If Yes Then Press

While attending a women’s conference one weekend, speaker and event founder Jill Savage shared a parenting
technique she used when deciding which battles to pick with her kids.

Jill first explained that, whenever she had to decide whether to stand firm on an issue, she would
ask herself: “Will this matter in fifteen years?”

“If the answer is yes then fight,” she told the 5,061 women in attendance through clenched fists that
made her look like a boxer ready to face an opponent.

“If the answer is no, then let it go,” she added while relaxing her hands and moving them in the same
way that an umpire does when he announces that a batter is safe.

Little did I know that I would be applying Jill’s technique when I arrived home to find that the custom curtains installed in our living room while I was away did not look like the ones I had ordered.

“The panels are supposed to have a strip of lighter-colored fabric along the edge to match the cornice,” I told my husband.

“I wish you’d have scheduled the installers to come on a day you were going to be here,” Bill replied.

I do too, I thought to myself as I stared at the curtains and wondered what to do next.

“God promises to use bad for good,” I said after calling on Romans 8:28 for comfort, “since the curtains are covering more of the window than we thought they would, maybe this means we should order tie backs in the lighter-colored fabric instead.”

Bill agreed with my assessment and headed upstairs as I checked the doors and turned out the lights. Knowing that “God works for the good of those who love him” should have been all that I needed for a good night’s sleep. Instead, I tossed and turned as I thought about how someone else’s mistake was now mine to correct.

The more I thought about this newest item on my To Do list, the more irritated I became. To calm myself down, I remembered what Jill Savage said at the conference and asked myself: “Will this matter in fifteen years?”

Knowing that the answer was no, I took her advice and let it go. The technique worked so well to clear the mental air  that I decided to turn it into a rhyme that I teach to my children. I offer it to you in the hope that it will help you while parenting yours:

 

To reduce stress and minimize tears,

ask will this matter in fifteen years.

If yes, then press. If no, let it go.

Van Problems

Hollie has no idea that we’re locked out of the house, I thought to myself as she happily played with a friend at a local indoor playground.

It all started when someone from the dealership called to say that they would not have my van finished in time for me to pick Hollie up from Kindergarten. Actually, it started a few weeks earlier when the keys were left in the ignition (in the on position) after returning home from a family vacation. The dead battery required a jump start and the jump start shorted out the airbag system. Now—three trips to the dealership later—I was still digging out as I realized that I didn’t have a key to the house and the only garage door opener I had access to was the one that was built into my van.

Who would think that one decision (leaving the keys turned on in the ignition) would create so many challenges? More than that—who would want to? Maybe it’s best to have just enough information to keep moving. Although inch by inch, life’s a cinch—knowing every yard can seem overwhelmingly hard.

Stupid Arguments

“You’ve been up for twenty minutes. How can you be fighting already?” I asked my daughters after joining them in the entryway.

“Katie said I used a purse as my backpack when I was in Kindergarten and I didn’t,” Hollie cried.

“Why are you fighting about something that may or may not have happened three years ago?”

“Because I know she carried a purse instead of a backpack,” Katie insisted.

“I did not!” her sister shouted back.

“We need to go or you’ll be late for school,” I warned as I opened the door to the garage. “Just get in the van.”

The tension between the girls escalated as Katie squeezed past Hollie’s seat, elbowing her in the process.

“Mom, Katie hit me!”

What verse can I mention to convince them to get along? I wondered while backing out of the driveway. Not good about committing anything to memory, I knew that the information I needed would not come to me while driving so I reached for the business card holder that I kept in the van for times just like this one.

“Katie, this is full of verses,” I said while handing it back to where she was sitting. “Why don’t you find one about fighting?”

“I am not looking up anything.”

“Then I am not dropping you off at school. I’ll just drive around the block until you do what I asked and you’ll have to explain to your teacher why you were late.”

“Fine!”she huffed as she grabbed the holder from my hand.

“I think there’s one about foolish arguments in there,” I suggested. “Do you see it?”

Always up for a challenge, Katie searched for the verse I was talking about.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels,” she read after locating 2 Timothy 2:23.

“What’s a quarrel?” Hollie asked.

“It’s another word for fight,” I explained. “That verse is telling you that it’s foolish to argue about something that happened three years ago and doesn’t matter today.”

Hollie thought about what I said for a few seconds before turning to her sister to say: “I’m sorry, Katie.”

Both girls were in good spirits when I stopped in front of their school, having received their first lesson of the day from the greatest textbook ever written.

The Logic Of Being Lazy

I am genetically encoded to be efficient and fear that my oldest daughter has inherited this trait. How else can I explain the night Katie tried to sleep on top of the covers to avoid having to make her bed the next day? This penchant for putting forth minimal effort also sheds light on her knack for avoiding daily chores in the hope of getting out of them entirely.

One of Katie’s simplest assignments is hanging up her coat and putting her shoes and backpack away after getting home from school. For longer than I would like to admit, I allowed my oldest to drop everything in the entryway if she promised to come back after finishing her after-school snack. Like many parents in similar circumstances I learned that later is not an hour of the day and—unless I got after her several times—later never came.

Dr. Phil once said that there are no victims, only volunteers. With that in mind, I decided that it was time to teach mine children about the logic of being lazy.

“Don’t forget to be lazy,” I called out when they arrived home from school.

“What do you mean?” Katie asked from where she stood just inside our front door.

“Lazy people want to do as little work as possible,” I explained, “and it’s less work to hang your coat up before you come into the kitchen for an after-school snack.”

“No it’s not,” Hollie argued. “It’s easier to just drop it here on the floor.”

“Not if I call you back to the entryway,” I replied. “Then it will take more steps and more time than you would have spent if you had walked over to your cubby and done it right away.”

The girls did not buy into my reasoning immediately. Only after counting the extra steps that it took to return to the front door did they begin to see that, by doing a task right, they could avoid the futility of doing it over and the annoying lyrics that I sing when they refuse to comply with my request.  If your children are also in need of some vocal entertainment, the following words work best when sung to the Elvis classic, Heartbreak Hotel:

Verse 1:

Weeeell, it’s important to be lazy; to save a step or two.

Put your things away, get more time to play.

It’s the right thing to do.

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.

Verse 2:

And when you get home from school, I don’t find it very cool.

Throwing things on the floor; You should care more.

What’s a mom to do?

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry.

Verse 3:

And when you turn in for the day, I shouldn’t have to say:

“Clothes don’t go on the floor, find a basket or drawer

or I’ll take TV away.”

Chorus:

Cause when you’re not lazy, you make a’ me crazy.

I look at the mess aaaand want to cry. 

Letting Go Of What Is

Although it’s been five years since I met with my manager to tell her that I would be leaving the company, I remember it like it was yesterday. I’d been wanting to quit for more than a year to pursue a new career as a writer and speaker. What finally gave me the motivation I needed was our family’s upcoming move to Chicago.

I remember feeling on top of the world as I returned home after giving my notice. My joy was short-lived, however, when I turned too sharply while pulling into the garage.

“Oh no!” I said somberly when I heard what  sounded like an aluminum can collapse under pressure.

“What is it, Mom?” Katie asked from where she sat in her booster seat.

Unsure of how to answer, I climbed out of the van to inspect the damage. As I suspected, the passenger side was wedged against the entrance to the garage.

“Don’t get out,” I warned the girls as I got back into the vehicle. “I need to back out of the garage and drive in again.”

Using knowledge gained from prior accidents—yes, there have been others, I turned the wheel in the opposite direction and backed up. Although this minimized the damage, the scrape on the fender was still noticeable; and I wondered how my husband, Bill, would react when he got home. To my surprise, there was not a hint of irritation in his voice as he inspected the damage and said casually, “It’s just a van.”

I’ve gotten upset at my daughters for doing much less damage than what Bill saw when he came home. How could he stay so calm?

Perhaps his reaction was a reminder that possessions are nothing compared to the people who own them. Or maybe it set the tone for how I was to view, not just my resignation, but our family’s relocation. By letting go of what was (a newly-dented vehicle), Bill realized what could be (a peaceful night together with his family). Through his example, God was urging me to do the same.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great and if God brings us to it, he’ll see us through even the worst mistakes that are made along the way.

Dishrags

Every morning after returning home from taking the girls to school, I spend a few minutes cleaning up the breakfast mess they left behind. Today my actions were no different as I reached for the dishrag draped over the sink and gave it the smell test to see if it was clean. It seemed okay to me but, just to be safe, I put the rag in the laundry basket and got out a new one to wipe off the counter.

Dishrags are a privilege, not a right, in our kitchen. I learned this the year after Bill and I were married and there never seemed to be a dishrag around when I needed one. Where they could be hiding in our tiny apartment baffled me until one day, when I asked Bill if he had seen the rag that was in the sink the night before.

“I threw it away.” he said matter-of-factly, as if it was the natural thing to do.

“Why wouldn’t you put it in dirty laundry?” I asked, dumbfounded that he would throw something away that could be washed and used another day.

“You let them get so bad that I don’t want them near the rest of our clothes.” he said, showing no remorse.

Looking back on this conversation, I realize that relationships are a lot like those dishrags. How easy it is to discard one when it becomes too unpleasant to deal with. Rather than take the time to restore a relationship to its original condition, we leave it behind and choose instead to make a fresh start.

Relationships, like dishrags, can be salvaged with the proper care and, when we take the time to do so, we find they are never in short supply.

 

Stuck In The Mud

While meeting a photographer one morning to take pictures for my website DiggingOutTogether.com, I was struck by how beautiful the area was that we had agreed on for the photo shoot—and how difficult it was to get to. At one point, I even considered turning back when my boot disappeared into the mud and refused to resurface.

What am I doing, trying to look nice in a place like this? I wondered while freeing myself from the brown sludge.

As I continued to make my way through the marsh, I was struck by how much time people waste trying to look good in the mud. Time spend smiling for the camera as if nothing is wrong after wading through a world of hurt to get to that point.

Just last weekend, I was knee-deep in sludge as I yelled at my daughters for thirty minutes after they refused to stop playing for long enough to pack for a trip to visit relatives. Only after we were on the road did I calm down enough to ask Katie and Hollie for forgiveness.

As soon as I  did, “mean mommy” left the vehicle and the rest of our trip was picture perfect. We sang “Happy Birthday” to my nephew, attended another nephew’s last home football game, and spent a gorgeous afternoon at a local pumpkin patch.

Why can’t all moments be stain free—where what we do in public is an accurate reflection of how we behave in private? I want to talk to my kids in the voice normally reserved for cute babies at church. A voice that sounds a lot like Supernanny when she comes down to a child’s level and tells her in a stern, but loving way to “stop that behavior.”

Because of sin, none of us will ever fully achieve this goal. Every picture perfect moment may require wading through some mud to get there, but when we do our best and let God do the rest, He can be trusted to clean up our act from the inside out.