Losing Your Mind

“How do you not lose your mind, Mom?”  My response was, “I already have.”

I’ve taught my five kids for over 21 years.  I’ve taken the prerogative to include education from birth in this number.  I can honestly say that since the birth of our first beautiful girl, we have intentionally taught our children.  We look for learning opportunities and lessons in our daily routines.

Let’s take Halloween for instance.  Love it or hate it, we trick or treat.  To teach family unity and general self-lessness, we “poll” the kids candy each year.  They pick out about 10 favorite pieces to keep separate and then the rest is the family stash.  This concept is sometimes met with opposition and court-room style testimony of why we should change it up.  But mama always prevails on this one  Over 15 years ago, to teach math and charting in a fun way, we sorted the candy out by kind.  Then we total each and chart it…often color coded.  This is still something we do.  Each year we have fun with this tradition.

We also like playing games of all kinds, including boggle, scrabble and bananagrams.  Shh, don’t tell my kids that the motive has often been to increase their spelling skills.  And, I love the games.  And, when we cook or bake, I don’t just talk about how-to cook, but we talk about safety.  It is always fun to throw in some basic math as we translate a recipe by halving the ingredients or doubling it.

These habits have just become normal to us.  But then there is the customary bookwork for us, too.  That is where it can get hairy some days.  The kids do sometimes struggle on a lesson, or in some of my children’s’ cases, struggle a whole lot.  I have a couple who’s brains like to transpose numbers and flip letters.  These two have similarly had struggles reading and it is usually the small words, for instance, “of” vs. “for.”.  My youngest one also adds in the fun and challenge of the creative distraction element.  She often side-tracks, asks unrelated questions, loses her place while reading and guesses words instead of reading them.  Oh my!  A short spelling lesson or Language Arts lesson can sometimes push us from a 5 minute lesson to 20, or a 20 minute lesson to 60.  Does this push my patience?  Absolutely yes!  And, I’m not always an expert at hiding it…thus the questions asked of me today, “How do you not lose your mind?”

Yet, as I face those times where I am called to be patient I am reminded that I’m called teach my sweet girl – and all my children.  I wasn’t “called” only when it is easy.  I was called when they are exasperated, tired, cranky, fit-throwing, crying, squirrel-chasing, distracted, overwhelmed and more.  In reality, it is my privilege.  The joy comes as they finally get a lesson, read a Bible verse on their own, understand geometry concepts in ways most people don’t, annihilate me at a game of bananagrams, and when I see my oldest graduate college with a degree to teach.  Coincidentally, no providentially, this degreed teacher was my first number transposer and letter flipper.  Through perseverance and God’s will, she has overcome many of those struggles.  And, now I get to see her soar into a career where she can influence kids with our own talents in the classroom.

Did I lose my mind along the way?  Maybe so, but it’s given space in my head for wisdom to grow.  I’m ok with that.

Tracy

(Please comment below with your favorite schooling ideas that DON”T come from books and curriculum.  I love new ideas!)

Advertisements
Posted in motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be the Dog

DSCN5477

A dog loves their master to the point that if people took the dog’s “word” for it, they would think that the master was wonderful and without fault.   A few nights ago I was sitting next to my husband in our bedroom.  My PJ top was riding up a little and I had not realized it.  As my son walked into the bedroom, my little pooch  threw herself abruptly across my previously exposed abdomen.  Initially, I laughed.  This dog became like a blanket across me.  Soon after, I thought…what the dog did for me is a perfect picture of what we should do on an ongoing basis for our spouse.

When married, we should be our spouse’s safe place, a soft place for them to land, their biggest cheerleader, and protector of their reputation.   It is as if we need to be like my dog who threw herself across my tummy.  We need to jump up and edify our spouse in front of our children and others.  We need to theoretically, throw ourselves across any exposed areas of our spouse so that they don’t have unnecessary embarrassment.  We need to jump in and minimize our spouse’s mistakes instead of making them a big deal.  Afterall, when I flub up (which happens often), I usually know it and I surely don’t need someone else shining a bright light on my mistake.  I like having a reputation protector and safe place to be myself.  It is within that safety that I can grow and become a better version of me.

My goal this week is to be the “dog” for my husband.

 

Posted in motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Not So Peachy Keen

If you think what you do now won’t matter in the future…think again.  Tonight I tasted my husband’s peach-flavored refresher and thought, “Ick.” He later asked if I wanted a sip to which I said, “No.”  He asked, “What?  You don’t like it?”  Then, with a knowing and loving look, he said, “I know…I remember.”  He was not even part of my life when the aversion began, but after sharing life together for over 25 years, he knows what is important to me.

As a worldly non-Christian college student, I made some decisions that I’m not proud of, nor decisions I would like to see my own children make.  One particular night, my drink of choice was a peach-flavored alcohol.  My decision that night led to an overindulgence that resulted in a very unpleasant night and next morning.  After that night, I vowed to never do that again.  I know that some reading this may feel that this is exactly why drinking is bad.  It may suprise you that “that” is not my point here.  To drink or not to drink is a choice each adult has to make within the framework of whom they are spending time with and their own Biblical conviction.  For instance, while I may enjoy a glass of wine here or there, it is not part of my usual pattern and I won’t do so around someone who struggles with alcohol.

The things we do, and choices we make, have a lasting impact.  Ever since the night in question, I have never enjoyed peach flavor.  I can’t tolerate the smell, taste and hardly even the word.  I don’t typically think about it, athough I am glad I have the memory.  What I did over 25 years ago effects me and my decisions today.  Every choice has consequences – good and bad ones.  This can be a paralyzing thought if you dwell on the fact that we can never undo what we’ve done, nor unhear or unsee what we’ve heard or seen.  But, I think instead it should give us hope.  Hope in knowing that God uses imperfect people to do great things.

My bad choices definitely don’t look like they did when I was in my early 20s,  yet, still today I do fail and make some bad choices – how I start my day, how I spend my time, treat my kids, talk to my husband, etc.  I think what matters is that we don’t waste the lessons from those choices.  I need to be sure to quickly learn from my mistakes.  Then, and only then, can I grow.  Wisdom comes from that growth.  Clearly, I would not advocate making bad choices just to have a lesson; but, don’t lose out on the teachable moment that can come from them.

Over the years, I’ve learned lessons that have molded me into me.  Because I let some important friendships fade away, I’ve learned to be intentional with my close friends by nurturing them to stay strong – even when there is a great distance.  That’s a win for me.  Because I did not always choose to hang around men who treated a woman with love and respect, I appreciate the blessing of my strong, committed and faithful husband.  I am blessed.  Because I have sometimes yelled foolishly at my kids, I have been able to see the blessing of their generous forgiveness and changes to my parenting.  Because I made a dumb choice that night and now have a strong peach flavor aversion – Ick, I know that I don’t ever want to put myself in such a vulnerable, out-of-control position.  I want to be a living testimony.  My past and the lessons I have learned from it, have made me into the woman I am today.  My past may not be all pretty, yet God accepted and accepts me – flaws and all.

 

Note:  Title assistance from my adult daughter who proofs for me.  🙂peach

Posted in faith, motherhood, parenting | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What is Mothering Really All About?

I love when I get a glimpse of the tapestry God weaves through different life experiences with different people we encounter.  Once I believed in coincidence, but the longer I live, I can’t deny seeing God links circumstances and people together like a Lego creation (oh wait…auto-correct..My son often reminds me that create is a word reserved for God…only He creates, we make).

Recently I had the opportunity to sing in a praise band setting with my sister who often leads worship with a team at her church.  Three of my daughters and I were blessed to be part of an awesome group during a Praise BBQ she and her husband hosted.  I loved being part of it, and especially singing again with my sister.  We were able to blend our voices as we sang  My adult daughter told me that at times when we were singing together, that me and my sister sounded like the same voice.   What a great compliment that was.  I’ve admired her for years in different areas and it was a treat to be back singing together.

While we practiced wih passion and intentionality, we also were able to joke, laugh and enjoy eachother.  The day of the BBQ was as amazing as I expected it to be.  But there was a suprise for me – a lesson God put together.  He wove together what I learned from a book I recently read, called Kingdom Woman, with the words of a very unassuming beautiful young woman.  As a wife of 22 years and mother for 21 years, my passion is to help strengthen families and see that girls have a good example of a Godly marriage.  That said, I still need lessons and reminders on how to be the best Tracy I can be.  Saturday, my lesson came from the sweet words of a mother of a preschool aged boy.  She came to the BBQ prepared to sing a few worship songs while playing keyboard.  She is blessed wih a pure voice that allowed me to lose myself in worship while listening.  As she introduced one of her songs, she invited her young boy to come up and sing with her.  Though I am paraphrasing, she made comment that she loves that he wants to sing with her and she wanted him involved.  Further, she said, ‘What better way (for her or anyone) to ensure that our kids stay in church as they grow up.”  I was moved by her sweet words, but also hit with conviction.

You see, I had my 6 year old sing with us.  At one practice, we gave her a microphone to sing along, too.  My motive was to appease her so I could focus on my own learning of a song; it was not on allowing her to worship.  I confess that I even told my sister to turn her microphone down.  Why?  Partly so she woud not just talk loud and distract the musicians.  But it was also so she didn’t derail me.  My confidence was shaky and I wanted to do good in the eyes of those at the practice.  My eyes were on me.  Let that sink in.  I lost sight of why we were singing in the first place.  I lost that opportunity to encourage and lead my daughter.  Yet, at the time, I did not even realize anything was lost.

The day of the BBQ, my 6 year old sang “No Longer Slaves,” with us, and I knelt down so she could reach and use my microphone.  I’d told her she  could sing that one with us ahead of time.  Later, after hearing the words of the young mom, our group had a second set.  I fought my fear – ironic since the song is about not being a slave to fear – of what others may think of my singing, or of having a kid run up and sing with us and I put my focus where it needed to be this time – on my family and my God.  During “Break Every Chain” I got to sing with my sister, while standing beween my gifted adult songbird daughter and my pre-teen daughter whose voice is maturing and passionate, while I was bending down to my 6 year old to share a microphone aimed at her voice, not mine.  At that moment the notes sang and the opinions of those watching did not matter nearly as much as the joy I had singing about the power of Jesus’ name alongside my kids.  Afterall, THAT is what motherhood is all about.

My mothering goal is to raise my children to be successful adults who can not only survive but thrive in this world.  Even more, I want them to love God and serve him.  To do that takes intentional effort and my lessons need come not only in words, but mostly in my actions.  Am I seeking man’s approval or God’s approval?  Do I sing to please man or to please the awesome God who gave me a voice?  I’ll leave you with these lyrics from “No Longer Slaves” – “…you rescued me so I could stand and SING, I am a child of God”.

 

 

Posted in faith, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Providential Hand

Note:  This is published with permission from my dear Daddy.

It has been one month since I saw my stepmother breathe her last here on Earth.  For the next few days, I was prompted to write.  I was in awe that God changed my plans to fit into His plans.

Often times, I feel that the Lord works in my life, but there are times when I look and wonder if I am missing some of His urgings due to my lack of prayer and focus on Him.  I get so busy and caught up in the life that He allows me to live – but that I sometimes feel I’ve created. This may sound a bit contradictory, but it is my reality and God blesses me through my own versions of “Lord I have faith, please help me in my lack of faith”.

My stepmother went into the hospital with some abdominal pain from a lack of movement in her bowels.  She lived a challenging lifestyle for over 5 years due to health challenges yet this one was not as common for her.  She was admitted and was going to meet with a surgeon in the morning to decide what the best course of action was.  By morning, her responsiveness and coherance had dramatically decreased and it was found that her blood pressue had dropped dangerously low and she was likely septic.  From the point of determining the blood pressure and coherance change until her death was only a matter of maybe 4 hours.  For the privacy of my family, I won’t go into all the details.  The point of writing is to display for all to see – or atleast those that read this – that God DID work in her life and in mine that day, the days prior and days since.

Backing up, the night before her death, I had discussed with my husband that after I got done with everything I needed to do in the morning, including dental appointments for four kids, I’d run up to the hospital to check on my stepmother.  I usually didn’t visit the first 24 hours of her hospital stays, as that was time the hospital would be determining the best course of action.  But the morning of, I awoke early and had this “strange” feeling that I needed to go up to the hospital early.  I checked emails and googled bowel obstruction in elderly, as I wanted some background before walking in the room.  Providentially, I came across a blog written by a medical professional that talked about some of the causes of death in elderly.  In it he wrote about how some families, with all good intentions, will do “everything possible” to maintain life and that many people today struggle with accepting that death is part of life.  The blog detailed some of the many things a hospital will do if you say you want “everything” done, and again, I had this prompting that it was time to go to the hospital.

I know now that the Lord was allowing me to be prepared for the conversation I would have with my dad, stepsister and a Rapid Response nurse just hours later.  The Lord allowed me to be a voice for my stepmother, in a way I never would have chosen or imagine.  I was able to help my dad, in the fog of severe grief for his beloved wife, see that she would not have chosen all of the extreme measures the ICU would have required, all with a very small percentage chance of survivial or recovery.  I was able to be by his side, holding his hand, hugging his aching body and doing my best to explain what the nurse was urgently asking him.

As my children rushed to the hospital that morning, along with other family members, my children cried.  Some cried for the eminant loss of their grandmother and some cried because they didn’t know the condition of her heart towards Christ.  In the midst of the tears and strain, my youngest girl, not quite 5, was quick to tell us, that Grandma wasn’t hurting anymore, and that now she could jump and run.  It was through the lips of her sweet soul that God spoke to us to comfort us.

Again, I looked back at just 24 hours earlier in our lives and remembered a sweet girl at church who spoke during a special Student Sunday. She shared her testimony and in it spoke on how it took her a few years to find peace after her grandmother’s death.  She shared, to my memory, on how it hurt, but that God had a plan and she was finally ok with that.  Little did I know that my children would be experiencing similar grief so soon, and I know that her words impacted their lives.

God, also orchestrated a rare day, where my entire family was not working.  My husband had taken the day off, for other reasons which allowed me to go up to the hospital; my college daughter was home and not working on that one day; my other working daughter was able to ask off.  God knew, before we did, that we needed that day to just be together and be shoulders to cry on for eachother.

In the days that have followed, we have had such sweet conversations about salvation and God’s handiwork.  We’ve shared memories of grandma and we’ve cried.  My youngest daughter has a fascination now with knowing her grandparents, their parents, etc.  Every few days, I’ll hear her say, “I miss Grandma Pat.  I know she’s not hurting anymore though.”  This youngest girl adores her Grandpa and, in my opinion, has been gifted with a sensativity beyond her years, to realize when he needs a hug, kiss, or smile.

Death is hard.  I am so sad that she is not here with us on Earth, smiling into my dad’s eyes, calling her daughter for their daily talk, or cheering my kids on in their activities.  Yet, I know that He orchestrated the day in a way that we could all be together and have the memory of love and support that was ever-so-present in the hospital room that day.

Posted in death, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Who Do You Play With?

Playing against those you can’t beat may seem counterintuitive, after all, doesn’t everyone want to win?  I know I do.  And I definitely like to “look good” in the eyes of whomever is watching.  Call it human pride.  Pride is a dangerous toy to play with because it can stop us from learning.

A friend and respected business leader once shared a story about shooting pool with his son.  The son, home from college, challenged his dad to a game of pool; he was certain he would beat his dad.  My friend shared that he told his son that HE was going to win.  The son denied it.  Dad followed up with asking his son who he usually plays against at college.  Son, told him and said he “always wins.”  Dad confidently told his son that he was going to beat him.  Shortly after my friend cleared the table.  In usual fashion, my friend then shared his wisdom to his son – if you want to win, you have to play against people better than you.  Only then can you gain better skills.  If you always win, then you begin to go backwards in your skills.

It wasn’t long after, that I was playing a card game with a couple of my girls.  Soon into the game, my teen was consoling and encouraging my youngest who had just lost a card game.  The youngest of the girls felt we were too hard on her.  My teen told her that if she ever wanted to get better we HAD to play by the rules with her.  If she ever wanted to get better at the game, she had to play against people better than her.

It is so much easier to see the value of that advice playing out in others people’s circumstances than our own.

As a young mom I could easily beat my kids at games.  I’m gushing with pride here, ha, but really it was just a matter of talent and experience.  Now, my kids beat me more times than not.  They like to remind me, “Mom, you taught us to win.”  Yes.  Yes I did.  Even though I like to win – I mean I REALLY like to win, I am forced now to recognize that I am not always the best in our family games department.  The roles have been reversed, so when I play against most of my kids now, I am the one learning.  I have learned not be prideful and in the process I learn how to play a better game.

If we surround ourselves  with those that are more talented, courageous or quick-witted than ourselves, we can grow so much.  I am learning parenting skills, life skill techniques, faith-building habits, humility and more all from challenging myself by hanging around those that have more successes in each of those areas.  Even though I want to win and still do my best to do so,  I also want to “play” with those that can beat me.

Posted in motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Quit

“Why do we say, “Clarks don’t quit?””  Not exactly the conversation I expected that early in the morning with my precocious six year old.  But, I thought, “Bring it!”  I began explaining why we don’t quit on things – we need to stick to our decisions – even when it is hard.  When you push through we can learn so much.  Quitting is just too easy.  I began telling her that Clarks have had the motto of not quitting for a long time.

Years earlier, 23 actually, my husband and I vowed to each other, not to quit on marriage.   We are more in love now than when we began our marriage.  This has come as a blessing of persistence and intentionality.  We chose to never discuss divorce.  And though I’ve not always made that easy for my husband, he is a strong man who remains faithful and solid and is ever-forgiving.  Mr. Clark had a no quit attitude long before he met me and I am reminded daily how uncommon that really is.  Because of that vow we have a “no-quit” marriage.

Then came kids, then another and another.  We saw early on how easy a person’s default, even as a toddler, is to quit when something is tough.   It is easy to quit on friends, commitments, classes, or just quit trying when we are learning something new.  It was at that time that our family adopted our own quirky one-lyric song, “Clarks don’t quit, they are winners…”  I was often sung in repetition and became a motto.  Who would have guessed 20 years ago that we would still refer to that quirky motto?  Yet it has been steadfast.  It has been a constant that I hope our children know is a no-brainer when they   individually or we as a family face adversities – big and small.  With that attitude we have pulled our kids through challenges over the years – learning to ride a bike, audition for a musical, stick to a sports team, finishing challenging papers and more.

When my six year old asked the question, little did she know that the foundation of the answer to the question was laid long before she was born.  It is not easy to push through challenges, but the rewards are great.

She followed up with a second question, “Mom, have you ever quit?”  Ouch, I did not have the same, “Bring it!” gusto to that question.

The answer is an obvious yes.  Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do given specific circumstances or when an opportunity affords itself that requires quitting or ending one thing to start another.  I have quit jobs before and even recommended it to my children when it was appropriate.  However, I knew that is not what she meant when she asked.  The answer is still yes.  I have quit – sometimes in action and sometimes only internally in my thoughts.  I have quit doing something that just seems too hard or not worth the effort or pain.  In years past I have quit on friendships, not through overt action, but by mere busyness or laziness.  I have learned though that quitting when uncomfortable is never a path towards success.  And fortunately, I am married to a non-quitter that continually pulls me through when my attitude slips.

I am so joyed to have been reminded of the need to communicate why “Clarks don’t quit.”  I chuckle at the thought of our other catch phrase, “Clarks don’t leave Clarks behind.”  As simple as that one is, it has been said dozens of times as an encouragement from one sibling to another that we don’t leave anyone behind – family first.   We have such an opportunity to breathe life into our children as we guide and direct the path they will start on.  How many lessons do we teach now that will still be discussed in 10, 20 or 30 years?  I pray that someday I will hear, “Grandma, why do we say, “Clarks don’t quit?”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Memories

riley

 

The table was wiped once again after dinner.  As the crumbs were cleared away we began discussing our dining room table.  “It probably needs refinishing” was mentioned in one breath.  Without skipping a beat, the next comment was, “but I know you don’t want to do that.”

I am so very protective of my table.  It doesn’t have a beautiful glossy polish or a perfectly smooth finish any longer.  What is does have is memories…The very pale mis-shaped circle on one end  is the history of a friendship my oldest once had.  She and her friend spilled nail polish remover.  I have marker stains speckled across the table.  I have etching from some sentences once aggressively written on paper that then transferred to the wood of my table  It is a memory of the various times we required our kids to write ssentences in order to remind them of the principles our family follows.  There are a few crosses or nicks on the table, too.  If you have an occassion to crawl under my table, you may find some signed artwork and some originals with no signature.

This table, represents to me, the many happy memories we have had and continue to have as a family.  Family dinners are a trademark of the Clark Family.  We enjoy being too loud together, praying together, sharing our day’s adventures and inviting friends to join us at that table.  Many studies have been done at that table, as well as crafts, and talks.  God has blessed us with a family to fill and sometimes overflow that table.

Today there is a new addition to my table.  My sweet youngest girl, etched her name into the corner for all to see.  She told me she wanted her “own memory” on that table.  She made a mark in our lives the day she was born and now has made her “mark” on our table of memories.  Though I could have scolded her for her choice…it was time to hug her and tell her I will never forget the “memory” she gave me this morning on my dining room table.

Posted in motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment