Working With Educators to Support Your Child

School has just begun, and for many of you this means a return to familiar routines and schedules.

For some of you, this means overwhelmed, overstimulated kids who come home exhausted with piles of homework or daily notes scrawled by a frustrated teacher at the end of the day.

Educating our kids is both our responsibility and a gift we’ve been given.  Many children all over the world are unable to attend school due to extreme poverty.  If your children are able to attend school regularly or receive formal instruction, take a minute to contemplate that they are blessed!  While education may be a “right” in our Western culture, make no mistake.  Your children are privileged to have access to education and to learn important skills that will give them opportunities to sustain and provide for themselves as adults.

For a long time, parents were fed the lie that they were not equipped to be their children’s educators.  They were not expected to be the ones to know their child best, have the skills needed to guide their future and certainly not to teach them.

However, a movement of ordinary moms and dads are rising up to show themselves as not only worthy but exceptionally equipped to be the best teachers for their children.

Not only do you, as a parent, know your child better than any teacher…you have skills, intuition, knowledge and invaluable life experience to share with your child.

Many parents do not want to take on the demands and responsibility of providing their children’s education, and this I understand very well.  However, do not assume this means you have withdrawn the right to speak into your child’s educational experience.

While teachers have long been viewed as the experts and authority on children’s education, I believe many children suffer academically because parents have been detached from their children’s educational experience.

Parents and teachers both have expertise, knowledge and insight that are important to a child’s education.

The beauty of a school environment is that it gives opportunity for both the specialized training of a professional educator and the intuition and practical insight of parents to combine for the benefit of the child.

So how do you work alongside professional educators to combine their expertise with your intuition?

1. The first rule is to give respect and then expect it in return.

Your child’s teachers spends hours pouring over lesson plans, academic research, curriculum expectations and learning strategies.  By placing your child under their supervision you are giving them the responsibility to educate your child in the best way they know how.  They have specific training and knowledge that will be very valuable to both you and your child, but you need to take the time to listen respectfully to their professional opinions and follow the procedures put in place.  Nothing positive will be accomplished by bullying or criticizing.

However, I would also say that it’s important to require that respect in return.  If there is something you know about your child that is not being taken into consideration, you need to make that clear.  Don’t ever underestimate your insight as a parent.  You know your child best and what may sound great in theory may not work practically for your child.  Don’t allow a professional educator to intimidate you.  A good educator will know this and ask for your input.  Every relationship needs boundary lines, and this one is no exception.

2. Never undermine your child’s teacher in front of them.

Every parent knows the feeling of their child coming home with a story about their teacher that makes you wonder what they were thinking…but I cannot stress enough…be the adult and don’t say it out loud!  There is a very high chance your child’s version of the story is not accurate or is missing some pertinent information.  If you have concerns, by all means contact the teacher, but don’t allow your child to hear you speaking disrespectfully about the adult they are supposed to respect.  They will carry that comment to school with them in their mind every day and it will lead to them finding it very difficult to respect that teacher.  Always try to help your child see what the teacher’s perspective might be and remind them that their job is to be respectful and polite, even when differences arise.  Teaching our kids the skill of disagreeing respectfully with someone is a valuable life skill, so if there is an issue that needs addressing, walk through the steps of resolving that issue with both dignity and respect.

3. Communicate.

If you begin to see problems arising with your child academically, socially or behaviourally or you are concerned about some aspect of the curriculum or classroom procedures…speak up.

Contact your child’s teacher and request a meeting where you can express your concerns and ask questions.

Use the teacher, not your child, as your first source of information.

Listen respectfully and make sure you’ve taken the time to get accurate information and can express your concerns clearly.

Make sure you know how your child’s teacher prefers to communicate, whether it be through text, email, a daily agenda or in person.

Most problems at school between parents and teachers arise from miscommunication or lack of communication.

Let your child’s teacher know that you want to be involved and ask questions regularly, as they will likely forget at the end of their busy days to fill you in on things you might want to know.

4. Give grace.

Your child’s teachers are not perfect.  They are flawed humans, similar to your child’s parents 😉

They will make mistakes.

Give them some grace and remind yourself, and your kids, that you will probably need it in return at some point!

You will never regret establishing healthy, respectful relationships with your child’s educators.

5. Do not assume your child’s teacher knows your child as well as you do.

I am speaking particularly to parents of children with learning disabilities, behavioural challenges and social struggles on this one.

While your child’s exceptionalities may seem obvious to you, don’t expect your child’s teacher to understand why your child may behave or react the way they do.  You have a context for this child’s experiences that is helpful in decoding their struggles or successes.  Don’t be afraid to share this information with your child’s teacher as needed.  If your child has a formal diagnoses of some kind, make sure your child’s teacher knows this and is given a brief but clear summary of the best ways to navigate those extra layers successfully.

I have found it helpful to create a personal learning profile for one of my children in particular outlining her ideal learning environment and style, what her needs are and what aspects are challenging for her.  I give this to my child’s teacher as early in the year as possible and let them know to contact me if they have any questions or concerns.

Don’t forget to include any information that may seem “obvious” or has been discussed multiple times with other teachers or professionals within the school.  It is very easy for information to get misplaced or lost in the transition from year to year.  Assume your child’s teacher knows nothing about your child and go from there.

6. Lastly but most importantly pray for your child’s teacher.

Teachers are important and play a large role in our children’s lives.  Their jobs are not easy and the system they are working within places high demands on their time and energy.  Many teachers feel overwhelmed and unappreciated by their students, fellow staff and parents.  Make sure your child’s teacher this year knows that you see what they are doing and that you are grateful for the time they spend helping your child learn and grow!  Pray for wisdom, patience, energy and creativity.  Pray for their hearts to be drawn toward Christ.  Pray for opportunities to serve them and let them know you are grateful for them.

It is beautiful to be able to partner with others to educate your children.  You will be amazed watching your child learn and grow, and having others to celebrate those milestones with makes it even sweeter.

I hope this school year is the best yet for you and your children!

~AF

 

 

 

Moving Day

Throwback to four years ago when our daughters came home!

It’s moving day!

Yes, we are finally here 🙂  Today is the day we get to go pick up our girls and bring them home to start FOREVER together!!

It’s funny how things are never quite as you imagined they will be.

Even though I’ve been waiting for this day for so long…now that it’s finally here I don’t really feel all those emotions I thought I would.  Well…I do, but they are alongside others that don’t fit so well.

I am so excited, of course…I mean, why wouldn’t I be?!?  My daughters are finally going to be here with me, where they belong.  I love them so much and I miss them when they’re not here.  I love our weekends together, knowing that they’re here within my grasp.  That feeling of walking downstairs after we’ve tucked them in and said goodnight a thousand times and gave kisses and backrubs and cuddles…it’s amazing.  I love knowing that they’re safe.  They’re just up the steps, safe in their pink room and pink beds and pink pajamas.  I will know and hear if they are scared or lonely.  I can take care of them.  When they’re two and a half hours away…I have no idea what they’re doing or how to help.  So I can’t wait to have them here with me.

But the last few days I have also been hit by this tsunami size wave of FEAR.

From now on…everything is going to be different…and I’ve never really been that great with change.

Never again will it be just my husband and I…our little family of 2 that I know and love and am so comfortable in.  From now on we will always be a family of 4, not 2.  This isn’t really anything to be afraid of…except that I have no idea what that is even going to be like or feel like all the time.  And I will miss being a family of 2.  I am so in love with my husband, and I will miss it just being the 2 of us.  I know what it feels like to have children, because we’ve had children in our home lots already…but other times it wasn’t forever.  Eventually, they always moved on and it was just the 2 of us again.  It’s overwhelming to realize we are really at the end of this stage, of it just being us.  I know it’ll be good…and I won’t even think about it.  But I have so enjoyed  the last couple months, after having kids around so much in the past year, to just enjoy being a couple.  I will miss that.  I know from experience that having children around does not make your marriage less rich or exciting, but I do know that it’s harder.  It’s harder to find time to talk.  It’s harder to have energy to do things that are fun and crazy…just for the two of you.  It’s harder to get in date nights.  It’s harder to know every little thing that’s going on in each other’s lives.  It takes a lot of energy and time to parent…and that often means other areas can get neglected a bit sometimes.  Lucky for me I have a pretty amazing husband who is always willing to go that extra mile to make sure that I don’t just feel like a harried mama, but also the love of his life ❤

I always imagined what this kind of day…the actual day of moving our child home…would feel like.  Immediately, you get all these images running through your mind of tears of joy, hugging, kissing, smiling…perfect.  After all, there are tons of home videos on YouTube of parents meeting their child for the first time or bringing their children home.  But without having done this day yet, I know that’s not exactly a complete picture.  To be honest, I am dreading this day a little bit.  I wish we could skip over it, because I’m not sure how to best handle it.  My girls are not tiny, wide eyed, oblivious one year olds being passed over to their new Mommy and Daddy by cheering nannies.  My girls are 5 and 7, and they know exactly what’s happening today.  We have been going over and over and over this for weeks now.  Today is the day they are saying goodbye.  They are saying goodbye to the families they love.  They are saying goodbye to the only normal they know.  They will see their foster parents cry today, and they will not know what to do with those big feelings inside.  I know what it’s like to be a foster parent…and I have no idea how to stand there and watch someone else’s painful goodbye while I wait for my child to come to me.  How do you do that well?  I’m not sure if it’s more or less complicated that we’ve formed a friendship with these families over the last couple months.  Does that make it easier or harder?  I think that once the last goodbyes and hugs are given and we are strapped in the van on our way home…we’ll all be fine.  We’ve done that part a thousand times now.  But it’s just that inevitable moment where you have to watch your little girl give her ‘Mommy’ that last hug and kiss goodbye.  There is no pretty way to cover up that pain.  Right now, they don’t understand why this needs to happen.  They’re excited, they’ve bonded and they love us…but they don’t understand why it really needs to happen.  Especially my 5 year old.  It’s not fair that to get one thing she loves she must give up another.   Those feel like adult decisions, not something a child should have to grapple with.

But…that is the reality.

I’m nervous.

I’m scared.

I’m excited.

We will get through today…and maybe it will be better than I could ever hope 🙂

Tomorrow…on the first day of forever…things will feel pretty normal.  The girls will wake up around 6:30 am, start giggling and chattering to each other and creep downstairs once the alarm goes off telling them they may get up.  We will eat breakfast…probably Fruit Loops…and go for either a walk or a bike ride.  They will play with their dolls and maybe run in the sprinkler if it’s warm.  We probably won’t be thinking about forever or goodbyes.  In the next week sometime, when they start feeling homesick, we will call and talk to their foster moms and tell them all about what we’ve been doing.  I’ll send emails and pictures whenever I think of it, to let them know we still value the love and energy they gave to our daughters and let them see their smiling, happy faces…because that is such a gift.  Eventually, after maybe six months or a year, when we know it won’t do more harm than good, we will go back and visit.  Maybe we’ll play at the park together or just hang out in the backyard.  We’ll build the tentative first straws of a new relationship.  One day at a time we will become a family…us 4.  The girls will eventually have that first day where they call me Mommy every time they talk to me.  One day they will be able to talk about how they came to be here, in our family, without that shadow of fear and confusion in their eyes.  We will start our own traditions, build our own memories and life will become normal.

I’m ready to begin that.

So…if you read this before 1:00 pm today, June 24, 2014…please say a little prayer for us.  We could use some help today.  Mostly pray for Akeisha and Alexa…because more than anything I wish we could become a family of 4 without them having to go through this pain and loss.  They’ve already dealt with more pain and loss than is fair.  Pray that they will be able to do one day at a time, and that they will feel safe and loved…always.

For the next few months we’ll be doing lots of hibernating here…spending as much time as possible just making sure we know who our family is 🙂  Busy starting forever.

Cheers

AF

The Cross, Chocolate Eggs & the Resurrection

Then we come to this weekend,

Spring still making its shy debut.

Snow is still heaped against the shadowed places beside the fence and ice covers the tops of the puddles that the sun melted yesterday.

The lawn is brown and yellowed, the trees bare; life beneath the ground holds its breath waiting for the sun’s warmth to signal that it is time.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24

We wake up Good Friday to the sky cold and dreary.  All day it changes back and forth from cloudy to sunny to cloudy again.  It cannot decide whether its a day of light or darkness, and our hearts agree.

So much grief; so much joy.

So much loss; so much gain.

Pain in the midst of victory; the greatest sacrifice to accomplish the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known.

“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

We do our Easter hunt a day early, scavenger clues scrawled on colourful pieces of paper.

They shriek and run eagerly with buckets banging by their sides.

Their eyes light with joy at each new discovery.

The chocolate is sweet and sticky on my tongue.

Mmm.  So good.

And I wish that all of life was this sweet and perfectly mesmerizing.

But they tear into packages and leave bits of paper and cardboard all over the counter, knocking each other over in their haste.

I prickle with irritation and the magic of it all starts to dissipate.

The sugar high brings chaos and silliness and fighting naps and I get frustrated at it all.

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And its this.

It’s for this that I needed that cross.

Impatience, sarcasm, frustration and pride.

My sin glares ugly in our faces and rips and tears at what wants to be whole.

We are only humans and we feel it oh so real.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:11

We cling to that hope in our brokenness.

Because of the gift; that cross so crude and unlovely,

We are justified!

We are whole and spotless and beautifully redeemed.

Because of death, yes…

But also because of Life!

“In Christ shall all be made alive.” I Corinthians 15:22

“Death is swallowed up in victory.  Oh death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Tomorrow is Sunday!

Resurrection Day.

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We will put on our dresses and buttoned shirts and pretty hair bows.

We will smile and rejoice as we sing the victorious songs.

Songs of hope.

Songs of promise.

Songs of light and love.

We are not lost.

We are not doomed to break under the weight of all our shortcomings.

We are redeemed!

We’ve been rescued and scooped up into the palm of a Hand so gentle and nurturing.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” Ephesians 1:7-8

Chosen to be the recipient of lavish grace.

Lavish.

And so, it is Easter.

So much grief; so much joy.

So much loss; so much gain.

Pain in the midst of victory.

The greatest sacrifice to accomplish the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known.

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self Care and Why it Matters

I remember the first time I travelled internationally with my children.

For the first time I actually stopped to listen and observe carefully as the flight attendants demonstrated how to use the oxygen masks and life vests in case of an emergency.

With my baby in my arms and two daughters beside me, it suddenly felt important to know how I would go about saving their lives if need be.

The most important take-away?

Always put your own mask on first.

It struck me how contradictory this was to every maternal instinct inside of me.

As mothers, we regularly play the martyr.

We sacrifice.

We shield.

We protect.

It’s who we are, and who we want to be.

But what happens when the steady pouring out of ourselves leaves a gaping hole?

What happens when the mundane of life covers up the joy?

Is it ever ok to put me first?

As Christian mamas we heap on the added burdens of selfless service, taking up our cross and putting others ahead of ourselves.

We take the verses to heart and stretch ourselves thin and fragile over our treasures.

We want it all.

We want to be enough.

But we foolishly forget we will never be enough on our own.

There is no glory in exhausting our own resources so that at the end of the day we are weary, discouraged women with nothing left to offer.

I realize there are seasons and days when this is the inescapable reality of motherhood.

We all have seasons that drain the life out of us, but sometimes it’s because we are neglecting our own souls.

Self care is a bit of a hot button word right now, but it’s really not that complicated.

It means taking time to infuse hope, joy and energy back into myself.

The purpose of self care is to fill yourself up so that you can once again pour yourself out.

It’s hard to mother well from a depleted soul.

I practise self care so I can tuck my children in with smiles and tender kisses at the end of the day.

I practise self care so that I have energy to be active with my children.

I practise self care so that I reflect hope and joy to a dying world around me.

I practise self care to remind myself of who I am in Christ.

I practise self care so that I can enjoy time with my husband.

If you’re like me you might be reading this thinking, “Great, another thing to add to my never ending to do list.  One more thing I’ve neglected to accomplish.”

But self care is probably something you’re already doing…it maybe just needs to be prioritized into your life a little more intentionally.

Self care is doing things that you love; things that make you happy.

It means feeding your passions and pursuing your dreams.

It means disciplining yourself to choose what is best so that you can reach your very greatest potential.

It means that every now and then, you put your own spiritual, emotional or social needs first.

So today…find a way to take care of yourself.

Turn on your favourite music, order pizza for dinner or get out for a walk.

Take a bath…with music so you won’t hear the chaos the kids are causing downstairs with your husband.

Plan a date night at home, exercise or go shopping.

Take a nap while the kids lie down, join a women’s group or book club, journal or call a friend.

Change the scenery around you for a few hours.

When we think of self care we tend to think of hiding away in a corner somewhere by ourselves, but some of these things can be done with your children at your side.

It’s about choosing to enjoy the life you have, and finding ways to make it easy to enjoy.

It’s ok to leave the dishes for a nap sometimes.

Deciding to spend the morning outside in the sunshine instead of cleaning the house is not a choice you will regret.

Losing some weight or cooking a nutritious meal will help you feel more motivated, energetic and happy.

Listening to your favourite worship songs while you feed the kids breakfast could be the difference between staying calm and refreshed or frustrated and stressed through the morning rush.

Pick up your Bible while the kids are quiet or listen to your favourite podcast while you fold the laundry.

I have found it can be such a subtle change to my day but such a great shift in my heart when I take the time to choose things that will fill up my own cup.

 

In John chapter 10 Jesus says,

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

This is what Jesus desires for you.

Life!

Abundantly.

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

This One’s for the Moms

Parenting is hard work.

Nobody is perfect but somehow we still expect perfection, especially from ourselves.

It doesn’t help that we have access to so much information.

Every day we as moms are bombarded with hundreds of messages of what we should and shouldn’t be doing, wearing, saying and eating.

Sometimes I feel like no matter what I do, it’s never enough.

How do I know if I’m doing this well?

What are the most important things?

Am I getting it right?

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But God gave those children to you for a reason, Mama.

The best parenting moments often happen when we are confidently parenting in the ways that we instinctively know are best for us and our children.

Here are a collection of some things I have told myself and other moms.

Because we could all use some grace.

***

Dear Moms,

Your child will not die if they eat Kraft Dinner tonight…or three times this week.

Your integrity as a person does not depend on the cleanliness of your home.

It is ok not to breastfeed your baby.

Not all immunizations are good and not all are bad.  It’s ok to make your own choices and its ok to just follow the immunization schedule your doctor suggests.

Colds and flus happen and there is very little you can do to stop them.  They will run their course and be over soon.

Some of the best days happen in pajamas with unwashed faces, bare feet and dirty floors.

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Having devotions every day is not always possible when you are a mom.  You are not going to hell for being busy caring for the little people He entrusted to you.

Sometimes your child will be the bully and other mothers will misunderstand you and yours.  Take it as an opportunity to develop character in yourself and your child…and remember in detail all the times you were mean to others as a kid.

Most children do not enjoy church.  This doesn’t mean they will never be Believers, it just means they’re regular children.

Sleeping through the night for babies, toddlers and mothers is a myth.  Few nights will go by that both you and all your children will sleep for 8 hours with no interruptions.  Lower your expectations and you will all be happier.

Sometimes bribes are the perfect solution.

Don’t turn everything into a lesson.

Babies cannot be spoiled by being held…but it’s also ok to put them down so you can take a shower.

You don’t always have to give a reason other than “Because I’m the mom.”

Co-sleeping can be wonderful…or terrible.  It really is YOUR choice.

Follow your instincts…but don’t expect to be a super-human.  You never did or will know everything about everything.  Sometimes it’s better to call the Doctor.

Pretending you did not hear or see something is a coping mechanism every parent will use sometimes.  Stay sane!

Siblings will fight, and sometimes they will hurt each other.  This is normal.

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Every parent does hundreds of things they will later regret.  Say sorry, do what you can to resolve the situation and then move on.

When the dentist says your child has cavities it does not necessarily mean that you are not brushing your child’s teeth well enough or often enough.  Also, no one expects you to have time to brush and floss three kids’ teeth for them every morning and night.

Living off the grid and growing your own food is probably not a good option for most of you.

Whichever way you choose to educate your child has worked for hundreds of other children on the planet.

DIY sometimes just means that it looks like you did it yourself.  Don’t let Pinterest fool you!

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Love really does cover a multitude of sins.

The TV is a good babysitter and its ok to use it some days.  If it provides you with the breather you need then it is probably worth it.

Children under 5 rarely handle social situations well.  They hit, they bite, they scream and they grab.  This is perfectly normal.

Sometimes you need to put your own needs ahead of your children’s and practise some self care.  Don’t be a martyr.

No matter how hard you try, there will be some things you do badly.

It’s okay if you’re aiming for just OK.

Life is not fair, and your kids should know that.

Children love time with you.  It doesn’t always have to be quality, it doesn’t always have to be quantity.  Both have value and significance.

Your kids will not always be happy and they will not always like you.  That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

It’s ok to say no.  It’s also ok to say yes sometimes.

Adolescents will be grumpy a lot.

You will not enjoy your children, or parenting, all the time.

God loves to fill in the gaps that we miss as parents with His perfect, extravagant, more than enough love.

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Keep your chin up and your smile on.

You.

Are.

Doing

Great.

With Love and Grace,

Another Imperfect Mom

~AF

*Photography credits to Unfrozen Photography

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s been a long week.

I started strong on Monday, with ambition and the best of intentions.

But along came Tuesday,

Wednesday,

and then Thursday;

trampling tenacity and smothering resolve.

In came sore throats and hot little fevered bodies.  Tears, tantrums, countless night time wakings and bone aching weariness.

The lists get longer, the interruptions more frequent and the laundry pile larger.

By mid afternoon I’m feeling like I want to crawl under the blankets in a dark room for a long, long time.

My throat feels raw, my voice is hoarse and my eyes are gritty from lack of sleep while the fevered chills come and go.

But it’s my soul that feels most defeated.

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I feel I’m at my worst.

It’s not the physical sickness.

It’s all the impatient words I spoke, rolling over and over through my mind like a song on repeat.

It’s all the times I sighed and pushed them away;

ignored their hands reaching for me.

It’s all the missed opportunities to nurture, knowing it’s in those moments I had so much opportunity to deliver the message,

I will take care of you.

Instead, it came out more like,

I’m way too tired and busy for you.

It’s the looking at tomorrow and thinking,

“I don’t want to get up and be the mom anymore.”

I dump it out with hoarse sobs and hot tears on my husband’s kind shoulders.

And the words come.

Be kind to yourself.

He folds me in his arms and kisses my hair.

His calm reassurance brings Truth to this space.

His love is indifferent to my scathing self-reviews.

I hunt down the song on YouTube and let my soul rest in it as I play it over and over again.

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself.

I can see it, watching the tender exchange on video between father and daughter as they sing the words.

I love you just the way that you are.
I love the way He made your precious heart.                                                                          Be kind to yourself.

What if I could pass this on to my own daughter, so tender and vulnerable as she unfolds into womanhood before my eyes?

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind

What if I could really embrace it,

the knowledge of all the ways I fall short.

Embrace that love isn’t something to be earned.

Maybe I could carry that grace to others, too.

Well how does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you?

Be kind to yourself.

I let the words reshape my reflection.

I look at my daughters as I kiss them goodnight, stroking the freckled cheeks affectionately, and think…

It’s the best way to love them; to show them what Grace is.

When I let failure be my teacher, humility and kindness will settle around my tensed shoulders and I can offer kindness to them too.

Teach them how to handle their own fragile souls delicately.

Be kind to yourself.

Will they see it?

Will they carry it in their own hearts as they look in the mirror each day,

take in the words of the world around them,

try and fail at life.

Be kind to yourself.

I say it as I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror pulling old clothes over an ordinary, blemished body.

I say it as I stare at the to do list and tuck it under the stack of papers where I can’t see it.

I say it as I fall onto the couch for a nap in the quiet of the afternoon while the dishes litter the kitchen counter and harden into crusty layers.

I say it as I scroll through my social media feed, taking in a narration of a thousand best moments of other people’s today.

I say it as I look at the dirty floors, the Kraft Dinner on the table, the children lounging on the couch in front of a screen.

I say it as I glimpse my Bible unopened in the basket by the window.

I say it as I step on the scale that disappoints, look at the grocery receipt that’s too high, and the toddlers eating lunch in their pajamas.

Be kind to yourself.

The words we tell ourselves become the words we tell others.

The disappointment,

the expectations,

the fear,

the anger,

or the kindness.

Live like you are loved.

Live like you are a child of God.

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“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

-Ephesians 3:17-19

“Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel

Emmanuel.

God with us.

It’s the theme that keeps playing on the screen of my heart this Christmas.

I sit in church on Christmas Eve morning and feel the words seep into my soul.

God with us.

Emmanuel.

The manger scene on my bookshelf, set out at the beginning of Advent, sits as a quiet testament to the Truth of it.

A tiny baby is snuggled in the manger carved of porcelain, surrounded by witnesses of the glorious moment when the world was forever changed.

Through the raw, undignified labor of childbirth God came to us.

On that first Christmas night he found His home in a barn, the breath and body heat of animals filling the air with a sweet, musty odour.

The gentle movements of cattle rustling in the straw were the backdrop to one young woman’s delivery.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, for there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7

Just like that, God entered the world He had created and sought out the hearts of humanity as He always does.

A young woman and her humble husband,

shepherds working in the fields nearby,

the townspeople of a small town in Judah called  Bethlehem,

the king of a mighty empire,

an elderly woman and man in the temple in Jerusalem,

men from the far east.

God here with us for one purpose;

to redeem the brokenness and seek out the hearts of His beloved creation.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Suddenly, there was hope.

I look back over the past year and it’s those words that ring in my ears.

“God with us.”

He was,

he is,

and he will be.

Steadfast love.

“Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”                               -The Jesus Storybook Bible

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I watch my children’s eyes as my husband walks them through the Christmas story, the porcelain figures in their hands as we recount the events of that first celebration of Jesus’ birth over 2000 years ago.

I see it’s like a story to them.

They don’t understand yet, but someday they will see it;

this Emmanuel feeling…God with us.

So much humility and gratitude in the realization.

God here with us in the mess of our lives,

delighting in our little acts of worship to Him.

We sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blow out the candle.

My daughter wonders how many cand

les should really be there, and her brow furrows in concentration as I try to explain that there was never a beginning.

I peel back the wrappings on the large wooden plaque and I see a map of the world painted on the rough wooden slabs.

My husband smiles at my delight and I study the span of it.

We point out to the children where we are and where their aunt is, clear across the expanse of the map in Australia.

This one world that seems so huge to us, but is such a tiny dot in the eye of that one God who entered into it.

Emmanuel.

One of my favourite Christmas songs com

es on and I close my eyes and take a moment to settle in it.

God Is With Us

The skies don’t seem to be as dark as usual
The stars seem brighter than they’ve been before
Deep within I feel my soul a stirring
As though my hope has been restored
The shepherds say they’ve heard the voice of angels
Confirming rumors spread across the land
That a child protected well from Herod’s anger
Is our father’s son, and the son of man

Love is raining down on the world tonight
There’s a presence here I can tell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

He’s the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts he will dwell

God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

I feel compelled to tell all who will listen
That peace on earth is not so out of reach
If we can find grace, mercy and forgiveness
He has come to save, he is all of these

You’re the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts you will dwell

You are in us, you are for us

You are with us,

Emmanuel

~Casting Crowns

It’s true.

Emmanuel means He has come down here to us.

God is in us.

He is for us.

He is the hope we can hang our heartstrings on and know, without a doubt, that He will be able to hold the weight of all of us and our world.

~AF