February 1, 2017

P.S. I Love You


I raced past the front view this morning, in my harried state to get the girls off to school.  Mornings come quickly around here as school starts early. Most days the sun is just coming over the horizon when we emerge from our evening hibernation.  Lately though, grey clouds have seemed to continually find themselves more important, taking the stage from the sun.  Today the glow pouring in the window caught my eye.

I raced for the camera.

Literally ten minutes later it was gone.  The clouds had drifted on, out of formation.

The Creator keeps teaching me to stop for minute, just to ponder Him.  I've been asking Him to help me see things His way.  My circumstances are not usually viewed from above. I'm in them, chest high.  I worry about my family still processing grief with no end in sight.  I worry about my offspring, out in the world, far from me.  I worry about my husband's health and professional life.  I worry about the two babies at home driving on snowy roads.  

I just need a daily reminder that He's in control, but most of all, that He's beautiful.

He warms up the cold winter,  just for a moment, to whisper,  "P.S. I love you."

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

January 27, 2017

Making a Way

So this is my actual street here in Utah.  We've had a couple of inches of snow.  I think within the last 3 days we measured fresh snowfall at 36 inches.  This was in addition to the 3+ feet already on the ground. Our shiny new snow blower seems puny and ridiculous and we need a tractor just for moving snow.

They tell me that this winter is not normal.  <sigh>

If you cannot tell from this photo, only one car may pass at a time through my whole neighborhood.  When two cars meet on the street, one  must move into a driveway to let the other pass.  Yesterday as I left the neighborhood for a meeting, I found both a Fedex truck and UPS truck facing each other looking puzzled.  Wondering about the 'meet-up' myself, I approached slowly looking for a driveway solution nearby.  It took cooperation, and a little extra time,  between all three of us, to make a way out.  No one shouted or threw up his hands.  In fact, smiles were all around, finding the humor in the situation, though I'm sure the two delivery drivers were on tight schedules. 

All of us in my neighborhood face the same set of circumstances, so it seems we all instinctively work together for the greater good.  The parents going to school are given the right-of-way at 7:30am from those who have already done the 'drop-off' routine. It's a normal, everyday kindness that just is.  No one has to really think about it.

 Ridiculous I know, but I actually thought that after this nasty election ended, we would return to some sort of peaceful normal.  Instead, everyone is angry.  Facebook is angry. Twitter is angry.  Ugh.  In this life, we all have our own circumstances to navigate through and around and over, and these are bigger than snowstorms or elections.  And, usually,  we're so busy that we don't see the personal struggles of our neighbors. Most times, we don't share common messes because we find ourselves too deep in them to look up and out.  We don't know what a stranger or neighbor is facing or how they are hurting.  Can't we assume that we are all making a way?  We are all digging out.  For some, the process is backbreaking and hard, and at times seems impossible.  

Nearly 3 weeks ago my brother suddenly had to bury his middle son.  That same week surgeons removed cancerous colon tissue from the husband of my forever friend since kindergarten.  I know marriages that are tender.  I know businesses that are in trouble.  We are all broken and in need of kindness, not angry shouting. So too, Jesus knows about brokenness and being broken. His heart breaks when he sees our brokenness. 
We seem to have forgotten that in helping each other, we are actually helping ourselves. In giving someone some extra room, I, by default, am improving my own demeanor and outlook. By sharing a little time, or money, or food, I find joy. Funny how that works. 

 In every 'big picture' are  found simple, humble people digging out. We are digging out from overwhelming grief, or fear, or regret.  Shouting just masks pain and fear and diverts attention from the real problems at hand.  Angry crowds and joyful crowds alike are made of thousands of individual stories, all with obstacles and hurts. We must see deeper than angry faces, turn off the noise and gently ask, "Where do you need my help?  How can I give? Do you need a listening ear?  Or a shovel?  Or even a smile?" 

 Nothing melts hearts more than a helping hand.  Nothing silences anger more than simple kindness.
We are to be His hands and feet.

Let's start a new movement.  Let's march to help each other make a way. 

January 18, 2017

Fear Factor

So the topic of fear just keeps surfacing lately, much like the "Whac-a-Mole" game from days of old.  We've been flying often with various trips since Thanksgiving.  Just last week we found ourselves on terrible snowy Utah highways, and before that, dangerous icy freeways in Dallas, as well as turbulent skyways everywhere in between.  They all cause me to breathe deeply and grit my teeth.

 I don't like bumps on an airplane. Period.  I don't like drivers in Dallas who suddenly brake on an icy overpass. I don't like emergency rooms or funeral homes.  I can't control when or if I visit any of these. Actually, there's not a lot in my life that is within my control. 

 Instinctually, I can't always control my fear either.  An occasional adrenaline rush is innate. 
 Sometimes my brain just automatically travels down the road of 'worst case scenarios'.  If we allow it to, fear can cripple and rob us of the peace of living. 

 I heard something profound on the radio this morning.   "Fear is the worship of the enemy."  Whoa.  I had to let that sink in to my fearful brain.  Could this be true?

I don't want to live in an unreality where my fears are bigger than my God.

I've noticed that I tend to behave differently on a plane if I'm sitting next to my children.  I don't show how turbulence may be affecting me.  Right or not,  I don't want my children to inherit my fear. They glean what we model, even as adults.  Truly.  I want them to be 'strong and courageous', depending on Jesus for all of their decisions, both scary and silly.   I want them to seek His direction and lean into Him when things get turbulent. I want them to experience new places and joys. I want them to courageously ask "Where?" when He says "Go!", without giving fear a place to live in their brains.

Life is almost always turbulent, even when our goal is to stay 'safe'.  And if I let it, fear will rob me of what God may have for me.  So, for 2017 I am praying for my only fear to be that of missing out on His perfect plan for my life.

I want to be terrified of NOT following where He may lead.  I want my hands to be 'palms up' continually ready for what He may give, but that also means ready for what He may take away.  

It's a scary scenario, but is life really, truly lived in the safe zone?

God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:19

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.