Friday, May 26, 2017

To train up a child (to infinity and beyond)


To train up a child is to pour all your time, energy, and resources into a self-centered little person who takes everything you have to give and gives nothing in return. Nothing, that is, except the deepest and most satisfying joy you will ever experience. But they don’t provide that joy consciously. They aren’t intentional about it at first. Usually they enter your life like Bill Cosby described, with a cigar in their mouths and calling all the shots – and it’s your job to not let them. Their very existence brings you unspeakable fulfillment, but the daily reality of it all can be exhausting. Eventually, though, your job description changes, and then it’s time to let them call ALL their own shots, even when it’s really scary because they do NOT have a CLUE. Now that is something entirely different.

And that is where we find ourselves.

Our fourth daughter is graduating from high school soon, and we are once again faced with the task of sending a little birdie out of the nest and into the big, wide world. Some birdies have to be gently pushed out of their nest and some come crawling back when you’re looking the other way, but then there are those others who feel ready to fly long before they really are. This particular birdie is ready.

But are we?

Oh, we have ironed out our plans for celebration. We have ordered the cap and gown. We have paid the non-refundable registration fee for college. We have begun making plans for what we will do with her bedroom, once we rent that dumpster . . .

But has it been enough?

After all, we’ve only had 18 years to prepare for this moment. What started out feeling like an eternal stretch of time, something that we always talked about but that would never really happen . . . well, that something is now upon us with all the brutal force of raw reality, and it begs the question:

Have we done enough?

The answer is simple. Yes, we have. Because no matter how we much have failed or how much more we could have done, the truth is, we have done our very best and now here we are with no more time left.

It will have to be enough.

And wherever we have fallen short is exactly where God will meet us and our daughter right where we are. He will fill in the gaps, pick up the slack, and be the all-sufficiency for all our insufficiency, if we let him.


But we are taking this pretty much in stride. This is our fourth graduate, not our first, and we have learned a thing or two since our first go-round. We have learned that this transition is not the end of our relationship with our daughter. It is only the beginning of something new and better (and I don’t just mean she will be cleaning her own apartment and paying her own bills!). It is the beginning of a deep and lasting friendship rooted in love and trust that will follow us for the rest of time.

This is what we’ve been working for. From that very first day when the second blue line showed up on that pregnancy test over 18 years ago, this has always been the end goal. Not sleeping through the night, not potty-training, not passing her driver’s test, not even high school graduation. Our goal has been to train up a kind and decent person who would make her own way in the world, but who would never forget the way back home to the people that once upon a time gave up their own way to help her find hers. A person whom we could love with everything we have, and who would love us back more than we ever dared to deserve.

To infinity and beyond. <3



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

It's nothing a good bop on the head won't cure


Through a recent conversation with my dear hubbie, it was revealed to me I may or may not be addicted to stress.

What??!!?!

Wait a minute!

Isn't addicted a rather strong word??

I would prefer something along the lines of stressed, busy, on-the-go, or even overwhelmed.

Those words leave me feeling in charge. Like I am in control. Like maybe my house didn't get dusted last week and maybe someone really ought to tackle the Leaning Tower of Laundry in my bedroom, but I still (basically) have it all together.

But . . . addicted?

That feels entirely different. That feels powerless and out of control. Like I made a conscious choice somewhere along the way to let my stress level rise to the top, and now I'm not so much a piece of driftwood tossing about in life's stormy seas, but more of a barnacle clinging to the underbelly of a boat.

Ewww.

That makes me want to detach myself and float free, stormy seas and all.

So why do I keep clinging to that slimy boat???

Jesus promised my yoke would be light and my burden would be easy, but I have to admit it doesn't always feel that way.  Burdens aren't typically easy to bear. Burdens are . . . well . . . burdensome. I generally kick and buck against the yoke on my shoulders and the rocky path before me. The load is too heavy, it chafes, it causes blisters, it's uncomfortable and confining. The road ahead appears untraveled and unpleasant. Dangerous, even.

But while I'm busy stressing over my situation, causing myself more and more discomfort, he's simply waiting for me to get tired of struggling. When I finally settle down, he's standing there ready to gently lead me, bearing the brunt of the load just as he always has.

I'm tired of being a beast of burden fighting against the very yoke that waits to ease my load.

I'm done with being a barnacle clinging to the bottom of a battleship.

I want to let go, to stop fighting, to crawl out from under. I want to feel the ocean breezes on my face.

I think I'd rather be an oar. An oar in the hands of an experienced boater can cut through choppy waves with purpose and certainty. It also knows when it's time to rest and let the waves do all the work.

Little known fact: A sturdy oar can also be used to bop overly-aggressive sharks on the head, should the need arise. I was enlightened recently by a YouTube video that left me awed and inspired. I have a few nasty sharks in my own life that could use a good bop on the head . . . anxiety, worry, regret, and fear, to name a few.

Yeah, I want to be an oar in the hands of Jesus.

Seems like a pretty easy burden to me.

Monday, April 17, 2017

So I tried a little something new ...

In honor of National Haiku Poetry Day, I took part in a group writing project hosted by the Christian blogging network Faithful Bloggers.  Our efforts are compiled into a PDF book, accessible on the Faithful Bloggers site or via the link below. Check it out and leave a comment if you like what you read. Everyone did a truly wonderful job!

Faithful Bloggers Haiku Group Writing Project

Monday, April 3, 2017

All The Little Things


"That's because we're poor," my son announced last night, in response to our family's decision to switch internet providers.

What?!

Funny how our thirteen-year-old equates "saving money" with "being poor." Apparently, there have been a few deficiencies in his upbringing.

I explained that saving money is a good habit everyone should develop, especially if they are planning something big like home repairs or a vacation, but I'm not sure he was entirely convinced.

Seriously? 

I don't think my son is the only one who feels this way. I think our culture as a whole has forgotten the lost art of living simply. The comforting possibility of cooking our own dinner is often cast aside as we drive past three or four of our favorite restaurants on our way home. Waiting for movies to come out on DVD and popping our own microwave popcorn feels like the cruelest torture after being teased for months by previews of exciting movies coming soon to a "theater near you."  We seem to have forgotten that reading a good book can be just as exciting as downloading the latest and greatest movie/game/app/you-name-it.

When did we become so determined to spend, spend, spend? It seems that everything comes with a price tag these days. Want to test this theory? Next time your friends are going out for lunch, to a movie, etc., tell them you have to pass because you don't have enough spending money. They will either: (a) go into shock, (b) not believe you, or (c) think you're the next Ebenezer Scrooge.

They probably don't realize that your dog just got sick and left you with an unexpected vet bill, or that it was picture week at your kids' school, and in order to have a second 8' x 10' for Grandma, you had to buy the entire package. For each child.

Our current culture just hasn't prepared us to understand the concept of "not now."

But some of my favorite memories have happened when no money changed hands.

There was the time I invited my friend and her kids over for tuna casserole while our husbands were away, and she brought chocolate pudding dressed up with all kinds of goodies from her snack cabinet for dessert. Or the rainy afternoons curled up with my dog and a good book. Evenings spent playing games with good friends, laughing at each other and ourselves. Walking by the river, holding hands with my husband. These are the times that have refreshed me and kept me going during life's rough spots.

In our culture of stylish clothes, all-inclusive vacations, and remodeled homes, it is so easy to lose sight of all the little things that quietly add up to be the immeasurable things, which are the only things we will ever regret not spending more on when all is said and done.

I hope my son will someday become a man who will enjoy all the luxuries that hard work and honest pay can provide. But, more than that, I hope he packs his life full beyond measure with all the little things that don't cost a thing.

No matter how much money he happens to have.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Are You Cooking Tonight?

My daughter texted me last night while she was out and about with friends. She was weighing her options. She wanted to know if she should ditch her friends early to come home in time for dinner with the family.

My phone let out a cheery little ding to let me know a text had come in, and a little white word bubble appeared on my home screen.

"Are you cooking tonight?" it read.

"Are you cooking tonight?" I repeated aloud, indignantly. What a question! "What does she mean, 'Am I cooking tonight?'" I asked myself. "Of course, I'm cooking tonight! What kind of mother does she think I am?" I felt like I did that time I got pulled over for speeding and the officer asked me if I'd been drinking. Well! I never! (I had most certainly NOT been drinking, thank you very much. I was simply reaching for my GPS that had fallen on the floorboard, which would have been perfectly understandable, except the speed limit had apparently dropped by 15 mph while I was otherwise occupied.)

I reread the words in the white bubble on my phone screen.

Are you cooking tonight?

Wait a minute . . .

I sat up straighter on the couch and lowered my feet to the floor.

Am I cooking tonight?

There was a moment of indecision while a couple of my heartbeats tripped over themselves, but then I smiled and sank back on the couch with relief. All was well because I remembered. I had nothing to worry about because I had actually planned menus for the week, and even thawed ground beef before going to work, and spaghetti was already on the agenda - so, even though I was worn out from a busy day at work and was indulging in a few minutes of rest on the couch with my feet up when she texted me, I could confidently say I would, in fact, be "cooking tonight."

Now I don't blame my daughter. She was only going from past experience. History has taught her that anything from homemade beef and noodles to frozen pizza to cold cereal could be the featured special on any given night, so she'd better check in before changing any plans. So she really cannot be blamed for her (otherwise insolent) question last night. She was not privy to my inner knowledge that I was, in fact, fully prepared to cook a real meal for my family.

Let's face it, I hadn't been sure of that myself until she texted me.

But once in a while I surprise us all by being prepared and on top of things.

And to all you unbelievers out there - not only did I cook last night, we even ate our spaghetti in candlelight with Beethoven playing in the background. (While it's true the candles were only lit because our dining room light is currently out of order again, the effect was appealing nonetheless.)

I may not always cook, but when I do, I do it in style.


 




Monday, February 27, 2017

The Other (proverbs thirty-one) Woman




Lurking in the shadows cast by the spotlight illuminating the perfect wife and mother I tried to cross-stitch into a wall hanging over twenty years ago lives the other woman.

Our family affectionately refers to this woman as the "Proverbs 32" woman.

I am the other woman.

I do realize the mother instructing her son (in this case, the wise King Solomon) in Proverbs 31 was merely summarizing the general idea of a noble wife and mother, and there was no way she expected her son to find a mere mortal who could fit the bill in every single category every single day. But when you are an over-achieving perfectionist like me, you tend to read this beautiful description of the ideal and then proceed to beat yourself up with your otherwise useless cross-stitching hoops.

See, I am not a quilter, a SAHM, a chef, or an entrepreneur. These things are wonderful, but I am not them. Nor am I a trailblazer or a visionary. I am just an overtired legal assistant with a posse of kids and a messy house. How can I measure up?

Below are just a few of the portions I struggle with: 

She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.

Does Super Wal-Mart count? Since I usually go to Aldi, shopping at Super Wal-Mart gets me excited over brand-name cereals and a produce section where they mist their vegetables. And don't even get me started on the free samples.

She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

I'm sorry, but I do not get up before dawn except for those very rare occasions when I have a plane to catch, and then I sleep in my travel clothes the night before so I can pull back my hair, grab some coffee, and make it to the airport just in time for the pre-flight safety checks. My eyes do not even open all the way until I get inside the airport with its lights cranked up to a brilliance rivaling the appearance of a comet.

If only I had a couple of those aforementioned servant girls . . .  

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.

Okay, now there is just no way to "get up before dawn" and also be "energetic and strong." No way. Not before Starbucks.

Waiter, I'll take what she's having, please.

Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.

I guess the fact that I couldn't even finish the cross-stitched wall hanging before getting bored to tears explains a lot about why I did not make it into Chapter 31. My sister-in-law ended up finishing that project for me, and her initials stitched above mine are an ever-present reminder of my handiwork shame.

She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.

She makes her own bedspreads?? Um, the last time I tried to make anything, it didn't exactly end as planned. Years ago, I got the wild and crazy idea to make bathrobes for my four daughters for Christmas. Believe it or not, they did actually turn out pretty well, if you didn't look too closely at the arms that were so long they would have been better suited for an adult male gorilla. 

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Okay, I've got this part down pat. I watch over everything. EVERYTHING. I see every sock peeled off in the living room, every coat thrown over the dining room chair, and every dirty dish left in my kids' bedrooms. 

I have been accused of having the ability to SMELL dust. (To this I say, how can you NOT smell dust when it gets so thick your husband asks if you bought a new table runner?)

But my favorite part of all is towards the end. This part resonates with me on a deep and personal level, and it ties the entire chapter up into a pretty package tied up with a ribbon and says, "Here, take this. This is for you."

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the lord will be greatly praised.

See why I love this? At the end of the day, all that really matters is whether or not my priorities are straight and my heart is right. If I've got that down, then I am measuring up perfectly to the ideal of who I was uniquely created to be. All I have to do is trust God knew exactly what he was doing when he created me and gave me my unique family and my specific talents (or lack thereof).

Then I can step out of the shadows and into the spotlight of Chapter 31.

And my husband and children shall call me blessed.

Flaws, shortcomings, and all.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Valentine's Day was just a few days ago. (If you did not realize this, and the strained silence of your spouse has not yet clued you in to this fact, then hurry; there may still be a few leftover boxes of chocolate hearts on the shelves beside the Reese's peanut butter cup eggs and yellow Peeps chicks.)

Personally, I am never really prepared for Valentine's Day. I usually find myself sifting through the picked-over Russell Stover selections the Saturday before the Big Day and remembering to sign my cards to my husband and kids the night before.

After I've already gone to bed.

And dug them out of the closet . . . from behind a pile of shoe boxes.

Take this year, for instance. I finally remembered to sign my cards so late into the night that my messages became less prolific with each card I wrote. My youngest son's card ended up reading, "I love you more than chocolate."

Hey, it's not Maya Angelou, but it's still a true statement.

Even though he didn't believe me.

My lack of foresight doesn't mean I don't love all the hype. I do love the hearts, flowers, cards, and candy. I love the chance to tell those I love how much they mean to me. But, really, what's love got to do with it?

Valentine's Day is nice, but it's not enough.

That kind of prepackaged love isn't enough to make me speak kindly to my husband even when I don't agree with him or to remain patient with my kids when they're pushing my buttons like a game of Whack-a-Mole. I need something more than that. I need a kind of love can't be bought for $9.99 and isn't replaced by Easter baskets before I've even had a chance to do my shopping.

I want the kind of love that keeps on loving even when the other person is grumpy, tired, unreasonable, rude, unfair, or negative. I want to love my husband and kids like that because I need them to love me like that, and I know I'm not always lovable. (I know. Hard to believe.)

That's the kind of love that sees you through. It lasts a lot longer than a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates, and it doesn't expand your waistline.

And it doesn't cost a thing.

Except maybe a little bit of pride.




Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An Ode to Sleepless Nights, Lonely Days, and Unabashed Love and Devotion


I recently came across a blog encouraging young mothers to keep going, keep mothering, keep forging ahead. The article assured these young moms they would survive these times, that it would get easier, that their kids would turn out okay. I thought this was beautiful. Back when I was a young mom, I read everything I could get my hands on to try and figure out what I was supposed to do with the tiny, hairless people I had been charged with raising.

When you're a young mom, you need encouragement from other young moms who are in the thick of battle right alongside you. I am convinced that a good peer support network is vital to the emotional well-being of a sleep-deprived woman surrounded by tiny little dictators who wet their pants, refuse to eat, and jump out of their cribs (usually all in the same day).

Young moms also need encouragement from older moms who have made it to the other side and are living proof they will too. Older moms have lived through those baby/toddler days, and whether they had crank swings with hard plastic seats or lavish battery operated bassinets, they are a wealth of information. They have learned the tricks of the trade and know that both mom and baby are sturdier than previously imagined. These moms have learned that a few mistakes, a few skinned knees, and a few too many junk-food dinners will not destroy their child's chance at lifelong happiness.

But all the while, even on your worst days, your little ones still look at you like you are infallible. Like you are the embodiment of light and perfection. In fact, when they aren't throwing a tantrum in cookie aisle of Wal-Mart, they are probably patting your cheeks and saying, "You're so pretty, Mommy." And, as the blog I found correctly explained, this unabashed love and devotion can go a long way toward sustaining you throughout those sleepless nights and lonely days.

Then your kids get to grade school, and you get what I like to call a parenting reprieve. Sure, you still worry, but you have had a good night's sleep, so your worry is kept in perspective. And you're not concerned about every fever or sniffle, because you have nursed your child through many ailments by this point, and you know it really takes a lot to get them seriously sick. (Admit it, by now you've probably taken them over to the neighbor kid's house that time he was inflicted with chicken pox just to make sure their varicella vaccine was working.) You have long since exchanged the diaper bag for a cute purse (although it's probably the size of a piece of carry-on luggage), and when you drop them off at school, you just put the car in park and remind them not to slam the door. No more getting out of the car, going around to the other side, and leaning over the older children to unbuckle/untangle the baby's car seat.

But after grade school comes high school, and that's when things get interesting again. Sometimes you are reminded what those sleepless nights were like - not because a baby needs his diaper changed, but because you are worrying about your child spending the night at a new friend's house, or driving home from a late shift at a fast-food restaurant, or attending the first high school dance chauffeured by friends instead of parents. And it's at this stage we moms need encouraging all over again. Maybe more than ever. Because at this stage in the game, your child is no longer looking at you with that same unabashed love and devotion. Sure, he still loves you; but since it's no longer cool, he keeps it under wraps. And your rules are probably dumb and unfair, and you are most likely interrupting his favorite Netflix show, so could you please just shut the door on the way out of his room and call him when dinner's ready?

Now hang on here with me, moms. Don't give up hope. Deep in the trenches of the high school years, it can be incredibly easy to forget the toddler patting your cheeks and nearly impossible to imagine the adult who will one day become your closest friend. Maybe all you can see is the bedroom that looks like a bomb went off, the family car sporting several new dents in the fender, or the sighs and eye rolls every time missing homework assignments are mentioned.

LET ME ASSURE YOU.

This is just another stage, and it will most assuredly pass. Not only will you survive, but you will wind up with an incredibly amazing person that you helped develop who loves you more than anything and will always be there for you.

Even if he can't always come home for Christmas.