Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why Siblings Fight

I realize I am about to enter into an extremely personal topic here. Please know my heart. Please DO NOT HEAR what I'm not saying (Thanks, Dave!)

I know so many of my readers have been and are currently wounded by sibling relationships. I know that many of you have suffered great pain at the hands of your siblings. I know many of you can not stand the sight of your siblings, and it is work every single day to muster up any type of "warm" feelings for them. I hear you. I am so sorry for your pain and I am not in ANYWAY writing today to punish, diminish, or correct your burden. Today, I am writing from MY experiences, knowing FULL well your experiences are different than mine. I am very aware that your "happily ever after" might not ever see fruition when it comes to your siblings. I write from a humble place, knowing that I am on the receiving end of a beautiful gift.

I am the youngest of five children; 3 boys and two girls. There are seven years between my brother and sister, who are twins and who are the oldest, and myself. So as to not disclose the sensitive information of our ages, I will tell you how old everyone was when I born. Jonathan and Joanna:7. Andrew 5, Zach 3, Sara...completing the Clint and Valerie Hall line with perfection : ) Once, when I was at the prime age of awkward adolescence, my dad announced from the PULPIT one Sunday that he and mom were like rabbits when it came to reproducing. Perks of being the daughter of a man with a microphone :) But really they reproduced nicely.... I inherited that gene with a gaggle to prove it.

So as to diffuse right away any misunderstanding that my siblings and I held hands peacefully all the way through life, I tell you now; we fought. Oh yeah. Ugliness. Screaming , yelling, hitting, punching, name calling, door slamming, hair pulling, oil pouring, UGLINESS. There were five of us, we fought about stupid and about real. We said really unkind things that we can never take back. We did really hateful things to one another that we can never take back. We fought.

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was ease drop on my mom when she was talking to her siblings on the phone. They talked very regularly, often early in the morning (because Mom would call and wake them up :) Without fail, my mom's siblings caused her to laugh the hardest and smile the biggest. In addition to talking to them on the phone, Mama saw her siblings very often. To this day, her family loves ANY excuse for a get-together. Every holiday, every non-holiday, and every "it's Sunday let's see each other!"  I adore that about my mom's family! My mom's side of the family has grown to nearly 40 people when just the immediate family gets together. That makes my heart so full.

I tell you this about my mom's family because I am convinced that one of the reasons I adore my siblings is because my mom AND dad both adored/adore their siblings. Watching them together, studying them together from a very young age confirmed over and over again that siblings are worth the war.

One of the most powerful moments in my entire life was watching my mom's siblings say goodbye to her. I weep now just thinking about. Their final touches, their final words, their final moments with her are engraved on my heart FOREVER. I wish everyone who is estranged from their siblings could have witnessed that exchange. Because their touches, their words, their lingering presence communicated, "siblings are worth the war!"

Yes, my siblings and I fought, still fight when someone's being a complete butt, but that's not where the story ends. My mom and dad had very little tolerance for our ugliness towards one another. If you want to see Clint Hall get fired up, be ugly to your siblings. My dad would not allow for hatefulness to reign in our home. He and my mom often went to war on behalf of our relationships with one another because deep down they both knew the prize. Mom pasted bible verses all over the house about love, peace, honor, respect, and selflessness. They broke up endless arguments and fights, they tore down bitterness, and insisted we love one another. "You don't have to like one another, but you will LOVE one another!" I cannot tell you how many times my dad said this. We didn't always like one another, but each of us had this profound love and admiration for our dad, so when he said, "ENOUGH!" it stopped. And as I type, I swear to you, when my dad puts to rest an issue, makes a decree on behalf of our family, insists we let grievances go.... WE DO IT! That is the sweet persuasiveness of Daddy.  Dads, you matter. How you allow your children to speak to one another and treat one another matters. I know so many times my mom and dad felt they were losing an uphill battle, but they kept on.. day after day, night after night, fight after fight!

There is an incredible thread on my phone that includes my entire family; dad, hubby, siblings and outlaws... It brings me the biggest laughter and the biggest smiles day after day. In 72 hours, Lord willing, I'm going to be with all my siblings for the first time in 15 months. Tears spill over when I think about it.

When we were asked to walk the road of Alzheimer's, there was ZERO room for selfishness among us. Each of us, over and over again, had to consider each other higher than ourselves. We had to pursue love, peace, honor, respect and selflessness. We made mistakes along the way, but the  overall message stood, WE ARE FOR EACH OTHER! Hatefulness WILL NOT reign in our relationships.

I have an 11 year old, 9 year old, 7 year old, and 5 year old. They fight. Every day we break up mini wars. Every day someone gets corrected for a bad attitude or hateful words. Every day I feel like I am pushing a major boulder up a hill only to start over the next day. IT SUCKS. You want to see Mark and Sara Littlejohn fired up? Be ugly to your siblings. We reserve the harshest discipline for hatefulness towards someone in our home. We tell our kids all the time, "this is a forever relationship you guys are going to have with one another, you HAVE to figure it out. You are called to share with your siblings FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! We will be dead and gone, and the only thing we can leave behind for you is your siblings! Make it work!"

I realize the end of their story is yet to be told. But I pray and beg the Lord, when they have to face each other on their death beds, love will reign! That they will stand upon a life time of being FOR one another. Being each other's biggest advocates and fans. I blubber all over myself when I think about having to say goodbye to one of my siblings. But I know that when that day comes, I will have NO REGRETS. I will have loved them to the fullest and deepest places my heart can go. And what a gift my parents were hell bent on giving us! Thanks Mom and Dad for not giving up, for pushing the boulder up the hill and fighting one of the most important wars on this earth!! Your war was not in vain....

To siblings, the BEST siblings!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Why Public School?

Before you even being to scour this article as ammunition to use against all your friends who home school or have their kids in christian school, you can find the exit and see your way out before I sit on you. :) Before you even begin to scour this article to bolster your artillery as to WHY you keep your kids at home or WHY you send them to christian school, you too can find your way out before I sit on you :) For five seconds, let's just all lay down our weapons and take off our shoes as we tread on sensitive and IMPORTANT territory.

You should know I am in my seventh year of home schooling, I attended Christian school my entire education, and now am half way through my third year of having some kids in public school. My best friend, who happens to be my sister, home schools. My eldest daughter will attend Christian school next year, my son will begin his six year journey in public school next August, and at any given moment, Mark and I are completely open to changing the education path of each our children based on their specific academic, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. We do not swear allegiance to any ONE type of education. We have seen up close and personal all the pros and cons to each type of system, and we FIRMLY believe each of our children are exactly where they need to

In order for me to fully release the care and keeping of Katie, the Lord, through a very long and personal journey, had to pry Katie from my almost cold, dead hands. You see, I had a control issue. It was this sleeping giant in my life that I didn't know existed until I had to let Katie go. Until the Lord made it ABUNDANTLY clear that YES, He was asking me to let Katie go to public school. And He used all kinds of circumstances to land me in this position. The story is sweet and sad and hard and stunningly SUCH A GOD THING!

With that said, the entire first year Katie was in public school in Kansas, I dealt with this overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.  After being completely engulfed in the home school movement I felt I had committed the greatest atrocity ever by throwing her to the pack wolves of public school. I just knew putting her in public school would automatically make her compromise everything we had fought to instill in her, and bankrupt her of every good characteristic she possessed. I just knew she would be a sexually compromised, prodigal-daughter by the time she completed third grade. Y'all, I do not joke. These lies nearly suffocated my heart. Some how, public school had become the enemy, and sending Katie made me the devil in disguise.

During this first year, I found such enormous freedom in reading stories about children who had successfully navigated the public schools and were changed, while simultaneously changing the sphere of people around them. I CLUNG to the stories. I began to pray in a way I had never known. Every second of every day for months, I prayed without ceasing for Katie. And the MOST beautiful thing happened before my eyes; we changed... Mark, Katie, and I being the most heavily impacted by the change.

Kids are mean. It's just reality. Katie had grown up in a very soft environment. Gentle friends, gentle adults in her life and her discipline, while not always comfortable, always ended in restoration. Every day for several months, Katie came home crying. Every day she seemed to be the victim of "bullying" and the victim of "my teacher yelled at me!" Every day we were given a very clear opportunity to process with Katie the uncharted waters she was surfing. Katie was learning first hand how NOT soft people and adults can be. While it was crushing to see her hurt; we, she, I learned so much. We learned that we cannot label every act of unkindness as bullying. We learned that we cannot control other people, only our responses. We learned that every unkind act is an overflow of insecurity and brokenness. We learned in a up close and personal way that hurt people, hurt people. And whether we like it or not, Katie's skin thickened. She learned how to function with hard people and in hard places, and consequently her heart has developed into one of the most other's focused hearts I know. Can home school hearts and christian school hearts develop into "other's focused" without the harsh realities of unkindness? Absolutely. But at some point in each child's life they will encounter cruelty. They will need to know how to appropriately address it, ignore it or confront it. Public school offers us that opportunity EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I love that. Because when the rubber meets the road my kids will be doing life with broken people EVERY.SINGLE.DAY when they leave the protection of our home. (SHEESH, they have to do life with broken people INSIDE our home Me, the most broken of all). We get to debrief in the most beautiful and raw way every afternoon. We get to talk about circumstances that they have ACTUALLY walked through, not circumstances they might hypothetically walk through someday.  This is huge, because sometimes the reality of a situation verses the hypothetical of a situation conjurers up very different emotions and responses. The door that public school has opened has allowed us to explore things I could NEVER make up on my own. For that I am grateful.

In one day alone, I had to define pervert, explain why sexy is only a safe and sweet word between a husband and a wife, hash through the details of drug usage and needles, and wash hair for lice. YES! All in a day's work of public-schooling :) But I wouldn't trade it for ANYTHING!

I could write for days all the wonderful, hard, delicate situations our kids have already encountered. I could tell you ALL the ways the Lord has grown them up physically, academically, emotionally, and YES, SPIRITUALLY!  I cherish every moment of debrief as an opportunity TEACH, instill, and REMIND my kids of the WAY bigger picture.

At the end of the day, we aren't consumed with our children being Rhode Scholars and top of the class brain-O's. We want their education experience to assist US (Mark and I) in encouraging them in the ONE thing we preach every day in our home; love people well, they are the only eternal thing.

Public school has done that for us. And it might not do it for everyone, and that is SO ok. But this post is for the parents struggling with guilt and shame, believing the lie that God has left the public school while their child sits in a public school desk. I will testify from the deepest places of my soul; HE HAS NOT LEFT THE PUBLIC SCHOOL. He will NEVER leave the precious corridors of your child's heart. Therefore, God's presence in the public schools today is everlasting to everlasting, JUST LIKE HIM!

Oh friends, take off the guilt and shame. 'Shake It Off' as Taylor would have you. Rest. Our God is moving.. He always is. And yes, He is moving in the public schools too!!

Please do not share this article if your intent is to harm someone with the opposite educational choice as you. Only share this article in a spirit of encouragement! It was written from that place. And if you misuse it in anyway, I will hunt you down and sit on you! :) Big peace and lurve from the doublewide....

Monday, December 1, 2014

3 Tricks To Combat Holiday Hangover

Monday morning bliss after a holiday weekend. It's 8:47 a.m. and I'm wandering around the house with zero idea of where to begin. 10 loads of laundry, 10 pans with sticky junk slathered all over the bottom, or 10 days of back logging the budget? Decisions. Decisions.

Happy Holiday Hangover Day, was created when I had wee children wrapped about my ankles, pulling on my skirt tails, and growing in my womb. It was, without fail, the day daddy went back to work (or school in our case) and everyone just fell apart. Everyone needed concentrated discipline and reminders of how life happened before the holiday had arrived. I remember one day clearly crying while thinking as Mark walked out the door, "Oh! The amazing bliss to go and get to sit in Differential Equations with other adults who spoke in complete sentences and wiped their own butts!" I'm not joking.

Holiday Hangover Day morphed when I started homeschooling. It was the label I used for the way everyone felt as we trudged back into the curriculum and fought to find the "normal" rhythm of school again. Inevitably some one would tell me how much they hated me and school, and everyone would be completely confused about the math concept we had mastered the week before. They would just stare at me when we would review and say things like, "I have no idea what you're talking about. That makes NO SENSE AT ALL!" Hence the reason, as my girls left this morning I said to them, "Hug your teachers BIG this morning. Tell them how thankful you are for them, and PLEASE DON'T BE DIFFICULT! They are too tired to deal with that non-sense!"

And then Happy Holiday Hangover morphed again when the girls started going to school. The hangover shifted from concentrated time together with a lot of discipline to "OUCH! It hurts to watch you leave!" With a side of, "Sweet baby Jesus, goodbye!" :)

I'm not a formula person. There are very few things I do the exact same way everyday. Really, there is only one thing I do the exact same way everyday; the way I make my coffee. Honestly, that's it! Other than that, life is wwwwaaaaayyyyy too short for formulas and boxes. That's why the title of this post is more humorous than anything. There really are not "3 tricks" to combating ANYTHING. Just like there are not 12 steps to a better marriage, 365 devotions to  a better Jesus, or 7 workouts to a better butt.

BUT (not a better BUTT) just BUT, I do appreciate ideas, tips, and suggestions for different circumstances. The majority of my marriage and parenting is built on other people's fabulous suggestions and real life advice. We are not an island, none of us are called to do this life alone. Believe or not, we actually do NEED EACH OTHER. And each other's "tricks" to better butting.

Here are my 3 tricks to combat holiday hangover day.

1. EAT WELL! There is nothing more discouraging then an already difficult day paired with poopy eating. Last night, I prepped the girls favorite lunch and put our favorite dinner in the crock pot. More for my sanity then their happiness. But it's all the same. Now I can plow through my 10's and not have to worry about dinner, and it gives them something to look forward to ALL DAY LONG!

2. BE GRACIOUS WITH YOURSELF! For real, keep the expectations looooowwwww. Especially, if you are all alone in a house with little people whining at you and needing you like every 23 seconds. I swear the turkey gave my children short term memory loss this morning, "Mom, I can't find my shoes, my back pack, my clothes, or my glasses! MOM! Where are you?!!!!"

3. I plan NOTHING for the Monday after a holiday weekend. No appointments, no guests, no nothing. Just regroup your brain, your house, and your rhythm.

When 3 o'clock hits I could have some tired, weepy, cranky kids on my hands. Their brains will be fried, their bellies hungry, and their homework plate full. We will take a deep breath and plunge ahead. Not like we used to, now in a totally different hang over way. But nonethemore, a hangover!

God bless the mother's of ankle biters and womb growers!
God bless the working moms who had to ALSO look good at 7:20, when the children left and are not still walking around in their PJ's like some sloths I know! :)
God bless the homeschool moms whose children have forgotten addition!
God bless the SAHMs who are folding their tenth load of laundry, and soaking ten pans!
God bless my children's teachers!
God bless everyone in differential equations!
God bless those is cubicles!
God bless those in crowded doctor's offices!
God bless customer service agents!
God bless grocery store workers!

I mean, GOD BLESS US ALL and our hangover!!