Dating My Family

We are a family of adventurers.

We enjoy grand road trips, wild untamed cuisine, and spontaneous events.

We also like parks, hammocks strung between any two trees, a walk to the library, and a fifty-cent pop from the soda machine at the used car dealership at the end of the block.

Adventure can look big and bold, and it can look regular and every day. I think it’s the spirit of the moment that creates adventure no matter where you are.

Today, my goal is to convince you to adventure this summer.

You can stay home, or you can go and do. Either can be considered within the realm of adventure.

You can create intimate moments or you can imagine meet-ups and celebrations, but I believe that every family needs a touch of adventure.

Why? Because curiosity is not only healthy for our development and continued learning and growth. It keeps our grey matter ripe with plasticity (a fancy word for able to grow new brain cells), but most importantly curiosity encourages our relationships to good health.

We are people created by God to connect. This is not an optional life skill. Connection is life to our souls. The more we find out about how our brains work, the closer we get to understanding the link between connection and every other human need and growth area. (For more on this, findfun research links at the end of this post.)

Isn’t it nice when science catches up to what we already know from God? The first thing God does after creating man is create connection between people by creating families.

The struggle is that most days we just have so much to do, so much to accomplish, that real, meaningful connection can fall to last place on the list, and if you’re like me, last place looks like the scary mom, crabbing at people to get into bed, trying to grab a moment for a book and a prayer, and hoping no one was scarred for life. Praise the Lord for Jesus and the connecting grace He brings into our homes. Because of the hectic of life…

in our family, we date.

We have been able to hold on to connection – solid, deep, meaningful family connection – in the day-to-day hectic of our lives, by setting time aside for adventures.

This summer, I’d like to help you date your family.

What does dating your family look like?

It’s more a mindset, but it’s also tangible action.

Mindset: We actually want to spend time together, even though it’s really, really difficult sometimes, so we will need to be creative.

Tangible action: Put it on the calendar.

Put up a tent and have a campout in the backyard, but put it on the calendar.

Is it someone’s birthday? Share one entree between everyone at four restaurants, rather than simply going out to eat.

We call this Foodabration. Put it on the calendar.

Parks are great and free. Make one evening park evening and visit three local parks instead of haphazardly meandering to the park down the street.

If you have little kids, three playgrounds in one night will sound to them like they won the Powerball. If you have teens – picnic food for the win! Put it on the calendar.

Anything to prolong the moments and actually make them happen.

Do you have sports and lessons and…and…and…and on the schedule? Yep. Pack a gallon ziploc bag with a seek and find book, mechanical pencils, and pieces of candy or star stickers. Pass the book around the family for the evening or a week, challenging everyone to find one word and pass it to the next person, around and around. When you get a word, you get a sticker or a piece of candy. Am I confusing you? Maybe, because I’m making it up as I go along, but the point is to make it up, to try it, and you guessed it:

put it on the calendar.

Anything to create connection, to create a moment in the middle of this running, going, doing life.

Maybe the extra boost we all need is to know it’s good for our brain health.

Maybe the extra boost we need is to know summer is really only two months long and the kids will be in our house non-stop anyway, so something to look forward to will be good for all of us anyway?

Maybe the extra boost we need is to know there are only so many two month summers left until they have their own lives, their own commitments, their own plans.

Maybe the extra boost we all need is a little friendship, fun, and accountability, so I’m starting a summer hashtag – #datingmyfamily. There are only 15 prior posts for #datingmyfamily on Instagram, so I’m pretty sure we can easily make this a thing.

Show us how you date your family. Make it simple, make it big, make it both. The moments matter, but how you do it really doesn’t. We’ll get ideas from each other and share in this beautiful life together. Use the hashtag on any social media or don’t use it.

This summer, let’s date our families.

To help you out, my friend and early childhood guru Jamie and her nephew Zach, a creative and fun-loving college student, helped me to compile this stellar and creative list –

90 ideas for Dating Your Family

Remember – put it on the calendar this summer.

If you need me, I’ll be #datingmyfamily this summer. 😉

Resources:

On Curiosity and Relationships – Berkley

The Basics of the Brain and Curiosity – NPR

Jesus in Everything: Doors

We have a bright red door on our house.

It’s Rust-Oleum Candy Apple Red to be exact. It’s glorious and what I’ve always wanted in a door. I took an online quiz to get just the right color choice for our door. When we moved to Nebraska and bought our first home, just over a year ago, I wanted a door that said

Welcome.

Please stop here.

Come eat our food.

Come sleep in our beds.

But obviously that has to be tempered with

We have four kids, professions, and a lot of scheduling.

It is loud here.

We have lots of food, but a tight budget, so don’t be picky.

and, my personal favorite… We are a bit much.

Doors remind us there is a place for invitation and there is a place for boundaries and margins. People matter more, but self-care does matter. Where is the balance? How much do we invite and when is it appropriate to shut the door?

In today’s podcast, you won’t find ready answers to these questions, but after listening, you will look at doors differently, and see Jesus in interesting places. In this new or renewed perspective, we can begin to answer the balance question for ourselves and tend to our relationships, with the Spirit at the center, guiding us to open and close, to love by stepping forward and love by stepping back in the spaces and places He gives us.

Take a listen and share with us,

What is your door like?

How do you create bravery and balance in your invitations and boundaries?

The Jesus in Everything series is designed to help you see Jesus in…absolutely everything! As Creator of the Universe, Word Made Flesh, Savior of the World, and Spirit that Fills Us, He is in everything and works through everything in our lives. Today we talk through doors, invitations, boundaries, safety, and relationships. 

I Was the Angry Mom

I hate school supply shopping.

I don’t like mass bins of glue sticks, highlighters, and colored markers. All I can think about for a good month near the end of summer is if I correctly calculated the number of composition books versus spiral bound notebooks everyone needed from their lists.

I feel overwhelmed by the mere mention of 120-page packs of wide-ruled notebook paper and 12-count packages of no. 2 pencils in yellow, no plastic, no color. I create mental images every year of the pink eraser that will evade me, imagining I end up stuck in a discount store for hours, knee deep in a bin of multi-colored erasers looking for the single pink nugget that everyone waiting behind me is also hunting for.

In order to avoid all my long-shot fears related to school supply shopping, we usually end up going at 9pm on a Tuesday to avoid “the crowd.” I’m not sure if there is an actual crowd or if I made this up in my head, but it makes me feel better, so that’s what we do.

Two years ago, while waiting patiently in the checkout with our cartful of folders, pens, notebooks, colored pencils and more, we ended up beside the “As Seen On TV” merchandise. There were light up pillow pets, copper non-stick pans, and garden hoses that claimed they stored really well. In the middle of all these products was a steam cleaner that looked like a small, middle-aged Russian doll in an apron. It was called the “Angry Mom.” You put water in her torso, screwed her head on, set her in your microwave on high, and as the water heated her head popped up and steam came out to neatly clean your family’s caked-on, month-old mess.

My kids were entertaining themselves with, “Oooo- this looks cool!” and “Hey, I need this for my room!” when I felt a small poke from the side hug my eight-year-old, Jyeva pulled me into. I looked down at her face and I will never forget her words –

“I’m so thankful you’re not the angry mom anymore.”

Time stopped for me, right there in the Walmart checkout lane.

I could hear my heart beat in my chest.

I could taste my saliva.

And I could feel the hot tears starting behind my public, smiling mom-face.

I took a deep breath, hugged Jyeva back, got down on her level, and looked into her eyes,

“I’m so sorry, Jyeva. I’m just so, so sorry.”

Jyeva, who is my child always overflowing with grace, looked back at me and said point-blank –

“No, Mom. You used to be the angry mom, but you’re not anymore. That’s really great. That’s awesome. You’re not. You were…and now you’re not!”

To say that EMDR changed my life would be an understatement. 

I was the angry mom.

I was nice, then I was nice, and I was nice some more, and then I railed.

It came fast and hard and it looked more like anxiety welling up and overflowing onto my children than disconnected rage, but it was ugly. I never physically hurt my children. I don’t think my family walked on egg shells, but I do remember the look they got in their eyes that said, “She’s gonna blow.”

It’s hard to be taken seriously when you’re gonna blow, fyi. People tune out as a defense mechanism, and children are just smart smaller people. They know intrinsically how to protect themselves, so they shut down and check out at the very moment you really want them to grasp your point because it’s too loud, too harsh, or too assaulting.

I knew all of this. I knew all about child development and communication, and active listening, and all that stuff they teach you in graduate school. But there was a disconnect between all my awesome knowledge and what I could put into practice.

I started EMDR, which is a memory processing therapy, because I signed up to see a therapist and he happened to be an EMDR therapist. If God has had a hand in anything in my life (which He clearly has) this is one thing I can point to and say, “Woah – God at work!”

Let’s not evade reality…EMDR was hard. Sometimes it felt a little like walking through a minefield of my brain’s own making. At about month three of therapy, I realized I was foreboding, and avoiding, holding back, canceling sessions because of the discomfort, the struggle, and the pain that comes with processing old stuff, but my therapist was safe, my husband was safe, my family was safe, and for the first time in my life I saw Jesus as a real, tangible refuge.

So I kept walking forward.

I attended regularly scheduled EMDR appointments for eighteen months and I felt like a new person. I saw life differently. I was free from the constant personal judgement that barraged me for years. Anxiety was still a thing for me, but it lacked the teeth it once had in my daily life. Then, in that Walmart checkout, I realized this life-changing reality –

I was not the angry mom anymore.

Praise be to God.

The cycle of frustration and anger and ugly that held me captive lost its grip. Life was still hard. Parenting, ministry, marriage, being a friend, none of it was magically easier, but I was no longer reactive to it in the way I once was. I finally felt like I had two feet on the ground at all times and I could clearly see the shield of God in my hands, placed firmly there by a Savior who loved me. I felt empowered. Together we were ready to deflect whatever junk the world wanted to throw at us.

I believe that God creates our bodies with the ability to heal in amazing ways – from broken elbows and cancerous cells, to stuck tight memories and angry outbursts. I also believe, thanks to an eight-year-old brave enough to tell me in the middle of a checkout lane –

I’m not the angry mom anymore. 

*EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

To find out more about EMDR therapy or to find a certified EMDR therapist near you, visit EMDRIA.org. You can also pick up Getting Past Your Past by the creator of EMDR, Francine Shapiro, to understand the basics of memory processing theory and find some very useful tools for healing.

(Disclaimer: this blog is not a substitute for counseling and local mental health resources. Local resources and counselors are your best bet for ongoing treatment and support.)