Friday, July 26, 2013

Say What You Mean

It has been a frustrating couple of weeks in my house. It seems to be a pattern that I'm recognizing, now. Two years ago when we welcomed our youngest into our home, her older sisters regressed with the almost-4 year old biting her sister when frustrated or angry. Our current 4 year old is throwing 2 year old fits again. Every summer, mid-July, I think I'll just mark it on the calendar.

Our biggest regression that my husband and I detest is pottytraining regression.
*sigh* Somehow we have a fear in our minds that our children will NEVER outgrow this unpleasant behavior. The fear is unfounded, but presents itself again each time we have a mess to deal with. One child prefers the first type of mess, the other one, well, the other kind, naturally.

In all honesty, we go so long between the accidents (months at a time) that we've developed that position of "we're finally there!" "never again!" "yes! we did it!".

Our daughters are young. We forget that. One is not-quite 6, but will be soon. One just turned 4 and one just turned 2. We expect a lot of them, but it's because they're so capable.

When they are incessantly bickering and hurting each other, it's hot outside, and in general we're sleeping less because the sun's up later, we tend to parent in a louder tone of voice than is preferable for all of us.
This morning I made a pact with my 4 year old. No more yelling in our house. My vocal chords can't take it (I'm singing our National Anthem for a couple events this weekend) and it's hurting all our ears. Mostly though? It's just not working. She is my yeller. In fact, that's what is so silly. We are in some way so much alike that we are constantly butting heads. We're more physical than anyone else in our house. We get frustrated with each other and don't always communicate well. My other two are very verbal and we can usually talk it out.

It led me to think about what we say to others when we are upset. I am intentional about my words with my children, but in the past, I know I have said things that I didn't really mean.
It is much easier to lie to somebody than to state what is actually upsetting you.
If we were to look at what was really upsetting us, this is how it would sound out loud.

"I'm frustrated that you keep making the same mistake!"
"I wish I didn't get so upset by something silly like spilled milk!"
"I wish you would stop fighting with your sister because it makes me think I'm not a good parent!"
"I wish you would keep your clothes clean so we wouldn't have unsanitary messes in your clothes and on the floor!"
"I'm worried that kids won't like you if you keep doing this!"

"I'm yelling at you and your sister to stop because I'm tired and I really don't feel like coming all the way into your room to deal with it!"
"I'm lazy and selfish!" (ouch, right? But, so true.)

In the book of Psalms, there is a short prayer that has become my first sentence in the morning. I've had a couple weeks of not remembering to say it and that is why I'm typing all this today. We're going to remember and make a conscious effort. Is it work? Yes. Is it worthwhile? Yes. In the end will I be less mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted? I actually think that yes, I will, because I won't be depending on my mere mortal capability to handle the stresses life is throwing at me. I will be asking for help.
"Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my guilt and iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me."
Psalm 51:9-11
The "short" prayer is verse ten, the second line, but I wanted to give you the verses in context. Truly, we need that clean slate each day, don't we? And so do our kids. :)


Friday, July 19, 2013

Many are the plans...

This story began in the fall of 2006. I was a two-ly-wed, madly in love with my husband and thrilled to be working for a non-profit pregnancy center. Through the CBAE (Community Based Abstinence Education) grants Congress had awarded, I was presenting a common-sense program called Stop and Think to junior high and high school health classes in every school in our county.

I thought I had it all figured out. That Christmas, I planned to surprise my husband with my grand scheme. We would save my income for a romantic third anniversary trip to Hawaii that September, at which time it would be the green light to start "trying" to have a family. That would effectively give me one more year at my job, and a spring/summer baby in 2008.
Proverbs 19:21 states: "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails."
The beginning of December 2006, I discovered with some surprise that God had opened my womb 10 months before I had wanted Him to.  Initially I wasn't excited. All my plans unraveled in front of me. And? My Christmas present of new snowboarding pants that my husband had already purchased taunted me. Yes, my doctor informed me, I could go snowboarding, but I would take the risk of the placenta detaching from the uterine wall. *sigh* Okay, no snowboarding. Grr, and I'd just become confident at my skills.

We'll fast forward to the present, 6 1/2 years and 3 beautiful daughters later, even more in love with my husband than 9 years ago when we married. I have been semi-content as a stay-at-home mom, though I look longingly back at the days of health presentations when my work and the result of my work was quickly visible. (see my post on mowing the lawn)

For the past two years, we've been privileged to enroll our children at a great private school in town. It would be another blog to tell you all the blessings and growth that God has worked through the teachers and staff, but suffice it to say that He has truly placed them there and used everyone that has come into their lives.

I have toyed with the idea, dreamt perhaps is a better word, of teaching at my daughters' school one day. My own mother was able to teach first grade at my private school and it was nice to have her at school if we had a crisis, or just to eat lunch with her.

I pursued a degree in Music Education K-12 with Vocal Emphasis for 3 1/2 years. When I realized my dream of teaching only jr high/high school choir was not a reality and I was sufficiently intimidated at the added responsibility of teaching concert and jazz band, I changed my major to Commercial Music Business.
 After graduation, I married my husband and began teaching private piano and voice lessons that Christmas. Since I did not have a teaching degree, I did not think I would be able to teach without more time spent in college. The cost of a Master's degree is prohibitive with five of us on one income, and I didn't want to pay somebody to raise my children when I thought I would rather do it myself...barely breaking even after a long day at someone else's workplace.

God began to move this Christmas. I saw the Preschool and Kindergarten Christmas program, and thought that our teacher needed an assistant. (especially after the misbehavior of my pre-schooler!) After the spring concert, I mentioned that I'd "like to help her next year" with preschool and kindergarten if she needed it.

She mentioned my name to the school when the part-time Elementary Music Teacher position became available. The school asked if I were interested. Thinking 20 hours a week, I told them that it would be too much time away from my 2 year old and that I didn't think I was qualified without a degree in Education.
I then received messages from two other persons mentioning the position, informing me that it would only be about 8 hours a week and that I had come to mind. I began praying about it that Saturday, and Monday I left a message with the school telling them that I would consider it if the job were truly 8 hours a week. The school called back excitedly, telling me it had been a large item of prayer in their staff meeting that very morning.

The missing piece was the care of my youngest daughter. Too much media exposure has led to some overprotective feelings regarding her safety. And the cost-would it even be covered by my wage?
Again, I prayed and asked others for prayer, and a dear friend who lives on the way to the school came forward offering to watch my daughter.

Today I took home my official contract to read over and sign. The very first line reads as follows:
Believing that God has led in this decision, the School Administration of Hosanna Christian Academy has appointed Tammy Belau as Elementary Music Teacher for the 2013-2014 school year.

Wow. So humbling. This has all happened in basically a week, but God put me at home with my girls before I was ready and He's leading me to work in a school that aligns with my faith again before I was ready or trying to go.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake." Psalm 23:2-3

I will be the teacher for my two other daughters. They are excited. The music teacher is ecstatic (or so I've been told by more than one person). My husband thinks it's a great decision, my parents and sisters are excited for me.

I am on the edge of something new, out of my control, but more and more as I trust God's hand and His leading, I have learned that it is more exciting than it is scary. Because it's not chaos. There is an order, an absolute order, and there is definitely somebody steering all of it. It's just not me.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Worth the cost

I'll begin this time with a disclaimer. No, q-tips are not safe for use in your ear canal. Never, under any circumstance should you use anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. I am not advocating the improper use of q-tips with this blog.

Whew, now that I've done that, here's the story.

My husband and I have a modest family of five. Us and three beautiful daughters. We are currently living on a budget, on his income, so that I can devote all my time and attention to raising our girls. I don't always have the right attitude about my blessing, but that's for another post (and I seem to touch on it almost every time on here).

Because we are on a budget, there are times where we pay more for the brand name and times when we are content with the store brand. Recently, we ran out of q-tips.

I'm sure that using my towel to dry my ear canal after my shower would be safer and sufficient for my needs, but I enjoy taking that tiny wisp of wound cotton on a stick and gently twisting it in my ear to remove all the excess moisture.

Today, I used our new q-tips for the first time. Versus the alternative towel or air-dry method, this was okay, but there was something lacking. We did not buy the Q-tips made by Unilever, but simply the store brand "cotton swabs".

Though they looked similar, double-ended white stick wrapped with white cotton at both sides, the cost savings came at the amount of wrapped cotton. We may have saved money, but we gave up satisfaction and settled for something less.

It occurred to me that we do this with God, too. We are about to receive something or feel a leading, a pulling, a tugging to action, but we fear the cost. We settle for something safer, when what we could have had was amazing! Sometimes fear of rejection prevents us from reaching out to somebody that could have poured great life and friendship into our lonely lives.

We go on the kiddie ride when the view atop the great Ferris Wheel would have been far more rewarding (and not as dangerous as we feared). Our experiences shape us into the Christians God wants us to be. How much can we accomplish if we simply yield to His direction and His shaping?

We fail to act, crippled by the thought that it might require sacrifice or perhaps giving up something we enjoy but don't need. This can be financial, a time commitment, perhaps even something we see as good. If we are placing what we think is important ahead of what God deems important, then we stand on the throne in our hearts. Our fear/pride can and will cause us to fall if we don't get down from our high places.

Our pastor periodically reminds us that for every $8 given to missions, another person gives their life to Christ and joins us in our eternal family. $8 a month would change 12 people a year. Certainly we could afford that kind of change?

So, as we consider how best to spend our resources, be it time, money, energy, and we see what God is asking us to do, the question presents itself:
Is it worth the cost?
Sometimes, only God knows, but He knows best.
In the meantime, I'm going to keep using up these inferior q-tips for approved purposes so we can spend a little more on the next box. :)


Monday, July 1, 2013

Mowing the lawn

I asked my husband to let me mow the lawn last night.

Some of you are already not sure you want to keep reading. I must be going through some mental breakdown to volunteer when the temperature at 5pm was 95 degrees.

No, seriously, I wanted to!!
There is something about physically demanding labor that is an outlet for me, almost a necessity. When I'm upset, I need/crave physical exertion. On the flip side, sometimes I get upset due to lack of physical exertion. (or depressed due to lack of exercise)

As the oldest of four daughters, I thoroughly enjoyed helping my Dad in his shop, and later going on service calls when he was an appliance repairman. To this day, I have no problem taking a screwdriver in hand and disassembling our vacuum, our kids' electronic toys, the back of the refrigerator, or our washer and dryer. (mostly for maintenance issues like lint and vacuuming out the coils)

I wore pants and closed-toe shoes and his protective earmuffs and whizzed around and around our backyard, gleefully mowing down the grass. Some areas were tall and almost choked out the mower, others were so short and patchy that the dust made me stop and cough. Our grass prefers the shade provided by our apple tree and our neighbors' cherry tree.

When he asked me why I wanted to mow the lawn, I told him, "Because I can see what I've done!" I enjoy seeing the bare lawn where I've been and the tall row where I'm headed. My task is clearly laid out before me, and I know when I'm done!
Truly, this is what motherhood's wrestle consists of: long-term reward and heavy short-term (and long-term) labor.
Changing diapers, breaking up bickering, correcting the awful attitudes of my three sweet girls, it exhausts me mentally and emotionally, but physically there isn't much of a challenge anymore.

And, at the end of the day? I often feel like I have nothing to show for my work. The negatives are easier to notice than the positives. 
But, take heart, the reward stage is dawning in our household. As my oldest approaches age 6, I am catching glimmers of helpfulness that I have only dreamed about, my 4 year old is getting sweeter and less stormy, and my youngest who turns 2 in two weeks is so far much less obstinate in her fight for independence. She IS picking up some less-than-desirable habits and mannerisms from her older sisters, but by the grace of God, she is still noticeably more compliant after witnessing the consequences of disobedience her sisters have borne.

In our earthly lives, there may be toils and labors that seem fruitless or in vain. Yet, Galatians 6:9 tells us, 
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
And James 1:12 states "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him."

If you don't enjoy seeing your progress on your lawn, I may want to come over and do it!
But, if you are needing an encouragement in your mundane duties, I hope you have found it.