Posted in Faith, Thanks

I HAVE THE FREEDOM TO…

I do not take this day lightly.

My heart swells with thanksgiving that I live in a place where my innate need and hunger for freedom is met.

This framework of outer freedom bestows a space where my many-times trembling, but just-enough-times brave heart fights for my inner freedom, a sacredness no one, no thing can touch.

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I have the freedom to be kind.

I have the freedom to enjoy beauty.

I have the freedom to learn, grow and change.

I have the freedom to be generous.

I have the freedom to be trustworthy.

I have the freedom to love my neighbor, period.

I have the freedom to take risks.

I have the freedom to be gentle.

I have the freedom to walk with integrity.

I have the freedom to be filled with respect for all.

I have the freedom to show compassion.

I have the freedom to journey with humility.

I have the freedom to forgive.

I have the freedom to shine my light.

I have the freedom to be patient.

I have the freedom to be authentic and vulnerable.

I have the freedom to don the mantle of courage.

I have the freedom to open my heart to an abiding faith.

I have the freedom to work with all my might.

I have the freedom to always hope.

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These freedoms, similar to the outer ones, must be fought for on the battlefields of my heart, my soul, my body and my mind with great strength and courage, every moment of every day.

HERE’S TO BRAVING THE FIGHT OF ALL FIGHTS TOGETHER!

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Sabbath

God, Weird Mom Agendas, Fixing Stuff and a Resting Heart

One of my favorite parts of being a mom is when all my children are in the same room, sleeping under the same roof and sitting around the same table. I can see their huge bodies curled up in a ball on the couch, hear their voices singing in the shower, and give them hugs like I never want to let them go. I am with them and my heart is happy. Right now, in this season of momhood, sadness comes knowing it’s temporary and that I stay here and they go there.

It’s true. I am still with them. I cheer for them in their triumphs, am sad for their struggles and pain, and plop my mom heart down next to theirs during the every day stuff of life. I want them to know in the depths of their souls that they are not alone.

But this is also true. I am not with them the way I used to or even want to be. This is the hard part, the letting go part, the budding adult part, the “trusting God” part.

God is with them even more than I could ever be. He’s not limited physically like me. That calms my heart when I can’t be there in bodily mom form. He reaches them in places that I will never be able to touch. He is the only One who can do that. I rest there.

He also doesn’t have weird mom agendas for them like I do. He doesn’t lecture them to “get their act together” like I might. He doesn’t have fear when they don’t like I might. He is just with them. I rest there.

He doesn’t try to fix everything for them like I’ve been known to do (cough cough). He lets them be right where they are, in all their good and bad choices, and sits beside them in all of them, holding them close to His heart. He loves them no matter what.  I rest there.

He believes in them even when they might not believe in themselves. When they can’t see their own goodness and value, He reminds them gently. He is fiercely committed to them for their whole life, actually forever. He isn’t going anywhere. I rest there.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I’m soaking this into my soul today:  God goes before me.  He goes before them.  He’s with me.  He’s with them.  God will never leave me.  He will never leave them.  Take courage, sweet heart of mine.  REST. RIGHT. THERE.

 

Please don’t forget to “LIKE” the post on social media!  I know it means you have to “go back out and click on something,” but it would mean the world to me!!!

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage

Our Blessing To You Young Marrieds (#oldmarriedstoo)

Dearest Couples that We Mentor,

It is our great and sacred privilege to come along side you, engaged and newly-wed couples, to share on the journey of your marriages.  These past fifteen years, sitting at our dining room table, on our deck, at Paneras, diners, church lobbies, and even in online video conference rooms, has blessed our lives and our own marriage in ways we never thought possible.  Friday night, our culmination final barbecue of the very first young-marrieds support group called our hearts to life and joy and beauty and blessing once again.  This morning, we meet with another couple on the verge of marriage to go over plans to perform our very first wedding.  It just doesn’t get any better than this for us.

When we were engaged, God gave us a short verse from the Psalms that has guided us and held us in ways we did not understand at the time and that would be a great blessing to us (plus we use it as some of our passwords for things – SSSHHH – don’t tell).

Today, we want to bestow a blessing on each one of you (and your precious partnership).  Some of you have been married over 10 years at this point and others of you are just beginning your adventure.  We love each and every one of you and even those we haven’t met yet.  Our hearts are WITH you and FOR you!

Our Blessing For You Young Marrieds (#oldmarriedstoo)

May you be strong and courageous. May you not afraid or discouraged, knowing that the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.

May your love abound more and more, with all knowledge and discernment so that you approve what is excellent.

May the Lord surround you with favor as with a shield. May He be your stronghold in times of trouble.

May your talk with each other be wholesome, only what is helpful for building each other up.

May love and faithfulness never leave you. May they be written on the tablet of your hearts.

 May the favor of God rest on you and may He establish the work of your hands.

May you be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, as you remember how God, in Christ, forgave you.

May you walk with humility and gentleness with each other, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

 May God give you the desires of your hearts and make all your plans succeed.

 May you walk in integrity.

 May the Lord instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; may God counsel you and watch over you.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.

May the Lord keep you from all harm and watch over your life.

 May there be peace within your walls.

May God be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine upon you.

 May you have the power together to know how high and wide and long and deep God’s love is for you.

 May the Lord preserve your going out and your coming in now and forever.

Lastly, we share our own marriage verse with you, praying that this would be the cry of your hearts and the gentle guide for your life together.

Oh magnify the Lord with me, Let us exalt His name together!  (Psalm 34:3)

Sending Much Love from Our Hearts to Yours,

Allen and Esther Goetz

 

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

Holding Space for Yourself

And that’s when I heard it, “Hold space for them.”

“Hold space for them? What does that mean?” I asked God.

I sat there in my car in the parking lot of the addiction rehab I taught at and knew God was calling me to embark on a journey with these women. As I hung up the phone, I was caught by a sweep of His presence, as I felt the answer to my question settle in my spirit…Just show up every week and be there for them. Be present to their pain.

It’s been almost a year since I heard those words, “Hold space.” I’ve learned to stay present without a response. Without turning away from the pain of others. Loving without saying a word, giving each other space to feel. I’ve learned “holding space” is a beautiful way to sit with them in their pain. It’s finding the depth of love necessary to allow them to feel without judgment, without rushing in to clean it up or fix it. It’s standing beside one another offering hope without saying a word.

A few months ago, the Holy Spirit sweetly asked, “Yeah, but do you know how to hold space for yourself?” 

Hold space for me? There’s no time for that.

I’m learning what this means. In a season of five active kids, a dad fighting for his life, and a husband with a demanding job I’m finding I need more time for me. Often times our own self takes a back seat during busy seasons. The thing is, we can’t afford not to take care of our own soul. This is why David spoke to his soul, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Ps. 62:1,5). We live unawakened lives when we neglect our souls.

Join as I’m a guest on The Dolly Mama and the Millennials podcast where we talk about ways to hold space for ourselves and why it’s important. Laugh and cry with us for thirty minutes as we explore the need for soul-care and how to do that during this busy journey of motherhood.

–Lea Turner–

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

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Thank you for taking the time to listen!  Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who has someone in their lives called children 🙂

Posted in Faith, Thanks

Dear Church of the Ascension (I Have Some Confessions to Make),

“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in the pews.”  (Tish Harrison Warren)

Dear Church of the Ascension,

I have visited your church two times.  My husband and I live in New Jersey, but he works in Pittsburgh three days a week and has an apartment in the Strip District, not very far from you.  About once a month, I make the reverse commute and we spend the weekend in Pittsburgh, a city I have come to love and enjoy beyond what I thought possible.

It’s on these weekends that we have walked through your bright red door, been greeted by your people, sat in your pews, listened to your choir, watched your children gather at the feet of your rectors, opened the scriptures, kneeled in prayer and shared bread and wine.  It’s on these weekends that we have been outsiders peeking in on how you navigate this complex world of “church” in the new millennium.

I have some confessions to make to you this Palm Sunday morning, a day where I will be entering into the doors of another church, one where my view is from the inside out, not the outside in, one where we’ve loved and served for many years, one that is also maneuvering the mosaic of “church” in 2019.

Back to my confessions.

Today, I confess that I only visited your church because I was mildly obsessed with Tish Harrison Warren, having soaked up her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, not only once at a cursory level, but in depth with my women’s group.  When I found out that she had moved to Pittsburgh and was a writer in residence only a mile away from my husband’s apartment, I was determined to visit you.  I felt a little like the paparazzi, as I recorded her talk with the children, received communion from her and talked her ear off as she was greeting parishioners.  It was not my finest moment, but as she reminds me in her book, we are all “limping to redemption,” and I am included in the “all.”

Today, I confess that something changed inside of me that first day.  I wanted to come back.  Not just because of Tish, although her talks that day fed my soul the love that it so longed for, but because as I watched and wondered about this community that “practiced” very differently than what I am used to, it seemed kind and gracious, filled with love for those on the inside and those on the outside (me included), the kind of love Jesus talks about every chance He gets.

Today, I confess that I came back with my husband, this time my motivation not to see Tish (I didn’t even see her that day), but to be filled again with this love you have to share.  I confess that as I sat there, tears welled in my eyes as the message of God’s love for me was communicated from beginning to end, almost as if it was a calculated move on your part.  Here is just a glimpse of the words that leapt from the white booklet and the hymnal I held in my hands:

We started here…
“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.”

“Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine.”

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside His crown for my soul.”

“Jesu, my love, my joy, my rest, Thy perfect love close in my breast…”

The middle was filled with this:

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And we ended here…
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”

Whether it was deliberately planned by your leadership, God knew what I needed that day, my heart was more open to receiving the love and goodness of God, or ALL of those in sweet combination, my “outsider” self felt beautifully connected to you and your people, and especially to the loving heart of God.

Today, my last confession is one of thanks to you.  Thank you for being a beacon in the middle of my beloved adopted city of Pittsburgh.  Thank you for giving this outsider a place of belonging.  Tish reminds me in her book that “God loves and delights in the people in the pews around me and dares me to find beauty in them.”  I have found the beauty in you.  Your beauty is one that has given me inspiration for my inquisitive mind, daring hope as an anchor for my soul, but most of all, deep, deep love for my longing heart, a beautiful and firm foundation that I carry with me into this Holy Week ahead.  Thank you.   We shout HOSANNA (“Come Save Us!”) together today!

Godspeed, Church of the Ascension!  I will be coming through your red doors again soon!

Esther Goetz

*If you liked this, please go onto social media and give me a thumbs up or a like.  It would mean a lot to me.*

Posted in Faith, Family, Guest, Marriage

NEW CHAPTER (maybe a whole new book) #thisis54

Just do it all right, make all the right, godly choices and life goes the way you thought it would or think it should.

EXCEPT.

WHEN.

IT.

DOESN’T.

What happens then?

Is all hope lost?

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My friend, Maria, newly divorced, unpacks this better than I can today with a poem she’s written to herself on her 54th birthday, one where she is vulnerable, raw, truthful and filled with hope (and I am all about all of that)!

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This is 54

In all my imperfections
In all my power
In all my insecurities
In every way
I cower

Owning every blessing
And every good gift
Owning every wrinkle
My 54 year old self
Could use a lift 

Better late than never
Better off now alone
Better to be alone and lonely
Than lonely in my home

I’m not sure what happened
Not sure why
I waited so long
But know my children mattered more to me
Their peace
more than my own

I move on in power
I know its not too late
To have the love I long for
With the one I can relate

But first I love myself
I walk in all my truth
Owning my need for more
Unrealized in my youth

Time has passed by quickly
Many ways a blessed life
I thought all the answers
Were in being someone’s wife

But fairytales and stories
The things our people make us believe
While they tried their best
Did not
see the need

The need to guide in honesty
That love is more than what is seen
Its deeper, it is constant
There is passion
you can believe

The knowledge of your whole heart
Being touched and nurtured
Sweet and raw
The wisdom of its purity
That’s what will last for long

So I give this to myself now
I love myself in all my truth
I love that I am fragile
I love the wisdom without youth

I own my insecurities
How I need to feel valued and be seen
I own my need for time, connection,
Affection
Want the dream!

I call it the trifecta
Emotional, Mental, Physical
For now I give it to myself
My love tank
It is full

As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Plays on the radio
My childhood song still resonates
My soul and heart
They know

Know what I desire
Is more than a fairy tale
Know what fuels my fire
I will have it
Without fail

So today
I wish myself a Happy Birthday
Treasuring every good gift
that’s in my life
My family and friends
Who value me
That’s the love
I can’t deny

My journey’s just beginning
My heart remains so full
So thankful it’s not broken
But open and vulnerable still

I share this in transparency
To encourage others in their way
I want to live authentically
Boldly, wholly, deep.
In every way

Those who know me best
Love me as I am
The good, the bad, the ugly
As only good friends can

I walk into my second half of life
With so much more to give
What matters
is my goal now
There’s only one life
here to live

My faith it keeps me grounded
My God
Shows me the way

His Love and mercy
Sweetly
Filling me each day

My thoughts they keep on coming
As my heart
It overflows
Thankful for love and grace
Thankful that it shows

Staying open
Is my gift
I give myself today
Remaining
Authentic
Until my dying day.

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I love this!  I love the picture of Maria’s and her daughter’s tattoos on their wrists they got a few years ago!  How beautiful the reminder that there is always sunshine on a cloudy day!  How beautiful that those words of hope ring true for her and for my own heart today!  The sun always shines above the clouds, even when I can’t see it or feel its warmth!   When my own life is not going the way I thought it would or think it should, this poem will gently remind my heart that there is ALWAYS GREAT HOPE!!  Thank you again Maria!  You are a gift!

 

Posted in Family, Motherhood

My Love for You is ______ Less (my mom letter)

Dear Child of My Heart,

I need you to know that I love you. I want you to know exactly what those three words mean when they are coming from my heart to yours.

I have told you that I love you more times than either of us can remember. That’s a good thing. You’ve heard it from the first day I held you in my arms and you are hearing it again today. You will hear it from me tomorrow, and next week, as long as my tongue allows. My love for you is COUNTLESS.

My love for you is the reason that sometimes I stay awake and worry. Yet, the fear that I have that my heart might break someday is quieted by the fierce love I have for you and the knowledge that it’s all worth it. You are worth it. My love for you is FEARLESS.

I loved you when you were minutes old.  I loved you when you were a “NO” screaming toddler.    I loved you when you were fighting with your siblings in grade school.  I loved you when you were a taller-than-me teenager.  I loved you when you walked away from me into your college dorm room.  I love you today.  I will love you all the tomorrows.  Nothing will change that.  My love for you is AGELESS.

It’s been a lot of work to be your mom. The lack of sleep and the amount of energy I’ve poured in have left me exhausted at times. But the life and joy and beauty you have brought me is beyond what I could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.   My love for you is TIRELESS.

I don’t care who knows how much I love you. I would shout it from the highest mountain to any who would listen. Everyone should know how wonderful and amazing you are and why you are so worth loving. My love for you is SHAMELESS.

I never knew love like this before I met you. It reaches places in me that I didn’t know existed. It’s higher than the uphill battles we’ve climbed. It’s wider than any mistake either of us make. It’s stronger than death. It’s longer than life. My love for you is DEPTHLESS.

No matter how many times I attempt to capture it in words, I am left dumb-founded. My love for you is more sacred than speech allows. My love for you is more precious than all the books that could ever be written. It’s easy to love you. My love for you is BOUNDLESS.

My love for began the first moment I found out about you and will continue until I take my last breath. You will carry it with you long after I am gone, until the moment you enter eternity yourself. We will then be reunited in perfect love on the other side. My love for you is ENDLESS.

The next time you hear me say them, even if it’s just a quick text, remember all of this. These three words come straight from the depths of my soul and I pray that they reach yours today.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)

From my heart to yours,

Mom

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Sarah 5th Birthday_0004P.S.  One of you is having a birthday today!  Happy Birthday Sarah Elizabeth Meassick!  On this day 27 years ago, you made me a mom!  I. CAN’T. EVEN. BELIEVE. IT.  You are a mom yourself now, but no matter how many birthdays or children of your own you have, you are (and always will be) MY:

Princess
Peanut
Doodle
Sunshine
Beep
And DOLLY!

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

Happy Birthday 33-Year-Old Younger Self!

Dear Esther Joy,

It’s February 18, 1999 and it’s your 33rd birthday today.  You stand on the edge of a year that marks the beginning of the best part of your life!

You have been married just shy of eight years to Allen and you already have three children:  Sarah (6), Jared (5) and Joshua (almost “free”).  You just found out in the last week that you are expecting your fourth in the fall.  WOW!  Just WOW!  I’m not sure how you are doing it.  I am exhausted just at the thought of it all!

Allen works in New York City for Pfizer.  He commutes three hours a day on a train from your home in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.  You stay at home, trying to corral all the kiddos and make some money on the side, typing for anyone who needs it.  You both fall into bed exhausted at the end of long and blurry days.

You are both highly involved at church.  Allen is an elder (yes, he’s only 36 years old…I see the irony here).   You are in charge of the church nursery (your main and silly goal to keep it germ-free).   Both of you oversee the busy Sunday School as its superintendents.  Allen goes to Bible study each Tuesday night and prayer meeting every Saturday morning.  You attend Bible study for young moms on Wednesdays.  Sundays are spent going to church, give or take a few hours in the afternoon (when many times you have the speaker over for lunch),.  The rest of your week is filled with all the other social events that are part of this community of kind souls.

You have lots of friends from your church and a neighborhood filled with young families who you enjoy tremendously.  Your life is extremely busy and full and looks picture-perfect from the outside.  You are the quintessential Christian woman, wife, and mom, or so it seems.

Little do you know what I, your 53-year-old self, know about you.  I love you, younger version of me, but I never want to be you again.  I say that tenderly, knowing that you are just stuck and don’t know better and are trying your hardest with what you know and believe right now.

Your marriage to Allen is filled with hiding, from each other and even from yourselves.  Both of you long to be exemplary Christians and have the ideal “Christ-like” marriage, but you are missing the forest for the trees.  You don’t have a lot of conflict (after all, fighting is wrong and ungodly), but you DO NOT have a lot of closeness.  Your desire to hang on to this external image prevents the two of you from sharing your mutual brokenness and meeting each other in that place, extending compassion and grace, and ultimately healing.  You will eventually find that what scared you greatly, being fully-known, flaws and all, is actually the safest place of all, fully-loved by each other.  Twenty years from now, you will spend a weekend away with Allen, reminding each other of how grateful you are to know and love each other more deeply than you could have ever imagined.  Your continuously growing, although still bumpy marriage, once filled with pretense is now a source of restoration for others.

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You want your kids to behave above all else.  You believe that getting them to keep all the rules at school, church and home, is the answer to the giant question of whether or not you are a good mom.  You use guilt and fear more often than not, those being two readily available resources in your tool chest.  You genuinely do love your kids, the good news being that this love wins out over the long haul.  Fear and guilt slowly begin to step aside when your fourth, Rachel, is born later this year.   In 20 years time, you will have growing relationships with each of your four, and they all will speak words of kindness and understanding as you discuss all your strengths and struggles in raising them on your new-found podcast, something that doesn’t even exist today.  What a gift this will be to you, as you turn 53.  One of them will even send you a note on Facebook (something else that doesn’t exist yet) that “you are the greatest of all time” as you head to bed that night.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  LOVE WINS!

Your desire to be good and look good makes my heart sad.   You believe that God’s ultimate goal is to get you to behave (hence your goal for your kids).  You set rules for yourself that keep you in check and when they don’t, you fall into the shame and blame cycle with yourself and others.  You are trapped in the crazy formulaic thinking that following all the rules makes for a good and happy life, but when it all falls apart a few years from now, thankfully bigger life-changing things like grace and mercy come flooding in from a BIG GOD like a tsunami.  He gently picks up the pieces of your broken and confused heart and puts you back together in a way that’s better than if you had never fallen apart.  He is a GOOD GOD and worthy to be trusted each and every day, in all the beautiful and messy moments that make up your incredible life’s journey.

I repeat, I love you, younger version of me.  It’s all going to be okay.  What you see now is but a dim shadow of the beauty that’s to come.  I promise you a few things:  you don’t do it all right.  In fact, you make some mistakes that cost you greatly.  You are afraid sometimes, very afraid.  Your faith is tested to the shattering point.  Your heart is broken into a million pieces.  BUT, you do not give up HOPE, even in the middle of your fear.  The One who is the source of all HOPE does not give up on you.  You do not give up FAITH, even though the waves swirl around you, and it’s hard for you to see the Object of your FAITH.  He keeps his eye unwaveringly on you.  Though your heart splinters into fragments, you do not give up LOVE.  LOVE HIMSELF slowly shows you that you are LOVED beyond measure and this LOVE is freeing and healing.  It’s from this LOVE that you will begin to love others.  You have a long way to go, and so do I.  I wonder what our 73-year-old wiser self will say to us.  It’s just good to be on this journey together!

Your mom (and mine) chose this verse when you (and I) were born.  It’s true today and it will be for the rest of your life.  Take heart, younger Esther Joy.   All will be well.

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From my heart to yours,

Esther Joy

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SHAMELESS BEG…PLEASE LIKE THIS (AND COMMENT) ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR HERE SO THAT OTHERS HAVE THE BEST CHANCE TO READ  (the social media algorithms have us all a little baffled) …IT WILL BE THE BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT YOU CAN GIVE THIS GIRL!

 

 

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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