January 4, 2016

Raising the Boy

         A sweet friend recently contacted me about giving my thoughts on raising boys.  She is facilitating a book club using the book The Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas .  Luckily I did not have coffee in my mouth when I read her request as I'm sure I would have been cleaning up the mess that I spit out from laughter.

        With nervous smiles and gritted teeth, we just launched the boy, to become a new Marine recruit.  Obviously we are not experts on the subject of raising boys in general, but we are experts on this one young man.  He is wonderful and funny and smart and handsome. He loves Jesus.  But, he is very different from my three girls.  Last year he completed his first year of college away from us.  The lessons he learned about himself and 'adulting' through life led to his decision to join the U.S. Marines. Honestly, it was rough on us all as figuring out the college scenario  can induce a rocky road for any freshman, male or female.  The year seemed to last forever, mainly because I just knew in my gut something was amiss with him.  I do not remember a time when I have been on my knees more often.  I worried.  I worried about his discipline, his health, his friends, his professors.

         This boy right here is my second birdie to fly, and my oldest is a girl.  When she left, I could get in her head. Our thought processes are similar, so I just didn't worry about her choices.  I knew what she was thinking, exactly.  The boy, not so much.  Let me just add here as an aside that we never had a problem with this kid with disobedience or disrespect or even just bad behavior.  But, we soon discovered how lost he felt navigating his choices for planning his life.  He was unsure about his major and what he wanted to do with his life, and the whole process of making such daunting decisions  overwhelmed him.  Did I mention we live thousands of miles away from where he is attended college?  I think he recognized within himself a yearning for more discipline, and honestly a break from school in general.  And so, to the recruiter's office he went.  I look back now and see God's hand in it all. I, the mama, have learned volumes about myself and my prayer life through all this, so here is some gentle guidance for my fellow mamas with younger hatchlings.

Pray for wisdom.  It clearly states in the Bible that God doles this valuable thing called wisdom freely and without reservation!  Thank you Jesus!  Boys have a vastly different operating system than we do.  Somehow we as females find attractive the fact that our husbands are different from us. So I remain confused as to why we struggle to remember this nugget when it comes to our sons.  So many days found me on the floor begging for help from God.  Lots of them I just did not comprehend the boy's thinking process.  I hope and pray we have reached the end of a long tunnel with this problem as he and I both have matured in untold ways since last summer, and I have a new understanding of the peace talked about in the Bible.

Trust the dad's insight.  Odds are, the boy is a lot like his dad.  For a long time during our homeschooling high school years, I usually thought I knew more about the boy's behavior because I had been with him all day.  For example, if I had seen him struggle with huge advanced chemistry problems for hours, I probably cut him too much slack by doing a chore or two for him. Such behavior (by me) does no one any favors.  There are reasons for the dad to expect different things from the boy than from the girl.  Dad will generally have higher standards about some things than the mom.  Go with them.  My husband's insight on my son is different than mine and I value his contrasting opinions.  They temper mine, and balance me.  He IS a male!!!  He knows!!  Simply put, there comes a point in a boy's journey into manhood where the mama needs to back off.

Sports are important.  Over the years, some of our most valuable lessons, both good and bad, came from sports.  With us, it was basketball.  My boy learned how to share:  the ball, fame, and defeat. He learned about discipline, and just showing up.  He learned that he was important, but not too important, and that the world would not crumble if he got hurt or fouled out.  He learned that other people, coaches, have similar standards as his parents, thereby cementing his own world view about life in general.

Nurture his passions.  My little 4-year-old boy would sit spend endless hours in the tub with his matchbox cars slowly pushing them along the edge while watching how the wheels turned.  He was fascinated.  He built magnificent lego cities.  Obviously he is bent toward mechanical processes.  Watch these passions, mama, when he is little, because they will someday become his livelihood.  It is these interests and passions that give us clues as to what makes him tick.  They will lead us to pursuing a career direction that will fulfill him.  Just these past months I have leaned hard on these memories in helping him to search within himself to better choose a major and future career on which to focus.

Let him fail.  This is one area that cements vast differences between the male and female species.  I think my girls tend to 'meltdown' when they are only teetering on the edge of a problem.  They can just see the bottom and it is then that they freak out.  Boys on the other hand, tend to need to fall off the edge.  Sometimes hard.  But, when they've picked their way back up the mountain, they can enjoy the discovery that they've climbed all by themselves.  This is a great analogy in theory, but is terribly hard for the mama to watch.  So we just pray, and know he is getting stronger with each small step.

Allow him to take a stand against injustice.  One year the boy had a situation with his young basketball coach that kept growing, somewhat like a cancer.  He wanted to quit his team midseason but we would not allow it.  Finally, one incident occurred in the off-season that angered him enough to take a stand and quit.  Let me just say that when I heard about it,  he was justified.  The 'incident' had nothing to do with basketball, but showed the true character of his coach.  My son could not in good conscience support such a figurehead, so he quit quietly, purposefully and without fanfare, even though he loved playing with his teammates.  Just a week or two later, that coach quit for another reason, not even knowing about my son's decision.  An amazing turn of events led us to a wonderful new coach.  My boy returned and  played the next season with this team who then won the league championship.  This coach and mentor even today remains  a major Godly influence on my family and the current team.  My boy learned that there is a time and a place to take a stand, and sometimes you must 'go with your gut'.   In the end, we all witnessed, first-hand, how God works out difficult, even impossible situations for His glory.

       I have said before how much I love being a 'big kid mom'.  I love how we finally get to see them pursue what they love and how God created them with passions that emerge first when they are little.  But mostly, I love that my boy, along with my girls,  all drive me to a greater and deeper dependence on Him, the one who created us all.  I have grown so much in my faith over the last year that I have to wonder if all these worries about the boy, are, in fact growing me.  As parents, we do a new kind of growing when the kids leave the nest. We get a little glimpse into the mind of God and His love and care of us, his kids.

January 3, 2016

A "Basic" Christmas

I think it was last spring, in his second college semester, when the boy told us of his plans to become a U.S. Marine.  Though he had been thinking and dreaming of this for years, we wanted him to at least get some college hours under his belt, and he complied.   It was a 'growing year' for him.

He shipped in November for basic training, even with this mama's held-back tears at the realization that he would miss both Thanksgiving and Christmas with us.  We were an Air Force family.  We know what it feels like to be far from loved ones during the holidays.  We could handle this.

Christmas Eve came and the girls suddenly realized that the boy wouldn't be there.  See, they've always bunked together in preparation for Christmas morning.  Even with their adult sized bodies, they slept together, on beds, in sleeping bags on the floor, in the same room, just together, so that they could all wake up together.  I had forgotten.

So there was a strange gaping hole on Christmas.  We chased joy in the remnants and still found laughter, but perhaps just a little 'off'.

His recruiting platoon was gifted with phone calls Christmas night.  When the call came in, we heard his voice break along with our hearts.  And the dammed up river of tears also broke as we sat and listened to him say how much he missed us.  We bucked up and kept our voices upbeat and positive and encouraging.  He CAN do this!!  

We CAN do this!!

This mama can do this.

Perhaps pray for our military today who serve far from home.

And their mamas.

January 2, 2016

Magical Flakes

What is it about snow that changes everything?  Watching its gentleness fall from the sky, blanketing all it touches, just quiets me.  I grew up in Texas where we experienced it only once in a blue moon.  

Snow changes the mundane ordinary world into a magical wonderland.

Here in Utah, snow is a necessity, more so than rain.  For as snow melts, it eases itself down into the aquifers slowly, without waste.  Rain tends to run off and evaporate too quickly for its natural storage into the future.

The love from Jesus is similar to this pearly crystal blanket.  It covers softly, changing us in the process.  Slowly it eases down into the deep crevasses of our hearts, melting and melding us.  It covers our imperfections and scars (or garbage cans) with softness and clean.  It requires nothing from us, except to accept its glory and wonder.

I love snow.

January 1, 2016

Hello From the Other Side

We made it.
We made it through the fall.
We made it through 2015.
A collective sigh is heard within my head.

The last few months have been the most difficult of my life.  Without question.  I have learned to lean on my Savior in new and terrifying ways.  I've learned how to let go.  I've learned that letting go of my problems is not a 'one-time-deal', but is instead a daily act, sometimes hourly.

I wish I could I could say that this holiday season was oozing with momentous meaningful endeavors.  I started the Advent season with wonderful expectations of seeking the Babe in the manger, and ended with Him cradling me. And perhaps that is how it should be.  Maybe He came as a baby so that we could feel his tender carrying of us. So that we could be rocked as His footsteps trudge.

I am grateful to be on the other side.

July 22, 2015

Come Grow Old With Me......

This month marks our 25th Wedding Anniversary. 
The words from "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fidder on the Roof come to mind:  "I don't remember growing older......"

Approaching this milestone has made me wistful and proud and amazed.  I look back at all the memories and wonder, "How?"

 We've moved a lot.  And loved a lot.  And laughed most of all.  We are beginning a new endeavor of building a new house, our second time in such a feat.   In building this new house, this forever house, we've thought long about what we've loved about each home we've made.

1.  The California Apartment  Launching a new Air Force career with a two-week-old marriage, we brought all we owned (i.e. wedding gifts still in original boxes) with us in a rented trailer.  This move taught us the true diminishing worth of 'stuff' and how it loses value over each flight of stairs.  Within the thin walls of our first home as a couple we learned the dangers of expectation, the definition of compromise, and how to cleave.

2.  The "Historic" Montana Cottage by the Park  We suffered through our first Christmas in -35 degree temperatures in the snow.  We made do with only each other as we began to make our own traditions.  Tanner - the Montanner Dog -  made us doggie parents.

3.  The First Base House   With four bedrooms, it felt like a mansion.  We brought home first a baby girl, then a baby boy and we learned how to expand our love while shoveling snow.  Our first big test of this thing called marriage came when we learned the logistics of PCSing from here with two babies in tow.

4.  The Wyoming Split Level Fixer-Upper  We shoveled snow and painted the kitchen red.  We ached  from the sting of miscarriage, but I learned where strength originates and what it feels like to be carried, even through the snow. Our church loved us well.

5.  The Warren Historic  Another baby girl joined us here.  We loved the 100 year old woodwork but not the bats in the attic.  We survived much:  a ruptured tubal pregnancy, the beginning of our homeschooling journey, a new millennium, rabies shots (from the bats), and multiple blizzards.

6.  The Colorado Apartment  We lived on top of each other while our house was being built.  Everyday we wondered, "What we were thinking?", but we loved our littles well.

7.  The Colorado House on the Prairie  We brought home our last baby girl and suddenly the older kids were fun.  We built a fence and a sprinkler system and carted tons (literally) of rocks. We jumped on trampolines and into snowdrifts and held on to each other as the days ran together from sheer exhaustion.

8.  The Virginia House in the Woods  We schooled and schooled and saw Indians, and trains, and hurricanes, and snow.  We watched an election from the D.C. perspective and stood in January Inauguration drifts.  We said goodbye to Tanner, whose absence left us raw, and we planted a garden only to learn why the Pilgrims starved.  We fumbled through darkness and were forced to lean on Truth.

9.  Another Montana Base House  We fell in love with our neighbors as we powered through each day.  Heartbreak reared its ugly head and we learned about servant leadership through laughter and tears. The spawn begged for a puppy, so we brought home Elijah - The Wander Dog, and later toted hay bales and scooped endless poop for a stint in horse ownership.   One day in April found us shoveling snow three times to keep up with the record breaking 29" snowfall.

10.  The German House with the Bus Stop   The vine-laden trellis in the back turned red in the fall and we learned that a family of six could survive with one bathroom. The biking trails, and the traveling, and the wine soothed as we grew strong in converting anything and everything.  We shoveled the bus stop snow on endless dark mornings.  We took care of Frau Matilda and she took care of us.

11.  The Louisiana Swamp House with the Pool   We launched the first baby and simultaneously processed life back in the U.S.  We felt the emptiness of losing a parent and learned anew that raising up a new generation is just hard.  Celebrating a successful Air Force career, we nervously began life in the civilian sector, looking hard for clues from Him about what this life was supposed to look like.

12.  The Utah Mountain House  Our first winter found us pleading with  the heavens for the magical snow we'd been missing. We launched the boy and God taught me about prayer as I wept for far away babies and wandered through parental helplessness with the babies at home.  Still living here now, He reminds us daily about how He loves and moves mountains - and how our help comes from Him.   We are learning how to spark the local culture and ooze Grace from our very beings.

13.  The Utah Valley Home........TBD

The secret treasure gleaned from these memories of each home has nothing to do with their physical structures. Our memories don't focus on bricks or drywall.   Instead, what we value is the strength built on the structure of our family. A structure built on the solid Rock of Jesus yet woven loosely at the joints to bend and sway with the change that comes with the years and days.  It's grown and expanded and we as individuals have changed and matured. We've given each other room, while still holding on.  Sometimes at arm's length, but still holding on.  We've given each other grace as He has given us Grace.  We've weathered many storms.  These 25 years of love and laughter, transition and triumph have become a sticky, protective web around two fumbling, messy humans.  It is delicate yet strong, and as a living entity, will always require attention.

And yet, these many years are a mere beginning.

Come grow old with me; the best is yet to be.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
                                           Fiddler on the Roof