Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood

Fighting For Your Child’s Heart

Sweet Mama,

When you took your child home for the first time, I bet you felt like I did: nervous, excited, already exhausted, wondering if you would be all the things that were expected of you and that you hoped for.

It didn’t matter whether your child was chosen by you through adoption or born out of your body. Whether you went home with your first born as a single mom or with your sixth child as a married, older mom, this was a big undertaking, one filled with anticipation and trepidation (and maybe a little freak out).

This whole mom thing has been “quite the ride,” filled with quarrels and hugs, tears and laughter, heartache and hope. It feels a bit like you have been in some kind of battle together, sometimes fighting against each other (I know that all too well), but really fighting FOR something bigger than either of you: your child’s heart.

When he has bummer days, you fight FOR him not to become bitter. When she in on top of her game, you fight FOR her to become grateful. It’s an every-day kind of fighting and it doesn’t matter if your child is 2 or 52. P.S. You’re doing great!!!

I’ve got some BIG NEWS: You are NOT the only one fighting FOR your child, even in those moments that tell you the opposite. You are not in this battle alone, even for a minute.

God goes in front of your child, swatting down all the “spiderwebs” and low-hanging tree branches.

God hangs in the trenches with your child, especially for all the minutes that you are not able to be there.

God brings up the rear too, so that your child feels all kinds of safe inside.

God fights fiercely FOR his or her heart. YUP He does!! And He never stops!!

Believing this is one of the only things that holds this fraidy cat mama heart together many days.

Now I’ve even got some BIGGER NEWS: In the midst of the mayhem, God hasn’t forgotten about you. He also battles FOR your beautiful, precious, mama heart, your confused, grateful, anxious, sad, hopeful, kind, trusting, vulnerable heart.

He doesn’t just want your child to thrive. He wants the same FOR you.

He doesn’t just want your child to be free, He wants the same FOR you.

He doesn’t just want your child’s life to be full, He wants the same FOR you.

You are His beloved child after all.

I pray that today, your mama’s heart will both calm and bask in this truth and at the same time, be excited for all the victory that’s ahead on this crazy, never-ending motherhood adventure.

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Friendship

Keep ‘Em Coming

People thought we were having an affair as we sat at the community pool and laughed and hugged and engaged in some seemingly very serious conversations, while snacks and towels and “look what I can do’s” piled up from the six children we had between us.

I guess they were kind of right.  We did love each other very much.  I was closer to you than almost any other man on this beautiful planet.

But they were also very very wrong.

You see, you were not my “lover,” as the gossipy types might have whispered about in the parking lot with soggy kids in towels yelling, “can we please go home now?”

You were my brother and one of my very best friends.

You still are.

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Today is your 60th birthday.  I’ve known you for 53 years, 11 months and 10 days, since the day I was born.

You were forced to be my brother, just because of sheer genetic willpower, but you chose every single day to be my friend.  I can’t thank you enough.

You taught me how to ride a bike when I was just five and you were a big giant 10-year-old.

You were the one I went to crying when I wet my pants in class at boarding school.  You told me it was going to be okay.

You were happy when I was your “little annoying sister” in the school play.  You even helped me memorize my lines.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You told me I was super smart and could be anything I wanted and not-so-secretly told me I should go to medical school when I was older.

You wrote me a long letter from college when I was a young teenage girl encouraging me that I was valuable and to cling to Jesus during those tumultuous years after you had learned some hard lessons during yours.

You included me in your wedding as a junior bridesmaid, making me feel like a grown-up and highly important.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You had me and some boyfriend of mine over for dinner, inviting us to share your heart and your home once you were living on your own.

You became my actual pastor once I graduated from college and you had 200+ young career singles in your care.  You taught me how to love God (even though you spit when you talked and I was sitting in the front row receiving all that lovely spray).

You co-signed a loan for my “new used” car after getting the call that I had totaled my other one.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

You performed my wedding and I’ll never forget the charge to us about the “fire covenant” we were making with each other.

You became my neighbor in a little sleepy town and we shared birthday parties and trick-or-treating, community pool jaunts (as you already read) and Christmas afternoons.

You wound up being the “watcher of my high schoolers” so that my hubs and I could have short getaways that probably saved our marriage.

YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANY OF THAT.

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The bottom line is this.  You were always there for me, in ways big and small, seeing me through the good and the bad and lots of the ugly.

I thought that was my favorite thing about you, but I was wrong.

When some really tough stuff came into your world, you did the most incredible thing of all.  You allowed us to reverse roles just a little bit and made it okay for me to care for you the way you had taken care of me for so many many years.

Because of your humility and your bravery, I finally saw you, the amazing, kind, strong, faith-filled, vulnerable, tenacious, loving man that you are.  It only made me love you more.

You, my friend and confidant, my cheerleader and my brother, are one of the best people I have ever known or will know.

The only thing that could be better than knowing you ALL of my life is if I had known you ALL of yours.

Happy Birthday!

KEEP ‘EM COMING!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Friendship, Marriage, Motherhood

The Place Where Love’s Root Can Dig Deep

“Like what I like.”
“Think how I think.”
“Do what I do (and how I do it).”
“Be who I am.”

For years, this was my life’s mantra.

Husband. Kids. Friends. Coworkers. Strangers.

“Make decisions quickly.”
“Enjoy watching football.”
“Be an extrovert.”
“Believe every doctrine I espouse about God.”

On and on the list went, my goal to transform everyone into the spitting image of myself. It wasn’t ill-intentioned, but it was just plain old yuck (for lack of a better word).

I was missing out on the beauty of diversity and the celebration of our mutual differentness.

What a gift when the “scales” fell off my eyes and I could see the truth of this crucial life lesson: these people are NOT me NOR should they be.

WHAT A GIFT of the OTHER!!

It’s where life can be truly enjoyed in all its fullness.

It’s where love’s root can dig deep and blossom into a bouquet of grace.

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It means discovering the life-giving rhythms of silence and solitude from my introvert husband. (This Esthergizer Bunny needs these desperately.)

It means processing math lessons with my teacher daughter, along with unearthing the compassion she has for the struggling student, allowing for my own heart to come alive in ways I would never have known on my own.

It means hearing stories about the latest sales strategies from my second-born and possibly implementing them into my own little life’s goals of writing.

It means asking (and then actually listening to the response) about the latest headphones on the market from my tech-savvy recent college graduate. (The current sound system in our family room is to die for.)

It means getting a late-night text from my California-dreaming daughter about how her dreams are coming true, which means mine are too.

It means allowing each of my friends to be perfectly themselves, right where they are, without an agenda in my back pocket. They bring gifts every single time I am with them, gifts I would never receive if they were just like me.

It means leaning in and learning from all of you beautiful souls who are so incredibly different from me. I thank God for YOU!

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“Like what YOU like.
“Think how YOU think.”
“Do what YOU do (and how YOU do it).”
“Be who YOU are.”

I will be much richer and fuller and happier because of YOU.

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

One Of A Kind

Dear Child of My Heart,

I have met a lot of people during my years and none of them is quite like you. From the moment I met you until today, you have proven to me just how “one of a kind” you are.

It’s not just what color eyes you have or how tall you are or whether or not you have a dimple in the middle of your chin. It’s the parts of you that no one else can ever touch: your “style,” how you love to spend your time, your quirky habits (I’m laughing as I think of them), your laugh, what you don’t like, and what makes your heart come alive.

I am so glad that you are NOT like anyone else I have ever known. I have learned and enjoyed so much getting to know you. What a treat for me! I never want you to think you have to be like anyone other than YOU. You are the only one who can give your true self to the world, and it will be more than enough.

“Be yourself. Everyone is already taken.” (Oscar Wilde)

I know I’m one of your biggest fans, but remember God also cheers for you in your uniqueness. He has made you completely “one of a kind.” He loves that there’s only ONE of you!

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

How amazing that there are people who are going to get to know just a little bit of the gift that only YOU are.

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

TODAY, It’s Your Turn (My Fellow Mamas)

All You Sweet Mamas out There!

Take heart TODAY!

You know all those times you have blessed your child?

You know all those times you have worked so hard to create an environment for happiness and well-being?

You know all those times where you loved when it was hard, sacrificed when you were depleted, exhibited kindness when you were angry, and showed patience in the midst of difficulty?

You really have been a blessing. Sometimes a double one! Even triple!
There is no doubt. And you will continue to bless your child every day until you take your final breath! That part is never over no matter how old they get or you feel (haha)!

TODAY, it’s your turn. I pray that you would be encompassed by those who speak goodness to you, those that bring blessing, not only with their words, but with their lives.

TODAY, may you be encircled by love, sacrifice, kindness and patience the way you have shown these in abundance to your child over and over and over (and then some).

Of course, you haven’t done this perfectly. None of us have (me especially). Don’t let that voice overshadow you at all TODAY!

Listen to a kinder, gentler voice, the one straight from the heart of God! He fills in the gaps of your (and my) lack. He does this perfectly even when you (and I) haven’t and can’t.

His Spirit, the truest voice of encouragement and hope, is right there right now with you. He longs to tenderly share the message of love, grace, mercy, goodness and blessing that you (and me) need to hear, especially TODAY.

From my heart to yours, my fellow-Mama.
Esther

Posted in Family, Grief, Marriage

Broken Together

THIS HUSBAND OF MINE…

A man who with impeccable integrity.

A man who wants to be liked by all.

A man who gives his all until the end.

A man who wants peace (sometimes at all costs).

A man who keeps getting help.

A man who struggles to stay engaged.

A man who is kind.

A man who wrestles with anxiety.

A man who keeps fighting for healing.

A man who is broken in many ways.

 

THIS WIFE OF HIS…

A woman who loves fiercely.

A woman whose self-worth is often based on her performance.

A woman who wants others to have undeniable hope.

A woman who judges harshly (at times).

A woman who keeps getting help.

A woman who struggles with maintaining good boundaries.

A woman who is generous.

A woman who wrestles with anxiety.

A woman who keeps fighting for healing.

A woman who is broken in many ways.

 

THIS MARRIAGE OF OURS…

Two who love when it’s especially hard.

Two who hurt the other (even on purpose).

Two who muster up grace and forgiveness.

Two who judge and criticize little things even when we’ve vowed not to.

Two who voice our deepest fears to the other’s listening heart.

Two who keep trying to change the other.

Two who make space for the beautiful and the messy.

Two who share an unshakable faith in the Lover of their souls.

Two who keep fighting for healing.

Two who are broken in many ways.

 

BUT…

WE ARE NOT BROKEN ALONE.  THAT WOULD BE OUR UNDOING.

WE ARE BROKEN TOGETHER. 

STAYING TOGETHER. 

HEALING TOGETHER.

 


(Inspired by my friends at I Do Part Two and the song, BROKEN TOGETHER, by Casting Crowns.

 

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Family, Friendship, Grandparenthood, Marriage, Motherhood, Thanks

14 Straight Days

After 14 straight days, the Holiday Hoopla has come to an end. The annual “Goetz Games” have had their closing ceremony.
It’s been…
14 straight days of guests in the form of adult kids, significant others, a super busy toddler, cousins, uncles, and friends.
14 straight days of mayhem in the form of playing games, opening presents, chopping wood, dirty dishes, scattered toys, endless grocery store runs, sleepless nights (with said toddler), and trying to keep the puppy from escaping with all the doors opening and closing.
14 straight days of meals in the form of take-out, home-cooked, half-baked, childhood favorites, too many carbs, cookies for breakfast, and New Jersey Taylor ham, egg and cheese on everything bagels no matter what time of day.
14 straight days of skirmishes in the form of toddlers kicking puppies and puppies nipping at toddlers, couples struggling to find time to connect and getting a little annoyed with each other, family feuds about past Christmas traditions (“did we always go to the movies on Christmas Eve?”), and fun-loving, game-playing conflict about rules and all the lovely that comes along with playing Code Names.
ALL THIS TO SAY, I’M EXHAUSTED.
BUT, it’s ALSO been…
14 straight days of hugs.
14 straight days of “I love you’s.”
14 straight days of laughter.
14 straight days of “thank you’s.”
14 straight days of connection.
14 straight days of memories.
ALL THIS TO SAY, I’M BEYOND GRATEFUL.
#bothand #exhaustedandgrateful #holidayhoopla #ineedanap
Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Grief, Guest, Motherhood, Thanks

Reflections on the Bittersweet of Motherhood (from a Mom of a Dozen)

As the year ends…..and the New Year begins.

…reflections on Kahil Gibran’s “On Children” 31 December 2010 at 20:52 @ Copyright 2010 by my friend and fellow mom, Mary Cypher

I’ve always thought that Janus, the Roman god with two faces was an appropriate metaphor for this time of year.  It is good to look back and then forward at the same time, to take stock, to adjust expectations, establish objectives. This can be a time of celebration, of sadness, a taste of the bittersweet. It is so for me.

My Facebook status early last month was “My youngest greeted me with the words ‘This is your last day with a 6 year old!'”  It struck me that I’ve been a mother for 30 years and I am at the end of a season in my life.

I smiled as she spun and danced celebrating growing older, as only the very young do.  Quickly, a lump formed in my throat as I grasped that she really was quite big!  My baby was no longer so little.

In an age in which most people have 2.5 children, I chose to have a dozen.  I had tots and teens for a long time, and truly reveled in the experience; the delight of their discoveries, the pleasure of their innocence and guilelessness.

It has been my unadulterated joy to give my children love AND to share my love of knowledge, of language, literature, history, art, music, & nature with them.  Because, thank God, they too developed similar passions, we have had wonderful conversations and I am awed by the depth of character and the understanding that they have.

Now, I am forced to acknowledge that part of my life is over. Having shoved that realization to the back of my mind, even though it was still there percolating, Kahil Gibran’s poem,”On Children” came back into my thoughts during a quiet moment.

I smiled wistfully as I remembered how, as a 17 year old, I read these words with such a wash of relief:

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

I remember feeling justified in pulling away from my immigrant parents and seeking my own identity, indeed, my own nationality.  These words particularly resonated within my 17 year old Self:

“You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

” Yes!” I thought then.

How little I knew at that time that I would need the traditions, the values (if not the identity) of the heritage for which I had little use.  Little did I realize how sad it must have made my parents.

It’s a painful part of parenting, releasing the son or daughter that your heart still calls “my child”.  As a mother whose children range in age from 7 to 30 now,  I think how true the words from Gibran’s poem really are.

Their souls DO dwell in the house of tomorrow. As much as I love them, they stretch their wings, reaching for the sky, seeking to go forward, upward — to a place I cannot go.

Half of my offspring are young adults now, and I have come nearly full circle as I truly begin to understand the last stanza of Gibran’s poem:

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

The sheer pleasure of having very little ones in my home is now a thing of yesterday.  A wonderful, special season, that I will always remember, but which belongs to yesterday.  I look at my youngest, who looks so much like me, and think,

“I must still be a stable bow for her and the rest who are still in the nest, that they may grow to be men and women who also will freely bend to the Archer’s Will.”

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family

Merriment AND Melancholy

Voices of carols play everywhere I go.

Joy to the world…Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile…Tis the season to be jolly…It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

MERRIMENT.

Texts, posts and phone calls crowd my screens.

Second-born not able to come…Over-the-top difficult family dynamics for many…Terrible government news…Health scares…Anxiety creeps in and a settled spirit is hard to be found.

MELANCHOLY.

The two sit side-by-side.  One NOT more important or legitimate than the other.  One NOT pushed aside to make room for the other.   The shout of one NOT drowning out the cry of the other.  No choice has to be made.  The two lay beautifully intertwined.

Merriment AND melancholy.

BOTH AND.  Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

CHRISTMAS.


Suffering AND Savior.

Peacemaker AND Warrior.

Servant AND Leader.

Poor AND Rich.

Grace AND Truth.

Man AND God.

Both AND.

Wholeness.  Completeness.  Integration.

Jesus.



Thank you so much for being part of the Dolly Mama Family! It means the world to me! I pray that your week will be filled with a beautiful explosion of God’s goodness! A true Merry Christmas from My Heart to Yours!

Much Love, Esther

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

“You Better Watch Out” God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia. I am just nine years old. My bunkmate stirs below me. I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep. Sleep does not come.

I rehash the day. Thoughts swirl: “I did a bunch of wrong things. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. I should confess my sins. Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today. I hope you can forgive me.”

Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.  I go into a bit of a panic. “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart. If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”

I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart. I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.” Still nothing. I lay there wide-awake.

My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, my dorm mother reading us another chapter in the story of Narnia. The image of Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them, floods my mind. “I love Aslan. I wish God was like Aslan. Why can’t He be?”

As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope: “Maybe He is.”

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For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season. A jolly man with a jolly heart. A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.” My friend “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did to God as a young girl.

It makes a lot of sense. “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Sounds eerily similar to a song from those little girl boarding school days: “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.” YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.

Recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has stepped in to “help Santa.” This Elf is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent. He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas. His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Santa. God. Elf on the Shelf. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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Fast forward 30+ years. I’m a mom of four littles who loves celebrating Santa (in fact, my seven-year old just opened her letter from the North Pole). We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (only because he/she is not invented yet). But me, this “desperate-to-please-God” young mom, believes wholeheartedly in a this YOU BETTER WATCH OUT God.

I’m stuck in my grown-up mom body as the little nine-year old girl on her bunk bed. God is no different than Santa or Elf on a Shelf. He’s up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave, to be good for goodness sake.

You yelled at your kids today. BAD!

You taught Sunday School. GOOD!

You told that white lie to your best friend! BAD!

You helped your twelve-year-old with their homework. GOOD!

You forgot to pray! BAD!

My relationship with this Santa/Elf on a Shelf/God is a little topsy-turvy. I’m filled with and act from the stranglehold of fear and guilt. Am I good enough today? Is God happy with me?

I hide or at least try to. Why wouldn’t I? I avoid Him. Who wouldn’t? I struggle to feel close, spending all my energy keeping my external, visible behavior under control, hoping it’s enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s utter disapproval of me. UGH!

My internal craving for love and belonging is completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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In the middle of all of this, the stories of Narnia reenter my life and I have a reunion with Aslan.  I find three-hour-long radio theater dramatic renditions (absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these tales that I loved as a child. I kill two birds with one stone: share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).

As I reconnect with Aslan, I find again that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once. He is the one I long for and need so desperately, my grownup heart still fragile from the many years of trying to keep myself in line.

That hopeful thought I had as a child flickers again in the darkness of my soul.

God is not like Santa.

God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.

God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”

God is like Aslan.

God is wise. God is playful. God is generous. God is kind. God is mysterious. God is terrifying. God is magnificent. God is beautiful. God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period. End of story.

No more YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

My soul settles slowly (I’m talking years of retraining my brain) into a place of love and belonging. Yes, God sees me. He really sees me. He sees that little girl in the bunkbed, fearful, yet hopeful. He sees the young mom who longs to be known fully, and loved completely. He still sees me, the real real me. But instead of “setting me straight,” His beautiful, tender, kind heart sets me free!

My flicker so long ago, “Maybe He is,” burns brightly as a fire of hope that shouts, “YES. YES HE IS.”

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P.S. I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus. I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

In his response, Lewis offered this relief: “Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

 

***ONE MORE NOTE:  If you liked reading this, please go back out and “like” it on social media.  Means the world to me!***