Diane’s Lesson

Over the past two weeks I’ve done a series for young moms. I started by saying I wish I could do a beach retreat with each of you to share some things I wish someone had told me when I had several small children under foot. The response has been encouraging; thanks to each of you who have commented on Facebook, through email or here on the blog. Your humbling encouragement to continue the series was heard…

On Friday I told you my son, Joey, would do a guest post today. Due to a really full weekend we postponed his post till tomorrow.  You won’t want to miss it!

I have a new friend whose recent struggles as a mom reminded me of the next lesson I want to pass on to those of you with young children: you can’t protect your kids from suffering. 

Diane (not her real name) was sharing with our church’s small group the sadness and tinges of guilt she feels about how their children have been affected by their recent move to Orlando. While they have moved around quite a bit over the years, they left a comfortable home and church family hundreds of miles away. Extended family was within a few hours drive and the kids each had friends with whom they enjoyed close relationships. A job change for John required the move late last spring. The change and upheaval, including temporary housing before they found a rental home, is taking its toll. Additionally, schooling arrangements that had been a wonderful fit for their family weren’t workable in Orlando, so on top of all of her own adjustments and homesickness, Diane is back to homeschooling five children under age 12.

As our group gently asked Diane questions it became clear that this loving and devoted mom is carrying a weight of anxiety about her children. She tearfully communicated how badly she feels when one after another mention friends they miss.

It was easy for me to empathize with her struggles.

As mothers, we find joy in fulfilling our nurturing role. We are wired by God to protect our children and sometimes this protective instinct seems to conflict with providential things that happen in our lives — like moving. This conflict is disorienting because good moms don’t let sad, hurtful things happen to her kids, right? And when parental choice is involved, it seems all the more wrong!

I was able to commend Diane for her loving heart toward her sons and daughters. Her tears were an evidence of a strong desire to protect and care for them. But I was also able to gently share that it’s impossible for her to protect them from suffering. We live in a fallen world. Dads get new jobs that require moving.  Friends reject, tease and say mean things. Teachers don’t always grade fairly and coaches put other kids in the game more. Sickness happens. Moms sin. Siblings taunt, hit, belittle and don’t share. There will always be someone smarter or more popular; better looking or more talented; thinner or more muscular to whom they will be tempted to compare themselves. And the enemy within — their own sinful hearts — along with their limitations, flaws and weaknesses will all combine to result in hard stuff happening.

The last thing we want to see happen to our children is suffering. Every instinct in every cell of our body urges us to protect our kids from pain. Even when the pain is the result of their own doing, we sometimes want to shield them from the consequences because…honestly…we’re protecting ourselves, too. Their tears, disappointment, rejection, inferiority and pain become our own and the way to protect our hearts is to shield theirs.

Please hear these words from an older mother who has watched her children go through many things I would have never chosen for them: the trials and hardships from which we would most want to protect our kids often end up being agents of their greatest good.

I felt badly for my son when acne made his teen years tougher than normal. I hated seeing the disappointment in my daughter’s eyes when she was excluded from yet another outing with friends. Like Diane, I watched two of our children struggle after our own move to Orlando when they were young teens, which made my sadness and homesickness all the more keen. And watching a couple of my young adults endure the consequences of sinful choices I did everything to teach them to avoid has wrenched my mother’s heart to pieces at times.

I’m here to tell you that God really does “cause all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28) in our children’s lives. And while it’s the hardest thing ever to watch happen, they will suffer. They’ll suffer because of their sins or the sins of others (including Mom’s!) — and they’ll suffer because life in a fallen world just happens.

When they aren’t picked for the team; don’t get invited to the birthday party; feel unattractive; are the only ones they know not allowed to go to a certain movie or listen to a questionable band; get corrected for hitting back; or can’t go somewhere because they didn’t finish their schoolwork, there are two things you can do that will help them. First, empathize…and, second, move on. Even as an adult you know how it feels to be overlooked, jealous, inferior and sad. Your compassion will mean a lot to your child.

But don’t stop there. Teach your little ones that God is always with them. He is in control even when bad things happen. Their example and ours is Jesus, who had a lot of bad things happen, including having to die on the cross because of our sins against Him. Did he sin back? No. And the worst thing that happened to Him was all for good. His suffering produced our salvation, demonstrating once and for all that every wrong, hurtful, hard, painful, disappointing thing that comes into their lives is no match for God’s promise of good.

The cross proves to us and our children that God brings good out of the worst things that happen.

When I look at my young adult children today I see Romans 8:28 all over them. Please help your little ones to see the good even in the bad. It takes faith in a good, wise, sovereign and loving God to impart this to your little ones.

A mom who has faith in God during her own seasons of suffering is able to come alongside her children when they are hurting. Rather than join her children in angry resentment toward a coach, teacher, relative or friend that is mistreating them the wise mother reaches for God’s faithfulness to bring good out her own disappointments and conflicts to compassionately point her child to a Savior who is there to help them.

Yes, the maternal urge to protect our kids is there. But time and again they will suffer and experience pain — and it will all be used for their good.

And ours.

Wait…My Sin Doesn’t Mean I’m Not a Good Mom???

Suzy called me asking to talk about some issues she was facing with her pre-teen daughter. At age twelve, Sarah was showing no interest in spiritual things and had started protesting about getting up on Sunday mornings to attend church with the family. Suzy was perplexed. Her daughter had always enjoyed going on Sunday morning and had numerous friends in the church. But in recent months she had started spending lots of time alone in her room and was increasingly reluctant to hang out with the family or church friends.

As we talked it became apparent that Sarah was blaming herself and her husband for Suzy’s spiritual apathy and family aloofness. She lamented their inconsistent family devotional times and was fearful about Sarah’s path imitating her own rebellious teen years. The thought of Sarah not having a close relationship with God and the family was haunting…

“Sheree, I just don’t understand. I’ve tried so hard to be a good mom and to raise Suzy to love God. We’ve been actively involved in our church and have surrounded her with wholesome friends. Suddenly she’s drawn to music and movies and friends that we don’t approve of. What happened? What did we do wrong?”

On Monday I reminded moms of young children that your struggles and temptations are commonly shared by other moms. Today, I want to warn you not to feel condemned by your children’s sinful choices. 

The humble mother wants to take seriously her own common struggles. As Suzy and I talked over several months, the Lord graciously revealed to her that patterns of anger and fear of man (craving the acceptance and approval of people more than God) had negatively affected her relationship with Sarah. She saw that her expectations of Sarah were frequently higher than Sarah’s age and maturity warranted. When her daughter didn’t complete school assignments on time, reacted angrily or selfishly toward her younger siblings, responded disrespectfully to Mom or disregarded the request to keep her room tidy, Sarah neglected to view her daughter as a fellow sinner in need of God’s power to do what is right. Rather, she sinned back at Sarah with eye rolling irritation, anger laden mini-lectures and self-pitying comments about how much Mom did around the house without much help. God also showed her that some of her desires for Sarah to “act well” was to impress others, avoid embarrassment and to known as an effective mother.

Sarah’s reactions were familiar to me. I was easily able to identify with her and to share my own stories of similarly self-righteous responses to my children and reputation consciousness. The self-righteous mother holds herself up as the example to her children rather than doing what Christ did: condescending to assume of posture of understanding and compassion. And the approval-driven mother often evaluates herself by her children’s actions and attitudes.

I’ll be sharing more in other posts about the importance of training young children to obey and respect their parents. But we must remember that our children are just like us: flawed and broken sinners in need of a Savior to help them to what is right. Without Christ, we moms have no ability to fulfill our Father’s righteous requirements to obey and follow Him. Our unsaved little ones (or big ones, for that matter) are just as incapable of obeying their father and mother without His help.

Suzy’s and my conversations didn’t start with her contributions to Sarah’s struggles. Our first interactions focused on this important truth that I want to encourage you to remind yourself of each and every day: Your mothering weaknesses and sins cannot and will not keep God from working in your child’s heart. Nothing can prevent the power of God from invading and changing your child! Not their sin…not your sin…not anything!

Just think about it. Were you raised by sinless parents? Did they do everything “right”? Were they the ones to reach into your unsaved heart and tenderize it to see your need for a Savior? No. You are a believer today because the Holy Spirit drew your sinful heart to know and love God, leading you to request and receive forgiveness for your sin and providing you with full access to the throne of grace.

I wish I could sit with any of you who are reading this and thinking, “Is this true??? Can God really work through my weaknesses and failures; my lecturing and complaining; my angry, selfish reactions to reach my child’s heart?”

Yes He can. Every child or teen or adult that has experienced saving faith was raised by flawed parents. This doesn’t mean our flaws and sins are excusable. In fact, once Suzy became firm in the fact that God viewed her motherhood through the lens of the perfect obedience of Christ and that she didn’t have to “perform” for Him or others to feel like a good mom, she was energized to take a hard look at her sinful reactions to Sarah. She humbly asked Sarah’s forgiveness and today they enjoy a warm and close relationship. Sarah is now married and is a loving mom to Suzy’s two granddaughters — and she looks to her mom for help with her own mothering challenges. She’s still not in the spiritual place Suzy longs for her daughter to be, but she is making progress!

Would you want to take a minute and pray this prayer with me?

Lord, thank you that as a Christian I am completely accepted by You. I really don’t have to earn Your acceptance and favor, and I have Your power to help me to be a godly mother. I want to change. I want to deal with any patterns of sin in how I relate to my children. But for now I just want to say thanks. Thank you for saving me and for assuring me that YOU will work in my children’s hearts. Neither my sin nor theirs is a match for Your love and irresistible grace! What relief. I’m so grateful. Amen. 

Footballs and Pajamas

For as long as I can remember Sunday has been my favorite day of the week. From the time I was a little girl I looked forward to getting “dressed up” for church. On many Sunday afternoons we left church and drove from Maryland across the Potomac River to Virginia to hang out with aunts, uncles and cousins.

The Skins’ win yesterday was a fun way to start the season!

One thing we didn’t do was watch football. Dad and Mom weren’t sports fans at that time. But after my brother broke his neck in a swimming accident, Mom started watching the Washington Redskins with him. Then when I married Benny, an avid sports fan, I was “obligated” to make the Redskins and the Auburn Tigers a part of my life.

Today my children and their children often come to our house on Sunday afternoons — especially in the fall. DVR’s have made it possible to record the 1:00 Skins games until we can get home to start it. I love the cheers and mess of adults crowding into the family room while cousins play, climb over aunts and uncles to grab M&M’s, and occasionally join in on cheers even though they have no idea why.


You don’t have to watch Sunday football to create traditions to pass along to your children and their children. But traditions are important…and not just because they are fun.

Noel Piper, wife of John and author of Treasuring our Traditions, talks about why family traditions are important:

“[God] was the Author of traditions for His people throughout the Old Testament. He still invites us to His table on a regular basis for the sacred tradition of communion. Why? Because traditions are the equivalent of super-powered family glue. They keep us together and identify us as belonging.”

Hard to believe I begat this man. 🙂 A true fan.

Traditions like Sunday afternoon football, the must-have birthday cake, butterfly bedtime kisses or opening pj’s on Christmas Eve really can be “super-powered family glue.” We are fast approaching the holiday season when traditions bring richness and warmth to what can easily become a consumer-oriented and stressful few months. Hanging out yesterday watching the Redskins with some of my people has me thinking about the joy of “belonging” to a family.

I’ll be blogging more about this soon…

An After-Dinner Chat With Some Smart Kids

Yesterday a longtime friend made a facebook comment about a book Benny and I wrote years ago called, “Walking With the Wise.” Frankly, it was written so long ago that I rarely think about it. It was a book for parents about the importance of developing the kind of relationship with our kids that makes we parents the people to whom they want to come for friendship and counsel in the teen years.

It was based on Proverbs 13:20:  “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Having been in youth ministry for years before having kids, Benny and I watched many teens turn their affections and desire for approval away from their parents to peers. We wanted to do our best to avoid this happening to our kids.

Years after writing that book we went through some rough waters with several of our kids when our relationships with them were tested and it seemed we were the smallest voice in their lives. And some of the hardest times were after they were no longer teens. The early 20’s brought challenges we didn’t anticipate, so with an 18-year-old still at home we are still spending time on our knees. With her oldest siblings we breathed a sigh of relief once they were out of those high school years. We know better now. We need God’s grace now just as much as when she was younger and are wanting to finish these remaining parenting years well by God’s grace.

Something cool has happened over the past few years to our grown kids (ages 22 through 34 and their spouses). They’ve gotten smart! The kids to whom we used to give advice (or try to!) are now advising us.

Take the other night. We went out to a birthday dinner for our daughter, Janelle. Not all of the kids could come but 4 of them and a couple of spouses were there. After dinner, Benny asked if he could get their thoughts on some decisions we’re facing, including having his elderly mom come to live with us and needing to move closer to where our new church was planted.

As we sat on the restaurant patio Benny shared his heart and our questions. I loved hearing him openly share some of our temptations and struggles, as well as our questions. One by one they started asking questions and sharing their perspectives. They helped me to see an oversensitive conscience about admitting it would be easier if my mom was needing to move in with us rather than Benny’s. In fact, one son-in-law interrupted his wife (our daughter) when she half-joked about the day we might have to move in with them by interjecting, “Now, wait a minute; we need to talk about this!” They also helped Benny and me to see the importance of talking through our housing preferences more before we actually house-hunt. And, most importantly, they agreed that we need to take a good look at heart motives behind some of our questions and struggles.

Now we are walking with the wise!

Benny and I cherish our peer relationships. We could never put a price on the help, counsel, correction and encouragement we’ve received from our friends over the years. Yet there’s something really special about sitting across from our kids-turned-adults and gleaning from their perspective. Last night as we talked I stopped to savor the moment. Josh started out bald and is now voluntarily bald again. Jaime’s ponytail looked just like it did in her high school basketball games. Janelle’s laugh is still there — the one I could always hear from across the room. They’re my children; the ones I carried and made birthday cakes for and disciplined and taught to read and sinned against and fed pbnj’s.

Yet there they sat: helping, advising and caring.

At one point I realized that someday they’ll all be sitting having a conversation about what to do with their Dad and me.  To add some comic relief to quiet the tears brimming in my eyes I told them I wanted to apologize in advance for all the trouble we would cause them someday.

“Someday?” Josh asked. “You already cause us trouble!”

Ahhh. It was perfect. The tears stopped and we all had a good laugh.

I hope the Lord gives us lots of healthy years to get more good counsel from our kids.

I guess this is “Walking With the Wise: Part Two.”

The Friend I Almost Lost

For the third time in 3 years the pregnancy test was positive. But it was 1986 and they were known to be inaccurate sometimes so Benny and I decided to test again.

Yep, for the third time in less than three years we were expecting a baby.

Josh (almost 8) and Jaime (6 1/2) were thrilled.  We were relieved because two little brothers had rushed into their lives in the past 2 1/2 years. And one of them was a tantrum-thrower!

About six weeks into the pregnancy I was put on bed rest in an attempt to keep baby number five alive, but Dr. Crowe told me to prepare myself to miscarry. During the weeks that followed Josh and Jaime potty trained 2 1/2 year old Jesse, played with 14-month old Joey, made lunches, did household chores and took good care of Mommy until Daddy got home each day. We all prayed daily that God would protect their baby brother or sister.

Janelle Marie was born on September 4th to the delight of a family who had prayed for her birthday. As I held my baby girl in my arms tears streamed down my face. God had spared my daughter’s life. She was an adorable, smiley baby who captured the hearts of all who came in contact with her.

Memories of “Missy” (a name her brothers still call her) are flooding my mind today. I’m smiling about the time she excused her disobedient choice to cross the street in front of our house alone with, “Mommy, I couldn’t help it. My feet just starting walking into the street!” I can’t remember the number of pages (no cell phones back then!) we received from babysitters asking us to call home because she was throwing tantrums and refusing to go to bed. After searching Northern Virginia for Dalmatian panties to complete a themed 6th birthday party, she opened them and rolled her eyes: “Underwear. Dalmatian underwear.”  There were annual vacations to Nags Head, North Carolina, including Dowdy’s for rides and cotton candy — where in 1997 God spared her life a second time when her courageous daddy was willing to sacrifice his own to save hers.  How many hours did we all spend watching BRYC basketball games with Jaime and Mel as her coaches? Oh…and who would have thought the13-year-old who passed out when a doctor started drawing her blood would someday become a nurse! My favorite memories with her include twelve years of homeschooling at kitchen tables on Rockwell Road and Rosalie Way.

All teens have some rough times — Janelle’s were uniquely hard. Some painful family challenges were followed by moving from her beloved childhood home the week before her 13th birthday…just days before a mono diagnosis required several months of quiet recovery. Another move less than a year later to Orlando resulted in a lengthy season of few friends while she battled grief following the death of the best grandmother ever. Missy responded to the loneliness and boredom by reaching for doctrinal books on her dad’s bookshelves. Those years forged a depth of relationship with God and love for truth that helped her develop convictions, cultivate spiritual gifts and experience the hard fought treasures of providential loneliness.

Her later teen years also brought challenges in our relationship. Mothers and daughters often misstep during these awkward years when one is trying to provide needed motherly guidance (and sinning along the way!) and the other is trying at times to push the envelope of young adulthood prematurely. I remember one especially hard day when our mutual accusations and hurtful words sent us both to our rooms in frustrated tears. Janelle’s affection for the rightful claims of scripture resulted in her reaching out to a wise older woman in our church to help her through bitterness toward me, and I likewise solicited counsel for ways I was tempting and exasperating her. I cherish the day when we were able to ask one another’s forgiveness.  Her humility opened the door for the warm and delightful friendship we share today.

18 months ago we waved goodbye as she drove away from her wedding reception with the godly man for whom she had waited and prayed. One of the convictions her lonely teen years produced was a robust commitment to trust God to bring her a husband in His time rather than  search for one through causal dating. Eric captured her heart two years before she captured his, yet her dad and I watched her trust God’s will to unfold without manipulating to get her way. When Eric approached Benny to discuss his desire to pursue a deeper friendship with Janelle to investigate whether marriage might be in their future, Benny told him some news. As a young teenager Janelle insisted that any young man who wanted to consider her as a wife would have to gain not just his permission — but that of her four brothers.

This brave young man met with Josh, Jesse, Joey and Jake to talk about his intentions, and 6 months later all the Phillips men agreed to a proposal. He also invited the family to hide in the bushes at a nearby park the evening he put an engagement ring on her finger.

Missy, today I’m thinking about the day the doctor handed me a precious baby girl. It was truly one of the happiest days of my life.  I’m grateful that I’ve had a front row seat watching Him grow you through tough family times: losing Nannie; realizing at times that your only friends were siblings; having to accept help from a younger brother with Geometry and Logic; maintaining your convictions to wait for a godly man; and embracing Dad’s legacy of deep affection and sacrifice for the church.

You’re a big girl now. You have a husband and a home. Lord willing, you’ll get to Mommy your own children soon — after years of practice on a baby sister and a crew of adoring nieces and nephews. Someday I pray God gives you a daughter who brings you the joy you have brought me. If so, if you have a hard time finding babysitters willing to endure her tantrums or go through tough times in her teen years, don’t worry. God will give you and her both the grace and humility to walk through it all.

And then she’ll be one of your best friends.

Happy Birthday, Missy.

Celebrating “Little One”

Eighteen years ago was a stifling summer day in Virginia. Yet I could hardly contain my excitement. The baby girl we had been waiting for was on the way!

My life was forever changed on August 23, 1994.

The courage of a young woman for whom I am forever grateful resulted in an adorable bi-racial baby girl being put into my arms — and something wonderful happened. I loved her! Hospital personnel and visitors of other newborns were convinced by our giddiness and photos that this was our first baby. Benny and I enjoyed each surprised look when they heard she was our seventh.

When we rounded the corner onto Rockwell Road the next day six blondes pushed by each other to be the first to see her. They had sufficiently argued over who would hold her first. Jaime won. At 16 she was already the self-proclaimed second mother.

I never imagined it possible to so intensely love a baby to whom I hadn’t given birth. But she had been in our hearts for years. Some 12 years earlier Benny told me he believed God would someday allow us to adopt trans-racially, so we had kinda been “expecting” for over a decade. By the time she came we were eager to embrace this little sweetheart into our hearts and home.

She soon become “Little One” — which Jake and Joey still call her. Some of my favorite memories are coming into the room and seeing her lying asleep on 17-year-old Josh’s chest; watching Jaime load her into the van to take on outings with friends, knowing people would assume she was her mommy; noticing her holding a ten-dollar bill and realizing the man in line in front of us had given her the money she asked for!; watching her brothers tenderly hold, kiss and play with her; and watching her “teach” 7-year-old Janelle how to take care of a baby.

Her relationship with her 2 sisters and 4 brothers remains sweet. And they’ve given her eleven nieces and nephews to babysit; make crafty creations; paint toenails; and play video games. Their first question when they walk into the house is often, “Where’s Aunt Julia?”

Early on, she learned she could talk Daddy into most anything. The little penny candy machines he refused to “waste money on” for the other children became the recipient of his quarters. He smiled over things she said and did for which her siblings were corrected. One friend winsomely exhorted him that our little girl “needed a daddy, not a grandfather.” Their relationship remains one of the joys of my life.

As she grew I wanted to make sure she had a good understanding of her African American heritage. I loved reading black history children’s books to her and drawing to her attention to the many outstanding achievements of African Americans throughout history. And, yes, I wondered what it would be like for her to grow up in the whitest family ever.

When she started teasing us about never getting as tan as her at the beach, calling us “Blondie” when we did stupid things and assuring me she didn’t really need to see the newest documentary on Dr. King I knew she was okay. And then I watched the commentary without her.

One of my heartfelt desires was that she would know that she is loved and cherished. I wanted her to feel as much a part of our family as her sibs and to see the gospel in full view by how grateful we each are to Him for bringing her into our lives. As with all teens, we’ve had some rough waters. Benny and I increasingly realize that even though she’s our 7th we still have a lot to learn about parenting. She’s been patient with us.

The world says that today she becomes an adult. But today and always she is our baby girl. Little One. Recipient of more cash than we had to give to her siblings (yep, we admit it). And the one who always makes sure the house is tidy when we come home from out of town.

Happy Birthday, Julia. You’re not blonde or blue-eyed…but you calling me Mom reminds me of the gift you are to me. I love you!

Papa’s Skipped Naps

It was the mid 80’s and we were spending another year vacationing on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with our growing family. Benny decided to set aside his daily naps to spend time making memories with each of our children. One by one, he took them out for lunch and to get ice cream, buy a T shirt or ride go karts.

With each passing year they started anticipating their time out with Dad. But they were kids. Did they look forward to it just because being the only kid meant getting a bigger dessert or an extra go kart ride? Would they someday realize that memories really were being made or would their own fading memories result in forgetting Dad’s Day Out?

It was quite a project, but we got a family picture done last week!

Last week we were on our annual vacation at the beach. (My People, as I fondly call them, are pictured here.) Early in the week I was sitting under the beach canopy when I heard my two oldest grandsons, 7-year-olds JJ and Wyatt, interacting over their afternoon plans. JJ excitedly told Wyatt he was going out with Daddy on his motorcycle for lunch. “Really? I’m going out with my parents, too!” Wyatt responded.

Before I knew it my eyes were filling with tears. The kids did appreciate their times out with Dad! And now a new generation is benefitting from parents skipping their well-deserved beach naps to make memories with their kids.

Sometimes we parents wonder if our kids notice. Do they notice that we pray for them when we tuck them in each night? Stay up late to help them with a school assignment? Go without clothes or shoes so we can spend the money on them? Rave over their scribbled Sunday School pictures as if they’re works of art? Skip a nap to say “I love you?”

As a mother, I sometimes feel unappreciated for the sacrifices motherhood continues to place on me even though my youngest is nearly 18. I still don’t buy myself things so I can bless them, pray for them most nights, skip sleep to babysit the little ones or help with homework, and rave over their accomplishments. The fact is, parenting is hard and often thankless work with delayed benefits.

But when we get a glimpse of those benefits, it can take our breath away.

On the beach that day I got to see the fruit of Benny’s sacrifices. I saw the same glimmer of excitement in the eyes of two little boys that I saw in their parents eyes decades ago. Each day little people talked about it being their day out, then came back to chatter about what they had for lunch or show off their new T shirt.

Are you a parent who wonders if the sacrifices you are making mean much to your kids? Do you find yourself longing for some indication that you’re efforts appreciated?

Sometimes thanks comes in ways we can’t anticipate. Last week Benny received a great big “Thanks, Dad” without anyone saying a word to him.

Delayed parental fruit can sometimes be more sweet than immediate gratitude. If you are struggling with wondering if your sacrifices are even noticed by your kids, be patient. Your willingness to go without sleep or clothes or gratitude is making you like the One who sacrificed His very life so you could have a relationship with Him. The daily choices you are making are noticed by Him…and will produce fruit that you can’t yet see.

Someday your kids will thank you. Just maybe without words.

And take it from a Granma of eleven…future generations will be blessed by your every sacrifice. So keep laying down your life. Someday the fruit will take your breath away.

The Little People who are benefitting from their Papa’s skipped vacation naps.

6 + 5 = She Changed my Life

Who wouldn’t fall in love?

Granma doesn’t have many rules but there’s one really important one: my Little People aren’t allowed to get older than 6. I’m unapologetically unwilling to make even one exception.

So today my firstborn Little Person turns 6 + 5.

Little Fairy Princess

July 19, 2001 was a birth day for me, too. It’s the day the Granma in me was born. Before then I was Princess to my Daddy; Sheree (pronounced wrongly quite a bit) to most others; Honey to Benny; and Mom to my seven J’s. But a new “me” was born when Kayla Sheree rushed into my world.

Watching my girl have a baby girl was breathtaking. Kayla made her entrance in a room of family members eager to welcome the first in a new generation.  That day she didn’t have to steal my heart. I gladly handed it to her. This tiny little person immediately clutched my heart till I thought it would burst with love. I had wondered for months how it would feel. Would it feel similarly to the seven times eager arms had held my own newborns? Or would it take some time to fall in love with someone to whom I didn’t give birth? I had been a birth assistant numerous times and felt a sweet bond with the little ones I watched come into the world. Would the warmth in my heart feel like that…or different?

That sweet smile remains…almost all the time.

Even today she loves being “Sissy”

I don’t remember answering those questions. I didn’t have to. I realized I loved her that first night I learned from surprised parents that she was coming; loved her more when I saw her tiny body on the sonogram screen; loved her again for being used by God to remind my daughter of what she wanted to be more than anything; loved that my Jaime Sheree wanted to pass along my name to the next generation; loved her with intense anticipation as I coached Jaime through contractions and assured her she would be worth it all. And then loved her all the more when I held her in my arms that first time. Because of her I had a new name.

I chose Granma because I wanted a “real” Grandmother name that didn’t sound anything close to Nannie. You see, no one could ever replace her. When my kids saw my mother, there was a sparkle in their eyes I only saw then. Nannie was the object of special love from my seven J’s. So I would be Granma and no one could compare me to “the best grandmother EVER!”

There’s that smile!

Watching her grow up has been so much fun! One of the perks of being Granma is that I get to experience all the delicious joy with none of the weighty responsibilities! From birth Kayla has been smiley and pleasant. A “starter baby.” I warned Jaime not to expect future babies to be so easy. She later thanked me for the warning. Smile.

The best thing Kayla did for me is bring light into several years of darkness. The years preceding her birth were hard ones for our family, culminating in the sudden death of Mom and Nannie in July 2000. Her birth almost one year later to the day reminded me that joy really does come in the morning. After she was born there was something to look forward to each day. Even when I didn’t see her, I got to ask, talk,think and journal about her. Pray for and anticipate seeing her. Hold, rock and sing to her.

She made me smile and laugh and hope again.

I will never forget the day she ran to me for the first time.  It was the fall of 2002 and she was 16 months old. I was standing in our church lobby on a Sunday morning when I saw Jaime out of the corner of my eye. Momentarily, I heard that sweet little voice and looked down. From across the room I saw her trotting toward me with arms extended. And it was there! The sparkle! Could it be that she loved me like my children loved Nannie?

And so I loved her again.

Such a great big sister to Wyatt, Annie and “Nae Nae”

She keeps doing that to me. How can love keep growing like this? I love her for caring so deeply for others; working hard to help Mommy at home; spontaneously squeezing and kissing her little sister or calling Wyatt her “buddy”; getting excited about babysitting lots of nieces and nephews (and not just when Uncle Josh gives her money); thanking me over and over for “letting” her come over to help me clean; opening up to her mom about things she hasn’t yet realized most kids don’t talk to their parents about; kissing and hugging me at least 3 times before we leave; making me notes that tell me I’m the best Granma ever; standing next to me each Sunday morning so we can worship and hug; and exclaiming that she just had “the best day” of her life whenever we do anything special together.

She’s becoming a young lady way too quickly!

Does it sound like I’m pretty self-aware when it comes to her? LIke it’s all about what she does for me and how she has enriched my life and makes me feel special?

Her laugh still lights up my world.

Hmmmm. I think you might be onto something. One man said grandchildren are great because they are born with an understanding that their grandparents are far more wonderful and smart than their mom and dad ever realized. I’m sure part of why I adore Kayla is because she thinks I can do no wrong. (Like the day she asked why I had been crying and I told her it was because I had been asking the Lord to forgive me of some sin.  “Granma, you don’t sin!!!!” she confidently exclaimed.) Or maybe because she rescued me from a long season of heartache and sadness, so I’ve become overly focused on how my life has been enriched by her.

Becoming Granma ten more times to the Little People who have followed her so far has created explosion after explosion in my aging heart of fresh love for those with whom, by God’s saving grace, I will spent eternity. I regularly remind myself that they will become the grandparents of those I will not meet until That day.

No; being Granma isn’t about me but about spending myself to leave a legacy of godly womanhood for little girls to follow and little boys to look for when it’s time.

Recently she asked if I was planning to take her to Tea for her birthday this year. (Like her mother, I have to remember to think before I do anything with her because if she has fun it will likely have to become “a tradition.”) I asked how long she expected us to do this each year.

“Till I’m 6 + 100!” Looks like she and I will be having tea in heaven. What fun that will be!

But for now it’s time to get dressed for a birthday tea with 6 + 5.

Cost Counting Both Ways: Some Lengthy Musings

This week I started a study of the Book of Exodus. It’s been refreshing to start a “dig deep” study from which I’m already benefiting. It’s been too long since I did this and God’s living and active word is having its affect on my heart.

And you’re about to read some real musings…smile. Musings are simply thoughts and ponderings for consideration or dialogue. They’re not rules or guidelines for people to follow. Smile.

In chapter 1 we read that after 400 years of favor in Egypt, the Israelites were yet again put into slavery by a new Egyptian king. Why? Because he observed how “numeous” the foreign Israelites were becoming. Historians think there were several likely reasons for this, including the fear that Egyptian enemies could find help in war from lots of Israelites or that Israel might eventually seek to take over the county like the Hyksos (also Jewish foreigners) had done for nearly a century earlier in their history.

Be patient as I quote from the Women’s Evangelical Commentary of the Old Testament:

“This king…perceived the people to be a threat and responded with suspicion and hostility….The pharoah’s plan indicates his belief that enslaving the Hebrews would separate husbands from their families, severely curtailing opportunities to conceive or provide for children, and that grueling physical labor would weaken them physically, crush their spirits, and ultimately disrupt the alarming population explosion of foreigners in the land.”

By the end of chapter one, he decreed that Hebrew baby boys would be killed at birth, leaving girls to grow up to become servants or wives of Egyptian men. As a mom, I can’t imagine the heartache of giving birth a son, only to face losing him to post-birth abortion by order of the government!

Thank God for godly midwives like the one who refused to kill newborn Moses. She had no idea her courageous refusal saved the life of the future deliverer of her people!

Satan’s attempts to prevent the proliferation of godly offspring didn’t end in 1440 BC with the enslavement of God’s people. This is what I was thinking about yesterday:

  • What do Satan’s attempts to prevent people from having and raising godly children look like today?
  • Why is it that couples who have three or more children often feel judged or mildly ridiculed for their decision?
  • What “enslavements” do today’s young parents and prospective parents face that may tempt them to limit family size?
  • What cost-counting considerations should today’s young parents do when making decisions about family size?

Yes, this is a mother of seven asking these questions and I’m not going to foolishly disregard the reality that having a large family influences my perspective on family size. But Benny and I didn’t set out to have a large family. After God gave this infertile woman a baby, we had no assurance more would come. But they did…even when we used birth control!

My desire is not to convince couples to have more children for the sake of having children. In fact, over the years Benny and I have counseled some couples to consider not adding more children to their lives for various reasons.

No, this wasn’t staged. Wyatt did this all on his own. Real family life.

Let’s be honest. Having and raising children is hard work. Aside from the financial and physical challenges, there is the sheer work involved in carrying, birthing, feeding, training, cleaning up after, disciplining, comforting and tending the heart of just one child into adulthood! Not to mention the potentially heart wrenching trials many parents face from serious illness, spiritual disinterest or teen rebellion, and watching young adults make sinful choices with hard consequences.

Whew. Why have children, then? Why risk any or all of that? Especially more than once or twice???

Because God has given Christian parents the stunning opportunity to put His glory and redemption on display. Believe me, I know how hard having children is. I spent 6 weeks on bedrest praying to save the life of my unborn baby girl. Stood over the incubator in the neonatal ICU and prayed my newborn son would be ok. Watched as a paramedic put a neck brace on my 10-year-old while remembering seeing the same on my quadriplegic brother after a swimming accident. Agonized over children making rebellious, sinful decisions as older teens. And sobbed over things that have happened in our family that seemed hopeless and unredeemable.

But God has been faithful. As my commentary says:  “God plans, promises, and proves faithful….This true story of God’s liberation, salvation, redemption, and rescue from Egypt powerfully foreshadows Christ’s liberation, salvation, redemption, and rescue from sin and death.”

Does that make your heart skip a beat? God’s redemptive plan in your and my families will never be thwarted. He will remain faithful to you…and to your children.  However many you have.  Faithfulness to protect and faithfulness to redeem from everything we would want to avoid happening.

Just like He has been to me. Today, the older teens I was so worried about are all

My Little People (Christmas 2011)

married to godly spouses and have children of their own. My unborn baby girl was worth 6 weeks on bed rest and is now a nurse. My newborn son turned out to be just fine and stands at 6 feet, 5 inches. (Well, he did take us threw a couple of tough toddler years with awful temper tantrums that scared and exhausted us!) Josh’s fall from the tree didn’t break his neck — but he gave me another scare 15 years later when he called me from the ER to say a cheerleader fell on his head during one of those “throw her in the air” tricks while he was reffing a basketball game.  And, by the grace of God, all seven of our children and eleven grandchildren are with us at Redeemer Church working side by side to bring the gospel to Lake Nona, Florida.

Young people: have babies. Have them for the glory of God. Let God, not culture or sin or Satan — or well-meaning friends or relatives or strangers (even those who tell you to have more than you believe God wants!) — convince you that raising children is too hard, expensive or life consuming.

Parenting is hard. Expensive. Life consuming. But each child comes with a Manufacturer guarantee of grace, wisdom, strength and gospel hope to see them become pillars of His church and proclaimers of the gospel for generations to come.

So count the cost of having kids. But also count the cost of not having them. Then raise the ones you have for His glory. Even through the hard times.