An Early Christmas Gift

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This book, then, is not about changing your life. It is about paying more attention to the life you already have, about taking your own life back as you protect your children from the pull of a world that is spinning too fast.
Thirteen years ago, when I was 22 and not even thinking about having kids, Katrina Kenison wrote a book that has profoundly impacted my days. 

Mitten Strings for God, Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, was embraced by mothers then as a call to slow down. Of course those mother's kids have grown up, and now we are the ones rushing around. 
"We mistake activity for happiness, and so we stuff our children's days with activities and their heads with information, when we ought to be feeding their souls instead."
What I like about this book is that isn't just a call to slow down. It's an affirming guidebook for how and why. It isn't preachy, and you won't feel judged. She simply offers plenty of wisdom as to why creating a peaceful home is a worthy endeavor, and she shares what works (and doesn't work) for her family. I'm going to let her words speak for themselves:
"Other times I have to switch gears midway through - postponing the errands, canceling a play date, ordering pizza for dinner, skipping an evening meeting - so that I can pull my children out of the swift current of a day and guide them into a calm pool instead."
". . . children find contentment and strength not in the day's array of activities, but in consistency, and in the familiar, homely routines that give each day its shape. So I remind myself to fall back into a gentle step, to protect our routines, and to preserve our rhythm as a family."
"Preoccupied with managing their lives, and our own, it is so easy to lose sight of our children - their tenderness and innocence, their joyousness, their capacity for wonder, their hunger for enchantment." 
"I needed to accept that in order to mother fully, I had to take time for myself, and that I could not meet my children's demands 100 percent of the time. But I also discovered just what it is that they need more than anything else: me. My full attention. . . My nurturing. My children are most at ease when I am at ease myself, when our days are not too busy, our activities not too ambitious. . . The same goes for my husband. Our lives are full, and we negotiate the details of each day's demands, but our relationship requires more than synchronized calendars and shared workloads. He, too, needs to be nurtured."
"I remind myself that I am not shirking my social obligations; I am protecting our family life."
"We want to know how other women manage, what they fight to protect, what they've decided to let go, where they draw the lines. The stories we hear may not tell us how to rearrange our own lives, how to raise our own children, how to find fulfillment. But they remind us that we do each have choices. And they may even inspire us to examine the choices we have made." 
As you might have guessed, I highlighted even more. And because I enjoyed Mitten Strings for God so much, I want to give one of you a copy. Consider it an early Christmas gift - one that will help you enjoy a hectic season.

To enter, share in the comments one way you manage - what you fight to protect, what you've decided to let go, and where you draw the lines.

This giveaway will be open until Sunday night, the 17th, at midnight Eastern time. I'll announce the winner on Monday morning.

**This giveaway is now closed. Winner announced here.**

share this on »

7 Responses to “An Early Christmas Gift”

  1. I love Katrina Kennison. The timing of this post is perfect as I'm about to write a blog post about how I've been very consumed with getting my house organized, and clean.. It's an effort to simplify. And the thing is, my kids are responding in a positive way because apparently, they are comforted by my activity, right there in the middle of the house as they play around me. This home project is an inward act of slowing down and I can feel the difference each time I recognize the absence of clutter. It is freeing me and releasing a lot of blocked energy.

  2. I try not do too much…but always seem to fail miserably! This fall has been particularly bad with my youngest in speech 2 times a week, 2 sports (only meant to sign up for one!) and then my oldest has his own activities. Add in church and my own stuff, it stays busy. Sometimes it takes something like a sick day (like we had on Tuesday!) to get me to cancel and slow down. I need to be better about this!!! I think I fill the time we have free because it is sometimes easier to be doing something rather than just "being." Especially for the kids who seem to need constant entertainment and something to do or they are bored!!

    I have read this book before but definitely need a refresher course on slowing down!

  3. This concept of doing less is one I have clung to throughout the 8(!) years that we have been parents. As a teacher first, I saw so many students who struggled to keep up with their schoolwork between practices, lessons, meetings, etc. I felt for them and never wanted my children to feel that kind of pressure. Also, my husband and I were both raised in families with few activities. I was allowed to join things as I got older, but I focused on one or two activities and that was not until high school.
    One way I manage: I made the choice to be immune to peer pressure... That seems like a silly thing to say. Every mom I know would tell you that she spends too much time shuttling her kids to activities, but I've never known a mom to drop activities for that reason. I think peer pressure is the underlying reason we want our children so involved. I fight to protect the precious little time we have to spend together. I have let go of the idea that children need to be involved in extracurricular activities to be well-rounded individuals. I draw the line at registering my children for sports before they're old enough to register for school. I truly do not judge you if you disagree with me; I just want you to know that there are parents like me. Maybe you're one.

  4. Great post. The book sounds wonderful.
    I have actually been taking an intentional break from Facebook all together and limiting my time reading blogs this month because I needed a break. I needed to live in the moment and I have been really enjoying my kids. And I noticed they want to watch less TV or be on the IPad less too. My friend brought over Playdo and my kids have spent hours playing with it. At any rate though I feel the the struggle is always there with how much is too much. As a ministry family on a very tight budget we haven't been able to do very many extra curricular activities. The only ones my kids are in is the Awana program at our church. Having baby number three helped too because of morning and afternoon nap schedules which have kept us from doing more things. Like Brandee I grew up in a family where we didn't do a lot of extra things until we got older and I grew up in very small towns (1500 people or less) so there weren't a lot of choices. Maybe this has helped me not feel the "need" to have my kids in so many things.

  5. Hi Courtney- thank you for this post. I love the idea of making a conscious effort to live a quiet life and be present in the moment. I truly try to stay as unplugged as possible- especially during family time. I believe in the power of blogging and information sharing, but for my own blog posts I often retrace my steps with my camera two and sometimes three times so as not to disrupt the integrity of the real, true experience with my children ( also why my blog contains only about half of what we really do!). Privacy and quiet family time are to be treasured at all cost. - Leigh

  6. Hey Courtney,
    I've never heard of this book but it looks like something I would love. With children at 2 different schools and a baby, I have certainly tried to take the less is more approach and limit activities. It's probably easier with girls. My kids take 1 week of dance camp in the summer and to them, that is dance. They are happy dressing up and dancing around the house. But I always have to remind myself how to say no when everyone else is signing up for this or that. It's easy to get caught up. Family dinners are easy to orchestrate now, but my hope is that as they get older and get busier, it will just be "what we do". Thanks for offering a give-a-way!!

  7. Thanks, Courtney! I needed to hear this! After the birth of our 3rd child, I made a conscious effort to simplify, slow down, and be more selective about the activities my family and I participate in. I am a pleaser by nature and have a hard time saying "no" to things. Whether it was a neighbor's trunk show on a hectic week night, a classmate's birthday party on a day we already had enough commitments, or a fundraiser at school that needed just one more volunteer, I rarely said "no." Having the third baby forced me to be selective because I've realized how quickly they are growing up and that I don't want to miss it! Now I am more intentional with my commitments as well as my family time and I think I am a happier person and a better mom. I will definitely check this book out! thanks!