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. 

The Butter to my Bread

Asher was in a school musical this morning.

He played Bread.

And wore a turkey hat.

It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.  I love these plays.  They’re ten minutes long and the kids are so stinkin cute.  I could not wipe the huge grin off my face, and I may have shed a tear or two when 60 five-year-olds started shouting to the music about turkey and “punkin” pie.

Adorable!

Asher Jay, you are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life!  I love you, Sweet Boy.

Full Table

When Isaac was little, like three or four years old, we would sit around the table and he would often say that we need two more people to fill our table.  He always talked about how we had two extra chairs and they needed to be full.

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When Asher was born, Randall and I considered a third child.  I just didn’t feel like our family was complete yet.  Randall’s dad was very sick for the first year or so of Asher’s life and passed away before he turned two.  It was hard for Randall to commit to having more children that would never know his father.  That and having a third child meant buying a new car, and being outnumbered, and losing a lot of the comfort we were enjoying as each day passed and the boys grew older.

Making a firm plan to quit having children was the hardest decision I’ve made.  I mourned the loss of any future babies.  I mourned the loss of ever having a girl.  I prayed about the decision and finally came to the conclusion that just because I didn’t give birth to any more children, didn’t mean that our family was necessarily complete.  I asked Randall if we could consider adoption some day.  Randall and I prayed about adoption and talked a lot about it for a while, but we didn’t seem to be feeling like God was leading us that way quite yet.  I looked into foster care, and even jobs where I would care for children that didn’t have stable families.  I still didn’t feel like the timing was right.

A year or so passed after the decision was final and I found God moving my heart in a definitive direction.  I was sitting in a room of a thousand kids at camp that summer.  I have been going to camp with these kids for a decade.  One night out of our week, every year at camp, we all sit through a presentation from Compassion International.  They bring a man or woman who was raised in their program to tell his or her story of growing up with Compassion.  It is always moving and I am always brought to tears.  But this year was different.  I have always been able to sit through that presentation with no desire to get out of my chair and sponsor a child.  Not this year.  I couldn’t sit there any longer.  My heart was pounding and there were no doubts about what was going on.  This year God moved in me so clearly, I had to get up.  I perused the tables covered in pictures of actual children who needed love, who needed their needs met, who needed a sponsor.  I found a boy who was just about Isaac’s age.  His name is David and he lives in Peru. We send him a small amount of money every month that meets his physical and educational needs. We write him letters and he sends back hand colored pictures, and my heart is full.  Sponsoring a child is absolutely God’s way of adding to our family.

A while back, a couple of neighborhood boys stopped by at dinner time.  I was just setting the food on the table, and Isaac invited the boys to stay.  We had plenty of food, so I told the boys it was okay with me if it was okay with their mom.  She said it was fine, and they found seats at our table.

As we all sat and ate, one of my boys looked at the table and said, “Now every chair is full.”  It brought a huge smile to my face.  For the rest of our lives, we will be welcoming kids into our house to love, and treat as our own for the time that they stay with us.  We’ll be loving and praying for David and hopefully we’ll add another kid or two to our sponsored “family.” These kids don’t need to come from our DNA for us to love them.

I pray that God continues to fill our table and make our family complete. I know so many of you are loving on neighbor kids and volunteering with kids at church and school and doing your part.  Thank you.  That’s what this world needs.  But I challenge you to pray for some kids you don’t know as well.  You know, the table in my dining room is an essential piece of furniture in our home.  It is where every meal is eaten and much bonding had.  Visit the Compassion site and pray over those kiddos.  I fear that many of these kids you will see don’t even own a table, and a square meal every day is not their norm.  Pray that their needs will be met.  Pray that they will find God and a sponsor who will love them unconditionally.   Pray that God will show you if you can play a role in their lives and may your hearts and tables ever be full!

Full Table

The Darndest Things

Isaac’s school operates on a “clip up” system of discipline.  Each room has their own specially themed chart like this one:

Pirate clip up chart

 

When a student enters the class in the morning, they find the magnetic clip with their name on it and put it in the middle of the chart on the neutral sign.  If they are caught doing something good during the day, they get to clip up to a sign above the neutral one, alternatively, if they’re caught doing something they shouldn’t, they clip down.  A student that clips down still has the rest of the day to get back to the good side of the chart (and vice versa).  If a student clips up three times, they become a “Star Student” and get a certificate or reward of some sort.  If they clip down to the bottom of the chart, the parent will be notified.

Isaac decided that we needed a clip up chart in our house (probably after I lost my temper and yelled at the boys).  So, he went to the printer and grabbed seven sheets of white paper and taped together his own chart.  Then proceeded to make each person in our family a magnet.

Isaac’s chart is Math themed.    … I have no idea…

So his neutral sign is “Math!” above that is “You moved up a levil” then “Awsome!” and finally “Math Master!!!!!!!” With no less than seven exclamation points.

If one were to clip down from Math! they would find a sign that says, “Relly?” then “Relly Relly!” and finally “I thoght you were smart.”

 

 

 

 

Thank you God, for humor.  Thank you for sarcastic, smart alec kids who make me laugh.  Thank you for a chance each new day to start at “Math!”  And may we rarely get into the “Relly”s and find grace at the bottom of the chart.  Amen.

Let Go

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We bought the boys walkie talkies for Christmas because they’ve been wanting to branch out and leave their momma farther than she likes.

So now when our friends at the end of the street want Isaac and Asher to come play, Isaac takes the walkie and gives me one.  We check the battery, and practice our walkie lingo, and then send them on their way.

Here’s what happened last week:

Isaac was down at the court and I felt the need to come over the walkie to tell him I loved him.

“Isaac, Come in.”

“What”

“I love you.”

“… Me too.”

“Roger that, Over and out”

He said (in a way) that he loved me over the walkie talkie in front of his little punk friends!  Ha!  Still got him!

 

Here’s what happened this week:

I took Tabby (the dog) for a walk down to the court to check on the boys.  They were taking turns getting in a wagon with no sides and being pulled as fast as possible down a sloped driveway and into the street.  When I arrived, Asher and Isaac were getting in for the first time.  The look on Asher’s face was sheer horror as he realized what he was about to do.  His white knuckled hands tightly gripped the small lip on the wagon.  They raced down the driveway and into the street.  It was probably a 10 second ride. I wanted to laugh at Asher’s face, but I also wanted to tell the boys not to do that anymore. Or to wear helmets.  Or to tie pillows around their sides… and fronts and backs… plus the helmets and elbow and knee pads…

I just kept imagining the wagon tipping over and me having to take someone to the ER.

And then it occurred to me.  When I was a kid and I wanted to do fun things like slide down the stairs in a sleeping bag, or dance in the rain of a thunderstorm, or climb out a second story window using knotted sheets and some adult told me that I couldn’t do that.  It made me think that parents were lame.  In my head, they were lame, not just because they were telling me not to have fun, but because, they obviously had never experienced that kind of fun before themselves.  I always thought that if an adult was telling me not to do something, then that activity was scary to them.

It never occurred to me that of course they had done risky, possibly painful things like that in the past but they were telling me not to do it because they cared more about my safety than my need for adventure.

Then it occurred to me that both a child’s safety, and their need for adventure are important.  Kids need to do risky things every once in a while.  It helps them to grow!  As much as we want our kids to always stay little, our JOB is to help them grow.

I was talking to another parent this week who was raised in Egypt.  In third grade, she started taking the city bus to school.  Her dad walked her to the bus station where she would board one bus, catch a second one at the next stop and then arrive safely near her school.  She said there was an atmosphere of protectiveness from every adult she came in contact with.  The bus driver would often drop her off at the door to the school instead of the bus stop nearest school.  People would give up their seats on the bus for her.  Now that was a different culture and a different era than my boys are growing in now.  She reminded me that adults are cautious to help stranger kids for fear of a law suit these days.  She said she and her husband were at a park when a little girl near by was having a hard time getting on a swing.  Her husband asked if they should help her and she told him, men don’t get to help little girls anymore.

The idea that “it takes a village” to raise a child rarely applies anymore because parents are so fearful of their very own village!  Even if you feel you live in a safe area, parents are called neglectful if they let their children take risks… So they don’t.  The result is over protected, spoiled kids who don’t know how to survive in their own environment.  College kids have to call their parents to ask how to wash their clothes.  People are applying for jobs for the first time ever after they graduate.  Kids get their first taste of freedom when they get their drivers liscense and they get out of control because they don’t know how to handle the freedom they’re experiencing.

When my boys are out of my sight, 8 houses down the street, that is a very risky activity in my mind…  I can’t get anything done.  I pace around the house and make frequent trips to the window and mailbox to check on my boys. I love my boys with a fierce love.  I think they know that.  But I also know that my own comfort and ability to relax does not mean that I am being a great parent.  In fact, it may be the opposite.

I think it’s true of adults: if you never step out of your comfort zone, then you will never grow, change, or live a great story.  And that’s probably a widely accepted idea.  So the same is true with our kids: If we don’t let them take risks and scare the beejeezus out of us every once in a while, how will they grow?  Yes, they will get bigger.  Yes they will learn new things.  But will they be independent?  Will they be courageous?  Will they be adventurous, assets to society?

 

Here are my thoughts (and I think in Dr. Seuss and Uncle Shelby):

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Let them play,

Let them run,

Let them jump,

And have fun.

 

They are little

And they are ours,

But give them freedom

Give them power.

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They are children

And they will grow.

If they are loved

Then they will know.

 

Give them the chance

To try and fail

Or spread their wings

And learn to sail!

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Pick them up.

Always be there

And you will show

How much you care.

 

They will thank you.

I hope so.

When little by little

you learn to let go.

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Poetry 101 by Emily Littleton