Thursday, November 15, 2018

bedtime and giggles

Tonight I did the anti-parenting thing: I messed with the kids' bedtime. I'm not super-dee-duper strict on their bedtimes, but they each have a time which they get sent upstairs to get ready for bed and then, well, go to bed. We are usually within 5-10 minutes of that time for each kiddo.

I sent Linc to bed first and then, once he was ready, I laid down next to him, just to hang out for a bit. Then I realized that Jayne's bedtime had passed me by so I texted her from upstairs (don't make fun of convenience, folks...) and then kept texting her funny gifs until she rolled her eyes and came upstairs. (I didn't see her roll her eyes but she did send me a gif asking me if I was crazy so I'm certain there was an eye roll in there somewhere.)

And then she came and laid down on the other side of me and we looked at old Instagram pics for about 40 minutes. And giggled our booties off. Like completely gone. No more bums. (I write some funny stuff on Instagram, people! The pictures might not always be the best, but the captions are hilarious... in my kids' opinion, anyway. I have not the slightest idea where that comes from, because I don't actually think I'm that funny... But if you want to see for yourself, my Instagram is @katcragin_writes. If you've read my sock saga on Instagram, then you know the hilarity that is my life with J and L. If you haven't read it, no big loss, I promise.)

So at this point, my kids' bedtimes had been long gone. Now granted, we homeschool, so flexibility is on our side. But typically, I still get them up at a decent hour because that's life: you still have to get up at a decent hour and be productive no matter what time you get to bed. (Preparing them for adulthood, I tell ya.)

I tucked them both in and let them go to sleep, 45-60 minutes later than usual. And I have no regrets. (I mean tomorrow morning might be different when I'm trying to rouse them from the depths of sleep, but currently: no regrets.) 

Tonight, I prioritized things a little differently. I chose to reminisce with my kids, to giggle with them, and to hopefully create memories of "that one time Mom stayed up with us to look at funny pictures on Instagram." When they get older, I do want them to remember that we cared enough to try to get them ample sleep and give them a structured bedtime, for their own good. (It's the way we are wired around here.) But I also want them to remember the times when I was relaxed enough to enjoy our time together, bending the rules a bit to do so.

Now I don't know that there's a specific scripture that talks about letting your children stay up a little later than usual so that you can spend time giggling together (I'm pretty sure there isn't), but I do know that Jesus held children in a special place and in high regard. And he blessed them.

I think giggling with my children is blessing them.
I know it's a blessing for me!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

good news, bad news

So good news: the flies are all dead.
Bad news: I'm freaking freezing!

I'm not a fan of the cold weather. I think I would be okay living in 80 degree weather for the rest of my life. I like the change of the seasons, but I can see them on the internet or by visiting places for short periods of time. It's not a necessity that I live somewhere that has a great show of colors in the fall, freezing temps in the winter, and rain, rain, rain in the spring. (Rain is a whole other post for another day...)

The temps dropped in a day around here, or so it seems. I'm pretty sure on Saturday it was still summer but on Sunday, it was suddenly winter. How that happened, I'm not sure. Global Warming, maybe? (Please note: this is, by no means, a political post about Global Warming. I know nothing about Global Warming, I'm not even sure I should be capitalizing it, because I have done absolutely no research on it. If that makes me ignorant, then so be it: I'm ignorant.)

So I walk around the house in pants and socks and slippers and  a t-shirt under a sweatshirt, under another bigger, warmer sweatshirt. I don't even try to match any of my articles of clothing. If it keeps me warm, it is doing what it's required to do, whether it is plaid, striped, orange, or pink. (Fortunately for my boring self, a majority of my closet is some shade of black, white, or grey, so most everything matches anyway!)

The blankets are multiplying and yet I can't seem to find one that keeps me warm enough. They are appearing out of closets and baskets, off of couches and beds. They are piling up on little bodies and then left in places that are perfect for me to trip over. Perfect mounds of warmness, left in the middle of the hallway. Because where else would they go?! A closet? Back on the bed? That's dumb because they are just going to migrate back out into the hallway in a half hour...

And you know what sounds delicious? All the warm soups and breads and chowders and pasta dishes. And you know what I'm avoiding in my diet currently? Most soups, breads, chowders, and pasta dishes. So I'm going to have a cold, fresh salad instead: no croutons.

Getting out of bed in the morning is next to impossible when it's cold outside the bed. It's tough enough to do as it is, but add an element of chill and it's a battle of my wills. Actually, I'm not even sure if there's a battle. The little good angel on one shoulder is just as snug in the bed as the little bad angel... So if I'm late to anything during the cold winter days, I'll give you one guess as to why.

Negative Winter Nelly, I know it. I just don't care to be cold. It makes me a little grumpy and irritated!

But, let me tell you what winter also does for me: it helps me look for the good.

Looking for the good is something I have been trying my best to practice for many years. Once you start the habit of looking for the good, it's not that hard to find.

Winter lets me snuggle with my kiddos.
We sit together by my roaring fire when we do school work.
(It's not actually roaring; it puts out approximately 2 feet of warmth but we appreciate its effort.)
I get to wear my fuzzy slippers.
I also get to wear my boots. I love my boots!
And fun long socks and beanies and leg warmers. Yes. Leg warmers. Don't laugh. They're adorable!
The trees are actually quite pretty in our little town. Combinations of orange, yellow, and red.
This weather means Thanksgiving is near, followed closely by Christmas and I LOVE holiday traditions!

And best of all: the flies are dead.
All of them.

Keep looking for the good, my friends.
Find those things to be thankful in the middle of the cold, even if it's just the lack of flies.
(Well... that is not a sentence I ever foresaw myself writing!)


Monday, November 12, 2018

the word

Ya know, I'm not really the type of person who picks out a word that defines me for the year. I haven't had a year of "rest" or a year of "hustle." I think so much happens in a year that it's hard for me to determine what kind of year it's going to be before it even starts. I mean a year ago my life went a completely different direction than I had planned out when I found out my mom had a large cancerous tumor that had to be removed, followed by chemo treatments that wiped her out completely. That'll change the course of the year for a gal. (Even more so for my mom, obviously!)

(And for those who aren't aware, she stopped the chemo at the end of last year and has been recovering this entire year, pushing herself to get stronger and make healthier choices for herself. She has an appointment in a week to see if that tumor decided to leave and never come back.)

This year was the same as all my other years: I didn't pick out a word. But there's one that keeps showing up frequently. It appears when I write. It appears in my home decor. It appears when I study scripture with my kids. It comes up in conversations with my friends. It shows up in pretty much all of my pastor's sermons. It has ALWAYS been present in my life, but this year it feels like God is flashing the word in bright letters right in front of my face everywhere I go.


It's grace.

Undeserved favor.

I did not ever earn it.
I still cannot do anything to earn it.
I definitely do not deserve it. I stink at being good and perfect and righteous.
And here I sit, still bummed on myself and all my imperfectness, badness, and wrongness.

Seriously, you guys! Why is it so hard to grasp this concept?

I have theories.
I think we are surrounded by expectations and judgement in this world. We don't hand out enough grace ourselves. We don't receive enough grace from those around us. It's not practiced near enough. So it's not familiar and not easy to accept. Especially in a world that makes you try to earn everything!

And this is not just in the worldly world, the secular world, the non-Christian world. It's right here in front of our Christian noses. I'm not sure God even needs to judge us because we are doing a pretty good job of judging each other here. (I mean, He really does need to judge us: we stink at being judges because we are each pretty full of yuck and filth and He isn't at all, which makes Him much better at this whole judging thing.)

And we are fighting a constant battle with the devil who tells us that we have to be good and perfect enough in order to receive this gift of grace. Which he knows we never will be so that's just cruel. Mean old devil.

So for all those reasons, I put that word up in my home, and talk about it in conversations, and teach my children about it, and continue to learn about it from the Bible. Because I need constant reminding that my God is so loving that He gifted me this phenomenal grace despite me and my shortcomings.

Now what to do with that grace...
Keep making those bad choices over and over and over again?
I think of it like this: If I had a car that had a dent in it, another little ding in it wouldn't be that big of a deal, and if I ended up in a fender bender with my dented and dinged up car, I probably wouldn't get too upset and then if I lost a headlight or a fender, well, it's already a trash heap so whatever.
But if someone looked at that heap and traded me their brand new Maserati (I cannot help my love for expensive cars) for that pile of trash, I think I might take better care of that Maserati and drive with more caution and be more mindful of my driving choices because I am SO grateful for this amazing car that someone graciously gave me, even though I wasn't a good driver and didn't take good care of my heap beforehand!
(Is this making sense to anyone else whose brain likes things explained in pictures like mine does?)

So this gift of grace is our motivator. It inspires us to try harder to be better out of our gratitude to God who gave it to us. Are we going to do a perfect job at not sinning? HA! No, but you might find your attitude is adjusted when you truly understand what this grace means for your life. And you might also find yourself handing out that grace a little more freely than before you had received it. (You know, kinda like a "pay it forward" sort of deal.)

In order for us to be constantly reminded of this grace, maybe we should follow Paul's lead in his letters and greet one another with grace and peace every day.
 "Grace and peace to you, Karen!"
"And grace and peace to you as well, Debbie!"

For some reason, I don't think that will catch on...


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:


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?!


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.


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.


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?!

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").