Why I’m Not Afraid to Air My Dirty Laundry On Sundays

be still and know that I am GodLast Sunday we returned from a family trip in the wee hours of the morning. After attending church and eating a good meal, we spent the majority of the afternoon relaxing, what we normally do on Sundays. A day of rest. A day set aside for worship. A day different from the rest.

With today’s technology, it’s easy to do laundry without effort. You put clothes in a machine, turn a dial, and press a button. Going to my child’s bedroom requires more work than that.  It’s a simple process.

Last Sunday, I did the unthinkable – I did some laundry and hung it on the clothes line.

Gasp.

I’ve come a long way in being okay with hanging up laundry on Sundays occasionally.  We live on a main highway in a small conservative town. Stores aren’t open here on Sundays. People don’t mow lawns on Sundays. And you don’t air your dirty laundry on Sundays or people will see.

Like other unwritten rules, I’ve learned to assess the root and value of them.

Are they for man or are they for God?

I’ve learned to check my motives for breaking silent codes that bring looks of “I can’t believe she’s doing that.”  Hanging clothes on the clothesline on Sundays is one I’m not bothered by because there’s a principle I value:

I should be the same person in public that I am in private. 

If I’m okay with occasionally doing a few loads of laundry on Sunday, then I should be okay with letting people know about it.  God sees it anyway. I can’t hide things from Him.  He sees my dirty laundry.

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Does He see yours? Or do you try to hide it?

For years I hid my dirty laundry from others. Not the stinky-teen-boy kind, but the unhealthy behaviors I struggled with. Having an eating disorder was a very private thing. No one knew my stuff except me and God and my parents on occasions. I was good at hiding things.

Are you good at hiding things?

For years I responded to conflict with anger. As my children grew older, I couldn’t hide it. It began overtaking my relationships with them and their dad. It was easy to hide, too. I could do a lot of good yelling before going to church and sit really calm in that church pew.

There’s an unwritten rule you aren’t supposed to struggle with things.

You definitely aren’t supposed to be angry in a pacifist faith.

I learned to hide things real well.

So people wouldn’t see.

But God saw.

And as He nudged me to address the anger, the hurt, and rage, I felt more comfortable letting Him wash my dirty stuff. He was gentle with  it and He removed the stains and stink and filth and exchanged it for clean, bright, and beautiful through the forgiveness and power of His grace.

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It’s been a journey with me and God. As He’s changed me inside and out, things have changed in how I relate to unwritten rules.  I’ve learned to answer to God first, then my husband and family above anyone else.

Paul says, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.” I Corinthians 4:4

What guides your choices?

Having a clear conscious in the eyes of others doesn’t make us innocent.

While it’s trivial, I’ve learned in my accountability with God, is okay to do laundry every once in a while on a Sunday. I’ve learned I answer to Him for my actions. I could have an empty clothesline every Sunday but be cheating on my husband Saturday night.

It’s all in how it looks, right?

Where do you need to get honest with God?

What I love most about God is that He sees everything and yet He pursues us because He wants a relationship with us.  He pursued me for years to change and heal from an eating disorder and to change and heal from anger, hurt, and rage that was inside of me. I’ve learned I can air my dirty laundry with Him and it’s okay.  He makes us clean and bright, to be on full display in His clothes of righteousness, not ours.

Will you let Him clothe you today? It’s safe  with Him. He won’t fail you.

Father, will you speak to each one reading these words and take the contents of their heart and make it what you desire? Will you equip those who struggle with unwritten rules and judgment from others to know you love them and are a God of grace, forgiveness, and freedom?  Will you continue to pursue those who are struggling with things inside their heart that only you know about?  

Thank you, Jesus, for washing dirty, smelling rags and making us beautiful in you. Amen.

How can I pray with you or encourage you as you learn to walk in freedom? I’d love to hear.

P.S. There will be a new look to Life Beyond the Picket Fence soon as I launch a new website for the blog.  You’ll be able to subscribe to a newsletter linking you to the other things happening here at the ministry and connect you with the other sites I’m writing for. If you are a current subscriber by email, I’m hoping the transition will be smooth. I’ll keep you posted when the site is launched so there won’t be interruptions in your connection here with us.  Thank you!

Slow and Steady Does Win the Race: The Challenge of Consistency

The Challenge of ConsistencyRemember that Tortoise and Hare?

There’s a saying,slow and steady wins the race.” Other words describing this principle are

  • consistency
  • perseverance
  • doing the work

Is it hard to be consistent and persevere when you don’t see it paying off?

In the Love Affair that’s Not With My Husband bible study, we’ve witnessed Esther being consistent and persevering in what Mordecai instructed her to do {Esther 2}. We’ve identified how hard it is to “trust and obey” when we don’t see the results of our efforts. 

Things You Feel

Whatever you call it –

  • impatience
  • discouragement 
  • frustration
  • self-pity

…if it pulls you away from being obedient, it impacts.

Doubts You Havea pity party

  • Have you ever had a knock-down, drag-out pity party with God?
  • Have you ever been impatient and jumped ahead of God?
  • Have you ever been discouraged by people whizzing by you while you’re consistent in the task you’re called to?
  • Have you ever felt God just doesn’t see you?

I’ve had these feelings. As the bible study ladies and I have been looking at God’s character and perspective, we’ve been reminded we don’t see what God sees. We don’t see the finish line. We don’t see what we’re overcoming by being consistent, persistent, and faithful. We don’t see the character God is forming in us when we do the steady work.

But God does. 

Like Esther, at just the right time God puts us in situations where the work pays off. Slow and steady does win the race, if we are patient and have faith in the One who holds all things in His hands.

Applying It To Scripture

The same is true for our study of scripture. When we’re faithful and consistent by spending time in His word, He builds things in our character we’ll need later on. By looking at God’s character when studying scripture, it gives us a picture of His faithfulness and reminds us that He is the only One who sees the whole picture!  Join us in studying God’s word by looking at

  • God’s perspective
  • God’s character
  • How you can apply His perspective and character to your personal situation.

We’re using these principles as we study the book of Esther, but you can use them in studying any scripture passage. We’d love to hear what qualities of God’s character you are learning about as you study His word.

I’m hoping to put together a simple resource to offer readers when our bible study is complete. In the meantime, whether it’s studying scripture, living your faith, parenting your children, or doing the job you’re called to do – be consistent, persevering, and don’t give up. 

Remember the rabbit probably got tired when the tortoise got his second wind.

tortoise and hare finish line

Sometimes being patience brings the opportunity for the last stretch to be the best one ever.

Slow and steady……whatever your race, He’s the one who brings you to the finish line.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

How To Be Strong When There’s A Weak Link

I’m 4% permanently partially paralyzed. A fancy way to say I have a torn ACL from a workman’s comp injury.

I have a weak link. 

As my surgeon released me from treatment, he said my knee will only be as strong as the muscle above it.

You have to keep that muscle strong.

For a lifetime.

Physical Therapist Working with Patient

No pressure there. In addition to working, doing ministry, being a wife and mother, spending time in God’s Word, eating right and exercising regularly, I have to keep my quad muscles strong or my knee will give out.

I have to make strengthening this muscle a priority because it’s the key to compensating for the weak link.

Do you have muscles you need to keep strong?

Are there emotional, spiritual or mental muscles to you need to strengthen to compensate for weaknesses?

how to stay strong when there's a weak link

My physical journey has spiritual parallels in more ways than one.

Knowing I have a weak link in my knee makes me feel like Paul the apostle and Jacob, son of Isaac.  Paul had a weakness he asked God to take away, but God’s response was, “My power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)). Jacob wrestled with God because he wanted God’s best for him, and was left with a lame hip (Genesis 32, NIV).

Both of them were marked by weakness which reminded them of their dependence upon God.

What weakness in your life causes you to be dependent upon God?

Strengthening my muscle teaches me to strengthen other spiritual, mental, and emotional muscles in my life. If I don’t, the weak ares of my spiritual, mental, and emotional world will collapse, like my knee.

As a woman who lives in the shadows of an eating disorder and other unhealthy behaviors, I know my weaknesses all too well.  I know if I don’t exercise self-control in all areas of my life (yes, all areas), the weak links buckle and I’m crippled emotionally, mentally, and physically.

I know the importance of strengthening what needs to be strengthened.

I live it, I breathe it.

I make choices every day to strengthen weak links so I remain strong.

Before I messed up my knee, I completed a half-marathon. I felt invincible.

Now reality awakens me. Just one foolish side-step and I come crumbling down.

I must strengthen the supporting muscle. I must rely on God to be strong in my weakness.

When life is going well, are you tempted to feel invincible, too?  Do you feel strong based on your own merit, apart from God?

how to stay strong when there's a weak linkEvery patriarch in scripture had a weakness that they needed God’s strength to overcome.

For Abraham, his honesty.

For Moses, his speaking ability.

For Joseph, his reputation.

For David, his love for women.

For Peter, his impulsivity and temper.

What is your weakness?  What do you need to strengthen so you are not defined by your weakness?

What choices to you need to make to keep your spiritual, emotional and mental muscles strong?

How can I pray for you or support you in this journey? I would love to do that.  Feel free to comment or to email me at yoderbl@gmail.com and I will pray with you and encourage you on that journey.

Your Father is with you always, His grace sufficient for you, His strength made perfect in your weakness.

For when you are weak, He is strong.

Friday Chat

I’m sitting in a hotel room with my family trying to quietly type. I don’t think it’s working.

There are lots of things happening in the ministry of Life Beyond the Picket Fence.

Parenting:  First, I’m excited to join the writing team at Ten to Twenty Parenting.  I’ll be joining them along TentoTwenty_badgewith Parents Space and Not Alone Mom where I write weekly.  I don’t post those articles here weekly, but if you want to join our Facebook page, you can catch all of them. This week I posted tips on helping sibling conflict while kids are at home during the summer – a topic a reader asked about. We chat a lot on the FaceBook page, so I’d love to be able to hear from you over there!

Encouragement: I’ve been sharing some pins from summertime at the Back Forty like on Facebook and Twitter like this one to encourage you.

Catch this on pinterest
Catch this on pinterest

Speaking: I’ve been speaking through central and southern Indiana the past two weeks sharing restorative hope with women as I share Hope Beyond the Picket Fence. As your church or women’s groups are planning fall and winter retreats, I’d love to share with your group, too!

Sharing Growing in Grace with women this spring.
Sharing Growing in Grace with women this spring.

Bible Study: I’m most excited about the Love Affair That’s Not With My Husband bible study that started in my home this week. Many women gathered as I’m sharing bible study tools that I’ve used over the years to study the bible in a way that brings depth and intimacy with Jehovah God.  We’re using these tools while we study the book of Esther like a “book club.”  There are some great women in a safe place, and we are excited about it!

Summer bible study

Writing projects: I have some things in the works while I’m home for summer vacation. Now – if we’d ever be home to work on them! I’m hoping to share some of those with you as they get accomplished.

Connections: Lastly, I’d love for you to check out my friends at iwokeupyesterday. These women have some great things going on at their ministry and I’ll be having Michelle share as a guest post in a few weeks.  They were kind to mention this ministry in a surprise  post!

And now my kids are all awake, so I need to go! Have a great Friday and may you know the fullness of God in who He is to you today!

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Home Improvement: Having Faith in the Unseen

Our dehumidifier - "Bucket is full."
Our dehumidifier – “Bucket is full.”

There’s a machine making background noise as I’m typing. It’s a dehumidifier taking the moisture out of the heavy summer air. Every twelve to fourteen hours, a light on the machine says, “Bucket Is Full” because the machine has collected enough unseen water particles from the air producing a tangible substance – water.

Amazing

I know there’s a sixth grade science fair explanation here, but every time I empty the bucket, I think of another simple-yet-complicated process – Faith. Continue reading “Home Improvement: Having Faith in the Unseen”

What You’re Born To Do: Lesson From a Killer Dog

I learned a lesson from a killer dog. This spring our Boston Terrier was killed by another family pet, an English Shepherd. Both were outdoor dogs along with our German Shepherd. The kinship reminded me of the furry friends on Homeward Bound.  They were steadfast dog-friends and would play endlessly around our little homestead.

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingSomething went wrong in that cold spring day. My husband found our Boston cowering under a car in our barn. When Ron picked her up, blood spurted out of a wound and there were bite marks on the side of her body.  “Play-fighting” gone bad.

The culprit, our English Shepherd, had blood near her mouth. She wanted to be stroked like usual, not knowing the harm she had done.  We knew.  The Boston didn’t live.  We decided our Shepherd needed a new home.  One where she could run and herd animals, which is the nature of her species. She needed to do what she was born to do.

Are you doing what you’re born to do?

Our Shepherd was designed to be a herding dog for other animals. Though we have animals on property, we don’t have the need for her as we did when we were still milking cows. Every morning before milking, my husband would go into the pasture and herd the cows towards the holding pen.  A great job for an English Shepherd.  Without animals to herd, she wasn’t able to exercise her God-given abilities and calling in life. She became restless, aggressive, and destructive.

Can you relate? Do you ever feel restless, irritated, and angry? Have you ever considered the connection between anger, discontentment, destructive behavior and the frustration of not doing what you’re wired to do? Do you ever wonder why you’re jealous of others or why you lash out through gossip, mean words or back-handed comments?

Just like my dog put her out-of-sync energy into destructive aggressiveness, we can put our out-of-sync energy into being destructive or into a state of long-term frustration and irritation.

We weren’t meant to be this way. We were meant to be free, to have joy and fulfillment from being and doing what God’s design is for us. The problem comes when we don’t exercise our calling, our gifts, our leg irons“bents.”  It’s similar to students who love working with their hands or are body-kinesthetic.  Many of them shut down or learn to hate school because they spend the whole day reading, writing and doing math. They get irritated and restless, some to the point of being assertive or angry. They feel stifled, misunderstood. Trapped.

Do you feel stifled, misunderstood, or trapped? What would it look like for you to soar in your gifts, talents – the things that make your heart sing?

Like our dog who needed a home where he could “be” in his life’s purpose, we need the space to do this, too!

I’m not going to give you an inspiring message to “be all you can be.” Most of us can’t quit our job tomorrow or abandon our kids to be all we want to be.  If so, I would trade in laundry to be the Laurie Partridge equivalent for Hillsong.

But – you can become more aware of what your heart cries out in the big and little moments of lifeWhat makes your heart burst forth in song? What brings passion to your soul? What is the root reason of your discontentment, frustration or irritation? Once you discover these things, you’ll be more aware of how God’s wired you and whether you have an outlet in your life to do and be what He has created you for.

running puppy

I wasn’t created to do laundry. I definitely wasn’t created to sing like Laurie Partridge. But I am wired to minister and communicate hope to others through teaching, writing and speaking.  A few years ago when I was in grad school for counseling, I was sharing with a stranger about a subject in History I loved teaching in the classroom.  The person approached me later and said, “When you talk about teaching, your eyes light up. It’s your passion. You were made to teach.”

He connected with my soul.  My heart does sing when I communicate what I’m passionate about – either in print, in front of people, or one-on-one as I share about Him.

What makes your heart sing? Do you have opportunities to do exercise this passion in your life? If not, what do you need to do to connect with that joy inside of you? I’d love to hear from you –please share your journey with us!

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Some ministry announcements:

Recently a few readers request topics for me to write on either here or the other sites I write for.  I’d love to hear from you, too.  What topics would you like to see me write on related to faith, parenting, or life?  Please respond with those comments on the ministry’s Facebook page and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a surprise giveaway as a “thank you” for partnering with me.  You can get to the Facebook page here.

Those of you who are prayer warriors, I’m speaking to two different groups this week in southern Indiana on Hope Beyond the Picket Fence. Would you pray for hope to be received by women who need encouragement? Thank you.

Sharing Hope Beyond the Picket Fence
Sharing Hope Beyond the Picket Fence

Also, I’m speaking throughout the Midwest this summer and fall.  If your women’s group is in need of a speaker for a fall or spring 2014 retreat, please consider this ministry! I’d love to tailor the needs of your group through biblical teaching and authentic encouragement.  Feel free to contact me at yoderbl@gmail.com for more details or visit the speaking tab for topics I frequently speak on.  Do you have a theme or subject you don’t see or would like for me to speak on a blog topic you’ve read here? Just let me know and I will design a retreat or individual topic for that theme.

Have a great week – and I’m praying for God to show you how He has made your heart to sing!

Between A Rock and Hard Place {Or A Buggy and A Pig}

photo (23)I live in the middle of the third largest Amish community in the United States. Driving in our area requires a certain level of acquired proficiency.  Slow-moving horse and buggies are plentiful, and maneuvering around them is a skill only the locals know how to do.   Only out-of-towners actually follow a buggy until the dotted yellow shows up.   In our neck of the woods, passing buggies is an accepted practice, even when the rules say, “Do Not Pass.”  

Which makes driving behind a buggy and in front of a cop car like being stuck between a Rock-and-a-Hard-Place. 

This is where I found myself recently.  I gritted my teeth in frustration as my Honda hovered at 2 mph.  I just wanted to get through our quaint little town so I could get home in a timely fashion.

Being in tight spots bring dilemmas. 

Dilemma # 1: If I passed the buggy as usual, I would be break the law (double yellow all over the place) and I didn’t want to test Mr. Deputy to see if he followed the unwritten rules or was an enforcer of the Real Deal.

Dilemma # 2: If I followed Mr. & Mrs. Amish Neighbor at horse & buggy pace, I would get home in the next millennium.  So there I sat, frustrated, trotting along in my horseless carriage.  I decided to turn on a side-street to escape the dilemma of to-pass-or-not-to-pass. MP900438355

Freedom, at last!

While processing my options, I was reminded that not every rock-and-a-hard-place situation is that easy to get out of.  Life hands us complicated situations, and frustration follows when answers to life dilemmas aren’t cut and dry.  Rock and Hard Places are difficult moments.

I learned something being behind the buggy.  Normally, I would have {safely} passed the buggy on a double yellow, went on my merry way, no big deal.  Everyone does it.   Sound like life situations?  You know what God’s word says, but you recognize the unwritten rules people live by.  The “everybody does it, it’s no big deal” unwritten rules.  The ones that justify behavior because everyone does it.

I learned something being watched by Mr. Policeman, who personified many things in Rock and Hard places.  For me, I didn’t like being watched even though I was obeying the law. I was afraid of being pulled over and felt the MP900440905 (1)peering, judging eyes of someone behind me.

Can you relate to that? Sometimes hard situations become more complicated because we feel the eyes of judgment behind us, even when obediently walking with God.   I’ve lived in those places, where judgment and scorn peered at me though I was doing what God called me to do.  In those moments, I’ve learned to cling to the Truth God provides, resting in the knowledge I’m being obedient to Him, even though others question it.

There’s freedom in that kind of obedience, even when you feel pinned between a rock and a hard place.

In my Honda, freedom came when I escaped the dilemma of unwritten rules and judgment.   I wonder if it’s like that in life, too.

I’m reminded to seek God and obediently walk in God’s will for my life, regardless of how others respond to it.  In this, there’s peace.

Even pinned between rocks and hard places, there is freedom.

What areas can obedience bring even greater freedom for you?

And remember, when visiting Amishville, take the side roads.

Parenting Series: 101 Summer Boredom Busters for Boys

By contributing writer Josh Kissee of Manbuilders.com.

summer boredom busters for boysThe cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Dorothy Parker

Are you dreading your boys asking to play video games, watch TV, or sit at the computer when they get bored this summer?

I am. They do it now and it’s not even summer yet!

Solution: Have a list at the ready of boredom busters that do not need you to shell out a ton of cash, feel the guilt of putting your boys on screen-time autopilot, and continue to build the curiosity bound up in their heart!

Prime the Curiosity Pump

Spend 15 minutes with your son(s) and talk to them about curiosity and get them excited and renewed in their interest of things outside of games! If you are unsure where to start, consider using the steps below to guide your discussion.

1. Ask your son(s) if he knows what curiosity means.

2. Give him a few different definitions of curiosity. Consider reading “Sam I Am” by Dr. Seuss.

3. Discuss how “distractions” keep our curiosity from being fulfilled through exploring the world.

4. Explain to your son(s) that you will be posting a lot of new and exciting things to help him become curious about the world this summer.


101 Summer Boredom Busters List

  1. Plant a small flower garden from seeds. Be sure to water everyday!
  2. Make two different paper airplane models. Have a flying contest to see which plane model/whose plane can fly the farthest, straightest, or most unusual. If you have an Apple iPad or iPhone, checkout this FREE App on how-to make paper airplane models.
  3. Make a paper mache’ solar system and hang the project from your bedroom ceiling when finished. Spend an evening under the stars with your son and try to find some of the planets.
  4. Make a costume and act out the parts. Ideas could include a pirate, soldier, construction worker, scientist, or doctor.
  5. Create an emergency plan in case of fire and do a real drill.
  6. Play with Play Dough (Outside). Older boys can have a play dough war!
  7. Sing Songs.
  8. Exercise. Checkout the Subway fitness program for exercise ideas.
  9. Watch educational shows (e.g., animal planet, discovery)
  10. Write a letter to a family member.
  11. Mystery topic (cut up 20 pieces of paper with a topic, put in a bowl, and then have your son research it and talk about it. Monitor his internet usage!)
  12. Draw Pictures and Practice Art Techniques. Google or youtube search for Bob Ross (former PBS guy who drew amazing mountains and other scenic pictures).
  13. Create a Diarama
  14. Search for bugs in the yard and collect into a jar.
  15. Visit the library and get books to read together.
  16. Visit a museum.
  17. Go for a walk or search and destroy mission outside.
  18. Conduct a science experiment. Lots of ideas at Steve Spangler Science.
  19. Build with legos or blocks.
  20. Cook a new recipe for a sweet treat.
  21. Go fishing.
  22. Go swimming.
  23. Play a board game.
  24. Play tent in the living room.
  25. Take a bubble bath and relax.
  26. Make a bird feeder. Free DIY plans at Ana White’s website.
  27. Have a picnic.
  28. Play at the park.
  29. Go on a nature walk in a wooded park or by a lake. Skip some stones or throw rocks and have a contest while you are there.
  30. Have a water balloon fight.
  31. Build a volcano.
  32. Play hide and seek.
  33. Play basketball.
  34. Play baseball.
  35. Play soccer.
  36. Do a scavenger hunt.
  37. Shoot the BB gun.
  38. Call a family member and tell them you love them.
  39. Play cards.
  40. Go to the movies.
  41. Take pictures and act like a photographer.
  42. Fly a kite.
  43. Go to a pizza restaurant, like Chuck E Cheese. Get some coupons first!
  44. Dress up in a costume and act out your favorite movie.
  45. Do some woodwork.
  46. Work with tools.
  47. Learn how to change a tire or do maintenance on the lawn mower.
  48. Learn about parts of a car and especially the engine. Learn how to check the fluids.
  49. Play sword fight.
  50. Go on a mystery drive, where you the boys say which streets to turn on.
  51. Have a talent show.
  52. Build a time capsule and bury in the back yard.
  53. Have a video game competition.
  54. Have a Limbo contest
  55. Look at the stars at night and make wishes about the future.
  56. Wrestle.
  57. Draw with sidewalk chalk outside.
  58. Look for shapes in the clouds and tell stories.
  59. Use the grill to make smores.
  60. Play twister.
  61. Play charades.
  62. Watch the sunset together.
  63. Plan out a dinner menu that is crazy!
  64. Trace your hand onto paper and color
  65. Look at family pictures and talk about the memories.
  66. Make bubbles.
  67. Silly string fight.
  68. Jump rope contest.
  69. Have a lesson the guitar or piano.
  70. Think about how to redecorate your room.
  71. Learn about a specific animal.
  72. Play frisbee.
  73. Throw a party and invite some friends over.
  74. Go bowling.
  75. Play 20 questions.
  76. Have an Olympic festival where you compete in a variety of sports.
  77. Play iSpy.
  78. Have a hotwheel race.
  79. Play penny poker.
  80. Learn 100 signs in American Sign Language.
  81. Fix something that is broke.
  82. Sleep outside in a tent.
  83. Write down bad habits onto paper, build a fire, and throw it into the fire with a desire to change the bad habit.
  84. Go bicycle riding.
  85. Make holiday crafts in anticipation of the holidays.
  86. Go play laser tag.
  87. Play hot potato.
  88. Play name that tune.
  89. Play finish that story. Each person makes up a sentence and the next person has to keep the story going with another sentence. Do this for 10 rounds among all the players.
  90. Play with face paint and dress up like warriors.
  91. Play with hulk hands and have a boxing match.
  92. Make a pinata.
  93. Make a cardboard robot.
  94. Have a watergun fight.
  95. Watch a baseball game.
  96. Play Dominoes.
  97. Build a dirt castle.
  98. Go to the zoo.
  99. Do crazy Karoke.
  100. Build a cardboard castle.

101.Organize a magic show.

Print the 101 Summer Boredom Busters List and place it on a wall that your son(s) pass by often in your home. Challenge your son(s) and yourself to do one third to half of them this summer!

Keep the list going. Add more summer ideas in the comments below or share links to help some of the ideas come alive!

 

 

Parenting Series: What Have I Gotten Myself Into? By Shannon Dew

It’s my privilege to have Shannon Dew, author at Dewing Life, to guest post today.  Visit her site – it’s full of encouragement and practical advice for parenting blended families. I’m thankful to have her contribute to our parenting series!

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What have I gotten myself into?” The first year I was married to the love of my life and his three children I often had this thought. The first year almost did me in. You see, I am a perfectionist and I don’t ask for help and to top off those positive character traits, I am a people-pleaser. Good golly…just writing that makes me tired…living it nearly killed me.

Our wedding was beautiful and intimate and our honeymoon was lazy and relaxed. We returned home to REALITY! Blending a family of five children with ages that ranged 7 to 19 is no small feat. We felt we had done a good job preparing everyone for our wedding. His girls even came to stay with me and my girls in the house we bought a couple of weeks before the wedding.  A good sign that everyone was excited. A new house, new relationships and a new normal. We were all hopeful as we began this new life together, but it would not be without its challenges. My favorite saying in that first year was, “Change is hard even when it’s good”.

The day we returned from our honeymoon my mom told me that all FOUR girls had lice. LICE!! You have to understand that my stepdaughter’s have enough hair between them to cover a small country. It took us nearly a month to be rid of that infestation. To this day when I see the girls scratch their heads I am on top of them looking through their locks to see if I see anything resembling lice as they are screaming and knocking my hands away secretly scared I may find something. We were all traumatized by that experience.

We got married in November so that we could spend the holidays together as a family. Between nit picking hair and buying Christmas gifts for this huge family and extended family, I often wondered often what have we done? That holiday season was stressful. I was doing it all. Super Mom and Super Duper Step Mom. She runs, she buys, she cleans and cooks and nit picks nightly while watching Christmas movies creating the perfect home environment, while asking for help from no one! She IS AMAZING! And she was burning out quickly. We were not even two months in and I was struggling.

I was working hard on building relationships with my stepchildren and I was band-aiding my own children as Mother Kissing Her Daughter for a Present and Red Rosethey had a new school and neighborhood to adjust to since our move. I was in a part of town where I knew no one and I missed my friends and the life I had built on the other side of town for 15 years. I was giving a lot and not receiving much. My husband was trying to be my mainstay, but because I was busy doing it all for everyone else I was on an island. I had cut myself off and was just in “doing” mode. I couldn’t receive. We talked about it, but I just couldn’t stop and I was becoming resentful. I wanted help, but would not ask for it. Why?

Honestly, I loved the attention it gave me. The comparisons the girls gave me to their biological mother were positive. She was smarter than I and was not doing every little thing for them, but I pressed on with my S on my chest doing more and better and cooler things. I soon began to resent my husband for not doing more, but what was left to do? I never asked him to do anything.

That summer I was starting to get really tired. I was sleeping more and doing less. I thought maybe I was depressed. I made an appointment to see my doctor. He found a huge cyst on my thyroid. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was my wake up call and my reflection time. My thyroid and the mass were removed. I was treated successfully and I continue to take replacement drugs, but that time made me realize that I cannot do it all.

Not only had I not been relying on my husband or asking anything from any of the kids, I had not been relying on God. I had set myself up to be the martyr. You know the one who says, “Oh no, I have it”, and then seethes as they perform the task. They enjoy the attention, but loathe the responsibility. Yes, that was me.

As a mom, I think this behavior is a trap so many can fall into. However, a step mom can be special prey because as a stepparent there are always strangers in the house. That means that first year especially, you can feel like someone is always watching and judging your every move. That is how I felt. I don’t know if that was true or not, but because two of my stepchildren were older I was super conscious of my actions.

My advice to new and old step-moms is to take time for yourself. I’m working on this myself.  Don’t allow yourself to get lost in your new normal. Do something that is totally one hundred percent for you. Don’t get caught up in the comparison to the biological mother. Just do what you think is right and stay out of that trap. Keep your focus first on your husband and make time for one another. Talk openly and not defensively. The last and most important piece is to find a Godly woman or women that can walk along side you. If at all possible look for another woman in a blended family. We are unique in our struggles and it is nice to have someone who understands. I have someone I partner with and she and I use one another to grow and keep us honest.

Step-parenting is not for the faint of heart and it is not easy, but almost four years later I will tell you that it is the most rewarding role and I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I love our new normal and all the ups and downs that go with it. The relationships I have with all my children are ones I wouldn’t trade. My husband and I are closer than ever and he has been my rock. Blending a family can teach you some of the greatest lessons you will ever learn in your life. Each day brings new challenges but now I don’t face them alone.

The Parenting Series:The Simple Question and the Not-So-Easy-Answer

Last week my son came to me with a simple question.

Mom, are you busy?”MP900438778

I groaned inside because I knew the answer.  The right answer was “No. ” The wrong answer, which was inside my head, said “I really don’t want to stop what I’m doing.”

Luckily, my mouth came up with the right answer.

“No, what do you need?”

Would you play this with me?”  I looked in the hand of my sixth-grader.  He was holding a home-made board game on Carnegie he made for a school assignment.

“Sure” I said, though I silently rebelled.

Playing games is on my most-despised-mom-duty-list.

We sat on our living room floor that Saturday afternoon and in ten minutes, we successfully completed the game while learning about the life of Carnegie.  My son was happy, with a wide, content smile when we were done.  He resumed doing whatever he does in the Man-Cave with his brothers, and I returned to things a blogging/working mom does on Saturdays.

I felt guilty for being selfish with my time, but I knew ten minutes playing the Carnegie game was the most important use of my time for the week.  I cherished the time in my heart because there aren’t too many times when kids ask if I’m “not busy” these days in a house of teenage boys.   I thought back to days, not too long ago, when I was too busy for just about everything.  When the need came to spend unscheduled time with a child, I used to calculate in my head the cost of putting them off or stopping and engaging with them.   My heart usually overruled my head, resulting in precious, irreplaceable time with my kids.

A bedtime storyAs my son walked away, I longed for more time to spend with each my kids…..time snuggled in a rocking chair with three of them in my lap reading Mike Mulligan and the Steamshovel or singing “Trust and Obey.”  My heart yearned for my daughter to bring me cups of tea she imaginably made or for my sons to pour seed corn in my lap while they “unloaded the bins” with toy John Deere tractors.  Even now, the tears fall from my cheeks as I ponder these things in my heart.  I’m thankful I gave the right answer to the monumental question, “Are you busy?”

A friend and I were recently talking about many moms that seem to struggle with being content with where they are with little ones under their feet.  I remember being there.  I remember wondering if I’d ever have a thought or moment of my own or if I would ever have time where there wasn’t someone demanding my energy and time.

Now, when the rare moment comes when a child asks or calls, “Mom, are you busy?,”  I rush at the chance to be fully present with my not-so-little-little-ones. 

If I could say one word to young, harried, stretched-to-the-limit moms, it would be to seek God’s peace and contentment in the season you are in.  While the world might seem to be passing you by, it’s not.  And even if it is, your children will pass by even faster.  Once they are self-sufficient and their world revolves around their peers, you will long for just a wisp of their presence and a five-minute conversation to hear their voice.  You will yearn for time with them where you can be fully present.

God granted me ten minutes to learn about Carnegie and also affirm the time and effort my son put into his project.  We talked about other things in the process, and his fill for Mom-time was done.   But later that night, when the other two boys were in bed, I opened their doors, sat beside them in the dark, and asked if I could pray with them.

They said “Sure,” so I put my hand on their strong, manly-arms and prayed while they laid in the beds next to the picture of their girlfriends on the nightstand.   I took a chance, leaned over to kiss their heads, and felt my heart flutter as they said, “Good –night Mom” as I walked out the door.

Ten minutes was all it took, but my heart was filled as I hope was theirs.

Because our kids – whether two, twelve, or twenty, need us to be fully theirs for a few moments in time.

Dear Lord, thank you for each moment you give us.  Thank you for the seasons and stages we have with our children.  Please equip each of us as moms to stop, look, and listen to our children. Help us to not be busy when we need to be present with them.  Stretch our time, soften our hearts, and let us see our kids as you do.  Thank you for the moments you give us – help us not to miss the most important opportunities be you to our kids.

Where do you need to give one of your kids just ten minutes of your time?