But…Three Ways Little Words Affect our Relationships

butandembrace

There’s a tiny three-letter word used in many conversations that’s been an instigator of doubt, helper of defensive attitudes, and distinguisher of joy in relationships. A casual little conjunction, called BUT

BUT in itself is not a bad word. It’s the context in which we use it and the statements we choose to combine it with that’s the issue. In homes, workplaces, and in churches, I hear BUT being used in three different ways. Three ways that cause discord between people and promotes negative thinking. With some thought before we speak and a simple replacement word, I believe we can bring about change.

When we replace BUT with AND, we shift our phrases to the positive. We create encouraging and constructive conversations that open dialogue and build up relationships. AND takes nothing away, it only adds.

BUT and Doubt…

Combine BUT with an “I’m sorry” or an “I love you,” and we’ve completely taken away the sincerity of the apology and have established conditions around love. When we say “I’m sorry, but you’re not perfect either” or “I love you, but next time_____,” we are instilling doubt and confusion into our relationships, often leaving the other person to question where they stand, where we stand, and over time, where the relationship stands. It is better to keep the “I’m sorry” and “I love you!” as self-contained, assured statements.

BUT shows up in other ways too. We give, receive and process words through a wide spectrum of emotions and levels of confidence. What we may think is a casual observation or a small statement of opinion can be so much more to the receiver. The BUT can inject doubt into their work, their passions, and their callings.

Some examples… “I like it, BUT it would be better if _____.” “You did a nice job, BUT next time_______.” Instead try saying: “I like it, AND I can see you worked hard on this.” “You did a nice job, AND I would love to hear more about your process.”

BUT and Defensiveness…

We give (and give) so much of our time and talents to people, to our work and the church. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a state of exhaustion. We start getting protective of our time and energies, sometimes thinking we already did our part, gave enough and have nothing more to give. OR God has reluctantly moved us to a new place or a new season and we are processing through those all the thoughts and emotions of letting go and moving forward. When someone approaches us for help or our opinions on something, there’s a threat to answer out of our exhaustion and emotions rather from of a place peace and the inner strength that comes with knowing God has a purpose and a plan.

Instead of saying…”I would love to help BUT I’m already working too much.” Try saying, “I would love to help, AND even though my schedule does not allow it right now, I can help you by thinking of people who might be able to ask.”

Instead of saying…”We did it that way for ages, BUT now_______.” Try, “We did that for ages, AND now we get to do ____________. ”

“Another change! BUT why? ” Try, “Another change! AND maybe there’s good reason for it. I’m going to find out…”

BUT and Distinguishing Joy…

Every day BUTS can distinguish innocent joy. They can overshadow the simplest praise. BUT feeds discontent and rapidly multiplies in conversations. It shows up in our attitudes and the way relate to each other.

Instead of saying… “That’s good, BUT this person/this program/this church does it better like this __________.” Try, “That’s good, AND praise the Lord for what he has done it here.”

Instead of saying…”Only five people showed up, BUT more people should have come.” Try, “Five people showed up AND they were the rights ones. Our small group enjoyed a lot of good conversations.”

There is absolutely a time and place to state opinions, evaluate and reevaluate. It must be done in an edifying, safe and trusting environment, if not the “buts” will continue to destroy relationships, breed distrust and all sincerity will be lost.

I sadly admit I have been both a speaker and receiver of many BUT phrases. I don’t beat myself up about what I might have said, instead I look toward changing what I will say. I think it’s important to remember that in our humanity we are not going to have perfect conversations all the time. It’s an awareness of our choice of words, and working toward using those words in a positive way. This awareness and practice will be beneficial not only to our family, our workplaces and our church bodies but also to us. Let’s start catching ourselves in mid-thought and in conversations, and challenging ourselves to be the change and positivity-promoter that our relationships need.


The Brief Guide for Summer Living

The Brief Guide for Summer Living

Where have I been? I’ve been taking some time to finish our homeschooling year, wrap up ministries before the summer break, and spend time with family and friends. Time seems to be flying by faster than ever. Each moment seems more precious than the one before. The cliches about time (the ones I heard a million, gazillion times when I had newborn babies) are ALL TRUE!!!

In thinking about time, I’ve been trying to be more intentional with how I spend it and focusing on people and relationships first. This means I’ve been slowing down, sitting down, and quieting down. It’s taken a few weeks to start breaking the habits of busyness. It seems like I am hardwired to be in constant motion (sometimes due to choices and situations; sometimes due to survival of taking care of and living with kids.) It can feel strange, extending, and challenging to slow down but with each moment focused on the less comes more of the life-giving, life-enjoying, and more meaningful things. This heart work is worth it and I have been enjoying it!

Instead of a summer bucket list, I’ve written a “brief guide”  (see above) for how I want to live my summer. It’s the more and less of summer which I hope will lead to creating habits of the more and less of life. I hope you are having a great month and taking time to slow down too. ❤

 


Notes on the Presidential Debate- Some Unsolicited Advice (which may or may not include a Snap Cup)

It’s Monday morning. I am waiting for the coffee to finish brewing and I’m feeling a bit punchy. (That should say something about where this post it going.) The reality TV show I watched last night, also known as the presidential debate, left me feeling like this….

voting

Normally, I shy away from writing about politics but as a teacher (and a mom) I feel the need to give some unsolicited advice to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Just a few little things I teach my children to help build character and improve my children’s social skills. I sure hope Trump and Clinton were once taught these skills but it may be in their best interest to practice and (re)learn some of them before the next debate.

  1. It is polite to shake hands.
  2. If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all.
  3. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. (Abraham Lincoln and Proverbs 17:28)
  4. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
  5. Listen politely (even if you do not agree.)
  6. Control your temper.
  7. Play by the rules.
  8. Do not lie and do not exaggerate the facts.
  9. Do not seek revenge.
  10. Be kind to others.

My absolute favorite question came at the very end of the debate from a man named Karl Becker. I clapped and cheered when he asked, “Regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?” Cue Elle Wood’s pink, glittery Snap Cup. How awesome would it have been to see Anderson Cooper pass out pink scented paper and fluffy, pink pens to write with. I can just imagine Martha Raddatz singing the “Snap Cup” song. It would have totally improved everyone’s moods.

I am sure it was very difficult to think of positive things to say with such clear dislike from both opponents but Clinton went first and managed to get out how she respects Trump’s children. Trump had a slightly longer answer and said he respected Clinton as a “fighter” who “does not give up.”

In the spirit of being helpful, here are a few “Snap Cup” worthy answers for both Trump and Clinton, you know in the case they were ever presented with a question like that again.

snapcuphillary

snapcupdonald

snapcuphillary2.jpg

snapcupdonald2

snapcuphillary3

snapcupdonald3

See, that wasn’t too hard to do!

In all seriousness, I still think this country is great. I still have hope. I am sad we have such a divided nation but I am not afraid. My hope is not in any candidate or even in the process. My hope comes from the Lord and He is not surprised by any of this. My heart is turned heavenward and my eyes pointed forward. I will keep on praying.  Praying for this country, for Donald Trump, for Hillary Clinton and praying for the leaders of the world. Whoever wins this election, I will continue walking in faith and doing the things that I am called to. There are people in need and people to love. A younger generation is watching and learning. I plan to do what I can to be a good example of what it means to love people and teach my children to do so too. I think we all can agree, despite political stance, that this country needs more love. May God give us what we need and may God bless America.

****If you are looking for free resources on character education. Check out Character First . Their elementary curriculum provides timeless character traits in a bold, fresh manner. Lessons are designed for students in public school, private school, home school, day care, summer camp, or any other educational setting.


How We Came To Homeschool and Why We Do- Part 1

how we came to homeschool and why we do

If you asked me a ten years ago about homeschooling, my opinion would have been quite negative. To put it bluntly, I was ignorant to the whole thing. With limited knowledge of homeschooling, my perceptions came from common misconceptions of homeschoolers and the lack of exposure I had with homeschooling families. My training as a public school teacher and my teaching experience only compounded my strong opinions. I thought that the public schools had the best access to curriculum, services, and educational experiences. I thought “socialization” at school had to happen in order to form a well-rounded, well-adjusted child.  I was way off.

Then we had kids. A funny thing happens when you have them. The moment you look into the eyes of your newborn, the familiar world you once knew seems to change. Holding life in your arms, you are left to navigate a “new” and unfamiliar, selfless world. Constant time and attention is directed to the needs and growth of another human being . You find yourself questioning why you believe what you believe and you start prioritizing your values and obligations. Things that you once held high in importance are let go and you realize that certain things (like faith, family, friends) matter so much more than you ever thought. And oh the decisions, you spend constant hours thinking about, dwelling over, and making decisions. In momentous decisions and small choices you want to do what is best for your child and set them on a path of faith and a good life.

When my first born was about to start preschool, I knew my husband and I had decisions to make about school. By this time, I had been out of the public schools for about three years.  With increased state testing (which I had always disliked), changes in education policy and procedures, news stories of bullying, faith and social issues under fire, my opinion of public school was not as high as it once was. I knew public school WAS NOT the best choice for my family. So what was?

Also, by this time, I had become great friends with a homeschooling mom. She was awesome and her kids were normal, well-adjusted, and socialized! The more I asked her about homeschooling and the more she told me, the more my opinions on homeschooling started to change. My friend choose her curriculum (which I loved), went on a ton of “field trips”, and made her own school schedule. Her children had plenty of opportunities to “socialize” through church activities, baseball, cub scouts, and other unique opportunities.  Was this the best choice for our family?

The thought of homeschooling started to weigh on my mind more and more. Even when I declared that I would NEVER homeschool, part of me knew that was untrue. I had seen the positive impact of homeschooling on my friend’s family. I wanted a family like hers. The teaching did not worry me. It was the “other” stuff which I think boiled down to what other people would think. Who? I am not sure. I constantly prayed for help to decide what to do. I did my research too- reading books, articles, blog posts. One day, I do not remember the exact day or moment, I felt that I had been given a answer to my prayers. I strongly felt that “yes” we were suppose to homeschool and that we needed to have enough faith that it would work out. A sense of peace washed over me and the weight was lifted. I became really excited about all the possibilities homeschooling would do for our family.

At that time, we did not have everything figured out. We actually had two options for schooling.  We had been offered a full scholarship at a Christian School. But at that time, we had spent so much time researching and praying and I felt so strongly that this was God’s plan, we turned down the scholarship. I was so blessed to have my husband’s support.  My youngest daughter went to the Christian preschool while my oldest daughter and I started our first year of homeschooling together. It was a blessed year full of learning experiences for both of us. When my second daughter was about to enter Kindergarten, it was an easy decision what to do-HOMESCHOOL.

100s Days Smarter

September 1st, will start of our third year of homeschooling. It amazes me how the journey began and where we are now. We still do not have everything figured out and are learning as we go. I think homeschooling is definitely a calling and not for everyone. I feel blessed that we live in a country where we are given the freedom to choose which type of education is right for our children. I certainly do not look down or differently on anyone for making a choice of public or private school. I like to believe that we, as parents, are all trying to make the best choices for their children so that together we will raise up an generation that will kind, good leaders, and good stewards of this world.  But as for my family, homeschooling is where we will be educating and bringing up our little world changers. 

Stay tuned for the next post- Part 2: What We Homeschool


Hesitation

I hesitated to start this blog.  Conversations with other moms, about mommy-blogs, produced chuckles and comments like:  “Why would she want to write that?” “How does she have time to write a blog? I barely have time to ..xyz…” Not wanting to be the receiver of those chuckles and comments, I laughed along and kept quiet my own desires to one day start a blog.

In the safety of a few friends, I have shared my thoughts about wanting to blog and in those conversations it was ME who chuckled and made the comments. “But who would want to read what I write?” “Do I really have something to say?” “Writing is not my strong point.”  Those dear, encouraging friends smiled, encouraged me to write, and assured me that they would read what I wrote. Time after time I have talked myself out of it, convinced that “blogging” was not for me. My stalling to be out of a lack in self-confidence and self-consciousness about sentence structure and grammar. (I’ll save the topic of my struggles with a Type-A personality for a future post.)

Days and months went by, but the desire to write and share my ideas persisted. Then came an opportunity to write a few paragraphs for a leadership website. I tried to ignore the opportunity. I tried to not think about what I could write about or the things I could say. I tried to convince myself that I was not a writer and someone better than me could write it. But the harder I tried to stop thinking about it, the more I thought about it and the only way I could get “it” to stop (what ever “it” was) was to sit down and type everything that flowed out of my mind and heart. It felt so good! Therapeutic!

After my initial word and thought “dump,” I took time to add and delete and improve my writing. It was like crafting but without the glue, ribbon, and paper. When the post was finished,  it was more than accomplishment, it was like something that had been stirring inside me was brought out and was staring at me on the paper (or I should say on the computer screen.) I know, that sounds very dramatic but that is exactly how I felt. I decided to send the passage in with no expectations, just thankful that I had accomplished the task. Long story short, the post was picked and posted to the website. And that small bit of writing is what gave me the confidence to write some more and start this blog.

I teach my kids that they should try new things and press on in difficulty. I tell them the more they practice, the better they will become. I also tell my kids that God made them perfect just the way they are, what others say or think should not change what they want to try or who they want to be (in a negative ways, of course.)

I want to write because it is a challenge for me. I know I have a lot to learn. It is a chance to improve myself in a new and interesting way and be an example to my children.  I want to write because excuses, hesitations, other people’s thoughts, and missed opportunities is not the way to fully live. This is an opportunity to take my own advice and practice what I preach one blog post at a time.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.- Lao Tzu