Raise Them Strong

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The other day my youngest and I were out and about with friends and headed to the zoo.  I’m not sure what the girls were even talking about.  But you know tweens. They talk, laugh, and giggle at just about anything and everything.

We were headed down the interstate and I hear mine say,

“Life is severe!”

I can’t remember anything else she said after that.  That got my attention.

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She’s 12.  And, life has proven to be severe for her.  Now, in all good perspective, I understand we aren’t sitting in a cancer ward, or at a funeral home, or living in a war-torn village.  All things considered, it is an overall blessed life.  But, for her, it has had some challenges.

She has had to walk away from a community that she has known since she was four-years-old without barely a goodbye.  This was where she realized her passions and had some dear and strong friendships.  This community had become incredibly personal to her and the center of much of her life.  Her father’s job was over and she was soon cut off from many she considered family. Her world was turned upside down over night and a once safe place, was no longer safe.

She has faced anxiety about her future and the loss of the only world she really knew.    Unfortunately, she has learned tough lessons on rejection and betrayal, grief and loss.

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I’ve been thinking about my children and how, as a parent, I have gifts I need to give them.  After some of the things we have been through lately, resilience is one of the very best I can give.

It’s not something I can bestow upon their heads by tapping a diamond encrusted wand and sprinkling some pixie dust.  Now, wouldn’t that be a trick!  So much cooler…and easier!  But, alas, this gift doesn’t come that way.  But, its value almost can not be measured.

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“Life can be severe, but you will make it!  You will be just fine.”

One of the worst things I can do is kill myself making everything work out exactly so to my children’s specifications and requests.  Because, life happens.  Jobs change, you don’t always make the team, the doctor’s report comes back ugly and scary, you aren’t always the chosen favorite, and sometimes people walk away.

As a young adult, I  had my first taste of hardship.  No matter how hard we tried, things didn’t seem to go our way.  Instead of the Midas touch of gold we had the leaden touch.  It was quite a rude awakening.  Up to that point, we had enjoyed lots of success in college and things ran quite smoothly.

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I know there are many who learn hard lessons way too early.  Much earlier than anyone would ever wish.  But, I grew up in an upper middle class, church attending, two-parent household, with a younger brother, a dog, and a cat.  Everything, pretty much, except the picket fence.

So, you can imagine my shock and fear when I was faced with significant hardship for the first time.  I was a young married pastor’s wife starting a church from scratch.  It was tough.  We barely made enough to live, much less bring another human into the world.  Yet, we did.

It wasn’t an easy path.  Fast forward 15 years and unknown to us, a whole new level of hard was stretching out ahead of us.  Yet, this time, we had three very impressionable, young humans in tow.

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When they were younger, we could protect and shield them from much of it.  But, now, not so much.  They are smart and perceptive.

I get discouraged when I begin to think through questions that rattle through my brain.  I feel a panic that threatens to scorch my heart.

Why do my kids have to experience such things?  

Why do they have to experience loss, rejection and betrayal?

So many things I didn’t have to experience until adulthood.  

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But, here is the next question.

Why not?

Self pity rises up and threatens to suck the life and light out of everything if we don’t ask this simple question.

Why not? 

Who are we to expect to escape hardship?

Seriously.  Jesus said we would have trouble, but to take heart, because we can overcome because of Him.

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So, as unpleasant as it is, we have to face the truth.  We are not exempt.  Our great hope comes, however, from our great source.  We live in this fallen world.  But, we are journeying towards the other side.  Bumps, bruises, scars and all.  We are stronger, smarter, wiser, tougher and more resilient than ever.  We have a story to tell.

A story of a God who walked through the desperate darkness with us.  Church hurt is excruciating.  Being wounded in the house of our friends is a tough pain to swallow.  As, a mom, I would give anything to protect my children.

There is much we can shield them from, but you can’t shield them from life.  

If we want to raise strong, emotionally healthy adults, we teach them how to walk through pain and disappointment.  It is better to learn how to be strong and resilient early in life.  You are then equipped to walk this life out with grace.  These aren’t lessons merely talked about, but lived out day by day.

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I have met some of the most open, grace-filled, and loving people in the last few weeks.  They are becoming our new community.  These people have been through about as much as we have—maybe more.  But, they are good, kind, big-hearted people.  They know what it means to travel through the hard, dark places and come out stronger on the other side.

That’s what I want to be.  And that is what I want my children to see.

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Life is Beautiful!

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During these last few months, I have been on quite a learning curve.  If I’m honest, I have to say I recommend a mid-life plot twist and I don’t!  It’ll be the ride of your life!

But, really.

Just imagine going back to graduation—high school or college—just as a young whipper snapper.  With all sorts of possibilities and the world as your oyster, you look with anticipation toward all your options.  That is where we are.  And it is breathtakingly beautiful and scary–all at the same time!

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I remember a couple of years back being envious of my oldest as he was setting off for his first year at university.  So much youthful excitement and a no holds barred approach–I was envious. 

I was so excited for him and all the unscripted future had for him.  I remembered what it was like to have your whole life ahead of you.  So much hope and promise.  So much anticipation to follow new paths and dreams!

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And, now, here I am.  I am ready.

I have spent 25 years of ministry serving as a pastor’s wife.  I use to tell my Love, I love being his wife, no doubt about that.   Just maybe not a “pastor’s wife” sometimes.  I learned much and gave everything I had.  The role comes with difficult tasks.  With some cool opportunities and blessings thrown in along the way, too.  Now, though, I am ready to do new things…serve in a different way.

Our new beginning is before us.

Given to us as a gift.

Staring into the sunshine, the road is wide open in front of us.

Only this time I have three world-changers in tow.  This road we chose over 25 years ago, has presented them with many unique challenges and opportunities.  Each child has processed and walked them out differently.

As I sit and look at the bright and shining future, we have these amazing kids to guide and shepherd.  This time around, it is not a solitary journey or private decision to be made.  Change is hard for even the strongest of us. I have no doubt God has a beautiful future for each in my tribe.  We just have to guide them into this bright new future.

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Shepherding.

That was the word God gave me for this season with my babies (they will always be my babies.  can we just agree to let me call them that?  just humor me!)  Even with all the excitement of a bright future the transitioning has been challenging.  More so for some than others.  Loss is hard.  But God is greater.

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My Love and I must shepherd our children well through this transition.

 We have a responsibility to guide our children through the shadows.  Through the tears.  The goal is to get EVERYONE to the other side.  I told my youngest Little,

“In this family, we are all for one, and one for all”.

We stop and sit with, pick up and carry, hold the hand, give love and receive love.  We shepherd our children through the pain of rejection, loss, betrayal, and disappointment.

No one will be left behind.

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I have always hated the pre-flight airline spiel about putting your own mask on first and then your children’s.  I understand the logic and know it is best.  But, my overly compassionate self screams, “I will put their’s on first, thank you very much!” But, that doesn’t really make sense, does it?

So, I have decided I am in a similar spot in my life.  It is time for me to get my oxygen mask on first and then I can administer life breath to them.

These world-changers deserve the very best I can give them.

There is wisdom to give and hope to share.  There are dreams to help them dream.  There is a future brighter than anything of the past.  Even with all the beauty we did experience, there is more to be had.

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I need something to give to them.  So, here is what I am going to do to strengthen myself.

  • Exercise and build physical strength. 
  • Write…which is following my own dream.
  • Give creative Bible journaling a try.
  • Attend weekly worship at a safe and loving church.
  • Read for enjoyment and growth.
  • Stay accountable to wisdom.

There it is.

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I have been busy working hard to keep my family between the ditches…putting out fires, battling fears and wiping tears.  Because, sometimes life just hurts.  All of that is incredibly important.

But, now it is time for me to get out of that defensive position and into the intentional, offensive position.

Now, here is the next important piece of the puzzle.

My Love is leading spiritually intentional and strategic discussions during dinner on Wednesday evenings. 

With a preteen and a teenager in the house, it can’t get too serious or stifling.  But, God gave this idea as the perfect way for us to shepherded them.  Like most moms, I do much of the crisis management throughout the days; one of Dad’s roles is to give purposeful direction.  They need his voice and strength cloaked in velvet.

 We will not allow the negative to win.  We will not leave anyone behind.  We have bright future days.  I will not live on the defensive, but work from a place of intention and strength.  For what the enemy means for destruction, God transforms into beauty.  He will shepherd us.  We only need to cooperate.

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Turning 20

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He just turned 20.  How do these things happen?  He was 2, I blinked, and now he is 20.  Good grief.

I think I should receive gifts on my kids’ birthdays!  I think you should, too!  Why not, I ask?  We’ve done all the work.  Kids…they just live.  We keep them alive.  We work hard to keep them from bodily harm and get them to adulthood!  There’s teaching and training and sleepless nights.  There is sacrifice and tears.

Think of the embarrassment.  Just when they are supposed to mind their manners they bust out some tightly lipped family secret.  Some folks know just the right questions to ask and these kids fold!

Oh, the rigors of mothering!

We’ve been pooped on and thrown up on.  If you’re like me, you got really good at catching vomit.  Yep, right here in these two hands.  We’ve been stretched—figuratively and literally.  For many of us, our bodies will NEVER be the same.   Let’s not even talk about the checkbook.

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But, oh, the joys of mothering!

The sloppy, jelly kisses.  The tiny hugs as powerful as any bear hug.  The “I love you’s” and “thank you, mommy’s.”  Or maybe the snuggles and warm bodies tucked up next to you during a midnight storm.  Perhaps it’s the saving of the day or heroic chocolate chip cookies after a wrecked bike or hurt heart.  The paper hearts and handmade gifts.  These are the treasures of motherhood.  I have crates full of my children’s childhoods.

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So many snapshots and memories rest in my heart.  My heart is intrinsically intertwined with my children’s hearts.  How can a mother’s heart be anything but?  Our happiness is hopelessly linked with our children’s happiness.  We are only as happy as our saddest child.  We long for their joy and peace in this life.  We see in them what they sometimes can’t see in themselves.  We believe the world is at their hands.

They look to us to guide them and see them through.  They need us to ride the waves with them and stay steady.  Ready to call them down from the edge.  They want us to be there and hear their hearts.  So many late night chats when hearts are open and walls are down.  So much 24 hours a day being on the ready…on call.

Here are some things I’ve learned with 20 years of parenting on the books:

  • This is a tough job with wonderful rewards.
  • Of all the things I do, almost nothing is more important than mothering.
  • I am investing in the future as I mother.  I am lengthening my life through their’s.
  • It matters how I parent when they are little.  It matters how I parent when they are bigger.
  • They are important, but my marriage and relationship with their Dad is even more important.
  • I may not be able to do everything I want to do right now, but this is a season.  Someday, I will.
  • After they have grown, they need a coach.  I am still making an impact. 
  • As the parent of a Big, it’s my responsibility to keep the relationship open, alive and healthy.

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He is my firstborn.  He was the guinea pig.

He deserves a gold star for surviving the young, inexperienced, often irrational parenting skills I was working with.  I apologized for said craziness as he graduated from high school.  He laughed.  He has great memories.  He doesn’t remember all the mistakes I have cataloged in my brain.  He knows I’m human and make mistakes.

He laughs as he clearly remembers the crossing over to this realization moment all too well.  The one where our kids realize we are not Perfect.  We laugh.  Apologies and “I love you” go a long way to righting the mistakes and healing the hurts.  We work hard to do the best we can with what we have at the time.  Life together is a beautiful ride.

If there is one thing I can look back and see, it is this.

As we take the imperfectness of our human parenting and pair it with the perfectness of God, we can lay our children in His hands and trust for the very best outcome.  No, it won’t always look clean and pretty.  And, there will probably even be some stink.  But inviting God into our parenting journey ensures spiritual consequences we could never create on our own.

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Further, not being a perfect parent, requires our full trust in God.  I’m not sure how parents do this thing without God.  I have to rely on Him to lead the way with each beautifully unique child.  There is no other way to go.  That’s a risk I’m not willing to take.  My shortcomings are miraculously shored up by the One who leads the way.

So, maybe you are still on the upswing with Littles hanging on to your legs.  The days are too long and your energy is running short.  A break would be good right about now.  I hear ya!

Just know, it matters.  It matters a lot.  And, when you get 20 years out from now, your heart will know it for sure, too.  It’s amazing what being on the flip side, at least with one child, will do for perspective.  And, thankfully, I can say I don’t really have too many regrets….other than the insanity that may have taken over from time to time.  But, hey, none of us is perfect….right?  As my father used to say, “It builds character!”

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Disappointment

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Disappointment.

Who isn’t familiar with it?  It’s a part of life.

Walking through disappointment with kids will wrench your gut and wring you out.  As a mom, I know life happens.  There is no way to protect them from disappointment and do them justice.  In those hard moments, there is so much wisdom to be poured into these sensitive hearts.

I really love those moments of teaching our young ones to process pain and disappointment in a healthy way.  I certainly don’t love the circumstances that bring the pain, though.  But, what shallow and weak human beings they will be if I don’t shepherd them through their difficulties.

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Today was such a day.  Another disappointing report crushed a young heart.  I could see it–a beautiful face fighting hard to hold back the tears.  A heart full of dreams and faith.  Lots of believing and praying childlike prayers.  It was in that moment I had to close my mouth and say a prayer.  I prayed for the right words to ignite a fire of faith.  My first thought was, “Lord, what do I say to another disappointing report?  What are you going to do about this?”

I know all too well these times come.  We don’t hear the answer we want to hear, we are passed by for what we deserve, people don’t live up to our expectations and wound us, or there is another delay in our answer.  And, we ask, “What am I supposed to do about this?  Where are you, God?”

Here are 3 thoughts to help us through these moments:

  • God sees and knows.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • God works all things out for our good.

I absolutely believe God sees and knows all that is going on in our lives.  I know He never leaves us or forsakes us.  I know for a fact He works all things out for our good.  I know these three things to be true in my life.

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We have walked through some incredibly severe and trying situations as a family and I remember sensing God speak to me that He had seen it all and knows it all.  What a comfort that was to me!  Just hearing that affirmation of love still brings hope to my heart.  You know what that means?  He had never left me and He truly understands my pain like no other.  He would vindicate and heal the wounds in His good time.

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I told my disappointed one yesterday that God does not always answer in the fashion in which we envision in our minds.  Our small box of plans can’t even begin to hold the answer He has for our situations.  And further, if our disappointment and need hasn’t been answered just yet and we’re still breathing, then the answer is still on the way!

Big lessons for a young one.  Better to learn and solidify your faith at a young age and know for yourself this great big God of the universe than have to wait until your older and have no clue who He is!  Yes, I would love for this life to be smoother sailing, with more positive reports, but, I know He is with us even in those moments.

He is walking through it all with us.

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By the way, lots of love and hugs help, too!  God isn’t shocked or offended by our pain and questions.  Take some time to grieve and process the loss or disappointment.  Talk it out and then move forward.  By the end, a little ice cream hit the spot!  There are no callous “stop crying and suck it up” talks in this house.  But, we are learning to not wallow in our pain.  Eventually, we were able to laugh a little and hug it out!

So, what disappointment have you swallowed lately?  It is sure to come.  But, you can stand strong when you remember this:  He sees and knows; He certainly hasn’t left me;  And, I know good is on the way—it may not look exactly how I planned, but His perfect plan is at work in my life.

Hey….maybe you should even have a little mint chocolate chip ice cream to top it off!

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Would you like to read more about this wonderful journey through this one beautiful life?  Sign up to receive a post delivered straight to your inbox each week.  I would love to have you join me on this journey of hope!  Here’s to a great week!

Sweet, Simple Life

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I am thankful for the small graces in my every day.

Sometimes, it seems as if a whole host of things can go wrong at the same time.  You know, you’ve had it happen to you.   You’re busy running around marking off your to-do list, trying to go out of town and the lawnmower and trimmer break down and the yard police are watching.  The equipment is new, mind you!  Or maybe your child (or as they blame the sibling) has lost their phone.  Thorough searching has gone on without success, but it is imperative for the child to have one, since they are going on a trip without you.  So, the race is on to find a replacement that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. (Because, of course, the child is not due for an upgrade.)

Sometimes, there is just so much to do.  Just do the normal day to day responsibilities, but throw in some hiccups and you feel up to your eyeballs trying to squeeze it all in.  But, I’m thankful.

I’ll be candid with you.  I deal with some anxiety issues.  I’m well aware of what it feels like for me and some of my triggers.  So, today, amid all the running and preparing for the five of us to travel, and make sure our four-legged fur baby is taken care of, I was feeling the effects of anxiety.  I usually call my husband and clue him in on my anxiety.  Instead of trying to ignore it, hoping it will go away, I recognize it at the start and have learned to handle it head on, right at the beginning.  I knew he would pray for me.

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I also had to remind myself that this life is beautiful.  While the responsibilities sometimes feel overwhelming, compared to what others are facing, this is simply life.  One important lesson I learned in counseling is to learn the difference between a crisis and everyday glitches in life.

Broken lawnmowers and lost phones aren’t crises, just life to be managed.  I’m blessed to have a family of my own to care for and nurture.  I remind myself these days are truly short.  While I taxi and run errands, I am caring for my family.  All of this is life.  Beautiful life.

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It takes careful mindfulness to control our thoughts and harness them for power.  I’m learning to not spin into sidewise energy, by not focusing on the glitches and hiccups along the way.  Yikes!  I am not always so good, so I am talking to me today, too.  But, amid the shopping and working through my list of to-do’s, my anxiety disappeared.  (I also think my Honey’s prayers made a difference, too.)  About an hour later, my husband called to check in on me, and I realized my anxiety was gone.  I didn’t let it derail me or steal my joy.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with anxiety:

  1. Stop and look for the source of the anxiety.  See if there is any merit to it. 
  2. Invite someone you trust into your moment.
  3. Pray.
  4. Remind yourself to slow down and enjoy the process.
  5. Be mindful of your thoughts and words.

Life runs at breakneck speeds and sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that all is well.  Remember what is truly a crisis and what is an annoyance or mere, every day stuff.  This is what life is about.  It isn’t all the big, splashy moments.  Most of our days are made up of ordinary life stuff.

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I am learning to appreciate the simpleness of everyday living.   At this point in my life, I am thankful to  just live normal, everyday life.  It is beautiful–complete with bumps and hiccups.  Finding beauty in the simple, and even in the middle of challenging annoyances, is the key to living more fully and peacefully in the everyday.

 

 

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Who Do You Trust?

 

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I can remember sitting on the edge of the bed with each of my children.  Or sometimes it was sitting with them curled up next to me on the sofa.  We were having one of our many heart to heart talks.  To me, those are some of my most treasured moments.  As they poured out their concerns or dreams from their tender hearts, I intently listened.  Sometimes, I didn’t have an answer; lots of times I did.  The one thing I remember teaching them is this,

“If it matters to you then it matters to God.”

Sometimes, their concern was over a lost toy or an unfortunate situation.  Other times, their concern was the bigger-than-life dreams they were dreaming.  Either way, I often brought them back to this one thought.

If it matters to you then it matters to God.

In this life we need hope.  Not a misguided and misplaced hope, but a hope rooted in the strength and care of God.  This isn’t a false hope.  It was never promised that God was our genie in a bottle looking to grant every wish.  They understood that.  We might not get the response we want, but God gives the very best He knows we need.

God looks at our hearts with care.  He sees all the things in future days we can not see.  He sees where our choices lead.  He knows what we need.  But, the really cool thing is God cares about the things we care about.  He created us and knows us.

This is a great comfort for my soul.  Our desires are not petty or insignificant. In fact, if He knew us before we were ever in our mother’s womb, wouldn’t that include what our desires and interests would be?  We are not created out of chance.

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This thought always seemed to comfort my children.  And, in the the process, I was aiming for a deep heart connection with the One who created them.  I know they take this thought with them even now.  Now, they are older.  The stakes are quite a bit higher.  Just the other day my oldest needed a reminder.  I think we all need to be reminded at points along the journey.  When the cost is higher or the dream is bigger and when we aren’t talking about lost childhood trinkets, we need to remember.  Now, we are talking about which paths to walk, which choices to make, which dreams to dream.  Or, maybe it is about provision in the real world—having real needs in this real world.  But, perhaps, it is something you think is small and insignificant, and doesn’t even warrant an audience with God.

If it matters to you then it matters to God.

Fear need not rule the day.  Our Father hears and knows.  He’s got us.  Who do you trust?  I mean, REALLY trust.  Are you trusting in yourself to get things done and to make it happen?  Do you have dreams and desires and believe you are the only one to get it done?  Maybe that is your life track record–“If it is to be then it’s up to me!”  No one ever sat with you and really listened to what was burdening your soul.  Well, I’m here today to tell you it matters.  It all matters.

Does it matter to you?  Then it matters to God. 

He’s not a magic genie looking to grant you three wishes.  But, He does care about what keeps you up at night and aches in your heart.  Trusting only in ourselves leads to a weary and worn soul.

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Things haven’t turned out quite how you wanted?  Things don’t really look like what you dreamed of in your heart?  He cares.  And, what’s even best, He sees the right answer for every situation.  Scripture teaches us to cast our burden on Him because He cares for us.  I’m amazed at all of the times God has revealed Himself to my children.  Children.  He has proven Himself over and over to them.  And, even though they are children, they have experienced some tough stuff.  And so, they are learning He can be trusted.

You may not be a child anymore, but He is waiting to listen.  If He will reveal Himself to a child, He will reveal Himself to you.  What is it that matters to you?  What is aching in your soul?

 If it matters to you then it matters to Him!

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A Letter To My Loves

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To Our Loves,

As your Dad and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary, I hope you have witnessed a growing, deep love.  It’s hard to believe we are at 24…..next year is 25 and we will be celebrating in fine style!  But until then….

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Your Dad and I met in 1988.  I know it seems so very long ago.  We married in 1991 while we were young and full of dreams.  I suggest you marry when your heart is full of love and bright with dreams.  Young love can be challenging, and I often say older is probably better.  But, here’s what I know, your dreams grow together and you figure out life with someone close by your side when you start out younger.  Life is good in pairs.  That may not work out for you exactly like that, but if your heart is open, your head is solidly on your shoulders and feet are firmly planted on the ground, run through this life together.  You won’t have all the money you need (and money is really good!), but God will provide if you listen closely to Him.

You will never find the “perfect” Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Everyone has flaws.  You have to decide what you can live with and what is non-negotiable.  Nobody you love will be perfect.  Absolutely nobody.  So, if you find love and depth of character, decide whether you can live this life without them.  Some flaws are obviously worse than others.  Run!  Run, like the wind!  But, you know I have taught you, they need to love Jesus, serve Him and love their family.  Of course, each of you have things you love and desire and things that won’t fly.  Listen to your heart!  My sweet girl, if you can find someone like your Daddy, you will be a woman most blessed.  My strong men, I hope in some way I have shown you what a Jesus-loving wife should represent.

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Love hits bumps and gets bruises.  The real beauty comes from walking out whatever life has to throw at you.  Not running away.  It’s the living out grace and faith through the rough patches.  It isn’t always pretty or easy, but marriage isn’t just about you.  The other person doesn’t complete you—you are whole just as you are.  One goal of marriage is to help your Love fulfill their dreams.  And together, if you both do that, you will achieve more than you ever could on your own.

As you journey together, you will change and grow.  So will the Love of your life.  That is good.  When you are Jesus followers, He will change you and grow you.  So, encourage them to grow.  Life is a journey; and, no, you will not know what you or your Love will look like 24 years from the day you walk down the aisle.  But, if you open your hearts and journey together, you come out on the other side even better than when you started out.

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Our journey has been filled with so much fun!  Trips to Walt Disney World, the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon.  Trips to the ocean and visits to opposite coasts.  Trips to other countries and close to home.  So many fabulous memories!  Life is what you make it.  Marriage is too.  Don’t wait for the golden years or someday to live life.  Do what you can, when you can.  You aren’t promised those yonder days.  Make the most of now.  It may mean you have to do it with some financial finesse, but do it nonetheless.

Remember, the children don’t run the corner office!  Teach them there is something out there bigger than them.  They can’t survive without that!  And, that, my dears, starts at home.  Your marriage is first.  Your Love is first.  Yes, there are seasons in which the children’s activities will dominate the schedule.  But, remember your love comes first.  Do what you can, when you can!  Date nights and time and moments have to be taken.  Learn your Love’s love language and do what you can to meet it.  It may be a stretch for you to think outside the box of your own idea of love, but do it.  Try hard!  Give it all you’ve got!  Children need to see their parents in love.  That is when they are most secure.  Oh, they will complain and be grossed out—gross them out anyway!

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Many times, you will be called upon to sacrifice.  That is life.  Sometimes you will have to give more than you think you have to give.  Many times you will have to set yourself aside for the moment and give out of yourself so your Love can have what they need.  And they will have to do the same.  I know this flies against the current culture.  Often times you will find a godly marriage will.  Many times, a godly marriage will have to go counter-culture to survive and grow.  In fact, I will say, most of the time you will find yourself needing to live counter-culture to protect your family.  Do it!  Make the sacrifice!  Your home, your family and all that is to come will depend on it.

There is so much more to say that comes from 24 years of marriage.  But, I’m sure that will come in time.  I wouldn’t change it for the world!  Yes, I wish I had done some things differently.  I wish I had loved better and understood more. But life and love is a journey.  Your Dad is a great example of loving—many times I feel he has done it better than I.  But, we are in it for the distance!  We’ve been through a lot, but we’ve also experienced so much laughter, joy and love.  I wouldn’t do this journey with anybody else.FullSizeRender

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Choose wisely, my Loves!  But don’t be afraid!  Love and marriage aren’t perfect, but definitely worth the effort!

 

No Weak-Kneed Parenting

 

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Good parenting is a lot like this tree.

This tree is The Founders Tree in Landa Park, in New Braunfels, Texas.  I grew up with this tree. This beautiful statue of strength dates back to around 1700.  That tree has weathered a lot of storms and droughts!  This old Live Oak is considered an Indian Marker Tree—a tree that was tied sideways in order to point to a favorable water source.  The Founders Tree is thought of as the mightiest tree in Texas.  Actually, this scenic park is full of many beautiful trees.  Your just not a self-respecting park if you don’t have beautiful, magnificent trees!

I was mesmerized by this tree growing up.  It sparked my imagination and wonderings.  In some ways it felt sacred.  What had this tree witnessed or who first saw this tree?  Maybe travelers had found shade and rest by this tree.  Its size and age alone inspired awe.  I knew of no other tree like this one.

You may think I have lost it.  You aren’t really seeing the connection between a tree and parenting.  I think there is.

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Parenting is not for cowards!

This tree is strong and resilient.  It wasn’t blown away by some gust of wind.  When we parent, we must be just like this tree—strong and resilient.  Our kids are gonna wear us down.  You may feel like you have been chewed up and spit out before the first bowl of cereal is poured and the first cartoon is played!  Or, maybe they are older and know just the right buttons to push.

My least favorite thing is to be greeted at first light of the morning with a sibling squabble or a grumpy kid.  It can set my day off wrong before my feet ever hit the floor.  But, I have to remember my purpose.  My purpose is to parent them and set the tone.  It takes personal strength and hutzpah!

They need us to be strong.  They need to be able to count on us to set strong, protective boundaries.  They may not be your friend, but that’s ok.  They need a parent more than a friend.

 

Parenting is an endurance race!

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This tree has been here a really long time!  Really–1700.  It didn’t let the all-too-familiar droughts shrivel it up.  It has weathered storms that have rolled through.  If you just look at this tree, you see the shape and contour.  It has an incredible root system and is near a water source.  Both of these qualities have helped this beautiful tree stand through the generations.  This is a perfect analogy for parenting.  Your root system needs to be wide and deep and you need to know your source.  Where are you getting your strength and depth of character?  Who are you relying on to lead you as you parent?  The internet?  The latest parenting craze?  The internet has been a great source of much needed information for me.  Got an issue?  Read a book, search the Web!  But, really I just have to rely on what God has to say to me about my situation.  It’s amazing how much He actually has to say to us.  What do I want my children to be like as the grow?  I need to look deep within myself and see what is in me.  This is the best way to work out this endurance race.  Some days feel like a sprint, but realize you are parenting for the marathon.

 

 

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God has hand picked you for your children.  These children don’t need some other mother or father.  They need you.  You have what it takes to raise them just as they should be.  I’ve always taken mothering incredibly seriously.  God has entrusted these children to us to ultimately lead to Him. That is the primary goal.  How we parent matters.  Our children will learn how to see God through how we live.  Their first impressions of God come from us.  It matters!  We teach them how to live life.  We aren’t perfect and that’s okay.  We say to our kids, “Follow me, as I follow God!”  When we mess up, they can have a front row seat to God’s grace in your life.  They probably won’t understand it all now, but later they will look back and see clearly.

Our kids look to us.  Will we inspire them?  We can’t leave it to the world to lead them.  It doesn’t take a village to raise your child.  It takes you!  Yes, we have those around us who contribute to their lives, but we are the primary source of inspiration and guidance.  You may say, “Wow! No pressure, there!”  We don’t have to do it alone, though.

On many occasions I have prayed about specific parenting issues I have had with each of my kids.  I need God to lead us in parenting these humans in a way He wants them parented.  No.  I have to have His help.  They have a purpose to fulfill–He knows better what they need than we do.

We need to love and nurture and provide support and shade.  The generations to follow depend on you.  What do you want your legacy to be?  What goals do you have for your parenting?  What do you need to adjust in order for the next generations to have a lasting legacy to look to?

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What In The World Am I Doing?

My dad loved the outdoors. 

But not just any place outdoors.  He loved working in his yard.  And, he had the gift!  He knew what he was doing.  My daddy had a good eye and the green thumb touch.  It was so beautiful, I had my engagement pictures taken in our backyard….it was as beautiful as any park.

He knew exactly what it needed and when. He fertilized, watered and trimmed religiously.  This yard was sculpted into a tropical oasis.

I’ll never forget, however, the work my brother and I were recruited to do one spring Saturday.  Before the grass ever went in, we were on rock and pebble duty.  Now, before you think “how hard can that be?”,  let me tell you we lived in the hill country of Texas.  A sledge hammer was used to set fence post holes due to the rocky terrain.  Yeah.

So, imagine millions and millions of rocks and pebbles littering this painfully bare plot of ground.  Ok, well, maybe not millions.

As a 12 year old, I’m pretty sure it felt like a quarry!!

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But, these pesky rocks had to go to make way for beautiful green grass.  In order for the grass roots to, well, take root and thrive, the land had to be prepped.  #Loads.Of.Fun.  I’m sure he said it built character…….along with driving the green Ford station wagon as my first car.  That was my daddy.

 

Character.

It doesn’t seem we hear that word very much anymore.  On any given day I can find an article on Facebook about parenting for good self-esteem; or how about parenting for great intelligence.  Maybe, parenting towards tolerance and inclusiveness is the key.  Maybe it’s parenting to sensitivity and emotional wholeness and generosity.  It certainly does run the spectrum.  We can take a look at society as a whole and realize some parenting may be going in the right direction, yet so much is not.

Character seems to be an old-school word.

But,  part of giving our Loves roots is shaping their nature into strong, moral beings. 

There is accountability and courage to do the right thing—even in a world gone mad. 

Character is doing the right thing even when you may not benefit or nobody may ever know otherwise. 

Character is looking out for others—being aware of the other person’s feelings. 

Character is working hard and serving one another–regardless of how big or small the task or person. 

Forgiving and holding your tongue, even when it would certainly be easier to set everyone straight….that should set the standard. 

Generosity and graciousness should guide decisions in a world that applauds grabbing all you can get. 

Our children must know there is a code of right and wrong.  They need a moral compass. 

How about respect for human life?  Or, maybe simply being respectful. 

It may mean taking responsibility for a poor decision without placing blame or running the bus over other people.  

Roots. 

They provide the moral compass and the centering force for all we do or don’t do.

Imagine the chaos in even the very littlest of our littles when the root system is not cultivated.  They feel most secure when clear boundaries are in place.  Oh, some things are cute when they are an adorable one year old.  But, come 13.  Yeah, not so cute anymore.  There are so many beautiful life lessons we can teach the Loves God has given to us.

So, here are some wise thoughts to make this happen…..straight from Deuteronomy 11:18-21:

Pray for them.

Tell them.

Show them.

  • We can’t do it alone.  Not in this world we live in. We need God to help us.  He knows them better than we do!  I regularly pray “help me partner with You as I parent.”
  • We have to teach them and write it on their hearts.  Not only when it’s the cute little baby Bible, but when they are strong and the world is fiercely pitching its message.
  • “Do as I do….not just what I say.”  Live it out when it’s hard, even when it would be so much easier to turn and run.  They don’t need to see shallow hype.

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It is our job to train them, shape them and send them soaring from the nest.  This world needs them!  The world needs you to pour into them and expect them to step up and be the very best they can be.

Is it all going to go smoothly?  Nope.  Will we make mistakes?  You bet.  But, they can learn from that as well.  Love and authenticity goes a long way to smoothing out the bumps.  Remember, God gave them to you……and you to them.

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Roots and Wings

Has anyone ever told you
that your job as a parent
is to give your Loves
roots and then give them wings?
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That is such a beautiful phrase.  I love it.  There is something about that line that creates such an image of beauty and strength coupled together.  And what a dichotomy!  Such different words.
Roots, wings. 
The nature of roots makes us think of an earthy, gritty, life-source, sustaining and supporting foundation.  The essence of wings calls to mind flight, self-supporting strength, beauty, resourcefulness and gracefulness.  It seems to me there may be a connection between the two.
The symbolism can’t be dismissed.
Parenting. 
The word alone can intimidate you.  In one moment, you may go from feeling completely in control, to feeling utterly out of control in seconds.  You might be on track and feeling successful one moment, but in a split second you realize everything is not as it appears.  You often lack sleep; you just may find your interests and passions intertwine or collide with late night talks full of tears and reassuring hugs.  It’s not an easy world in which to raise children.  You exhaust yourself by always being diligent and on guard.  If you’re wise, you realize you need divine help in taking these Loves from birth to flight.  And you don’t get a whole heck of a lot of time to accomplish it.  A mom further down the road than me offered this valuable piece of wisdom when my oldest was barely two…..the days are long, but the years are short.  On many occasions, this helped me keep my perspective and make wiser decisions.
There are so many joys in parenting. 
One of my all time favorites is watching my Loves find their passions and dream big dreams.  There’s nothing like the “I love you” or “Thanks, mom” that comes from hearts genuine with feeling.  Watching your Loves learn from their mistakes, and trying their best not to repeat the same mistake…..whether they do or not, to see the effort to learn is what matters.  Knowing your kids are making the right choices along the way–when choosing the wrong would have been so much easier–brings so much joy.  Gooey kisses and slobbery hugs go a long way to making parenting easier.
I am focusing over the next two weeks on the topic entitled “Roots and Wings”.  Almost 20 years into this parenting gig (that’s a LOT of toddler and preschooler years!), and I often say to my kiddos, “This isn’t my first rodeo.”  I really like to remind them of this.  Especially when they think they have a new take on a particularly time-worn lesson.  My Honey will often remind me, to my chagrin, he isn’t a first-time parent.  I haven’t experienced it all, by any means, and I’m sure my other two at home have some surprises for me along the way!
Here are a couple things I have learned along the way.
Whether you were parented well or not does not determine your parenting ability. 
I also know God gave you those particular children because you have what it takes to get them from nest to flight.
There is such beauty in parenting. 
There is loads of grace for it too. 
God does not leave us unequipped for the job he gives us.
We just have to look for his hand and be open to his guidance.  God says, “I got you!”
He will give you every good thing you need to bring your children up to be what he intends for them to be.  He will give you the grace to do all he has called you to do.
Whether that is
parenting + an outside career
or
staying at home full time + pursuing passions that fuel you,
he knows exactly how he formed you and is working to bring out the gifts he placed within you.
I would love for you to join me on this journey.  I look forward to sharing a few things I have learned along the way.  I believe God can give you just what you need.  I don’t know exactly what that is, but he does.  Let’s meet together and see what He has to say!
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