The Final Countdown is Now!

This week is my children’s final week of school before summer break. Wait…Let me allow that sentence to sink down into my psyche.

Deep breaths. Where did this year even go?

I find myself somewhere in between anticipation, excitement and joy over all the fun to be had together, and a growing pit in my stomach over the two-week adjustment period they will need to remember what it’s like to be with each other ALL OF THE TIMES.

I’ve got the summer-break adjustment period down to a science people. For some reason it takes exactly 14 chaos-filled days for my kids to work out all their frustration, offense, annoyance and grievances, be nice to one another, not whine or throw fits over not getting their way. It can be hard to find personal space when everyone is around each other constantly. *cough, cough, middle child*

As a SAHM, I feel some pressure about summer break. There is a huge part of me that wants to let my kiddos do whatever they want to do all day every day  i.e. watch tv and play video games (while I attempt to do what I want). But I know better. I’ve done that in the past and it does NOT go as well as it sounds like it will….  I can admit right now that I will let my children play video games for more time than I will like to admit later. (P.S. I am quickly entering the uncharted territory of an older child not in school for summer.  I don’t even KNOW what I should be guiding him towards doing with his free time? Teach me oh Mommas! What in the world do you do with big kids in summer?)

Due to the 14-day adjustment period, I have learned instead that it is best to have an every-other-day activity planned or at least hoped for. Things will never go exactly as my heart desires, but instead of being rigid and letting the walls close in, I’m praying this year that I can be grateful, hopeful, open, and courageous enough to try something I wouldn’t normally try.

My favorite middle kid last summer at the pool.
My favorite middle kid last summer at the pool.

My goals this summer are pretty lose: read as many books on my wish list as possible, spend a gargantuan amount of time at the pool with my kids and their friends (and their friends’ moms), and have deep conversations with my kids. Summer time is my heart; it’s my favorite season because of all the outside time and options available. And not having to stick to a rigid schedule is totally glorious. It feels like the promise of a long sabbath to me.

Plus, there is an awesome community of Moms who are also SAHMs that I plan to trek with. That’s another goal of mine; to deepen existing friendships and press in/allow others to press into me. Keeping kids active is more fun when you can do it with other Moms. Community makes all the difference for me and for my kids. It’s great for them to experience boredom and think creatively about what they are supposed to do about it! (Please allow your kids to be bored Mommas and Dads. It’s a good thing!) Plus it challenges me when I see what other Moms are doing with their kids and all the “free” time they suddenly possess!

I love hearing little kids’ conversations over summer break too. Take some time to eaves drop on those precious relationships our kids are building together with other kids. It makes great dinner time conversation questions.

Just a few more days before the chaos and fun begin…may the Schwartz be with you fellow parents! May we be grateful, courageous, open and hopeful to what summer could bring in our relationships with our children.

Rx for A Soft Heart; for You and for Me

Occasionally, life sneaks up on you. At least, that happens to me. There I am, trudging along distracted by my list of things I want to accomplish, and BAM! I come to an epiphany about an obstacle that has been blocking my forward progress; one which I didn’t even realize I was continuously butting up against.

About two years ago, I read Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly”. It challenged me in a lot of ways-so much so that I find myself rediscovering many things years later. One such thing is in regards to experiencing and stifling joy in our lives. Brown describes the way that young mothers often sneak into their sleeping babe’s bedrooms at night. They gaze at their precious children and feel overwhelmed with all the emotions motherhood can bring. Then, suddenly, they envision something horrible happening to their child. The joy is stifled and fear comes over them. “Something could happen to my child and all I love would be gone” begins to run through the young Mother’s mind when just seconds before, she was standing in a place of overwhelming joy. But now? That joy has been replaced by anxiety and fear of the unknown. The joy is gone.

Brown’s point is that we can easily get stuck in living life with the thought, “when’s the other shoe going to drop” at the forefront of our minds. The problem is that the more we do this, the more we squash our ability to experience joy. If our hearts are hardened against pain, then they are also hardened against joy! The shutting down of one is the shutting down of the other.

That spoke to me. Her challenge was to stop those thoughts in their tracks and go back to the joy. To push those thoughts out and fight for the good. It reminded me of something I heard John Eldredge say many, many years ago when I was a college student. At a seminar for Campus Crusade for Christ, Eldredge told us that Jesus Christ is the only God who will ask us to lean in and remain vulnerable in the midst of pain. Suffering is a key element of Christianity.

And why? Because if we can’t experience pain, we won’t experience joy. Our hearts will be too hard.

In a quiet reading time recently, I came across something along these same lines from Isaiah 6:9b-10. God is speaking to the prophet Isaiah and he says something to him that is so profound, as he is about to send Isaiah out to the people (who are engaged in idol worship) to warn them. He says,

“Listen carefully, but do not understand.

Watch closely, but learn nothing.

Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. 

That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.”

As I prayed and meditated on these verses, I realized that if you switch it to the positive it is

“To turn to the Lord and receive healing, you need a soft heart to understand, listening ears to hear and open eyes to see.” I would even add to that “humility to learn”.

Hardened hearts block our healing.

As Brown explained, when our hearts are shut down to pain, they are also shut down to joy. I love to laugh and have often told my husband in hard times that what I really need is a good sleep and a loud and long laugh. Joy is what makes life beautiful. So isn’t it interesting that a hard heart,a lack of vulnerability, is what steals our joy and shuts down our experience of a joyful life?

Opening ourselves up to pain, to suffering, sounds wrong, costly and counter-intuitive. But what a shocking thing to learn how self protection leads us down the very wrong path in the wrong direction; it shuts down the joy we are offered each day and the path to a life of understanding, eyes to see and ears to hear. The price is high, but the risk of a hard heart and a life without joy isn’t exactly worth that price.

heart of flesh