Today begins my journey through Cleaning House, A Mom’s 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, by Kay Wills Wyma. While the title may suggest that I have some serious issues to address with my children, this book is actually for me, too. In my quest to live a more full and balanced life, I am learning that the habits we create play a critical role in determining whether extremes will be the exception or the norm in our lives.
Cleaning house is definitely one of those extremes for me. I’m usually either all in or all out. When I clean, I clean like a mad woman, but when I don’t, I DON’T! Over the years, this roller coaster approach has created a ton of undue stress on our family. I like to think that it’s because I have three growing boys who are constantly making the messes and never cleaning up after themselves; or that we are a family of creative minds who can’t be consumed with too much structure, because the creativity may not flow! (How’s that for a total crock?)
Just like any other parent, I want to teach my boys healthy habits now, so they, too, can experience a full and balanced life filled with personal accountability, a strong work ethic, and a propensity for putting others first. (And yes! So my house can be cleaner, too!) This book seems like the perfect guide to help me in this endeavor.
So let’s dive in!
Chapter 1. Operation Clutter Control–Starting Simple: Beds and Clutter
“…my real responsibility as their mother is to teach, not handle tasks for them. I need to help these kids tackle their tendency toward untidiness before it becomes a permanent fixture in their lives.” Kay Wills Wyma
(For me, I am breaking my own tendency toward untidiness while steering my boys in a better direction.)
Maxwell Maltz’s research determined in the 1950s that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit. New research suggests that it takes up to 2 months to establish a new habit. For the sake of beginning our journey, our first task of beds and clutter includes a month of rewarding ourselves daily, with the expectation that we continue the task even after the month is up.
Wyma suggests placing 31 dollar bills in a jar for each child (And me…hey, don’t judge. $31 is a cute pair of sandals for the summer!) For each morning we make our beds and have the clutter picked up in our rooms and bathrooms, we get to keep a dollar. If the beds are not made and clutter is not picked up in bedrooms and bathrooms, a dollar is taken out. So we all have the opportunity to make $31 by the end of the month.
On this first day, I am happy to report that we all got to keep our dollars!
Some may be wondering why in the world I am writing about this, but Wyma suggests consulting a friend, and while I have some amazing close friends to rely on (who will likely be reading this), I like to think that I’m not the only one with this battle. So why not just share the crazy!
Your Word says in Proverbs 22:6 to “Point (our) kids in the right direction—when they’re old they won’t be lost.” (The Message) Please bless our family endeavor and help us to point our boys in your direction. Amen.
I originally started this post two months ago as I was reflecting on how grateful I am to be able to see each of my boys off to school every morning. This luxury escaped me as a full time teacher, and it’s one I truly cherish now. In fact, in my 5th grade Language Arts classroom, I used to share examples of our crazy mornings to illustrate how conflict creates rising action; yet, while our chaotic mornings worked beautifully to teach important elements of story telling, they did not bode so well for my family. I remember all to often we were rushed and frazzled, and at times it was all I could do to just shoo them off with a quick, “Love ya!”
Fast forward through my quitting teaching and our family moving to a new city, to our three boys starting their first days in new schools. It was during this time that I started asking God to help my children know how loved they are, and that no matter what trials they face, they are fearfully and wonderfully made for His purposes. I started speaking that prayer out loud to each of them every night when we prayed before bed. In my heart, I was hoping it might give them comfort when they were uneasy about their new surroundings, or maybe a bit of courage as they had to step out and make new friends. It was a tangible way for me to speak strength into them through God’s Word. Over the years, this prayer has become the message with which I send my children off to school. In fact, each morning, I give them a hug and I say, “You are?” And they say, “Fearfully and wonderfully made for Christ’s purposes.”
Our world has changed dramatically since I started saying that little prayer with my boys four years ago. Mass shootings and terrorists have gripped our country with fears I never imagined I would have to encounter, let alone confront as a parent. Now, while my children may not know it, that little prayer I send them off with carries much more weight for me. Instead of just hoping it gives them a little jolt of confidence or comfort when taking a test or dealing with friendships, I am secretly, deeply hoping if they ever are confronted with evils that do exist, and neither their dad nor I could be there for them, that this little prayer would give them courage and help them to not fear or feel alone, and that being made for HIS purposes means no matter what, they are His, and they have a higher calling, and that we will see each other again….
The tears I am wiping away as I write this are ones of sadness and confusion…because the thoughts I just shared have been those inside moments I’ve been afraid to fully admit, and seeing them in writing makes them all too real.
And yet, those words bring clarity. It is not enough to just introduce my children to Christ and hope that they will someday understand what it means to have a relationship with him. I had the luxury of a whole lifetime to figure out my faith in a time period that came long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and way before 9/11. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would one day have to explain beheadings and terrorists to my children, let alone mass shootings in their schools.
The sense of helplessness as a parent is gut-checking. But here’s the kicker! It’s right smack there…in the middle of my helplessness…that God is moving me toward action with my children, now! He’s calling with urgency to be more intentional with what I teach my children about Him and His Word. He is shouting for me to recognize that I, too, am fearfully and wonderfully made for His purposes, and my purpose right now, as a parent, could not be any clearer.
Please help me and any who reads this to be strong and courageous in times such as these. Help us to boldly share your immense love for all of your children.
OK, Lord. I get it. I’m not supposed to be able to fix/change all the ills of this broken world.
Instead, I am to Look Heavenly.
I’m trying to look Heavenly; toward you.
Soaking up your Word;
Opening my heart;
Being freed from the shackles of fear.
And it is here in this space,
where I feel your unconditional love for me so purely.
It strengthens me,
renews my soul,
revives my hope,
because you love me wholly.
And it is here in this space,
where I know for certain that
no matter what is spinning out of control in this world,
your love is constant.
No matter my flaws, failings, quirks,
your love remains.
You. Love. Me. Wholly.
It is here in this space,
where your desire for me to ALSO love wholly
takes hold of my heart.
To see each person I come in contact with as one of your children.
To not judge their flaws, failings, or quirks.
To reflect the light of the love that you show me minute to minute.
It is here in this space,
where I am no longer paralyzed by the world.
Instead, I am emboldened to love as you do. Wholly. Completely. Unconditionally.
Pressing the zoom out button on my “Google Earth” of a life,
my eyes are drawn to a big world that is full and messy,
with good battling evil on every front.
I see arms races and drug cartels,
wars and refugees.
I see beheadings and persecution,
human trafficking and slavery.
I see poverty and hunger,
natural disasters and homelessness.
The list goes on…
It’s overwhelming, and too much for me to take in.
How do I even begin to wrap my head around it all?
Here’s the truth. I can’t. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s too much, too big, too evil.
But here’s some more truth. I’m not supposed to be able to wrap my head around it all, (even though the media seems to think I need to!) Instead, I am driven to see my own futility in changing everything in the world on my own.
So what do I do?
The only thing I know I can do.
Look to the promises I know that I have in Christ; that He can and does bring good out of the most horrific tragedies.
Look to the comfort that His ways are greater than my ways.
Look to the bigger picture reminding me that I am a tiny speck of dust on His timeline, and while I can’t (and am not supposed to be able to) fix/change the whole world, He has many things He wants me to do right where I am, right now.
Look to HIM.
Pray. Talk to Him. Pour out my heart to Him.
I can do that.
One day at a time.
Part 2: Love Wholly
Which Will We Be?
Quick to listen
or hasty to speak?
Slow to anger
or pounce for defeat?
Build up with words
or tear down, ridicule?
Show compassion and mercy
or pride make us fools?
Be the only Christ one may ever see,
or cast shadows of doubt to those in need?
Our Savior calls us to follow, draw near,
seize every chance to make it clear…that
We are forgiven because His life He gave.
He is love, He is mercy, He is eternal grace.
Which will we be?
“If you’re a Christian…you’re not supposed to drink.”
As I order a second glass of wine.
“If you’re a Christian…you’re not supposed to talk like that!”
As I cover my mouth after dropping the F-bomb.
“If you’re a Christian…where’s your Bible?”
As my husband and I enjoy a night out dancing with friends.
“If you’re a Christian…you hate gays.”
As I’m sadly reminded of my uncle who died of AIDs.
“If you’re a Christian…you think you’re perfect.”
As my poofy, frizzy hair won’t style and I question where I stand in this world.
“If you’re a Christian…I bet you only watch FOX News.”
As I flip the channel from CNN to BBC to MSNBC.
If you’re a Christian…
I am a Christian…I know I am broken,
but through Christ, I’m still loved unconditionally.
I am a Christian…I fall short every day,
but through Christ, I’m always forgiven.
I am a Christian…I question my worth,
but through Christ, my heart is redeemed.
I am a Christian…I have felt alone,
but Christ adopted me into His family.
I am a Christian…I have felt left out,
but through Christ, I found acceptance and purpose.
(Since I am a Christian…I’ll watch all those news channels,
and remember that Christ leads the way! )
My closest friends know how hesitant I am about going back to work. Some of them know, all too well, what I was like working fifty-sixty hours/week with an all or nothing perspective. (My husband and children especially know.)
I’ve learned so much, though, during the last four years since I’ve been at home for my family. In fact, my dear friend, Heather, coined a wonderful phrase years ago that would describe me as having some serious “frying pan moments”–those moments that take you so long to hear what God is trying to tell you, that when you finally do hear, it’s like a big ole frying pan whacking you upside the head!
Have you ever had one–or twenty of those?
Here’s the one that hit me upside the head the hardest, and as I slowly take steps back into that “working” space again, I don’t ever want to forget it!
For God has not given us a spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7
Why is it then, God, that we are so prone to going there…to the worst-case scenarios, the terrible conclusions, to hopeless visions of what may or may not happen? Is it because tragedies inundate us on TV and social media, so our minds just automatically go there? Are we trying to do life in our own strength and have lost sight of what your will is for us? Or maybe we just don’t fully understand or we forget that your will doesn’t include that spirit of fear? Maybe it’s all three…
All I know for certain, God, is that time and time again, you have shown me during my darkest hours and most challenging times that when I finally STOP and release my clenching fists enough to let you take my hand, I begin to see that most of those horrible worst-case scenarios were all in my head. More importantly, though, when I had to face real difficulties, you gave me a strength and a peace that I could never muster on my own.
Thank you for being consistent. Thank you for not expecting me to be.
(Thank you to retired Pastor, Harry Kennon, for giving me the title to this post over 12 years ago when he shared a sermon that has resonated ever since.)