Thursday, August 16, 2018

not perfection

This summer was crazy. Why? I can't tell you exactly except that it felt as though the calendar filled up faster than during the school year. Which is super crazy because during the school year, I home school my kiddos and drive them to all their extracurriculars and teach piano lessons and semi-decently maintain my wife and mom duties. So you would THINK that the school year feels busier but nope.
Summer's ridiculous.

But I noticed something interesting this summer: my motivation for just about everything was extremely diminished, and yet God was constantly teaching me through conversations with amazing friends and through podcasts that I was trying to listen to 10 minutes at a time and books that I was reading through one chapter a week. Even in the small spaces, He was teaching me. But I struggled because where in the world was my push and motivation to write?!

And then *click!* - it was time to write! (I don't always understand the rhyme or reason; I just try to go with it.)

There were a couple of constant messages that God has been whispering and shouting at me lately (depending on my attitude). I found a sign at Kirkland's in Turlock.( If you haven't been there, you must go there. The smelly packets of amazing scents make the visit totally worth it all by themselves! My house smells so incredibly calm and peaceful and comfortable and a whole bunch of things that aren't actually scents but make you feel like they should be. Trust me: visit Kirkland's.)
Getting back to the sign...
The sign currently hangs above my desk and says this:

LIVE BY GRACE
NOT BY PERFECTION

I should probably get that tattooed on the back of my hand where I will read it every day!
Why is it so difficult to get this through our minds?! Unless I'm the only one, in which case: Why is it so difficult to get this through my mind?! 

Maybe I learned this all wrong when I was a kid in church, but weren't we taught that it is by grace we have been saved, through faith and this is NOT OF OURSELVES, it is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.  

So here are the two things that bounce around in my head as I read that sign.

1. Self, (yes, conversing with my Self right here) stop trying to hold yourself to an impossible standard. Just know that you are going to fail and be okay with it. It is through those failures that we learn and grow. (Seriously, y'all: I just told my kids this a couple days ago. Practice what you preach, much, Self?)

2. Have eyes of grace. Okay,so here's what I mean: so if you picture your toddler trying to walk, but falling down, or your kiddo learning to ride their bike but they are super wobbly, or your teen is learning to cook or bake and the result is less than amazing, what do you do? Disown them? Tell them to find someone else to teach them how to ride a bike or make cookies? Scorn your toddler and tell them they will never learn to walk?
No - that's dumb.
We have the eyes of grace which looks at them with understanding and kindness and takes the time to teach them and encourage them.

So why don't we do the same with other people in this world? We place these expectations of perfection on others and when they don't reach those standards, we stop investing in them or scorn them or gossip about them... (Did that one hit home?)

I believe (and this is in part because I have this big log in my eye, compared to the little speck in yours) that we should constantly be wearing grace-colored lenses when we look at those around us.  The ones that soften the rough situations and give us the gentle words to say and remind us that we, too, should be looked at through the grace-colored lenses.

But maybe if you have a hard time doing that for everyone else, do you think you could at least put them on when you  look at me?!

KC

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

no rivals

Teaching moments!! I LOVE teaching moments.
I've been homeschooling for over 4 years now, I can't help it: my brain is just always searching for ways to educate my kids. It becomes a mentality, I suppose.  Can I get an AMEN! from my homeschooling mommas and poppas?!

Today's teaching moment happened in the truck ride home from the grocery store with my favorite little boy. We were listening to a song by Citizen Way.
(And now I'm going to go squirrel for a minute: A month or so ago, my kids and I had the incredible experience of seeing Citizen Way locally, in a very small venue. (P.S. My niece opened in worship for them!!) We had front row seats and got autographs and took pictures with the fellas and EVERYTHING! And even though all that personal stuff was super rad and amazing, the concert itself was truly touched by God in the best ways! So we bought t-shirts and their latest CD (2.0) and it is the only CD that plays in my truck.)

So we're listening to Citizen Way on the way home and the song "Rivals" comes on. And here's the chorus:
"When we look to the sun,
Our battle's already won.
We've got no rivals,
Cuz He's got no rivals.

No matter what comes our way,
We know we'll be okay.
We've got no rivals,
Cuz He's got no rivals."

Okay. So as I'm trying to come up with a way to explain this to my son, I start thinking of battles that we might fight and how God is on our side and we can't lose and blah-de-blah-de-blah cliche, cliche, cliche...

My sweet son is listening attentively as I try to paint this picture of who God is with words and then I explain it in a way that makes sense on his level and suddenly, the AH-HA!!! moment happens for me at the same time.

What is it about simplicity that makes things perfectly clear?

I know how cool it is that God is on my side. I know I'm never alone. But when I explained it to my boy, I painted a picture that made it clearer than the cliches that I had heard and said my whole life.

I told him to imagine that he was playing soccer and that God was on his team. No matter who your rivals are: you can't lose. Can you imagine playing any sport and God was player #1 on the team (because what other number would He be?!) - there is no chance that you're going to lose the game! It doesn't matter who is on the opposing team. In my brain, I pictured the devil and all his co-horts all dressed in red (because what other color would he wear?) coming up against God. It's completely laughable! It's like in the movie where Thor comes sliding in on lightning and lightning shoots out of his hands and Led Zeppelin plays in the background (pardon me, I just watched that scene on YouTube again... SO GOOD!) - ain't nothing gonna beat that!
(But let's not talk about Infinity War right now...)

And my son understood that God is big and I understood that God is SO big that I need to shoo away some fears and anxieties that continually swirl around my head. Because if we played soccer together, we wouldn't lose. So living life together: we're not going to lose. Even when it seems like we might be losing, God's got some trick up His sleeve to score another goal. He knows the game plan so He knows that we're going to win.

(Real life example in short: I had an anxiety disorder when I was younger. I thought my life was pretty much over. I learned how to deal with it, was able to move past it, and now I get to offer other people hope on the other side of an anxiety disorder. Talk about a losing game turned into a winner! All because God knew what He was going to do with me even when I thought I was losing.)

Teaching moment = learning moment for me.
Go figure.
That's typically how God talks to me.

KC

Sunday, June 24, 2018

passing on political posts

You wanna know why I rarely (in fact, I'm 99% certain that I never) comment on political social media posts? Maybe you don't want to know and that's okay. I'm not offended. It's totally your choice to read on or to not read on. I respect that you have your opinion about what you are or aren't going to do.

But for those of you who are interested in why I stay neutral on social media when it comes to political posts, well, the answer is simple. It's not because I don't have opinions. I have some pretty strong ones, actually. Nope. That's not why. It's not because people say some pretty rude, disrespectful, and judgemental things when they aren't speaking to you face to face but rather typing their words. While that might be true, that's not the reason either. Well, that might be part of the reason. That's a pretty good reason...

It's because when I look at what people post on facebook, I know that I am not well enough informed on any subject to stand up against the potential backlash of stating an opinion that could come from my comment having one or two words out of order. In other words: I don't know enough about any political situation to be able to join in the conversation. Call me ignorant. Call me naive. But if I haven't walked in your shoes, if I haven't informed myself of the same facts as you (facts: which I'm thinking are hard to come by these days), if I don't have the same types of friends or worldview or family members who are living lives that influence your opinion, then I don't get to shoot you down for what you believe.

So if I don't like your post, that doesn't mean that I don't agree with you on some level. But unless we have a discussion about it, you won't necessarily know where I am coming from and honestly, I don't want to have a public discussion with someone I care about just so the whole Facebook world can have an opinion about my opinion.

And if I'm being honest, which I try hard to be, I have one more reason as to why I don't publicly express my opinion on such matters that are disagreeable among my friends. I would be greatly saddened if I lost a friend because they defined me according to one opinion that I have that doesn't fall in line with their belief system. There are a lot of facets to KC. I guarantee there are a number of them that you wouldn't like if you knew about all of them. Turns out that I don't have everything figured out and I'm not right about everything in life (but don't tell my kids that. Don't worry: my husband already knows.)

My moral compass is guided ultimately by God's word. But even having that, many of my friends disagree on some very fine points. In my younger years I grew up in a very black and white world. As it turns out, there's a lot of grey in this world. I find the best way to swim through the grey is with a large measure of grace.

So if you made it to the end of this post, I appreciate you despite our differences (and there are some, I guarantee it. There's no way any 2 people could completely agree on anything in life). And if you didn't make it to the end of this post, I appreciate you anyway, even thought you'll never know it because you didn't read about it here.

KC

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Ginormous List...

Um, guys? Why have none of you come over to my house and kicked my booty into writing a blog post? Don't you know that my self-discipline is nil?!
*sigh*

So it's summer. And I'm exhausted.
Wait, what?! How is that even possible? I'm not teaching at Cragin Academy (home school) and I took the summer off from piano lessons. I should be having ALL THE FREE TIME!!! I should be getting ALL THE THINGS DONE!!!
Except I don't and I'm not.

You guys: my summer plans were to get all the purging, cleaning, organizing, planning, remodeling, and sleeping done that I didn't get done during the school year. We are entering into our second month of summer break and I feel like I am 1/100th of the way through my "Ginormous List of All the Things To Do This Summer."
And sleeping? Well, just look at the time when I actually get this posted...

But you know what? There's no one looking over my shoulder telling me that I need to be doing more. There is no one monitoring my "Ginormous List of All the Things To Do This Summer." There is no one telling me that I'm not good enough because I can't get it all done.
Except me. I am telling myself all of those things. I do it every day, summer break or not. I am my own worst critic/boss/enemy.

So it is once again time for that look in the mirror when I tell myself that I am good enough and try to turn my perspective around 180 degrees.

Because here's the truth about this summer so far. I have started CrossFit again AND gymnastics (because nothing says I'm looking forward to turning 40 by trying to defy it!) I have found another way to share my crafty-ness with the world! Or at least with the community of women in Ripon. I have intentionally scheduled down time at the pool while eating cheese and crackers because cheese is a minimum weekly necessity in my life. I have taken my kids on day trips. I have loved (almost) every moment of my son's baseball season (with the exception of some of the adults who struggle to keep their words kind at the games. I am told this is a part of life in sports. I don't like this part of life in sports.) I have involved my kids in their passions. I have had some much needed improvements done around this house (can you say "Good-bye flat white paint that collects every child's fingerprints?!"). I have actually cleaned and organized 3 rooms and a closet. And I have made new friends because I just can't help myself: I like people.

And I have kept my family fed and in cleanish clothing and alive and even if that is all I did, that would be enough because that is the most important part of my life, outside of God: my family.

So BOOM! Things have been accomplished! I just had to stop looking at what I haven't done and look back at what I have done. That backwards perspective is imperative to me moving forward.

Some mornings I wake up with the to do list running through my brain.
Who am I kidding?!
EVERY morning I wake up with the to do list running through my brain and most mornings it is so daunting to me that I don't even feel like taking that first step out of bed. But every morning I get up and do things. Sometimes the things are awesome: like planting a garden and sometimes the things are not: like grocery shopping. (I dislike grocery shopping almost as much as I dislike cleaning the shower which is an immense dislike.) But at the end of the day I can look back and see that things got done. Not EVERY thing, but many things.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is "Lay off me, Kathy! I'm doing a pretty decent job of getting stuff done!"

Give yourself a break, friend. And come on over for some intentional cheese eating time. (Yes, it changed from "down time by the pool..." to strictly "cheese-eating." Priorities, people. Priorities.) And then you can mark that off your "Ginormous List of All the Things To Do This Summer."

Unless "Eat Cheese" is on your To Do List, you should throw that list away.
(Except for my dairy-free friends. In which case, substitute your favorite non-dairy food in every time you see the word "cheese").

KC

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

mom fruit

YOU GUYS!!!!
The coolest, most wonderful mom thing happened yesterday. It was so confirming and was a sign of fruit through all the tough and crappy mom stuff that I have done thus far. I NEED fruit. It's not a craving. It's a symbol of hope for all the time and tears and heartache and effort that has gone into this whole mom thing. To see that fruit happening is a beacon of light for this weary mom soul!

My bright, figure-anything-out, go-getter 12-year-old daughter had come up against her nemesis once again: math. No matter what super powers that girl brings to the fight, math always "one ups" her. It beats her down and frustrates her to tears! (She's got a phenomenal tutor and great math curriculum, in my opinion, so that is not the issue here.) Math, no matter what size or shape it comes in, pushes my girl's buttons.

And yesterday was no exception. Negative integers and deciphering between the area and circumference of a circle and the distribution property got her to her wits end and we heard all about it! Long story short-ish: she was frustrated with herself. There are so many things in this life that come easy to that girl (except for keeping her room clean and being nice to her brother) and to have one thing that doesn't come easy to her just aggravates her! It breaks my heart to see her frustration, but I can't do anything about it. Math is important in education and we won't let it slip around here.

It all came to a head when I stepped into the garage to find a piece of chocolate from the freezer. She came out after me, wrapped her arms around me and said, " I just want to be smart like my dad." I held her with all my love and told her I understood and then, a moment later, to lighten the mood, because that's how I work, I teased her and asked, " Wait a minute: if you want to be smart like Dad, what does that make me?! Not smart?!"

And you know what she did? She looked up at me (which I can only say for a few more years, I'm sure and then I'll be looking up at her!) and then buried her head into my chest and said emphatically, "You're wise, Mom!"

I'm immediately started laughing. It was a laugh that came from my soul! Partly because that was a good recovery on her part - she was quick with that response! And also because I knew she meant it. She's told me this before.

Y'all. My 12-year-old daughter thinks I'm wise. Amongst all the eye rolling and the talking back and getting the last word in, she still thinks I'm wise.

I often question my choices in parenting. Shoot, I often question my choices in what I snack on! But every once in a while, God allows me a little glimpse like this one into my daughter's heart and reminds me that I'm doing okay. And that makes me want to keep trying at this whole parenting gig.

Look for the fruit, my friends. If you haven't seen it, ask for it! God will give you a peek, if your eyes are open. And even if you have to wait a while for it (I waited years and years and I'm not even lying), keep at it because it'll come. And it'll be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears (and I'm speaking figuratively AND literally there!)

I'm praying for you all, my friends!

KC


Monday, April 16, 2018

Doritos

As I sat in front of my computer, eating cashews (because cashews are beyond delicious and better for me than Doritos), I kept trying to come up with something clever to write about. I started about 3 different posts, quitting after about a sentence for each one.

"No one wants to read what I have to write about. I don't have anything interesting to say. No one is going to care about what I've got going on in my life."

Would you look at that?! I totally discouraged myself, all by myself! I didn't need any help from anyone else. That's pretty typical of me: I'm my own worst enemy. If I try hard enough, I can talk myself out of anything and put my self worth as low on the ladder as possible... (I was going to say on the totem pole but being low on the totem pole actually means being wise and other good stuff and that's not what I've been telling myself!)

(I have now moved on to Club crackers, if anyone is interested. They are also quite tasty and maybe 25% healthier than Doritos.)

When I tend to get down on myself, I have usually forgotten one very important aspect of me: God created me with a purpose. He made me on purpose. He decided that He was going to put together a Kathy Lynn Cragin for reasons: His reasons!

Sheesh! If I could just get out of His way then maybe He could do some bigger and better things with me so that He could accomplish more stuff and things! But NoooOOOOoooo. I've got to put up walls and close doors and just get in the way of it all.
*eyeroll at myself*

I know I'm not the only one out there who does this...
People! We have GOT to get out of the way! At least once in a while!
Take a chance! Do a thing! Listen to that poking and prodding of God and stop doubting yourself. Because God wouldn't poke and prod you if He didn't already know that something good was going to come out of it all.

So tonight I just started writing and discussing my evening snacking habits with you and TA-DAH!!! He ended up coming up with something kind of cool to tell you (and me! Pretty much all of what I write to you is just stuff I need to hear too!)

Now, if someone could please bring me a bag of Doritos, I would greatly appreciate it...

KC

(Nacho Cheese, please.)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

aaaaand: fail.

I don't know, y'all. (And yes, I do say "y'all" in real outloud life even though I'm from California. It's for emphasis!) I just don't think I'm cut out for this parenting thing. The more I strive to get ahead, the more I look around and see every where that I am failing!

I just put bath towels away in my kids' bathroom, only to have to rearrange the entire cupboard because one of my children has moved in and also started to take over the second cupboard in that bathroom. I'm going to start charging rent on cupboard space.

Earlier today, I kept getting sticky feet while walking in my kitchen. On hands and knees and with a wet towel, I identified the area of sticky-ness that no one seems to know how it got there. I now leave a pair of flip flops near the kitchen floor for when I get fed up with crumbs and sticky spots on the floor. I can't.

"Child, please don't eat this entire bowl of blueberries."
Returning 5 minutes later: "Where are all the blueberries?!"
Child: "I ate them all, I guess."
YOU GUESS?!

I constantly buy my children dental flossers. Those little sticks that have a small piece of dental floss to make it easy for them to floss every night. But I recently asked my children if this flossing is being completed. Can you guess the answer?! Can you guess when our next dentist appointment is?! Three days from now. Ugh.

My daughter rolls her eyes at me an average of 10 times a day.
My son's cursive handwriting leaves a lot to be desired.
Math. I'm not saying anything about math.
There were snails in my garage in a bucket for about a week.
Wet bathing suits and towels live on bedroom and bathroom floors, just beneath the hooks installed for just that purpose.
My kids eat candy. (See paragraph regarding dental flossers.)
Little Lego pieces everywhere. Just everywhere.

I look at every one of these and think: "There's more I can be doing as a parent to stop these behaviors! If I have so many parenting fails (y'all, this is like an eensy-weensy peek into a very large box, nay, garage full of parenting failures), then obviously, I'm not cut out for this!"

But there's always this word that constantly inhabits my mind. Sometimes it's loud and sometimes it's quiet. But it is always there. It is a gift that God gave to us, hand-in-hand with free will. There is absolutely NO way we can attain parenting perfection. (I'm telling you: the ones who show you their perfect parenting are not showing you every part of their parenting world.)

So God gave us grace.
He shows us favor and gives us blessings despite our shortcomings.
And that grace covers a LOT!

Today I had to apologize to my daughter for something rude I said to her. It was eating me up as her mom but when I told her I was sorry, she told me it was no big deal and hadn't really bothered her: grace.

Last night I failed as I hadn't even thought about what my daughter would wear to church on Easter Sunday. There was no way that we could find a dress for her before church the next day. She pulled out the one dress she had that was flowery and then looked at me and said, " Do I have to wear a dress?!" HA!! Nope! Grace.

I looked at the mess that I had just gotten frustrated over and my son came up and hugged me despite my aggravation: grace.

People, this happens every day. My shortcomings are greeted by God's grace. Sure, my kids are probably going to need counseling someday, but I believe that every step of my parenting is surrounded by the grace of God. What makes me think that I need to have it all together when I've got a great big wonderfully wise God walking right next to me in this adventure?! Guess it's time to show myself some grace...

KC