Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Confessions of a Holiday Hypocrite

Rewind a month and a half to the beginning of December last year.  The hope and joy of  the Christmas season lay spread before me as thoughts  of maximizing holiday fun and education swirled through my head.  On this blog, I shared with you our plans for the Christmas Adventure Box and other Christmas traditions.   I envisioned handmade gifts and peaceful evenings at home near the brightly lit tree. I had the best laid plans…and like many best laid plans, they went awry.

Yes, I fell prey to Pinterest Syndrome, quite deadly to a mama’s often already shaky confidence.  Pinterest Syndrome begins with a few deceptively simple ideas, really good ideas mind you, but it grows into a nasty and surprisingly strong anticipation of all things good and no things ordinary or, heaven forbid, even bad.  Expectations soar to incredible heights, destined to plummet at the first sign of potential failure.  And here I thought I was creating a “simple” Christmas this year… (I’ll forgive you if you snicker a little at this point.)

In my defense, the holiday season was progressing suspiciously well for our family.  Thanksgiving came and went with no major incidents, unlike years past.  Everyone was healthy for the moment, a rare winter treat in a family of six.  My husband and I even managed to put up the Christmas tree and lights with no arguing and minimal frustration, despite the circus of craziness that four enthusiastic children create when forced to wait.  We felt like champions!  We had conquered a pattern of holiday frustration for the first time in years!

Then somewhere along the line, life began to get very real.  Our youngest son, four years old,  decided the holiday season would be a good time to test our parental authority, especially at family gatherings and in other publicly humiliating places including the church Christmas play dress rehearsal.  Not exactly the peace I had anticipated.  Our budget grew tight.  I grew stressed about all of the things on my list.

On top of all of that, we became suddenly busy with all of the typical holiday concerts and gatherings.  So much for those quiet evenings at home listening to my favorite Christmas cds. Instead we hustled back and forth from our children’s school to the church, to  the store, to family gatherings, and so forth.  And it was all fun and good and mostly necessary, but it does make one a little weary. 🙂

bare tree, winter, disappointment

For the most part, I was able to maintain the joy and hope of the season, after all there was a lot of sweet memory-making sprinkled into the mix, but I held onto a dark secret.

After all of the praise and promise of the Christmas Adventure Box that I shared with you, we didn’t even manage to do it this year!  At all.  Nothing.  Nada. Zip.  It just didn’t happen.  In fact, the only traditions we managed to hang onto after the decorating of our tree were the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible and our Christmas Eve supper.  I didn’t even attempt to mail out Christmas cards and I had no pictures available for family members like I usually would.  I felt like a failure.

Add to that  a little family drama and my carefully planned and highly anticipated season of hope and joy crumbled before me.  The disappointment that followed was slightly bitter and came with a side dose of  viral illness, as well as over a foot of snow, that kept me and most of our children cooped up at home for weeks…. literally.

I could have blogged about it, but to be honest, I felt unworthy.  I struggled with the disappointment and the frustrations of life that were getting in my way.  And so like most hypocrites, especially those who succumb to Pinterest Syndrome on occasion, I hid from you all.   I quit writing.  I quit taking pictures.  I made excuses and planned to resume in the new year.  And when I was finally struck with the viral plague that entered our home, I wallowed in my misery.  For a few days, God and I were barely on speaking terms. 🙂

Honestly, I’m not sad that I took time away from writing here to spend on such a worthy cause as family time.  But I am disappointed in my hypocritical self, not so much for failing to get the Christmas Adventure Box done – after all, it’s not the most important thing in life and sometimes as mamas we have to pare life down to just the nitty gritty in order to survive with sanity (and with a family who still loves us and wants to be around us…). 🙂

My disappointment is more in my hiding away in blogger shame and silence.

The thing is that I believe in Grace, I really do.  I’m very aware that without Grace, I’d be a hopeless mess, truly I would.  With Grace I still have nothing to boast about except for a God who gives second chances, and third, and fourth, to infinity and eternity, a God who loves me deeply for who I am, not for who the world thinks I should be, a God who through the blood of Jesus, sees the best version of me even when I’m acting my worst.  But like many mamas, I have a hard time extending that grace to my own self.

So, I confess.  I’ve been a Holiday Hypocrite.  In fact, I could be called an everyday hypocrite, too,  because I’m far from perfect, so far.  I still lose my temper. I still forget important events. I still argue with my husband and become impatient with my children.  I’m still selfish with my time.  I’m still prideful.  I still say “no” to the Holy Spirit in so many ways.  I’m still learning who God made me to be.

But that’s the beauty of our journey, sisters, that we get chance after chance to do things differently.  Those failures we feel so deeply are not the end of the story.  We are given infinite opportunities to let our Father God change who we are, from the inside out.  And that good work He began in saving us from a life of sin, He promises to continue to the very end.  We can have complete confidence in that!

red berries, winter, hope

So, keep up the good work, my sisters in Christ, even if your holidays or your New Years failed to live up to your expectations. Fight the good fight.  Run the good race.  And when you fail or fall, let Him pick your hypocritical self  back up again and hold you for a while, heal your wounds if needed, and send you off on your way , but not alone for He runs alongside you.

Don’t let those fiery darts from the Enemy bog you down, not now, but put on the full armor of God so you will stand firm in your faith. No more hiding away, no more pretending to be something we are not, no more fearing what the world thinks.  Just being okay with the fact that we are sinners, helpless and hopeless sinners, but He loves us anyways.  And His work is not yet complete.

“Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 115:1

Jen 🙂

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Co-hosting the Get Inspired with Us Pinning Party!

I have been invited to co-host my first blogging linky party this week!  So, if you have any pin-worthy posts to share, join in the fun!  Just follow the directions below and remember to link up your pin’s url and not your post’s url.  Enjoy! 🙂

Here we go! Week #13… and it’s time to link up your fabulous pins!!

Get Inspired Pinterest Link Party

Here’s the rundown…

  1. You can link-up ANY pins that you’d like with the exception of Giveaways.
  2. This hop will now be featured on 6 blogs! We have 3 WEEKLY co-host spots and YOU could be next weeks co-host!
  3. The weekly co-hosts will be selecting the FEATURED PINS at each week’s party.
  4. Every week, each FEATURED PINNER will be given the option to co-host the FOLLOWING week’s party! 🙂

Our Featured PIN”s will be a REQUIRED re-pin in order to link-up the following week! That means, if you are Featured, and we have 60 link-up’s that weekend, your PIN will be RE-PINNED 66 times including the hosts & co-hosts. The number of times your Featured Pin will get re-pinned depends on the amount of link-ups we have that week.

Yes, we’re making it MORE FUN to Link-up with us 🙂

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Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Sanity Saving Chore Charts

Last summer we sold our home and moved to a new town so that we could live in the community that we are currently ministering to.   We were very blessed to be able to move into a larger home with plenty of open space downstairs.  I just knew it would be perfect for the kids and perfect for entertaining people from our church, as well as new neighbors and friends.  What I didn’t count on was the time it would take to adjust to cleaning and maintaining a larger home!

Perhaps it wasn’t only the larger house but also the fact that we’d spent the previous year living with the bare minimum as most of our possessions were packed away in an attempt to present a tidy, de-cluttered home-for-sale to possible buyers. When we unpacked all of our “stuff” at our new home, it was a lot more to keep track of and we had not yet established where each item belonged.  Perhaps part of the problem was that our children, particularly our then 3-year-old twins, had grown a lot, which meant bigger messes, more loads of laundry, and additional cooking for those growing appetites.  Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest decision to also take on a new pet so soon after moving (our beloved cat, Cheddar).

Whatever factors were involved, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the cleaning projects that come with maintaining an older, farm-style home that had not been lived in for at least a year, if not longer.

Nevertheless, I struggled for months with being overwhelmed by the housework and feeling like I was always “behind.”  Because I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, every little mess the kids made irritated me – every spilled cup, every toy left out, every article of dirty clothing on the floor – and I often found myself grumping at them even as I was telling myself to have patience.  I felt like I was losing my mind!  It was as if I was stuck in Romans 7, knowing what I wanted to do, but feeling utterly incapable of doing it.  A storm raged within, threatening to unleash itself at any given moment.

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So, after many tears of frustration and quite a bit of prayer, my husband and I sat down to discuss the situation in hopes of finding a solution.  We decided it was high time to expect a little more of our four children.  You see, our children have always had chores, but we both admitted that we’d become a little lax in our supervision of them, which was understandable.  It had been a busy year and a half of selling our old home and of settling in, not only to our new home, but also to new ministries we were attempting at our church.

We decided that the best way to save my sanity was to create a new chore system!  I set about researching some age appropriate chores since we have such a wide age-span in our family, and we quickly realized that we failed to see how much our children had grown.  I don’t mean that we failed to notice the obvious that they were taller, older, but that we failed to notice they were now more mature and more capable of handling more difficult tasks.

For our younger two children, we chose this flip-up system with pictures of each daily chore they have.  When all chores are finished and flipped up, they can see their name.  Need a little help getting started? You can check out my pinterest board  (http://pinterest.com/stults6/parenting/)  for DIY tutorials that I used as a base for building my own.  (Also, my amazing sister has taken these flip charts a step further with some great ideas at her new blog Love Notes.  In addition to the flip charts, she utilizes a morning and evening checklist and a chore jar, where children get to choose an extra chore to complete and receive a nice prize.)

Preschool chores focus mainly on taking care of the body, and beginning to take responsibility for their own messes.  For our children, we chose to incorporate things that we would like to become daily habits such as: brushing teeth, making bed, getting dressed, clearing dishes from the table, picking up laundry, and picking up toys.

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They both remain very enthusiastic about flipping up the chores they have done each day, even after several months have passed!  In fact, our daughter often wants to do her bedtime chores (laundry) in the morning because she wants her name to be complete, and sometimes she even reminds us of a chore they haven’t yet done. On the other hand, our youngest son is a good follower and enjoys the praise of a job well done. 🙂

Our older boys have a much more complex chore chart that is laminated so it can be re-used.  We use dry-erase markers to check things off.  One of the things I like most about the chart for the older boys is that it is divided into categories that emphasize different areas of their personal responsibilities.

The categories for their charts include taking care of: my body, my room, our home, our vehicles, our pets, and my relationship with God. They have daily responsibilities as well as a few weekly responsibilities.  Some of the weekly responsibilities have options to allow for personal choice, and the tasks in that area of the chart are more difficult for our oldest son, who is 13.  Again, if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at my pintrest board.  The chart we came up with was a combination of several different ideas.

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(One important note: the “Taking care of my relationship with God” area is included mostly as a reminder to our older boys. Honestly, I wasn’t really sure whether to include it or not, but we decided to.  Since that relationship is personal in nature, we encourage them to make it a priority daily, but we don’t force them to. We don’t want time with God to be assigned a “task” status.)

In our home, chores are part of being a family and working together toward a common goal, which is to be good stewards of the material things God has blessed us with.  We believe that doing chores helps our children to learn personal responsibility as well as team-workFor that reason, we do not pay our children an allowance in relation to their chores.  Instead, we reserve allowance for teaching financial stewardship and how money works in general, but that is just our family preference.

However, our older boys were understandably less excited about the new charts, and our 7-year-old was so overwhelmed by the change that he was practically in tears.  (What he didn’t realize is that most of the things on his list were things he already does on a daily basis, like brushing his teeth and making his bed.) In an attempt to lighten the mood and help them adjust to additional responsibilities, we added a bonus for good attitudes and for helpfulness without prompting – an additional 50 cents on their allowance.

Now, for our new chore system to function well, we realized that we would need a consequence for those times when our older boys failed to complete their chores.  We wanted the consequence to be more of a learning opportunity (“the punishment fits the crime” approach).  Eventually we settled on this method:  if there is a pattern of a chore going undone, then the consequence would be to complete the undone chore, as well as an additional one.

I love this solution!  It simultaneously helps me and provides an unpleasant experience that they don’t wish to repeat. I’m happy to report that we rarely have to enforce consequences with the chores because the boys really, really dislike doing extra chores.

Although we’ve had a few bumps along the way, our house has been much tidier in general, considering we have four children living here.  I no longer feel overwhelmed on a daily basis.  Additionally, I’m less uptight about the messes the little ones make because I know they’ll be picking them up before bed.  My sanity has been restored!!  Perhaps most importantly, I know that developing these good habits now will benefit them greatly as they grow into adulthood.

Although initially the chore charts mean a little more work for us parents in supervising and making sure tasks are completed (or even teaching a new skill), the goal is to eventually make parenting a little easier in this area of keeping a tidy home. Our hope is that one day we won’t even have to ask them if they have completed their chores because checking the chart on their own will become so habitual that they will no longer need our reminders.

So, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by your housework, feeling taken for granted as the one who cleans up after everyone, or feeling like you just might lose your mind, consider the following questions.

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  1. Who does the chores?  Are you expecting enough help from your children, or do they think it is just Mom’s job to clean up after everyone all of the time?  Or do you often take on the majority of the work because it’s easier to just “do it yourself?”  I admit to being guilty as charged on both accounts previously.  However, especially if you have sons, try to consider how their future wives might feel about this unhealthy portrait of what a wife and mother is “supposed” to do.  At the same time, think of the message you are sending your young daughters.  Yes, we are called to be homemakers, managers of the household, but that does not mean we have to do everything on our own! 🙂
  2. Are the chores age-appropriate?  If, like me, you failed to realize how “big” your babies are getting, you might want to rethink your expectations of them. If you are unsure of what chores are appropriate for your children, a quick google search or pintrest search will return a wealth of information!
  3. Are the chores focused on teaching your children personal responsibility? One of our goals with the new charts was to emphasize the stewardship aspect of chores. We want our children to learn to take care of their things and the things we share commonly, such as our home and vehicles.
  4. Are the chores fairly distributed?  Yes, older children are capable of handling more responsibilities than younger children.  However, avoid burdening one child with the majority of responsibility.  For example, when in a hurry to tidy up previously, I would ask our oldest son to pick up the toys. He is generally helpful and I knew he would do a good job.  However, when my husband and I looked at teaching personal responsibility, I realized I was making a mistake.  It wasn’t really his mess to clean up; therefore, it was unfair of me to ask him to take care of something his younger brother and sister should really be responsible for.  With the new chore system, we really worked at making sure he wasn’t bearing a disproportionate load just because he is older and is more compliant.  Additionally, make sure you don’t put off the majority of the housework onto your children. Mom should have her own set of chores to do (Dad too)!  Lead by example. 🙂

For now I am very happy (and sane!) with our current chore system, but I’m sure after a time we’ll need to look at it again and make changes. I wouldn’t mind trying out a few different methods to give the children a variety, to keep it fresh and exciting.  However, the lessons we learned about what to expect from our children will remain helpful and our over-all goals will probably change very little. Thankfully, I now feel like I”m living less in Romans 7 and more in Romans 8 (the whole “we are more than conquerors” chapter!).  If you don’t currently have a chore system in place, why not give one a try? It just might save your sanity!

Jen 🙂

What methods do you use for teaching responsibility and team-work in the home?  Give us your best advice in the comments!

For more great ideas on how to maximize the flip charts for younger children, check out this blog:

http://sarahjofairchild.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/bogo-mommyhood-chore-charts/

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