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A while back I was struggling terribly. I was heartbroken and worried over one of my kids. I remember not wanting to be around people for a short time because I didn't know how to act like everything was normal. Thoughts of how we were going to get through it were near the only thoughts I had.

I plastered a smile on my face anytime I went out into public. I wasn't trying to be fake, it's just that the smile served as a weak dam holding back a flood of emotion. My faking it, I believed, was a grace gift.

Those days conversations dangerously teetered toward my painfully overwhelming those who'd just bargained for small talk. I also risked sharing too much. Just as I wouldn't want my own mistakes broadcasted, it can be a bit irresponsible and unfair to share a loved one's struggles, especially to someone who doesn't know them as fully and wonderfully as I know them.

It was more recently, in another struggle, that I clearly remember being asked the question that often makes me lie.

How are you?

It was after church. I'd gathered my purse and visually located my kids. I was ready to leave, that is, right after speaking to few people who were still at church. I walked to the back of the sanctuary to hug a friend when she asked. It wasn't a greeting, or merely out of habit. With sincerity in her voice she asked, How are you?

The truth was, I wasn't good.

I considered whether I should lie (I'm great) or answer honestly (Well...I near dehydrated myself from crying my eyeballs out this past week. How are you?). A bystander fortunately changed the subject.

I wasn't in the condition to rightly answer that question.

In the grocery store checkout line and in a host of other places, while in passing we ask and are asked the question, How are you? Sometimes it's heartfelt, other times it's a pleasantry. The answer for me is, most of the time, more complicated than small talk can address.

God's truth, the only truth, tells me I'm ok. My family is ok. I do know the truth.

There's also something to be said about honesty.

My life stays swarmed by those underlying peace-robbers, my feelings. Even though God is working in my life, and in my family's life, I still too often find myself anxious, exhausted and crushed.

I'm all for finding a listening ear. I personally believe I have a decent one. If you're suffering through something, I'll listen and I'll care. But before much talking at all goes on between acquaintances and friends we do best to talk and listen to the problem expert, the truth giver...the only one who can mend a hurting heart.

If you're not talking to God about it, it does little good to talk to anybody else about it.

I recently approached that same friend after church, the one whose question I had previously been able to dodge. This time I knew she was struggling. I asked her how she was doing. She simply whispered , "Pray for me". Grabbing her hand and squeezing it we both stayed silent, but communicated everything that was necessary for the moment.

Before having lunch with her later that week, I prayed for her. I'm so thankful for this friend; that our response to the question How are you? can be answered honestly in a thousand pain-filled words... or with silence.

We're learning that the truth to 'how we are' is realized in prayer.

...For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

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I can hear the dishwasher humming.  The washing machine is running too.  I feel a small sense of accomplishment today.

The bedding for our dogs is currently being sanitized. One of our friends, either Ashlee the genius mutt or Griffin our socially awkward Schnauzer, messed in the crate last night. It was probably just an accident but I'm trying to convince myself that the mess was a message that one of our dogs, like myself, is fed up with this nasty weather.

I wasn't the first one who noticed the mess in the dog's crate.  I didn't let them out this morning and have spent the day with a dual stopped up/runny nose.  My husband, Jason, had the misfortune of finding the treasure buried in the dogs' blanket.

As much as I hate cleaning up dog poop, I cringed as I saw him start to clean up the mess.  My mind raced back to other times he volunteered to remedy a messy situation, like the time he decided to wash my favorite rug with a water hose. (I miss that rug.) Would he clean up this mess in a manner I saw fit?

Determined to let him prove himself capable, I planted my feet there in the kitchen where I had my own thing to do and promised to keep quiet. There was stench-y, stained dog bedding in his hands.  I was going to allow the stuff to stay there. 

I did snap a picture of his efforts, but was disallowed sharing privileges. He didn't say I couldn't tell you about it though. With a shovel and a jug of Gain, not only did he wash the dogs' bedding, he provided me a few fresh breaths of air needed to do some thinking.

  1. It is not always my job to fix everything.
  2. It's not my job to tell others how to fix everything.

I'm not strong enough.  I'm not wise enough.

I'm not created to fix/control/handle everything.

When I attempt to do it all/be it all, I'm robbing others the chance to be a part of improvement.

When I do it myself, I steal the opportunity that someone has to learn how to do it. 

And here's the biggest one...

In believing that only I can make things right, no trust exists.

It seems to have become annual ritual to have a word of the year. Never one to rigidly follow the rules I'm going to hang on two, the two hardest words for a parent to hear...

"Let go"

I scratched out a prayer in my spiral last week.  To summarize my impulsive scrawling, I prayed that God would help me let go in a particular situation regarding one of my children. I was given almost immediate (and heart-twisting) opportunity to do so...and I stunk it up.  Daily, since then, I'm continuing to stink it up. (Stink upon stink, I'm worse than my dogs.) Even though I'm learning to say the right things out loud, proper trust is absent from my heart.

It's in my DNA to want to wrestle over mess that's already in capable arms.

My faith calls for better.

Dear God, please help us as parents to seek change in our heart's makeup. Help us to trust you more.  Help us to recognize our limits and your limitlessness, In 2018 help us to let go of things that your strong arms already hold.

The Dog Poop Cleaner/My Favorite Set of Earthly Arms


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Is it supposed to rain?, she asked, paying more attention to the obvious wet and clouds than I was. Our youngest reached down into our big wicker basket in the front room that contains a myriad of going out type objects (jackets, a canvas tote for groceries, a pair of flip flops...). She grabbed a maimed umbrella, the only kind we have and tucked it under a full arm. She was determined, as she always is, to be prepared for the elements.

I'm ok with the elements as long as I can hide from them.  Last night the rain was beautiful from underneath my roof. Our shingles became an auditorium of applause as they hosted the raindrops. It was an appropriate ending to a nicely orchestrated day. Untouched, safe...dry under the sheets, I was lulled to sleep.

The rain isn’t always so nice. It interjects itself in my path at the most inconvenient times. Like a family member whose urgent need is to call me when I’m in an important meeting, the rain demands my attention when I'm ill-equipped to handle it. It comes at me when I have a car full of groceries that need unloading. Storms dilly dally in early afternoons choosing arrival precisely at 3:25, the time the kids get out of school. And this is just the inconsequential stuff, there's rain that reeks real havoc.

Rain that I didn't order, rain that doesn't wait to be invited, rain that gets close enough to touch my skin isn't welcome. When it imposes itself, I run. Not the fun kind of running where I allow my feet to make artful splashes. Come to think of it, rain in close proximity causes me to run, not in it, from it. I avoid it. As if it holds no purpose I do my best to escape it. 

Soggy scenarios are often unavoidable. I know too that there's a rhythm to rain, a reason for it.

Because we can't hide from the rain maybe we ought to learn to tromp more boldly in it. More than escape, we need to remember our covering. Something we can hold on to when we can't control the elements. Something that will assure us that, yes, there's a time to run and there's a time to be still . But more, there's a time to move deliberately, even in a downpour. We need to replace broken umbrellas those things, in error, we keep around that are unable of providing the protection we need.

Scripture talks about refuge. We're allowed to hide.  A refuge, still and strong, provides safety, but most refuges are notably immobile. We're sometimes called to move, to face the rain.

Let me dwell in your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Psalm 61:4

God provides us a tent and wings, a covering for when we're called to move, because we can't always hide or escape.

For in him we live and move and have our being.  Acts 17:28

Someone has said You can't run and you can't hide.  For those times I can't, I'm getting rid of broken umbrellas. I ordered two new ones this morning, one pink and one mint green. If inevitable rain is on my radar, I'm determined to walk, maybe resign to some intentional splashing.

In what way, that you've been avoiding, is God calling you to move?

I recently learned I must be decent at lip reading because I discovered that I can hear someone better when we're face to face, as opposed to when they're trying to talk to me from the backseat of the car or from another room. I've become a decent lip-reader because of my inability to hear well. Because of this hearing handicap I've also become a decent texter. I can tap out a novel length text fairly quickly. I prefer texting to talking because I can read better than I can hear.

I have a great texting relationship with my kids. I've even learned to send appropriate emojis and and cute avatar poses to liven up our conversations.

The oldest texts me at midnight to let me know he's on his way home. The middle texts me to tell me what she made on her Algebra 2 exam. And the youngest and I have text battles as to who loves the other the most.

Despite our healthy communication line, there's one text I occasionally get though that annoys me immensely...The Question Mark text.

The two oldest will text me a random question or statement like

What are we having for supper?

Or

Why are we going to church so early?

If I don't answer with

1. Adequate haste

2. Excellent clarity

Immediately comes the question mark text.

It's as if to say Umm...I'm Waiting, or...Explain yourself.

I guess it gets on my nerves because I always return texts to my children in good time. I'm also extremely generous in my effort to help them understand why we're doing what we're doing/going where we're going...

Can't they just trust me? How about a little patience? How about using adequate words to express your desire for an answer instead of just a sentence -ender? Is it even grammatically legal to use punctuation without words?

The solitary and unfriendly question mark has made me ponder today. (Pondering is almost always dangerous.)

Do I ever respond to God, my Father in a likewise manner?

He lovingly communicates with me through His word and through His spirit. He is always available through prayer. He seeks to help me know His ways through gentle evidences of His wisdom, love and presence. Still, when I don't immediately have an answer to a question, my heart's response is often...

Really?

What?

Ughh!

Why?

I'm waiting...

God can surely handle any nature of question, but he doesn't deserve our lack of trust and improper way of seeking understanding.

This solitary question mark is reminding me to evaluate the assumption behind my questions.

When we question those things we don't understand and life's disappointing events, are we demanding that God explain Himself, or we are we humbly acknowledging our need for help in understanding? When we question God are we looking for a confirming response that He is our lifeline or are we tapping our fingers angrily on the table as if to say How do you explain this?!

I'm thinking I'll wrap my own questions up in more trust. Make my question marks a little softer, a little less emphatic. I'll frame my questions with words, trusting ones. Even when it's easier to send a question mark alone.

What are you asking of God today?

How are you asking?

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



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I can't remember the last time I read a book from start to finish, but yesterday I did. Last night, bundled under a blanket and heating pad (I just couldn't get warm), I read the last page and then closed the book. The hard cover and book back felt so good between my hands, every word between, now my arsenal.

There's something about January that makes us want to eat better, do better, live better. This book I finished, Present Over Perfect , was the reminder I needed that life can be more full when we rid ourselves of the unnecessary. People-pleasing and ceaseless hustling, the author Niequist suggests, gets in the way of joyful, purposeful life. I'm guilty of both people-pleasing and hustling, something I intend to change.

So today, along with getting up at a decent hour and starting laundry, it was my goal to immediately practice simpler living. After sorting mounds of clothes and starting a load this morning, I threw together ingredients for a hearty soup we'd have for supper. I gave myself an imaginary check mark for following the meal calendar that hung on the fridge.

I quickly (something close to a hustle) assembled a lunch salad for Jason and pulled my hair back in a ponytail. Grabbing the first pair of jeans that came out of the dryer I got dressed. My youngest, Rylie, and I would spend the afternoon together.

While shopping we found a coat that fit her nicely...and we both liked it. I gave myself another check mark (clothes agreement tends to be anything but simple). I even let her sit in a rolling chair with lilac cushions that invitingly sat in the middle of TJ Maxx. I was patient...not at all hustle-y.

I was so patient and lacks i daisical that I suggested we find a place in the mall to get her hair cut (She was in desperate need). Again we were in agreement. At this point I gave myself fireworks instead of checkmarks, because this mom and daughter date was booming.

We had no wait for a haircut. A sweet lady that reminded me of my older daughter Hallie's friend, took Rylie straight back and washed her hair. I sat directly across from the stylist chair, ready to watch the simple transformation, from messy ponytail to a shorter, smoother "do".

We were having a great conversation about Christmas and good eating places when three employees (two girls and a guy) walked past us and into the workroom two chairs down and to the left.

Their conversation, which was much louder than ours, turned downright vulgar in a matter of moments. In patient mode I waited for the conversation to turn, or get quieter, but neither happened. My face burned with embarrassment and my heart twisted in agitation. My twelve-year-old daughter was hearing cringe-y information that she could live a lifetime without.

Just when I gained the courage to get up and go peek my head in and request that they turn their X-rated sex talk down a few decibels, one of them closed the door.

I sunk in my chair. The situation had been diffused, but not by any good choice of mine. Every checkmark and firework I'd accrued rained down in my head like ash. I hadn't had the courage to do what was needed.

Though I refrained from hustling today, my need to people please rose above my parental duty. I don't protect my kids from everything. They're going to encounter unsavory behavior from time to time. The difference is, today I knew in my heart that it was in my power, and it was my God-appointed purpose to speak up, and I didn't.

I was afraid of causing a scene. I feared I'd embarrass my kid. I felt sure that my efforts would be neither appreciated or understood. I also had little confidence that my words would change their behavior (They'd already walked by and saw us there).

In my effort to refrain from trouble-making, I'd silently pleased everyone in the salon except for the loud voice in my head urging me to do the hard thing, the right thing.

Fear of being misunderstood or offending, it seems, is more important than offending my God.

So hustling? I know what that looks like. I need less of it. I'll continue to practice a slower rhythm again tomorrow just like I did today.

People pleasing? I saw that as large as life in a salon mirror today bearing my image. I was reminded what it looks like with my daughter looking on. Rylie received a simple transformation today. It looks like mine will prove to be a little more complicated.

...just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

1 Thessalonians 2:4


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Just this morning Christmas bells wrapped in tissue were placed in a box.  Since being purchased a week or so ago, their only ringing was muffled as they never made it out of their tissue paper cocoon.  I had an idea of who to give them to, but never got around to it.  Maybe next year.

The house is quiet today. The only sound is that of a quiet hum of a new kitchen appliance and the occasional yelp of our Schnauzer announcing that someone, or some pesky cat is walking down our street.

The house also seems quite empty. Our Christmas tree and our dollar store nutcracker collection has gone back into its eleven month hibernation. Missing from my vision, as I type, are the Christmas tree lights whose rays stretch out and merrily bump into one another when you squint your eyes.

Strangely I'm not saddened by either the silence or space. In fact, I'm kind of energized. 2018 is around the corner, and for all that's been put away and removed, boundless opportunity is in its place.

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Two days ago I enjoyed a movie with a caravan of family members.  Prior to our screen time we'd stuffed ourselves with chips and salsa and fajitas.  After purchasing our tickets, still full, I was asked by the man behind the counter if we wanted any concessions. Why not?, I asked myself.  And so I ordered. He held up a novelty plastic bucket commemorating Star Wars, a movie I've neither seen, or care to see. Want your popcorn in this limited edition container?, he probed. And again I answered, Why not? It's a question I daily rhetorically ask and answer.

Why not eat that thing...buy that thing...do that thing?

This morning that bucket lies useless on my kitchen counter. It's a reminder that there's a more important question than Why not. With this gift of another year I intend to start asking myself a different question...Why? 

Why do we waste money on the things we don't need?

Why do we throw away time when experience tells us that each day is precious and not in-expendable, contrary to the way we're so accustomed to behave?

Why do we allow the purposeless to crowd beautiful space we've been given?  

Why do we get used-up and bruised by the Why-nots, that army of the insignificant, when God has so much more in store for us, things that really matter?

Why does God have me here on earth? Among this group of people? "At such a time as this...?"

And one last, less-important question, Why is that commemorative Star Wars bucket still on my kitchen counter?

...Anybody want it?

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

May your 2018 be so empty it's full!



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Update:

There will be a candlelight service in memory of Kori Newland. It is our hope that this service will bring much needed attention to the bullying and suicide epidemic. We will gather Friday, December 29 at 6 pm at Doornbos Park with balloons, glow sticks and letters to Kori.

She was as skinny as a rail. But that’s not the first thing you noticed about her. She had big beautiful blue eyes. Like mine, her hair was neither curly or straight but it had volume enough as if to say “Hello World”, there’s a girl somewhere here underneath what you see.

For several years I helped out in the ESL department at Helena Park Elementary where she attended. She wasn’t in my class. Instead she was in a Reading group in the room another teacher and I shared. I remember being instantly drawn to her. I'm certain I wasn't the only one.

I would say "hey" each day that she came in for reading group. If I spotted her in the hall I remember being happy to have the opportunity to tell her that she looked pretty that day. Our familiarity grew bit by bit. I hoped that our smiles and waves and small talk would be an encouragement, but one thing I knew for sure. Seeing that smile that rivaled the size of her hair and those pretty eyes made my day brighter.

My fondest memory of her came at the end of her last year in elementary at the annual talent show. She showed up at school donning a dress fit for prom and Sunday shoes that added height to her already tall stature. She looked beautiful and I tell you she sang Amazing Grace like an angel.

I've seen mamas cry tears at the sight of their babies performing. But there were a whole host of misty-eyed mamas and teachers by the time she sang her last note in the cafeteria that day. Though it was never discussed with others who were also clearly fans, I'm certain she represented an unassuming underdog with powerful potential. It was our delight to cheer her on.

Then she moved on to middle school. I intended keep up with her, but lost track.

Evidently in the past year or two she moved several hundred miles away. I clicked on Facebook this morning to see a picture of her sweet face on a post from a friend. This was the first time I saw that bright smile that I didn't give one in return.

Devastating words sat right above her picture. A quick read told me that she's gone. Not to Blooming Grove where she moved. It seems she decided life was unbearable as she ended it on Saturday after being bullied for some time.

After crushing news last week I heard a piece of advice I often hear during dark times.

Everything happens for a reason.

I'm still looking for this in scripture. I'm not so sure that everything happens for a reason. I only know that God can bring about good things in the midst of dark, soul-crushing occurrences. He brings about purpose.

When I ask myself if there is anything more I could have done in this instance, I can't say. I truly loved a little girl I barely knew. And as best as I knew how, I tried to make sure she knew just how special she was. Maybe the question is What can I do now?

My great grandmother made the best hot rolls but I wasn't allowed to say that I loved them. She told us You don't love things ... you love people.

My great grandmother knew we could all be guilty of loving things. We love our comfort zone. We love acceptance. We love advancement. We love to be right. We love relationships that bring us benefit. Our children naturally love these things too. The loss of this beautiful life reminds me of the need to be more intentional in loving people.

We need to model love for our children...To talk about about loving people with our children. Sometimes we need to be willing to move from our table to one where somebody sits alone. I've heard it said, If it doesn't serve you or make you happy it's not a relationship worth having. That doesn't sound like Jesus. Love isn't self seeking. Love is kind. Regardless.

We need to pray asking for the wisdom we (and our children) need to recognize and approach those in need of a little more love and affirmation. We need as much wisdom in identifying and confronting unkindness. God help us.

As far as my friend goes, long gone is the opportunity to cheer her on with a smile in the hallway or a vigorous wave calling out, You matter.

We've still plenty of opportunity to cheer and guide those who are following after us. Love people, let's tell them.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds... Hebrews 10:24

In memory of Kori Newland, our little friend with the big voice. Her grandmother has given me permission to share these beautiful pictures.

‘‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the place

There was barely a thing in its proper space.

A green dress was hung on a chair without care

Put with the dirty laundry without being worn. Not fair.

Visions of a perfect Christmas danced in my head

But life would dole out messy instead

It’s laundry day. And Christmas concert day. It’s Monday (which is always double duty day...recovering from the weekend and wishful effort in getting a leg up on the week).

I made the kids clean their rooms extra good on Saturday. That always means that dirty drink ware will appear in the kitchen even though they’re not supposed to have drinks in their room. It also means that I’ll have three times the laundry to wash today (I’ll be surprised if there’s not a swimsuit in the dirty clothes pile). I cant adequately slay today. And I can't, no matter my effort, perfectly pull off Christmas.

Here's my Christmas List-

I just want

  • For the family to be together
  • To have everybody healthy
  • For everyone to be happy
  • For everyone to love their gifts
  • For the presents to wrap themselves
  • To make Christmas snacks
  • For my house to be clean
  • For my family to enjoy my Christmas Pandora station when I play it full blast
  • Unlimited funds
  • To not forget anyone when wishing loved ones a Merry Christmas
  • For those who have suffered this year to be able to enjoy Christmas
  • For everyone to know (and believe) why Jesus came so long ago as a babe in a manger
  • To watch the Hallmark channel
  • For life to be like the Hallmark channel

Is that too much to ask?

Absolutely.

There's not a single bullet point that will be pulled-off perfectly.

The Christmas story tells of a family (Mary and Joseph), who by all human appearances, are messy. Their story is fraught with imperfection. They're outside the comfort of home suffering the pain of labor and facing the unknown... with no place to rest their heads (except for with the animals).

Christmas is messy.

It's caught up in humanity until we realize that our messy setting is the perfect backdrop for the revelation of perfection. Holiness ... within our grasp, in the face of our NOT getting it right. We only truly celebrate Christmas when we worship Jesus, who came to do what we can't.


"Do we remember

The wonders of his love

Will our voices join with the chorus up above

Do we remember how on the silent night

There was a baby who came to recall us back to life"

-The Perfect Gift JJ Heller



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We hardly ever do family pictures anymore.  I'm the only one who wants them.  I'm so controlling that not only do I force the family to participate, I also choose what everybody wears. One family member accused me of trying to make her wear something that looked like a rug today. Everybody is usually upset with me before pictures are over, but I just keep on smiling (and torturing).

Today we took church directory pictures. I was up and at em' early this morning creating "a look" that would make us color coordinated and match-y but not too match-y . I made them suffer double duty (pictures before the pictures) and this was still one of our most harmonious picture taking sessions ever.  As has happened in years past, nobody fell and hurt themselves, I didn't have to lick my finger and wipe food off anybody's face, we didn't have to strategically hide an arm cast and no one wore high water jeans with white crew socks.

This year was relatively successful.

So you get pictures before the pictures AND you get to know a few things that were happening behind the scenes.

  1. One of us is wearing pants right out of the dirty clothes basket. Maybe more, but at least one of us.
  2.  At least one person wore something they would never have chosen/ wore something borrowed/ wore something the wrong size.
  3. One person cried shortly before our picture was taken.
  4. All pictured were reminded to keep their eyes opened.  (It was difficult for at least one family member).
  5. All participants were bribed with food.
  6. Two people were accused of being mean.
  7. Somebody complained about how much time it took.
  8. Some of us argued between cozy posing.
  9. We didn't like the first pose, but didn't want to waste time taking more.
  10. We smiled through it.

Getting Christmas pictures or Christmas cards out has proven too difficult the past few years.  This year has been no different. Consider this your second (or third) annual lame social media Christmas card.  The Burdens, like most every other family, are presenting their best, but will tell you this family stuff isn't always easy. We just know this family stuff is worth it.

Quick family update:

Hayden is 21. He'll finish up welding school at LIT in May.  He works nights at UPS and still drinks several gallons of milk a week. (I do not have his permission to use this picture.)

Hallie is 16. She's driving and working for a local insurance company.  She spends her paycheck on makeup.

Rylie is 12.  She loves all of the opportunities to be a part of different clubs in middle school.  She still loves baking.  She's good at it.  She is still not good at cleaning up after her baking.

Merry Christmas 2017 from the Burdens!

...and hope does not put us to shame because God has poured out His love into our hearts ... Romans 5:5

Our Elf on the Shelf days are pretty much over (Wait while I do a fist pump...). I don't miss having to get up before the crack of dawn to set up some elaborate scene where it appears that "Jingles"has been having an exquisite tea party with Barbie while we slept.

I remember staying up late one night trying to attach our elf to a Christmas banner we have hanging in our entry way.  The idea was to make it look like she had been zip lining. Except that it didn't work out.  I finally gave up and stuck her in the Christmas tree, an idea that had already been used and was lame in the first place.

I have no shame in telling you that I didn't enjoy our elf.  She was too much work.  Our third child, the dreamer, got up every morning in anticipation of where "Jingles" was hiding. There were a couple of times I forgot to hide her and had to come up with a quick story about why she hadn't "moved" (as is the stupid rule that she must move to a different location in the house every night...What genius thought of that?).

I admit, my mind is fairly creative.  I can come up with a believable lie quicker than you can snap your fingers. ( I know, I probably shouldn't sound so proud to admit that fact. I did say I can come up with good lies but I never really confessed to the practice).

My Facebook scrolling this week has shown me that I'm not the only one who has neglected to move their elf, either by forgetting or oversleeping. Sure you can tell your children that their elf didn't move because "he hurt his leg" or some other carefully, but quickly thought out nonsense. But in my experience, fabricating why the family elf was stationery on Wednesday night isn't the best policy. It certainly shouldn't be the only policy.  One morning I tried something else.

The foolproof way to handle a bum elf (and other debacles):

Have you ever told your children to do something like get all of their junk out of the car? They get most of it but leave a jacket and you scold them for it, reminding them that you told them to get their stuff! They then insist that they did get their junk.  You tell them they didn't get the jacket then receive a genuinely puzzled look telling you that they didn't leave their jacket.  You march them to the car and present the proof to which they cool-ly respond, That's not mine. You spend an additional fifteen minutes explaining how they were the one who left the jacket in the car and therefore (whether it's their jacket or not, it's their responsibility to bring it in-with their junk-if they're the one who left it in the car.

My kids have a gift for implementing the element of confusion when we are having necessary conversations. Though I'm excellent at explaining things (I'm a teacher), they have often pulled a victory by simply convincing me that I have an inability to make them understand certain things like why they can't wear basketball shorts in forty degree weather.

After realizing their brilliance I decided to use the same method one night when the firstborn and I were watching TV years ago.  A commercial advertising something of a sexual nature came on.  My son asked me, "What's that?" I gave a befuddled look and responded, "I don't get it either."  He seemed satisfied with that and we got back to our thirty-minute sitcom.

Fast forward to a morning that I had forgot to move Jingle. The youngest complained, Why didn't Jingle move? I look at her baffled.  That's weird.  She didn't move. Hmm, I retorted. Her next question centered on what was for breakfast.

In a day and time where we think we have to have all the answers, there is sometimes power in not having one.

Besides having an occasional bum elf, your kid may suffer real problems like not getting invited to a party or not making a team they worked hard to be on. Even then, it's not always necessary, or helpful, to explain why something disappointing is happening. We don't always know the answer. Often the answer we spend precious time crafting and delivering isn't a cure. There's not always a fix.

 Sometimes entering the mystery with them is the best we can do.