What I’m Learning

I had a really bad day yesterday.  The details aren’t even important.  It was just one blow after another, after another, ending with me crying to my husband, “I just need a win, Randall.”

(Robert Munsch’s kid was an early bloomer.)

We’re in a difficult season with our oldest kiddo.  I’ve been contemplating a blog all about it.  It was going to be a really good story starting like this:

I should have known that our relationship would be a struggle when the second they placed my firstborn on my chest he started peeing in my face.

 

True story… I would then go on to list all of the times I felt rejected by him.  They would be witty, but sad.  They would give you a picture of a running theme of hurt I’ve experienced in the past.  You would feel so sorry for me.

I just wallowed in self pity yesterday. I got so sad thinking about my situation that I couldn’t take it anymore.  My natural reaction in these times is to numb.  My go to is to eat something that “I deserve.” But as I’m on Day 23 of a Whole30 and a natural rule follower I could not do this.

My second choice of numbing is watching TV.  Unfortunately for me, I have made an unspoken rule that as a stay at home mom with kids in school, I just don’t turn on the TV during the day.  I don’t know why I’ve equated it to drinking in my head, but I don’t watch TV alone during the day.  I was out of defense mechanisms.

I had to go to God.  But to be honest, I didn’t want to deal with the situation still.  I wanted to numb, so I did my Bible study.  I’m in the middle of two different studies.  One about Exodus and one about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  I did a week’s worth of both.  In between, I wrote out a long prayer because don’t you know God speaks to you about where you are even when you’re trying to avoid it.

In my study on Exodus, the author wrote, “Just as God promised to go with Moses, He promises to go with you. Tell God your objections, fears, and concerns.  Then let Him help you.”  Here’s the deal: God has asked me to parent my kids, even when it’s hard.  That’s where I’m being called right now.

So I prayed. I told him how hard it was and how I don’t know how to parent most days. I’m concerned that the actions I’m seeing today will take this kid on a very dark path. I know as a Christian, I’m supposed to cling to God’s promises but there just aren’t any promises about how our kids will turn out.  That’s what I would wish for… to know that everything’s going to be okay. That whichever way the path takes us, it eventually will lead to a strong and kind man who follows hard after God.

As I was complaining to my husband last night about how hurt I am, how bullied I’ve felt, God was whispering in my ear the whole time.  Today I’ve got some clarity and a few things God wants me to remember in trying parenting times.

 

1.) I love this kid.  I don’t care what he does to me, that fact will never change.  I may not like what he says or does. He may break my heart, but he will never change my love for him. 

2.) Real love keeps no records of wrongs. There is no benefit in me holding on to hurts from the past.  I like to hoard them and stack them up in my mind.  But it just weighs me down. No good comes from it.  What happened on the day my baby was born and when he was two years old has nothing to do with what he did today. I have to forgive him for things he unknowingly did that hurt me. Forgiving means I don’t ever bring them back up or use them against him. That’s not fair and it’s not helpful.

3.)I need to address the source of the issue.  Disciplining the reaction does not solve the issue or prevent it from happening again.  If my baby is angry and does something vicious out of anger it doesn’t mean he’s a jerk, it means he doesn’t know how to handle his own anger.  Give him better tools.

4.) What he has done in the middle of a hormonal crash does not mean he will be a felon when he grows up. Things said and done in anger do not reflect his true thoughts. Dealing with the issues today often means that tomorrow is better. While we are in this parenting gig for the long haul, what’s happening right now will not happen forever.

That being said, do not name your kid by the wrong actions he’s committed. Stealing candy does not make him a Thief. Beating up his brother does not make him a Bully.  Lying about … everything… does not make him a Liar. He is not his sin.  He is my son and occasionally makes bad choices.  When you call your kid by his bad choices, he’ll think that’s all he’s worth.  He may think he’ll need to live up to what you’ve called out in him.  So call out his greatness.  Call out the strengths. I named my boys Laughter and Blessed.  May their lives always reflect those names.

5.) My whiny prayer yesterday has changed today.  Yesterday, I yelled at God because I want to know the future.  I want to know that everything is going to be okay.  He told me that I don’t need to worry about it.  That His promises do apply to our situation.  He promises to be with me and never leave me alone in parenting.  He promises that when my challenging boy told God on multiple occasions that he believes that Jesus is who He says He is and wants to follow Him, that He sent His Spirit to live inside of my boy.  God says in John 10:27-28 that He holds my boy in His hands and no one will ever snatch him from them. That tells me that in the end, I can be sure that everything will be okay wherever this bumpy road leads.

So today, I am praying that I see my boy through God’s eyes.  They span time and space.  He knows that yesterday’s actions do not define my kid.  He knows that whatever he has done, my baby is worthy of love, grace, and the ultimate sacrifice. They are not just God’s masterpiece but He has good planned for my boys. I know that too.  I just forget sometimes.

 

 

God, I’d much rather be called to pastor a church or free a nation of slaves, but you have called me to be a mother.  You have called me to train my boys in the way they should go: following the way of life that Jesus showed us.  Loving others well and serving them. It’s a hard job, God, and I feel the weight of its importance every day.  Give me the strength and patience, the peace, gentleness, and wisdom it takes to parent two beautiful boys. Help me to see my boys through Your eyes and love them as You love them. Thank you for being the best example in parenting.  May our lives honor You. 

For all Her Hands Have Done

 

I got dressed up for a wedding last weekend.  I painted a bright pink on my nails, donned my pearls and heels, and even curled my hair.  It was a lovely spring wedding and we were able to reunite with old friends and celebrate a really beautiful couple.

It was an outdoor wedding and despite what the weather app had said, it was chillier than expected.  I sat down for the ceremony and snuggled in closely to Randall, crossing my legs and hands in attempt to keep as much warmth in my body as possible.

As the pastor prayed, I looked down at my hands turning purple under the clouds.  My skin was rough and in desperate need of moisture.  My pink nails were already chipped from whatever menial tasks I had done in the last 24 hours.  I had burns healing on both wrists from baking bread over a week before. Honestly, I was embarrassed at the sight of them.

I rarely paint my nails for fear that I’ll draw attention to what I’ve always felt are my “man hands.”  They’re big, rough, and scarred.  When I was the maid of honor and in charge of my brother-in-law’s wedding ring 15 years ago, I had to wear it on the tip of my pinky so it wouldn’t get stuck on my fat fingers.

Ugh and sigh… I don’t want to talk about this anymore… 

No. I do.

In honor of International Women’s Day today, someone posted the verses from Proverbs 31:10-31 describing a woman who wakes up early and stays up late working to provide for her family’s physical needs.  She is talented, wise, caring, confident, and selfless.  She makes her husband and children better people. These verses are written as a poem about a fictional wise woman.  It is not a back breaking command for women to strive to emulate. In fact, the only thing this passage commands is that men praise women for all they are.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done…”

-Proverbs 31:31

I sat in a room of women this morning, next to my own mother.  The woman in front of me had a bandaid on her translucent, aged hands.  I looked down at my mom’s hands who, at one point in my life, were more familiar to me than my own. How blessed are we to be able to use our hands to love others well?

My hands bear the proof of my love for my family and devotion to them. My hands are scarred from making their bread, dirty from playing with them, worn from cleaning up after them, strong from holding them up and so, so happy to bear these marks of love.

 

Asher Jay

My baby.

With the cheeks.

Who is sweet to a fault. 

Is ten. 

Are you kidding me?  Ten years ago, this moment, I was holding my child-sized newborn in my arms.  I didn’t know he’d be the baby in the family.  I was pretty sure he’d be the middle child.  Randall and I wrestled over that decision and the conclusion was that we would always have room for more in our family.  So… you know… we’ll see.

This kid though… He loves hard. He loves dogs and wolves, Pepsi and tacos, and most of all his family.  When I say he is sweet to a fault, it isn’t that he’s sickly sweet.  He knows just the right time to give you a hug and tell you that he loves you. But you also can’t discipline his brother when he’s around.

Asher will almost always take the punishment for his brother if at all possible.  The boys often fight over the coveted bottom bunk in Isaac’s room.  We made a rule that if Isaac physically hurts his brother out of anger, Asher automatically gets the bottom bunk. It is a very effective form of discipline in our house.  Typically, Isaac will punch Asher or throw something at him out of anger, we say, “Asher get’s the bottom bunk” and then Isaac storms to his room.  Then Asher will closely follow and whisper to Isaac that he’ll give him the bottom bunk anyway. Sweet little punk.

I love this kid.  Everything about him.

 

God, 

When this baby grew in my womb, I named him Blessed.  I prayed that he would be blessed. You know all things and knew that in the future he would be the one to bless others around him. You are such a good God to give him to us. As the years have already passed by so quickly, may we not overlook the joy that this kid brings to our lives. May he continue to shine brightly your love to those around him. May he live a long and blessed life.

Amen.

Politics…

I am so average.

I’m the girl who gets mistaken for every other white girl with brown hair that you’ve ever seen.  Weekly, not kidding, someone comes up to me and either assumes I’m someone else or tells me that I look just like… I love it when people tell me who I look like and how they feel about that person. “You look just like a girl I used to hate…” Great…

My parents always told me that I was “smarter than the average bear.” Which I realize is not saying much because bears, though very intelligent for mammals, are not smarter than the average human.

Kevin Dietrich/SOLENT

So when it comes to politics, I usually don’t feel smart enough to make a strong opinion.  Mostly because almost nothing is black and white.  I almost always feel that every option is a lose/lose situation.

Let’s take our most recent executive order on immigration. Before you state your extremely strong opinion, look at the facts* with an open mind. My prayer is that during the current 90 day ban he will have wise advisors come up with a reasonable way to vet incoming immigrants.  My fear is that currently people who have already been vetted are at risk of being sent back to the wolves. I’m also aware that the current vetting process is already all politics.

I hate politics. I trust no one.

It’s a mess.  It’s not good. It’s lose/lose and it always seems that way.  In this case the loss is great on one side, much more than the other.

So what do we do?

I know I’ll get push back on this statement, but today, I don’t think you have to have an opinion on the executive order.  We can just quit talking about it. But don’t just sit there.

Love your Muslim neighbors well.  I mean give them a hug and stand up next to them.  My neighborhood is having an interfaith feast at the local Islamic Foundation.  I’m gonna be there.

If you feel strongly one way or another, let someone know. Emailing and writing our representatives is not pointless, but calling them on the phone holds a little more weight.  Tell a story about how this affects you and the people you love. Make it meaningful and personal.  Remember that the policies can be gray so be specific about which parts you oppose or support. (This is implying that you already know the facts about the policy.)

Put your money where your mouth is.  Help refugees who are already in the states.  If you care so much about the ones who aren’t allowed in, make sure you’re loving those who live down the road.  A staggering statistic from the link in the last sentence says: It is estimated that less than 10% of the refugees living in St. Louis will ever be befriended by an American.  That’s yuge. We can do something about that at no monetary cost to you.

The point is that the executive order affects people and now we’re all thinking about those people.  Let’s do what we know we are called to do and love them well in the ways we are able. Period.

 

 

 

 

*One thing I always have a strong opinion on these days is how far the media stretches facts and how we can’t trust so much of what we read and hear. Don’t let opinions and strongly stated articles form our beliefs for us on such important subjects.  Please continue to seek out full truth before making judgements and strongly posting them all over social media.

Like a Girl

I am a woman.
I am American.
I am educated,
Capable, and strong.
More than anything, I am blessed.

I am not less than.
I am not weak.
I am not an object to be won
Or to be grabbed.

There is nothing nasty about me.

I strive to be slow to speak
And wise with each word
But I will not stand silent
When my voice needs to be heard.

I did not march, but I do stand.http://www.dailydot.com/irl/womens-march-washington-photos/

She who does not have the same rights as me,
I stand with her.
She who will never be vindicated for what was taken from her,
I stand with her.
She who is paid less than her male equal,
I stand with her.
She who is culturally different from me,
Getting less opportunity than me
In my own neighborhood,
I stand with her.

She who is limited because people believe
That the progress Jesus was making in the first century
Stopped
Then and there.

Forgetting that we are called
As His ambassadors of
Reconciliation;
To make things more right.

I stand to make things more right for her.

It is within my being
To long to be a
“Wife of Noble Character”
But it is not lost on me that the verses
That describe the strongest woman on earth
Are preceded by these
In Proverbs 31:

Speak out on behalf of those who have no voice,
and defend all those who have been passed over.
Open your mouth, judge fairly,
and stand up for the rights of the afflicted and the poor.

And so I stand.
Like a woman worth far more than rubies.
Like a girl.
Stand with me.

The Curse

I have not been able to put my thoughts on the Women’s March in writing yet.  I’ll get there but it is taking time.  In the meantime, I keep coming back to this piece I wrote years ago about Genesis 3:16-19 and my experience of being a woman…

It all seemed so exciting.
I prayed.
I practiced.
I waited.
The test was positive, I made the call.
He was dumbfounded but this is what we had been waiting for.

I was tired.
I was hungry yet nauseated.
Then it kicked.
Like the thrill of a first kiss
It did flips inside of me.

Suddenly, it was no longer an “it“ but a he.
I could not hide the smile on my face.
My growing belly contained a name, a human, a separate being.

Nine months I waited.
He grew.
I grew.
Stretch marks…
My body was bursting at the seams.

Then the day came.
It was time.
I was well prepared for this.
You are told to have a plan.
My plan included drugs.

I labored.
I felt pain.
My pain was relieved.
But in doing so, this stopped my labor.

The doctor pumped my body full of meds to try to move the process along.
It didn’t work.
The nurse stopped the flow of all medication to my veins.

Then I felt pain.
Like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The curse.

I felt the pain, but in some odd way
I was thankful for it.
It was my action that resulted in a curse.
Experiencing it first hand made me feel like
In some way,
I was paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

Hours later, the curse,
The pain
Was overshadowed
By the perfect being I held in my arms.
The miracle of birth, of life, of this boy.

My awareness of the curse did not last very long.
That time.

Still, every spring
I am reminded.

I plan and shop.
I till and weed.
I fill, and plant, and water, and feed.
Why do I not reap what I sow?

The sun beats down.
The weeds grow tall and numerous.
My hands are blistered.
My neck is browned.
The only thing that flourishes is poison on my land.

My miracle son comes inside at night
Filthy, from dirt and sweat, and heat.
His body is torn and bruised and the poison has found it’s way inside.
Bumps form, up and down his legs.
His arms.
His face.

And my fruit withers and dies.
The unripe growths that do form
Nourish the bugs, the deer, not my family.

There is no need for me to toil and sweat
In the dirt, with the weeds.
For I can purchase any and all food that
My heart would desire.

Still pulling the roots that run deep
Through my soil,
I feel as though I am experiencing the curse
And in some small way,
I am paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

Even still I am aware every now and then
When I think about my future.
When I think about my gifts
Of this curse.

I’ve been told since childhood
That my dreams would be limited.

“And he will rule over you.”
Period.

The curse.

Still, I take my sentence.
Dutifully. Like a man…
With my hands in a fist as I experience this side of the curse
In some small way,
I feel that I am paying the price that
my
sins
incurred.

As I sit now and curse my nature
And curse this world
And curse this blasted curse
I am reminded that

An hour of pain,
A season of sweat,
And a lifetime of wanting more
Does NOT pay the price for what my sins have incurred.

My
Sins
Incurred
Death.

There is nothing I can do
To
Make
Things
Right.

Between me and the ground.
Between me and this world.
Between me and my God.

Because it was already done for me.
The price —
Death
has already been paid.

For me.

Real Life Christmas Letter

We don’t do Christmas cards.  I mean who has time for that?  But I really, really love getting them!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who take the time to write and send them to me.

 

If I were to send a Christmas card it would probably look something like this: 

Except I’d pick pictures where all of our eyes are open.  But I’m not sure we got any of those this year.

You want a glimpse into the real life of the Littletons this year?  Our card might look something like this if we were showing the real us:

Yes, my boys are a *little* dramatic and slightly manic.  I was caught off guard in that one picture, but that’s pretty close to the look of disgust that’s typically on my face.  And, yes, Randall always looks good. I really love my crazy family. It was a great year. I’m so glad it’s almost over. If I were to write an honest Christmas letter to send along with my real life Christmas card, it would go a little something like this:

It was a typical year.  There were good times and bad times.  We’re all a year older and a few pounds heavier.

Randall is still a pastor at The Crossing. He went on a looooong trip to a couple of different continents while the boys and I started school, and met all the teachers, and met my cousin’s new baby girl, and I can’t remember what else but he was gone while everything in our lives happened.  It was a good trip for him.  He used his Cipro to fight whatever bacterial nastiness he picked up from his first stop and he didn’t even puke once!

Isaac started middle school.  It was ROUGH.  But it’s getting better.  We just met with his team of teachers and we have a plan to help him turn his homework in on time and be a little more responsible.  If this year had a theme song it’d be this. Still, late work and all, he made the honor roll! He also started playing football for realsies. It was super fun. 

Asher is another year older, but he still hides every time someone walks in the door.  At what age do we need to pursue counseling for that? He has more energy than all the kids on the block combined. This year he started the process of getting braces because: 

But, come on, how cute is that kid?

Me? I count everyday that my kids survive a win.  I constantly pray for wisdom in parenting (that is, when I’m not yelling at my boys). My prayers often go like this, “Oh God, please give me patience, but no more reasons to practice my patience.” My days look a little different this year.  My boss sold his business and my job was changing so I quit in May.  Now I have all the time in the world to pursue my dreams (*cough* nap *cough*). Next year I promise to lose the weight and get my act together… Until then…

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

All our love,

The Littletons

Be Different!

My boys and I are working on their people skills.  I watched this video today and I loved it but it got me thinking about a few things I would say to my kids about this topic.

Two Boys:

Be different.  Be okay with not fitting in. I am an introvert in an extroverted world.  I hate pretending things are funny when they aren’t that funny to me.  I hate pretending things aren’t as funny as I think they really are, too.  Sometimes I just get the giggles.  I’m super interested in all sorts of things that other people easily lose interest in.  I hate small talk but “Hi, I’m Emily, tell me about your philosophy on life” is not a socially acceptable thing to say to someone you’re meeting for the first time. I often feel unique in this world.  Sometimes that’s a good thing.  Sometimes that’s a bad thing.

But let me give you a little tip I have learned through the years.  You don’t have to be like everyone else to fit in.  You can be the odd man out and think differently than anyone in the room, but you’ll fit right in if you love others well.

It’s okay to say, “You have an interesting point, but I disagree with you and here’s why…” But listen well and be okay if you are wrong or if they don’t change their opinion.

Think about others, not just yourself.  So you are creating an awesome parkour course in Minecraft with 17 varying levels of difficulty.  Not everyone is as interested in the amazing things that you are. Ask good questions and find out what they are interested in, too. Asking good questions is great way to show someone you care about them.

When I was growing up, the most popular kids in school weren’t the coolest kids on the block.  They were the nicest kids on the block.  They could fit in with the cool kids and the smart kids, the goth and the band geeks because they were just plain friendly people. They didn’t dress like the goth kids.  They didn’t play instruments or even necessarily care about music but they were kind.  They smiled at everyone in the hall and made a point to make others feel welcomed and important, sometimes just by saying “hello.”

I want you to be different from everyone you know!  I want you to stand against the crowd for what you believe in.  I want you to be proud of your God-given gifts and interests.  I love you just the way you are. You are special and unique and that’s the way it should be.  But you know what? So is everyone else.  Love them all well.

Post-Truth.

It’s official.  We’re living in a “post-truth” world.  I completely blame the media for creating and perpetuating “good stories” that are grounded in falsehoods, but we’ve seen more recently that people challenged with leading this nation are stating deceptions as facts.  Maybe that’s widely accepted as the way things are these days.  Maybe smart people know to fact check and test what you hear.

I once had a friend tell me that people will search for things only until they find what they were looking for.  If you are looking to perpetuate a sentiment, based on truth or lies, you’ll find what you’re looking for to back yourself up.  He was absolutely right.

Maybe because I’ve always been a skeptic at heart… maybe because it’s part of my perfectionistic personality that I need to know truth.  Either way, I think truth matters.  No… I know truth matters.

As a mom, truth matters.  When my son tells me he showered and washed his hair, but his hair is dry… That matters.  I send him back in to try again.

Truth matters in everyday situations. If you were to get into a car accident and the driver of the other car blamed you, you’d want to find the truth and prove it somehow, right?

So, not everything is post-truth.  We still occasionally see the value of truth.  But when it comes to making super important decisions that shape our nation and lives personally, we seem to gloss over truths to make ourselves feel confident in our opinions.

I’m mostly disturbed when people I look up to veer from the truth.  Recently, a couple of Christian authors I’ve been following have come forward with views that contradict what the Bible says on one topic specifically. I don’t even want to discuss the topic because I’m not sure how much it really matters in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is that these authors are telling their followers to follow their hearts and to search for truth within themselves.  That’s not where truth comes from, friends.  Truth comes from outside of us.  If I ask my son to look within himself to find out what 2+2 is, he won’t find the answer unless he has been taught it.  And he must hold tightly to that answer for the rest of his life.  That answer won’t be affected by time or culture.

I admit that not everything is black and white.  That time and culture do change things in the world around us.  But this remains: The truth is out there.  It can’t be found within ourselves.  Our feelings and thoughts must be tested against what is true and right in this world.  And when it comes to spiritual matters the truth is found in His word.  And you know what? Sometimes the truth hurts. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us or forgive us when we stray from it.

But come on, we know these catch phrases.  Why do we still tend to trust whatever makes us feel good?

In the end, it really is truth that sets you free.  Not the other way around.  Free from guilt, from the responsibility of having to figure it all out yourself. Find the truth and follow it to live a full life. Believe me, that’s huge.

truth-shall-set-you-free