Are You Saying Yes to Things that Really Matter?

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the film version of OKLAHOMA by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and I’ve uploaded a new music video to YouTube in honor of the occasion.

It’s a recording of “I Can’t Say No” (the way Ado Annie would have sung it were she a 2015 soccer mom instead of a 1907 pioneer girl).

Of course, I’m singing this song with my tongue slightly in cheek. As my children will attest, I actually can say NO and do so fairly often.

Whether consciously or not, we all say NO to a variety of things every day. The trick is not so much knowing how to say NO as knowing when and to what we should say it.

We need to make sure that we are answering all of life’s many opportunities and distractions in a way that accurately reflects our goals and priorities. The challenge is saying NO to things that don’t matter so we can say YES to the things that do.

For me, a lot of NOs have become second nature:

  • To be more productive, I say NO to watching television.
  • To prevent unwanted weight gain, I say NO to excess sugar.
  • To preserve family time in the evenings, I say NO to most of the extracurricular activities that would split us apart.

But even more importantly, I try to consistently say YES to the things that matter most to me and my family:

  • To nurture my children, I say YES to spending time with them, listening when they need to talk, homeschooling them, and heeding when my little ones say, “Hey, Mom, watch this!”
  • To nurture my faith, I say YES to Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and Scripture memorization.
  • To nurture my marriage, I say YES to communicating respect to my husband, praying with him daily, and sharing intimacy with unfailing regularity.

How are you doing in this important area? Your NOs and YESses may look different than mine. And that’s okay.

The important question is: Are you making choices that will carry you where you really want to go in life? Or are you stuck singing the “I Can’t Say No” refrain, exhausted from frantically trying to do it all — and weighed down by guilt because you can’t?

I’m Just a Mom Who Can’t Say No

It’s not so much a question of not knowin’ what to do;
It’s just that I’m so busy, I can’t think.
I’m barely treadin’ water, and my family’s drownin’, too.
But if I don’t keep paddlin’, I’ll sink.
My schedule’s overloaded to the max,
And I don’t have a moment to relax.

I’m just a mom who can’t say no,
I’m in a terrible fix.
I usually say, “Alright, we’ll go,”
Just when I oughta say “Nix.”
When a kid pitches a temper fit,
Some say his little bottom needs a smack,
But when my child throws a fit for me,
I sometimes sorta wanta throw one back!
My list of projects seems to grow
Faster than I can keep track.
I’m feelin’ ready to crack.
How will I ever turn back?
I can’t say no!

What you gonna do when your life gets so busy,
You start to feel dizzy?
What you gonna do?
S’pose your sense of balance gets a little off kilter
From running full tilter?
From having tons to do?
S’pose you want to mind all the things that matter most,
But you know you will be toast if you try?
Your life’s already swamped by so many other things —
Adding any more would make you cry!

I’m just a mom who can’t say no,
Something has gotta change quick,
Before I completely lose control —
The chaos is making me sick.
Though I know I can’t do everything,
Sometimes it’s really hard to pick and choose.
Now I’m wound up tighter than a spring —
You better duck for cover when I’m loose!
Lately, I sense an undertow,
Exhaustion has made me feel faint.
My husband has lodged a complaint:
It’s high time I show some restraint!
I must say no!

Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters MostIncidentally, If you watch the video, you’ll notice I have a new book coming out in December. It’s called Balance: The Art of Minding What Matters Most, and I’m so excited about it!

It’s taken me several years to finish it (primarily because when I “mind what matters most,” my writing inevitably gets pushed into the margins), but little by little, it’s taken shape — and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my heart on these matters and offer strategies for keeping a balanced perspective in every area of life.

I’ll be sharing more details about the book and its contents in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Maintaining Balance

Why God Made Mothers

I woke up this morning with the following verses forming in my head, so in honor of Mother’s Day (and at the risk of stating the obvious) here’s why I think God gave us mothers:

Happy Mother's Day from

Why God Made Mothers

by Jennifer Flanders

For giving birth — as moms do best,
For nursing babies at her breast,
For singing lullabies at night
For soothing fears and hugging tight,
For wiping teardrops from my eye
And sympathizing when I cry
While kissing boo-boos on my knee,
For bringing out the best in me,
For teaching me to tie a lace,
For using spit to clean my face,
For rocking me upon her lap
Cajoling me to take my nap,
For baking cookies by the batch,
For making sure the doors are latched
At night before she goes to bed,
For placing cold rags on my head
Whenever I am feeling sick
And fetching throw-up buckets, quick!
For bringing me “just one more” drink,
For understanding how I think,
For daily lifting me in prayer,
For combing tangles from my hair,
For teaching me to blow my nose,
For scrubbing stains out of my clothes,
For reading stacks of picture books,
For complimenting my good looks
And calling me endearing names,
For driving me to football games,
For watching o’er me as I play,
For spanking when I disobey,
For letting me help wash the dishes
After dinner — so delicious,
Coaxing me to eat green beans,
For being patient in my teens,
For measuring how fast I grow,
For holding on, for letting go,
For all the many things you do,
I’m grateful, Mom, God gave me you.

Which Shall It Be?

A friend of mine (and fellow mother of many) recently sent me a copy of the following poem. It conveys beautifully the special place each and every child occupies in a family, no matter how big or small that family is.

Unfortunately, several lines had been omitted in the version of the poem my friend shared.

Two things clued me into this fact.

First, the poem is written in rhymed couplets, and one of the lines was missing its mate.

Second — and even more importantly — although the poem’s subject is seven children, only six were accounted for in the verses that remained.

As soon as I noticed this omission, I went in search of the lost stanza. The top results in my Google findings had also published incomplete versions, but I finally managed to track down the missing lines in a YouTube video enactment of the poem (linked at the bottom of this post) and transcribed them that way.

At the time this poem was written, it was not uncommon for poor families to send one or more of their children away from home to work as an apprentice or indentured servant for years at a time.

As a mother, I can hardly imagine how difficult that must have been, although with four of our twelve now grown and gone, I know well how it feels to have children missing from their accustomed places around the dinner table.

Here is the full version of this lovely poem. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we have:

Which Shall It Be?

by Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers, 1826-1879

Which shall it be? Which shall it be?
I look’d at John; John look’d at me
(Dear, patient John, who loves me yet
As well as though my locks were jet).
And when I found that I must speak,
My voice seem’d strangely low and weak:
“Tell me again what Robert said?”
And then I, listening, bent my head.
“This is his letter:

                  ‘I will give
A house and land while you shall live,
If, in return, from out your seven,
One child to me for aye is given.’”
I look’d at John’s old garments worn,
I thought of all that John had borne
Of poverty and work and care,
Which I, though willing, could not share;
I thought of seven mouths to feed,
Of seven little children’s need,
And then of this.

                  “Come, John,” said I,
“We’ll choose among them as they lie
Asleep;” so, walking hand in hand,
Dear John and I survey’d our band.
First to the cradle lightly stepp’d,
Where the new, nameless baby slept,
“Shall it be Baby?” whispered John.
I took his hand and hurried on
To Lily’s crib,

                  Her sleeping grasp
Held her old doll within its clasp.
Her dark curls lay like gold alight,
A glory ‘gainst the pillow white.
Softly the father stooped to lay
His rough hand down in loving way,
When dream or whisper made her stir,
And huskily said John, “Not her!”

We stopped beside the trundle bed
And one long ray of lamplight shed
Athwart the boyish faces there,
In sleep so pitiful and fair;
I saw on Jamie’s rough, red cheek,
A tear undried. Ere John could speak,
“He’s but a baby, too,” said I,
And kissed him as we hurried by.

Pale, patient Robbie’s angel face
Still in his sleep bore suffering’s trace;
“No, for a thousand crowns, not him,”
We whispered, while our eyes were dim.

Poor Dick! bad Dick! our wayward son,
Turbulent, reckless, idle one—
Could he be spared? “Nay, He who gave,
Bids us befriend him to the grave;
Only a mother’s heart can be
Patient enough for such as he;
And so,” said John, “I would not dare
To send him from her bedside prayer.”

Then stole we softly up above
And knelt by Mary, child of love.
“Perhaps for her ‘twould better be,”
I said to John. Quite silently,
He lifted up a curl astray
Across her cheek in willful way,
And shook his head, “Nay, love, not thee,”
The while my heart beat audibly.

Only one more, our eldest lad,
Trusty and truthful, good and glad—
So like his father. “No, John, no.
I cannot, will not let him go.”

And so we wrote in courteous way,
We could not give one child away,
And afterward, toil lighter seemed,
Thinking of that of which we dreamed;
Happy, in truth, that not one face
We missed from its accustomed place;
Thankful to work for all the seven,
Trusting the rest to One in heaven!

I hope that remembering this story will help your toil seem lighter, too. Raising a family is hard work, but the reward of seeing all those happy, loving, little faces around the table (and the joy of watching them grow into strong, capable and confident young adults) more than compensates for the all effort involved.

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Life with You is Awesome

The children and I have been working on this little surprise for Father’s Day, based on the theme song from The Lego Movie. Of course, it’s almost impossible to keep a secret in a household our size. Since Daddy already found out about it, I decided to publish a week early.

You’ll have to excuse the audio. Rap music is clearly not the forte of this classically trained soprano, but we had a great time putting it together, anyway… because “everything is awesome when you’re part of a team.”

And for those who are inclined to sing along, here are the lyrics for our version:

Life with You Is Awesome!

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

Married life is better when we work together.
Side by side, you and I gonna stick together, in all kinds of weather.
Man and wife, I love you, you love me, we’re both working in harmony.

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

(Woooo!) 3, 2, 1. Go!

Have you heard the news? Everyone’s talking.
Life is good and people are gawking.
Baby’s due, our family is growing.*
We’ve got love and joy overflowing.

Life with you is full of adventures
I’ll love you even when you have dentures.
Food in my teeth? Oh, that’s just awesome.
Next time, tell me when I need to floss ‘em.**
Love is blind — now I know that’s true.
It’s so awesome to be loved by you (be loved by you).

Married life is better when we work together.
Side by side, you and I gonna stick together, both now and forever.
Man and wife, I love you, you love me, we’re both working in harmony.

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

Marriage vows, wedding rings,
I just named two awesome things.
Pledged my love, said, “I do.”
You know what’s awesome? Life with you!

Clean, fresh sheets upon our bed, a feather pillow for my head.
Let’s go soak in a hot jacuzzi.
Not too long, or we’ll get woozy.

Pools, tools, jewels.
They’re awesome.
Girls with curls and pearls.
They’re awesome.
Boys enjoy their toys.
That’s awesome!
Every day of life as man and wife
Is awesome!

Life with you is awesome.
Life with you is cool — I’m so glad we’re a team!
Life with you is awesome, ‘cause we’re living our dream.

* As far as we know, there are no babies currently on the way, although it is probably just a matter of time, at least as far as grandchildren are concerned!
** This really did happen, although (thankfully) not at the wedding. It was actually on one of our first dates, when I got a whole black peppercorn lodged between my top central and lateral incisors and didn’t realize it was there until the date was over. Doug still claims he never noticed.

Do You Wanna Have a Baby?

I’ve been hearing daily reprises of FROZEN songs ever since the movie hit the theater last fall. My kids love it and have memorized most of the songs by heart and can even play a couple of them on the piano.

My personal favorite is “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” which I’ve been singing for months — but with homemade lyrics. You can listen below (or scroll down for the words, if you want to sing along):

Do you wanna have a baby?
So cute and cuddly and small
Then we could kiss his little nose
And count his tiny toes
And watch him learn to crawl
A baby is a blessing
From above
You’ll love him, and so will I
Do you wanna have a baby?
I know you’d love to make a baby!
C’mon… let’s try.

Do you wanna have a baby?
So fresh and innocent and new
I bet her skin will be as soft as silk
I’ll feed her mother’s milk
And listen to her coo
I wanna hear her heartbeat
Deep within my womb
Grow stronger as days go by
(Lub dub lub dub lub dub)

Do you wanna have a baby?
With chubby cheeks and downy head
I’ll sing him lullabies and hug him tight
And rock him every night
Then tuck him into bed.
I wanna be a mother
It’s ingrained in me:
What I was meant to do.
Do you wanna have a baby?

Of course, the song makes better sense if you’ve already seen the movie. If you haven't, I’d highly recommend doing so.

Do You Wanna Have a Baby | Frozen parody music video

Turn Your Thinking Around

Have you bought into society’s low view of marriage? It’s time to turn your thinking around. Read through the following statements from top to bottom, then bottom to top. Which better reflects what you believe? (Personally, I believe this is one instance that backward thinking makes the best sense).

It's Time to Turn Your Thinking Around : Re-examining What We Believe about Marriage | Loving Life at Home

What Society Teaches about Marriage:
(read top to bottom)

Modern day marriages don’t last
That is why
You should only look out for #1
It is foolish to think
You can live happily ever after
By giving your all
To build up your man
Take whatever measures are necessary
To maintain your autonomy
Don’t worry about trying
To give 110%
Always remember instead
That marriage is a 50-50 proposition
Don’t think for a minute
Your husband will respond in kind
If you treat him with respect
That’s a lie
Being a submissive wife makes you a doormat
I don’t believe
Marriage is worth the sacrifice

What Christianity Teaches about Marriage:
(read bottom to top)

“Turn Your Thinking Around: Time to Reconsider What We’ve Been Taught about Marriage”
Copyright Jennifer Flanders, 2014. First published on Loving Life at Home

New Devotionals for a New Year

The Reason for the Season

In an effort to keep the focus on Christ at Christmas, I offer you this poem as a humble reminder of the miracle we celebrate this season. May it ever echo in our hearts!

Heaven Song: May the miracle of Christmas ever echo in our hearts!

Heaven Song

A girl once lived in Galilee–
Let Heaven and nature sing
Whom God sent Gabriel to see.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
Her name was Mary. She was young.
The angel called, “Hail, favored one,
“The Child you bear shall be God’s Son.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.

Then Mary asked, “How can this be?”
Let Heaven and nature sing.
“I’ve never known a man,” said she.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
“Fear not,” said Gabriel, “it is true.
“God’s Spirit shall o’ershadow you.
“The Babe will bring salvation, too.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.

So Mary paused to testify,
Let Heaven and nature sing,
“The Lord’s handmaiden am but I.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.
Then joy within her heart was stirred,
“My soul doth magnify the Lord.
“May it be according to His word.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.

Soon Caesar issued a decree,
Let Heaven and nature sing,
Commanding all to pay a fee.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
So Mary, being great with Child,
Was put upon a donkey mild
And led by Joseph through the wild.
Let Heaven and nature sing.

They traveled unto Bethlehem.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
The inns there had room for them.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
Yet one innkeeper pity took
On seeing Mary’s heavy look
And showed them to a stable nook.
Let Heaven and nature sing.

There it was God’s Son was born–
Let Heaven and nature sing
In the wee small hours of the morn.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
‘Twas in that dark and dusty place,
The Virgin Mother, full of grace,
First looked upon her Savior’s face.
Let Heaven and nature sing.

As shepherds watched their flocks by night,
Let Heaven and nature sing,
Lo, they beheld a wondrous light,
Let Heaven and nature sing.
To them an angel did appear
Who told the shepherds, “Do not fear,
“I bring you tidings of great cheer.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.

“Good will be yours, and peace on earth,”
Let Heaven and nature sing,
“For I proclaim Messiah’s birth.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.
“A Child is born to you this day
“And in a manger now doth lay
“Upon a bed of fresh, sweet hay.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.

Then hosts of angels filled the sky,
Let Heaven and nature sing:
“All glory be to God most high,”
Let Heaven and nature sing!
And when the angels went away
The shepherds all began to say,
“We must go see this Child today.”
Let Heaven and nature sing.

In haste to Bethlehem they trod,
Let Heaven and nature sing,
To find the infant Son of God.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
All wrapped in swaddling clothes was He,
The One the shepherds came to see
With humble hearts, on bended knee.
Let Heaven and nature sing.

Some wise men traveled from afar–
Let Heaven and nature sing
Led by a bright and burning star.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
“Frankincense, gold, and myrrh we bring
“As homage to the newborn King,”
They spake as they were worshipping.
Let Heaven and nature sing.

May all join in this song of old,
Let Heaven and nature sing,
The one the prophets long foretold,
Let Heaven and nature sing.
Emanuel, this Babe so small,
Was born within a cattle stall–
The Word made flesh, the Lord of all!
Let Heaven and nature sing.

Almighty God, the Prince of Peace–
Let Heaven and nature sing
Did come to purchase our release.
Let Heaven and nature sing.
He came to open Heaven’s door
To you and me forevermore.
O come, ye faithful, Christ adore!
Let Heaven and nature sing.

Let all creation find its voice–
Let Heaven and nature sing
And in the Lamb of God rejoice.
Let Heaven and nature sing!
Christ came to take away our sin
If we’ll but put our trust in Him
So that we might be born again.
Let Heaven and nature sing–
All Heaven and nature sing!

– Jennifer Flanders, 2013