Posted in Celebration, Faith, Guest

Resurrection

I would love to welcome my husband today to this blog.  He is a man lean of speech, hence a beautiful haiku.  This man is the heart of my hearts, love of my life, sharer of my faith and lover of Jesus.

 

Darkness ravages

Radiant morning follows

His true way revealed

 

Happy Easter Everyone from my heart to yours (and now my husband’s heart to yours as well)!

 

 

Posted in Faith, Grief, Sabbath

What do we do with this space in between?

Now Mary Magdalene and another Mary kept vigil there, seated opposite the tomb. Matthew 27:61

It’s not Good Friday.

It’s not Easter Sunday.

It’s just Saturday.  The space in between.

What do we do when…

We’ve lost our job AND don’t have a glimmer of the next?

Our kids are grown AND our hearts wonder what comes after?

Our marriage is over AND we don’t know if we’ll ever be truly loved?

We’ve gotten the diagnosis AND there’s still no “good course of action” from our doctor?

We’ve filed for bankruptcy AND we still can’t give up our life’s dream?

Our Savior is dead AND it’s still Saturday.

What do we do with this space in between?

WE GRIEVE, whether wailing out loud or whimpering into our pillow

WE QUESTION, possibly shouting to the sky or shushing our inmost fears and doubts

WE SIT SILENT, perhaps eyes wet with tears or as a stunned bird gathering strength

WE WAIT, living the tension of the known past but the unknown future

WE WATCH, expectantly yet with trepidation

and mostly…

WE HOPE, for we long to believe that what lies ahead is somehow richer because of what lies behind

We hope in this place of rest.  SHABBAT.

We hope in this place of peace.  SHALOM.

Yes.  It’s just Saturday…still Saturday!  The space in between.

Hear this my soul, my friend:  Rest In Peace today!

SHABBAT SHALOM!

 

 

 

Posted in Faith, Health, Word of the Year

Calling a Truce with Self-Care

“Beloved one, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you physically, just as your soul is getting along well.” (III John 2)

For the past seven weeks, my body and I have been in a fight!  The “conversation” has been going something like this:

BODY:  “Hey!  Can you help me?!  I’m not okay.”

ME:  “Pipe down!  You are messing things up!  I have a lot going on!  You need to get your act together!”

BODY:  “HHHEEELLLPP!  I’m not doing very well.  Can you please take care of me!?”

ME:  “I am not happy about this!  You are supposed to help me live my very important life!  You’re just being a loud-mouthed, trouble-maker!  I have people to see, places to go, things to do.  You are not being very nice at all!”

The battle goes on and on!  UNTIL…

MONDAY.

When I decided to wave my white surrender flag.  Call a truce.

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I am normally a very healthy, rarely-sick human being.  (Confession:  I’m a little proud of that fact.)  I’m a minimalist when it comes to taking care of myself.

Most mornings go something like this:  hair in a ponytail, minimal eye makeup on, teeth brushed (sometimes), and super simple pull-on clothes and slip-on shoes.  Top that off with nothing physical “going wrong” and I am able to get out of the house in about seven minutes flat from the time I wake up.  I don’t even know if I look in the mirror again until I am brushing my teeth at night before bed (I do that for the most part unless I fall asleep watching a movie with Allen – I cannot go horizontal on our couch after 8:00 pm or I never make it past the first 15 minutes).

I get amazed at those of you who spend lots of time plucking your eyebrows, carefully applying makeup, diligently flossing, shining your shoes and choosing just the perfect outfit.  (Confession:  I secretly wish to be you and often wonder why I don’t take care of myself better.)  It’s been a lifetime battle to do any of those things, one I have asked God about quite a bit (I’ve never plucked my eyebrows)!  Sometimes, I wonder if it’s because I’m a third-culture kid or if it’s just me.  Probably a little bit of both.

I guess God heard my plea and decided the age of 53 was a good time for me to practice what I preach.  “TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF (and your stuff)!!” is one of my big mom mantras!  I’ve shouted it from the top of the stairs, the front of the car, the texts on my phone and here on this blog!  I know in my head it’s the right thing to do.  But living this out day-to-day-to-day-to-day is another.

Having a body is tons of work.  I have to get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, floss, take a shower, primp, eat, take vitamins, exercise, drink, sleep and then do it all over again.  The amount of energy and time my body needs to keep on ticking borders on ridiculous (at least according to this underachiever).  It’s a lot of my day.  Add in some (ahem) parts screaming at me for lack of care and my day feels consumed.

I am not lost on the irony in all of this.  My Word of the Year is “shalom,” which means true human flourishing (BODY INCLUDED)!  I spend lots of my time and energy on other flourishing (mental, emotional, spiritual), but my body gets neglected.  Not a good “look”(pun intended) on this Dolly Mama.

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The “conversation” (I mean fight) continues even after I decide to wave the white flag:

ME:  What am I supposed to do when you take so much time just to look presentable, much less not as old as you are?  And now you are really making a fuss!

BODY (Shouting back!):  Hey!  I’m genuinely important.  I house the “real you.”  When I’m not working right, the “real you” suffers (as you’ve now noticed).

ME:  But… But… my time could be spent better doing something of more value like making my dreams a reality, writing this blog (for all of my amazing and wonderful and lovely readers), spending time with my family and working towards my goals!

BODY (more gently):  You have friends who are really struggling right now with their own version of me.  You’ve even had a taste of this these past seven weeks.  It’s really really hard!  So, my sweet caregiver, would you mind sending me a little love?

(Somehow, in the middle of this, GOD pipes into the “conversation.”)

GOD:  Esther, my Esther, give a little listen to Me just for a moment.  I love bodies.  I love yours.  They are so very important to me!  I came in one after all.

ME:  Okay.  Okay.  You’ve got my attention (at least for a minute).

GOD:  I used My body to communicate My love for you in the most tangible way.  I wanted to know what it was like to be you, right down to your gall bladder and your toenails.  I couldn’t have done this FULLY any other way.   I’ve given you your body to enjoy all the wonder and beauty I have for you right here and right now!

ME (defensiveness diminishing):  So true!  So true!  I hear you.

BODY:  Just remember, supposedly “wise” Dolly Mama, the ways I am working to make God’s dream for you to know pleasure and His love for you in all their fullness come true!

  • My eyes provide the way for you to see your precious grandson’s smile and the gorgeous sunset over the water in LBI.

  • My ears are for you to hear the “I love you Mom” on the phone from one of your kids and the spring peepers as they call out to each other in your yard.

  • My nose brings the joy of a Mother’s Day lilac and an early-June peony and the delicious smell of chocolate chip cookies baking.

  • My tongue tastes a hot cup of tea IMG_1578(with all your favorite sugar and light cream) and gives a way for you to experience the pleasure of a stuffed cabbage and perogie from S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District!
  • My skin helps you to receive the loving touch of Allen and the feel of the fuzzy blanket on a cold winter day.

I allow your soul to wonder, your mind to grow and your heart to love!  Don’t forget your Word of the Year when it comes to me!  Shalom, my dear Dolly Mama!

ME:  Okay.  I give in.  You win, my precious body!  Thanks for all you are and do!  It feels so good to have called a truce for the moment!  Keep fighting back when this “conversation” keeps happening (as we all know it will again and again and again)!  Please be patient with me in the process!  I’m a little pig-headed and a have a long way to go!

BODY:  I’ll keep an “eye” on you!  I’ll be cheering for you when you reach for your toothbrush, your eye patch, your mouth rinse, your vitamins, your pillow and all the small, but very kind ways you are taking care of me and reminding me how valuable I am!  When you floss tonight, don’t forget to clean out all those crevices with a vengeance!  WOO HOO!  You’ve got this!

“Now may the Lord of shalom Himself give you shalom always in all ways.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

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Are you a self-care amateur or guru?  Would love to know!  Comment out on social media or here if you’d like!!  Also, if you sign up to receive my email, I have a special gift for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Health, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

SORRY NOT SORRY!

CONFLICT!  Some of us engage in it, enjoy it and view it as a form of communication that brings connection.  Others of us avoid it, despise it, and deem it the destroyer of relationships.  What about all that fighting we are in the middle of as parents?  Among our kids and also with them?  Who should say they’re sorry?  When should they say they’re sorry? How should they say they’re sorry?  What about forgiveness and reconciliation?  How do they happen?  When do they happen?  Who should forgive?  THIS BIG QUESTION is worked through:  should I make my child say “I’m sorry” when they’ve done something wrong and “I forgive you” when another apologizes?  Join me with Josh, my super wise 22-year old, as we let you in on my “fits-and-starts” journey with this never-ending parenting battle.

 

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

Sorry Not Sorry!

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with everyone who has conflict in their lives  (HINT:  it’s not just for parents)!

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Grief, Health

I Don’t Agree with Dr. Seuss on This One

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.  (Dr. Seuss)

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  (King Solomon)

In my kids’ high school yearbooks, seniors usually put a quote at the bottom of their picture, words that represented them and they wanted to pass along to their fellow classmates.  I loved reading each one of my kids’ friends quotes because they gave me a little glimpse into what mattered to them, their final statement as they pushed on to the next world of college.  They varied from very serious and mind-stretching to completely silly and slightly inappropriate (here’s a secret…those were my favorite).

The above quote from Dr. Seuss was under at least a few of the pictures every single year.  For a long time, I loved it.  It shouted the very important ideas of hope and thankfulness.  It helped people look “on the bright side” of life.  It granted a new perspective when sadness and pain came knocking.  Or so it seemed.

I filled my kids’ scrapbooks with quotes from Dr. Seuss.  Many speak words I want to shout from the mountaintops and especially whisper to the souls of my kids.

“Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

“And will you succeed?  Yes!  You will indeed!  98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!”

Wisdom.  Hope.  Life.

So why does the “Don’t cry because it’s over…” quote rub me in the wrongest (not sure if that is even a word) way?

I am not good at crying (except at Disney movies and This Is Us episodes).  I like to pride myself on being the “strong” one, the “positive one,” the “hope-bringer.”  But that pride gets me into lots of trouble.  I keep others out, when it would be best to let others in.  I put on the “smile” even when I am hurting inside.  I push aside any grief (like a good American) that threatens to overwhelm me instead of working through it.  I don’t like the negative emotion of sadness.  JOY is my middle name after all (no pressure there WINKY FACE).  

BUT…

(and it’s a BIG BUT this time)

I’m discovering ever so slowly that:

  • CRYING releases toxins and reduces stress.  Tears feel cleansing and authentic.
  • SADNESS speaks to the value of what’s been lost, giving honor to the good in our lives. (I joke often that if my kids or Allen don’t seriously fall apart for at least a year or two or three after I’m gone, I will be pretty upset about it!  What does that say about me if they only “smile because it happened?”)
  • GRIEF brings empathy for the pain of others (our universal human language) and creates a healthy path towards true, lasting restoration.

It’s okay to be sad just as much as it’s okay to feel joy.

It’s okay to cry just as much as it’s okay to smile.

It’s okay to grieve just as much as it’s okay to celebrate.

It’s why funerals and memorial services feel so bizarre sometimes.  One moment, sadness, crying and grief are palpable, threatening to overwhelm.  A split-second later, laughter and the celebration of the one who has been lost bursts on the scene.   What feels so dichotomous actually pronounces the permission to live fully in BOTH AND, not either or, the integrated,  beautiful experience of our human space and my human heart in it’s entirety.

BUT (hopefully a smaller BUT this time)…

I say to myself, “Sure, it’s true for the large, visible-to-everyone, life-changing human experiences.  But what about the very ordinary parts of my life and my day?  What then?”

I cry when my baby takes his first step away from me, but I smile that he is reaching his normal milestones.

I cry when my husband takes a job with a very long commute, but I smile that all his hard work is paying off.

I cry when my friend tells me she’s moving, but I smile because she just landed her dream job.

I cry when my daughter buys her own place, but I smile knowing she’s spreading her wings just like I taught her.

All these run-of-the-mill life happenings echo the same voice as those that are profound.  What happens in the momentous also takes place in the mundane.  I have freedom to embrace BOTH crying AND smiling, in all that this adventure sends my way.

I do love Dr. Seuss.  It’s his birthday when I am writing this (March 2nd)!  So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Theodore Giesel.  You’ve brought much happiness into my life and the lives of my children.  For that, I am truly grateful!

BUT (and this one is a middlish BUT)…

I wish your quote said this instead:

“Cry because it’s over…AND…smile because it happened.”

King Solomon was right.

 

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P.S.  When I told my daughter (one of the seniors in the picture on this post) what I was writing about and why, the basic gist of her response was this, “Oh Mom, I think you’re missing his point.  I don’t think he’s saying “don’t cry.”  I think he’s saying remember to smile.”  So there you have it.  If you also believe I am clueless about Dr. Seuss’ original intention, you are in good company!  Point taken.

 

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P.P.S.  If you’ve read this far and want to comment here or on social media or in an email, I’m asking you this question:  can you think of a time where you found yourself laughing and crying at the same time?  What was it?

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

Ungrace (#NOT living from this place)

√ TELL ME SOMETHING YOU LIKE ABOUT ME
√ LIKE MY POSTS (AND COMMENT)…SERIOUSLY
√ SEND ME A THANK YOU TEXT OR NOTE
√ SAY “I GET WHY YOU FEEL THIS WAY” WHEN I’M SPEWING THE LATEST “UGH” LIFE MOMENT
√ CELEBRATE MY BIRTHDAY WITH SPEECHES, POEMS, CHEESY SONGS ABOUT WHY YOU LOVE ME
√ LET ME BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION

Thinking back on my early memories, I loved being cheered for, clapped for, told I was doing a good job.  It spoke to my soul that what I was good, approved of, and I should do more of the same.  It fed the very normal parts of me that longed to be liked and enjoyed by others.  It saturated this “words of affirmation” girl with a bucket full of love.

However, somehow this beautiful, God-given love language of mine twisted very quickly into something called “ungrace,” the view that I HAD to perform in order to be accepted, wanted and loved.  Praise for accomplishing morphed into earning the approval and love of those in my path.  Scarily, I also believed if I did not do these things, I deserved nothing and should actually be punished.  No wonder I strived so hard.   Many times, I wanted to just give up because it was too hard.  It seemed never enough.  The bar was too high, always just beyond my reach!

Being a mom threw a major wrench in the works for me.  No one cheered when I was up in the middle of the night with my newborn.  No one clapped when I painstakingly folded the laundry every single day.  No one praised me for driving to (78,453) after-school activities.  I wasn’t sure if I was doing a good job, approved of, or even liked by those I served.  Believe it or not, sometimes I was even told (hold your breath) that I wasn’t doing a good job by the wonderful children I bore from my very loins (insert sarcastic emoji here).  I wondered if anyone knew what I was doing at all, or even cared.  I felt unnoticed and underappreciated.  Said love bucket barely had enough water in it to wash my face . 

Other times, I completely blew it as a mom.  I yelled in frustration when I knew it only made things worse.  I argued back to a very strong-willed teenager (imagine that!), escalating the problem instead of bringing calm.   I used lots and lots of words that produced guilt and fear in my children.   It was not a pretty picture.   During these moments, I didn’t even like or approve of myself, let alone what others might think if they knew.  Aforementioned love bucket drained to the place of “I still think I might see faded wet stains on the bottom.”

The scariest part is I believed that God, who I couldn’t hide any of the good or bad from, wasn’t quite happy with me when I was doing good and He was angry with me when I was failing.  What did I do?  I began a cycle of trying harder.  I carried the system of “ungrace” with me everywhere. 

Be the classroom mom.  Get a “thank you” from the teacher.  Have an “over-the-top” Victorian Tea birthday party for my 13 year-old.  Receive a “hug” from my teen.  Make cookies for every high school basketball game.  Get acknowledged at the end-of-the-year awards banquet by my 6’5″ son. 

DO.  GET LOVE.  DO MORE.  GET LOVE.  OUTDO MYSELF AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.  The loop viciously perpetuated and I was an absolute slave to it.

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Guess what?

Drum roll please.

Wait for it!

Wait for it!

IT. DID. NOT. WORK. IN. THE. LONG. RUN.

And thankfully it didn’t. If it had, I might have stayed in this never-ending, life-crushing cycle of “ungrace.”

Other, better voices came into my life slowly.  Words of affirmation from authors, friends, scripture, preachers, my husband, counselors, and #EVENMYKIDS slowly began to shatter the lie I was living under.  They revealed the truth of grace to me.  The shackles loosened little bit by little bit.

I found out that grace is fundamentally unfair.  Grace says love does not have to be earned.  Grace tells me I don’t have to gain approval to receive it.  Yes, I could settle for false love, the kind I had manufactured by doing and doing.  But I didn’t have to.  I could receive true love, the kind where I don’t have to do anything to get more or less of it.   Mind-blown and better yet, heart-blown wide open.

I also found out God is the ultimate source of grace.  He gives it willingly.  In fact, He longs to lavish it on me.  There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me more OR less.  HE IS FULL OF GRACE!  OVERFLOWINGLY FULL!  As I receive this grace drop by drop, my love bucket slowly fills.   This time, however, my bucket is not filling with all the temporary “ungrace,” hole-in-the-bottom-of-the-bucket, earning kind of love, but the free, unmerited favor, grace-filled, fill-it-all-the-way-to-the-TOP-of-the-bucket kind of love.

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love. (Phillip Yancey)

From My Heart to Yours

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Now that you know how my love language is words of affirmation, you understand why I love having those likes and comments here and on social media!  What’s your love language??  How does your grace-filled bucket get full?  WOULD LOVE FOR YOU TO LIKE OR COMMENT 🙂

Posted in Anxiety, Family, Health, Motherhood, Podcast - Dolly Mama and the Millennials

How My Anxiety Effected My Parenting

Join me as I speak with Josh (our 22 year-old) about how my “nervous breakdown” and subsequent anxiety disorder informed my parenting.  Find out the answers to these questions:  how did crippling fear effect my decisions as a mom and what changed as I began to heal?  Enjoy funny stories as part of the crazy!  If you struggle with anxiety/fear as a parent (and I know I am not the only one), this podcast is for you!!!  (Bear with audio issues…I’m building the plane as I fly it!  It will get better!)

 

CLICK ON PODCAST LINK BELOW:

https://anchor.fm/esther18/episodes/Episode-6-How-My-Anxiety-Effected-My-Parenting-e2qjpl

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone you know who is beginning the parenting journey, in the middle of the mess, or still navigating it all with adult children!!  It’s powerful stuff!

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

“I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs. Throw in polite children and a garden, and I’m coming over for lessons.” (Shauna Niequist)

The vicious mantra of our world is three simple words: DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

First, I am supposed to DO. Perform. Accomplish. Behave. “Make it happen.” Push.  “Get ‘er done.”  Move.  Cross-off.

Second, I am supposed to do EVERYTHING. Exercise. Eat healthy. Vote. Brush teeth. Make friends. Manage social media. Keep learning. Stay neat. Be spiritual. Dress appropriately. Make money. Recycle. Manage time. Serve others. Dream big. Sleep.

Third, I am supposed to do everything BETTER. Exercise in the best way for my particular body style and shape. Buy a tracking device for my wrist. Make completely nutritious and delicious meals from scratch and chew more slowly so that digestion happens correctly.  March for and give to my favorite social justice cause without offending anyone. Brush twice AND floss once every day AND go to the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings. Create meaningful and long-lasting relationships with diverse people groups. Keep my social media to a minimum while remaining completely engaged with those in my networks.   Take a class AND possibly teach one myself. Listen to life-changing podcasts. Read a book a week. Have carefully marked and organized spaces for everything I own and put all of it where it’s supposed to go as soon as I am finished with it. Go to church regularly. Read a daily devotional first thing every morning. Pray. Give. Be in a small group. Be like Jesus, for goodness sake. Purchase and wear clothes that are fashionable and reasonable. Change them throughout the day depending the weather and what you are doing and NEVER EVER sleep in them (I have pajamas for that). Get a good-paying job AND make sure to invest in wise places to secure my future. Take out life insurance. Rinse out every bottle and remove all the wrapping before I place it in the bin. Acquire an electric car. NEVER waste time. Check all the boxes off my list every day because I am doing all the right things at the right time and in the right amount of time. Serve the homeless at a soup kitchen and donate all my unused clothes seasonally (make sure I wash them first).   Create space every day for the pursuit of my passions.  Find a vocation that fits my personal purpose.  Guiltily remind myself that it takes 10,000 hours of complete dedication to master a skill. Sleep without interruption for 8 hours every single night. There are no excuses.

STRESS CLOSES IN LIKE A MONSTER, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

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The gentle lilt of Jesus is this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with ME and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29 The Message Version)

BIG SIGH FOR MY HEART. I need this today and every day.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace

 

 

 

**A shout-out to Shauna Niequist who first called out those three words that were shriveling my very soul**
Posted in Faith, Family, Grandparenthood, Health

INTERRUPTED: Lessons From A Toddler

“I AM A LEARNER AND I AM A TEACHER.”  (Sarah Meassick’s Second Grade Classroom Mantra)

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Eating Dinner Out:  INTERRUPTED by one-year-old standing in high chair, demanding loudly to get down and teeter around.

Checking My Phone:  INTERRUPTED by little hands reaching for me with books in tow.

Sleeping Somewhat Peacefully:  INTERRUPTED by cries at 2 am.  Thankfully, hear doors opening and steps of mommy above with calming voice.

Making Breakfast:  INTERRUPTED by loud noise with sudden horrible smell.  Time for a change of all current clothing.  Mommy sleeps soundly.

Costco Shopping:  INTERRUPTED by constant “more,” pointing to bag of snap pea crisps.

Writing Blog Post:  INTERRUPTED by sounds indicating nap time is already over WAY TOO SOON.

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All those feelings of early mothering years flood back to me as I spend two days with my grandson.  Interruptions abound.  I didn’t like them then and I still don’t like them today!  “I can’t get what I want to do done.”  “I have lots of important stuff to take care of.”  “People are counting on a blog post tomorrow. (I know, I have delusions of grandeur.)

My thoughts are suddenly INTERRUPTED!  A new voice stops me right in my tracks and sends me in another direction as I hold my grandson cozy and close upon waking from his nap, the only time he cuddles and snuggles, the extra busy toddler he is.  “I have a lot to learn from this little boy in my arms.”  “He is a very wise teacher.”  “This is probably what really matters.”  “Forget the blog post! (HAHA.  Obviously not.)”

THIS CHILD (Unlike Me At Times):

  1. Expresses what he needs (sometimes loudly).  He doesn’t feel guilty about it.  He is highly comfortable with both negative and positive emotions, never stuffing how he really feels.
  2. Eats healthy and only enough to satisfy.  Oh how I wish!
  3. Loves unabashedly.  He doesn’t hold back showing affection and delight.  He lights up when he sees those he loves and makes it clear he is thrilled to be with them.
  4. Sings and dances freely.  He dances like “everyone is watching.”  In fact, he relishes when others not only watch, but sing and dance along with him.
  5. Rests when he’s tired.  Enough said.  (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do that … tongue-in-cheek emoji inserted here)   Maybe I will go take a nap now.
  6. Explores new things with ferocity.  “Life is a daring adventure or nothing” (Helen Keller) is the mantra of this boy.
  7. Seeks out those who love him.  This is my favorite.  He isn’t afraid to be really loved and cared for!  If only!

I am finishing up now that it’s thankfully bedtime, having been INTERRUPTED all afternoon and evening since the wake-up-from-nap-time.  Guess what?  It wasn’t so bad after all.  I actually enjoyed it.  No wonder when Jesus was INTERRUPTED by children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Where else can I get belly giggles and bear hugs, song-singing and arms reaching?  Sounds a lot like the kingdom of heaven to me!   I’m sure these aren’t the last lessons gleaned from the wisdom of this 24 pound, bundle of love, joy, and life!  Keep INTERRUPTING little one!  You’ve cracked my heart wide open!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Health, Motherhood

Two Desperate Words of All Parents (and what to do about them)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Paul)

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“BUT I…”

It’s a cry heard all over parenting land.

BUT I took my prenatal vitamins and I did exactly what the doctor told me.  Why does my baby have a heart defect?

BUT I waited until she was “ready” for potty training and I followed the exact steps that worked for all my friends.  Why is my six year old still wetting the bed?

BUT I had him evaluated and got him a specialized tutor.  Why is his teacher still telling me he’s not doing well in school?

BUT I gave up my job and made her a complete priority in my life, even leaving cute notes in her lunch.  Why is she rolling her eyes at me and hardly ever coming outside of her room?

BUT I never had liquor in the house and he’s been through all the drug and alcohol awareness programs.  He’s even seen his friends lose their licenses.  Why did I just find vodka under my senior’s bed?

BUT I took her to church her whole life and we even had family devotions.  Why did my college student just reveal that she doesn’t believe in God anymore?

BUT I paid for four years at a good college and I remember the dreams he had growing up about becoming a doctor.  Why did he barely receive his diploma and can’t even find a steady-paying job?

BUT I TRIED MY BEST AND LOVED HER WITH MY WHOLE HEART, WHY IS SHE STILL NOT OKAY?

We want so desperately in our lives to have A + B always = C.  We want the formulas to work.  We get advice from all kinds of sources (friends, parenting books, the internet, pastors, counselors, doctors) and we cry in frustration “BUT I…” when the recipe ends up more like all those Pinterest fails we’ve seen on the internet (note the picture above).

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When I was just a wee bit younger (okay, like 30 years ago, but I’m not that old, right?!), I believed wholeheartedly in all the formulas, and especially that they would work.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s perfect.  Just do all right things, make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.  I’d heard it from preachers, parents, teachers, friends, authors, and I’d repeated it endlessly in my own head.  Being the “good Christian” woman that I was, I brought this into my parenting.  Of course I did.

As you may have heard in my Podcast with Sarah, our oldest (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN – IT’S WORTH IT), these lovely formulas worked with her.  She was naturally compliant.  She loved the formulas herself.  (If we were Catholic, she probably would have wanted to be a nun.)  She followed all the rules, had sticker charts completely filled in, received accolades in school for being the best citizen, and excelled at “being a good Christian” whatever that means.  Our formulas seemed to work (especially to the outside world).

But inside our home, they weren’t.  She struggled with tummy aches even as early as three.  She had full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder at 10 years old.  She struggled to go away to sleep away camp for a week when she was 14 because she couldn’t leave the perceived “safety” of our home.  She needed meds for her anxiety in college.  As much as she and I tried our hardest to make A + B = C, it just didn’t happen.  The “right” side of the equal sign became D or J or V or most like a giant question mark.

WHY?  I screamed in desperation.  I was doing everything right!

Should I just try harder?  Maybe I am doing something wrong?  Maybe the equation isn’t right?  All questions that swirled around in my head.

And believe me, I still tried to fix it for years.  I read books, took parenting classes, listened to podcasts, asked friends, had mom prayer circles and even begged Allen to figure it out.

Still, I couldn’t make A + B = C.

New questions swirled.  If this doesn’t work, then what?  What do I do now?  How do I parent?  What really makes me a good mom (something I so desperately wanted and still want)?

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It’s funny how when we come to the end of our trying and our finagling and our controlling and our rope and our selves, our hearts open to the possibility of something new.  A new thought.  A new possibility.  A new way.

God used the end of all of this for something new in me.  A new thought about what matters in our family.   A new possibility of how to be a mom.   A new way of seeing my child.

He invited me into relationship, both with Himself and with my children.   At first, this uncertain place seemed like a curse.  It would take lots more time and wisdom when making decisions.  I might not even make the same choice twice.  What I did for one child in one circumstance might not be the best for a different one.  There might be “it’s unfair” shouts.  It would be complicated, messy.

But as I embarked on this different journey of parenting with much trepidation, I found that it just might be a gift, and a good one at that.  Instead of living in a “what I wish were true” place, I began to live in a “what’s actually true” space.   Life is messy and no amount of “doing the right thing” ensures complete safety and success.

I slowly began to gain freedom from the formula master, one chain link at a time.  Instead of viewing my child as a problem to be solved, I began to see them as a mysterious person to be known, loved and enjoyed (kind of like action thriller enjoyment, which is scary and fun all at the same time).  Instead of seeking certainty,  I began to pursue wisely-placed trust, trust in a wild God, One I can’t control, but One who is completely good and utterly safe.  He doesn’t need any formula for my children to thrive and be okay (the real cry of my heart).

My relationship with my kids slowly began to change.  Instead of having an agenda (the sum of the equation), I could just BE with them, no matter where they were or what they were doing (good or bad).  It was hard for me, like super hard.  I know best, especially as a mom.  I want what’s best for them.  I know how they should get there.  But it doesn’t come from the best place.   I like a little bit (I mean a lot) of control.  But we all know how control works out (see formula above).  It doesn’t.

As I turned the tables (another new thought), I realized I don’t want to be anybody else’s agenda or project.  Neither do my kids.  Instead of “here is what I think you should do, be, act like, etc., I love when others say, “I’m with you,” and that’s the end of it.  That’s what my kids want.  I don’t want to feel like I’m going to the principal’s office when I am with someone.  Neither do my kids.  It creates defensiveness, hiding, guilt, shame, people-pleasing, all the yuck we parents are now in counseling for ourselves.

However, when someone is just WITH ME in my beautiful, messy life where sometimes I make bad choices or think terrible thoughts, unconditional love opens the door for vulnerability and trust.  THIS is what my kids want.  All the good stuff happens the most in this safe place.   No one is going to counseling for this.

Now I had a new question.  Was it as simple as love God and love others (including those people who’ve been placed in this family under my purview)?  Yes.

Formulas are not love.  To boot, they don’t work.  Loving God is trusting Him (the hardest part of parenting), especially when things don’t go as planned.  DON’T FORGET:  it is a trust that is wisely placed.  IT BRINGS US FREEDOM.

Agendas are also not love.   Loving others (our kids) is being WITH them, especially when they are not where we think they should be or want them to be.  That’s a love that’s unconditional and safe.  IT BRINGS THEM FREEDOM.

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