Monday, October 12, 2015

*New Beginnings*

(Four Jentzen Girls)

My brother married my beautiful new sister in law at an Elks hall in downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday night. Leading up to the ceremony, when my siblings and I crowded close for a picture in a nearby courtyard, I looked across the faces of the people I've known my whole life and thought about beginnings. How they never stop coming, really, even when they are disguised as endings.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," is how that saying goes. I'm not sure how long it has been since we all gathered together, but when 7 people somehow make it to the same spot on earth for a day or two, it feels like it always does. Unremarkably normal. We're all healthy, though not as young as we once were. Just one of us left for just one more year as a teen, and then we are all officially out of childhood. I wonder if it feels lightning fast to my Mom, or if, like for me, it just feels the same.

I take comfort in it. This sameness. I think, for a while, I looked forward to big events. Big changes. Milestones. The older I get, the more I realize that those things will always be cropping up here and there. Weddings and babies, job changes, moves. New adventures, new passions, new exploits. The sameness, the predictable, the ordinary - that's the true treasure trove. My brother's smile hasn't changed in the 31 years I've known him - that's gold. My sisters teasing sarcasm is who she's been from day one. There will always be new beginnings, and they will always feel that prickle of excitement. But some day when our normal shifts, that might just be the day that we realize the gift that we had all along.

My oldest brother got married and I felt it, that bursting pride and excitement of our family expanding to welcome in another person to love. Always a huge deal. Always an amazing gift. But when I looked around and glimpsed my aunts chatting how they always have, saw my Mama dancing with my Dad like they do at every wedding and wrapped my arms around my sister's waist, I knew the sure, warm grasp of normalcy. And treasured it right up in my heart.

{Speaking of New Beginnings, I'm starting one of my own - I signed on to be a consultant for Usborne Books. I'm having a kick off party this week and would love nothing more to have you join in! Shop the party now at}

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The One Thing Every Kid Should Know

I revamped our chores a bit this fall, and we are finally getting a good handle on how it goes. I set the kids up in teams, an older paired with a younger, and had them rotate three main jobs - Bathrooms, Laundry and Kitchen, with each team tackling each job twice weekly. My 6 year old took one look at my chart and said "but what are you going to do, Mom?" I assured him that there was still plenty of work left for me. I find myself helping out in all these areas and more, of course, but it wasn't until this evening that I discovered one perk I hadn't even planned on.

Fiona was on kitchen duty, so she was peeling potatoes and handing them to me to cut up for dinner. I turned on some music and the two of us sang along together and I thought - this is my favorite part of being a Mom. These moments where we are just together in real life. When I think about growing up in a family not too unlike the one I'm growing, I remember feeling the same. My favorite moments were those where I felt like I was exactly where I belonged. 

The new rotation of chores sees me folding laundry, making dinner, cleaning bathrooms with each kid twice weekly in some capacity. To my 6 year old's amazement, yes, I'm still somehow involved in these chores every day but to mine? I'm enjoying them more than I had ever thought possible because I'm getting to work shoulder to shoulder with these people in turn and get to bond with them in a special way.

Fiona finished up and ran off to find her sister while I finished up dinner, thinking about raising kids in that security, that deep held knowledge of belonging, but more than that - of being cherished.

The one thing every kid should know is that they are prized. Not that they are little monarchs, incapable of doing wrong, or dictators that must be obeyed. Every kid should know that they are of the utmost importance, and because of that, they are worthy of protection - yes, even protection from themselves. I wonder if mine know that. That I say no to things because I cherish them more than I fear their disappointment. I prize them more than I do their approval of my parenting. It's a constant battle for me, with my people-pleasing personality. I do so want to be liked by my children. Loving them more than myself demands that I set that aside for their sake. Because sometimes prizing someone is doing the hard, right thing.

Navigating middle school has been eye opening and no, I have no idea if I'm doing it right. I'm sure parenting a high schooler will stretch me even more. The world outside worries me, yes, but the world inside each of my kids concerns me the most. I know that I want each of them to know at the very core of themselves that they are treasured by their Heavenly Father - and seen as more precious than anything on earth to me.

The one thing every kid should know is the one thing I hope to press on the hearts of my children:

You are more valuable to me than anything else in this world. Nothing could ever be more precious to me than you. I would give it all away for you, risk your disappointment and your anger to protect you as the deeply cherished soul that you are. And I will never stop loving you.

I wonder, if every child knew this - if the world would be a different place.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

On Relationships and Time

Last night my oldest daughter and I slipped away from the rest of the family for a quick Target run. This week has us traveling to Pittsburgh for a family wedding and that brings along with it a fair amount of scrambling. Tights for four girls, dress shoes for three, dress pants for this boy and a dress shirt for that - goodness. Packing 9 people to go anywhere is a feat, but formal wear for 9 is something else altogether. We had a list and a window of opportunity while Dad held down the fort.

We actually left the store empty handed after all - ideas of other places to check for our needed items, but as we walked through the parking lot in the gathering dusk, I noticed an SUV with it's reverse lights on just there ahead. Instinctively, I put my arm around my daughter's shoulders to hurry her along. That's when she put her arm around my waist and I realized she hadn't seen the car at all - she just thought we were having a moment. I'm not a very physical mama but my heart felt like it might explode as we walked the rest of the way to our car just like that - holding each other like the very best of friends.

This year has been one of relationships. As my best friend prepares to move across the country in a week and my oldest brother ties the knot, when another breaks the news of a big move and raising kids has never been more difficult, relationships are front and center in my mind.

The truth is, I'm a relationship slacker. I've had the same friends since I was a kid. Sure, I have acquaintances and friends along the way, but I'm a known phone-avoider and usually prefer knitting and jammies to a night out. A few years ago, when my best friend began investing in other relationships and encouraging me to come along, I told her I just couldn't - my plate was full. And full it is - with 7 kids, a husband, a best friend and my family nearby, it just didn't seem feasible to cram in any other relationships. Besides, I didn't really need them, did I?

Sometimes it takes a few big life changes and challenges to shake up what you thought you needed - and who you thought needed you. Something to make you take a closer look at how you're using your time and beg the question - is this what God has for you right now? Or are you called to something different?

When my best friend told me she was moving, my selfish, knee jerk reaction was one of complete self centeredness. "What will I do?" I wondered. She holds my secrets and loves me knowing all my faults. She's been a constant during so many seasons. What will I do without her? While I am still working through the grief of her move, I am now looking ahead with a different set of questions. What will this open me up to? Who is God going to bring along next?

Last night, my daughter and I talked about her future over smoothies in the van after an all but failed shopping trip, and while I listened to her talk, it occurred to me - our relationship is changing. As she grows, we grow. Just as my Mom is one of my dearest people, I hope that someday she will say the same about me. With an eye on that goal, I can work to shape our relationship into one that stands the test of time, age, distance. In the meantime, I'm praying for good friends, yes, but to grow into being a good friend. And trusting that the one who holds my heart knows exactly what I need - and who needs me.

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