Jun 062013
 

This year has been a full one for me!

And I’ve really enjoyed the chance to write regularly.  I love to write, and hope it is a big part of my future.

But right now I’m feeling a call to radical presence–presence to Jesus, to myself, to nature, to quiet, to my husband, and to my children.  I am one who flings myself far and wide with lots of initiatives and ideas.  I’m feeling a call to pull it back and recenter this upcoming year.  I need to do the challenge I proposed on the site a few weeks back–saying no.  No blog, no homeschooling, no hosting the neighborhood Bible study, no service projects, no overseas mission trips.

I know I have a call to contemplative prayer and contemplative presence.  And this past year was just too busy to respond to and deepen in that calling.  I am tired of being too busy.

So, here’s to a year of letting go and slowing down.

Somewhere down the road I look forward to writing again 🙂

Heidi

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May 302013
 

The dictionary definition of encouragement says…

1. To give support, confidence, or hope….

“But those [mothers] who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~Isaiah 40:31

“So do not fear, [you mothers] for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we [mothers] may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”~Hebrews 4:16

“For I know the plans I have for you [and your children],” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you [and your children] hope and a future. ~Jeremiah 29:11

Hope that is seen is no hope at all. [What

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mother] hopes for what [she] already [has]? But if we [mothers] hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”~Romans 8:24-25

 

2. To persuade to continue in something….

“I know your deeds, your love and faith [in mothering], your service and perseverance [with your children], and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” ~Revelation 2:19

“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance [in mothering] that comes from Christ.” ~2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

3. To stimulate the development of an activity or belief…

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us [mothers], who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us

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all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us [mothers] all things?” ~Romans 8:31-32

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no

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eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those [mothers] who wait for him. ~Isaiah 64:4

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us [mothers] in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those [children] in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Press on, tired mothers! Know that even when no one else does, God sees.

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May 232013
 

I think the Dog Whisperer is really onto something.

Last year our family got a kick out of watching this show on Netflix. The narrator’s tone alternates between puzzled and judgmental as he describes the current family’s difficulty with their dog. They show the dog acting up, the owners struggling, and then Cesar Millan driving up in his green jeep.

The narrator quickly takes on an “everything’s gonna be okay now” tone as they show Cesar striding confidently up to the owner’s front door.

He sits down with the owners and they alternate between expressing tender attachment and tired frustration with their pet. They don’t understand what’s wrong with their dog! They’ve tried all kinds of things but this is just how this dog behaves, no matter what they do.

Cesar patiently listens and asks some questions, very diplomatically.

For the viewer it slowly becomes clear that the problem is not the dog.

With the perfect combination of tact and directness, Cesar begins instructing the owners about what is actually going on for the dog, and how their behavior is creating more tension and less responsiveness in the dog. He has various tips for them, like regular walks and such, but ultimately it comes down to one thing.

Calm, assertive energy.

Much of the dog’s (mis)behavior is a response to the energy of its owner.

There are all kinds of things I’ve tried as a parent; some have been very effective, others not so much. But as I head into my second decade as a mom, I’m starting to think that all my various words and behaviors are far less important

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The dog owner may be saying the

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right commands, holding the leash the right way, and keeping appropriate boundaries in place. But if the owner is weak, fearful, angry, or anxious the dog will know.

Sometimes when Michael and I are in the heat of it, and I’m talking in my very calm controlled voice, he says, “I hate it when you talk to me like that! I’d rather you yell at

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And down.

me.”

He hates it because even though I’m using the right words, and exercising self-control, he can tell that there is exasperation, condescension, and anger beneath the surface. And beneath that is a need to control and get my way. And beneath that is fear, anxiety, and sometimes confusion or helplessness.

The trouble is, changing our words or behavior is a lot easier than changing our energy. This requires really paying attention to what is going on for us as we parent, and choosing to face the reality of our internal world with honesty and humility.

I believe it also takes spending time in the presence of the One whose energy is all love instead of fear, overcoming instead of despairing, all redemption instead of regret.

I was reading an article about Dallas Willard, an author and professor who passed away recently. Someone described him as being “soaked in the presence of Christ.”

My heart leapt and I thought, “That’s how I want to be described!” I want to radiate the kind of joy, groundedness, and deep peaceful confidence that comes from contact with the Divine. I have a long way to go!

How can we foster, live in, and exude this kind of energy as moms?

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May 162013
 

Carol Dweck’s has done some ground-breaking research that has huge implications for how we parent our kids (and maybe how we talk to ourselves as well!)

Her work centers around mindsets—those who are focused on innate ability (in school, sports, relationships, etc) and those who are focused on learning and growing. In my last post I talked about the value of mistakes, and introduced Dweck’s idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset.

EVEN IN

FOUR YEAR OLDS…

Dweck discovered that even at the age of 4, some children are already locked in a fixed mindset. Once they become able to evaluate themselves, some become afraid of challenges because they have become afraid of not being smart. She offered 4 year olds a choice to redo an easy puzzle or to try a

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harder one. Kids with a fixed mindset stuck with an easy puzzle and reported, “Kids who are born smart don’t do mistakes.” Children with a growth mindset wondered, “Why would anyone want to keep doing the same puzzle over and over?” They chose one hard one after another.

BRAINWAVES…

In her brainwave lab at Columbia University, people with both types of mindsets answered hard questions and received feedback. “People with a fixed mindset were only interested when the feedback reflected on their ability. Their brain waves showed them paying close attention when they were told whether their answers were right or wrong. But when they were presented with information that could help them learn, there was no sign of interest. “

WHAT DO YOU PRAISE YOUR KIDS FOR?

In one particular study, Dweck and her colleagues offered 2 different kinds of praise for kids who were about to begin working on difficult math problems. The group praised for intelligence and innate ability ultimately gave up when they encountered difficult problems: “If success means I’m smart; struggle means I’m not.” Even when they were given easier problems again their performance plummeted. And they lied later about their scores because they weren’t able to admit to struggling, even to themselves.

The other group was given praise regarding their “process”–effort, concentration, hard work, and strategies . When it came time to do the math problems, they persevered and chose harder and harder tasks where they would make mistakes but would also learn more. They had no “label” at risk

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and so they relished the puzzle and challenge of harder problems. They actually got smarter and became more and more successful.

TEACHING A GROWTH MINDSET…

How do we instill a growth mindset in our kids? Especially the ones more prone to a fixed mindset? Dweck says you can’t talk them into it. You have to live it yourself.

She says end the day by asking each child and each other:

  • What did you learn today?
  • What mistake did you make that taught you something?
  • What did you try hard at today?

“You go around the table with each question, excitedly discussing your own and one another’s effort, strategies, setvacks, and learning,” she says.

As kids tell their stories you say, “Wow, you really did get smarter today!”

When fixed mindset kids tell stories about being better than other people, you ask. “What did you learn?” If the child brags about how easy everything is you say, “It doesn’t sound like you are learning much… Can you find something harder to do so you can learn more?”

Dweck says don’t limit it to school or sports—help the children talk about how they are learning to make friends, or ways they are learning to understand or care for other people. Communicate that intelligence and physical prowess are not all you care about.

Do you think you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? What about your kids?

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May 092013
 

One little boy in the atrium today shuffled up to my desk looking sheepish.

I kept on with what I was doing and let him be for a few minutes. Finally I asked him if he needed something. “I think I poured too much water in the vase,” he said as he fidgeted with his shirt.

“Oh, well we have these rags for spills. Let’s go check it out,” I said. He had been arranging flowers, a classic Montessori practical life activity. Turned out the water hadn’t overflowed, but was full right up to the top of the vase, it’s curved surface quivering.

“Wow,” I burst out spontaneously, “Look at how neat this looks! Come and see how neat this water looks everyone!” The other kids left their work and came to see. Without thinking I heard myself say, “Sometimes a mistake turns into something really amazing…”

Somehow, by the grace of God, I have “Montessori mojo” when I’m in the atrium–which means I let the children be as independent as possible. I react or intervene as little as possible, and when I do, it’s often a much different response than the kids are expecting.

After a child drops something or makes a big ruckus, it is wonderful to see their surprise when I keep working at my desk as if nothing’s happened. In a world full of reactions, commentary, and correction, the spaciousness to solve one’s own problem in quiet, gracious, privacy is a gift.

Oh how I wish I could operate this way more often with my own kids! I need to be

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in the Montessori environment as much as the 3-6 year olds.

We are currently reading a book in our house called Mindset. I heard the author, research psychologist Carol Dweck, lecture a few weeks ago. She talks about how those with a fixed mindset are all about preserving their image of excellence, in whatever area.

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While those with a growth mindset are all about learning.

Thus, the fixed mindset folks are threatened by struggle and difficulty and mistakes, while the growth mindset people embrace these things. Dweck’s research shows across the board that children and adults with a growth mindset are ultimately much more successful in the long run (.

When we are at the point of greatest struggle, when the problem is not yet solved, when we have to push past innate gifts and employ perseverance, hard work, and creative strategies—this is the moment when we are literally getting smarter, as evidenced by imaging technology that shows new neural pathways and brain

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activity.

The upshot as we parent our kids (and re-parent ourselves) is that we need to stop praising intelligence or innate ability and praise the process instead—effort, strategies, concentration, struggle, persistence despite setbacks.

And when we or our kids make mistakes or encounter struggle, that’s the time to light up with anticipation. Because that is exactly the kind of moment when all the best learning happens.

“CONSIDER IT PURE JOY, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4

In the spirit of Dweck (who suggests we ask each other this question around the dinner table), “What terrific struggle did you have today?”

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May 022013
 

As a mother, I should know to expect the unexpected.

In the Fall of 2011, God opened some surprising doors so my youngest child could start full-time school a year earlier. After ten years of being either pregnant or mothering a small child at home, I was stunned by the sudden change. I even waited one full month before I made any plan for this next stage of life.

However, I told my daughter that if she ever felt like she needed a day “off” to be home with Momma, she could have it. And of course, exactly one month into school, she asks for it. Actually, weeps for it on the couch.

This day – when I had scheduled two new spiritual direction appointments back to back.

This day –  when I had opened the prayer room to a last minute retreatant.

This day – when I was ready to open up those stay-at-home mothering hours of 9am-3pm to the larger world and say “Welcome World! I am now available.”

This day – she wakes up and decides she needs those hours back.

At first, I thought “Are-you-kidding-me?” Perhaps it was her Sixth Sense kicking in – the one that tells a child when her parent is going to be on the phone or in the bathroom so that she knows the time is right to ask for something urgently. Then, I remembered that God has put up a “Walk-ins Welcome” sign outside my door.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

[Jesus replied] ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.’  Matthew 25: 37-40 [Italics and reference added]

My daughter is clothed, fed and not in prison, but she is one of the needy in my life. I wanted to go about my business – ostensibly the business of serving God – but her little need interrupted my day.

Those direction appointments could be rescheduled and it turns out, I was still able to serve the last minute retreatant with a clean, peaceful room, intercessory prayer throughout the day, and a warm welcome (my daughter at my side.) By grace, I was able to welcome the Jesus who showed up as expected, as well as the Jesus I did not recognize at first.

Lord Jesus Christ – we are busy people with full lives. We want to be with You, but we do not always recognize You. Help us see You when You show up at our door – needy, unexpected and inconvenient.

How has God shown up in ways that you did not recognize at first with your children or others? What was your response? What do you think it means in your life to put up the “Walks-in Welcome” sign in the midst of mothering?

  Heather Fosth is her husband’s best friend, a mother of two dynamic, wildly different children(ages 10 and 6) and a sometime spiritual director. If given the choice, she would always be in her garden.

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Apr 252013
 

In this photo from garden above, there are three plants. It’s hard to see at this stage but I can tell you that two are weeds and one is a beautiful flower. If you leave the weeds, you will still get the flower. But if you try to pull out the weeds, the root systems are so close that you will most likely take the beautiful flower as well.

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.  “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”- Matthew 13:24-30

See it?

For me, mothering often feels like a field riddled with weeds. I try to tame my easy irritation and impatience, my strong will, my please-go-away self-centeredness, but just when I think I’m having a good day, something pops (usually around 4:30pm after school pick-up) and I lose my footing. In that moment, I feel hopeless.

In my heart, I know that there are beautiful flowers mixed in – my quirky sense of humor that brings laughter to me and my children, my affectionate nature, the way that I can see each of my children for who they are and not as I expect them to be. But these flowers seem scattered and smothered by the weeds.

And yet….The Gardener looks at the field of my mothering and knows the beauty won’t be lost even if the field looks overrun. He knows that the chaos of the weeds is just the enemy’s trick. It looks messy but the plants will survive and be gathered in. God is patient. He doesn’t take any chances when it comes to disturbing the good growth within us. Our fruitfulness and beauty are worth the wait – especially when it comes to our children.

Trust the harvest and weeding to The Gardner. Ignore the mess.

What are the weeds and wheat in your mothering? How can you focus on and be patient for the good growth even in the midst of the weeds?

 

  Heather Fosth is her husband’s best friend, a mother of two dynamic, wildly different children(ages 10 and 6) and a sometime spiritual director. If given the choice, she would always be in her garden.

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Apr 182013
 

Momma: “Georgia Mae, what would you like to say to Jesus tonight?

Georgia Mae: “I want to know where He is. I can’t find Him.”

Momma: “Because you can’t see Him, right?”

Georgia Mae: “Yes. I can’t see Him. Where is He?”

Momma: “Well, after Jesus came back to life, He lived with His friends for awhile and then God took His body up into Heaven. But then, Jesus came back to us as the Holy Spirit. We can’t see Him as the Holy Spirit because He is like the wind when it blows in the trees. We know it’s there but we can’t see it.”

Georgia Mae: “Okay, but where IS He? Where does He LIVE?”

Momma: “Now that He is with us as the Holy Spirit, He can live inside you and me.”

Georgia Mae: “Where inside me?”

Momma: “Where do you think He lives?”

Georgia Mae: “I think there is a little tiny baby Jesus living in my womb and when He’s ready, He’ll come out! (Pats her belly and then says with a sing-song voice) Hello, baby Jesus, I love you.”

On their birthday, I tell my children their birth story. We talk about where I was, what was happening, how I felt. They have a good sense of what a womb is: A place that gives life. A place of deep connection. A place of safety and nurturing. A place that when you are ready, you emerge out of with celebration and joy (and real pain – I don’t sugar coat it.)

When I see marriages crumbling around me, when I feel so tired of petty politics, when I feel the heaviness of just getting through the day, I ask Georgia Mae’s question: “But where IS He? I can’t find Him.” Like her, I expect Him to be somewhere outside, doing something “out there.”

But in the Christian worldview, God only lives “in here.” God’s dwelling place is no longer a building or that gold box from Raiders of the Lost Ark; it is you…and me…and when you get all of us together, we “rise to become a holy temple in the Lord…[who] are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:21-22)

Jesus is no longer out there. He is in here. Do we nurture that life? Is it a place of interdependence, of safety, of deep connection for Him and for us? Is it a place that when He is ready to emerge, we let Him come out when and how He wants to and we welcome Him with joy and celebration? (and at least submit to the attendant pain?)

Whether we became a mother by birth or adoption, welcoming a child into the world is a wonderfully unpredictable event. We don’t have any idea when He will show up or who we can become when we welcome Him.

May we pray as Georgia Mae does: “Hello baby Jesus, I love you. Please come out whenever You feel like it.”

How do you experience your inner life with God? How does your inner life with God prepare you for welcoming Him into your mothering and the world around you?

  Heather Fosth is her husband’s best friend, a mother of two dynamic, wildly different children(ages 10 and 6) and a sometime spiritual director. If given the choice, she would always be in her garden.

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Apr 112013
 

MY SECOND CHILD IS DIFFERENT FROM MY FIRST. This is not rocket science, but I feel just as stupid when I try to figure it out for the 1000th time.

My first child responds to rules, limits, and clear consequences. A clear boundary, a clear yes or no makes my son feel safe. Of course he will negotiate around it like a worker’s comp trial lawyer, but at least he wants to start with (and refer to) the fine print.

My daughter ignores the fine print. In fact, she could give a rip about it. There is no enforcement with her because she does not agree to any fundamental ground rules. She is imaginative and creative – as capricious as the wind that blows.

One must study her style and habits and then anticipate her reactions like a master chess player. I can guide the game in my favor, but I cannot control her moves.

My son will respond to calling in the ground troops (and sometimes a “shock and awe” campaign). My daughter will only be taken out by trained Navy SEALS.

Here are my most recent stealth ninja mothering skills:

1) Use Momma Jedi mind powers of preemptive kindness: unexpected hugs, kisses, back rubs and offers to fix a snack. (Regular feeding is key to peacekeeping.)

2) Be generous. When you can, say “yes” with as much (if not more) energy as you say “no.”

2) If attacked, do NOT engage and do NOT fight fire with fire.

3) Employ the, “Wow, let’s try that again” evasive maneuvers.

5) If all else fails, give a gentle hug. Touch their hair. Whisper that you love them. (My daughter is the reason for my parenting maxim of “Kiss me when I’m bad, that’s when I need it the most.” She is living truth that a “kind word turns away wrath.”)

6) Remember that ultimately they are changed by how we act and not so much by how we make them act.

If my daughter senses a direct confrontation, you will not gain ground. You may dig in and eventually win the battle, but ultimately you will lose the war at too great a cost. Too many civilian casualties (ask my son about his war wounds) too many tears, too many opportunities for anger (mine, her’s, everyone’s.)

In the end, I can get compliance – i.e. make her say the right words of “Yes, mam” or “No, thank you” – but I will not change her heart towards respect. I will not be shaping her character. I will be shoving a square peg into a round hole. With enough force, it will fit – sorta.

Why not gently shave down the edges of the peg with love and a gentle voice? Why not sand out the round hole by changing my own heart and actions? Why not go for the win-win? This is the gift of my second child.

What is one ninja mothering skill you could implement with your children this week?  What is another mothering skill that has worked for you?  

  Heather Fosth is her husband’s best friend, a mother of two dynamic, wildly different children(ages 10 and 6) and a sometime spiritual director. If given the choice, she would always be in her garden.

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Apr 042013
 

After Marcus was born Aaron and I started watching Alias, in which Jennifer Garner plays a double agent working for the CIA.

We were navigating life with a 2 year old and a newborn. I was living in spit-up and sweats. Sydney Bristow was just what I needed.

She was fit, fast, and effective. She was a genius with great outfits. She was hardcore and the sweet girl next door at the same time.

Ten years later we’ve circled back to watching Alias from the

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beginning and I love her more than ever.

She’s graceful. She’s quick minded. She’s undaunted.

And then there’s Temperance Brennan, otherwise known as Bones. She’s a forensic anthropologist on the TV show by the same name. Before our most recent round of Alias, Bones was our go-to show.

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Bones can tell you anything you want to know about people (deceased, unfortunately) by looking at their bones. She lays all surface elements aside and goes to the

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core. She sees in and reads the signs. And she doesn’t care if she’s too focused, too nerdy, or too socially awkward in the process.

Why do I love these women?

In part because they are gorgeous brunettes who look amazing while fighting evil at large.

But also because they are gritty, persistent, and determined to overcome.

I could use some Sydney-and-Temperance-mojo as a mother.

I need to be ready to engage at a moment’s notice and quickly get clear on the objective. I need to be nimble and creative as interruptions, surprises, and hindrances abound. I need to be tough and graceful at once.

I need to let go of any preoccupation with surface appearances—mine or my kids’—so I can see into the center of things. So I can study the signs. So I can know what’s real, who these characters are at the core, and what story is being told by their lives.

If only I could do it while rocking the power necklaces and kickboxing moves!!

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