Dare to Date

A recent attempt to leave for a date night….

The best parenting advice I’ve ever received came when our oldest daughter was one year old, and I was pregnant with our second. My husband had arranged for his parents to watch our daughter for TWO NIGHTS so that we could take a brief getaway.

I was a little freaked out.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’d left our daughter; our girls are blessed with four willing and healthy grandparents, and we take advantage of their babysitting whenever possible. Our first date night — dinner at a nearby restaurant — happened two weeks after our first daughter’s birth. This wouldn’t even be the first time we’d left our child overnight. But it would be the longest we’d left her, and I was struggling. I loved my husband, I wasn’t afraid to leave our daughter with her grandparents, but I was just SO TIRED. Given the choice, I’d rather lie on the couch (alone) with a good book, rather than put the effort into two days of quality time with Erick.

As I shared my reluctant feelings with some female friends, our pastor’s wife spoke up. A mother of three older girls, she was the veteran of many date nights and getaways. She admitted that she almost never felt like leaving her children when her husband planned dates and getaways. Then she said: “But I’ve realized that leaving the girls to spend time with my husband is one of the greatest ways I can show him my love.”

I’ve repeated those words to myself numerous times since then. As a result, even while we’ve added a third and fourth child to our family and moved to a small town in Vermont far from both our families, Erick and I continue to make a priority of regular date nights and overnights.

I don’t usually offer advice to new moms, but when asked I grip them by the shoulders and say: “DATE NIGHTS! Remember date nights!”

There are those who say that being a good mom means taking good care of your kids. They have a point, but the more I do this motherhood thing, the more I realize that being a good mom means taking good care of yourself. I’m not talking selfishness, sitting on the couch with a bottle of wine and your smartphone all day while the kids shred the wallpaper. But how can you possibly take good care of your kids if you’re frazzled and exhausted and haven’t had any time to yourself?

And if you have a partner in this child-raising gig, taking care of yourself includes taking care of that relationship, reminding each other that you’re on the same team. I never understood why so many mothers got up-in-arms when Ayelet Waldman wrote about loving her husband more than her children. I mean, DUH! My husband was around long before our kids, and I hope he’ll be around long after we’ve gotten them out of the house. Seems like that relationship deserves a lot of tending, doesn’t it? Besides, if our marriage is falling apart, our anger and sadness will certainly trickle down to the kids.

But it’s HARD, I KNOW it’s hard. So here are my suggestions for pulling off regular date nights after kids:

1. Choose quantity over quality. Many of us have tight budgets and busy schedules. You don’t have to go to a five-star restaurant or a Hawaiian vacation, JUST GO OUT! Take a walk. Grab coffee or dessert. Erick and I recently had a quality “date” over McDonald’s coffee while we waited for the snow tires to be taken off our cars. Overnights aren’t essential, but do them if you can; we’ve noticed that it can take at least an hour for us to relax enough to begin a conversation, so the more time you have together, the better. But even this doesn’t have to be elaborate; we’ve found some great Priceline deals for local hotels.

2. Be creative about babysitting. Childcare can be expensive. Grandparents are a great option, because they’re free and they’re family, but obviously that’s not possible for everyone. We’ve had some success swapping date nights with friends. When our first child was born, we coordinated with two other families so that each couple could have one date night a month: one half of the couple that was babysitting would go sit with the date-night-couple’s child (who was usually asleep in bed by then). Free and easy! OR, take advantage of those sweet older couples you know, the ones whose own children have left home, who are always offering to watch your kids. SAY YES!

3. Have an agenda. Often, the two partners in a family with children live very different daytime lives. That’s why it’s so important to connect, but it can also make conversation polarizing. When Erick and I sit down and “catch up,” I end up talking about the kids (perhaps not so interesting to him), and he ends up talking about his work (generally not so interesting to me — sorry!). Catching up is important, but if our conversation stopped there we might not feel very connected. So Erick started bringing broader topics to the table, often having to do with marriage or relationships, that we could discuss on even footing. Sometimes he’ll track down an interesting article, which we’ll both read beforehand. This gives our brains a break from the day-to-day, and inspires us to look more deeply at our relationship.

The most important thing, fellow exhausted mamas, is that if your partner wants to go out, JUST DO IT. Force yourself. Because that’s love: doing things for another person even when we don’t feel like it. If we can do it for our kids, we can certainly do it for our partners. I can almost guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Posted in Being a Woman, Family, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships | 1 Comment

Mere Christianity

If you had asked me six months ago what my favorite part of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity was, you would have seen me turn every hue of embarrassed red and shrug my shoulders, averting my eyes and hoping the topic would change.

“But it’s a Christian classic!” you would say in disbelief.

And then the truth would come out. I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia and his space trilogy, but the life-changing, foundational, non-fiction classics of Lewis I had only read in out-of-context quotes. I had my reasons for this, but the time had come. I had been out of college long enough that my brain, which normally craves intellectual stimulation, was turning to malt-o-meal.

I decided to pick up Mere Christianity and go all out.

I sent out a message to some random girl friends, many of whom didn’t know each other, but who I thought would enjoy diving into the depths of C.S. Lewis with me. I didn’t just want to read it. I wanted to digest it. To unearth the gems, separate the bad eggs, and discuss with people who would have varying but trusted opinions and perspectives. It is a small book, but not a quick/easy read. It would require time and thought and investment.

Eight of us met the first Thursday night at a newish, still largely undiscovered coffee shop in town. This kept the pressure off of someone having to host in their home, and also gave us a defined ending time each night, because when the store’s doors closed, we went home. We ordered our drinks, made our introductions, and started on the first assignment of the book.

It was very laid back: If you can come, come. If you can’t, don’t worry about it. I prepared an outline of each assigned reading for the week, which was my own accountability for myself to actually do the work. (That was, after all, my goal.) I would then read through the points and we’d discuss as something came up that we had thoughts on or questions about. Someone would pull out their 5,000 page philosophy book and contribute something beyond the collective intellectual sum of the group that would take us to a whole new level. Someone else would talk about their unique experiences in life that paralleled or contradicted what we were reading, and we’d, again, be propelled into a whole new level of thought and consideration . . . and admiration of Jesus Christ.

So many provocative thoughts were dug up from a well deep enough to keep us talking until the shop closed. Lewis made points about why believing in the Christian God is even logical. Where the concept of morality comes from and how it has stood the test of time. How and why we require a savior. What living a virtuous life looks like as a Christian. And how we, as Christians, become more like Christ.

The relevance of it all wove into all aspects of life, from politics to church, to raising kids, to marriage, to fashion, and recreation.

As we immersed ourselves in the rich, deep pages, we made some diverse observations:

1. That Lewis had a sense of humor that is unique and made us all laugh.
2. That he refers to sexual relationships and analogies of war a lot to make points.
3. That the book really needs a revised version with better/updated editing.
4. That he had extremely well thought out and argued points which logically take you step-by-step through the principles and beliefs of Christianity.
5. That he had an uncanny way of making a very complex idea easy to understand through his use of real life examples.
6. That C.S. Lewis is not always right.

The last night of our group, I invited everyone over for dinner in my backyard. Not everyone could make it, but we told stories, laughed hard, and finished our study. (This is where our amazing and talented resident photographer, Sarah Maizland, snapped some shots of us and inconveniently left herself out of all of them.)

I finished it so satisfied. I felt like I had been given smelling salts, triggering my brain awake again to the potency and complex simplicity of God and His work in us.

If you haven’t gone through this book before, let me offer a resounding “DO IT!”

Grab some friends, sip some chai, and allow your heart and brain together to mine the depths of who God is and what He’s done for us as Lewis has so poignantly defined in Mere Christianity. Take it one “book” at a time (the book as a whole is broken into small sections which he calls “books”). It’s very meaty. You will need some good time allowances for digestion.

And now, I’ll leave you with some of our favorite quotes from the book as a group:

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

“That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.”

Top photo via
Photography by Sarah Maizland

Posted in Theology & Philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

photo via

Every year, Father’s Day comes and goes.  For some, it is a time to celebrate the “best man they know”; for others, it brings up painful memories of fathers who were absent, distant, or abusive.

Fathers come in all shapes and varieties—they view their role as fathers differently. I have had friends whose fathers believed that their primary role was to provide, even to the point of absence in their family and distance from their children. I have had others whose fathers simply weren’t there at all, and others who believed that their primary role was to love, bless and raise their children.

Throughout the Bible, we learn that God is our Heavenly Father – but depending on our experiences with our earthly fathers, our views of who our Heavenly Father is may be vastly different. A couple years ago, I was a member of a Bible study with several wonderful women. We were discussing our views of God, and it never had before occurred to me how different they could be.

I remember describing God as loving, accessible; a Father who wanted to be with me, spend time with me, hear about my day, and who cared deeply for me. One of the other girls described Him as royal, distant, a provider who would care for her needs but didn’t care too much for her everyday concerns. Another described Him somewhere in between – holy, righteous, loving but distant, approachable but still royalty.

At first I felt compelled to argue, as if their views were somehow wrong. But as we discussed, we realized that we understand God as our Father through the lenses of our own fathers and that, too, our Heavenly Father had elements of all that we described.  None of us had the whole picture, but none of us were fully wrong either.

Regardless of your experiences and your memories with your own father, whether he left you wounded or not, my prayer for all of us is that we understand truth about our Heavenly Father.

Truth: Our Heavenly Father is royalty. Even as much as Western culture teaches us to view God as a teddy bear, the reality is that our God is the King. “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be held in awe above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.” (1 Chronicles 16:25-27)

Truth: Even as much as God is royalty, our Heavenly Father also knows us intimately. “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar . . . For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb . . . My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” (Psalm 139)

Truth: Our Heavenly Father is to be feared, revered, and respected. “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . . For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” (Deuteronomy 10:12, 17)

Truth: Our Heavenly Father takes pleasure in spending time with us and communing with us. “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” (Song of Solomon 2:14)

Truth: Our Heavenly Father wants to hear our requests and to give us good gifts. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened . . . If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Truth: Our Heavenly Father loves us deeply and wants to have relationship with us. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

I have been blessed with an earthly father who loves me deeply, who loves to spend time with me, and has modeled well what it means to be a caring, present father. But regardless of whether your experiences with your own father were positive or negative, we must remember to ask what is the TRUTH about our Father in heaven. While our earthly fathers reflect some of the Heavenly Father’s characteristics, HE is so much more. HE is majestic, fearful, and royal. HE also takes pleasure in spending time with you. HE knows you intimately. HE wants to hear your requests and to give you good gifts. And HE loves you deeply and wants to have deep relationship with you.

Posted in Family, Relationships, Theology & Philosophy | Leave a comment

The Battery Recharger

I have the distinct pleasure challenge of being an introverted, internal processor mom with an extroverted, external processor teenage daughter. I don’t think even for a minute that this is unusual. If you happen to be that one parent who had children with your exact same personality, please raise your hand so we can throw fruit.

Now, I hang on as long as I can, listening and trying to stay engaged, but at some point I can feel this yucky thing rising up in me that cries, “Stop talking! You have already told me these things a hundred times. Leave me alone!” So, my job is to persevere until I feel the first twinges of that thing, and then calmly excuse myself. Even better, I need to choose a good time to bring up that story about recharging batteries I made up when the girls were little . . .

We have 2 daughters, and by the time they were toddlers, we started to notice the patterns that preceded a total core meltdown. For one, a long day full of errands, a play date and kids church would be so overstimulating she would lose any sense of coping skill. A simple “No sweetie, you can’t have another cookie” would send her into a tailspin. However, our other daughter seemed to thrive on those days. It was the long, quiet day at home without guests or reason to leave the house that would leave her grouchy and withdrawn. I needed a way to explain this so that they could understand and, hopefully, internalize for taking care of themselves someday.

I picked up the remote control and opened the battery compartment. (We have rechargeable batteries in our Wii System.) They understood this process, because when the remote stopped responding quickly, they learned to pull the batteries out, and put them into the charger plugged into the wall.  I talked to them about how each of them have a battery inside, not a metal one, but a special place God made inside them where their energy comes from.  When their battery gets too low, they start to feel tired, frustrated, and unhappy. So, when mommy or daddy noticed this, we were going to help them RECHARGE THE BATTERY. Because God made each of them unique and special, they each had their own charger, and they worked differently. One daughter recharged her battery by going upstairs in her room for 30-45 minutes of quiet time, either reading or drawing or tinkering with her belongings. The other recharged her battery by interacting with people, either by playing outside with the neighbor kids for an hour, or running an errand with me where we could talk and work on something together. Both would emerge refreshed and with a much better disposition.

This turned out to be far more helpful than we ever imagined at the time. This was the beginning of self-care, and learning how to steward their bodies, minds and emotions. Fast forward to today, and I am now aware that I need to share with my teen how I recharge MY battery. I need to politely excuse myself, and mention that my battery needs recharging. After a crossword puzzle or reading  a few chapters, I should be ready to re-enter the chatter. And she’ll be waiting.

This post originally appeared at CatchandReleaseParenting.com
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Juice Fasting for the Food Brat

Two days ago I ended a 7-day juice fast. Before the salt and toxins have fully re-established themselves in my system I wanted to share what I learned, how my body changed, and what I’m doing differently going forward.

For the past few years, through several drastic life changes, I added an extra twenty-five pounds that I’m not too happy about. I’ve made it my mission, as I have settled down in southern California for the next few years, to lose the excess and settle into a happy, healthy body weight. The problem is I’m not patient. My many failed weight loss attempts have been due to the mixture of sub-par self discipline and the fact that I’m shocked it doesn’t happen faster.

I decided it was time to bring on the juice fast to jump start my weight loss and detox. I had recently watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead: a documentary about an overweight and sick man in search of a natural solution to his health problems. He juiced exclusively for sixty days and was cured of both of his conditions. I had no intentions of doing something so drastic, but was following in the footsteps of a few friends who had done juice cleanses for shorter durations. I thought a week would do the trick. I had done the dreaded “Lemonade Diet” for ten days a few years ago, so what was so different about this?

 I had underestimated my addiction to food having not done a fast for a while. I was in physical pain (head and backaches) while the toxins were initially leaving my body. This taught me that I need to focus on the toxins in my body more often and make sure they can healthily leave my body on a more consistent basis. The biggest benefit to a juice cleanse is denying your body and brain what it wants (or thinks it wants). This is a spiritual experience and falls in line with scripture where God calls us to fast for periods of time to recenter our focus.

One thing I call myself is a food brat. The breakthrough for me in juice fasting was breaking my feeling of entitlement with food. I encountered a second documentary during my week of liquid called Hungry for Change. The greatest thing I gained from this film was using the statement with myself,

“I can have it, but I don’t want it.”

I realized by denying my flesh that I had let my flesh win for so long. I had convinced myself that certain foods or beverages were a reward for working so hard or having a rough day. After a while that mentality translates into bad habits with food that I wasn’t thinking twice about.

In actually making the juice (with a home juicer) I learned several combinations that were delicious that I am planning on drinking again in the future. I learned that dark green veggies aren’t that bad when juiced with a strong fruit like grapefruit, a couple apples, or an orange. Lemon also cuts the muddy flavor that comes from mixing dark veggies together. All of this will sound much more appealing once I have put a little more space between me and this this arduous week.

I lost a few pounds, changed my palate, broke some bad habits, but would I do this again? I definitely would, but I would stick to 2-4 days in length. I found that that’s how many days it took for me to feel fully free of the toxins in my body and reset my attitude toward food. The extra weight loss was nice from those extra 3-4 days, but real lasting weight loss comes from a different attitude toward food altogether.

Juicing is something I plan to make a bigger part of my life. It’s a great way to infuse the body with way more veggies and fruit than one could possibly eat in a day. It’s a remarkable thing to see your body look more beautiful, physically, from the inside out. I plan on using juice as a supplement to a better overall diet in the future.

Posted in Food & Drink, Health & Fitness | Leave a comment