't there any more, that's when we notice how needy we were. How self involved.

We realize that we'd take back every little thing about that person if we could. Every, blessed, irritating thing. And every lovely thing.

And we know that we wouldn't focus on the irritating things. In fact, we know that we'd push aside the luxury of being irritated at all. We'd focus on every lovely thing. We'd encourage every lovely thing.

In fact, perhaps we'd grow every lovely thing in ourselves.

I'm disappointed with myself that it has required grieving the loss of one of the loveliest people I've known, to purposefully look for every lovely thing in the people that I do life with.

I hope to succeed in this. I hope you will, too. Love covers a multitude of wrongs. It doesn't make losing someone easier, but it can make our regrets fewer and our lives together more joyful.

 photo signature-41.png

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Purposeful Excercise


I despise it.

The Workout.

Getting exercise doesn't feel like a chore when I'm doing something that I consider delightful. Gardening, an easy short hike, dancing (okay, not currently, but I used to!).

Doing this stuff on purpose is no fun. I went to a gym for a while. It was okay. The class was available before my kids were awake and before my husband left for work. I could get home just as he was leaving. It was at 4:30 in the morning. The class was called 'Boot Camp'. It felt the way it sounds.

I began feeling good about it after several weeks. Then, an impatient instructor called me out, was less than kind, and that same week, I found out I was pregnant. The doctor said that I had been at the gym long enough to call it 'regular activity', so I cancelled my membership.

A few years later, I came upon a low impact DVD workout that looked good. I used that for a few weeks, too. This time there was noticeable change in my posture, I lost several inches and any pounds. Then my littles became ill one after the other, until I became sick. This went on for a little more than a month. I didn't pick up the DVD again.

Recently, I remembered how well that particular program worked for me. Because it is in my house, I can choose the time. I can turn it off if I can't keep up. I decided to give it a go again. I've only been doing it for 6 days, but instead of doing it 3 day a week, and hoping that I don't forget or make some excuse, I'm going for a 30 day block.

I don't know if that's new psychology. I remember hearing that it takes 21 days to make something a habit, but that must be for things that don't take much effort.

Intentional exercise is awful. It hurts when you have no strength or endurance. You sweat. I know you're supposed to sweat, but ew. I mean, sweating over yard work supposed to happen, but weird jumping jack plies in the living room seem like they should be no big deal.

By the way, I didn't go buy a bunch of 'athletic wear'. I did, way back, purchase appropriate things to wear at the gym, but I ended up sleeping in them over the years. Now I just roll out of bed to the living room and do the routine in whatever I have on, plus sneakers.

Guess what? It works. No one is looking at me. Not that anyone was watching me before, except that one instructor, but because we are sorry humans, we always think we're being judged.   Also, I don't have to drive home with sweat drying on my skin. I can just roll right to the shower. And I know the towels are clean!

I know I've blogged about this before, but it's been a few years. I'm sure I'll blog about it again. And again. Because I always have to start over, or try harder. Again, and again.

What do you have to keep restarting? Reading your bible? Being kind? Eating healthy? Serving others?

I wish that purposeful exercise were the only thing I have to re-start. I'm bad at ending well. I just want to end things. Some things, though, don't end until our bodies do.  I'm always reviving a relationship. Most often with Jesus. We'll be in it to win it for a while, then I drop the ball. I don't read scripture or pray with regularity for a while, then someone will encourage me, and I'll begin again. Even just a few days away from that regular, purposeful exercise causes bad things to happen. I become tempted to do or say things that I've said or done before. Finally I can see it happening, and recognize that I don't want to be that person. I don't want to gossip, or loaf around when there are things to be done. I don't want to make poor food choices, or shout at the children.

All of those issues require purposeful exercise to change. There are things I can do to ensure different choices, and, often, better outcomes. It requires diligence, though. And not on my own. I can do it by myself for some amount of time. Or, I can concentrate on a couple of things and, under my own control, I can make some changes. but not all of them. Only Jesus can help me with that. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide me. And he does.

When I listen, when I make myself open to hearing, and willing to understand, then I am prompted to make wise choices. It's still a choice. I can always choose my own way, or whatever feels better than the whatever the prompting is. I can choose to be purposeful in my excercises, or I can choose to ignore what will help to make me better than I was yesterday.

What are you being prompted to improve? What is the purposeful exercise that you need to work on? because we're humans, currently bound by time, give something a 30 day chance. It's not some magical formula, but it does have a high success rate!

Get to it, and let me know how it goes!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Blogging About the Bigger Zooligans

I read, recently, a mom blogger lamenting that there aren’t a lot of mom bloggers of older kids.

She knew why, though. Privacy, mostly.  Older kids don’t want their parents sharing things that they don’t want shared. I mean, these days, kids share so much, it seems odd that they would have a problem with their parents sharing, but they do. Parents are so embarrassing. We share all of the wrong things!

They want to share the filtered, flawless, polished photos, and the events that are deemed ‘cool’.  We want to share how they were grounded and why. We want to share pics of them napping with their baby sister, or snuggling with the puppy. We want to show them involved in service, and doing hard work. We want to share how they’ve learned important lessons, or not.

They don’t want the world to know these things about them, or to be able to connect them to our posts in any way.  Sometimes I think I’m clever, and I’ll post something without naming anyone. But, people know us. Some people, anyhow. It’s pretty easy to figure out who is currently 12 years old, or who might be likeliest to perpetrate whatever disaster I might have posted about.  They just don’t appreciate it. And so, we don’t.

I can share when I learn about being a parent of older kiddos, though. Those posts are likely to be even shorter than my posts already are, since there won’t be personal accounts without permission.

I have pretty outgoing kiddos. Completely unlike myself. I am happy talking to the world through a blog, while I am snug in my own quiet spaces. They like to be in the world’s face. They want to  absorb it all for themselves, standing in the thick of everything. As long as no one sees them, and I don’t tell anyone.

I’ll tell you this. I currently have one adult child, three older children (two middle school, one high school) and three younger children (ages 7, 8, and 9).  No more babies.

While I can still talk about what I learned and what I missed during the pregnancy through 6 year old stage, I won’t have anything new happening in that area.

The 7, 8, and 9 year olds will still give me a few years of scrapes and pickles to share. But that’s it. Then they’ll be older, and my older group will be grow up. But parenting still happens. And it still needs to be shared.

There are others with older kiddos that need to know their kids changing behaviors aren’t necessarily strange, or overnight. That there is still parenting to be done. That our children still need us during these years, but in different ways.

We aren’t still cutting their sandwiches into hearts and stars (well, maybe sometimes!) We aren’t still wiping their faces and taking pics of chocolate covered smiles (also, maybe sometimes.)

But we are still influencing, and modeling. We are still whispering wisdom and gently guiding. We are moving from the position of hand holding and pushing along, to walking beside.

There is still plenty to say about parenting older kiddos. I hope I can find a way to say it, and still preserve the privacy of my Zooligans.

And perhaps I need to find another group name for my older kiddos. Nah. They’re still Zooligans, no matter their age.

 photo signature-41.png

Friday, June 2, 2017

Talking to our Children about Sex

This could be a  long article. It could include polls and links to charts and data. It could have a table of contents and an appendix, along with quotes by several leading experts in the fields of child development, psychology, and pediatrics.

But it isn’t going to be those things.

It’s going to be rather anecdotal. A big no-no in news writing and professional publications. Fortunately for all of us, this is neither.

My experience? I’m a mom of seven, ages of children range from 6 to 21 years. I spend all day, four days a week at a Parent Partnership Program as the primary educator for my kiddos. While there, I observe and visit with other families, large and small. I sit in some classes with my kids, I research curriculum, and occasionally cobble together a learning plan on my own, if need be.  That’s it, really.  I suppose my title should have been ‘Talking to My Own Children About Sex’, but then you might not have clicked the link. Yeah, tricky. But you’re here now. So, let’s go!

I don’t remember anyone talking to me about sex when I was growing up. Maybe they did, and it was just so terrible that I blocked the memory, I don’t know. I remember occasionally something being said about it, and being made to feel as though there is a lot of shame associated with it. It’s something that’s embarrassing, gross, inconvenient, secret.

In youth group during High School, sex was presented as something so amazing and delightful, but should be reserved for a particular situation. I mean, I see now what they were getting at, but it sounded tantalizing, instead.  

While no adult ever gave me an explanation of parts and functions, I attended public schools where my peers filled in that info for me, however muddled and confused their information might have been.  Guess what I learned?

There truly is a lot of shameful sex. People my age hooking up to get their ‘first time’ over with so that they could, presumably, enjoy every sexual encounter after that. Some friends had this idea that people are supposed to try one another out to find out if they were compatible in a physical way. Why would anyone think that would be the lasting foundation of a relationship? High School kids would have sex with one another to somehow guarantee a commitment of some kind. Some would have sex just to talk about having sex.

I’m not even going talk about the kids who experienced sex violently, as a weapon, abused and controlled with it. That truly is another conversation. A heavy, terrible one.

I talked with my kiddos about their parts, first. My kids were the ones shouting ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ in the grocery store. You’re welcome. I wanted to know if anyone touched my kids, that they could be very clear about what was touched. I didn’t want to hear about any ‘no-no square’ or ‘hoo-ha’ business. I mean, my ‘no-no square' is really a personal bubble. Don’t touch me any place if I haven’t invited you, or we’ll be talking with the police, got it? I’m only sort of kidding. Even church hugs bother me a little. Not always, but, hey, I can read people pretty well, and if I feel like a hug is creepy or slimy, it probably is, and I will tell someone!

You know what’s great about teaching your little ones the correct words for their anatomy?  When you’re changing your baby girl’s diaper in a public changing area, and she’s old enough to say “Don’t wipe my ‘gina! It hurts when you do!” and people stop and give you disapproving stares, so you MUST reply “you didn’t care to use the potty, so now there’s poop in your vagina, and we have to get it out.” Then the gape mouthed stare-ers can only agree and move on. So much better than a child screaming “Don’t touch me there, it always hurts when you touch me there!”. I’m sure you’ll agree that speaking about such things in a frank manner is beneficial.

I’m going to get incredibly controversial right now. One of my girls refused to use the word ‘vagina’ because she is smack between older and younger brothers and was distraught that they have penises, and she doesn’t. She would always say ‘He kicked me in the penis!’ , or ‘mom, my penis hurts!’. She wanted a penis so badly. She would tell me all of the time. Everywhere. The doctor's office, church, school, the public library. It didn’t matter to her. If I were following the current climate, I would have let her have a penis. She would have become a boy at the age of 5. A boy who prefers pink, glitter, trying on eyeshadow. She would have been a boy that wants to be a girl.  Now she is 6, almost 7. She understands that her brothers have a penis and she has a vagina. She doesn’t understand anything beyond that. She knows that there is a difference between a boy and a girl, and that’s all. She doesn’t need, at 6, to understand beyond that. I have not influenced her idea of sex at all, really, because the only thing she knows about it, is that it takes a male and a female to make a baby. This is why our hens don’t hatch chicks, we don’t have a rooster. Age appropriate. I would be horrified if she had to know more about it than that at her age. In fact, society as a whole is still horrified when children are forced to know about sex, physically, so why should we force them to know about it beyond that?

My 8 year old made a darling comment at a birthday party recently. He walked up to me and shook my gut. Super. I just *adore* when he does that. Ugh. I gave him that look, you all parents know what I mean, and he grinned up at me, saying “I love your tummy for making me born! Oh! And your vagina, too!” He isn’t a quiet child. In the least. We left quickly.

My two older boys have been given more information than naming body parts and there must be a male and female for babies. They have been told about sperm and egg, and how the sperm, uh, gets there. They have been scarred for life. One of them said “Stop! If I need to know more I’ll ask, but I don’t think I ever will!”

Things happen with the bodies of young men, and often the result is something I don’t want to have to handle. Like pajamas and bedding. Too personal for you? Yeah, ME TOO! My boys will do their own wash! Gah! Tell your boys that this happens, or they will sleep in crusty things for the ages and you will wonder why everything smells so awful!  Yuck, yuck, yuck! NO ONE EVER TOLD ME THESE THINGS!!!!!!  

So, you lucky ducks, I’m telling you!

Also, don’t tell them that certain, er, personal activity will cause them blindness. I mean, that’s just plain stupid. Look up the info, though, and tell them that repeated self gratification can result in difficulty later. It’s real. Check it out.

And really, the point of abstinence teaching for our kids is this: putting pleasure before commitment is self serving and temporary.

The only way for anyone to understand that truth is, you guessed it...JESUS! Sunday School answer wins again!  

When we are teaching our children to love Jesus, and they grow in a culture of love, they will understand patience, goodness, and self control. They will know the why.

Don’t expect that people who don’t follow Jesus will understand, let alone want to see these results in their lives. They are going to want instant gratification. That’s what the world teaches, and that’s what looks the most appealing.

Teach your youngsters, teach your middlers, and teach your olders. Model Jesus. And make your boys wash their own bedding.

 photo signature-41.png