Friday, October 14, 2016

The Good

It's been a long year for our family. A really long year.

A stressful job search and decision, medical issues, an SPD diagnosis, a cross-country move, chronic insomnia for our oldest child, too many goodbyes, loneliness all around.

And now, my oldest son, who has always loved school, always thrived there and looked forward to it, has a rough teacher. I don't mean that she's tough or works them hard. I'd be alright with that. I mean that she's unkind. And grumpy. And sighs a lot. And, according to my son, makes a lot of kids in the class feel very discouraged every day.

And my son. Oh, my son. He is the kind of kid I wish I had been. The kind of kid who wants everyone to be included. Who aches when his friends hurt. Who sheds tears over a friend's parents divorce. Who invites the new kid to play with him. Who always, always, wants everyone around him to be happy.

So when he hears this woman sigh and shake her head as she hands back a bad grade and watches his new friends' shoulders hunch just a little lower, he retreats into sadness. He comes home with a heavy heart. He doesn't want to go back because he hates watching it over and over again.

And my mama heart? Man, it hurts. Hurts for him, hurts for his classmates, hurts that after a long summer of looking forward to school, a place that has always been safe and good and fun and challenging in the best ways possible, is now a place of dread.

But every morning, he gets up. He makes his bed, prepares his breakfast and packs his bag. I walk him halfway down the hill and give him a hug. (And silently rejoice that my almost 10-year-old will still let me hug him in sight of the bus stop.)

And as he walks away, I say "Find the good. Be the good. I love you."

I don't know why I started saying it.

He was really nervous his first few days. He was the new kid. The kid from another state who had never taken Spanish before and had to jump in. The kid who didn't know what SOL's are. The kid who had to look around the lunch room and hope that someone would invite him to sit down.

And those first few days, when he trudged back up the hill and tried, oh he tried, to be brave and tell me that everything was going well, I knew he was saying it for me. I knew he wanted me to be happy, to feel good about this decision we made to take him from all he knew.

But moms know. We just do.

So after a few days, we had to have the talk. The one about being bold and not caring that you are the new kid. About asking to play with the other kids and sitting down at a lunch table with an empty seat and saying hello and hoping they say it back. We talked about finding the good in each day. Finding even one moment where we could see God being God, where we could see kindness or fun or hope. And when we couldn't see it? BEING it. Making it happen. Making someone laugh or smile. Inviting someone that may already have friends to be your friend. Taking risks.

Finding the good. Being the good.

And now, over a month into school, I am so stinkin' proud of that kid because he put himself out there. He has made some good friends at school and in the neighborhood. He has worked hard at his schoolwork during a really transitional year. 4th grade is no joke, friends, and he's nailing it. NAILING it.

He should be able to look forward to school. But he doesn't.

So the conversations over the last few weeks have changed. I know he doesn't have the power to make his teacher smile or stop sighing or act kindly towards his class. When I'm telling him to be the good, I am helping him to find ways to see how she might be in need of encouragement. Make her laugh. Bring her a card or a flower. Something to show he's thinking about her. Praying for her.

Because if there is one thing I've learned about unpleasant people it's that we shouldn't rush to assume that's just who they are. Maybe something is wrong at home. Maybe she is grieving a loss in her life. Maybe she is exhausted and out of hope for our educational system. It could be any number of things.

Or maybe she is just one of those people who don't value kindness and encouragement and should likely not be an elementary school teacher.

I really don't know.

And some of you are thinking "Are you just going to let it go on like this?"

Not on your life.

Will I likely talk to her at some point? You bet.

Do I know yet what to say? Nope.

Am I aware that a number of parents in the class are already struggling with the same thoughts and dealing with their own discouraged kids and have already had conferences. Yep.

But for right now? Today? I am taking to heart what I say to my son every morning. I am trying to find some ways to be the good for her. To encourage her. To go that route first, rather than complaining. To find the things that she does well and thank her for them. To make her feel seen and appreciated.

After all, a little goodness never hurt anyone. Maybe that's what she needs most.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Playroom Fun

After moving a number of times over the last few years, we had two non-negotiables in this place that we are hoping will be THE home for the long haul.

(1) A circular layout so our inexhaustible children could literally run laps around the house.

(2) A room we could make a play/work room. Toys, desk, color, art. A place they could call their own but that could grow and change in it what it needed to be. When you've got an almost 10 year old doing homework while a 1 year old plays, you need a room with some versatility.

One of the practical things about being at a stage in life when formality and elegance isn't at the forefront, is that we were able to look at houses that had "formal dining rooms" and see them for what they would most likely be for us: the playroom. Because let's be honest- my kids LOVE to eat, but ain't no way we are trying to have any fancy dinners around here and our eat in kitchen is just right for our style.

So, when we found this house and our offer was accepted, I started dreaming about what I could create for my boys. I had found a color scheme I loved when I was fixing our Wisconsin house up to sell and I thought I'd stick with it. Cheerful, fun and isn't just "kiddish" but can fit in with the rest of the main floor.

So, the transformations...

Formal living room BEFORE: 

Green walls and ceiling, some seating areas and bookshelves.

Formal Living Room from Listing

Formal living room AFTER

Our Music room: soft grey walls, white ceiling and a place for our baby grand because why wouldn't you want live music next to where your kids are playing? We have a great room off the kitchen for our couch and tv and place to hang out so we really didn't need another formal space to sit. (Shout out to my in-laws for helping paint the white ceiling in the frantic days before the baby grand arrived off the truck.)

Formal Living room turned Music Room : Eventually when my younger ones don't torture
the guitars, they will be stored here as well.
Formal dining room BEFORE: 

Beige walls on top, black floral wallpaper on the bottom, slightly formal look, definitely used as a dining room.

Formal Dining Room from listing
Formal dining room AFTER

Our playroom! Light grey on top, medium grey on the bottom, lighter colored rug, custom made art by my son, an etsy find and my talented sister-in-law. Desk created by yours truly and my oldest.  Command center wall - an assortment of really cheap finds transformed by spray paint, different textures/patterns and re-vamps of previous DIY projects.

Playroom : Coral and mint bins from Wayfair. (Another shout-out to my in-laws, husband
and oldest for helping strip the wall paper and sand the walls.)

Command Center wall with homemade desk.

Most elements on the wall were re-purposed or spray painted cheap finds!

View from kitchen of desk area - I chose a long, thin style to keep ample room for
the boys to run around the circular layout and because they don't really need a deep desk.

My oldest walked in to the room this week once we finally had the desk done and the chairs in and said "Mom, this is my favorite room you've ever decorated. I could stay here all day."

If you want to know how I did any of the projects on the wall or created the desk, just let me know!

I call that success!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rebel God

I think like a lot of people in my generation, I always felt torn between the picture of Jesus as this peaceful teacher who came to bring love and the one who tore the temple apart in righteous rage. On the one hand, He seems safe, good, whole, easier to digest. On the other, he feels unwieldy. What do I do with a God who can be angry and not in sin?

And I think that part of me, the one that really does love rules, the one who tends towards legalism, just couldn't relate on some level. Why so mad, Jesus? Why is it alright that you did that? Aren't you doing something illegal? Aren't you risking your very life just to tell some people they shouldn't sell stuff in God's house?

Over the last decade or so, however, I've begun to take solace in this latter picture of Jesus. The unwieldy one. The less predictable one.

In this Jesus who hated the status quo and wanted life for his people.

In this Jesus who stood against the people who had the power because they used it wrongfully.

In this Jesus who thought it was worth overturning tables in a holy space to make the point that God's leaders had their priorities wrong.

In this Jesus who was willing to destroy property to make it clear that the secular and religious authorities cared more about their temples, their corrupt systems, their rules and their money than they did about the humanity that suffered under those structures.

In this Jesus who was a rebel. A non-compliant. Who was ultimately jailed and murdered for asking the questions he did. For threatening a system that hat ruled for centuries, and ruled poorly.

Friends, if you call yourself a Christian believer, you cannot ignore this side of our God.

You cannot shout from the rooftops about conservative politics and abortion and then completely disregard "black lives matters" because some people are looting and you just can't "get behind a movement that might be violent." Um, if I recall, there have plenty of violent things that have happened in the pro-life movement, but I don't see you dismiss it. You can't tell people to find a way to protest peacefully and then crucify them when that means taking a very peaceful knee during our national anthem- they have that right.

Our allegiance is to God, not America. If seeing someone "disrespect" our anthem or flag makes you angrier than the issue that has caused that person to make that stand, check yourself.

It's really plain and simple.

You can't have it both ways.

If you want to follow this Rebel God, if you want to dig into this side of the man who walked this earth to bring us life, you must engage with this side of him. You must ask the deeper questions.

Why are so many people angry? MIGHT it be that something IS actually wrong? What do we do if that's the case?

Why do so many people feel threatened? And silenced? And unheard? And afraid?

What if things ARE unequal in our country? What does that mean to us as believers following a God who made his abhorrence for injustice clear?

Might the people protesting right now not be directly identifying with the ways the Jews felt 2000 years ago, a feeling we like to happily say we understand in our safe little bible studies but then ignore when millions around us are saying the same thing, as if humans have made some kind of amazing progress since then and suddenly rule with righteousness and peace and equality and so it couldn't possibly be true?

Today, I beg you, I implore you.

Take a step back from what you think you know. Take a step back from what you've read and been told about race in our country, especially if you were raised in the colorblind generation.

And ask God where he is in this. What He's doing. And what he might have you say and do as you engage it this rebel Jesus.