No pretenses... just PERSPECTIVE.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I want to tell you the TRUTH about our family.



As we embark on another year...  another year of living, of parenting, marriage, growth, change, striving, I feel a strong urge to open up and talk about how I'm feeling.  Right now, I'm more committed than ever to motherhood, to wifehood (I'm making up a word), to my relationship with Jesus Christ, to letting Him mold me.  And oh my goodness, there's a LOT of molding that needs to take place up in here.

And I feel more committed than ever to write from the deep, dark corners of my heart and soul.  That means the good, the amazing, the horrible, and even the humiliating.  It means letting this page be a flowing river of truth, no matter what I'm going on about.  And I'm humbled to discover that thousands (THOUSANDS) of people read these words.  It's humbling but also scary.

Let me tell you a secret - I get incredibly nervous about what kind of impression I make on the people in my life.  What people think of 'me' matters.  A lot.  Which is kind of funny, because I've often had people say they'd never think "I" would care what anyone thought.  Me.  The opinionated one... Ha!  They couldn't be further from the truth.

But I digress.  Let's start here:

A blogger I love wrote a post about giving each new year a 'word'.  Almost like a starting point or a platform on which to build goals and hopes and dreams.  Or maybe the word could be used somewhat like an 'inspiration piece' is used when designing a room.  The WORD becomes the "piece de resistance", if you will.  If you can?  Bah, either way, if asked, I'd say my word for 2012 is perspective.



My goal for my writing is and always has been to share truth.  That every soul who reads these messy words that start in a sketch pad would get a true glimpse of ME.  A true glimpse of our family. 

I love reading other women's blogs.  So many ladies, young and old, have a wealth of knowledge and a sea of emotions and experiences to share.  I grow immensely from soaking in what others pour out through the written word.

But let me be brutally honest: 
There are some very popular blogs in the
Christian blogging circle that I avoid reading. 

Why?  Because they don't motivate me or encourage me at all.  They actually make me feel bad about myself.  I actually feel worse when I read about how seemingly 'perfect' these women are.  Shining, radiant examples of the sparkling 'Titus 2' wife.  Massaging their husband's shoulders the moment he is home from work, waiting in full make-up, with a hot meal served in fine China.   Me?  I'm pretty sure I'd leave 'em wanting. 

There's also that large, poised, wonderfully organized Homeschooling family where Mom seems to have everything together.  I read about lesson plans and daily routines and Godly discipline and the pouring out of grace and never raising one's voice at her children and I can feel my shoulders sag and my back hunch.  I just can't live up to these women.  I'll never be THIS.  And then I feel almost defiant - are these people even real?


I want to be real.

Please. I'm not saying this in spite or to sound mean in any way. I love difference... I truly do.  Every message has it's purpose, and every writer is passionate about theirs.  And I'm sure every Christian blogger writes in hopes of inspiring others.  I know not one of us TRIES to intimidate or confuse or bewilder.   But I'm also POSITIVE I'm not alone in my feelings of inadequacy when comparing myself to 'perfect' Bloggers, because I've had people send me emails that described the way I'd made THEM feel.  That MY blog had actually discouraged them.  That they felt they could never live up to my family and our "unpluggedness".  Friends - tears roll down my face when I read words like these. 

Something vital you need to know about me -
I am nothing special.


I am not some amazing, unplugged picture of perfection.  I don't do relaxation exercises in the forest- I chase my kids screaming, "HEY!  Back away from the waterfall!!!"  Yes, I have a touch-screen phone- and I probably text my husband thirty times a day.  I watch online TV programs - mostly Extreme  Home Makeover and The Dog Whisperer and documentaries about Africa.  Our children like movies.  Correction - our children LOVE movies.  We eat candy and I often don't exercise.  Sometimes, I grab McDonald's instead of making lunch because I'm lazy and it's easier. Our kids fight.  A lot.  I yell. I went to Wal-mart and bought laminate folders the other day AFTER blogging about how much I dislike Wal-mart because of their poor ethics. I drink Tim Horton's, even though I question where the coffee beans come from and how good it is for me.  Yes, I'm just ME. 

Our family is a normal, crazy, chaotic mess.  We have not reached some level of 'there' like so many people seem to somehow think.  It seriously makes me on edge to think people consider us a picturesque example of perfect family life.  It's just not so.

I recently received a comment from a sweet reader who was questioning why I had mentioned our children watching Curious George.  She wasn't criticizing, she was just wondering. "Do you consider Curious George 'educational screen time'?" she asked.  Um... I'm not sure.  Is this a trick question?  But she was right - I had written that our children were allowed 'educational screen time'.  Which is misleading, I suppose.  Sometimes, they just watch silliness.  They do.  I mean, is "Dave and the Giant Pickle" REALLY educational?  Or what about Pingu?  A penguin who doesn't even speak a coherent language but instead mutters and yells "NOOOK NUUUK!" ?  Probably not so much.

But the comment got me thinking about how people view us as this, "The Unplugged Family".  Let me say first and foremost, we are STRIVING!  (It's right there in the tag line, see?)   Sure I have my opinions about popular culture and media and we do try very hard to unplug from the brunt of what the world would sell us.   But, we are still human.  We are still IN this culture.  And we're struggling to find a way to stand apart without making people feel judged... and without driving ourselves mad.  And it's hard.

I'd rather my kids have little to no screen time and I'd rather be unplugged from consumerism and branding and all the junk we're thrown... but then there's reality.  The reality that I spend 60 hours a week on my own with three children and sometimes, let's face it, I need 30 minutes to make dinner.  Life happens.

And I used to get REALLY worked up about it... but I'm starting to learn...
It's all about perspective.  Because I think mine has been pretty messed up in the past.  Because it still is some days.  Because everything, given the right perspective, makes sense.  Because God desires for us discernment and the ability to view things through His eyes (ie: the perfect perspective).  Because sometimes, it's just not THAT big of a deal.  You know, if my kids watch 2 hours of silly screen time today because I'm sick and alone for 12 hours.  It's ok.  I'm not letting everyone down, am I?  I mean, really?  (Please, help me out...)


I'm still figuring it out.  And I'm not saying EMBRACE culture.  I'm not.  But I'm asking myself to consider perspective and I'm begging readers to please understand... we're human.  Yes, I speak on issues of pop-culture, I write about unplugging and questioning media messages - but we aren't a cut-off from the world, we roll with the punches.

I'm starting to think it truly is more about how we are being the hands and feet of Jesus and spreading His love and His message.  And that I be a woman who encourages and inspires rather than annoys and frustrates and makes a loving Mother feel inadequate because HER child watches too much TV.  Perspective for me means we focus on living for others and spreading life.  Perspective means I learn to let go of my opinions and my 'but I have to make a point' mentality, and just embrace the Everlasting... the things that REALLY matter.

The nurturing of souls is what the job of parenting is.  I am so under-qualified, but still, I nurture souls along with God and my husband daily.  All day.  Every day.  And as I do this, I want PERSPECTIVE to be a guiding factor.  What is a must for these children?  What needs to be breathed into their souls?  What attitudes, passions, desires, and truths need to be sowed, watered, grown?  And what things are just opinion-based legalistic eye-rollers?  Oh, Jesus, help me figure all this out!  And then Lord, help me humbly share what I'm learning in writing... here... on this little blog.


The "Unplugged" truth about us -
what you should know before reading this blog.
(A gimps at today, for example)

No, I do not do morning devotions. In the morning, I roll out of bed and stumble down the stairs when the kids bug me long enough. This is usually at approximately 6:45am. I then require two cups of coffee. As quickly as possible. I add sugar AND cream.  Milk if cream is unavailable, which is usually the case since I ALWAYS forget to buy it. Sometimes we start projects right away (yes, this early).  Often times I actually ENCOURAGE my kids to 'watch a dvd' for 30 minutes, so I can open my eyes.  I DO, however, make a point of looking out the window and embracing "JOY" as my blanket for the day.

This morning, I let our three-year-old squeeze his pudgy hands through an ENTIRE bottle of liquid soap... JUST to keep him busy.

Two years ago I organized a basket of “Phonics and Reading Tools and Manipulatives”. I like using the word 'manipulatives' because it sounds really intelligent. I've never used it, this basket of 'things'. In fact, today was the first day we actually really started doing the Phonics program I bought in 2009. Yep.  Amazing though, that our son reads brilliantly...  and our daughter is well on her way.  Praise God for grace...

Craft time is particularly entertaining at our home, as our daughter loves anything artsy, but our sons practically have to be pinned to their chairs and forced to color.   This morning, Audrey daintily cut careful patterns while Simon announced that his Papel Picado was indeed a paper with “gun shots” through it and then proceeded to chase the dog through the house as I finished his craft FOR him and then sticky tacked it to the window so I felt better about myself.


Our 8-month-old Golden Retriever is the most spoiled puppy in the world. Despite countless hours of watching The Dog Whisperer while doing nightly dishes (and trying to unsuccessfully hide my crush on Caesar Millan), alas I am still too lazy to actually IMPLEMENT all my doggy training wisdom. She sleeps on the couch, manipulates me with her eyes, and yes, after mere moments of begging, she did get Waffles for breakfast.


Art Appreciation and Picture Study this week – two pieces by the late Pierre Auguste Renoir.  Sounds fancy – eh? Eh? 
I inquisitively ask two attentive children a pre-planned question as we consider one of the famous paintings:  “What do you suppose this young girl is thinking about?” They look at the print-outs, carefully laminated and cut to size. They look back at me, blank stares. “Um...” says my six-year-old son. “POOP!?”  He laughs.  "Yes, poop.  She's thinking about POOP!!!" 
Bursts of laughter. My head throws back. And THIS is advanced Charlotte Mason Picture Study in our home. Right.




Literary Enrichment time... Charlotte Mason says to seek out only enriching, beautifully written, inspiring literature for young children, not wasting time on 'twaddle'. Well, as for me and my kids... sometimes, we just like a really ridiculous Robert Munch audio book. Pretty sure his work would be considered 19th century SUPER twaddle though... just sayin'.


I'm a Home Educator. I absolutely love my children. They are my priority and my passion. But really, I'm just a normal, every day person who feels called to a lifestyle embraced by less than 5% of the Canadian population. I'm often disorganized, rarely stay with my schedule, and sift through piles of books a mile high to find my 'to-do' lists, still incomplete, from 3 days ago. I spend hours every night organizing lessons and activities and desperately trying to inspire our children.  Trust me when I say,  I rely heavily on grace. It's just so not about me.

Many days, I'm so overwhelmed with the stress of Mothering three children and a puppy that I just stare out the window pleading for Jesus to help me through the day. “Give me wisdom, oh Lord!!! Patience, pour your peace on this home... pour your grace over me... please Lord, I need help...”


I share all this to communicate my heart. I want to be real. We are not a perfect family.  Not because we strive to be unplugged... and not because we homeschool.  Not because I blog.  Not because I speak.   Haha... not even close.   I desperately want the 'real' us to be the heartbeat of this blog for the coming year and beyond.  I care deeply about sharing truth and  not making our family seem like something we're not. We are normal, we are crazy, we make mistakes, we are covered by AWESOME grace... and above all else, we love each other and our God. We are work in progress.

I like to joke, but I'm intensely serious about the grit of this post. I will be an honest writer, and an honest communicator. I don't want this blog or anything I write to contain even a hint of pretense. I'm broken. I suck most of the time. I'll never 'live up' to the imagery of the 'perfect' wife, mother, homeschooler. It's not 'gonna' happen. Not for me, and not for most of us.

And the last thing in the world I'd ever want to do is make someone else feel inadequate because my blog somehow 'puffs' me up.

Our life is beautiful... but not perfect.

Let's embrace each other – faults and all.  I'll hug you, you hug me. I'll share this journey, every insane, crazy, calm, simple, unplugged, and sometimes too-plugged moment of it... but with perspective. With a desperate, humble striving towards the truth God calls us to... a life lived on purpose and for the right Purpose.  A life focused on what TRULY matters - the Eternal.  Not on being 'just so' or following some code for the Perfect Christian Mom or Wife or Daughter.  There is no such code.  We are all saved by grace and God views the heart (thank goodness) not the pretty home or the organized lesson plans.  He sees the heart - right through these key taps too.
May you also see my heart, friends.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me... I'm so looking forward to seeing what is to come.

Cassandra


Some blogs I find particularly HONEST and OPEN and PRETENSE-FREE:
A Holy Experience
We are THAT Family
The Gypsy Mama
Big House in the Little Woods

(There are many... but these are ones I love and visit often, if not daily...)

God Bless in 2012!

21 comments:

  1. I COMPLETELY understand where you're coming from! Both in blogging and not coming across as something you're not AND in stepping back and gaining perspective. Figuring out what is really important in your life and not trying to live up to someone else's standards. I was doing that this past year and it was not good for my family, at all! We are not perfect and would look like complete failures to some of those "perfect Titus 2" blogs out there, but we are a family who loves the Lord and are striving to grow in Him, in His time.

    BTW...Your son's comment is SO funny! It def had me LOL! Don't you just love the way their minds work?! :D

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  2. I think your honesty -- and even, in a way, your "inadequacy" -- just goes to show how beautiful you are. God can work through a woman like you. The imperfect. The tired. The pretense-free. And God's work is always beautiful.

    You know what? I learn so much more about real motherhood from the young homeschooling moms about messy grace and letting go and going lower than ever I did from those who give seminars on child rearing, high school transcripts and scheduling. I think that realizing you don't have it all together is the biggest step to being a good mom.

    Since, you know, I'm an expert at motherhood. :P

    *HUGS*

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  3. Thanks ladies... Wow. I realized this AM how many typos I'd made so thanks for reading through the mess! Haha... again... GROWING.

    Twinkle Toes- I'm right there with you. And yes, their comments are hilarious... esp. when I'm trying to be all serious and 'advanced'. They humble me every day.

    Bailey... Thanks hun.I I feel blessed to be able to share with young women like you, in hopes that my experiences might enrich your growth... that you'd learn from my mistakes and my journey. xo.

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  4. I have to say that I read every one of your blog posts that you share on FB and I think you are a very eloquent writer. Even though I don't raise my daughter with religion, I am teaching her morals and empathy and all the other good stuff... and your blog makes sense to me and I will reflect on it and use the bits I can work with. Think about how inadequate I could feel being that I'm a plugged in fallen-away Catholic and a consumer of the first order; I have the full Bell satellite package, a child who watches about 1.5 hrs of TV/movies a day (and more on weekends), and I am a full-time teacher in the public school system and whose child will be attending JK in the fall (forget about homeschooling). How could I ever live up to any ideal? What I'm saying is that your blog enriches and gives another perspective of the world - I don't get the impression from reading any of your blogs that you have it all together all the time. I see a woman who is working at it (and through it) every day and who is just putting ideas and opinions out there to encourage people to think and use their better judgement. Keep at it, Cassandra... you are doing a great job! Happy 2012!

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  5. I wish more bloggers were like you! Admiting that they are not perfect and do have imperfections. This also had me thinking about how others see my blog... I can only hope I paint a well rounded picture of us and I am no super wife, mom and child of God. I'd actually love it if you'd stop byu and tell me what u think. I just never thought of what type of message I may be sending unknowingly.

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  6. Love it!!! Love that you say you say you are real!! Life is messy, but beautiful!! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Thank you, thank you for your honest post. It was really encouraging to me. I've just started my homeschool journey this year with my preschool aged son (will be doing Charlotte Mason in the Fall). I read blogs and feel so down because I've only got one child, my house should be cleaner, I should be more organized, etc., etc. I beat myself up when I raise my voice at my son. But, one thing the Lord has been impressing on my heart is grace. I've received HIS grace and I need to give that grace not only to myself, but to others as well. In the grand scheme, what matters is that I love my son and teach him to love Jesus. Thanks again for your post. :)

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  8. I am so encouraged and inspired by your blog. I agree with the above, and a friend shared this with me when I told her I definitely DO NOT have it all together - she said "I think its better that you are transparent, people will see how God continues to change you and your heart." Her words really convicted me, which is partly why I wrote about the deep, dark corners of my soul as well. I am imperfect, and a sinner saved by Grace alone. I don't have a perfect homeschool routine either, and to be honest, I often like it that way. Today I showed my almost 3 year old how to slice a tomato with a plastic butter knife. It took her 20 minutes of concentration. But she loved it. Sometimes it those imperfect, on the whim moments that are the most teachable; they're the conduit to really living out the role God has given us as mothers. I have His Word, but I need His hands - and His hands don't always work on my schedule.

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  9. Such a great post, Cassandra! True confessions: I played poker with a bunch of teenagers on vacation this week. We weren't really gambling, but we were learning the game. Does that make me a bad mom? :) I think we all have moments like that! And we're not perfect. None of us is. Thanks for the reminder!

    Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

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  10. You know I did think you were a little hard to live up to. I contemplated giving up the tv. I have been trying to take the leap for well, a year? But have been too scared by the whole thing really. As a homeschool mom to 5 kids one a 20 month old baby, who really doesn't homeschool. But she does terrorize the schoolers. I am glad to hear you open up about your everyday and how imperfect it all is. Really inspiring. I am even more likely to show up around here now. Thanks.

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  11. I appreciate your honesty. I admit I felt a bit intimidated by your commitments - but that is certainly not you making someone feel that way. If someone feels that way, then they need to talk to God about it. Love your blog - it is inspiring.

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  12. Hi,
    I love your blog! I read it all the time.
    May God bless you & your family!

    p.s. Your dog looks so sweet! I have a Golden/Lab/Boxer mix, she is SWEET and MY BABY she sleeps with me and yes I allow her on the couch! Just too sweet!
    Are you familiar with clicker training? I have found it to be the most effective, fun, training method ever, and it is positive and gentle, too! Even kids can do it!

    www.clickerlessons.com is a great site to check out. Also "It's Me Or The Dog" with Victoria Stillwell is an incredible dog training TV show that has taught me a LOT.

    Happy New Year!

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  13. This was a refreshing post! Reality is where our expectations and our faults clash- and hopefully in that place we find GRACE. Grace from ourselves and grace from other people who have been there, done that!

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  14. This post was a breath of fresh air for me Cassandra; thank you. :)

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  15. Love this! Loved your blog already, but so many things you share I can relate to, it makes me feel *normal* when really I do not feel so normal in my own box (life). I love my life, I feel beautifully blessed, but it definitely is not about perfection. Thanks for sharing.
    ~Sheri

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  16. Cassandra, It is so encouraging to read about the very REAL adventures in the life of your family. Thanks for choosing to share the honest, not-so-perfect moments... Carrie

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  17. Of COURSE you allow that beautiful puppy to sleep on the couch! She is family!
    I just stumbled across you today and have six tabs open of entries I will read while my children watch tv this Sunday morning. They found my weak spot, I love to sleep, so if they quietly ask me they know I might say yes, then they ever so quietly tiptoe downstairs, while I drift back to slumber and they proceed to gorge on cartoons until I cut off their supply, usually about an hour later.
    I love finding Canadian homeschool blogs. I live all the way down east, in Newfoundland, have started and stopped my blog many times, but may begin again. It is refreshing to see others like me, that have given themselves permission to be normal, relaxed and embracing of all the imperfection this journey has to offer.
    I recently had a new friend come to my house with four of her homeschooled children and for the first time, my house stayed in its regular state. A sprawling chaos. And everyone felt comfortable and I felt honest.
    I love that you don't stop at "I believe in Jesus" but go on to say "I love Jesus!" Me too! That is my religion, my love of and striving to be like Jesus.
    Thank you for your honesty. So rare in this digital age where everything can be chosen so carefully to only reflect the parts we know are acceptable.

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  18. I just want to say THANK YOU for this post!! I have read my fair share of "those blogs" & while I am sure they are wonderful Christian ladies & don't mean any harm, they can sure make me feel bad about myself sometimes! I actually had a meltdown last week because I put too much pressure on myself to me "the perfect wife". It seemed that everything I read said "if you don't do this, you aren't honoring God". "If you want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman, you must do this...". I was trying too hard & was losing ME in the process. I am a new wife & am still learning the ropes. I'm doing the best I can. After a long discussion with my husband, he (and God) helped me to see this. My husband also told me I shouldn't read those blogs anymore. I am so grateful to have found The Unplugged Family. It seems our families have a lot in common. Thank you for helping reshape my perspective!

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  19. The truth you share in this post resonates with me - thank you for this reminder of what is most important and for spurring me on to abide in Jesus as I am nurturing the three little souls that He has entrusted to me. THANK YOU for choosing be real in a world of appearances. Looking forward to reading more!

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  20. I just had to say how much I liked this post and how much I like your writing in general. I recently wrote a post on my own blog that I felt probably came across as judgmental and guilt-inducing. The things you said here and what I want to say on my blog sometimes. I share my ideals, but I'm not perfect at living them either! Keep up the great blogging, I'll have to recommend your blog to others.

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  21. Oh my goodness I needed this today! Thank you so much for sharing your not so perfectness. This is going to make me publish that blog entry I wrote and then chickened out posting. Yikes. Thank you for your honesty and candidness! We all are just doing the best we can, aren't we? Thank God for his grace! Some days, the more I'm in his word, the worse I feel about my shortcomings. Whew. I'm new here... but I'm coming back. Keep writing!
    Paige

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