Simply…

… Charlotte Mason.

Hey guys, sorry I’ve been MIA for weeks. Blogging is my passion and it always will be, but I have been cheating on my blog with journaling. Homeschool journaling is a cross between a scrapbooking, a research paper, a sketch book and a journal. The book can be as personal or as shallow as one makes it. Naturally I bought books for every person in my family and 3 for myself. I like plain composition books for homeschool and Smash Books for personal journaling. When I get into something, I really get into it… so that’s what I’ve been doing with my blogging time. Journaling. Real paper, nice gel and felt pens, notes, scribbles, sketches, quotes, phrases, diagrams, and lists upon lists. Most of my journaling led to one place… Natural unit study, Charlotte Mason, literature based homeschooling. The more information I collected for my notebooks and the more I put together pages of beliefs and knowledge and all of those lists, the more I began to see just who I am as a homeschooler. It’s all tied in very closely with my spiritual beliefs, my mothering style and our lifestyle, but this post is almost purely about the academics of this thing we do called homeschooling.

It’s been the better part of a decade since I bought that very first A Beka and Sonlight curriculum for my budding little future president. I wanted to be thorough and so I bought everything. Over the next several years I would go on to collect another Sonlight core, 2 KONOS volumes, The Weaver, 4 Heart of Dakota bundles, Five in a Row, a ton of smaller curriculums, and this past year we used My Father’s World for the first time. I am a curriculum junkie. You name the homeschool company and I have probably tried at least one workbook from them. I get around. Our latest stint with My Father’s World started off really well, but after a few weeks I came to see that if I took this out and added that and if I used this book for this instead of that, the kids would get so much more from it… I tweaked the plans until it was no longer what I could even call My Father’s World’s curriculum anymore. And I do this every year. I end up dropping the instructor’s guide, adding a few of my own “tried and true” books and just going with the book lists and my trusty, well-worn Charlotte Mason manuals. With the exception of KONOS and Sonlight, I have found each Instructor Guide ever purchased to be a waste of my money, since it hinders us instead of inspires me. And that is what curriculum should do… inspire me to inspire my kids. Math is excluded from this statement as I found the math course which works and we have been following it since our second year homeschooling. Our math is based on the mastery approach (Singapore Primary/Miquon) as apposed to a spiral approach (Horizons). Both lovely programs as I have tried them all, but mastery certainly works better for my boys when it comes to math. It makes much more sense to the teacher in me as well, although I can understand the benefits of a spiral approach and why that would work for others. It’s such an individual and personal matter. What works for one does not work for another. That is why we have so many wonderful choices “out there” and I am grateful for all of the companies and families who work so hard to give us these choices.

We are now in our 7th year… by no means a veteran hs’er, but definitely a tad of wisdom under my belt. In my years of journaling I have found Charlotte Mason and her life’s work to be the philosophy and guidance that fuels our homeschool. And since journaling itself is strongly encouraged by Miss Mason I have been spending the last several weeks adjusting to what feels like a shedding of skin in our home education and revealing the refreshed and renewed vision set before us. Journaling/Notebooking/Lapbooking. We have done plenty of lapbooks, especially when we used Five in a Row. It was fun, engaging, and a style that fits like a glove with me and my artistic children. So as I journaled up a storm, once again going through my Charlotte Mason (and Ruth Beechick) companion books, it occurred to me that the one constant in all of my trial and errors has been the love of the book list. Every boxed up curriculum we purchase includes a large pile of living books. A living book (term coined by CM) is one written by an author who took special interest in his subject. The facts are presented in story form (so, textbooks are definitely not living books). The illustrator aims at accuracy. Living books, unlike compressed compilations of books, are saturated with ideas and convey information as well. My kids hate text books and thrive on living books. Twaddle bores them to death and they no longer read books that have been dumbed down with silly pictures and words obviously written and drawn by an adult who thinks that children are not intelligent enough to understand good writing. I can hardly take the credit for this as it was Sonlight who taught me and my children to listen, comprehend, and then narrate back what was read. This is how children learn. Try to do this with a book that is not a “living book” and you’ll notice the difference. Writing in which no human feeling enters is not literature, but a dry style of writing given to children in textbooks. Certainly not what I want for my boys. The reason I have been revisiting my collection of homeschooling classics is to brush up on my foundation as an educator. I am switching us over to notebooking/journaling/lapbooking in every subject.

* We do use workbooks; the close cousin of the textbook… I am aware of their value when used as a side supplement. When we tried the textbook method they were able to fill their heads with knowledge, but other than memorizing, they didn’t learn by thinking. The only textbook we use is in math. However, workbooks are a wonderful tool when used here and there. The workbooks we use compliment (and are purchased alongside)Sonlight’s language arts program… Explode the Code, Wordly Wise, MCP Phonics, and we use Rod and Staff Spelling- it’s very thorough. Sonlight’s spelling list always seemed like it was a year “behind” the reading level and Rod and Staff fit nicely as a substitute. The way Sonlight works is suited right to us… we pick the collection of books we want to read for “school” and they send the box of books along with a Charlotte Mason style LA pile of papers. Some of the pages are for mom to read and some are for the student. It’s never failed us. And my favorite part… we are simply notebooking our reading and writing when we “do” language arts.

“Words put together so as to make sense form what is called a sentence, and this is Lesson One in the study of grammar.” -Charlotte Mason

As we make the switch over to Notebooking (from here on out every time I write the word Notebooking, it includes “lapbooks and journaling” as well) as our main method of schooling, I will share bits from my “notebook” here on my blog. After much research I am confident that this will stop the endless cycle of buying unnecessary manuals year after year and driving myself crazy trying to turn something natural into a “school subject.” What do I mean by natural? First I’ll give a mini-explanation of CM’s style and then I really really want to share with you what we are doing with all of our living books. The entire time I was away from my blog putting together homeschool plans, I was super excited to get back with you to share them…

From Charlotte’s viewpoint, we need not depend on those “How to Write” books meant for our young students. Instead we put trust in their natural ability to communicate through the practice of narration. Oral composition (narration) in grades one, two, and three lays important groundwork in future reading and writing. Written narrations (the core of notebooking) begins at about ten yrs. old. By this time the student will have several years of narrating under his belt and writing will come as naturally as speaking. Charlotte Mason declared narration to be the most natural process for a child to learn to deal with words, with stories, and most importantly, with knowledge from books.

Reading. Writing. Time together. Taking notice… of everything… and recording it in their own words & sketches. Taking a concept and mastering it before moving on. Gradually becoming independent learners. This is the academic goal and this is why notebooking will work so well.

Each day the boys will open their composition book to a new page and write the date, the day of the week (I have two young boys still learning how to spell the days) and then they will record the day. The weather. The temperature, inches of rain, type of clouds in the sky, the time each of these recordings were made. They’ll note any classes, appointments, or anything special about the day. When we plant the garden again in the spring they’ll measure growth and changes in that as well.

Everyday they’ll have their Bible (I include all moral/missions-centered/and character reading under this heading) reading, their Literature reading (basically readers for younger kids and a reading list put together by me and Sonlight for Big Bird, and then they alternate between science and history notebooking each week. One day a week we work on the science lab or art/history project. My kids hate nature journaling the way Charlotte Mason describes it, but they have their own way of doing it so I let them journal a nature study their own way. Basically the same schedule as before, only this time we will use living books and notebooking.

Notebooking in homeschool takes a lot of words and a lot of time to explain, therefore I will be sharing the bulk of how it works and all the particulars in another post. This one is getting too long.

Thank you for reading and Happy Martin Luther King Day!! Off to write the second half of this post labeled #2… to be posted tomorrow.

Also, if you notebook/lapbook/journal your way through homeschool, please write to me! I want to connect. Thanks.

Love,

Jackie

we

new year journal page... made it in a Smash book using Gesso, acrylics, mod podge and gel pens, also a magazine clipping and circle stencils.This post goes in the mom journals. Lord give me the words to express this in a way that best encompasses who we are and not what we do. Having a family changes everything. Living through health problems puts life in perspective. I am going along with a bit of a theme right now as I have posted on personal boundaries, being grateful for my life, and now this… the peace-making. Making peace is not always peaceful. Confrontation, severed ties, and painful bandages hiding real problems must be ripped off. Here is how we handle these things together as a family. Also, check out my journal on the right… my new hobby… art journaling:)

We moved to Missouri over a year ago in order to be together. A family member reminded me on the phone the other night just why we moved here. She wrongly guessed it was for more money or a lower mortgage. Actually, we pay the same in housing expenses only now we own instead of rent. And money-schmoney… we’re one of those rare breeds that could care less. We moved to be together. We would have spent money to move here if it meant being together more. Before moving my husband had worked almost 2 hours away. That’s four hours of driving each way. We missed him. We missed family dinners. When we moved we got our family back. It takes to work on being a close knit family.

The move has paid off in ways I didn’t think about. My sons, of which I have three, have grown to see our family unit as impenetrable. Earlier this year, my oldest went over to another family’s home. While there he was asked, “Isn’t this better than being at your house?” He told me he didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to lie, but he also didn’t want to hurt this host’s feelings. So he said yes. As soon as he came home he shared with me everything that he felt conflicted about as that was not the only strange thing that happened to him. We prayed and talked through it and decided that he wouldn’t go over this family’s home anymore without me or Dad with him. He really liked that and I was thrilled that my kid felt comfortable enough to talk to me about his feelings.

A touchy subject that I am only recently learning is in the area of forgiveness. When to forgive? Always. When to forget? Sometimes immediately and sometimes never. The world’s way is to pick and choose who to forgive… if I only forgave those who “deserve it” I couldn’t accept Christ’s forgiveness and in turn anyone else’s. No one deserves forgiveness, Christ is Forgiveness Himself. I have looked the most heinous crimes square in the face and forgiven every one of them. My husband and I recently had a large argument and we said some things and did some things that were not very , ahem, “Christian” of us. Should I forgive him? Damn skippy. He forgives me for all of my faults and everything done to him. I have forgiven people for waaaay worse… violent crimes that don’t even begin to hold a candle to me and hubby’s argument. I am not of this world. I don’t live by the world’s standards. If I did I would be angry and hold everyone I love accountable for their actions. Not a gracious or joyful way to live. It has become normal in today’s world to rationalize the big things when done by people we love and act as judge with the small things over those who are “undeserving.” I could tell you stories that would make your toes curl of those who have forgiven only to turn around and have their own faults held against them ten-fold. It’s the world’s way. It makes us want less and less of the world and the people who think that way.

As we seek to be rooted and grounded in the Lord, my kids know that it is a privilege for people to know them. Chris and I put up with a level of abuse up to a point. I use my guts as a thermometer. When I begin to defend my choices and suppress my anger more than I actually converse with a person, it’s time to re-evaluate whether or not our family has to out up with the stress. This year I got so sick from the stress of an unhealthy relationship that my eyelids began peeling from crying so much. The lying and manipulation that goes on in an abusive relationship or friendship made me physically sick. My kids would even notice and pick up on the lies and ask about them and I would have to cover for my “friend.” When my personal woman-to-woman talks began to get used against me I decided to forgive, but not forget. Still friends? Yup. Do I trust with anything, let alone a piece of my heart? Nope. And I would never divulge secrets as revenge.

A good friend of ours in Jacksonville, the leader of our homeschool group actually, shared with me that she had to cut ties with her own parents because her mother was causing so much stress in her family. Although it was extremely painful because her mother was a good person and was also her mother… the family finally had found peace and serenity and could homeschool and eat organically and live in a way that is consistent with their views. Without verbal abuse.

My kids have been bullied before. My son has bullied another before when he felt that he was being picked on. I know how he must have felt. That’s how I feel with other adults. I will not become defensive or a become a bully in response to emotional bullies. However I will step back. Being in my life is a privilege and not a right. I view my relationship with others that way and I value myself enough to know that I am worth kindness, or at the very least, no nastiness. I would rather be punched in the face every single day than to be manipulated and made to feel that if I speak up I will get my head bitten off. One time I stood up for my family and in return I was gossiped about and people who “loved” me dropped off the face of the earth. God only knows what this person must have told everyone. One more reason to stop associating with them. My kids know this is not acceptable behavior as well. Their kind hearts are worth more than abuse, whether it be verbal, emotional, or mental. When they tell me that they felt they couldn’t be themselves or that they weren’t “allowed” to be honest or be themselves, or if they get hurt by another child or very rarely an adult, we act as a single unit and prayerfully decide how to handle the situation.

I have been pretty serious about posting on boundaries lately. My thirties have brought about new insight into the Lord’s heart. I am standing strong for myself and for my family. And I have never felt better about it. It hurts, but you know, having people be nasty to me hurt a lot worse.

Have a good weekend guys.

All my Love,

Jackie

take it easy

Truly, it’s all I know anymore. I’m taking it easy. The Lord talks about not worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries of its own. If he cares for the birds, how much more will He care for us, His creation? How long has it taken me to see that tomorrow will always bring its own worry and drama? 33 years. Finally, finally, I am living for the moment. I am content.

A benefit of being in the “present” is that it taps into the intuition in ways that being in the future or in the past does not. When I let my feathers get ruffled and I start trying to analyze why something bad is happening, or why someone is so angry, I lose time in the here and now. Since moving to the Midwest, I have noticed that my outlook on life has improved immensely. So much so, that I honestly can say, when the world crumbles around me, I am not only okay, but I get stronger through the blood of Jesus Christ. I used to joke that the world was slower here in Kansas City, the people were “slower.” Now I am one of them and I have calmed a bit, I have rested in my faith, who is a living Person, and I am different. I guess you could call me slow… but I am quite content so it really doesn’t bother or affect me.

Last year could have easily been one of the worst years of my life, but I became better for it. No thanks to me as I have never been the most stable of persons. As I bask in the life blood of a Lord, a true life living God, I accept all of it. Right now, here in this moment, I am blessed.

One of the biggest changes in my life has been the amazing ability to see the best in others. Instead of being skeptical, I just don’t care if there’s hidden motive. Who has time for mulling over words. The less words we speak, the better. As the thief calls me out for thieving, the liar calls me out for lying, the aggressor points out the faults of others as they thrive on nasty like yeast in warm water, I know I am one of them. But I am saved by Grace. I will never be prefect, a good girl, or anything other than a woman living by the Life. That won’t change, but since moving to the Midwest I have let go of anger, a strange aggression that was hidden in my heart. I can roam and stretch my spiritual muscles as I breathe in the cold air (I LOVE the cold air… haven’t had a hot flash since moving here!) As I do so, I remember to be still. Never had I been so still before. I’ve tried to be “still” in the Lord and I tried and I tried and I tried really hard. But it’s only been here that I have found my unshakable joy. Peace that doesn’t come and go depending on fights with my husband, struggles with my children, ignorant comments by those who know no better. It stings for barely a moment before I remember who I am and that the only movement I make comes from the Son. He has been in every moment. The joy is just that… unshakable.

Those who know me best may not understand this. Life is chaotic right now. Shouldn’t I be an angry, panicking mess? Probably. I have learned to rely on the Lord 100% for my identity. My best friend could call me a bitch and it would barely leave a dent. That’s how sure of Christ, who He is, and my share in His portion I am. There’s nothing I can’t handle without grace and poise, thanks be to the Spirit. Gossip no longer has a hold on me. It bores me. I don’t bother with self-hatred anymore. I can easily see through manipulation (although that’s always been a bit of a curse), only now it makes me sad rather than anxious. My secrets are small. I no longer keep big ones that cause strain and constant fear.  I have let loose much of my hidden sin and shortcomings which is a huge weight off my shoulders. The air here has brought out the purity and honesty that I hadn’t expressed in so long. I am going through the wringer in ways that only my husband knows about, and I am planted firm, standing strong, and rooted in Christ.

That’s how good He is.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful New Year. Be still in Him this year.

All my Love,

Jackie

this year…

Grateful for:

My life. My actual physical life. There is a lot going on under our skin that makes the body function. Little intricate cells and fluids that work together normally… or they don’t work like their supposed to and they cause pain. They cause the body not to work properly. This year my amazing team of doctors found cancer and adhesions. Enough was removed. During one of the scariest times I had enough radiation pumping through my body for 3 days that I couldn’t touch or get close to my children. So much for organic eating, right? It has been a scary year and there were days/nights I thought I was dying. I was so scared and thought I would not survive the next 24 hours. Blood was pouring out of me and pain was untouched by medicine. This year I fought hard to maintain composure, mostly for my kids. And I made it. Although I am not at my best or healthiest, I am alive. I can feel. I am, above all else, grateful.

My children. They make me laugh every day. They are joyful. When I want to curl up in a ball and go away, their very existence reminds me to keep breathing in and out.

My marriage. Chris and I have been going through very trying times. We have chosen to fight for “us.” I read recently that a marriage is a covenant. Not a contract. The difference between the two? A contract is between 2 people based on distrust. A covenant is between two people and God and is only broken through death. I learned how to forgive by practicing forgiveness. Had I not, no one would be in my life and I would be a very lonely woman.

My friends and family. People care about me and I care about them. I have made some very understanding friends this year who understand that I can’t get together as often as I would like… and they continue to invite me out with them. I love them. My family has been with me through every heartache, every healing, and lifts me up when I want to crumble. They continue to answer the phone when they see it’s me calling. I am truly grateful for that. There was a time this year when I thought my mom might stop answering because I called everyday freaking out. She never did. She is the first one I call when the doc gives me bad news. First one I call when I want to bow out of marriage and family life. Because I am screwed up and sometimes I want to run away.

Two of my brothers are fathers again (and one for the first time.) I am so grateful that we are growing as a family and my niece and nephew are cue babies. I get to stalk them online and will meet them in February. Grateful and über excited!

My younger brother Ryan… he’s family, I know. But he has been like a big brother who is unbiased and I trust with my life. I tear up just thinking about him. He has been “there” for me through nightmares. He is my best friend right after Chris. Love my other brothers just as much, but Ryan is the only one who can relate to what I’ve gone through. And this year especially he has walked me through hardships I didn’t know I would survive.

This year brought about many new health challenges. I am so grateful to have found a primary care physician who has worked with me and my specialists continually and never made me feel silly about coming to him with concerns. I must have been a real pain in the tush at times and he has been so patient with me. Thanks to him and all of my other doctors I am at a point in my life where I could easily be on double the medicines I was when the year started. In fact, I am taking 75% less medicine than I was. My doses are the lowest they have been in years and my conditions are all under control, on LESS meds. I am thankful for them.

Two years ago I lost one of the best. I lost a piece of my heart when my Grandmom died before her time. Silly thing to be grateful for at year’s end, but I am grateful to have known her. Every day I miss her and I still cry at the thought of saying good-bye to her. It was the worst day of my life. I am grateful she was here and she lives on in my memory, in my heart. I know she is with me everyday and especially now.

My Grandpop passed away this year. Big Guy, I like to call him. Because that’s how I remember him. I miss him like I miss my childhood as he was always there when I look back at that little girl’s life. I am grateful he is with Christ in paradise today. I am grateful that he is not sick or weak or in pain. He is at peace. I am glad he never has to see another hospital bed, ever.

I am grateful for finding myself through writing, journaling, and art. I am finding my former passion in a new way. As the new year approaches I hope to share some of that with you. I took an arts and crafts class last summer and it sparked the love I have for creativity that had been lost as a young girl.

This year I was published again, although this time it was online and not in writing. I also won a blogging award. I am thankful and appreciative that someone I don’t know reads my writing and not only connects with me through it, but shares it with others. It makes me feel humbly proud of writing. I love doing it and I am glad it has purpose other than my own enjoyment.

Grateful for homeschooling. My whole blog is about homeschooling and will continue to be so I don’t need to elaborate on all the reasons why it’s a blessing. It is a huge one for sure.

Most of all I am grateful for forgiveness. Christ made it clear that I cannot live the Christian life. Instead, He must live it through me. He couldn’t live without the Father… “By myself I can do nothing…” John 5:30. Thanks be to Him who lived a perfect life and died a gruesome death that I may be right with God without being perfect. He is the vine and I am the branch that living water flows through. I have been crucified with Him and my old life is gone. My new life is in Him as I am within and He is within. I am joined with the Spirit eternally. Nothing can take Him away. And when I get lost, He finds me. I didn’t choose Him, He chose me when He plucked me out of darkness and brought me into light.

Thanks for reading my post. As I end each one I am thankful that someone reads this because I enjoy writing it. So thank you, I am grateful for you are well.

Love,

Jackie

wrapping up…

What blog wouldn’t be complete without the end of the year here’s-what-I’ve-discovered post? Certainly not mine. So as I get ready to share the largest of life’s lessons that happened to be revealed to me this year, let me share a little of my past, as it relates to here and now. A few years ago a counselor told me that no one should ever yell at me. No person should ever be yelled at on a regular basis. Up until then I had yelled at my kids often. Still do when I’m under an enormous amount of pressure and exhaustion. But for the most part, that single statement changed my life as a parent. At the time I didn’t know it, but I was crossing a boundary that was set for my children by God, or by mother earth, or the laws of nature.

There’s a verse in the Old Testament about beating your kids with a rod. Most parents use the verse like a rod over the heads of parents who don’t use physical violence to straighten out their kids. Very rarely we spank the tush, with clothes on. It is never done hard enough to hurt them. Several years ago I didn’t know the rules and would spank them really hard and it would leave a mark. When we became homeschoolers I knew we had to be extremely careful. Above reproach actually, so no person on earth could ever take my kids or force me to stop homeschooling them. For the most part we have the kids do “time out” as an immediate punishment, but every so often they get the light spank. Never on the face or with anything but a hand as those two things are considered child abuse. Boundary #2… laying a hand on a child with the intent to hurt them. I’ve crossed it a handful of times, but not in the last 5 years or so. Not since we began homeschooling.

Those are obvious boundaries. When I’ve crossed these lines before it has been due to rage and loss of temper. When finding the peace and self-control to stop these behaviors, I see them very clearly when done to me. I have experienced every type of crossed boundary this year and I used every one of those experiences to create the precedent  for my personal limits.

My husband knows my limits. There are times when he can see very clearly what is going on with me emotionally days before I can see for myself. Having expressed that, here comes the big lesson I learned this year…

I set my boundaries and I am responsible for not letting others cross them. How? A polite “No, thank you.” And my husband has learned that in order to continue to stay married to me he is to protect these boundaries as well. I am aware of his and have protected them fiercely since the day we were married. I don’t condone his wrong actions, but when his needs (not wants) are being trampled on, I stand with him in a united front. This year his big “revelation” is that he is to do the same.

Twice this year I had not let the people I love know what my needs were. I did not protect my emotional and physical health with distinguishable steps. Over the summer I cried for three days straight until my eyelids became so dry that they began to peel. I had let the “log in my eye” as the Word says, blind me to the problems. Instead of blaming others for what they do to me… I learned to see myself as the problem and find my boundary violations. Like I wrote earlier, throughout my life at different times I let others cross the boundaries of physical abuse. Honestly, it doesn’t hurt as bad as any other kind of abuse. When emotional manipulation, passive aggressive abuse, and “dry drunk rage” tear down the gates that surround my personal being, I am devastated. I become paralyzed. Can’t hang out with my kids. Can’t hang out with my husband. Can’t cook dinner, lesson plan, or clean my home. It weighs so heavy on my heart that I want to die. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but emotional abuse is what kills people. Most suicide notes confirm this.

I learned this year that I have the right to set boundaries. It is healthy and wise to do so. The things I “want” are not included in the design, but only what I need in order to be joyful, content and of any use to my family or the world. It is not enough to understand the need, but I must get it met. And that means learning to say no.

As I began to express my needs this year, I pissed a lot of people off. In return, I have flexed my mental and emotional muscles and am getting stronger. A book I once read stated that nothing clarifies boundaries more than forgiveness. To forgive someone means to let him/her off the hook. Refusing to forgive is like poison to the soul. Something really important that I learned from one of my doctors this year is that everyone is going to hurt me and you at some point. Physically, mentally, emotionally. What do I do? Avoid everyone forever? Forgive. Everyone… don’t just pick and choose because no one person is more deserving of forgiveness than another.

There are some people and places that are toxic to me. They may bring another person joy and comfort, but they cause me extreme emotional stress. In those situations I learn to set boundaries. I have grown from an impulsive and unsure woman into one who knows what I have set before me and seeks the best course of action. I am no longer guided by the winds of life or by other people’s actions. I learned this year… pretty recently actually, that I have rights and control over my body. Up until now I spent my whole life letting others hurt me. And never doing anything about it. This year has shown me my strength… it is not taken away when someone hurts me because that is their sin to deal with. My strength comes from my ability to make smart decisions with that pain and crossed fence. And to rebuild and protect that part of my soul. I am not a victim of circumstance. During the darkest, loneliest times in my life I surrounded myself with people who spoke for me and told me what to do and who to be. I felt like I was less than a person. I was like a moth to the flame of people who used and manipulated me because I had no boundaries… I let everyone else have a say in who I was to be.

These days I have control. I have choices. They may not be the same as another person’s choices, but I am smart. I weigh my options and just like during the elections, I pick the least repulsive of choices. As I take a few steps back, I see my future clearly. I plan accordingly. And I walk in the confidence of knowing I have the right to feel safe, to be safe, and to make decisions for my life.

I’ve been through the wringer with this issue of boundaries. So while all you normal people out there might have no idea what I’m talking about, this is HUGE for me. And I am proud to have learned this super incredibly valuable life skill.

Tomorrow I will be listing the top 10 gratitudes of the year… spoiler alert, I brag on my accomplishments a little:)

Have a good one friends.

Love,

Jackie

the reason for the season… kids :)

Christmas with kids is great. This time of year can be very lonely and depressing without the joy and magic children bring to Christmas. Recently our pastor told us that 5 lead pastors of mega-church size churches in Florida committed suicide this year. For those who know deep sadness, hardship, and the thorn in the side Brother Paul spoke of, this time of year is especially tough. But there’s one distraction. Albiet difficult, I am a mom and my job is to make Christmas a magical time for my kids. A few years ago we told them the truth about Santa. They began comparing him to Jesus and we knew it was time. Our oldest was pretty angry that we had lied to him for so many years. Since then the kids still talk about Santa as if he were coming and bringing us gifts. They choose the magic and suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy the childhood dream. My boys inspire me to lay down my sadness and to continue on in joy for their sake.

What’s there to be sad about? It’s the best holiday of the year! And a new year is only a week away after that! Most sadness comes from those who aren’t here anymore. Christmas meant something when I was a child. We celebrated Jesus’ birth with family. Of course we had gifts, but my parents had 4 kids and not much money. And while there were a mountain of presents under the tree, where there was bare floor the night before, it was the family that made the holiday my favorite. I loved Christmas Eve at my Grandmom’s house every year. My uncle home from college with his buddies caroling around the neighborhood. Food everywhere as we ate cookies for dinner. And my Dad’s family loved seeing us. Kids were their favorite and we never felt anything less. I remember my Grandparents bringing out tubs of clothes and gifts that we had picked out of a catalog weeks earlier. Me and my brothers knew what the season meant. Togetherness. Love. Giving. Joy.

As an adult, I understand what some of my older relatives must have laid aside in order to share joy with us. My kids are so happy and amped up. Today, Christmas Eve, has been the day they’ve been waiting for. We’ve spent the month making decorations, putting together gifts for the family, learning about the birth of Christ, and enjoying the anticipation of the gifts. Yeah, I said it… my kids love the gifts. So do I. Nothing wrong with that. It is better to give than to receive, unless you are a child. Gifts are wonderful and the giant cherry on top of all of the other hoopla.

Very little of Christmas has to do with our faith. As we have the living Spirit within, nothing about the holiday has anything to do with my worship of Him. All of the traditions, the decorations, the stress, the spending time with people who don’t give a damn about me, the wearing myself so thin that I sit down to eat food once a day and fall asleep before my final bite… those things have nothing to do with my Lord. The strain on my marriage, the emphasis on giving to the poor this “one time of year” when it should happen all the time, the heartache over Christmas’ that will never be the same again without my family who are gone, the rude comments that must be overlooked, the desperate desire to sink into sadness over the fact that I may never be completely healthy again. What if this is as good as it gets? With some of my health issues, what if every year after this I get worse and this is the last good year? None of those fears come up any other time of year. None of the other ridiculous demands are made any other time of year. So why does anyone assume that Christmas time (which isn’t actually Christ’s birth month anyway) is more spiritual or has anything to do with Jesus? I guess it makes us feel holy.

For me, as you can see, I am down. I am sad for the future because the past was so great and many of the loved ones in those memories are gone. So what’s the magic of the year about? Giving a wonderful season to the kids. Just like the grown ups before me did. I want my kids to have what I had… no knowledge of the impending divorces, no knowledge of the illnesses my family faced, no knowledge of the dead broke dire financial situations we were in at times. Christmas was when everyone came together and gave of themselves and loved everyone. So that’s why it’s so important to lay down my needs, my sadness, my loss, and take up the cross to share in the joy of Christmas with my children.

I hope you find yourself joyful this Christmas Eve. You are not alone in your loneliness. In the world you may have trouble, but take heart, Christ has overcome the world. Looking forward to special time with my husband and children today and tomorrow as we put down any issues weighing heavy on our hearts and enjoy the love and togetherness that means so much to us. Overjoyed at the love of Christmas morning as my kids are wide-eyed with excitement about the pile under the tree. Just like those before me, that’s what I choose this Christmas season. The kids. This is their holiday.

Hope you have a Happy Season friends. I have not been feeling well lately and I’ve been up to my neck in holiday “stuff,” but I plan on writing more as the season ends and life eases back into normalcy. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

Love,

Jackie

birth story

This morning I woke up to a baby show. Must have fallen asleep with the tv on again. Anyway, I remember when pregnant, I watched those things all the time. TLC was my favorite channel and I loved hearing other people’s birth stories. Back then, when I was pregnant with my third baby, I belonged to an online group of women due the same month as me. It was really very encouraging, especially since I was on bed rest and lonely. I had the ladies in the same stage of life as me. It was through these women that I learned what I wanted- natural birth, and what I didn’t- the Hep B vaccine in my non-sexually active newborn less than 24 hours after he’s born. I learned about homeschooling and autism and how to live and cope through the support of the women I came to grow very close with. As each one of us had our babies, we shared our birth stories and it was my favorite part of the group. Some women had planned C-sections, some had them after emergency situations arose, some induced labor and others had natural labor. There was no judgment of another’s birth plan or how we chose to have our babies because we all brought life into the world and each birth was beautiful.

After having Jacob, my last, I only told my entire story once, to the group. It really is one of my favorite stories to tell so I don’t know why I don’t tell it more. Maybe because people are weird and if I talk about how having natural childbirth was one of my proudest, most favorite moments, I would be discounting any other way of giving birth? I had several drugs with the others, so I understand and can relate to that path as well. But the birth with J was my favorite. Although he’s not my favorite kid. As my Dad used to say, I hate all my kids equally. So here on this blog, I am telling my favorite true story. And maybe some expecting mom might stumble across my post and gobble it up like I used to do…

The first two live births were very different. My oldest son was born out of pain I didn’t know was possible. In the midst of it, he came out, they took him and did their thing, I looked at him and he looked at me and I just wanted to hold him. When he was finally laid on my chest I couldn’t stop looking at him. Hey there little cutie… so you’re the one who’s been in there this whole time. I loved him the minute I looked at him. Then I was encouraged to breastfeed and I hated it. The minute he had a health issue pop up (something minor, I think it was jaundice related) and he had to bottle feed I was so secretly relieved. I hated breastfeeding. I also developed PPD. That could have played a part in it, who knows…

Then I had Hunter. Hunter is a very… let’s call him special… little boy. I love this little guy so much, but he’s my handful of work and takes most of my patience. His birth was painless. Literally I felt no pain from the moment I was induced, given narcs, then the epidural, then narcotics again afterwards. No pain. It was unbelievable. I didn’t know a birth could be so cut and dry. I had a baby, I healed, and all was well with the world. Until the day a behavioral specialist told us he was on the autism spectrum. I thought he was mentally challenged and it turns out he has autism. Everything broke. My heart still breaks and I get very angry when he makes those awful sounds. It’s a reminder of his issue and I just can’t handle it sometimes. That’s why I need my husband. He is so much better with Hunter than me…

When I was a six months pregnant with J, my mucous plug came out. I had pain and blood. Chris was out-of-town and I drove two and a half hours to Orlando with my little ones because I didn’t want to be alone. Dropped in at the ER and whatever had been happening was over and I was not having early contractions. When I got back into my hometown I had an appointment with my gyn/ob right away. He confirmed that I had went into a form of early labor, I had placenta previa and I was to be on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy. Part of my placenta had been resting on my cervix. When my cervix dilated after I lost the plug, the placenta began to tear away. It’s a dangerous condition that is the number one killer of women during childbirth today. Neither medicine nor man can fix this problem, although there are ways of preventing women from dilating and dying.

Every time I ran and errand or was around on my feet for a few hours I would begin bleeding. So I went on bed rest and my mom found a “nanny” to come live with us until I had my baby. During this time Chris and I decided that this would be our last baby. The chances of having pp again are high after having it the first time. Had I gone into early labor, me and baby would have been dead within 20 to 30 minutes. We were scared and couldn’t handle having this happen again. My doctor saw me often and he was happy to report that the placenta was moving and by the time I was 36 weeks, it was barely touching the cervix. It was marginal and I was going to be able to try a vaginal birth. We were prepared for a C-section if the plan went awry, but I was going to have one final birth and it was going to be all natural… something I had never done.

Here’s what I was taught “natural birth” means and what I call a natural birth, although I know that many women have different viewpoints. This is only mine and to each his own. No Pitocin (a drug that induces contractions in a forceful and violently painful way- had it twice), no drugs, and no interventions. Jacob had to be born in the hospital because of the previa, but I was allowed to have him as naturally as I wanted as long as everyone stayed healthy.

I waited until the last minute to head to the hospital. I woke up at 3 am with back pain and knew I was in labor. I took a shower and packed my stuff. Woke Chris, called my mom. Drank some raspberry leaf tea and timed my contractions for about an hour and a half. They began getting painful at 3 minutes apart. I was trying to stay as still as possible because as I got up, they would come right on top of each other and my husband was barely out of bed. I remember telling him over and over that we had to go NOW. I didn’t care what he had going on, but I was about to have this baby and we are supposed to have it at the hospital. We all hopped in the car and as we drove past the grocery store I had been at 12 hours earlier I had wished I was back there… 12 hours earlier and in no pain. At the hospital I had my cervix checked and apparently the nurse who checked me had some level of brain damage because when she told me I was 3 cm dilated, I was shocked to find that I had closed up a bit from my last check-up when I was 4 cm dilated. Nevertheless, if I am only at 3 cm and I am having hard contractions every minute, I am going to need some drugs. I asked, no… I BEGGED husband to find me drugs. The nurse with an actual brain checked me and said that I was about 8 cm dilated, not 3. Okay, I can go without the drugs having that new information. There was no way in hell I was experiencing transition pain all day long, but I could hang in there for another hour or two.

Every time I contracted I had to look into Chris’ eyes and squeeze his hand with absolutely no distraction in order to make it through. Without doing just that, I would lose it to the pain. I managed to kick the “locked in position” bed apart with the force of my legs kicking out when I felt one of those suckers without my husband’s support. He was watching the boys between contractions. As soon as one ended he would go over and make sure they were good and then when I called he would rush over to grab my hand. My mom and sister-in-law arrived at one point and I remember not having the ability to concentrate on anything but the birth. If I lost focus I would need the drugs. When I focused, it actually felt euphoric in a very, very weird way. I am told that I started screaming during my last couple contractions that I was transitioning. And sure enough, after those three or four monster contractions, I was ready to push. He came right out within minutes of doc arriving on the scene. I healed quickly and felt very, very happy for a week after the birth. I heard that it was a natural endorphin release that happens when a woman gives birth without an epidural. I don’t know how true it is for others, but I found it to be true in my case. I had Jake within an hour and a half of arriving at the hospital. Had we waited a little longer at home I would not have been able to walk to the car and I would have had him at home. Not in the birth plan. Note to pregnant women… if your husband won’t wake up when you are in labor, throw a bucket of cold water on him. It’s important.

Shortly after I had a friend tell me about her birth experience. She said that she could have done it “naturally,” because she made it up to the final hour without the drugs. I didn’t ask for the drugs until the final hour, so I don’t know what she meant, but I understood that there’s a weird obsession with defending our need for drugs during childbirth. I highly recommend them as my first child wouldn’t have come out had I not been given an epidural. My body was tearing apart and my labor was not progressing. There is a place for pain medicine during the most painful feeling in the world. I have had 3 kidney stones and they DO NOT compare to childbirth… sorry guys. But I noticed, again, when I asked a wife of a brother of a relative how her birth went as she had told me about her plan to have a natural birth, she got almost angry as she said, “I had the epidural and I loved my birth. I don’t feel bad at all about it.” Not what I asked, but okay. So I was right, there is a feeling of angry defense against our decision and/or need to have the epidural. Seriously ladies, there is nothing wrong with getting it… many babies need their mom to relax into the contraction in order to come out. The level of pain birth causes can hinder that from happening. We all carry the label of Super Woman.

I loved my last birth. Would I do it again? Don’t know. It was hard work, but the pay-off was great. I really liked my middle child’s birth. I would do that again in a heart beat. A birth experience is a good one if mom and baby are healthy and happy. It really is a triumph to give birth. Even with drugs, surgery, and interventions, every story has a beautiful ending. Every birth story has a moment in which mom sees her baby and falls head over heels in love. It’s a feeling like no other.

So that’s my birth story with Jacob. It was my best. I almost had to have an early C-section, but gave birth past my due date. I felt everything. I felt my body do what it was made to do. I experienced the power of what our minds can do when we focus on serenity rather than to give in to the worst pain in the world. With practice and trust and faith, the mind melted the pain away. But the moment I took my eyes off Chris or lost my focus or was touched anywhere but my hand, I would lose it. (Neat analogy there for all you Christ followers:))

Have a good day friends. Off to homeschool my kids…

Love,

Jackie

kids in need of good homes

Several of my posts this month are aimed directly at sharing the desires of my heart. I have too much to write in just one post so I will spread them out over a few and link them together in a series somewhere on my blog page. The overall series link will be entitled People.

Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Same can be said for relationships. My aunt recently adopted 4 children. They are all fairly young, one is a little baby, and the rest are elementary-ish age kids. Due to the very delicate nature of their past I can’t say too much more about my new cousins specifically, but I would like to share about what I have learned through the family  journey.

They are all very lucky to have each other. She, my aunt who used to spoil me rotten, has become a different person, only the change motherhood can make, through the love of those kids. When me and Chris were driving home from our min-vacation this morning, we talked about how nice it was to have a few hours away from the kids. It had been so long and we have both been working so hard that our little overnight excursion was probably the best time of the year. I relaxed, had so much fun, and got to hang out with my best friend instead of “work” with him. As we agreed that the break was awesome, we talked about how empty our lives would be without the boys. Naturally each of our sons came up in conversation and we settled that without them, Chris wouldn’t be happy and I would be severely depressed. They bring me so much joy. It’s hard to notice that blessing when I am teaching them over and over again how to tie their shoes or how to clean the dining room after dinner… for a year now.

When my aunt adopted, it would have been natural in today’s skewed view of the world, to mention how lucky those kids are to have her. She’s a good mom and works very hard to make sure they are healthy and raised right. They are lucky. And they deserve to be… every child deserves the right to be loved and cared for by grown ups. Whether born into a family or brought together by love, all children have that right. When I was little there was a long-standing joke in our family that my Dad only married my Mom because he loved me and my brother so much and wanted us. Do you know how good that made me feel growing up? I knew I was fortunate to have my Dad because of how fortunate my Dad felt towards us. I think it’s the same deal with my aunt. Those kids are soooo blessed to have a new family because my aunt has been beaming with pride and joy over her kids. She is a wonderful mother and I am so happy it all worked out the way it did…

Many kids in America are sitting in the foster care system right now believing that they will never be adopted. And many of them are correct in that assumption. I will never forget the night one of my friends a few houses down from ours was taken from her home after telling me that her grandpa was climbing into bed with her at night. I told my parents and they called child services and she was gone that night. I never got to see her again and its not fair at all that “T” (my friend’s name began with a T) got taken away. She did nothing wrong. But just like all the other kids who get abused and “taken,” T was the one to be punished right along with the offender. Should I have not told anyone? Why did she have to tell me? Was getting sent to a foster home worse than what she was going through in her own home? I’ll never know because I didn’t get to say good bye or see or talk to her again. Pause while I maintain composure here…

I learned a lot about the state of America’s children through the passionate and informative initiative my aunt took in letting others know the joy of the less conventional way having children. At her official Adoption Day party, it was said my aunt made an announcement that taking kids out of the system and giving them a safe foster home and adoption is desperately needed. She left resources out for guests to look at should they feel the tug in their hearts to begin the process. She went from filling out papers to having children in her home in a very short amount of time. In addition to having the children’s medical needs taken care of immediately each time there was a need, she didn’t have to give an arm and a leg. She wanted a baby, but was willing to love any child who wanted to be hers. Oh, and btw, she did adopt a baby girl along with the boys:)

The awful lives foster children (both orphans with no living relatives and children taken from their abusive families) are living is unimaginable. I had loving parents, aunts, uncles, g-parents, and so I don’t relate to that, but it breaks my heart none the less. As I am reveling in my current state of love with my own children, I have to wonder how much love would I have for more children? Each time I had a child my heart grew and love I didn’t know was possible began to flow through me. How much more would life be blessed if I had another child in my home? Would it be too much work? Could I handle the extra responsibility? The extra cost of living? How much more of life would blossom if another person came into my family, into my house? I wonder…

One of the most exciting nuggets of information my aunt gave me as she excitedly shared her story, is that when adopting children who have been through hell and back through “the system” is that the state will cover costs of any extra help in the way of medical care or emotional and mental healing needs. Most need it. My Mom worked as a guardian ad-litem for a while several years ago and I will never forget a story she told me about a family she worked with. She was a volunteer- not to toot her horn here, but she did this very, very difficult job out of the desire to help kids… after hers were grown and gone. Her job was to speak for the kids. She had spent decades working in the legal field and knows family law so this work was right up her ally. She did not side with the courts or with the parents, she was a voice for the kids. I will never forget the story of the girl who found her sister dead of a heroin overdose. It had been two days since anyone had seen the older sister and my mom’s girl had walked into her older sister’s bedroom to find her there dead. She had been there for two days. And no one noticed. Talk about screwing a kid up… I wanted to take that teenager and bring her home and care for her until she was old enough to go to college. I wanted to take her in and everyday tell her about her worth and her ability to have any life she wanted for herself. But in the end, the system always wins. And foster care, orphanages (which are called something else now, but I can’t remember) and the dangerous homes are where these are taken.

My aunt’s adoption journey is one of the most inspiring stories I have ever known. There are details I can’t reveal, as I am hesitant to write anything more including the date of the adoption, the party, or even the awesome picture I have of the new family. But just know that all the pain and suffering the kids went through is over. And the desires of my aunt and “uncle” have been met. Also, I am stoked to have new cousins!!!

What I hope to pass along is this… there are some seriously hurting children in dire need of places to sleep. Tonight. Some are being molested, raped, neglected as they are starving and sleeping in urine soaked beds. Some need medical attention or therapies that would give them a shot at having a normal life one day, but they aren’t getting it due to neglect. I have been reading a lot about this thanks to my aunt opening my eyes to this need, and some of the stories are vomit-worthy. It’s hard to believe anyone can be so calloused to a child, let alone their own children. Unfortunately Chris and I would not qualify as foster parents right now… personal reasons. If we did, when we do, I would/will open up my home in a heartbeat. Not to give some lucky kid a Charlie’s chocolate factory golden ticket to be taken in by a savior… but to share the mutual hard work, appreciation and love that being a family affords us. We win by getting them and having our hearts grow (like the Grinch on Christmas) and the kids get what they deserve… a family. People need people.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy those little sticky-fingered, caveman-like, rambunctious kids of yours… it’s a marvelous thing to be a parent. Have a good one guys.

Love,

Jackie

journey through christianity

Oooh, tricky topic. I’ll try to tread lightly as I make way through the experience I had from meeting Jesus to, well, now. When I met and fell in love with Christ I was 17. In the years to follow I would fall deeply in love with him, relapse into opiate abuse, come to fall more deeply in love with Him and stop again, then fall down again as I discovered drinking at age 21. For a whole year that I got to be a normal person before becoming a mom and went to clubs and drank like a fishy. It sounds bad, and it was, but in downtown Orlando that’s what normal 21 year olds did… Then back into a comfortable and solid revelation that I am within Him and the Spirit is within me. The journey was long and complicated. During times of pain and struggle with my own demons I felt that I had “lost” the connection with the Spirit inside of me. Some Christians claim that if you and me start doing bad stuff, we are something called backslidden. I don’t know where that word came from or who coined it, but it has no merit. I don’t believe in it. Christ promised that He would never leave or forsake us. Even when we do bad stuff. Especially when we do bad stuff. Notice in one of my earlier sentences I first said that I came to fall more deeply in love with Him and then stopped using pain numbing opiates. If He leaves and then comes back based on my bad behavior, then wouldn’t it have been the other way around? For me, yes. So that’s why I don’t believe in the human-made word backslidden. I learned through experience that I had to know pain and suffering to order to share in Christ’s pain and suffering. I have suffered through dark times, as most do. What I live through AS A CHRISTIAN…

Loss… loss so great that I am able to see immaturity in others and recognize it, no longer as a character flaw, but as a person who has yet to know a certain level of suffering. Just as I am sure there are those who know suffering deeper than mine. I have lost friends to death… so many friends… a person I thought I would marry one day… a baby… and almost my husband. I lost the one person who loved me the most two years ago (except you mom and dad). I have yet to forgive her. I lost myself in every way possible. I thought I would die in an empty townhome in Philly one afternoon. I wished I did at the time. When I was lost in numbing my pain- NOT getting high as I did not get high, but literally only taking substances to numb the pain and feel peace- my family hated me. I still cry to this day at the way my Dad looked at me when I was at my worst, and the things he said, which were true. My family hated my desire to destroy myself, my family hated me when I was a selfish, thieving, opiate addicted a$$-hole. They never left me and never stopped helping to keep me alive, but they hated me. I hate that I made them feel that way. So it really ticked me off when Christians whose worst experience in life is not getting what they want, cry as if they’ve been beaten and left on the side of the road for dead. Even now sometimes it hurts my feelings when others relate to my experiences as they have relatively minor set backs. And as I “mature” I am learning that we all get to share in the Lord’s death. We all experience brokenness before Him. For some it takes a few small bumps in the road to reach that point. For me it took a mallet over the head. I can’t get mad at that. Thanks God for helping me to see the wisdom in your ways… it took me a long time to mature to the point that I recognize everyone has their own journey with the Lord.

So I notice trends in me, my kids, and my husband as we have grown in Christ. The first stage of maturity, which can last a person’s entire life if they choose so, is legalism. After getting past the stigma of being a Christian, which was the hardest part for me… I had seen Christians and I didn’t want to be one… I finally decided after a lot of questions and doubt and trying to prove people wrong and failing, that there is a God, He did put a plan into place in order to be one with me, and I accepted Him. There was nothing to lose, except my reputation. Which was less than stellar at the time. And I felt a LOT of joy. I had intense feelings of closeness to Christ. I wanted to know more about God and what pleased Him. I wanted to do the things that please Him. Just like I want to show my husband kindness and love because I married him. It wasn’t out of obligation. I just really loved Him a lot. But, and this is a big “but,” I believed that in order to be a Christian and stay a Christian, that I needed to do certain things. Like, I needed to evangelize (go out and “save” souls for Christ) or that I needed to give a certain amount of money if I really loved Him. Or that I needed to martyr my life. I did those things because I love Him, but at the time I thought I needed to do them. Christ already did the hard work of reaching out to us and offering us a piece of Himself in all things. Even if I never do another one of those things again… say I am in a hospital bed dying of scary-osis, and all of my time, money, and focus is on my family and myself, He doesn’t leave because I stop giving of myself. He is already locked in. There is nothing I can do to top what He did. Like the good book says… when Christ the human died, he said, “It is finished.” It’s done guys. We can’t top what He did or add to it. As if we could ever come close. A teacher we recently heard speak said that trying to “give back to the Lord for the rest of your life is like someone buying you a really expensive Ferrari and repaying him with a nickel.” It’s a cute gesture, but not necessary. We please Him out of love. Not to repay Him. Not “for Him” because He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. He is the Alpha (made the world) and the Omega (will end the world) and everything in between. He doesn’t need us to do anything. If we want to physically love Him, there are ways we can give. When we love someone, like a kid or a husband, we give all of ourselves for that person. It’s more like that. Making my husband dinner doesn’t validate my marriage license. It is simply a gesture of love. When I got married I wanted to tell people. It wasn’t in the contract that I had to go out and tell everyone. I told people about him because I was excited to be married to him. Same thing with God. He gave the 12 (apostles) a commandment to tell the world about Him. The 12 were the only ones with a direct commandment to do so. The rest of us do it out of love. I don’t know what the great commission is, except that people freak out when I talk about sharing love instead of following a strict set of instructions and start beating me over the head with those words, The Great and Almighty Commission (echo, echo, echo…). Which brings me to this…

The next stage of maturity is when I stopped thinking everyone else had to do what I was doing. In a righteous and kinda’ pompous voice here… I was on the streets saving souls. I was feeding the homeless almost everyday on skid row and then coming back to the (women’s) Home at night and leading Bible studies. Yeah, I was that spiritual. And if I could do all of that for the Lord… I needed to make sure others knew so that they could see my good deeds and they could do good deeds. Yup. And I didn’t need to tell everyone what I was doing in a straight forward way, there were ways to let everyone know how spiritual I was in how I spoke to others. People know when they are being spoken to with authority by a religious person who has no authority over you. I spoke as if I were a great person for the Lord. All that does is make people think I am a douche. No one wants to do good deeds because I am the holiest one and I tell everyone else just how holy I am, but in the most modest way, of course. It’s a phase. It’s nothing to get angry at. We find God, we get really excited, we start to learn things about Him, memorize the Bible and all the other church-y things and it’s completely normal to think we’ve gained the right to be authoritive.  even though I was still a baby. So as the years went by, when I began to see the Divine Spirit in me grow, I didn’t want to tell anyone about what I did for fear that I would lose the intimacy between me and Him and the church. I only wanted to fall at His feet when I saw more of the Lord in the homeless man on the bench than I ever saw in anyone else. This growth took a long time. I’m stubborn and hesitant so when it was time for this change to happen, I fought it a little with Scripture to fit my reasoning. Was I supposed to be an evangelist or not? Scripture could say whatever I wanted it to say depending on which verses I used and how I arranged them. I viewed the answers through the lens I had always viewed Christian rules. Gradually others came into my life who helped me along and showed me that what I did mattered so much less than who He is. Again, it didn’t happen alone. I needed others to help guide me in this growth. I met people who were doing things I didn’t know were being done. And they weren’t telling people. And honestly, I agree with a very wise man who once said, “The best thing someone can say about you is… “I didn’t know he was a Christian, but I am not surprised.” As we all know, Christians give Christians a bad rap. So I stopped being a “Christian” and living by rules and trying to copy what Jesus did, as a narcissist. Instead I slowly… very slowly… began living on Love, in Love, and by the life of Love inside of me. People call it Christianity. I don’t name it.

What I hope to experience next is confidence. Not pride. Little children do what feels good. Adults have self-control. I want to take my passions and my pain for injustice and I want to work towards the good of human kind. Not like before so that I could be a busy little bee for the Lord. I am starting at home, where it matters most.

First I am raising my kids and they take up all of my time. I am homeschooling them so that they aren’t taught behaviors and facts that are different from what we value. Some moms do that and send their kids to school and I applaud them. I know moms of amazing children who have attended institutional school since preschool. They are wonderful young men and women. I am in awe of this mama, thinking of my friend Kim in particular. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you view it, I need to homeschool in order to raise my kids this way. And as silly as it sounds, I know in my heart that I have been called to do this job. Taking them to school so I can work or clean or do other things is not for me right now. I am to raise my boys full-time. So I don’t feel guilt for not saving the world. I did for a while. I even asked my husband if we could turn our basement into a refuge for homeless women who want out, but have nowhere to go. Thank you Lord for his wisdom in saying absolutely fricken’ not. I need to focus on homeschooling, not helping women full-time right now. If you homeschool you know that doing both (running a home for the homeless in your basement) and training your children up in the Lord, at the same time, is impossible. My kids are still little. They are my first responsibility and they need me. If I were to go out and save the world for Jesus, yet leave my kids in the hands of another while I did it… in my mind the two acts are contrary and would cancel each other out. No guilt here. Jesus did the work. I don’t need to save anyone, as if I could… All I need to do is focus on my boys and remember that everything has a time and a place.

We all go through seasons. We all mature in our faith, whether Christian or other. I do not condemn other religions. I don’t pull the splinters out of the eyes of the abortion people, the homosexuals, or the people with purple hands… as I have a log in my own eye I am still working on. That’s the point of all of this. The more I mature, the more maturing I see I have left to do. The more I mature, the less other’s business becomes my own. The less I need to let people know my business, like what I am doing “for” the Lord over here and over there. I am doing it for me, not Him. As I mature I can be honest enough to see that truth.

Hopefully I was able to convey my immaturity and journey through this. My intent is never to point out another’s shortcomings, but rather share my revelation in Christ. I hope you see Him through this. Thanks for reading guys. Have a good weekend… I am off to a weekend date with husband that starts in just a few hours:)

Love,

Jackie

some Do’s and Don’ts I wish I could go back and tell myself

Last night I was able to get away for a bit to read and write. It was glorious. Especially after yesterday’s post about how stressed I felt. Then I come home to find my husband planned a get away for us this weekend. Just me and him at a nice little B&B called the Hyatt. Seriously, I love the Hyatt near us. They have Starbucks coffee and really nice rooms. His parents are back in town and he arranged to have them watch the boys. Super smile:)

Before yesterday I actually tried writing that blog a few times but each morning I sat down at the computer I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. Every word that moved from my head to my fingertips was too angry and sad. The purpose of this blog is to relate to others, not bring you down. So last night as I wrote in my journal I started laughing a bit at some of the lessons I’ve learned in my 10 years as a parent. Motherhood is really funny. The things that we moms do for sanity are sometimes downright hilarious. But no one wants to talk about them. So I started looking up, through other bloggers, and books, how women cope. With being at home with kids all day. With homeschooling. Or new moms who don’t get much sleep (let’s be honest… none of us do, but new moms have it the worst). It is so hard to admit that while it’s a true blessing to have children, and I honestly absolutely believe that, admitting the hardships would make me seem ungrateful. I don’t want to be ungrateful. I love my kids intensely, as we moms do, but I am only human. Here are some of the recommended “do’s” that I completely ignored either out of convenience or hours upon hours of research (such as vaccines… I was on bedrest for 3 months and spent the whole time researching the ingredients in vaccines so I’m not a crazy conspiracy theorist, just educated. I spent more hours learning vaccines than doctors do in medical school. They are not to be given all at once in the first 4 months of life unless you plan on leaving the country… there is a much, much safer way to vaccinate… another blog perhaps…)

Being a new mom gave me an excuse to be tired and gross myself out by skipping a shower here and there. The first time I lied down and realized I hadn’t showered in the last 24 hours I felt like a bum. Now I wear that experience like a badge of honor. I gave so much of myself to my baby that I put his needs above my own. I was a real mom. I had post-partum depression HARD CORE with my first, but my family didn’t know the signs or what to look for. I hid a lot of how I felt because I drowned in guilt for feeling disconnected from my son. I felt like his babysitter, not a mom. If anyone should say I didn’t love my kid I would have flipped ’em off, but at the same time I felt like I didn’t love my little boy “good” enough. I stared at him for hours wanting so much better for him. I let my parents care for him because they did it so much better than me. They knew how to love him outwardly the way I was supposed to, but couldn’t. I was depressed for a year. And  then I read Brooke Shield’s book, Down Came the Rain (I think that’s what it was called) and I knew what was wrong. I began researching PPD. My feelings mirrored Brooke’s almost exactly and I had all the classic symptoms. And then I knew that what I had gone through was PPD. I wasn’t an awful person, just a mom who suffered. I thought that moms with PPD killed their kids (and some do), but that’s not it… I never wanted to hurt my baby. It was me. I was disconnected. I was affected by the painful, forced, violent birth. And the long bloody recovery that I know now is NOT normal. I had two kids after that and was up walking around within days. Everything about the pregnancy and birth was violent. My baby, my oldest made me a mom. He was everything good I never knew existed in the world. He changed it all for the better and I could see that through the PPD, from afar I could see the light inside of him. He made everything okay. Thank goodness for him.

I’ve always been very relaxed about schedules. So it would come as no surprise that I didn’t record when any of my kids ate, slept or pooped on those little charts the hospital gave me. If my kid stopped voiding or pooping, I would know. I changed their diapers. I didn’t need yet another thing to do, like to keep a chart. And then I found out later that no one even looks at those things. It’s for the parents. So they would know if something was wrong with their baby. News flash… we know. When my son stopped soiling his diapers, I knew. He was a breastfed baby and I changed him constantly. So when he stopped for days and eventually a week, I brought him to the hospital. I didn’t keep a legalistic chart of when they got their needs met, I only took a worrisome motherly mental note when they didn’t do their normal baby stuff.

Being a new mom gave me an excuse. I could go to the grocery store in my jammies. People had to forgive my confusion over how to use an ATM or park between two white lines. On the flip side, I no longer had people help me like I was a piece of china that couldn’t be broken… like when I was pregnant and didn’t need someone to lift a grocery bag for me, but anyone within a half mile radius would come to my aid. Now that I was a new mom juggling my baby in his car seat, the diaper bags, stroller, and groceries as well as my other two toddlers, people weren’t as helpful as when I was the woman with child. Weird how that worked.

Another observation, or word I wish I could go back and tell myself: only my first newborn will be a handful. After the second and third kid I will come to know the dirty little secret that newborns are a breeze. Compared to the other kids. Also, all of those precious names that I spent hours picking out as a little girl would be nixed by my husband. We would either be naming our kids after Hunter S. Thompson or Quentin Tarintino. We went with Hunter.

Some “do not’s” I’ve picked up through reading other mommy’s blogs are…

DO NOT:

~ Name your son after a boy you had a crush on in high school.

~ Keep the baby’s name a “secret” until born. News flash, Walter Cronkite… none of us give a crap.

~ Punch the parent of a child whose name can’t be pronounced by 90% of the country… in the face. (Again, do not do this.)

~ Attempt to answer the parent of a child coming out of third grade with “learning disabilities” because he’s not reading at level when they ask you if you are qualified to homeschool. Same goes for the parent of a “normal” child (who is a public schooled child because they are normal) when they ask you about “socialization.” Just let them think your homeschooled child is weird. Usually they don’t want to hear the answer anyway… I have found through the honesty and kindness of heart of a mom online that when the word homeschool is overheard it stirs up all kinds of emotions for the non-homeschoolers. 1) Why did little Jimmy’s teacher go to college for 4 years if you can do it better at home? And I only say better because it’s one-on-one teaching… teachers know it’s better and so do parents. 2) “Non-homeschoolers feel that they are judged by homeschoolers.” Which makes me sad. My parents didn’t homeschool and they are fricken’ awesome parents. Most of the homeschoolers I know don’t give a flying crap about how other parents choose to educate their children. I don’t think I am better than other parents or teachers. And homeschooling certainly has nothing to do with my worth. It’s a family decision. Like taking the Christmas tree down the day after Christmas. It’s a choice our family makes because it works well for so many reasons and leaving it up really doesn’t work well.

These are some of the notes and musings I have been writing in my journal. Maybe one day I’ll get to pass it along to my kid and his future pregnant partner/wife. I sure do have fun thinking about all of the funny thing motherhood turned me into or made me do. I LOVE reading about other moms and their experiences as well. I’ll have to link you to some of my favorites sometime.

Have a good week friends.

Love,

Jackie