Press on and keep the compassion and grace coming…

Baby Sarah loving on her buddy.  May we always love like this...

Baby Sarah loving on her buddy. May we always love like this…

I think we are all trying to raise our kids right. Are we trying to make perfect kids? I hope not because that is NOT happening. Hopefully our aim is to raise up incredible, God fearing, humble, compassionate and courageous adults. And, we are going to have great successes, along with incredible failures…sometimes daily failures. But, more and more lately I have been convinced that as long as we Moms are still pressing on and allowing Christ to continually shape, convict and CHANGE us; we cannot help but be the best example for our children. Let us not get complacent or satisfied with where we are in our walk. Heaven knows, we are not perfect!! But, His likeness should be our goal!! And, it is up to us to press on.

And, in the process of allowing Him to shape and change us, we will shape and change our children. We don’t need more books or blogs. We just need to have a desire for His word; and He desires our time. We all have the time. It is up to us to prioritize it for Him.

One of the biggest lessons that I have been talking about with our kids lately is compassion and grace. Since we have been home schooling our kids—they are always with me. Always. So, there are plenty of opportunities to have lots of conversations. People can be mean, rude and flat out ugly. And, my kids see it and have asked, “Why were they so mean, Mommy?” or grumpy…we use that word a lot. I am always thankful for those situations. I love explaining to them that yes, they were not the nicest, and perhaps, yes, that was flat out mean. BUT, we have NO idea what is going on in that person’s world right now. NO IDEA.

And, before we get all huffy, let’s make some possible scenarios that might be making them grumpy. Here are some examples we talk about: maybe they are sick, or hungry, or tired. Or worse yet, maybe someone they really love is REALLY sick, or has died. Or their Daddy has lost his job. You get the idea. I am trying so hard to teach our kids to give people the benefit of the doubt—to assume the best in someone, not the worst. It is hard sometimes—like getting cut-off while we are driving…but hey! Maybe they are in labor and NEED to get to the hospital!

I don’t know. But, maybe, just maybe, one child at a time, we could help make a more grace-filled and compassionate world.

Blessings, sweet Mommas.

xo, Lori

Are you spiritually fat? Because I was…and I am still working on it…

James 1:19-23

James 1:19-23

I have not worked out in weeks.  My scale hasn’t gone up, but I’ve noticed.  I’m a little mushier, less energetic and more irritable.  Our bodies need exercise–no matter how or what kind, we need it.  Not to be skinny; because Lord knows THAT isn’t happening, nor do I desire to be “skinny”.  I want to be healthy and feel comfortable in my clothes.  But, if I don’t DO it, no one is going to do it for me, and I’ll keep feeling like crap-o-la.  No thank you.  But, with our new adventure of home schooling, my time is far more limited.  Like everything though, what is my priority?  Because if I can’t find 25 minutes to hang out with my frienemy Jillian Michaels, I NEED to make an adjustment in my day.  So I finally did.  I am squeezing in my work out during “recess.”

What a difference that makes.  And, as I was working out, I reflected on my spiritual life.  And there was a time when I was spiritually void and spiritually obese.    I think there are four places we can be: 1. Spiritually void. 2. Spiritually obese. 3. Spiritually fit. and 4. Spiritually skinny. And, as you can guess, being spiritually fit is our best place to be.

Before I came to know the Lord as I do now, I was spiritually void.  I knew nothing of the Bible, knew nothing of Jesus, really, and I only had religion.  Did you know that Jesus is not at all interested in our religion?  I grew up in the Catholic church.  I hated it.  Dreaded EVERY Sunday.  I hated CCD classes.  But, I was forced to go by my parents, so I did.  Now listen–if you are Catholic reading this–don’t get mad at me.  This is kind of like how we can talk bad about our mothers all we want–but if anyone else says something about our Momma–watch out, because them are fighting words.  I was Catholic–so I know all about it and I believe the root of the church was great.  But, too many people got in the way of God’s beautiful Word.  Anyhow, I had a spiritual hole in my heart.  I knew something was missing, but did not realize it until college that it was Jesus–a relationship with Jesus is what I was missing.  I was spiritually VOID.  If you are spiritually void–don’t be any longer.  Seek The One who gives life–and life more abundantly.

I quickly became spiritually obese.  And I was for YEARS!  If your story is anything like mine, then you discovered a whole new life in the Lord and became hungry for His Word and the truth.  Poured yourself into Bible studies and ate up every message on Sunday and possibly Wednesdays too.  That was me–for YEARS.  But, as we worked through the book of James, I was so convicted–in countless ways.  But most of all I realized just how superficial I was and how spiritually fat I was.  I had been stuffing myself full of His Word daily, studying it intensely, but I was sharing it with no one, really, other than my Bible study girls.  James so badly is trying to have us realize that if we really are His, then there will be tangible evidence of it. And the only real evidence of a life sold out to Christ  is by our works.  What are “works”?  It is righteous behavior that conforms to God’s Word—specifically compassion.  Now, please don’t hear that James is opposing faith.  He isn’t.  What he is saying is that our faith can’t just be intellectual, in our heads—void of any commitment to active obedience.  Let us not be mere “hearers” of the Word, getting fatter every Sunday, but pouring it back out into our community in love, as “doers.”

Often times, as new believers we can be fearful that we don’t know enough to serve, etc. That, sweet sister, is the enemy whispering to you to keep your light from shining for all to see.   Do not listen to his lies and step out there and get serving. Don’t be like I was and make excuses…I don’t have enough time, we are too busy. We are all busy. Do you think the people out there living it out for Christ have a life less busy than you and me? Hardly. They are making Christ and sharing His love a PRIORITY.  And we all need to do the same.  There are countless ways to serve – anyone can be a greeter at church, well, maybe not Oscar the Grouch, but any else.  Let us not just donate the cans of food that have been in our pantry for too long once or twice a year and check it off our “good person check list.” Let us talk to our church—and see where there is a need and pray about filling it. I was so desperate to serve after our James study and my church was so full of healthy servants they didn’t have a place for me! Ahhhh! I was so sad—so I went to Saturday church cleaning days with Hannah and we cleaned our church! Let me tell you–we know how to make a water fountain SHINE!  I wanted more, but I took what I could get.  And, that was the start of my spiritual weight loss program.

We want to incorporate more serving into our family life, but for now, my husband and I teach the youth on Wednesday nights, sponsor our Compassion sweetie Vivian and try our hardest to love people with everything we have by ministering to whomever and however we can.  And, for us right now with 5 children ages 8 and under, this is a full load. But, we are looking to pump up a bit by serving in our community once a month. Just like our physical health—there is always room for growth.  I am going to be so bold to say, if you are not serving in some capacity you most likely have to shed a few pounds, spiritually speaking of course.  Do it.  Because chances are, you know your Spirit has been crying to serve for a long time, but you’ve put other things ahead of it.  There is no joy quite like the feeling of loving others when you know they can give you nothing in return.

Jesus told a parable that also illustrates how true faith reveals itself through doing good to others. Here is Matthew 25:31-46.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats,

And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”

Then they also will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?”

Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Powerful words spoken by our Savior.  One of the most important lessons I have learned is that God isn’t kidding about what He says in His Word.  Do be careful not to take Scripture out of context and jump to conclusions about anything.  And pretty please do not look to Christians instead of Jesus.  So many people yell “hypocrite” when they see a Christian fall from their view that we are perfect.  We are not!  We are ALL sinners!  We ALL blow it!  Why are people so surprised when we mess up?  We are not trying to fall on our faces–most of us.  We are not trying to misrepresent our Savior Jesus.  But good grief–look to Him and His words–not us, mere humans.  We are not holy.  He is.

Oh, how I long to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when I see my Savior someday face to face. I do not want to hang my head, thinking about all the things I put before His service. Again, this is not a “work your way into heaven thing.” We are saved by His grace ALONE. There is nothing we can do to inherit heaven. Christ did it all. But, if we are claiming to be His followers, there should be tangible evidence of that.

I am hoping that as the years of my life press on, I become more and more spiritually fit. Right now, we have a house full of children who need our time, love and attention. But, I STILL need to make time to serve. I didn’t for a long time, and I regret it. I did not grow up serving—I was served. I want my kids to grow up serving—it is just what we do; not this foreign thing that we have to relearn. I pray I am never spiritually fat ever again. Let’s get out there sisters and tend to the needy, love the hurting and feed the hungry. There are countless ways to do it. Do not stress over which one or which way – just DO IT.

But, as much as we can be spiritually void, obese and fit, we can be spiritually skinny too. And just like being too skinny physically—it is not healthy. This is when we have overcommitted ourselves. Now, if the Lord is calling you to a life like Paul—and ministry is every breath you take and every word you utter—you do it and press on! I am praying for you! But, be careful to heed the Holy Spirit. There are tons of great causes and ministries out there-and they all want you and your time. But, just because something is good, does not mean it is what God has for you to do. Pray about what the Lord would have you do. So many families in ministry struggle and have trouble because they are spiritually skinny. They are unhealthy, pouring out too much, and have lost the balance. It is okay to say no. Make sure you are saying yes to some area of service, but be careful not to say yes to everything.

Press on sweet sisters!!  And get spiritually fit if you are not already!

Blessings Mamas,

Lori

Homeschooling; How we got here and our first week…

 

Wow.  I cannot believe so much time has passed since my last post.  But, it was summer and we ALL took a break, from everything.  And it was wonderful!  I sure did miss writing, but I was trying to soak up every second of summer fun with my sweeties before sending them off to 3rd grade, 1st grade and Pre-K…until things changed.

Petersen and I went to church on a Sunday in late June, and we had a guest speaker.  He was from Creation Ministries.  Basically, brilliant scientists (BRILLIANT–they have the credentials to prove it) study and examine all forms of science to prove God’s creation.  It is incredible.  If you have time, check out their website–it is filled with amazing FACTS that will help equip you and your children to defend what we know to be true.  That the Holy Bible is not just stories, it is history.  Anyhow, in the midst of it, my mind started thinking about our kids and school…

Then on the way home, Petersen and I both began talking about how we are not sure we want our children in the public school system anymore.  Before I go any further, can I please just say that I have NOTHING against the teachers in the public school system–I was one!  My parents are retired teachers.  My family and friends are still teaching!  No, this is not about the teachers.  Got it?  Good.

So, we casually looked into a private Christian school that we have heard great things about and we began to pray.  The tuition was extremely reasonable–as private schools go, about $7,500/year.  But, multiply that times 5…yeah, we kept praying.  Nothing.  But, the thought of sending them back to public school was hurting more and more.  I wondered, what is going on??  I never had a problem before; we have always had great experiences–awesome teachers and the kids were doing great.  What in the world?

It was a Tuesday and Wednesday while I was having my quiet time, and home schooling kept popping into my mind.  What? Lord, what?  Oh, you want me to pray for my homeschooling Mommy friends?  Sure…I am sure they need it, because I could NEVER do that.  But, He wouldn’t let me alone about it.  I dared not mention it to Petersen–as we have discussed this before.  Homeschooling is simply not. for. us.  I applauded my friends who did it, but no way, not for me.  But, isn’t it awesome how The Lord can change our heart, if we let Him, so that our plan aligns with His?  Because really, that is our goal–to follow Him; His leading and His guiding.

After church that Wednesday night, Petersen and I were in the kitchen after getting the kids to bed and he starts with, “So, as I’ve been praying about school and the kids…” and basically lays out how he feels like The Lord has been leading him to homeschooling too…

Chills ran up my neck.  I must have looked like a deer in headlights as I stared at him…explaining to him my past two mornings of quiet times.  Ok.  Now what?  Well, I reached out to my amazing friends who have already been doing this and I gleaned from them as much as I could.  Thank you!!  You all know who you are.  Then, I began the process of looking into curriculum.

Wow!  There is so much out there!  I had no idea.  And to make  a long story shorter, God began to confirm our new adventure all over and we took the leap of faith and are full on in it.  I am teaching 3rd grade, 1st grade and Kindergarten.  Bethany misses the cut off for legally being eligible for K by 3 days…and she is ready.  So instead of Pre-K, she is jumping into Kindergarten.  Lucy and Sarah?  They are along for the ride.  Lucy very much wants to be included in everything; so she participates as much as possible.

I am going to attempt to answer a few FAQs that I once had as a non-homeschooling Mommy and for the questions I have received since becoming one of those weird hippie families…

1.  How are you going to teach 3 grades?  I only have 3 students.  We are all learning the same history, science, Bible and geography.  What each child has to do (assignments) will of course vary according to their grade level.  For math; we have math centers.  This gives me one on one time with each child to go over their lesson and get them started on their problems, while the other kids are moving around to other math focused centers.  The same applies for reading, English and spelling.

2.  What about Lucy and Sarah? (My almost 3-year-old and almost 9 month old)  They play or they participate with us.  And, they nap!

3.  What about the rest of the household chores, etc?  Three weeks before school started, I taught the kids how to do “big chores.” Clean bathrooms, dust, mop, separate their laundry, etc.  Every morning before school starts at 8:30, they do their typical morning chores of making their beds, getting dressed, brushing their teeth and now they have a bigger one too.  Meal planning I do while the kids are at recess.  I jump onto Southern Savers, make my list and have it ready by Friday for the next week.  And, in every extra second I have, I am folding laundry, vacuuming, prepping dinner, making double meals to have one for the freezer, and preparing for the next day.  Any and all free time are now gone during the day.  No more scrolling mindlessly through fb (waaaaaahhh!)…I will have to start stalking my friends’ pages on the weekends so I don’t miss anything important!

4.  Are you going to home school them forever?  I don’t know!  Doesn’t The Lord tell us not to worry about tomorrow for it is not guaranteed?  Yes.  And, I have to remind myself that just as quickly as He called us to do this, I have to keep my hand open if He asks us to stop.  I used to have a tight grip on my children, but fear crippled me.  They are His kids.  I just get to be their Mommy.  In our minds, this is for the long haul.  But, we are going to take it one year at a time.

5.  How long does it take you everyday?  So far, we go from 8:30 am to 2:45 pm.  But, the most beautiful thing so far is that at 2:45 we are DONE for the DAY.  No homework.  My children grab their suits and jump in the pool for 2 hours.  Then, when I tell them it is time to come in to get cleaned up for dinner, they are happy to–because they have had HOURS to PLAY!  Oh, this play loving Mommy’s heart is so happy.  During school, they work hard.  I work them hard.  I take this responsibility VERY seriously.  This is not play time.  I am here to educate them.

6.  Are they going to have social time?  Yes.  Trust me, they have lots of social time everyday with each other.  But, it really is amazing as I have recently learned just how much homeschooling has changed over the years.  There is so much available now; groups, co-ops, etc.  There are more opportunities to get together with other kids/families–we could never do it all!  I believe it is true in that it takes a village.  And while my kids were in pre-school, I felt like I was connected to and knew my “village.”  But, as the kids moved on to grammar school, I started to feel more and more separated.  It was no one’s fault, just our family circumstances made it hard to be a part of the kids’ classes on a regular basis.  So, I didn’t know their classmates; I didn’t know their parents.  You want to have a play date with who?  Um, no.  I do not even know who that is.  Sorry.  A group that we are joining this year is so wonderful.  They have all the fun stuff of school, field trips, Father/Daughter dances, mother/son camp outs, a fall hoedown, field day, etc, and the whole family is invited/included.  I am going to get to know the families of my kids’ friends.  Ahhhh, this is exciting.  All this to say yes!  They are going to have plenty of time to socialize with their buddies.

That gets us to our first week…oh the anticipation!  We all were so very excited!!!  The night before came.  I had been working tirelessly everyday

Hannah was in tears before the day even began because she was so excited about seeing all her new goodies, she neglected cleaning one of the bathroom counters (and, yes I made her come do it).  Samuel cried because I moved his clip down for whining about having to write 4 sentences for his morning seat work.  Bethany was crying because her belly all of a sudden hurt (What!?!  You were fine yesterday!!)  And Lucy cried because Bethany looked at her wrong.  Sarah….nope.  She didn’t cry.  Yay!!  I had one survive!!  At one point, Hannah looked at me and said, “This isn’t the best first day of school Mommy, everyone is crying.”  No kidding.

But, in the midst of all that, I saw the beauty in it.  I was with my children–who are already older than I’d like.  And now I know exactly what they are being taught.  I feel like we have just side-stepped off the hamster wheel.  And it feels so good.  Especially for us as a large family, this is so fitting.  It frees us up in so many ways.  I wanted so badly to be involved in my kids classes, but with little ones it was nearly impossible.  We would love property–this now frees us up to live anywhere.  No longer bound by school zones.  My husband now gets good time with the kids at the end of the day.  Whereas before, they were exhausted and cranky from being at school all day, then laboring over more homework.  Also, we do “school” 4 days a week.  The off day is for either co-op, a field trip or exploring.  Today was our exploring day…hence a little time to write.

Often times, we want to take the kids into the country and escape the madness of the world and live under a rock to shelter them.  But, we are not trying to create kids oblivious to the world.  Maybe my life isn’t about being a world changer; but we want to create world changers.  I am already looking forward to the day when the kids are older and in the mornings before we start our studies for the day, we are drinking coffee together reading the newspaper and discussing current events.  Yes, I have high hopes…

There are going to be good days and bad.  And I am quite confident that I have no idea what I am getting myself into.  But do we ever know, really, when we are starting a new adventure what it is actually going to be like?  I submit no.  Because if we did, where would the adventure be?  I am going to make many mistakes, many,  I know that.  But, I sure do love these students of mine and before I know it they are going to be gone.  We do not want to miss a moment or ever regret not taking this leap of faith.  So, we are off!  And we are excited to see where The Lord takes our family from here!!

Here’s a few pictures from our first week!!  Pray we survive week 2!  Ha!

Blessings sweet Mamas!!

xo, Lori

Our computer/writing center and our calendar.

Our computer/writing center and our calendar.

We are studying the USA this year...our first day patriotic snack.

We are studying the USA this year…our first day patriotic snack.

Hannah practicing her spelling words.

Hannah practicing her spelling words.

Our reading nook...

Our reading nook…

Bethany working on her math...

Bethany working on her math…

IMG_4527

The night before school started...all ready!

The night before school started…all ready!

My big Samuel ready for 1st grade.

My big Samuel ready for 1st grade.

Sweet Bethany on her first day of K!!

Sweet Bethany on her first day of K!!

Lucy was just excited about her new paint!

Lucy was just excited about her new paint!

My Hannah starting 3rd grade.

My Hannah starting 3rd grade.

First day!

First day!

 

Creepy spider that I almost walked into.  We are going to find the name of this one...

Creepy spider that I almost walked into. We are going to find the name of this one…

Hannah exploring today...

Hannah exploring today…

They were so excited to see the pine cone still on the tree...

They were so excited to see the pine cone still on the tree…

IMG_4592

Why wouldn't I want to be with this girl all day?

Why wouldn’t I want to be with this girl all day?

Beautiful day!

Beautiful day!

Ready for our hike--and Nana came too!

Ready for our hike–and Nana came too!

Samuel telling me what he wants me to take a picture of, so we can research is more at home.

Samuel telling me what he wants me to take a picture of, so we can research is more at home.

Our awesome bookshelf made by my hubby to hold all our stuff!!

Our awesome bookshelf made by my hubby to hold all our stuff!!

 

If a picture is worth 1,000 words–then role playing is worth a million!

With every child born into our family, I become a better mother.  Not just a better mother to my children, but to other kids too.  I am SUCH a more compassionate, sympathetic, caring, and understanding Mommy–that I definitely was not before.  I simply could not understand other children’s behavior, actions, etc.  AND, some of the things their parents did and more importantly did not do left me scratching my head all the time.  But, as our family has grown–I’ve grown.  Thank heavens.  Because you know what?  Some kids take a lot longer to be potty trained than others–no matter what you do.  Some kids are just more aggressive than other kids and it takes a LOT more effort to teach them self control than other children.  Some kids will do the opposite of what you ask of them every. time.  While others jump to obey.  And with each of these differences, we as parents have to adjust our parenting style.  Lucky you if all your kids are the same and what you do for one works for all of them!  But chances are, if you have more than 3 kids, your armor has softened, your heart is a bit more tender and you are a little more sympathetic…at least I am.

Character is a BIG deal for our family.  So much more important than being a reading wiz or math genius–we want our kids to love Jesus and love people.  And for us that starts with their character.  But, besides telling them what they should/shouldn’t do, or expecting them to just know what to do, we’ve begun modeling it through acting and story telling.  And, so far this has been the most effective tool for our family.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and we were running late (SHOCKER!!) for Hannah’s ballet class.  I let Hannah out first, telling her to run to class (not wise), as I shuffled the other kids out.  And as we entered the building, I saw Hannah tearing down the hall to get to class on time.  And after she turned the corner, I heard it.  THUMP!  Waaahhh!!  Oh dear…

I rushed to see what had happened.  A little tyke was toddling around the church hallway and Hannah flattened him.  5 year old vs. 1 year old never ends well.  The Mom was super gracious, telling me “it’s ok–he’s got lots of older siblings and is used to it,” but I felt TERRIBLE!  I ran over to Hannah and told her she had to apologize to the little guy.  She flat out refused.  Oh, if there is one thing that gets this Mommy flat out angry–it is an ill mannered child–especially MY CHILD!  Oh, if you could picture it…me death gripping her arm, speaking slowly and lowly into her ear with that deep down, through gritted teeth talk “you’d better go over there and tell him you are sorry Hannah Elizabeth Benjamin, or we are going to have SERIOUS words when we get home” kind of voice.  Didn’t matter.  She refused.  And apart from me hog tying her and moving her mouth and lips for her, there was no way an apology was going to happen.  So, I profusely apologized for my child flattening her sweet boy (ugh), and went home hot with frustration at her behavior.

What in the world?  What is so hard about apologizing?  I know she didn’t mean to run him over…just say SORRY!!!  Then, in honor of Despicable Me 2, a “light bulb” moment occurred.  She was embarrassed.  Completely mortified to the point of hardly being able to stop crying and hiding in my legs.  And after I realized that, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, if I show her what to do, it won’t feel so foreign.  So when the time comes again, she will know exactly what to do and why she must do it.

So, after ballet that day, we talked about what had happened.  Sure enough, she felt terrible and couldn’t face the boy or the Mommy to apologize because she was so embarrassed.  But, I explained to her that even when we hurt someone on accident, an apology is necessary to show you care.  No need to ask for forgiveness–that is for intentional hurt.  But, saying sorry–yes.  So, we re-enacted the whole scene again at home.  Everyone played a role: we had Hannah–the running maniac child, little dude–the sweet boy who was flattened, and Mommy to little dude.  And, can I tell you–they had SO much fun!  And, I could see in all their little faces that they “got it.”  Now understanding that no one is mad at you in such an instance, but that an apology is showing care, concern and love to whomever was hurt accidentally.  Hence the birth of the Benjamin acting school.  Now, we act out everything we can.  The sky is the limit!  We do Bible stories to bring them to life and every kind of social situation I can think of.  We act out what a bully looks like and what to do if you see it happening– if a child “looks different,” and other kids are making fun or being rude.  We tell them “exactly” what to do and say.  I am talking VERBATIM.

This may sound crazy, but again I will go back to coaching–I cannot help it; it is what I know.  As a player, my coach could tell me over and over how to adjust my arm swing or correct my platform for passing, and I understood a little.  But, if he actually showed me or had someone else show me–ah-hah!!  Yes!  I can copy that.  We are visual; kids are visual.  Give them something tangible to copy.  And as you can imagine, I didn’t get it right the first time I tried to adjust my arm swing.  But after practicing it over and over and over and over the RIGHT way, it was second nature.  I no longer had to think about it.  It was what I did.

So yes, we parents need to be examples to our kids in our own behavior.  But, I believe we need to do more than that.  We need to act scenarios out, make up stories and have our child be the hero in it–oh how my kids LOVE those stories.  And not the typical hero saving the damsel in distress…no, simple, everyday heroes–like talking to the new student who is sitting all alone, asking the teacher if they can help clean her classroom,  or be kind to the girl who just spoke ugly to you, tell someone to STOP if they are talking ugly about another child, offer to go last instead of pushing your way to be first (unless of course we are playing a sport), you get the idea.

Are my kids perfect?  Heavens NO!!  But, goodness they are sweet and they are making improvements daily.  And, at the end of the year awards for Hannah’s class a week ago, she was not the top reader or the math or science wiz, but she did receive something far greater in our economy–the “Hero Award.”  Her teacher went on and on about this “special friend” in her class, who had great integrity, honesty, kindness, perseverance, etc.–I was tearing up for whoever this child was–and then she said it was Hannah Benjamin.  Proud Mommy moment?  You bet!  Now, I am fully aware that my girl is VERY capable of behaving totally opposite to all her teacher was saying.  But, the fact that she’s working on it at home and doing a pretty good job of it at school…I will take that.  Yes, I will most definitely take that–and celebrate it!!  And, if you are in the middle of training your children like I am and your child has a moment like my Hannah did (plowing over a kid and refusing to apologize).  Don’t fret.  Just politely tell the other Mother/Father : “Sorry, we are currently working on that character trait.”  And leave it at that.  Then work on it at home.  They will improve and most assuredly do better the next time.  I am wholly committed to train this next generation of kids on how to LOVE in both words and actions.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

Receiving the “Hero Award” from her teacher.

Blessings Sweet Mamas,

xo Lori

For more on saying “sorry” vs. “asking for forgiveness” check this out :

https://onesurrenderedmommy.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-lost-art-of-forgiveness-lets-bring-it-back-because-it-is-beautiful/

 

Why Mother’s Day is the Most Stressful Day of the Year for Men–and why it should be.

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Mother’s Day Picture Attempt from 2012. Classic.

 

I actually always feel a little bad for my husband on Mother’s Day.  Knowing him—I know he wants me to feel super special, spoiled, etc.  But what can he or any man for that matter, ever say or do to truly make us women feel like what we know we are worth?  Sure, we don’t feel like we are worth much many days as we plow through them, working—either at home or at an actual job.  Doing life, caring for our kids by feeding them, clothing them, doing endless laundry, packing lunches, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, prepping for spelling tests, signing folders, sending in snacks, reading with them every night, feeding them, playing with them, wiping them, cleaning up yet another spill, kissing another boo-boo, finding the oh so important missing accessory for a certain toy, brushing hair (BRUSHING HAIR!!!  If you have lots of girls like me—you totally get this!), comforting them after a bad dream, answering endless random questions, being the social coordinator for everyone, doctor visits–planned and sick visits, ER trips, refereeing “heated fellowship” between them, disciplining them, discipling  them, praying with and for them, bathing them, feeding them (not a typo–we are constantly feeding them!!), brushing their teeth, then, rocking and singing to them and tucking them in.  And then wake up to do all of that again.  Every.  Day.

I used to get frustrated often times watching baseball games.  If I ever saw a player not give his all for EVERY play, I would yell at him through my TV, telling him to HUSTLE!  “Come on!”  So aggravating as a former coach to see that.  But, I’ve eased up a bit.  Petersen used to play baseball.  He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and played in their farm league for two years, before he killed his shoulder and had to go to plan B and become an engineer.  And, he reminded me of just HOW many games they played. And that though they get paid A LOT of money, it is still A LOT of games.  Seriously—have you ever looked at a baseball schedule?  So, if a player didn’t lay out for EVERY play, I gave him a break.  Because my screams were really hurting their feelings…

But I think as Moms, we can get the same way.  We LOVE our jobs.  Best job in the world.  But, day after day, year after year, sometimes we can lose the pep in our step.  And it is OK.  And, I am sure glad I don’t have some crazy lady yelling at me—”Hustle up, would ya?  Hup hup hup!!  Mop that floor with some more pep!  Scrub that toilet like you mean it!!  Put your back into it!!  I don’t care if this is the best job ever—show it with some hustle and endless enthusiasm!!”

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The picture I wanted. From 2013. Only took 6 tries to get this.

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Here’s me losing it after a few attempts last year. Nice.

I loved seeing via Facebook the many different ways that my Mom friends celebrated their Mother’s Day.  So many were out and about at brunches, parks, dinner, movies, etc.  It put a HUGE smile on my face seeing them spoiled and loving every second.  Me?  Um, all I wanted to do was sleep.  Is that bad?  And, honestly, I just wanted to be alone.  If you know me at all—you know I ADORE my children.  ADORE them!!  But when, I ask you—other than Mother’s Day OR if you are having a baby in the hospital do you get a “Get out of doing anything/everything for one day” card?  …Maybe that is why we have five kids…for those two glorious days in the hospital of someone else taking care of me…hmmmm…

Ahhhh!  Back on track.  So, how can any husband make a Mom—either the Mother of their children or their Mom (now that they KNOW all that they did for them) feel like they should?  Serious pressure.  There is no breakfast that can make up for the hours and hours spent hovering over a toilet puking our guts out while we were pregnant.  No piece of jewelry that can EVER amount to the PAIN of childbirth.  What’s that—a 10 carat diamond?  Can I remind you that an ENTIRE baby came OUT of me!?!  Big bouquet of flowers?  Awwww, those are pretty, but they cannot make up for the buckets of tears that we Moms have cried over our children.  Either the agony of waiting while trying to get pregnant, the hormonal tears DURING pregnancy, the abundant tears of losing our baby while developing, the tears of joy at their birth, or the years and years of tears to come.  Either from realizing JUST how hard this job is—or crying with our kids when they are hurt.  Nothing.  There is NO THING in this world that can or could ever be an adequate gift for any Mom.  But, can I say.  We sure do appreciate your attempts.

Hearing the muffled giggles of my children Sunday morning was priceless and their squeals of delight when they “surprised” me with breakfast in bed were perfect.  Oooohing and aahhhhing over their homemade Mother’s Day creations brought ginormous smiles to their precious faces.  Telling me OVER and OVER how I didn’t have to help with ANYTHING was darling.  They were SO serious about that in fact—that they even opened my gifts for me.

So, no matter what your Mother’s Day looked like—either out and about, or more like mine (lots of sleeping and napping), I hope you were blessed and honored.  As I think we ALL know just how blessed we are to be called Mothers.

Blessings Sweet Mamas.

xo, Lori

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The only Mother’s Day picture I took this year. Our sweet blessing #5, Sarah Noelle. Sleepy baby and Happy Mommy.

 

The Birds and the Bees, the clothes beast, traveling with 5 kids, my not so perfect birthday dinner and more…It has been quite the month!

So, in the past month we have traveled from north Georgia to south Florida TWICE for weddings, hosted Easter dinner with family in town, spent too much money on our car, discussed the “birds and the bees” with our almost 8 year old, planted a vegetable garden, switched out clothes for 5 kids due to sizing and season changes, and in between all that–the usual day to day of life in a big family, with soccer practices and games, church on Sunday and Wednesday, and the daily chores of life.  Oh!  And somewhere in there I turned 35 and I officially became a grown-up (more on that later).  I am not complaining–this is all GOOD stuff (well, I could have done with out the car repairs), but it made for quite a month–hence I have not posted anything in a LONG time.  I am fairly confidant that in this past month I did not plan more than 5 or 6 meals, TOTAL.  Three of which were during Easter weekend.  I totally shot from the hip and made meals from our freezer and pantry–and maybe threw in a fresh salad here or there for good measure.  My house was in a constant state of chaos, I drank entirely too much coffee and seriously considered taping my eyelids open from time to time.

I am still dealing with the aftermath of it, but  am beginning to see the light.  But, coming out of it now–I realize I learned a few things.

One.  When traveling with lots of children, less is more.  Our first trip south, I packed too much food, too many toys and not enough clothes.  Double fail.  I remember thinking “I know, I just KNOW that I had room for my legs when we started this trip!”  and asking my older kids “How in the world did you dump THAT many Cheerios?”  Our shop vac is never hungry.  Trip two, we were wiser when it came to packing — I mean I was wiser (husbands don’t do the packing).  I packed minimal snacks, planned our meal stops for efficiency–one for breakfast after we’d driven for a few hours already, lunch at a rest area with a packed lunch so they could run wild while I nursed Sarah, then we pushed through to get to our final destination in time for dinner.  LONG days.  But, we found that just pushing through was better than breaking it up.  By the time we unloaded all of our stuff, set up a pack n play for Sarah, set up the roll away for Hannah, made up the pull out bed for Samuel and Bethany and made a bed out of the couch cushions for Lucy–we could’ve driven 3 more hours and been there!  AND saved money for the hotel stay and not had a horrible nights sleep thanks to the travel girls soccer team that was directly next to our room.

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My awesome guys.

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My not so perfect Birthday dinner :/

I am going to interject here for just a quick moment.  So, my birthday was April 4, which happened to be the day before my sweet cousin’s wedding–translation:  our driving south day.  Wanting to make my birthday somewhat fun, my thoughtful hubby thought we could make it to Orlando, walk around Downtown Disney for fun and go eat at my favorite restaurant, the House of Blues.  Well, it had been a long day, it was HOT, crowded and we were all HUNGRY.  We walked around a little, then decided to go eat before the serious melt downs started.  I don’t care how well behaved your children are–you get them over tired and under fed and you are just asking for it.  Yep, that was us.  The picture of chaos–don’t let that sweet picture of me and the kids fool you–about two minutes later our food came, and it was barely edible (in my opinion).  The kids’ burgers were WAY over cooked, my highly anticipated shrimp and grits was flat out GROSS and Petersen’s pork chops tasted like jerky.  THEN, they all started to cry/whine.  We could feel people’s stares burning holes in the backs of our shirts.  We kept our heads focused, paid the bill and shuffled our tired and cranky kids out of there.  Happy 35th Birthday to me!!  Ha!  It is a birthday I will never forget.  So, I will take it.  Jerky and all.

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Super excited about staying in a hotel!

So, in my opinion, if you have a bunch of kids like us–consider pushing through.  Our second trip south was much better.  Entertainment for the kids?  Movies, tablets/games and headphones.  Toys?  TWO.  Much better.  Food?  TWO snack packs and water.  Eat at meal time and a snack when the whining is unbearable.  (Clause for children under 3:  pack whatever food necessary to keep them happy)  Potty?  We stop–you pee.  Even if they “don’t have to.”  And, fortunately, Sarah is the best baby EVER and she was an amazing traveler.  (Again, as I mentioned in my sleep training post–I totally think sleep training her on her back helps a LOT with this).  Here’s the link to that post.

https://onesurrenderedmommy.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/three-rules-to-get-your-baby-sleep-trained-and-sleeping-through-the-night-by-12-weeks-old/

Two.  I love weddings. They are beautiful and romantic and cannot help but make you reminisce on your own wedding.  Ours seems like it was so long ago now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday–which is saying a lot from a gal with the worlds WORST memory.  I found myself very thankful that Pinterest was not around when we got married; otherwise I am afraid I would have been depressed about wanting it to be above and beyond amazing, then realizing our budget and my Pinterest wedding were never going to line up.  The best part about weddings is seeing people face to face.  Sure we stay up to date with each other somewhat–thanks to social media, but nothing replaces real face time.  Real embraces, hearing real voices, looking into people’s eyes and cracking up watching our kids bust a move on the dance floor thinking they are the coolest things ever–just like we did when we were young.  Oh how I love people and connecting with them in real life.  I know life won’t permit us to attend every wedding we are honored to be invited to, but if we can swing it, we sure will try.  I remember everyone who came to our wedding and realize even more now what a sacrifice many of them made to come; it is not easy with kids.

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My baby cousin Ashley all grown up, beautiful and MARRIED!

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Our beloved Heather and Collin saying “I do.”

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My favorite picture from either trip. My laid back kids, Samuel and Bethany, having a sweet dancing moment together.

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My whole world all dressed up celebrating Heather and Collin at Vizcaya, in Miami.

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My angel baby Sarah Noelle sitting pretty waiting to watch Heather and Collin get married.

Three.  Hosting Easter dinner in the midst of an insanely busy month was probably not the BEST idea.  We love having people over;  we LOVE hosting.  And the last 9 moths have been nutty with moving and trying to get adjusted to a new city and state, being pregnant, then having a newborn and taking care of four older kids and my hubby.  So, besides Bethany, Lucy/Daddy and Samuel’s birthday parties, we have been sitting on the sidelines of hosting.  It was our turn–and besides, we LOVE it.  Buuuuuuuuut, it was a little stressful in between long, exhausting road trips to south Florida.  But, everyone pitched in and we had a blast celebrating our risen Savior Jesus!  Plus, Easter is not Easter with out our crazy family tradition of bonking eggs!  You simply have not lived unless you’ve bonked.  Basically, you try to crack each other’s hard boiled colored egg (in a somewhat civilized manner), and the one who survives is the winner :aka the Kinger.  And with each victory, you go up and up in number.  I got smoked this year, and the highest I got was a 3rd kinger.  Alas, there’s always next year.  I think the record is a 22 or 23 kinger…

So, if you are crazy like us and decide to host even though your life is crazy busy, ask your family and friends to pitch in with sides and appetizers and you make the main dish, and anything extra you want to do is a cherry on top, but not necessary.  I was excited, so we (Petersen) made a turkey and a ham, simple green beans, pretzel melted Rolo and M & M things (YUM!), egg shaped Rice Krispie treats, and the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.  Thank you Ree.  This way, the meat cooked (thanks to my hubby), I turned on the water for the green beans and the cake and treats I made the day before.  It was so nice enjoying the faces that were with us and not feeling like I never left the kitchen.  Host on!  But, maybe not in a psychotically busy month….

Four.  Getting new tires, new brakes, a new brake module, an oil change and alignment, A/C repair, and a new transmission is STILL cheaper than a new or gently used car.    Sure, the price tag of fixing up our Yukon made me want to vomit.  And I’ve never fought so hard as last month to keep my heart content and thankful for what I have–not what I don’t have.  Our sweet Yukon is still serving us well.  Sure, we are cozy, and it could use some cosmetic fixes, but it is driving great and it. is. paid. off.  Hallelujah.  Please nothing else break, please.

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See? We totally fit.

Five.  Having individual dates with your children is absolutely imperative.  It is especially important with lots of children.  On my recent date with our oldest, Hannah, we discussed the “birds and the bees.”  It is not something that can be rushed.  A month or so ago she came home with questions…those kind of questions…so, I did what any mother would do.  I freaked out.  What?  What?  Wait, What?  You are SEVEN!  No.  Not yet.  I am not ready for this.  NOT ready.  Well, guess what Lori, either you tell her, or some know it all 2nd grade boy who has older brothers will tell her.  A plan.  I need a plan.  I work well with a plan.  Ah-ha!  Phone a friend!  I called a dear and trusted friend who has an older daughter and asked her to tell me VERBATIM what she said.  Well, she had that “talk” with her daughter when she was a bit older, so it didn’t apply so well to my situation.  So, I prayed and waited.

Two months or more went by.  Then, on our date last week, driving in the car, I felt the Lord prompting me to tell her; assuring me He would give me the words to say; just tread carefully and slow-ly.  Deep breath, quick prayer and we carefully dove in.  It was beautiful, and I saw the light bulb go off in her eyes, mixed with a bit of confusion and once telling me, “gross.”  To which I explained, it is “gross” outside of marriage.  But, with your husband, it is beautiful.  Now, I did NOT go into detail, like at all.  It is not necessary, yet.  It was a great discussion with my girl, who was ready to have it explained–or at least the foundation laid for later, further discussions about it.  She gets it.  She gets it enough.  And, when we were done, I very clearly explained to her what an intimate thing it is–not only physically, but also that it is something to be talked about with Mommy and Daddy ONLY.  No friends, not your siblings.  I hardly remember any conversations about the birds and the bees with my parents.  It was talked about around me–but with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade peers.  I am sure Hannah will hear plenty at school, but at least she heard the truth from her Momma–and she knows where she can go with any questions.  I don’t want her to be embarrassed about it to ask me.  Best advice I have about this or any other tricky conversation that needs to be had with your child?  Pray and wait.  Be in constant conversation with your child and the Lord and He will prompt you when the time is right.  I am so thankful I waited for Him.  No doubt I would have botched the whole thing had I tried to explain it on my own account.

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My almost eight going on sixteen year old Hannah, out on our date.

 

Six.  Planting a garden with your children is a beautiful thing.  One of my many Aunts owns a whole mess of property in upstate New York.  They have a Christmas tree farm, a pond for swimming or ice skating–depending on the season, a garden, huge barn, a sand volleyball court and an amazing fire pit.  I have always loved it there.  Not to mention, my Aunt Claudia is an amazing cook and between her and my Uncle Jim, they are the most welcoming and loving hostess and host you’d ever had the honor of knowing.  We have always talked about having property like theirs.  So, until we have more space, we will be content with our little raised bed that we filled with tomato plants, a variety of peppers and cucumbers.  We dug up the grass, bought some mushroom compost and good soil and planted.  The kids helped and were super proud of their work.  Here’s hoping that this summer we will have some killer salads and salsas!

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Hannah putting our cherry tomato plant in the ground.

Seven.  I really really REALLY dislike switching out clothes.  My upstairs–especially my bedroom, has looked like a clothes vermin vomited clothes everywhere for pretty much the past MONTH.  Only real friends have been allowed to enter the premises.  Switching out clothes id not fun.  But, the best way that I’ve found to accomplish this task is to get three bags for each kid.  I used to buy the super big Zip-loc bags–we are much more fancy now, and we use Glad garbage bags.  Set aside two days, and just knock it out.  One bag label for the clothes that are too small, but in good enough condition to save for the next kiddo in line.  A second bag for the clothes that will still fit next fall/winter and a third bag for the clothes that you never put on your child to donate.  If you are like me, you realize that your kid has way more clothes than they actually need, AND you know which outfits are the favorites and get worn the most, while others just take up valuable drawer space (kind of like my closet :/ ).  So, grab a few bags, a Sharpie and get busy!  Good thing is–I only do this twice a year.  Wohoo!  I am DONE until mid-October.

Eight.  In the midst of all this business, life still goes on.  Wouldn’t the enemy just love to steal my joy and tear me down with discouragement this past month!?!  And, trust me, he tried.  But, apparently I had enough family and friends praying for me, that I had bits and pieces of encouragement all month long to keep me afloat.  “But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”  And, I reminded myself daily that I am a daughter to The King–and help was always just a prayer away.  So, my house was in a constant state of chaos, we ate mediocre meals, I cleaned on a need-to only basis and was NEVER caught up with anything all at the same time.  But, we made it through and made memories with our children, got to witness two beautiful weddings of people we adore, were blessed to stay with beloved family friends who spoiled us rotten, swam in their pool and got to spend the day at my hometown beach and enjoy it with more friends and family.  And you know what?  This was a season, like any other.  There will be long seasons of chaos and short ones.  Just remember when you are in it, don’t worry about the little stuff.  Just keep reading His Word, keep praying, keep loving your kids, your husband and the people around you and walk day by day–an eventually, the chaotic season will end, and you will be able to breath again and gear up for the next one.  I am thankful God blurred our eyes as we looked past the messes and stepped over the piles of clothes that littered our bedroom floor–which would typically drive us completely bananas.

Here’s hoping May is a bit less stressful and we can close out this school year with a bang!  Blessings Friends!!

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The beach. Quite possibly my favorite place to be.

The lost art of Forgiveness…let’s bring it back, because it is Beautiful.

Asking for forgiveness is a lost art, I think.  Though it is something we all know about–how rare it is these days.  Sure, we say ‘sorry’ all the time, or at least we should be.  But, when was the last time you actually asked someone, “Will you forgive me?”  And then waited to hear the verdict…”yes” or “no.”  I’m sure the last time I did was in conversation with Petersen, but that was a while ago, and besides him, I can’t think of another time.  It is a hard thing, this “asking for forgiveness.”  But, there is a very real, and very big difference between the two, and  I think it is something worth teaching to our children and perhaps refreshing on ourselves–myself included.

Why is it so hard?  Because we are prideful–I am prideful.  And saying “sorry” is pretty easy–it is one sided.  We can say it, move on, and tell ourselves, “ah, I said sorry, so they should be ok with it and I’ve done my part.”  But there really is something so beautiful in asking for forgiveness.  When you do it, and you put your heart out there to someone else to either accept or deny–talk about being humble and feeling meek.  But, when that someone says “yes, I forgive you,” — wow, there is this relief that happens in my heart.  And, I don’t feel the same when I just say “sorry,” because I wonder if they are forgiving me, like really forgiving me–meaning it is over, it is done.  And, similarly, when Petersen has done something that intentionally hurt me and he just says “I’m sorry,” I may smile, say “ok” and we hug, but a lot of times I still am hurt and a bit mad.  But, when he genuinely humbles himself and asks for forgiveness, I almost feel bad answering “yes” because what was the offense that he’s apologizing and asking forgiveness for, really?  Probably something pretty minor and petty.  But, hurtful nonetheless.  And when this whole exchange of asking and answering happens, our hearts are refreshed and healing starts.

Now, I am not saying that the hurtful thing disappears instantly.  Words and actions hurt, and they can leave deep deep scars.  But, healing can start when forgiveness is involved.

Now, teaching this to our kids can be tricky and takes more effort for sure.  But I truly think it is worth it–oh so worth it.  Because when you start to witness your children asking their siblings for forgiveness on their own–you just might tear up.  Again, I have 5 kids, so I am still teaching this, and will be for a while now.  But, I think my older three (ages 7, 6 and 4) actually understand it.  And, I want them to grow up doing this, so that it is normal and common for them to do–not something foreign; which is how it feels to me, still.  I feel awkward asking for forgiveness and there’s a pit in my stomach.  I was taught to say “sorry,” but I do not remember being taught to actually utter the words, “Will you forgive me?”  What a head start we will give our children for their future spouses!

Saying Sorry vs. Asking for Forgiveness

Saying “I’m sorry” is important.  But this is for accidental hurts, like the other day Lucy threw a ball and it hit Bethany directly in the head.  Made her cry, etc.  Lucy had to say “sorry” to Bethany, no big deal.  They hugged and started playing again.  Or if I bump into someone or step on your foot–“ahh I’m so sorry!”  But, when the hurt to someone else is intentional, there needs to be forgiveness.  Like when Lucy hits Bethany on the head on purpose out of frustration, or when Hannah *gasp* does not get her way and speaks ugly to Mommy or one of her siblings, or when Mommy loses her cool and yells at her children in anger…forgiveness is needed.

Again, this is going to take work and effort on your part, as making your kid just say “sorry” is the quicker and easier way out.  But just last week, Hannah mentioned to me that Bethany was not being very nice to her and was hurting her feelings by the things she was saying.  So, while giving Bethany a bath, I asked her about this and she confessed to me that she had in fact been a little mean to Hannah.  This was SHOCKING to me–as Bethany is my sweet as pie, easy kid.  And I honestly thought Hannah was just trying to get her sister into trouble.  Nope.  Bethany told me, “Yeah, I have been kind of not nice to Hannah lately Mommy.”  We talked through it some more and I mentioned to her that she needed to ask Hannah for forgiveness and she said “yes Mommy, I know.”

Then at dinner that night, while Hannah was helping me with dishes Bethany out of the blue said “Hannah, I am sorry for being not nice to you–you know, the other day?  Will you forgive me?”  I nearly cried as I watched this exchange happen.  You could just see the love oozing out of their hearts as they hugged and Hannah answered her sister with “yes.”

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that this is how it always goes down.  It doesn’t.  Sometimes, they are asking for forgiveness through gritted teeth.  In which case they are clearly not ready, and they are sent to “think” about it some more.  Sometimes, the asking for forgiveness is a few days away.  Because we are trying to teach them that when the asking and receiving of forgiveness happens, it is over and done with, truly.  No more anger, no hanging on to bitterness.  Really truly done.  Ahhhh, yes!  Such freedom in it.  And trust me–these little people can feel it, you can see it.  And it. is. beautiful.  Just like our Savior intended.

Blessings Friends.