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The shadow of my stride around God’s promise illuminates motherly purpose to my heart.
I revisited The Other Side, today, as part of a new blog tradition to make a “Throwback Thursday” post part of my routine. As I scrolled through the text, my jaw dropped at how much it mirrored my notes for today’s #livefree Thursday, “I’m marked.”
“Maybe my daughters will learn to love distance running and it’s masochistic ways, too. If not in running than in something that they question why they love, until they are out there in it. I’m trying to instill an experience in them that will help shape their determination, by simply showing them who I am. I might not have it all figured out yet, but maybe that’s a good thing to accept early on in parenting.
Practice isn’t perfect, but it can make it.” -The Other Side
When the satellite TV becomes digitally distorted for a moment, I panic over what might happen if it doesn’t straighten itself out…what if I miss a play of the Browns game that could become the only highlight of our entire season?!?!?! When my motherly satellite dish gets bogged down by heavy rains of “I don’t know what to do here…,” I tend to wig completely out in a panicked search of plausible solutions.
I do not know how to keep my baby daughter from feeling defeated over getting placed on a bad behavioral chart color at school. How can I convince her that she is truly going to be OK if she will not listen to any reasonable word I have to say? What kind of crazy state comes over my baby when she cries in fear before I even know what I should be mad about?
“Lo Lo,” I assured, “I promise I will not be mad at you, baby…just tell me what happened.” (Famous last words, mom.)
“It will only make it worse if I tell you.”
Make what worse? What did I miss?
I could tell the dread of having to run laps around the property (punishment for breaking four very broad house rules that can be applied to almost any circumstance) was already starting to cause a “crank” in her side. But there was nothing to be punished for yet…
And then the self torture began as my mind launched into the outer realms of space where the occasions in which I totally lost my cool hang out…and then I started, once again, to doubt my parenting abilities. I started to feel all kinds of crazy …and defeated …and like I am going to screw these kids up for eternity.
“I’m trying to instill an experience in them that will help shape their determination, by simply showing them who I am.” -The Other Side
God wants that for us. He wants to help shape our determination by showing us who He is.
“I AM, “he told Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.”
He is all that we will ever need, because He has planned out every minute of our lives. God layered each life with purpose so profound that He states the only provision required is His plan, for the deployment of which He sent His Son…and His Spirit.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1:13-14
Mothers are not made mothers by accident. God meant to give me these children. It was no mistake. God’s plan is perfect and His timing is perfect, but my understanding of His perfect will is anything but.
If I can learn to relax in my purpose and create habits of seeking out His Word and giving what I have to Him each day, then my daughters will be well-equipped to apply the same principles in their own lives. I have no doubt it will be hard to watch them stretch out to grasp Him in their own time. But by prayer and discipline in my own life and walk with Christ, I can do my human best to lead them to the path of righteousness.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds his young padawan in the faith of the example he gleaned from his mother and grandmother. Two generations of faithful servants led Timothy’s feet to the start of his own path to answer God’s call on his life.
“I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith, a faith that first lived permanently in the heart of your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am fully persuaded, dwells in you also.” -2Timothy1:5
Isn’t that marvelous? Paul didn’t say Timothy’s mother and grandmother were perfect. They were marked.
I am marked.
Every night, as I scroll through my camera roll in the quiet of a post-bedtime house, I am reminded of how blessed I am by the simple smiles of the day. A midst the selfies, photo bombs, and “send this one to daddy” poses, it’s there. That look of love. They were looking at me, today… And we were all smiling.
What if we captured one of those moments and brought it, and Ephesians 1:13-14, with us to our time with God the very next day? What a powerful reminder of God’s mark of “mom-hood,” and positive way to launch the day.
The next time you’re struggling in a panic for “what to do,” remind yourself to be yourself.
It’s already in you.
If you need to take a lap around God’s mark, send your kids out to run one! “Practice isn’t perfect, but it can make it.”
Happy #Livefree Thursday!
“Mom,” my seven-year-old began, “someone called me weird.”
The most precious pieces of my daughter’s heart fly gumptiously out of her mouth during our four weekly commutes to her dance studio. While the surge of adrenaline lingers alongside the remains of stale french fries and the screech of singing cats, she reveals the day’s truth. This day was no different. She flung her bag into the abyss of the backseat, and plopped down to catch her breath.
“Who called you weird?” I demanded.
“And Why- why did they call you that …what where you doing …when did this happen …what was your reaction…”
My mind raced alongside my blood pressure as only a mother’s does when
the over-allotted amount of caffeine consumed that day collides with her baby enduring an injustice. In anticipation of my overprotective reaction, and predictable “turn the other cheek and be kind” lesson, she followed a quick eye-roll with profound summation beyond her years.
“I am a little weird,” she continued, “but I take it as a compliment.” I reached for the dial to turn down the “Jingle Cats.”
“What they actually mean to say is that I’m different,” she spat confidently. She lit a flattered smile and revealed, “They are actually complimenting me for being unique…and I like that.”
To think, how I might have ruined that beautiful piece of the Holy Spirit’s work with the volume of my two-sense and overprotective assault on her behalf. I felt God’s grace quicken in my heart …
“See …you’re not doing nearly as bad as you think.” Wink.
The ability to maneuver the insult maze with enough agility to cast a hateful one aside is not where my natural thought progression leads me. Instead of making light of a brooding sentiment, I park the dagger at the forefront of my thoughts. Predictably, that fraction of negativity will seap into my brain via osmosis …become a truth I entertain, and argue with for the rest of the day. Jealous of my own daughter’s Christ-like attitude, God plucked me from my comparative seething and pulled up a memory from a week prior.
The memory’s light stirred my eyes back to the pages of my journal to a school day that ended in tear-stained cheeks over a recess battle of heart lost. Ah, second grade …when blurred lines so easily pull ugly pieces out of little girls’ hearts.
“It’s only going to get worse,” I explained in the best way I knew to
comfort her, “so you just have to figure out how not to let it affect you.” (Confession …I often have these moments of brilliance when trying to instill wisdom upon my daughters …and then realize as the words leave my lips that I have yet to figure out how to apply them to my own life.)
My daughter and I share a gift to illuminate the love of Jesus in each others circumstances. It’s through my earnest search of God’s Word, to be the mother than leads her to Him and His truth, that I end up stumbling upon my own in our sweet bedtime conversations.
“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30
“I am with you in all that you do. At home, at school, on the playground…my Presence is always with you.“Jesus Calling 365 Devotions for Kids, Sarah Young.
It’s not uncommon for us to look up at each other jaw-dropped after we read her devo for the day. That night concluded with a peaceful dream etched on my heart. God’s Word tuned us back into alignment with His measure of our self-worth.
“It’s like God knows how many Legos I have …like He knows how many hairs are on my head,” And at that, we fell into a pile of giggles.
“Jesus and His message were rejected… In His own Hometown. Jesus was fully man and experienced human emotions. The people who had known Him since childhood rejected Him. Friend, it’s wonderful to have a Savior who knows exactly how we feel. There isn’t an emotion we experience He can’t understand.” Wendy Pope (First 5)
The babe born in a manger, grew up feeling the same aches and joys that inhabit our hearts. It’s easier to hold Jesus’ hand in secret comfort, than to face an all knowing and omnipresent God with our grievances. Christmas encompasses the great generosity of the gift of approach-ability through His Son…a love every parent can relate to …a sacrifice no one can.
The sweet smiling compassion that will sit on the level of my child’s bed and laugh with us. That is what Christmas is all about; giving generously as He gave to us. During Advent, we prepare our hearts so that there is room for the light, love, and encouragement He speaks to us in His Word.
Jesus was “the” weird one. He knew it. He embraced it. He knew what they did not… And perhaps not all that walked in His lifetime meant it as a compliment, but he wore it as one. His recorded conversations in the Word reveal humorous quips alongside wise convictions. He lived among us to save us, not so that we would spend every day drowning in self-deprecation. Kermit the Frog sang, “It’s not easy being green,” but can you imagine him being any other color?
“I take being called weird as a compliment.”
A second grader’s vocabulary is still a little limited…maybe they just can’t find the word to describe how awesome my daughter is. Or, perhaps there isn’t one. Maybe the only one that fits her perfectly is…Brianne.
There’s only One who knows who we really are …and His name is Jesus. Emmanuel …”God with us.”
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
My daughters woke up one Saturday morning ending my journal time and proudly proclaiming a pajama day. Both in their Christmas footie jammies, they vowed to eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and begged to watch “White Christmas.” A touch early by some standards, but hard to say “no” to adorable little girls in Christmas footie pajamas.
“Mom,” my oldest pleaded, “can you PLEASE get the Christmas stuffed animals out?”
Yes, they have such an obscene number of stuffed animals that we pack a portion away in an attempt to make room for them to sleep on their own beds. The “Christmas” stuffed animals remain out of sight…and out of mind…for the most part. However, the longer my darling Brianne spends a part from her coveted Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the more anxiety she has about needing it immediately. Call me a Saturday morning pushover; because I made them their pancakes and headed down to the crawlspace to dig out the reindeer.
Sweating, and muscles cramping from being curled up to reach far away small spaces in search of Holiday craziness… I stopped mid-search to ponder the sad reality that Paris was waking up to that same Saturday morning.
The same agony felt by countless souls scattered around the globe blindsided by the same unfathomable realms of evil. It seems to overwhelm every place once treasured safe.
I needed Christmas cheer that Saturday morning. I needed that reindeer.
“Here it is!” I proudly proclaimed as I carried a giant red tote up the basement stairs and let it land in front of my girls.
“They’re all here!” they screeched. “Rudolph!” my Brianne sighed as she hugged her old friend.
The last request filled with “White Christmas” playing in the background, my daughters snuggled up and checked out into the winter wonderland of yesteryear.
The nostalgia of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing “Snow” on a train ride stirred up feelings of joy as I pictured my Grams singing in her kitchen at Christmastime. The beginning of the movie is set in wartime, with a scene of soldiers overseas.
It’s a different kind of war we’re fighting today.
It’s hard to picture what kind of scene we’ll be looking back upon generations from now. Each one worse than the next. The more unthinkable the conflict we deem unimaginable, coming to pass nonetheless.
In a world where my seven year old fears a “lock down” more than her school catching on fire.
I need a “White Christmas.”
Yes, it’s old fashioned. I’m the annoying one who could listen to Christmas carols all year long, and cannot wait to sing them at a very high volume dancing in the kitchen or on the way to school with my kids. There’s a note of hope and kindness in those songs….an unashamed proclamation of the hope that Jesus brought when he was born. Visions of Santa Claus landing on the rooftop, the Grinch stealing presents, and a boy being left home alone. I love it all. Nonsensical as some of the holiday rush can be, there is always a lesson of truth hidden within yet we dare to unwrap it.
“What if I couldn’t find my sissy,” my daughters asked me after lock down drill day, tears streaming down their faces.
I can’t find the words to describe that moment.
My oldest daughter gets “belly aches” just thinking about it. Their teachers eyes fill up with tears at the thought. It’s a gut-punch as a mother. A hopeless sense of innocence lost too soon.
I feel it, too, that ache for Jesus. For Him to come down and replace everything that evil has crushed and tried to stomp out.
I need Christmas. Yes, it’s important to give thanks in honor of our founding fathers. But maybe, in this rapidly deteriorating world, it’s most important to give thanks to the God who inspired their trip across the ocean in the first place. The one who’s very namesake appears in the name of the holiday.
More time for cheer.
More time to think of others.
More time to pack a shoe box.
More time for more people to hear about His birth.
Pass me a red cup.
If children are no longer encouraged to believe in magic, how will they ever know what God means to “have faith like a child?” (Matthew 18:3, Luke 18:17) What sorrow to think many still do not realize they can cling to Him…
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and dives his spoil.”
Jesus IS stronger.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
I’m WITH Him.
“Hearts will be harder,” stated Beth Moore in referring to the natural direction our hearts will lend to if we don’t specifically aim otherwise.
Especially after lock down drill day.
Especially after Paris.
Some days I just want to cling to my children over sending them off to school. I realize that clinging to Christ is the only way I am able to drive away after they jump out of the car…“strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10
Clinging to Jesus as the aches and sobs well up as I drive away.
We’ll keep dreaming that dream…yes, we will. And though I ache for Him some days in sorrow and in fear, I have the hope that He left on the cross to cling to.
I choose to keep a death grip on love. I’m positive on purpose. I study His Word for encouragement.
“And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:4
He is joy.
And it can’t be stolen.
Not by another…not by terror.
“We are wise never to overestimate or underestimate Satan’s power. But even though we are no match for him, he is no match for God….God is biding His time until His kingdom calendar has been accomplished and all who will receive His salvation are redeemed….Jesus Christ is going to take back what Satan has stolen from us!”
– Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, Day 166
Oh, Come, all ye faithful…
Happy Holidays…no wait…Merry Christmas.
“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10: 22-25
The circle of guilt will push you around unless it’s kept in check with truth.
“Stop pushing me!”
If you have more than one kid, this is a phrase you are no doubt familiar with.
“MOM!” my little one exclaims, getting ready to launch into a string of tattles, “Bri Bri is being so mean!!!!”
Once again, my daughters decided to break out all of the behavioral stops. In a giant crowd of people, they decided to stoop to the ground to draw in the dirt with rocks. Soon after, they began arguing about which space was who’s…which then escalated into throwing the rocks at each other…one missing and hitting someone else in the leg. Then, they stood up to push each other with their full strength. After I ignored the little ones cries, she decided to take matters into her own hands…
“MOM!” my older daughter wailed, “Lo Lo just punched me in the stomach!!!”
I said my good-byes to adult conversation, and went about my way chasing my little monsters back to the van.
These situations used to happen to me a lot. I never could figure out how to handle the embarrassment, and the watching eyes, when my little girls misbehaved in public. When rocks started flying, that circle of guilt came rushing back in an instant, reminding me why I try to avoid exposing this kind of life strife in the first place.
“Why don’t my kids listen to me?”
“I teach them manners…they get along at home…”
“What am I doing here in the first place, when I should be at home doing things with my kids?”
“They’re all going to talk about me when I turn around and leave.”
“Why am I so insecure as a person as a mother?”
“What’s wrong with the way I am that is bleeding down into a problem that my kids now have?”
“I can’t do this.”
The swift walk to the car, whilst gripping bother daughter’s pinch points, would usually end with this mom taking away every privilege under the sun. I always felt like I was losing my mind as I switched from smiling goodbyes to “most disappointed I’ve ever been in you face” so quickly my kids would laugh at first. Which just made me even more upset and feeling disrespected. Then another circle would begin to whir…
“How can you pray so much…read the Bible so much…go to church…listen to praise music and sermons all the time….and possess no patience to discipline your daughters with compassion?”
From one circle to the next.
That’s how life can be sometimes. Actually, if I’m being honest, that’s how many of my days can be consumed and wasted if I allow that particular thought progression to keep gaining ground. Over every failure, opportunity I’ve walked away from, friendship that has ended, time of life that has passed…I circle…
…until I’m so dizzy that I have trouble focusing on the direction God is leading me.
Life has a way of replaying the highlight real after a corner you’ve decided to turn starts to fade into the distance….shut it down. Remain in God’s Word daily, and run to it in refuge when the outtakes feel humiliating all over again.
Circles will push you around, and there are plenty of people who will to jump on board the ship of thoughts until it’s over capacity and sinking fast.
Do not let these thoughts push you around, and don’t blame them on other people.
- Running to others in doubt to find direction in their words.
- Letting emotions lead.
- Expecting others to build my confidence.
- Waiting to be asked.
- Ignoring opportunities to grow.
“Do you!” preached Pastor Steven from Elevation Church.
Not what other people think you should do, or what you think another person wants you to do. Spend the time with God and do what He wants you do to. Listen for the few voices that encourage you…and turn up their volume. I wish I had.
I wish I could take back a ton of decisions I made in lack of patience to wait on a sure word from God first.
So, what to do with that circle?
Drown in the guilt? Regret? Shame? Keep replaying criticism until the track starts to skip?
Or, run to God. Run it by God. Give Him a chance to talk without interrupting.
“That’s it,” I said to my girls after the rock throwing incident ended in a stomach punched, “you’d better run!”
I took off chasing my two beautiful daughters, for-going that they just embarrassed me in a crowd of people yet again.
“I’m going to tickle torture you!!!!” I yelled and took off running after my two screeching daughters…one who dropped to the ground before I could even get to her, and the other ran just out of reach and the put up her dukes on defense.
In that moment on that day I choose not to be the crazy mom pinching my daughters all the way to the car and grounding them for the rest of their lives. I choose instead to have compassion on them. My daughters do so many things right every day. They get along really well 95% of their lives. Once in a while, the headache we all get from discipline just isn’t necessary.
And I have heard God say to me,
“Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children, or you’ll crush their spirits.” Colossians 3:21
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
But I’ve been crushed in spirit.
I’ve walked away crushed in spirit.
I’ve quit, because I just don’t feel like there’s anything left to be crushed.
God has never answered me in crushing moments with a voice of condemnation. Never led me to a verse that said, “I told you so” even though he probably did, over and over. In time, He’ll always show me the err of my ways and help me grow out of that stage of my life. Help me apologize if I need to…humbly go back and finish what I quit if it’s His will. But never, no never, in times of crisis of heart, is He a Father lacking compassion for the child He loves so immensely.
I’m that child. You’re that child.
Turn that voice up.
Let those thoughts push you around.
Live in that circle.
“Look!” my little Kindergartner exclaimed. “There’s a letter ‘d’ there, and a letter ‘D’ there…” she trailed on, pointing out all of the letter D’s on her homework paper.
My children’s homework often feels like my homework, and in the two years between my daughters, I had forgotten about how particularly tedious Kindergarten homework is for this mom.
Instead of following along the rows of letters, my number two child was skipping all over the page like we had all day to get the page done and move onto the next.
“OK, now I’m going to time you to see how many you can name in a minute,” I explained to her.
“NO!!!!!!!!!” She immediately retorted, her face all scrunched up (scrunchy face…yep, it has a name) and every limb flailing in protest.
Now, I knew the timing element was going to cause a problem, because this little one is a sore loser. Throws an absolute fit every time she loses a race, a game, etc. In fact, to evade the meltdown, I had only been timing her in secret up to this point. But in the middle of a busy dance studio waiting room, at the end of an already exhausting day, I simply was not in the mood for her cutesy dilly-dallying.
“Yep,” I stated. “Ready, set, go.”
She read the letters as the time ticked down, and I noticed her nervousness slowing her down. When the timer ran out and the beep alert sounded, she still had two rows left.
“Great job, Lo!” I congratulated.
“I HATE WHEN YOU TIME ME!” she cried, and began to throw a fit in that same crowded waiting room.
I pulled her onto my lap and gave her the hug she needed, and then tried to reason with a five year old after 5 o’clock…
“It’s OK if you don’t get them all in a minute right away,” I said, “the first time we did sight words you knew one, and now you know over twenty I bet.”
Over and over I tried to explain to this overtired child that she was simply going through the process of learning. As I escorted her out of the waiting room, threatening to take her home instead of to the all so coveted gymnastics class she so dearly loves, the panic ensued. In fact, it got worse. No matter how I tried to comfort her, never yelling (Holy Spirit- props) or giving her mean looks or threatening to make her run laps…she continued to wail.
Why is it so hard for us to look back and see how far we’ve come?One of my favorite track coaches in high school used to make me do ten push-ups for every one time I looked back during my race. I was a miler, and something about hearing my competition’s spikes smack the track behind me always motivated me to throw in a burst of speed. It always frustrated my coaches that I wouldn’t just give my best without knowing who’s nipping at my heals, and my little chicken arms paid for it after every race. I looked back a lot.
Flipping through my Dad’s old cassette tapes, I stumbled onto the song “Don’t Look Back,” by Boston. Against all of my natural impulses; that became my theme song.
Throughout my life, that’s what I’ve tried to do.
“Don’t look back,” at all of the mistakes…
Turn the page on all the “yucky” parts of life that I wish I could take back.
Justify any hurt I’ve caused…
But never…no never…look back.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:10
The first ten verses of that chapter serve as a gut-check to me.
So obsessed, am I, with all the failure in my life….all of the things that I can’t figure out…the personality flaws that haunt me daily…and people…
As one of the pastors at my church preached one Sunday, “People are annoying.”
I annoy myself, thank you. A lot.
We spend so much time comparing our lives to Facebook news feeds…so much time beating ourselves up over our imperfection…that we forget…or maybe you don’t know…
“For God, Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2Chronicles 4:6
Mistakes are woven into the flesh of life.
Marvel at how far you’ve come.
Don’t let yourself forget that God loves you immensely. He gave up His only son. Would you do that for anybody? I wouldn’t. People are annoying, right? God uses the imperfect in all of us, but especially in some of us. Remember the story of Jacob, and if you don’t, visit the book of Genesis and soak it all in again.
Life is tough. Marriage is no cake walk. Parenting is a nightmare. I don’t get it. I mess it up. Daily. But…look back.
“…Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19-20
Through all the pain…all of the struggles…so much strife…God has given us Jesus so we may draw near to Him throughout the experience of life on this earth. The more days I live, the more I depend on that companionship for survival.
Look back. Use what you have learned to grow.
Praise God, I have a few people in this life that I can fall a part in the midst of and they don’t run for the other side of the city. You know who you are. And I’ll never be able to express what angels on earth you are in my life.
And then there’s my husband, who has loved me through one trauma after another. Sometimes I don’t know why…maybe he owes it to me for stealing a decade of sleep with his snoring…most days I know he’s a blessing to my life. Some days we go through life joyful one minute, and frantic the next….then sad the next…then happy the next. But we go through it. We get through it. Moment by moment. Day by Day. Year by year…until almost a decade married has flown by.
Happy Birthday, Jimmy.
I love you.
Look back…at how far…we’ve come.
On our annual fall trip to Amish country, my daughters cannot wait to jump out of the car and play with the animals at the farm we visit. Brianne has a giant tender spot in her heart for animals, and as precious as it is, we cannot adopt every animal she wants to add to the family. But, oh, how I wish we could. It’s amazing to watch my kid light up like that, and awful having to watch it break.
“He’s only ten dollars, Mom!” she continued to plead.
“Sweetheart,” I tried to explain, “Chicky needs a coop and a chicken run…and it’s about to be winter…we can’t take Chicky home.”
The tears that ran down those beautiful cheeks broke my heart as we pulled away from the farm.
“Chicky…” she cried, “I love you, Chicky.”
It seriously broke my heart. My tears are fresh as I write this.
“Let’s move to a farm, then, Mom,” she reasoned, “so we can take Chicky home.”
“I’m so sorry your sad,” I said, as I squeezed her hand.
I sat in the backseat with her as we pulled away from the farm, watching her little heart break and those crocodile tears stream down her face.
Little did know, this was only a drill.
It’s the hardest part of parenting…knowing when to say no. When is it warranted? When is it necessary? When is it for their safety? When am I just saying “no” as a product of my own fear?
Clearly, I know nothing about raising a chicken. But I made a promise to my weepy seven-year-old that I would do some research for her to find out how we could raise a chicken. I found out a few things. First, chickens can’t share the same living space as humans. I was sold at “because of the odor.” On top of that, we have a cat, and I’m not about to add the stress of natural instinct to kill to a baby chicken or my eleven-year-old cat…who’s holding on by a thread.
Second, chickens need a lot of attention. They need to be checked on five times a day.
I can’t get my children to learn the value of doing chores for the life of me. Maybe if their pet’s life was at risk, it would be good motivation to take care of it. (Yes, I considered a back up chicken.)
Lastly, when baby chicks start to grow, they need a chicken run to go out and play in the sunshine. Never knew what a chicken run was. Didn’t know chickens need sunshine, but it makes sense. After all, so do we. This last bit is a problem, though. We don’t have a barn, and it’s too cold in the winter to have a chicken outside…or even in the garage, in my opinion. I’d feel so bad, it’s freezing out there in the winter.
“Mom,” Brianne asked the very next morning, “did you do some research to figure out how Chicky can come live here?”
“Yep,” I assured her, “I sure did.”
I sat her down and took her through the list of things I learned. She was still sad, but understood why we couldn’t bring Chicky home right now.
“Great!” she exclaimed, after thinking for a bit. “We can bring a Chicky home in the spring!”
Thank the good Lord for friends that will help me get her signed up for 4H in January.
“How are you going to use your love for animals for good, if you get to raise a baby chick next year?” I asked my sweet girl.
We decided that since we’d have eggs from the chickens, that we could give them to the food pantry or to the soup kitchen in our area. I tucked her in that night with dreams of a hot pink chicken coop…and little chickens dropping eggs to cook for breakfast. She even inspired her little sister to want a “teeny tiny bunny” to raise.
We may have some fresh eggs to pass out next summer, and a relative of the Easter Bunny as a part of the family.
“But test everything; hold fast to what is good.” 1Thes. 5:21
No, I’m not going to tell my daughter not to be sad over leaving Chicky at the farm. I’m going to acknowledge her feelings and climb into the backseat to comfort her.
Why can’t she raise a chicken? Because I don’t know how? It seems a tad unfair to hold her back based upon my limitations. Not me. I’m going to Google, “how to raise a baby chicken.” Every time.
And you know what? I’ll put her in 4H, let her raise all the animals she wants, support her, and cheer her on every step of the way.
All because I’m willing to take a step back.
It’s not my agenda that’s important right now. She’s seven. I get one chance to show my daughter that when God touches your heart, you go for it. That’s how you know where He wants you to go.
“But test everything; hold fast to what is good.” 1Thes. 5:21
Pray about it. Ask God. For her, it’s “ask Mom,” and I’ll show her how to ask God.
There’s nothing more disheartening…adult or child…than being told what not to feel. Nothing more crushing than having a dream that’s not allowed to grow.
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh 8:10
“I’m going to sit in the backseat with you, Brianne,” I told her as we left her Great Grandma’s house.
Saying goodbye to her grandparents after they came to visit for Grandparent’s Day at school, I caught my daughter’s glance and felt the squeeze of her hand. As we pulled away from the house, sending my parents back off to Florida until Christmas, my daughter broke down into those giant crocodile tears. Her younger sister followed suit, and I wasn’t far behind.
“Papa…Papa…Papa…” my little five-year-old wailed, demanding I text her Grandpa sad faces and broken hearts.
Sitting in the backseat, one arm around each heartbroken little girl, I prayed.
It’s going to be OK.
Not because we left Chicky at the farm. That’s sad.
Not because Grammy and Papa live in Florida now. That makes us sad sometimes.
It’s going to be OK because we hold tight to the joy of the Lord…even in sadness.
Nothing can steal joy from the lives of those who love Jesus… my heart is guarded by God…and Jesus is there in the backseat to squeeze my hand in hard moments and remind me…
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh 8:10
Happy Chicken Raising…
There is not a cup of coffee in the world strong enough to guarantee that my nerves aren’t at least mildly fried by the time I kiss my sweethearts good-bye for the day at 8:45am.
The last minute rush, even though my two girls have been awake for an hour and a half before we leave for school each day, is beyond my understanding.
“Did you brush your teeth?” I’ll ask, to which they answer back with nothing but blank stares…which means, “No.”
“Did you brush your hair….put your shoes on….where are your socks…you have gym today you can’t wear heals…that doesn’t match…wrong coat…where’s your hat…do you have your book-bag…is your homework in your folder…grab your lunch…run a lap around the house for acting insane…get in the van…stop fighting…”
A friend of mine passed on a fantastically helpful tip to review spelling and vocab words on the way to school…so before the T.Swift sing-along begins, I quiz them on the week’s words.
“Defeated,” I hollered back to my second grader, on the way to school at the tail end of another hectic morning.
“You feel like you have lost,” I corrected, “Repeat.”
“You feel like you have lost,” she stated correctly.
“Curve,” I continued with the week’s list of vocab words.
“A bendy line…” my daughter trailed off.
“A line that has no straight parts,” I corrected, “Repeat.”
“A line that has no straight parts,” she said.
I fire off questions and commands one after another from the time they begin to get dressed in the morning, to the time they are hopping out of the car. They take a piece of my sanity with them…for sure. The sigh of both sadness and relief wash over me every morning after I watch them safely skip down the hallway into school.
Then, I look at my coffee cup and wonder who stole it all from my cup.
“Defeated- you feel like you have lost.”
Yes, that’s how I feel. Like I lost my cup of coffee somewhere between my house and the school. It surely must have evaporated from my cup and floated out of the van window…because I surely don’t remember enjoying a single sip…nor feel a shred more awake than I did when as my alarm went off in the dark of morning.
After all the vocab and spelling word review all week-long, I expect my daughter to get 100% on the tests each Friday. It seems harsh, I know, to expect a perfect score…but it’s not like I’m asking her to conquer new material.
No, I don’t make her run laps around the yard when she doesn’t get all of the answers right, but I have to be honest it’s disappointing. All of the effort that goes into making sure she has the tools and the means to succeed…and sometimes she can’t concentrate on her paper long enough to regurgitate the material. It’s a little frustrating.
I never want Brianne to feel defeated over any mistake or frustration she experiences, right now in the Second Grade Chronicles, or ever in her sweet, blessed life. Mistakes are OK, and I don’t love her any less.
God doesn’t make me feel that way.
Even though I get up every morning and study His Word, I still make the wrong choices. I act ridiculous even though I know better. But God does not make me feel defeated. Instead, the one who guards my heart speaks to it as only He can. He encourages me…comforts me…builds me back up daily through his Word and through prayer…and through amazing people He has surrounded my life with.
Defeat can creep up on sunny days, filled with laughter, family, and friends; and on lonely, bone-chilling days of isolation. What I often fail to realize in those moments, and on those days, is how normal it is to feel that way. I am learning to let myself off the hook. To free myself from the heaviness of guilt and shame, and choose to grab Christ by the hand to pull me up. Now when I make a mistake I know life is not over. I know I have a compassionate Father that I can come to as I am, unashamed. One who understands what it’s like to be human.
THAT’S the legacy I want to pass on to my daughters. Whether it’s a vocab quiz, a lie they got caught in, a fight with a friend, disobedience to their parents…or whatever rebellious period they go through in their lives.
It was only one word in a stack of flash cards.
When I first got the idea to write this blog I stashed only two cards from last week’s pile to remind me to write it. “Defeated,” and “Curve.” This week, we got a whole new stack of words.
These are my kid’s vocabulary words! Yet every time I flipped a card over I found another piece of encouragement that I desperately needed to hear in this season of my life. Messages of recent sermons and worship songs…daily devos and Bible studies…prayers upon prayers…seemed to collaborate in this little pile of paper flashcards…
“Refuse-you don’t want it.” I refuse to be defeated. (1Thes 5:21)
“Accept-when you take something offered to you.” I accept God’s grace. (Eph 2:8)
“Ached-feel sore or in pain.” God, you healed my aches. (Psalm 30:2)
“Insult-say something mean.” Insults are evidence of being set a part. (John 15:19)
“Feud- having a big argument with someone.” I lift up my feuds up to the One who fights for me. (Exodus 14:14)
“Clutched-held something tightly.” I will hold onto Him tightly. (1 Tim 6:12, )
‘Superior-to be the best” He is superior. (Job 33:12 AB, Ps 95:3)
“Fair-you go by the rules” He is fair. (Deut 32:4)
I’m no Bible scholar and I’m terrible at recalling verses, but I do know God well enough to know that He was connecting some dots for me as I quizzed my daughter. I googled each phrase, and found dozens of verses associated with each topic.
I’m not going to retain these definitions infinitely better than my seven-year old, but I find great comfort in knowing that God does not hold me accountable for earning 100%, but I do believe He will re-route us in His Word and tell us to “repeat.”
“Be joyful always.”
1 Thes. 5:16
Boy do I love to shop in bulk. Less trips to the store equals fewer times that I’m required to take two children with me that think they need everything that can be given a bar code and stocked on a shelf. I cherished the last stock-up so much that I couldn’t see over my cart. At the sight of me drenched in sweat from hauling it to the front of the store, the cashier asked,
“You fit this all in one cart?”
“Yep, but I can push two out…it’s OK,” I replied, laughing.
“Oh, good,” she laughed, “I’m glad you’re not opposed to the idea.”
The sense of achievement I felt as I drifted through the aisles checking things off of my grocery list faded to black when I opened up my freezer to assess the situation.
“Blast,” I said to myself…”one more box of waffles.”
Can I just spray some pixie dust in there and toss the waffles in, and just trust it’ll all work out? That’s what Lo would do. But she’s five. And I’m not a fairy.
My eyes drifted over to the ice cube bin.
“I’ll just have to use the ice maker until we eat all of these waffles….” I self-comprised.
Life is full to the brim with these significant badges of motherhood. I’ve always been encouraged by the fact that each mother is picked specifically for the children she is tasked to raise. For this mom called to “stay home,” the struggle to remain content in God’s promise came under fire the day I dropped my last my baby girl off at all-day Kindergarten. I became restless, and started to let the door of the comparison trap creak to a close.
My daughters witness every reaction. They ask loads of questions and demand explanations. They increase in beauty and brilliance with every passing day, and my overwhelming and impossible responsibility to lead them follows suit.
“Will they value their ability to inflict change upon the world if they only see me affect these four walls we live within?”
In these moments I rush to fill my cart up to the brim in panic, and attempt to shove extra waffles in the freezer…when instead I should be reminding myself of God’s promise. The tendency to add things to my life and my schedule in absence of my focus becomes tantalizing and tempting…
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
God is a God of encouragement, and He will interrupt my meddling to nudge my heart in subtle situations. Like when my daughter grabbed a paint brush and wrote “love” on a rain barrel…
“Doesn’t that make you proud?” Came the encouragement delivered from a friend. Messaged received. I’m not failing.
Those God-sent seeds of encouragement run a variable risk of floating to the bottom of my Tervis full of ice water no mater how proficient I become at extracting them with my lemon juice squeezer thingy. But all is not lost, I end up sucking up a lemon seed up through the straw at least once every day. And as I spit it into the sink, I think,
“Why on earth don’t they make the lemon squeezy thing big enough to catch all the seeds?!”
It drives me nuts, and I’m pretty sure I’ve swallowed enough seeds to have a lemony fresh forest growing in my abdomen somewhere. My daughters are constantly spitting lemon seeds at me, but theirs are the kind that crunch between my teeth before I notice them swishing around a midst my swig of water.
“How do babies get in your belly… Why do people move… Why does it take so long to get ready for school in the morning (OK, that’s my question)… I miss kitty … Do we come back as angels after we die… It’s too hard … Mom, you know that you are the one who is in charge of losing your temper, right?”
The seeds I allow to grow into lemony freshness are determined by the truth I align them with.
Paul encouraged Timothy to ” …hold to the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced, known from whom you learned [them]” -2Timothy 3:14. Timothy learned his faith from observing his mother, Eunice…who in turn learned her faith from observing her mother, Lois. (2Timothy 1:5).
I am already doing a better job than I think.
In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul reminds Timothy of his salvation in Jesus Christ, and the knowledge and treasures of the Word that have been stored in his heart since childhood.
God reverted my mind from spitting seeds to find room for the box of frozen waffles…in the ice cube bin.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (NIV), So that the man of God may e complete an proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” -2Timoty 3:16-17 (AMP)
It was there all along…I just didn’t see it. Seeing the space doesn’t always eliminate the frustration of wanting to live up to something that requires more than I feel built to deliver…but it’s a comfort. Life’s going to spit lemon seeds at me at a rapid rate until my time here expires. I can’t prevent that from happening to me or my children. And through the tears that are simply a product of the journey, I keep moving. I keep praying. I keep looking for more space. I look to God’s Word. I pray for His help.
To grow. To learn. To love.
To be the best mom than I can humanly manage to be on this day, and trust in the journey He has set up to be mine alone. Did you know that a monarch chrysalis has a shimmer of gold on it? I didn’t either, until I took a hike with my kids in the woods. What an amazing fight that butterfly has to go through just to become a butterfly…and one of the most beautiful at that, if you ask me. Kids have a way of stopping us mid-battle to reflect back on a beautiful moment.
I wonder on lots of day if I’ve done it right…tried hard enough…been smart enough…set the right example…but I realize even if I reached the bar I’d then, in turn, reach for a higher rung. Being content in the journey is anything but easy, but having faith in my Lord is.
It’s a joyful struggle. It’s a worthy fight. It’s a purpose I’ll fully understand one day beyond the stars.
“Point your kids in the right direction- when they’re old they won’t be lost.” -Proverbs 22:6 (MSG)
Not a huge event, I realize. With both of my kids in school all day for the first time, I fully admit I’ve been on the edge of a full-scale meltdown since they skipped happily down the hallway together that first day. Knowing myself well and prepared for the meltdown to ensue, I made a list of things to occupy the first few months without them around all day.
Even though it feels good to check things off of the list and get around to projects that I’ve put off, nothing will replace Lo Lo’s toddler giggle ringing out throughout the house. Afternoons spent at Cedar Point eating lunch on what Brianne still calls “our bench” by the waterfall; trips to the park in the jog stroller where I met so many wonderful friends; XC practice in the afternoons chasing the high schoolers around. All are now replaced by the exhausted “Lo-nado”,big sister in tow, bursting into the van in the car pick-up line each afternoon at 3:20. Afternoon bike rides, jogs, and trips to the Pied Piper for ice cream are now occupied with homework, dance class, gymnastics, dinner, and bedtime. The toddler years have drifted by, and from the attitude wafting off of my second grader, I know I have to embrace every last bit of innocence I can squeeze out of them each day. Oh, their cute, aren’t they? They are SO beautiful and SO cute…and that keeps them alive. The elementary attitude has arrived, my babies are growing up, I don’t know how to handle it, and to keep from melting into a puddle of tears one afternoon, I decided to cut the lawn.
It’s not that I never had the time to cut the lawn, it’s just that my lines are never straight enough. Our lawn looks like carpet, because my husband has been able to nurture it from the time it was planted shortly after we moved in. He makes sure it’s fertilized, watered, mowed and edged…even though he’s at work no less than 60 hours a week. Now, I personally do not care and cannot keep track of which way the lines are supposed to go each week. Apparently it makes a huge difference in the overall health of the grass or something, but I learned from the old lawn that no matter how happily I sat on the front step like a puppy waiting for a treat for cutting the lawn, if the lines were crooked I was going to hear about it.
Needless to say, I haven’t cut the lawn in years…7 years.
Before I realized I couldn’t make straight lines with a lawn mower, I used to really enjoy it! It’s good exercise, and an excuse to let my favorite music fill my ears at an obnoxiously loud volume without bothering anybody…unless dancing behind the lawn mower counts…then I apologize. One of my favorite memories from my childhood is my Grams, who lived with us a while towards the end of her life, came out to interrupt me cutting the lawn one day. “You’re crazy,” she said, with her trademark smile and giggle. And I laughed. I loved her so much, and have never had another person like her in my life since she passed. I doubt my lines were perfect back then, with No Doubt, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana as my soundtrack.
No matter how hard I concentrate, the lines have never been, and will never be perfect. And I was struck by something while out there cutting the lawn with an Elevation sermon blasting in my headphones. Why am I all of the sudden not OK with that? What changed?
My daughter Brianne plays the ukulele. As a first born, she has the joy of experiencing the overreaction to every new situation she lives through. I was overjoyed that she wanted to play the uke, and dreams of her being on stage and a part of every praise band and musical opportunity rushed to the front of my mind right away. Instrument in hand and a month full of lessons paid for, she was set up for success…until I got in her way. Making her practice, nagging her…wincing when she hit a wrong chord… because of my overcritical approach she stopped wanting to practice. Then, when I threatened to stop paying for lessons if she didn’t practice a little every day, she stopped playing all together.
It’s a tough pill to swallow as a parent. A hard lesson for me to learn. In wanting to force her to follow the lines I considered straight, I smothered her passion to play and opportunity to learn from her mistakes. She listened to the wrong voice. My voice. I was just trying to be a good parent and teach her responsibility, but I clearly got the wires crossed somewhere. I”m supposed to have the encouragement of the Lord in my voice as her mother. Instead, she now thinks she’s terrible at something she once loved to do. #fail.
A church member I look up to in faith shared that her mother has always been her teacher, as she introduced herself as the leader of our women’s Bible study recently. It inspired me to be that for my daughters.
I know all too well the sting of the “not good enough.”
In the spring, I planted Mexican Sunflowers in my backyard. I watered them and waiting patiently for them to grow, and recently learned that they attract Monarch butterflies. In order to attract pretty butterflies….I have to plant the right seeds.I spent way too long listening to the wrong voices. “Send those thoughts back. If they don’t come from God, Mark them return to sender and send them back,” preached Pastor Steven as I swerved around the volleyball net with the lawnmower. #lightbulb. So how do empower my children to do that? Apply that to my parenting?
I bought a uke, and the three of us sit around and play nonsensical stuff sometimes and joke and Brianne teaches us the chords. So, she plays again. And when she wanted to try out for the dance team with a dream in tow to be on pointe shoes some day, I jumped behind her in support and kept my critical opinion to myself. When she asked me to stretch with her, I did. When she asked if I could still do the splits, I did…and then we both erupted in laughter as we heard a giant pop come from somewhere around my hip bones. Clearly too old for that.
The time I spend following my 7 year old zombie daughter around while I nag her to brush her teeth in the morning tests every bit of patience I possess. Kindergarten homework, I now know, is really part Mom’s homework, part test of how long I can keep the lid on my temper. So as I follow my daughter around in the morning, taking deep breaths, making sure she’s ready for school…what voice am I listening to? What boundaries do I set with her and with myself? When my Kindergartner forgets what “if” looks like after she just said it three times, how do I encourage her to recall what was there 30 seconds earlier but has now “left her brain” without having a “reaction” myself? She’s clearly playing a game with me…what are the boundaries? What should the discipline be?
I’m in a full stage meltdown not only due to the amount of time I have to fill now that my girls are at school all day, but because of the different set of boundaries that are encroaching on my system of raising and discipline my girls. How do I discipline them effectively without crushing their confidence? When do I let them make mistakes and which decisions do I still need to be a part of?
I’ve nurtured them since they they were tiny specks in my belly…since their first little cries into this world. I’ve followed the lines, made sure they were as straight as they could be. But now, it’s shifting. Now, they have a mind of their own. They spend a lot of time off in the world without me right there to explain, protect, and catch. And that’s hard. I don’t want to let go of my precious babies. I don’t want them to be exposed to things I don’t want them to be exposed to. I want them to have manners and be disciplined for the lack thereof when necessary.
So I decided pray. A lot. And go to the Word. And thankfully, through the power of bribery in the form of gumballs, we had a moment to discuss our faith as a family after church one Sunday. Hopefully the first of many…
“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5
“Brianne, no one is perfect,” I spoke after another morning meltdown, “Nor do I expect you to be. I love you the same no matter what.”
And then I continued to talk…because no matter how “over their head” the topic may be…somewhere in the middle of “I”m going to ship you off to boarding school so that you can learn some manners!” and “you are really hurting my feelings right now with your behavior,” I hope a hope through the mindless chatter that I let come out of my mouth something will prove useful.
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15
“Grounding you doesn’t change your behavior, so I’m not going to do that anymore,” I explained. “Taking things away from you doesn’t work. Making you write 100 times you won’t do it again still doesn’t keep you from doing it again. Now, I will come up with a punishment, and it will be severe. But, if you are going to fix your behavior, you are going to have to pray about it. You have to let God help you learn and grow, because none of us is equipped to do it on our own. That’s why he left the Bible for us to read.”
In trying not to yell I hope I didn’t church her to death. But it’s the truth. And as I think about the punishment I promised I would deliver to her after school in consequence for her behavior, I’m left truly stumped and humbled. I love my daughters so much, and think the absolute world of them. They are beautiful, talented, and smart. They make my day, every day. I do not want the way in which I discipline them take anything away from the spectacular children of God that they are, chip away at their self-confidence that they, too “Can do all things through Christ who gives them strength,”(Phil 4:13) or the loving relationship we have formed as “best buds” and “best friends” over the years.
I don’t know how to do this. My lines are never straight.
I need God’s help.
Which is exactly where He wants me to be.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of prayer.” Ephesians 4:23
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and Word.” 2 Thes. 2:16-17