Tag Archives: children

Day 21: The Hard Days (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsSo, I read this post from Lisa-Jo Baker tonight and promptly dissolved into tears.

This has been a ROUGH parenting week. And it’s only Wednesday (Lord, have mercy on my soul!). It’s one of the those weeks where I feel like I’m screwing everything up and utterly failing at motherhood. How on earth will I ever prepare these little humans (who I so fiercely love and who are so fiercely making me want to pull my hair out right now) for life? How can I possibly do this when I feel so unprepared myself? When I mess up on the very thing I was just trying to teach them?

There are a lot of moms in my life who make me feel insecure, but really it’s my own fault for falling into the comparison trap. What I want more than anything is to be fully confident that we are doing the best we can for our kids, and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. We’re not responsible for their families, only ours.

I am the worst about admitting when I am un-fine. And I am definitely guilty of finding something to criticize about other mothers so I can feel like I’ve got some edge up on someone, somewhere. I try really hard to reserve these thoughts for strangers, not friends, as if somehow that makes it better. (Um, no. I promise to encourage the next stranger-mom I’m tempted to criticize in my head.)

Sometimes I am afraid to voice the struggles because I’ve heard single or newly married friends say that all the honest, tell-it-how-it-is mommy blogs out there have made them terrified to ever have children. I get this. I have kids and it scares me that some day I might refer to them as chaos-causing little monsters who are turning our home into a frightening, trashed-out wasteland. At what point do we lose our minds and cross that line? Please, God, don’t let it happen to me!

But no, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because my kids most certainly aren’t monsters and they are most definitely treasures. Still, it’s hard right now. Really, really hard.

But first I am reminded that I am not alone. And then I’m reminded that suffering in silence is no good for anyone, ever. And finally, I’m comforted by suddenly recalling a conversation I had at the beginning of September with a sweet couple, now retired and in their 70s. They raised a few kids and lived to tell about it. I shared with them about our upcoming move and other changes on the horizon, and the man smiled at me, eyes twinkling, as he said, “This is a season for surviving. Some seasons are just like that, when surviving doesn’t mean you’re failing and barely scraping by, but it means you’re do something right and pulling the family through a hard place. There will be time for establishing standards, raising the bar a little, but right now, you just have to survive and keep loving each other through it. And that’s ok.”

So I take a deep breath, maybe shed a few more tears, and maybe a few more tomorrow too. But it’s ok. Because we are surviving, and this too shall pass. And we’ll be a healthier family on the other side of it.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Family, Parenting

Day 7: Magical Breakfast (31 Days of Simple Truths)

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This one’s for all the weary mommas out there. Or anyone who is tired of making dinner or struggling with picky kids.

Breakfast for dinner is magical. It makes the day feel like a special occasion. It makes the mundane feel a little more bearable. It can be fancy or it can be simple. It just works.

We had quiche, fruit salad and cinnamon raisin toast for dinner tonight. And lest you think I spent the day working hard in the kitchen, I had some pie crusts in the freezer from another day when I was going to make quiche, but the oven broke. Further, I forgot to take meat out of the freezer to thaw. On top of which, I had a really intense work day. Basically, I completely didn’t have it together, and breakfast saved my tail. The kids declared it the best dinner ever! I win!

In stark contrast with the intensity of yesterday’s post, I invite you to take a deep breath, let go of everything that feels so serious and complicated, and go scramble some eggs.

31daysOfSimpleTruths

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Cooking, Motherhood

Day 5: Trusting (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsIt was one of those mornings where you stumble over your prayers a bit until God lovingly, but firmly, puts His finger right on the tender spot you were trying to avoid and then the dam bursts.

Of the many emotions coloring our family’s recent move, this one is intense—the concern for my children to find the place where they belong. For so many years, I worried about them every single Sunday when I took them to their classes at church, not a moment’s peace as I juggled my responsibilities at our church plant. It wasn’t anything that anyone did wrong, just the nature of something that is fledgling and continually changing as it tries to establish itself.

And then the worries intensified as I realized I had unwittingly done the one thing I most never wanted to do—sacrificed my children on the altar of ministry—and I suddenly saw it takes it toll on them. The guilt was enormous. Occasionally, it still is.

My son especially struggled. And when we landed in a new church, my heart broke over his anxiety. But something happened in that place, as the children’s workers so lovingly and patiently poured their hearts out into my babies. Over the course of a year, both of my children went through a transformation. They became sure of themselves, secure in their place, hearts unfolding before God. It was amazing.

So it broke my heart to take that away from them when we moved. And the weight is heavy. Where will we go where they will feel so loved, so safe, so secure again? They ask, and I don’t have an answer right now.

Thus the very raw, very tender spot God put His finger on today. I wept. But the thing is, over a year ago, when I didn’t know exactly what to do to help my children’s hearts, God knew, and He sent exactly what they needed. And He knows what they need now. He knows what we all need now.

Change can be terrifying.  I spoke with a friend today, and he said, “Even if you know it was a good move, it is still a transition, and it feels like a death.” Hope and grief can exist side by side. Some things die, so other ones can live. But there’s not a limit to how many answered prayers we get. We don’t even have to know exactly what to ask for in order to get exactly the answer we need.

I feel more tears coming, weighted with all the uncertainty, but I trust this—God came through before. He will come through again. Meanwhile, wait and hope.

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Pausing for Gratitude

The final days of January are dwindling down—a month I went into with a lot of question marks and a strange cocktail of dread, anxiety and hope. But here I am on the other side, happy to report that I survived. We all survived. (I know most of you never doubted we would, but I did.)

In marked contrast to the swirl of emotions I carried into the month, I find myself with only one overpowering everything else now: overwhelming gratitude. Deep, deep wells of thanks.

IMG1565My daughter had surgery the very first week of the year. Of course, there are so many emotions that come with something like this, but there was one I didn’t allow myself to voice in all the weeks leading up to it. I was really afraid of being alone. We were expecting to be in the hospital 2-3 days, but my husband was only going to be able to be off work one day. And every time I thought about sitting there alone, I cried. But I didn’t want to say anything because I knew we couldn’t afford for him to take any more days off work, and I didn’t feel like I had anyone else I could ask to come be with me.

On New Year’s Day, my dad mentioned to me that he was planning to be at the hospital the day of the surgery, to be there for his grand baby and in case we needed anything. And I finally had the courage to ask, to say that I was more worried about being alone the day after her surgery and if he could only come one day, could he come then? He didn’t hesitate, just said, “I’ll be there.” I could have sobbed with relief.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect. Would he come for just a little bit? Would he only come one day? I didn’t know, but it was enough knowing he would come.

We ended up in the hospital a total of 3 days, and my dad was there for each one. He came in the morning, and he stayed until my husband came in the evening. One night, he stayed even longer because his granddaughter asked him to stay and watch a movie, and of course, his abuelo-heart couldn’t resist! He made sure I had coffee, and he made sure I ate. His mere presence was so indescribably calming to me. There were so many little things, little moments that might not have meant anything to anyone else, but they meant everything to me.

IMG1571He was the first one to coax a smile out of my baby girl post-surgery when he showed up with this balloon whose picture bore an uncanny resemblance to our dog.

When she wouldn’t eat, he’s the one who thought to buy some strawberries from the frozen yogurt place, and she devoured them—practically the only solid food she ate for 3 days. He helped me get her to move and get around so we could actually be released from the hospital.IMG1568

But more than anything else, he was the presence and nearness of God to me in a situation when I desperately needed my own heart to be seen. And because my Papa saw me, I knew God saw me. The intense comfort of this has lingered with me even to this moment when my eyes are blurring with tears yet again over the wonder and unconditional love of it all.

When we finally got home, I started to get overwhelmed with the thought of needing to not only take care of my recovering child, but also my son who would still be full of energy. And everyone would need to be fed. But when my mom showed up to bring my little man home, she came with bags of groceries—things to put together easy, healthy meals for a few days. She had already sent a container of soup with my dad one day, thinking ahead and making a double batch one night as she’d fixed dinner. And just like that, another burden was lifted off my shoulders.

My son can still be quite clingy to his mommy, and I was worried how the separation would affect him while we were in the hospital. But my mom and brother loved him on so much, so extravagantly, that he was more than fine—he was so secure and so seen. He came home bubbling over and amazingly prepared to be patient and gracious to his sister.

I am still in awe of the way my parents wrapped my little family in so much love. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise; they’ve always been pretty wonderful, and my own mama-bear heart would do anything for my own kids. But still it humbled me and touched me in a way I don’t even really have words for.

I am reminded all over again of the sustaining power of love. My parents didn’t have any power to change what we had to walk through, but they loved us through it. They saw the needs, and they did what they could do. And it did more than keep me surviving; it challenged and inspired my heart to new depths of loving people.

IMG1575If that wasn’t enough, women from my writing community—some of whom I’d never even met or interacted with much before—showered my daughter with art supplies so she could do what she loved while she went through her recovery. Daily, when she pulls these things out, she marvels that people who don’t even know her loved her enough to do this; she is also getting a glimpse of how far love can reach.

So here we are, on the other side of it all. And I am grateful that we were not alone, that love appeared in extravagant and unexpected ways. I thought I’d be trying to mostly block this month from my memory, but instead, I am tucking it away to treasure.

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Questions That Break My Heart (Hard Conversations with My Kids)

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I was coming down the stairs this morning, a load of laundry in my arms, when I heard my daughter’s excited voice.

“Look, Mom! Our friends are outside playing! Why aren’t they at school?”

With the day’s to-do list scrolling through my head, I was about to murmur a casual “I don’t know” when I remembered going over my calendar before the kids were up. “Oh, it’s a holiday. They don’t have school today because it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day.”

And even as I kept walking to the laundry room, I heard her little voice again. “Who’s that? Why does he get a holiday?”

I felt the gravity of the moment suddenly demand a pause in the morning. I set the laundry basket down and went into the living room to look at my precious daughter and my precious son, who had stopped playing to come listen. Kids have the uncanniest sense about when something matters.

For just a few moments, I did my best to explain MLK’s legacy to their very tender 5- and 3-year old hearts. We talked about racism and segregation and laws that said certain individuals didn’t even count as an entire human being. We talked about separate schools and separate bathrooms and hate and fear. We talked about a man speaking up and literally laying his life down because this was so important.

I looked at those wide-eyes, and I knew what they were thinking of. Who they were thinking of. Their favorite friend from our former church. The next-door neighbor girl. The three little girls who live behind us who told my daughter she was the first friend they’d made in the neighborhood. (Never mind that none of them seem to be able to remember each other’s names. They just yell, “Hi, friends!” whenever they see each other.)

When I paused in my explanations, my daughter said very emphatically, “That makes no sense. God makes people in all colors. And besides, we’re supposed to treat others how we want to be treated.”

She was so matter of fact, so simple in her understanding of the situation. And unlike other hard things I’ve had to explain to her, where I end up saying, “It’s just complicated. There’s not always an easy answer,” this feels different. It shouldn’t be complicated. It really shouldn’t. I mean, at this point, dismantling the systems and prejudices and hundreds of years of tensions—well, ok, these are daunting undertakings. But they shouldn’t be.

I’ve never been able to wrap my head even a little bit around the concept of racism. I think we all have to work to overcome various biases and prejudices, get over our fear of differences; these are aspects of flawed humanity that are common to all of us. But to actually consider someone less than—less valuable, less worthy, less human—over skin color or accents or different homeland? I can’t make sense of it.

Then she asked the question, the one that shattered me: “But this doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Since the law was changed?”

And I have to look into those innocent, hopeful, compassionate faces and say, “Yes, it still happens.”

I don’t dismiss the progress. I don’t dismiss the years of efforts, the laws changed, the reconciliation fought for. But I see my own thoughts and frustrations mirrored in their little eyes: mere progress doesn’t seem like enough when people’s value and humanity are on the line.

I became painfully aware of my own lack of knowledge and understanding of this issue, even of MLK’s incredible legacy, as I talked with my children. I realize I have a lot more research and learning and listening to do. I want to know more so that I can do more.

Our conversation finally dwindled down, but as my daughter walked away, she said with all the sass and stubbornness she could muster (which, in this girl, is quite a bit), “Well, I’m just going to love everybody” and did her little “so there” flip of the head.

Well then, sweet girl, you’re miles ahead of so much of the world already. And I think that’s an excellent starting point.

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Speaking About God

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Mommy, a few weeks ago at church, all the kids were saying that God sets us on fire to clean us out.  And I said He didn’t.  I was the only who said that.

Her sweet face looked up at me, those wide eyes seeking to understand.  I hear more than curiosity in her voice.  I hear the bewilderment of being the only one with a differing opinion, the sense of being too little to know how to speak up.  And just ever so slightly, the tinge of fear.  Could this be true?  Would God do this?

I look at this precious one, so like me that it absolutely terrifies me some days, and I begin to explain, slowly, pausing so she can ask more questions if she needs to.  I explain that, no, God is not going to light a match and literally set her on fire. (Lots of relief in her eyes here.)  And I explain that it is a picture to help us understand.  We talk about gold and how it has to be cleaned up and how they use heat to bring the impurities to the surface.  And I tell her how the Bible says God is a consuming fire – a picture for us to understand how He shapes our hearts. (I do realize there is more to that imagery, but she’s 4, so one thing at a time.)  When we come to Him, He helps us remove meanness and selfishness and other “icky things” from our hearts.

I see the understanding set in, and I am about to leave the conversation there when I feel that familiar nudge in my spirit.  What is the one thing above all you want your daughter to carry in her heart all the days of her life?

In a split second, I remember all the years of striving – trying to be pure enough, right enough, worthy enough, good enough.  Somehow the messages of needing to be better outnumbered or at least out-shouted all the messages of being perfectly loved just as I am.  It has only been very recently that my heart has been able to truly understand grace, and even then, it is an uncomfortable process at times to let the wonder and simplicity of it fully consume me.

So I look at my treasure and say, “Do you know the most important thing you can ever know about God?”  I see the longing spring into her eyes.

“He is love.  [Referring to a previous conversation we’d had] Do you remember how the devil wanted to be powerful?  He wanted to be God? [She nods.] The devil doesn’t understand that love is most powerful of all.  And even when you mess up, God loves you so much.  You can’t do anything to change that.”

The smile that breaks across her face is like the sunrise.  And she says, “Let’s sing about love.”  So we do.  And she runs off to play with her brother.

This exchange with my daughter (which her brother also sat there absorbing) has left me thinking a lot about the language we use to speak about God. How much have I said over the years that has actually made people afraid to know Him?  How much have I said that made people feel Christians must have a secret language, one that is bizarre and difficult to decode?

Not that everything Jesus said was always perfectly clear to every listener, but He most certainly was not out of reach to anyone except those ignorantly certain of their own rightness – something I absolutely do not want to be.

So I am seeking a new language, first so I can be a healthy part of the spiritual process for my children, and then so I communicate about Him to the world around me in a way that represents Him as He truly is, a way that brings them nearer to His heart, His “fire” and not farther.

 

 

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The Depth You Never Knew

Motherhood took me by surprise in so many ways.

There’s the very literal aspect because neither of my children were really planned.

I was never the type that just loved kids or was really great with kids, so I spent most of my first pregnancy in silent anxiety, crying tears alone, ashamed because I should have been excited but instead I was terrified.  Not because I didn’t want her, but because I was certain I would fail her.

But there was that last push after 24 hours of working on her delivery, and I could not believe that miracle had just come out of me.  They laid her on my chest, and I fell in love.

Today I am sharing on a dear friend’s blog as part of a series on Creativity & Motherhood.  Join us?

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His Silent Presence

Every once in awhile, I hear it – faintly, through the monitor, the sound of a little body shifting in bed.  I am comforted by their peaceful sleep, the confidence that tomorrow morning, I will hear their little voices calling my name.  I will burst through their door singing silly good morning songs.  There will be laughter and kisses and hugs.

Tonight mothers are weeping because tomorrow there will be no little voices.  And others are weeping from the strain of not knowing – clinging to hope, wrestling with fear.

Angry hearts are shaking fists at the sky.  Broken hearts look at Him and scream, “Why?”

There are no good answers on nights like tonight.  Theology feels empty and meaningless.  This is so hard for us to accept – some times it is ok for there to be no words.

I remember dark moments in my memory, when it was my shaking fists and screaming questions.  I waited for Him to defend Himself, explain Himself, give me something, anything.  I never heard His voice in that place, but I know in my bones, I heard His tears and felt His agony over my shattered heart.

This is a God I can trust – who knows when words are no use, who leans into my pain and bears it with me, who can pierce through my anguish with a ray of hope brought on by His silent presence.

For all the grieving fathers and mothers tonight, may you feel the Father enfold you and weep with you.  May you know you’re not alone.

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