Posted in Faith, Grief, motherhood

What Kind of World Are My Kids Growing Up In?

What kind of a world are my kids growing up in?

The question that plagued me on that dreadful morning 20 years ago.

I had four little ones scampering around at the time, one toddler half-naked and being potty trained (we all remember exactly what was going on that morning, right?).

Is it a world filled with consuming hate?

ONLY and awful hate?

How would I tell them that their friend’s dad had been killed?

How would I shake my own fear of it happening again and this time it would be their dad who had worked in NYC for most of their young lives?

How? How? How?

How will they know love?

ONLY and wonderful love?

The love that casts out fear in the form of a firefighter saying “I’ve got you. Come with me”?

The love that wins in the end as yellow ribbons don every mailbox for miles and miles and miles for months and months and months?

Today, my big kids are still scampering around, albeit fully-clothed, and the world still often seems consumed with hate.

ONLY and awful hate?

But it’s not true.

It’s not ONLY.

Both hate and love exist, intertwined in all of our hearts.

Along with a million other parts.

Mine. And theirs.

All I have to do is look back at these 20 years to see all the ways hate and love (and a million other parts) have shown up as I’ve raised my fearsome foursome.

They’ve brought harm.
Pain. Heartache.

But also…

They’ve brought joy.
Healing. Hope.

What kind of world are my kids growing up in?

The question that plagued me for a lot longer than that dreadful morning and still does often.

The answer is simple. And also super complicated.

It’s the wonderful, messy, awful, sacred, hateful, loving, broken, brave, and still healing world.

It’s a world filled with us.

Every single one of us.

Posted in Faith

Worth the Read? (you decide)

Want to know what I’ve been reading?
Want some reviews so you can figure it out for yourself?

Check out these books I’ve spent some time with (and keep doing so).


The Shack, Wm. Paul Young. (4.8 stars)


I had always viewed God as a someone who was up there to “get me” or “save me” and not as a God who loves me, period, end-of-story.  This gave me a whole different viewpoint and helped me to actually want to get to know God more.  Plus, I made my whole family go to the movie with me when it came out.

Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist (4.5 stars)

I lived my life pursuing the “sweet” side and avoiding the “bitter.” Shauna helped me to embrace all of it and she did it by telling her own stories of heartache and hope.  Very short chapters.  Easy to read one at bedtime or in the morning.  I used it as a devotional and in my women’s group.

What is the Bible, Rob Bell (3.6 stars)

This book felt a little choppy to me, but I enjoyed stepping outside of my own comfort zone of “what I believed all my life” and exploring someone else’s thoughts.  It tackles some hard things, but I wish it would have gone a bit deeper.  However, I love the way Rob Bell gets me to ask myself the difficult questions and not avoid them.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero (4.6 stars)

Looking to dive deep?  This book explores how our emotional and spiritual well-being are very closely tied together.  I went through this book with about 60 other people and it was fabulous.  It explores the more contemplative side of faith as well as working through our own wounds from our pasts.

The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman (5+ stars)

I am reading through this a second time.  It’s that good.  Emily’s wisdom and ability to communicate through story about how to make decisions (which we all do about 35,000 times a day) couldn’t be more effective.  She is gentle and kind, strong and helpful.  I’ve recommended this book to every single person I’ve come in contact with.  Short, yet very packed-full-of-goodness chapters.


Reading brings me to “far away” places including my very own heart!  I am changed by what I read.  I hope you are too.

Posted in Faith

Unraveling

godly husband + passionate wife = great marriage

great marriage + good parenting = well-behaved child

well-behaved child + strong youth group = wise-choice making teen

wise-choice making teen + strong college = successful adult

successful adult + other successful adult = godly husband + passionate wife

And the formula goes round and round.

______________________________________________________________

ME:

I love this formula.

It’s perfect.

Just do it all right and make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.

I’ve heard it my whole life from preachers and family and professors and authors and friends and repeated over and over to myself.

It must be true.

Tom Sawyer says it.

“We proved to ourselves that when you do things right, good things happen.”

It must be true.

I repeat:

Just do it all right and make all the right choices and life goes the way it should.


ALSO ME:

EXCEPT.
WHEN.
IT.
DOESN’T.

What happens then?

What’s true? Actually and for real true?

Life’s “formula” often looks more like the crazy scenarios below.
Mine and lots of people around me.

______________________________________________________________

godly husband + passionate wife = messy divorce

great marriage + good parenting = child with Oppositional Defiance Disorder

well-behaved child + strong youth group = teen substance abuser

wise-choice making teens + strong college = struggling-to-find-or-keep-a-job adult

successful adult + other successful adult = distant husband + depressed wife

______________________________________________________________


ME:

I should try harder.
It must be something I’m doing wrong.
Maybe I don’t have the equation right?

There’s got to be a way to guarantee a great marriage, well-behaved kids, wise-choice-making teens and successful adults, right?

I have that book I can read.
I can make long prayer lists on color-coded index cards.
I will sign up for that seminar. In fact, I can lead one.

It must be true.

Even the Bible says it.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in step with the wicked…whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1)


ALSO ME:

It’s not working.

My family is struggling. So am I.
My friends are a wreck. So am I.
All my formulas around me are unraveling. So am I.

My carefully-built-rubber-band-ball-of-how-life-works is snapping.
There are pieces all over the place.

If it’s not true, then what?
What do I do now?
How do I live?

I’m UNRAVELING.


HOW I HEAR GOD:

You are going to be okay.
You can re-ravel when the time is right and you are ready.

There’s a very different way of looking at people and relationships and what matters.

There’s a deeper truth and with that truth comes slow steps toward freedom.
Your formulas can and are allowed to be stripped away.


ME:

This uncertain place sounds like a curse.
I’m freaking out a little on the inside.


ALSO ME:

Sounds like a lot of work.
Lots more time.
Lots more complexity.
Lots of mess.


HOW I HEAR GOD:

But it will be good.

Life is messy and no amount of doing the right thing ensures complete safety and success.

It sounds harsh and hopeless at first glance, but it can be helpful and freeing.

You don’t have to tackle life as a problem to be solved.
It can be a mysterious adventure to be enjoyed.

(I know, it’s like action-thriller enjoyment, which is scary and fun all at the same time, but you will do well. Plus, I will be with you.)


ME:

Gotcha. Sounds great.


ALSO ME:

I’m still freaking out.


HOW I HEAR GOD:

You don’t have to have certainty to be okay.
You can wisely place your trust in Me, even it it feels really scary.

I am completely good and utterly safe. Plus, I love you.

And I’m with you. Period. Even if and when it all falls apart.

How does that sound?


ME:
 
You mean I don’t have to have do all the right things?
Or have a perfect and guaranteed formula?
I can just be?
 
 
ALSO ME:
 
I actually might like this.
In fact, I might love this.
 
 
HOW I HEAR GOD:
 
It’s called unconditional love. It’s what I have for you.
It opens the door for vulnerability and trust.
 
Healing is much more likely to happen in this safe space.
 
Those formulas that you counted on are not love.
And that’s why they don’t work.
 
Unraveling (as freaky-outy as it’s felt) might be the best thing that ever happened to you.
 
Plus, I get to have a front-row seat to watch you re-ravel.
 
And as you do, never forget this little tidbit that might make all the difference in the world:
 
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (St. Paul)
Posted in Uncategorized

Want Some Peace?

PEACE. “The absence of conflict.”

Or so I thought for most of my life.
 
And Google backs me up on this.
 
So does my husband. He loves an atmosphere where everyone gets along.
 
Raising four spirited kids did NOT lend itself to this. The constant conflict sent us to our beds exhausted many nights.
 
I found myself often muttering under my breath or sometimes screaming loudly (which, if you think about it, is pretty ironic), “All I’m asking is for just a few moments of peace!”
 
Whether it’s the constant arguing political analysts on “news” shows, vitriolic social media discussions, gut-wrenching war across our world, bickering among children over the latest who-knows-what, disagreeing co-workers, or late-into-the-night discord among spouses, it is just plain tiring.
 
No wonder we want some peace.
Some quiet.

Some everyone-just-get-along-please moments.
 
We are saturated with it all day long.
 
ALL.
DAY.
LONG.
 
But is the absence of conflict real down-deep PEACE?
 
As in the fancy Hebrew word for peace, SHALOM?
 
Was our home filled with peace just because the six of us were not fighting?
 
NOPE.
 
Because SHALOM is not defined by absence.
 
Instead, it is marked by presence, the presence of true human flourishing.

The presence of the Prince of SHALOM.
 
It speaks of fullness, completeness and wholeness.
 
In Ancient Israel, when a crime was committed, the central point was not on the outer (the broken law and restoration of order), but rather on the inner (broken SHALOM and restoration of peace) for ALL involved: victim, community and even offender. It was important that ALL would flourish, ALL would be brought back to wholeness.
 
Shane Claiborne says it this way:
 
“Peacemaking does not mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is not flight or fight, but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love, that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”
 
This is so hard.
 
Especially when I am the victim, the oppressed one.
 
It’s so much easier for me to take flight, protect myself.
Focus on ME.

 
It’s so much easier for me to fight, attack you.
Focus on YOU.
 
Right about now in my life, both of those options sound wonderful.
 
I feel wronged.

I feel angry and wanting justice.

I feel like I want to run and hide.
I feel like I also want to put up a down-and-dirty fight.

 
But it’s so much better to shift my response to making peace, restoring SHALOM. True human flourishing for ALL. As hard as that is.
Focus on US.
 
US.
 
Not YOU against ME and ME against YOU, but US fighting FOR each other.
 
It’s easy to go down the rabbit trail that the problem is too huge to make a dent in, much less solve.

It’s a big one.
Colossal.
 
My broken space is just one small drop in the sea of shattered SHALOM.
 
But (and I rest and trust here) it’s probably the best place to start.
 
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
Posted in motherhood

Tamed?

“Are we going to see the wild horses?” my not-yet-college-bound, have-to-be-dragged-everywhere, youngest asked.  “You promised.”

We were on a college visit trip with her older brother. 5 colleges in 5 days.

The drive to see these mythical creatures on an exotic island was a

bout an hour out of the way and I was exhausted from tours about professors/safety/dorms and hotel rooms with weird smells/bad breakfasts/non-working hot tubs.

But my memory of the picture on the cover of the book, Misty of Chincoteague, a beautiful wild horse and her foal, drew me in and convinced me to keep said promise.

As we pulled in to the park and made our way to the restrooms before embarking on our glorious, out-of-the-way adventure, signs warned not to feed the horses as they may bite and to ensure our safety by staying 40-feet away. This was exciting!

Bladders empty, we were ready! We couldn’t wait to see these wild creatures, prancing in the sand dunes and uttering high-pitched neighs.

What happened next was stranger than strange.

We rounded the corner and there was a horse, in the middle of the parking lot. Not prancing. Not neighing. Standing. Still. So still, we thought it might be a taxidermist’s latest “stuffing” project.

We got out. Walked around it. It did NOT move. Just stood there. We did see it take a breath, so we surmised it was alive and didn’t belong at the local Cabela’s.

We had so hoped to happen upon a wild, prancing, neighing horse, enjoying the sands of Virginia beaches and its ability to roam FREE.

But what we found was more like a TAMED mule ready to plow the fields under the guise of some master who needed to get things done.

As we ventured on the park pathways, we saw a few more horse-mules milling around, and I can assure you that we were not scared, or excited, not even one little bit.

We got back in our cars and my mom thoughts took off into those mom places only they can go.

Are these horses like my kids?

Longing for adventure, FREEDOM, and curiosity to discover, hope and dream?

But standing around, TAMED, bored and controlled because of how me, as a mom, and society, as a whole, has directed them?

Don’t bite.
Stand still.
Be quiet.

Don’t stand up for yourself (your true self). Fit in.
Do what everyone else is doing. Stay in the box.
Control yourself at all costs. Never color outside of the lines.

College visits.
What everyone else did.
What we were supposed to do.

Over the next days, I kept coming back and back to my thoughts about these horse-mules and my kids.

I did not want them to be mules. I wanted them to be horses. WILD ONES. Not TAMED into submission to some arbitrary set of rules that who knows who made up.

I wanted them to be FREE. To discover, hope and dream.

I talked and talked and talked to them about it. And then talked some more.

Guess what happened?

My college-bound son said, “NOPE.”
He decided to take a gap year.
He enjoyed his senior year without the pressure of choosing.
He never went to any of those 5 we had visited on that trip.
He discovered a school that made his heart happy.
FREEDOM.

My baby watched him intently.
She spent an extra year with him, becoming the best of friends.
When it was her turn, she chose an out-of-the-box school and got her Bachelor’s degree in two years. Two long, hard years.
She moved to California at 19 to pursue her dreams, graduation behind her.
She wants to win an Emmy.
FREEDOM.

Guess what else happened?

I began to wonder the same thing about me.

Do I have the FREEDOM to discover, hope and dream?

As a middle-aged, regular, mom who has always played by the rules?
Who didn’t bite, stood still and was quiet?

The answer: YES. YES I DO.

I might stand up for myself.
What if I forge my own way?
Maybe I will even draw my own lines to color inside.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
It’s going to be good.
FREEDOM.

Posted in Faith, Friendship

Who belongs? Do we?

It starts so young.

We ask ourselves: Who belongs? Do we?

My heart broke as my five-year old came home from kindergarten one day with tears in her eyes.

“They won’t let me in.”

“Into what honey?” I asked tenderly.

“Into the blond club. I have brown hair.”

UGH. REALLY?!?!?!?

Having been the only “red head” my whole life in many circumstances, this exclusion hit me right in the deepest part of the feels.

Who belongs? Do we?

And it’s not just hair. NOT AT ALL.

It permeates our whole life.

Middle school lunch tables.
High school sports teams.
College application processes.
Belief systems.
Interest or life-status groups.
Even families.

Who belongs? Do we?

Sometimes, the answer is a hearty “YES!”

We saved you a seat!

You made the team!
You have a thick envelope waiting for you in the mailbox!
Please be on our governing board!
Join our club!

Take my last name!

YOU BELONG! YOU BELONG! YOU BELONG!

The looming question is quieted and we feel all safe inside.

Until…

Something goes amiss. Awry.

We wear something unacceptable to the leader of the lunch table.
An injury ends our season.
The tuition is too hefty.
We begin to question what we’ve been taught all our life.
Our new job schedule doesn’t work with the club meeting dates.
We do something unforgivable.

Then the answer becomes a very loud and emphatic “NO!”

YOU’RE OUT! YOU’RE OFF! YOU DO NOT AND CANNOT BELONG!

We are US and you are THEM!

We are INSIDE and you are OUTSIDE!

It’s no wonder we hide and do whatever it takes to fit in and forgo our true selves.

We just want to belong. To be on the inside. To be loved. To be accepted.

It’s a God-given part of being us. Human. Our crucial need for others.

Remember that phrase, “It’s not good for man to be alone” right at the beginning of the whole Bible? I have a crazy feeling it’s a lot more than a girl/boy thingy. It might just be a human thingy.

So what’s our answer to: Who belongs? Do we?

Jesus’ prayer at the end of his life that “they are ONE just as He and His Father are ONE” is serious. He means it.

Jesus’ reminder to His disciples that “as the Father has loved Me, I too have loved you.” is serious. He means it.

God LOVES us and wants us to LOVE each other. To be ONE.

Not OUTSIDERS and INSIDERS.

ONE.

Not US and THEM.

ONE.

We BELONG to Him and He BELONGS to us and we BELONG to each other.

The question is finally answered in the deepest parts of our souls. My soul.

By LOVE HIMSELF.

I am LOVED. I BELONG.

No thing can ever ever ever separate me from that LOVE.
No thing can ever stop me from BELONGING to the Tender Lover of My Soul.

It’s the same for you too.

From my heart to yours.

P.S. You belong to me, my reader friend. No matter what. End of story.

Posted in Family, motherhood

Beyond Tired (Exhausted Actually)

There was a mom who was really tired. BEYOND TIRED.

She was counting down the hours to “end” her active parenting.
It had been every day for 25++ years.

She found herself sitting on the floor, covered in empty boxes, about to sleep on a futon that had been through her three other college kids and was now gracing the dorm room of her baby.

She couldn’t believe she was finally here.
But she knew why she was absolutely exhausted. Who wouldn’t be?

She lay awake thinking about ALL.THE.THINGS.

  • Q-tips covered in alcohol carefully for 10 days on each of four babies’ umbilical cords until that gross thing turned black and fell off

  • Shopping with four children under seven (it was like taking four goats to the store…I “kid” you not…get it? get it? I “kid” you not)

  • Sorting legos into bags by color, size and type at least 52 times (to be exact)

  • Playing Ms. PacMan on Nintendo 64 surrounded by eight excited eyes until she beat all the levels and killed the witch

  • Filling out back-to-school forms until her eyes twitched and hands curled up in agony (can’t this be computerized school board?)

  • Packing 180 (# of days in a school year) X 4 (# of kids in her house) X 13 (# of school years) lunches (equals 9,360)

  • Chore charts, memory verse charts, learn-to-pee-and-poop-on-the-potty charts, and behavior charts, all complete with stickers and prizes

  • Watching (or at least hearing from the kitchen) ad nauseam reruns from the Disney Channel, Nick Jr., PBS, Cartoon Network and Netflix

  • Coaching and watching basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, wrestling, field hockey, swimming, track, volleyball, and softball (the records for all of those sports combined probably .500 exactly)

  • Listening to piano, clarinet, bassoon, guitar, and recorders (yikes!)

  • Doctor, dentist, oral surgeon, voice therapist, orthodontist, counselor, ENT, orthopedic surgeon and emergency room visits enough that she should have “frequent shopper cards” (buy 10 visits, get one free)

  • Themed birthday parties each year complete with specialized decorations and games (Pin the Tail on Pikachu anyone?)

  • Graduations from preschool to middle school to high school to college (secretly bored out of her mind, but still taking all the pictures)

  • Driving at least 5 or 6 times the distance of the globe to practices, lessons, youth groups, parties, play dates, school, and girl/boyfriend’s houses

  • 3,247 fights over paper-cup lids, halloween candy, bathroom etiquette (or lack thereof), and on and on and on

  • Teaching (or more true, freaking out in the passenger’s seat) four teens how to drive

  • Moving four kids in and out of college dorms and college apartments (one night she actually slept on bath mats…the softest thing she could find in said child’s off-campus apartment)

You can see why she was wiped out. W-I-P-E-D out!

A couple of days later, back home snug in her bed, hoping to finally get some much-needed sleep, she patted herself on the back for a mom job well done.

As she headed off to dreamland at the luscious hour of 10 pm, her phone DINGED, the familiar tone reserved for her blessed four.

It was a text from her college junior. “Mom, can you help? I need to figure out how to switch a class.”

She quickly responded, telling him he needed to wait until the morning.

“Okay Mom. Love you.”

“Love you too. We’ll figure it out.”

Five minutes later, another DING, same familiar tone.

Slightly annoyed, she checked to make sure all was well with whoever was now texting.

Her recent college graduate was sending a note from the kitchen.“Mom, where are the spatulas?”

She told him which drawer. He said he already looked there. She unwrapped herself from her cozy covers and walked down the long flight of stairs. She opened said drawer. It was right there, hiding in plain site.

“Thanks Mom. Love you.”

“Love you too. Good night. Please clean up after yourself.”

She marched herself right back up those stairs, slipping back under her covers and shutting her heavy lids. Sleep came quickly.

DING! DING!

Same tone.

Different child (this time, adult and oldest child living on her own).

“Mom? You up? I’m a wreck. Can’t sleep. My roommate is being a jerk. I think I should move out. What do you think I should do?”

She pressed #2 on speed dial.

After 45 minutes of listening and listening and listening and then more listening, the two of them said the same words to each other since forever.

“Love you to the moon, Mom.”
“And I love you all the way to the moon and back again, Peanut.”

She was now fully awake. She tossed and turned and tossed and turned.

The clock had struck midnight and her restless legs were acting up.

LOVELY.

She peed.
She turned her pillow over to the cool side.
She prayed.
She stared into the darkness.
She irritatingly glanced at her fast-asleep spouse, mouth agape.

DING! again.

“WHAT NOW? WHO NOW?”

It was her baby.

“Mom, I love you. And miss you. Sorry if I woke you up.”

She answered pronto.

“Love you too, honey. And miss you like crazy!”

She laid her head back on her not-cool-enough pillow, closing her eyes tight. Wise words from an older mom friend echoed in her mind, and she understood them just a little bit better.

“This parenting gig never ends, because love never ends.”

She drifted off (FINALLY) to a sweet sleep, all phones quiet.

As she woke in the morning, her mom body ached a little and she was still tired, exhausted actually, but her mom heart, just like every day for 25++ years, was full to the brim.

Posted in Faith

Be Afraid

We keep selling fear.

Everywhere.

Politics.

If you vote for the other side, your good life as you know it will be over. BE AFRAID. Vote for me. I will save you.

Education.

If you don’t sit still and get good grades, you will never amount to anything. Your life will be in shambles. BE AFRAID. Conform. Conform. Conform. We have the answer.

Family.

If you don’t love what we love, do what we do and say what we say, you will be the black sheep, always wondering how and if you fit in. After all, who else will you have? BE AFRAID. Blood is blood.

Church.

If you don’t believe exactly what we believe or act “just right,” then you are out of the group. You can’t lead. You shouldn’t serve. BE AFRAID. Choose us above all else, including your own integrity.

Media.

If you don’t watch this, buy this, listen to this, you will be missing out. Did you hear me??? Missing out. You might lose your friends, your family, your self. BE AFRAID. Keep clicking!!

You know why we keep selling fear? Everywhere?

It works.

It keeps us voting.
And sitting.
And staying.
And going.
And buying.

Probably far too often. Far too long. Far too ___________ (fill in the blank).

When we dare to ask even the smallest of questions, we are shut down.

Who are you to doubt?
We know better.

You’ll mess it up for everyone else.
BE QUIET!!!

BE AFRAID.

When we take one little step “out of line,” we are herded right back.

Be like everyone else. All the good ones.
You are just not allowed. Period.
We know better.
STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT.

BE AFRAID.

Selling fear works.

And when we have so much fear, we don’t have room for much else.

It swallows us whole.
It keeps us locked inside a prison of sorts.
It prevents us from living our most true and beautiful life.
IT DESTROYS. From the inside out.

So what are we to do? What is left?

What sets us free?
What encourages us to create, wonder, be curious, change and grow?
What helps our hearts to come fully alive?
What allows us to be our very best and whole selves?

NOT FEAR.

That’s for sure.

BUT LOVE.

Fear works in the short-term.

But tears us down in the long-term.

Love can be messy and nuanced and difficult and just plain H-A-R-D in the short-term.


It takes time.
It takes down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty relationship.
It takes peeling back the layers of the outer and seeing what’s going on inside.
It take stepping out into discomfort.
It takes work.
It takes a slow sifting through all the grays.

But LOVE WINS in the long-term.

Hands down.

Period.
End of story.

DO NOT BE AFRAID. (Jesus)

LOVE > FEAR.

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, Mental 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.