When Mother’s Day Just Isn’t Happy

Sunday is a special day for many women — a day full of warmth and joy.  But for other women it’s a reminder of loss, estrangement, disappointment or pain.

And it’s often hard to admit in the midst of all the flowers and cards.

Read more about my story and the story of man others here.

Blessings!

Sheree

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The Wisdom of Rules

Today’s post is provided by my son, Joey. He is married to Lauren and they have an adorable Disney-loving daughter, Amelia. Joey manages ProVisionIT, a technology solutions company started by his oldest brother, where his degree in Philosophy is completely irrelevant. But his love for truth comes in handy when he reads Mom’s blogs and offers to help nuance things for me. I’m grateful that my kids even read my posts, much less want to weigh in.

Yesterday my brother, Jake, tackled the issue of legalism, explaining how parental rule-making and standard enforcement is not necessarily legalism. Legalism is a heart motivation issue, not an issue or practice. He was writing given the understanding that those reading would have read Mom’s post regarding sexual temptation and sin in the home. I am going to do the same by following up Jake to argue that making rules and enforcing standards in regards to worldliness and sexuality is a very wise thing to do, on top of it not being legalistic.

Okay, the truth is I’m a new parent of one three-year-old who mostly needs to be protected from too many Disney movies. That’s why Mom is the one who does most of the writing here. But I was a kid living at home with my parents for over two decades, so I think that qualifies me as an expert at being the recipient of rules and standards, some I resented and a couple I rebelled against.  And while my parents worked hard to adjust their parenting methods as my siblings and I became young adults to give us opportunities to either learn through our mistakes or become our own gatekeepers, I didn’t see anything in scripture that permitted me to dis their wisdom under the guise of “independence.” So I’m writing as one who benefitted from the kind of gatekeeping parenting that I hope to practice with my own kids.

libertychurcharab.com

libertychurcharab.com

I am briefly going to mention some common objections to the gatekeeper method of parenting when it comes to worldliness, then suggest three reasons why those objections are insufficient and consistently applied rules and standards are wise, especially as it relates to our sex-saturated culture.

A brief definition of the gatekeeper parental mentality was given by Mom in her article. On a very basic level gatekeeping says a parent needs to do their best to guard the gates of the hearts of their children, endeavoring to minimize bad input and maximize good input. This idea receives a fair share of criticism, stemming from a few fundamental objections.

(1) It’s impossible – This objection points out that gatekeeping is impossible because (a) no matter how absurdly isolationist you are, you can’t keep everything bad out and, (b) children’s hearts are not blank slates that will remain clean if parents keep out the dirtiness of the world – after all, Calvin calls our hearts “idol factories” capable of all manner of sin, no matter how closely guarded. This objection is a good one for the most part, in that it’s based in truth. It’s an effective response to those who take the gatekeeping mentality too far, and it’s a good reminder to all parents that God changes hearts, not parents. Mom’s article did a good job explaining why relying on just a gatekeeping mentality is not effective and also naive.

(2) It’s legalistic – See Jake’s article yesterday. As one commenter said, “I’m not legalistic; I don’t have rules. And God is more pleased with me because I don’t” is just as wrong as “I’m not legalistic; I just have rules. And God is more pleased with me because I do.”

(3) It stunts growth and sets kids up for failure – This objection points out that parents aren’t going to be around forever, and then argues too much gatekeeping can train a child to rely too heavily on his parents. Then when he is on his own he doesn’t have the ability to protect his own heart. Kids need to learn to develop their own convictions, which is part of what growing up is all about, and gatekeeping delays that process. This is why you have so many kids who abandon the faith when they reach college. They simply aren’t prepared for the onslaught of the culture when they leave their [overly] protective parents, and don’t have the convictions they should have been developing for themselves at home so they would be prepared for the world. Now that their parents aren’t there to protect them, they easily capitulate to temptation and buy into worldly ways of thinking.

Those are the main categories that objections fall into when it comes to protective parenting. Here are the three reasons I think the objections, while all containing helpful guards against relying on gatekeeping alone, fail to see the wisdom of parental gatekeeping.

(1) The Bible teaches it. – “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” Ezekiel 33:6 is not about parenting. However, it’s pretty clear about what God thinks of people who see danger and fail to protect those around them through warnings. You see this same type of thought with the temple gatekeepers who were responsible for both making sure nothing unclean got into and nothing of value was taken out of the temple. God expects those responsible for protection to protect. Parents are entrusted by God to protect their children, not just physically but spiritually (Duet 4:9-10, 6:6-9). Almost every reference to parenting in Proverbs includes the idea of correction, which is taught as one of the ways you protect your child. In fact, failing in this regard is equated to being an accessory to their spiritual death (Proverbs 19:18). It is impossible to find any indication in Scripture that not actively protecting your children from worldly influence and temptation is a good idea.

(2) It Works – Not perfectly, of course. Mom’s article is exactly right that rules, standards and strategies to limit your children’s exposure to our sex-saturated culture are only part of the parenting equation. But it is a helpful part — and a large part of the reason why is that kids are imitators. (So are adults for that matter. But it’s obvious in kids.)

As I mentioned, Amelia loves Disney and she went through a stretch of                         watching a lot of the Disney classics. Just about every one of them ends with a kiss. It wasn’t long before playing with her Disney prince and princess dolls meant, well, a lot of kissing and not much else. Lauren and I stopped showing Beauty and Beast and Cinderella and a few of the others, stuck with Disney Junior for a while, and now her dolls are having bad attitudes at each other for not opening the castle door quickly enough. Much better.

The point is, whether it’s a two-year-old watching a G rated movie or a 13-year-old starting to mimic the speech of his best friend, kids imitate. As Christians we are called to imitate Christ, and Deuteronomy/Proverbs indicate a wise parent trains their child in that regard from the very beginning. This necessarily means minimizing their exposure to worldly things to imitate, along with maximizing their exposure to godly things to imitate. By the way, in my opinion the most important way to do this with older kids is through monitoring their friendships.

(3) It’s Not Just for Kids – I think where the objection that gatekeeping sets kids up for failure when they get to the real world misses the mark is in its ignoring of the fact that it shouldn’t stop once they are outside the home. Guarding the heart, minimizing worldly input, setting up rules of accountability…none of these things should end at any point. As kids get older they should be taking responsibility for being the primary gatekeepers of their own hearts, but gatekeeping is still required, and for all the same reasons. Gatekeeping is a necessary and wise part of parenting because it is how kids learn to be the gatekeepers of their own heart. That’s the idea behind the oft misunderstood “train up a child in the way he should go” verse. Parenting is nothing other than teaching and demonstrating the Christian life to your children. If you are a gatekeeper of your own heart, if you have rules and standards in place in your own life as to the type of input the world has into your heart because you know your heart needs that type of vigilance, than it would be a grievous dereliction of your God-given responsibility as a parent not to teach your child to do the same.

Joey and his Disney girls

Joey and his Disney girls

Sexual Temptations, Worldliness and Rules

Yesterday I was over at Growing Up Triplets talking about “Not Me! A Mother’s Look at Sexual Temptation and Sin in the Home.” Two of my sons, both in their 20’s, asked to do a follow up post to share their hearts on this topic. Today’s post is by Jake, a second-year law student at the University of Florida (even though he’s a solid Auburn fan) and brand new husband to Sarah. Since my kids’ posts are the most-read ones on this blog, I hope you’ll appreciate hearing from my mid-20’s son who kinda writes like a lawyer. Yep, I had to look up “prophylactic” because I certainly don’t remember that being in our homeschool vocab lists.

Yesterday, Mom made what I think is an important point, i.e. that prophylactic* rules parents set up regarding sexual and worldly temptations can never be entirely successful.  Internet filters, guarding the remote, restricting the viewing of certain TV shows/movies or listening to certain kinds of music, keeping an eye on what friendships they develop and which stores in the mall they are passing will not stop the inevitable contact with sexually explicit messages and images all kids eventually encounter.

She later made an equally important point. Parents should set up internet filters, should restrict the movies their kids watch and the music they listen to, should distract their kids when walking by Victoria Secret and generally should protect their kids in reasonable ways. It was beyond the scope of the blog post to answer, but it begged the question: why? Why should we do those things? Isn’t making rules and standards for our kids “legalistic” as some purport?  Why spend so much time protecting our kids if, ultimately, we can’t be entirely successful? Shouldn’t we focus our time and energy on preparing them for the inevitable worldly and sexual temptations that will arise?

To answer those questions Joey (one of my older brothers), Mom and I are going to write a three-part follow up series to Mom’s post yesterday.  Our contention is that creating rules and standards for our kids insofar as it relates to worldliness and sexual temptations isn’t legalistic and is wise.  I am writing today to address the issue of legalism; Joey will write part two addressing the issue of wisdom (from the perspective of the kid) and Mom will write part three addressing the issue of wisdom from a different perspective than Joey — namely, she’s the one with seven kids and fourteen grandkids.

Before I begin, though, I want to make several points at the outset.

1) Preparing your kids for the inevitable temptations that arise is at least equally (and perhaps more) important than attempting to protect them from such temptations. Nothing we say in this series should be construed as a criticism of any energy and dialogue spent for the purpose of preparing or helping your kids through such temptations.

2)  Although the rules of the game don’t change as kids get older, the strategies do.  In other words, to the extent that anything we say is even true, it applies only where it applies, and probably moreso to pre-teens and early teenage years than to later teenage years.

3)  Actual, real legalism is the worst.

Having said all that, let’s talk about legalism.

WHAT IS AND WHAT ISN’T LEGALISM?

There is a somewhat fascinating way of thinking that’s going around that equates rules and standards with legalism. This is of course absurd, since the lack of rules and standards can be legalistic in exactly the same ways that rules and standards can be legalistic. So, then, what is legalism?

Author and teacher John Piper says the essence of legalism is when faith is not the engine of obedience and that the aim of legalism is trading with God value for value.  In other words, legalism is when we pursue the law (a good thing) fueled by our flesh, rather than the Spirit (a bad thing).  Legalism is when we attempt to trade our good works for God’s favor.  Of course, “good works” in this context can mean abstaining from watching R rated movies or it can mean abstaining from judging others i.e for how they parent.

We can attempt to earn God’s favor by not watching or listening to things that are worldly or sexually tempting, and we can attempt to earn God’s favor by being loving and accepting to everyone and everybody.  Whether we equate one of those as being more socially acceptable or desirable than the other is irrelevant; both can be attempts to earn God’s favor. In fact, people are often “legalistic” about things that, taken alone, are really good things.  For instance, I shouldn’t shoot up heroin (RIP P.S.H.). But if I think that I am trading the good work of not doing heroin for the return of God’s favor and mercy, than I am being legalistic. That doesn’t mean, though, that I should start doing heroin. It means that my motivations for not doing heroin should be fueled by the Spirit rather than my flesh in a response to God’s mercy and not for the purpose of securing it.

That, of course, addresses what legalism isn’t; obedience is not legalism and neither is holiness. In fact, Jesus was pretty clear that if we don’t obey His rules we don’t love Him (John 14:15).  As Kevin DeYoung has said, the word “therefore” is used liberally in the Bible. Grace, therefore do X.  Grace is of course both foundational and preceding, but “do X” is not legalistic in and of itself.

LEGALISM AS APPLIED TO PARENTING

It seems, then, that making rules and standards for kids does not make the parent legalistic. Of course, it can be legalistic, just as anything can be. But I think it raises an important point: your methods of parenting, whatever they are, can always be legalistic. You might be attempting to earn God’s favor through the good work of restricting your kids access to certain Internet sites or TV shows. But you also might be attempting to earn God’s favor through the good work of allowing your kids the freedom to make their own decisions and then talking about it with them later. What makes your decisions legalistic is not your decisions; what makes your decisions legalistic is the reason why you made the decision. I think the notion that making rules and setting standards for kids is legalistic is problematic — not only because I think setting rules and standards is a good thing, but also partly because I think it is a radical misunderstanding of legalism.

Worldliness and the prevalence of sexual images and temptations is a pervasive issue that requires a nuanced and ironclad conviction as parents (something that I want to have when it’s my turn); avoiding cultivating the conviction of certain rules and standards for your kids because to do so would be a sign of legalism and fundamentalism is not a sign that you value grace and the Gospel.  It’s merely a sign that you don’t understand legalism, and it might mean that you’re a legalist.

P.S. I looked it up and it means something that can prevent something negative: i.e removing a mole can prevent skin cancer. 

Jake and Sarah before she made him trim his beard for the wedding.

Jake and Sarah before she made him trim his beard for the wedding.

Not My Kid! A Mother’s Look at Sexual Temptation and Sin in the Home

Today I’m over at Growing Up Triplets talking about something every parent needs to think about sooner than later.

“Mom, what’s sex?” Gulp. I wasn’t read for this question from my 9-year-old. He was my firstborn and I knew the question would come, but I didn’t know when. I mumbled something about that being a great question that would be good to talk over sometime when Daddy was home and could he go and check on his younger siblings?”

Read more by clicking http://growinguptriplets.com/2014/02/11/kid-mothers-look-sexual-temptation-sin-home/.

Blessings,

Sheree

Thank You Letter to You, Mommy

Dear Mommy,

I’m thinking of you today because of what I wrote about yesterday. When I was surrounded by loving children praying for me, tears weren’t the only things streaming. If someone could have done a live stream of my thoughts during those moments, you would have been there right in the middle of them.

In those moments I was thanking God for you.

I know your days are long with little ones slobbering, tugging, spitting up and crawling on you. You can’t talk on the phone, eat, pee or check your email without someone asking you if bees have eyelids or tattling on a sibling. You count the minutes till nap time, but moments after you settle down exhausted for a catnap (because someone had nightmares or wet the bed or threw up last night) you get that weird feeling that you’re being watched and open your eyes to find a little face just inches from your own. And when Daddy finally comes home after you’ve been eager for adult company, one of you pushes a button in the other that sparks a conflict that makes tears pop into your own eyes, but you just can’t go there until stomachs are full and baths are over. By then you’re just too tired to get into it with your husband so you retreat to folding laundry that is now too wrinkled…so back in the dryer it goes because you certainly don’t have time to iron anything except those infrequent special-occasion clothes.

And if you’re a single mom there’s a whole bunch of unique challenges that those of us with husbands only experience when they’re out of town on business for a few days (how much does our whining bother you…really?).

But then the next day your little one wakes up with those sweet I-love-Mommy eyes and your heart melts like it does most mornings and you know you were made for this.

Yeah, right

Yeah, right

You were. You were made to wipe bottoms, address heart issues rather than the quicker option of wanting them to just obey!, and coverup nicks and crayon marks on your dining room table with tablecloths because you either can’t afford to replace it yet or can’t bear to refinish it. You were made to endure restless nights because a baby needs to be fed, a toddler fell out of bed again or God knows your sleep patterns need preparation for the teen years when they won’t start talking till 11 PM and you’re still awake praying after the conversation ends.

And you were made to get up most Sunday mornings to search for missing shoes and hope you won’t be late again and get ready to miss some of the worship at church because someone wet their pants or freaked out because you forgot the Cheerios.

Why? Because a hurting grandmother who raises her hand for prayer needs them.

But mostly she needs you.

She needs you to keep going when you wonder if your efforts are producing anything good. When you and your husband haven’t had a night out in weeks or months because, unlike that friend or two (that you’re jealous of, if you’re honest) you don’t have family nearby to help regularly with babysitting (and when did babysitters start charging more than they make working part time at the mall anyway???). When you feel your needs are going unmet because everyone else’s needs are more important.

Here’s my burden for you, young mother. You don’t know how much your church needs you. They need you to persevere — and ask for support and help when you can’t — because the simple act of getting there Sunday after Sunday unless God has plans otherwise means they’ll be there when it suddenly hits them: this isn’t just Mom or Dad’s church, this is my church. My church to help usher or greet newcomers. My church to serve in children’s ministry; help set up chairs; arrange cookies on a platter even though an adult could do it quicker; and, yes, notice an old lady raising her hands for prayer.

madamememoire.com

madamememoire.com

What you do day in and day out, week after week, year after year behind the closed doors of your home; while grocery shopping with cranky kids; during “family devotions” when no one is paying attention to the story because they want to play with your phone and you want to give up; and on Sundays when everything in you wants pull the covers over your head and pretend it’s not really morning already, is making an investment not just into the future but also into the present. When they see you stopping to pray for a passing ambulance or happen upon you reading the Bible during nap time because morning devotions just don’t get done much or remind them that you understand why it’s hard to be kind to their sibling because you aren’t kind sometimes, too — well, you’re doing your part to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4).

I know it doesn’t feel like that but it’s true. “Telling” your kids things isn’t just about the words that come out of your mouth but also the message your life speaks to them every day as you lay down your life for them again and again.

Keep it up. You and your church will enjoy the fruit someday, I promise.

And so might a teary grandmother whose life will be touched because day after day you do what’s hard — including finding that missing shoe on Sunday morning because it’s where you and they need to be.

Love,

Been There

P.S. This post is especially dedicated to Jaime.  I love and respect you so much….and in a year or two Caroline will join your other four to pray for Granma.

Two Babies and a Wedding

It’s been quite awhile since I posted a blog. Thanks to those who have reached out to ask where I am.

I haven’t been anywhere. But lots of stuff has been happening in my life. I know some of you are understandably disinterested in the personal details, but for those who are….

Silas Christmas

Now three months old

In early October we welcomed our 12th little person. Silas Joshua’s entrance into the world was all too slow for Janelle, but the room full of family and friends who weathered his leisurely arrival fell in love immediately. I spent two weeks hanging out with my new grandson and seeking to spoil my Missy. Watching her embrace motherhood with such passion warmed my heart. It’s a powerful experience to watch your child have a child, especially for the first time. And seeing Eric enjoy being a first-time Dad reminded me of how much I miss my own daddy who left for heaven nearly 40 years ago.  (How can that be?) For some reason this fall was a sad time for me as I thought about how much Mom and Dad would have loved knowing and welcoming all their great-grandchildren.

The fall was filled with anticipation and preparations for my youngest son Jake’s December 28th marriage to Sarah. What a joy it was to watch them (umm…Sarah, that is) turn yard sale finds into lovely pieces for their apartment and to experience their growing excitement for sharing life together as husband and wife. As any of you who have watched a son marry can attest, the convergence of the joy of my sons’ upcoming wedding and the melancholic sweetness of his years as “my boy” coming to an official end resulted in a strange roller coaster of familiar but nuanced emotions. Jake is the sixth of seven of my kids to marry so I’m pretty accustomed to the ride. But him being my last son to marry during the same year I will turn 60 made me feel…old. More on that another time.

Caroline Christmas

Merry Christmas to Granma!

Three days before the wedding brought a surprise for our family. Our oldest daughter Jaime, who typically gives birth a week or so late, called me the morning of December 23rd, about ten days before her due date. “Mom, I think something must be happening.  Can you come over?” Gratefully Jaime and PJ live just minutes away. Her biggest concern was the wedding. How could she be a bridesmaid with a 72-hour-old baby??? When I arrived it was clear that Caroline Rae was going to be the best Christmas gift a Granma could ever receive. In just a couple of hours she whisked into a room full of eager observers (yes, my girls actually like giving birth in a crowd!) and by early afternoon everyone was off to enjoy their Christmas Eve plans. Benny and I left asking ourselves if we really did just watch number 13 enter the world with just enough time to get ready for our 26 People to show up the next morning for Christmas breakfast?

Sarah and Jake

Jake and his beautiful bride

Jake and Sarah’s wedding was a wonderful celebration of God’s faithfulness. Benny enjoyed the privilege of performing our 6th child’s wedding and PJ worked hard the night before to “hem” one of the layers of Jaime’s dress (with scotch tape) so it would keep his no-longer-nine-months-prengant wife from tripping down the aisle. As I stood in the back waiting to be seated by my handsome and beaming son I realized afresh how forever blessed I have been. The doctor who told my parents when I was a teen that I could never have children didn’t know God had other plans. And that day I witnessed my youngest biological child say “I Do” to the godly woman for whom I’ve prayed for over twenty years.

Me and my beautiful daughters (and Jaime has a three day old baby!)

Me and my girls…yes, that’s Jaime 2nd from the left with her husband-hemmed dress.

After the whirlwind of two babies and a wedding the reality of life with a daughter still in college, getting caught up on some needed items with my part time job working for my son, ongoing adjustments to having Benny’s mom living with us and the joy of helping two daughters with newborns has left little time for writing.

Plus, God has been moving around in my heart about things I will likely write about at some point. In the midst of all the wonderful new things that have been happening in my life there have also been challenges. Isn’t He kind to wisely and lovingly govern both the joys and sorrows we face? Puritan Thomas Watson wrote about pharmacists of the time who skillfully measured just the right amount of ingredients to cure a patients’ specific need. And mixed in with the medicinal items was usually a bit of arsenic.

There’s a lesson there: sometimes poison can actually be added to life’s vicissitudes to heal what ails. And over these months I’ve seen that principle at work in my life. Through good times and hard; laughter and tears; joy and sorrow; bursts of faith and bouts with unbelief He has been near. My times of solitude with Him are among the most prized moments in recent months, even though they often happened through tears of joy one moment and sadness the next.

A few of you have asked how often I plan to post. I still don’t know. But there are some things stirring in my heart that I want to share. I think the time is right for some of them is soon.

I’m sure God has been busy in your life, too. What has He been up to? More on that in the next day or two.

Wednesday’s Child

She was five and we were sitting on the bed together. I was passively watching the evening news while editing one of her brother’s homeschool writing papers while she played with a couple of stuffed animals.

openadoptioninsight.org

openadoptioninsight.org

“Will you give me away?” she asked, jolting my attention away from correcting Joey’s common overuse of commas.

The news channel that was on did a weekly spot called Wednesday’s Child which showed children who needed foster families. I had noticed the children were always black or hispanic. That day, my little bi-racial daughter seemed to notice this for the first time. As I asked questions, I realized she was wondering why these children didn’t have parents and understood they had been “given away” by them.

That was our first “real” conversation about her adoption. I explained to her that God brought her to our family…forever. The children she saw on TV needed a family but she would never need a family. She had one and we would never let her go.

“Honey, no one will ever take you away and Daddy and Mommy will never give you away. No matter what happens, you’re ours.” A faint smile appeared on her adorable round face and I squeezed her tight. It was a holy moment for me that I hope to never forget; a moment where I asked the Lord to seal in her little heart that having a Mommy and Daddy who loved her was super important and could help her through whatever the future brought.

Over the years since then we’ve had other conversations. Each time the content deepens and each time she learns a little more about the circumstances surrounding her adoption.

In a recent conversation with a friend I was lamenting that I wished I had known years ago some of the things I understand about God and His ways now. I surmised that if I had been more attentive to His word or sought to know and understand Him more deeply I may have been able to avoid some trials along the way — like a few through which I am currently walking.

Her response resulted in me doing what my friend Ginny calls “processing.” She explained that because we are God’s children He can’t divulge all of who He is at once. As we mature He is able to disclose more of Himself to us. My daughter is able to grasp more about the complex issues of adoption now than when we had our first conversation fifteen years ago. Likewise, as we Christians grow spiritually,God is able to entrust us with more about who He is and how we have gotten to where we are today.

Honestly, I don’t always like what providence brings. Sometimes I wish for days gone by when simple answers like “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so” satisfied me. Dealing with aging, living in a fallen world full of my and others sin, and too frequently battling anxiety about what the future holds for me and those I love forces me to run to God for help. Feeding on milk was way easier than the solid food required of me now.

But when I run for help I still don’t typically get what I want. You see, what I too often want is either for someone or something to change when God’s agenda is a change in me. Will I trust Him when I’m completely out of control of my circumstances? Can His plan actually be better than mine? Is He powerful enough to sustain and strengthen me when I want to give up? Are the difficulties through which I’m walking building rather than tearing down my confidence that He is in control and everything He does is good (thanks, Mom)?

Yes, growing up in Christ means having to wrestle with aspects of who I am and who He is in a different way than I could handle when I was younger. Living in a broken, fallen world is just plain hard way more often than I anticipated. Somehow I got the idea that growing in godliness and knowing Christ better would mean an “abundant life” that meant less hard stuff.

But when it’s time for Him to go a little deeper in His communication with me I find something amazing every time: I find that I am His. Forever. Even when nothing changes but my perspective, there is comfort simply in having a loving Father.

The truth is I was Wednesday’s Child before He adopted me. Knowing that He will never give me away helps me to navigate the complex issues Christian maturity requires. After all, knowing I’m loved is super important and can help me through whatever the future brings.

i.miss.them.

Aside

Yesterday I spent part of my day at a Monday homeschool support program my daughter Jaime started last year, enjoyed by a few dozen children and some spunky mom/teachers. I walked up to the building to a greeting of a voice I recognized as my friend, Vicki, who waved from the playground where she was supervising a couple of kids. Inside, I walked by classrooms of giggling children, a teacher reminding students to stop chatting and pay attention, and a child asking how big a stomach is.

I observed my daughter Janelle’s writing and history classes in preparation for being her substitute teacher when little Silas is born in a couple of weeks; watched moms pull toddlers onto their lap to help them with lunch; observed a pregnant mother rubbing her expanding belly; was introduced to a delightful single woman with a reputation for being an awesome kindergarten teacher; and overheard Jaime saying she was headed off to clean up a poopy “whoops” in the bathroom.

As the morning progressed I became sad. I was thrilled to be there and am really looking forward to subbing for my daughter. Yet on the way home tears filled my eyes as a strange blanket of grief crept through my heart.

I miss my babies.

At ages 35, 34, 30, 27, 24 and 19 my littles are now all big. They are terrific, productive, delightful, busy, handsome/beautiful…adults.  They have given me eleven adorable Little People, with numbers twelve and thirteen on the way. And just two nights ago I had the opportunity to listen to them mock and honor and express their love to the three whose September birthdays we were celebrating. Sometimes I pinch myself as I wonder how in the world this “infertile” woman has been so lavishly loved by God.

But today I miss them.

I miss all those little blondes and the dark-haired cutie God gave us last through adoption. I miss wondering if it was dog or toddler pee on the hallway floor and realizing at 4:30 PM that chili dogs would have to do because I forgot to thaw the chicken…again. I miss dandelion bouquets. Feeding the ducks at Burke Lake. Overhearing Benny praying from room to room at night that each would “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Snuggling on the couch to teach another first grader to read. The smell of a just-bathed newborn. Having my frig covered with pictures of Mommy and Daddy whose skinny arms stretched out of our fat heads. Picking up coloring books and popsicles and a Blockbuster movie for the one who had a fever. Nags Head vacations with a house full of kids and friends.

I miss my littles. It may sound strange but today I feel like I’m grieving. Why? They’re all well and I still get to make their favorite birthday dinners. They love to mock me for lovingly comparing a friend to a hobbit and remind me that the every single accent I try always sounds asian. Laughter still fills my home when they are around and the piano in the living room gets played a lot, usually with Jesse’s newest awesome arrangement of something familiar. When Jake, Joey and Janelle get into the kitchen to help clean up, Disney songs are still belted uproariously out and Josh thinks even today’s video games are “unrealistic.” And once in awhile I even hear Jaime slightly mispronouncing her r’s.

So what am I grieving?

I’m mourning the loss of years I thought would never end. But they did.

They ended before I made enough pbnj’s; played enough CandyLand; read enough “Fox and the Hound”‘s; kissed enough boo-boos; graded enough spelling tests; cheered at enough basketball games; swept up enough Cheerios; wiped enough tears; kissed enough soft cheeks; returned enough morning grins; clapped at enough piano recitals; celebrated enough lost teeth; and combed or trimmed or curled or cut gum about of enough hair.

Maybe it was  yesterday’s gloomy, rainy day that caused me to mirror the melancholy because it’s been awhile since I’ve grieved like this. I mostly love my still-busy but different life when I can actually go to the bathroom alone and enjoy leisurely time reading my Bible or editing family photos or blogging in my room with no interruptions (well, except when Benny’s elderly mother wants to know if I can help her find a NCIS rerun on her tv or asks again if I’m sure she took all her pills that morning). But yesterday I was mourning the loss of a life that was more exhausting but wonderful than I could have ever dreamed.

If you’re a mom of young children, please try to remember that before you know it you will be me. The very things that tempt you to feel unappreciated, cause you to fall into bed exhausted (knowing it’s only a matter of time before someone cries to be fed or falls out of bed or rushes in frightened by a bad dream), and make you crazy are those things that may find you driving in a few decades with tears streaming. Of course you get tired and overwhelmed. What you’re doing with your life requires more courage and strength than you ever anticipated. And, yes, you get as low on patience as you do sleep.

But sooner than you think you might be sitting in your quiet room alone thinking about how happy you are that your pregnant daughter and her husband are coming for dinner. In fact (shhh…don’t tell anyone) you might even experience a tinge of jealousy that she is the one about to bring home a newborn and not you.

Then you’ll come to your senses and realize that there is something precious and sweet about remembering things that used to feel they would always be…but aren’t. The grief will pass but the memories won’t.

Kiss your babies while their cheeks remain soft and their little bottoms can still fit into your lap. And tonight when you fall exhausted into bed, remember there’s now one less day before you will celebrate their last birthday at home before they get married to start the crazy, wonderful years they, too, think will creep by before they get old (right, Jake?). The tears you shed now over another day of doing chores that will only have to be redone tomorrow will become tears of sentimental regret that one one is in the house to mess it up.

I know you probably don’t believe me. But trust me. It’s all true.

Me and my "babies"

Me and my “babies”

He is in the Rain

I’m sitting in my comfy chair in my room watching rain fall lazily onto my back yard. In Florida you never know how long the rain will last, but it’s typically not long at all. A light rain can turn into a deluge within minutes and then sunshine soon returns. In fact, in can be raining on my side of the street and not in my neighbor’s yard just feet away!

Moving to Florida brought new meaning to “scattered showers.” In the DC area where I spent most of my life, rain coming usually meant you were in it for the day…or week. Scattered showers typically still meant long periods of clouds and rain as far as the eye could see. Florida is different. Yesterday I was driving in the bright sunshine and suddenly I drove into pelting rain that lasted for only a matter of seconds. I’ve lived here for over 13 years and this still catches me by surprise.

In the short time it’s taken me to type these words the rain has stopped. Oh well. I missed the opportunity to set some plants out….

Aren’t our lives a little like the weather?

Sometimes gloom comes on suddenly and we’re surprised by wind and pelting rain. What just happened? Perhaps it was a phone call that left us reeling from a poor health diagnosis about us or someone we love. Or maybe a sudden job loss, exposure of sexual sin with a young adult child or weighty conflict with someone close leaves us feeling discouraged or despairing. The suddenness of the downpour only adds to the disorientation of the information we just received. Bad news falls hard on the unsuspecting heart.

Other times we see storm clouds gathering and have time to prepare for the deluge.

Growing marital strife warns that things between us and our spouse are becoming more serious. An x-ray reveals that haunting suspicions over time about strange symptoms have a cause. The “gut feeling” we’ve had that something just wasn’t right with one of our kids makes sense when we happen upon their recent online activity. But even seeing storms on the way don’t make them easier because watching dark clouds building can bring foreboding anxieties about what’s coming.

And then there are those times when the sun is out and life is pretty much going well. When sudden rain falls it’s easy to just smile and enjoy it. Florida living introduced me to the whimsy experience of driving when the sun is brightly shining and shimmers of dancing droplets play on my car windshield for a minute or two. It’s easier to handle unexpected challenges in our lives when they come when all is otherwise well.

dpshots.com

dpshots.com

Is it raining in your life? If so, has it been dark and gloomy for a long time, leaving you weary and fighting for hope? Or are you worried that circumstances or relationships are brewing to bring trials that test your faith? Perhaps your life is pretty pleasant right now as spurts of challenges come and go in your otherwise happy days of relative sunshine?

However the rain is falling for you, I want you to know I’m there. Over the past year or so I’ve experienced all three of those scenarios. Sometimes I feel the darkness closing in and wonder if the sun will shine again. Other days I’m able to see the clouds gathering ahead and am able grab onto my spiritual umbrella. And then there are days when my heart is light and the Son is shining brightly while I deal with the normal challenges of every day life.

The good thing about rain is that it never lasts forever. It comes…and goes. It has a purpose. For me, the rain that been falling has been softening my heart to know and love God more. When it’s dark I can tell myself, “It won’t be dark forever. The sun is right there behind the clouds. Lord, help me to endure.” As my heart softens I sense His nearness and know that He is planting tender seeds in my heart that require both rain and sun. Believe me, this is something that I have to remind myself regularly. Otherwise I easily fall into hopelessness and believing the lie that it will never be sunny again.

God measures the rain in our lives. Even when it seems flood waters are rising and we fear we might be swept away, He governs each drop that falls. If we’re swept away, it will be into His outstretched, safe arms.

Is your heart dry and hard? Then pray for rain.

Are you being pelted by a painful deluge? Then pray for strength.

Do you see clouds gathering? Then pray for God to prepare your heart to endure with faith.

Is the sun shining? Then pray for gratitude.

And always remember, He is in the rain.

vimeo.com

vimeo.com

Anticipating Mother’s Day…but Not This One

festivalchaska.blogspot.com

festivalchaska.blogspot.com

Anticipating Mother’s Day can produce differing reactions in the hearts of women.

  • The infertile woman faces yet another year with no baby. Watching mothers receive refrigerator-bound drawings with cute stick figures with arms coming out of heads or hearing what the hubs did to honor her friends for being such a great mom reminds her that her arms remain empty. She’s still waiting for someone to make this day special for her, too.
  • The mom who battles guilt over never being “enough” for her kids finds it hard to accept their childlike appreciation. “If they only knew how often I look forward to the empty nest,” she chides herself. “They deserve a much better mom.”
  • The sorrowful mom who crawls into bed each Mother’s Day night battling disappointment over the seemingly dutiful — rather than heartfelt — thanks she received from kids who were prompted by their dad or spouse or older siblings to do something. 
  • The mom whose husband starts planning Mother’s Day far in advance; delivers breakfast in bed with giddy toddlers; saved to purchase a special gift she admired months ago while they were at the mall; and made reservations at her favorite dinner restaurant…with a table by the window.
  • The mom whose kids are away or she aches over an estranged relationship with them is reminded of how much she misses the years when they were all underfoot and smothered her with sticky kisses…and thought she was one great mom.
  • And then there’s the mom who planned the day herself because her husband or ex-husband or kids never think to. She’s grateful to have the day with those she loves, but avoids facebook because she can’t bear to see how other moms were doted on for the day.

What are you hoping will happen or not happen on Mother’s Day?

You see, no amount of gratitude or gifts will be enough. Why? Because the sacrifices of motherhood are just too many. Who can adequately thank someone for giving up your life, your body, your time, your career advancement, your sleep, your food and your very self for little ones who took your breath away when you held them for the first time and have required all your attention since? Kept you awake at night feeding…then worrying…then praying night after restless night? Made you realize you were made “for this” — which helped you persevere through all kinds of tough stuff because they needed you? Rushed into your heart and life — and, before you knew it, left you with an eerily quiet house.

Homemade cards and sticky kisses are treasures. Teen gratitude expressed in any form is heartwarming. Young adult thanks, educated by their own parenting sacrifices, are…well…really special.

But there’s only One who knows and sees all. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of His very life to empower us to give of ourselves till it hurts, and then keep giving.

No matter which category you relate to most above, please hear this: Your life is making a difference. Whether you are single or married, have one child or many, will be doted on this weekend or virtually overlooked, God knows and cares. He is watching and He is pleased. Yes, we are flawed. Yes, we fail and make mistakes. Yes, we get tired and want to give up. But we don’t. We keep wiping. Soothing. Rocking. Training. Reminding. Congratulating. Disciplining. Feeding. Clothing.

And then they grow up and the sacrifices continue into a new generation that takes our breath away all over again.

We are Mom. Momma. Mother. Mommy. But we are also daughter to a Father whose favor is ours even when we mess up, fail or sin against our kids. Because of the cross, we who know Him are the recipients of His love, strength and grace on our good and bad mothering days. Only He truly recognizes and values what we do day in and day out, year after wonderful, wearisome year. And there will be a Day when He says, “Well done.”

What a Mother’s Day that will be!