Posted in Family, Motherhood

Every Parent’s Never-Ending Battle

It starts early:

Should we PUT DOWN our four-month old (let him “cry it out”) or PICK him UP when he is fussy? Holding him tends to calm him. He sleeps better. He stops crying. He is basically happier.

It continues: 

How about the daily battle of knowing how much to help our budding adult children (pick them up when they are “fussy”) or let them figure things out on their own (many times painful and uncomfortable)? Helping them tends to calm them. They sleep better. They stop “fussing.” They are basically happier.

It never ends:

What about an aging parent’s battle about how much to help their youngest son with the care of his children? He lost his wife about a year ago and the situation is complicated. They are 84. He is 56. Helping him calms the situation. Everyone sleeps better. The “fussing” is abated. He is basically happier.

No matter how old our child is, the battle of whether or not to PICK UP or PUT DOWN is one we will fight until our last breath.

It can be teaching a baby to sleep by themselves, driving a forgotten homework assignment to school for your elementary daughter, purchasing a car for your new driver, allowing an adult child to live at home rent-free for a season, watching grandchildren for your middle-aged son, the list goes on and on.

The questions are basic:

How much do I “PICK UP,” help, console, “save the day,” when my child has a need or even a want?

How much do I let them “ride out the storm,” figure it out on their own, “PUT them DOWN” so to speak?

Where is that line drawn?
When is that line drawn?
How is that line drawn?

What choice should we make so that we are promoting emotional health and good boundaries, yet making sure the other feels safe and completely loved?

We fight this battle on the daily, no matter how we old we are or how simple or complicated the situation is.

Our hearts burn with this question:

“What should I do in “X” situation with “such-and-such” child? Do I PICK them UP or PUT them DOWN?”

If I “PICK them UP,” the voices in my cute little brain shout loudly.

You are doing too much.
Your boundaries are too lax.
They need to learn for themselves.
This is unhealthy.
This is bad.

If I don’t help and PUT them DOWN, I hear opposing and equally noisy voices.

You aren’t doing enough.
Your boundaries are too rigid.
They need to feel loved and not alone.
This is unhealthy.
This is bad.

Ugh. Double Ugh.

So what do we do when we feel trapped in this impossible and never-ending battle?

  • We remind ourselves that even though the questions seem easy, the situations are complicated. No two are the same and rarely is there a quick answer or fix.
  • We recognize that this dilemma is part of being a parent, period. There’s no getting out of it.
  • We realize that other parents are in the same boat. We all need each other, not to judge and give solutions, but to listen and give grace.
  • We stop asking ourselves if the decision is right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. Rarely are decisions that we make all one way or the other. That’s an exhausting treadmill and only promotes fear, guilt and shame. Either decision will have both difficult and wonderful attached to it. Usually it’s some combination of beautiful and messy.
  • We ask these questions instead: What do I really need? Why do I want to help? What do they really need? We can take the long-view and dig a little deeper.
  • We allow ourselves to change our minds if we need to. We give ourselves permission to re-evaluate and get counsel from others. There is great freedom here.
  • We show ourselves boatloads of grace no matter what we decide. We remind ourselves that God loves both of us and He can come in and provide all that’s lacking no matter what decision is made in the moment.
  • And lastly, we ask God for wisdom because He gives it GENEROUSLY and FREELY to all without finding fault, and we trust that will be given to us (James 1:5).

Do not forget, my friend, that we are in the same “mom boat,” paddling along, trying not to sink and, at the same time, enjoying the big, bumpy, beautiful ride together.

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Faith, Health

What I’m Really Fighting For

INTEGRITY.

A word I have always used to describe my husband.

He’s even won awards at work for it.

Me.  Not so much.

I’m sneaky.

And I struggle to always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it does not fit my “get ‘er done” mentality.

TRUE STORY AND CONFESSION:

My son’s health insurance needed to be cancelled and I called up and told the people on the other end of the line I was him and cancelled that baby on the spot.  They didn’t even, or probably weren’t allowed to, question my high voice and my masculine name not matching.  He gave me permission to do such a thing, but I didn’t really think long and hard about this little fib.  Not a good look for this Dolly Mama.  Not a lot of integrity for sure.  I kind of feel bad about it as I write this.

NOW BACK TO THE POINT.

My husband doesn’t tell little white lies or big whopper ones. He’s as honest as the day is long.

No wonder he’s won awards at work for integrity.

No wonder I trust him implicitly.

But did you know that honesty is not the same as integrity.  Yes, it’s a natural result of integrity, but it’s NOT integrity.

INTEGRITY is when we live according to our deepest values.

When our outsides match our insides.

When all the parts of us are working together in harmony (they are “integrated”) and not separated and fighting against each other.

When we are the SAME in our homes, in our church, in our neighborhood, in our activities, in our workplace, in our social media posts and in our time alone.

INTEGRITY.

A word I would like to use to describe myself.

Maybe even win awards for it some day.

Recently, the rubber has met the road.

I have not been living with integrity.

I believe and value one thing and then I live, work, spend and serve as if I value something completely different.

It’s been kind of awful.

I have been hiding.
I have been pretending.
I have been trying to please others.
I have been anxious.

It’s come to a head.

I can’t do it anymore.

But the pressure to continue to do so seems insurmountable.

Outright pressure.
Unspoken pressure.
Internal pressure.

So I am on the mission to fight for it with all my might.

Have all the parts of myself aligned and working with each other.

My inside and my outside.
My feelings and my actions.
My heart and my mind, my soul and my spirit.

What I’m really fighting for is me. The real real me. The me that God made and loves and cheers and delights in. The one that is an absolute beautiful mess.

So here’s my first step. Speaking out what I value.

It’s scary.
I am afraid of being judged.
I don’t want people to think ill of me.

All the normal-ish and crazy reasons I keep going down the lack-of-integrity slide.

So here goes.

Right now, in my life, these things are what I value most:

  1. Freedom (mostly the inside kind)
  2. Becoming my true self and helping others to do just that
  3. Living with and under radical grace
  4. Questions more than answers (a posture of constant learning even if it’s downright hair-raising)
  5. Allowing God to be Himself, and not who I’ve told myself He is (mostly to fit in with others)
  6. Living in the gray, nuanced, complicated, and messy and forgoing the black-and-white
  7. Eliminating hurry and scurry
  8. Being present to joy
  9. Telling others about the unconditional love of God AND deeply knowing it myself
  10. Becoming healed, whole and integrated (there’s that word)

Looking at this list, it seems easy, right?  NOT SO MUCH.

Because, I like to: 

  1. Stay safe.
  2. Protect myself.
  3. Judge others to make myself feel better.
  4. Have all the answers
  5. Tell God who He is.
  6. Live in the BLACK and WHITE.
  7. Hurry and scurry.
  8. Think about the past and the future (I spend most of my time there).
  9. See #5.
  10. Stay in the same, comfortable place I’ve always lived in.

I know it’s going to be a rough road ahead.

I have some big changes to make.

Both outside ones and inside ones.

I’m a wee bit terrified.
I’m also a whole lot excited.
I’m wondering what my next right step is.
I’m trusting God will show up as I take one. He always has.

And I’m beginning to see the INTEGRITY light at the end of the tunnel.

The one I might just get an award for.

Even if I have to give it to myself.

From my heart to yours.

P.S. Want to hear a funny story about my lack of integrity this week?

I’ve been on vacation and posting all the wonderful pictures of sand castles, family time, ice cream, and sunsets. Meanwhile, I’ve been riddled with an outbreak of horrendous poison ivy for most of the time, been miserable and staying in the air conditioning.  I only went to the beach once. So there you have it. Finally called the doctor today and got me some meds.  Never have I ever had poison ivy on my nose and a few other unmentionable places.  YIKES!  I don’t think the foraging for blackberries was worth it.

Posted in Faith

11 Questions

My nighttime prayers were once filled with berating myself for the day past.

Making sure I got all my ducks in a row before the Almighty.

Rehashing my sins and confessing them so that I could be “right with God” once again.

It was probably born out of a belief that God was crazily concerned with my right behavior (according to what and who, I’m not sure) instead of my broken, but wanting-to-heal heart.

Somehow, even though I was his daughter, my evil deeds from the day could somehow catapult me into a severed relationship with Him.

So, before I slept, I made sure I was all “good” again.

No wonder I kind of secretly hated this process.

I could never be sure I had remembered and confessed them all.

What if I missed some?
Would He be mad at me?
Would our relationship still be “on hold?”

So one day I just quit. I needed a break from the shame, guilt and fear I felt at the end of every day.

I spent the time scrolling my phone (which I sometimes still do, TBH).

I also spent it snuggling with a murder mystery book.
I mostly spent it avoiding this God who I supposedly had a wonderful relationship with.

Time marched by.

Enter my cute husband. Talking about things like his “Daily Examen.” How he ends his day much of the time.

Sounded a little old-school for me, but I new-schooled it and looked it up on the “Googler,” as my one friend calls it.

This is what I found out about it:

“The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.” (ignatianspirituality.com)

The basic goals of it are to:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

It all sounded like a big relief for me and a good way for me to redeem that precious time I have right before I go to sleep.

I’ve been doing it in fits and starts for a few months, even keeping track on a spreadsheet (I get it…I’m nerdy like that).

To make a long story even longer, I came up with 11 questions I talk to God about at the end of every day. Here they are:

1. What event happened, small or big?
2. What gifts did I receive?
3. Where did I show courage?
4. Who showed me love and support?
5. Where might I feel stuck?
6. What challenges did I face?
7. Where did I pause?
8. What emotions am I feeling? About what?
9. How did I sense God’s presence?
10. What is my response to the God of my life?
11. With what spirit do I want to enter tomorrow?

It hasn’t been magic, but it has been helpful.

ESPECIALLY NUMBER 4.

You see, I tend to want my poor husband to be my constant and ever-faithful person who loves and supports me. All by his lonesome. And I get a little annoyed if he doesn’t measure up to that impossible standard I’ve set for him. This question gets me thinking about all the people and ways God shows up for me, one loving and supportive act, thought, prayer, choice at a time. It’s been so good to end the day reminding myself about how God has provided for me in ways I may have missed. I also think my husband is a lot happier because I’ve let him off the hook from being my one and only source of love and support.

OH! AND NUMBER 7.

I am the “Esthergizer Bunny,” always going and going and going. But I secretly want to be the “Take-It-Slow Turtle,” knowing that hurry seems to cause worry and rushing seems to cause restlessness. So PAUSING at least once a day to breathe (imagine that, it’s my Word of the Year) and be present to God and what’s right in front of me, has been a gift beyond gifts.

So there you have it.

Nothing grand. Nothing monumental.

But good. Very good.

From my heart to yours,

Esther

P.S. For a deeper glimpse into my sometimes all-over-the-place brain from last night, here are the answers to my questions:

1. I had a stay-at-home day. I wrote. I listened to hurting friends. I met with a couple I am marrying. I had a continuing conversation at dinner with my family about something hard we are going through.
2. A FaceTime from my daughter. An electrician who put in a bathroom fan…he came on time…woohoo!!!
3. I asked some hard questions of my hurting friends. Uncomfortable. But brave of me.
4. My daughter. My husband. A friend who prayed for me. Another writer.
5. I don’t know exactly what to do about this hard thing. I am going round and round in circles.
6. See number 5.
7. I took 20 minutes to do Yoga right before dinner, ending with breath prayers and the phrase “God loves me with an everlasting love.”
8. I am feeling them all right now (as usual), but especially doubt. Not sure what’s the next right thing to do.
9. God showed me Himself in the wineberries we found and ate on our walk. He’s just fun like that.
10. Help me! HELP!
11. Clarity and direction. Peace and comfort.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

It Wasn’t Pretty

It wasn’t pretty.

What started out as a kind gesture on my part turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight with my teen.

On a summer day, as he slept in, I snuck his keys and took his car to the coin-operated car wash and vacuum place around the corner.  I wanted to surprise him with a clean car full of gas just to send him a mom/teen son “love note.”

As I opened his trunk, that sweet, knowing fragrance that I had often smelled in my brother’s car wafted to my nose.  POT.  It was P-O-T.

My mom heart did flips of fear, anger, shock, and shame.

What if he gets caught?  What if he ends up in jail?  Is he dealing?  How often is he using?

How dare he?!?!?!?  After all we’ve done for him!  Just wait until I get home!!! This is the end of the line!  This car is not going anywhere for a long time!  Neither is he!

What in the world?!  How did I not know?  He’s such a great kid!  This just isn’t happening.  UGH.

What am I doing wrong?  I must not be _______ (fill in the blank) enough.  What if they find out at church?  Or almost worse, on his team?  What will they think of me?  And him?

As I finished up the vacuuming and slid the wet wipe over the final seat, I drove home still flipping through all of those emotions, my eyes wet and my heart pounding.

I raced up to his room, threw open his door, and began to yell.  I mean yell.  He woke up dazed and confused.

It was NOT my finest parenting moment by a long shot.

All my fear, anger, shock and shame came tumbling out in words and threats I don’t care to share.

He fumbled back with excuses and “relax Mom.”  Needless to say, that didn’t help at all.
After I was done with my rant, I made my way to my bedroom closet and just sobbed.

What am I going to do?  How can this be fixed?  How can I make him stop?

At first, my controlling, black-and-white, formulaic parenting reared its head.

FEAR was beckoning and overtaking my mind, my heart, my soul, and even my spirit.

He is grounded.  He can’t have a door to his room.  No more car!  I will drug test him every week.  He could really mess up himself, his future, and us!  I am going to fix this!!!

Guess what?  My natural, very unhealthy, unwise, go-to way of parenting did not work.

I couldn’t control him.  I couldn’t fix him.

I was at an absolute loss, one of the first times in all of my motherhood journey that I couldn’t figure out.  Or solve.

I needed something.  Something different.  Something new.

A friend began to pray for me.  I began to pray.

Not prayers that sound fluffy and happy and like I have it all together.

More like prayers that were filled with curse words and “help me” and guttural sobs on my knees.

One day, a still small voice spoke to my heart.

“This isn’t about him, my Sweet Mama.  It’s about you.  I am here to help you.  You are not alone.”

I sat right there and cried.  This time, not the tears of despair, but ones of hope.

“I am the Lord, your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17)

I paused.  Listened.

I sought counsel.  From my friends.  From my spiritual mentors.  From a counselor.  And from the Holy Spirit, the most trusted Counselor of all.

In fits and starts, fear raging back at times and supernatural peace overwhelming at others, I got HELP.

HELP in the form of wisdom, not having it all figured out, and all my controlling ducks-in-a-row.

HELP in the form of guidance, being provided only the next right thing to do on any given day with this sweet child of mine.

HELP in the form of comfort, knowing that God can reach into those places in his heart that I have never been able to, no matter how much I have wanted to.

Lastly, HELP in the form of a beautiful, soul-resting, peace-bringing thought, one for my beautiful, but hurting mom heart:

Even if my ‘brain-hasn’t-fully-developed’ child makes a wrong or foolish choice that seems life-altering in all the worst ways, God can weave it into their story so that when it comes down to it, it’s the “right” one. He’s just able to do it.

This has not been an easy road. It’s been an up-and-down, twisty-turny one.  It’s been one that I wouldn’t have chosen.  But it’s one that I’ve needed and has allowed me to grow into a much larger space with this God who loves me and loves those I love even more than I do or ever will.  I am truly grateful.

So today, my friend, remember that God’s got you, no matter what crazy and hard road you are traveling right now.  He’s got your child.

Take a long, slow, deep breath with me, resting in His tender and loving arms, knowing that He is WITH us and FOR us, and we are not alone.

**first published on Liquid Church Family Devotional**

Posted in Childhood, Family, Grief, Motherhood, Thanks

Two Spoons

I could see that she was holding back tears as she walked down the steps of the school bus and into the passenger seat of our family minivan.

The words came tumbling out like a waterfall, “He broke up with me at lunch.”

My heart sank as I watched her body curl into a ball and her head flush against the window, tears flowing freely now.

“Oh honey. I’m so sorry. I know how much you liked him.”

I laid my hand on her arm for a moment and she wrapped herself further into a ball. Silence ensued for the rest of our drive home.

She bolted into the house and to her room, shutting the door. I followed her up the stairs, and as I rested my head on her closed door, I could barely make out muffled sobs.

My heart sank even more. My girl was hurting. And no matter what I did or said in that moment, it probably wouldn’t help at all. She was suffering the normal heartbreak that comes with first kisses, first crushes and first rejections.

I would just let her be for now, alone with her own heart and all the feelings that were new and confusing and downright difficult. It was the best and only thing I knew to do. It seemed to be what she wanted and needed the most.

I meandered to the kitchen, not sure what to do with myself. I wanted to run right back upstairs and wipe her tears away with a kiss, a hug, an emotional bandaid, an “I love you” or one of the other many mom tricks I had up my sleeve. Not this time. Instead, all I could do was pray (and I sure did) and feel awkward and start to make dinner.

Time seemed to march ever so slowly that afternoon, normal when pain is loud for us or someone we love. Time feels achingly long and almost cruel. Why can’t it pass quickly so that we are on the other side of loss and grief and back to our hopeful selves?

How I wished that for her that insufferable day.

Right before dinner, there was a knock at our front door. Odd at that time of day.

I glanced through the window and right in front of my own teary eyes, one of my daughter’s best friends was anxiously standing there, carrying two spoons and a huge container of my girl’s favorite ice cream flavor.

I opened the door, gave her a quick, thankful hug and whispered, “She’s up in her room.”

I heard another knock, footsteps, a door open and then shut again.

Talk about strange and hard for my mama self, yet somehow wonderful and what I hoped for all at the same time.

What I couldn’t do anymore as a mom (as much as I desperately wanted to), her friend was able to do. Listen. Relate. Comfort. Eat ice cream out of the container right before dinner.

All so normal for that season of her life.

I kept milling around the kitchen, gratitude welling up inside of me for this friendship that my daughter had.

The kind that goes to the grocery store instead of her dance practice.

The kind that shows up instead of stays away.

The kind that hangs out with the tears instead of just the laughs.

I heard the front door close and a car pull away.

In what seemed like only a few moments, her friend was gone again, just like that.

Had it been enough for that very miserable afternoon?

I wondered what would happen next.

Only moments went by when I heard the familiar creaking of my girl’s door opening and loud footsteps down the stairs.

She bounded into the kitchen, hair a mess, eyes all puffy, but the next words out of her mouth were priceless.

“I’m going to be okay, Mom, even if I’m not right now.”

She threw her arms around me and we hugged for a long time and as I held her close, I knew deep inside that it had all been enough.

“What’s for dinner?” she quietly asked.

As we unwrapped ourselves, I whispered one last thing into her ear, “I made your favorite.”

Posted in Faith

God in the Box

God I want to know You.

Not the version of You I was told about since I was a tot.

Not the one that I have used to “keep myself in line.”

Not the vending-machine god that I’ve pursued for my own sake.

But You, God.

The real You.

I just want to know You.

I have a feeling that we’ve all gotten You wrong for as long as You breathed life into us.

We’ve made You into our image.

We can’t help it. We are suffering. We are broken. We have so many limitations. We are human.

We desperately want a God who fits into a neat little box that we can understand and control. That’s happened since ancient times, when we literally put You in a box of wood, overlaid with gold and carried You around with poles and used You to fight our battles and convinced all the people around us that You were inside that box.

Funny thing?!? You weren’t. No matter how hard we tried to put You there and parade You around like we owned You.

We still do it.

We create constructs and circles and books and doctrines and contracts and churches and tell ourselves that You fit into those places. We keep others out of when their version of our god doesn’t match. We love having You in our neat and very small boxes. Ones we can control. Ones where we belong. Ones where we feel safe.

It’s so easy for us.

But I don’t want the easy way anymore.

I want the path that leads me to You.

The real You.

Even if it’s wild and full of adventure.

Or twisty-turny and complicated.

Or confusing and filled with more questions than answers.

The God who does not fit in carefully constructed and horribly restricted and finite boxes.

I’m a little nervous. How could I not be?

This is new territory for me.

But it’s not the same nervous where I’m wondering how it’s all going to fall apart and I’m going to be swept away right along with it.

It’s the hopeful butterfly-in-my-stomach kind.

The one where I might not belong to groups and systems that make me feel good inside.

The one where You live way outside of the box.

The one where it’s the start of a grand adventure of goodness and love and intimacy and creativity and all the fullness of life.

The one where You can be You and I can be me.

*Image from Raiders of the Lost Ark*

Posted in Family, Motherhood

I’m Glad I Will Never Know the Answer

Adventure (noun): An experience or activity that is unusual and exciting, typically hazardous.

Motherhood is one of the great ones. The feeling of trepidation as we rubbed our burgeoning bellies and yet the happy butterflies inside of them is still almost palpable for us.

We are thrust out of the safety of our personal space into the great unknown.

We’re stretched into all things NEW.

A NEW person entering into the landscape of our very existence.

Many NEW ideas about how life actually works.
NEW and completely surprising experiences never known before.
Seriously. A whole NEW life for us.

We don’t know what’s ahead, or just around the corner.

It might be something scary or a huge happy surprise.

It could be “the” dreaded phone call or a simple unexpected “I love you” text from our child.

The not knowing freaks us out and ushers in hope all at the same time.

We come to know that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s also not all monsters and mean girls.

It runs the whole gamut, all the feels, and all the things.

The different scary, joyous, disappointing, tear-laced, hilarious, exhausting, and love-filled things.

Yet somehow, we wouldn’t it trade for the world.

It’s a wild ride, but a wonderful one.

Even if it we cried looking at those two lines on the pregnancy test and wished it wasn’t happening, motherhood has woven together the larger story that makes us us.

Who would we be without it and especially without the one who took us on the adventure to begin with?

I am glad I will never know the answer.

Posted in Faith, Motherhood

A Six-Letter Word That Changes My Life Every Day

BLACK OR WHITE!!!

Do you hear me???

BLACK OR WHITE!!!

Good or bad.
Wrong or right.
Yes or no.

How much do I love these?

They make life so much easier.
I know what to do and what not to do.

It’s clear cut.
No weird subtleties that confuse others and me the most.

GRAY?
Good enough?
Wrongish?
It depends?

How difficult are these for me?  They make all my decisions so much harder.
But easier is NOT always better.  By any stretch.

We’ve seen enough of that in our homes, in our neighborhoods, at our workplaces, in church and especially on social media.

CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER!
YOU HAVE TO!!!

CHOOSE SIDES.

One is 100% wrong and one is absolutely right!

And if you don’t choose what I choose, you will be disowned.

Kicked out.
Not talked to.
Cancelled.

UGH!

There seems to be a huge missing factor in what I love and what can be easier, but not better.

It’s a little six-letter word called WISDOM.

W.I.S.D.O.M.

Wisdom says it’s not always black and white, good or bad, right or wrong, yes or no!

Wisdom allows for the whole possibly-hidden story behind what’s outwardly visible.

Wisdom often brings a third out-of-the-box thought, path, or decision.

Wisdom isn’t simple or easy much of the time.

It can nuanced and difficult.

It requires grace and patience and seeing things from many angles.

Wisdom is the way of Jesus.

He’s all about it. He doesn’t get caught up in the ALWAYS this or ALWAYS that.
He’s all about the SOMETIMES.

Sometimes it’s the right thing to walk away and shake the dust off of your feet.
And others it’s the right thing to stay and lean in and heal those in your path.

Sometimes it’s the right thing to break hard and fast man-made rules.
And others it’s the right thing to follow them closely.

Sometimes it the right thing to turn water into wine in celebration.
And others it’s the right thing to turn wine into a symbol of grief and remembrance.

*************************************************************

TRUE STORY:

When our son was a senior in high school, he and his classmates went to a very sketchy (to say the least) beach hotel for the weekend after prom.

This mama white-knuckled it on her knees through those 48-hours.

When he came home, he shared a crazy story.

A boy in his “suite” (if you can even call them that) had brought some heavy-duty drugs with him and was using them openly.

Our son did NOT want to be involved in the slightest and needed to figure out what to do, where to sleep.

Guess what he chose: to sleep in his friends’ room on the floor.

That sounds simple enough, but it’s not. His friends were girls.

Normally, this mama would never have praised her son’s choice for sleeping in the same room with four bikini-clad, beautiful members of the opposite sex. I would have freaked out just a little (okay, a lot).

But I did just that. “Wise choice!” I said to him. “I’m so glad you came up with that option and acted on it.”

How crazy is that?!?

After he walked out of the room, I breathed a quick thank you prayer for not only God keeping him safe that weekend, but granting him wisdom in the middle of not-the-greatest of options.

I was stretched out of my own black-and-white thinking in a way that still surprises me now.

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So today, when the rubber meets the road and I find myself tempted to fall into the easier way of doing life, I hope to choose the much much better way of WISDOM.

It might be more work and I might be hugely uncomfortable, but it will be worth it.

For me. And for the people around me.

Posted in Family, Motherhood

Nervous-Wreck Mom

Once upon a time, there was a mom who was a nervous wreck.

She didn’t quite know what to do.

She wanted to have “the talk.”

Not the one about the birds and the bees.
Not the one about just saying no.
Not the one about the future.

It was a completely different, way more nuanced and complicated one.

The kind that might make her big kid get defensive.
Or shut her out.

The kind where she went through all the scenarios in her head.

When should she do it?
How should approach the subject?
What should she say?

This or that or the other thing?

Her mind raced and looped and her stomach got all knotty inside.

She loved this big kid so desperately.
She had worked so hard on keeping her mouth shut and her opinions to herself.
She did not want to do anything that would hurt this kid or their relationship.

But this was one of those times when talking was really important.

It couldn’t and shouldn’t be swept under that rug where the pile grows and then there is a huge bump that no one can get over or around.

This was one of those times when talking was scary, but oh so necessary and really good.

For her big kid.
And for her.

She got up the gumption after a few nervous-nelly days to say, “Can we take a walk just by ourselves?”

When the answer was “I’d love to Mom,” she said a little prayer for help, mustered up her brave mom heart, put on her cute white shoes and took the first step out the door and into what might end up horrible or wonderful.

At first, she asked lots of questions that had nothing to do with anything about anything.

She was hoping to make it feel like she didn’t have this weird mom agenda that was about to pounce.

Next, she talked about all the beautiful sights on the walk, the tulip trees in bloom and how the neighbor had shaved her dog in the strangest of ways.

She was avoiding.

Finally, in the most normal, not awkward mom way she possibly could, she carefully tiptoed her way into “the talk.”

She tried so hard not to “set her big kid straight.”
She tried so hard to listen and understand.
She tried so hard to share her thoughts and concerns from a place of love and not fear.

And guess what?

It went better than she could have imagined.

What could have gone sideways, upside-down or completely backwards went mostly straight.

What could have ended in tears, slammed doors and broken hearts ended in a hug.

It wasn’t because this mom did it all perfectly. That is not true, not true at all.

This mom actually does not really have any idea why it went so well.

Maybe it was because the Tender Lover of both of their souls softened their hearts.

Maybe it was because they had slept well and eaten a good breakfast.

Maybe it was because they just loved each other and had worked really hard to do these kinds of talks better than they had done a million other times.

Maybe it was none of those things.

Who really knows?

But this mom does know a few things right now.

She can take a deep breath and her tummy can unknot.

She will offer a huge prayer of thanks.

She is not a nervous-wreck mom anymore. She is a glad one.

Posted in Faith, Health

Huge and Lopsided

It’s raining today.

The tree stands there.

The huge, lopsided evergreen tree stands tall outside my window.

I stare and gaze and am lost in a myriad of thoughts about this tree that is the always-green focal point of our back yard.

How does it feel to be a tree, doing nothing all day?

When we moved here, I had visions of this tree.  It was perfectly-shaped.  I made mental plans to put lights on it as soon as the darkness of the time change came upon us, a symbol of beauty and hope in the middle of the black and cold of winter.

But the stress of the move pushed the thought to the side and “naked as a jaybird” is the way the tree stayed.

One morning, I woke to the sound of crackling and crashing.  An ice storm had come through in the middle of the night.  Branches were sagging under the weight of the thick, sparkling crystals, many snapping and plunging to the ground.

This tree was no different, looking haggard and strong all at once, the watery frozen glaze enveloping every needle and branch.

I turned my back for a moment when I heard a snap, crackle and pop.  A huge branch from an even-taller-and-more-mighty tree had come tumbling down, side-swiping and decimating some branches on this perfectly-formed tree.

I stood there, my heart breaking just a smidge for this tree and for me.

My silly, important plans, and hopes and dreams for this flawless evergreen.
Gone just like that.

Perfection wiped away in a flash.

It’s raining today.

The tree still stands there.

The huge, lopsided tree stands tall outside my window.

It does nothing all day. So it seems.

But is this the truth? No it’s not.

It’s drinking and growing and reminding and teaching.

Teaching wise truths to little old me.

That…

Drinking deeply from the good soil, the soil of a Loving Gardener, gives me strength.

Growing doesn’t only happen when it’s sunshiny and happy, but also when it’s stormy and weighty.

I may be lopsided and have scars (even forever), but I am still full of life, both inside and out.

Perfection isn’t the key to beauty.  Being myself is.  Others can still play in my branches no matter what.

I don’t need “extra” twinkly lights to be a symbol of beauty and hope.  I already am.

This tree.  This tree outside my window.

She’s you and she’s me.