Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Motherless Mothering

If I ever were to write a book, I think I would title it something like "Mothering Without a Mother." Not because I am an expert, not because I find it easy to raise my children without my mother in my life, but because I think if I had a book like this, it would have at least made the last few years easier.  At least it would have made it more comforting to know that I'm not the only one mothering without a mother in my life.

If you're reading this and you have a mother in your life, please don't stop reading.  Please use this as an encouragement to call her and thank her.  Please do not take another day, another action, for granted.  Find a friend who isn't as fortunate as you and come along beside her.  If you're estranged, pray about what it is to bring a peace that passes all understanding to your relationship.

For those of you who are reading and are in the same boat as me, for whatever reason, this is not a pity-party post.  It's an honest look at our raw emotions and a reminder that we are more than conquerors through Christ-Jesus.  He is all we need.  And He works all things together for our good.

But there's this ache.  Today as I rocked my sick babies (yes, they are still sick!), tried to help my oldest with a new fraction lesson, and watched my 4-year-old dance along to Christmas music, I nearly had a breakdown.  This does not happen often.  I grieved not having my mother in my life.  There's no one to help rock the babies, to be proud of her flesh and blood grandkids, to laugh alongside me at their hilarities.  Yes, there are women in my life who have a relationship with me and my kids.  But they are not my mom.  Yes, this sounds awful, almost ungrateful.  I assure you, I don't live here in this ache.  But it's real, it comes and it goes, and I seem to go through a real grieving process each time it revisits.

First, there's denial and isolation.  Yes, this morning, I felt the absence of a mom.  A mom who I could call on a hard day for a chat, some help, or just to say "this is tough."  I could dwell in stage 1 most of the time, thinking I don't really need that someone, I have God.  This is true.  But there is a place in a woman's life for a mom.  Mine lost custody of me when I was 13, a really bad time as you might imagine.  I went through my first year of high school, my first crush, my first break-up, my successes, my failures, my strengths, and my weaknesses, all without my mom.  That was fine.  I learned how to cope.  Then I went to college.  I had a whole new set of firsts.  Then I fell in love, planned a wedding, and walked down the aisle, all without her with me.  There were new hurts to process, new coping mechanisms to develop, but in the end, I did well.  She could have been a useful voice through law school.   She could have been a friend during our time dealing with infertility.  She could have been the one I called after I had babies asking questions like Is this normal?  What was I like when I was a baby?  How did you ever stop gazing at me?  But that was the problem.  I didn't have a gazing mom.  So, as I moved through life, I lived in denial.  I convinced myself that I didn't really want my non-gazing mom.  I am better off by myself.  And this morning, I repeated this subconscious mantra over and over again.  The more I repeated it, the louder I had to get. 

Then the anger set in.  How could someone give up their daughter like that?  I looked into my daughter's eyes without complete confusion.  I am pretty confident that nothing on this earth can separate my heart from my children's.  It wasn't just that.  I was angry I was alone.  There was no one I could call today that could have an empathetic ear.  No one to say "I remember when you were little when you were sick."  Sure, there have been people who have been Godly role models in my life in different seasons, but I don't have that constant, faithful, mothering voice in my life.  I don't have the history with someone who watched me mature and grow through high school, college, marriage, and now motherhood.  And why not?  What's wrong with me?   Cue Stage 3 of Grief:  Bargaining.

When we feel helpless in a situation like this, we try to mentally gain control.  I have always been an unloveable person.  That is why it was so hard for her to love me.  My daughter is loveable, therefore it is easier for me to love her.  Maybe if I had been more compliant when I was younger, she wouldn't have given up on me.  Hogwash, right?  Yet, these self-defeating thoughts creep in at just the right time of weakness to create a paranoid, confused mind. 

Then comes depression.  It's like a deep, overwhelming sadness.  It's the realization that something we've pictured in our heads will never come to be.  It's not just all the books, movies, and tv shows that created this idealistic picture of an unachievable perfect family unit in my head.  I have moved through life witnessing many different families with their own traditions, their rituals, their inside jokes, senses of humor, their own culture, ultimately, their love.  And I get jealous for that love. Yes, all families have issues.  Yes, there are always problems.  Yes, I am aware that even some of you who have a mother or a daughter do not have a great relationship.  I get it.  My sadness doesn't come from the lack of an ideal maternal relationship, but from the fact that I don't have the option of a relationship at all.  I was rejected.  I was forgotten.  Dwelling on that for more than about a minute sends me to low, scary places.  My husband lost his mother when he was a teenager.  There are moments when he lets himself get to the point when he feels like he was robbed of the relationship as well.  She never watched him get married and become the husband and father that he has become.  And she would have been so proud.  We can let ourselves get really low if we wanted to.  We all can.  About almost anything.  We can allow lies speak louder than truth in our lives.

Finally, comes acceptance.  Acceptance isn't a solution to the initial problem.  Acceptance isn't happiness.  Acceptance isn't a state of perpetual depression.  Acceptance is a place where honesty meets perspective.  The only way to truly explain this stage to me is that this is truly when I experience God's grace.  It is trusting in something I cannot see.  It is knowing that one day the deepest pains of my heart will no longer throb.  It is knowing that the arms I seek to wrap around me will one day hold me tight.  It is knowing that in the mean time, there are going to be days like this when it's hard, when it feels unfair, and when I wish I could close my eyes and make it all go away.  But it is knowing that tomorrow might be different...better.  And if not then, then the next, or the next. 

My husband and I both experienced the loss of our mothers. We often share the pains of our hearts, and the ways our lives were changed because of our losses.  There are differences.  He doesn't feel rejected.  I don't feel the deep sadness without the anger that goes along with it.   But there are a lot of similarities.  We both feel an absence.  We both still feel the sting of the pain.  We both feel times of loneliness.  We both have a need to cling to the hope that is set before us.

I write this today to say simply this:  a mother has an amazing bond with her child, no matter what.  She is forever connected to us from the moment we are created.  When life circumstances interrupt this relationship, for whatever reason, there is an inevitable wound.  Like any wound, it will heal, but it will always be sensitive, susceptible to future injury.  It will be visible to anyone who wants to look at our ugly scars.  It is a constant mark of past pain.  We can cover it up, cover over it, hide it, but it will never disappear.  It is a part of who we are.  It is our weakness.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in             weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  2 Corinthians 12:9

So here I am...boldly declaring, even boasting about my weaknesses.  I want His power to rest upon me, especially tonight as I face exhaustion and continue to meet the needs of my own children.  I may not have had a mother to model motherhood for me, but I have the perfect teacher, the perfect leader, the perfect shepherd.  I have one who knows me more intimately than anyone else and who continues to care for my heart more than any mother ever could. 

Hug your mom. Tell her you love her.  If you live far away, skype, face time, whatever.  As a mom, you know how much of an investment she made in you. 

Those of you like me, stand strong.  Boast in your weaknesses.  His power will be made perfect in your weakness.  Don't be ashamed of your wounds.  Don't be afraid to grieve.  Just don't stop short of the last step!  God is good, and He has not caused anything to happen in our lives that would not work good for those of us who love Him.  He is working good...real, true, pure good.  Good that cannot be covered, cannot be hidden, cannot be ignored.  Good that is lasting, obvious, and life-giving.  That is our hope.  That is His plan.

 P.S.  I love and deeply appreciate the women in my life that are my stand-in moms.  I never for one second want you to think that I appreciate you any less.  My life would not look the same without your investment.  My step-mom has been an incredible influence in my life, my sister has been a huge influence, and one special lady who mentored me through my early married and mothering days has been a true friend.  Thank you to all of you for your love, time, and presence in my family's lives!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19: 21

There is so much to be thankful for.  I mean, there is the usual…great husband, healthy children, our house, our food, our family.  I could rattle off a list and fill a page quite easily.  I’ve so enjoyed reading people’s face book posts this month, sneaking a peek at what make their hearts thankful.  This past Thanksgiving weekend was a little different for us.  I really processed how incredibly blessed we are to live in an environment where it becomes easy to grumble.  And I really became thankful that God’s ways prevail over our grumbling hearts.  Let me explain.

We have been fortunate enough to have had my husband home for 4 whole days, which is such a treat!  Of course, as soon as he woke up Thanksgiving morning, I wanted to have a chat about what it is we need and want to accomplish during his time off.  He’s a saint for putting up with me…really.

The weather was beautiful, so we took advantage of it.  He changed the oil in both of our vans and I did some yard clean up. I was planning to come in and put my pie in the oven to take to Thanksgiving dinner.  When I walked in, I was missing two ingredients.  Off my dear husband went to the grocery store…on Thanksgiving.  That set us back some, but no biggie.  I assembled my pie, placed it in the oven and we proceeded to slowly get the kids (and ourselves) ready to enjoy the holiday with our family, when the power went out.  That sent us back a little more.  It shouldn’t be such a big deal, but finding clothes, matching socks, shoes, and coats in the dark for 4 busy little bodies is not an easy task!  Finally, we climbed into the van and were on our way to a  wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.

Confession time:  I had a headache all day and was begging my husband to forego the changing of the oil until a later day.  He did not give in.  As I cleaned up the yard, my new crawler crawled right into a puddle and started eating leaves (she got really fast, really quickly!)  I became annoyed that it took so long to get the pie ingredients I needed, because my pie making time was coming down to the wire!  As a result of my annoyance, our search for clothes in the dark was not done with smiles and joy : )

The next day we planned to deck the halls and trim the tree.  However, we didn’t anticipate the baby’s new fever and the return of my 2-year-old’s high fever.  With lots of snuggles, cuddles, and steady work, the entire day was spent cleaning, moving furniture, and taking out decorations.  Once the kids were in bed for the night, we decided to decorate and let them wake up to a beautiful tree in the morning.  It was almost like a date night in…with cocoa and a Christmas movie and much decking to do!  My husband assembled our artificial, pre-lit tree to find that most of the lighting was out…for the second year in a row.  Thank goodness we invested in one of those voltage detectors last year because that saved the day…eventually.  While my voltage hero was at work, I arranged and hung all the other decorations.  Finally, at about midnight, everything was done besides the tree.  We decided to fluff it and be done for the night.  So much for our plan to surprise the boys!  Oh well…at 1 a.m., after having 2 sick kids, we were done.

Confession time #2:  I was bothered that I was stuck rocking both sick children.  I love my kids, but I just hoping one would want daddy.  By noon, I was covered in snot and spit and just wanted a shower.  I didn’t get that shower until 8:30.  I emerged exhausted, only to hear my husband’s plan to stay up late and decorate.  Because I appreciated that he wanted to make this a special night, I relented.  However, once we reached the roadblock of the unlit pre-lit tree, I got pretty mad.  We still talked and laughed…after I adjusted my heart attitude.

The next morning, we decided to put yet another Christmas movie in, finish the tree and clean up.  How long would that really take?  Well, pre-kid time is different than post-kid time we have been learning.  What should have taken an hour took about 4.  There were still 2 fevering kids, breakfast to make and clean up, diaper changes, spills, tantrums.  The list goes on.  By lunchtime, the tree was done!  Phew.  Now, my plan was to clean up, make a nice healthy dinner and enjoy a relaxing evening.  I cleaned up during nap time and started my dinner prep.  The two older boys took a short rest and asked to play outside in the small dusting of snow that fell the night before. Still in our pajamas, we watched our two boys throw snowballs as the Christmas music played.  We got cocoa ready for them when they came in and commented at how wonderful the day had become…then it all changed.

Within the next hour, we had three fevers, one of which was really high.  Only my oldest ate dinner that night, the other three were not feeling good.  Then it started.  One threw up.  Within an hour, we had another one throwing up.  We were outnumbered.  Suddenly, our nice, quiet night at the end of a crazy, busy holiday weekend had been disrupted.  And then the volcano of my heart that had been holding in all the grumbling and complaining all weekend erupted into a steady stream of tears.  On and off, for no particular reason besides exhaustion, I cried. 

How ridiculous I was!  I cried because of my expectations.  I cried because I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to.  I cried because my heart was not positioned in the right place, ready to be adaptable to what lay ahead of me. 

Somehow, we survived last night.  I rocked 2 at a time while my husband made the trip to the bathroom with our 4 year old.  Our oldest colored pictures for his brothers and sister like the good, compassionate one he is!  Somehow, there was still some peace.  It wasn’t fun, it was hard to deal with, but we did it together.

As I write today, I wish I had positioned my heart in such a way to receive what He had planned for us this weekend instead of making my own plans, and becoming disappointed when my plans failed.  He knows best.   He is safe to trust and to place in control.  And while it is wise to plan, we must go forward with the reality that He holds our schedule and our day in His hands.  We must be flexible and adaptable.

There were stressful moments in the last 4 days, but as we sat and reflected on the whirlwind of the last 4 days, we became thankful for the time spent together.  I’m not thankful for fevers, sick kids, snotty noses, congested coughs, temper tantrums, fussiness, or restless nights.  But I am thankful that through all of this, He is still good and makes everything new in His time.  I am thankful for comfort we can bring to our little ones during this time.  I am thankful for Tylenol and a bathtub, with clean running water, to cool body temperatures.  I’m thankful for tissues and Lysol.  I’m thankful for the convenience of running to a store when we are in need of something.  I’m thankful for my big comfy rocking chair where all 4 of my precious ones can pile on top of me.  I’m thankful for the luxury of watching a movie together in our warm home.  I’m thankful for my husband who endlessly serves all of us, with pure, complete joy in his heart.  I’m thankful that God orders our to-do list and allows us to accomplish it all, in His time with His grace.  I’m thankful that I’m sitting in my beautiful living room, having special memories of Thanksgiving weekend when the boys made their first snowballs of the season, my 2 year old had his first hot cocoa, and my little girl took off crawling exploring the world around her.  I am thankful for precious time just with my husband, working side by side, which is what we do best.  I am thankful that we are so blessed, that we don’t realize we take all these little things for granted every day. I’m thankful that He loves perfectly, constantly teaching my heart, even in times of grumbling. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Kindness: Simplified

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
-Mother Teresa-

I love quotes.  I have them scribbled down just about everywhere.  It used to drive my husband crazy, but now I don’t even think he notices them!  This one from Mother Teresa is one of my favorites.

Mother Teresa was a woman who worked endlessly in the slums, encountering dirty, sick people.  She ministered to those who were kind and to those who were hostile.  Her life was not easy.  Yet, out of the heart, the mouth speaks.  When she spoke, she encouraged others to leave a mark of love and kindness on others.  She was so filled with it herself that it naturally poured out of her.

How I long to have that much love and kindness overflowing in my heart!  Instead, I find myself showing kindness until my natural energy depletes, and then I go into social hibernation.  I have been so tired lately.  Keeping up with life over here has drained me of much of my energy.  And while just managing my home and family is more than enough work, I always end up adding more to my plate!  Sometimes I run on energy that I borrow from tomorrow…or next week!  And I don’t know about you, but when I’m exhausted or overwhelmed, I don’t feel much like being the encourager.  Rather, I want to lay down and let other people feed me with their encouragement.

But then I think about how I feel when I run into an old friend or an acquaintance who is cheerful and kind, even in the briefest of interactions.  It affects me in such a positive way!  Suddenly, a spring is in my step and a smile is on my face (I wish I could say the dark circles disappear, but I digress!)  I had such an experience this past weekend.  Hurriedly running my errands, checking off my lists, and planning the next few hours in my head, I ran into an old friend.  We talked for maybe 5 minutes, but they were such a refreshing 5 minutes, full of smiles, perspective, and reminders that life is short, and full of joy.  When we parted, I realized that joy truly flows out of our hearts in the most simple of ways.  There were no deep thoughts exchanged, no dissertations, but simply a kind face smiling and talking with me.  That kindness softened my heart and my “type A” personality as I continued with my harried day.

I’m reminded that no matter how I feel, no matter how tired, no matter what my circumstance, I must cherish every interaction I have with people in my life.  My immediate reaction is to shrink back from interaction when I do not feel my best, but that is because I rely on my own strength so much of the time.  I don’t want people t see my strength!  I want them to see God’s. He doesn’t require us to have these grandiose things to say or do in order to encourage others.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a smile.

I want to be a pure reflection of who He is.  It’s a tall order, yet something to strive for each and every day.  Relying on His strength allows me to put a smile on my face, not in an artificial way, but because there is much to smile about!  Social hibernation can put us in a vicious cycle of wallowing in our own woes.  However, when we choose to step out and intentionally become part of people’s lives, we can truly see how blessed we are and how a simple smile and a kind face can leave others better and happier after our interaction with them.

This world can be such a negative place to live in.  But greater is He who lives in us than he who is in this world.  Show that greatness in your everyday interactions and watch how contagious kindness can be!

P.S. To my friend who I ran into in Target, if you’re reading this, thank you for being a gift to me in those few moments!  You have such a beautiful spirit!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Confessions of the Hospitably-Challenged

Have you ever read a Bible verse and wish you hadn’t?  Oh, come on!  Seriously.  Have you ever read something and it hit you in a way that you wish it hadn’t because now you have the burden of walking it out?  Yeah.  That happened to me.
Practice hospitality.  That’s what Romans 12:13 says.  I must admit, I always thought that hospitality was a gift…one of which I did not feel that I was given.    I grew up in a home where we didn’t have people over and we didn’t go to other people’s houses.  I was isolated.  But you know, it worked with my personality.  I grew to be an analytical, quirky girl.  I loved being around people, but when the tables were turned and I was responsible for entertaining, everything changed.
For many years, we continued to isolate ourselves.  My husband is quiet.  That is an understatement.  He’s really, really quiet.  This only exacerbated my great anxiety of entertaining!  What if he didn’t have anything to say and everyone is expecting me to fill in the blanks!!  I used the excuse of busyness, space, season of life.  I was honestly always embarrassed by my tiny house, its “lived in” appearance, and it’s less than wonderful furnishings.  Going to someone else’s house was always a pleasure, but I justified so many times that I couldn’t give someone that same pleasure because it was just not in my calling.   While we both loved being with other people, but we were just not “natural entertainers.”

But about a year ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  That good ol’ verse didn’t say to “be an entertainer,” but to “practice hospitality.”  Quite different if you think about it! 

Extending hospitality blesses those who gather in your home while also chiseling our character.  When we invite someone in our home, walk down the street to another’s home for a chat or with a gift, or even entertain conversation in a coffee shop, we make real heart connections and transform a casual acquaintance to friendship.  The intimacy of our hospitality can bring encouragement, healing, and joy to another’s life.  Why wouldn’t we practice it?  I have learned of similar heart issues, shared pain with someone I barely knew, and served as a sympathetic ear to someone who would not just as readily pour out their heart in an otherwise inhospitable setting.

Extending hospitality also develops within us a servant’s heart.  Admittedly, I sometimes struggled with the basics, like offering something to drink! That may sound awful to some of you…but honest to goodness, this was something that was never a part of my life and was a foreign concept to me.  I realized that just being on the receiving end of hospitality does not automatically certify you as resident hospitable expert…we must practice!  It also requires you to quiet those self-defeating thoughts that you are not good enough, smart enough, or important enough to offer someone a moment of your time, your listening ear, and your love.

I guess the point of this post is to encourage those of you who have been blessed by the gift of hospitality and those of you who shudder at the thought of it! 

To those with the gift…man, I envy you!  Many have had me in their home, and have made welcoming me seem so effortless!  Keep it up!  I imagine that for people who operate with this gift, it is a joy to have people in your home and to extend kindness to your friends and neighbors around you.  I imagine it comes naturally and is an anticipated calendar event!  Fill up your calendars!  I have sat in many comfortable homes throughout the years with people brimming with joy, and have poured out my heart and built valuable relationships.  It is easy to share and listen when we feel comfortable, and you are a special breed of people who can easily make others feel so comfortable!

To those of you like me who are, ahem, less than gifted-practice, practice, practice!  I would never have some amazing friendships that I have today had I not stepped out and opened my home.  Truthfully, I am still sometimes self-conscious about my house, the food I serve (or forget to serve!), or what I’m wearing.  I have to remind myself that the people who come into my life aren’t there to admire my beautiful bungalow, my Value City furniture, or my yoga pants.  They are here for fellowship, for sharing, for receiving.  I have come to learn that the only thing I need to “prepare” is my heart so that I’m fully available to practice being hospitable.  (P.S. a clean bathroom is usually the other thing I prepare!)  I will never be the one who has the best house, the best food, the best gadgets; and I’ll never be the one who is the funniest, the most put together, or even the calmest.  But I strive to be the one who listens, who cares, who laughs, and who cries with my friends, both old and new.  Practice, practice, practice….get over our fears/shortcomings/inadequacies.

We have gained ground this year in practicing hospitality.  We’ve made great friends, we’ve entertained fabulous conversations, we’ve spoken into many lives and had others return the favor.  I’m excited to continue practicing, even extending it past our front door, walking out into my neighborhood.  I have this joy and love for life inside of me, and I want to share it.  The only thing that stops me is….me.  I’m pretty sure that’s called pride.   I’m pretty sure there’s no room for that in my bungalow, clad with a husband, 4 children, a cat and friends.

Each one of us has something to share and a listening ear to offer.  No matter what your personality, your gifting, your schedule, or your situation, we are told to practice hospitality.  Now…who’s inviting us over for dinner to start practicing?





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Contending for Truthfulness and Trust


It is so easily diminished or lost altogether.  It is so difficult to regain.  Yet, it is so essential to any functioning relationship. 

The dictionary defines trust as the “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”  Sounds pretty simple…and at the same time, extremely complicated.  Can I assuredly rely on anyone’s character, ability, strength, or truth?  And yet, the famous chapter of the Bible that everyone quotes regarding love tells us that love always trusts. 

We cannot fully love until we fully trust.  We cannot fully trust until we become fully vulnerable.  We cannot become fully vulnerable until we are whole in Him who knit our hearts together.

So why is trust on my heart tonight?  It has been something that we’re contending for in our family.  It has been something that seemingly crept up with our otherwise trustworthy kids.  Having come from a home where my mother was not trustworthy and did not extend trust to anyone, it is a sensitive topic for me personally.  Love always trusts.  I saw first hand how essential trust was in a relationship.  How quickly distrust breeds resentment, disregard and even hatred.  I want to always trust my little ones, especially when they grow into big ones.  I am aware that they will make mistakes and will make choices that I do not necessarily agree with, but I hope and pray that they do so not in secret, but in confidence, always trusting that we as parents can lead them through anything.

You see, we’ve been getting these little hints that our kids are struggling with dishonesty.  And dishonesty is the antithesis of trust.   Their attempt at using dishonesty for their own gain is not something unique to just kids.  It’s human nature.  But it’s not something that I feel I can just say, “oh well, they’re trying to get away with this again.  Better luck next time.”  With each instance of deception, my trust with them suffers, and every time that  my trust is eroded, our hearts grow further and further apart.  So I’m thankful for the little clues that we’ve been picking up on. The past few days have been spent pruning.

It sounds extreme…the older boys are only 4 and 5.  It’s so easy to just “maintain” the status quo of the family and “keep peace.”  It’s so easy to write off little hints that the fruit that our kids have developed is starting to rot.  It’s so easy to not notice that our schedules have gotten out of hand, and that we ourselves need to cut back and refocus on our family.  It’s so easy to justify not having time to sit and listen to our kids’ hearts on a very regular basis.  It’s so easy to say “they’re just kids!”

But it’s not so easy to rebuild broken walls of communication.  It’s not so easy to pull a heart closer to yours that has been conditioned to choose dishonesty to get what it wants.  It’s not so easy to love someone through hard times when there is very little trust left in the relationship.  It’s not so easy to walk out the Scripture that says “love always trusts.”  So yes, they are 4 and 5, with seeds of dishonesty that are growing by the day, all the while eroding my trust.  How then shall we parent? 

Our oldest boys have blindsided me lately.  They definitely have inherited human hearts.  When unsupervised, they have recently had difficulty following directions.  When the door is closed, it has become more common for them to disregard our rules.  When they do not think anyone is watching, their behavior turns from obedient to lazy.   We prayed about what the real issue was.  Yes, there was lying and selfishness...which are not light issues.  But this is about trust.  We need to trust them and they need to trust us.  We want them to trust us to parent them through anything, good or bad.  And we want to trust them to be honest with us with anything, both good and bad. 

But once we started talking to them about trust, we realized they had no idea what that word really meant.  I explained it like this:  Imagine you were really hungry and I told you that I was going into the kitchen to make you breakfast right away.  In 5 minutes, you walked into the kitchen and saw me not making your breakfast, but doing something else.  Still, I told you not to worry, I was going to make breakfast right that instant.  You would probably believe me, but would have to think about whether you should or not a little harder.  Imagine you walked back into the kitchen again to find me not making your breakfast.  I gave you my word that this time, I would start cooking.  But yet again, you found me not doing what I said I would do.  Trusting is knowing that someone is who they say they are and that they are going to do what they say the are going to do.  Each time someone deceives us, becomes self-interested and forgets about their responsibilities, or decides all together to not do the right thing, we lose some trust in them.  Because my example was about food, their love language, this really made sense to them.

The operational definition we are working on this week ironically is truthfulness.  Truthfulness is defined as earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts.  Admittedly, our boys know they had lost some of our trust.  They know that their words and actions need to line up, even when the door is closed.  Because of their past actions, there was a loss of trust.  As a result, their punishment is that they cannot play in the basement playroom unsupervised.  This is a major deal as this is the room of the house with only two rules:  be kind to one another and don’t break a bone!  But we were very clear that we want them to have the privilege of playing down there unsupervised again.  We want them to understand that trust is easy to lose and hard, but not impossible, to gain.  We are all learning that we can earn future trust by being truthful throughout the day, every day.  They are working very hard, and I couldn’t be prouder. 

Tonight, we had our old boys back.  We enjoyed each other’s company, laughed, and had a peaceful evening.  It hit me just how much dishonesty and mistrust affects a relationship…even with little ones.  I know that our hearts wander.  I know that it is easy for kids to dabble with fibbing to get away with things.  But I want our boys to value honesty, knowing that honesty breeds trust, and knowing just how quickly and easily we can diminish something we’ve worked so hard to earn. 

We are contending for full, real, true love in our family.  And we cannot fully love until we fully trust. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sh! Struck By Silence

This morning, I found myself sitting back and observing my children.  I don’t often do that during the morning, as I’m usually running to change the laundry, load the dishes, or clean a mess that I haven’t been able to clean yet.  Not today.  I sat as they worked and played and took note of their interactions and reactions.  I noticed so much by just being silent and aware.

For example, I noticed my oldest son is always creating something.  As he worked out his math problems, he was building a tower out of pencil-topper erasers.  While he thought through what kind of story he would write in phonics, he had created a game involving two marbles he had in his pocket and his pencil.  And after I had him write out his spelling words, I realized he left behind an extra page of doodles which involved his brothers, the planet Jupiter, and a bad guy. 

I noticed my second son being so aware of everyone’s needs and feelings.  He is the first one to pick up a dropped toy, get crayons down from the shelf, fetch something for me, or give someone with hurt feelings a hug and a little dance to make them smile.  I realized how much joy he brings each one of us every day.   

I noticed my youngest son’s independence.  He never asks for permission or for help.  This, by the way, is a blessing and a curse!  He has these great two-year-old ideas like taking all of our canned goods out of the cabinet and lining them up through the kitchen and hallway, thereby creating a walking path.  He falls, cries, and needs a kiss.  Then he gets back up and figures out how to fix his original, flawed plan. 

I noticed my little girl.   I noticed that she is more content than her brothers ever were.  I also noticed she is extremely more sensitive and cautious than they ever were.  By her age, my sons were furniture walking.  I’m convinced she’ll never even crawl because she calculates the risk of face planting.

I have no idea why today I became so interested in just observing these little ones I thought I knew so well.  But I’m glad I did.  I’m starting to see some gifts and talents that these guys were born with. I’m watching them as they discover what brings them joy.  I’m noticing strengths and weaknesses.  And I’m taking note.

It’s so easy to wish this season of life away sometimes.  I’m often exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated.  But it’s in these years when we really get to see the formation of their young lives.  We get to catch on to the hints of their giftings and pray all the more intentionally about their directions in life.  The treasures of this season come in exchange for giving up a little mommy control that I so often insist on having.  Instead of micro-managing school work and play, I am learning through the doodling, the interruptions, and the messes. 

I am reminded over and over again that these children were given to me, but they are His children.  They were created and designed for a specific purpose, and they’ve been equipped with everything they need to accomplish that purpose.  These growing years allow them to learn about the hope of their calling, the world around them, and who they are.  Today I realized that we all grow best when we feel loved, secure, and free to be who we were born to be.  And after a morning of observing, I’m hungry to know more about who these little ones will become.

I’m struck at how my silence led to observance, and how my observance led to revelation, and how my revelation led to hunger.  I’m reminded of one of my absolute favorite passages in the book of Psalms.

Psalm 25:4-5:  Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day.

I’m reminded that in order for me to receive what God wants to show me, teach me, and guide me, I need to be silent sometimes.  I need to be observant.  Sometimes that’s hard, sometimes that’s painful.  But it’s necessary.  Not only will it lead to revelation and growth, it will keep me hungering for more.  Just as I desire to pray for the specific things that are in store for my children, I want to call out the specific things that lie ahead for me. 

I pray that I am shown His ways and are taught His paths.  I can pick my own, but it will never be as good as what He has planned.    I pray that I can forego the noises, distractions, and even well-meaning activity, and set aside regular time to be silent and reflect.  And I pray that I don’t miss the little hints and whispers that He will faithfully give me about who I am to Him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Reflections

I am sad today.

It’s not because of who did or did not win the election.  While our leaders are important, they are mere men and women.  I do not put my trust in them.  It’s not because of who supports what issues.  Again, these are important, and I am thankful for the freedom to support the issues that are dear to my heart just as they are dear to my Lord’s.

I am sad today because I am witnessing the attitudes of many hearts, and there is such malice and hypocrisy.  I say that humbly, as I do not think of myself higher than I ought to.  I violated my rule of staying out of political speak via social media today.  I inserted myself in two “discussions” that I perhaps should have kept out of.  However, I did so respectfully, with kind words, and provable facts, when appropriate.  I received hateful speech and senseless remarks in return. 

I perused my friends’ facebook pages just now.  I wanted to see what they have said and what they have received.  I viewed both my left friends and my right friends, both of whom I have a deep respect and love for.  Some of their speech saddened me.  Some of the speech against them amounted to nothing more than cruel opposition.  Seemingly, if I want to be well-liked, I should be silent, wishy-washy with my beliefs, or agree with the majority.  However, I refuse to be silent.  The Bible commands us in Proverbs to “speak up for those with no voice.”  In Deuteronomy it tells us to keep the commands of the Lord, bind them on our hearts, and instruct our children all day and all night.  So, I cannot keep silent about what is on my Maker’s heart.  But I promise to be respectful, to be kind, to be humble, and to have listening ears before I ever formulate the words to come out of my mouth.  In the end, there is one truth and that is the Word of God.  That is a standard I am committed to live out and teach my children.  While I am not easily offended at those who disagree with me, I am saddened by those who take such quick offense. 
My oldest son has followed in his mother’s politically charged footsteps so far.  You see, a secret dream of mine is to hold an elected office one day.  It could just be a pipe dream, or it could be something valid that is waiting for me down the road.  Until then, I have kept up with all that is going on around the world, participate in reasonable political discourse, and educate myself about subject matters I do not know.  I was a political science major in college and probably should have continued on to receive additional degrees in that area because it is such an interest of mine.  But the most important job I have right now is to teach my children what government is, what its intended function was, and what God’s heart is for this amazing country that we live in.  I want to teach them how to stand firm to what they believe while being kind and respectful.  It is possible.  But it takes some guts.  You know what they say, no guts, no glory!

Here’s what we have taught our children, including our politically charged 5 (almost 6) year old…ahem, in my own words. 

Government is man-made, but it is God-ordained.  Look back into the Old Testament.  Moses was a busy man!  He was trying to figure out his way through the desert, trying to feed all these people following him, trying to listen to God…and trying to fix all the problems that were occurring along the way.  We often think of him holding up his staff and parting the Red Sea, but he was also sitting and listening to “she stole my linen” and “he fed my livestock the wrong food” and “how should we set up camp at night?” Because he was growing so weary with all the crazy things that we all feel are so important to us, Jethro (his father-in-law) suggested setting up a government.  He didn’t just leave it at that.  He gave some good, guiding words.  He told Moses that he should first teach the people the principles of God’s laws.  God’s perfect order is our governing standard.  Next, he said the people need to exercise proper self government, again in alignment with God’s order.  Self-reflection and solid family discussion was arguably required for proper self government.  For all other matters, Moses was to appoint Godly men to handle the issues in each of the tribes that made up this wandering nation. 

Years later, the people tired of trusting a King that they could not see and asked for a king that they could see.  I get it.  It’s hard to trust someone we read about and feel in our hearts, even see the effects of in our lives, but have never seen with our eyes.  Saul came along and was anointed king.  Follow the Old Testament through the rest of time and you will see why God reluctantly granted such a request.  Once we have something we can see, we rely on it more and more.  Thus, government evolved. 

Now, there are some gray areas of life and there are some not so gray areas of life.  I’m not going to get into any specifics.  But, I believe that the Word of God is amazing for providing answers to all matters, big and small, providing you seek those answers out using some wisdom.  God asked Solomon, King David’s son, to name one thing that he would want God to give him.  His answer? Wisdom.  God was so pleased with his answer that He gave him an immense amount of wisdom, and also wealth, fame, and prosperity to him and his people.  Sounds like wisdom’s a pretty valuable commodity for a leader, huh?   God’s Word addresses many of today’s issues, as they are not new.  Solomon himself said that there is nothing new under the sun…thank you wisest man in history, you are correct. 

Here’s the good news that my son reminded me of this morning.  The veil that separated the presence of God from the people in the Old Testament was torn when Jesus died on the cross.  He is now accessible.  No more are we prohibited from accessing our King.  In a way, we are no different than the wandering Israelites.  We want the assurance of following someone we can see, feel, and reason with.  Being involved in the political process is so important and it is a privilege.  But we must remember that there is One we cannot see that rules and reigns over all, and who will lead our leaders with accessibility to His heart in ways that the people of the OT could not fathom.  “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”   Mark 11:25

Here’s what my kids would tell you (hopefully) if you asked them about the election.  We must obey and respect our leaders, and we must do so joyfully.  But we must bow down and honor our King.  We must trust Him with our circumstances.  We must pray for our leaders and all the people in our nation.  And here’s the truth: there are things occurring in our country today that I believe grieve the Lord’s heart.  We must grieve with Him and ask what we can do.  There are things not occurring in this country today that I believe should start happening.  If we ask for wisdom and understanding…if we listen and obey…if we set our hearts onto things eternal and fix our gaze on our King…if our hearts break for the things that break His…we will know His love and His favor, just as the people under Solomon’s reign enjoyed. 

Whether you are leaning to the left or the right, whether you are pro- or con- fill in the blank, you are a child of the most high God.  I stand on the only thing I know is true: His Word.  And as I stand, I promise to be kind and respectful to you.  I promise to not assume you are ignorant or uneducated.  I am expectant of the same treatment.  I promise to be an ambassador of Christ who is full of love, grace, and mercy.   I am thankful for each one of you, opinions and all, because at the end of the day, when we stand in glory, our hearts are what matters. 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.:

Philippians 4:8



Monday, November 5, 2012

Marriage...what I've learned from my husband on our journey so far

I would not be the woman I am today without my husband.  My kids would not be the joyful, loving, wonderful children they are without their father.  While I know many fabulous single parents, parenting as a team sure is advantageous! 

Today is my husband’s birthday, and I thought it fitting to dedicate a post primarily to marriage.   We have learned firsthand how our relationship directly affects the tone of our household, and the development of our children’s characters.  Marriage has always been important to us, but once we found out we were about to become parents, it was as if someone turned on a big, giant searchlight and pointed it directly at our relationship.  For that, we are thankful. 

We are approaching our 10 year anniversary in a few months.  In the last 10 years, we have grown by leaps and bounds, allowing God to bring to light issues in our hearts that we have pushed aside, but cannot hide from any longer.  We’ve dealt with our past, with our differing opinions, and have ultimately learned that we cannot live or breathe without being in alignment with our King.  BWe’ve had some bumpy times, some really bumpy times, and some times when we skipped the bumps all together only to end up falling into a deep ditch, looking upwards for help.  But God is good, and what He has joined, no man has been able to separate.  We believe with our whole heart that we were made for one another, our hearts uniquely knit together to complement each other’s the day we became one.  This is what we desire our kids to see and to seek out in their own spouse one day. 

I sat down with my two oldest boys a few days back to make cards for daddy.  I asked them a few questions about why they love their daddy, etc.  They said the most wonderful things like “he prays with me,” “he is patient with me,” “he always plays games with us.”  But my favorite q & a was this:  what does daddy do best?   My oldest looked up from coloring and cocked his head, squinting.  “He does a lot of great things, but he loves you the best.”  Wow! 

Despite his quiet, reserved personality, my children can see my husband’s love for me.  Not because he showers me with gifts and flowers, or slow dances with me in the kitchen while I make dinner.  We are not that couple (though in the past I had wished we were).  We can tell our children things until we’re blue in the face.  It’s what they see that will stick with them forever.  I am grateful that they see a man who loves his wife and is devoted to his family.  He is an active participant in their young lives, and is teaching them through his day to day activity through his speech, his gentleness, his work ethic, and his genuine care for my feelings and our family.

We were blessed and honored to have the most wonderful pre-marital counselors.  They taught us invaluable lessons that we go back to time and time again.  Here are a few important ones (in my own words):

            1.      You are no longer individuals, you are a team.  One person’s actions will
                  determine the consequences for both. 

2.      You married a sinner.  Don’t be shocked when you see the other person’s imperfection.  Rather, stand on the truth, love as God loves us, and forgive over and over again.

3.      God can redeem anything if we have a humble, willing heart.  Marriage can expose some ugly things in us, but when they’re exposed, we have a choice to make: we can run and hide, or be courageous and work towards change. 

4.      Ask for wisdom and understanding.  Husbands, work to know your wives in understanding ways.  Wives, learn how to wisely speak to your husband without being a nag.

5.      Finally, see each other how God sees each person.  He sees the end result, the finished product.  He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.  Forgive and move on, hand in hand, looking up for His help.

 If I could sum up what I’ve learned from my husband (both directly and indirectly) in the almost 10 years of marriage with 4 small kids, it would be I Corinthians 13: 4-7. 

Love is Patient:  wait for God to finish the good work started in your spouse.  No amount of complaining, nagging, or your might will ever do what God can.  Always be quick listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger in your heart.

Love is Kind:  Not just when it is easy.  Not just when it feels good.  Always. 

It Does Not Envy:  God placed you intentionally in the marriage designed for you.  If that means it doesn’t look the same as someone else’s, that’s o.k.  We must trust that God has given our hearts exactly what the need.

It Does Not Boast:  Our marriages were designed to give the glory to God, not ourselves.

It is Not Proud:  The moment we think our marriage is “good enough,” is the moment we are the weakest.  Never give up seeking the Lord together, communicating, and having fun…it is a priceless investment.

It Does Not Dishonor Others:  Our union should be pure, always bringing honor to the ones we know and love.  Our decisions should be made in such a way that would ultimately honor God, and bring honor to our families.

It is Not Self-Seeking:  we can use each other for our own personal gain so much easier than any other relationship because of the depths of knowledge we have of each other.  Rather than gaining that way, we gain everything we were meant to gain by being selfless. 

It is Not Easily Angered:  Which means we need to take a few deep breaths, bite our tongues, and cry in our pillows sometimes until we get to a place where we can calmly talk to each other.  We need to understand that our methods of getting to calm look different and take different amounts of time…wait for the right moment when conflict can be dealt with without the flares of anger!

It Keeps No Records of Wrongs:  No matter how many times you have been hurt, ignored, taken advantage of.  No matter how frequently one struggles with the same problem.  No matter how many times you struggle with the same problem.  When they present you with a heart of repentance, present a heart of forgiveness…and then pray for amnesia.

Love does Not Delight in Evil, but Rejoices with the Truth:  become fascinated with the superior pleasures that are only found in knowing and loving Jesus.  We could spend our whole lives together find pleasure and delight in things of this world, having things “in common” but not gaining any depth.  Spend time pursuing things that will bring depth and life to your relationship.

It Always Protects:  no matter how embarrassing the situation, Always Trusts: no matter how wounded we may have been in the past, Always Hopes: even when we’re in the ditch with no feasible way out, Always Perseveres:  no matter how hard.

I rejoice today because I celebrate the birth of my other half, the one that my heart was designed for, the only one that could take me through the journey to learn all of these lessons.  I am thankful that we have a lifetime together to continue to sharpen each other, as iron sharpens iron.  While our love for each other is not perfect, our eyes are on the prize.  And with each passing season, we have been able to look back at God’s faithfulness. 

We want to train our children to look for the one whom their hearts were designed for.  We want them to be covered in a love that is patient and kind, selfless and forgiving.  We want to treasure the loves of their lives like we treasure each other.  Most of all, we want them to realize that we are committed to walking out life’s entire journey together side by side, under the leadership of our King.  We’ve learned time and time again what Ecclesiastes 4:12 so clearly states:  “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”



Friday, November 2, 2012

What's For Dinner Tonight?

We've had quite the week!  I am so thankful that we did not lose power for days and days like so many in our area.  I cannot imagine that, seeing as we were out for 8 hours and it seemed to have set us back a few days!

In the midst of all the chaos of a car accident, storm clean up, a burst pipe, temporary power outage, and regular life, my home looks as though the storm came inside.  Needless to say, I have not had a lot of time in the kitchen.  Here's one of my go-to quick, easy, and healthy dinners that whips up in less than 30 minutes!

Chicken Breast with Honey-Balsamic Glaze

Serves 4 big people
Prep. Time:  3 minutes;  Cooking Time: About 15 minutes

1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into four 4 oz. pieces
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. honey

The how-to:

  • Combine thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle over both sides of the chicken.
  • Heat oil in medium-high heat and add chicken, cooking about 7-8 minutes on each side until chicken is done.
  • Remove chicken (keep warm) and reduce heat.  Add vinegar and honey and simmer about a minute until it thickens a bit, stirring constantly. 
  • Pour the glaze over the chicken and serve.
Pretty easy, huh?

I usually serve this with some steamed broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes (both can be cooking while you're assembling the main attraction)

Hope you enjoy!