A godly woman

I was recently reading a book called “the Grace Filled Parent”.  And then I heard a story about a woman who wanted to be a gentle mother and was reading blogs about being a gentle mother. In her story she still found herself struggling with to be gentle with her children despite all the reading on how to be a gentle parent.

It got me thinking about my drive to be a grace-filled mother. Why am I trying to be a grace filled parent? Why not just grace filled? Do I not want to live grace filled in other areas of my life? Why is she trying to be a gentle parent? Why not just gentle? Does she not want to be a gentle wife or friend too? And why I am trying to figure out how to be a working mom, working homemaker, working Christian, working wife, working…? Instead of focusing on my roles and defining myself in each area why not just learn to be a godly woman? Wouldn’t everything else fall into place behind it?

Who Runs the Home?

When I returned to work 5 years ago I sat the family down for a team meeting. Jake was finishing 11th grade, Isabelle Kindergarten and John, while still working was busy applying to and preparing to start college full time in the fall. For the previous 17 years I had been fully in charge of our home. They all helped in some way but for the most part I was in charge of getting things done. It was my full time job and made sense for me to do almost everything. I had Jake help me with tasks more because I wanted him to know how to cook, clean, do laundry, etc when he was older than because I needed the help. Frankly most of the time it was easier to do things myself than to have one of my kids or husband do it.blog cleaning

However, I was going back to work full time in a week and things were going to have to change. Homemaking would no longer be my full-time job and that meant it was becoming everyone’s part-time job. They all understood and agreed to help. In the coming weeks and months my husband was the only one who really shared any enthusiasm for the new responsibilities. And even then it was a challenge for all of us. We had long established habits. And after so many years I was the only one who knew what needed to be done and when. Making it hard for them to know how to help. Plus, it was hard for me to let go of control, letting people do things their way and at their standards rather than mine.

Eventually we settled into a routine where I lowered my standards, closed my eyes to messes I didn’t have time to address and just focused on the things most important to me, Laundry and the kitchen.

Over the past 5 years we have slowly developed a happy medium. Things still aren’t managed the way I would like but our house is comfortable and on occasion even downright clean. I no longer feel like everything homemaking is my responsibility as John has stepped up significantly. And as I get used to the routine of work in my life I am also finding joy in spending time in my home again, taking a little extra time here and there to sweep the patio or wipe down the kitchen cabinets. Not priority items on a day to day basis at our house but things that when I have a few extra minutes give me joy as I make our home a more comfortable place to be.

This summer I have been working more than usual and my husband has been working less. Although I very purposely try to avoid treating John like my maid and giving him a list of things to do while I work, there were a few days that as I left for work I asked if he might do the laundry or clean up the kitchen knowing my underwear supply was getting low or if I came home to a messy kitchen I might lose it. It isn’t that he was sitting around doing nothing all day but sometimes he missed the tasks that were most important to me.

I have to confess that this summer as he has done all the cooking and then with the addition of me giving a little direction on household chores I feel like I have gotten a little taste of what he had all those years working full time. Putting in a days work and coming home to dinner ready, the house picked up and being able to just sit and relax. It is amazing. I know it is temporary but I am enjoying my peak into this lifestyle immensely. I feel loved, cared for and refreshed to return to work the next day. Leaving amessy house to go to work knowing it will still be a mess when you return quickly becomes overwhelming and it is easy to see why people work long hours. Sometimes I don’t want to go home when I know the work waiting for me!blog messy house

A couple weeks after I started dropping little to-do suggestions on him as I walked out the door we had a chance to go out for dinner and I asked himabout it. I was worried about him being resentful of my suggestions but he admitted he loved it. He was willing to help but said he just didn’t always know what needed to be done and when. I realized that although he has always been willing to help that I have never quit overseeing the whole process and managing our little 3-ring circus. So he needed my direction.

We decided to name me the COO of our home as I over see the daily operations and assign tasks. The summer has run quite smoothly with this arrangement. I am a very gracious and benevolent leader. 🙂

It is an every changing work in progress as this fall John is back to school while still working and won’t be home several days a week to do the laundry, grocery shopping and maintain the kitchen. We will go back to a team effort but knowing I can ask for specific help and he is ready to do whatever job I pass on to him should make this next transition go smoother than previous transitions. Future family team meetings won’t be me announcing how overwhelmed I am by all that needs to be done. Instead we will look over the coming week, pass out assignments and together we can create a home where we all feel loved, cared for and refreshed to go back out into the world.

5 years in we are still learning how to do this 2 parent working thing but we are doing it together.

Family Team Work

There are some things about being a working woman and what is happening in todays culture that I love. However…

I have noticed that a lot of the working mom/working woman/woman success stories lately have been focused on women becoming CEOs, world leaders, top entrepruners. We can’t just go to work, we must go and run up to the top of the ladder in whatever field we aspire to.  And I get that there are more men than women in roles like that in this country and the desire to see the field even out a little more. But we don’t all want that. And sometimes I feel like I am failing woman kind because I just want to make enough money to support my family and then go home and clean my own house, take my daughter school shopping, go on a walk with my husband and relax. I would rather have less money and position than work 60 hours a week. Is that wrong? Sometimes it feels like it is.

Have you noticed how men are being praised and raised up as heros for doing the work women used to do all the time without any praise? Suddenly a man who stays home is a hero. But a woman staying home is not fulfilling her potential. Where was my hero ribbon when I was the one at home helping my husband be a success? How is what the men are doing now different from what I was doing then? Why do I feel like as women begin to dominate the work force the men are still winning this game? They were the heros when the norm was that they work and we stay home because they made the money. Now they are the heros for staying home doing the work we used to do while we make the money. Am I the only one that sees the problem here? It isn’t what we are doing, it is how we are valuing ourselves and how we are letting other people value us.

I just want to go to work, do my best, go home and enjoy my family. I want to appreciate my husband for the work he does around the house just as he appreciates the work I do around the house. Neither of us could do it alone. The task of working and managing a life is overwhelming. Nobody is an island. He couldn’t have been successful if I hadn’t been supporting him all those years, I cannot be successful without his help and he couldn’t be changing careers in his 40’s without me. Life is a team sport and it takes both men and women working together at all levels of success to get the win. I know there are single women out there that have to go it alone but even then you gather a team around you. Kids to help around the house, friends, neighbors, childcare workers. Sometimes you accept a lifestyle that isn’t as fancy so you can have sanity. Why is success only defined as money and status? If I abandon my family to achieve the top spot in my company am I really successful?

Let’s start talking about families working together doing simple day to day activities and calling them a success. Today I am working from home. My husband is sleeping after working a night shift. In a few minutes I am going to take out meat for the dinner John will likely make when he gets up. I will probably bring Izzy’s friend home this afternoon on my way to pick up toilet paper which we are completely out of and then encourage her to do her laundry tonight after dinner. I might try to clean the bathrooms which have been neglected lately. I might work more tonight. But, I also might just plop on the couch with a glass of wine and the family and watch the Olympics.

What does success look like at your house tonight?

Dumping the Summer Bucket List

Back in May I made a summer bucket list. Knowing how full our life is I didn’t crowd it with unrealistic expectations but things I truly felt could be accomplished this summer. Things like strawberry picking, hunting down waterfalls on the north shore while at the cabin, a 5K, and a list of books I would like to read. It is August now and I was reviewing the list last weekend and realized I hadn’t done any of them and with school around the corner I didn’t see them getting done. Missed strawberry picking season, have visited 2 of the 7 waterfalls on my list and am less than half way through one of the 5 books I intended to read this summer. (I did read one not on my list.) And we won’t talk about my completely inconsistent running schedule. If you can even call it a schedule.

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I was organizing several other lists that were floating around regarding work and goals last weekend. Putting them in notebooks, updating the plans, etc. My summer bucket list kept moving from pile to pile as I worked my way around. Finally it was the only sheet of paper left and I had to admit I would not be accomplishing this list in the next month. Rather than save it I decided to abandon my summer bucket list all together and move on. Sometimes you have to embrace the reality instead of trying to create the dream.

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It isn’t that I haven’t done anything this summer but what I thought the summer would look like in May, what I always think the summer will look like in May, is not how it turned out.

In May I always think I am going to structure my work schedule to be home a little more. When I am not working we (as some happy little family) are going to be exploring the beauty of nature, going to the cabin, taking long runs and reading good books while lounging on the patio.

The reality is that John and my work schedules dictate our life more than we want to admit. Our pre-teen daughter would rather not hang with us as she has discovered her and her friends are old enough now to walk to each other’s homes or hang out at the park. So the squad, as I like to call them, pretty much goes from home to park to next home all day every day. They all end up in our living room at some point most days. We love it but it isn’t really family time. And in the small condo I find myself hiding in my bedroom rather than lounging on the patio. Since she walks around 3-5 miles every day with friends she doesn’t really think she needs to go on additional runs with me.

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So what did we do this summer? Not much really. Only a couple trips up to the cabin but they were relaxing and fun. We discovered Isabelle comes alive at 10pm and if we can stay awake for it we learn all about her day, her life, her friends, her thoughts. We successfully balanced work, family, friends, and marriage. Something that I don’t know I would have said of previous summers since returning to work. It has looked a little less organized than I would have liked but we are getting there. And it didn’t have as many adventures as I dreamed of but our day to day life is full of excitement and fun and joy. What more do we need?

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I can pretty much guarantee you next May I will create another summer bucket list and dream of a summer that looks more like my responsibility free childhood summers than a working mom summer. And we probably won’t get everything done on that list either. But we will still have fun, be happy and enjoy another glorious Minnesota summer. Just like we are doing this summer.

Three more weeks until school starts. My current list involves school shopping, the state fair, a trip to the cabin and a plenty of space for whatever comes our way between now and then.

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Finding My Way

Finding my way

From the archives. Facebook reminded me that I wrote this post on this day in 2012. I had been working full time for 9 months and was starting to think I was going to survive. Of course as soon as I got out of survival mode I realized how wrong the job was for me and taking me on an adventure to find my perfect fit.

So today is a little memory of the journey I took in finding my way. Originally published on my mommy blog.

During a recent lunch break I did something I haven’t done in a while.  I read a magazine and enjoyed it.  

I love magazines.  I love the visual of the pictures.  I love the short informative articles.  I love all the how to articles and the list articles and the essays.  Even the blatant advertisement articles.  Love magazines.  Last January I subscribed to 3 magazines thinking I would enjoy reading each issue sitting in my living room while my daughter was at school or I was laying at the pool this summer.  Then it happened, work.  Magazines came and I didn’t even have the energy to peak under the cover. I tossed issues of magazines having only glanced through them. (yes I toss old issues of magazines)  And when I would sit down to relax with my magazines I wasn’t finding it enjoyable at all.  I subscribe to homemaker/mom magazines and I was feeling very distanced from that life.  Reading the magazines only widened that gap, reminded me of what I had lost.  It is really a low point when work steals the joy from one of your favorite activities.

But then it happened, I read a magazine and didn’t spend the whole time thinking about how I didn’t have time to be a homemaker anymore.  I dreamed of making the meals I was reading about, trying new recipes and caring for my family.  And my dream was within the structure of this life I now live rather than only being able to visualize caring for my home and family full time.  I thought about grocery shopping in the evenings, planning menus, cooking ahead.  My husband has taken on most of the dinner prep lately and I greatly enjoy coming home to dinner cooking but I know he would love it if I would just tell him what to make each night and have the food waiting in the fridge.

I also have started thinking about decorating again.  An old lamp in the living room went out recently.  Somehow the need for a new lamp turned into spending an entire weekend rearranging the furniture and creating a re-decoration plan that should keep me and any extra money that comes my way entertained well into the spring.  I find myself ripping out living room pictures and contemplating paint colors as if I am still a part of this home and I care about my surroundings.

It is like I am still my regular self.  I didn’t get lost.  I may have changed course a little.  My identity may have been shaken a bit this past year but I am still standing firm, new location, same Melanie.  My passions are still there and were just waiting to welcome me back with open arms.

My bathroom is still holding its arms out waiting.  One of these days maybe I will get excited about cleaning it again too.  It could happen.


Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to plan and make goals. So of course I love a new year, fresh start, what will I accomplish in the next 12 months?!

I used to make goals that were all personal and family oriented but a new category has been added over the years for my business/working goals. So in December I was busy looking at my business plan thinking about what I wanted to do this year and how to do it. A big piece of my financial goals involved another person I started working with last year. I had reviewed my goals with him and we were both excited to take on 2015. I rang in the new year ready to go after those goals.

The next day I meet with the guy who tells me of a major change he is making in his business and long story short I decided I didn’t want to make that change and on day 3 of the new year a third of my business goals are irrelevant.

Change. Most of the time it happens incrementally, we barely notice it. I didn’t see my son grow from a baby into a man overnight but slowly over the last 20 years, one day at a time. However, some change is large and quite clear and you need to be prepared to adjust.

One of the things I have noticed over the years when changes come on, especially big changes that are not in your control, often they start out big, bad and scary but turn out to be good.

There is only one thing that never changes, God. But he is constantly at work. He works around us, through us, with us, for us, in us. God does not change but in my life he is change. Knowing him, following him, it means change. Good and bad, fun and painful. But no matter what happens next I keep following him.  I wrote a couple weeks ago about keeping on moving forward every day. And that is what I do in life and in my faith.

I am not the only one in my family I have seen make some big life/plan changes this month, but I see God working in all of them. And it is exciting! It is also scary. Changes come, we keep moving.

So, I made a few adjustments to my goals and decided on my own I still could accomplish a lot this year. It creates a little bit of an unknown for my business but so far I have loved the changes I have made and am more excited at the end of January for what this year holds than I was at the beginning.

Throw out the rules

BrokenRulesA number of years ago I was a homemaker with a preschooler and a husband who was newly self-employed. John had a part-time evening/weekend job to bring in a little regular income while getting started and was gone a lot. I believed in him and what he was doing but I was lonely and frustrated. Then one day it hit me. He is home all the time, just not at the traditional times I expect him. That is the day our life changed and we truly became a self-employed family. That is the day I threw out all the rules.

In my mind daytime was for work and evenings and weekends were for family. Those were the rules so even though he was often home during the day I never engaged with him or expected anything from him during that time. After my big revelation I started engaging more in the times he was home and available during the day. He would occasionally come to the zoo with us when Jake was little, was available for every school conference, went on field trips, met us for long lunches. I might still be home alone watching tv at night but I no longer felt left alone.

Every time I read an article on date night  it gives a list of ridiculous rules. Don’t talk about money, don’t talk about the kids, don’t talk about household issues. As if somehow your relationship is at risk if you can’t or don’t think of anything else to talk about. But we don’t have time to regularly have a separate meeting to discuss our business, one for the budget, another to talk about our kids, their needs and schedules and a fourth just to shore up our marriage relationship talking about random life stuff. We barely have time for the one night out. It has to do everything. And what we realized when we decided we could talk money, work and kids on our date nights is…we love our life. We love talking about the business. If we didn’t we probably shouldn’t be in the business. We love talking about our money because keeping on budget is what leads us to our goals and dreams. We love talking about our wonderful kids. And somewhere in there we talk about new dreams and goals, politics, relationships, stories of our day and more.

We tossed out the rules on everything else too and decided to make decisions based on what worked best for our family. As a result we have had many wonderfully unexpected adventures.

When I went back to work I forgot our “break the rules” attitude and got a traditional job. Unfortunately it didn’t work well with our non-traditional lifestyle. We tried going back but after a couple years I knew it was time for me to become self-employed and return to our wonderfully non-traditional lifestyle.

Even if you and your husband have a traditional work situation I bet you could still find a few rules to break with your family that would free you to embrace your family’s current lifestyle and draw you all together.

Go ahead, break the rules.

Keep Moving

Years ago, many, many years ago, my sister and I went into a haunted house that was set up in a mall. We were probably 11 and 13 or 12 and 14, maybe younger. Maybe older, I really have no clue. All I remember is it was scary. We were walking slowly together both getting more terrified. We were on a path with a soft uneven floor that I was afraid I would trip on, not really able to see where we were going. Suddenly someone jumped out right in front of us. We both screamed, my little sister pushed the person out of the way and I held on to her as she ran through the rest of the maze to the end.

Today I was worrying about various things in life and work and starting to feel overwhelmed and anxious. When I am filled with anxiety I want to crawl up on the couch or get under the covers and hide from my worries and fears. But it never helps. They don’t disappear when I am hiding. So I was trying to remember that over the years of feeling anxious I have learned the best thing to do is keep moving. Go for a run, clean the kitchen, make the phone call, finish the file, take action. But I really didn’t want to do that.

Then I started thinking about that haunted house trip with my sister. If our fear had frozen us in place we never would have gotten out, we would have stayed afraid. Instead we got moving and escaped the fear.

Now I am going to be honest with you. If I had been alone in that haunted house I probably would have stayed frozen in fear. It was not me, the older sister, who pushed the guy out of the way and started running. I was the one hanging on to the little sister as she pulled me to freedom.

Sometimes I can escape the haunted houses of life on my own but truthfully most of the time I need someone to push or pull me forward, someone who can see beyond the spot I am currently standing in or who at least still believes there is a spot beyond it. Today it was in talking with a friend that I was able to remember that I take action when I feel anxious. Without that accountability I probably would have crawled in bed and wasted a day.

Life is full of adventures, some wonderful, some not so wonderful. But as long as we keep moving we can climb that mountain or simply get ourselves out of the pit. So keep moving today and if you are stuck find someone, like my sister or a friend, who will push the bad guy out of the way and pull you to safety.

The other side of the bridge

For many years I enjoyed a wonderful and close relationship with God. I was actually excited to get up each morning and spend time with him, read his word, talk to him and hear him speak. I learned and grew so much in those years. They weren’t perfect, my life was still my life, messy, challenging, I was still full of doubts and insecurities, I still fought with my husband and my children were still wild and out of control. That is life, but the foundation around which it all revolved was the rock of God. And I was happy.

Then life started getting complicated. Not normal complicated, not the usual challenges of life complicated but truly difficult complicated. And then another complication came along, and then another and then another. Each one on their own difficult but piled on top of each other became a burden I couldn’t bear. And when it was all over I found myself very bruised and battered and broken in many pieces. And a little lost.blog bridge

Throughout most of this healing year as I have sat down to try to connect with God I would imagine myself at the end of a long bridge looking across. I imagined my restored faith was on the other side and I desperately wanted that back. But I just could not bring myself to take even one step toward the other side. I struggled with this fact through most of this year. I missed my close walk with God but could not bring myself to walk toward it.

What I finally realized was that it wasn’t my faith I didn’t want to return to but the life that went with it. It was a great life, a life I loved, but it is over and I am so significantly changed, I can never go back to become that person again. I don’t even want to. And that is good. Part of going through challenges in life is growing and becoming more. I did not love those lessons but I won’t give up the knowledge I gained from them.

I started calling it my box. I didn’t want to get back into the box. The problem was I didn’t know what my faith or life looked like outside the box. So I continued to stand at the edge of the bridge looking across, unmoving. I couldn’t see the other side but I imagined God was there waiting for me. So in some ways just looking across knowing He was there helped maintain my faith. And I started talking to him a little more than I had been about things besides the challenges of my life. And it was feeling pretty good to just hang on the other side of the bridge. Out of my box and feeling free but still within shouting distance of God.

Then I was reading through Psalms and I got to 139. Sometimes when I get to really familiar passages I am tempted to skip them because I have read them so many times I figure they have lost all meaning. But I didn’t do that and I am glad. Because today God showed me this:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

As I was reading I imagined myself standing at that bridge as usual. But this time I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. God wasn’t on the other side of the bridge, He was standing next to me. “Where can I go from your Spirit?” God isn’t on the island with my old faith and my old life waiting for me to return. He goes with me. He goes up to the heavens with me and down to the depths with me and everywhere in between. I do not have to cross that bridge, I don’t have to return to that life and that person to restore my relationship with God. I don’t have to get back in my box or even try to navigate around my box. I can completely walk away from the box. He is right here, in this new life I am living in, with the new me I have become.

I feel so free! Where will we go? What will we do first? Me and God.

Getting to know God

My pastor recently shared a story from Tim Kellor about a conversation he had with an atheist. He was commenting on how few Christians read the bible. He said if he did believe there was a God and he really believed the bible was God’s word directly to him then he would be reading it every chance he got!

So true. We have this amazing opportunity to know God right in front of us and we miss it. We don’t view the bible as an opportunity to know God. GOD! Hello, little nothing us, direct access to a relationship with God.

If Warren  Buffett started emailing personally with you about investing you would read those emails! If the CEO of your company started emailing you thoughts on your career path you would read those emails! If the queen of England started emailing you because she heard you were nice and wanted to be your friend you would read those emails! My niece got on twitter and has been trying to get a celebrity to respond to one of her tweets. Direct communication with a famous person! How great would that be?

We have that with God. Direct communication, advice, encouragement and a desire to simply know us and be our friend. And we get it all out of the bible. That thing we don’t read. Or we look at as a bunch of old stories and rules. And we miss Him. We miss the passion God has for us when we miss the significance of what the bible is. The amazing gift it is.

If you really want to experience a brush with greatness you don’t need luck, twitter or a court side ticket to a Laker’s game. You just need to open the bible.