Love Is Not (always) Enough

As someone who works in the field of child welfare (and as an adoptive parent), I have been afforded many opportunities to train folks just coming into the foster care arena.  It is really inspiring to see people, from all kinds of walks of life, choose to step towards children in need.  It continues to convince me that despite a lot of junk in the world, there are still amazing people out there.

During the initial foster parent training, I have heard people say things like, “I’ll just love it out of them” or “All they need is love”.  This is in reference to trauma and behavior related issues.  In my head, I’m thinking, “Well, bless your heart.”  And, I mean it.

Seriously.

Bless your heart for wanting to love on children.

is not (always) enoough) (5)However, love is not always enough.  This is where rubber meets the road and is a hard pill to swallow.  I know that goes against just about everything that most of us have been raised to believe and even what we teach our children.  But, it is true.  Love is not enough to erase years of abuse and neglect or genetic issues or any other struggle a child has.  If love were enough, I suspect there would be a decline in child abuse and neglect cases as well as a decline in substance abuse or any other issue that causes turmoil in one’s life.  We all know people whose love was unwavering; yet, their child succumbed to bad choices.

This post is not meant to be disheartening.  Of course, love is powerful and feeling loved is crucial.  However, if one enters into child welfare and expecting all the feels of goodness and sweetness, it will be a very disappointing and bumpy ride.  It is child abuse and neglect that lands children in the system – not warm, fuzzy, feel-good rainbow kind of moments.  Don’t forget that.

We must stand up and speak out for children.  We must wrap our minds around the fact that while love is powerful, alone, it cannot solve the issues at hand.  It takes resilience and courage.  It takes flexibility, sacrifice and humility.  It takes the willingness to recognize that we have a lot more to learn than we believe we do.  It also takes a whole heck of a lot of humor.

In caring for abused and neglected children, love (in itself) may not always be enough.  It can, however, set the wheel in motion towards a journey that meets the pain and hardship of others head-on.  It can stir hearts and minds in the rendering of waking up each day with a passion to seek and serve children in need.

 

Loving children means meeting them where they are at; RIGHT where they are at.

There isn’t a better example of this than Jesus.  He met people where they were at; the outcasts, the lost, the sick, the hungry, the dead, and us.  With love, He chose to discipline and in love, He chose the Cross.  He chose to stay where He was supposed to and He did it out of love, but He also did it because He know what He needed to do.  (Thank you, Lord!)

It may not feel good to say that love is not always enough, but let me tell you, this Momma has lived this truth.  Right now as I’m typing this, my thoughts are to where I had planned on being.  I had been scheduled to be in the Ukraine.  Yes, you read that right.  I was asked to travel to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian foster families who have taken in children with very little to no resources.  However, I had to cancel those plans.

One of my children has been struggling with anxiety and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.  Loving this child is not enough to keep this child stable.  I had to ask myself some hard questions.  Do I leave for a two-week trip to another part of the world knowing that my child is struggling?  How would my absence affect this kiddo (who does struggle with some attachment stuff)?  What would happen if, in my absence, everything breaks apart and my child ends up suffering because of it?  

I really wanted to go, but just simply loving my child regardless of where I was on the planet would not have helped.  I chose to say “no”.  I have found that when it comes to parenting children whose beginnings of life were not exactly ideal, it has taken more than love.  Love is obvious, but what seems to overrule my life as a parent is fortitude, understanding, the willingness to learn, the desire to change my own parenting style, and whole lot of grace and empathy.

For those who are seeking to become foster or adoptive parents, set your love aside for a moment.  Take all that energy bound up in desiring to love a child and put it to use.  Use it to build up a pool of resources.  Use it to open your mind about what works for children who come from difficult circumstance.  Use it to persuade yourself to tweak and adjust your expectations and parenting style (which will evolve as time goes on).  Don’t set love aside, of course, but take the same intensity and use it to seek knowledge about how to help children heal.

Love is not (always) enough.  LOVE IN ACTION, well, that has no measure.  It will look different for you and I.  If you truly want to love a child who comes from a hard place, then you must understand that LOVE is a VERB.

It has to be.

 

For any future foster or adoptive parent reading this, I’d love to hear from you.  Ask me anything.  I can be brutally honest, but I think that is what you probably need to hear.

 

 

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

Despite taking an intentional break from writing for a bit, this past weekend’s events that exploded in Charlottesville caused my fingers to find their way to this keyboard.  My mind is just reeling with furious thoughts about all of it.  Last night before bed, I asked my husband, “I wonder if what happened this weekend is even going to be brought up at church in the morning?”

This morning, I said to him, “We need to do church at home today.  I’m not sure if our church is going to talk about racism and what happened.  We need to and we need to do it now.”  My husband and I have held ‘home church’ before with our kids. They actually enjoy it as we try to make it light-hearted and fun.  This morning, however, we brought them to the table with a more sincere tone.

The beginning of our conversation went like this:

Me:  “What color of skin do you think Jesus had when he was alive on Earth?”

My kids:  “White!”

Me:  “No.”

Kids:  “But, he’s white in the pictures.”

Me:  “I know but he was not white.  His skin was brown.”

My husband:  “He was from the Middle East.  Their skin is brown, not white.”

My daughter:  “I think his skin had all of the colors in it – white, brown, black.”

Me:  “Maybe, but he definitely was not white.  He was a brown man.  The reason why we are talking about this is because something bad happened in another state this weekend.  A group of white people got together, carrying torches and chanting things.  These people believe that only white people are good and that we are not equal in God’s eyes and some of these people would call themselves Christians.  So, if some Christians claim to love Jesus (who was brown) but do not love people who are a different color, does that make any sense?”

My kids:  “No.”

We were honest (in a kid friendly manner) about the violence and that tragically, a few people died.  In an effort to show them what God says, we went to Scripture.

Acts 10:34-35:  Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 

Romans 2:9-11:  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism. 

James 2: 1-9:  My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

Our children were immersed in the conversations and we told them that as white people and as Christians, we are NOT superior to anyone.  Jesus died for everyone – regardless of skin color and it is wrong for any Christian to feel otherwise.

As we finished, we watched the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King. It was a wonderful way to show our young children that the fight for racial justice has been going on for far too many years and sadly, there is still so much work to be done. There are still too many people in the world who do not see others the way God sees us – through eyes of concern, mercy, and love.

20170813_165848Anytime we have church at home, I ask the kids if they want to draw something that is related to what we discussed.  My daughter decided to draw Dr. King giving his speech.

I know my husband and I are not perfect and we are certainly not Biblical scholars, but if there is anything at all that we can teach them as Christian parents, it is this:

Love others as God loves you.  

Treat others as you want to be treated.  

We are ALL precious to Him.

 

As the day has gone on, I have thought a lot about the victims of the terrorism (which is what it should be called) that occurred when the young man decided to drive his car into a crowd of people.  My heart aches greatly for the young woman who lost her life as well as for her family.  However, I have also found myself wondering, “What if my son or daughter would have been behind the wheel of that car?”  As a parent, this question causes me to consider what we teach and show to our children and how we should be making every effort to train them in the education of love not hate.

It is up to us (Christians) to set an example for the world.  If we do not stand up for injustice and denounce hatred, then who are we following and where is Jesus?  It is not comfortable to stand up for others nor it is popular at times, but nothing about the life of a Christian should be comfortable.

Jesus was not comfortable when he hung on the cross for every single soul.  When I visualize my Savior literally pouring his life out for me, for you, for our friends, and for our enemies, I am embarrassed by what we have done with this grace we have found.

Hatred should have no home in the heart of a Christian, neither should silence.  We must consider our own feelings or lack thereof when we see displays of hate that occurred this weekend.  We must teach our children that Jesus is for everyone, we are not better than anyone else, and mercy always has a place at our table.

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

 

 

Sweet Mom, Judgy Mom, & a little bit of caffeine

20170505_150607Standing in line at Starbucks, I sparked up a conversation about coffee and children with a mom (I’ll call her Sweet Mom) of two little ones as my soon-to-be 11-yr-old son eagerly waited for his special treat of an Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  Caffeine does not negatively affect my son.  It actually helps him concentrate.  This is a part of ADHD that most people do not understand, but that is not what this post is about.

Sweet Mom looked at her little guy and said, “Grandma gives him sips of her coffee, sometimes.  He LOVES straight, black coffee!”  We both laughed a bit but as we did, I noticed a lady (I’ll call her Judgy Mom) standing at the counter and listening to our conversation.  Sweet Mom had her back to the lady and had no idea Judgy Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust at our conversation about allowing our kids to have caffeine/coffee every now and then.

The longer I stood there and watched Judgy Mom’s utter dismay at us, the more I found myself wanting to come to the defense of Sweet Mom and all of the other moms out there who are just trying to do the darn best that we can.  By the time Judgy Mom got her own caffeinated beverage, Sweet Mom swiped up her drinks, told me it was nice visiting and went about her merry way.  When the barista called my son’s name, I proudly grabbed the drink, handed it to him, and said, “Here you go, bud.  Enjoy.”

As I walked to the car, drinking my own strong little number, my imagination decided to embark on a conversation that I chose not to have with Judgy Mom (because I’m not a confront and destroy kinda girl).

Here is what I really wanted to say,

“I’m assuming by the look of disgust on your face, the rolling back of your eyes, and the shaking of your head, that you just can’t believe the nerve of some “young moms” these days allowing their kids to have a little caffeine from time-to-time.  You might think it is abusive or neglectful or just bad parenting, right?  You might wonder what on Earth we also allow our kids to have.  

Well, here’s the deal, Judgy Mom. (Okay, I wouldn’t call her that to her face.)  If you really want to see “bad moms or dads” in action, why don’t you join a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator on a home visit to investigate allegations?  I’m sure arriving at a home and finding a neglected baby in a crib whose diaper hasn’t been changed for four days would probably alarm you.

Or, how about you take a look at pictures of a blue-eyed, 4-yr-old child who was beaten so severely for not eating her dinner fast enough that the imprint of the perpetrator’s boots was left on her skin?  (Yes, this is a real situation.  I’ve seen the pictures.  I still have the images engraved in my mind and it’s been 10+ years since viewing them.)

Perhaps, you can become a CASA or other type of advocate for children so that you can learn how a lot of kids don’t eat over the weekend because there is no food in the house and their only meals come from school.  Once you do any of these things, you won’t be as tempted to roll your eyes and shake your head in disgust at two moms having a chat about the antics of slightly coffee-fueled children.

How about that?”

I know some of you might think this is a little extreme, but one thing that gets my goat more than anything is the amount of parent-shaming that exists nowadays. Perhaps, I’ve seen too much.  Maybe, working in child welfare has skewed my perception of what is a “good mom” versus a “bad mom”.  All I know is that once you truly learn what is happening to children and what some parents either do to their kids or allow their kids to go through, it is really hard to get all worked up about things like caffeine, sugar, screen time, red dye #40, or whatever other items that have become a trendy thing to frown upon.

I believe that most parents are just like my husband and me – trying to balance work, parenting, social activities, sports, spiritual development and medical needs all while raising kids to be half-way decent human beings.  There are some days where we literally eat on the go and high-five each other in passing.  There are others where we eat home cooked meals all day, stay inside and just be together.  Either way, I do believe my kids are going to be just fine and that we are doing our very best at this glorious, God-given task of raising future adults.

To Sweet Mom, whom I met at Starbucks today, your kids are precious.  Don’t worry about Grandma sneaking a sip of coffee to your little guy.  You’re doing just fine.

To Judgy Mom, I’d love to meet with you and talk about parenting over a nice, large cup of coffee.  I bet I can figure out a way to give you an outlet for your obvious concern about children.

To all the other parents out there, if you are meeting your kids’ physical, emotional, and social needs, plus working each day to raise them to be half-way decent human beings, then you are also doing just fine.

Let’s stop parent-shaming.  There are far too many issues going on with children and families to worry about a kiddo getting a little bit of caffeine.

How about that?

Kids These Days (or so, they say)

A few months ago, I listened as a gentleman of a different and older generation say, “I feel sorry for those of you raising kids in today’s world.”  His words, although meant to be sympathetic, sort of frustrated me a bit.  I keep seeing on social media and hearing through conversations that children these days are just “doomed”.  They are spoiled.  They want immediate action.  They are not being raised “right”…whatever that means.

Essentially, there is no hope for the younger generation…or so, they say.

Last week, I was a guest speaker at a local Vacation Bible School.  I spoke to around 200+ children from ages four to thirteen.  My topic was about what they can do to help foster children in their communities.  The four-year-old’s through Kindergarten ages just did not quite understand what I was talking about, so we decided it would be more fun to sing songs.  Besides, that’s way more fun, anyway!  Right?  After we were done, this little sweet-pea of a girl around the age of four came up to me and said, “We can give books to babies who don’t have them.”  Oh, be still, my heart.

The eighth-grade boys…well…yeah.  Let’s just say I’m SO looking forward to my son being in the eighth grade.  NOT.  Major kudos to those of you who teach this age group!  Don’t get me wrong.  They were respectful, but you know…a little “too cool for school”.

The first through seventh graders were listening with intent.  When asked what they could do to help out children in foster care, they offered, “Help find them a home”, “Invite them to church”, “Tell them about Jesus”, “Give them a Bible”, and “Be nice and be their friend.”  Children as young as the first grade were suggesting these things.

Afterward, I thought about the words of the older gentleman and his worries for those of us raising kids in today’s society.  I also thought about the different editorial posts floating around Facebook and other social media forums that suggest that children of today do not have a chance.  Call me an idealist, but I disagree.

Sure, life is vastly different that it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.  I was a young girl in the 70’s, in Junior High and High School in the 80’s, and a college student in the early 90’s (which, by the way, was awesome).  Life is different now than it was during these time periods, but you know what is not different?

LOVE.

FRIENDSHIP.

GENEROSITY.

COURAGE.

COMPASSION.

CURIOSITY.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MESS UP.

OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE IT RIGHT.

EMPATHY.

THE NEED TO CONNECT.

THE DESIRE TO DO GOOD.

Just a few days ago, my daughter told me that for one of her birthdays she wants to ask people to give gifts to homeless children and families, instead of her.  Let that soak in a bit.

If my little sampling of children from Vacation Bible School and my daughter’s expression of what she wants to do are a reflection of “kids these days”, then I dare say, they are going to be just fine.  So, please stop saying that children growing up in today’s society are doomed.

Quit judging us parents.  We are doing the best we can (just like you were when you were raising kids).  I am raising three children in today’s society.  They struggle with various issues, but let me say, THEY ARE GOOD CHILDREN.  They might misbehave from time to time, but they know right from wrong, and they have hearts that desire to seek friendship and to help others.

For the love of children, please stop thinking that all kids are just spoiled or misbehaved or don’t care about their fellow-man.  I mean, come on.  IF they are this way, then really, who should we be blaming?

If you think today’s generation of children is not going to turn out okay, what are you doing to help?  Can I offer you a few suggestions?

  • Help a young family that is struggling.
  • Tutor kids at the local school.
  • Teach a Sunday school class.
  • Volunteer at the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
  • Work with at-risk kids.
  • Invite the neighborhood kids and parents over for dinner.
  • Donate gift cards and other items to families in need.
  • Love on that single mama doing the best she can.
  • Encourage that daddy who is working two jobs to make the bills and put food on the table.
  • Become a reading buddy to sick children in the hospital.
  • Pray for families, children, and the world.

I can go on and on, but I suspect that you get the point.  Or, at least I hope you do.

Please, stop saying that kids these days are not measuring up to what you think they should be.  I, for one, refuse to believe this.  If you spend any amount of quality time with a young child, I dare say, you will be amazed.  They are not doomed.  They are just beginning to sprout their wings into this vast world.  They are learning about the world around them. Sure, there are things they face and deal with that we may not have as children, but still, the world has a lot of beauty in it.  Let’s make sure we show this to them.

Our young generation will be the next teachers, parents, doctors, pastors, political leaders, chefs, scientists, explorers, artists, engineers, and caregivers.

For my children and for yours, 

or the teenage boy who helps his disabled mother raise his younger siblings,

or the child who sells lemonade on her street to raise money for others,

or the young person who visits the elderly lady down the street because she is lonely,

or the boy who sticks up to the bully at school….

why would you think they are simply not adding up or are “doomed”?  

After all, children are our future…

Give that a thought.

 

 

 

Give That a Thought

While at the store the other day with my daughter, a lady stopped me and said, “Your daughter looks just like you. You sure could never deny her!” I thanked her for noticing us, wished her a good day, and even thought, “There are some days I’d like to deny…..” I’ll just stop there!

It is funny, you know. I get told often how all of my kids resemble me in someway. Sometimes, I see it. Sometimes, I don’t.

I definitely “see myself” in them, though. I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Do you know those moments when your child says something in just a way that you are quickly reminded of how you must sound when saying the same thing? Yep, these are the times when I realize how much of an influence I make on my kids. It is also a reminder that if our kids can repeat some of the things we say in our not-so-fine moments, then they can surely remember the things we say when we are at our best.

There are also moments when your child does something out of love, or speaks incredible wisdom that stops you right in your place. These are the times when I catch a glimpse of myself in the kids, or am taught a lesson by them.

To the sweet lady at the grocery store who stopped to tell me how much my daughter looks like me, Thank You. As a parent through adoption, I get tickled by it, and find such a great sense of how truly awesome and purposeful adoption really is.

I love that in many ways my kids look like me, and my husband. More important, though, is the thought that every action or word we say as parents strikes even deeper in the hearts and minds of our children.

In so many ways, they are a reflection of who we are.

Give that a thought.

God Won’t Leave You In It {the wilderness of parenting}

Several months ago, I was contacted by an author regarding contributing for a devotional for adopting moms.  I was asked to write a five-day devotion, and agreed to do so.  The book is now out (future blog post to come about it).  I’ve been reading through parts of it, and came across this from one of the other contributors.

In the weekly devotion on the topic of love, she writes:

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m doing this all wrong. Being a mama is hard. My dishes are piled in my sink as I type this. I had to dig through dirty clothes that were in the floor to find pajamas for my baby because the flu has overtaken our house this week. It’s Monday and I haven’t bought groceries for the week. Toys are scattered all over my living room and if I hear Mickey Mouse Clubhouse one more time, I think I might scream.

However, these are insignificant to the despairs you might be feeling today. Loving children that come from hard places is difficult. You might have numerous therapy appointments scheduled this week. You might feel as if you’re the only parent who is still having trouble bonding with your child. You might feel as if this calling to adopt has taken you out in the wilderness and left you with nothing but pain, like Hagar. But God didn’t leave her there.”

Wow. Yep, this one completely jumped out at me. Life seems like a vast wilderness, sometimes. Parenting does, too. So thankful, though, that God does not leave us in our messes, and on our own as we tackle life.

If you are feeling as though your own parenting journey has become a wilderness, take heart. While the journey may be difficult at times, God won’t leave you in it alone.

Jars of Clay {God’s Greatest Treasure}

It had been a rough week with our daughter. She’s extremely sweet at times, but at other times, she can be quite difficult. As we left for church last Sunday, all I was thinking is how much I just wanted to crawl back in bed.

My daughter wanted to stay with us for the worship songs before she went to her Sunday school class. Although I really wanted her to go to her class, I know how much it means to stand together with your child and worship God.

Soon into our service the song “Broken Vessels” by Hillsong Worship was sung. The song uses part of the song “Amazing Grace” in it. Although I was dwelling on the issues of the week, and the problems we had just right before we left for church, I began to listen and hear my six-year-old daughter sing,

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

My daughter has said for several years that “Amazing Grace” is her favorite song. I sing it to her every night before she falls asleep. As her little voice sang the words, my heart was punched.

A little further along in the song are these lyrics,

“You take our failure. You take our weakness. You set Your treasure In jars of clay. So take this heart, Lord, I’ll be Your vessel. The world to see,Your love in me.”

As I tried to sing the words, my mind and heart were interrupted by the thoughts of my daughter, my other children, and my own life. Soon, I was wiping tears away.

During the song while listening to my daughter sing, I was convicted at the very existence of my daughter, and all of us.

Broken vessels.

Wounded. Weak. Full of failures.

Jars of clay.

God’s greatest treasure.

Did you read that? Inside of us is God’s greatest treasure.

Despite our failings as we walk this Earth, and despite our histories, our greatest regrets, and our current circumstances, inside us dwells the greatest treasure of all.

Friends, if you are feeling less than what you wished you would be, confused by your circumstances, or perhaps, that you are not worthy of love, remember this,

YOU are GOD’s TREASURE.

Isn’t that something to cherish?

Just be Still

“Just be still, Caroline.  Just be still.”

These words have echoed in my mind and heart through the past several weeks. Okay, maybe for the past few months.  I’m someone who has always seems to have a plan, goal, and mission in mind.  My to-do list does not seem to have an expiration date, and even time off is filled with a handful of items to check off of it.

In other words, I am used to being busy – physically, emotionally, and even, spiritually.

Several months ago, I went to work out at the crack of dawn (literally), came home, got ready for work, got the kiddos ready for school, and then had a bit of a coughing spell.  I felt a “pop” in my lower back.  I even said to my husband, “I think I pulled a muscle.

Even with pain, I still went about keeping up with my daily regimen.  I also continued to train for an annual 150-mile cycling event that I have completed for the past few years.  However, that nagging pain I kept feeling wouldn’t leave me.  That voice that gently encouraged me to “just be still” didn’t go away.  With the coaxing of my husband, I went to the doctor.  Turns out I bulged a disk in my back out (from a coughing spell, no less!).

I had no choice.  I had to be still.

“Be still?!?” I thought.  That is NOT for me.  I’m not a “still” person.  “I’ve got things to do!  I’ve got a household that needs maintained, a job that needs fulfilled, children to navigate through the day, and a cycling event coming up!”

As I sat in my home, heating pad on my lower back, waiting for the doctor to let me know if I would need surgery or not, and wondering when the back pain would go away, I kept staring at the very things that needed to be done around the house.

I began to think about the past several years, and have they seem to have flown by.  I’ve been really busy, you know.  With working, raising three children, tending to my home, keeping up with this blog, cycling, and starting a handful of other writing projects, it seems as though I was never still.

I even thought,

“I was not born into this world to be still.”

I did get that call from the doctor, a follow-up visit, and the most positive outcome from having a back injury (no surgery needed) that I wanted to hear.  This was the best case scenario.  However, through the course of it all, the words, “Just be Still” kept echoing through my spirit.

The time following my injury I was forced to be still.  No lifting, no riding my bike, no carrying children around, and staying off my feet as much as possible.  I thought I was going to be miserable, but instead, I found peace and renewal in being still.

Instead of looking around at the things in my home that needed to be done, I watched my children play in the living room.  I observed my husband’s care of them, and my daughter’s concern for my health.  It seems that being still is exactly what I needed.

After I recovered, I got back into my normal routine which includes driving my son to and from gymnastics training.  Typically, on the way home from a long day, I am usually flying to get back to the house to start the nightly rituals of getting the kids in bed.  On that night, though, I slowed down, enjoyed the car ride with my son, and caught a glimpse of God’s artistry in the night sky.  We noticed it together, and pulled over to take a picture.Night Sky

“Just be still, Caroline.  Just be still.”

Friends,

That nagging pain you are feeling….

That whisper of “just be still” that you can’t seem to shake….

That rest you have been mandated to do….

Perhaps, these things are drawing you closer to your Father than you think.

Perhaps, being still is exactly what you need.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

-Psalm 46:10

 

Happy New Year, Friends

GoalsToday at lunchtime, my family and I sat around the table chowing down on our black-eyed peas, chips with cheese dip, shrimp cocktail, and “little smokies”.  Our conversation evolved to one regarding our goals for 2015.

“I want to try something new,” I said.  “What, Mommy?”, my children exclaimed.  “I think we should write down our own goals and then some family goals for this year.  We’ll seal them in an envelope and open them up one year from today to see if we accomplished them.”

They were super excited to do this.  Well, at least our older children were.  Our two-year old seemed to be too busy playing with the food on his plate!  We went around the table and spoke about our personal goals, and this is what I was reminded of.

If you give your children the silence and time to speak about their goals and hopes, you can learn so much about them.

My son and daughter both set goals that, if achieved, will benefit them both in a personal way, in a way that benefits our family, and definitely in a way that affects the greater good.  My husband and I told them our goals as well.  Then, as a family, we talked about goals for the new year.  My children exclaimed,

“I want to fill the Blessing Jar up to the very top! “

“I think we should clean up trash in the streets to help keep our environment around us clean.”

“We need to help each other more.”

“We should use calm voices more often with each other.”

As I wrote the goals down, a flow of those endearing little nudges of goodness showered me.  It seems, despite my many unending flaws as a parent, our children are precious little souls who yearn for opportunities to do good.

After lunch, we departed in our various tasks of the day.  Our daughter went to play with a friend at her house down the street.  Our two-year-old ran circles in the living room.  My husband started helping out with the daily chores involved with taking care of a family of five, and my oldest son went to his bedroom to look through a stack of books he wanted to donate.

I locked myself in our bedroom and started going through our closet.  As I pulled things out to organize and donate (if desired), a funny thing started to happen.  I realized that I get frustrated at the amount of “stuff” my children want to keep, and yet, there I was sitting in the middle of my bedroom stuffing trash bags full of gently used clothing, unused jewelry, and items I once swore that I needed.

Five trash bags of clothing, toys my children decided to rid themselves of, and other items, started to take up the space of my bedroom.  And then, my soul was stirred about the many things I carry in my heart that the Lord wants me to rid myself of.

I know there is more space in my life to donate to intentional parenting with my children.  I know that this vessel of life can do so much more.  At the same time, I also know the things that pull me away from the Lord’s wisdom.  I need to stick away these things in a trash bag, and let go of them.

With my children’s words of our family goals today fresh in my mind, here are my thoughts as I enter into 2015:

“God,I want to fill others…other jars of clay…with words that bless them.”

“Lord, I know there is a lot of trash in my life and in the streets of my thoughts that I need to clean up to keep this incredible environment of life clean.” 

“Father, help me to help each other more.”

“Savior, I pray Your voice will calm the waves of contempt in my life, and in turn, will create moments that I can be used bring peace to others.”

Here’s to 2015!  This is a wonderful time to be living on this side of Heaven.  My hope for this upcoming year is that we will all be drawn closer to Origin of Love.  

Now, that is a New Year’s Resolution we can all attain.

Happy New Year, Friends.

 

the greatest gift my mom gave me

“What are you doing?  Why aren’t you out there?” I asked my son as he sat down next to me during gymnastics practice.  My oldest son is a competitive gymnast, and he has newly discovered an emotion in regards to the sport that he has taken up…

FEAR

“I just don’t want to do a back hand-spring.  I’m scared”  he said.  I went on to tell stories about my own fears, and how overcoming them have led to accomplishing fun things  – like the first time I tried clip-in cycling shoes and fell over and over again until I got it right.  He remembers watching me fall over and over again, and how I put my bike away for a few weeks, until I got it out, clipped in, and rode away determined to not let fear overcome me.

I also asked him, “Is this it?  Are you ready to quit?”  He shrugged his shoulders, and whispered the word “maybe”.  I said, “No.  Not like this.  Get out there, do your job.  You can do it.  Once you get it, you will love it.  There is nothing to be scared of.”

He finished practice and didn’t mention his fear again.  Later in the day, I told him the story of Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug who finished her last vault with a broken ankle, and in doing so, became an Olympic champion.  I talked about fear and how sometimes the hardest things we do in life are often not the easiest.

The truth is – this is NOT about gymnastics.  It is NOT about if my son will ever go on to be a champion in the sport.  No, this is not about these things at all.  Instead, it is about teaching my son that when the going gets tough, the tough keep going. In other words, it is about overcoming fears, and accepting challenges.  It’s about perseverance.

I’ve thought about this topic often, perhaps more now than I ever have before. Now that I am a mother, I admire the quality that instinctively knows how to teach children about perseverance.  It is not an easy task, and yet, it is probably one of the most important character-building values that a parent can teach a child.

This also got me to thinking about my own upbringing, and the lessons learned.  One of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me was not a gift at all.  It was not expensive, tangible, collectible, or desired.

It was the gift of perseverance.

Some of my earliest memories of the words my mom spoke to me include the following:

“You can be whatever you want as long as you put your heart into it.”

My mom knows a lot about life not being fair.  The youngest of ten children born in the Ozarks (southern Missouri), she experienced a life without a lot of frills.  At the age of seven, her daddy suddenly died, leaving behind her mother with children still at home.

After his death, my grandma packed up the kids who were still at home, and moved to the city to find work.  Mom has told me of having one pair of shoes per year. She has shared with me about my grandma working three jobs to keep food on the table. Sometimes, mom would come home to an empty house and eat a can of green beans for dinner.  She recalls hiding “nice things” from the social worker who stopped by to make sure grandma was not taking advantage of the welfare checks.

As you might be able to imagine, my mom and her siblings did not have the best of things growing up.  However, maybe…just maybe, they learned the best characteristics of the human experience.  They learned that family is important, hard work is required, and sometimes, life is not fair, but that is not a good enough reason to stop carrying on.  They learned the value of perseverance.

After my illness and hysterectomy in 1983, as you can imagine, mom leaned a lot on perseverance.  She had to.  She had to show me that sometimes life isn’t fair, and you just have to get up and keep going.  She also had to abide by the notion that there is a reason behind everything that happens in life, and that God allows things that we do not understand at the time, but one day, these things once thought of as being a cruel twist in life, can turn out to be incredibly strengthening lessons.  These lessons, in turn, are amazing blessings.

I remember parts of my time in the hospital, and afterward.  I do not remember how it affected my mother, though.  I look back at some pictures and can tell she became awfully thin during that time, but otherwise, she was still the same mom as she was before that sadness entered her life, my dad’s, and mine.

She got right back up, day after day, and continued to raise a daughter who learned to believe in setting her heart to the things she wanted to accomplish in life. She taught strength, courage, and perseverance by simply modeling what it is to keep going on in life, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and to not allow set-backs be an excuse for giving up.

My first birthday following my hysterectomy - 1983.
My first birthday following my hysterectomy – 1983.

My mom has faced many giants in her life. The impact of my illness on her, honestly, has been lifelong. It doesn’t take much to provoke a tear out of her when talking about it. Still yet, there’s that resilience….that echo of perseverance that has resonated throughout the years.

As I reflect on my son’s own fear of accomplishing what seems to be a difficult task, I appreciate so much of the unspoken acts of intentional courage that my mother showed to me.  I appreciate more than ever the stronghold she displayed when faced with unwavering despair.

 Persevering through difficult times, hard choices, moments that take the wind out of you, seemingly simplistic fears, and times when it is hard to discern God’s reasoning, are the times when we, as parents, can make an incredible, life-altering impact on our children’s lives.

Fellow parents, and yet-to-be parents, keep on keeping on.  After all is said and done, your courage to persevere will make a lasting impression on your children, and in turn, on future generations.

Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.  —Romans 5:2-5