He Shouldn't Have Been Standing There.

I've always laughed particularly hard at the ridiculousness of this part of the film Happy Gilmore.

(Caution: There *is* a curse word in this clip.)

But, as I live in this world and observe what's going on around me, I realize "He shouldn't have been standing there" isn't so ridiculous a statement after all.  It's what we do, isn't it?

A few years ago, our sweet Sarah had a lapse in judgment on the playground.  She crossed in front of the swings without noticing how close she was.  The result was a 2x6 to the forehead.  Literally.  Within seconds she had a goose-egg the size of a second head.  The tears were flowing.  It had to have hurt.  But in the midst of being possibly-concussed, the poor girl was lucid enough to say, "Abby needed to watch out!"  You see, to her, the fault was not of her own actions (walking directly in front of a swinger) but of the swinger (her sister) who had little to no control over the speed or direction of her swing.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked down the hallway where I could overhear my son's Skype call that was being peppered with a few "choice" words.  I walked in the room and said, "Do they talk like this a lot?"  To which the offender said, "Ben!  She wouldn't have heard if you'd been in a room where she didn't walk by!"  Because, you know, those words are well and good if only shared among friends.  Or something.

Shortly after the creation of humankind, a man and woman roamed about their beautiful garden, marveling at the gift they'd been given.  They literally had the world at their fingertips and yet...it wasn't enough.  Having been warned of the consequences of partaking of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve chose to trust the serpent's seed of doubt ("Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" Genesis 3:1 - emphasis mine) over the clear direction from God ("You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:17).  She ate the fruit and gave some to Adam.  When God questioned Adam about it, he replied, "The woman you put here with me - she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."  Then it was Eve's turn, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

But...God said, "Because you have done this..."  And then he doled out some consequences, as was perfectly within his right.

You see, whether we were influenced by someone or not, our actions are still just that.  Our own.  Good or bad, our choices and actions have consequences, good or bad.  Instead of passing the blame, how about let's just own up? 

"Yes.  It was me.  Totally my fault.  My bad.  I'm sorry."  

Why is that so hard?

Human nature.  From the very start we've been blame-placing.  I guess that's not an easy cycle to break.  

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  Those words, "I accept responsibility.  I'm sorry." pack a more powerful punch than you can imagine.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the right thing.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
My prayer today is that we take ownership of our actions - good and bad, consequences and all.

Let it start with me.



I've never been an easy-going person.  I pretend a lot.  I think I've had to adapt a good bit, not necessarily by choice.  I'm learning to take things a little more in stride, but I don't know that it will ever come naturally for me.

So by virtue of my personality, I am easily overwhelmed.

Probably not a great trait for a mom of five plus kids.

It's not just the kids though.  It's life.  It's my lack of boundaries.  My inability to say no.  My non-confrontational desire to be a people-pleaser.  I heap the anxiety on myself by my own actions, and then I suffer for it.  It's really no one's fault but my own.

So today, I have a prayer.

I pray that I will be brave.  That I can be bold.  That I can say "No." to the things that detract from my ability to function so that I can give my emphatic "Yes!!!" to the things that I can do with my whole heart.  I pray that I will say only what needs to be said.  That I will stop apologizing for things for which I owe no apology.  That I will stop letting people bulldoze and take advantage of me.  I pray that I will have the fortitude to stand up for what's best for me, Sam, and my kids instead of taking for granted the grace they give me when I put others in front of them.  I pray that God will turn my heart from its natural inclination to complain and gripe and instead fill me with a grateful heart and no regrets.  I pray that my interactions with people whom I don't perfectly gel will be grace-filled.  Because I can do none of these things on my own.  I've tried.  I've tried for years.  And as usual, that hasn't worked out.  I'm giving it up.  And asking for help.  I don't want to carry this anymore.  I don't want to teach my kids that it is okay to let people run all over you.  I want to set a strong example.  I want to be able to give my best, including with my best attitude.

That's today's prayer.  One I should I have started praying a long time ago.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

Why is my three year old crying?

Because her socks are touching her pants.

Because she told me she didn't want green beans, so I didn't give her any.

Because I put the green beans in the wrong spot on her plate.

Because one of the four corners of her blanket is wrinkled.

Because dark pink is not the same as red.

Because her bathing suit got wet.  While she was playing in the pool.

Because she wanted a popsicle.  Instead of her dinner.

Because I wouldn't let her ride her scooter.  Naked.

Because I wouldn't let her keep the toy she stole from her baby brother.

Because I won't take a nap with her.

Because I laid down to take a nap with her.

Because all I want is a nap and she won't go to sleep.  (No, wait, that's why I'm crying.)

Because she not only has to sit in her carseat, but she has to buckle it too.

Because she thought I was offering her apple juice, not applesauce.

There will always be something

It's nearing the end of April.  The public schools here get out in just over a month.  The kids in elementary and middle school are likely winding down for the year.  The kids in high school are likely cramming in some final info as they prep for finals.  Here at the Sheppard household, it's about the time of year when I take a step back to assess the remaining work to be done and, well, freak out a little.

If I took this concern to the homeschool community, they would vindicate me with something like, "When is the last time a public school class finished their textbook?  I'm sure you're in good shape."

But that doesn't work for me.
Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~Life's Little Instruction Book
We started out this year in a deficit because, well, during the previous 2013-2014 school year, we added Noah to the family.  Before he joined us at the end of November, we spent nearly a month on the road, exploring the Great Lakes region and Canada in September.  Formal schooling took a back seat during those times, as it should have.  However, because of that, Abby was still finishing her first grade math at the beginning of her second grade year, and we were only halfway through our history spine at the start of this school year.  Determined to finish first grade work before moving on to second, we devoted the time at the beginning of 2014-2015 year to doing just that.

With some hard work, we caught up just in time to take our brood out west for another month on the road in October.  When we came home, it was time for the holiday rush.  Sam injured his eye.  I was fighting some sort of mysterious full-body infection.  Christmas.  January blues.  First trimester exhaustion.  Homeschool co-op started up.  Then all of the sudden it's Easter, and I'm like, "Whoa.  The school year is practically over, and we're only this far into our studies?"

This is the time of year we start planning for the next grade level.  We evaluate what worked and what didn't this current year.  Incidentally, it's the time of year I have my "Oh crap!" moment, especially this year, considering we'll be adding a new baby near the top of what will be our 1st, 3rd, and 6th grade year, which means it's going to be tough going for a while.  I know this.  Add that to life with a toddler and a preschooler and it sounds like a recipe for disaster.

I'm stuck between giving myself grace to stop now and cut our losses or determining to do what I know in my heart we've had the ability to do all along, and that is to do it right and finish.

So the "principal" and I had a heart-to-heart.  We established our goals for the rest of this school year, which included how many lessons we wanted to complete in each subject (ahem, all of them), and accelerated our revolutionary sticker chart to reflect the necessary changes that we'd need to make in order to meet those goals.  We aren't meeting the public school end date, but we'll still have a summer break.  (So, sorry to the neighborhood kids who knock and want to play in June.  They'll be out after lunch!)  We implemented the new schedule complete with a daily checklist last Monday.  I dreaded it.  I knew I'd be met with grumbles and dug-in heels.  I was wrong.  The kids have risen to the challenge.  The only thing keeping us from finishing is my own inability to stay the course.
We excuse our sloth under the pretext of difficulty. ~Marcus Fabius Quintilian
There will always be an excuse to give as to why we are behind, every single year, whether a new baby, unexpected illness, "field trips", general weariness, life with toddlers, being buried in life, visitors, legitimate catastrophes.  Some years, there will be grace.  This year, we're meeting the challenge with grit and determination.  Because we need to save our "mulligan" for a year when we actually need it.  My kids are able.  I am able.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  And the things worth doing are never easy.

I have walked alongside some people who have encountered very serious trials and life-altering circumstances.  Sometimes people shrink back, but the ones that inspire me are the ones that rally, who determine to keep going, one day at a time when things are at their toughest.  These are the people who shout Jesus from the rooftops with nothing but their actions.  Finishing out the school year is not a real trial when you consider it in the face of unspeakable tragedy, but I mention these folks because they are the ones whose living testimonies propel me forward.  It's just a little bit of schoolwork.  With God's help, a plan, sheer will, and a little bit of grace, we're going to do this thing.  One day at a time.

This is my message to myself - Stop making excuses and finish what you started.

It really is that simple.

(No, my kids aren't being held captive.  There is always time for play.)
The trouble with always leaving yourself a way out is that you always take it. ~Robert Brault 

I Get To...

For the past 3 months every Thursday morning we've done something most families do every weekday.  It's nothing exceptional for the majority of life livers.  We get ourselves ready, and we get out the door.  This is exceptional for our family because most days we, how should I say, take it easy.  This Thursday morning was the last of our routine, the final week of our homeschool co-op for spring.  I can take a breath and let their dirty faces and pant-less bodies run amuck around the house next week.  For the first time in ten weeks, this morning we actually got in the car and headed that direction with plenty of time to spare.  We weren't going to be late!

As we made our final turn, I grumbled inwardly about facing my obligatory volunteer hour.  Of all of the assignments, I was asked to assist in the sewing class.  My experience with sewing machines is negligible at best.  And the few times I've sat behind one, I ended up cursing violently, throwing things, or desiring to do one of those two things and resisting so hard my ears turned completely red.  It was one of those comical assignments where I just threw my hands up and said, "Alright.  Let's do this thing!"  It was a big step for me to even join a co-op in the first place. (Hey, my name is Jennie, not sure if I've told you this 259 times, but I'm kind of an introvert.) I like my space, my time alone, interacting with people on my terms.  However, knowing that my children are not all like me, I knew that those special extroverts were craving some "other people" time, and I obliged.  (You're welcome, Abby.)  So, I was grumbling a little bit about a lot of things, having to help in a sewing class, having to be around people, having to get the whole herd dressed and ready to go - including doing hair, putting on shoes, and hopefully wiping down snotty faces before getting inside the building.

When suddenly, I heard on the radio, a little spot about changing your perspective.  A caller phoned in to the show and said, "I'm really glad you said what you did yesterday about 'getting to' instead of 'having to.'"  She then proceeded to say how she gets to go to work as a nurse, she gets to drive home after her shift is over late at night, she gets to yadda yadda yadda - all things she whined about every day, until she realized there are a lot of people who would love just to do the things she grumbles about.

Can I tell you how much I needed to hear those words at that exact moment?

When I complain about the side-effects of carrying a baby, I need to remember the amazing privilege it is that I get to.

When I grumble that I have to take my kids somewhere, even co-op, I need to remember that I get to take my kids to a safe place to learn fun things I probably would never teach them with people who pour into them asking nothing in return.

When I sigh because the house is overrun with crap, I need to remember that I get to come to a safe, warm home, full of people who have been gifted with many luxuries above and beyond what we need.

When I whine that the grass needs cutting again, I need to remember that I get to sit on my mower and zone out, with or without a delighted little child at the steering wheel.  That I get to look out of my kitchen window at a fenced-in yard with a sweet playground for my kids to run around and play on, tall grass or not.

When I notice that the milk and eggs are low again and have to go to the grocery store.  I need to remember that I get to go to a store with money that I have to pay for food to feed my many blessings.

I could go on forever.

You see, I felt like I should share this with you all - because if it resonates even a little bit, I think it can really change our lives.  Let's realize these things together.  We get to.

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