Friday, September 29, 2017

Letters to My Daughter 1

My dear daughter is now 16 year old and in 11th grade. 
When she turned 9 years old I cried.  Because "it" was half over, this precious time when she was in our home.  I know "it" will continue, because I am in my 40's and I need and love my Marmee.  But still. 

Now high school is half over and becoming more-and-more over each day. 

I pondered:  What are my bullet points for her?  What are the main ideas that I want to express once again before she continues her journey outside our home? 

I decided to write her letters, and to mail them to her during these last two years of high school.  Keep them one page in length.  Maybe slip twenty bucks in.  And pray that each one will say what needs to be said and that it will be timed correctly and will be heard. 

Some I will copy here in this blog, with or without some editing.  Some I won't. 

Here we go:

September 2017
Dearest Noelle Patricia,

I want to write down for you what I think the important things are.  I had a different one in mind to be the first letter, but the words and the peace and the right timing did not come.  What has come to the surface is that I need to apologize for all the things I've done wrong or haven't been or should have been or should have done.

I didn't really worry when you couldn't walk or needed speech therapy or went to Africa.  But what worries me is that I might have, or might still, do something that in any way did or will contribute to any kind of separation with God.  I have this unquenchable, driving desire to try to point you to Him.  What about when I've done the opposite?  There are moments that I wish I could live over again, and make better and more loving & tender choices.

So I guess as a foundation to these life lessons that I hope to say one more word about, before you leave our home and continue your journey outside our home, is an acknowledgement, from me to you, of how I didn't often or always do it right.  I am sorry.  I acknowledge that I have often been angry instead of spirit-controlled.  I acknowledge that I have often been selfish.  I care deeply that I have hurt you with my words and actions.  It's important that you know that you have never caused my sinful responses, (even when they happened during math time while homeschooling!).  I am sorry for the times when I was not who you needed me to be, as well as the times when I was not who God called me to be.

My desire for you was to have a childhood that you didn't need to get over.  I want you to have the freedom to travel on your journey lightly.  Please forgive me for the times when I have failed you and sinned against you.  I am FOR you.  I absolutely love you to the moon and back.

Much Love,
Your Marmee.  xoxo

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Flat Character/ My Unique Calling Mash-Up

I can see that you have some favorites:  Favorite celebrities, singers, authors, quotes, actors, people, ideas, ideals...
I have favorites too.
I see Magnolia in my feeds frequently.  Color Runs seem popular.  Chalkboard decor.  John Piper quotes.  The TV show "This is Us".  Chevron, or are we over that now?

It takes less than a minute to look up which celebrities are speaking out against Trump,
what people are saying about Charlottesville,
what people are saying about what Trump is saying about Charlottesville.
I don't have to decide for myself what is in style to wear- I just need to see what goes viral, what everyone else is wearing.  And doing.  And listening to.  My favorite radio station tells me what is popular to listen to.  What's current.

It's more personal than that though.  Social media gives each person a platform to share their best version of themselves.  Without spending any time with an acquaintance, I can know what vegetables she grows in her garden, her opinons about the environment, what concert she has recently gone to, and what she considers the best choices for back to school shopping.

It used to take time to find out so much about our friends.  We based our knowledge of our friend from time spent together, usually over a long period of time, not based on a little bit of time together and what we know from social media.

Because we spent time with our friend we knew that they were not a flat character.  No one is a flat character, not "regular" people and not celebrities.  We had tea at our friend's kitchen table 75+ times and so we knew that she was the most amazing cook ever but we also knew the areas where she struggled because we talked about them over tea and they were observable because of the amount of time we spent together.

We push the flatness.  I have to believe we want it.  We will like an acceptable "round-ness", if it has curb appeal.  We will re-tweet "realness" if it's the right kind.  As long as it's not "too much."  An acceptable flaw will make our favorite pastor or person even more endearing.

We find Martin Luther King Jr. inspiring, (because he was), and we pretend that he didn't have extramarital affairs, because it doesn't jive with who we think he is or the type of character we think someone who inspires us should have.  Suddenly, we say that Trump is a Christian, because we need him to be flat.  If there is non-flatness that we cannot deny we say it is solidly in the past and is not part of the current President Trump.

Did you adulate the Duggar family and now that you know the truth about Josh Duggar have you thrown out the whole bunch or just sectioned off Josh and you still wholeheartedly love the Duggars? And why?  Why did you or do you love them?  Because they are Christian?  Because they are wholesome?  Because they seem wholesome?  Because you wish you had parented like them even in some small area?

I am not a flat character.  I don't necessarily apologize for my Instagram posts because I'm not even pretending that they fully represent my life.  Of course they don't.  They are my delights.

We shape people into flatness.  She's a dancer.  He's a singer.  She's a teacher.  He is good at decorating.  We leave little room for not just the sin issues that we all struggle with but also for the multi-dimensional aspects of each one of us that make us interesting and uniquely created by God.

I don't want to shout my failures to the world and I'm not suggesting that we do that.  I'm not suggesting we ignore hidden & unrepentent sin, or character traits that really need work.  Sometimes our "heroes" need a deeper look.  They say that Generation Xers are the first generation to not have heroes.  (That's for another blog post.)  So the closest I have to a hero is Rich Mullins, and he was pretty flawed- likely an alcoholic.  However I have listened & listened to what he had to say and he points me to Christ and the Word, over & over again.  My favorite artist used to be Mary Engelbreit.  But when she gave free use to an image of hers, "Our Bodies, Our Business, Our Rights", that crossed a line for me, with my beliefs.  I will never again buy one of her products.  Deeper looks of Rich Mullins and Mary Engelbreit produced different results for me.  Maybe Martin Luther King Jr. should be your hero and maybe he should not.  

But it's even more personal than that though.
We are made UNIQUELY by God.  The Bible is full of stories of PEOPLE- all different.  When we start to think that maybe we should run a 5K because all our friends are doing it, and for no other reason than that, we are being unduly influenced by our easy exposure to what everyone is doing, thinking and feeling.  And our teens are even more susceptible.

Maybe you feel like you should run a 5K because you know that you are not exercising enough.  Or maybe it looks like fun and you truly want to try it.  Great.  But if you are running a 5K because it will look good on Instagram and because it seems to be what everyone else is doing, that's thin reasoning.  

Probably one of my most favorite quotes, which did indeed come to me by way of my almost-hero, Rich Mullins, is by Frederick Buechner, and it's a well known one:

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

And that is going to be different for each one of us!!  I love that!  My calling is not some second-hand recreation of someone else's idea, someone else's life, someone else's giftedness or success, that I have taken hold of because I want my life to look a certain way.  Or because I believe that I will be happy with my life if it looks a certain way.

I will not be fulfilled by copying what my friend is sharing on social media- unless it connects deeply with my heart in a God-given way, and the exposure of my friend sharing was what I needed to discover something that would bring me inner joy.

Oh, it's tempting.  My friend with the amazing family- I mean AMAZING- they don't have TVs in their house.  I know that because she shared it on Facebook and hey, I've shared on Facebook about our screen-free Sundays.  But somehow my brain connects that maybe my family could be more amazing if we didn't have TVs in our home, or if we had worship sessions like their family.

And maybe there is a connection but I have my own family and what is God showing ME.  Am I looking to his Word for this source of wisdom or without even realizing it am I looking around me to see what would look best on and for my family?  Am I mindlessly trying to be another version of what seems hip, or what looks good, or what I wish I was?  Am I comparing myself to someone else?  Comparing my "roundness"  (sometimes literally!) to someone else's flatness?  

So find out who God made YOU to be.  That is a big prayer I have for my kids and I know the work won't be finished as teens because I am in my 40's and am continuing to figure it out.  I think it's exciting.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Happy 10 Year Anniversary to Us!

I don't know if you can hear it wherever you might be.  Can you?  I'm pretty sure you can.
Trip Lee's "Sweet Victory" through the open windows.
"... 'cause we winnin', yeah we know we winnin', Now we livin' (sweet victory!)"
I don't know if you can see it wherever you might be.  Can you?  I'm pretty sure you can.
Did you see us just cross the 10-year finish line?  Did you see the ribbon at the end and our arms raised in victory?  Did you hear the host of heaven praising God?
"... Yeah we still runnin' even though we limpin' (sweet victory).  'Cause we winnin', yeah we know we winnin'..."


Literally against the odds, we sat down to a lobster & corn on the cob dinner, enjoyed each other, and celebrated 10 years of marriage.  (WOOT!)

So, we are 10-years in to this blended family marriage.  I have read that less than 25% of 2nd marriages are successful, but here we are- getting better all the time and with a chunk of "sacred history" behind us.  So what have we learned?  What's working for us that has helped us beat the odds?  I will list what comes to mind- And not all of these are unique to blended families/ 2nd marriages.
I gave this sign to Kevin when we were dating.  It was our prayer and our declaration for our new family.  It hung in our house until a few years ago when external factors worked hard to damage our family, home and marriage.  At this point we moved it to our front door and declared again that as for our family, we intend to serve the Lord.  Our understanding has always been that we could serve the Lord better together than separately.  



  • Commitment to God and our marriage:  I have observed my husband reading his Bible each morning for 10 years.  It matters.  The cumulative impact of years in the Word of God does make a difference.  The edification process in which we become more sensitive to our own sin and more aware & able to do & be who God has called us to be- There are no short cuts!  It doesn't happen overnight, it's a lifelong process.  The more light that goes in, the more the darkness goes out.  We become less selfish.  As a result we become better spouses, parents, friends and people.  We can only do this for ourselves.  A marriage cannot be held together when only one person is committed to it.  We know this well.  It takes both parties willing themselves to stay together, no matter what.  A strong family cannot be built around the children, it must be built around the marriage.  Our children are of utmost importance to us, but they will come & go and our marriage needs to be strong regardless of who else is under our roof.
  • Commitment to a better marriage:  Keeping our marriage together and being miserable was not the goal, although sometimes it has been the reality, for periods of time!  We have not just wanted to stay married, we have wanted a good marriage, one that keeps improving with time, as we learn more about each other and ourselves and what works best for our marriage. We have not been satisfied with where we find ourselves.  We want the best marriage we can have.  This means we have to communicate about hurts, goals, obstacles and dreams.  We have to be mold-able and willing to change.


  • Individual Work:  Both Kevin & I have done a tremendous amount of hard, internal work as individuals.  Or I could say, God has done His work in us.  Truly.  This is another thing that we cannot do for our spouse.  We can only do it for ourselves.  I am abundantly thankful that Kevin has done this and continues to do it.  It's very hard and issues from childhood, our first marriages, regrets, sin problems, unmet expectations, our selfishness and problems in our marriage get dredged up and must be dealt with in a healthy way, in order for us to move forward as individuals and as a couple.  I would say that this "individual work" also speaks to the above points:  Being committed to God and a good marriage and spending time in the Word.  Now, we have been to multiple marriage conferences and retreats.  We have read marriage books, been to counseling and our Sunday School class is even for married people.  I know these things have all been helpful, but I credit the individual work we have done as one of the biggest reasons we are successful.  
  • Humor!  This has been huge for me because by nature & nurture I am a rather serious person.  Kevin has a great sense of humor.  It has been a welcomed, needed & pleasant addition to our home life!  I have come a long way in learning to laugh at myself and take myself less seriously.  As a result I am more likely to overlook an offense.  Humor and laughter have helped our family bond together.  It helps with difficult & everyday situations.  The power of humor cannot be underestimated!  
  • Resilience & Flexibility:  This point alone could be a separate blog post.  I have found it to be true that in life you must change what you can and accept what you cannot change.  Making course-corrections are necessary.  All marriages deal with unmet and unrealistic expectations, but these blow up in blended families!  Couples are blindsided by pressures & dynamics of stepfamily living.  We enter these marriages with ideas about what our family will be.  Others tell us what we are supposed to be- we are told that blood doesn't matter and that the Brady Bunch is attainable.  We think that our family will be different & that we won't deal with common stepfamily problems.  We, like most couples, found ourselves without any idea of how to navigate the pitfalls and problems of our blended family.  It became important that we not get stuck in these unrealistic expectations.  We learned to name the issues and we found that what was mentionable was manageable.  We could either stay down and give up or we could adjust our mindset and try again.  We learned to compromise and then compromise some more.  We learned together how to be more flexible and how to be resilient.  Dying to self is painful but an important part of our growth.
  • Space:  My husband has given me space.  I've had the freedom to pursue my interests and hobbies, to homeschool my children, to handle my children primarily as I have seen fit.  He has not harped on every wrong thing I have done.  He has let the Holy Spirit do His work in me to make me more like Christ.  Of course Kevin has space to speak into my life.  He doesn't shy away from calling me out when I need it.  He has helped me parent my children.  But he has not smothered me.  I have been able to be myself.  This has been very important.  My home can now be a haven for me from the storms of life, from ex-spouses, from difficulties.  Kevin also has the freedom to pursue his interests and hobbies.


  • Shared Interests:  Kevin & I know how to have fun together.  We like kayaking, hiking, biking, xc skiing, road trips, movies, walks, good food, camping, and lots of other things!  We love having the kids along, in fact we prefer it.  However, we've also had times each year of our marriage when we got away, just the two of us.  Again, it's a strong marriage between us that will aid us having a strong family.


  • Community:  I am unsure about putting this here because it seems so obvious.  But I recognize that not everyone has the support of community.  I have never had a time in my life when I did not have a church community and family to support, love, encourage, model, disciple me, so I'm sure I take it for granted.  I cannot imagine going through the challenges of marriage, particularly blended family marriage- in isolation.  We know we were made for community.  We are mentally, spiritually and emotionally healthier when we live in community.  I am thankful for our families, our churches, small groups, and especially the couples whom we have spent time with, who have been in our home and invited us into their homes, who have loved on us and encouraged our marriage.

I found life & I found laughter
in forgiveness, I found rest
On the shoulders of redemption
I found hope when hope was dead
I could lose it in a moment
So I dare not close my eyes
I'll watch fear fall with the sunset
And see hope rise with the tide
And when the pain is true
Sometimes these troubles prove that I'm alive

My eyes are open
My heart is beating
My lungs are full
And my body's breathing
I'm moving forward
I found my freedom
I found the life that gave me reason to live

As the dusty road now settles
And I see what lay before
Every tear that held a broken dream
Is now shattered on the floor
And now bursting forth in splendor
Are the blossoms of second tries
Because dreams that bear the mark of love
Are dreams that never die

Sometimes, Life can feel so unkind
Sorrow won't define me
So just reminds my soul, my soul

My eyes are open
My heart is beating
My lungs are full
And my body's breathing
I'm moving forward
I found my freedom
I know this sorrow
I know this heartache
I know with fear comes a tragic heartbreak
I'm moving forward
I found my freedom
I found a life that gave me reason to love
-Colony House

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

FAMILY- Life-Giving Love. My Gram Sjoberg's 1944 thoughts

Today my mom handed me a paper entitled "A Tribute to Ma and Dad 1944."  I read it immediately and my eyes welled up with tears as I was overcome with the deep security and impression that comes from FAMILY, so beautifully expressed by my grandmother.


My Gram was born 57 years before I was born, in 1918, nearly 100 years ago!  She grew up on the same dead-end dirt road to Canada that I grew up on, seen in the above picture.  I have many times pondered how well nearly all my great grandparents' descendants have done in life- my Gram and her siblings, the next generation which includes my mother, and my generation, and of course there's another generation now too.  I primarily mean spiritually:  Loving God and serving Him.

My Great Grandpa Smith, my grandmother's father, died when I was very young, so I know very little.  However, pictures show a man with a sense of humor, and a man with enough innovation to allow his oldest daughter, Ruby, (my Gram!), to work in the fields some, which I believe was rather unusual!

My Great Grammie Smith lived long enough for me to remember walking to her house or being pulled in a sled there, and playing with a bucket of items while my mom visited with her.

What I have pondered is- What was special?  What did they do, how did they parent, how did they live, what kind of example did they set to yield such great rewards in their children and grandchildren?  

I believe that my Gram's own words, from 73 years ago, answer some of this for me:

[Set the scene in your mind of Thanksgiving 1944.  June of 1944 had brought D-Day.  It was an uncertain time for sure.  My grandmother was 26 years old and had joined the WAVES.]

"One year ago today we assembled around the old family table to partake of the Harvest Feast which was a symbol of the heavenly blessing for the year.  Now we are engaged in a task which has separated us and made it our lot to render thanks alone; and, only in spirit are we with the family circle.

It is a wonderful security to know that back home loved ones are thinking of us and praying for our care and safety.  For our successes and advancements we do not completely take the credit.  Rather Mother and Dad during the years of toil, care, and guidance have had a big part in molding the personality and building the character which has gone out to face a world filled with hatred, fear, and revenge.  We must continue on, and we thank God for the foundation you, Mother and Dad, have laid.

So let us not be weary in well doing.  By keeping the faith, in due time, may God see fit to bring us together once more where we can share joyfully or tearfully the accomplishments of the past, the fellowship of the present, and the possibilities of the future.

Thus may this Thanksgiving be remembered as a day for thanking our Lord that the family can stretch beyond the door-step, and the love found there can endure in spite of changes, time, and distance.  Thank God, my home is just as complete in love, devotion, and sincerity as it was a year ago; only it is much more glorified in that it has proved these attributes to each of us individually.

May we each realize this bond which holds us together, may we seek to drink its fullness, and no matter what comes to us, life will not lose its savor nor the family its lifegiving love."


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Delightful Sampling of Life

These past 2 weeks have been a concentrated version of LIFE for us!

In this short time period we have had a sampling of almost everything that I love and find joy in.  The variety of experiences has made these past 2 weeks kind-of a microcosm of our lives, encapsulating in a small amount of time the characteristic delights and encounters that make up our lives, right down to the unfortunate "row" that my husband and I had a week ago!

Our family, our God, our interests, our strengths, have all swirled around us recently.



Some highlights:

  • Easter!  Celebrating our Savior's Resurrection is the culmination of our faith and joy!  We prepared our hearts with God's Word and we attend our own church, Crosspoint Church, as well as my parents' church, EHBC.  
  • 2 of our does gave birth, giving us one kid each!  The preciousness and miracle of new life never gets old.


  • This has meant fresh, raw milk and I have enjoyed every part of that:  Milking, cooking, making yogurt and soap and butter.


  • The Great Outdoors.  I believe that spending time in nature, in God's Creation, is healing for us.  I love sharing these times with my family.  Hiking, Cross-country skiing.  Micah was camping last night!  (Brrrr!!)



  • Family Time!  We've had our work & school to do, but we've had time together:  Ice cream, games, movies, walks & talks.  Time with all our children, our parents, and our nieces and nephew.





  • We've had new accomplishments and favorite experiences:  Micah joined the Boy Scouts!  Micah went to MA for the History Bee.  Micah shot a 500 lb wild boar!  Kevin went skiing with a friend.  Noelle volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club.





These past 2 weeks are such an example of me, to me, that they bring to mind:
  • First and foremost- ALWAYS first and foremost:  Thank you, Jesus!  For all the good things You do!  (-Keith Green)
  • How we are uniquely made by God.  And whenever I start to think about that, I also ponder if I am honoring the unique ways that God made my husband, my son, my daughter, my mother, my friend... I am guessing -just guessing!- that not everyone would love milking twice a day- The act and the preparation and clean-up and the fact that it means one needs to be home every morning and every evening!  I am guessing- just guessing- that not everyone "comes alive" on a hike!!  It is a sincere, intentional goal, even mantra, of mine to honor the uniqueness of others, particularly my family, by not trying to pressure them to be or do what they were not made to be or do, as well as to help them discover and genuinely celebrate who God made them to be and their individual, unique desires, skills, gifts, and interests.  
  • Comparison destroys contentment.  (-Heidi Roseman!)  Why do I always come back to this one?  Probably because it's a struggle for me.  To be content.  (Oh, what I wouldn't do for 10 children!!!)  And to not compare!  I don't intend to do it, but it happens.  It helps to have a heart of gratitude:  Thank you Jesus for what You have done!  

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Meaningful Celebration of St. Patrick's Day!



I pretty much like to celebrate everything.
Snow, losing teeth, baby animals, an accomplishment...
and certainly, holidays!

However, St. Patrick's Day has not exactly been an important one for me.  Clearly, Easter & Christmas are the best because of their religious significance.  Others have a cultural base or a historical base that resonates with us.  But St. Patrick's Day?

When I recently stated that I'm not Irish & feel no connection to this holiday, my father corrected me that I actually do have an Irish heritage.  Even so, I am not connected to this holiday!



And yet we've done all the regulars...
~St. Patrick's Day books from the library, (always about pots of gold & leprechauns).
~Reading an online article about who St. Patrick actually was.
~Wearing GREEN. 
~Making & eating real Irish food as well as St. Patrick's Day-themed food.
~Making shamrock crafts.



Oh, and of course allowing my pre-teen daughter to Irish step dance at bars!  You know, the regular stuff...

A couple of years ago, during my last year of homeschooling, when the kids were 11 & 13 years old, I wanted to go a little deeper.  (No shocker there if you know me!)  I was quite surprised to find very, very little in my research.  There are many articles about St. Patrick & they all say variations of the same thing.  There is information about the symbolism of St. Patrick's Day.  And there are pictures of green beer & American St. Patrick's Day parades & frankly just not much else. 

No suggestions on how to have a meaningful celebration of St. Patrick's Day

So I came up with a missionary theme for this St. Patrick's Day.  It makes sense.  St. Patrick was a missionary who converted many Irish people.

I purchased the book St. Patrick:  Pioneer Missionary to Ireland by Michael J. McHugh and we read it aloud at Tea Time.  Reading this book was a good resource for who St. Patrick was.

Taking the missionary theme a step further, I bought the kids each a missionary biography.  They often like to read before bed.  Micah read Brother Andrew:  God's Secret Agent  by Janet & Geoff Benge.  Noelle read David Livingstone:  Africa's Trailblazer by Janet & Geoff Benge.  Biographies are powerful!  YWAM Publishing has a long list of biographies in their "Christian Heroes:  Then & Now" series.  We have read a number of them and they are very good.  We also love the missionary stories that CEF puts out.


If you choose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day from a missionary angle, there is no end to how you could do that!  Write letters to missionaries.  Pray for them.  Send care packages.  Learn about the missionaries that your church supports.  Let your children choose a country, or a time period, or a profession, and see how that applies to missions.  (And don't forget to wear green and eat fun food too!)


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sabbath Rest: Not just for Kids and Christians. Small change with Big Benefits. Screen-Free Days.

If I were asked for my very TOP parenting advice, asked what I have found to be the most helpful and effective, taking a "Sabbath Rest", or- "Screen-Free Sunday" would be in my top 3. 

It's not just for kids.  
The benefits are not exclusive to those who are Christians.  
It doesn't have to be Sundays.



Advice:  Take one day a week and set it aside as screen-free.  Set it aside for rest.  Set it for family & friends and pursuing healthy habits & hobbies.  Set it aside to focus on God.  A Sabbath Rest.  A Screen-free Day.

This is far from a new concept.  It is modeled in the Bible.  We are told to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."  (Exodus 20:8).  (Note:  I am not speaking of being legalistic about the Sabbath.  I am not suggesting we cannot mow our lawns, hang laundry, or go to a store.  Galatians 3:10 gives some insight into this.)

I am suggesting, heartily, that it is worthwhile to take approximately one day a week to REST.

Personally I do not admire the habit of being busy.  I do not strive to be pushed to the brink of exhaustion.  I cherish adequate sleep.  I have discovered all that is good about having a slowed-down lifestyle is amplified on the Sabbath Rest days.

Most students and parents love snow days!  Students love them primarily because it means that they don't have to go to school.  :)  Students love them because it means they can be outside enjoying the fresh snowfall.  My teenagers love them because it means they can sleep in and they will have more time for reading and relaxing.  I love them because when they fall on the right day, I get to stay home and be with my family. 

Taking a Sabbath Rest Day is like a snow day.  It's a day when you don't do what you normally do, (go to school, go to work), and instead you take time for family, rest, and play.  This practice has been a true joy for our family.

Spiritually speaking, taking one day out of every week to focus on the Lord helps us be less likely to drift.  (Like church being a re-set.)  More about that here:  http://carmelhillbillies.blogspot.com/2016/11/today-i-am-weary-of-people.html

"This spiritual rhythm indicates a clear love for God and His way of living and bears the fruit of relationships and health in the family."  -Brian & Angela Haynes in Relentless Parenting

Spending one day a week for worship and Scriptures with the faith community as well as rest, play, and time with family is halfway done if you are already in the habit of attending church every Sunday.  Our family regularly attends Sunday School, morning church and evening church.  Attending these services and traveling back and forth take up the majority of our Sundays.  The dialogue and discussion while driving as well as at the lunch table are usually lively and lengthy!  We discuss what we have learned but also just about anything else that is on our minds!

**But I did say that this isn't just for religious people.  It's not just for people who want to set aside a day of their week to primarily focus on God.

I believe the principle of a Sabbath Rest and its benefits are applicable to EVERYONE.
That is also why this is not just for kids.  In fact, when we started doing Screen-Free Sundays we told the kids -the truth- that this is just as much for us as it is for them.

We often do a family activity together on our Sabbath Rest Day.  We might go for a bike ride, kayak, or a walk.  We might visit a museum.  We usually are working on a book as a family, reading aloud.   We play games.  We might do a service project together, or even a group chore, such as piling firewood.  We like to use our Sabbath Rest Day as a day to have company over for a meal.  We are in no hurry to leave the table and we eat slowly, we talk and listen.  We might take a walk with our company or play a game. Sometimes both!  We might visit a neighbor or family or friends.

It is counter-cultural to intentionally have a slow-paced day.  It is absolutely fighting upstream.  But it's worth it!  In our family, it makes a marked & noticeable difference.

For us, a Sabbath Rest is heavily intertwined with the necessity that it be a screen-free day.

My personal observations about screen time, particularly individualized screen time which is usually social media on a personal device, but can include TV and movies too:
  • Screen time can be a time waster.  
  • Often if given the choice of a screen, we will take it.  Therefore we often choose not to engage in conversation.  We choose not to pursue healthy habits & hobbies.  We might not even sleep as much as we should.
  • Screen time can aid us in being selfish.  No longer do we have to listen to the variety of songs the radio provides or what someone else in the room is listening to.  We can put our ear buds in so that we only have to listen to what we want.  
  • Screen time gives us instant gratification.  There are very few things we have to wait for.  
  • Social media can cause us to compare, bringing discontentment and depression.  
  • Although a genuine relationship in real life can carry into social media, social media should not take the place of face-to-face interactions and conversations.   
I certainly did not anticipate what a parenting challenge "Screen Time" would be.  For years we had dial-up internet.  Our three children PLAYED.  A lot.  They used their imaginations.  They spent hours & hours in the woods, in the playhouse, role-playing, building Littlest Pet Shop worlds, and decorating Playmo-Merica!  (The part of the basement with all the Playmobil, a favorite toy!)  All three of them love to read.  We play games as a family.  We love to spend time outdoors.  Sleep has always been a top priority.  There was a time when our weekly screen time included Little House on the Prairie episodes on Saturday nights and one or two PBS shows during the week.
 
We are now quite removed from that time!

Personally I would not have given my children smart phones, which they both have.  We are not unique in our blended family/ co-parenting struggles!  However, looking at the positive:  My children are learning responsible use of these devices while they are still in my home.  It needs to be said that if I were not co-parenting, it is likely this would be easier.

The difference I see on screen-free days is HUGE.  Well worth it.  Here are some benefits:
  • We pursue healthy habits & hobbies.  This was my primarily purpose when we instituted screen-free days.  What does that look like for us?  We read more.  We are outside more.  We are more likely to take a nap.  I have observed a significant difference.  I go to bed earlier on screen-free days.  Screen-free days give us a "forced freedom" to pursue learning a musical instrument, writing, baking, etc.
  • We are more creative.  Or perhaps, we have time to be creative because we are not being constantly entertained and distracted. On a good day, we have time to be bored!
  • For one day a week we are putting a halt to the negative effects of screen time.
  • In putting aside the negative effects of screen time we are improving our social skills, our conversational skills, our real-life relationships.
 



I am not militant about Sabbath Rests and/or Screen-free Sundays.
Being inflexible & uncompromising may get me the outward behavior and adherence to rules that I desire, but it does nothing to keep my child's heart, which is far more precious than not looking at a screen for a day. 

Yes, you may Snapchat for a minute so you don't lose your "streak".  (The things I never knew I would encounter!)
Yes, if we required most of your Saturday- With chores or a conference or family time, you may have your screen on Sunday.
Yes, if you need to, you may do homework on our Rest Day.
Sometimes my husband needs to work on our Rest Day, particularly during hunting season.
Usually I will allow 10 minutes at the end of the day for phones to be looked at and messages to be returned.
Often we allow much more than that and plenty of weeks we don't quite have a Sabbath Rest or a Screen-Free Day.  It happens. Often.

Maybe for your family it can't be Sunday.  So choose another day.  Maybe it can't be a whole day.  Maybe for your family taking the first two hours of the evening, each day, will accomplish the same benefits.  Maybe the thought of mutiny causes you to be too afraid to try it!  Perhaps you can start out with one Sabbath Rest Day a month, or two Screen-Free Days a month.

Please know that I get flak.  I get push-back.  And yet, each picture placed in this blog post is from just this past year.  My teenagers, too old to really 'play', have benefited greatly from restful, God-focused, screen-free days.  As have I.  And you can too!  I highly recommend it!  Not once -ever- have we regretted a Sabbath Rest or a Screen-free Day.  Quite the opposite.