Monday, August 24, 2015

How We Can Live Vacation Everyday


Everyday my children wanted to go to the beach on vacation.  Everyday.  

That meant everyday of rubbing sunscreen thoroughly all over their squirmy bodies.  Everyday of lugging beach and sand equipment for what felt like over a mile to our choice spot.  Everyday of coming home to a shower to get sand out of every crevice, while I’ll never completely get it out of the car.

But the memories are sweet, I’d remind myself.  And the giddy look on their faces would make me want to pause time.  And the confidence they’d show in the water through simple swim strokes would make me believe they can do anything.

Keeping that motivation in mind, I sighed a deep breath and got ready for the days’ events one morning.  After I got my boys lathered up with sunscreen, they played ball on the deck while I started to apply my own.

“My back is always so tricky - it’s very hard for mommy to get,” I said under my breath, as if to excuse the funny way I was moving to try to get every angle of my fair skin.

Yet at that comment, my older son put his ball down and came over.  “Mommy, can I help you put the sunscreen on your back?” he said unprompted.

Surprised, I bent down.  I was expecting a hasty, messy application, but I wanted to encourage his thoughtfulness.  But my son surprised me.  He proceeded to apply sunscreen to my back in thorough, gentle strokes for over five minutes.  “I’m doing three coats, Mom, to make sure you don’t get burned.”  As I felt his little, sticky hands do their very best, a tear came to my eye.

This is the son who made me a mother.  This is the son who inspired the care I give my children every day, the care that felt like a scary privilege with a newborn in my arms to what now often feels like second nature.  As I felt his hands dance across my back, I remembered giving them their first kisses as chubby fists.  

This child who I am so used to caring for was now caring for me.  He was helping me.  He was expressing his love with maturity.  

I was so glad I took the time to receive his offering.  

While the days’ work loomed in my head, I had stumbled upon a moment that made it all worthwhile.  And this is usually how it happens.  Parenting is a constant juggle between the tasks that must be done and a willingness to let them go and savor the moment.  Sometimes we ignite ordinary moments into something special.  Or sometimes we just have to allow the space for them to happen.

Why is it so much easier for us to honor those moments on vacation?  Is that one reason we look so forward to vacation? 

I loved not living by the clock last week.  I loved the freedom that came from the mantra: “We’ll get there when we get there.”  Yes, I know daily living can’t always be that way.  But one thing I’m sure of is that the work will always be there - even on vacation.  Yet the special moments and the heart-felt offerings will not. 

It makes me believe that we all need a little vacation weaved into our everyday.  In Handsfree Life, Rachel Macy Stafford says, “This day could either be checked off or it could be lived.”  While we made memories to last a lifetime last week, I left eager to invite more unexpected ones that are waiting as gifts - both for the people I love and for me.

Our fond memories include my older son discovering: “Life is better on a boogie board.”



And after burying my shoes last year at the beach (we only recovered one), my younger son stuck to just burying my feet this year.  He still had a blast.



This post is in appreciation for Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book, Handsfree Life.  The revelation above was a direct result of my reflection upon her work.  If you are looking for a book that will help you live a more fulfilled, mindful life, don’t miss it!  The book is available for preorder now.  Rachel gave me an early copy to review - I am blessed to call the Handsfree Mama a new friend and fellow HuffPost blogger.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

I'm a New Blogger for the Huffington Post!

I am delighted to announce that HuffPost Parents has picked up my recent post! Just this morning, Arianna Huffington tweeted it! They responded to the important message about elevating female self-worth. I know when I saw the Always commercial that helped spur me to write the piece, I was teary for the sake of our girls. 

Since I don't believe there are many ministers writing for their Parents' section (if any?), I would treasure your support.  Please click on the link below, like the post on Facebook, comment, and share it with your friends! I'd appreciate your willingness to do so - it would show them there's a mainstream contingent that wants to integrate faith with their parenting.  That's what this ministry is all about!

You can view the post and the Always ad by clicking here.

With love and gratitude,
Noelle

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Women Can Unleash Self-Worth


I was there when the Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign won its #Femvertising award this July.  What was heartbreaking and yet also so moving about the ad was the subject of female power.  It wasn’t so much about a girl’s ability to clamor to the top.  It was more about her ability to simply take pride in being female and become all whom God created her to be.

Always locked onto this topic because female self-confidence often plummets in puberty.  But it’s easy to see evidence of this decline continuing on from there.  There’s a rampant self-image struggle in our society that’s aimed at our very self-worth as women. 

As a girl, I remember my mom buying Reviving Ophelia for me - Ophelia being the character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet who drowns herself when Hamlet doesn’t love her.  The book is specifically aimed at empowering adolescent girls.  Our self-worth should not be based upon someone else’s opinion of us.  Yet the temptation to look there is all too real.

Concerns about self-image abound whether they’re focused on size, shape, or stretch marks.  Take, for instance, the recent blog post “To the Mom at the Water Park” that went viral.  A mom’s bodily insecurity was threatening her ability to make memories and model confidence for her daughter.  She was ultimately able to surmount that pressure, however, by drawing strength from another woman at the water park - that woman’s modeling made the difference.

Modeling indeed is powerful.  It also happens to be the most effective way we learn.  We can hear someone teach, we can read something in a book, but when we see it, it often makes a more lasting impression.  Each of us can model - we can link arms with one another or hold our daughters’ hands.  But I also want to see the modeling of women who are going before me.  I want to hear their wisdom, yet I see society marginalizing their voices.

I see older women in our society feeling pressure to never age and fit into a twenty-something mold.  Women are cutting, dyeing, and starving themselves to make this possible.  Younger girls are doing the same.  But when I really take a step back and think about this “ideal” beauty, it is generally voiceless.  It looks how other people want it to.  It is complacent to be used as a sexual object.  It is to some extent void of expressions of its deepest humanity and soul.

Why should a woman who has aged and gathered years of wisdom through struggle be reduced to looking like those years never happened?  Why should a woman whose voice could really change things feel pressure to look like someone who is still trying to find her own?  Are we not as women, to the extent that we buy into this, voluntarily giving up our own power?

As a religion major at Northwestern, I studied Native American culture and religion.  I learned about certain tribes who were led by older women.  The voices of these women were respected and powerful.  The society benefitted from their wisdom, which subsequently blessed their community.  Somehow this link and appreciation is often faulty, if not broken in ours.

While I never was as passionate a history student, I do know that history repeats itself.  Wars are fought for similar reasons, for instance.  And on a microcosmic level, marriages end for similar reasons.  Friendships are tried for similar reasons.  Bigotry is encountered and surmountable for similar reasons.  There is much we can learn from the wisdom that comes from the experience of many years - are we listening?

As a woman who is now in her thirties, I see the challenge to female self-worth from two perspectives.  I see it as a mother raising young boys in the world.  I think about the kind of respect I want them to have for women, a kind of respect that is often all too lacking.  But I also see it as a woman who is thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next phase of my life as the wrinkles are just beginning to form.

I want to live in a world in which I am proud of my wrinkles, for they are battle scars for the wisdom I have garnered on this earth.  They are evidence of the trials and everyday victories I’ve faced, the late nights I’ve sacrificially put another first, and the times I’ve laid in bed awake to hear the whispers of God on my pillow.

I’m also looking to women before me and their modeling.  I want them to claim their influence and power for the sake of young girls and fellow women.  This power shouldn’t simply be cheaply defined as the right to reach for hair dye to tackle gray hairs.  While there’s nothing wrong with that choice, I see beauty through those hairs, not in spite of them. 

As a minister and parenting blogger, I am especially mindful of the link between generations.  I see how blessings can accrue and be passed down to subsequent ones.  I want the blessings of fellow women to trickle up and over to the rising generation.  Women aren’t competition, we’re community.  And I’m ready to see that community soar.


If this post resonated with you, please SHARE it!  You might like The Redemptive Nature of Girl Power too.  I also write about parenting insights like Why Our Children's Character Counts and expert parenting advice I've found helpful like 2 Parenting Tips for Gaming and Social Media on my blog.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

4 Essential Tips for Navigating Full Day School


Last year hit our family like a force field.  Our oldest son went off to full day school for the first time.  I knew our day together would now shrink to about four hours after he came home. But I DIDN'T know there would be so many new activities that would compete for that time.

Little time + flurry of school related activities = force field!

For first time full day school parents, or for parents who are looking for some extra advice, here are four tips that helped us navigate the force field with wisdom and success!

The first TIP is:
  1. Give your child the fall to acclimate. My son’s head teacher, who has been teaching for almost two decades, encouraged my husband and I to resist multiple sign ups. Going to school full day is a huge change in schedule for most children. It’s okay for them to come home and be tired - they need the space and permission to do that. Statistics say that children today get a full hour less sleep a night than children 30 years ago. We need to be aware of that trend in an effort to safeguard them - they’re still little.
You can find the full post with the other three tips on the TODAY Show Parenting Team page.  Don't forget to vote for it - please!  ;-)

God's blessings to you in this exciting back to school season!