Soccer Guys and Humble Pie

Have you ever made a mistake in parenting?

Long before he could write, my son Nate loved soccer. If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was

81Tn4mGp+dL._SL1500_watching soccer (or begging to watch soccer as shown by the Post-It notes below). If he wasn’t playing or watching, he was using his “Soccer Guys” to act out field formations that would eventually end up with a “GOOOOAAAAAAALL!” Walking close by his imaginary play, you would usually hear his little 5-yr-old voice narrating the play in a British accent!

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The play in his mind translated well to play on the field. According to the local coach, Image-1 2he was “above” the recreational league for 5-yr-olds and should really come try out for the competitive league. The problem was that the youngest travel league was for 8 and 9-yr-olds. Nate didn’t seem to think that was an obstacle. He began showing his magnificent obsession on the field of giants! (6-yr-old Nate on the U-9 team to the right and below.)

 

 

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His obsession didn’t end there. Every restaurant’s blank placemat was quickly turned into a soccer guy:  legs spread, fingers out (usually twelve fingers!), and the net behind him, often with a dialogue bubble coming out of the mouth saying, “GOOOAAALLLLL!” (I am sure with a British accent.) He seemed so old during league play that his drawings shocked us with his youth.

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He was a monster on the field and a youngster in the house. After completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, we had moved to My Father’s World curriculum for first grade. The curriculum used the simple language of small words to write a Bible that my little guy could read all by himself! Having a 2-yr-old and 1-yr-old sister and brother, Nate was usually left to finish his Bible journaling once he and I had done the lessonIMG_6915 together for the day.

“Since you have already read the chapter to me, write a sentence about it and color a picture of what it meant to you,” I often said as I left him to work alone and went to care for his older brother or younger siblings.

His journaling began well: Adam and Eve had a serpent come out of the tree to visit them.

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On the next page, Nate had written, “Cain said, ‘Let’s go for a walk’.”

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Noah’s ark had animal stickers, two by two:

 

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Then I forgot to check the book for several days, and things took a turn:

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I was shocked to open his “Bible Journal” and find pictures of …soccer guys!!! There they were: legs sprawled across the page, fingers (many!) spread and sometimes even a ball in the air!

WHAT?!!! I was livid. It would be bad enough if he had drawn soccer guys in his math notebook, but Bible journal?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!

I had found the mess while I was checking work late at night, and ran it by Chris. He Slide1agreed with my consensus that we needed to crack down HARD on little lies or we would raise an adult who tells big lies. I decided to bring up the subject to my 6-yr-old the next morning, with a clearer, calmer head. My thoughts swam: This was pure deceit. I had heard of deviled eggs, but never before had I applied the adjective to kids! Drawing soccer guys while pretending to be recording in a Bible journal? This was like some scene from the Brady Bunch of the 70’s when Peter hides the comic book and pretends to read history! I don’t care how many points he scores on the field if he can’t score points in character!

What’s on the inside is what matters!

I rehearsed my speech in my head, wanting to turn this boy from his wrong ways while he was still young enough to learn.

“You’re character will be what you choose to make it [and I added: young man!!].” – John Lubbock

“When nobody else is looking, I still see.” – God

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” – Proverbs 28:6

“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1Sam 16:7

 

The next morning, we started homeschool with a one-on-one conversation. I gave him my “SCORING POINTS FOR CHARACTER” speech, and he sat listening intently. I gave him a chance to tell me if he had any times recently when he thought his character was not something he would want God to see.

“I don’t think so,” he said as his bewildered, 6-yr-old, enormous, brown eyes squinted a little.

I brought out the Bible journal, practically ready to jump on him and say, “Thou art the man!!” I opened and turned the pages, telling him how disappointed I was that he was drawing soccer guys instead of illustrating what he had read in the Bible like I had told him.

His tears started to well.

Guilty as charged! I assumed. I was ready to accept his apology and hold hands to pray toward repentance.

His tears burst through his words as he said, “THAT…. IS MOSES!”

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I was shocked when for the first time I noticed a burning bush next to the man I thought was a soccer guy.

“AND THAT IS JACOB…SEE HIS DREAM?” he said, turning the page to an identically looking man next to what I had thought was a soccer ball.

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“And that one is Joseph next to the barn full of grain,” he said, pointing to another “soccer guy” next to a little square, that apparently was not a goal, but a barn.

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I could have died. Or cried. Or both – preferably in that order.

I…FELT… SO… BAD!!!

Next up: one of the most important parenting moves ever:

I said, “I’m sorry,” to my son!

We held hands and prayed for my forgiveness.  The table was turned. The verse: “People look at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” (1Sam 16:7) was still applicable. I was indeed “a people” and I just displayed it in full color to my 6-yr-old, since I had only looked at the “appearance”! I hate the taste of humble pie! But I love the results of peace in the relationship.

The Bible says, “Humble yourself and you shall be exalted,” (James 4:10) but I like to say, “Humble yourself or God will do it!”

I showed Chris the pictures later and he laughed hysterically at what we had thought, versus what was reality. Of course, I guess Nate got past the horrible incident and forgave us, because when I got out his old Bible journal this week (now that he is almost 15-yrs-old) and told him the story, he laughed and laughed and laughed, not remembering it at all!

I guess it is a good thing that God judges from the heart, because then He could know that I meant to teach for His glory; however, it served as a good reminder that my heart might be the deviled one some days in this Brady bunch.

Love ya,

Terri

1Peter 5:6 : “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

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If You Give a Sanguine a Marker, She Might Change the World!

C text room wreck

“Everything looks like junk to me and treasure to her!” my husband vented in a text to me, while he was trying to help my daughter finish packing her room for our move across town. Our family’s recent move put us all into fights and flights – where personality differences are most evident.

Bedroom door decor

Bedroom door decor

A flurry of creative design, my sanguine daughter’s bedroom is a sight to behold. I pray daily that I will see God’s design in that “butterfly”, and allow it to fly, while teaching her (age eleven) the necessities of being a future wife and mother who lives on THIS earth, even if her mind lives elsewhere. Today, I found cut up toilet paper inserts, decorated with cupcake papers to create perfect little owls. She also took two advertisement magazines I thought I had discarded and cut them apart to mix and match. The clothing models looked like they were ready to take a rest in Pottery Barn magazine’s color-coordinated beds. Where does she come up with this?!! Look out, world, if she ever finds Pinterest!

The model on this magazine cover is cut out and pasted from a different magazine's ad.

The model on this magazine cover is cut out and pasted from a different magazine’s ad.

So how was she supposed to pack her room? How could she part with toilet paper inserts, advertisement magazines, coffee cans and the rest of what she must have absconded from the recycle bin in the garage?! She told me her room was “completely packed,” so I went to inspect. I found one gigantic box in the middle of her floor, full of those “recyclable treasures,” but not one stitch of clothing was packed; her bed was still made; the toothbrush must have seemed optional along with her school books, because nothing was packed except the “treasures.”

My choleric son (age fourteen), however, was “done packing” exactly oneIMG_5417 half -hour after I had asked him to start. The hallway outside of his room was lined with trash bags, labeled, “throw away.” I think he wanted to save six or seven shirts, and the rest he didn’t think worthy of unpacking in the new house, (or giving as hand-me-downs to his younger brother which I always do) so he wanted them out of his way – choleric style. DONE! (I pray A LOT for his future wife, LOL! And, I filed the clothes away as hand-me-downs.)

Today’s story of my butterfly’s latest flight began because during the packing weeks, she found the brand new markers – black, blue and red – and the way Miss Kristen (who was helping us pack) was using them to label every box as she packed. My daughter wanted to be where there were people – not in her room where she was supposed to be packing; so Butterfly began drawing on the boxes. She was thrilled to have markers with ink (since they hadn’t been lost, and nobody had left the caps off…yet) and she wrote …and wrote….and wrote. I didn’t stop her, because honestly, I knew that if she were with Kristen or me where we were packing, she wasn’t somewhere confiscating the bubblewrap for future crafts.

Butterfly’s writing on the boxes was a little different than Miss Kristen’s or mine. Ours said simply,

“FROM: old living room.

TO: new family room.

CONTENTS: photo albums.”

Butterfly’s messages were more like

“Smile! God is with you!”

“Turn that frown upside down!”

“The sun will come out tomorrow! Look up!”

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I was amused with her continuously encouraging words and wondered who she thought would read them. (Though I was reading them…and they had blessed me already!)

That’s when I noticed her younger brother had picked up on the trend. He drew big smiley faces, or cartoons with talking bubbles, making the readers (including me!) laugh.

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IMG_5454Miss Kristen was uplifted as she packed books…thousands of books…into boxes, each one being decorated as soon as it received its closing tape.

“Who are you writing those messages to?” I asked my daughter as she fluttered from one box to the next.

“Well, aren’t people going to move these boxes?” she asked.

“Yes, we will have movers,” I said.

“Yep, then I think they are the ones who will read it. But really, whoever God wants to read them!” she said with delight as she saw another room full of boxes she had not yet decorated.

I continued working, huffing a little on the inside, debating whether I should force her into aIMG_5451 working mode, instead of a coloring mode, but grateful for her joyous spirit. As a mother, it seems like a constant debate for me: when do I let my task-oriented personality reign, and when should I let them flutter in their own personalities?

Moving day arrived, and our house was covered with the most artistic moving boxes imaginable. The men quickly filled the house, moving box after box onto the truck. Day one was New Year’s Eve, originally planned to move only the piano, but boxes went onto the truck…rode for four miles and then were mixed up and taken by different hands off of the truck. I wondered if the men noticed the messages.

By the time the movers resumed January 2nd, it was an entirely new crew of men. This next crew loaded the truck again with boxes. As darkness fell, they drove four miles and unloaded the same boxes…different hands touching each one.

An underestimation of truck size caused need for yet another day of moving, so another IMG_5453set of men arrived on the third day to load and unload more boxes… and the messages they carried.   As they walked by me in the foyer of the new house, the movers asked me to confirm the destination room of each box they held. I giggled at my 9-yr-old’s jokes on the side of the box, “Two movers walked into a …oops! Watch where you are going!”

Next was the unpacking – as more hands made the work light, and boxes were unpacked one by one. Even I – who had been looking at boxes for weeks – was amused by each of the boxes’ messages. SMILE! Kept going through my head.

When the boxes were unpacked, they were broken down and stacked in enormous piles in the garage. We offered them on Craigslist, and takers came within a couple of hours. The first was moving to Boston. The second was putting their house in storage while they rented, deciding if it would work out to retire in Florida. The third couple was starry eyed about moving to Oregon to start life together. Their dreadlocks and tattoos would probably not have been my daughter’s usual circle of influence, but they took her decorated boxes.

As I walked away from loading the last of the empty boxes into someone else’s car, I was IMG_5456in awe of my daughter’s God-given ability to encourage; she had no selfish ambition in her coloring (although she definitely received joy in the giving process). She has often said her goal is to “Spread Smiles” with her life.

If you give Christine a marker…

She might write some words…

Which will make her brother write…

Which will make her mother smile…

And Miss Kristen will smile…

And the movers who load the first truck will smile…

Which will make their wives smile when they get home…

The boxes will make the other workers smile while they unload the truck…

The unpackers of the boxes will smile while piling the now empty boxes into the garage, where…

More people will smile while they load the boxes into their cars…

Where the boxes will ride to another house to be packed…

And then their movers will smile while they load the boxes onto a new truck…

Where the boxes will ride to Oregon…or Boston…or eventually Florida…

Where the boxes will be unloaded by smiling workers,…

And unpacked by a family in a new place, where hopefully they are reading the words and smiling…

at the influence of a smiling 11-yr-old girl in North Carolina.

 

If you give a sanguine a marker, she just might change the world!

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Smiles,

Terri

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Disposing of my Disposition (Personalities Through the Lens of Me)

Dear Lindsey,

The personality differences have always amused me. I have read many personality plusmarriage books, not because our marriage seems in need, but because I want to be all my husband needs ( 🙂 ). Although I have favorites, (What Did You Expect?, Love and Respect and Becoming the Woman of His Dreams) no books have done so much for my role in my marriage as Personality Plus (Florence Littauer). I could say that this book rivals for top position in all of my parenting books as well. Why? Because my own personality had blinded me, creating a distorted view heading for relational disaster…in most relationships. And don’t marriage and parenting rank as the most important relationships I have?

Though I highly recommend you read the book to get the full extent of how to work well with the personalities surrounding you, the brief summary of characteristics is this:

If we took a set group of people and played Twenty Questions with only yes/no answers, the population would fall into two groups: those who are task-oriented and those who are people-oriented. (Left and Right side of the diagram below.)

Those two groups can then be divided again into two groups: Introverted (enjoying being alone) and extroverted (comes alive in a group of people), shown as the top and bottom of the diagram. I am on the line between these two…depending on how much chocolate and/or sunshine I have had. 🙂

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Of those four created quadrants, there are four personalities:

“Melancholy” is the task-oriented introvert.

  • Strengths: detail-oriented, self-disciplined, can be musicians.
  • Weaknesses: None. (just kidding – I am a Melancholy, and like to think I am perfect!) A Melancholy’s weaknesses are that tasks often get more attention than people’s needs. Can be obsessive-compulsive and inflexible.
  • Motto: “Anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly!”

NOTE: I think it is funny that I wrote about Melancholy first. AND I put it in the top left quadrant – the premier place. I assume it is how we are: we put our own personality in the limelight and then adjust the rest around us!

“Choleric” is the task-oriented extrovert.

  • Strengths: self-driven, gains followers quickly, gets the job done.
  • Weaknesses: Can run over people while “getting the job done.” Can be bossy.
  • Motto: “Get it done…NOW! And Hurry!”

“Phlegmatic” is the people-oriented introvert.

In other words: he or she loves and adores people, but doesn’t need to be in the limelight at all.

  • Strengths: Gets along with everyone, great team player, easy to be with, flexible
  • Weaknesses: Can be lazy, un-dependable or have difficulty making decisions.
  • Motto: “Yes. Unless you prefer no, then no. Why is everybody going so fast?”

“Sanguine” is the people-oriented extrovert.

  • Strengths: A blast to be around! Creative genius! Caring
  • Weaknesses: Loses keys…to the car, to the job, to life. He or she may battle with dishonesty and lack of integrity – when facts are fudged, because frankly, it just makes the story better.
  • Motto: “Wooooo hoooooo!!!!!!!!”

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Of course, even with four groups of personalities, there are unlimited variations. I am mostly melancholy with a lot of sanguine – which means I am split between exact opposite quadrants. One book said I was “dysfunctional.” I always knew I was a “misfit toy”! However, it was the way God made me – and I will do my best with my “dysfunctionality”!

The first time I read the book, it was about ME.  Therefore, I:

  1. Took offense that someone thought I deserved a label.
  2. Recognized a little of myself somewhere in it, and decided maybe the label fit.
  3. Was entertained by how much they knew me.

The second time I read looking for traits of family and coworkers. I realized my mother’s sanguine side is what made her invite the entire church over for lunch…with no notice except that she thought of the idea that day.  Phlegmatic was the friend of my son (since opposites attract!) who wouldn’t tell me whether he wanted mustard or ketchup on his hotdog and instead looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

The third time I read the books I had a goal to diminish my weaknesses and magnify the strengths in those around me. It became a game. Have fun with it! The purpose of the book is not to label someone into a box, but to learn how to best deal with people who are naturally in their own box. If I notice the only people I get along with are Phlegmatics (who get along with everybody!), then I may have a problem! If I realize that I only admire people who fall into the same quadrant as myself, then I better work to expand myself to see strengths in other quadrants! The Bible says we should go into all the world…not “make everybody come into my world.” Don’t read to find out who you are, but read to find out who you can be! I became a better wife and mother when I learned how to not only identify and diminish my weaknesses but truly appreciate the strengths of my husband and kids!

Personality Clashes

How did knowing personalities help my marriage?

I noticed that according to the book, a weakness of my Melancholy personality is that I can be oversensitive, or assume things are about me. (Really? There’s something not about me?! ) Someone can say, “The sky is blue,” and a hyper-melancholy will take insult because she has brown eyes, so the person is obviously saying that he doesn’t like her brown eyes. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point.

Isn’t it funny that God would marry a Melancholy like myself with a images-1Choleric? Watch the weaknesses line up: If a Choleric “runs over people” and a Melancholy “takes offense at small bumps” I was feeling dead on a highway under a steam roller. How’s that for a marriage?

After studying personalities, I started noticing the phenomenon.

I was cooking one day, obviously, stirring a pot on the stove, when my husband accessed the drawer on the other side of the stove to get out a spoon. He cut in front of me, bumped me backwards, so I obviously had to stop stirring, and he retrieved his spoon, never saying anything, or acknowledging me, and left.

The old me would have been hurt. “He did it on purpose to disrespect me. He obviously thinks cooking is not as important as whatever he is doing. He obviously doesn’t value me. (Aside: ‘Obviously’ was one of my favorite observational words back then, but I learned that “obvious” is not so obvious with other personalities. My common sense was not common – just “mine”!) Maybe I should let him be on his own for dinner tomorrow night, since he obviously doesn’t honor the role of cook?!”

Having the value of these personality books fresh in my arsenal, I said to my husband, “I know you didn’t do that on purpose to hurt me.”

He looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  There was a LONG silent pause while I could see the gears in his brain turning, not sure if those were fighting words or what my intentions were.  Then he gulped and said quietly, “Did what?”

It still makes me laugh. I would have been so offended – assigning motives and planning my next chess move, but the personality delineations explained he wasn’t even playing the game! He was just…getting a spoon…in a choleric way! Ha ha!

A melancholy might have begged the cook’s pardon before reaching to get the properly-sized spoon for the meal.

A sanguine might have bounded in, telling a story, grabbed a fork and come back for the spoon later – if she remembered why she needed a spoon.

A phlegmatic might have sat until the soup was cold before ever implying that he actually would have preferred to have a spoon.

A Choleric took the spoon.

In parenting, I have often realized how my interpretation was making me want to reprimand a child – when there was nothing wrong in his/her heart – only a difference in his/her personality. My sanguine daughter, for example, can drive me crazy with her messy room and lost articles. However, when I recognize her strengths – like the ability to make great art out of junk, or ability to LIGHT UP anybody’s world with her smile – it makes a lost sweater here and there nothing in comparison. Therefore, we have focused on her learning ways to remember where she took off her sweater (to one day help her find her car keys) or how to meet expectations of a clean room without dimming her bright light of a personality that has an amazing effect on our whole house!

At one point I even noticed that I had been using the personality terms in a negative way! UGH!! My kids made me realize it when the Sanguine said to her brother in a fight, “You are SO CHOLERIC!!” Bahaha! I am sure she picked that up from me! No personality is wrong – despite how my “perfect Melancholy” wants to make it seem that way. They are just different…the way God intended!!

When my oldest son was in high school, he complained about his vision, so I took him to the eye doctor for the first time. Of course, they immediately saw a solution in the form of glasses – and we ordered them. Within two weeks the glasses arrived, and I watched them transform his world into something I didn’t even know he was missing. He had never mentioned it. I remember almost crying feeling bad I had no idea that he couldn’t see. (I have never had glasses.) He put on the new specs and walked outside on that bright sunny day and exclaimed, “I CAN SEE!” In the car he asked, “Can we go back and watch every movie I have ever seen AGAIN, so I can really SEE them this time???”

That’s how I felt once I understood how my own personality was clouding my vision to see others. I wish I could go back and see, really SEE every person I had ever met, befriended, done business with, been in class with, or loved…because I feel like I could have made the relationship better.

Correct your vision utilizing personalities and you will see others through lenses for which God created them.

Blessings,

Terri Brady

Romans 12:4-5: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

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When Pain Mocks the Song – Even in the Christmas Update Letter

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! As I debated on what to write for a Christmas Letter to Lindsey, I thought the actual Brady family update letter might be appropriate…in case you didn’t receive it in the mail yet. 🙂 I changed it a little, but the message is the same: from our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

(If you prefer to skip the personal update and get to the meat of the message – skip down to “Life’s Railroad and the Train of Time.” I won’t be offended. Sometimes I save the Christmas update letters for after Christmas too.)

Dear friends and family

I wanted to give you a joyful update – about Casey’s college choice, Chris’s new position: you know- the “norm” of decking the halls with boughs of blessings – or is it boughs of bragging?

But, it didn’t seem right, and almost seemed fake, since that would allude to perfection that 2014 did not necessarily hold. It just seemed that hiding the struggle wouldn’t give honor to the ones I lost – or those who are in the middle of strife right now.

So here goes: 2014 was an up and down year.

On January 2nd Chris took a new position at our company – a major adjustment in imagesfunction, but not in purpose. The new role brought a massive change to close relationships – like getting on a ship to a new destination, knowing it was directed by God, but bringing tears as you lose sight of the shore.

January 15th was when the call came that Terri’s mother had suffered a heart attack and stroke. We rejoice that she recovered with minimal permanent damage.

Seven days later, on the opening night of Christine’s youth theatre musical another call came from Colorado, this one telling the shocking news of the loss of Terri’s younger brother Mike. Terri spent 10 days in Colorado with her parents, and Chris was able to fly out for the funeral.

A few weeks later, barely out of sight, grief struck again with the short illness and passing of our dear friend and business co-founder, Jackie. Staying for that snowy funeral in Michigan clearly took precedence over our family’s trip to the Cayman Islands, and it was rightfully cancelled. April brought a trip back to Colorado to celebrate Terri’s Uncle Buck and his presentation of WWII Legion of Honor medal, as well as to be introduced to Adelyn, the first great-grandchild for Terri’s parents; Mike would have been a proud grandpa!

June was triumphant as Nate was selected to play Academy level soccer, and Casey’s team took the N.C. state champ title – finishing 2nd in the region in Baton Rouge, LA.

July 25th marked the 98th birthday for Terri’s grandmother in Kansas, now a great-great-grandmother of two 2014 babies! She has 5 “kids” in their 70’s!! Must be a record!

Our summer was filled with lake time. J.R. wowed us with his wakeboard abilities between his Lego masterpieces. Christine showed us that artists could handle the waves as well. Visitors to N.C. were plentiful – friends from Michigan and Florida; family from Pennsylvania and Colorado. We even had a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Chris’s parents held here! We joked that our guest room needed a revolving door! And we were blessed by all! (Although when Terri’s mother fell down the stairs and broke bones in three places, she might not have felt like a blessing.)

Autumn brought news of Casey’s decision to play soccer for college in South Carolina next fall, paying his own way with athletic and academic scholarships. Wow.

Life’s Railroad for the Train of Time

I used to think that there were years on mountains and years in valleys. Of course now I can see mountain hours, separated by valley hours, or even a joyful mountain moment in the midst of the depth of sorrowful valley moments. I like it best the way author Kay Warren says: “Life is like a set of parallel train tracks, with joy and sorrow running inseparably side-by-side throughout our days.”

Yet, all the while, the train of time still carries us down the middle of the rails toward our destiny.

Often Christmas cards come (and I have written many!) with the updates – telling the joys of the year. But this year, as you can see, had such HIGH highs and LOW lows in the parallel tracks, it seemed strange to only share one side. I am guessing that most people have had years like that. Many are on the “low” right now – not ready to even celebrate Christmas, wondering if there will ever be happiness again. My prayers go to them.

I mean, really, when you look at the news of 2014, it seems odd to be celebrating anything doesn’t it? My house was not the only one who experienced pain – and by far not the worst pain compared to others I know. Many have lost loved ones, received dooming medical news, had diagnoses since last Christmas that ended life before this Christmas! There are words on the TV that don’t necessarily scream “JOY!” : Ferguson, Isis, North Korea, Ebola. You know the list could go on and make a railroad track far worse than my own. But suffering is not a competition. The Lord knows and cares for each inch of the tracks of life that have been laid and knows and cares for how we handle each inch of that track – since everyone handles it differently.

Christmas is a time of joy – when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Yet I recall that the promise of joy AND sorrow met in the manger that first Christmas. The promise of redemption and eternal life rested in that baby, … yet the sin He would carry away was in the forecast. While He slept beneath the famous guiding star, His future of being mocked, scourged and publicly executed by crucifixion rested in that bed of hay. The miracles making the lame walk, the deaf hear and the blind see rested in that manger…as did the weeping over the loss of a friend, the anger needed to turn over tables and the prayers so strong to cause sweat as drops of blood. I suppose it’s the moments when sorrow’s side of the track seems to be leading that make us truly recognize the value of its parallel Joy if we can see it.

I recently read that the hymn, I heard the Bells on Christmas Day, was written by Longfellow after a not-so-perfect year. Already a widower due to an 1860 fire that took his wife, he found out weeks before Christmas of 1863 that his eldest son was nearly paralyzed at the hand of an enemy in the Civil War. The song’s words weren’t written as the happy song I sing today. They were penned in the agony of grief, on Christmas Day, 1863.

And in despair I bowed my head:

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,

‘For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

 Though I did not walk in his shoes, I can relate to pain that “mocks the songs”. So I hold his next words dearly:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Whether you have had a perfect year, or less-than-so, may you follow a star that leads you to the only “perfect” there is: Christ. Let us bring our gifts, our sorrows, our whole selves, because that is all He asks. May you make room in the inn of your heart in which He may reside forever. And may you know that the destiny at the end of the tracks is in His arms: the Peace that Passes Understanding.  The true JOY of Christmas is knowing that the destiny at the end of the tracks is HEAVEN. The no more crying heaven…The no more darkness heaven…The no more imperfect moments, days or years heaven. But alas, I cannot waste my days on earth – I want others to know!! And hence I write Christmas Update Letters so they will know the reason for my real JOY this Christmas and always!

Blessings to you and your family, Merry Christmas!   

Chris, Terri, Casey, Nate, Christine, and J.R.

2 Cor 4:5-6 For what we preach [should be telling in our Christmas letter] is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord… For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

– THAT is the best Christmas update letter there is!!

“Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy – for unto you is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” 

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Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of “Busyness”

Dear Lindsey,

It is astounding that the same tools that multiply efficiency of time can steal it in equal magnitude.  I would say that life would be better if electricity were never used, but wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite as I type on my word-processor and you read on your computer?

Kevin DeYoung, in his book,  Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

  • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, Unknownpeople pleasing and perfectionism),
  • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
  • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
  • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids.
  • Being addicted to technology.
  • Not resting enough.

Electronics Addiction

My last letter talked about overparenting and freaking out about my kids, but this one is more about freaking out over me….being addicted to technology.

Yes, I could say that the kids are the ones with the electronics problem. I took six teenagers for ten hours in a car last month, and I think I could count on my fingers the number of words they said to each other….with their mouths, anyway. It seems we are raising a silent generation – as their thumbs type the words (even while sitting next to each other in a car!) that we once verbalized.  I find it ironic though, that every time I want to say, “Put the phone down,” (which is an acceptable request in our house – any time) I have to stop myself from using my own phone first.

gadget-addictionDo I really think I am so “needed” that I cannot go a few hours without seeing if someone needs me on my phone? Do I think my children cannot survive minutes of my errand-running without having me on an electronic leash, able to be tugged at their beck and call?

Gone are the neighborly days in which I grew up, since neighbors are not as “used.”  When my brother, Tim, hit a baseball in the backyard that rearranged my brother Mike’s nose to be firmly planted into his eye, the neighbor (“my second mother,” we called her) came running with a role of paper towels before the injured one had even stopped running (and screaming). Those kind of neighborly bonding moments are gone! Why is it that broken noses in backyard baseball seem so much healthier than Snap Chat, video games and DISH? 🙂

When email first began its trend, I remember putting a tag at the end of my emails, “I check email on Friday afternoons only, so please be patient in awaiting a reply.”

WHAT?!

How did that ever work? Now, it seems perfectly legitimate for a coach to email a change in my kids’ 5:30 practice at 4:30!  Everyone assumes you are on the leash!  I had fourteen emails today, regarding soccer alone. Heaven forbid my family’s biannual dentist appointments come around, because – since I am the secretary and personal chauffeur of my four children – I get ten emails (two per child, and myself) reminding me, outside of the five identical texts and five automated phone calls… all to tell me about one appointment I had already put into my calendar six months prior – when the appointment was booked.  You’d think they are afraid that my family is so “busy,” we will forget the appointment!  And sometimes, we do.

Unknown-2My brain has become so accustomed to the fast pace of multi-tasking, that I can hardly sit for sixty seconds at a red light, without habitually grabbing my phone to check the few buzzes I missed since the last light. I mean, really: if I accidentally leave the house without my phone, I am shocked at how many times I reach for it (and notice only because it is not there). The old days of talking to the lady behind me in line have diminished into a world of looking at the top of her head, while she does the Smart Phone Slouch, as if sending approval for me to assume the same stance.

It has been proven that endorphins are released and produce a “high” when the phone buzzes or computer indicates, “You’ve got mail!”  It makes a subliminal desire for the same high if we go minutes without getting it.  (That must be why I miss my phone if I am without it for a nano-second.)

Last week, a baby whined in her car seat in a waiting room images-2where I sat. The mom typed away on her phone to who-knows-who while the little cry got a little more forceful.  I chuckled to myself, while I checked my own phone to see if my father in Colorado had taken his turn on Words with Friends. It is striking how a phone can eliminate the 1600 miles between my father and me… and yet distance the mom from her baby in the same room!

“We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of [some] users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/when-technology-addiction-takes-over-your-life)

It’s no wonder I feel so BUSY!

I would like to say I am going to commit to go back in time, and start square dancing in the barn with neighbors! Haha! I would first have to buy a barn and introduce myself to my neighbors – who might run from me if I were talking about square dancing!

Really, my goal is to utilize electronics to run life, not let electronics’ use run my life.

I want to keep electronics as tools I control – not the other way around, despite how difficult that is to actually live.

Unknown-3Maybe people who have the “phone basket” by the front door have good family dinners? Maybe those people who take forever to get back to me on email or text are actually living with the people in their house, and I should applaud it? Maybe it’s ok if my kid doesn’t have his own email to check at age seven?  After all, once the message-checking begins, it doesn’t end…forever!

“I had to apologize to God today, because I turned on my phone before reading my Bible,” a friend sharpened me as iron sharpens iron when she made this passing statement. How many times have quiet times, exercise, or my kids’ smiles been missed when I thought I needed to check “just one more thing” online?  I lightly enjoy Twitter and Facebook: I love hearing who had a baby, finding a tribute in memory of my friend, Jackie Lewis,  or seeing how many “liked” or “re-tweeted” my son’s April Fool’s joke on me. But the hourglass doesn’t stop dropping sand when I get distracted looking at the other threads completely unrelated to the priorities for my day!

images-3My husband has (brilliantly I might add) limited electronics’ use by our kids. It is easier to say “no” when they are four, than to try and backtrack on use when they are fourteen. If Google and Facebook limit the youngest age to be thirteen, it should at least flag more-conservative-than-the-Internet parents that maybe we should wait at least that long for them to get accounts.  (Besides, what is being taught when even parents use a fake birthdate to get their kid “around” the age rules?)  Really, our kids will have their own electronic leashes soon enough.  There is no right-of-passage back into childhood, so it is probably wise if parents choose to protect it.  Kids have the rest of their lives to live with the “electronic leash,” so there’s no harm in having “tween” years without its yoke!

We are affecting the next generation.

My 13-yr-old and I were discussing “maturity” and what it means, as I look for more symptoms of it in him. At one point, he answered, “It seems that ‘maturity’ means you check your phone more, and are more involved with emails.” He was serious in his observation of those “mature” older brothers and friends around him.

My daughter recently wrote an article for a magazine she created. Her random “creative writing,” had a point that was clear, especially since she (at age ten) is only on the outside of the electronic world, looking in.  Although I cannot say everyone can logistically apply her “one month” program, I thought it a fitting way to end this letter. (See her article, “Family Fun” below.)

Electronically your friend,

Terri

Romans 12:2:And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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Family Fun

By Christine Brady

“Uh…a duck?” said Nate. The whole family laughed. Trivial Pursuit always had us giggling at the funny questions…and answers. Our family takes one month away from phones, iPods and computers. No e-mailing, texting or calling people…just family time. Nowadays, families need more time together…electronics are drawing them apart.

People who are always texting and e-mailing never really stop to look around them- to stare at the pretty clouds or to listen to the birds chirp sweetly.  My older brother got a FaceBook account and for a while, even he was distracted from the beautiful weather! Without phones and iPods, you would really appreciate the world around you.

Family time is very important. We learn to laugh, have fun, and we can forget bad things.  I think our family is the happiest of all when they take a month away from phones, iPods, computers and video games. For instance once I had a HORRIBLE ear infection that lasted from March to July.  July was our Un-plugged month, and I got distracted from my ear infection. Instead of hurting, my ear infection DISAPPEARED!!!! Family time is definitely important.

Families need more time together, and happier memories to look back at. I am encouraging YOU to take a month off electronics, as a test and see what happens. Do you want YOUR family laughing together? Simply take out electronics for a while! Trivial Pursuit is on its way…and so is lot of family fun!

“Overparenting:” a Leading Cause of Busyness

Dear Lindsey,

I have been meaning to write for weeks, but I have been…umm…busy!

In his book, Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

      • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, people pleasing and perfectionism),
      • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
      • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
      • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids
      • Being addicted to technology
      • Not resting enough

The Kindergarchy chapter hit too close to home for me, as I find myself SO wrapped up with my children’s (now ages 16, 13, 10 and 8) schedules. Kindergarchy could probably be defined as overparenting, and I dance with it daily. I want what’s best for my kids. I don’t take lightly the responsibility of raising them for the glory of the Lord, and sometimes (as said in my last Letter), my attempts at “better” have only left me more flustered or frustrated, and not the kind of mom I want to be for my children.

But sometimes, it is simply “overparenting” that causes us to be overbusy.

For Our Kids

At a recent neighborhood event, one mom said her chief regret in raising her kids was their playing travel soccer. Not knowing that I was the proverbial travel-soccer mom, she was simply lamenting how busy she had been when her kids were young, just rushing from one city to the next for… soccer.

I took her words straight to my heart. Will I regret being a soccer mom? It was a great moment of reflection for me, as I aligned my priorities and analyzed my busyness.

I believe the busyness  of “Kinderarchy” to which Kevin DeYoung refers in his book could be summarized by:

  1. Our kids are doing too much.
  2. We’re doing too much for our kids.
  3. We think our kids’ future lies too much in our responsibility.

Kids today have opportunities that didn’t exist in our youth – much less our parents’. My parents were both raised on farms. After starting his day milking cows at 4am, before feeding the hogs, or getting ice from the pond in the valley to carry to the icebox (yep…pre-refrigeration), then walking uphill (both ways, barefoot…in the snow) to the one-room-schoolhouse in Kansas, my father hardly came home to ask if he could join the travel soccer team!  But my dad grew up to be pretty awesome, and I wouldn’t mind if any of my kids turned out just like him!

Since I don’t have cows to milk, hogs nor an icebox, we have time for activities outside of those! But that doesn’t mean we need all of the activities that are offered. As my neighbor aptly pointed out, travel soccer is time-consuming! Our kids only have one childhood, and I only get one shot at providing for its growth toward excellence. For two of my boys, it has been travel soccer. They have dreams of going big in the sport, and my telling them, “Your chances are slim,” would only solidify that in their minds – for not only soccer, but also any other dream they chase. When they put the mental toughness, physical training, and immense effort into their goals, Chris and I want to reciprocate –even if it means sacrificing some time for travel soccer.

However, if I were about to invest a percentage of my income in something, the investment would be prayed about and researched regarding: return on investment, ability to reach goals, cost to invest, comparison to competitor investments, etc. Investments in time should be considered under the same scrutiny.

Too often, I hear of people getting tutoring for their 6-yr-old, or putting their 4-yr-old in travel-hockey, or paying big bucks for swim-lessons for the 6-month-old, without considering if the outcome is really worth the investment of time and money. (Yes, I did some of that!) Our kids could end up being pushed right out of the activity that was intended for their good. In my busyness case, I get burnt out of the motherhood I was intending for God’s good. Sometimes our kids are simply doing too much.

For Our Kids

Other times, we are busy because we are doing too much for our kids.  For example, I overheard a woman behind me at a high school sporting event talking about a history project her son (a junior in high school) was doing. She was exasperated at the amount of work it entailed. She didn’t know when he could possibly get it all done. She wasn’t quite sure what the teacher wanted, and whether the entire project was due on such-and-such date, or whether that was just the draft. Wondering if it was biographical, or if it could be an opinionated project, she debated into her friend’s ear on whether the project should be during World War I, or maybe during the aftermath.  She talked and talked… and talked. Then, she turned to her friend and said, “How is your son going to get it done?!”

“Oh, I don’t know what he’s doing for that class. That’s up to him,” her friend replied.

If I had been sipping a drink at that moment, it would have been one of those – spray the back of the head of the person sitting in front of me on the bleachers – moments. It was funny to me, that while one woman was giving a discourse on the project, debating the intricacies of the due dates, pondering the eras about which to write and discussing her stress level on the sidelines, the other simply said, “That’s not my job; it’s my son’s class.”

Can’t we see that doing too much for our children not only hinders their ability to handle responsibility, but also creates “freaked out” moms who look too busy for the very kids they are trying to help?

But being a mom who holds the “It’s not my job; it’s his job,” mentality risks a multitude of embarrassing moments, because our pride is on the line when we allow our children to fail. When they don’t complete a project, I can be embarrassed – but it is worth the short-term embarrassment for the long-term lessons he learns. Failing to bring his soccer equipment at age eight makes less failures at age sixteen.  Doing it for our children instead, only takes away their opportunity to learn the lesson.  Whether it is because he forgot part of the soccer uniform, didn’t get the intricacies of the history assignment or in some other way missed the bar, I know failure can be the best teacher for the future.  Imagine if instead of nagging with a soccer checklist every time, I trusted that he had it. (Once he forgets a cleat, it is never done again.) What if instead of bugging a teacher for assignment details, we let the “to-do list” be in his head instead of ours?  We would be left to focus on our own to-do list – to be a mom!

Doing too much for them – only makes me busy and takes away from their ability to gain responsibility.

For “Our”? Kids 

Lastly, and definitely my favorite point of the Kindergarchy chapter, we often think our kids’ future lies too much in our responsibility.  We try to be the perfect parents: feeding the perfect meals every meal, running to tutors, lessons, leagues, and friends to make the perfect combination of fertilizer for the garden where our children grow.

But we have less to do with their growth than we think. Don’t we believe God knitted them together before they were born? (Ps 139:13) Don’t we know that God has a plan for them to prosper, not to harm them? (Jer 29:11) Can’t we  trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding?  (Prov 3:5)

One of my favorite lines from the Crazy Busy book was this:

“There are ways to screw up kids for life but thankfully the Happy Meal is not one of them.” (p. 73)

Ha! He is not saying, “Give up on feeding them healthy food;” he is saying we would be better if we stopped freaking out!

Usurping God’s Role

I try to avoid using these Letters to brag about my kids; I really do. But this lesson I recently learned is too good to skip, although the ending shows I am a bit proud of my daughter (age ten).

Let me begin with this:  admittedly, I often suffer with the “I stink at being a mom,” syndrome. It’s a sinful, self-centered, lacking-of-faith and lacking-of-gratitude “sin-drome” that requires my refocus on God and His wondrous gifts.  One particular day, I was having those negative “I am a failure” thoughts about my mothering my daughter. Her hair was messy…as usual. Her room was too. With the sweetest heart in the world, she runs around loving on everyone, and leaves a path of evidential mess in every room she touches. Her brothers have called her the “tornado,” because you always know where she has been.

And then it happened.

The violin lessons paid off….NOT.

The soccer league she left tried to recruit her back…NOT.

The gymnastics lessons she had when she was seven saved her life…NOPE.

I unwrapped my birthday present and it was this:

turtle

THAT is a turtle.

I cannot draw a turtle. (You never want to be my partner in Pictionary.)  I cannot describe shading, much less do it with watercolors.

My daughter created that artwork, because, thank God, she was not in a sports league to follow her brothers. She was not in gymnastics because it was what the neighbors were doing. She drew that because she was not too busy to notice the details of a creature, capture them with her God-given eye and express it as a gift of love to me.

She made the painting, because God knows her more than I do, and He gave her talents to use for His glory, not mine.  I think He can make her the best she can be if I let go enough of who I think she should be.  Maybe for her to be the best daughter she can be, her mom needs to be the best daughter (of God) she can be, instead of being the freaked-out-lunatic parent trying to make perfect children.

So if I am letting go of “Kindergarchy,” then what do I consider to be most important for being a good mom?

Be a good me.

    • They need to see my trust in Jesus… for my life and theirs.
    • They need to see my love for their father, (yes – my husband)…and his love for me.
    • They need to see me sane.

The busyness disease can leave “freaked out” parents eclipsing what is most important for their children’s future.

No amount of “perfect parenting,” vegan dieting-without-Happy-Meals, travel-soccer momming, music lessons, sports leagues, or homework-“helping” can make up for a lacking in me. Too much busyness can take the life of any priorities in a heartbeat, taking our beating hearts along with it.

Delight yourself in the Lord (Ps 37:4)…and let the busyness drown like the Wicked Witch of the West melting under a bucket of water*.

In love,

Terri Brady

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* reference: Wizard of Oz

Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.

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A Disease Called Busyness

Dear Lindsey,

Having lunch with my 13-yr-old last week, I asked him a question of where he wanted to be in five years. What kind of person was he aiming to become?  Did he have goals for himself?

His answer surprised me, since he said that he wanted to be more like his older brother:

“Everyone likes Casey.  My [12-yr-old] friend, Zarec, said it best: ‘The reason Casey is so much fun is because he seems like he is really having fun when he is with you!’ Most teenagers aren’t like that. I guess I want people to feel that fun from me.”

He wasn’t envying his brother, but admiring a trait he’d like to emulate. I like it when my kids think. I don’t know if he realized that his thinking convicted me, but I realized how “not fun” I live some days of my life.

The culprit?

A Disease called Busyness.

I think it is amusing when I ask my kids a question like, “How many times have you flossed this week?” and my eight-year-old will say, “I haven’t had time.”

Haha!! If you don’t have time when you are eight?…

Don’t we each feel that way though – whatever we are doing seems important enough to feel BUSY?

As an engineer (before motherhood), I

  • drove 50 miles each way to work
  • worked in three plant locations involving travel
  • volunteered at church directing the children’s choir
  • sang in the adult choir, and filled in as accompanist at times
  • taught piano lessons on the side
  • picked up kids who needed a ride to church
  • played on a softball team 30 minutes from my house (part way to work)
  • played in a county band
  • made meals from scratch
  • worked out every day
  • flossed my teeth 🙂
  • stayed involved in elections, attended weddings and baby showers, traveled to out-of-state family, practiced instruments and other things that happened on a non-daily routine

I am sure you could make this list for yourself.

“It is not enough to be industrious, so too are the ants,” said Henry David Thoreau, “but what are you industrious about?”

For me, I have LOVED to be busy my whole life.   In highschool, my mother would continuously say (to my back as I was leaving the house), “You are burning the candle at both ends; it cannot last!”

I wore it like a badge.

My highschool yearbook looked like I was trying to be Jan Brady (or was it Marsha?) with all of my activities: Shakespeare Club, high school musical, jazz band, church plays, babysitting, softball teams, marching band, (county, district and state bands), Science Fair competitions, indoor drumline, National Honor Society, nursing home visitation, and winter ski club.

I could have sung the Veggie Tales song to any friend who asked for time, “I’m busy busy! Frightfully busy! You’ve no idea what I’ve got to do!”

But there are so many pitfalls to busyness!  A book, Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung inspired the following:

Pitfalls of BusynessPitfall3

  1. Makes us lose sight of direction.
  2. Robs our happiness.
  3. Masks our growing further from whom we were meant to be.

1.  Busyness makes us lose sight of  the direction we intended.

I like to list those activities of my engineering days, because it is clearly eclectic, and pointless for where I am today.  What was my goal?  We have twenty-four hours in our checking account to spend, 365 days a year. We cannot add to that number in any way. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Romberger, taught me a valuable lesson on busyness, when she had us actually keep an account ledger of our time. We took a lined piece of paper, and labeled each line with fifteen-minute intervals of time. Then for one week, we were supposed to stop every fifteen minutes and write down what we were doing. I remember being shocked – even at that young age – of things which I had no intention of doing that took my time! (Maybe I should do this today? I cannot figure out what happened to my 11am to 2pm yesterday!!!) If we could look back at our account ledger for the last six months of time, we would likely be able to predict where we will be in five years!  Our hourly account ledger tells where we are headed. Does it have the direction we intended? It is “what we are industrious about” that matters.

2.  Busyness robs our happiness.

OffCliffRecently I had a day when I got miserably tired. You know the kind? Once my daughter, exhausted and teary at age seven said, “I am so tired, my heart has been at the edge of a cliff, and it just went over. Wah hah hah”– That kind of tired.

.

.

When my heart, “went over the edge,” I analyzed the day I had had:

  • I had gotten up early for a good workout and Bible time,
  • Then went to have coffee with a friend in need, arriving a little late.
  • I came home shortly and did some homeschooling work with the kids, then let them work on their own assignments while I
  • Volunteered playing piano at the high school where my oldest son attends.
  • I came home and paid the cleaning lady quickly before leaving in a hurry,
  • To drive my daughter to homeschool youth theatre practice, while eating lunch out of my lap.
  • I volunteered with music for that group for 2 hours
  • I came home in time to say hello to my teens before dropping them at the soccer carpool.
  • Making the family dinner took a little longer than expected, so I didn’t get to sit down.
  • I ate dinner from my lap while driving to an evening orchestra practice at church which I had been looking forward to.
  • I came home and the younger kids wanted me to read to them before bed, but
    • It was late
      • And I was tired.
        • Chris wanted to tell me about his ideas, and spend quality husband/wife time, but my body had had it!

I felt like saying, “Do you know the kind of day I have had?!!!”

Then I actually thought about the kind of day I had had:

  • I had started with exercise and quiet time in prayer.
  • I had spent time with my kids.
  • I had given of my time and talents in volunteer work.
  • I had played in an orchestra at church – a kind of worship for me, cleansing of my soul, once a week when my schedule allows.
  • I had eaten healthy – even from my lap – since I had prepared the meals.

That day would have been called “rest” back in my engineering days (and most of my “normal days” now), but clearly, the happiness had been robbed.

I ended too tired to read to my kids.

Volunteering had become a chore when it affected my meals!

Any of these events taken separately would have been a blessing, but all together, they were a strain.

A thief came in to rob my happiness through the door of my calendar.

The sad part is that most people have busyness robbing their happiness and they do not recognize the cause, only its effect.

3.  Busyness masks our decay.  

If we are not growing right, we are growing wrong!! There is no staying the same.

Growth in a specific direction takes specific intent for growth.   Growth in a bad direction takes no work at all.

If I want to be a healthy weight, it takes massive intent and work.

If I want to gain weight, it’s a piece of cake! (Pun intended! 🙂 )

Growing in a right direction requires tending to the calendar, not just riding along in an “unattended car”Keeping ourselves busy disguises itself as productivity, when in actuality it is often masking decay.

I believe this decay due to busyness is very evident in marriages:

Nobody plans for a marriage to decline to a status of “acquaintance management,” but lack of HappyCakeplanning is the root of the rot.   Personal busyness usually does not involve the spouse…who frankly has his/her own reason to be busy, leading him/her in different directions.  Our busyness often is exclusive of those who are closest to us, leaving what matters most in our hearts, out of our mind while we RUSH – often trying to serve the very ones we ignore. While we think we are working to get things done, things are becoming undone within us…as individuals and in our relationships.

Rest is not the antithesis of productivity.

“Tending” to our growth, personally or professionally, means we know when we need rest, too.  Rest can actually halt the decay cycle.  My husband wrote a whole book on the importance of rest! (Maybe I should rest from writing and read it again!  He says, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation.)  Rest allows time to think. Unscheduled time allows planning for the future.

If we have every minute filled with who we are, it will be difficult to find time to become who we are meant to be!

Leave space!!  Just because there is a blank in the calendar does not mean it needs to be filled!  (Okay, I am screaming, “Preach it, sister!” to myself in my head – because I am SO preaching to myself. I suppose I better close this letter before my “self” starts answering.)

One last note: According to author Bryan Caplan, secondhand stress is a leading complaint among kids.  In an “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than 1000 kids in grades 3-12, asking, “If you were granted one wish to change the way that your mother’s/father’s work affects your life, what would that wish be?”  Who could have guessed the kids’ answer would have involved their parents’ attitude?! When asked to “grade” their parents for “appreciating me for who I am, “ or “making me feel loved,” or even, “attending important events in my life,” the parents scored well. But “controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry” got the worst marks on the parents’ report card! They feel our stress!

Okay, I do not remember that lady interviewing my kids, but wow! She might have been here. It’s not that I “blow up” at my kids. I have even worked on many systems to avoid the repetitive nagging. But, I often wonder if my kids are going to say my most commonly said word was, “hurry!”

I don’t want them to remember me as the “hurry!” mom. I want them to feel the fun I have with them.  I want them to remember me as the mom who loves them and who loves Jesus, and who stresses only in things eternal. I think my infliction with the Disease called Busyness may be masking my most important message…to my kids, to my husband and to myself.

To be continued,

Terri

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Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.  61pdoweizhL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Real Moms: “When the Last Goldfish Dies”

Dear Lindsey,

After ice skating for a while, I decided I could sit back with my book while I watched my kids through the glass. The Tuesday family skate brought less than ten kids that morning.

I sat in the viewing area with my book, while other moms enjoyed fellowship and coffee. I overheard one mom say to another, “I am going to have a party when that last goldfish dies!”

I chuckled to myself, since we had the amazing longevity-gifted goldfish Chris at fairat our house, too, and I completely understood what she was saying! We had won the fish at the State Fair.  These three fish with an average life of one day, were going on their second YEAR at the Brady house – living in Tupperware, since I had given the fish tank away to a neighbor literally days before that State Fair. 

The plastic home of these carnival fish lived in our basement homeschool area and always pleaded for cleaning. Always.  It seemed that although the kids had begged to keep them, no one ever remembered we had them – except me – when I smelled them.

I get it ! I mean, when that last goldfish dies:

  • No more working to keep the tank (or Tupperware) clean!
  • No more rocks, filters, lights or food to replace!
  • No more badgering kids to finish responsibilities!

As luck would have it, weeks after the overheard goldfish comment, one of our Fair goldfish was found in a not-so-fair state, floating on the top of the water. That night, a second fish was moving slowly, looking awfully buoyant, and dead by morning.

The third fish was gone within twenty-four hours, confirming that something must have happened to the water (which ironically, was clean this time).

goldfish2

(My husband wants me to tell you that he is innocent. Really.)

The mourning process in my kids was shocking to me.

Life appreciates after it is gone.

These ignored fish, suddenly had value now that they were gone, the same way the man in the casket always seems to have so many “best friends.”

“I miss him!” my eight-year-old cried, assigning gender to one who had no name or gender – that we had identified anyway.  “I loved him so much.”

It felt completely silly to me, and I hid my smile,

“The worst part is that he doesn’t even go to heaven! It would be so much better, if I at least knew he was theeeeerrrrrrrrreee.” He cried, and I hugged him on the stairs where we stood, not remembering if we were going up or down.

His body shook in my arms, which made me hold more tightly. It was funny how much I didn’t care about the fish, but a tear left my eye, as I felt my son’s pain. To him, it was real, and that’s what mattered to me.

“Should we have a funeral?” I asked, finally, wiping my tear before he could see it.  I couldn’t believe I was offering, but honestly, I felt like he had an emotion – and even though I did not share that emotion – I might help him work through it.

“What do you do at a funeral?” he asked, and I secretly thanked God that he hadn’t had a lot of exposure to death.

“It’s a time when we give our respects. We tell God thank you for giving us memories, like a celebration of the life. Sometimes people tell stories of the happy memories with the one who died.”

“Yeah, Let’s do that,” he said, as a calm overtook him.

He and his sister immediately began making “invitations” to the funeral, created a casket out of a paper cup, and dug a hole next to the fishpond in the back yard.

funeral announcment

JRCM fish funeral

The three of us met at the pond, buried the treasure, and thanked God for giving us memories with the fish. We sang Amazing Grace, since I suppose even fish-death reminds us of the amazing grace of eternal life given to my children and me.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those “cool” moms as seen on TV. You know the ones? They wear their skinny jeans while they feed the kids chocolate chip cookies and milk and sit and discuss their school day. Their teens run in with all of their friends, (because the mom is so cool, surely any teen would want to hang out with her), and gobble up the pizza pockets and Sunny D. (That’s the way “cool moms” say “Sunny Delight.”)

But where are the “real” moms in those commercials?

Real Moms

A real mom is sitting in the bathroom, and the ENTIRE family is standing outside of the bathroom door asking “URGENT” questions like,

“What are we having for dinner?”

“Have you seen my book?”

“Doesn’t HE  have to put the dishes away today, because I already did it TWO TIMES YESTERDAY!!”

A real mom doesn’t realize till dinner that her shirt has been on inside-out all day.

Real moms have library books that they have paid for three times, thinking one day they’ll find it.

Real moms lose socks in every load.

Real moms go to the store for milk, and come home with seven things…and no milk.

Real moms fit four little people (preferably her kids) with her in one bathroom stall in the airport.

Real moms know what the code for “lost toddler” is on the Kohls intercom. (Thank you, Kohls, for handling us real moms.)

Real moms wonder if their hair can last one more day unwashed without attracting a social worker’s inspection.

Real moms know evolution can’t be true or else she’d have seven arms by now.

Real moms have the super power of finding things in the fridge that aren’t even at eye level.

Real moms can listen to the conversation behind them while talking to the one in front of them.

Real moms know how to hide the green beans under the bananas on the baby food spoon, can distinguish their baby’s cry in a nursery full of screamers and recognize the meaning behind every cry: hungry, hurt, or trying to get brother into trouble.

Real moms stop and blow bubbles.

A real mom has Good Night Moon memorized, even if her youngest child is eight.

Real moms know how to read aloud in characters’ voices in bedtime stories.

Real moms spend hours…or days…distraught over their children’s behavior.

Real moms leave knee prints in the carpet.

Real moms live life at the speed of their slowest child – even the special needs one.

Real moms hurt when their children hurt.

Real moms are sad when their kids leave for college…or kindergarten.

Real moms sometimes fall in bed at night, not fitting into their skinny jeans, second-guessing their every word to their kids that day, and wondering if tomorrow will be any different.

Real moms have days when they think they will party when the last goldfish dies.

And real moms shed a tear when it does.

Because when the last goldfish dies

It means the child has grown up a bit

“Back-scratching times” are almost done.

Bedtime stories are about to be silent.

The misspellings on the funeral invitations may almost be over.

Childhood appreciates after it is gone.

When the last goldfish dies, so does a little bit of childhood; and I suppose it is buried alongside a little bit of the “real mom-hood” that goes with it.

Gotta go!

–   back to being a real mom,

Terri

fish grave

Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

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Why is There a Dead Bird on the Air Hockey Table?

Dear Lindsey,

I got off to a start this morning. My oldest drove himself to school. The next three kids and I loaded into the car before Chris was even downstairs for breakfast. Off to the appointments we headed when I got a text from Chris that changed my day:

“Why is there a dead bird on the air hockey table?”photo_2

Stopped at a red light, I read the text aloud to the kids in the car, sure that my backseat held the culprits.

“[silence]”

Suddenly, the 13-yr-old in the front seat was stifling giggles that refused their restraint and started sneaking through his pursed lips in bursts.

Shocked, and trying to be strict, I subdued the humor of the text – but my own choked laughter (holding up my cup to hide my smile) led to the coffee-down-the-wrong-pipe-choke, so I prayed the light would stay red for a while as I tried to get oxygen.

That’s when the back seat spoke with remorse:

“We felt bad it died yesterday in the back yard, and we were going to bury it…”

“…But the dog was going to eat it…”

“… we couldn’t find the shovel…”

“…then Nate asked if I would throw football…”

“…and I didn’t want to have a funeral without people…”

“…and then we left for evening church in a hurry…”

At eight and ten-years-old, their voices are undistinguishable, so I couldn’t tell which Dead Birdone was talking when (and I was seriously just trying to breathe again), but I got the gist of their story. I only wish that Chris had not been the first to find the carcass: a messy house drives him crazy! Although I can’t think of too many people that are happy when they find a dead bird on the air hockey table.

Irresponsible!

They are not getting this “pick up after yourself” thing that I have been teaching since before they were born!

Oh my…I cannot put into words to even speak to these two right now. They know what they did was wrong!

That’s when my thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a protective (or perspective) mechanism:

  • Thank You, God, that we found the dead bird on the air hockey table today, and not next week when guests are here.
  • Thank You, God, that my kids have good hearts that had compassion for Your creation. (I am glad they were not ruined by my roadkilling a few years ago.)
  • Thank You for a 13-yr-old who was mature enough to see it wasn’t a life-threatening, eternal consequences moment (but that he stifled his laughter until the lesson was taught).
  • Thank You that they put the thing in the bug cage, so at least if it had bugs on it, they were contained in the cage…and I hope that means they didn’t actually touch the dead bird.
  • Thank You for creating the birds that we could fall in love with, even when we don’t know them.
  • Thank You that I didn’t choke to death. (And thank You that the choking reminded me to say thank You that I don’t have a brain tumor…as it always reminds me now.)
  • Thank You that my children will never bring a dead bird in the house again. (I believe.)
  • Thank You that I have children.
  • Thank You for the dead bird on the air hockey table that reminded me of so much for which I can be thankful.

I think it’s ironic… I was trying not to get too bent out of shape, so I made a list in my mind of what to be thankful for (my normal redirection mechanism), and I ended up being thankful for the exact thing I was trying to reframe: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

When Bad Things Happen

I think the point here is that this mechanism is applicable to bigger issues than dead birds on the air hockey table. When I go through bad times (This began during my years of massive headaches while I had young toddlers!), I have a protective mechanism of listing things (at least three each time!) for which I am thankful. It is ironic to me the number of times when I am listing thankfulness to distract me from a problem – and give me perspective – that the list goes all the way back to thanking God for the exact problem with which I started: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

I suppose one of these days, I will be able to skip the “Why?…” part and get to the “Thank You, God for even this,” faster.

A friend, Jane Zempel, spoke at my church recently about “contentment.” She told a story of figuring out what one thing is so bad in life that you would want God to change. What one thing would you get rid of? If you were granted only one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?

“Now thank God for that one thing,” she said.  “It’s amazing how when I did this, I had to force the words ‘thank You,’ but once they were said, enough times, I realized I could believe it.”

She went on to say that when we believe that God is sovereign over all, we can say thank You for even the things we don’t want, because we recognize God has a plan in even them.

When her son came home from school in tears (again) at age twelve, being teased as a “retard” for having Down Syndrome, she taught him this lesson of saying, “thank You,” even for Down Syndrome, because God had a purpose in his life. She saw that purpose thirty years later when her son told a doctor what a “blessing” Down Syndrome was to him…and it changed the doctor!

When things are rough….

When we can’t change it all…

or when we can’t change even one thing…

Let us give thanks.

Make the list now. To what do we owe God “Thank You”?

What if you woke up today with only the things for which you said thank You yesterday?” – Peter Bonner

I am thankful for you!

In love,

Terri Brady

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1Thes 5:18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1Tim 6:6

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

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The Book is Here!

Introducing: Letters to Lindsey in book form!

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Thanks to my husband’s initiative and his incredible, creative team; thanks to you who requested it; and thanks to the late Russ Mack who persistently encouraged it: Letters to Lindsey (the book) is available! With a foreword by Laurie Woodward and introduction by my best-selling husband Chris, let the stories begin! The chronicled journeys through infertility and the brain tumor survival,  tea parties and fishing trips, along with enflamed underwear (size 4T) on a chandelier are all decorated with my kids’ cute quotes in Post-It note form.  It’s a short read, a long read or anything in-between. So curl up with a blanket in front of the fire, make some fresh popcorn and hot chocolate, (or just go to the beach!) and relish some quiet reading time as you laugh with me, cry with me, and grow with me!

Enjoy!

-Terri Brady

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Readers (you!) in line for book-signing in Milwaukee, WI.